Thursday, August 29, 2013

green mung beans soups : two recipes from two different kitchens ..

Green mung bean is one of my favorite foods on earth. I can have it for a meal in any conceivable form. Soaked, sprouted, boiled or curried. Even a hummus made with green mung is loved. A thin crepe called pesarettu has been a long time favorite. But curried with minimal spices or made into a simple soup is the regular day to day way to enjoy green mung for me. Today I have a Mangalorean mooga ambat for you as well, contributed by a fellow blogger friend.

Green mung bean is also called golden gram or green gram and is among the quickest of lentils to cook. Green mung bean is known as the dosha balancing food according to Ayurveda, it cleanses the gut if taken regularly. Rich in minerals an some vitamins, the lentil has significant amount of soluble fiber that helps cleanse and heal the body at multiple levels.

I mostly make a soupy daal or a lightly spiced (curried) daal with green mung beans if I am not having them sprouted. Mung sprouts are mixed with other sprouts to get a great texture in salads and a wider range of amino acids available in the meal. See the ideas with mixed sprouts I wrote sometime back.

I am sharing a very simple green mung soup with coconut that doesn't require any tempering like other Indian daal recipes. I mostly have it as a one dish meal or combine it with some green vegetables on the side.

green mung beans 1 cup
salt to taste
turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
tejpatta or bay leaves 2-3
fresh coconut chopped or grated 1/2 cup
cumin seeds 1 tsp
black pepper corns 1/2 tsp
green chilly 1 or to taste (optional)
ginger 1 inch piece (grated) or to taste
2 springs of curry patta leaves (optional)


Boil the green mung beans in a pressure cooker with turmeric powder, salt, bay leaves and enough water to cook. You would need about 2.5 cups of water for 1 cup of mung. Use just 1.5 cup if you have soaked the mung for 3-4 hours or more. Mung daal needs cooking for 5-7 minutes after the first whistle blows in pressure cooker.

Make a paste of coconut, ginger, green chilies, cumin, black pepper corns and curry patta. The paste can be smooth or coarse to your liking. I prefer coarser paste as the bit of coconut is really nice.

Open the cooker after the pressure settles down on it's own and add the paste. Mix well, adjust seasoning and serve hot. You might like a squirt of lime juice over this soup.

I had it with red rice and ghee fried peppery okra this time.

You see how the soup is rich with coconut, simple flavors and yet so tasty and nourishing.

The other recipe is Mooga ambat that is a daal/soup made using mung sprouts. A blogger friend Renuka Nadkarni keeps sharing her native Mangalorean recipes on her blog (she posts a lot of baked desserts and many other recipes as well) and she informed me about this Mooga ambat when I asked my readers about more ideas with mung sprouts. I quickly asked her to share the recipe and here she is, in her own words.

Sprouts with a Mangalorean touch..

It all started off with a simple comment that I’d left on Sangeeta’s blog, telling her about a Mangalorean dish that we make with sprouts. The next thing I knew was a mail from her asking if I could please share the recipe via a Guest Post. I jumped at the chance.

Sometimes in Blogosphere you meet people who really make an impression. For me, Sangeeta is one of those. We met when we were paired in a food blogger goodie exchange and some of the stuff that she sent me was so thoughtful! In fact, I still have some of those lovely sun-dried apples. Ever since then I’ve been a follower and a very regular reader of her blog, the fact that she does so much of healthy and sensible cooking is something that strikes a chord with me. And her smoothie recipes, this post would be incomplete without that; they are just the most amazing things ever! Full of flavor and packed with nutrition, I’m hooked.

Coming to the dish that I’ve made for her space – Mooga ambat – this is a typical Mangalorean dish that’s made during any festive occasion at home. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat it otherwise! This is also called Mooga mola ambat, moog is moong (sprouted, as we say it in Hindi), mola (is the sprouted growth) and ambat is a dal-based curry that’s spiced with red chillies and is generally given a tadka of onions. I’ve also used a little onion while grinding the spice mixture to up the flavours, but you can eliminate this step if you don’t fancy onions too much.
This dish is best served with hot rice, some of us even like having this with idlies; all you need to go with this is some vegetable dish or even papad and pickle. What makes this dish a winner is that it is protein-heavy and packed with goodness.

ingredients for Mooga Ambat
¾ cup of moong, sprouted and steamed
1/2 cup of toor dal
½ an onion, finely chopped
1 tsp of ghee
Salt to taste
For the spice paste
1 tbsp of coconut
2-3 red chillies, roasted (I’ve used the Byadgi variety from Karnataka, you can change the number depending on your preference for spice)
3-4 methi seeds, roasted
1 small, marble-sized ball of tamarind
¼ of a medium-sized onion, roughly chopped

Rinse the toor dal, drain off the excess water and place it in a bowl with 2 cups of water. Cook this dal in the pressure cooker till it is done.

Meanwhile, grind all the ingredients together for the spice paste along with some salt. Add 1tsp of moong to this along with 2 tbsp of warm water to get a smooth paste. If you don’t want to use coconut, you can replace this with some roasted Bengal gram dal or increase the amount of onions and sprouted moong while grinding.

After this when the dal has cooled down, remove it from the cooker, beat it well, add the sprouts to this and keep it on a medium flame. 

Now add the ground spice mixture to this and bring the entire thing to a gentle boil. Allow it to simmer for about 2 minutes, switch off the flame and check the seasoning.

In a separate pan heat ghee and fry the onions until they turn a nice golden brown. Add this tempering to the curry. Serve hot with some rice.

Thank you Renuka for the sweet words and for the nutritious recipe. I would add some more coconut when I cook this and would have it like a meal with some subzi.

Do you need more reasons to have a nice mung bean soup for your meal today dear reader? Go cook it now.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

dips and cracker recipes | olive oil-whole wheat-sesame cracker recipe, lotus stem chips recipe and a lot many dips with them

dips and crackers

Yes four dips to be precise. Olive oil whole wheat sesame crackers are the most loved crackers here and I had made the lotus stem chips for a friend who doesn't eat grains. By the way, I have been making many many varieties of crackers and somehow they never come to the blog. Many friends have been asking me to post those recipes as well so this Olive oil whole wheat sesame cracker is for compensating all the delay. And there is a quick recipe of lotus stem chips recipe as a bonus.

There are 4 types of dip recipes before I write about the cracker though. A garlic rosemary tomato in olive oil dip. A red kidney beans hummus with preserved limes. A roasted aubergine and hung curd dip with pine nuts and another roasted carrots and peanut butter dip with walnuts.

Much loved, very versatile dips, will tell you how I use them differently.

red kidney beans hummus with preserved lemons...

red kidney beans dip

red kidney beans 1 cup
sesame seeds 50 gm
garlic cloves 4 fats ones
roasted cumin powder 2 tsp or to taste
salt preserved limes 2 quarters or to taste*
salt 1/5 tsp (adjust only after blending as salt preserved limes have enough salt)
red chilly flakes and extra virgin olive oil to taste

* The salt preserved limes are the ones I cut into halves or 8 pieces sometimes and fill in a sterile jar along with salt. 15-20% salt to limes is the usual ratio that preserves the limes really well and it keeps for years. The older the better. We call it nimki achar.

Soak kidney beans overnight, discard all water, rinse and pressure cook with fresh water till done. It takes about 20 minutes after the first whistle in pressure cooker and about 45 minutes or more if cooking in a stockpot or pan.

Powder sesame seeds first in the mixie blender. Add other ingredients and blend till smooth.

Transfer to serving dish, drizzle with olive oil and red chilly flakes.

Serving suggestions : Serve with any crackers you like. My variation this time was as a filling in a grilled whole wheat sandwich that was loved by the husband.

roasted carrots and peanut butter dip with paprika and garlic

roasted carrots and peanut butter dip

English carrots (orange ones) 250 gm
roasted peanuts 100 gm
olive oil 2 tbsp
garlic cloves 2
salt and paprika to taste
crushed walnuts to mix after blending and to garnish

Chop the carrots roughly, mix with olive oil and some garlic pods (as per taste) and herbs if required (I didn't use any), sprinkle salt and roast in the oven till roasted and done. You can pan grill them in a covered pan as well.

Powder the peanuts first in the mixie blender, scrape every bit from the walls and blend again till it starts releasing oil and the aroma of peanut butter is evident. Add the roasted carrots and all the seasonings and blend again to make it all into a smooth paste. Empty into the serving dish, mix a few crushed walnuts lightly and garnish with some more crushed walnuts.

Serving suggestions : I diluted this dip with some lemongrass and ginger infusion that I make for the mocktails and simmered it to make a nice soothing soup for myself. The husband liked it as a grilled sandwich filling.

roasted aubergines and hung yogurt dip

roasted aubergines and hung curd dip

roasted pulped aubergines 1 cup
roasted green chilies (choose a less hot variety) 1-2
garlic cloves 2-3
fresh coriander stems 3-4 tbsp
hung yogurt 1 cup
salt and pepper to taste
pine nuts to serve

Roast the aubergines (any shape or size, I used my green oblong aubergines from the garden) over gas flame, peel and mash. Keep aside.

Roast the green chilies too alongside the aubergines and peel them as well. I used the fat long green chilies that are not too hot.

Place everything into the blender except pine nuts and blend till smooth. Transfer to serving dish, mix some of the crushed pine nuts into it and sprinkle the rest over the dip.

Serving suggestions : This dip goes well with Indian style parathas and flat breads too. Try it with aloo paratha and see how it is polished off quickly. The ragi bread in the picture and the ragi sesame crackers too, taste really good with any of these dips.

roasted garlic with rosemary and olive oil and fresh tomato dip

roasted garlic, rosemary and tomato dip

slow roasted garlic and rosemary in Extra virgin olive oil* 3/4 cup
fully ripe tomatoes 2 large (or 1.5 cup chopped)
salt to taste

*Here is a good tip for you. You make garlic infused olive oil and get slow roasted garlic cloves as a by product. So I had made a nice slow roasted garlic with rosemary when I did this garlic and rosemary infused olive oil for my salad dressings. Slow roasted because you keep about 2 cups of garlic pods, a generous handful of rosemary leaves and 250 ml of extra virgin olive oil in an oven proof dish and let it slow roast at about 70 C for a couple of hours in your oven.

rosemary garlic infused olive oil

We used up the oil and the garlic was ready for a yummy dip. I used the infused olive oil as well in this dip, just as much as there was in the jar to submerge the garlic pods.

Everything was put into a mixie blender and whirred till a smooth dip resulted. This dip was liked the most by everyone.

Serving suggestions : this dip tastes great with any crackers and savory biscuits. It makes a nice dip with vegetable croutons too. Use this dip to replace butter on breads and see how everyone loves it.

Here is the recipe of whole wheat olive oil sesame crackers that were a rage wherever they went. Easy recipe and quick baking. Just be careful not to burn crackers as they get brown to charred as you blink.

atta (whole wheat flour) 2 cups
extra virgin olive oil 1/4 cup
salt and pepper to taste
sesame seeds 1/4 cup
soda bicarb 1 scant pinch
whey to knead the dough (the leftover water after making home made paneer)

Mix the atta, olive oil, salt and pepper and soda bicarb really well, rubbing the mixture till it gets crumbly.

Rinse the sesame seeds keeping it in a mesh colander under running tap water and add it to the atta mix. Knead a stiff dough using the whey.

Now divide the dough in 4-5 small balls, roll out thin sheets between 2 layers of parchment or butter paper or plastic sheets. I use A4 size hard plastic sheets for this.

Roll a multi cutter rolling pin over the sheet or cut crackers using a knife in desired shapes and transfer the cut sheet over baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes at 180 C in a preheated oven.

Cool on a wire rack and store in airtight container as soon as it cools down. Repeat the baking process till all the crackers are done.

Now the recipe of the lotus stem chips. These are deep fried but they carry negligible oil when drained on kitchen napkins.

lotus stem chips

Peel and slice the lotus stems thinly and at an oblique angle.

Mix with salt, pepper and red chilly powder and let it rest for about an hour.

Heat oil for deep frying, mix 2 rice powder with the slices, just to coat them all lightly and drop them in the hot oil, about 20-25 chips at a time.

Keep the frying chips submerged in oil all the time, turning them once. Remove with a slotted spoon once the chops get brownish. Drain on kitchen tissue.

Serve immediately.

Yes this starter course was served when a friends' family came over one weekend. I know it is really exhaustive regarding flavors and choices, looks difficult to pull through, but I had done all the preparation the previous day, only the lotus stem chips were deep fried just before serving. These were loved immensely and I was glad I made these. There was a lot of leftover too, I used them differently, the serving suggestions are provided at the end of each recipe.

Drop in a line if you try any of these simple recipes.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

cooling healing mocktails : a lemongrass-ginger infusion and pineapple juice mocktail and another tamarind extract and orange juice mocktail...

Mocktails are interesting drinks as they carry all the drama an alcoholic cocktail entails and yet don't make you regret the next day. Actually most mocktails can be made to suit a meal in terms of complementing flavors, as palate cleansers between the courses and as digestive and hydrating agents during a heavy meal as well. Or just serve them as summer drinks as and when required. Sometimes I have a diluted version of any of these mocktails by adding green tea infusion in it. More so with the lemongrass-ginger infusion and pineapple juice mocktail. A lemongrass-ginger infusion ( a tisane actually) is made and refrigerated many times and had in an iced drink in summers and as a hot green tea infusion in winters. Yes, it is quite a versatile infusion. I have written nutritional info about pineapple, healing properties of ginger  and health benefits of lemongrass earlier. This mocktail is certainly antioxidant and digestive in it's effect apart from being extremely refreshing.

About 100 gm fresh lemongrass leaves are scissor cut, a 50 gm piece of ginger root is grated and both are put into a pot of boiling water, holding about 1.5 liter of water. A quick boil and then the pot is taken off heat, covered and cooled. Strain and reserve the infusion for later use.

I use pineapple juice from cartons for mocktails mostly, only because they are more convenient for a quick drink or for fixing mocktails for a crowd when required.

To make this lemongrass-ginger and pineapple juice mocktail you just put a few ice cubes in the glass that is already rimmed with celery salt or plain salt. Pour about 100 ml of the infusion and then top with 100 ml of pineapple juice. Serve immediately. You can adjust the quantities of the liquids as per taste, more infusion less juice if you like it less sweet and vice versa.

Another mocktail is an interesting mix of tangy-sweet taste of the ingredients and a unique zing provided by kala namak (black salt). We had this mocktail at Varq (at The Taj Mahal Hotel) sometime back and loved it. I recreated it almost immediately and now this will be a regular mocktail at my place for sure.

Tamarind is a powerful antioxidant, a good source of minerals and vitamins like Vit C, A and Thiamine. With added orange in this mocktail it become a refreshing digestive drink that is suitable for any occasion.

To make this drink you start with dry tamarind pulp which is boiled with water. About 50 gm tamarind and 500 gm water. The tamarind gets soft after boiling, the mixture is cooled and strained to get the extract. Mix 100 ml of this tamarind extract with 150 ml of orange juice and kala namak to taste. Rim the glasses with kala namak and fill with ice cubes if required. Pour the juice mix over the ice and serve immediately.

You would get repeated requests for both these drinks I am sure. Using freshly extracted juice will certainly be good but try and use unsweetened juice from a carton if using ready made options.

Do let me know if you like these mocktails when you try.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

a masterclass with Chef Maurizio Raselli on simple Italian food : green beans and potato salad and a spinach and ricotta ravioli that was made the very next day

This green beans (French beans) and potato salad is one of the best cooked type salads that I have had in a long long time. I am already hooked to it and made it twice last week. The spinach and ricotta ravioli was made a few times earlier but watching an acclaimed Italian chef kneading the pasta dough and shaping those ravioli and tortellini, you pick up the finer nuances of making pasta. Let me first tell you how much we loved this salad with blanched (read almost boiled to cook) green beans and boiled potatoes. Loads of EVOO and loads of parmesan later, the salad is a winner all the way. The husband kept looking at what I was doing with his favorite potatoes last weekend and both of us finished the salad almost immediately.

What I loved the most, that the beans were boiled whole, chopped off the tips and then these were split from the seams. This is such a simple thing to do so the beans would soak in more flavors but somehow never occurred to me. I keep making stir fried, steamed and microwaved green beans sometimes with garlic, sometimes bacon and sometimes just with salt n pepper but splitting the beans would result in such great flavors I never thought of. Thanks to Chef Maurizio Raselli, I now stand educated :-)

This masterclass was conducted at Hyatt Regency Delhi. Ruchira, Deeba, Mukta and myself were eager for this masterclass as we were greeted by Chef Marin Leuthard and Chef Maurizio. The spread of raw vegetables, sea food and cheeses was such a sign of all good things to come our way. Yes we learned this salad, the ravioli, a wonderfully flavorsome seafood and asparagus risotto and a freshly made tiramisu. Vidhi Jatia, CEO and Director of Charmaine (personality development school) accompanied us and introduced how these privileged masterclasses are bringing foodies together.

See how this green beans and potato salad is made in this step wise collage.

You mix the garlic, finely chopped red onions, some white vinegar and seasoning in generous amount of EVOO. Boil and split the green beans, boil and cube the potatoes and toss together with the dressing. Grate lot of Parmesan (about 10% of the total salad) and be ready to eat it out of the mixing bowl Or serve it with some fresh rocket and mint, may be some chopped almonds as well.

Next was the ravioli and we were curious to see the chef doing it from scratch. The white flour was mixed with durum wheat semolina, eggs were broken into it, EVOO was squirted into it generously. More egg yolks can be added for more color and richer texture. Adding more egg white wouldn't be good for the thinness of the pasta sheet after cooking. Kneading the dough really stiff helps a lot I learnt. Earlier I used to knead it a bit softer than what I saw.

Spinach was blanched, squeezed out forcefully to ooze out as much water as possible and then minced properly. Fresh ricotta, herbs, garlic, Parmesan and seasoning, a good mix and the stuffing is ready.

Pasta was rolled out and stuffed nicely. No air pockets in the stuffed pasta and a wider (than I make) frill of pasta around the stuffed center. Some ravioli, some tortellini though the Chef swapped the names of ravioli and tortellini in my head. The folded ring is the ravioli and the flat disc was tortellini he declared. The Internet says the opposite and it adds to another confusion regarding shapes of pasta in my head :-)

A fresh sauce was made, pasta boiled on one side and was added to the sizzling sauce right from the boiling pan. This is a trick even I follow. Dunking the pasta straight from the boiling pan to the sizzling sauce, it absorbs more flavors form the sauce this way.

A very interesting thing that Chef Maurizio shared that the lasagna sheets should never be boiled and should be layered raw into the baking dish. Increase the cooking time and you get the most flavorful pasta. to me it would mean less work to do as handling large sheets of lasagna in boiling water is a pain.

Next was risotto, made using carnaroli rice and not the arborio.  And the resultant risotto was to die for. Seafood was added in tow stages, first at the time of searing the rice in butter and later just a couple of minutes before finishing the risotto.

Those small little tips to make the risotto oh so flavorful. This was a masterclass I tell you.

The tiramisu was assembled with freshly whipped egg yolks and whites (separately) and folding it into mascarpone that tasted richer in lactose flavors than the mascarpone we use. My homemade mascarpone has more fat content I felt. It was just rightly sweetened and lovely flavors of coffee with mousse like creaminess.

the same menu was served to us for lunch as we talked about healthy food, baking, farming, procuring seeds and what not. Chef Maurizio packed cute bottles of freshly made bruchetta topping for us. What a nice gesture and what a nice charming personality he is. He kept us in splits all the time with his antics.

Thanking Vidhi Jatia, Arpana Pradhan and Riya Dey for having us and for such a warm affectionate lunch that we had. Chef Maurizio can't be thanked enough for the good time we had.

See how he poses for the camera. And cooks awesome food for soul.

I would make the tiramisu with his recipe very soon and share it with you all. We learn so much from
personal interaction type sessions. Charmaine keeps conducting such classes and one can join them to learn more from such interactive lessons.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

apple, soft pears, sweet lime and feta salad with eggs on the side..

With several types of pears and apples coming in the markets from the hills of Himachal and Kashmir, I buy loads of them and keep using them for salads and desserts or just having them as it is. packed with good nutrition, these seasonal fruits make more sense than vegetables sometimes. Packed with flavors, juicy and plump the fruits seem much better than vegetables that look sad and sometimes mouldy in the rainy season. Rains are pleasant after the scorching summers, but they bring their own difficulties with them. We actually don't eat any greens during rains and skip eating all raw salad vegetables even tomatoes and cucumbers or carrots.

Fruit salads look more promising.

I tossed this one up for a weekend brunch. I boiled some eggs while the fruits were being sliced and mixed with the dressing.

The dressing is actually a very minimal balsamic and olive oil emulsion (that results after shaking it in a bottle), minimal salt, pepper and a dash of red chilly. Some juice of the sweet lime is squirted while slicing it so the dressing gets a citrus tang to it. See how to slice sweet limes and use the juices in this salad dressing.

The feta I used in this salad is a bit more salty than normal, so the salt was used minimally. I just sliced the pears and apples, sliced the sweet limes, squirted the remaining juice of sweet lime and crumbled some feta into it before pouring the balsamic EVOO dressing into it. Some powder Parmesan was also sprinkled and mixed.

The eggs were just halved and were left unseasoned. The flavorful salad was a good alternating bite between the mouthfuls of boiled eggs. We ate this salad silently. A sign of a meal devoured well.

You could add some plums or peaches into this salad as well. Having this salad as a meal is the most convenient thing on a weekend. You can add some nuts into this salad too if you are skipping the eggs. Paneer cubes will be great in this salad if you are planning to make it a meal like we did..

Or just serve it with the weekend drinks you have planned.

Try it and let me know if you like.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Ragi and whole wheat bread and a desi burger ...

Ragi breads have been quite frequent in my home since I started baking them. I experimented a lot with different blend of flours and using water, milk, buttermilk and whey etc to see how the bread gets softer. The taste was always appreciated well but the texture needed to be better when I started mixing millet flours with ragi. The blend that worked best till date was a mix of whole wheat flour, ragi flour and potato flour (or potato flakes). I have been repeating this exact recipe since the balance of texture and taste is the best to our taste. The bread needs warming up in the microwave or toasting lightly on a griddle, we used it with our soups, hung curd dips, egg scrambles and for making desi burgers using shami kababs that I make.

Ragi also makes nice chapatis for sure, we love the ragi dosa, ragi uttapam and ragi idli as well and I have been making a ragi savory kanji (congee or savory porridge) which is very tasty. The ragi cake has become a favorite of many people I know. I have experimented a lot with ragi crackers too but that has always evoked mixed reviews by people as ragi is a bit sandy in dry form. Once cooked in moist form, ragi becomes a nice and soft texture, especially when warm. So reheat the bread always.

And do not expect a high dome on the ragi burger buns. Better call them pita instead. Minimal gluten buns have to be in their own league.

And before we move ahead, these mutton mince patties are actually awadhi shami kababs that keep repeating in my household. Sometimes I make them a bit firm by drying out the mince mix and sometimes I let them be a bit crumbly and melting type. See what I mean..

The recipe of the ragi bread is not complex I would say. But one needs a basic understanding of bread baking to start with. Reviving the yeast, proofing it, kneading the dough well, punching it and then shaping the bread and letting it rise again before baking.

What? This makes your head spin? Don't worry. I have a step by step picture for you to understand and will explain in layman terms.

I used a cup each of ragi, whole wheat and potato flakes/flour. You can change the proportion a little bit but not too much, taking care to not increase the potato flour by volume or not to pack it tightly in the measuring cup. So for three cups of total flour I used 2 tsp of dry instant yeast, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar. I used about 2 cups of lukewarm whey that is left after making homemade paneer.

 First add the yeast to the whole wheat flour and add salt and sugar. Add a cup of warm whey (lukewarm, a little higher than body temperature) to the mix and whisk well. Let this mix rest till you see bubbles appear and then get frothy.

 Add the ragi flour and then the potato flakes and knead a soft dough using more lukewarm whey. Let the dough rest till it increases in size. It gets about doubled in volume.

Knead the dough again and shape flat buns, pressing down with your fingers. The leftover dough is shaped into a tiny cylinder here, this one makes miniature slices of bread for our soups sometimes.

Bake the bread in preheated oven at 200 C for about 35 minutes. The buns looks lighter in color and get dry on the surface. Cracks appear if you haven't made slashes on the bun. It's normal, don't worry.

Brush melted butter of ghee over the hot buns and let them cool on a wire rack.

You would notice the buns have browned a bit both on the base and on top, but it doesn't get noticed owing to the dark color of ragi flour used.

You can cut the buns across when completely cool. It is a dense bread but the taste and texture is very good. I love it with hummus and lentil soups more. Some sticky egg scramble slapped over it works nicely too.

Arvind loves it with any jam that I made recently. This is a plum and vanilla bean preserve that I had in the fridge.

He is totally happy with a sweet breakfast while I am all for a savory breakfast if I am having any. My breakfast gets skipped many times and I have a heavy brunch instead. Working from home gives you much freedom but makes your routine go haywire most of the time. I keep ruining my sleep cycle often and then correcting it just to again screw it up. Life goes on.

And we bake bread for the journey :-)

I recently baked 2 cylindrical loaves of this bread and toasted thin slices as I fried kababs on the pan. The toasted slices of this bread were loved with the kababs, a hung curd and garlic dip and some sliced onions and green chutney on the side. Simple pleasures of life can be healthy too. You don't have to depend on all things white flour any more. Especially white bread I say.

Edited to add : I baked this bread twice again using boiled potato puree instead of potato flakes and the result was much better. The bread gets softer when reheated in microwave just before serving, a practice I suggest for all whole grain-minimal gluten breads. 
Use 150 gm peeled, cubed potatoes boiled with 2 cups of water till they start disintegrating, cool and puree. Use this puree to knead the dough, whey wouldn't be required if using this potato puree.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Coffee making is an art : I learned a few basics...

I was delighted to see an invite for a curated art experience over specially brewed coffee by Illy coffee master barista, Nicola Scognamiglio from Italy. This was being organised by Le Meridien and gallery Espace and I saw it as an opportunity to learn more about coffee. Art was an added attraction, Suddhasattva Basu and Mala Marwah had displayed their art and I loved how Suddhasattva had depicted life as an ecological continuum through a lotus pond and some birds and insects. Incidentally, I had clicked a few lotus pond and bird pictures during my Lucknow visit recently and it touched a chord.

I am not much of a coffee drinker, although a strong unsweetened cup of coffee used to help a lot during exams I remember. But that was two decades ago, I know it has been ages. I used to have instant coffee back then, Nescafe and Bru depending on what caught my fancy. Filter coffee we used to enjoy at friends places only because we had no clue how the filtrate makes such a nice aromatic cup of coffee. But my father had taught me one thing very well about making instant coffee, and that is, to 'churn' the coffee with a tbsp of hot water and sugar till it gets a nice creamy consistency and starts intoxicating you with it's aroma. Well, this was a step where you had to whisk the coffee with hot water and sugar vigorously for two minutes or longer and then pour hot milk over it to make a frothy aromatic cuppa, papa called it churning so it is 'churning the coffee' to me till date. I would boil the milk and keep 'churning' the coffee till the time I felt right, many of my white T shirts and kurtas got stained with coffee while doing this churning, and I liked my coffee that way. Later I got a steel filter with two chambers and started making filter coffee sometimes but I guess I became a natural insomniac so the coffee was no more required by the system. Coffee as a flavor is still a favorite. Having a good cup of coffee is still enjoyed lots, even though it's not a daily fix.

Nicola is a young man who started early in life with the art of coffee making. I started with a double espresso shot and started discussing how to make a good cup of coffee. The blend of Arabica and Robusta coffee is of course a deciding factor for a good cup, but the extraction and temperature of water and milk etc is also important. He said coffee from places around Bangalore is the best and is used in Illy coffee blends. But the way Indians make coffee is very different from how it is enjoyed in other places. I agree, we all treat the same drink differently, associate with it differently.

Nicola enlightened me that the water should be at 65 C for espresso, anything beyond that will not result in optimal flavors. I found it true, and was reminded why we all wait for the coffee to cool down a bit when it was made with boiling hot water. He told me the milk also should be 65 C as the sugars and proteins in the milk start caramalising above this temperature. Now about milk I am sure most Indians love that caramalised flavor in their chai or coffee? We even like some fresh cream in our chai or coffee, all boiled down to reduce it, make it thicker, sometimes almost syrupy.

Coming back to Illy coffee standards, I learnt that espresso should be having spots on the surface, the margins that touch cup should also be striped. See how the tiger strips are an indication of a perfect espresso. Who knew that?

Marchhino caldo was a nice coffee with chocolate sauce in it. See the recipe and imagine it at a comfortable temperature to enjoy.

I tried Espreso greko too, but it didn't hit the spot with me. A cold black coffee is not my cuppa and it was a wet rainy day that day and this one didn't suit the weather.

Cappuccino frecco was nice frothy and warm. A better version of the cappuccino that made my palate burn many a times when I was a kid. I remember we were allowed a cup of cappuccino in parties and that ended up invariably with a scalded palate. Who knew coffee has to be made and served at 65 C.

The art, the coffee and the new learning ..

Among a lot of friendly banter, a few tidbits and meeting new people, the coffee was enjoyed. I definitely learned more about coffee that day.

Talking to Suddhasattva Basu, I could relate well to his understanding of nature and connect with the universe as a whole. I agree art doesn't need any explanation and we can all interpret it in our own way.

I liked his series called Sacred garden too. Much like a serene place where you see human presence in the form of a watering hose or a bench, but it was the birds that complete the picture of a garden for me.

He had also displayed a mesmerizing animation film on the same theme. 'Parasparopagriha jeevanam' that translates to 'interdependence of life' was the theme of his series of art on display. I know, as if it was an art experience waiting for me exclusively, or that's what I would like to believe.

Now you know it was a lovely day for me. Thanks to Anasuya Basu and Meena Bhatia from Le Meridien for organizing this wonderful evening.

Caffeine and art is a heady mix, I loved the cocktail. Illy coffee will always be the charm at Le Meridien as Nicola trained the team of baristi there.