Friday, February 20, 2015

A Wish to Banish World Hunger- 1000 Voices for Compassion #1000Speak

Today, more than a 1000 bloggers are flooding the blogosphere, the internet and timelines with stories about compassion and sentiments about kindness. Today, 20th February 2015, is 1000 Voices for Compassion Day.

I feel very strongly in issues like racism, sexism, ageism, ableism and discriminations that take away the basic right of a human being to live with dignity. But one issue I feel for even more, is the issue of hunger. No man, no woman, no child should go to bed hungry. Nobody should have to live by scrounging waste out of trashcans. Especially when in India, so many thousands of kilograms of food grains are going waste, and rotting in silos where nobody can reach them. So many litres of milk go to waste on worships and rituals, when a child on the street grows up malnourished. So much money goes into donations to houses of worship to no end, whereas a family starves to death in the villages.

It's a promise I've made to myself, that in my capacity, I will never let anyone go hungry. As and when I do have children, this is a teaching that they too will get. Giveaway that packet of cereal you have extra. Someone needs it so much more than you do. To those who have the means, it is a negligible cost we bear. But for those who have next to nothing, it means a meal. Those with means will never be able to understand the pain of going hungry, the pain of seeing your family go hungry to sleep.

And I will not allow it. as much as my capacity is, I promise to never let anyone go hungry again. Which is why, I have a plan that I wish to implement. Many kilograms of delicious food go to waste in restaurants, small, mid-size or large. I wish to implement a mechanism, that collects these extra food items, and deliver it to those who need it. I will do it, I can do it. Food should not be a privilege. In my own way, I wish to eliminate world hunger, a little spoonful at a time.

And the day I bring this dream to reality, I will have achieved that one dream I've always had: never to see anyone go to sleep hungry.

It can be anything.
A child feeding the pups that live in her colony.
A man buying an ice-cream for that child on the road.
An office making a collection drive for a flood affected area.
A husband making parathas for his wife, before he goes out for a meeting, because she'll be alone and may not want to cook only for herself.
Spreading out a few grains of rice for the birds.
Someone lending me a phone charger in my time of need.
A school selling UNICEF cards to raise money.

It's not about the money.
It's not about the strength.
It's not the size of the problem, nor the size of your plan.
It's not about who else is with you.
It's about what you want to do.
It's about how much you want to do.
It's about you.

I don't see it anymore.
Wars. Injustice. Tears. Greed. Lust. Corruption of the soul. Wickedness. An astounding loss of humanity.
I see it everywhere.
Spoons of food from a nurse to a patient. A cat defending another in front of a dog. A star dressing up as the superhero on screen,visiting a children's hospital to make a sick child laugh. A humble auto driver in Mumbai who is the most selfless man I have ever read about.

Compassion is not sympathy.
Compassion is not doing good for someone, and feeling good about oneself.
Compassion should be like breathing. Do you give yourself credit for breathing? It should be the way you live. It should be how you live.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Product Review: Philips Airfryer

So, first product review!

Let me just jump right into it. The stuff I reviewed was the Philips Airfryer. It’s been around for about a year now, but yours truly got to lay her hands on it just a few weeks back. I have friends who have bought it and are using it, many friends, and I really wanted to know whether it was worth it. Philips sent me a sample, and what better time than now? I made frozen French fries in it, and a batch of fried chicken, and I’ll be using my observations from both to explain the pros and cons.

Firstly, the pros. It’s shaped like a huge black egg with a handle. The handle is for the frying basket. It has a dial for the cooking temperature, and a rotating knob for the time. So how this works is through hot air. Yep, it’s that easy. It’s just hot air, much like in our convection ovens. Because the bottom of the basket is a mesh, the hot air circulates easily.

It’s actually super simple to use. Preheat, clean the basket, place your food item in it, in certain cases drizzle with a smidge of oil, toss, close, turn up the heat, set your time and take out when the Airfryer goes ding! It is also a breeze to clean; a button releases the inner basket and that can washed, dried and set right back.

Honestly, at first I really wasn't buying the no/less oil point. Because how is that supposed to work? But it definitely did. I cooked an entire bag of frozen French Fries with about 1 tsp oil. I mean that’s crazy, and that’s awesome! (And I made my homemade BangBang sauce to go with it!)

Now for the cons.

Because of the shape, it takes up a lot of space and leads to a lot of space wastage. A rectangular appliance would use space much more judiciously. In today’s scene of reducing home spaces, it doesn't quite make sense to have an appliance that wastes space.

The basket size. The basket size was way too small. It holds too little in one batch. When I combine this with the average time it takes to cook anything in it, it becomes impractical to wait for 20 minutes for a batch of French Fries.

I firmly believe some things are to be had with oil. Going with the French Fry example, they came out well-cooked, but extremely dry, almost dehydrated. The fried chicken too came out cooked, but the outer layer was dehydrated to the point of cracking open. This was a major disadvantage in my book.

Most homes today have a combination oven, with a microwave and convection built right in. It is, in my personal opinion, quite redundant to have something that does the same job as a convection oven. Which brings me to my next point…

The price. Right now, at INR 10690 on, it is too expensive to justify a second appliance doing the same job as most ovens already do.

So all in all, I would recommend purchasing an Airfryer for those people who would like to have a new, healthy gadget in their kitchen. It has its issues, but it definitely promotes healthy eating!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Garlic Rolls

Have you ever tasted, smelled garlic? Smelled that delicious green funky smell? Remember how your fingers become kinda sticky after chopping them up? Can you smell that brown, toasty smell of garlic frying in olive oil before you dunk it all over your tagliatelle? Inhaled that rich smell of roasted garlic being slathered on a crusty piece of buttered bread? Sucked on that whole bulb of garlic that Ma put in light mutton curry, soaking in all the delicious juices?

I'm really not high. It's just that I love garlic more than anything on this planet.

Plus side, I'm totally safe from vampire attacks. Haha eat it Twilight!

Yeast, on the other hand, frightens me to bits. There's so much depending on it, and that itself depends on so much. It must lukewarm water, not hot. It must froth properly, not just a few bubbles. That is of course, if you've found good quality yeast somewhere, which, from what I heard, was last seen in the hearts of the deserts of Australia. But I love me some carbohydrates!

So what I made a few weekends past marries all my loves, ie, truckloads of garlic, copious amounts of butter and pillowy soft buns into one roll. That is to say, I made Garlic Rolls. From scratch.

These were rolls of doughy yet cloudy bread, absolutely slathered on the insides with butter and garlic. Dip it into a sauce, or have it with soup, or just stuff your face with just like that. I've gained weight just remembering this thing, but it was worth every single bite. So here's how to make it.

Garlic Rolls
Adapted from Kurry Leaves

You need:
  • All purpose flour: 24 tbsp
  • Active dry yeast: 1 tsp
  • Lukewarm water: 0.5 cup
  • Salt: to taste
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Oil: as needed
  • Salted butter: 3 or 4 tbsp
  • Minced and cooked/fried garlic: 2 tbsp
  • Coriander leaves: chopped, 2 tbsp

The How:
  • Mix the butter, coriander and garlic in a bowl, keep aside.
  • In a bowl, keep the flour and salt mixed and ready.
  • Add the sugar to the lukewarm water, and add the yeast. Stir lightly to combine. The yeast, if of good quality, should froth up in about 8-10 minutes. It need not look like soap bubbles, but after about 8 minutes, it should look something like the picture below. Dip a toothpick gently, when you take it back out, it should have foam. You are thereby done.

  • Add the yeast to the flour, and add the required amount of water to form a slightly sticky dough.
  • Lightly oil the doughball and the bowl. Cover the dough with a clean moist towel and put it in somewhere warm. I heat the oven, switch it off and chuck it in there.
  • It should ideally take about 1.5-2 hours to double in size, looking something like this:

  • Punch it down. It should feel hollow, spongy and well risen when you punch it down. Divide into two pieces.
  • Roll out one into a square/rectangle/amoeba shape. Remember the dust the counter well. Also remember, be careful while rolling it out, since it needs to be of even thickness.
  • Slather half the butter-garlic mixture on the dough, leaving space on all 4 sides.

  • Now roll it up. Take care that the filling isn't leaking through any holes.
  • Slice the roll into 2 inch discs.
  • Grease a baking pan. Place the rolls cut side up in it, leaving enough space between them, like this:

  • Cover with a moist clean towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30-45 minutes, at the end of which it should look like this:

  • Now brush the tops of it with milk, preheat the oven to 180 celsius and bake for about 18-20 minutes, till the tops are light brown/golden.
  • Repeat for the other half. If you want, grate some cheese on top.
  • Now this is my request, please wait for it to cool before you grab one. I know they smell irresistable, but just wait!

And that's it!

It cured my fear of yeast, for a while, and kept me, a garlic lover, stinky forever more!

Until the next time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mango Sandesh

Now I have real live proof that I am a Bengali.

No I knew previously as well. You know, after a lifetime so far of speaking, reading, writing and understanding Bengali, preferring a Mayabono Biharini to Jumme ki Raat, the Gollum-like wait for Durga Pujo, resolutely calling it Pujo and not Puja, the pathar jhol and murgir jhol and not mutton/chicken curry, the exasperated eyeroll at everyone who mimics Bengali accent as every word having "o", the dhakais, the Tagore-worship for good reason, the aloo-sheddho-bhaat, chholar dal, luchi, shaak, mocha, echor and chhenchki, the million ways to cook ilish, rui, pabda, puti, chingri, tangra, parshe, I'm pretty sure that I am as hard-core a Bengali as any other.

But there was one thing. One elusive thing. And that was, making a Bengali sweet. A roshogolla, lengcha, payesh, kanchagolla, and what not. Oh, and the sandesh.

Sandesh is an all-encompassing term for a dry (as in not dripping sugar syrup), but soft or hard sweet made of fine cottage cheese, in different shapes and sizes. It can be stuffed. It can also be flavoured with anything and everything. Pineapple, chocolate, the rounded brown flavour of nolen gur (date palm jaggery), cardamom, kesar, strawberry, orange, etc. And the king of summers, mango.

Which I made.

So without further ado, let me tell you how I attempted to replicate what the moira (halwai) of yore had done. It is not at all difficult, but it takes time, and it is absolutely worth it. 

Aam Sandesh
Recipe from Neha Mathur

You need:
  • 1.5 litres of milk. You can use full cream m,ilk.
  • 2 tbsp Lemon juice. You can sub this with vinegar, but you might need more.
  • 6-8 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp milk powder
  • A pinch of cardamom powder, optional
  • 1-1.5 tea cups of mango puree. I used 2 medium mangoes. You can also use canned pulp.
  • Sliced almonds/ pistachios
  • Silver foil for garnish, totally optional.
  • Oil for greasing

The How:
  • Put the milk in a heavy bottom saucepan. Let it come to a boil.
  • When it boils, add the lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce heat, give it a stir and let simmer for 2-3 minutes more till the whey runs clear.
  • Strain the cheese in a colander or cheese cloth or strainer.
  • Wash it with drinking water once to get rid of the lemony smell.
  • Let it drain for about 45 minutes. By this time, enough water will have drained to make it easy to handle, but it won't have dried out completely.

  • Now take the cheese in a large bowl or plate. Mash with the heel of the hands till it is absolutely smooth no matter how much time it takes. If you're not confident, break up the mass of cheese into smaller chunks and process in the food processor till smooth. By smooth I mean smooth not touch, not liquid. This part is of utmost importance. My cheese was still a little grainy.

  • Add the sugar and mash it in.
  • Turn out the cheese on a non-stick pan or a heavy bottomed saucepan. Don't turn on the heat. Add the mango puree and milk powder (and cardamom powder if using). Mix it well. It should look like this.

  • Turn on the heat to medium-high to high, and cook. Constantly stir, so that the bottom doesn't burn. At this point, if you see some larger particles of the cheese, use your ladle/karchi to mash it. The aim here is to dry it out, but leave some moisture in. The original recipe took about 12 minutes, for me it took close to 20. Go by eye-feel. It should look like this when it is ready to be taken off the heat.

  • Let it cool for about 7-8 minutes in room temperature, till you can touch it and handle it. Do not allow to completely cool, as this will make it difficult to handle.
  • Now take a mould (there are sandesh moulds available), or like I did, the bottom of a fancy looking pudding bowl. Grease it lightly.
  • Take a heaped 1/2 tbsp of the mixture, and press it into the mould. The amount you take depends on how large/deep your mould is.
  • Press gently with your hand so it takes the shape.

  • Take it out gently. If it breaks, no worries, just lump it together and press into the mould again.
  • Or if you don't have a mould, just form it into balls.
  • Press the sliced nuts on top if you want to.
  • Arrange on a plate, and let it cool in the fridge for a while before jumping in.

And that's it. Delicious, soft, all-natural sandesh you can wow your family and friends with, packed with juicy mango flavour. Mind-numbingly amazing when cold!

Till the next time!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eggless Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars

Today's story, is of a dessert that will blow your socks off.

Today's story, is about buttery yet crispy, cold, creamy, summery, tangy yet sweet goodness.

Today's story is about calories, and how sometimes, it's totally okay to forget your diet.

Today's story, is about my Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars.

Between wishing for a summer vacation from work and my commitment to make something, anything every weekend, I chanced upon a recipe I've bookmarked ages ago. Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares, by the awe-inspiring Pioneer Woman, who I believe is my soul sister (she just doesn't know it yet). A killing heatwave in Delhi gave me my chance to make this beautiful dessert. I edited it a bit though.

Imagine a cold, creamy, citrus-hinted condensed milk filling, that oozes, but is also set in place, sandwiched between a layer of almost granola-like cookie base, and a layer of loose buttery cookie crumbs on top. 

And imagine if you could see it layer on layer as you make it. That's right, this time, I did not use my aluminum baking pans, but a Borosil square baking dish. Simple reason why. In this particular recipe, I don't need to cook anything, I simply need to heat it till it sets and melds. An aluminum pan would have heated very fast, and the sides of the layered dessert could possibly burn. A borosilicate dish helps here, because it heats gently, enough to set the layers together, but not enough the burn the edges. Plus, the layers looks gorgeous!

Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars
(Makes about 16 squares)
You Need:
  • 250 gms of Marie biscuits/ digestive biscuits/ Ginger biscuits
  • about 100 gms of salted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar, powdered/ castor
  • Rolled oats (optional)
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • one can of Milkmaid
  • A few drop of vanilla/ butterscotch flavouring (optional)
  • juice of 3 whole lemons
  • Lemon zest, about 1 tsp
  • Oil, for greasing

The How:
  • Put the cookies in a food processor and process till mostly fine, but has a few small chunks left. Alternately, chuck the cookies in a ziploc bag and go at it while a rolling pin till a similar consistency.
  • Mix the oats in, if you're using it. Put 1 pinch of salt in. Put in the sugar.
  • Chuck the softened butter in and rub it in till it resembles wet sand. Set aside.
  • Very lightly grease a mixing bowl. Dunk the entire contents of a Milkmaid can into it. I greased it so the Milkmaid will be easy to pour out.
  • Add the lemon juice, vanilla/ butterscotch flavouring, zest and salt.
  • Mix well till completely combined.
  • At this point you are totally allowed to taste a spoonful (or three).
  • Preheat the oven to 180 celsius.
  • Grease a large square or rectangular Borosil dish, preferably with handles.
  • Now chuck half the biscuit mixture in the pan. Press down with fingers till it's an even crust.

  • Dump the Milkmaid mixture in it. Spread lightly with a spoon so that it's even, and reaches all the edges and corners.

  • Take a look at the side of the dish and whoop in glee!
  • Now take the rest of the cookie mix, and gently sprinkle over the two layers. Be careful and ensure even coverage because you can't press this layer down.

  • Now bake, at 180 celsius for about 10 minutes. This helps in setting it.
  • Once done, take out, and let cool completely.
  • Once completely cooled, cut into squares, but don't take it out just yet.
  • Put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Now take the squares out gently. Some parts of the crust will remain and some of the topping will fall off, but that's the fun of this dessert!

And that's it!

Enjoy the summers!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Malted Dark Chocolate Chunk Eggless Cookies

In life you'll find yourself faced with exams and tests. Of the literal kind, and of the metaphorical kind. Some you'll fail, some you'll pass, and some you'll kick the butt of, and some that will kick your butt.Among that, every person faces one test in his or her life, that forever changes him or her. Everyone faces one test, one rite of passage, so to say, that will prove your worthiness to no one, but you.

In that spirit, the test of a good baker is a chocolate chip cookie.

There are so many of those. Thick, thin, fudgy, cakey, crisp, crunchy, chewy, studded with chocolate bits, some melted, some not so much so. But a baker is truly worth the sugar s/he uses, if s/he can make a dynamite chocolate chip cookie.

Which I did! This was my masterpiece, till date. Thin, crisp yet chewy, studded with dark chocolate chunks with a surprise ingredient, that elevates your cookie to another level, and you can never come back down.  And I used oil instead of butter, which made made them expand into crispness! Presenting, my first original recipe, Malted Dark Chocolate Chunk Eggless Cookies!

Malted Dark Chocolate Chunk Eggless Cookies
(makes a zillion)
You need:

  • 11 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 5 tbsp oats flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Horlicks (original flavour) (SURPRISE!!)
  • 10 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 10 tbsp oil
  • One large bar of dark chocolate, chopped
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • A splash of butterscotch essence if you have on hand (optional)
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt

The How:

  • Sift together the salt, Horlicks, baking soda, oats flour and APF.
  • Mix the sugar, yoghurt, vanilla, butterscotch, and oil till well mixed. You don't need a mixer, a fork will do just as well.
  • Add the dry mix into the wet mix slowly, mixing well to avoid any lumps.
  • Dump in the chocolate. Mix well.
  • The dough will be a bit sticky but labour on.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 celsius.
  • Lightly grease a baking tray ( or as I use, the bottom of a cake pan)
  • Take 1 tsp scoops and place about 2 inches apart. The scoops should not be too big or too close, otherwise it won't have any space to spread and will end up becoming thick. Basically don't do what I did in the picture below.

  • Bake for about 10-12 mins at 180 ceslius until you see the edges becomes brown.
  • Turn out on to a rack to cool. Beware though, they might feel soft in the middle when you take it out, and almost foldable when you put it on the rack. They should crisp up in no time/
  • Try a warm one, pass out in sheer bliss, then put the rest in the oven to cook when you come to.
  • Store in an airtight jar, and enjoy with cold milk!
That's actually it. It's ridiculously easy. And the malt flavour and the caramelly taste of the Horlicks makes it sticky and chewy all at the same time, almost like toffee.

Enjoy, and let me know how it went, and how long the batch lasted!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

No-Bake Mango Yoghurt Pannacotta with Mango Gelee and Butter Cookie Crumb

A very sweaty hello to one and all, and welcome to my 50th post!

That's right. Summer is here, which brings us pain and sunburns.

Lucky for us, summer also gets us watermelons and green almonds, litchis and jackfruits. And what is that fruit? Yellow, juicy, sweet with varieties from almost all corners of India? Oh yes that's right, Mangoes!! This season, R was so kind as to get a whole basket of Alphonsos from Mumbai. Oh they were good. So good. So so good. Find memories of mangoes you know. Back in Pune, when R and I were grad-school students, not so well off, we used to go to Pune city to while away time. In the summer months, we got one single but massive Totapari mango, which the seller kindly sliced into wedges, that, unless you pull it out, remains in shape. That was delicious, juices dripping down our arms as we roamed around Pune. Not as much because of the taste, as much as the memories.

This time, that thing in my brain raised her head. "Make something out of the remaining mangoes", "make something delicious!" she said. And I had to agree. What, you don't think it's a "she"?

And boy am I glad I did. Presenting, the quintessential summer dessert, a simple No-Bake Mango Yoghurt Pannacotta with Mango Gelee and Butter Cookie Crumb. It shows two layers of mango, with the mouthfeel of traditional pannacotta, but with the lightness of yoghurt being used in place of heavy cream. Cool and jiggly, it takes time, not to cook, but to set. Have it cold, straight out of the fridge.It has a surprise layer of Butter cookies at the bottom of the glass, to give a little texture and contrasts of taste. You can easily omit this.

No-Bake Mango Yoghurt Pannacotta with Mango Gelee and Butter Cookie Crumb
Adapted from Baker in Disguise

You need:
For the pannacotta
  • 1 1/3 cups of yoghurt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar (depends on how sweet the mangoes are)
  • 1 chopped smallish mango. 
  • 5 tsp unflavoured gelatin powder, or chinagrass/ agar agar if you're vegetarian. Please do check the conversion for 5 tsp gelatin.
  • 1/2 cup of water.
  • A pack of butter cookies (optional)
The How
  • Bash the powder the cookies, distribute equally in your ramekins or glasses.
  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it rest for a few minutes.
  • Puree the sugar, yoghurt and mango
  • Gently, very gently heat this mixture and bring to a boil. Be careful that it does not split.
  • To this mix, add the gelatin and water and mix. You may need the heat up the gelatin water for about 10-15 sec in the microwave, if it becomes lumpy.
  • Spoon it into the glasses, and chuck into the fridge for minimum 4 hours, overnight if need be.
  • Once this has set, make the mango gelee. That's because just in case the pannacotta hasn't set when you add the gelee, it'll mix, and that'll be a sad, tearful mess.

For the Gelee
  • Another 1 chopped and pureed smallish mango
  • 3 tbsp sugar. Adjust this according to the sweetness of your mangoes.
  • 1 1/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup cold water
The How:
  • Sprinkle the gelatin on the water and let rest.
  • Blend the sugar and mango, to bring to a liquid, not lumpy texture.
  • Gently heat this mixture to a boil and add the gelatin water. Similar to the pannacotta, heat it for 10 sec if need be.
  • Mix well, and layer on top of the completely set pannacotta.
  • Let it set for another 2-3 hours in the fridge.
And that's it!

Till the next time!!


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