The Weekend Kitchen

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


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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 sautéed , 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


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Of mangoes and bottles on wooden stools

imageIt happens. One moment you are doing something and the next, you are transported back in time, aromas of childhood wafting in through the kitchen window. And I am a sucker for such memories, especially when it rains and when mangoes are in season.

There were seventeen mangoe trees. Each of a different variety, planted and brought up lovingly by the matriarch. Sometimes I wonder whether she was as diligent in bringing up her kids. Not for us kids, the sleeping in late. At the first crack of dawn we would run to the verandah in the back, dip our hands into a hanging pot of ‘umikkari,’ that hard blackened remains of , what? I need to check on that. These days, memory is turning out to be an unfaithful friend. The black mess would turn our teeth into pristine white. Another miracle of those days. And we never had to visit a dentist.

A dented aluminium basin, an iron bucket that used to weep profusely, a couple of plastic buckets whose days of fortune was a story of the past, those were our collection boxes. Off we would run to the yard, in search of the yellow and green mangoes that had decided to severe their ties with their mother trees during the night. A competition that taught us it is the journey that matters, not the end or some such thing. For, I remember counting the number of mangoes we collected, but not what or even whether we received any prize. But then, maybe those memories are the real prizes.

My hefty grandmother would have ensconced herself on her throne, an armchair, with her legs extended on a bench in front. A huge container would be on the floor and a ‘muram‘ covering its mouth. The ritual would begin. Out went the skin, never thrown away. Each part was preserved. The dark and tangy ‘mangaatholi‘ pickle is a story for another day. The skinned mangoes would then be ruthlessly scraped against the muram to squeeze their body and soul out. Varied shades of yellow would blend to a uniform mass of an altogether difffernt shade. Fistfuls of rice powder would be added till the desired consistency was reached. And she was the soul keeper of that consistency.

Country mats bought for this specific purpose would be spread out in the sun by then. She would spread the gooey mess in a rectangular pattern, with exactly the same width of margin left at all ends. As the first layer dried, another would be added on top the next day and so on, till the thickness was also to the perfectionist’s satisfaction. Rolled up at sundown, back in the sun the next day, the mangoes that fed from the earth would now soak in all the best that the Sun God had to offer. And of course the sweat and love of those old, calloused hands and the air that had purified itself over the river Pamba. It flowed uninhibitedly then, her waters crystal clear.

As the holidays came to a close, the ‘mangaa thera’ as it was called, would have tanned perfectl and would come rolling off the mat, with those perfect squares imprinted on it, cut into smaller rolls and stored in Chinese urns, to be savoured only when the trees had shed their last mango. I have seen sorry replicas on super market shelves, bought them in longing and spat it out after the first bite. Never dried to perfection, more sweet than tangy, they could not give me back my childhood. Fool that I am , to have even thought machines of iron and steel could replace the love that seeped out from a grandmother’s hands.

Now, why did I start on this trip in the first place? Love came in the form of a carton full of assorted mangoes from my uncle’s farm. Tended purely by nature, not even a drop of the artificial in it, the taste was memories unleashed. There is a limit to the amount of mangoes that a family of four can gulp down in a day. Pulling my lazy bottom off the bed ( that is where I work from normally, the bed that is 😉 ), a mango squash was what I had in mind. As the mangoes were peeled and cut, inspiration struck. Another taste that had me captivated, that of the tomato chilli jam from French Toast. So, in went some chopped ginger,  a hand full of raisins, lemon peel and some spices tied in a muslin cloth. Stewed with sugar for a  hour and some more.

Out came the pickle, jam and Nescafé bottles that were washed, dried and waiting for their day in the sun. And with it, another set of memories of the other grandmother. If the first one was the queen of naadan dishes, this one was the hourie of the exotic. Cakes baked to perfection in a Racold oven almost forty years ago, in a village in remote  Kuttanad, that was my maternal grandmother. Her plantain jam was to kill for. Made in a huge brass uruli over wooden fire, to the perfect rhythm of the iron ladle, the plantains would turn purple with sugar. The secret ingredient ? A handful of red hibiscus petals. Horlicks came in glass bottles those days. Washed and dried in sun,  arranged in a row on the wooden ‘korandis‘, with a steel spoon in each to conduct the heat, they would wait, mouths open to receive the warmth of the freshly made jam, their blue lids lying placidly by the side.

What you have seen with your heart remains in your soul for ever. You find yourself following the same rituals, as if guided by an unseen hand.  Life goes on, in patterns similar, woven in misty memories.

Mango Ginger Preserve:

Very ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped – 3 cups

Ginger , chopped – 2″ piece

Raisins – 1/2 cup

Sugar – 1 1/2 cups ( adjust according to the sweetness of mangoes)

5-6 cloves, an inch long piece of cinnamon, two sprigs of mint, two pods of star anise – tied into a muslin cloth

Water – 1  1/2 cups

Lemon peel – from two medium size lemons (you can add the juice as well) 

Mix mango, ginger, raisins and lemon peel in a thick bottomed vessel. Add water. Dip in the spices tied in muslin and keep it there throughout. Bring to a boil on high flame and the reduce it to medium. Keep stirring on between for about 25-30 minutes, till everything is tender. Mash and mix well. Add sugar and keep stirring, till it turns a deep golden colour and starts coming off the edges. The consistency would be that of  carrot halwa. Neither too thick nor thin. 

Keep clean dry bottles ready on a wooden surface. Keep a steel spoon  in each bottle ( must be to conduct heat. I follow it blindly). Transfer the jam / preserve into these straight from the pan. Leave it open till cooled completely. Close it tightly. Keep it refrigerated, preferably.

*

muram – large sieve made of natural fibre

mangaatholi – peeled mango skin

mangaa thera – dried mango candy

korandi – low wooden stool, usually used in kitchens


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Necessity, the mother of Carrot Apple Cake :)

A post, first time in four months. Better than waiting for one whole year, eh? Says a lot about the lazy cook 🙂

The laziness stops at writing, let me assure you. Cooking and eating has been continuing, unabated. Baking too.

I’ve never been a fan of dressed up cakes. Yes I do admire them, from afar. Maybe it is the envy factor. Neither talent, nor patience my vices, you see. And off late the guilt bug has started biting as well. Too much butter, ugh! Maida, oh no! Sugar, the killer! So goes the soliloquies inside my head. And then, the eternal search for the easy way out. There are a few such easy recipes that I know by heart now, this carrot cake is one such. People who’ve never had carrot cakes before have approached this in apprehension and instantly fallen in love. Perfect texture, moist to the core, the cakes melts in your mouth as you enjoy the crunch of the occasional walnut piece.

Baking has become therapeutic and the carrot cake is almost a ritual. Having started the habit of gifting home made goodies, when Uma suggested we meet up, this was the first dish that I wanted to make. Opened the fridge to find three carrots inside and the recipe asked for three cups of grated carrots. The optimistic in me never gives up, but there is a limit to which the puny carrots could extend themselves. They stopped at two cups. The next raided three apples and inspiration hit. Why not add one cup apples instead of carrots? And whole wheat instead of white? And less sugar? The hands acted in accordance with the mind and thus was born the ‘Carrot Apple Cake’. Best relished the next day

carrot

 

Ingredients

flour – 1 cup

whole wheat flour -3/4cup

baking soda – 2 tsp

baking powder – 2 tsp

cinnamon – 3 tsp

nutmeg – 1/2 tsp

brown sugar – 1 cup

eggs – 4

oil – 1 and 1/4 cups ( used sunflower oil for the cake in picture)

Vanilla – 2 tsp

grated carrot – 2 cups

grated apple – 1 cup

nuts – 1/2 cup 

raisins – 1/2 cup

Method

mix all the dry ingredients except sugar

beat together oil and sugar

add eggs one by one, beat for half a minute after each addition

add vanilla

gently fold in the dry ingredients in 2-3 batches

beat at low speed for about a minute

gently fold in the grated carrots and apples

add nuts nd raisins

bake at 175 C for 45 – 50 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Ode to Fallen Cakes

The fruit cakes were turning out perfect, lemon and vodka soft and fluffy, orange and rum inviting…..in short, life was good. Well, I will not talk about work here. So, there I stood staring out of my kitchen window, a dreamy smile on my face, anticipating another batch of picture perfect beauties. And then, the inevitable thud that follows a dream run

imageNone of the rescue tricks that I knew of worked. “You have hits, then you have flops, all part of life,” I tried to console the baker in me. And I threatened the chocolate and red wine that was finding its way into the oven, “don’t you dare fall on me.” 45 minutes later, it came out, with its skin as soft as a baby’s bottom and as taut as Madonna’s midriff. The preening smile was back on my face.

Cakes are like children. They pretend to be meek, obeying you to the letter. The moment you turn your back on them, they go about their own sweet way, doing exactly what they wanted to in the first place. The day was not mine, obviously. On second thoughts, I should have known better. What else could one expect, feeding people with wine and vodka? This one had gone totally tipsy. Wrinkled and crinky in the middle like the skin of a diabetic old woman, this one too decided to sink on me. Three cakes. Sunken and gooey in the cenyer and perfectly turned out around the edges.

You cannot just shrug away the lessons you were made to learn as a child. With a grandmother who ensured that even the smallest grain of rice did not escape her clutches and a mother who turned each part of a plant into something edible, throwing it all out was not an option, even in my nightmares. Sorrow shared is sorrow halved, someone wise said, sometime ago. Vaayaadi pennu asked, “Why don’t you try a combination taste? Scoop out the center and fill it with something else.” She must have felt stifled by the huge hug I sent her, virtually 😀

With the concentrated look of a cosmetic surgeon making a perfect cut across a celebrity forehead , rectangular indents were made along the mid sections of both lemon cakes. The lemony vodkaey centers were scooped out. The chocolate cake went through liposuction next. Its tummy now looked like Baba Ramdev’s in some humanly impossible yoga position. Could never remember the names of all those contorted positions. Anyway. A few chunks of chocolate and a couple of spoons of butter were melted in unison. The chcolatey mess and some crumbled pieces of the perfect edges were added to the mix. My eyes were still searching for that final ingredient. Ah! The December bar in the kitchen! In went more than a few ml of Dark Rum. After all, what is Christmas without a little darkness, wouldn’t you agree?

Voila!

Ladies and (not so) gentle men, presenting the Lemon, Vodka, Chocolate, Red Wine and Dark Rum Cake…..

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A few weeks ago, some cup cake batter had fallen flat on my face. Yes, I know. My kitchen is a slippery place. I am felled, time and again. To get back to the story, some oats that get cooked quickly, wheat bran and chocolate chips had transformed the cup cakes into cookies. Ever since, son had been asking for ‘those’ cookies time and again.

The vodkaey mess had to be rescued now. In went some oats, bran and choco chips again. The mix felt dry, so a few drops of refined oil was invited to ruffle the feathers smooth. Shaped into a few perfect and mostly imperfect mounds and 8-10 minutes of tempering in the oven at 180C out came my invention of the day…

Lemon Vodka Oats Wheat Bran Choco Chip Cookies 😀 😀

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I am sure now. There is no such things as research for new dishes and all that nonsense. The best ones come out of your mistakes.

Happy falling, everyone!

Leftovers are good :)

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I’ve always been a lazy mother, letting my kids be, finding their own way and telling myself that I’m teaching them to be independent. Never in my dreams could I have thought I was a horrible one as well. Well, what else do you call a mother who has neglected her child for almost two years?

Let me tell you my child, you’ve never been far from my mind. In fact, you should see the stuff that I’ve been making for you all this time. Cakes and breads and what not! And did I tell you, people are willing to pay money to get this stuff? So, let me shower some attention on you, my dear blog.

Life has changed over the past two years. But this mother hasn’t much. I still find it difficult to stick to norms and exact measurements. There is an itch if something extra is not added even to a cake mixture. And that habit of making even the last grain count still persists. Left overs continue to excite me. Especially when it is meat. The possibilities are endless, you know. Add some mashed potato here, a few spoons of steak sauce there, you have a different dish each day. No surprise then, this dish followed the time tested path of The Weekend Kitchen. You never know what would go in and what would come out.

Meat loaf is a staple in the kitchen now. The sneaky one in me stuffs it with all the vegetables that can be found in the fridge. A revenge on the kids who are more precise than the most advanced microscope and pick out the tiniest pieces of vegetables from anything that is served to them. Even they cannot find the veggies that get baked inside the beef and camouflaged by the steak, barbecue or any other sauce that my hand touches in the kitchen cupboard.

As usual, the loaf was made. Then happened this longing for some home made stuffed buns. It was ages since I’d baked bread. That was saying I’ve been pretty stable for ages. It’s normally when I feel like punching someone repeatedly that my home smells of freshly baked bread. So some potatoes and a carrot was boiled, peeled, mashed and added to the now crumbled loaf. The buns were made, the meat was still not over. And off it went in the freezer.

My laziness reaches its peak when my woman Friday goes home. Making one curry itself is such a chore, so imagine preparing rice, two to three curries and then something to pour into the rice. My creativity suddenly blooms, a bulb lights itself in the brain. That frozen meat loaf!

So some biryani rice is soaked, drained and cooked. The baking dish is out and buttered. Two onions get chopped and almost burnt in a tsp of butter. And this is the only added fat in the whole process. The cooked rice is spread in the dish and the blackened onion over it.

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Kids keep asking, “Amma, can’t you make something that doesn’t have vegetables?” And the horrible mother that I am have to say, “No”, with a twinkle in my eyes. So grated carrots are added.

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Then some yellow and green pieces of capsicum and spring onions..

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It’s the turn of the crumbled mince meat now

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A few few drops of steak sauce and some grated mozzarella cheese, it’s ready for the oven.

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15 – 20 minutes at 200C and lunch is ready

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Now what what if something is left over from this? I’ll cross the bridge when it comes to me.

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Fresh Strawberry Cake

Last year was when we first saw strawberries in plenty, or maybe it is then that I started noticing it in abundance. The fact that daughter took a strong liking to it maybe the actual reason. Anyhow, since the day I started baking in earnest, she has been asking for a Strawberry Cake. And I’ve been telling her, let the season start.

She was an exceptionally good girl today morning, dusting the bookshelves by herself, that too so perfectly. So when I started for my weekly grocery shopping, I promised her a surprise. Imagine my pleasure when I saw boxes of strawberries stacked on the fruit shelves. Being the start of the season, they were slightly expensive, but then, what else is money for if not for such indulgences? And the pure joy on her face when she saw it….priceless!

Here is the recipe that I hunted down from food.com

Ingredients:

For the cake:
2 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
3/4 cup fresh strawberry, crushed

For the glaze:
1/2 – 3/4 cup crushed strawberry
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Sift flour, slat and baking powder
Beat butter and sugar till soft and fluffy
Add eggs one at a time, beat well along with vanilla
Add flour mixture in batches alternating with crushed strawberry. Beat well
Bake in a pre heated oven at 180C for 25 – 30 minutes

For glaze, mix all ingredients together and whip for 2 minutes.
Top the cake with the glaze.

I would bake it everyday, if only for that beatific look on daughter’s face after the first bite 🙂


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Chocolate Cup Cake

My niece celebrated her first birthday two weeks back and my cousin had ordered a chocolate cake for the day. It was so moist and tasty and my daughter who does not have the word diplomacy in her calendar came straight and told me, “amma this cake is better than the ones you make”. What an insult, right?

That was challenge enough for me. Being a faithful follower of food blogs, there are a few that I rely on for almost everything. Needless to say, my quest for the ultimate, super moist chocolate cake ended here

I made a few minor tweaks to the original recipe, the result was ‘awesome’ to say the least.

Ingredients
Milk – 1 1/2 cups
Butter – 100 gms
Oil – 1/4 cup
Coco Powder – 1/2 cup
Flour – 1 cup
Baking Powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Baking soda – 1/2 tsp
Instant Coffee Powder – 1 tbsp (not part of original recipe, i am a coffee freak…so :))
Egg – 1 beaten, room temp
Sugar – 1 cup + 2 tbsp (250 gms)

Instructions:

1. Boil together milk, oil, butter and cocoa powder till butter melts. Let it cool to room temperature
2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
3. Beat egg and sugar together till light and fluffy
4. Add cocoa mixture and beat well
5. Add dry ingredients and beat on lowest speed and blend well
6. Add 2-3 tbsp to cup cake liners
7. Bake in a preheated oven @ 180 C for 15 – 20 minutes
8. If you are making a cake and not cup cakes, bake for 25 – 30 minutes

Cool well before you devour it, actually tasted best the next day, it just melts in your mouth 🙂