Tag Archives: Whole Wheat

Mid-week Wanderlust and Daydreams

Some mid-week serendipitous resonance earned me a few moments of day-dreaming, and you a bonus blog post.

I got off early from work, and instead of scurrying back home, I stopped at a neighborhood café (which you must check out if you live/visit Bangalore, for its quaint charm and cream of mushroom soup!). Ordered myself some soup and presently there was the aroma of sizzling garlic, which can warm even the coldest day. And this is how it came to pass, that I found myself, in an island of calm, in a busy city in the middle of the week, reading Bill Bryson’s “Neither Here Nor There” and day dreaming of the Northern Lights.

“I had an itch to roam.
I wanted to wander through Europe, to see movie posters for films that would never come to (my country), gaze wonderingly at billboards and shop notices full of exotic umlauts and cedillas and No Parking sign O’s, hear pop songs that could not by even the most charitable stretch of the imagination be a hit in any country but their own, encounter people whose lives would never again intersect with mine, be hopelessly unfamiliar with everything, from the workings of a phone box to the identity of a foodstuff. I wanted to be puzzled and charmed, to experience the endless, beguiling variety of a continent where you can board a train and an hour later be somewhere where the inhabitants speak a different language, eat different foods, work different hours, live lives that are at once so different and yet so oddly similar.
I wanted to be a tourist.”

On wanting to share the extract with you, I stumbled across the Homesick Wanderlust blog, proving yet again, that technology like the internet can unite, more than it can divide.

Apart from listening for resonance, eating better is a part of my ‘go slow’ new-year resolution. Hence, sharing with you the recipe for a whole-wheat carrot cake, baked a couple of weeks back, to make the most of the seasonal ‘spindly red carrots’ (duly inspired).

IMG_20150110_172525349Grease a nine inch baking pan, and get some buttermilk going by adding a teaspoon of lemon juice to about 3/8 cup of whole milk. Grate 1 ½ cup of carrot. Whisk together a cup of whole wheat flour, about a teaspoon of baking soda, a pinch of salt, and some cinnamon powder and nutmeg (1 combined teaspoon). Using your stand/electric mixer, whip together 2 small eggs and ¾ cup of Demerara sugar. Add the buttermilk and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Fold the dry and wet and add the carrots. Sprinkle on some optional almond. Bake for 30 minutes and check for done-ness.

Easy, right? We will not mention the spring-form tin which I failed to fit properly, resulting in carrot cake batter oozing across my kitchen counter. Not when we are thinking positive thoughts.

A good book to read, a café to eat at, a blog to visit, a cake to bake, and inspiration to day dream – now that you have several choices, what is it going to be? Am returning to Paris, where I left Bill attempting to navigate the traffic.

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The best month of the year is here…

After the long post last week, you deserve a short one. Further, given that these are the months to drink, eat and make merry, don’t spend it staring at a screen. Make some thumbprint cookies, mix the Christmas cake, dress up for the party in the evening, warm some spiced ale, or simply laze in the winter sunshine. We have a bright red lounger nestled among the garden greens, perfect to watch the sun travel the sky. So come on over, depending on the time of the day, we can read a book out where the hibiscus grows, or bake something with cinnamon and apples, or open the bottle which is nicely chilling, (or we could do all three). It is the season to celebrate, exchange gifts and wishes, and embrace the world in one giant hug.

Semolina Cashew Cakes
Semolina Cashew Cakes

Looking for something simple to make, a little sweet, and preferably ‘healthy’, to tide you over to the onslaught of the cookies? Here is something super from the Ovenderful kitchen. I was looking for something to bake for the dad-in-law’s birthday, he is off eggs, and none of my usual recipes would work. Hence, out came the semolina and the wheat to make this grand dessert. Simran recommends that you put them into cupcake liners and make them to be muffins. I went the cake way and regretted it. The shape does not hold up while de-tinning and I had to scrape it out, pile the crumbs into a glass dish and pretend that I wanted it that-a-away. It was hitting-it-out-of-the-park delish, so no one cared.

Ingredients: 1 cup wheat flour, 1 cup semolina flour, 1 cup white sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 ½ teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon baking powder, 1 cup curd/yoghurt, ½ cup water, 1 tsp instant coffee mixed in 1 tbsp hot water, 2/3 cup oil (Simran recommends rice bran, I used olive oil), some crushed roasted cashews for the batter and halves to decorate.

To make: In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugars, baking powder and soda. Mix the liquids in another bowl. Add the crushed cashews. Pour into cupcake liners and bake in a preheated 150 degrees oven for thirty odd minutes.

The door is open, the welcome mat is out, something warm is simmering on the stove, and I am dreaming desserts. Come on, troop in!

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.

Celebrating the freedom to choose and International Women’s Day

The first couple of months of the year are always busy and depressing, as if the new year is determined to make its presence felt on the back of the pleasant and mellow goodbyes of its predecessor. I have been on the road for several days now, balancing the family, career, friends and the ‘me’ passions of cooking and reading. Flights and airport adventures at unearthly hours, trying unsuccessfully to binge eat my way out of exhaustion-fueled depression, and developing (I am sure) all sorts of bone and eye related troubles while hunched over the keyboard. In a particularly low moment one evening this week, while miles away from home, in a strange hotel, staring at another several hours of work, I was petulantly ranting on the phone to the mum. And then she slipped in a gem which made me stop dead in my self-wallowing tracks, “remember, you chose this.”

As another International Women’s Day approached and retailers and service providers all over spammed me with offers celebrating my womanhood (rather reminiscent of P&G’s wishes of having a happy period), I found myself, on the long drive back from the airport, late Friday night, questioning the wisdom of my choices; thinking of other women I know and the journeys they are on. A dear friend who is determined to re-start her career after dedicating every waking moment to her two children this last several years, my sister in law who chose be one half of a commuting couple and raise her daughter as a single parent while staying on at work, another friend who is considering quitting at the peak of her career to devote more time to the family and find herself again. The examples are countless, even without peeking into the generations above and below. I realized anew, that at the heart of the matter, we are all attempting to find an identity and ways to measure our worth. While there are no simplistic answers, I find solace in what my mother put her finger on. It is in the choice and exercising of it, that we celebrate the essence of being a woman. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams it is a beautiful world because we CHOOSE to think of it so, and make it so. And so I choose to continue to carry on, putting one foot in front of another and booking yet another set of flight tickets.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, my mother in law cooked up a storm – all sorts of comfort food. This evening it was onion and potato pakados – chickpea flour batter dipped, crisp and crunchy vegetables with tomato and chilly ketchup as the dipping sauce. I did die and go to fritter heaven, but now the deep fried ball of guilt is weighing me by down several kilos. Difficult to celebrate womanhood while feeling like this. Might as well add period happiness and get done with it.

Double Tomato Bruschetta with Roasted Veggies
Double Tomato Bruschetta with Roasted Veggies

On the subject of comfort food – here is something healthy and vegetarian, from dinner last Sunday. Double Tomato Bruschetta with oven roasted veggies and whole-wheat spaghetti in béchamel sauce. To make the roasted veggies, throw in any vegetables you may have on hand into the oven at 250 degree c. Last week it was zucchini, bell peppers, cauliflower florets, and baby corn. You can also use carrots, beans, corn, peas, broccoli – any and every veggie you choose. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh/dried mixed herbs. I usually use a mix of thyme, rosemary and oregano with some sea salt. Roast till done – the trick being to lay your vegetables so that they don’t crowd each other. You want them to roast and not steam. Add walnuts for crunch and texture.

Whole Grain Banana Bread

This was made as a healthy snack for my niece’s lunch box. But most it went into the tummies of various family members after Sunday lunch. Not that I complained too much about its popularity. 🙂

Whole Grain Banana Bread
Whole Grain Banana Bread

Eating this bread made me feel virtuous – all the whole wheat and walnut spells health and happiness, regardless of what the waistline thinks.

Adapted from Whole Grain Gourmet – which has a gorgeous bunch of healthy recipes I want to try

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cup mashed over-ripe bananas
  • 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 chopped almonds

Prepare a loaf tin by greasing and flouring.

Whisk together flour, cinnamon and salt.

In the stand mixer, or by hand, beat the butter, honey and sugar for a couple of minutes. Lightly whisk in the eggs. And the vanilla and the banana. Gradually add in flour mixture, pausing in between to scrape down the sides if using a stand mixer.

Heat the water and add the baking soda. Gently beat into the batter. Mix in the chopped nuts.

Pour into the tin and bake for about 50 minutes checking for doneness.

I garnished mine, before baking with almond flakes, and some demerrara for that special crunch.

Whole Grain Banana Bread
Whole Grain Banana Bread

I remember being undecided about adding chopped chocolate (the original recipe calls for 1/2 cup chocolate chips) or some sunflower seeds that I had handy. I don’t recall if I added either, neither or both.

Let me know what you go with.