One last banana bread...
Looking over my blog the other day I realised 2 things:
Firstly, that I have barely cooked anything savoury in ages. I mean, I know I have a total sweet tooth and bias towards baking, but part of my aim in starting this blog was learning a wide range of cooking skills.
Secondly, there is a total excess of posts on banana breads, muffins, banana muffins and the like. My family is particularly fond of banana bread and muffins, and it's an insanely fast way to use up mushy bananas (which, thanks to the balmy Mumbai weather, we have all too frequently).
I promise not to write about bananas for a long time. So in keeping with my promise, the banana bread will form just a part of this post. I asked my dad if we could 'speculaasify' the banana bread, since my last attempt failed. I've already proclaimed my love for speculaas, so I don't need to gush about that either.
My dad says (and I maybe agree) that it turned out pretty 'gingery', but I put exactly how much the recipe called for, gingerbread is a known thing, and if it was really so bad, my dad wouldn't be eating it so often.
As for the shahi paneer, it's a really simple and healthy cottage cheese dish and I fell in love with it when I first tried it a few years ago. I get really excited when my mum makes it and I wanted to try it myself. The ingredients are simple, and the Indian spices used don't tend to go off too quickly, so you can keep them for your next dish if you don't cook Indian too often. If you're in an Indian household, you'll obviously have everything at hand.
Methi (fenugreek) is a slightly bitter leaf, so it's not necessarily to everyone's taste. But don't let that deter you from buying some and trying it- even if you don't like it, you can use the leftover leaves for some methi parathas (something i have yet to try making, but it's not hard and there are dozens of recipes online).
On a BBC Food Programme the other day, one man from Bristol talked abut his '60s awakening to vegetarianism and Indian food being his connection, as vegetarian English food is practically nonexistent. He made a simple masoor daal, a dish that forms the basis of most of Indian cuisine and that sustains the majority of the population. (I'll write more about the programme in another post)
The beauty of Indian cuisine is the way it can be transformed into a myriad variations, and how inherently nutritious and balanced it is. Protein from lentils, pulses, yoghurt or cottage cheese, carbohydrates from rice or bread (chapatis, rotis, parathas, naans), there's always at least one vegetable dish and it's all homemade and natural.
I'm noticing now that this post covers the two sides of my blood: Dutch and Indian, and I'm equally passionate about the two cuisines.
Whichever country (or countries) you're from, wherever you live, take some time to explore a new kind of food. Take an old favourite (like banana bread, or baby potatoes) and give it a new and international twist.
One of the great things about living in Bombay is the way anything (and I mean anything) can make its way to your doorstep with just a phonecall.
The downside (and amusement) comes in when you open the door and see that something is not quite what you ordered: Nutella instead of Nutrela; ladyfinger instead of beans; soap instead of flour, or the likes.
A while ago we received a kilo of oatmeal. So we tried to make some stuff to use it up: I made muesli one evening, but it barely used a fraction of the jar, I tried (and failed) and some flapjacks, and then my mum and I made the cupcakes.
On a side note, I haven't posted in ages because I've been in the middle of my 10th grade IGCSEs, and much to my dismay, studying obviously takes priority (but now I'm almost done!).
One afternoon I just had my maths exam the next day and I felt like being in the kitchen, so I decided to finally give muesli a go. There are infinite granola and muesli recipes out there, but I just based this on some I've tried at my grandma's and at a few hotels. I think I'm the only person in my class who goes 'yummm' at the sight of über-healthy, seed and nut loaded, oaty muesli and cringes at the thought of fruit loops and lucky charms.
After my friend fell in love with speculaas (slather some bread with butter, add a couple of cookies and let it soften overnight... heaven), I tried using an oat flapjack recipe and then speculassifying them by adding the necessary spices. The problem was, I looked at two recipes and couldn't decide, so I kind of winged it, leaving me with a pan of flaky, burnt, barely spicy oats.
Yeah.Plus I had forgotten that speculaas cookies need ginger, so they went without. I like to think that burning them was a sign that they just weren't meant to be ;)
On the bright side, I discovered how delicious melted butter and honey taste together and I had that on a some toast with cinnamon the next morning.
Lastly my mum and I made some honey-oat cupcakes. They're more like muffins, because we really reduced the sweetness by using less honey. They're very oaty and solid, but light and fun to have warmed and topped with butter, jam, honey, or cheese. Essentially, they taste like honey oatmeal- just cuter.
And after all this? We've still got about half a kilo of oats left.
Got any oatmeal recipes, anyone?
Fruits. Fruits. Fruits. Fruits fruits fruits.
I could go on about them forever. It wasn't always that way, though. I loved green grapes and little clementines and occasionally some strawberries... essentially little-kid fruit stuff.
I was hesitant to try new fruits, and when I did I really didn't like them.
But everything changed since moving to Bombay. Bombay, the land of exotic and bright tropical fruits that come in seasons, making up for the lack of change in the weather.
Strawberries from Mahabaleshwar and grapes from Nasik in the winter, vibrant watermelon in the summer, and I've already written about the Bombay bananas. In addition, there's melon: subtle, soft and sweet, pomegranate: bold and refreshing, oranges: huge and juicy, papaya: perfect in the morning, apples: sweet and crisp. I learned about litchi- whose season has just started!- and then a couple of years ago in Malaysia I tried rambutan- its larger cousin. When we were in Hawai'i in 2009 my parents were thrilled to find litchis, a fruit which they had only ever had as kids in India. But it looked squishy and white and weird and I didn't touch it.
I regret that so much...
I've become more experimental with what I eat, and more appreciative of fresh produce, and Bombay's fruits just seem to be more delicious than the mushy bananas and the pale watermelons that used to sell in Chicago and Amsterdam.
I wanted to make mango banana bread (i.e. cake) last summer but I never got around to it, so my dad and I made a loaf within the first week of getting mangos. I'm super proud, too because we set a record with making this: we took 20 minutes! My dad and I are both notorious for our long experimentations in the kitchen and for taking hours to get something done. Granted, this is a really simple recipe, but it felt good to bake something together without it taking out a huge chunk of the day again.
There are dozens of different kinds of mangos throughout India, and each region is loyal to its own variety. Bombay-ites are especially dedicated to Alphonsos: they have a dense, moist flesh, an orange colour identical to that of Holland's and at their best they're heavenly sweet (and horribly messy...).
When it's fresh, this bread is moist and springy, and it gets a lovely crusty top. I think it would have been better with more mango and more banana- giving the whole bread a stronger and sweeter taste.
But for those of you who are hesitant to mess with banana bread, or those who prefer a milder taste, using just one mango and less banana than it calls for would work out well.
Enjoy it soft and chilled, or toasted on a pan for an elevated taste (trust me, I read about eating it like that and resisted for ages, but I fell in love with the concept as soon as I tried it).
What fruits do you have locally? What are your favourites?