Sometimes, you need a break... you know, just a day off to recuperate: to sleep, to eat, to read, to listen to music.
I had one of those days this week, and I made sure I baked something. I had planned to cook something for dinner, but instead I was drawn to making muffins... surprise, surprise.
These are a little dense, probably thanks to the oatmeal, but they are full of banana and cinnamon flavour, and you can't go wrong with that combination.
They taste perfect if you slice them in half and toast them nicely on a pan. It just brings out so much more flavour and texture and topping it with some nutella, peanut butter or speculaas paste is the icing on the cake. (Or the spread on the muffin. Bad joke.)
On a separate note: bananas.
I never, ever liked them. I mean, banana bread? Sure! Banana smoothies? Absolutely.
But even the tiniest bite of banana made me gag.
I finally tried a banana properly just over a year ago, and thought it was ok... bearable, but not something I would really eat voluntarily.
But then I tries the baby bananas or 'elaichi kelas' that are native to the tropics and that my family had been raving about for years.
Oh gosh... Gone were the weird mushy exterior, the funny sound when you bite it, the inevitable rotten parts.
These bananas are firm, neat, and at just the right moment, they are immaculately sweet.
Even afterwards, they remain delicious as they soften, shrink and sweeten. When they're perfectly ripe, the skin is thin and delicate, and I just love to pop the banana right into your mouth.
'Mumbaikars' and other coastal inhabitants are probably thinking 'been there, done that' but I'm still enjoying these little snack packs, as well as rubbing it in the faces of people who are stuck with plain ol' bananas ;)
But don't worry, you mainland dwellers: because your mushy bananas are perfect for banana muffins.
Where does time go?
Has it really been 20 days since I've posted?
I went on to check my statistics today, expecting them to have plunged, readers fed up with a silent Chocolate Tulip.
But the graph made me smile, because it showed me that you, whoever you are, haven't forgotten about me.
Thank you. :)
I think the world should do away with exams... a couple of rushed weeks before exams turn the skyscrapers in the city into towers of textbooks; the sun into the light of your study lamp; clouds into the pillow that you're waiting to collapse on, and streets into the lines of text, droning on and on.
The due date for our art coursework is drawing nearer and nearer, while most other students have already finished and are moving onto their mock exam prep, soon to be followed by the final exam prep.
It's just... insane.
I was talking with my grandma and my mum today and looking through recipe books, and I just really, really, really want to cook something. Bake something. Something beautiful.
I've been trying to squeeze in some cooking in the past couple of weeks, but it's had to be extra-class, homework, art and revision- friendly.
Enter the 5-minute dishes.
Last Sunday I made banana bread in a bowl, on Thursday I made a microwave strawberry muffin, and today I had a blast with my sister at lunch, making a coffee cup quiche and a chocolate-peanut butter microwave mud cake.
When you're so overwhelmed with school life, you tend to forget things that really matter.
My sister is by far one of the most precious assets in my life. I don't know anyone whom I fight so much with, yet love so infinitely. I need to start opening my eyes more to the life we share: noticing when she gives me a hug after a horrid day, when she takes the time out to make something special for me when I'm exhausted, and start doing more things with her, because as much as I want this torture of studying to end, the sooner it finishes the sooner she and I will no longer be together.
She's the only person in my family who would willingly eat a gooey, chocolatey, peanut-buttery cake, and we just loved it.
Don't worry... 'real' recipes are coming... a few weeks until the Mock IGCSEs and then I'm celebrating with a huge, fabulous meal ;)
Memories & Misconceptions...
It's funny how certain things become intrinsic parts of your life, or how certain concepts are always connected to a particular memory.
The show Arthur is, in my opinion, one of the greatest kids' shows of. all. time.
I watched it all through my childhood, and I was devastated to find out that it doesn't show here (I have yet to search online...).
The news that Lance Armstrong was considering confessing to doping sparked a conversation with my dad about how someone could be hailed as such an idol to so many, and could just let them down. The first thing I said was: "And there's even an Arthur episode about him!"
It's true-- in the episode, Lance Armstrong helps Binky overcome his fear of cycling competitively and pushes him until he actually wins a huge race in their town, Elmwood. It's an honour to be on Arthur.
My only memory of soufflé is a quick scene on Arthur in which his dad, a caterer, tries to make a soufflé and it turns out looking like an empty sack.
But the recipes have been catching my eye for ages, so I decided to give it a go. I made sure I did it for lunch, because had I made it for dinner I would have been stuck with the ugly combination of terrible lighting and a huge yellow mass... not photogenic.
The one mistake was that the bottom wasn't quite cooked-- the oven tends to act up: when I made bread, I put the oven rack low and ended up burning the bottom. This time, I put the rack low and the bottom couple of centimeters were the only part that didn't cook. The worst part was that because the layer was so small and so far down, the skewer came out clean each time and I had no idea it was underdone.
But despite the scrambled-egg-like part, the rest was actually really good: pillowy & light.
It came together well, and didn't take long, it puffed nicely, browned and had a subtle and comforting cheesy taste. It went well with some toasted ciabatta and it did what all food should do: lifted my spirits on a work-full day.
So hang on to those childhood memories, but let go of those misconceptions. Go back to an old favourite, but be daring and try something new.
Arthur will perennially be in 4th grade, but you're always growing up. And unlike Arthur's dad or Lance Armstrong, you don't have the whole world watching your mistakes.
Mumbaikars and Delhi-ites don't usually mix-- each city thinks of the other as stuck up in its own way, Bombay appears to be too chaotic and Bollywood-ised and Delhi is seen as dull and old-fashioned. In the wake of that horrid incident with a young college girl in Delhi, the city has gotten a bad rap, and understandably so.
But it's in fact a huge hub for fashion, design, food and art, andI have the most fantastic memories of the city, especially since I've been there every year to visit my grandparents.
However my tastes have matured, and although I am still in love with the old fried snacks, 'paneer tikkas' and punjabi meals, I have recently discovered all the city has to offer as it becomes more and more cosmopolitan and I become more adventurous.
In my previous post, I mentioned some of the restaurants I went to in Delhi, and this post is meant to give you more of an idea of what's beneath Delhi's sandy surface:
The Café Turtle
This cafe is just gorgeous, what with its mellow yet colourful interior, its huge range of food, the breezy balcony and to top it off, a bookstore downstairs.
The Café Turtle provides a myriad beautiful baked goods-- we had a lemon cheesecake and some carrot-walnut cake-- as well as salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies, plenty of coffee and more. It's rarely empty, but never loud; the ambience seems to inspire a sense of hush and relaxation to appreciate the good food, the decor and the moment.
Their bookstore, Full Circle, isn't huge but it's well-stocked with loads of cookery books, design, music, art, history, fiction, old, new, children's, bestsellers, you name it. A cute touch is the little handwritten notes they tag on bookshelves with a recommendation- usually a less-known book. But go there with some time-- it's easy to spend hours there...
Click here for more information.
South Extension Chaat Shop
I don't really know what this place is called, but it's famous; just ask anyone in South Extension and they'll point you in the right direction (why not do some shopping while you're navigating the area?). They're always packed, but they have a huge turnover, so it won't take you long to get a table. For Mumbaikars, this place is kind of like Swati, except that in addition, they make insane 'mithai' (Indian sweets). I had a delicious chaat with 'dahi vada' in the poori and potato dish, which was something new and intriguing. I already wrote about the waiter who decided to adopt my sister and appoint himself the role of enlightening her on the wonders of chaat, and all the staff are super efficient and nice. If you want an even quicker stop, there's an outdoor counter with paani poori, kheer, sweets and more snacks. I'm sure you can spare half an hour... it's totally worth it.
The Bagels Café
This relatively new cafe has been all the news in Delhi, in Vogue and in Holland too-- a Dutch lady started this cafe, and broke even in just 6 months. Now there are more branches all over the city and it's insanely popular. She initially wanted to keep it authentic and refused to add any Indianised bagels, but she soon succumbed and now alongside the burger bagels, dutch 'stroopwafels' (delightful syrupy, waffly cookies), coffee and cookies there are cottage cheese and masala bagels. The cafe also serves things like pasta, salads with bagel chips, some baked goods and dutch pancakes.
It's cute, but it doesn't have the same ambience as the Café Turtle-- it's more fast-foody. We sat and had some coffee (and I treated myself to a Christmas cake pop :) ) and packed some bagel sandwiches along for a picnic in the stunning, sprawling and ancient Lodi Gardens.
The Bagels Cafe website
Hauz Khas Village
This area is a recent discovery for me, as I hadn't been there since I was really little... but I just loved it. It's chock-full of boutiques, cafes, restaurants and antique stores. We saw beautiful leather trunks at Nappa Dori, a shop selling ancient decor and furniture that I wanted to buy there and then and store away to put in my cafe, a shop that made amazing upcycled things, and so, so much more. We paused at a tiny place- not more than a large cupboard with a counter and some chairs and tables outside- for a bite to eat. A young east-asian girl ran it, and had to make quite a maneuver to turn round, reach into the display case and access the microwave. She sold very tempting baked treats like cookies and cake (I had a cherry, chocolate and walnut cake), crackers, dips, bread and things like Kerstollen (a Dutch Christmas cake-- although my dad calls it a bread when he wants to feel better about himself having it). On the way out, I was drawn into the siren-call of a small Italian gelato trolley, which said that the gelato is made by Italians fresh each morning. I tried an almond gelato and a swiss chocolate one, and contrary to my usual tastes, I went with the almond one; it was creamy, subtle and much to my nostalgic delight, tasted just like the almond cookies we had in France. The whole place just had me dying to finally start my own cafe, or design and make stunning things. It was perfect weather, full of culture and a lovely way to spend your day.
The Delhi Gymkhana
Last but not least, a childhood favourite of myself and my sister, our mum, and our granddad, who first swam there when he was 14. India's gymkhanas are huge, gorgeous colonial clubs with vast fields, old courts and pools and yummy food. The Delhi Gymkhana is much more uppity than the Bombay one, and children aren't allowed in most places (although I manage to sneak through ;). But I can forgive them for that, because they have brought years of happiness of fresh lime soda, paneer tikka, ice cream, freshly baked bread, pasta and more. This time we didn't actually get the chance to go and hang out there, but we had massive party for the 50th wedding anniversary of my grandparents. All the family and friends were there- some known to me, most not- and there was a long array of food to try: fish tikkas, mustard leaf cream, minestrone, clay-baked parathas and rotis, kulfi and cake (lots and lots of it... my cousin and my sister and I had fun secretly eating the chocolate on top). I'm not going to try and explain all these dishes to those of you who are not familiar with Indian food- I won't do them justice. If you're intrigued, which I hope you are, please do google them, contact me or go straight to an Indian restaurant or friend's house and dig in :)
I've been meaning to do a New Year's post, and I figured I should just sit down an write it, otherwise before you know it, *POOF* it's 2014...
It feels like that's what happened in 2012, and 2011, and 2010, and every year before that, except that as each year goes by they get faster and faster.
Forgive me for questioning the laws of nature, but doesn't that seem kind of stupid, since as we get older we are less and less obsessed with being a year older and more conscious of the fact that moments are precious and that they won't last forever.
I wish I could say that I made something absolutely incredible for our New Year's dinner, but my dish was essentially a bunch of stir-fried vegetables and some homemade fries. It was alright, but nothing recipe-worthy.
The stars of the meal were my mum's mushroom and spinach pie, the pea and spaghetti soup and the 'oliebollen'.
Oliebollen (Dutch for 'Oil balls') are a traditional Dutch New Year's dessert-- kind of like warm doughnut holes with powdered sugar on top and wintery things like raisins and apples inside.
My mum and dad made them, and they were scrumptious... pillowy and warm and sweet and so delicate...
I had, as expected, delicious food during my week in Delhi, including a picnic with bagel burgers from the popular Bagels Café, and chaat (read about chaat here) at a place where the super sweet but incredulous waiter did everything he possibly could to try and get my sister to add SOMETHING to her dry chaat, so that she can experience at least some of its taste-tingling possibilities.
Of course I came back more than a few kilos heavier, but my only reassurance is that I'm not alone: people all over the world have spent the past couple of weeks enjoying Christmas feasts and indulging in their favourite holidays treats. My grandpa told us this rhyme: (translated; and BTW Halwa is a sweet, fluffy dessert and Pooris are deep-fried, cripy breads)
You'll go to Nani's house,
Eat Halwa and Pooris,
And come back fat
Couldn't have said it better myself.
My grandparents' helper makes so. much. food. And the worst part? It's lovely: puddings and cakes and 'parathas' fried to a crisp in ghee and oil...
I've kind of given up on New Year's resolutions, because I rarely follow any of them.
But this year's resolutions were actually significant, because if it wasn't for them Chocolate Tulip wouldn't exist: for 2012 I made a resolution to cook one new thing each week, and it's the only resolution I stuck with. One new thing a week led to something new each day in the summer, and the starting of Chocolate Tulip.
So eat up, enjoy, and don't doubt your resolutions just yet...
P.S. I learnt some new recipes, including curries and sweets, so those will be coming soon.