sunbeams and sugardrops

So I like to bake…but I also find it extremely daunting. Like for example my first ever, proper, new-york style baked cheesecake which I made last year…it needed to bake in a water bath, in a spring-form pan. Every thing I read about it scared me with visions of a soggy crust. And then the first ever chicken I cooked in my oven…I was scared it would be pink inside and nothing is grosser to an ex-vegetarian of Jain extraction than undercooked meat.  And my first yeasted bread…well…you get the point.

And Pie Crust loomed above it all. The thought of all that binding, rolling, freezing, the secret ingredients in all the many recipes I came across, the time investment required –  lets just say I’ve let many a cherry and strawberry season go by with no pie to show for it. No longer! The next time strawberries show their pretty little heads in Bombay, they’re going to be pied.

So this newfound courage came with a very encouraging post on Chez Pim and just enough instruction so that I felt like I had a watchful guardian angel of pies on my shoulder. I wanted to bake a little something as a pre-birthday treat for A and his only desire is for variety i.e. something I haven’t done before. I’d had a hankering for cinnamon all month long so I decided to man up and make us a double crusted apple pie.

That recipe and those instructions made it Ea-sy! And working the flour and butter with my hands was..I have to say…pretty pleasurable. I even got to inaugurate these adorable heart-shaped cookie cutters I’d bought a couple of years ago. I love when things just come together like that.  For the pie filling I combined ideas from Simply Recipes and Amateur Gourmet, upped the spices and added a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice as I was using sweet Red Delicious apples and didn’t want the pie filling to be completely one-note, sugary sweet. I’ve got a recipe if you click on the link below. But lets just say, once it was out of the oven, we waited 47 minutes before we just couldn’t take it anymore. It looked LOVELY! I was thrilled. I posted pictures everywhere and emailed them to everyone. And we ate pie for 3 days and were generally thrilled because it turned out delicious!

Click here for the recipe

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

My brother & IMusic is a big part of our lives and most of us grow up listening to a great variety of music introduced to us by parents, grand parents, cool uncles and as we grow older, our friends.  As my parents were hardly exposed to western music before we were born, my brother and I grew up exclusively on Hindi film music and more significantly on Pop music.

Of all my childhood musical memories, Michael Jackson and Madonna are the strongest. And even since then, even after being exposed to a much wider world of music, these 2 artists and their music from my childhood have remained enduringly strong in my heart. Every single time I have gone out dancing, I never feel as ecstatic as I do when Like a Prayer comes on. I sing out loud and I dance the way one is meant to dance, by losing yourself in the music.

My memories of Michael Jackson’s music are so inextricably linked with my memories of my baby brother that I have been finding it hard not to get choked up today. The first of his songs that I remember are from Bad when I was 6 and my brother was 4. I doubt he remembers any of this but we used to play this cassette tape on a little cassette player and sing along and we knew all the words and didn’t have a clue what a lot of them meant. I even have a vague memory of watching Moonwalker and being thrilled by the Smooth Criminal sequence.

As we grew older, our tastes in music diverged wildly but somehow, Michael Jackson remained a shared pleasure. My brother and I had grown apart when I went off to boarding school for about 4 years. Because he was just 6 when I left, he hardly had any memory of me when I moved back. I was like this almost-stranger person that he was supposed to love and be friends with.  Eventually we became really good friends again.

One of my favorite memories is of us going to school together on a grey and windy day and singing along to Man in the Mirror playing on our car stereo.
It’s a grey and windy day today and I miss my little brother and I know he’ll agree with me when I say that we’ve lost a little piece of our childhood today.

I hope everyone remembers the magic of Michael Jackson’s music for a long time to come.

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While the parched city waited for the weather to change, my body decided it wasn’t up to it. So while I coped with the flu and whined at A (The bum I’m married to) to my heart’s content, I also thought I’d make myself a really easy, and what I had hoped would be comforting, cake.

Since I’d been putting off eating some bananas for about 5 days, they’d started growing that mottled brown that usually means the bin. But this time, they were spared their sad fate. They came together with my desire for a warm gastronomic hug in the form of a delicious banana walnut loaf cake that was so easy to put together, even for a sick person.

And I found the perfect time to make it in…The silly T20 world cup finals which I was completely sick to death of courtesy A again (who watches pretty much all cricket and blogs about it rather well at outsideedge.wordpress.com) In any case…boring cricket = alone-time for both of us.

And that is when this warm banana cake took shape.

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Moist Banana Cake

2 cups flour

1 cup soft brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp Baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

2/3 cup oil

3 eggs

3-4 over ripe bananas

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 tsp raisins

Pre-heat oven to 160°C (325°F). Prepare an 8” or 9” round cake tin or a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Add sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and beat together till crumbly. Add the eggs and beat together till combined.

Meanwhile mash the bananas in a food processer, with a masher, with a fork – anything you like. I used a fork and made it pretty smushy. Throw in the chopped walnuts and raisins. Add this to the flour, oil, egg mix and beat till combined. Don’t worry too much about lumps.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for an hour or until a skewer in the middle comes out clean. Let it cool in the pan for a while then turn it out on to a plate and let it cool further.

Or dig in when you please.

The loaf was wiped out in 3 days flat. We had it for breakfast, dessert after dinner, after-work snack. But we’re not all bad. I dropped off about half the cake at my mother-in-law’s place where it was rather well received. Even my sister-in-law and her anti-banana sentiments were pleasantly surprised by this winsome little thing.

The picture there is pretty much exactly how my cake looked – except the walnuts on top and the foil. Which brings me rather abruptly to my next point. Until I get better at taking pictures, I’m going to have to use images I find on the lovely internet. But I don’t know how I’m supposed to go about it. I definitely don’t want to seem like I’m stealing. I want to give credit for pictures I use, or ask permission for them before I use them. Or use pictures that no body minds my using without asking or telling. If anyone at all has tips on this, it would be brilliant.

Until then, this picture is a royalty-free image downloaded from Getty images where I couldn’t find any restrictions on downloading and using so I did and I am.

Good food, lots of laughs, a little alcohol, a sunny day and jazz – That’s my idea of a perfect Sunday.

Or one of my many ideas for a Sunday.

A rainy day spent indoors, snuggling on the sofa, reading, watching movies and baking….

A hot day spent shopping, finding the perfect bargains on the streets, a big salad and an ice cold cherry soda to cool off with…..

I’m in office on a bleak Wednesday morning dreaming about all the wonderful things I could be doing if it was a Sunday. Even the dull grey skies would look pretty on a Sunday because there would be that one beam of sunlight peaking out from behind the clouds falling just right on a lush green tree…and there you have it. A perfect Sunday feeling.

I want this blog to be about all the things that give me that blissed out, sunny feeling of a perfect, well-earned & well-spent weekend.  And I hope that I’m actually able to stick to that plan…

Here’s to shiny, happy weekends!