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.
I know the subheading is a little random, but that's the first thing that popped into my head as I typed 'Hummus' (mmmmm...)
I realise this isn't some revolutionary recipe, but I've actually never made hummus before. I made a batch with my grandma and so here's a list of hummus-making tips I learnt from her and my mum:
1. Let the chickpeas soak for ages... at least overnight
2. Boil the chickpeas for a long time so they're super soft
3. Don't add too much olive oil. Keep tasting and once you can taste the oil, don't add more or you'll overpower the chickpeas. If it needs more liquid, add water
4. Start with a little bit of garlic and add more as you taste, if necessary
5. Some chili flakes or Italian seasoning tastes nice
6. A couple of spoons of cumin powder is the perfect addition
7. You can use a coarse or a smooth food processor- whatever type of hummus you prefer
8. Chop or snip some fresh coriander over the top and gently stir it in
9. Do. not. add. too. much. salt. Salty hummus is just not yum...
I swear, I can just eat spoonfuls of hummus plain... What's your favourite way to have hummus?
Leave a comment here or on the Chocolate Tulip facebook page.
I read about cauliflower cous-cous on multiple sites, but I referred specifically to Stonesoup for this one. There's no real recipe for the actual cous-cous: just chop some cauliflower and put it in a blender!
I was keen to try it because I am almost subconsciously drawn to healthy recipes and dishes that work on using more vegetables. Instead of being a side-dish, cauliflower was the star of the show.
The interesting part was that my dad and my sister, who didn't know what I was making, couldn't tell that the cous-cous wasn't really cous-cous, which means it worked out.
I am particularly please with the grilled vegetables. I had some really flavourful ones on top of a plate of quinoa at Café Zoe and I wanted to replicate them. If I may say so myself, mine were better :) You get a really nice flavour of parmesan and olive oil coming through them.
I'm also excited because I invented both recipes! :O
I've just come back from 2 weeks in the south of France. It was a different holiday from most people's: we stayed in houses in unknown villages and we drove around at least 21 different tiny towns.
It's interesting to see how one feels connected to different people in different parts of the world.
During our holiday in France, I felt connected to the people there in the sense that I felt that they shared my idea of how I like to live, eat and interact.
I saw so much, did so much, and of course, ate so much...
The fruits in southern France at this time were just divine: I had the juiciest , sweetest peaches I had ever had and I couldn't keep my hands off them; the pears came in all shapes and colours- the one above was soft and oozing juice; the melons were as sweet as can be and the apples had a fizz in them.
The cherries from the Provencal market were beyond irresistible. They were big, plump and deep mahogany. I have never had such good cherries-- we finished the whole box in one car ride!
Our friends in St. Pantaléon have an apricot tree and after hearing about my dad's love for apricots they insisted that we pluck and take home a box of apricots.
The tree hasn't blossomed like this in their memory-- it was beautiful!
When you're on summer vacation, it's hard to resist the ice cream... especially if everywhere you turn you're surrounded by 'Glaciers' selling artisan ice cream. I only tried a fraction of the flavours available, but my favourites were the 'Yaourt aux fruits rouges' (yoghurt with red fruits), the Praline and the Nutella. I also tried White Chocolate and Speculaas, which were delicious too, but I wouldn't have guessed their flavors if I hadn't read the label.
We came across an ice cream place in Lyon called Glacier Mirabelle:
Mira + Belle + Glacier = Beautiful Mira & Ice Cream!
On the right is the Glacier Mont Ventoux in Bedouin- which is at the base of Mont Ventoux. My parents hated the coffee, their Wifi never worked and the Apricot ice cream was a little bitter, but the White Chocolate flavor was lovely and they had over 60 flavours of homemade ice cream.
Market days were by far some of the best parts of the trip. Each and every village, no matter how small, has its own markets at least twice a week. Plus, since it's summer there have been even more artisan and regional markets.
The Provencal market in Bedouin was my favorite: not too small, not to big and full of different stalls- fruits, vegetables, macaroons, candy, bread, cheese, spices, glass decor, clothes, coffee and local dishes...
My favourite part was all the people. Everyone smiled, greeted us, asked where we're from, how was our journey, and happily handed out samples.
An elderly couple selling macaroons and other treats was tickled pink by our sighs of contentment when we tasted the almond cookies. We ended up buying a bagful and a packet of pistachio biscotti.
The Carpentras market is well known and massive. It spans dozens of winding streets and alleys, among the ancient buildings, packed with infinite stalls and interspersed with cafés and restaurants.
It was certainly more vibrant than the Bedouin market and had a much larger selection, but it didn't have the same coziness. We inevitably ended up buying produce, treats and some handmade accessories to match!
Une Tarte Au Marron: a solide almondy cake with a thick layer of some smooth paste- also tasted a bit like almonds- and with a crust of chocolate... the bakery was a sinful trap...
After a long hike one day in Sorède, we went to one of the local cafés for crêpes. Everyone else ended up ordering something else, but I had been set on my nutella crêpe since we set off on our walk. It wasn't hot- is it supposed to be?- but it had a divine dollop of nutella in the middle and the last bite, (the centre, which still had a large amount of nutella on it) was heavenly.
The amount of baguettes one sees is insane...
At any given time of day- and I mean any time- there will be men, women, people of all ages walking around with 1, 2, 3, even 4 baguettes under their arm.
Bakeries make dozens of baguettes early in the morning, ready for the queue of people that will soon start to form for breakfast. Then, they bake another batch at some point in the day because the French come back for lunch.
You wonder why people would need to buy so many baguettes, but when you think about the diet of the locals, it's not hard to understand. Breakfast and lunch at home consist primarily of bread, and bread in France consists primarily of baguette. If you order a sandwich, forget about any sliced bread- it'll be a baguette, or on some occasions, there's the option of having a panini.
Twice when we ordered cheese sandwiches we were each presented with 3/4 of a baguette with huge hunks of emmenthal cheese inside. So if you consider a family of at least 4 people, add in the fact that there are probably men who eat a lot, plus the fact that baguette is often served twice a day, the concept of needing at least 3 baguettes per meal makes sense.
It's still amusing to see and I wish I had taken a photo... although I'm not sure how people would take to a stranger taking a photo of them carrying their groceries...
Brasseries are everywhere- essentially a bigger café with more to offer.
In Avignon we had lunch at a Greek place and I tried loads of things that I'd never had before, and like all Mediterranean food, I loved it. The Tabouleh, Haloumi and Dolma were fresh and light and I finally got to try Greek yoghurt! (you don't get it here...) It came in a clay bowl with a generous drizzle of honey, and I had devoured it before we remembered to take a photo.
We had a picnic! My dad and I were super tired after our bike ride and my mum and sister had prepared the picnic we had been planning for days. We sat out in one of Madame Raoult's fields and enjoyed a delicious lunch on a beautiful day.
I have wanted to try churros for a long time-- I never really knew what they were, I had just heard of them a lot. So on our last trip to the beach in Argelès we stopped at one of the stalls (they even sold them with chocolate or nutella) and got a packet.... of 12. My sister didn't like them and my mum isn't a huge sugar person, so after she had a couple, my dad and I were left to finish the rest! Luckily, we both have a sweet tooth and loved them, so devouring them wasn't a problem.
Madame Raoult gave us 2 baskets full of organic tomatoes from her garden and a jar of homemade apricot jam. It was the best apricot jam ever and we had it every single day.The tomatoes were fresher and sweeter than any others I've had before.
And what about cooking? Of course I cooked! While I couldn't cook something every day, I still kept up my new year's goal of cooking one thing a week.
My mum and I made mushroom, zucchini and olive baked pasta with chèvre toasts- I had a blast chopping the massive mushrooms from the market!
Dinner was so pretty... it looked like a photo out of a Jamie Oliver cookbook.
We had a long drive to Sorède and that night I was dying to get into the big kitchen and cook, so I made some pasta sauce. We had loads of tomatoes from Madame Raoult and a huge bunch of fresh rosemary. We had bought some interesting pasta- it's shaped like rice- at the Carpentras market and my dad made some croutons using some old baguette. It was simple dish yet full of different textures.
I guess that pretty much sums it up. There was so much more food, so much more to write about, but I stuck with just putting up whatever I had photos of, for fear of making this post even longer than it already is.
Every time I eat a peach I think of the ones I kept sinking my teeth into in France. Ever time I see a cherry I remember the bag that filled up with cherry pits within minutes. I remember the baguettes ruling the streets and the tarts crumbling in my mouth.
All I can say is that it was delicious... all of it. And definitely inspiring.
For now I'm on a butter and ice cream break (2 weeks of treats cannot be good for one's health...) but my memories of France are going to live on for a long time in my food.
This recipe is from a book by Madhur Jaffrey. It's nothing fancy, it isn't full of glossy pages or professional food photography.
It's one fat, simple book in black text, but it is absolutely loaded with recipes spanning an unbelievable knowledge of cuisines and food.
On the cover, you see Madhur Jaffrey: she looks like a mother, very traditional, very simple, maybe even conservative.
That's what my first impression was of her.
In reality, she's anything but plain and simple.
She was not brought up in the conservative, traditional woman's role. The first time she cooked was when she moved to London to study drama at the age of 19.
Madhur Jaffrey was in fact a famous actress who won awards and acclaim for her work. She's married to a violinist in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and she's well known on the New York theater scene.
Now she has written dozens of books, lectured and even had a few TV shows. She became known as 'The Actress Who Could Cook".
My first impression of this dish was that it, too was plain and simple. It had a short list of ingredients and a quick recipe.
Again, I was wrong. Yes, this dish is simple. But it has so much freshness, so much versatility.
It's different from any Indian dish I've tasted in that it doesn't taste Indian.
While it works in complete harmony with any Indian accompaniment, it at the same time merges flawlessly into all other cuisines, from Western to Japanese.
It looks dull. It looks like one colour. It looks like it lacks flavour.
But what one actually eats is a dish much like Madhur Jaffrey herself. It is able to branch out in multiple directions, try new things and surprise skeptics. Yet it can still come home to its roots and feel comfortable among its origins.
Don't judge a book by its cover. No matter what cuisine you're making, give this dish a try... you'll be surprised.
Today I made a 'Mediterranean' lunch.
Socca is actually a southern French dish- a thin, crispy chickpea flour pancake. The eggplant dish was inspired by something I had the other day at Moshé's Café. It was a flavourful, cold but cooked eggplant salad with tomato and loads of spices. Raita is actually Indian and is just whipped up plain yoghurt with spices mixed in.
After searching through a few eggplant recipes, I decided to combine a few ideas and create my own (:O I am rarely able to invent a recipe...). The result was warm and delicious.
The Socca turned out yummy, but not right at all! It was much too thick (but when I made it thinner it snapped) and it took forever to cook. But it tasted like a 'cheela'-- a similar, thinner Indian dish which I adore.
The dip is the simplest and it's made all according to your tastes. Even my sister, who has always stubbornly refused to touch raita, loved it!
It was a long and messy process, and my mum and sister were kind enough to wait patiently while I made loads of noise and kept telling them 'It's almost done!'
Have a go, and enjoy a warm, cool, filling and refreshing meal.
Again, just a small concoction. Simply toss some chopped tomatoes, fresh coriander and fresh spinach with some olive oil, salt and pepper in a frying pan. Let the spinach wilt a bit, or have it more raw and crispy. I had mine in a toasted pita with homemade pesto and some chickpea cutlets on the side.
A perfect study-day healthy lunch: protein, vegetables, herbs and just a bit of carbohydrates. I topped it off with a frozen yoghurt and some fruit :)
What do you like to make for lunch?