Tag Archives: Wholesome

A hint of tang, a hint of honey…….A cakey ode to our 40’s!!

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My Mom, has what in my family we call the ‘Recipe Book Graveyard’. She loves to buy different recipe books, especially those featuring the varied regional cuisines of India. So we have Parsi cookbooks and Bengali cookbooks, recipe books of the Konkanastha Brahmins as well as those of the Goans, cookbooks featuring Marwari cuisine as well as a whole variety of books written by Indian TV Chefs. However not one recipe from any of them has ever been tried out.They are relegated to the ‘Recipe Book Graveyard’ situated near my Dad’s ‘Telephone graveyard’….well that’s another story all together……so lets just stay on track.

This tendency to buy recipe books and just read them, not try a thing or try out something that was merely a hint of the original, comes to me, I believe, in a gene from my Mom.

I am not a strict follower of recipes. Wayward in many ways, I loathe following recipes…..and I don’t. Yet, most often than not, I strike success, brought about by another gene, also inherited from my Mom…..talent in the cooking department.
As a subscriber to the BBC Good Food Magazine, India , I enjoy reading the magazine, marvel at the photography and often plan what to cook. But never ever end up cooking anything from the magazine.
My son J, whined and whinged and flung back at me all the lectures we give him about valuing and making use of all that he gets/buys. “Well, Ma……YOU NEVER make anything from your Good Food Magazines!!

So Mama, that’s ME, slunk away, tail between legs……to cook….following a recipe from the magazine.

I searched in some of the latest issues and found the right recipe for me to follow. A Cake. An Orange and Almond Cake.

This cake was perfect. It looked stunning and was so different to anything I had baked before. I had, of course, previously done a Pineapple Upside down. But in this one, I liked the use of honey and orange rind (which is a flavour I am shamelessly partial to), as well as ground almonds in the batter!! Almonds, oranges, honey and of course eggs, how much more goodness could a girl wish for?

As I ate this cake and savoured every bite, I realised I really liked it. Every new mouthful revealed something different. Honeyed sweetness, followed by the bitterness of the orange rind, the nutty texture of the almond and the tang of the oranges. This is such a ‘grown-up’, ‘ adult’ cake. Yet my youngest, 8-year-old D, particularly liked it. She thought it looked stunning and was supremely delicious. Heaving a sigh of relief, that I had spawned children with superior taste buds thus feeling rather superior myself, I continued nibbling.

As I nibbled, savoring each bite….(think wine connoisseur swirling the glass of a particularly prime vintage and you’ll get the picture), I couldn’t help thinking about my bunch of friends. Wonderful women who have either already turned 40 or will be doing so over the next year or two…..and one very lovely 30-year-old who fits in with the rest of the ‘oldies.’ We are all stunning….and sunny. Nutty? Oh yeah….and love it that way. The hint of the rind, a reminder of another facet of our personality…..forthrightness and honesty….often thought of as cattiness. If that be so then MEOW!! But the citrus hit reminds me of all the spunk and ‘devil may care attitude’ that comes only with the age and I’d like to think…AHEM….maturity.

So this one is for all my lovely friends and family as well as all the women out there….who have embraced their forties and rock on with style and panache, wind-blown hair streaked with grey and the confidence to care a damn about whether the grey shows through or not. Who laugh so heartily not worried whether we look like a jackass but confident that any smiling, laughing face is gorgeous, neither does the thought of laugh lines cross our minds.

“We’re not 40, just 18 with 22 years experience.”

Go on try this one….its full of character and its sure to leave an impression on you just as much as it does on everybody.

Orange almond cake

ORANGE AND ALMOND UPSIDE DOWN.(adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine)

4 Medium sized Oranges
6 tbsp honey
200 gm butter + extra for greasing
200 gm brown sugar
200 gm flour
2 1/2 tsp Baking powder
100 gms ground almonds
4 eggs.

METHOD:

* Pre heat oven to 180 deg C.

orange cake Jan 2013 015* Finely grate the zest from two oranges.

* Peel the skin of all the oranges using a serrated knife.

* Cut the oranges into thick slices.

* Grease a 9 inch round baking pan. Drizzle the honey all over making sure that it covers the entire bottom.

*Arrange the best slices of orange all over the bottom. car rally & orange cake Jan 2013 009

* Finely chop the remaining orange slices.

* Cream butter and sugar till its light and fluffy.

* Bit by bit add in the egg a little at a time, ensuring that its incorporated into the butter/sugar mix before adding some more.

* Sieve flour and baking powder together and add in the ground almonds.

* Fold the flour and almond mix into the wet mix, adding in the chopped oranges halfway through.

* Pour the cake batter over the Oranges and honey in the tin.

*With a spatula or wooden spoon, make a depression in the centre of the cake.This will help the cake rise evenly when baked and not ‘dome’.

* Bake at 180C for 50-60 mins or till a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

* Allow it to settle for around 5 minutes before turning it out.

* Serve as it is or drizzled with honey.

iPhone pics....New year- Pondy Rally 003

Personally, I prefer the flavour the next day.

But I’m sure you know your own likes.

“At the age of 20, we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at 30, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at 40, we discover that it wasn’t thinking of us at all.”

So sit back with a piece of this cake and savour the sweet, the bitter, the tang and nuttiness……embrace it’s flavours and personality.

ENJOY!!

Entering this into the Tea Time Treats Citrus Challenge hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.

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Basil……A Yarn and a Recipe.

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My kids love Pasta Pesto. It is a lunch box staple, which I have always prepared using the bottled Organic Pesto from Auroville.

However on my recent visit to Econut for my Organic provisions, I struck it lucky with a big bag full of fresh basil. I just couldn’t resist. I picked up a bag full of organic walnuts and extra virgin olive oil as well.

Although pesto is traditionally made with Basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and a hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino, I decided to do a more economical version with walnuts and skipped the cheese altogether.

I guess here in India one would say I made a chutney.

Holy Basil or Tulsi is revered in India in every Hindu household, especially in those of Vishnu devotees.

Read this wonderful story from Hindu Mythology about the Tulsi plant here.

However the Christians, too, consider Basil holy especially the Greek Orthodox Church.

St.Helena, was born somewhere in the region of modern-day Turkey. Although just a stabularia or inn-keeper she married Constantius I Chlorus in 270 BC. They had a son Constantine.

As Constantius became co-regent or Ceasar, he had to, for political gain, forsake Helena and marry the step-daughter of the Emperor Maximinius Herculius.

Disgraced in a court that was full of intrigue and murder, Helena never fought her rival but faded into obscurity till her own son Constantine became Emperor. She then was bestowed with the title of Augusta or Empress.

Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. Legend says that he had a dream of a burning cross with a message that he should ‘in this sign conquer’. So he did, earning control over western Europe.

They say it was Constantine’s influence on his mother that made her too, embrace Christianity. She mingled freely with worshippers did many acts of charity and released prisoners too.

Although she was pretty advanced in age, Helena set out on a pilgrimage to Palestine, visiting Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Sinai. She built many churches and continued her charity work.

She was very keen to find the ‘True Cross’….the cross on which Jesus had been crucified.

She had been searching for many days, when on a barren hill outside Jerusalem she noticed a sweet-smelling plant. That plant happened to be Basil. She gave orders that the area under the plant be excavated and found the True Cross.

So to this day, especially in the Greek Orthodox Church,Sweet basil is used in the preparation of Holy water.

Two religions, both have reasons why this plant is so special…..and there are many more cultures that venerate the Basil. In many other cultures like Mexico, Romania and Italy it is associated with love.

Not just a ‘holy herb’, but also one which is full of health benefits!

It is one of the most highly regarded herbs in Ayurveda.

“Scientific research offers impressive evidence that Tulsi (basil) reduces stress, enhances stamina, relieves inflammation, lowers cholesterol, eliminates toxins, protects against radiation, prevents gastric ulcers, lowers fevers, improves digestion and provides a rich supply of antioxidants and other nutrients. Tulsi is especially effective in supporting the heart, blood vessels, liver and lungs and also regulates blood pressure and blood sugar.Dr. Ralph Miller, former Director of Research for the Canadian Dept. of Health and Welfare.

Makes me wonder at how religion often guided people towards what was good for them, not just spiritually but also physically and emotionally. The environment, too, benefited from many of the old rituals which ensured its protection.

Although I am not a regular church goer, my deeply Catholic upbringing, ensures that I have a prayer on my lips often. From this ability to just utter a silent prayer, I drawer a lot of strength. It has a calming meditative value about it which I treasure.

;

So here is the recipe I used to make Basil and Walnut Pesto:

Adapted from http://cookieandkate.com

Ingredients

  • 2 lightly packed cup of basil
  • 2 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • squeeze of lemon juice
Instructions
  • Over medium high heat, toast the walnuts until fragrant, about three to five minutes.
  • Wash and dry the basil leaves
  • In a food processor, combine the basil, walnuts and garlic.
  • Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil. Do not over mix as I felt the pesto gets darker.
  • Remove the mixture from the processor and pour it into a bowl. Stir in salt and a squeeze of lemon (optional), to taste.

;

I did not add in the cheese as I felt it would keep better this way.

When I made it for lunch, I added some grated cheese to the ready dish.

  • Pesto freezes well, so you can make a larger quantity and freeze for later use.
  • Traditionally made by hand in a mortar and pestle…..I did not have one large enough to take this quantity so I just made it in the mixie.
  • Make the pesto as soon as you get fresh basil.
  • I replaced the traditional pine nuts with walnuts…..it’s just as tasty.

Use it as:

  • A pasta sauce.
  • Marinade for grilled fish of chicken.
  • Stirred as a flavouring into soups.
  • Sandwich spread.
  • Healthy pizza sauce alternative.

Do you use pesto in any other way??

I’d love some new ideas

Don’t Forget the Frozen Pizza Dough!

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Remember when I made the whole wheat pizza dough?

If you don’t or are reading this blog for the first time….check it out here.

I froze a part of  it for later.

Well, the kids are back at school and I’m back to dusting the cobwebs off my creative brain cells, urging them to somewhat creakily wake up and think up interesting goodies to pack for lunch.

5 am…..Y A A AWN and S..T..R…E…C…….H………………

Desperate scramble for my morning jolt……a cuppa coffee…….

Light bulbs pop……hey there is some frozen pizza dough!!

I took the dough out and left it to thaw and rise again.

(You could leave it in the fridge the previous night)

Using the pizza sauce which I always have on hand, frozen, I sautéed some mushrooms, corn and leftover grilled chicken and mixed it with the pizza sauce.

Cut the dough into equal pieces….as many as you require.

Roll it out and put some of the filling along with some cheese.

Fold over and seal by brushing a little water or egg around the edges and pressing

with the help of a fork.

If you look carefully, you will notice that I have left a small corner unsealed.

This allows for the steam to escape and prevents the bread from splitting while baking.

Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise for @ 10-15 minutes.

Brush with egg wash before baking.

Bake at 200 deg C for 10 min or till firm and golden.

….And TAA DAAA…….

Perfect little CALZONE for the lunch box!  Delicioso!!!

CALZONE literally meaning a stocking or trouser is nothing but a folded pizza.

It’s filling consists of ingredients similar to pizza toppings.

My 7-year-old only eats a Pizza Margherita and hates any toppings on her pizza.

This is a great way to stuff all kinds of veggies into a bun…..it’s not visible!

But considering that it is a ‘totally cool’ lunch…..it goes down with pride!!

So don’t forget that frozen pizza dough………….

I talked to a calzone for fifteen minutes last night before I realized it was just an introverted pizza. I wish all my acquaintances were so tasty.
”

Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title

Perfecting Phad Thai

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My 7 year old came home one day pleading with me to learn from her friend’s Mom,how to cook ‘phad thai’…..”its the most delicious, ‘awesomest’ noodle I’ve ever eaten!” she said.

Isn’t it curious how kids just love what they ate at someone else’s house? (I don’t know about yours, but my kids are pro’s at this.) Never mind that it is our standard order at our favorite Thai restaurant, ‘Benjarong’, here in Chennai.

Like any good Mom, I called up the expert “pad thai-ing” Mother. She gave a recipe using peanut butter, imli (tamarind)chutney and ready Thai red curry paste.

Now I’m sure this made a very tasty Phad Thai….but the food snob that I am, I thought, “What! Not from scratch?”

It took me a few weeks, but I dragged myself to the computer and trawled the net for Phad Thai recipes.

Now there are thousands, if not more, varieties of Phad Thai recipes. But very few seemed to be ‘authentic’ to me.

Many of them used all kinds of packaged ingredients, but then I chanced upon a blog http://chezpim.com where

Pim shares her secrets to the best Phad Thai.

Phad Thai needs to have 4 flavours:

1.Salty (fish sauce)

2.Sweet (palm sugar)

3.Spicy (chilly powder)

4.Sour (tamarind pulp)

The recipe I follow belongs to Pim, I make a larger quantity as it stays beautifully bottled in the fridge.

My kids love it in their lunch box and it works for me as well because I have a fingerlickingly good ingredient on hand all the time.

PHAD THAI SAUCE:

1/2 cup tamarind pulp ( start with less and add to taste)

1/2 cup palm sugar

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 tsp chilly powder

Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer till very slightly thickened and the palm sugar dissolved.

I like my sauce a little sweeter. Play around with the ingredients till you find the balance that is right for you.

( add less tamarind to begin with and keep adding more after tasting)

Strain the sauce as the palm sugar almost always has some grit in it.

Cool and keep it in a jar in the fridge.

Jo’s Phad Thai…..Full of veggies and protein so it’s a complete meal!!

(Once again I may not be preparing the most authentic version but rather a wholesome meal with what I have on hand)

1/2 packet of Rice Sticks

1 stalk celery, chopped fine

3-4 spring onion with leaves, chopped ( if I don’t have this, I use sambar onions/shallots or just plain old onion)

1 Carrot, julienne

A handful of French Beans, julienne

1/2 leek cut fine

1 cup cabbage, julienned

1-2 chicken breast, sliced

15- 20 prawns (optional)

Tofu(….if you like it…if used cut in cubes and fry before using)

1 cup Beansprouts

2 eggs

Oil

Salt

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Lemon

The How To:

1.Boil up a pot of water. Take off the stove and soak the rice sticks in the hot water. Add a little salt to taste.

Cover.

Do not keep it for too long, just until the rice sticks are al dente.

Once done, drain in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.

2.Heat a wok and add in some oil.

Make a thin omelette with the 2 eggs. When done cut it into strips and keep aside.

3. Heat some oil and toss in the sliced chicken along with a spoonful of Phad Thai sauce. Saute till done and keep aside.(repeat the same procedure if you are using prawn as well)

4.Heat some more oil and add in the chopped celery, sautee for about a minute.

5.Add in the onions, fry till they begin to change colour.

6.Add in the carrots and beans, sautee. ( I normally have a problem with the beans, so at this stage I cover the wok for a few seconds so that steam can help the beans along.)

7.The cabbage and leeks go in next.

Cook the veggies so that they are 3/4 done and still retain a bite.

8.Toss in the cooked chicken and stir fry.

9. At this point divide the veggie chicken mixture into 2 portions.

Keep one portion in the wok, add in half the cooked drained rice sticks.

10. Add in the Phad Thai sauce to taste.

11. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and add a squeeze of lime.

12.Then do the same with the other half of the veggies and rice sticks.

13. Serve garnished with the omelette strips. ( My kids prefer the egg like this….but you could also push aside the

chicken /veggie mix to one side of the wok and scramble the egg on the other half, once cooked mix it all together.)

Important tips to remember when making Phad Thai I picked up from Pim http://chezpim.com

* Soak the noodles/rice sticks till al dente only.

* Make small quantities of noodle at a time.

(Making smaller batches makes it easier to mix evenly. When you try to make a large batch in a hot wok, by the time you mix all the elements together, the noodles overcook. )

*You can keep the excess sauce bottled in the fridge.

Enjoy your Phad thai with a starter of Chicken Satay………recipe coming soon!! Watch this space!!

Where to find what in Chennai

Fish Sauce – Blue Elephant, Nilgiris, Mercado, Amma Nanna

Palm Sugar- Nilgiri’s, Econut

Rice Sticks- How How Brand, Nilgiri’s, Mercado

Tofu- Nilgiri’s

Celery and Leek- Veggie vendor outside Nilgiri’s Adyar, Besant Nagar and Cathedral Road.

My Official Family Dish

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We hear about family motto’s and crests, maybe even an animal or color that identifies a family in certain ways, something that is so ‘my family’.

We all know musical families, sporty ones, adventurous families and quite ones, boisterous families and snobby ones, even organic ones…….attributes or activities that make us identify a family in a a certain way.

I don’t know how people identify my family, but if we had to assign official family themes, much like a national flower, sport, animal etc I would not have a clue what ours would be…..but I know what our official family dish would be.

A simple but extremely wholesome meal of ‘Hainanese Chicken Rice.”

We ALL loooove it.

I love to cook it coz it’s so easy, the kids go ‘AAAhhhh’…….never a protest, even the hubby smiles peacefully…..all is well !

Hainanese Chicken Rice is supposed to be the national dish of Singapore…..officially or not, I do not know.

All I know is that we love to eat it and prepare it any time.

There are tons of recipes for it all over the net ( read a very detailed description at http://steamykitchen.com/5068-hainanese-chicken-rice.html )

….but this is my simple version of it as taught to me by a friend in Malaysia.

I have adapted the traditional recipe to suit my family’s eating habits.

Traditionally a whole chicken is poached in water with soome ginger, garlic and onions. The stock is used to cook the rice.

However we rarely use the whole bird, but just buy boneless chicken breast.

Also, I always have chicken stock on hand in the freezer(recipe at the end of this page), so all I need to do is defrost a box full and use it in this recipe.

HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE

The Chicken

1/2 kg Boneless Chicken Breast

3-4 cloves garlic, crushed

1″ piece ginger, crushed

@ 2 tbs Light Soya Sauce

A dash of Chinese sesame oil

Salt (if needed)

-Marinade the chicken with the above ingredients and keep aside at least for an hour, more would be better.

-Place on a greased baking tray and grill for around 8 mins, then turn and grill the other side.

-Check with a fork to ensure it’s cooked.

( you could also steam the chicken, if you like)

Meanwhile, The Rice

2 cups rice

4-41/2 cups chicken stock (recipe below)

2-3 cloves garlic

1/2-1 ” ginger

1 long pandanus leaf*

Sesame Oil

– In a pan heat some sesame oil and sauteed the garlic till a little brown.

-Add ginger and the pandan leaf and sautee.

-Add rice and fry. Add salt if your stock does not have any.

-Add the stock and cook in a rice cooker till done.

The Sauce

I do not make a chilly sauce as some recipes mention, but make one by mixing,

2.5 parts light soya sauce : 2 parts sesame oil

( This more or less suits our taste, but play around with it and try what suits you. Also differnt brands of the sauce may differ in flavour)

Serve with

A boiled egg

Slices of cucumber

The above sauce, on the side

And a soup made with the chicken stock and some spring onion and cabbage.

Garnish the rice with some freshly chopped corriander leaves.

Sit back and enjoy………..

(Just to include some veggies in the meal, I normally make a Chinese greens stir fry along with this.)

Making Chicken Stock is super duper easy.

Start with @1/2 kg chicken bones.

( you could use the back and wings, if you use a whole bone-in chicken in your cooking)

2 lts water

1 bayleaf

6-8 whole peppercorn

Then remember this…..O-C-C-L

Onions-Carrot-Celery-Leek

1 large carrot, roughly chopped or cut into 3-4 pieces

1 large onion, quartered

1 stalk celery, with leaves

1/2 leek, roughly chopped

-Through all the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil.

-As the stock comes to a boil you will find a foam forming on the top. This is called the ‘scum’.

-Skim the scum of the surface of the stock and reduce to simmer.

-I simmer my stock for about 1 1/2 hours…..the longer you simmer it, the more intense the flavour.

Don’t even talk to me about doing it in a pressure cooker……it’s almost sacrilege!!!

Slowly simmered is the only way!

HOT TIP: Sautee the bones and veggies in a little oil or roast it in a low oven to caramelise before adding to the stock pot and you will have an even more intense flavour.

Once done, I cool the stock and put it into different boxes and freeze.

Defrost and use in soups, sauces and gravies…….and of course Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Resource Guide for Chennai:

Light Soya Sauce and Chinese Sesame Oil – Brand ‘Woh Hup’ or ‘Blue Elephant’ available at Nilgiris and Mercado

Pandanus Leaf * I have a stock of this from Singapore, but in Sri Lanka its called Rampe and it is called Screw Pine in English. In India we use Kewda water…..which comes from this leaf.

Of course, the idea is that you try it yourself…..but just incase your just too lazy, there’s always Bee’s Kopitiam in Chennai, with the bubbly Beebee Chong cooking up a yum version.