Monday, January 30, 2012

Waffles

Its freezing in Delhi and the wedding season has been chaotic. Despite me missing a few, I have been so caught up with the family stuff, that this post which has been long overdue is extremely late. Communicooking has been showered with some wonderful gifts, as a part of the anniversary- can now be found on www.communicooking.com! (more details on other related gifts later)
             A part of the ‘1 year gifts’ was the much appreciated Waffle-maker. Waffles for me- are more than just comfort food. Initially started off as a luxury during my college years and later when I was in London, over a period of time, I discovered the versatility of the waffle and the ease with which it adapts itself to a meal at any time of the day- breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. Waffles are almost staple food in Belgium, and I have fond memories of a Belgian friend bringing me authentic chocolate waffles. That used be luxury- in student days! Another favorite has been the Waffles with Belgian chocolate ice-cream and maple syrup @ Big chill- with warm memories attached. In due course of time, I discovered that it was so much simpler to just have a waffle-maker at home, in order to enjoy the waffle more frequently. The gift was hence; just perfect- and no words will describe the appropriateness.
           Waffles can be had as a savory snack or for dessert. The best part is that even after baking them, once can store and use them for days to come. I have often heard about freezing waffles, but have never tried freezing them personally. The best way to enjoy a waffle though, is to eat a warm waffle with cold ice-cream and maple syrup. Someone once said that “A waffle is like a pancake with a syrup trap”- nothing in this world would compare to a hot waffle with maple syrup.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Gajar ki Kheer/ Indian Rice Pudding with carrots

With all the international baking and cooking that has been happening on communicooking, I had begun to wonder if I wasn’t experimenting enough with our very own Indian cuisine. During my stay in London, this was not the case. Every few days, me and AM would inevitable crave for the dal-chawal (lentils and rice), and the rajma (kidney beans in Indian gravy) etc. Even when I was staying alone, although it seemed like a task to cook for only a single person, inevitably I would make Indian food for myself at least once a week. Since I talk so much about comfort food, I must mention that nothing can replace Indian food for its comfort levels. Most often, after a holiday and much eating out, all one needs is a simple meal of dal-chawal (lentils and rice) with roasted potatoes to bring one back home and easen the body out of the holiday junk. A conversation at my parents place the other day, made me also realize that while our eating habits are truly becoming global, there is a risk of us losing our traditional cuisine. Recipes of Indian Specialties like chutneys and pickles that are inherited through generations are slowly going to disappear, unless we decide to act immediately. I have very fond memories of my maternal grandmother, making Spicy pickles during vacations, and it would have been a pity if my mother hadn’t learnt the same. I cannot imagine a winter without the Sweet and Spicy Carrot pickle (Khatta Meetha Gaajar ka achaar) - post to follow soon! I have decided that 2012 for Communicooking has to bring with it- a lot of Indian cooking too. 
           Traditional kheer has its origins in India and is made with milk and rice. Owing to India’s multi-regional nature, different versions of kheer are available in various parts of the country; Payassam in south India (made with jiggery and coconut milk) and in Bengal (with vermicelli and jiggery). This I assume, and can safely say is the Punjabi version from North India, hit by severe winters. The specialty of this is that its charm is only in peak winters, when bright red carrots are available in the market. My first attempt at kheer was in London, at a pot luck meal from all countries. The trick with kheer is though, is to make it in a heavily bottomed pan, or else the milk burns (which is what had happened with me- and I had to disguise the burnt smell with a lot of green cardamom!). Another tip, is to use full cream milk and fresh spices- saffron and green cardamom/ nutmeg etc.), which add to the richness of the kheer.
            The BIL was coming for a day- and I had a full day of work. With not enough time to plan, I decided to make dessert. And this time I settled on Kheer (Indian Rice Pudding). I have very fond, winter memories of Gajar ki Kheer made at my parents’ home with carrots. It is just like the regular kheer, but with a dash of carrots, to add some color. Made only in winters, it is wonderful, especially when eaten, fresh and warm. Since it was an extremely cold day, and he had been travelling away from home for almost a month now, it seemed like – well- ‘comfort food’J! The recipe is simple, and can be achieved in less than an hour, and brings wonderful visual results. It seems exotic- but really isn’t and is just what it turned about to be- impressive!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Spaghetti with Bacon and wine + Italiano Grilled Vegetables

Ak called it “The Quickie Part 2”. I would just say- it was ‘The Use- everything- in- the- Fridge Quickie’.
So, Ak was away yet another time; and that has its advantages and disadvantages. The plus being- I spent the night at parents (Ak+My parents+His Mom: of course- I couldn’t stay alone! Yes people- I have never stayed alone!), and the minus being- the mixed bag of emotions, it brought along. I hate leaving my parents place- yes. I do. each and every time I walk out. Finally when I was back, I was trying to evaluate the pros and cons while feeling horrible - and I did not find a winner.
+@Tk Home: I get to eat stuff that My mom knows I love
-@261: I do consider it home- which means that I miss it.
+@261: I appreciate it much more. That bed is definitely now my bed
-@Tk Home: My room is not my room anymore + Living out of a bag is not fun
+@Tk Home: The unnecessary chit chat till late hours of the night
-@261: All the fresh veggies were not so fresh after my 2 days of being away!
+@261: Well- I get to indulge in more cooking to drown my sorrows for the day J

Simply unacceptable, but Alas, such is life. 
Life in fact, has been so hectic in the last few weeks that my fridge has been stocking up. I have been mostly on a baking spree, and suddenly realized that in the absence of no cooking for 2 days- we had enough things that needed to be cooked on an ASAP basis. So, Brother Ak came over to help me with technology, and got treated to my favorite ham sandwiches, while the other Ak was driving back to Delhi, to be in time for dinner.
I discovered that I had a lot of bacon and peppers (red, green and yellow- Yes, I like to keep my options open) to work with. One of my all-time favorite dishes has been the Penne with Bacon at one of Delhi’s first few Truly Italian restaurants- The Big Chill. Not only does the place hold a lot of special memories for anyone who has been in the age group of 18-26, during that time, but till date, it serves some wonderful food and scrumptious desserts. In due course of time, I have grown over my need to pay a visit there every week, and only occasionally go for dessert, but the food, is surely worth the frequent visit. The Penne with bacon is one of the lighter pasta dishes (most of the others are heavy on cheese and are baked) and has a slightly spicy touch to it. Since Ak is not a Spicy food person, I skipped the dried red chilies and did my own take on it with some left over red wine.  Further, I used spaghetti instead of Penne– simply for its appeal as comfort food. The results were suitably impressive- if I may say so myself, and the accompanying grilled peppers were a brilliant addition to the otherwise unadorned meal. The vegetables are just something that I have cooked up- from my understanding of Italian ingredients. Have been quite the winner, almost everytime I have cooked them. Feel free to improvise!
p.s Sadly, there are no process shots- I wasn’t planning to post this. But the results were so good, Ak convinced me to document it.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tarts


The New Year has begun with a lot of cooking. The posts have been coming in often and my blog is going to have almost 2000 hits- and I have finally embarked on the photography, learning nuances along the way. Food has been crucial to the beginning of the year, and that too, far beyond the blog.
               To cut a long story short, along with faraway tips, I decided to make dessert for the BIL who was travelling to India. The icing on the cake was that he was not familiar with my cooking- and even this blog. And I just need an excuse to spend half a day, puttering about in the kitchen, thoroughly enjoying the experience. The start point was that he would like something with fruits, and Ak came to the rescue by suggesting mini-tartlets. Tarts are perfect for dessert, as everyone can pick up their own mini-helping and they look pretty and delightful. Also, i personally feel- as someone baking tarts, I would love to serve an assortment with varied fillings. For some reason- they seem healthier too, maybe because of their fruity nature. My quest for the right tart began as I hunted for a sure-shot recipe that would work. I looked at 2 of my favorite Bloggers-Tartelette...on the sweet side of life (I love Helen’s styling and Photography-and am usually oohing- and aahing, when I read her posts) and Passionate about Baking (My daily ritual- or at least as often as she posts- Deeba is one of the most inspiring women…I haven’t met her and have only written to her once- but I love what she has done with Food Blogging here in India and the idea of making everything as pure as possible. She is very inspiring and I really hope that someday I can, be half as good as her.) 
             The dish was decided, I was going to make tartlets with strawberries and cream. I decided to go back to the Ipad Baking App, which I totally swear by. I used the tart recipe here, removed the almonds from it, and added some cinnamon instead. Most often, tarts are made with fresh fruits, and the mixed berry tarts seen so often are almost impossible to make here- no wild berries or blackberries available easily and I didn’t want to go down the tinned variety route. For the filling, I experimented a bit and decided to use a combination of cream and cheese- next time I may just use cream cheese instead! I had the wonderful goat’s cheese with cinnamon and berries still lying in the fridge, and so I decided to use a bit of it and hence, added the cinnamon in the tart base to compliment the cheese. The results were astonishing. The goat’s cheese added a wonderful consistency and flavor to the filling, a glimpse of cranberries and the slightly cheesy sweetness with a hint of cinnamon was quite wintery. I always thought strawberries and cream was a winner; the discovery of the addition of cinnamon has been interesting. The audience thought it was quite professional, and during the delay in actually putting up the post, I have already made the tarts twice over. That I assume, would be success enough J
              Disclaimer; this is the first post- where the photography is entirely by yours truly, except for the one grand finale, which Ak shot to wrap it up. I am quite pleased with the results- for which I give credit to the wonderful new lens.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pancakes with Bacon and Maple Syrup

01.01.2012.
Happy New Year.
A wonderful year gone by.
Looking forward to the one that has just come in. 
And hopefully, to a lot more communicating and cooking.





The glitch for today- we woke up to an extremely grey, almost wet, Sunday morning. Extremely British and I was instantly reminded of London. Oh- how I love that city, and how much I miss it. Not to say, I don’t love Delhi, but despite its greyness, for many reasons, London will always have a special place in my heart. The last night had been late, and by the time we were up, it was almost time for Lunch. Post the party, both Ak and me were in the mood for a quick, simple Brunch, and hence, what could be better, than Pancakes! (thanks to my ‘Brit’ nature as Ak calls it).
I know that Ak is not a Pancake person- He thinks they are flavourless, by themselves. I think it is more to do with the fact that, he doesn’t like the combination of sweet and savoury. Me, on the other hand, cannot get enough of them. Give me pancakes, give me waffles and some maple syrup- and life doesn’t get better for me. What irony! To top it all, pancakes are extremely versatile; breakfast or dinner, with eggs or ham or beans/vegetables or as a dessert. Essentially, they can always be combined with a number of accompaniments for a great meal.
Traditionally served for breakfast, pancakes have various versions- American, English, French (crepes), Greek and even an Indian one (cheela or malpua).  The American version is thicker (thanks to baking powder or another similar rising agent, with thick batter), whereas the English version is thinner, with a runny batter. If anyone is in London, they must try the best Crepes available, at the Hampstead Heath Market (and do try both the savoury and sweet ones!), and then take a walk along the heath, to burn the calories off. Absolute bliss.
            Since pancakes by themselves, would do not delight Ak enough, I decided to add a bribe; it was the first meal of the year, and It had to be delightful for everyone. I remembered one of Nigella’s posts here .Although she skips the bacon with the kids, we could definitely afford the ‘luxury of bacon’ on the first day of the year! Yes, we are that healthy, that bacon is deemed to be a luxury. IF it were up to me though, I would happily increase the consumption of bacon a bit more @261- and who knows, surreptitiously, I even may- heeeeehahaa (that’s the devil in me). Coming back to the meal, I used my tried and tested recipe for pancakes- they are more of the American type and I like them for their fluffiness. The batter is quick to make, and if wrapped in cling film, lasts for up to a week. In fact, it is so simple, that even the rookie cannot go wrong!
p.s. Must try these with some chocolate chips and syrup.

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