Tuesday, 16 January 2018

PICNIC 101- Chocolaty Oats and Apples Muffins!

The sky is clean, smells crisp; the westerly winds blow into the face just the way I would have liked. Yes, I stay in the capital of India, and yes, we do get these pristine mornings, sometime. But when we do, I waste no time in getting my feisty handsome foursome out in the sun, feeling the green under his limbs. This is undoubtedly the best time in the year to be in Gurgaon. And no weekend should go without a nice picnic, out in the sun.



Now picnics could be organised in a lot of ways than one. A casual beer and wine with barbecue on the side ought to be my favourite. Followed closely by a cook-earlier-serve-later-kinds. And the potluck, ah that takes the cake! So, the series starting now should keep you covered for each picnic event that you plan with your family and friends. In fact, I would also squeeze in a fantastic romantic brunch for 2, out on the terrace, with sun brimming in. It would be a hassle free, completely cook ahead, yet hot kind of romantic brunch, that could be served with a light champagne cocktail.

But to kickstart the series, here is my go to healthy snack for kids and adults alike. This is perfect to be taken on a long drive out of home. Its filling, yet full of good things which makes sure you are on the track for the new year resolution you so solemnly took. Alternately, if you have leftovers, you can simply pack it in the tiffin boxes for your kids to take to school, during the week. It is my very tried and tested recipe for some chocolaty apple and oat muffins. This much of ingredients make 12 big muffins.

INGREDIENTS
2 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup of oats
1 egg
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup curd, homemade works well
½ cup honey
½ cup hot water
¼ cup cocoa powder
Vanilla extract
Salt
¼ cup sugar
2 tbsp vinegar
Upto 2/3 cups of whole-wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
Chocolate chips or nuts, which are optional, but highly recommended.
METHOD
Trust me when I say that it can’t get any easier than this. We basically just blend everything together and bake. That is, it!!!!

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees c and get that going. Line your muffin pans with paper cups and keep it ready. I at times like to spray the cups with some vegetable oil so that nothing sticks to the paper.

Now the fun begins. Get the best blender you can lay your hands on and start blending the apples, oats, jam, egg, curd and oil to a nice homogeneous paste. I used my robust Hamilton beach smoothie maker, trust me it never fails me. If you don’t have a fancy blender, then just do the blending in a mixer grinder, starting always with the oats. Make a fine powder and then add all the wet ingredients to make a paste.

While that is mixing, mix in a measuring jug ¼ cup pure unsweetened cocoa powder with hot water, stir vigorously and keep it aside to bloom. This step really helps in building a darker stronger chocolate flavour. Add the sugar to the hot mix as well, it would help dissolve the grains.

Now in a nice big bowl, whisk 1/3 cup of whole-wheat flour with baking powder, soda and salt and keep it ready. If you are adding chocolate chips or nuts, then coat the additions in flour at this stage, and keep it ready.

Just to break up the method, you have 3 separate elements of the muffins ready. You have a blended mix of oats and apples, a jug full of chocolate goodness and dry flour coated nuts and chips. Now comes the assembly.

Let the chocolate mix cool a little before adding in the vinegar and vanilla. Pour it in the blender along with the apples and oats, and blend again. Once its thoroughly mixed, pour it on the dry mix and combine well. The batter should be in a spoon dropping consistency, adjust with the extra 1/3 cup of whole-wheat flour, if the need be.

At this time, just lick the batter to taste for the sweetness. If you use tart apples, you may need to adjust sugar accordingly. But for me, the Kashmiri apples pack a lot of natural sweetness, and the half cup of honey takes care of the rest.

Now pour onto the ready muffin tin and bake for 15 -20 minutes, till a toothpick inserted in the centre, comes out clean. Let cool and enjoy a scrumptious snack which is easy to carry, and yet satisfyingly moist and fluffy for a healthy bite!

Cheers!!

Friday, 2 June 2017

The Spanish Food Book!!

I covered 3 cities in Spain. The journey started at Granada, from where we flew to an island called Mallorca. The last of our halt was in Barcelona. Granada was an interesting fusion of Muslim architecture and food, merged with Christianity. It truly was a treat to taste buds, when we tasted the eclectic mix of local food. The food in Granada was extremely local, cured and yet pretty fresh. Vegetables and meat were added together in a balanced manner, though only vegetarian options were a bit difficult to find. The tapas was out of the world delicious. Here are some of my pics of all that we did in Granada, including watching flamenco and enjoying an olive oil and wine tasting tour. 
Olive trees with flowers and young olives!!


Locally produced and cured olives, that was sold just like so in a farmer's market. This vendor also had bottles of homemade Extra Virgin Olive oil that his family made since generation. It was so less processed, almost cloudy in appearance. And the taste was strong, much stronger than anything we have ever tasted in India. The tins Behind the olives carried it. I couldn't lug it back to india as it wasn't sealed properly. These Pictures were taken in a small village, about 30 minutes of drive out of Granada.  


A Tapas Bar Decor had one of the most amazing details I have ever seen. Cured meat would welcome you which is such a smart way to store Iberian Ham in small spaces.  And obviously, there was no room for flashy chandelier, anywhere...

This is from the Olive Oil tasting that was such a great experience. We saw a medieval oil mill, now defunct; but beautifully restored. The process was simple, and required just 2 helpers and 1 donkey along with the mill owner to process 20 litres of oil per day. These blue glasses in the picture above contain Extra Virgin Olive oil, made with different varieties of olives, which were given to taste. Every glass tasted completely different to the other. The Blue color of the glass is also a very significant move. It stops the taster from noticing the colour and texture of the olive oil, and hence we start tasting with a clear mind.

 Mallorca was a delight to the seafood lover in me. I had one of the best shrimps in Mallorca. The eateries we went to were mostly run by families, where the mom cooks, dad becomes the cashier and the kids double up to be the waiters and waitresses. The yacht ride into the sea was surreal, and I actually witnessed a naked beach too... Now what else remains for me to see in this lifetime, I wonder…

The Yacht Ride into the Mediterranean Sea was surreal, and we could actually spot fishes from the yacht itself. 

Another extremely amusing thing I saw in Spain, was these citrus trees growing on the side of the roads. So pretty it looked, and no one really bothered as much as a glance when the fruit drops on the ground. Simply Wow!!

Orange Tree!!

Peach tree!!
I tasted my very first paella here, and it definitely was truly awesome!!

Barcelona made me fall in love with it. The cheap food, the cheap ingredients, tasty wholesome paella and loads and loads of shopping. We walked through the day, took metro to places and lugged back home lots of fresh hass avocadoes, big fat asparagus and cherries. Truly a gastronomic delight, we had the real truffle on our pizza, and octopus that made me fall in love with it. Iberian ham took out the trophy, though extremely funny; I actually didn’t see or have much of chorizo anywhere.  

Octopus with Spanish pimenton!

Prawns and Avocado as a Shared Tapas!

 This particular restaurant didn't really give a pretty nice paella. They gave turmeric in their dish, which is not an ingredient to add in a classic paella. 
Medium to well done burger with bread and grated tomatoes!

Iberian Ham in its fines glory!! Look at the stand!! This again was a simple tapas bar run by a family of 3. 

Fresh and Wild, rosemary!!

Thats how a cured meat shop looks. the smell is enchanting!!

But instead of buying meat, I opted to buy this little bottle of Spanish Saffron. Do you know that in Spain, the saffron is lightly roasted, as opposed to sun drying that is followed elsewhere. 

Snacking on berries while we walk through the streets!!

Shopping in Barcelona consisted of these little smoke dried chillies, paella pan, Bomba Rice Avocados, Asparagus, berries etc. 

And saving the best for the last, do you think i would have let you go without a proper sip of Spanish Sangaria? Hell no!!

Cheers!!

A Spanish Look Book!!

I am an out an out foodie, and at times I embark on the journey of understanding food in regions that isn’t home to me. Spain has been one such journey wherein it was a delight to walk around the streets, trying simple local delicacies, which were spicy and tasty to the Indian taste buds. But before I talk about food, let’s greet our eyes to the beauty of Spain through my Mobile phone. It is such a picturesque country set on the Mediterranean sea. Beautiful roads, alleys, old buildings, churches and olive trees. Citrus and olives grow like wild weed in this country. It is one of the largest producer of olive oil in the world, and it grows a lot of citrus too. Anyways, here goes some of my gems, captured through my NEXUS.

When the kids Rejoice!! 
And you wake up at 6 am to witness the pretty Sun Rise. The sun set happend at 9 pm. 



When you take an yacht to the sea, and the water is so pure.

Can it get Prettier than this?

Barcelona's Random Street!!

The pointing man, the sun, the aeroplane, all in one frame!

Alice in wonderland?

The church which took 100 years to be made.

The stone carving that was made in 1901.

Lavender flowrrs and olive trees cover this little alley!

And that my friend is how olives are grown. The windmills in far end of the road helps generate electricity to fuel the oil extracting factories. Olives are one of the biggest crops grown in Spain, and it travels in the family for more than thousand years. Spaniards say- you buy a vineyard for your son, and an olive plantation for your grandson!
The Tapas and Paella pictures are following soon!! Cheers!! 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Maida 101 with my famous Bitter Orange Cake!!

All-purpose flour has been given a bad name since long. Let’s get to the bottom of it, as I am a known cynic, and I never take a fact in without proper due diligence. And this is my corner in the internet where I will write about all I feel. So with your love of pointers, here I go-
  • Refined flour is basically a product of wheat kernels that has been pulverised in machines for a long time, and bleached to attain a pure white colour. In the process we actually strip down most of its health benefits, fibres and vitamins. What we are left with has a certain amount of protein, in the form of gluten; and starch.
  • Soft pillow-y structure of a bread made with maida makes it extremely easy to chew and digest, and hence it has a tendency of being over consumed. The lack of fibres too doesn’t help. Fibres give us the feeling of being full, no fibres- no signal; and you end up eating double the amount required.
  •  This is the main cause behind vilification of refined flour, it is so light that you over eat and gain empty calories for your body to store as fat. Fat deposits leads to major health problems in the long run.
  • Obviously whole wheat flour which is milled in front of your eyes is a healthier option than maida; but in moderation usage of maida won’t harm us at all.

Today, I am healthifying my cake by adding full orange with skin in it, which would add the much needed fibres back in the cake. Try it once, and you would become a fan of this cake, as has my family! Cheers!!
Ingredients
1 cup all-purpose flour/maida
2 tsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
A handful of chocolate buttons
3 eggs
3 small size oranges, cut as shown in the video
½ cup of oil, I used light olive oil
1 cup sugar
Few drops of vanilla essence or ½ tsp of vanilla paste



Wednesday, 29 March 2017

2 Ingredient Challenge with Makha Shondesh!!

Makha Shondesh/Sandesh is basically a grandma staple from Bengali kitchens that got lost in the race to become modern. It’s an extremely easy recipe, involving just 2 ingredients, and no fuss or elbow grease. I am sure it takes less time than your microwaveable cakes, it contains less calories than those mug cakes and has better nutrition than any pastry or cakes at all. So I bring to you all lovely people, a simple dish, which is as delectable as bongs themselves.


Ingredients

200 Gms paneer or cottage cheese.
2 to 3 Tbsp. of melted date or palm jaggery. In fact a friend pointed out date syrup, and even that works for this.
A mixer grinder
A splash of milk
A pinch of salt.
I bet you already have all these ingredients in home. Just whizz it up and believe me, you would just thank me for it. CHEEERS!!

 


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Facebook live with Veggie Smileys!!


This week, we made my toddler’s favourite snack- smileys. For any mother the above plate is blasphemous and she would cringe at the thought of giving this to her toddler to eat for Sunday lunch. But believe it or not, I did give this to my toddler on Sunday, and yet we were a happy duo. He was happy because he loves to have tasty finger food. I was happy because each and every component was made at home, and provided a balance nutrition to my child. The fish fingers were marinated and coated in a bread crumb mixture at home, and then stored in freezer bags. Sometimes I deep fry them, and sometimes I bake them. In any case it provides a healthy protein in my fussy toddler’s plate.

The smileys in question had carrots, green leaves and potatoes together. It was extremely tasty and my toddler finished all of these on Sunday. I saw he enjoyed feeding himself at intervals. I kept these neatly stacked in a see through glass jar. He would play, and come to grab one from the jar, eat as a snack, and back to his cars to play. It’s a sheer joy to see him feed himself, and it’s a nice feeling to be away from the chore of mandatorily sitting to feed him a meal. I let him enjoy his day, his way. And that let us both enjoy the holiday a bit better!!

I have posted the videos on my YouTube channel as well as on my FB page. Please feel free to like comment and share! Cheers!!


Ingredients

2 medium carrot and 2 medium potatoes boiled and smashed to bits
Salt to taste
1 cup Cornflour, to make a dough
Pepper to taste
Flavourings fresh or dried herbs to taste- I used chopped leaves of parsley, onion and garlic from my garden.
1 tbsp of oil

Tools required

A rolling pin to evenly roll out the dough
A chopstick with a round bottom to make eyes of the smileys
A round cookie cutter, or a jar lid.
A table spoon to make the smile.


Saturday, 25 March 2017

10 Minute Cooking- Hilsa with Milk!!



I start today with tradition. If the picture up there seems salavatingly amazing, then you got to try these recipes one after another. Today I bring to you the most integral part of any big Bengali Bhoj (BBB) - ILISH or Hilsa or Indian Shad or Hilsa Herring. This is a great recipe for a relaxed sunday lunch. Very few ingredients in the best part of the dish, followed by the time taken from start to finish is just 10 Minutes. 

Indian Shad, Hilsa or Ilish, Bangladesh’s national fish is a pride for any bong ever born. From the Pride that a Kaku (uncle) feels when he walks past the envious stares of his neighbours and mates, with a big ilish tail peeking through his fish-carrying-bag; to the pride of a Kakima’s(aunty’s) fish filleting skills with a sharp iron cutting device (Boti); its pride all the way!!! And the best of it all has to be, when their young child starts eating the fish, without the fine bones stuck to his throat. I remember when I did that, and till date my dad looks at me with pride in his eyes!! :-P
Enough of jibber-jabber about bongs, now to the fish in question; ‘Ilish’. A perfectly cooked piece of ilish is ideally soft, flaky and full of flavour. I prefer making steamed ilish in a mustard sauce (Ilish Bhanpe) over and over again. In fact I repurposed my introduction to the dish on it. It tastes the best when the fish is freshest. The flavour of this flaky white fish lies in the numerous tiny bones all around its body, which makes eating this fish a skill that bongs have mastered. Ilish is an acquired taste, but trust me, when u do acquire the taste, you wont be able to let it go... 

But now, let's talk of the times when you have those last few pieces lying in the freezer; since a week or 2. That would be the perfect time to make this simple dish. The fresh milk in the stew will keep the fish moist and flavourful all along. It's a pride of a dish, for a pride of the fish!!! Respect it the most tomorrow, because come Monday, and its time for the vegetarian navratra to start. 

Ingredients

Unlike Baking, where the measurement of each component is related to science behind it being made properly, stove-top cooking is much relaxed and based on taste. I am going to provide you with a basic measurement idea, but suit yourself and tailor make this dish based on your and your family's taste buds. 

1 Cup Milk
1 tsp Turmeric
Salt to taste
Green chillies to taste
2 big pinches of Kalonji/Kala Jeera/Nigella Seeds
1 small dry red chilly
2 tbsp of Mustard Oil
4 steak kind pieces of Hilsa, which needs to be marinated in salt and turmeric for minimum of 30 minutes.


 CHEERS!!!


Friday, 17 March 2017

2 Ingredient Challenge with Kaju Barfi!!

It’s the weekend again… And I had been working very hard to get you covered for the weekend pangs completely. I have in the week uploaded quite a lot of videos, made and ate those things to gain weight considerably. But hey, we live one life only. And these luxurious enjoyments are the most satisfying, in the most inexpensive way possible. So if you are like me, and you feel the same; then I have got you covered with amazing video recipes for the full 2 days.


Firstly, I want to thank my favourite person in the world for a thoughtful gift in these packets of freshly milled flour. I still have no clue as to who and/or why sent this gift towards me, but I thank that unknown figure for the happiness it got to so many people. I made a sweet braided bread and brownies with it. And I thought it would be perfect to share with friends and family, considering it’s a gift I loved the most. So my friend Sourabh thanks you for the amazing brownies he ate, and his lovely wife thanks you for instilling in the desire to bake again. She did bake actually, and took it for her mother in law’s birthday bash. Speaking of mother in laws, mine is pretty happy too. She enjoyed the pillowy softness of the strawberry braided bread, and revelled on compliments given to her in a small kitty party she organized. So, you see, you actually caught the good will of many people, by this act! Thanking you to the moon and back.


I have the Sunday morning baking sorted with this luscious pillowy strawberry filled braided bread that is perfect for packing on the go breakfast or snack tiffin’s throughout the week.

But right now, let’s talk about the Friday night hunger pangs, that you know you would start feeling when the kids are packed off to bed. We are all the same, at the end, we just want to relax with nice low music, and a creamy little kind-of-guilt-free treat. It is my- 2 Ingredient Kaju Barfi.

Now I call it 2 ingredients as it is majorly just 2, but a pinch of salt is mandatory for better flavour. So count that in always. Let’s switch to the pointers, I know so many of you love that about my recipes. So here we go-
  • This is not baking, so really measurements are not that important. Taste while you make, and sweeten it to your liking. I am more of a dark chocolate and black coffee kind of person, so feel free if you need to add more or less of condensed milk.
  •  Don’t be scared of making nut butters. It just is whizzed up nuts in a mixer grinder. And cashew nuts are easiest to make butters of as the fat content in cashew nut is way more in comparison to other nuts. Even if you don’t dry roast the cashews, you would still have a very flavourful butter at your hand. Dry roasting, or warming the nuts just aid the butter formation, but it isn’t extremely important.
  • Condensed milk is your friend if you want to maintain a healthy weight, and yet enjoy these occasional treats. Why do you ask? Well condensed milk is made of milk solids and sugar, firstly a very clean product, sans any addition of chemicals. Secondly, if you mix condensed milk to fibres of some sort, and heat it up, it releases out a lot of fat. You will see in the video how much fat I removed out of these barfi’s. And yet it stays perfectly moist and fudgy for a week at room temperature. In fact, I still have some nutty laddus that I made 2 to 3 weeks back, and it is perfectly holding its shape and flavour. It is a processed, but stable product. But, please refrain from licking the full tin on its own. Then, I am afraid, I cant be blamed for it.

So I have covered all the points. And now all there is to it is for me to write the ingredients, and send you off to my YouTube Channel for the easy process of making these Fudgy Barfies.

Ingredients
½ cup + ¼ cup of broken kaju / Cashewnuts
¼ cup condensed milk
A pinch of salt
Optional is to add a pinch of elaichi powder/ cardamom Powder


Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Fool Proof Fudgy Brownies!!


Who in their right mind can deny a piece of fudgy brownie? Even the steel like determination wager, when you have this tower of leaning brownies in front of you. Its not a sin to dive your teeth into these deliciousness, but it would be a sin if I hadn't shared my Fool Proof Oooey gooey brownie recipe with you. And I am scared of sins!!!

So here it is.. The method is on Youtube! AND WHILE YOU ARE THERE, DO NOT FORGET TO LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY CHANNEL. Cheers!!

Ingredients

1 Cup Milk
80 gms chopped Dark Chocolate, the darkest is better. Refrain from using milk chocolate. 
100 gms of Salted Butter
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1.5 tsp Instant Coffee
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Oil
1 cup White Sugar
1 handful of Chocolate Chips
1 handful of Walnuts
1 cup All Purpose Flour




NOTE-

  • All purpose flour is your biggest enemy, so get the batter consistency right; just as shown in the video.
  • Coffee helps enhance the chocolatey flavour of the brownies, so do not omit adding it.
  • Oil and butter are key to the recipe. Oil provides a squeeshy softness, while butter provides thew richness.
  • And a minimum of 50 % dark cocoa based chocolates should be used to make these brownies. More the cocoa content, more darker and complex the taste of the brownies become. I mostly use 70 % dark chocolate. And I love the bitter complex taste it provides. Even, after adding a cup of sugar. 

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