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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!

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Friday, March 30, 2012

Still catching up - and an exciting round-up!

At the very beginning of this still-beautiful year 2012, I had thought of hosting an event. And that event was just about Lentils! So I had announced its existence, and some talented cooks dropped in with their awesome recipes. But just when I was thinking of graciously bringing down the curtain on it (I swear I had planned so!), a nasty virus bit my laptop hard! I am still in the throes of catching up on lost times and for today's post, I chose to get back to that much much delayed round-up. 


So without mincing words further, let me move on the much awaited unveiling of all the lovely dishes that I have been able to bring forth to my blog table - courtesy of all my kind friends out there who cared to take out time and send me their wonderful lentil dishes.In some, lentil was the main base while for others, lentil was a subtle hint that could not be done without!Any way it was, the ultimate dish was delightful.

To start off, I would like to mention my dear friend Faseela from 'Good Food Ends with Good Talk' who turned my event from an almost lackadaisical affair to a cacophonous blast - sending in a whopping 13 recipes from her own kitchen itself!Thank you so much Faseela - you cannot imagine how much your enthusiasm means to me!Faseela has fashioned out a whole range of recipes ranging from soups to fritters, curries to mishmashes and even a savory powder, all having different varieties of lentils in them.Following her very closely are Divya from 'Dil se...'  and Priya from 'Priya's Easy n Tasty Recipes' with 4 entries each. Thanks so much guys - your participation meant a lot. A big 'Thank You' to all my friends who linked up a post - the main aim of my event was to bring together lentil-based dishes in one place so that you do not have to scamper over the net everytime you think of making something with lentils. And thanks to these talented bloggers, mission has been accomplished to an extent that leaves me happy. And I hope will make all my readers happy too. So click on the logo below for your exciting tour through Lentil Land and have fun!:)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Of tags and awards and a much delayed ode!

When I was away for a short while, talented bloggers all around were spinning their magic threads in blogland and creating things exquisite, as always! Cooking, baking, thinking up new ideas and decking up their blogs with more interesting stuff. In the midst of all this, they even found time to share lovely awards with others and little did they figure the joy they had spread by doing that!

I, for one, was overjoyed to get a whole plethora of awesome awards from Amelia of Amelia’s De-ssert! Amelia, you are such a darling! I feel so humbled to be getting this awesome haul of awards from you – thanks for remembering me, dear friend! Amelia is not only a great cook and baker, but a person of many qualities. Check out her interesting blog to know more about this charismatic lady who I am fortunate to have as a dear friend!
My next award is from another dear friend Suchi of ‘Kitchen Karma’ who was so kind to be sharing the ‘Versatile Blogger’ award with me. Thank you so much Suchi, for this award. Though I had the privilege of getting this award twice before – from my very dear friend Kitty of Kitty’s Kozy Kitchen and of course, Amelia above – it still feels special everytime:) Suchi is a prolific writer who not only writes a lovely food blog but also has another blog to her credit, where she pens down her thoughts about the world around her. And believe me, what a lovely read that makes! Do check out Suchi’s wonderful blog for more!

Then comes another surprise – not an award, but a cute tag this time!  And I got it from one of my favorite bloggers and awesome cook, Ambreen of ‘Simply Sweet ‘n Savory’. Thanks so much for thinking of me, dear! Ambreen has tagged my blog and I now have 12 questions about myself that I need to answer, figuring out another set of 12 questions that I desire to know about the people I tag in turn! Well, another of those things that makes me feel jittery but when it is dear Ambreen, I’m all for it! Well the rules that come with it are posted below. It’s a nice way of knowing more about friends whom you care for – do check out Ambreen’s lovely blog too and don’t let yourself miss out on her exotic creations!

The Rules:
1. You must post the rules.
2. Post 12 fun facts about yourself in the blog post.
3. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the people you tagged.
4. Tag 12 people and link them on your post.
5. Let them know you've tagged them.

12 Facts About Me :
1.I am a shy person and generally stay away from too much attention.
2.I am a foodie to the core – not that I eat too much but I love to taste everything!
3.I am absolutely passionate about baking.
4.My Maa is my best friend in the whole wide world!
5.Reading is another passion and I read just about everything I manage to lay my hands on – books make me extremely happy.
6.I prefer to spend time by myself, doing all the things I like to do and am deft in keeping myself involved with something or the other, always.
7.Well-made and practical movies give me a huge kick.
8.I love to write and my blog first made me feel the joy of creation
9.I abhor the idea of keeping pets – to me, cats and dogs look good in photo frames only!
10.I am a firm believer in destiny and take my life as it comes to me, every moment that I live.
11.My first ever gift to anyone was a hand-sewn little purse that I made for my Maa when I was 5. It was a messy disaster – but she has kept it with her to this day!
12.I believe that there is no end to learning and I wish to keep on learning till my last day.

Ambreen’s Questions :
1.Describe yourself in 3 words? Practical, reticent, responsible.
2.If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?  Chicken Biryani!!
3.What is your favorite movie? City of Angels.
4.What is your favorite type of cuisine? Mediterranean cuisine.
5.What scares you the most? Losing my memory!
6.Coffee, tea, or neither? Tea, always!
7.What is your favorite place you have ever visited? Kingston, Canada.
8.Are you a sweet tooth or savory tooth? Both!
9. What is your favorite song? ‘Top of the World’ – The Carpenters.
10.If you could change just one thing about yourself, what would it be? My habit to be judgemental about anything too soon.
11.What’s one goal you have for this year? Nothing as such – I like to take life as it comes!
12.What is your most favorite post on your blog? So many of them are close to my heart – guess its too difficult to choose just one:)

My Questions :
1. Given a choice, which profession would you love to choose?
2. What pleases you more – cooking or baking?
3. Which movie is you favorite movie?
4. If there was one thing that you could change in your family, what would it be?
5. If there was one thing that you could change in you, what would it be?
6. Do you feel the need to refer to cookbooks when you cook/bake? Give the reason why.
7. Who is the greatest inspiration of your life?
8. Which is the most recent book/magazine you have read?
9. What made you start blogging?
10. On an average, what percentage of time can you afford to spend on your blog in a day?
11. Which feature of blogging do you like the most?
12. What feature in my blog do you like the most?

Phew!Sorry - I know that was awfully long! But the fun part is still to come. And that is the tagging:) So here goes a list of 12 of my dear blogger friends whom I'd like to tag - whom all of you will enjoy doing this as much as I did:

Amelia of Amelia's De-ssert
Marsha of The Better Baker
Suchi of Kitchen Karma
Sobha of Good Food
Amina of Amina Creations
La of  Food Slice
Aruna of Veggie Paradise

I had a lot more friends whom I would love to tag, but had to stop at 12 - since that's how the rule goes!Anyway, that's all for today's post. I will be back with another recipe soon. Till then - have fun and stay well:)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cilantro Stems Chutney - a sweet precursor to summer!

Just happened to chance upon the famed chef, cookbook author and cookery show host Laura Calder some time back. It was surprising how I didn't manage to come across this spirited Canadian lady during my time in Canada, given that her show was a regular on Food Network Canada. I am an insanely voracious reader and have this penchant to delve relentlessly into cookbooks and scour the Internet for cooking techniques from expert cooks all over the world! Which is how I came across Laura Calder!
And once I had found her, I was reading about her fascinating French recipes and cooking techniques and her eventful life. An alumni of Concordia University, Montreal and York University, Toronto and also the London School of  Economics, she digressed early in life  from what she had been educated in to something absolutely offbeat French cooking - and pursued it passionately till she reached perfection. In her own words, she was doing everything right as the world saw it – she had a job which was paying her well, she had a good life and she had everything she could have -   though deep down she knew it was not what she wanted to do! Now, isn't that a known feeling that we all feel at sometime in our life! At least, I do! But then this gutsy lady – she chose to follow her dreams leaving the comfort of a world she knew. She traveled all the way to France to get a taste of real French cooking and methods and fearlessly treaded into the amazing world of French cooking, loaded with optimism and the unwavering zeal to learn.

And what an amazing cook she turned out to be! I have been hooked on to her series on French home cooking titled ‘Laura Calder – French Cooking at Home’ and it has been an immensely satisfying experience! Laura has a very easy-going demeanor and makes it a point to infuse her cooking with a witty repartee her and there! Her style of cooking is lucid, simple and detailed. She hosts her show in a well-stocked up, but not over made, urban kitchen and uses simple everyday cooking tools to rustle up her delicacies. A gadget does peek in now and then, but since she abhors gadgets personally, her cooking style is attuned more to home cooking with easily attainable cooking paraphernalia. Whether it is kneading flour for a Pissaladière which is a French pizza, or melting duck fat in one of her many shining steel pots for her favorite Duck Confit or fashioning out her flaky Mille Feuille and smearing it with pastry cream and dunking plump blueberries in between – everything she does has a scrumptiously contagious flair to it! So if you love French food and want to learn the secrets behind them, catch up with this intelligent, young chef extraordinaire and find yourself enamored by her charm and cooking finesse.
That leaves me with my recipe for today, which is homemade  Cilantro stems Chutney. Every time a bunch of Cilantro makes way into my kitchen, the leaves get shorn off the stems and the stems then get dumped into the trash bin! Simply because the Husband can't bear the thought of eating cilantro sticks in his curry!But it makes me feel very guilty to throw them away because I always felt they are edible and healthy for us to have. So this Sunday, I set out to replicate my Maa's Cilantro Chutney which she would make on hot, summer days - with a difference. Instead of the Cilantro leaves, I used the stems and replaced the tart Tamarind with dried Mangoes. It turned out to be so tasty, that I haven't been able to stop myself from plonking spoonfuls of it into my month at regular intervals. A must have for the summer days to come - because the cooling effect of the Cilantro and the lovely flavor is bound to bowl you over!



Cilantro stems Chutney

You will need:
Cilantro stems – About 6 cups, chopped roughly
Green chilies – 4 to 5, whole
Green peppers – 1 cup, roughly chopped
Ginger – About 3 inches, roughly diced
Castor sugar – 1 cup
Salt – 2 teaspoons
Dried mango slivers – 7 to 8 (if you are using the store bought variety). If using fresh, 4-5 slivers will suffice.
Roasted Cumin powder – 2 teaspoons
Mustard oil – 3 tablespoons

How I made it:
1. Combine the coriander stems, ginger, green chilies, green peppers, castor sugar and salt in a blender and pulse everything together on high for 7-8 mins, till all the ingredients are combined to form a fairly deep green mush.

2. Add the roasted cumin powder to the green mush and again pulse on high for another 10 mins. At this point, you might notice that the color of the chutney gradually changes from a fresh green to a cooked green or slightly olive green. That is because pulsing creates some amount of heat which caramelizes the sugar in the chutney, lending an amber hue to the fr
esh green. The result is slighter darker and richer olive green chutney.

3. Heat up the mustard oil in a pan till it just starts bubbling and then put off the flame. Allow the oil to cool down completely. Heating the oil ensures that the oil is not raw but cooked, emanating a beautiful pungent mustardy flavor. But we would want to cool it down so that it does not start cooking the green mush the moment it is added. Rather it should first be combined well and then it should infuse its flavors into the chutney.

4. Once the oil has cooled down completely, add it to the olive green chutney and pulse for another 4-5 mins. Taste the sweet, savory and tart flavors and check if the balance is pleasant to your taste buds. Add sugar or salt or a couple of more mango slices if you feel the chutney needs it. 

5. Your rich green cilantro stems chutney is ready. You can have this as a dip for chips or crackers or as an accompaniment with any Indian Flatbread like ‘Roti’ or ‘Paratha’. Tastes lovely as a spread on toasted bread and can be had just like that! Enjoy!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rustic Apple Ginger & Cashew cake - a comeback, a celebration and catching up!

Hello, all my dear friends – I am back!

 I know I have been quite clumsy with things. Given that I now have the privilege of having many lovely blogger friends who are kind enough to care and think about me, I should have let you all know of my short break before slinking off wordlessly! My ardent apologies!
As some of my dear friends already know, it all started with a weird virus attack on my laptop the evening I wrote my last post. It was snowing that day and I wanted to post some photos of the lovely white landscape around here in my post the next day. I was reaching a lot of milestones too – my 100th post, my 2nd Blog anniversary – and to celebrate it all I had baked a lovely Apple Ginger and Cashew cake the day before. The photos had all been downloaded, decked up and ooh aahed and everything was on track. When suddenly my laptop went ‘Pffuft!’ and lay cold and dead. My attempts to restart were met with chilly stares and then the inevitable blue screen shrieked out at me from the monitor – something had gone desperately wrong! After incessant calls to the service centers and trial and tribulations by helpful friends who proffered their kind help, we concluded that the only way out was a re-imaging - which would wash out all my data! I limply hung on to the last straw of hope that things could be revived keeping my things intact – but I was just hoping against hope. I lost all my precious photos – the ones that I had been saving up to share with my friends. Not that I can’t make them again, but the efforts just went to a waste and I felt so stupid and guilty that I had not even thought of taking a back-up! Guess I trusted my laptop too much – but a machine is after all a machine.
Anyway, I have started picking up the threads from where I had left off. It will be sometime before I can build back everything again, but a couple of important lessons that I learnt from this. Firstly, I would never have realized how attached I have become to my blog in the course of time, if this had not happened. The morning after, it felt like an abysmal void, when I could not write another  of my blog posts or hop onto my friends’ places to see what they were cooking or baking that day! I could not read what my friends had to say about any of my recipes or I could not welcome any new friend eager to join me on my journey. It all felt like a gaping hole. In my two years of blogging, my blog had filled in for me very loyally many a times – on days when I was hurt and sad, I sat down with my blog. When worries incessantly plagued my mind, my blog helped me channel my senses to something productive and substantial. At time when I felt unworthy and useless, my blog gave me lovely friends who showered me with gifts and showed their appreciation for my worth. My blog had become my friend in need and deed. It had become my identity.
Secondly, it was an utterly humbling experience to realize that I had some lovely friends who cared to keep me in their thoughts - even when I was out of sight! I don’t mean to say that they would not, but I know how weighed down everyone is with the travails of daily life in this fast and pushing world. And to hand me some lovely awards and care to drop in a note to know how I was doing was so overwhelming!  Thanks my dears AmeliaMarsha, Suchi, Ambreen and Faseela!:) Your thoughtful notes meant the world to me! I will blog about the awards in my next post very soon – please do forgive my sinful procrastination, but I hope to make amends and catch up with your lovely blogs pretty soon!
My blog completed a happy two years on Feb 24. I re-baked the rustic Apple Ginger and Cashew cake which I had originally baked to post on that day. Only this time, I baked in the brand new Springform pan that a very dear friend gifted to me as a belated wedding anniversary gift! Actually it is a set of three Springform pans in three different sizes – an 8”, a 9” and a 10 “pan all packed together in one and I started off with using the 8” pan to bake my cake just to keep it small and cozy. The pans are such a good quality that I genuinely believe baking in that pan added a super smooth edge to my cake – and I’m not exaggerating here, cause it sure did! So here’s celebrating my 100th post and my blog’s 2nd Birthday with this delicious cake - do give this a try and please keep your thoughts flowing in. Hearing from you all has always been a delight!

Rustic Apple Ginger and Cashew nut cake
You will need:
All Purpose Flour – 1 cup
Soft Muscovado sugar – 1 and ¼ th cups
2 large eggs
Warm milk – Half a cup
Butter – 1 stick, softened
Baking soda - 1 and ½ teaspoon
1 large Apple, diced into small squares (I used McIntosh. Any sweet variety would work well)
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of half a lemon
Ginger – About 2 inches, finely minced
Instant coffee – 1 teaspoon
Vanilla extract – 2 and ½ teaspoons
Unsalted Cashewnuts – ½ a cup

How I made it:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a Springform pan or baking tin with parchment paper. You may butter the bottom and sides if you prefer doing that too.

2. In a large bowl, add the cored apples, minced ginger, cashew nuts, lemon zest and juice of half a lemon. Mix everything together and then add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Leave aside for 10 mins and allow all the flavors to come together.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the whites and beat the egg whites with a whisk or an electric beater till it becomes stiff and glossy. In a separate bowl, take the softened butter and egg yolks and beat well till it becomes a faint yellow, light and fluffy. At this point, add in the softened butter and beat again. The color will turn a tad darker from faint yellow to beige, due to the golden color of the Muscovado sugar.

4. Next add in the milk and the instant coffee and beat everything together well. Next add in the stiffened egg white to this wet batter and slowly and gently fold everything together with a wooden spatula. The stiffened egg whites have air captured in them which adds lightness to the cake batter leading to a soft texture.

5. In another bowl, take the flour and baking soda and mix well. Take 2 tablespoons from this flour mixture and add to the diced apple, ginger and nuts mixture. Mix with a spoon so that the flour coats the apples and ginger.

6. To the wet mixture, start adding the flour and baking soda mixture in small batches and keep folding in every batch gently till all of the flour mixture is incorporated. Once done, add the apple mixture doused with flour in the same way and keep folding everything together gently.

7. Now pour the cake batter gently onto your baking tin and level the top roughly with the spatula. It needs to have a rustic feel to it and hence doesn’t need to be too smooth. Sprinkle the top lightly with a little Muscovado sugar for a golden, glistening top.
8. Cover the top with an aluminum foil, leaving a small gap to allow the cooking steam to vent out, lest it scorches the top. Bake the cake for 45-50 mins or till a toothpick comes out clean. Remember to remove the foil cover for the last 15 mins of the bake. Enjoy the citrusy aroma of baking apples infused with a lemony zing, and savor it wafting through your kitchen! Happy baking till next time!