Sanding down chairs last week, I discovered exquisitely-grained wood beneath layers of paint and decided to keep them unpainted. I also chose to retain weather-beaten wooden beams instead of plastic beams (masquerading as wood), that promised to give my garden benches a low-maintenance makeover. The contractor was disappointed with my choices but thinking about them later, it struck me that in both cases, I chose the wood for its honesty.
It’s the same, honest happiness from getting dirt under my nails trying to grow vegetables, walking barefeet in the rain with wildflowers peeking between my toes or eating street food from flimsy brown paper bags. It’s something about connecting with life and sustenance in the most basic way. Nebulous yet strong, it’s a feeling which reinforces that we are the salt of the earth, no matter how evolved our civilization or how advanced our technology.
Grasses stand tall and cosmos congregate alongside our car, waving summer farewell. On the road, we drive past farm stalls beckoning us with their green roofs and white porches. Crates of avocado, mango and squash conspire with homemade honey and fresh cheese to lure us in. Not surprisingly, I succumb. And loaded up with a couple of golden butternut squash, a boxful of avos and a block of cheese, continue the rest of my journey conjuring delicious daydreams.
Back home, I’m in the mood to roast the squash with splashes of olive oil, a fat pod of garlic, salt and pepper. But I want to do more with it. Savoury wheat and rye muffins swollen with the mellow caramelised sweetness of the squash, crispy bacon and salty chunks of creamy feta seem to echo my mood. Continue reading →
Bread and wine, cheese and fruit, a picnic under the trees, bare feet, lush grass, eyes squinting at the sun, a slow and happy drowsiness spreading through me as I see the world with new, hopeful and mellow eyes. Sometimes I manage to slip away, other times I inhabit my daydreams and often when the real world gets heavy, cooking the food to suit my reveries is escape enough.
A focaccia is perfect for picnics, brunches, idle Sundays with friends and even road trips. And a healthy, whole wheat one is even better. I used Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe as my foundation but tweaked it by leaving out the sugar and making mine savoury. I also did not use a baking stone as indicated in her recipe, and yet the focaccia turned out fine.Ripe, red cherry tomatoes bursting with the summer sun teamed with hot and tangy chorizo made up the topping for my focaccia. Her healthy recipes on the New York Times website are a greatly inspiring resource. Continue reading →
Have you ever gotten along with a first-time acquaintance like a house on fire or looked into a stranger’s eyes on the street and felt connected for a few fleeting seconds or a magnetic pull towards someone or something? I have, and I’m sure you have too. That’s chemistry – an invisible yet powerful bond that exists between two entities. It’s primal, instinctive and sometimes almost karmically preordained like fire and oxygen, the moon and the tides, the earth and the sun, a mother and her baby…the list goes on. Nature in its most elementary avatar and human relationships are all driven by chemistry. It is the difference between why some connections feel forced while others seem so right…like they’re just meant to be. As someone who’s driven predominantly by intuition and gut instinct, I’m fascinated by this behind-the-scenes, subliminal yet potent flow of attraction. Continue reading →
Yes it’s true, everything that celebrity chefs say on TV, and all the superlatives penned in cookbooks on the satisfaction of baking the perfect loaf of bread. After suffering many failed attempts at making bread, and ending up with stodgy blocks that could only be used in the construction of a building, I need a new dictionary of words to describe the warm glow of achievement that spread through my pores when my bread came out right. I wanted to do cartwheels, light a lamp for Ganesha, hijack the airwaves with breaking news,do my version of a celebratory samba, sign autographs for random people…. all at once. But I contented myself with a fist pump and couldn’t stop smiling (I’m guessing even in my asleep) through the next few days feeling unbreakable and unshakeable, afloat on my own little cloud. I’ve tried reams of bread recipes and for some reason they didn’t always turn out this good. To be honest, however simple the recipe, there are a million things that can go wrong – using yeast takes a little practice, finding the right kind of flour can be a challenge (t’was the case with me in India since bread flour is not retailed), techniques and temperatures need adjustment and if nothing else, the weather can turn cold turkey. In short, baking perfect, edible bread can and does take a little practice. But don’t let that intimidate you because with every flop, you get closer to a hit and you learn a bunch of little tips and tricks on your own. Continue reading →
This may not be Ripley’s Believe It Or Not butyou better, believe this – it is possible to bake perfectly yummy and healthy muffins without so much as a drop of oil, butter or lard. On Sunday morning I was possessed by the spirit of adventure, to make something from my imagination with no inspiration from any recipe, cook or book. My muse were the dark green beauties in my fridge – perfectly ripened avocados. Although I must admit that I did feel some urgency to use them that day since I had bought a large bagful out of greed (suffer from it whenever I see heaps of shiny produce), and they were ripening faster than we could eat them, thanks to the unseasonal spring heat.
Since avos are buttery and rich, I thought why not use them in place of butter in a completely fat-free cake or muffin. Since this was going to be an experiment, I decided to go the whole hog and cut out the sugar and make savoury muffins. To underline the health quotient, I opted for an equal mix of rolled oats and flour. And so having decided my key ingredients, and before my excitement got out of control, I got on with setting up the lab….errr kitchen. Continue reading →