My Top of the Pops list and what to do when you have batter oozing out of a supposedly baked cake

I know, I know, you missed me. My witty writing, those little stories, all those yummilicious pictures, and those so easy to do recipes!

Not particularly?

Well even if you did not miss me, I sure missed writing. I was on a blogging break you see. It has been a couple of crazy months, most of which has been spent in hospitals, or by the bedside (family medical emergencies in multiple), or in flights and at airports (work and personal travel in multiples of multiples raised to the power multiples). It is difficult to choose which is worse – airline food, hospital cafeteria food, or vegetarian food in the UK. Let’s just say I shall be happy if I never encountered again, a raw under-seasoned tomato styling itself as a salad.

I needed to let off some steam. Rant over.

Does not mean I did not get some good experiences, food and otherwise, though. So here goes, top of my pops.

#1 learning: Health is wealth. Am I lacing up my running shoes and gearing up to boost the immunity system? Watch this space. Hopefully, I will surprise myself.

#1 book I read: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, DESPITE his ““Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.” The chef at the UK hotel I stayed in, probably worships Anthony and believes in slowly starving, through tomatoes, all vegetarians. That said, the book is an awesome read and firmly recommended for all who want a glimpse of the (mostly hairy) underbelly of professional cooking.

#1 re-discovery: Pakistani television dramas. My mum loves them and I watched a bunch of them with her as a child. So when she was recuperating from surgery, I hunted up the more contemporary ones and in the bargain, discovered a treasure trove. If you do one thing this weekend, watch at least one episode of Humsafar.

#1 pleasant experience: An afternoon walk, through a quintessentially Brit town center, while a street performer played the sax, and the sun shone gently on. Remember, how I told you that Terry Pratchett is my personal shrink? I found a Discworld boardgame, in a quiet quaint games shop tucked into a corner. Not the same as meeting TP, but the next best thing. I take what I can get.

#1 embarrassing moment: Trying to check into the wrong airline at the airport (in my defense it was my third flight, third city, in less than 36 hours, and on very few hours of sleep in many days) and then TOTALLY panicking. Oh wait, that was not as embarrassing as inadvertently stumbling into the gents’ loo at yet another airport, and saying sorry in a very small voice. (Again, in my defense, it was in the middle of an overseas transit and I have brain-malfunctions even at the thought of jet lag). Thankfully, I shall never encounter again, that airline check in lady or all those shocked men.

#1 nostalgia inducing moment: my mum insisted I cleaned out some of my old stuff when I stayed with her. I had a wonderful walk down memory lane paved with hand-made greeting cards, air mail onion paper, notes scribbled at the back of school notebooks, flowers carefully preserved between pages of teenage diaries, and letters received from out-of-town friends

back when people picked up the pen instead of the phone when they missed you
Back when people picked up the pen when they missed you

Top FnB experiences (since this is a STILL a food blog): In no particular order:

  • Riding an auto rickshaw complete with psychedelic neon lights and bollywood posters to have Gobhi parathas (I would say cauliflower stuffed flatbread, but it does not have the same ring), a huge blob of freshly churned butter, with spiced buttermilk , at Jassi da parathas in Ahmedabad. Meeting the sister after a long time!
  • Catching a pint, with the girls, in the coziest Irish pub around the corner from the hotel in England. They did a mean kidney bean and sweet potato burger with a ton of fries. And thankfully, did not serve raw tomatoes. An opportune group selfie moment
  • A perfect cheese omelette with bell peppers, wholewheat toast and fresh Parsi dairy butter, after a long Sunday at work, while gate crashing a friend’s house. The small mercies of kind people who get a meal (and a bed) ready for you with minimal notice
  • Meeting the husband after practically a month over late night Som Tam at Benjarong in Kolkata. They held a table and kept the kitchen open for us when his incoming flight was delayed. I do believe Som Tam is BSF (Best Salad Forever)
  • Dinner I dished up for Mother’s Day: whole-wheat penne in béchamel; garlic and thyme roasted cauliflower, carrots and beans with walnuts; and roasted bell pepper in balsamic vinaigrette over store-bought garlic bread

The mother’s day dinner was followed by a slice of Pear Spice Cake with a Praline Topping, baked for the husband’s birthday. This recipe from Joy the Baker is not the easiest to do in terms of work (making the buttermilk, subbing the all spice by grinding cloves and more nutmeg, roasting the nuts, separating the eggs, doing the praline, prepping the pears, washing the resulting ton of bowls, pots and pans, phew phew phew!) and the first time I de-panned the cake it was severely under-done (think oozing mutant, albeit buttery, batter). But oh my god, that batter is good enough to eat by itself and the cake (after I covered it with foil and baked another 30 minutes) is seriously melt-in-the-mouth-gooey-goodness. PS I ran out of walnuts, so the praline has cashew nuts.

Pear Spice Cake with Praline
Pear Spice Cake with Praline

To end, while the last few weeks have not been as savoury (or as sweet) as one would want, I did get out with a few great memories, the re-enforced belief that family and friends are what make it all worth it, a few happy food moments, and a Discworld Board game. Not bad at all.

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