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.
Love, Food and Memories...
Our little class of 23 has been together since the 8th grade- a small time for some, but it has just made us so close. We're like a huge family... clichéd, I know, but it's true.
We're drama-free, group-free. We just love each other.
I know we're all going to be here next year, but with one tiny difference: the addition of 60 new people for the I.B. batch.
In a way, I'm excited for new people; new faces, new personalities, new friends and new things to do.
But in other ways, I just like it how it is. Till the last day, all 10 of us girls still sat and ate lunch together; laughing and screaming and complaining and sharing and gossiping and just everything that goes on in teenage girls' lives.
It's hard to look back 3 years and see how far we've come as a class and how much I have changed as a person. It seems so... distant and unreal.
A testimony to our closeness was our little party on our last day of school. We all brought in food and supplies and held a buffet for our class and all the teachers that have taught us since we joined.
It was weird... it worked.
Our gaggle of young, chaotic, loud and uncooperative barely-teenagers from all those years ago was suddenly so orderly and responsible and- most unexpected of all- appreciated by the teachers.
I mean, we had our share of yelling at each other, but at the end there were guys tidying all the garbage and handing plates to the teachers and... I'm proud to have been part of our bizarre group.
The teachers, too made so much effort- a couple of them even wrote (and sang) gorgeous songs for us and prepared a lunch of canapés, cake and 'vada pau' (the 'Indian Burger', as my teacher fondly nicknamed it).
My sister got home from an exhausting, tearful and girly-melodramatic camp on Friday, and to make her feel better my mum baked chocolate chip cupcakes and lasagne, and I made her the 'Fabulous French Toast Sticks' that she's been asking for for ages.
I love how good food effortlessly brings people together, and continues to be a way to show that you really care.
It doesn't matter whether you're cooking for family, bringing your friend's favourite food or cupcakes to share at your daily lunch on the terrace, or you're enjoying a feast and reliving all your memories of 3 long (but all too short) years.
Stop judging. You're beautiful...
I've been pretty irritated lately that for weeks I haven't had the time to do even a smidge of exercise, and to top it off I've been eating loads (Working makes me hungry and I can't work if I'm peckish... my mum laughs at my intermittent emergence in order to wander through the kitchen).
It takes a lot of effort, but I have to keep reminding myself to stop caring so much about such shallow things like putting on a few kilos.
Although increasingly we see dozens of articles proclaiming self-love, balanced lifestyles or distancing oneself from the skinny obsession, we see just as many, if not more, still driving us to jump rope for half an hour, to eat kale pancakes for breakfast, to eat quinoa at 2 am for a better metabolism, or whatever the latest craze may be.
Don't get me wrong, I am a health freak. I love quinoa. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole weird-looking grains, you name it and I eat it, and as much as possible, I don't eat processed or junk food.
But what I'm contesting is our obsession with perfect exteriors. I was driving the other day and I saw a dove and a pigeon and I started a discussion with my mum. To the common non-ornithologist, pigeons and doves look the exact same.
The one difference is their colour- one being patchy and uneven, the other being flawless.Society considers one as vermin, rats with wings and ugly pests, and the other represents purity, beauty and peace.
Doesn't that show our innate superficiality?
We know it, we hear it, but we rarely accept it: different people have different physiques. When I am not loaded with work, I'm proud to lead an active life and to eat well. But I'm not skinny. I'm just not.
On the other hand my sister eats junk food galore and doesn't exercise much, yet she has always maintained a small waistline.
I can't keep striving for something I'm not, because as clichéd as it sounds, it's the inside that counts. At the moment the exterior of my body may not be at its prime, but the interior strength and intelligence have helped push me through the past few weeks of work. I know that even though I don't look flawless, I have a healthy, well-looked-after body that I respect and love.
This cake came out a cosmetic mess. I won't describe all our various attempts to fix it, but we got it in the end. I ended up covering the whole thing in a thick layer of powdered sugar to disguise the uneven top... and I ruined it.
My family and I found the cake itself absolutely delicious... crumbly, lightly sweet, almondy and refreshing.
And to top it off, the cake is sneakily insanely healthy: almonds, orange juice and carrots make up the base. No butter. No flour. (Don't run away! I promise it doesn't taste weird ;) )
But my topping just made it... weird. Sugary. Crunchy. My friends agreed that the sugar was just too much.
My point is, that in an endeavour to make the outside of my cake look better, I messed up its natural beauty. I felt hypocritical, judging my cake on how it looks, rather than its true values, and not embracing the mistakes and the fun we had getting it together.
I loved it, it was healthy on its own, it didn't break completely, and it didn't need to look like a gateau on the cover of Food & Wine.
As long as I'm filled with good stuff, as long as I love my flaws, but do my best not to fall apart, I don't need to look like someone on the cover of Vogue.
And personally, I think pigeons are quite beautiful.
This weekend I was almost going to let my cooking be, and plan to do double cooking the next week to make up for it.
But I didn't want to fall into a bad habit, so I tried to think of something super quick.
I was about to make some pie dough, when my mum reminded me that I had a disc still in the freezer from the last tart (a surprise special post that's coming).
The filling is foolproof... it really doesn't take a genius to put these three things together. I had had them in a grilled sandwich before (melty, gooey, warm heaven), so why not in a tart?
The delight of this tart is its tiny size. A smidge of dough, a couple of speculaas biscuits, the remainder of my little jar of almond butter, and some chocolate shavings in the fridge left over from my sister's oreo parfaits.
And what tops it off, is how it's gone in a few minutes. Divided into four it gives each person a cute teatime snack to enjoy... no gargantuan dessert calling out from the fridge every. single. day. for a week.
I also whipped up a nutella mug cake on Saturday for breakfast.
I was so bored of normal eggs, but I knew that I'd need something filling, since I was going out all day. (How I wish muffins and cereal and chocolate toasts filled me up...)
So nutella with an egg snuck in? Yes please.
It was fluffy, light and satisfying. I figured our microwave is pretty strong, so that's why most of my mug cakes have come out so chewy before. I put this in for 30 seconds less than advised, and it was exactly how it should have been. Imagine if I did it for even less: gooey nutella :)
Enjoy your week (and some chocolate.)
I put cooking in inverted commas, because everything was already made. But nonetheless satisfying.
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 ;)
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.
Gah I have autumn fever!
And I'm living in a place where it's still 95º outside...
Every single blog and website and article is writing about leaves falling, pumpkins coming, warm drinks at Starbucks, boots and long socks, cute jackets and cardigans, Halloween costumes and candy, crisp air, bright skies...
As a result, I have been spending my time daydreaming about it all and filling my notebooks with autumn doodles. Yesterday, after a super hot day, I wanted a cup of warm milk with honey, simply to feel like it's the snug-drink season.
These pumpkin whoopie pies with maple cream epitomise autumn. The first whoopie pies I ever had (and my favourite to this day) were the pumpkin ones from Trader Joe's which would come every autumn. Here, fresh pumpkin is actually available most of the year, but I just haven't really gotten into cooking it.
So let's pretend that it's pumpkin season. There are jack-o-lanterns on all the doorsteps and every cafe and barista is engulfed by the smell of warm baking. I've just come back from a beautiful walk in my boots and my cozy long socks and my fleece.Vermont is ecstatic, whipping up maple syrup and the farmer's market made me buy a load of pumpkin. So we have no choice but to whip up a batch of whoopie pies.
It's sunny but chilly and I'm sitting down with a book and a cup of hot chocolate.
Life doesn't get much better than this, does it?
My dad had been dying to make whoopie pies for ages and he happily agreed to pumpkin-maple. He gets the same super-excitement as I do when he bakes; he started maniacally laughing with evil and glee and we bickered over getting to frost them. He also sat and had a whole photoshoot with them... no prizes for guessing where I got that from.
He worked on the pureeing the pumpkin while I prepared the spices and the batter. He was really happy with the fluffiness of the cakes, but I really don't know what I did apart from, well, mix...
By the way, he made monstrous whoopies... I mean huge. He dolloped big ice cream scoops on to the tray and after frosting and adding the other half, they look like softballs.
They're very visually appealing and very tummy sabotaging.
By the way, does anyone have a teleporter? Can you kind of, zap me back to Chicago autumn?
Lottie + Doof inspiration...
The title was inspired by one of Lottie + Doof's most beautiful posts: Gratitude + Orange Rolls, written after Tim was nominated for 2 (yes, 2) Saveur food blog awards. The rolls look divine and I was so excited to hear about his nominations. The name has for some reason stuck in my head, and I couldn't help using it because it just seemed perfect.
I baked these cupcakes out of gratitude, and they also happen to be orange :)
My week at Indigo was just fantastic: I actually got to cook in the kitchen! I helped make gayozas, phyllo pastries, macchiato brulées, almond-date tarts, and I even learnt some molecular gastronomy. Everyone showed me what they were doing, talked with me, showed me around and let me help make things... In an award-winning fine dining restaurant...
My days working in service were a blast because everyone felt like family. They're bonkers, funny, energetic and oh-so-sweet. I really can't believe how close I became with them all, and how much they did with me- showing me how to make cappuccinos, taking guests to their tables, serving at parties and just having a good time.
I wanted to make something to thank everyone for the time they gave me, so I spent Saturday baking. These came out a little dry, but still yum.
I realised I don't have a photo of the cupcakes with their frosting! I (tried to) make royal icing and after much error, a ziploc piping bag, toothpicks and a bunch of cocoa powder, my mum and I frosted each cupcake with a part of the Indigo logo- the grain, leaf or fish. They were pretty cute :)