Bake around the world in A to Z

April is here and I am not sure where did February and March go. But April is the time of the year for our Blogging Group to take that leap of faith and blog every single day of the month except Sundays.

We call this the mega marathon and I had such an awesome time in September when I blogged about 26 different soups. Now I am all excited about blogging the entire month of April too. The rules are simple –

  • We blog about a dish everyday in alphabetical order
  • We only blog about Baked dishes
  • Not more than 2 dishes can be from the same country 

Simple na? Not at all but that is what makes it fun. Then I sat and thought how I can make it more complicated for myself? So I figured I will blog about Breads for the entire month – 26 breads from different parts of the world. Though it is driving me crazy, I am also super charged up and very excited about it all. 

Hopefully I will come out at the end of the month, bruised and battered but successful. Wish me luck and come along with us for an awesome foodventure !!

It’s 2017 already?

This, as you can see, is the last post of this year which breezed past me like…well, a breeze. It was quite an eventful year. The daughter started school and was a lot more adjusted than I thought she would be. She switched schools mid year but yet managed to be reasonably comfortable in her new surroundings.

We moved back to India for which I have mixed feelings. There are some stuff I loved about Malaysia and others that I disliked. But I would have liked to stay a wee bit longer to visit more countries around it and enjoy the beach. On the plus side, it is awesome to be back to faster broadband and larger data limits.

I am looking forward to quite a few things in 2017. The husband and I successfully complete ten years of being married to each other. Both of us were sure we wouldn’t last this long and thought one would drive the other crazy. Well, we are both crazy and yet together. So yay to that. My mom turns 60 this year and I am sincerely hoping at least now people stop asking me if she is my sister. That’s an old joke. Stop it already even if she does look like my sister. 

On the resolution front, I have only one major resolution which I think is kind of all encompassing – ‘Don’t bite more than you can chew’.

2016 has been quite sad on keeping up the commitments front. I remember a year of running around like a headless chicken with no memory of what I was running around for. Mostly the reason was my initial enthusiasm to do stuff but as I would later discover, I was not fully prepared for. So hopefully I would get back to meeting targets and under promising and over delivering.

Also, the resolution applies to me literally because as every year, this year too I have to lose weight. So I will have to bite into lesser fries, sweets and chew more veggies and fruits. Easy, huh?

On the blog front, I am not entirely happy with this year’s performance. The biggest highlight of this year was my first run on the mega marathon where I made 26 different soups in September and had an absolute ball.

 I did blog regularly but because of last minute preps, I couldn’t really get myself going creatively. I was using recipes almost exactly the way it was written which is usually not the way I cook. I try and change something, experiment a little and though I won’t always succeed, I do learn a lot and have quite a bit of fun. So hopefully I will get those creative cells going in 2017.

My personal opinion is that my photography has improved, not drastically but much better than before. I took a one day photography course and benefitted quite a bit from it. I bought a DSLR before leaving from Malaysia and finally learnt how to use it like a DSLR and not a point and shoot. Though I didn’t manage to get any of my photos up on FoodGawker or Tastespottin, I would like to believe I am getting there soon.

What I really want to change in 2017 is to get out of the rut when it comes to daily cooking, I end up repeating certain veggies and certain recipes over and over. So the plan is to make new recipes with the same veggies and use 2 or more veggies in combination to increase options. Another thing I really want to do this year is bake my own bread. I had planned to do that last year too but that didn’t happen. Hopefully I do it this time round.

Another major plan for this year is to consciously use the social media more to communicate about the blog to everyone else. That has been on the anvil for long now and needs to be executed well.

I am all excited about next year and hope you are too. It is going to be fun and exhilarating with lots of food, drink and merriment.

 Happy New Year! 
  

Adieu 2015 and Welcome 2016

This is my first year end post and I am pretty excited that I actually blogged regularly this year. The main reason is the blogging marathon which is a manna from heaven as far as I am concerned.
2015 has been a transformative year for me. It’s a year of many firsts –

  • For the first time in my life, I moved out of India and that affected me a lot more than I thought it would. 
  • This is the first year I am a full time stay at home person not generating any income of my own and that feels weird beyond imagination.
  • This is the first year that I have enjoyed my time in the kitchen and haven’t tried to run away at the first given (or grabbed) opportunity and I have this blog to thank for that.
  • This is the first year I did not have a helping hand for household chores and I realized what a huge task that was. Coupled with the responsibility of taking care of an active two year old, I did reach the outer limits of sanity. Again, this blog and the blogging marathon gave me the space to regain my sanity. 

But if I will remember 2015 for anything, it would be for all the travel we managed to squeeze in. We travelled to Langkawi, Bangkok, Krabi, Singapore, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Ipoh plus brief trips to Mumbai and Chennai. That compensates for the past six years of no vacation. 

My cooking and baking journey has been very enriching this year. I am hugely impressed by the book ‘Cooked’ by Michael Pollan that I read this year. I have been meaning to write about it and should do it soon. One of the key takeaways for me was the idea of cooking from scratch. So my endeavor has been to buy the basic items and make as many things as possible. I have started making the ‘podis’ I use -sambhar podi, rasam podi, etc. So now we get fresh and better podis and my sambhars have significantly improved. Next on the agenda is to try making garam masala and tea masala.

I started exploring different cuisines and new dishes and most importantly I learned a lot about leftover management. Trust me, that’s an art in itself. Another skill I picked up was reducing the number of vessels in the sink. It was a necessity since I was the one cleaning all the dirty dishes at the end of the day. I have baked a lot more this year and mostly managed to keep my resolution of using the oven at least once a week. 

The real change, I guess, is that I think a lot more about food now. I was the person who could survive on curd rice and bread for days on end. I never looked keenly at my plate throughout my childhood and teenage. I was firmly in the category of ‘eat to live’. Now, I am conscious of what I cook and what I put on my plate – is it healthy, is it nutritious, is it tasty, etc. I made it a point to eat some local dishes during our travel and I managed to google and find recipes for dishes I liked. I made an effort to find out about the local specialities and tried figuring out vegetarian variations. Most weren’t successful but I am glad I have begun making the effort.

Another amazing thing that I could do was grow some vegetables in the garden. It was an extremely frustrating and exciting time. I had more misses than hits this year but I still managed to grow lady’s fingers and French beans and some mint leaves. That’s good for a start, I guess.

The best part of my food journey this year is definitely the Blogging Marathon. It helped me blog regularly which I did not do in the past. It connected me to some wonderful people who are generous with their ideas and advice. I have read about the little nuggets of their lives, been amazed at their dedication to blog despite personal issues at various points in time and been inspired and motivated to make this space a little better with every blog post. 

And now to the flip side of the Blogging Marathon. Of course, there is a flip side and this one spells – Husband who is pretty irritated when he sees me with my phone in hand reading seriously and commenting. But the complaints have reduced significantly with every new dish and he sees the benefits accruing to him thanks to Blogging Marathon.

I have a huge to-do list for 2016. On the top of my head are –

  • To explore more cuisines – Mediterranean and Italian to start with
  • To experiment more with locally available ingredients
  • To make my dishes healthier ( and hopefully lose some weight)
  • To stop buying bread and bake it every week. (The sad condition of store bought bread here should help)
  • To get at least one photo accepted by FoodGawker and the like by the end of this year. 
  • To reach out and get more people to read this blog 
  • To plan my dishes and blog posts better instead of the last minute rush.
  • To read more about food and cooking and baking. 
  • To make more dishes from scratch 

That should keep me busy the coming year.

Happy New Year to you! Have a sumptuous and enriching 2016.

  
This is going to the Best of the Year by Srivalli

So how was your 2015?

Capsicum Rings

To continue my story about the Radio City contest – I was selected for the final round the requirement of which was that it had to be a rice dish and to be completed in 45 minutes.

I decided on capsicum rings with rice and vegetables stuffed in it since I did not want to go the mixed rice routine . Its easy and looks nice too! I called it ‘Ring-a Ring-a Rice. So though I did not win the prize, Iw as told my recipe would feature in their Radio City Cookbook which they will be publishing soon. So Yay to me!!!

INGREDIENTS

Rice                   1/4 cup

Capsicum, large  1

Onion                   1

Tomatoes             1

Garam Masala     1/4 tsp

Ajwain                  1/4 tsp

Green chilly         1

Oil                        2 tbsp

Salt                      to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Cook the rice with little extra water than you usually add so that it becomes a little soggy.

2. Fry the onions and tomatoes in 1 1/2tsp oil along with the green chilly, ajwain and garam masala

3. Cut the capsicum into roundels / rings and apply little salt to the inner side of the capsicum and keep aside

4. Once the rice and masala mixture has cooled, mix both of them nicely so that the rice has completely taken the flavour of the masala

5. Heat a tava and add oil

6. Place the capsicum rings on the tava

7. Fill the rings with the rice mixture

8. Cook on both sides till golden brown

9. Serve warm

Capsicum Rings

NOTES

1. The filling can be a mix of different vegetables. If you are excluding rice then you need to add potatoes so that the rest of the vegetables can be bound together

2. If you are not adding rice, then paneer can also be added.

3. If you want to add cheese, then grate it on the capsicum after the cooking is complete and the gas is switched off. Leave it covered for a couple of minutes.

Happy Cooking

Oats and vegetable tikka

Did you know Radio City is organizing a cookery contest across the country in various apartment complexes. It held one in my apartment last Sunday. The process was that they would select three best dishes and those cooks needed to participate in the second round where they had to cook within 45 minutes and ingredients available and that one had to be a rice dish.

I had decided on my favorite banana bread. But as luck and the Bangalore Electricity Department would have it, the power went out as soon as I put the bread in the oven to bake. So I pulled it out and finished it off in the pressure cooker. But the end result, though tasty, did not seem fit for a contest. So, I decided on this simple and very nutritious recipe that I had come up with few days ago. And I did make it to the Top 3. Yay!

INGREDIENTS

Vegetables               1 Cup

(any combination of peas, cabbabge, cauliflower, carrot, baby corn, corn, broccoli)

Oats                          1/2 Cup

Oil                              2 tbsp

Garlic                         2 pods

Ajwain                       1/2 tsp

Garam Masala           1 tsp

Green Chilly               1

Red chilly powder      1/2 tsp

Coriander leaves        8-10

Salt                              to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. Cut all the vegetables, boil them till soft and set aside to cool

2. Fry chopped onions, garlic and green chilly in 2 tsp oil

3. Add the onions to the vegetables and grind them into a coarse paste adding minimal water.

3. Take oats in a bowl and add ajwain, garam masala, red chilly powder, coriander leaves and salt

4. Add the vegetables and mix well to form a dough

5. Make lemon sized balls and flatten it

6. Heat a tava and add oil

7. Fry the tikkas on the tava till golden brown on both sides.

Oats Veg roll cook

8. Serve with ketchup or coriander chutney

Oats Veg Roll

NOTES

1. You can add potatoes also to the vegetables. I like to keep them as healthy as possible and so do not add them

2. If you have added too much water while grinding the vegetables and the mix does not reach a dough like consistency despite the oats then add 1 or 2 spoons of chickpea flour / besan. Again, this is not very healthy and so try to limit the water while grinding

3. If you are adding besan, then add it in small quantities till you reach the required consistency. Too much besan suppresses the taste of the vegetables and masala

What I learnt this week – some insights and nuggets

So, it’s been a long while since I wrote on this. I have wanted to write quite a few little things but it slipped my mind. Here is a small list of what I remember. Will keep updating this-

1. When you begin to bake, it is best to start with recipes with a minimal number of ingredients. In simple words, the less you have, lesser are the chances of blowing it all up. Fewer ingredients to mess up equals a better cake or bread.

2. When you get so dare as to change the ingredients on a recipe, then remember to make only one change at a time so that you know exactly where the fault could lie. Eg only change the flour or only the butter, etc.

3. When you are replacing an ingredient with another, replace a small portion of it to see what happens. Then replace some more, till you know for sure. Eg replace one fourth of the all purpose flour with whole wheat, then half, etc.

4. I have learnt that usually whole wheat flour can be replaced in most recipes in place of all purpose flour. But the taste is not as good. It does taste lovely but not in the same league of all purpose flour.

5. If, for any reason, you are not able to bake immediately after preparing the final batter, then leave it in the fridge for it to cool. Remove and bring it to room temperature before baking.

6. The key to a good bread loaf is kneading it. 15 minutes is ideal time for kneading the doug. It makes the bread soft and airy.

7. When the bread dough is left in a vessel to double in size, always cover it with a damp cloth. It quickens the increase in volume of the bread and the whole process is completed by half hour to 45 minutes as against the usual 1-1 1/2 hours.

Eggless Orange Crumble

So over the weekend I had this grand idea of a doing a ‘fruit based baking’ week on this blog. So as a beginning to that I baked my banana bread again which was just as delicious and heart warming as ever.
Today I thought could be an orange baking recipe. The husband likes to say that, if you leave it to me, all days are orange baking days. I love oranges and that must be evident even in this small list of recipes that I got on this blog. But I could not find a good orange based baking recipe, something that made me want to run to the kitchen and switch on the oven. As I kept looking, I landed on this lemon crumble muffin recipe. It called out to me but I wanted oranges. So, as almost usual, I switched the oranges for lemons.
Then, I wanted to make it eggless because ‘just like that’ I felt like it. After that, I felt a bit guilty about eating all that plain flour and so I figured I could replace that with whole wheat flour. Then, I saw that the recipe asked for melted butter but I did not have an appropriate vessel handy. Since I HAD to make it before my daughter woke up, I substituted oil for butter. At the end of it all, this seems almost like a new recipe. So yay to me! And double yay because it turned out yumm! So yumm that the husband sneaked into the kitchen around midnight and stole a bite.
So here goes –

Ingredients
For the muffin
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup curds or yogurt
1/4 cup oil
1 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp grated orange zest

For the crumble
1 tbsp all purpose flour (maida)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cold butter

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 175C
2. Grease the muffin tray or line it with liners
3. Mix the whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda and salt
4. Mix the curds, oil, orange juice and orange zest
5. Add the curds mixture to the flour mixture to combine them

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6. Pour them uniformly into the muffin tray

7. For the crumble, mix the all purpose flour with the sugar.
8. Add in the cold butter and mix all three till they form a crumbly texture
9. Sprinkle over the muffins

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10. Bake the muffins for 25-30 minutes till the toothpick inserted comes clean
11. Set it on a wire rack for 10 minutes to cool and then serve

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Notes
1. I used the all purpose flour for the crumble because I wanted a contrast between the dark colored muffin and the light colored crumble
2. If you find that the butter is not as cold as it should be and the crumble looked like a dough mix, then put the mixture in the freezer for ten minutes and it should become hard again to form crumbles
3. The original recipe also had a glaze to be added to the muffin after baking, I left it out because I thought it was becoming a case of too much sugar. But you can add it to get in that extra orange taste

Happy Baking

Whole wheat carrot walnut date cake disaster

Ever since I started this blog, luckily I have been having a string of successes – not only when I was trying new recipes, even when I tried altering some of them to suit my ingredient availability and weight reduction needs. I have documented quite a few of them and have been patting myself on the back far too many times.

But this morning I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that I did not even think about documenting my not so successful / failed recipes ever. Somehow I had internalized that only the good ones were to be put up to the world. So it struck me this morning that I was defeating the very purpose of this blog which was to document my journey into bakersville and that obviously entailed documenting the failures as much as the successes. So here goes –

I had quite a few carrots left in my fridge and also the pitted dates and chopped walnuts which I forgot to add in my previous recipe. So I googled and found this wonderful recipe for whole wheat carrot walnut dates cake. It looked and sounded simple and I did not have too many doubts about it turning out well.

Since I was confident about it, I decided to try out some modifications which would not mess with the taste but reduce the calorie intake sizably. So I reduced the amount of sugar by half and replaced it with honey. In order to not make it too liquid-y, I reduced the water in the recipe to maintain the form and structure. I also included 1/4 tsp of additional baking powder because sugar would also help leavening. Then when the batter was mixed, it seemed too thick and the possibility of it being dry seemed very high. So I added the rest of the water which I had discarded in favor of the honey. Yet I was kind of proud with this and reasonably confident of getting a good tasting cake.

But that was not to be. The pros of the cake were that it did come out of the pan in one piece without creating a mess. It did not sink and had risen evenly all over instead of a mountain shaped cake. That’s about it. I can’t create any more pros to this dish. The cons, on the other hand, were few but significant. The cake was very dense. There was no flavor of the carrots or walnuts. There were portions in which you could taste just salt and wheat, which was like a soggy roti and totally disastrous. The husband did not like it at all and neither did my daughter. But we did manage to finish it up.

Carrot walnut dates cake

Lessons learnt

1. Mix the batter well. By fearing overmixing, do not undermix it

2. Don’t make too many or large changes in a recipe. Try replacing 20-25% of ingredients before making a huge cut.

3. Be more careful with whole wheat cakes as compared to plain flour cakes because of its additional density.

But as I am writing this, my next cake is fast sinking. Guess, another post is in order soon!

Banana Bread

I know…I name my blog as ‘Bread Therapy’ and then don’t post any bread recipes. Stupid, eh?

So this one is my first own recipe…a one that I came up with! Yay!

I did bake banana bread from few other websites, mostly this one. I wanted a no egg no baking powder banana bread recipe because all I had with me was some all purpose flour and few overripe bananas. This recipe is easy and very tasty.

But after making it a few times, I started thinking on how I could try to make it a little bit healthier. I wanted to reduce the butter and sugar. I thought that substituting oil would help replacing butter while a little honey with the natural sweetness of the bananas should take care of the sweet part. Also I thought of adding egg which would substitute the sugar’s function of giving the bread structure.

So I came up with this one-

Ingredients

3/4 cup All purpose flour

1/4 cup Whole wheat flour

1 egg

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/8 cup oil (I used sunflower oil)

2 tbsp honey

1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

4 medium sized bananas

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 175 C and grease the bottom of a pan

2. Mash the bananas thoroughly and keep aside

3. Beat the egg lightly and keep aside

4. Mix the flours, salt, baking soda and cinnamon powder together

5. Add oil and honey to the flour mix and blend well

6. Add the egg to the mixture and blend well

7. Add the bananas to the mix

8. Bake for 30-35 minutes till the toothpick comes clean

Notes

1. This recipe is work in progress.

2. It was airy and not dense. It coloured well. The texture seemed good.

3. I think it needs more salt – maybe 1tsp

4. It could use some flavour – could make it sweet with figs / dates

5. The batter seemed a little dry. The bread also was dry the next day. Maybe increasing the oil to 1/6 cup would solve this.

6. I beat it with a hand whisk. Maybe a hand blender would have given it a better consistency.

Will keep updating this…. If you try any variation of this, do let me know…