sunbeams and sugardrops

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

(c) thebigdurian

Sometimes, especially when the skies are like lead and the rain just won’t let up, or other times when it feels like winter inside you, a shot of hot, dark, delicious chocolate sets the world in order. As the warmth pools in your stomach and begins to slowly radiate through to your fingertips, on its way warming your heart and un-furrowing that brow,  this is love and warmth and a hug in a mug.

And it tastes darned good too. Good enough that you really shouldn’t save it for a rainy day. Hot chocolate needs to be shared – on cozy evenings in, days spent planning a project, sharing nervous revelations, exhilarating secrets, tentative self-discovery, a reward at the end of a really hard piece of thinking, or a quiet moment to kickstart your mind. Really when is NOT the right moment for a cup of hot chocolate!

The point I’m making is this. Hot chocolate needs to be had. And man I had a good cup made for me a while back I just can’t get off my mind.

Now there is no one way to make it but to make it good, you’ve got to start with good things. Good chocolate, real milk and not water…really! And just a little care. This cup I’m talking about was actually a mug filled with about 20g of good chocolate, 2-3 pieces. I like my cocoa dark so I would use a dark, semi sweet chocolate. (Another version I liked used one mini Mr.Goodbar and a mini dark Hershey’s piece). And god as I write this, I think I’m going to try my hot chocolate with a splash of gran marnier tonight!

The chocolate was then melted. In a Microwave which isn’t romantic but it’s easy and quick. So choose what you’re feeling and go with stove-top or microwave accordingly. No one needs to know. Now this next bit is key. The chocolate was whisked! A pinch of salt was added and whisked in with that melted chocolate. Warm milk was poured over the chocolate and then whisked some more.  Because the cup lost some of its heat, another 30 seconds in the microwave warmed it up perfectly.  I’d top it off with a dash of cream if the mood demands it but my god that cup was good to go. Frothy, deep cocoa flavor, salt just making it lovely and satisfying.

Now I know I’ve just gone on and on about hot chocolate which is beyond simple to make and not the least bit insightful for most but really, me, a passionate lover of chocolate,  I had no clue how to do this. All my previous hot cocoa attempts were either too wimpy or far too rich to be anything but sinful. This cup was almost wholesome!

It’s that time of the year when even in Bombay, wintry feelings start to envelope you and ideas of roaring fireplaces and cozy razais start floating around in your head. So, with images of Christmas and holiday planning and Christmas carols everywhere, I think a few cups of hot chocolate are definitely called for.

YouTube – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Summertime


Except it really isn’t that easy. Bombay feels like the hottest it’s ever been – can’t go 20 minutes these days without a drink of cold water to stay sane. Can’t go 5 minutes out in the open without feeling like your skin is melting.

I remember another hot summer many years ago when we were making our way to Jodhpur and our flight was meant to make a stop in Jaipur before continuing on. But it got cancelled mid-way, leaving us stranded in a strange town.

During this memorable summer vacation where temperatures hit 49°C, my beautiful young mother with my baby brother and a pre-teen me in tow had to find a way to get to Jodhpur from Jaipur before dark and the whole thing felt a bit like an adventure, a little scary, a bit of the thrill of the unknown, but most of all – HOT! The only way to get to Jodhpur turned out to be a beat up old, un-air-conditioned Ambassador taxi with the curtains at the windows our only feeble defence against heat and dust.

We made our arduous way to Jodhpur, the 3 of us piled in the back of the Ambassador and to make things extra uncomfortable, in the interest of modesty my mother made me wear a shirt under my sleeveless dress and I remember feeling like I was being tortured. Like I was being wrapped in foil to be left out in the sun to roast.

This journey was, in short, the most uncomfortably hot hours I’ve ever spent anywhere – parched, too many thick layers of clothing, no sleep and never ending!

This memory was very fresh last weekend as Bombay boiled over and my Thar Desert roots gave me a special appreciation for the cool comfort of air-conditioning and the need to stay hydrated.

So, in order to keep the dehydration at bay we’ve been eating fresh, crunchy salads or just plain fruit for dinner most nights. Now I’m not really a salad girl but it’s been a fun month of discovery and I loved what I did one night with a fresh pear, some grapes and cheese.

Fresh Pear Salad – Serves 2 for a very light dinner

1 fresh, crunchy pear sliced thinly

1/2 a small head of lettuce, roughly torn

Thin slices of Gouda or probably any cheese you have on hand

Handful of juicy, sweet and plump grapes, quartered

Vinaigrette:

2 slender spring onions, just the whites, minced

1 or 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

1 or 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Toss all the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing. Pour dressing over salad and toss well.

And dig into the freshest, coolest, crunchiest salad that sings when the little grape pieces yield their sweet, cool juices in your mouth.

Savory recipes that capture my imagination enough to do anything more than bookmark them for future reference are few and far between, but eggs…they’re beautiful. And so easy. That’s what I love most about them…something so simple that can be dressed up, dressed down…taken any way you want. So I finally made something unsweet that was a little experimental, a little rough around the edges, but a lot of delicious, savory, satisfaction.

This one was for my poor husband who suffers (ha! I wouldn’t mind suffering like that) through all my sweet obsessions, experiments, what have you – all the while craving something..anything!..a little savory, something with a little meat in it. So I threw him a bone…er…I mean an egg.

I’m not sure what to call them yet… they’re my bacon, egg and cheese cups that I would have loved to make with actual puff pastry but in a rush, ended up improvising with some frozen paratha instead.

So here goes!


Click here for the recipe

Well pots of pepper at any rate.

Growing up, I wouldn’t call myself an odd or picky eater but I did have a couple of teeny quirks. I loved okra a.k.a bhindi or ladyfinger, which is sadly a widely hated vegetable. And I hated bell peppers a.k.a capsicum, which is pretty much indispensable in my kitchen these days.

Ever read about people hating coriander/cilantro with a passion because it smells a bit off to them (ickily descriptive New York Times article on why)?  I think that’s how I felt about capsicum. They always smelled and tasted a bit funky. I religiously picked them out of my food and piled them neatly on the side of my plate.

But now! They look like little lanterns in all their pretty colors and they taste fantastic, particularly the yellow and red ones. Raw they’re crunchy, sweet, juicy and a bit like I’m eating some sunlight. Cooked they transform into so many kinds of awesome. They’re great in salads, stir-frys, tomato-based pasta sauces, in my fancy mac-n-cheese, with eggs, in eggs, roasted, in sandwiches and oh plenty more. I’ve fallen for peppers quite hard to be honest.

My latest favorite thing to do with them is to make my version of a peperonata which is a capsicum stew that can be almost jam-like and packs a flavor punch when added to any number of things:

  • On toast topped with a fried egg
  • Cooked with a little garlic and an additional splash of extra virgin olive oil, it’s great with some al-dente spaghetti
  • With a little turmeric and chili powder cooked along with it, mashed up paneer stirred through it – easy weeknight dinner
  • A little bacon, ham or other deli meat browned and added to the mix – the possibilities are endless.

It’s flexible and luscious and even manages to lift up some shop bought pizza crust to something quite delicious. Which is exactly what I did one tired weeknight. Whipped up some peperonata, spooned it onto the shop-bought crust, sliced some mushrooms and olives, browned a little ham, a little cheese and you’re off. 15 minutes in the oven and that’s dinner!

Click here for the recipe

YouTube – Frances Langford sings Cole Porter – Easy To Love, 1936

Breakfasts are my absolute favorite of all meals, especially those not on the run. There aren’t too many things as satisfying as the idea of a crisply laid out table on a sunny porch, overlooking a lush and still-damp green lawn, chirping birds…maybe a swimming pool off to the side…and you know…not costing Rs.1850 + taxes to enjoy.

This love for all things breakfasty has led to many fantastic brunches that melt away in a slightly alcoholic haze as the afternoon sun glints off our glasses and silverware and we find ourselves struggling to split the bill and calculate a decent tip. It has also translated into some pretty awesome home cooked meals obviously not limited to the AM because Chez Sugardrops is an All-Day-Breakfast and Open-Bar establishment.

Some of the highlights of this long-standing love affair range from the simplest fried egg on buttered toast to elaborate pancakes and tortillas. There have been luscious stewed apples with cinnamony french toast, crusty potato and sausage hash, boozy bourbon banana bread, elaborate roast pepper and chorizo frittata and pancakes in so many forms – ricotta pancakes with a fresh peach compote, buttermilk pancakes with dried blueberries, eggnog pancakes courtesy joythebaker (whose love for pancakes is legendary), chocolate pancakes with strawberries – all with endless drizzles of maple syrup.

One might notice a tendency towards the sweeter breakfast but one of my current favorites is this gorgeous omelet which is a Sunday morning staple at my in-laws’ place. Nothing fancy, no precious ingredients, just the simplest combination of onions and tomatoes cooked till they’re perfectly savory-sweet.

Click here for Mum-in-law’s omelets

I promised myself I’d blog more often and I’d join a gym (this was in Feb). As with so many other resolutions, I haven’t done either. But I can never be too hard on myself. While yes, I admit, laziness may have been one of the contributing factors (it would be pointless to deny it), it is one of probably 10 other far more nasty factors. So really…I understand. In fact if anything, I feel quite the martyr to my circumstances. And that’s the official party line!

My cooking isn’t going quite as well as planned as I reach home later and later every day. So most nights, its either left-overs, home-delivery dinners or eggs on toast (the best!!). But yesterday, the planets aligned in my favor. I read a recipe at Steamy Kitchen that sounded easy and refreshing. I was craving some pasta. I happened to have some basil that needed using up. My husband stash of peanuts wasn’t depleted. And I also happened to – for no real reason – have bought some coriander the night before as if guided by some other-worldly power.

In other words, I had everything I needed and a good mood to boot. This resulted in one of the nicest dinners ever. It was fresh, tingly, zesty from all the lovely herbs and the lemon juice.

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It was unctuous and flavorful from the olive oil, garlic and cheese. The sauce coated the perfectly al-dente spaghetti just beautifully. And…as it’s my husband’s birthday week, I thought I’d show him how much I loved him by adding 2 things he loves and I am quite indifferent to – peanuts and peas!

My usual pasta attempts go down pretty well with A but with one constant that keeps him from rating them higher than a 7.5 on 10. No meat. But…as I was filled with all this love and other rainbows and butterflies feelings, I added some sausages and really…I know I’ve raved enough about this meal but it was just that good for me. And Him! He gave me a whopping 9.25 on 10 and loads of snuggles for the rest of the evening! Yay! I gave myself a 10 on 10 :p

Click here for the recipe

Cocoa OD

Over the last week I had baked and done my share in polishing off a lemon cheesecake and a banana loaf cake. Needless to say, the effects showed. I found myself looking in the mirror this Saturday morning and couldn’t help but notice that my cheeks looked rosier and fuller. While that description is lovely if you’re a 7 year old girl in an Enid Blyton book, it has rather the opposite effect in a girl of 27 (ok almost 28). So I wondered how all those food bloggers manage, what with all the delicious things they are constantly cooking up. And I promised myself that I wouldn’t bake again for at least 2 weeks. And I kept my promise too – technically.

A and I spent Sunday at his parents’ place and within 15 minutes of arriving, my sister-in-law and I were shortlisting cupcake AND cookie recipes. We figured since we were spending the day together, we’d make the most of it and be each others assistant. SO, we made Martha Stewarts one-bowl-chocolate-cupcakes with chocolate frosting AND Dorie Greenspan’s World Peace cookies via SmittenKitchen’s Deb.

I used my mom’s frosting recipe because I specifically asked her for it and it’s a recipe that I have licked out of bowls for many many many years. So many birthday cakes my mom made for us and for other kids had some variation of this frosting and it always tasted delicious and I ALWAYS got her to ‘test’ the shapes on my hand (I’m very helpful like that). And of course I always helped with the ‘cleaning’ of the bowls. Especially the chocolate version…the taste of that is sort of imprinted in my DNA now. I dream about her birthday cakes with her beautiful buttery frosting….oh but I digress.

I think I might have messed up the frosting – it was more sugary and less chocolatey than I wanted. But A liked it and I liked it the next day out of the fridge too. So I will stand by my love for this special frosting (the recipe for which is at the end of post).

The cupcakes weren’t spectacular but they were still satisfying. We’ll have to try out many other recipes which will be oh so difficult but it’s a sacrifice we will make in the hunt for the perfect cupcake. And the cookies were hard to cut so they weren’t nearly as neat as the ones on SmittenKitchen. But I felt good (though a little sugared up to be honest) by the end of that day. It was a day well spent. I made my first dainty little cupcake with pretty frosting. This is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but lack of time and equipment have gotten in the way. And I made those amazing cookies that turned out exactly as tasty as Deb promised BUT since we halved the recipe there were far too few and they are all gone now. They were good cookies and will be fondly remembered.

But oh… by the end of the day the smell of cocoa had taken up residence on me and in my nostrils and I couldn’t look another cookie in the face. After just one cupcake, I started to feel a chocolate OD coming on. I suspect that might have been the result of the non stop licking…I mean cleaning up!! involved in the cupcake frosting process.

Still…not a bad way to spend a weekend 🙂

Click here for the recipe