Thursday, 24 April 2014

Mocha Muffins

So, voting day is here! I had no intention to stand in a line in the hot midday sun to exercise my democratic right and that meant I was at the polling booth at seven in the morning. And if you are wondering, no I was not the first one out there! It also meant that after I cast my vote, I had the whole day ahead of me with nothing planned. So, I did the most logical thing .. I baked muffins for breakfast!!


Muffins are so easy to bake that it is usually the first thing that comes to mind. If you haven't seen too many muffin posts on the blog, it is because they are usually polished off before I get a chance to take the pics and write a post! 
 
Remember the golden rule when you make muffins.. two bowls, one for the dry ingredients and one for wet ingredients. And when you mix the two, mix until just combined. The more you mix, the tougher and denser the muffin will be. Less is more!!
 
 
As for these muffins, these are chocolaty, light, moist with a hint of coffee and the crunch of walnuts and chocolate chips. I believe I don't need to say more to convince you!!
 
 
PS - I hope you voted! 

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Masala Chai

They say if you want to take the political pulse of India, head to a chai stall. Indians love their chai and Indians love to talk politics. So, why not combine their love for both at the chai stall. Journalist, politicians, pollsters and anyone and everyone who wants to know what's on the mind of the Indian people, get their information over a cup of chai!

And starting tomorrow, the world's largest democracy begins voting for the General elections. And the numbers are staggering as they always are in India. Spread over 6 weeks, 9 phases, 543 election constituencies and 814 million voters, this is democracy's largest spectacle!

 
And this election, the humble cup of chai has occupied centre stage. For any non-Indian reader, it all began when Narendra Modi was projected as a national party's Prime Ministerial candidate. His life story has a modest beginning. As a young boy, he worked as a chaiwallah (tea vendor), a point he proudly states, to show how far he has come in life.
 
So, when an Opposition politician mocked him on this very fact, he responded as a true politician. He and his party launched an unique programme where he reached out to voters across the length and breadth of  this vast country, through videoconferencing so that he could interact with voters and answer their questions. The points of contact for these interactions, no guesses, were all chai stalls! So, in elections 2014, India's most favoured drink also became one of the most overused words of this election.
 
 
So, what goes into a cup of chai? It is a concoction of black tea, milk, a few spices and loads of sugar. And chai is a very emotive issue for most Indians. We are extremely picky about how we like our cup of chai. A cup of chai in the morning that does not make the mark is almost an omen on how things are going to go for the rest of the day.
 
And no two cups of chai are ever the same, be it from a home kitchen or a chai stall.  And moreover, the way tea is made in India is intuitive and instinctive, refined and adapted to one's taste. So, it is almost futile to write a recipe that will satisfy all. But, I did come across a recipe by Anjum Anand that is aimed at non-Indians, to give you an idea of what goes into that cup of chai that India cannot get enough of! It is more of a master recipe that is to be adapted to your liking!

 
 
So, now that we have discussed how the humble cup of chai made its way to the heart of Elections 2014 campaign, there is only thing left to do. Go and cast your vote India. Your vote is your voice. The time has come to speak up and be heard!!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Roasted Strawberry No-Churn Ice-Cream

For the past few weeks, I have been in a state of denial. I have absolutely refused to accept that Summer is here.  I have ignored the mangoes that have made their arrival in the markets. I have ignored my sighs of relief every time I enter an air-conditioned room. I have ignored the fact that white seems to be my overwhelming choice of colour these days. Why, I have even ignored the lizards that have emerged from the woodwork!
 
In short, I have desperately tried to cling on to any remnants of our tropical Winter. But, no more. Summer is here and it looks like a scorcher! Not like I expect my readers in the Western hemisphere, who are still waiting for Spring, to understand me!!

 
Summer is about all things cool and chilled. Summer is also about not seeing strawberries in the market anymore. So, to shore up my defences against Summer, I decided to make an ice-cream with what should be amongst the last strawberries to hit the market.
 
The ice-cream is a no-churn version that does not require an ice-cream maker. Last October, I had made a sitaphal (custard apple) ice-cream, using this method. It is an extremely easy, quick and fuss-free method that results in a creamy, soft-serve ice-cream.

 
To heighten the taste of strawberries, I decided to roast them 'en papillote'. I had tried it last March and I know from experience, that employing this technique intensifies the flavour of the strawberries.
 
When mixed with the cream mixture, the juices from the roasted strawberries will not only infuse their flavour but also colour the entire mixture with a delicate pink hue. Do ensure that you don't mash the strawberries too fine. Keep some of them as chunks. It is a lovely surprise when you encounter these chunks as you make your way through a bowl of this ice-cream. And don't be stingy with the amount of strawberries you are using. They are a delicately flavoured fruit. The more you use, the more robust their flavour will be in the ice-cream.

 
You have had strawberry ice-creams and then there is this one. This is not a strawberry ice-cream because of its colour and artificial fruit essences but a strawberry ice-cream where you will taste the strawberry in all its honesty, complete with all its tiny seeds. I was a never a fan of the commercial strawberry ice-cream but this one has such a natural taste to it, it has me converted.

Make it, grab a bowl and while you savour it, pray that Summer is kind to us this year!!

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Danish Braid : 'TWD : Baking with Julia'

When I first started with 'TWD : Baking with Julia' group, I used to be almost religious with the bake-along. I attempted to do at least one recipe every month. And yet, these past six months I have been extremely erratic, if not missing from the forum. And it's time to correct this.


 
Because it's this group and this book that have single-handedly taught me to bake. The recipes in the book, written by Dorie Greenspan, are so lucid and well written, that even a novice like me could recreate the recipes with reasonable success. And then there have been the fellow bakers who have been exceptionally encouraging. One important lesson I have learnt from them is to adapt recipes and ingredients to what is locally available. And my recipe index is testimony to that. I have been able to attempt a decent array of baking recipes, all thanks to this group. 
 
So, to get back in the groove with this group, I chose a recipe that they had attempted way back in October last year. Its a braided breakfast pastry, made with a Danish pastry dough and filled with a strawberry jam filling.


A Danish pastry dough is made along the lines of a croissant or puff pastry dough i.e. you have to roll out and fold the dough a couple of times to create the many layers. However, this recipe uses a cheat's version to achieve the same result but with much lesser work. If anything, its way easier than you think!
 
The tough part for me was the braiding. I'd like to blame the heat that I keep whining about these days but its just down to my clumsiness. As you can see to salvage the situation, I cut the braid and then took the pics!
 
There is a jam filling which was made in a microwave. Even if the dough does not interest you, the jam recipe is a keeper.
 

The end result is slightly sweet, rich, buttery, flaky pastry which encases that vibrant jam filling that peeks out through the gaps. Although, I must confess, my pastry was not as flaky as desired and I get the feeling that may have something to do with the quality of the yeast. Even if my attempt was not visually appealing, the flavour more than made up for it. The sweet yet slightly tart strawberry jam is a beautiful accompaniment to that rich, buttery pastry.
 
This is an indulgent breakfast pastry but, I'd only recommend it to the enthusiastic baker. There is a fair amount of time involved in making it. And do not attempt this in the summer heat. If you are keen on how this braid should look, do check out this page for the links from the other bakers who have done a fabulous job!! 

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Banana Bread

It is almost a rule with every baker. If you have over-ripe bananas in the kitchen, you make banana bread!! It is one of the marvels of baking that this recipe transforms those sludgy, sickly sweet, almost black bananas, fit only for the dust bin into a rustic, homey, comforting cake, that once made will be a regular at your home.


I remember the first time, I heard about a banana bread, I was sceptical. The two words just did not seem to pair together. I couldn't be more wrong. The word 'bread' out here refers to the technique used, better known as the 'quick bread' method. You have two bowls of dry and wet ingredients and then you mix the two with a spatula, taking care NOT to mix it too thoroughly and you are done. Remember, smoother the batter, the tougher your cake will be!!

The batter is all straight forward. The addition of the mashed, ripe bananas is what makes this loaf beautifully moist. The walnuts are optional but they do add a nice texture.


You will be alerted to the cinnamon in this cake while it is still in the oven. That feel-good aroma of cinnamon will take over your kitchen and remind you why nothing can beat a cake baked at home!
 
Straight out of the oven, a slice of this warm cake is instantaneously comforting. While you will taste the bananas, they are not overpowering and with the cinnamon, the flavour is uplifted.
 
 
This is not a pretty cake. It is rustic cake that is perfect for weekend baking at home. Lazing around in your PJ's, reading a book with a cup of coffee and a slice or two of this cake will all make for a perfect Sunday afternoon and make that Monday morning bearable!!
 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Oven Roasted Potato Chips with Homemade Tomato Ketchup

You know how sometimes, a piece of dark chocolate is all that is needed to set the world straight again. Well, I feel the same way about potato chips! I am yet to meet a person who doesn't enjoy a portion of chips, whether it be as a side for dinner or alongside that cold drink, while rooting for their favourite team!
 
Now, if it were not for a small issue of thickening waistlines and slowing metabolism, I'd reckon we'd indulge ourselves more often than we currently do. But there is hope with oven-roasted chips being the answer we've been looking for! 

 
Instead of wasting gallons of cooking oil and risking a potential fire hazard and feeling like the unhealthiest person around, try this method. It uses only a tablespoon of oil. Yup, one tablespoon! Oven roast those chips and you can enjoy one of food's great creations guilt-free! Eeps..that sounded so much like a cheesy commercial!
 
But, honestly, the end result of these chips is just how you'd like them. Crisp and golden brown on the outside and fluffy and soft inside. And without the guilt of frying and all the health risks that come with it. This recipe blanches them before roasting them and ensures a much, shorter cooking time too.

 
I did also try my hand at a homemade tomato ketchup. Why? Because its something we food bloggers do. Try and recreate something that is shop bought and then talk about how easy it is to make it and how the supermarkets are over-pricing everything! That's just the way it is!
 
However, this ketchup got mixed reviews. I, personally enjoyed it. You could taste the sweetness of the fresh tomatoes and the various other spices that had gone into flavouring it. There was a complex flavour profile that made the supermarket version seem bland in comparison.
 
 
But, my brother-in-law who is extremely fond of his shop bought ketchup wasn't impressed. The shop bought stuff has been his constant companion since his boarding school days and through University,  when it helped make many a bland meal, palatable. Nothing could trump it. Clearly, it was an emotive issue and he was in no mood to switch loyalties. I'll leave it to your discretion on whether you'd like to give it a go!
 
I will insist that you give these chips a shot.  Because life's too short to deny yourself simple pleasures!
 

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Malai Kulfi

And before you know it, Holi's here! This past weekend, we celebrated the 'festival of colours', here in India. It is supposed to herald the onset of spring but considering how unseasonally hot it was in my neck of the woods, it felt more like summer. The Indian summer is enough to make me one whiny, bothered, tortured soul but in the spirit of Holi, I won't complain today. I'll leave that for another day. Instead...I'll let you know that I made some 'kulfi' - the Indian answer to no-churn ice-cream!!
 
 
And lest you think, I slaved over the stove for hours (although you should know me better by now), I'll also let you know that this is a cheat's version that uses condensed milk and milk powder, halves your cooking time and tastes just as good.
 
This recipe is, of course, all thanks to my one-stop shop for easy Indian cooking, Tarla Dalal! The recipe uses just four ingredients - milk, condensed milk, milk powder and cardamom powder.
 
 
The end result will surprise you. In all likelihood, if you live in India, your kulfi is going to be shop bought. But, let me tell you, this kulfi matches up admirably. I do realise that looking at the photographs you are not going to be convinced. But, I did mention that it was hot and moreover, yours truly is hardly the most adept at unmoulding desserts smoothly. But, take my word, it is creamy and smooth with the right amount of sweetness with the cardamom pairing beautifully. This is the real deal!
 
 
Did you go all crazy this Holi?? Did you make something special for the occasion? Tell me!
 
I wish you and yours a very Happy Holi. Much the like colours of Holi, may your days ahead be coloured with love, happiness and good health!!
 
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