A stash of pistachios, and a windfall of walnuts from faraway Tehran had me rubbing my hands in glee as I got ready to bake a birthday cake for my husband’s birthday. I had a rich, smooth, somewhat adult, cappuccino cheesecake in mind but I also wanted to use the newly-arrived nuts in the cake. A salted walnut praline seemed like the perfect crunchy crown for the creamy, java-infused cheesecake.
On some days I eat for comfort and on other days I cook to provide comfort. The embrace of food is real and close. And sometimes it’s okay to walk into its arms for succour. A particularly demanding week and long hours for the family, called for a dose of dolce on the weekend. I had a brown paper bag of beautiful scarlet apples and one of the most delightful apple recipes I’ve come across. Way easier than apple pie, I made a delectable Whole Wheat Brown Butter Apple Galette to lift our tired spirits.
Happiness is a slow, serendipitous lunch of grilled chicken in the dappled shade of the guava tree on a warm Sunday afternoon. With my foot firmly on the brake till Monday, my day dawned later than usual despite the robust renditions of the koels (cuckoos) residing in the fruit trees outside my bedroom window. Sunday papers read, floating on a ribbon of blues meandering through the house (from my better half’s eclectic music collection), the mood was smooth for a morning of leisurely cooking.
My Christmas was gluten-free. Every year, the holiday season leaves me feeling bloated from feasting on the holiday specials (and completely giving up festive food is neither possible nor probable). So this time, I tried to retain the quintessential flavours of the season by choosing lighter (and healthier) substitutes for ingredients that leave one feeling full and sluggish. I’m not normally on a 100% gluten-free diet the rest of the year, but yes, when there are parties to attend and dresses to fit into, it makes sense to turn into a gluten-free gourmand.
Glue. That’s what a bowl of oats meant to me growing up in boarding school. At breakfast, I could turn the bowl of porridge over my head and nothing. The gloop would hold its ground, strong and tenacious. I almost always never touched it. Oat porridge re-entered my life later on when I overcame my memories to try new oats recipes – both sweet and savoury. I’m partial to a bowl of savoury oats because I think it is incredibly versatile. It would so gladden my culinary cockles if this post encourages cooks to look beyond pre-flavoured instant oats (loaded with sodium and preservatives) to create their own imaginative oats recipes.
Crab curry with rice on a lazy Sunday afternoon with my family is a quiet affair. The cracking of shells and the sucking of juices the only sounds. A big bowl sits at the centre of the dining table, filling up fast with remnants of soft, chewed-up shells, and vermillion shards of hard shells; every tender crabby morsel having been patiently prised out. Crab curry, in my home, is normally cooked for lunch on a holiday, to be eaten patiently and meticulously so that the soul along with the belly is fully satisfied. This is slow food – spices roasted and ground up and cooked with artful care and taking time to savour and enjoy the meal. This feast is almost always followed by a nap.
Baking a healthy cake like my wholesome Gluten-Free Chocolate Beetroot Cake, gives me bone-deep satisfaction. In the last few months, I’ve struggled to perfect the recipe for a gluten-free, xanthum gum-free, light, moist, healthy and unapologetically chocolaty chocolate cake. Past experiments resulted in a few disasters when the cake crumb alternated between sawdust and sand. So, now that I have nailed that dense, intense mouthfeel of a real chocolate cake, (think dark, dew-soaked rainforest soil), I’m taking a moment. Call me kooky but cooking, like spilt ink smudges runs into most aspects of my life, and sometimes makes me question the time, thought and precious elbow grease that I put into it. But on occasion, when an experiment yields a near flawless result, it all seems worth it.
Big fish are overrated if you ask me. The giant tuna, sea bass and kingfish filets and steaks may be meatier but it’s the small fry that score big on taste, nutrition and sustainability. Fish recipes must focus on everyday catch that have traditionally been a vital part of our diet but are largely ignored these days for more expensive, imported, boneless, supermarket fare. This post on Fresh Anchovies With Coconut celebrates the little denizens of the ocean.
This is one of my favourite prawn recipes. My Firecracker Prawn 65 is inspired by the the undisputed big daddy of Indian bar snacks – Chicken 65. This crimson-hued, deep fried, hot and tangy chicken dish even has its own (ever-growing) lore woven around its intriguing name. Why 65 you ask? Well, the straightforward stories speak of 65 chillies in the marinade, other tall tales tell us of a marination period of 65 days and some even more imaginative ones say the age of the chickens has to be 65 days – no more, no less! But the real story is a little more staid – Mr.Buhari, the enterprising owner of Chennai’s iconic Buhari restaurant created this cracker of a dish, which appeared on their menu in 1965.
Sitting here listening to the roaring downpour and the powerful percussion of the waves outside, it’s hard to imagine the winter days we left behind just a few weeks ago. That world, life on another continent, seems strangely within touching distance and yet unreal, like a hazy dream. There, when the dark chill hushed the streets, we sought cheer in front of the fireplace, playing board games, catching up on movies and eating hearty, winter-warming meals. At the end of a cold day, we looked forward to the comforting embrace of those family dinners. And what better than classic, old fashioned French onion soup to infuse our tired bodies with gentle warmth, like a mother’s hug.