Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 - Why I'm Looking Forward to It

Father and child. B&W Photo Challenge on Facebook.

It's been an eventful 2014 and there are a few things I've done well this year. At the top of the list is the fact that I have found a renewed enthusiasm and enjoyment in blogging.

I had become quite jaded with things and was a little bored of restaurant reviews and events. I would attend them but I rarely blogged about them. I ended up feeling a mix of guilt for not 'giving back', stress because I felt I should be writing about events I attended (I was being hosted after all), and boredom because one event seemed to blend into the next and the next - they all felt like the same thing. The urge to write seemed to be completely dead. I needed to change something somewhere or this blog was going to be dead very soon.

After a good deal of thought I decided to stop going to these orchestrated events. There's nothing wrong with them per se, they serve a purpose and fulfill needs of brands, businesses, P R companies and yes, bloggers too. But it wasn't something that worked for me.

It's been a refreshing year and I have actually blogged the most this year, averaging a blog post a week. A huge support system and motivation has been the Marathon Bloggers group on Facebook. We started the Marathon Bloggers Project 52 at the start of 2014 and have nagged each other, encouraged each other, come up with blogging exercises and online events, all of which helped me write more, write better, and write a little more regularly.

I also started a Facebook page for the blog and that has had its own positive results. More interactions with readers and more motivation for me.

The best part of this year has been that I have not lacked for things to write about. Recipes, dining experiences, and personal thoughts and feelings have filled my blog. It has truly become a window into my world for the rest of the world to peep in to.

Photography has also kept me occupied this year and I have learned a lot, and I hope I have progressed and improved too! Having a food blog is a great advantage because it gives me a ready made space to display my photos. It's a win win situation. I participated in a few photo challenges on Facebook too - these are great exercises which can make you think and push your creative boundaries. The photograph in this post is the result of one such challenge.

In 2015 I plan to continue in the same vein. 2014 has boosted my confidence greatly. I have signed up for a photography challenge and will be doing stuff with the Marathon Bloggers for sure. The monthly breads at We Knead to Bake will also continue and I'm hoping to join a couple of more diverse group blogging activities or challenges that will keep the creative juices flowing.

Blogging is one of my most satisfying activities and I am thankful that I got my groove back. Here's wishing everyone a fulfilling 2015!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bacon Rolls

Pull apart rolls are really easy to make and I like to make them as often as I can. It's good practice and one can variate the fillings without limit. My love for bacon is well known and it seemed to me that long strips of bacon tucked into the rolls would be simply fabulous. They were.

I made the bread dough using this recipe. 

Once the dough has proved the first time roll it out and then arrange your strips of bacon on it. Be sure to cook the bacon strips first. I left them slightly soft so they would roll with the dough easily. I had planned to grate cheese over the bacon strips but I forgot. I think cheese will be awesome in there so I'll remember it for sure the next time. 

Roll up the dough along the length of the oval so you get a nice long cylinder which will yield more rolls once you cut it.

Once you've made a neat cylinder cut into portions with a sharp bladed knife or a dough scraper. Don't use something with a serrated blade. You want clean cuts that will go through smoothly without snagging on the dough. 

Arrange the cut rolls in a baking tin leaving space for the rolls to rise. Leave them to rise in a warm place for around 20 to 25 minutes. Once they look like they're pushing each other vying for space they're ready to be baked :)

Pop the rolls into a pre heated oven and bake at 200C for around 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them - once the tops are nice and golden brown they're ready. Brush the hot rolls with butter and serve them warm from the oven with a hearty soup, a casserole, or just enjoy them on their own.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Julekake - A Norwegian Christmas Bread

The year comes to an end and along with it ends my first year with the We Knead to Bake bread baking group. I didn't manage to bake all the 12 breads of this year but I did quite a few - each one a new and interesting experience.

As I was making the Julekake, the chosen bread for December, I noticed how I was using ingredients, equipment, and various kitchen tools and toys that have come to me from a variety of people, some family and some friends, all spread across the globe. Each object is a connection and has created a tie, and as I went through the various stages and processes of making my Julekake I felt the ties get stronger as I measured, mixed, kneaded, scraped, poured and finally baked.

And I felt grateful for the Internet, for email and for Facebook, for these are the channels through which these ties were formed and I feel a flutter of happiness every time I open my packet of yeast, hear the clink of my measuring cups, fire up the KitchenAid, and dig through the pantry cupboard. My friends are with me.

I followed Aparna's recipe for Julekake with variations only for the filling and I left out the almonds and icing that are used as a topping on this bread/cake. I used pearl sugar to top my Julekake.

A simple though rich bread, it has a fine dense crumb which makes it cake-like. Call it cake or bread, the Julekake is one of the best recipes I've done with the We Knead to Bake group.


2 tsp Instant yeast
1/4 cup water, warmed
1/2 cup milk, warmed
1 egg
50 gms butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
A large pinch of salt
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 1/2 cups white flour or maida
1 cup mixed peel and soaked fruit
1/4 cup pearl sugar

Bloom the yeast in the warm water with a little sugar. Though I use instant yeast I still like to bloom it before I chuck it into my flour to check that it is still active. This saves the remaining ingredients from getting wasted just in case the yeast is dead. I store my packet of instant yeast in the freezer where it stays well for many months and this little step at the beginning doesn't hurt.

In a large mixing bowl put in the egg, butter and sugar. Add the bloomed yeast mix and beat them all together. You can do this by hand or you can use an electric beater or your stand mixer. I used my stand mixer because I don't use it often enough! Add the flour and the cardamom powder and continue to mix. If using the stand mixer use the dough hook. Knead till you have a soft pliable dough that is smooth and stretches easily without breaking. If required, add dry flour or water to get the right consistency.

Roll out the dough like a pizza base and scatter the mixed peel and fruit, or whatever filling you are using. Raisins, or dried cranberries or any other dried berries will work quite well here. Cover the entire rolled out surface and then gather the dough together to form a ball by first rolling it into a swiss roll style roll and then bringing together into a ball. Knead it lightly by hand for a couple of minutes and try to ensure that the fruit is evenly distributed.

Oil a bowl and set the dough in it to rise. Cover with a damp dish cloth and leave it in a warm corner undisturbed, to double in volume. This should take an hour.

Once the dough has doubled deflate it gently and give it a light knead with your hands. Lay the dough ball on a greased baking try or on baking parchment on the tray and leave it to rise again, for around 45 minutes. The Julekake can also be put into a cake tin.

Brush the top with milk and then dot the surface with pearl sugar, or sliced almonds. You can also brush it with an egg wash. I prefer milk because you can't break half an egg ;)

Bake the Julekake for 25 to 30 minutes at 180C. Let it cool completely before you take it out of the cake tin in case your making it in a tin. Slice the Julekake once cooled and serve with coffee.

We Knead to Bake 2014

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fried Prawns in Koli Masala

Today is one of those days that is slow and everything's running a little late. Not that I'm complaining! We have been incredibly busy with Christmas orders and getting ready for them for the last few days and finally, with Christmas and its accompanying madness over, we're at home taking things easy.

I'm in the mood to cook but it was late by the time the marketing got done and we were both hungry. The hubby had brought some fresh prawns and we decided to fry them up as a pre lunch snack. Now I usually marinate them in salt, turmeric and chilli powder and then fry them up. Today I was in the mood for something more than this basic, though delicious, version. I rooted around in the pantry cupboard and chanced upon my jar of Koli masala bought from Anjali Koli who writes a lovely blog called Annaparabrahma, and also retails a variety of Koli spice blends, dried fish and other products. You can check out her online store here.

To make the prawns all you need to do is clean them, wash, and pat dry. Add salt and as much Koli masala as you can handle. This is a pungent spice mix with plenty of chilli so if you're not used to a lot of heat, use less like I did. 

Mix the spice in and let it sit for 15 minutes. Heat up oil in a pan and fry the prawns till done. Throw in some fresh curry leaves and stir for a minute. The fried prawns are ready to serve.
I used a flat griddle made of copper and tinned in the traditional way that we'd bought from a copper smith in rural Maharashtra. The pan is perfectly seasoned and can rival any top of the line non stick cookware. So if you have any of these old gems in your kitchen dig them out and use them!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chingri Mocha'r Chop - Prawn and Banana Flower Croquettes

There are many ingredients common in a Bengali kitchen that have never entered mine. Mocha or banana flower is one of them. My cook is now changing things drastically because with her help I am exploring and learning a whole lot of Bengali food that's new to me. Today we made chingri mocha'r chop, a very popular snack that is often served at a high tea, or as a starter at a fancy dinner. Another simple recipe and a really tasty dish that was a super hit with the hubby and me.

Chingri Mocha'r Chop

8 -10 largeish prawns, shelled, deveined and chopped into small pieces
1 Mocha/Banana flower, cleaned and chopped
1 large potato
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
dhania/coriander powder
jeera/cumin powder
chilli powder or chopped fresh green chilli

1 egg
1 tbsp maida or plain flour

Pressure cook the cleaned mocha along with the peeled potato, with a little turmeric in the water. Drain out the excess water and keep the potato aside. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the mocha. Mash the potato.

In a wok heat a little oil and saute the chopped prawns. After a couple of minutes add the mocha and the mashed potato. Add the spice powders, ginger garlic paste, and stir to mix really well. Add salt. Saute the mixture for a few minutes stirring and mixing constantly so it is evenly blended with the spices and there are no clumps of potato.

Cool the mixture and form flat round patties or chops.

Heat enough oil in a kadai to deep fry the chops.

In a wide bowl crack the egg, add the plain flour and beat lightly to mix. Spread some breadcrumbs in a plate. Now dip the chops one by one into the egg and then roll in the crumbs to coat completely. Deep fry till golden brown and serve hot with kashundi or ketchup.

If you're vegetarian you can leave out the prawns. And use a flour+water solution instead of the egg. In fact, this recipe then is suitable for vegans too!

If, like me, you're clueless about cleaning the banana flower just look it up on YouTube. There are plenty of videos explaining just what to do. I am lucky - the cook knows exactly what to do!

Marathon Bloggers Project 52

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chorizo Oats

Marriages might be made in heaven but some blessed pairs are made in my kitchen. Like chorizo oats. I am in love with oats and have been making a savoury oats porridge with various vegetables and spices several times a week, and I'm always looking for new inspired combinations. Adding spicy flavourful chorizo to the mix has been one of the best ideas I've had in a long, long time!

Chorizo Oats

Quaker Oats 3/4 cup
100gm chorizo, peeled from the casing and crumbled
1 small potato cubed or cut into sticks
1 small onion, thickly sliced
1 small carrot cut into discs
1 handful frozen green peas
half a green capsicum sliced into 2inch pieces or 1 bhavnagari chilli chopped
3 tbsp tomato puree or ketchup
jeera/cumin powder
dry chilli powder or paprika powder

Heat a little oil in a wok or kadai and put in the carrots and potatoes. Fry on a medium flame so that they cook through. Add the chorizo and mix well breaking up the meat as you go. Cover the wok and let it cook for a few minutes. Now add the remaining vegetables, stir it all well and leave it alone for another five minutes or so. Add salt and the spices too.

Once the carrots and potatoes look nearly done sprinkle the oats on the vegetables and mix well. Let it roast a bit for a couple of minutes and then pour in enough water to cover everything under a centimetre or so of water. Stir and add the tomato puree or ketchup, whichever you are using. Let it come to a boil and then simmer till the water is absorbed and the oats are cooked through.

I reserved a few pieces of the chorizo once they were fried, to garnish the dish. The chorizo tends to disintegrate and blend into the dish so the reserved pieces are nice to bite into as you enjoy the oats.

Marathon Bloggers Project 52