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?

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Rosemary and Sesame seeds Sunflower Bread

Now here is another bread…finally I am justifying the name of my blog! Yay!

As I said before, make the dough using the standard bread recipe.

After Step 8, divide the dough into 4 partsĀ in increasing sizes. Take the largest piece of the dough and roll it into a round shape like a roti.

Cut it from the centre in four directions. Make further cuts between these four cuts near the end but not fully cut.

Step One

Once all 8 cuts are made, open the little dough flaps facing outside like petals.

Step 2

Take the second largest dough roll and press it within the first one so as it expands to the empty space within the first dough.

Step 3

Again make cuts in the dough without going all the way through. Just ensure that the cuts are between the ones made on the first roll of dough so that the petals don’t overlap.

Step 4

Open out all the petals.

Step 5

Do the same for the third largest dough as well.

Finally, take the smallest piece of dough and press it into the empty space within the dough. Sprinkle some rosemary and sesame seeds on the centre.

Leave it covered with a damp cloth for 30-45 minutes.

Step 6

Bake at 175C for 15-20 minutes till the top gets a nice brown colour.

final sunf bread final sunflower bread

Enjoy it with butter or cheese or just like that.

Happy Baking!

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.