Thursday, May 21, 2015

A BOOK REVIEW & GIVEAWAY!

The first time I heard about Monica Bhide was through Twitter.That was when her latest cookbook, Modern Spice just hit the stands. From then on, I was hooked onto her recipes and stories. We became friends on Facebook and I must say,we have been enjoying each other's company over the years now. When she asked me if I could review her latest book, A Life of Spice,I was humbled and excited at the same time. She even sent me a paperback copy for myself and FOUR for you guys!
Monica Bhide
This book has the most beautiful stories about food and culture. I am a person who cooks to create memories and to relive my beautiful past.When I read through all the chapters in the book, I felt the same about Monica. I could relate so well with her. Some stories were so powerful that it brought tears to my eyes especially the one about her father's childhood in Multan. Some were so light and jovial that I laughed out loud. I must say, I couldn't keep this book down and I finished it in one go.
Creamy Tomato & Coconut fish Curry
                                Creamy Tomato & Coconut Fish Curry from Modern Spice (click for recipe)

I have so much to talk about this book because it connected me so well with my past. The stories about her Grandmother's house had me dreaming about my childhood in Mamma's kitchen. When she went back to Old Delhi with her little boy to show him her Grandmother's house, all they could see were rubbles.It brought tears to my eyes as I know how it feels since our Pallikuttumma house is no more.I try not to think about it because of the fear that the happy memories might vanish with the lack of the house there.I might be wrong but I don't want to take a chance.
Chicken 65

Since she has given you all a chance to win one of the FOUR copies, you really should try your chance. This is one book you will cherish for the rest of your life. A book filled with stories about food and life that can transport you to your beautiful past. Thank you Monica for writing a book like this. I feel I have been able to relive the good old days and didn't want the book to end. I wanted more.I still want more.
SPICY GRILLED PANEER SANDWICH
                              Grilled Spicy Paneer Sandwich from Monica's website (click for recipe)

After reading it all and staring at our white popcorn ceiling, I was wondering how it would be to live inside Monica's head for a day! :-) We think alike in many ways. In one chapter,she discusses whether the food is better if it's cooked in a glamorous kitchen.In another chapter,she talks about the ghosts of the cakes past.I could relate to it so well because of my Idli adventures. My Idli's are usually spongy soft, porous and feather light.It wasn't the same for the past almost 3 months. I tried and tried. I would soak rice and dal every other night. The batter never fermented.I even started to doubt my cooking skills. I made batters of different consistency at the same time.My kitchen looked like a research lab.Finally, I found the culprit. The brand of urad dal I was using was of poor quality.I changed it and my Idli's were back to where it belonged...into my hot case /Casserole...instead of the trash can.

For a chance to win this book
1. Leave a comment on this post saying why you would like to win Monica's book.
2.'Like' my Facebook page. You can use the widget on the right hand side or you can click here.Do come back and tell me in another comment that you did so :-)

You can choose to do one or both of the above mentioned options. If you do both, you have doubled your chances of winning a copy!

This contest is open to all but the copies can be sent only to a US address.
Contest is open till 1 June,2015.

 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A CAKE FOR A BABY SHOWER -5

Baby Shower Cake
There are so many cakes going in and coming out of my oven but only a handful makes their appearance here. It's mostly because of the lack of time to photograph them. I baked this cake for a friend's baby shower last year. Yeah,it took me almost 7-8 months to post it here! B & S sent me the photo of the cake they wanted and I made the exact same cake. They were really pleased with it. The only request was to add some pink stuff to the baby on the cake,since they were having a girl. A big thanks to Divya Maiya for the photographs!
Baby Shower Cake
I also baked a dozen of red velvet cupcakes for the party. Each cupcake was decorated according to the theme. If you look carefully, you can see them in the photograph above. I will be posting another cake I baked for another friend of ours almost a year ago! I should get it all done really soon before their baby turns One! :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

WHOLEWHEAT CARROT MUFFINS

Wholewheat Carrot Muffins
Ian loves carrots.Whenever I make a carrot thoran,something that I never really enjoyed before Ian,vanishes in no time in our house now. Ian considers it to be a snack and can hardly wait for me to finish cooking it. I baked these during Easter as I wanted to bring in the spirit by making something with carrots.So I made a huge batch of carrot thoran and these muffins. Both of them,vanished in no time.
Wholewheat Carrot Muffins
I was on the lookout for a good wholewheat carrot muffin recipe from a long time until I chanced upon Linu's page on Facebook. She had shared a recipe for it over there and it looked really good.I noted it down immediately and made a mental note to try that in the afternoon while Ian took his nap. I wait for him to nap to start baking something,just so that I can enjoy every step and take my own sweet time to finish it.
While the batter was made and poured into the muffin tins,the oven was preheating.Then as it baked and filled up our home with it's amazing aroma,I washed the dishes and cleared up the mess in the kitchen.By then, the muffins were done. It's a super simple,quick & delicious muffins.
WHOLEWHEAT CARROT MUFFINS
Wholewheat Carrot Muffins Makes 12-15

Ingredients:
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used regular atta)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup plain yogurt
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup grated carrots

Method: Preheat the oven to 400F/ 200C and line a muffin tin.
In a medium bowl,mix together wheat flour,cinnamon,brown sugar,baking soda and baking powder.In another bowl, whisk together yogurt,water and oil. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until the ingredients are mixed together.Fold in the grated carrots. Pour the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

These muffins are so moist and tender that you cannot believe that it's made with wholewheat flour.No matter how many times I've baked with that flour and found success, I still have an image that they can be dense and heavy. I think I should stop thinking that way! These muffins literally vanished in no time. I made some mini muffins too along with the regular one and I must say that they were super convenient to eat!
 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!

Jobin's Birthday Lamingtons
It's that time of the year when I bake Lamingtons. Usually, I would make a tower of Lamingtons along with a separate big cake for him to cut. Since we were away from each other for the last couple of birthdays, I decided to make him one big tower of  his most favourite Lamingtons and took the other cake off the list so that he can concentrate on his most favourite thing! This is the first birthday where Ian was with him. Ian was super excited to cut the cake and was super shy when asked to feed a piece of cake to his Appa.

Honestly,I look forward to eating them every year now. Even though these can be baked throughout the year I chose not to. Special things are meant for special occasions only...atleast in our little world!

You can find the recipe here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

VETTU CAKE / FRIED CAKE

Vettu Cake

T
his is a chayakada / tea shop special that I've eaten only in Kerala. I am sure it's available in other states but I have personally never seen it elsewhere. It's something that you can eat when it's raining outside. Anything deep fried counts as a rainy day food,right? Maybe not French fries as I've never eaten that as a snack for tea. Whenever we travel together as a family in Kerala, a stop at a chayakada in inevitable. A pit stop for tea will end up being a pit stop for a meal. We usually order one of every item displayed in those glass shelves so that we can taste everything. The last time I remember eating a Vettu cake was on our way to Kodaikanal,somewhere close to Munnar.I also asked the teashop owner to pack me some for the road.
Vettu Cake
We get some good rains here in Minneapolis and one such gloomy afternoon, I was craving for these fried goodies. I remembered Swapna chechy posting about it a while ago. So I pinged her on Facebook to check if it was the tender kinds,by which I mean not as hard as rock types. That's when she said that she's never had it in a tea shop. I trust her recipes so I thought of giving it a try . They turned out 100% the way I wanted it to be.
Vettu Cake

So I have some news for you. 2 bad news actually. The first one is that I didn't get through the scholarship contest and the second one is that I lost a dear Uncle a few days ago. The first news didn't bother me at all since it was just a competition but the latter did. Being so far away from my family doesn't help either.He was my Amma's second brother who lived in Pallikuttumma. Now, Pallikuttumma will not be the same anymore.

Let's move on to the recipe now.
VETTU CAKE
Vettu Cake
Ingredients:
500 grams all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
250 grams confectioners sugar
Approximately 1/2 cup water
Oil for frying

Method: In a bowl,whisk together flour,baking soda,salt and ground cardamom.
In another bowl, beat together eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the flour mix along with just enough water to form a tight / stiff dough. Cover the dough with a damp towel and set aside for 1 hour. Divide the dough into 4. Roll them out to form a cylinder. Flatten it out and cut out 1 inch squares or triangles. Slit the pieces as shown.
Vettu Cake
Heat oil to 350 F on medium heat and fry them till they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels, cool and store in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for 2-3 weeks!

These cakes are super addictive.You really cannot stop at one. Move aside potato chips!
When I was little, we would make doughnuts at home. It's not the same kind you get to buy outside. They were a little hard and dry. I am not sure how many of you can relate to me. It was something that my Grandaunt made for us.Mamma's sister-in-law Thankachi aunty. Then when we got the recipe, we would try it at home. Neethu, my cousin,made it once after she graduated from college and everyone made fun of her saying that she is trying to show off her 'Home Science' skills! I've heard that comment too since I took up Home Science in college. Trust me, we are not taught to become better home cooks instead a sensible cook who knows what goes into their meals. So there's a lot of science to it.

Anyway, these vettu cakes reminded me of those doughnuts I ate a long time ago. They are incredible. Do make it the next time it rains in your part of the world. You can thank me later!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

15 MINUTE HOMEMADE PUFF PASTRY

Before I begin with the post, I have some news for you. I am participating in a scholarship challenge held by the Institute of Culinary Education in New York for their Pastry & Baking Arts course. If you could take a moment to cast a vote for me,click here. It will help me a lot! You can vote everyday till March 28.If everything goes well as planned, I should join school this year.
15 Minute Puff Pastry
A few days ago I was searching the internet for a quick puff pastry recipe a.k.a rough puff pastry. I have made both of them previously and I never tire from making them. Who doesn't like Chicken Puffs & Egg Puffs? When I made them earlier, I reused my chicken curry to make the filling. This time I was aiming for an Egg Puff but I made some Palmiers with it. They are just like the Britannia Little Hearts. So addictive!The Rough Puff Pastry I made earlier was for the famous Bangalore snack called Dilkhush.
15 Minute Puff Pastry
Clotilde's recipe is so quick that you can make them in the last minute's notice.There is no chilling in between the rolling of the dough,which saves a lot of time. The end product was super flaky and buttery. Do not substitute butter for anything else as the flavour will alter if you do so. The bakery puffs we get back home is definately made with Dalda/Margarine. They taste greasy after a while. These,when made with pure sweet butter smells and tastes so good!
15 Minute Puff Pastry
I would suggest an egg wash to give them a golden colour but make sure you don't let the egg wash drip down the cut sides as it will prevent the pastry from rising to it's maximum. We do buy our puff pastry,occasionally. The convenience is great but the price isn't,especially when you have to entertain a crowd with it. Now that I have found the quickest and the best one, I don't think I would return to the frozen packaged ones for convenience sake. You can wrap it well and store in the freezer for upto a month. Thaw and use as needed.
15 MINUTE PUFF PASTRY
Ingredients:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter,cubed
1/3 cup ice cold water

Method: In a medium sized bowl, add the flour and salt. Stir to mix.
Add the cubed butter to the flour and work it in using a pastry blender or knives till they are crumbly and when the butter is in uniform pieces all about the size of peas. Make a hole in the centre of the flour mix and pour in the water. Work it in using a fork to form a dough.
15 Minute Puff Pastry
Dump it onto a floured cutting board and pat to form a rough square. The dough might look crumbly,that's just the way it should be. Using a rolling pin,roll out the dough into a 10 inch long rectangle.Fold the bottom third of the dough over the middle of the dough. Fold the upper third of the dough over the middle of the dough.Rotate the dough one-quarter turn and repeat. Use additional flour to prevent sticking. Repeat the process atleast 6 or 7 times more. Wrap the dough well in plastic and chill for a minimum of 1 hour in the fridge. Use as needed.
This was well recieved by everyone who tried it. I made Ian some plain puffs and he loved it! You can use this for every recipe which calls for frozen puff pastry.

So, don't forget to vote for me! Here's the link!
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