Friday, December 30, 2011

Lemon Chicken Risotto

I am very enthused these days; maybe it’s the festive xmasý spirit or that I can see some changes on the blog or maybe it is just the end of the year. A year that has more or less been good; good is an understatement, I should say fabulous. Yes, there have been changes- big changes- and hiccups, but overall, it has been quite nice. Touche’…  Since I have been feeling satisfied with myself, I have also decided not to work much anymore till the 1st now. That’s my treat to myself; of course I have to go to work for one more day this week, but that will be my last working day for the year! Instead, I had decided to focus on my energies on making one complex dish for Ak, before I signed off the blog for the year. Since Ak was the one who initiated this whole blog, and set it up to make me actually do it, I thought I had to do something fancy, and unexpected. Hence- the risotto. Now, SC, SG and PM are aware of the tomato and basil risotto (and i think i have very good reviews from them :p and i owe them one again!), that I think I have managed to cook reasonably, quite a few times, but I hadn’t really tried a complex recipe. I remembered Ak ‘looooving’ the Lemon Chicken Risotto, sometime when we were out for Dinner, and thought maybe this could be ‘the unpredicted one’. 
                Risottos are considered to be complicated; because it’s very easy to overcook or under cook. Also, the time taken to cook it, is considerably more than an average meal, since it included just standing and watching, refilling with stock and then waiting again for it to cook a little more. I have always been very skeptical of cooking a risotto, because no matter how many times you have made one before, one could still easily go wrong. To prevent that from happening, I thought I should use a tried and tested recipe, since I was also going to add chicken. My first halt was a cookbook on Italian cooking- Nothing; and then began my search online. I found a lemon risotto, a prawn risotto, a chicken risotto, an asparagus risooto, but NOT a lemon chicken Risotto. I searched keenly, but to no avail, since most recipes I found did either not have wine or no lemon or no chicken. I now had newfound regard for the Lemon Chicken Risotto; it seemed like a rare, unusual recipe. I returned to one of my favourite cooks, Nigella, and used the recipe for a Lemon risotto as a base which I planned to tweak (the original can be found here). Even though I reduced the quantities a bit, this recipe is definitely for 3 and not for 2!
                 The Risotto was a winner. Ak was ‘impressed’, so much so, that he brought out some wine in order to commemorate. In this wonderfully cold weather, this surely was more than just comfort food.

p.s. A tip: The recipe does take about 45 minutes to cook. I would suggest, keep a snack handy, for one would surely feel hungry while standing there, watching it cook. We had some magnificent Cranberry Goats Cheese, which was sent by SIL- Totally festive, and delectable. Thanks for the Xmas Goodies!
p.p.s I am not much of an egg person, especially when the yolk is used uncooked. Therefore, I skipped the Egg from the recipe. Feel free to use it though. Also, I skipped the celery, since I had run out of it!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Apple Pie Parcels- More Puff Pastry!

Garfield: I love the smell of Cinnamon Apple in the morning. It smells like victory. 
The world may think I am crazy, but nothing satisfies my heart more than a nice, fancy, slightly elaborate dessert; a combination of warm and cold/ of sweet and savoury. My last post may have been an overdose of puff pastry- all the excess that I tried to make use of. But I didn’t stop there!
On this cold and wintery night, while I was at it, celebrating with puff pastry, how could I not make some dessert? Apart from the few Chocolat Twisties, I definitely wanted to try something else. Since, I was also on the using up the excess mode, I decided to use an apple that was screaming at me from the fridge. The Christmas spirit was in the air, and I thought why not make something with some spices. I love the IPad Baking App- someday I hope to try out the all the recipes. For anyone with an ipad, you must download this app here
I had seen the chocolate filo parcels here, which looked very tempting. As always, since I didn’t have the filo pastry, I decided to make Apple Pie parcels- with Puff pastry instead. Since I was in a mood to celebrate, I even decided to make a dip as an accompaniment- a cinnamon dip to celebrate the victory. The end product was magnificent, if I may say so myself. Ak loved it, and so much so, we decided to call over the other AK (the brother), to have a taste of this wonderful discovery. AK has always never liked the apple pie that I have baked- primarily because of the crust. But this time, He approved it too! So much so, that he wanted to take a doggy bag home for breakfast (alongwith some puff pastry wraps).
Overall, an extremely gratifying meal to celebrate the victory!
p.s. Feel Free to use the leftover dip as an accompaniment to other desserts, I would recommend a brownie or if you are feeling lazy like me the next day, when the parcels have run out- just pour over some chocos/ have a healthy breakfast/dessert.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Puff Pastry Wraps- Celebrating Milestones

Communicooking has achieved a milestone. I got featured on as their Featured Blog of the Day on 20th December. To be honest, I was quite elated! The Yaaaaaay was silent in my heart, because I really could not believe it! For many in the blogging world, this may not be such a big deal, but I am sure, a lot of the bloggers would identify with this moment that they too would have experienced at some point of time! Nevertheless, I was extremely excited, inspired and motivated, Thanks to Foodista!

And there was no better way to celebrate, except to do another post. In the current situation, where there are only 2 people eating, I am constantly worried with regards to excess food around the house- especially perishables like vegetables. In my weekend visits to my wonderland as Ak calls it (well, it’s the local grocery store- and I am like a little child, in a toy shop), Ak had suggested we pick Puff Pastry. I assume he was hoping for the Chocolat Twisties, but this week, being super chaotic at work- had not led to much of anything new worth writing about. I walked into my kitchen, and opened the fridge, and I could see so much stuff- and the puff pastry was going to expire soon! Usually, the basic fresh puff pastry pack is used in 2 batches, but since it was almost close to expiry date- I decided to have a puff pastry day!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hummus and Taboulleh Salad

For vegetarians, Mediterranean food is truly a delight. In my travels across the world, especially around UK and Europe, Good vegetarian food is hard to find, especially if one doesn’t want potatoes. Although I am not a vegetarian, I don’t particularly enjoy seafood and on the contrary, am an extremely happy vegetarian. Very rarely do I complain about being served vegetarian food and quite often, I end up ordering a vegetarian dish for myself. It was during my stay in the UK that I discovered my obsession and love for ‘the mezze food world’ and oh! What a wonderful world it is! A lot of meals outside would end up in Edgware road (the famous place for all mezze food), and even when eating at home, the many varieties of hummus and tahini would always be found in the fridge. Time being a constraint then, cooking from scratch would be difficult. But since the time I have been back, Hummus at home is an easy go. Quite often, if I am eating out, and if there is a mezze platter on the starter menu, I usually cannot resist ordering it.

It had been playing on my mind for a while to try hummus @261, knowing that it would be a wonderful meal or an accompaniment, but since Ak is not a Chickpeas person, I was skeptical. However, since it was the 2 of us for dinner for a couple of months, I decided to go ahead and experiment with Ak’s taste buds. And I was willing to bribe him a bit with a tempting supplement. The menu for the night was Lebanese bread, Hummus, Taboulleh salad and Kebabs as the bribe for Ak. This meant that even if he didn’t like anything, he would at least enjoy the kebabs for the meal. Initially I had planned to make minced meat kebabs at home, but with work at its peak, I decided to go with some readymade shammi-kebabs from the local butcher; they are as fresh as ever and Ak actually loved them, along with the salad.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chocolate and Pistachio Brownies

The Festivities in India bring along with it everything ‘in excess’. Presumably, in North India, this extends above and beyond just material exchanges. Considering this was my first year of being married, there were also many firsts; first holi, Diwali, first karvachauth and so on and so forth. Apart from the gifts that are exchanged, there is a lot of fruit and dry fruit that is presented as well for its auspicious nature. This resulted in excess of fruits and dryfruit in our home, with only 3 people to consume it. There was the usual – have 5 almonds soaked in water overnight, but we really struggled with the consumption of the fruit. I love pomegranates and decided to eat one every single day. Ak did his bit by making grenadine syrup, which has now been preserved with some vodka, while the virgin version was used with soda for mocktails. Highly recommended- the flavours are just too fresh, and if it was peak summer, this would be the perfect cooler on a hot summery day. Ak will do a post on the grenadine cocktail soon.
                         However, the real struggle was with pistachios. 3 big bags of pistachios, lying there, waiting to be used. And I knew, that my next post had to include pistachios or else it would be a sheer waste. Personally, I am not much of a Pistachio person, but then, this was not just about me. The few things that I can recollect that were made with Pista were Kulfi and Baklava and they both had to be saved for another day, due to the process/setting time involved. Also, I discovered, that pistachio was rich in anti-oxidants and hence, had multiple health benefits. Biscotti was a no-no since we had enough at home. And I surely had something chocolaty in mind. On one of those days, when I was online, sifting through the blogging world, as Ak calls it, I was extremely tempted by Martha Stewart’s chocolate and pistachio Torte here .
The brown and green combination was extremely seductive; and hard to resist. A cake would be hard to consume as usual, so I decided to do brownies instead. I find Nigella’s Brownie’s a tried and tested recipe, and can never go wrong. It is flourless, and yes, heavy on butter; but when one is in the festive mood, a little butter can do no wrong. Have used it for Chocolate Chip Brownies earlier, and has been a stupendous hit and therefore this time, I decided to use it with the pistachios at hand. The original recipe can be found here (I used only half the quantities of what was mentioned)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Finally, The Strawberry Shortcake

I think I am coming to terms with this blog. Maybe, very soon I will stop ranting about how I didn’t want to really write about what I cooked and how I needed to take that step to get up and actually write. I just realised that every few weeks, when I haven’t managed to write something, I find myself thinking of trying something new and writing about it. My life has transformed into something new- a new routine, and a lot to do. Winter is also here, along with the wedding season- I love this time of the year. The meeting people- sometimes pleasant and sometimes not so much, the music, the dressing up, the highly celebrated traditional Indian wedding ceremonies, sometimes over the top- I love it all. Although it just means, that we are hardly eating at home. Therefore, the opportunity to cook is reduced tremendously. I think, very soon, I will do a simple post about regular dal-chawal; comfort food that I always find myself turning to, after a few days of eating out.

         Coming back to the blog, today’s post however, is the much talked about and the 'repeatedly mentioned on this blog' strawberry cake. I have permission from K aunty to share this recipe with others and she really wants other people to enjoy it too! So here it is; I hope to perfect it soon…
“Doubtless God could have made a better berry (than the strawberry), but doubtless God never did”
William Butler

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Magnum Opus- guest post by Ak

I often wonder what sort of background music would be appropriate for the bits in life where we are doing really awesome stuff. Maybe you should let this music play while you read this post about the awesomeness yesterday.

The reason why T is not writing this post is that she writes this blog for the joy of cooking. She loves the process, the mixing with hands, the transformation of ingredients. She enjoys the thousand little subtleties that make her cooking different from everyone else. It is a relaxation, a therapeutic release that results in something beautiful. Something that can be taken up at will and at a convenient time.

Yesterday, though, was an event. It called for good food, to be prepared in large quantities, for lots of people. The people mix was reasonable eclectic - a little less than half were vegetarians, some of whom would not even have eggs - some would enjoy their drink and eat later, some would want to be fed as soon as they entered. It also called for birthday cake, which we could have easily outsourced along with the rest of the food - a recommendation of mine that was put down almost immediately - There would be cooking - lots of cooking and T would do it.

So we fixed a menu for 20 people and here it is:

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Lazy Chicken (Grilled Chicken in garlic and herb sauce)

I have recently discovered how a lot of my posts have this one quote from Ak, which is the motivation behind the post. This is almost always- presumably a good thing, because on numerous occasions, inertia could get the better of me. Today’s was; “Just because it was easy for you, does not make it ‘not worthy’ of a post. I wonder, what is it that makes something worthy of talking about it. This makes me rethink of what this blog is intended to do.
As much as today was a downer day- when a post would have been out of question, with me not feeling well, and not having slept for a few days now, I thought I would do something quick for dinner. Since Workwise, the momentum is at a different pace completely, efficiency has taken a completely new meaning and this, like always, would reflect in my cooking. The dish for today was going to be Grilled Chicken accompanied with some veggies- (grilled, because I wanted a try a new multipurpose grill pan, that I had been recently gifted by a thoughtful aunt, who is aware of my love for new technology in cookware!). The Grilled Chicken Breast has been one of my favourite dishes for over 10 years now. There was a time, when I would blindly order the Grilled Chicken Breast, wherever I went. The recipe below was invented on the go, recreating my memories of a mildly flavoured chicken that is not overdone with spices; the recipe is simple, not too fancy, extremely healthy and a meal by itself, if accompanied with bread and a little salad (optional).  Maple is optional (I love the sweetness it adds), and so is wine. I call it lazy, only because it really takes no effort, and is perfect for a lazy winter night.
p.s. I think it looked appetizing enough for Ak to pour some wine to accompany it J

Monday, November 7, 2011

Strawberry Shortcake

I remember watching an episode of Masterchef, where the contestants were asked to recreate the one food memory that they had. If I had to ever do this, there would be numerous; but if I had to ever think of that one moment that initiated my fondness for cooking, it would be the strawberry shortcake. While I was in school, birthdays were big. And each year, K’s birthday (one of my very old friends from school) would bring along a wonderful strawberry shortcake, which was her favourite, and her mum would bake it year after year. It really was the prettiest cake I could imagine, gorgeous and sinful. Maybe my obsession with pink also has its roots there. I would see that cake and wonder if ever in life, I would  be able to bake anything remotely close to 'the strawberry shortcake'. As years passed, I did start baking myself, but never found the courage to try it out. It would cross my mind each year, on 23rd Jan J and each time I would see strawberries, or when I would speak to K, I would determine to muster up the courage to try it. In fact, even when I met K’s mom a few years back in the US, I remember discussing the memory of the short cake. Like many other things in life, Fear of failure prevented me from taking the plunge.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy ‘Pie’ Diwali

I often wonder what is the inspiration behind writing. What is it that enthuses authors, writers and more so, bloggers, to continue to write and maintain simply, just good writing. The reason why I am questioning this even more today, is because of my almost month long hiatus from the blogging world and my temptation in the last few days, to drop everything and cook. I don’t have an excuse. I simply haven’t got around to doing it. Post navratras, it was the onset of the wedding season, and since then, the festivities have taken over our social life. Yes, ‘Our’ Social Life, which includes social obligations of not one, but two families (FYI- I don’t like the phrase social obligations- simply because it makes meeting family/friends appear almost torturous. nevertheless, it seems appropriate here). From the first Karva Chauth, to pre-diwali cards, the visiting family-exchanging gifts, the lunches and dinners and finally Diwali today, I guess, this first year of being married has definitively exploded into a social frenzy- but I am not complaining. Like always, I love this time of the year, including the brilliant weather. And like all good Punjabis- I love and thoroughly enjoy the wedding season and the festivities. In fact, with the nip in the air, I am reminded of the many things I love about India, and one of the many reasons why I am glad I am home. J

To be honest- It is not like I haven’t been cooking- I just haven’t bothered to document it. And mostly, it was so rushed, and unplanned, that I just couldn’t. Maybe, some day, I will reach that juncture where I would think that my blog could do without photographs and I could post even if I hadn’t documented it. Or maybe not. (Because how else will Ak be the most integral part of this blog, the way he is currently!). This year, which has brought with itself a lot of material exchanges, some wonderful people around me have given me delightful cooking accessories, including my mom, who very thoughtfully has given me the perfect cake platter which will be up for appearance shortly. We had been hunting for one for months, and this one is just perfect.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Undocumented Bliss (guest post by Ak)

Disclaimer - This post is not about some gorgeous sinful, yet simple recipe that yields magical culinary results. There are no tasteful photographs. There are no measurements. Nothing.

I had been thinking , for some time now, of writing about the cocktail (which cocktail?, The Cocktail! - but more later) since that would be the natural accompaniment to all these wonderful recipes. The balance, delicacy and symphony of ingredients is not limited to what we eat, but also to what we drink. This is a far cry from the guzzling, volume-centric binge scotch-soda drinking that is so prevalent in our culture. Rather, this is about using good ingredients, complex flavours and enjoying the taste. But this post is not about that either.

This post is about a dinner we hosted yesterday for family. They are here for a few days, but with busy schedules all around, this was probably the only home cooked meal we were all going to eat together. The theme for the evening was Thai, so without checking with our guests whether they liked it, were allergic or other unimportant stuff, we fixed a menu and got on with it.

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Deceptive Tart

I feel like I have been out of action for a while. It hasn’t been long since my last post and it’s not like I haven’t cooked anything in the last few days. But, the rut of daily routine, a lot of work and other mental preoccupations have slowly set in this inertia, which has prevented me from blogging. This was one of those days- crammed with dilemma, which of course reflected in my cooking. But then again, after a day like this, what I really needed is to switch off momentarily and treat myself to a stint in the kitchen. In fact I think the dish is representative of my psychological state of affairs.
Since dinner was prepared already, I decided to strike the sweet tooth. On the day preceding the navratras (life and the kitchen being devoid of any ills- alcohol, eggs and all forms of meat for 7 complete days), clearly, I wasn’t going to bake anything with eggs. Simultaneously, the recurring telecast of Nigella’s grasshopper’s pie was still playing in my mind. My indecisiveness soon disappeared. Ak said, that this was the day of taking a crack at something new, so why not this too! And voila’, did I need any more inspiration? I didn’t think so.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Of cupcakes and muffins

One should never plan. And I cannot resist planning.
My mom always says- don’t plan. Even for the next morning. Because the moment you do, it is surely not bound to happen.
So, when I gleefully planned to bake with my newly found, pretty cupcake cases last Sunday, I should have very well guessed that ‘It was not going to happen.’ Sunday was overtaken by the quickie, Monday just happened to be a typical Monday, and then the no energy Tuesday and Wednesday, and by Thursday evening- I was seeing muffins on my office computer screen and thinking about my cupcake wrappers in the middle of reviews. Was it possible that I did not have a spare 20 minutes to bake a quick round of muffins? Had my life really come to this? By the time I reached home from work- I had declared that this was the day, when my plan to bake just had to work! (with or without the photography)

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Quickie

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I take life and things around me for granted; my work, people around me, people I really care about, and of course, my cooking. My next planned post after a very efficient Sunday was to be with my pretty pretty, newly found cupcake cases (I had been desperately looking to find nice-looking, good quality and inexpensive cupcake wrappers all over!). However, this was not to be.
George Kneller said, ‘To think creatively, we must be able to look afresh at what we normally take for granted.’
               So, on Ak’s insistence for the quickie ( and I mean the post of course), and because of the beautiful photographs that he took despite my hesitancy to document this, here I am, writing about a very average, very tired and no time, hardly any ingredients available- Sunday dinner.  This was a meal literally, made out of nothing in the fridge. The menu was decided on the basis of 2 key ingredients that were available and then the rest just happened. Each of the recipes, as a matter of fact, has one or two elements missing and hence, has been replaced with something similar and on occasion, even contradictory. Hence, for the convenience of anyone who may want to try any one of the recipes, I have posted the originals.
Disclaimer: If one must try this, it is only at one’s own risk.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Erstwhile Chocolaty Mousse

Now I know that cooking and writing and photographing ain’t that easy and documenting it often enough is even tougher. The K’s and the latest addition to the K family were invited for dinner over the weekend; this was my first hosted meal post-marriage for family and enough food had to be cooked! (A special request was for keema lasagna, which was duly missed for the last year- however, as much as it ‘supposedly’ turned out great, I will save it for another post). The K’s are good eaters; and I mean ‘good Punjabi eaters’J. Food therefore had to be paramount - well technically- my best at least. Therefore, in order to ease my day on Saturday (which already had a million things planned), I decided to organize the dessert on Friday night itself. Through this process, I also figured, that I would only use one of the items on the menu for a post this time.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Actually Communicating and Cooking!

So, today’s post is sooner than otherwise planned- actually it was completely unscheduled. Had a very efficient workday, with dedicated communication work, only to end with a naïve round of cooking. Considering it was a long working day, with more to continue later, I thought of keeping dinner rather simple; and just as I was about to begin, Ak decided that it was worth writing about. Out came the camera- and I figured that my artless, vague menu was up for some excitement .

Friday, August 26, 2011

Honey & Almond Cake

A Hard Day’s night; that’s what I am going to call this one.
So, while we watch ‘wake up sid’ for the umpteenth time, here I am, despite being completely exhausted, loving this. Today was a çommuni-cooking day (not in a perfectly cooking manner though). After a bad day with a completely clogged throat, half a day of work and trying to get some god-forsaken ID, I was back home at a ‘so-called’ reasonable time in order to rest. Ak fancied Murgh Malai Tikka for dinner, and so that was tested out; but will be shared another day. The marinade worked but the oven ditched me L, by drying out my richly marinated malai tikkas. I discovered that mom’s tried and tested technique of  making tikkas in the pan on medium heat actually works much better... round 2, therefore, got a better response.  Will crack the oven soon, and re-post this one.

          Feeling extremely disappointed, I wanted more; and therefore, I set out to test my new flowery cake tin. The benefits of marriage are quite brilliant; giving you the permissible luxury to splurge on baking tools :P  (justifying shopping to bring in what’s missing). Its not like I didn’t do it earlier, but, now, I can make it an évent’. After, spending enough time to look for the right recipe with key factor being only ‘2 eggs’ (from what was lying in the fridge), ‘we’ decided to embark on the Honey and Almond Cake- Courtesy Ipad (a baking app!). ilove technology.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Chocolat Twisties

I have taken forever to do this. And I am not sure what is special about today, that I am finally here, writing my first post. I will share a recipe (well- hardly a recipe!), but a moment, which for the first time made me conscious of the joy that I experience each time I bake. Also, reminiscent was the emotion, the whiff in the air that would encapsulate my home, slightly vanilla-ish, slightly flour-ish, and slightly bake-ish…however, I should probably date this to sometime in early 2010.
      I hate to call it ‘The recipe’ and hence, I call it the moment. From the movie ‘It’s complicated’, in that particular scene, where Meryl Streep brings back Steve Martin- her new boyfriend (ironically- an architect) to her bakery. She asks him to pick one thing, which she would bake- especially ‘for him’. He chooses a chocolate croissant- no words can clearly portray the moment that they share and I wouldn’t want to disrespect the authenticity of the scene. What is relevant is that this inspired me to bake my own mini- chocolate croissants or chocolate twisties as I now call them. It was the process that moved me, I and twisted it to make my own-, almost surreally architectural.  I did start out by making the puff pastry as well, but soon figured that it’s as good with the readymade frozen pastry dough available. The movie is a must-watch, but until then, enjoy the act-

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