I had a lot of fun making this pasta. The next morning I was leaving on our school's annual bonding camp trip to the hills, and so although I had loads of work to do, I could put it off for a few days.
That trip has had a reputation of being absolutely horrendous, and I've honestly been miserable sometimes. But this year it was unbelievable. The treks were harder than any I've done before- wet, slippery, hot, stifling, crumbly and long. But the views from the hills were spectacular and nullified any tiredness: acres and acres of greenery in every possible shade, little waterfalls and streams, fields of wildflowers, cattle wandering along a silent path, clean and crisp air, mist rolling around you from all sides- sometimes turning the entire surroundings white- and the rain shimmering down from time to time.
Plus, with 60 new students there was always so much to talk about and so many people to meet.
This pasta is kind of like our camping trip. It's fresh, natural and good for you, and it's filled with different colours, shapes and flavours- like the new variety of personalities we have at school.
I got really carried away with photographing the bright vegetables, and then even more so when I saw that even the pasta was multicoloured. I started pouring pasta into bowls, taking photos in-motion, scattering them, and generally turning the kitchen counter into one big, noisy, colourful, messy, moving canvas.
The 4 colours that this dish revolves around are yellow, red, green and white. That's literally it.
Mixing this dish up is such a good feeling... you simply run your hands through a dish of ingredients of varying shapes and textures, made slippery with olive oil and exuding the vegetables and herbs' subtle aromas.
Another one of my favourite sensations is breaking apart fresh balls of mozzarella... the cheese just splits into lovely, soft chunks, and they're irresistible.
There isn't much to this recipe: chopped garlic, red and yellow bell pepper, ribbons of zucchini, sliced tomatoes, torn real mozzarella, shredded fresh basil, a lot of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake the dish in the oven to cook the vegetables, taking it out and stirring it occasionally. Boil the pasta, serve it all up and top it with some fresh basil and grated parmesan.
I hope you've had a colourful day xx
East meets West in the South East...
We just spent 10 days in Cambodia...
'Cambodia?!', you ask, 'What on earth is there to do in Cambodia?'.
But in actual fact, we all fell in love with Cambodia: the culture, the people, the food and the history... so much so that Cambodia has even been featuring in my sister's and my dreams lately.
If I went into a whole story of everything I loved about it, this blog post would be three times as long as it already is, so I'm just going to stick with the food aspect ;)
Cambodia is the land of the two-wheelers: scooters, motorcycles and bikes make up the majority of the transport for the population, and túk-túks (scooters with a carriage at the back) ferry locals and tourists alike. In fact, during our whole holiday we only sat in a car twice- once from the airport, and once to. Scooters also often have little food carts attached to them, selling baguettes with your choice of filling, French crêpes (part of the lingering French influence) with banana and nutella, drinks, local fried snacks, noodles (not your regular maggi.... this stuff has real vegetables and fun sauces), and even little cakes.
My first meal in Cambodia had to be amok- Cambodia's specialty. It's a fish dish that's either baked or steamed. This version was at Le Tigre En Papier, a local fusion restaurant popular with backpackers. Actually, pretty much all of Siem Reap is popular with backpackers... it's a melting pot of loads of young groups and couples walking around in hippy-fun clothes and enjoying the vibrant markets. The amok was slightly cocnoutty and the fish was made in a shredded form. I didn't like some of the fish, but overall it was something new and interesting.
After hours of exploring the ancient Angkor temples, we bought some much-needed pineapple from a local vendor.The pineapple was ingeniously carved and quartered so one could enjoy it neatly and on the go.
One of the loveliest parts of the trip was our visit to a floating village, complete with an adorable floatng church, tiny floating police station, a floating basketball court, school, houses... everything. Our guide was a really sweet young guy who told us all about the culture, history, and functioning of the village- despite being a melange of various ethnicities, the community is very tight-knit, albeit with its own social problems.
Amidst the bustling markets in Siem Reap are alleys filled with alluring boutiques, cafés, restaurants and craft shops that could have been plucked right out of an old European town. We enjoyed many a nice meal and lots of browsing and shopping in The Alley (actually named that) during our visit and as a temple-detox.
The Singing Tree Café in The Alley works for the benefit of locals (as many organisations do- restaurants, shops, handicraft makers and various other services all really focus on making the flourishing tourism an industry that thrives and helps the Cambodians as much as possible.) serves cappuccino in pretty mugs, and we were all satisfied with out meal while going through our photos, taking in the activity of The Alley and talking.
I'm known to be indecisive when choosing something from a menu, and I was stuck between two things when 'mango sticky rice caught my eye (admittedly in the dessert section) and I settled on it instantaneously. I tend to gravitate to sweet things and dishes that are new and exciting. My family found it questionable, but it was definitely a success. I spent so much time tasting each bite carefully that the taste still lingers. The rice was subtly mangoey and nutty, the local mango is soft and just sweet enough, and the coconut cream provided a lovely, rich anchor.
Isn't this fork gorgeous?
The opposite of my choice, my sister went for an egg, tomato and cheese sandwich, but it was just right and made with great local bread.
They call themselves 'An American Café in the heart of Siem Reap', and they truly are. Common Grounds was filled with almost all Americans, many of them social workers and volunteers. The ambience was calm and relaxed, with a nice mix of coffee and divine baked goods, and hot local dishes too. Common Grounds devotes itself to helping Cambodians, through the people they hire, the ingredients they use, the jewellery they sell and the way their profits are used. Note the bottom of the chalkboard: 'Every dollar we earn makes a difference in the life of a Cambodian'.
I spent my morning sipping coffee and doodling <3
A true, Italian restaurant, Il Forno makes spectacular pizzas in its woodfire oven, along with a vast selection of fine risottos, pastas, salads, antipasti and wine. The ambience was warm, breezy and cheerful, tucked away in a small lane. The owner is a young Italian girl who bustled through the completely full restaurant, and we were undoubtedly pleased by our dinner.
The Sun is a huge, bright, sunny and well-decorated restaurant, which also has comfy outdoor seating where we enjoyed some drinks with the fairy lights on our first night. It's apparently famous for its fluffy blueberry pancakes, and I'm a sucker for pancakes at any time of day. They were warm, crispy and absolutely scrumptious.
My mum had a pasta puttanesca with real, rustic, chunky tomato sauce and fresh grilled vegetables.
They even made a good falafel burger... The Sun was definitely one of my favourites.
The Sugar Palm: an airy, spacious restaurant atop an old wooden bungalow that makes divine Asian food Their crockery was really cute too <3.
Look at this teapot! And I love the carved dandelion on the mug. I had hot lemon tea, although the local iced lemon tea is by far the best we've ever had.
The Sugar Palm is where chef Gordon Ramsay learned how to make amok :O So my mum and I were sure we'd try it. It was way different from the one at Le Tigre En Paper... it was much better. This amok is baked to a soufflé-like consistency, it's frothy on top and the sauce is rich, spicy and complex. The fish, too was a really nice variety and I polished off the bowl (which is a hollowed out coconut shell!). We also enjoyed perfectly crisp spring rolls, and gado gado- one of our favourites.
This was my breakfast every day in Siem Reap: fresh fruits and their homemade yoghurt. Clockwise from the top: pineapple, mango, watermelon, banana (their local bananas are so good), dragonfruit (a new fruit for me! The texture is like kiwi, but it's less sweet), papaya and apple.
I grew really fond of the yoghurt that came every day in little pots. It was sweet and super creamy, and really refreshing with a plate of fruits... it kept me full for ages
Phnom Penh, the capital, also has a vast variety of cultures and restaurants. After one busy day at the Central Market (mind-boggling), we came across a small Malaysian restaurant. My parents lived in Kuala Lumpur for man years and I was born there, so as a family we have an affinity for Malaysia. My parents enjoyed the chance to revive their Bahasa skills, jokes and memories, and they had this light and filling silken tofu dish with tofu that melts in your mouth.
Remembering our trip to Malaysia in December 2011, I ordered a Mamak Mee Goreng. It looked brown and messy, but the flavours were so yum, the vegetables were crunchy and the soft egg on top was the perfect touch. I found it hard to not finish every last bite, and even my parents, who have tried countless mee gorengs, thought it was fantastic.
Another responsible organisation is Friends- they have a store with handmade recycled products made from materials such as old scarves, tyres, magazines, cutlery and paperclips, just to name a few.
They also have a stunning restaurant which employs youth and trains them to get back into society after experiences with drugs, abuse or crime. They have had great success, with many of their trainees working in top restaurants and hotels. I absolutely loved my passionfruit-watermelon ice shake- which is literally all it is... no weird sugar syrups and ice cream... just fresh, sweet fruit and ice <3 Winning combination.
My curried pumpkin soup tasted a bit like amok, so I think they used similar spices. It was a hot day, and the rich creaminess was replenishing and left me feeling ready to keep walking.
A little ahead of the Friends restaurant, we spotted this young guy at the from of a small local place, busy stringing his arms up and down, deftly manoeuvring ribbons. This stuff comes pretty close to magic... we tried in vain to follow his fingers and figure out how he did it, but it's impossible... second by second the noodles divide or get thinner and it never gets tangled or stuck. The lump of thick ropes soon becomes fine strings, which are briefly boiled, leaving a bowlful of fresh, perfect noodles... we were awestruck.
Fruits! Juicy rambutan, sweet and crisp apples, and soft mangosteen all bought at a market, using a mixture of dollars and riel (Cambodia uses both... it's very confusing)
A Belgian man- smiley and portly- runs a restaurant called The Wine in Phnom Penh. To celebrate Belgium's new king, he hosted a Belgian night for 'Belgians and friends of Belgium'- given that my best friend is Belgian, we figured we qualified ;) There were two hippy Belgian oldies playing cute music on the piano, flute and saxophone, and a tiny boy even walked up to dance along. Being vegetarian, our options were limited to asparagus in butter with egg, but they were lovely: soft, falling apart and perfect with the little French rolls. My parents loved their Belgian beer, and it made us think back to last summer in France, when we met Maurice and Monique, Belgians who shared Belgian chocolate and beer with us in the evenings.
The markets are at times suffocating, but they're full of everything under the sun. We bought plenty of knick-knacks, and delighted in taking in the myriad of aromas, voices, people and activity.
Very well known and a tourist favourite, The Blue Pumpkin has a few outlets in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. This particular branch is three stories high, overlooks the riverfront and has sofas with young girls sprawled on their phones while sipping tea and coffee, businesspeople tapping away, families settling down to rest, and a really serene atmosphere.
The Blue Pumpkin's red berry shake. One day in Siem Reap we cycled down to Angkor Wat, which has a branch of TBP. My dad ordered this shake, and liked i so much he ordered it again in Phnom Penh.
Hidden away is a quiet restaurant called The Ebony Tree. We were the only customers, there was one waiter/assistant chef and one grandma chef, but we savoured being away from the noise of the city and it gave us the chance to finish writing our postcards.
We were joined by a fifth member at out table: a black tomcat who lay pretty much motionless, except for an occasional sleepy-eyed stretch or reshuffle.
The Foreign Correspondents' Club is a massive, colonial-era building with the perfect river view. We enjoyed drinks there one evening, and it won us- especially my dad- over. It has an energetic vibe, reminiscent of the old club culture but adapted to modern society, with people of all ages and backgrounds coming to relax. We returned the next morning for coffee and my dad bought an FCC cap, which he is loving wearing.
All over Cambodia you'll see these pretty lotuses with the outside petals delicately folded. They open up beautifully, and I have never seen so many lotuses being sold on the street as I saw in Cambodia.
By the poolside of the lush, serene Kabiki hotel guests are served a big breakfast. The head waiter was oh-s0-smiley and after a couple of days he remembered our preferences, and what to leave out or bring extra for each of us.
Passionfruit juice... cold, pulpy and so sweet... <3
The chestnut bread (with chunks of chestnut inside... chestnuts actually grown in abundance there) and the baguette, served with homemade pineapple jam that was heavenly. I always mixed it into my muesli and yoghurt, and I even tried in on a slice of pineapple (it's not weird.)
Cambodian coffee is really strong, but I just fell in love with their ceramic crockery.
Their yoghurt wasn't as yum as the one in Siem Reap, but mixed with the muesli and jam it made a light and healthy breakfast that I looked forward to.
'Looking natural' with the self-timer on :P
If you're thinking about going to Cambodia, don't hesitate. There's so much to do, so much to see, so much to try. This is going down as one of our favourite holidays of all time, and we didn't regret a minute of it.
We recently had a weekend abundant with heavy food: snacky chaat and popcorn at the movies, my dad and I made a dinner of 'bakarkani' (a buttery baked bread with almonds and raisins... lovely), and a rich, buttery daal (equally delicious), pancakes, kulfi etc.
I was motivated to try and invent my own recipe, after reading about Izy, as mentioned in my previous post.
The subtitle says 'reinvention' because of Masterchef (:P). I've often read about making zucchini pasta, with zuchinni ribbons substituting for the regular noodles. I figured that going full-out vegetable would be a little too health-freakish for my clientele, especially given what a hardcore pasta fanatic my sister is.
So I met them in the middle: The sliced zucchini and the carrots play te role of pasta, in the form of papardelle. I chopped the fusilli and the penne in order to make them the size that chopped vegetables usually are in pasta dishes. The proportions remained the same: the amount of pasta was greater than the vegetables, however I'd like to try swapping them around sometime, and using wholewheat pasta would be perfect.
The idea behind this dish is that it's a kind of detox: fresh, minimally cooked vegetables; heart-healthy walnuts and almonds; no creamy sauce, just a generous dose of olive oil (again, insanely good for you); chili flakes, salt, pepper, fresh basil and real parmesan provide all the flavour necessary for a dish that leaves you with a really clean and satisfied feeling.
Muffins, Almond Butter, Pasta & Risotto...
It's been more than a month since I've written! A month!
But kind and surprising as always, there are still people- whoever you are- reading each day, so thank you for sticking around.
But even though it seems as though I've disappeared, I've still been cooking my one recipe a week, and I've got them all lined up.
Life is just crazy... Is it February? March? April? December?
I can't keep track. Christmas seems as far away as last summer, and spring seems as close as this summer...
I have become a slave to my artwork, sleeping at horrendous hours of the 'night' (does 4 am count as morning or night?). My coursework dominates 90% of my thoughts and my conversations, and my mental sanity and friendships have suffered as a result.
And even with my coursework almost done, my art exam work is lurking, ready to plunge down on my head because it would be too unfair to give me some respite.
But I've slipped in some new dishes: I tried a different way of making almond butter, which wasn't actually that different in taste, but it was fun. I made risotto on my own for the first time- no one there to tell me what to add and when... the result was fascinating, but some of the cheesiness disappears as you reheat it.
I invented a pasta dish with a rosemary pea sauce, crispy mushrooms and broccoli and some cottage cheese; yum, but lacking a bit of flavour.
Lastly, yesterday I took out some time to do some baking with my dad, who also has a love for sweet stuff, and tends to push everything aside-no matter how much it is- when he feels like spending some time in the kitchen. We made banana-walnut muffins, which turned out big, moist, not too sweet and absolutely scrumptious.
I promise I won't let my posts pile up like this... if I don't let my work collect, I shouldn't let this collect. It's a commitment, and it's my passion.
Have I ever mentioned how much I love Lottie + Doof? Yeah. I have.
This soup, as Tim admits too, is prone to suspicious looks: Hot yoghurt? Barley? Especially during this time of Super Healthy Eating after the Christmas gluttony. But Tim trusts this recipe, and I trust Tim.
The soup worked for me: it was filling and textural while being fresh and light too.
The potatoes use my own improvisation on Indigo restaurant's parsley butter, and the bases became crunchy like Belgian frites...
Another blog I love is Chocolate & Zucchini, a Paris-based blog about life, food, and just intriguing stuff in general. Clotilde wrote a funny French post on the tedious, mundane chore of peeling onions, but it was followed by a post on 'Oignons Rotis'- roasted onions.
I love onions... not raw, like the usual Indian food side-dish (yuck), but in any other form.
The result of this recipe is onions that have gently opened, caramelised, softened, sweetened slightly and with a crispy skin that complements the mild inside perfectly.
This meal maybe isn't for picky eaters... it's different... but that's what I loved about it.
Speaking of onions, Valentine's day is coming up.
Yeah, you read it correctly.
Isn't that just beautiful?
Duffy has managed to capture one of the most quotidian objects, and reveal its inner romanticism.
The best part is, she hasn't made it up- it's all true. You don't realise, when you're chopping an onion (which happens for almost any dish), how much more of a valentine it is than a 'red rose or a satin heart'.
She has touched upon the way it'll make you cry, how it glows underneath the brown wrapping paper, its myriad layers, its strong and lingering flavour and scent.
On other levels, it really teaches you to understand the concept of 'It's the thought that counts'.
With such depth of emotion a simple onion becomes a stunning gift, and that's applicable to anything. I absolutely love it.
So this week, enjoy something understated, under-appreciated; be it a person, a food, an object, some time or a place. You'll be surprised.
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 :)
You know, when you're leaving on vacation and you have to empty out your fridge?
Sometimes the outcome is a disjointed meal with bits and bobs of stuff. But sometimes it works out quite nicely, so you hit two birds with one stone.
Last night we had some pastries, some spinach pasta and a vegetable soup.
Officially, I was in charge of making the soup, but I can't take credit for it all-- the combination of my mum's ideas, my dad's supervision and my cooking brought it together.
Coincidentally, we used leek and zucchini (like my soup the other day at The Pantry) and we also threw in some potatoes and tomatoes.
Essentially you chop up the vegetables, place them in a baking dish with a general drizzle of olive oil, some salt, pepper, herbes de Provence and some grated parmesan and you put it under a grill for a while, until they look a bit soft. Boil the potatoes separately and keep the water.
Fry off some chopped onions and garlic in a saucepan and add the vegetables (with their oil). Let them cook for a few minutes, add some stock, or preferably the potato water.
Put a lid on the saucepan and let it all boil and let the vegetables cook. The zucchini should be soft, after about 15-20 minutes. Let it cool, puree it with a hand blender, check the seasoning and top each serving with some fresh parmesan, if you want. Adding some fresh herbs when you add the stock would taste delicious too. You can change up the vegetables, omit some, add some, add cream, don't puree it... whatever you want.
This coming week I'll be in Delhi with my grandparents, and they make insanely delicious food- so I'll be sure to try and learn some of the dishes and post about them. The restaurants and cafes there are exquisite, too... creperies, bistros, sweets, thai, punjabi food...
Loving my weekends...
I had a really lovely weekend, actually. For most people, getting up at 7:30 on a Saturday isn't ideal, but I was doing it for a good cause: art.
My friends and I spent a good 3 hours working on ceramics together; something so rewarding and relaxing, it's difficult to describe.
The feeling of clay on your hands, of a grey mass slowly coming together into something reflecting your idea, your imagination, your creation. Of course, having hilarious and lovely people there with you makes it all the more enjoyable.
I came out of the art room with the same feeling as I did after our morning at the Bedouin market in France this summer.
I think I was meant to spend my weekend mornings making stuff, shopping at markets or cycling.
My family and I went out to lunch afterwards, to the Sundance Cafe an old place that's been recently renovated and looks gorgeous (I'll write a review on it soon).
We spent a lovely hour (waiting for our food...) talking about time, growing up, the year ahead and the year past, projects, friends, things that are always on our minds but that we rarely sit down and talk about.
On Sunday I went for my much-awaited bike ride with my dad-- the last time we went cycling we almost got stuck in the rain, and I made my dad promise that we would go as soon as the monsoons were over... that was before our trip to France.
We went all the way from our house at Nariman Point, up and down Malabar Hill and back. It was exhausting, but so absolutely worth it; it was like our bike ride in Provence... kind of.
And for lunch I made something I've wanted to try for a while: a Tuscan soup we saw on Masterchef once, called Ribollita. It's full of delicious vegetables, and is so simplistic. No fancy ingredients, no tricky techniques. You just chop up the stuff and leave it to cook in the pot.
We had some delicious focaccia, which I used as the bread base (the concept it that you place a chunk of Italian bread in the bowl and top it with the soup, letting the whole thing soften and blend).
Even my sister, who would really never touch leeks or carrots, loved it and finished first-- she came out of her room just now and gushed "Ohhh that was so good!" when she saw the photos of the dish on my blog.
This soup is warm, healthy, versatile--thick (or thin, if you want it to be), comforting and relaxing... like a good weekend should be.
Life doesn't go according to plan...
I'm obsessed with planning. I had hours' worth of homework lined up last weekend, and I spent at least an hour listing it all out and planning the time it would take, when I would do what and how much time to spend doing what when.
But unfortunately, I've learned the hard way that planning is sometimes redundant.
You know, when you say you'll finish something in an hour, and what feels like 45 minutes later, you look at your clock and realise that you've spent 1 and a half hours writing half a page.
Art work that's been dragging on for weeks and that I'm supposed to finish still doesn't finish; past exam papers that I've been planning to solve for ages still lie unsolved...
The same thing happens with cooking. I was dying to make bread this weekend- David Lebovitz's 'No-Knead Whole-Wheat Loaf' is supposed to be the ultimate foolproof recipe>
I read in a hilarious article by a self-proclaimed 'kitchen klutz' that it's one of the few recipes that she manages to pull of time and again. She said that, as if by sorcery, a shaggy mess transforms into a huge, springy lump, and then into a warm, crusty-outside & pillowy-inside brown boule.
I followed this recipe to the T: each and every step, each measurement and time and temperature.
Shaggy mess? check. Massive ball of dough? um... no. Perfect, crusty brown bread? nope.
I don't know what went wrong... I was puzzled that there was no sugar in the recipe, but I just went with it. Is there really no sugar, or was it a typo?
Anyway, I decided to learn from the last time I tried making bread and to just follow the instructions and chuck it in the oven. The end result was a flat, rectangular loaf of bread that tasted much like ciabatta. I made the mistake of positioning the oven rack too low and the bottom got a bit burnt, but that actually compensated for the lack of a crunchy top. I enjoyed a lovely sandwich with honey, cheddar and cottage cheese. I did a whole photo shoot of the bread, and I'm upset because now I can't find the photos anywhere... I'll post them if I ever find them. In an attempt to prevent the bread from drying out, we kept it in an airtight container on the kitchen counter, but it got mouldy after a few days :(
Thousands of people have supposedly sworn by this recipe-- have you tried it? Any advice?
In the meantime, just go with the flow and see what comes out. You never know-- you may at least get a sandwich out of it. And sandwiches are pretty cool.