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Archive for November, 2012

It’s one month to Christmas. Welcome to what I call my looney-with-excitement month.


Here’s a taste of some of the Christmas craziness in my life:


- Last Saturday Mom and I bought (wait for it), 10 kilos of dry fruit. Yes, 10.
We got raisins in all colours, shapes, and sizes which will be mixed with walnuts and other stuff and then baked into some deadly good cakes by Dad.


- I’ve done some preliminary gift scouting and 2 3 5 lists have been made. I always struggle with present ideas for men – dad, brothers, uncles, friends. What do you buy the men in your life? Tell me please!


- Mom and I are discussing Christmas party menus every time we talk. Seriously. Every. Single. Conversation. Let me tell you now, some fantastic ideas have been born. If you’re invited to my home for Christmas, you’re in for a treat.


- I’ve changed my ring tone to Baby it’s cold outside. I ADORE Christmasy music. I asked a friend the other day if it was too early for Christmas music and I was laughed at. It isn’t too early, is it? Come on!


- My Christmas madness is totally understood by some adorable friends of mine. I’m discussing gift options with Abhik and decorations with Varun who has already put up his tree! They’re fabulous btw and totally looney about Christmas like me. You should say hello to them on Twitter!


- I bought some sparkly metallic red and green cupcake wrappers. So pretty and perfect for this season! Festive cupcakes shall be made.


What I’m saying is, this is a wonderful time. The build-up to a time with family and friends and celebration. A time of joy and warmth and sharing.


I wish everyone would get into the spirit already!


I know, I know. You’re tired and grumpy and lazy and it’s cold and you just want to curl up and sleep, but if you have 12 minutes and 3 ingredients, I can show you a shortcut way to feeling wonderful.


Make these Nutella brownie bites.



All you need is flour, eggs, and the food of the Gods: Nutella. Everyone has flour and eggs at home. Oh you have jar of Nutella too? You may be my soulmate.


These little bites are fudgy, full of that rich hazelnut chocolate flavour we all love, and delicious both warm from the oven or at room temperature.



Could there BE a simpler way to eat something yummy and ring in the festivities? (Yeah, I totally said that like Chandler :P)



3-ingredient Nutella brownie bites
Recipe adapted from: Laura’s Sweet Spot


Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Makes: approx. 30 mini bites



Ingredients:


2 eggs
1 jar (350g) Nutella, at room temperature
10 tbsp plain flour


Method:


1. Preheat the oven to 180º C. Line mini cupcake trays with mini cupcake paper cases. I used about 30.
2. Mix the eggs and Nutella together. Then stir in the flour until everything is well combined. The batter is quite thick and sticky. Don’t worry- it’s supposed to be like that. Spoon about 1 heaped teaspoon full into each paper case and bake for 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and eat!



Happy pre-Christmas my lovelies :)

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Dark chocolate tartlets

Much has been said about chocolate.


I’m pretty sure wars have been fought over it.


A box of it is what life is like. (Yes Forrest, I agree.)


It melts at body temperature, which is one reason why we are so completely under its spell.



It’s a proven weapon against Dementors, and I have a feeling it would work equally well against werewolves.


Chocolate fixes things. When I’m having a bad day, 90% of the time, chocolate can make me feel about 75% better almost instantly.


(Okay that was too much math. I feel a bit dizzy.)


I think chocolate is in the same family of things as puppy kisses, mommy hugs, and lazy Saturdays. It brings the kind of happiness that makes you close with eyes with a sigh. It makes you feel like everything is right. Even if it’s just for a while.


In my opinion, the BEST way to eat chocolate (other than straight from a packet) is as ganache.


I’m always looking for ways to eat chocolate ganache in non-crazy manner. Seriously, it’s dangerous when there’s a bowl of silky, dark chocolate ganache around. You could look the other way for 2 minutes and I would have inhaled it.


So I try to be grownup and use the ganache as a cake filling. (Smart, right?)
I sometimes drizzle it over cupcakes. (Genius, I know.)
And then I also roll it into truffles. (Whaaa? You love me? I love you too.)


Always thinking of new ways to transfer ganache from the bowl to my mouth, I decided to try tartlets!


A crisp, slightly salty, pastry shell would be the perfect vehicle for the deliciously chocolately ganache.


I didn’t want to do a butter pastry, since I was already getting my gazillion calories from the tub of ganache.


I decided to try pastry with Canola oil instead- a MUCH healthier alternative and so much quicker than working with butter.


The results were super. The pastry was just right- crumbly and soft, with a touch of salt. It was the perfect foil to the sinful, sweet ganache poured into it.



Chocolate win!



Dark chocolate tartlets


Prep time: 25 mins
Cook time: 15-25 mins
Makes: 6-7 tartlets or 1 large tart


Ingredients:


250 g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp salt
125 ml Canola oil (I used Hudson), plus extra for greasing
50 ml cold milk
1 egg, beaten


For the chocolate ganache


500 g good-quality dark chocolate
1 tbsp milk
200 ml cream
2 tbsp Cointreau (or any other liqueur of your choice), optional
sugar flowers to decorate, optional


Method:


For the pastry


1. Preheat the oven to 240º C. Mix the flour and salt together in a large bowl.
2. Add the oil and milk and stir vigorously with a fork to combine everything. Then use to your hands to bring the dough together. This will happen quite easily (it’s not a sticky dough) so be careful not to overwork it.
3. Grease small tart tins or one large tart tin (with removable base/s) with oil. Divide the dough and place in the tart tins. Work the dough into and all around the base and sides of the tin using your fingers. Try to keep it in as even a layer as possible.
4. Cover the tins with a piece of baking parchment and top with baking beans. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 10 minutes (small tarts) and 15 minutes (large tart).
5. Remove the parchment and beans. Make a few holes on the base of the pastry with a fork, brush with egg wash, and bake for another 3 minutes (small tarts) and 5 minutes (large tart). Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.


For the chocolate ganache and assembling


1. Chop the chocolate into small pieces. In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate with the milk. Remove and set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, heat the cream over low heat, stirring. Add the Cointreau and stir well. Remove from the heat and pour into the chocolate mixture. Stir well until you have a shiny ganache.
3. Pre-heat the oven to 180º C. Pour the filling into each tart, and pop back in the oven for 2-3 minutes. Remove and cool, before decorating with a sugar flower and placing in the refrigerator for about 2 hours to set.




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“Dreams, if they’re any good, are always a little bit crazy. ”
― Ray Charles


*warning*- this post has (much) more than the legal recommended amount of: pictures, smiling, gushing, more smiling, silliness, and general happiness.


A few weeks ago I had a chance to live out one of my dreams.


I need to wind back a bit here, so stay with me please darlin.


When Masterchef Australia first started airing in India, it took only the first episode for me to realise I’m gonna be hooked.


Not only was this a great food show, it was a great show. Full stop. And I was madly in love with it.


I would rush home from where ever I was, feign headaches to cancel social appointments, and drop everything to be home and in front of the TV at 9pm.


2 reasons for the show’s aforementioned greatness:


1. It’s all about the food. (No useless drama like in the Indian version or random bursts of cruelty like in the American version.)
2. The cute judges.


I’m telling you, George, Gary, and Matt – the fantastic Masterchef Australia judges are the secret ingredient that make the show such a resounding success.


They know their stuff, but are incredibly humble.
They’re funny as hell and are such great teachers.
And they bring a wonderful touch of real life to the show that makes viewers like me feel like we really know them.


I can never ever get tired of Gary’s adorable smile, Matt thoughtfully rubbing his chin, or George shouting out his famous catchphrase “Boom boom shake the room”.


I have learnt so much from the show- from how to make crackling and stuffing a chicken, to releasing a cake from the tin and plating beautifully. But what I’ve really taken away from the show is following your passion, doing what you love and doing it well, being decent and humble and happy and wonderful. Those are the things I believe Masterchef Australia stands for.


Now back to the present.


Through a wonderful thing called Twitter I found out that Gary and George were coming to my city.
I was flabbergasted and semi psychotic with excitement. I could not form words. I was DYING to meet them.


I spoke to people in the food business, friends, bloggers, my boss, and every other person remotely connected to food to see if I had a shot at meeting these two cuties.


I decided I would do whatever it takes to meet them at least once.


Do you know how I know dreams come true? I met them thrice. Yes, thrice. In two days.


(Side note: I’m offering stalking classes soon. Please let me know if you’re interested.)


Let’s talk about these monumental meetings one by one, shall we?


First meeting or When our eyes first met: A book signing at Landmark.
I bought their book, stood in a line, and got autographs and pictures!


Here they are!



High point: Gary drew in my book. He drew earrings on George’s face.


Second meeting or Love in pastel shades: At Olive Beach restaurant for breakfast.
Some fabulous bloggers and some of the city’s top chefs met George over breakfast at this gorgeous restaurant.



I asked Georgie the first question! :) And then spent the rest of the morning gushing over him.


Gushing picture 1.



Gushing picture 2.



High point: Me giving George some dark chocolate Kahlua truffles I made for him, and him saying, “Awww. Thank you darling.”


Darling. He said it. His words. Yes. Swoon.


Third meeting or I can’t freakin’ believe this is happening: Cooking for George and Gary at Nature’s Basket! Yeah, you read that right.


I actually won a chance to cook for my culinary heroes. And they tasted my dish.


Here I am explaining my dish.



Honestly I don’t know how I got anything done. Can you do anything except melt into a ball of mush when you see this smile?



But I did. I made a Deconstructed chocolate and fruit dessert. (I’m fancy like that.)
Here’s me with my dish.



And a closer look.



I also met two other wonderful contestants- Charu and Aradhika. Here they are.



What I enjoyed the most was the time I had with Gary and George. Their criticism was constructive, they were wonderfully adorable, and I didn’t want the evening to ever end.


What’s that? You want to see more pictures? Sure! :)


Here I am in a Gary and George sandwich. The best kind there is ;)



This is all of us trying to pull off a serious Masterchef pose. George nailed it.



And here’s my favourite one. No prizes for guessing why.



For those who still want more (seriously?), there’s also a video of the event here. You’ll hear and see me around halfway through. (Spoiler alert: At one point I tell George we love him because he’s chubby, and he says awwwwww.)


Needless to say I died with the cuteness.


So that’s that folks. I stalked these two Masterchef cuties. Like. A. Boss.
Wouldn’t you agree? :D


Dreams do come true. Don’t you ever stop dreaming them, love.


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For me, the more unfamiliar a certain cuisine is, the better.


It means I can taste without any expectations or comparisons, and decide entirely for myself.


It also means the flavours are completely new, which for me is utterly exciting.


The Quartet of European Delights at the Eros Hotel- Managed by Hilton at Nehru Place is a festival celebrating the food and culture of four European countries: The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.


The food from these countries, as I happily discovered, is hearty and warm. It’s no-fuss food that I can imagine families eating together, whilst breaking crusty loaves and chatting noisily, washing it all down with delicious beer.


Here’s a look at some of the food on offer.


Flaky, salty, Sheep’s cheese pie.



Gorgeously red beetroot salad.



Chicken with crunchy walnuts.



Lamb with sweet red onions.



Warm, crusty bread.



Fruity beer with a touch of bitter.



We were also regaled with some old tunes by Monika Dryl, a famous Polish performer and some very joyful and vigorous dancing by the Csillagszemuek (Starry-Eyed) Dance Ensemble. The dancing was so full of life – almost like a fun exercise routine that made me want to jump out of my seat and give it a whirl.



The festival is on until 9th November, 2012 at Blooms in Eros Hotel- Managed by Hilton at Nehru Place. The food is interesting, with lots to choose from. Nine beers from The Czech Republic are also on offer. Spend a relaxed evening soaking in the music and culture of these wonderful countries and gorge on some fantastic food. And hey- I hear there are special prizes and presents on offer everyday, including a grand prize- stay for a couple in Prague!


I hung out with some fun folks that night. Here’s what they’re saying:


Sid- Chef at Large
Himanushu- The White Ramekins
Rituparna- Chocolates & Dreams


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Easy Mulled wine

The first time I drank mulled wine I was with my friend Shriya in London. It was cold outside and the spice-laden, sweetened wine warmed our insides and made us smile. It tasted like Christmas and old friendships and gave us inexplicable comfort although we were far away from home.


I made some last night, and I could taste those things all over again.



When something bad happens to us, don’t we often ask “Why me”? I’ve figured out the answer to that question.


It’s so that I can be reminded of the blessings in my life. The ones I forget so often and so easily.


Why me? Because I need to be reminded of how my family will always be my rock – no matter where I go or what I do.


Why me? Because it’s an opportunity to be grateful for the friends who love me, laugh with me, and cry with me because they can see through to my soul, the ones who are far away but make me feel like they’re right next to me with a single phone call or text, and the ones you know are yours forever.


Why me? Because I believe God wants to show me how strong he made me.


Painful things, difficult things, hard things, happen to the best of us. But what I’ve come to realize is that good things come out of it.


I will never stop being amazed at how my family and friends rally around me whenever I encounter anything difficult in life.
They shield me and hold me up, giving me an extraordinary strength.
The kind I never knew I was capable of. But it seems I am.
And that is an awesome thing.


So this is a thank you note. Just to say you’re wonderful. And my life wouldn’t be the same without you.
You all know who you are. Thank you for building me up. You give me strength every day.


I’m ready for anything the universe throws at me, because I know you’re there, always.


And while we’re here, in this moment, will you join me for a glass of mulled wine?
I know, you thought I’d never ask :)



Easy Mulled wine


Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Makes: 2 glasses


Ingredients:


30g brown sugar
375ml red wine (I used Four Seasons Shiraz*)
4-5 pieces cinnamon bark, plus a few long pieces for the glass
generous sprinkling of nutmeg
1 orange, sliced on the round



Method:


1. Place a large pan over low heat and put in the brown sugar. Add about 1/5th of the wine and mix well.
2. Throw in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and a few pieces of orange (reserve 2 perfect rounds for the glasses). Mix everything well until the sugar melts. Let this mixture reduce over a low heat- it is your flavour base.
3. After about 10 minutes, the wine mixture will be thicker. Now pour in the rest of the wine and stir well. Mix for 2-3 minutes and then take off the heat. (Longer and you’ll burn off all the alcohol- we don’t want that!)
4. Pour into heatproof glasses, add the orange rounds and cinnamon sticks, and serve.


*Thank you Four Seasons for the lovely wine.


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