Sunday, June 19, 2011

How To Eat

It's been a very long time since I last posted. That's partly because I've been busy trying to get into college, but to be honest, really it was because I think I was feeling as though I had nothing much to say. Fact is I made a lemon tart a couple of days ago, which came out beautifully and is currently resting in the fridge (I think I feel like a slice). Lemon curd is scarily easy to make and although mine came out a little more bitter than I'd have liked it was pretty darn good. The recipe called for 3 eggs, 150 gm sugar (granulated, I used icing), about 80 mils of freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 60 gm butter and 4 teaspoons of lemon zest. The last ingredient was, I suspect, the culprit. Too much zest.

Before that I made a green, chocolate cake for my brother on his birthday, and a random little cake for myself when I was feeling lonesome and indulgent. I've been feeling like that a lot lately, and I think now's about when it's beginning to take a toll on me. Sitting around at home and baking has not been the best plan for this in-between-school-period. Fortunately, I'm leaving in three weeks for J-School down south and I hope that'll snap me out of this self-pity mode I'm in right now and back on my toes. I hate to admit this but I miss classes.

On a more positive note, one of my female guppies is pregnant! Isn't that amazing? I'm thinking of taking her out of the tank tomorrow and putting her in a separate container till she's had the babies since they tend to eat the newborns by mistake, apparently. Also, I discovered the most indulgent pasta sauce! I don't know what the Italians will have to say about this, but I think it's super. It's definitely super easy. You just bung a couple of tomatoes, slightly blanched, into a food processor. Add a sprig of basil here, a slosh of olive oil there, some freshly ground pepper (you've gotta love pepper) and some salt and give it a whir. Then add one medium sized onion, or two smaller white onions, cut in quarters, and blitz again. Chop and fry some bacon, lardon would be good, but regular bacon strips are fine. It's the strong flavour of the bacon that really gives the whole thing an extra kick. Once the bacon is almost crisp you douse it in the toe-may-toe-onion sauce and let it simmer. Take off the heat and add a dollop of cream. As much or little as your prefer. Have your pasta boiled and ready by this time. What I like to do is warm about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot, add a couple of whole garlic cloves and some finely diced red chilies (I get a fat variety that I don't have a name for), let simmer for about a minute before bunging in the pasta and stirring it all together. At this point I tip my sauce over into the pot and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes so the pasta's had some time to absorb all that flavour. This CANNOT taste bad. In fact, it's perfectly, indulgently gorgeous. Just don't forget to add the salt at some point (a little while blizting the tomatoes. check sauce for taste as bacon will have contributed to saltiness).

Here's my other predicament... I need a new laptop and I want a Macbook. Just the most basic white plastic unibody Macbook. And I don't think I can have it. I spent the last two hours obsessively looking at videos of Macbooks, articles on Macbooks, pictures of Macbooks – it's like fueling this insatiable craving. I am besotted. I think the reason why I'm craving a Mac, as much as I often crave chocolate, is because it is so ridiculously pearly white and shiny. It quite literally glistens and that, at the moment is my ideal. I want to glisten in that beautiful ethereal kind of way, be as white and fresh and happy as the daisy that inspired this machine. It's consumerism at it's best. I’m projecting my own neurotic perfectionist desires on to a THING. Buying a Mac isn't going to ensure that I live up to these ideals. I've just got to do it, even if I'm doing it on a Dell. Dell is good, by the way. I use Dell and I can say that it's good. Customer care is a bit cumbersome, but it's a nice computer.

My mother, who has been terribly patient with me, and relented to my most unreasonable and childishly irritating whims, bought me a copy of HOW TO EAT: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food, and I think anybody of hasn't read it yet MUST get a copy. You can buy it cheaply on Flipkart, which is what my mother did and it's worth it I assure you. Every one of those pages in that lusciously white, clean book just oozes of Nigella and the love and flippant intensity with which she regards food. I think in some ways I'm a little like her. For one thing, I too occasionally raid my fridge at midnight when I know there's something yum in there. And for another I am daunted, absolutely mortified, at the idea of cooking for large numbers of people, on a particular occasion, by a certain time. My best cooking moments are on afternoon when everyone else is either out or asleep and I can potter about at my own pace, fixing this and baking that. I get as much satisfaction out of making a bowl of my favorite moist, eggy fried rice for lunch alone, as I get in eating it. I cannot say the same about cooking for guests. Which is not to say that it's not fabulous when they eat something they like and eat more of it. But just getting to that point in the end of me. I don't like precooking. Not for most things. So... that's a bit of a bummer.

But, coming back to the point, this book is fantastic. She's not teaching you how to cook but how to eat! There's a section on cooking for just one or two people (including yourself), a section of feeding babies and young children (which I prescribed to a friend who now swears by it. She has a beautiful plump little baby boy who thus far has no problems with his food), and a section on the commonest of common things that nobody else would bother talking about, having assumed you already know. Her recipes and advice on making sauces, broths and soup, pancakes, birthday cakes, desserts have been a blessing since, it's the first anyone ever showed how important some of these very basic things are.

So, while my cooking is sadly going to be taking a bit of a back seat for the next year or so, I shall certainly not be going anywhere. A nine month course in Print Journalism should sharpen up my writing skills, what? And with that we shall plough onward bravely.

Go Forth and Conquer!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes and other such delectables

It is hot and my camera isn’t working. We made Red Velvet Cupcakes in the evening, braving the sweltering sweltering heat of the kitchen, and the hall and the loo – to which I had to rush every 3 minutes to wash face/hands, wishing I could dive into the bath – for what turned out to be the most fabulously good cause. They were chocolate, they were a warm warm red, they had perfectly smooth, rounded cupcake crusts that gave way to lusciously moist, cocoa-ey insides. In short they could make you purr, even as you first glimpsed them sitting elegantly on the baking tray, crowned with a pale, buttercream icing rose. Gorgeous. It made thoughts of the blistering heat melt away. Need I say more?

There’s something about cooking which is possibly, even more satisfying than eating. It’s as though you’ve let loose unto the world a little Frankenstein monster of your own – it looks perfect, the knife’s come out clean, no doughy bits adhering to it, the aroma floods the house and you’re hopping from one foot to another in anticipation – it’s heaven, but deathly scary. What it boils down to is that moment in which you take the very first bite, when the scent of warm, rich cake fills your head, when the first luscious mouthful greets your clamouring tastebuds and [hopefully] you sigh in resounding pleasure and contentment, headily intoxicated by the very thing you have shaped by your own hands.

Fun! The only worrisome aspect of the making and baking of all these winsome delectables, I have found, I that while they mostly always taste alright [unless you’ve blundered unforgivably] they tend to come apart at the seams when you want them to be looking perfectly picture perfect. The other day a friends cheesecake fell straight out of the caketin, perfectly solid, leaving, however, the unfortunate graham cracker base clinging loyally onto the tin. I called her shortly after the tragic incident occurred – the phone was answered by one exceedingly disgruntled individual, snorting like a baby rhinoceros ready to charge she managed to choke into the receiver that her beautiful mother’s day project had fallen apart. She wanted to throw it all away out of sheer brokenhearted fury. After some deliberation, however, we concluded that the only thing to be done was put them in little ramekins by the spoonful, with the disengaged base sprinkled generously above and below the glutinous dessert. By the time I went over in the evening, the lost cause had morphed into the most adorable little cuppy desserts with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and little kitkat sticks that made the already perfect cheesecake irresistible. Which just confirms the fact that one cannot give up on their babies, even if they are tragically flawed.

This last thought gives me hope. Perhaps I too may someday be subdivided into individual portions and served with chocolate, making me the not-so-fallen angel cake of my parents and consumers. If only…

[Pictures and recipe from www.joyofbaking .com]

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Sainted Aunt!

This is a relative post, of relativity and relatives. Which is worse? I can’t say yet. But if we sift through all our evidences and materials. We may just reach a conclusion.

The fact that we hope to ‘reach’ a conclusion, reinforces, thus, that there is a conclusion somewhere out there, waiting for to be reached… by us. So, it must be our right and duty to get to it before it makes like a dodo and becomes extinct.

Well, I’d say it all started with the introduction of the third dimension. Life before that was much much simpler, I am sure. In fact, I remember a time when I didn’t know what a dimension was. I though Noddy was cool. I believe the phenomenon that I’m referring to is called Gestalt Psychology which essentially talks of the overview, the interconnectedness of perception and what not. This is the problem. While looking at an elephant from an arial perspective, one does NOT see all four legs splayed across the planes of Africa or whatever part of the blasted world you may be flying over. No, in fact, you just see it’s back. It looks like a lump that is it. The fact that your brain attaches the implied value of the elephant attched to that back is as irrelevant as it is dangerous. If what you see is an elephants back, then what you have is an elephants back. Agreed?

Now the theory of relativity. If everything is relative to everything else… well then firstly, how can they be interconnected? And furthermore, the whole idea of procreation then becomes completely horrific. The human animal is a species in decline. You may not believe it but the sperm count of the average human male has reduced drastically over the last five decades from a whopping 100 million in 1950 to 50 million in 1990. That’s a 40 year time frame guys, and counting. Inbreeding would only further this phenomenon, causing the human race to go hurtling to its extinction. Now isn’t that a fascinating thought!

Jokes apart, what is it then, relative or universal? Neither, Both, Sometimes This, Sometimes That. These are all pretty sappy answers. You know our school teachers would never stand for such questionable drivel. Why then, should we? Which is it man?? Are we all the same, or are we not? Is our every step a mere equal-and-opposite to someone elses or do free will and democracy exist beyond the realm of fiction and faery tale?

I don’t know. And having given it a hard, solid thought, I have come to the conclusion that I don’t care. The idea of every humanoid on this blessed earth being a relation is depressing to the extreme. But I suppose one makes the most of a situation and trudges on. Perhaps, the point is to be reborn on another more virile planet, assuming, of course, that souls have the capacity to undertake interstellar travel.

Drivel, drivel, drivel. Bargle, gargle, wargle. Had enough of this? So have I. Good night. And may the force be with you!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chocolate Mousse

If Julie had Julia, I definitely have Nigella. Lawson, to be precise, though when one mentions "chocolate" and "Nigella" in the same sentence there isn't much room for confusion. This recipe for 'Instant Chocolate Mousse' is something I got from her website and I made it in advance for tonights dinner so I thought I'd share the pictures. I'll write and update later about how it turned out in the end. The making, in any case, was glorious.

A hundred and fifty grams of mini-marshmallows.

250 gm of dark chocolate. I didn't have best quality chocolate so I supplemented this with the most beautiful cocoa powder ever.

and then... 50 gm butter and 60 ml water. and into a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Keeps stirring. It'll go from looking something like this... something like this...

...and finally this.

Then There Is The Cream *evil grin*

You whip about 300 gm of heavy cream with a teaspoon of vanilla and pour it into the marshmallow-chocolate mixture, having already taken it off the heat.

It may seem as though the white may over power the darkness of the chocolate, but as always, the chocolate wins.

and in the end looks something like this.

The pictures of the end result looked crappy so I edited them. Just a tiny little bit.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The coffee-table Water Garden

We made this beautiful little armful of nature two weeks ago, and its still going strong and healthy, with the plants sending up shoots of new green every other day.

The Butterfly got the idea to make this little beauty one day from a website on indoor water gardens, it’s basically the same principle, but we’ve simplified it a bit and done away with a few things like activated charcoal :)

We used plants that I got from the Galiff street pet market, these are all water plants that you could probably find at nearby water bodies or fish stores :)

We used this plant called Hygrophila, we’re not sure what species it is, but it’s a water plant that grows emmersed, which means half in and half out of water, which is perfect for the garden.

We’re not sure what this plant is either, but its got long green stems with lovely tapering leaves and looks fantastic. Adds height to the overall display as well :)

We also used two bunches of Salvinia, a floating plant with trailing roots. Adds a bit of contrast to the other plants and gives cover to the fish as well.

Oh, did I mention there are fish in there too? The Butterfly had a brilliant idea to get a couple of guppies for the garden. So we ran out one evening and bought a couple of make guppies from the local fish store. They add movement to the bowl as well as get rid of mosquito larvae.

The bowl is layered with pebbles and white gravel. We used a couple of small glass tumblers to hold the plants in, filled them up with potting soil and a layer of fine white gravel so that the earth doesn’t cloud the water, and we were done! Real easy and mucking around with the water and soil was fun too :D

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My MultiColoured Rainbow Cake

So here's the multi coloured rainbow cake I made two nights ago. It's essentially a plain white vanilla cake, with a twist. We poured the white batter into four different containers and added a different food colouring into each. Then we poured each coloured batter into the baking tray and shoved in the oven. We had enough batter for two 6 inch cakes and then squidged the two together with chocolate ganache. I LOVE THIS CAKE!!!

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Happy Evening

It’s10:40 pm, my room looks nice and cheery with the little chinese lights up around the veranda, Doris Day playing at the back, a very multi colourful vanilla cake slowly baking away in the oven and the rain pouring outside. I have the house to myself since my mother’s taken off to the boondocks for election coverage. My petunias are looking lovely white and bright now. I love them.

Today we heaved some lilies across town to the house but I’m most excited about this one plant we found with the tiniest, bluest flowers on them. I have no idea what plant it is. I’ll put up some pictures later and maybe someone out there could identify them. The flowers are a pale but bright blue which seems to glow in the sunlight. They look a little like christmas lights. I think for now I’ll bestow the appellation, Neon Flowers, on them. It’s fitting, I think.

Oven beeper’s gone off. Be Right Back!! {EXCITEMENT!!}

[Moments Later] First one’s DONE. It’s spectacular. I found this particular recipe for vanilla cake on You Tube . It seemed pretty straightforwards, but since this is the first time I’m making it I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, *holds breath* smell divine, as it may. My little twist was pretty simple but it takes a little doing. I just split the batter up in four separate bowls and coloured each batch a different hue [food colouring, of course]. Then I poured a bit of each into a baking tin and hey presto! It looks like the earth! Or one of those melted crayon thingies I saw tons of posts on all sorts of blogs.

Yay! I’m so happy. Now I can sleep beautifully tonight. What a lovely lovely night. And Listen To Doris Day A Bushel And A Peck


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Succulents In A Cup

These are the most beautiful and most easy little presents to make for anyone, especially, yourself.

I bought this beautiful blue mug a couple of days ago, and A Gecko, the know-it-all-child-of-nature, bought these really sweet succulents very cheaply at Galiff Street.

And then we found this little snail in the water garden we made (of which I'll upload pictures soon) and the little guy seems to have taken beautifully to his new home :)

These plants need slightly arid, sandy soil and very little water. They're gawjuss and, as the name suggests, very very succulent.