This post was going to be entitled simply 'lately', but it kept reminding me of the song by David Gray. The chorus goes:
"Honey, lately I've been way down,
A load on my mind."
So the title is only partially apt. "A load on my mind"... yeah, you can say that again.
But I haven't been way down, not at all. The past few months have been chaotic, but I've been undoubtedly happy. Even though I haven't had much time to cook I wanted to write a bit of an update on the little foodie things that have been going on. I expected this post to be rather mundane, but in the process of choosing all the photos so many memories and moments have come back, and I actually think this post, despite a major lack of cooking, will be one of my favourites.
My mum and I had a quiet weekend lunch at Suzette - an adorable crêperie nearby. I had plenty of work, but we had to wait until a particular time and that made us slow down. Each savoured bite was interspersed by deep, engaging conversation and the place was quiet except for cute background music. We actually sat for a bit, just chatting, before we decided to go for it and order the blueberry panna cotta that had been tempting us. It was creamy, perfectly sweet, and it has set my panna cotta - and lunchtime - standards high.
I've read a lot about shashukha (a North African dish of eggs poached in a rich, flavourful tomato sauce) and it's high on the list of things I want to make. I didn't have enough time to make the real thing, but one day before an unusually early start at school I tried whipping up a simpler version. It certainly doesn't look as appetising as a traditional shashukha, but it was aromatic (my mum and sister were rather intrigued), warm and it was definitely what I needed that morning.
I'm still a coffee person (I never, ever thought I would be... late-night art sessions drove me to start drinking it, and now I'm one of those 'morning cuppa' people) but I do like certain teas. The Indian masala tea is divine, I'm very intrigued by floral teas, and from what I've tried of green tea it's alright... I've sort of made myself like it because it's good for you. But there are lots of fruity options out there waiting to be experimented with. My dad brought back some Sri Lankan tea and I particularly liked some of the honey-coloured, light ones and the gentle green teas. What topped it for me were the little labels, the rough string and the triangular cloth pouches <3
I can't rave enough about the fruit we get here... one weekend we just had so many, and I was feeling nostalgic about our trip to Cambodia and my daily fruit platter breakfasts. It wasn't the same, but nonetheless refreshing... and loads of fun to eat.
My mum packs a healthy, filling lunch for me every day (I dare my teachers to try and get me to absorb even one word if I haven't had a proper lunch), and she adds such lovely little touches. She'll put strawberries with kiwi because to me they're like chocolate and vanilla, or she'll put in a tub of mishti doi (a creamy bengali sweet yoghurt that's irresistible... Danone has ingeniously started packaging it like regular fruit yoghurts. The only downside is that I eat it way more often than I normally would... but I can't pass it up). One of my favourites is her speculaas parfait creation: a crumbled speculaas cookie, topped with plain yoghurt and a dollop of peach jam. It all infuses and it's the absolute best pick-me-up.
I asked Tarini what she wanted me to cook her for her birthday, and I was prepared to make anything. I had done croissants for my mum, a cake for my dad and frantic poffertjes for myself. But Tarini is a simple eater and, if you know what she likes, easy to please. She asked me for hash browns to go with easy scrambled eggs, canned baked beans and a carton of juice. Frying the hash browns was a tad messy... I gave 'hash' a new meaning... but she seemed satisfied :) Her simple pleasures rub off on us, because we all spent the morning bonding over building a giant Lego set together and sipping my dad's cappuccinos.
So many amazing restaurants keep popping up around Bombay. A lot of it is shifting to areas like Bandra, and people say my area will essentially become the quaint, historic 'old town'. I'm not complaining. I truly love my part of town, and we still get a huge number of new places each year - with the added advantage of more space and relatively more tranquility. The Sassy Spoon is minutes from my house and is unbelievably charming. The decor is gorgeous and quirky, the food is creative and fresh, and the last time we went they had a Christmas bazaar going on in their gardens with all the latest from Bombay's flourishing fashion design world. The photo above shows nothing of the ambience or the fun drinks, but the colours happened to catch my eye :P
Aside from 'real' cooking, I keep up my usual experimentation. I throw random ingredients into my oatmeal, cereal or yoghurt, try different toppings on my toast, mix up a new drink, or make something with bits and bobs, like the dessert above with bits of cake, yoghurt and jam.
One day my sister and my dad were busy, but my mum and I attended a bread making workshop. We figured it would help, considering our bad luck so far. We didn't actually get to make much - the dough was prepared, and they baked it. We essentially watched a presentation, kneaded the dough around a bit, and snacked on crackers, hummus and cappuccinos. I can't say we left as enlightened bread makers, but we did enjoy mingling and unwinding. The bread (cherry-apricot, raisin-hazelnut, and olive) was delicious and I ate it in every possible way:
... a box of stale (probably re-gifted) Belgian chocolates melted perfectly for us to dip the bread in...
... dollops of real jam...
... with strawberries, peanut butter and nutella...
... and I made the last two chunks into french toast :)
Near Christmas I made a banoffee pie - the recipe was really easy, and everything went perfectly. I was holding the fridge open, rearranging to make space, and holding the pie in my other hand, and I heard a splat as a part of the top layer spilled because I wasn't paying attention to it tilting and tilting. It worked out, though - we ate it while watching The Santa Clause, and it tasted incredible. The photos were taken in the evening, so they didn't do the pie justice, but condensed milk pouring onto a buttery walnut-biscuit base is pretty yum too.
These are kind of cheating, because they're from a box of pumpkin spice doughnut mix sent over via my dad by my aunt in Boston. It was like a little package of their pretty autumn. It wasn't your usual box mix because it was whole wheat and all natural, so I didn't mind ;) I turned them into muffins in the absence of a doughnut pan, and I was thrilled... the dripping maple glaze on top was, quite literally, the icing on the cake. I rolled my eyes at my dad adding more icing to his muffin, but yeah. He was right. These need a generous heap of icing, and I didn't regret it.
Being at my grandparents' house at any time of year means lots of homemade food and sweets and cookies and whatnot. This was further compounded by us being there at Christmas and New Year's, and the fact that my grandmother is an avid Dutch baker. I tried my first mince pies (above), had fresh oliebollen and appelflappen (Dutch New Year's traditions), gevulde speculaas, cookies, namkeen and cake... just to name a few. Bad for your waistline, great for your happiness.
Contrasting all that butter and sugar is my grandmother's herb and vegetable garden from which we collected fresh cherry tomatoes, parsley, basil and oregano. Among several other things growing were pumpkins, which I'm excited to see. I love this photo for so many reasons. Tarini's hand - on the left - is almost as big as mine, reminding me how she's not so literally my little sister anymore. The colours are vibrant, I can just smell the herbs and remember plucking them. It's always so interesting to go and see a plant - it connects you to your food in a different way and brings out your often stifled curiosity. And the little nose and ear peeking out on the right - the golden eyes are unfortunately hidden - belong to their dog Leela. I love her feistiness and energy, and she perfectly juxtaposes Naveen with his sweet, wimpy nature and melting chocolate eyes.
I had my first taste of chana jor: a street food special of roasted raw chickpeas (with the skin on) mixed with fresh onion, tomato, coriander, spices, a few sweet crunchy things, all culminating in one of the most delightful snacks I've tasted. The man preparing it could give the masterchef contestants a run for their money in onion chopping, and the whole process of putting it together is so fascinating. Little things in my tastes are changing... spicy street food, turmeric in my popcorn, and the newly realised ability to eat green kurkure without burning my tongue. I'm evolving with Bombay :)
I was lured back to get chana jor again, and I discovered 'ragi khakhara' at the supermarket both on the same day. Ragi is rye, and khakhara is traditionally a gujarati snack made of crispy paratha and comes in every possible flavour (even chinese schezwan, dosa and pizza). My family likes it, but I've never been hooked. But ragi khakhara? Oh yes. I love it. For all its fried food, Bombay is rather health-conscious, and increasingly so. Bombay is evolving along with me, too :)
From a recent trip to Copenhagen my dad brought rokkebrood (I only know the Dutch name), a dark, dense, slightly bitter bread laden with whole grains and seeds. No one in my family likes it, so more for me ;) I've had it every day for breakfast along with the pungent cheeses he brought, the artisan pineapple-mango jam (brilliant combination) I brought from our school trip to Pondicherry, nutella, butter, peanut butter, honey... you name it. It didn't even last a week. But I'm not disappointed, it's just given me something interesting to try and cook.
There was a massive food festival this weekend at the Nehru Centre, with each floor filled with stalls of food galore. We relished in all the different tidbits, and we especially enjoyed the organic farmer's market and stalls. It really showcased Bombay, from new French bakeries to masala burgers, perfect papad and Belgian fries, spectacular ice cream and organic flax seeds...
Today I'm feeling especially blessed. Well, call it what you will, as someone constantly debating faith I'm never sure quite what name to give it. Regardless of what it's called, it's an extraordinary feeling. Very, very few people are surrounded by such beautiful individuals, hear such warming words, are given such exciting opportunities and are made to feel, each and every day, that they love life.
Note to non-BD-ites: This may not make any sense, and don't get me wrong, our canteen is lovely. But being written for The BD Broadcast it had to be extra exaggerated and humourous- have a read if you want :)
BD-ites: this is the full version of the article in the most recent BD Broadcast issue.
“Oily and hairy!”
“I’m lovin’ it”
“Nice and spicy...”
Like most of the food, my interviews with students at the GD canteen could end up quite heated.
Of course, many chose to be ‘white bread’ with their remarks: decidedly bland.
But with my loyal taster by my side, 3 days of tasting, asking and snooping have culminated in: The Ultimate GD Canteen Review and Guide.
Paneer Chili vs. Chinese Bhel
The argument over these two dishes is as divided as I am over dark chocolate and milk chocolate.
In other words, there’s no conclusive decision... so go with both!
Most people find the paneer chili spicy, addictive, and filled with soft and perfect paneer.
My opinion? I tried it once in the 8th grade, and I was not going to go there again... besides, I don’t think it’s ever going to stop haunting me. It’s like a gelatinous, red mess with emulsified, soggy-batter-coated paneer, onions and capsicum.
But I’m not very opinionated.
The chinese bhel- crispy, red, spicy, creative and claimed by some as unhealthy- is a huge hit in the canteen, and the subject of many BD Broadcast and MUN jokes. In all honesty, it wasn’t too bad, but I didn’t have the stomach to have full plate... we just stole a bite from a devout 11th grade chinese-bheler.
The dosas... some say it’s the best thing there, some say it’s the worst. Some even claimed, convinced and aghast, that they had seen one of the cooks put tap water in the batter. Whatever it is, you can’t deny their popularity. They’re quick, crispy, a little spicy and their fillings are well-balanced: not overloaded with cheese, nor is the masala green with chillies. Just try to ignore the black cloth that’s used to wipe the griddle each time...
The manchurian roll is allegedly like pav bhaji: red, indistinguishable, spicy (noticing a theme here?) and messy, while its cousin the cheese corn roll is delicate, cute, spicy, corny and cheesy (much like The Broadcast). One expert offered her advice: “You need to be an experienced Subway-eater to eat it properly”.
My review helper had an ingenious idea: she broke it in half and ate it like bruschetta... well done for thinking outside the bun.
Which brings me on to bruschetta. Most people in my class didn’t believe our canteen (‘our canteen?!’) had bruschetta, but low and behold, there were little plates with dainty slices of baguette topped with fresh tomatoes and basil.
What are they trying to do, make us eat real food? Where’s the masala? Tomatoes? Who needs tomatoes, when you’ve got perfectly good ketchup?
Jokes aside, I liked it. The bread was slightly soggy from the tomato juice, but it was refreshing to see some nutritious food on offer.
One day, something caught my eye, and not in a good way. I mustered up the courage to try the masala bread. Essentially it’s a fluffy, starch-white pillow of bread, topped with puréed green chillies and tomatoes. At least, that’s what my burning, mush-filled mouth told me it was. If you love spicy food, and aren’t obsessed with wholewheat bread, then by all means enjoy some masala pav... it grows on you. Or maybe my taste buds just went numb.
The idlis were good... well, idlis are idlis. Rice. Steamed rice.
But the chutney is definitely a success- it’s balanced, it didn’t set my tongue on fire, and it’s really coconutty. One person said it was “The best thing she’d ever eaten. Ever.”
I think that says more about the person
Who guessed food colouring? Congratulations! The paneer chili’s signature redness does not come from tomatoes, or even chilies...
As for the chinese bhel, the artificial ingredient is... brace yourselves... ketchup. It actually is really bad for you, but I honestly don’t envisage India parting with its beloved ‘sauce’ any time soon.
They use sunflower oil, and bake their bread in the canteen: next time you’re there, look at the back and watch them put in and pull out trays upon trays of buns, and try and spot their sandwich bread slicer.
The canteen is open, breezy, bright and friendly. You talk, you eat, you walk around... going back there after more than two years really made me look at it differently. In the 8th grade you’re this awkward, new, self-conscious and shy little kid. The ambience changes so much when you’re meeting your friends in all the grades, laughing about the food you remember and the new things you’re trying.
The canteen food is spicy, it’s strange, and the hygiene is open to debate.
But we can’t disgrace it entirely- after all, as one person put it: “Although we wanna shut the canteen, I’m sure we’ll all miss the food.”
It’s our canteen.
(Even though it's GD's...)
Pass The Plate Update...
For a while, unfortunately, I hadn't done a Pass The Plate- I felt inundated with studying and work for my finals, and much to my dismay this took a back seat. But at the start of summer my mum and I decided that we would make it a more regular occurrence, and every couple of days we try to distribute some food.
The beauty of Pass The Plate is its simplicity: we used leftover pooris (I'll post a recipe soon) and fried up some peas to make rolls, we made some omelettes one day and put them into sandwiches, and other little things like that.
For one session I tried my hand at namkeen- the hindi word for little fried snacks. Madhur Jaffrey had a perfect recipe for sev, and I assumed that the same could be used for differently shaped namkeen.
It was loads of fun, really hot and definitely interesting... but no, you cannot use sev mixture for other namkeens, such as muruku. The recipe said they would crisp up as they dried, so I kept waiting and waiting but they remained like french fries. A few hours later they tasted like soggy french fries. My sister absolutely loved them, and as my mum rightly pointed out, I wasn't feeding food critics.
Of late we've been delivering the food to a couple of families that live outside the National Gallery of Modern Art. There are loads of children, very old women, and they're all always really eager to get one of the packages. It's kind of hard to articulate the looks in some of the little kids' eyes, but it's all over in a flash- even the plastic bag is taken- and you don't often realise just what the food meant to them.
Today I made a stack of simple grilled cheese sandwiches. It wasn't some amazing culinary experimentation, and it's easy to go and buy a bunch of bags of chips or cookies- however these are loaded with artificial junk- but I really just love the time I spend in the kitchen, no matter what I'm doing.
Almost every evening I'm in the kitchen with my mum, giving her a hand with whatever needs to be chopped, washed, stirred. Some nights I cook- I made leek fried rice and peanut sauce yesterday- and other times I'm an extra set of hands, but either way I'm thrilled.
Summer? Monsoons? It doesn't matter...
Oh, man. Few countries in the world experience this strange phenomenon, and India is certainly one of them. Rain, rain, ceaseless rain for at least 2 months.
I'm kind of caught in this hybrid of two seasons: on the one hand it's summer, but on the other hand it's damp and often depressing.
Last weekend the monsoons really hit Bombay and we were actually excited, as the huge overhead clouds (read: air conditioners) rolled over the city, and one could almost feel the mercury in the thermometers plunging.
We went all-out with monsoon food: my dad and I made a fresh batch of banana muffins for breakfast (as promised, I have not posted about them... but they were probably the best recipe we've tried yet: insanely fluffy and perfectly flavoured). For lunch my mum made a gorgeous lentil soup and what made it outstanding was the roasted red bell pepper she added into the pressure cooker with the lentils. Along with parathas she made a fresh mango chutney- something I've never tried before, but I absolutely loved. In total contrast, I made a peach sorbet; something that screams beaches and scorching afternoons at the park. It was nonetheless welcome: it's simple and light, and the added-on-a-whim almonds were a lovely little touch.
Warm creamy soup, sweet refreshing chutney, crispy comforting parathas, sweet 'n sour sorbet, and watching the curtains of rain compete with our flapping, wind-blown curtains.
In India monsoons aren't complete without bhutta: Indian corn roasted on a fire and smothered with lemon juice and chaat masala. It's a typical street snack, but is just as common in all households. We had an evening snack of crunchy, nostalgic bhutta and steaming masala chai, the ginger, lemon, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom wafting through the whole house, carried by the pervading mist.
However this cross of weathers has its downsides:
Family: "Have some warm, sugary tea, oh and why not add a muffin- they'll taste so nice together."
Me: "I'm alright, thanks, I just had breakfast."
Family: "Oh, come on, it's monsoon season! You have to have them!"
Family: "Let's have some ice cream!"
Me: "Nah, thanks, I'm really full."
Family: "But it's summer! It isn't summer without ice cream!"
So you see my dilemma. But all in all, I'm not complaining. This weather brings out the best and the worst in people: it can be catastrophic, a potential bonfire of frustrations of sitting all day indoors, or being cornered by dozens of honking cars and merciless rain and mud outside. You don't want to stay indoors all the time, and you don't want to go out.
But when you do stay indoors, you make the most of it with laughs, books, good food, music and lovely company.
I wrote about the fantastic fruit earlier, so here's a visual version:
My mum had the idea, and she and my sister are to thank for doing the layout, fresh after the fruit delivery.
In other news, while peeling the peaches I came across this:
I knew almonds were from the peach family, so I honestly thought I had found an almond. I was so excited to try it... and it was the most disgusting, gag-inducing thing I have tried. It was translucent, watery, and shockingly bitter. At least I tried it.
How's your summer going? Are you in rainy Europe? Enduring the Chicago heat? What do you make of the Bombay 'Summonsoon'? Or is your summer something totally different?
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.
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.
'Aloo'= potato & 'Tikki'= little cutlet
I was looking forward to today all week. Not only was it 'popcorn day' -I had planned in advance that I was going to cook- finally, a day without a heap of assignments due the next morning!
But I didn't actually have a dish in mind, and I take forever to even decide on something...
So when my mum said that she had been planning to make chaat and aloo tikki, I couldn't resist.
It's simple- minimal cooking or technique required. But they're full of flavour and loads of fun to eat.
For those of you who don't know (gasp! you're missing out...), chaat is a very Indian snack. There are numerous types, but there are some components that appear in almost all: potato, chutneys, chickpeas, masala, coriander, some crunchy fried component, some lentils, some crispy potato or batter sprinkles, some puffs (they look like rice krispie puffs), and yoghurt.
My absolute favourite is Dahi Batata Puri: small, crunchy, hollow boules- each filled with a bit of plain mashed potato and topped with a generous heap of lentils, yoghurt, tamarind chutney, coriander, masala and sprinkles.
Chaat is super easy to make and it'll please anyone. I know for a fact that you can get chaat kits in Chicago on Devon street, and any other Indian food shop will have the ingredients you need. Otherwise, improvise with a crunchy substitute like crackers or bruschetta.
After having aloo tikkis, you'll never have plain ol' mashed potatoes again. They're soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and taste much better than simple salt and pepper seasoning.
Make yourself and your family a snackity dinner- tell me what you thought!
Yes, it may seem like a silly recipe.
But this is part of a campaign to get people to ditch those horrible store-bought sauces and the homemade ones that taste like ketchup.
It's basic, quick and you can use it for any cuisine just by changing the spices.
Do yourself a favour. Throw out any ketchupy stuff, any recipes that lead you to make that, and if you already make good tomato sauce, send this on to your friends who need it.
Or a scrumptious soup...
I know I posted about a dal recently, but I just have a soft spot for it. It's warm, nutritious and always delicious.
This one is made with split peas (chana dal) and has a tomato-spinach masala mixed in.
The only thing that takes time is cooking the split peas, but everything else is quick. If you have the time to let stuff sit on the stove but don't want to spend ages in the kitchen, this is a great recipe.
As with most dals, this can be eaten as part of an Indian meal, or with a western meal as a soup. My mum makes a chickpea- ditalini soup from Jamie's Italy and it's my all-time favourite soup. (I'll make it one day and post about it!)
You can try adding some semi-cooked pasta to this dal to turn it into a similar dish and a perfect, balanced meal.