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 →
Baking is therapy. It cures heartbreak, stress, loneliness, homesickness and many more blue-hued maladies. Like Panadol for your heart, its quick, foolproof and offers deliciousness as a welcome side-effect. Right from choosing a recipe to measuring the ingredients, mixing them, waiting for their transformation in the oven, the satisfaction of beholding and finally tasting the results, is a simple yet effective process that helps lift my sagging spirits whenever I need it.
Speaking to a friend back home the other day, I experienced a hollow pain and a yearning for the dusty heat of Indian summers, shopping for the first mangoes of the season, endless glasses of chilled sweet-sour green mango sherbet, lounging in light linens and cottons, sweaty afternoons under whirring ceiling fans succumbing to naps brought on by the heat, humid evenings by the sea savouring its gently caressing cool breezes, scanning the skies for monsoon clouds, intense longing for rain and the slow build-up of a feeling that something’s gotta give. So, right in the middle of autumn, pining for summer got me feeling quite homesick. But I wanted to snap out of it real quick else I knew it would fester (homesickness generally does). This called for instant intervention. Continue reading →
Try avocados and caramelised onions on toast. It’s a little bite of paradise, I promise. It’s a great go-to meal on lazy days when you want a yumminess with minimal effort. Slicing and caramelising the onions is about the only task that takes about 15 minutes (actually you can do the crossword while the onions acquire their golden tan). It’s just oil (any light oil will do), onions and a splash of balsamic towards the end to deepen their sweetness. Add a dressing on top of the avocados if you wish but even without it’s delicious. Continue reading →
Ripe fruit and the poetry of John Keats – I don’t know when the association began (perhaps while drowning in the pleasure of his sensuous imagery during my literature classes in college in hot and dusty India, as far away from Keats’s England as one could get); but strangely it’s a concept that makes some kind of weird logic in my head. One of the high priests of the Romantic movement, Keats was a worshipper of beauty. No doubt you must’ve heard his famous line, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty – that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”. While his poems have a deeper, more profound character, their first and most obvious attractions drip with rich, plump, sensuous images, musical notes and heady smells.” Perhaps it is lines such as “a mermaid in seaweed”, “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness / Close bosom friend of the maturing sun”, and his almost tactile descriptions of candied apple quince, plum, jelly, manna, languorous ladies and their luxurious boudoirs or even the way sunlight or moonlight would touch a breast or bathe the beloved, that created this connection in my head. Whatever the reason, I cannot shake off the connection and in fact rather enjoy it. It even inspired me to whip up a breakfast dish that felt like a Keatsian treat. 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 →
A really good, wholegrain mustard is priceless, so is a velvety, garlic mayonnaise or a sweet caramelised onion jam. I’m a seeker of ingenious relishes, spreads, dips and other similar avatars of deliciousness to put on my toast, crackers, quesadillas, sandwiches and even to just eat with a spoon when PMS strikes. And I’m partial to low-fat and easy-to-do spreads because then I can do as many encores as I like without setting off the cholesterol counter.
So when I set my eyes on a bag of juicy apples, I thought of doing an apple-cinnamon relish. But that would mean apple pie and I wanted something with a little more character and kick; and in keeping with the red colour code, I hit upon the idea of using some fire-engine red, dry Kashmiri chillies. Hot and sweet are good friends and the chillies transform the apple pie flavours from love song to rock ballad. Continue reading →
I know this doesn’t look like a cupcake all gloriously puffed and pretty but it is…a cupcake with lots of fruit and the crunch of walnuts. So it’s actually a fruitcake masquerading as a cupcake but it’s moist and so light; almost like a cloud of fruit (not dense and heavy like many fruitcakes can be). It also has very little flour which is there only to give the fruit some structure and hold it together. I guess you could call it healthy because the butter too is restrained. So all in all I would say that it’s a great cupcake to make if you’re longing for something sweet without the generous dollops of calories. I made these for my son’s class and so was very conscious of their goodness quotient while choosing a cupcake. The recipe makes a dozen in a jiffy without me even breaking a sweat. Definitely a keeper. Continue reading →