Thursday, June 30, 2011

Power Smoothie 2: Fruit Cocktail

Food Blogger Connect is Europe’s primer conference for food bloggers & writers, attracting bloggers from all over Europe & outside Europe, with an impressive line up of guest speakers, programmes and competitions. This year Cuisinart has partnered with FBC (as official small domestic appliance partner) for a fabulous giveaway: two full weekend conference tickets to two very lucky winners and an opportunity to participate in the cooking demonstration with Celebrity Chef Anjum Anand. Even those who have already registered have a chance of winning. How great is that? The rule was to create your own smoothie or make a smoothie recipe from Cuisinart or Anjum Anand’s books and post it on our blog and on Food Blogger Connect Facebook page by 8th of July, 2011 and tweet about it. So here's my second entry!

Fruit Cocktail Smoothie
Handful of fresh strawberries & Raspberries
3-4 Apricots
4 Gooseberries
2 tbsp Honey
1 cup Acaiberry juice
1 tsp Flaxseed
Whizz all the ingredients in a processor until well blended with some ice cubes and serve chilled.

Power Smoothie 1: Peanut Butter-Banana-Chocolate

Our first meal of the day breaks our overnight fast and it is no surprise we call it Breakfast! Although it is definitely the “most important meal" of the day, it is often ignored by most of us. Unfortunately, not many of us make time or have the appetite for a relaxed breakfast first thing in the morning. Back home, the scene was different, mum would always stuff us with piping hot Idlis (with sambhar) or Dosas or Parathas (with potato or veggies) before we rushed out of the door. After moving to England the extremely fast mornings made me notice what people ate including friends, S suggested we change our breakfast choices. Soon fancy morning flakes/cereals became permanent fixtures at our breakfast table, although we do indulge in pancakes/omelettes and other extravagant breakfast, over weekends or holidays.
 Having said that, there are days when my appetite, mood or time for breakfast is Zippo and Power smoothies like these become a quick fix. I have given you two recipes (that are my fall-back ones most of the days) in this and the next post. They are very forgiving recipes, so feel free to add a spoon of protein mix or healthy seeds or any other seasonal fruits. DO give the Peanut Butter-Chocolate-Banana smoothie a’s my firm favourite!

Food Blogger Connect is Europe’s primer conference for food bloggers & writers, attracting bloggers from all over Europe & outside Europe, with an impressive line up of guest speakers, programmes and competitions. This year Cuisinart has partnered with FBC (as official small domestic appliance partner) for a fabulous giveaway: two full weekend conference tickets to two very lucky winners and an opportunity to participate in the cooking demonstration with Celebrity Chef Anjum Anand. Even those who have already registered have a chance of winning. How great is that? The rule was to create your own smoothie or make a smoothie recipe from Cuisinart or Anjum Anand’s books and post it on our blog and on Food Blogger Connect Facebook page by 8th of July, 2011 and tweet about it. So here's my entry!

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Smoothie 
2 Bananas
2tbsp Peanut Butter (I prefer crunchy)
Glug of best Chocolate Sauce (I used homemade)
1-2 Scoop Vanilla Icecream (I used clotted cream)(optional)
1 cup Whole milk or Soy milk
1 heaped tbsp Linwoods cocoa berry with flaxseed
Whizz all the ingredients with some ice cubes as desired, in a processor and serve chilled.

Choosing the right Wine

If you've spend the day trying out new recipes, then a glass of wine is the perfect accompaniment to a huge range of dishes. It's also a good to be able to offer your guests wine to drink if you are hosting a meal - the hard part can be deciding which wine you should choose.
Some types of wine are better suited to particular foods than others, and there are a few basic rules to make sure you never go too far wrong. However, choosing wines that are guaranteed to taste delicious can prove a little trickier.
Fortunately, many high street retailers will now recommend particular bottles - usually those that have had positive reviews from wine critics. This is a simple way to pick a wine that will perfectly compliment your latest culinary creation. However, if the choice is still too difficult, then you could always consider joining a scheme such as the M&S Wine Club. You will already find a diverse selection of , but you benefit from expertly chosen bottles being delivered direct to your doorstep on a quarterly basis by joining the Wine Club. There are three different plans available (Old World Classics, New World Discoveries and the Contemporary Plan), so you can tailor your selection to meet your own individual tastes and preferences.
If the urge to whip up tasty treats in the kitchen is often a rather impromptu affair, then it can be a good idea to keep a stock of top-quality wines to accompany any given dish. By having a selection of whites, reds and rose wines regularly delivered to your home, you'll never find yourself scouring the shelves of your local off-licence, hoping to find something pleasant to be enjoyed by you or your guests.
Choosing a great wine is a skill you can pick up over time, even if you have relatively little experience. Read the bottle labels to find out if you prefer wine from a particular region, and pay attention to whether you're drinking something that's dry, sweet, fruity or full-bodied. This way you are more likely to develop an understanding of what a wine will taste like before you try it, as well as a useful knowledge of your own personal preferences.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Forever Nigella #7 Iced Dreams: Chocolate Cherry Trifle

You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice creamAuthor Unknown.
Back home, as kids, during the Summer holidays with scorching sun at 45C, apart from running around naked, building sand castles and playing in water to beat the heat...daily ice-cream treats were something we looked forward to. The dreamy softie ones in hues of pink,green, or pristine white, the corenettos loaded with nuts and chocolate, the indian kulfis flavoured with rosewater, saffron, pistachios, mango & almonds or the mouth-watering, tounge colouring Indian ice slush called gola ice we were spoilt for options. Although I must say my favourite has always been and will be the gola ice in orange, mango, kalakhatta (black grape juice) & many such cocktail flavours. It was fun to just wait for your turn to place the order while the gola wala (vendor) would put a big chunk of ice in his wonder machine (for us he was a magician, turning ice to frozen fantacy) & churn out crushed ice in a giffy, gathering it with his hand, shape it into a candy. A quick precise poke with the stick, a liberal drizzle of orange/red/rose/purple syrup, a squeeze lime, a pinch of the quintessential black salt & Voila! He would beam as we greedy kids would grab a couple of these & relish it with a loud sluuurp as we sucked the tangy sweet & salty syrup, chilled with the frozen ice to quench our thirst. 
I must confess that as adults now, we get so trapped up in our busy lives, we just forget how simplest of things can bring immense pleasure. Now that I live away from home & away from my gola wala (vendor), I try to make my own versions at home, but much creamier, fruitier and probably healthier. Then there are always the convenient tubs of dark chocolate, rocky road, cookie dough, Cornish clotted cream, vanilla etc that you can buy when you dont feel like bringing out the heavy machinery (the ice-cream maker of course). 
I am chuffed to be hosting this months Forever Nigella blogging event. I absolutely adore Nigella (not to mention my hussyband who does too for other reasons). I love the way she breezes through kitchen & whizzes up gourmet food, entertains friends and still manages to look like a million dollar note!I have most of her books but I think Forever Summer is my firm favourite.
I met Sarah at a potluck party and was instantly drawn to her warm & cheerful character and I am glad she let me host this months Forever Nigella. 
I have already made Nigella's strawberry ice-cream a gazillion times ever since I saw her make it on the Forever Summer series & didnt have alcohol for her Margharita Ice-cream recipe. Since the theme still says chilled desserts, I chose her Chocolate Cherry Trifle (to exhaust my stock of black cherries in kirsch from christmas), but made the chocolate cake from scratch (unlike her)!

A Reminder of the rules:
Forever Nigella #7 "Iced Dreams"
Challenge :To prepare and blog any Nigella recipe for iced desserts. Not limited to ice creams, sorbets and semifreddo but also any dessert that is best served icy cold.
Deadline : Sunday, July 31, 2011 by midnight your time.
Round up: The Next weekend.
There are: No rules about how often you must take part
No rules about stuff being secret until certain dates
No rules that everyone cook exactly the same thing
But just 3 rules:
1. Blog your entry by the deadline including:
a) the current Forever Nigella badge
b) a link to the Forever Nigella #7 post at
c) a link to the official Forever Nigella page at Maison Cupcake:
2. So not to breach Nigellas copyright you must NOT reproduce recipes verbatim as shown in her books. If using an original Nigella recipe, tell us which book it is from and/or where we find it online (see most likely sites below). If youve adapted the recipe in some way i.e. changed at least two ingredients or amended the method then its ok to publish the a recipe in your post but you MUST write the directions in your own words.
3. Tell us about your post by emailing me: debugcookingATgmailDOTcom and please c.c. sarahATmaisoncupcakeDOTcom with:
a) your name
b) URL of your post
c) a photo no more than 400 pixels wide.
Remember to tweet your post with the hashtag #forevernigella
Sarah at Maison Cupcake will retweet all those she sees!
PS: Your entry must have been published since the announcement post. You may only submit something from your archives if you republish it as a new post.
If you don't have any Nigella books check out these resources online:
Nigella's official site: 
BBC Food: 
Channel 4 Food:
UKTV Good Food Channel: 
Food Network: 
Daily Mail:

Chocolate Cherry Trifle
Ingredients (Adapted from Nigella's Recipe)
1 large chocolate pound loaf 

black cherry jam
60ml Kirsch+ 60ml Brandy
700g drained black cherries (I used the ones in Kirsch)
Chocolate Custard
90g Dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, chopped
250ml milk
250ml heavy cream
6 egg yolks
85g sugar
25g cocoa
250ml Double cream
Dark Chocolate Shavings
Special Equipment: Large wide trifle bowl
Spread the chocolate cake slices with the cherry jam, and layer the bottom of a large wide trifle bowl. Pour the Kirsch+Brandy over the cake sandwiches, and then top with the drained cherries. Cover with cling & let it sit, while you make the custard.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Set aside. In a saucepan gently warm the milk and cream. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cocoa in a bowl. Pour the warm milk and cream into the bowl whisking it into the yolks and sugar mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, pour the custard back into the saucepan and Cook over a low heat until the custard thickens, stirring all the time. The custard will thicken as it cools and also when it's chilling in the refrigerator. Pour into a bowl to cool and cover the top of the custard with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming.
 Once the custard has cooled, pour it over the chocolate-cherry layer in the trifle bowl, and leave in the refrigerator to set, covered in cling film preferably overnight or at least a couple of hours. Whip the double cream for the topping and pipe or spread it gently over the layer of custard. Decorate with chocolate flakes & some fresh cherries.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Chocolate-Hazelnut-Pistachio & Rose Baklava

Erica of Ericas Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making Baklava using homemade phyllo dough. Baklava, a sweet rich pastry made with nuts sweetened with simple syrup sandwiched between  layers of phyllo dough. Although popular as a Greek dessert,  its origin has never really been authenticated as many Middle Eastern countries claim it to be theirs.
I was not a big fan of Baklava found it way too sweet for my palate until I made one that suited my taste buds. I improvised the layers  with a rich dark chocolate-hazelnut-pistachio-rose filling,  scented with rosewater syrup. I loved the  bitterness from the dark chocolate layers that followed the sweetness of the rose scented syrup ( very unusual but work very well).

Chocolate-Hazelnut-Pistachio-Rose Baklava
Phyllo Dough: 
To fill my baking dish (13'x8.5') I cut 18 layers of phyllo to get 36 sheets. 

1 1/3 cups (320 ml) (185 gm/6½ oz) unbleached all purpose (plain) flour

1/8 teaspoon (2/3 ml) (¾ gm) salt
1/2 cup less 1 tablespoon (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) cider vinegar, (could substitute white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar, but could affect the taste)
In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt. Mix with paddle attachment. Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl. Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes. Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 30-90 minutes, longer is best.
Rolling your Phyllo
Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly larger than a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesnt dry out. Be sure to flour your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, dont worry, you cant over-flour. Roll out the dough a bit to flatten it out. Wrap the dough around your rolling pin/dowel. Roll back and forth quickly with the dough remaining on the dowel. Rotate and repeat until it is as thin as you can it. Dont worry if you get rips in the dough, as long as you have one perfect one for the top you will never notice. When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well-floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. Set aside on a well-floured surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up. Between each sheet again flower well. You will not need to cover your dough with a wet cloth, as you do with boxed dough; it is moist enough that it will not try out.
For the Syrup
11/4 Cup (280g/10oz) sugar
1/2 Cup (120ml) honey
11/4 Cup (300ml) water
2 Tbsp (30ml) rosewater
Combine all ingredients in a medium pot over medium high heat. Stir occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 10min remove from heat and strain cinnamon stick and lemon, allow to cool as baklava cooks.
For the Filling
3/4 cup (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) roasted hazelnuts
3/4 cup (180 ml) (155 gm/5½ oz) dark chocolate chopped
3/4 cup (180 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) raw or roasted pistachios
Few dried edible rose petals
phyllo dough (see recipe above)
1/2 cup (1 stick) (120 ml) 113g/4 oz) melted butter
Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4. Combine nuts and chocolate in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. If you do not have a food processor chop with a sharp knife as fine as you can. Set aside. Brush bottom of pan with butter and place first phyllo sheet. Brush the first phyllo sheet with butter and repeat approximately 8 times ending with butter. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. Continue layering phyllo and buttering repeating 4 times. Sprinkle 1/3 of the nut mixture on top. Continue layering and buttering phyllo 8 more times. On the top layer, make sure you have a piece of phyllo with no holes if possible, just looks better. Once you have applied the top layer tuck in all the edges to give a nice appearance. With a Sharp knife cut your baklava in desired shapes and number of pieces. If you can't cut all the ways through dont worry you will cut again later. Bake for approximately 30 minutes; remove from oven and cut again this time all the way through. Continue baking for another 30 minutes. (Oven temperatures will vary, you are looking for the top to be a golden brown. When baklava is cooked remove from oven and pour the cooled (will still be warmish) syrup evenly over the top, taking care to cover all the humps & bumps. Set aside to cool at room temperature overnight for the syrup to be absorbed. Serve at room temperature or warm slightly if desired with a scoop of ice-cream.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

All Things Cornish: Cornish Pasty (Veggie)

I am not someone who likes to be seasonally correct in terms of cooking. I just listen to my stomach and my mood. Past few weeks for some weird reason has been a sort of madness revolving around all things Cornish! How corny is that? I mean, 'S' & I have been trying all makes of Cornish ice-creams all week and after 6 7 tubs of ice-cream we seem to have found the one that pleases our taste buds; we are now hunting for the perfect Cornish pasty. Although, I have made them at home several times, so far the one that we like (apart from mine) is from this tiny van (The West Cornwall Pasty).
I guess even the weather gods have such moody daysOne day he blesses us with rich sunniness & radiant blue skies and the next its wind, chill & grey skies with downpour that has no plans to stop. This afternoon, I sat near the window watching rain pour & splash against the chilly winds and enjoyed the tiny droplets hitting my face. I instantly knew my body needed something warm and cheesy from the oven. I quickly whizzed the short crust pastry in my processor and a hour later rustic looking Veggie Cornish Pasty emerged out of the ovenSun was shining again!

Cornish Pasty (Veggie)
For the Shortcrust Pastry
Flour - 450g
Butter - 175g
Vegetable Fat like Trex - 25g
Ice cold Water - 6-8 tbsp
For the Filling
Potato -1 peeled & cut into 1cm dice
Onion - 1 peeled & cut into 1cm dice
Swede - 1/4 peeled & cut into 1cm dice
Quorn Mince - 100g-2200g
Cornflour - 1 tbsp
Salt & Pepper
Make the pastry first - dump the flour, butter, trex & salt into the processor and pulse till the mixture resembles bread-crumbs. Pour the water and pulse until it comes together. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead gently to bring together then wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. Preheat oven to 180C. Meanwhile, toss the veggies with the corn flour & season well. Divide the pastry into 4 equal pieces and roll each one out on a lightly floured work surface, rolling in one direction. Give the pastry a quarter-turn, and then roll it again to form a round, about 20cm in diameter & the thickness of a £1 coin. Arrange the filling onto the centre of the rolled out pastry, top with cheese and lightly brush the edge of the pastry with water then carefully bring up the edges to the centre to cover the filling. Pinch or crimp so that the filling is sealed. Brush the pasties with egg wash and bake for about 45-60min or until the pastry is golden. Serve hot.
Tip: I usually have a chilled bag of flour for making pastry and I use chilled butter.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June Plate 2 Page Photography assignment - WATERMELON

Just when you thought all that pink post it madness ended with the is the June assignment...WattaMelon!
I made this very summery Watermelon & Feta Salad; a must on a hot day at a picnic! The sweet & Juicy watermelon provides a perfect balance to the crumbly saltiness of the feta. I have in many occasions made this salad with sliced red onions & olives. Th pumpkin seed gives it the perfect crunch.
June Plate to Page Assignment - Watermelon. Two images of watermelon.
 Love my new Ergo Chef Knive that I got back from plate2page!!

 Watermelon.Feta & Pumpkin Seed Salad

Watermelon,Feta & Pumpkinseed Salad
2 large slices of best juicy Watermelon cut into wedges
200g Feta cubes
Handful of basil leaves(you could use mint instead)
1 red onion sliced
Handful of olives
Olive Oil for drizzling
Toss all the ingredients except the oil in a bowl and  drizzle over some oil & serve.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The ever expanding line: Would you let your waistline determine where you live?

The photo above & below is me with my parents, my vast collection of recipes, A travel/foodalogue  (I even have restaurant receipts ).
Summer break in the 90s…I am helping my mum in the scorching heat to make potato bhaji sandwiches for our little family picnic later that day. She passes the bread slathered with butter & mint chutney and I load it greedily with the bhaji and cheese. Fast forward 2 hours, we are all happily devouring the treats devilishly under the shade. Joys that simplest of things give us! The thought of these sandwiches brings back those sweet memories and makes me hungry instantly.

For me food just isn’t a source of energy or nourishment, it’s about memories- of times, places, childhood, a holiday, it’s about people and love. That’s why till date, to me, my mum’s potato bhaji sandwiches are the best. Its memories like these that inspire me in my kitchen and act as a starting point for something new. I am not a trained professional and neither do I have culinary degrees, all I am qualified to do is people management. Everything I know today about food was learned either from eating, travelling widely or from watching people cook. Technically I might not know much, but I have a passion- a passion to eat good food and a passion to cook good food! Not everybody is born with knowledge of baking and there is no shame in looking up techniques and learning and neither is everybody blessed to do a pricey Pâtisserie course!

Cooking is pretty much like a puzzle to me. It starts with an ingredient picked up in the local market or delivered by a CSA man and definitely not with what you had in mind when you left home. The excitement builds on as you pick up ingredients; run it through your mind’s archives for recipes. It’s simply an art of combing things in different ways, the more you eat, the more you cook and vice versa. The more you remember things, the more you build up flavours & ingredients and start experimenting. The more you know what works - you create, you invent! You are definitely not going to make perfect macarons with ‘feet’ the very first time. You have to adjust, fine-tune, season, re-season, taste, fiddle, give things a shot & see what happens! Be a risk taker, drawing on memoirs of good things and making some new innovations along the way, giving a family signature dish your personal twist. Most of my versions of a classic recipe are simply the result of fiddling until I ended up with something that satisfies me. 
I think I have always loved food; it has been a very important part of my life. As a kid, I started my ever expanding collection of food clippings from newspapers and magazines. I remember every weekend was, to me, an experimental weekend. I would jot down a recipe from my vast collection and dish it out with great enthusiasm and wait for the verdict from my former guinea pigs (my 2 adorable sisters A2 & A3). Nothing has changed much now! I have more cookbooks, paper clipping & e-versions as references to try; although I admit, I don’t follow the recipe to the T anymore. I have become more daring, but I still wait with the same excitement to serve to my new guinea pigs (S and my beloved friends)…
Answering the
#coldcoffeeclub discussion… Does your waistline determine where you live? The answer is No,it really doesn't matter where I live, I will always be the big fat foodie that I am, today! Kitchen is where my heart is and so as long as the place we live has a decent one, I will cook my heart out & Eat it!
Do read up what everyone else thinks on this topic here: Ilva of Luculliandelights Mona of WiseWordsSimone of Junglefrog, Ishay of FoodandthefabulousAstrid of Paulchen's FoodBlogJamie of Life's A Feast and Jenn of Jenn's Cuisine.
Peony: my all time fav!

Monday, June 06, 2011

A weekend escape and Giveaway winner announcement

This weekend S and I escaped the city buzz to a swanky spa town in Yorkshire called Harrogate. A city of Old-World charm, Harrogate, is undeniably splendid with its stone mansions and seductive arts – crafts & antique shops dotted through the town, amidst exotic cafés. Harrogate's many mesmerizing shops in the Montpellier Quarter for antiques, fascinating arts & crafts shops and bustling markets. It is a vintage prop heaven for crazy food bloggers like me and I got back home with the loot.
Harrogate is well-known for its tearooms and classy cafés. The renowned Betty's tearoom was established in Harrogate in 1919, with people still lining up for their magnificent afternoon teas and Fat Rascal. The windows display an array of different breads, tarts, cakes, macarons, exotic teas and coffees (to relish at home). We enjoyed the speciality Tea at Betty's complete with China Rose Petal Tea (served in enviable collection of tea pots & cutlery), perfect scones with clotted cream & jam, and a corrupting collection of fresh fruit custard tart, chocolate macaron, mini lemon drizzle and tartines. 

 Vintage BMW Parked on the street outside a cafe
 Inside busy Bettys Cafe

With the discovery of a mineral water well in 1571, Harrogate became England's first spa. So the spa buffs can find pure relaxation at The Turkish Baths and Health Spa, complete with steam rooms, pool and a cold-water plunge pool. A Turkish Bath ritual is a journey of heating, cooling and cleansing the body, promoting a sense of relaxation and a clear mind. 
Outside the Cafe
On a completely different topic: I am happy to announce that Nisha of an open book is the winner of Kitchen Stools Direct giveaway.

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