Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to-Gumpaste

Have you ever had one of those days where it looks a little cloudy outside and you have to go out (inspite of hating the rains,sue me :/) and you decide to wear that white t shirt just because the weather in this city is just weird and downright hot. You obviously didn't know it would start pouring just when you were too far away to turn around and go home.
Ofcourse not.
 You also didn't know that buying that dark coloured t-shirt out of panic incase you got drenched would ultimately be useless because just as you did , the sun came out from behind the clouds and mocked you.
Life was just pulling one of those regular 'Bruce Almighty' days on you. And to top it all off, you pretty manicured feet with the bright neon O.P.S nailpolish was ruined.
And some people still love the rains.
However, if you truely ARE having a 'Bruce Almighty' day ,it will work out anyway :)
Kind of like Gumpaste.

Ok. I'm just going to go ahead and say this before I have you fooled.
I'm really no expert here.
All that I'v learned here is just from experience,long nights of staying awake for orders and a lot of "what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-this-gumpaste-why-is-it-being-a-lunatic" days..

Calm down for a second.
Take a deep breath.
This is'nt rocket science. Just pretty much edible clay. See, that doesn't sound so scary now does it?

Iv'e put together a few little pointers that I think might help :) Any questions are welcomed  :)

  • Be a little patient.It's a little tricky to get the consistency right  but you'll get the hang of it soon enough.
  • Always, I repeat ALWAYS sieve the icing sugar. Sure, it takes a little extra time but little lumps of icing sugar at a later stage and a complete nuisance .
  • Gel colours are highly recommended.They give you and even,vivid colour without changing the consistency of the gumpaste and making it sticky. Otherwise, you will end up adding more icing sugar to get rid of the stickiness which will lighten the colour. So you will have to add more color and then... You get the point right?
  • Also, if you are colouring you gumpaste in low light /at nighttime, make sure to check the colour under  white light, yellow light can be very decieving !!       
  • Humidity is your worst enemy.
    Another reason to hate the monsoons. Ha!!
    It makes it difficult to work with gumpaste and sometimes,it gets too humid, once you have covered the cake,made your decoration etc,it begins to get sticky and patchy and pretty much can't be saved.

  • Always make sure that the surface you are kneading/rolling out the gumpaste on as well as your hands are  ABSOLUTELY clean and dry.I've found it handy to keep a small damp and dry towel within reach and wipe the table between using different colours/usuing different batches just to be on the safe side.A lot of gumpaste can get wasted from one streak of dark colour on a light coloured batch. :(
  • This one's a big one.
    Ever heard of cornflour?? Use it!! It's what allows you to ensure that the gumpaste doesn't stick to the table,rolling pin etc. It's easy to dust it off later. Never use plain icing sugar for dusting(I've seen a lot of people do this) ,the icing sugar is a little caorse and does not give you a smooth finish.
  •  When trying to make a complicated design, Break it down. It's easy to panic when it looks very complicated but making small,simpler pieces and then assembeling them together is much easier.
    Use egg white to stick different pieces together and allow it ample time to dry.
  • Read up!! Check blogs, books and maybe even just google images to get ideas and pick up little tricks . Nothing works better than learning from other people's mistakes :P:P


Icing sugar          125gm
Gelatin                  10gm
Liquid Glucose      10gm
Lemon juice           a few drops
Cornflour             s required

  • Dissolve the gelatin powder in 30ml of water in a steel/heatproof bowl and allow it to bloom/rest for 10 min.
  • Sieve the icing sugar and set it aside.
  • Simmer some water in a shallow pan . Melt the gelatin alonw with the liquid glucose and stir until it is a smooth mixture.
  • Now, take this off the heat and slowly pour it into the icing sugar and knead until you get a firm dough.
  • Store in a ziplock bag and try and use as soon as possible.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Crumbly pepper Garlic Crackers

Let me just tell you something.
More butter is better .
It's just that simple.
If there is one thing everyone should have learned at the end of their lives, that should be it.
These crackers taught me that, the more butter the better:) Just not too much, because thats pushing it ,no?
Butter makes the world a better place, its good for everything, well, except your hips ofcourse :/
Don't get me started on that.

The first time I made these, we used them as a base for one of our starters during a buffet in college. They were topped with a mixture of sundried tomatoes and spicy aubergines and finally with cheese.
I didnt really have a recipe, just the basic propotions for shortcrust and we added the amount of garlic and pepper that 'looked' right and it turned out amazing! (there never was such a thing as too much garlic, right?)
 Im sure that using this as a crust for a chicken pie would also be a brilliant idea.:)Too often, those poor pies just have a plain boring shortcrust. This will jazz it up a bit !

This week has been so happy. Towering new wedge shoes, Bright pink chappals for the rains, quiet lunches at a new restaurant,baking class with some good friends tomorrow and a birthday party at the end of the week have made it busy busy but fun. Plus, the rains are delayed !! :):) more sunshine please!

Crumbly Pepper Garlic Crackers

100 gms Flour
  70gms  Butter (chilled and cubed.)
    5gms  Salt
  50gms  Chopped Garlic
  10gms   Crushed Peppercorns (Black Pepper powder is also a good substitute)
    5ml      Olive oil
              Chilled Water

  • Heat the olive oil in a pan, and saute the chopped garlic for 1-2 min until cooked.Leave it aside to cool
  • Sift the salt along with the flour.Sprinkle in the crushed peppercorns and garlic as well.
  • Now, add the cubed butter and gentle rub the butter and flour together in your hands over and over again until it begins to resemble the texture of wet sand.Make sure that there are no lumps of butter in the mixture.
  • Alternatively , you can cut the butter into the flour with a knife .
  • Ensure that you do not knead the dough while incorporating the butter,otherwise the pastry will become tough.
  • Now ,sprinkle a little chilled water over the mixture and bring it together into a ball slowly.Again, be careful not to knead it.Use a little additional chilled water if you require.
  • Flatten it into a thick rectangle, wrap it in clingwrap and refrigerate for half an hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 160 'C
  • Dust a clean surface with flour and roll out the chilled dough onto it to about 1/2 cm thick. cut it into small squares or any shape you like and place it on a silpat or lightly greased baking tray.
  • Bake for 5-7 minutes depending on the size or until the crackers are golden brown around the edges.
  • Cool and store in an airtight container!!!

PS: If you are wondering what that chicken-y thing in the last picture is , its
Shredded cooked chicken + Chopped spring onion+raw mango cubes+Pepper+salt+Thai chilli sauce :)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Daddy :)

Everybody has that one person who makes you feel like you're 5 years old again no matter how old you are, or think you are.
Yea,I call mine dada
He'll call me moti and then say I'm not fat.
Wake up at 5am just to drop me to the station.
Be willing to test all the stuff from my biggest kitchen disasters.
Even if it's burnt. (that has to be Love, right? :P)

Threaten to beat up the boys who make me cry.
Fight with me.
Fight the world for me.
Tell me I look prettier without makeup.
Has never ever said "You can't do it" no matter how big or ridiculous my dreams have been.
Wince if my dress is too short.
Bring home Ice cream randomly.
Stay up all night to make 200 easter eggs with us.
then Turn it into a party.
Will tell "daddy" jokes when my friends come over just to make em' laugh.

Maybe I'm too old(or heavy :S) for dada to pick my up by my legs and hold me upside down these days, but hey, that dos'nt change anything eh???
Love you dada :)
Happy Father's day!!!!

PS : I made you watery coffee :) in your favourite mug !!

Creamy Spinach tossed Spaghetti

You know what I realised recently?
I enjoy home entertaining. It's fun planning a menu and listing out ingredients and cooking for people.We recently had a little lazy afternoon lunch and cocktails thing at home and this spaghetti was one of the dishes I made. When I started cooking I didnt really have a recipe in mind for the spaghetti but I think this came together pretty well.
 You can serve it as a main or a small portion as a warm salad, works well both ways. Anyway, it was such a hit that all the entire bowl was over by the end of the evening and I had'nt managed to get a single photo.
So the next morning, I made another batch and packed it up with a few plates and props to get a few nice photos in what was the last of the sunny days.
                                                       Let me tell you a little secret.......

                                                          Ive fallen in love with basil.
 It can completely turn a dish around.The one thing you have to be careful of though, is not to add it too early in the cooking process otherwise it turns black and looks limp.
It's best to add in at the very end, or if the food has to be reheated for service at a later stage then add it at that time !!
Many people tend to confuse Tulsi with basil, however although they are closely related their tastes are very different. Basil used in Italian cooking, is a little sweeter while tulsi has an overpowering sort of spicy taste to it.

We went to the local YMCA and quickly snapped a few shots before being shooed out by the watchman.
Anyway, I'm pretty happy with the way they turned out. I'm slowly getting more confident with this. :) Whaddya think?

Creamy Spinach tossed Spinach

Spaghetti            200 gms
Spinach leaves   200gms(washed)
Garlic                   30gms
Onion                   20gms
Fresh Cream         50ml
Fresh Basil              5gms
Cheese                 (optional)
Olive oil                  20 ml
Salt                        to taste
Black pepper(crushed or powder) to taste

  • Cook the spaghetti in boiling salted water, till aldente. Blanch the whole spinach leaves in salted water and set aside.
  • Chop the garlic finely and slice the onions. Drain out as much water as possible from the spinach and roughly chop it up with a knife.
  • In a pan, heat up the olive oil on med. heat. Add in the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Add in the onion, and cook till it begins to sweat/becomes transparent.
  • Next, add in the chopped spinachand saute for a few minutes. Pour in the fresh cream and stir to seperate the spinach.
  • Finally, add in the cooked and drained spaghetti and gently toss or stir it to evenly coat it with the spinach mixture. Sprinkle the cheese and season.
  • Add the basil leaves and give it a final stir.
  • Serve hot :)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Trams and big yellow taxicabs

Theres some comfort that comes from knowing that amazing things can happen in the spur of a moment.I recently got the opportunity to travel to a few cities and cook in peoples homes for a project that came out of the blue.It amazed me how everything just fell into place. I guess I should stop worrying about the future so much and learn to trust that everything will ALWAYS work out. (corny, i know, but it's true !!!).
Also , I discovered that they sell passionfruit in Kolkata for 10 bucks!!! WHATTT!! 
I know, might seem like a minor development to everyone else, but to me, I'm like : "Oh.My.God." =)
  Between the one incident where a rat scurried over my foot in Delhi, full day power cuts in Chennai, making Idli batter in the hotel room, eating masala rabit and amazing seafood at Anjappars in Chennai,laughing mindlessly till 1 am at the hotel coffeeshop and cooking in kitchens that sometimes were literally 5x3 ft, I got to say, it.was.amazing.

Sadly, I did'nt think it was necessary to carry my camera around to Delhi and Chennai and missed out on a lot of fun snaps. Here is kolkata...

          The yellow ambassador taxis are hard to miss. Theyre everywhere and adorable!this is my favourite picture

          At the market, happy happy picture


                Old houses with these little charming post boxes !

             At the market, tomatoes on the street...

                             Cycle rickshaws, so amusing!!!

Oh, and just a word of caution , little bengali boys seem to have a knack of following you around if you're cooking the food . deal with it. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Watermelon and Ginger Granita

It's officially the last days of summer.
Or whats left of it anyway.
One minute its happy and sunny and the next ithe sky is crowded with grey clouds.  Last chance to gobble up something icy before you move to to garam chai and vada pav on rainy afternoons and what not.
So the next few posts are going to be dedicated to scrambling for whatever cold, icy, summery goodies before the season of sludge and mudspots begins. :/
I made this watermelon and Ginger granita a while back.I like granitas because the flavour of the main ingredient really comes through since it's basically just frozen and not diluted .Plus, they're the laziest ,easiest frozen desserts .EVER.
Juice. Freeze.Scrape.

This watermelon and Ginger granita can literally be made by a toddler, in my opinion. ( Just be careful when you hand him the blender, though !! ) It has just three ingredients and requires no effort whatsoever.Also, there is something therapeutic about cleaning the seeds from the watermelon... :)

Also, just a word of advice, If you are using a hand held blender, be ABSOLUTLY sure to turn off the main power switch before trying to clean out the blade just incase the wire accidentaly hits the power button while you are cleaning it and your index finger almost gets sliced .
In half. :/
In other news, I might be considering renaming this blog to 'A series of unfortunate events in my kitchen'.
Those two are *totally* unrelated, just incase you were wondering !!

Watermelon Ginger Granita

Watermelon chunks (deseeded)
Fresh Ginger   (peeled)
Lime juice

  • There are'nt any specific quantities for the three, all you need to do is blend them together and adjust according to your taste.
  • You can also add sugar if you like.Or mint. Or Vodka.
  •  Once, it's well blended, pour it into a shallow, wide container (steel or plastic) are freeze!!
  • To serve, run a fork along the surface of the frozen juice to obtain icicles :)