The Weekend Kitchen

Some hits, some misses…..in my kitchen, over the weekends


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Going the Grainy Way

There was a time when cakes, cookies and bread was plain old white flour. The notion of health food wasn’t heard of, and the evils of white flour would have been laughed off. Maybe it didn’t do our generation much harm while we were growing up, these were luxuries, not everyday or even a weekly item. Cakes came with Christmas, and cookies were a once in a blue moon phenomenon. As for bread, we had 2-3 slices for breakfast once in two weeks. All that changed with the mushrooming, blossoming and then spreading like wild fire culture of eating out. We had no clue what went into the dishes that we relished with a passion. With the Internet came information and the era of ubiquitous home baking.

Like most others, I started with white flour cakes. When baking became an almost daily affair, the quantity of processed flour, butter and white sugar loomed as a monster in front of my eyes. I had to slay the dragon. If I can point to one person who prodded me in this direction, it has to be Sangeeta of www.healthfooddesivideshi.com. The kind of storm that she cooks up with local, healthy produce has to be seen to be believed. The courage to experiment with multiple grains came from her.

Baking bread is therapeutic. The yeast ferments, just as all the stress and frustrations that had been bottled up for long slowly percolates to the top. The slow kneading eases out the tension in your shoulders and soul. And inhaling the aroma of freshly baked bread can be as peaceful as an hour of meditation. This bread that I tried last week, however doesn’t need any kneading. Just mix, mash and bake. At the risk of sounding like blowing my own trumpet, let me say the texture and the taste was amazing. As certified by the husband, who is not too much into cakes and breads. That in itself is something, I suppose 🙂 image   Ingredients

Whole wheat flour – 1 cup

Barley Flour – 1/2 cup

Maize Flour – 1/2 cup

Almond Flour – 1/4 cup

Cocoa Powder – 1/4 cup

Brown sugar – 1/2 cup (optional, I didn’t use it)

Baking powder – 1 tsp

Baking soda – 1 tsp

Cinnamon powder – 1 tsp

Nutmeg powder – 1 tsp

Eggs – 2

Oil – 1/2 cup (used sun flower oil)

Honey – 1//3 cup

Ripe bananas – 3 (ripened to the extent that next step would be rotten)

Vanilla essence – 1/2 tsp

Crushed walnuts – 1/2 cup

Directions

Sift all the dry ingredients together, thrice.  Mash the bananas with a fork. Add eggs, oil , honey and vanilla. Beat at low speed for 1-2 minutes. Add the flour mixture in three batches. Mix gently. Beat at low speed for just a minute so that all the ingredients are blended well. Add walnuts and mix with a spatula. Preheat the oven for 10 minutes at 160 C. Transfer the batter into a well oiled loaf pan. Sprinkle some quick cooking oats and walnuts on top. Bake for 45-55 minutes.

Test whether done at about 45 minutes by inserting a toothpick. If it comes out clean, take the pan out, cool for 10 minutes, and transfer to a cooling rack.  Tastes best the next day.


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Extremely Easy and Incredibly Tasty

It’s amazing how simple certain tasty dishes can be. Somehow, we associate great taste with hours of work. It was the mushroom dish that we had at Chianti last week that inspired this. Olive oil, red chillies and garlic. That’s it. All the flavour you need. Find it hard to believe? Go on, try this out. Anyone can do it. Honestly. image Olive oil – 2-3 tsp

5-6 red chillies and 7-8 cloves of garlic – crushed together

200 g mushrooms, cleaned and drained

200-250 g prawns – deveined, cleaned and cooked for 10-15 minutes with just salt added to it

a small head of broccoli , broken into florets – boil some water, dump the florets into it, continue to boil for 5 minutes and drain a handful of walnuts

1. Heat a kadai.

2. Add the crushed chillies and garlic, sauté till the garlic turns slightly brown.

3. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Close the lid and cook for about 7-8 minutes. Open the lid, let the water dry up completely and continue to stir in between till the mushrooms appear shrunk, oily and browned.

4. Add the cooked prawns.. Stir till well coated with the masala and the prawns have turned brown. 5. Add broccoli and walnuts. Toss for 1-2 minutes.

That’s it. And it tastes perfect. Ideal for a mid work snack.

(Note : You can cook the prawns and boil and drain the broccoli florets in advance. Refrigerate till you use it. )


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There is something about walnuts

image There is something about walnuts, especially when it decides to give company to carrots. Fresh and crispy roots coupled with slightly bitter crunchiness. So much power, packed with goodness. Carrot walnut cakes has been a favorite with family and friends. People who would run for their lives when faced with a fresh carrot has been known to run back at double the speed when it turned to these dense cakes. The recipe that I follow has some sugar in it and I don’t have sugar. But I love cakes. And walnuts.

By the way, did you know walnut trees were first brought to California in the 1700s? From Central Asia. And how they have taken root! Today, that small area produces almost 3/4th of world’s walnuts. The shell and the kernel inside looks like a miniature human head and the wrinkly brain inside. No surprise then, that it is considered brain food. Considered the king of nuts, it is supposed to boost the health of your heart, fight cancer, decrease the risk of diabetes and even aid weight reduction. Eating a quarter cup of walnuts every day is supposed to even reduce fasting sugar levels. Talking about walnuts and California, wonder is that why you find all the brainy types there.

Anyway, getting back to cakes and me, browsing through food sites and pictures is an addiction. Some recipes are bookmarked. More favourite ones (read easy ones 😉 ) are written down. Yes, I do that. There is something prosaic about butter stained cook books. Virtual love is just that. Virtual. You need to feel a person, the bare skin, that special smell, the sheen of sweat on the hands, caress their face, hug, kiss and hold to know what real love is. Just like hand written cook books. image The most difficult part in baking this? 1/3 rd tsp baking soda. Can you believe it? 1/3rd of a tea spoon. How in the world are you supposed to measure that out? There was a half tea spoon. And the brain started working. What they say about walnuts is true, you see. A little less than 0.5 and little more than 0.33 and crossed my fingers. No oranges in stock. So no zest. No big deal. The recipe asked to check the loaf at 45 minutes. The tooth pick that went in came out dry by look and sticky by touch. Another 15 minutes. Toothpick didn’t change its diagnosis. But the top looked brown enough. And the roasted walnuts tasted just perfect.

Patience has never been one of my virtues. After an hour of cooling time, tasted a small slice. It was okay. Just about. And I told myself, “you win some, and then you lose some more.”

Early morning hunger made me attempt another slice. What they say about carrot cakes is true. They taste better the next day. Much better. Far better. Always.


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Some lunches are meant to be

There I was, walking up and down 5th block Koramangala, trying to figure out where to eat. Yeah, yeah, I can see those eyebrows shooting up. Searching, you ask? The road is an eatery by itself. Anything, right from vada pav, to dosas of all kind, cuisines from all possible corners of the world, you name it, that stretch has it. Ok, may be not Iceland. But you get the drift, right?

The young friend who I was meeting for lunch called and said, “look out for Om Made Coffee. It’s a lovely place, organic stuff.” I am very conscious about what I eat. Once in a very rare blue moon. Anyway, as is my wont, I went in search of this exotic place. In the opposite direction. The husband wouldn’t even have blinked before giving that knowing shake of his head that is perfectly synchronised with a shrug that doesn’t move his shoulders. How he does that is a mystery, even after all these years. Let me not lose my way here too.

With my head high up in the air, looking at all those sign boards, I trudged along. On the right was Habaenro, had heard the name quite a few times. Must admit the temptation was strong, but something held me back. Round the corner, it was a mela. All possible kinds of eateries, from Biriyani joints, coffee shops, the quintessential thattu kadas, Hatte Kaapi, Chai Point, you name it, that small patch of road has it. No wonder, the central building in that area is one of the city’s well known girl’s colleges. Long before reaching the end of the road, I knew I’d taken the wrong turn. Time is what I had in plenty that day. A rarity these days. An about turn, a rerun of all those restaurants.

Crossing a park on the right side, it was as if I’d reached an entirely different part of the city. Stately homes on either side, well guarded by Gurkhas, and old trees towering over them. The place smelled class, of the high end kind. ‘Kobe’ on the right side was done many times over. ‘Mainland China’ on the left beckoned. I am a sucker for Chinese food, the non greasy variety. And then I saw the ‘Om’ sign above it. Huffed and puffed my way up to realize it would be open only by 4. A stately building on the right caught my glance. Tall glass doors framed in wood, red bricks, a welcoming balcony with wide windows on top. And a huge tree with its wide green branches sheltering it from above. One look and a feeling of serenity descended on me. Before deciding  to saunter in there, I tried peeking into two more joints. First was ‘Cafe 132,’ I even took a seat there. The menu sounded run of the mill and the seating was too impersonal. ‘Bon South’ apparently needed a reservation for entry. Yes, some things are meant to be.

The facade was tall, with glass doors framed in old wood. You can see the wine bottles racked on one side as you enter. Maybe this is how a Parisian restaurant would look like. Oh wait, this place is Italian, named after a famous red wine from that alluring country. “Table for two?” I asked. Thankfully, there were none, on the ground floor. One of the guys escorted me upstairs. One look and I knew where I wanted to sit. A cozy balcony, wooden benches at tables for four and chairs to seat twosomes. Wide open windows, with the lush green leaves outside blowing the cool breeze in. The bottle of olive oil looked inviting.

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Mushroms are an acquired taste. Soaked in masalas , it makes me throw up. Give to it me sautĂ©ed , with just a hint of oil and some mild spices, it can be pure bliss. My friend hadn’t arrived yet. But I went ahead ordered this mushroom dish. A couple of minutes later a wooden tray arrived.

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The guy placed it in front of me with a smile on his lips. He was pulling on a pair of fresh gloves on to his hands.

“May I? he asked.

I was intrigued.

Trying to act like a connoisseur, I answered, “Please.”

He took the bruschetta and placed it gently into his hands, as if it was a new born baby.

“Garlic?”

I can eat garlic raw, “Of course.”

He slowly rubbed the garlic in, then took a basil leaf, rubbed that in as well. A few drops of olive oil, some salt and pepper and finished it with a rub of baby tomatoes.

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As in wit, subtle wins the game in taste. The only wish was the bread was a little softer. But then, it wouldn’t be a bruschetta, I guess.

The plate of mushrooms arrived with my friend. It was done to perfection. Crushed red chillies, garlic and olive oil. This one is definitely going to come out of The Weekend Kitchen soon. We enjoyed it so much, that we forgot to click pictures. Good food anyway is meant to be savoured, not framed.

For main course, we ordered a chicken in lime and garlic. Yes, garlic. I just love it. And some sauce that I have now forgotten. The chicken looked like sliced banana, but tasted exactly like it was meant to be. You could make out the individual flavours, but none of it too obvious. A perfect blend.

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I have no clue about what went into the dish of pork ribs. Who is bothered anyway, when it is pork.image

The place is as conducive to solitude as it is to conversations. You can sit on one of those wooden benches and get lost in a book. If you are one who loves to work while having good food, that corner seat is for you. The balcony is the place. To stretch your legs and relax, stare at the dancing leaves and ponder about life, catch up with your friends and chattter away, or just eat good food.

The only regret was, it is too far from where we live. But, it is one place I will definitely go back to.

Chianti

12, 5th A Block, 1st A Cross Rd, 4 Block, Koramangala, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560095