February 28, 2011

A little bit of this and that

So, did you watch the match yesterday? And did you want to knock our ‘Captain Cool’ Dhoni on his head, wring Chawla’s hand and chop off Bhajji’s head for missing that ever so crucial catch? The field placements were awry, the fielding was pathetic, the boys in blue seemed to be unaware about the concept of ‘Appealing’ and really, with a score like 338, if you can’t defend it, you have no business being in the game.

England on their part, played like champions, Strauss leading like a sturdy soldier with his loyal army backing him up every step of the way. They were cruising along to victory, when a sudden volley of wickets by Zaheer put a stop to their proceedings. So near, yet so far eh?

It was last night when I was sitting at the club with friends, breathing in the heavy, tension-filled, nicotine enhanced air, when both the teams had a 50% chance of winning, that I came up with the recipe to my new dish. 

50:50 Cookies
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
5 tbsp butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk

 Preheat oven to 350.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or grease and flour them REALLY WELL so that the cookies don't stick.  These are super cake-y so they will stick.  Every chance they get.  Be wary. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda. Using a mixer, cream 5 tbsp butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Beat in the flour mixture alternating with the buttermilk until smooth.  Place 1/4 cup scoops of batter about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Using a butter knife, spread the batter so that they are still quite thick but are flat on top.  THIS IS CRUCIAL.  If these are too thin, they will fall apart when you are trying to put icing on them.  Because they are cake-y they are ONLY sturdy if they are thick and they will spread quite a bit, I promise.  So just be careful.  Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out dry, about 12-15 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Vanilla Glaze
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp hot water

METHOD: Whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla, corn syrup, and hot water until smooth.  When the cookies are cool, face them bottom side up and spread half of the cookie with vanilla glaze.  You can do this with a butter knife.

Chocolate Glaze
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
3 tbsp butter
1 tbsp light corn syrup

METHOD: In a bowl, melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave for about 1 minute or until melted.  Add the corn syrup and stir until smooth. Spread this over the second half of the cookies (use a spoon).  Refrigerate/freeze for 20 minutes to set. 

February 26, 2011

Baby’s Day Out

So, it seems like the big man up there has put quite a spoke in our partying wheels and has charted out our weekend plans much before we could even say PARTAAAAAY! My best friend and her husband have been given diaper duty by her cousin (which by extension also includes me and other ‘knowledgeable’ baby handlers) and so, the kids (aged 5 and 7 years) are already creating quite a ruckus.

Adorable they are though! Extremely happy, unspoilt children who will say ‘Please’ ‘Thank You’ and ‘Sorry’ almost in repeat after each sentence. As a result of the babysitting weekend, my friends and I have decided to cook the boys a few of their favourite things. Here is what’s on the menu for tonight!


Vanilla Cupcakes
·         3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
·         2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
·         5 eggs
·         1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
·         1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract
·         3 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 teaspoon baking powder
·         1/2 teaspoon baking soda
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1 cup buttermilk

·         1 pound cream cheese
·         1 pound unsalted butter
·         1 16oz. box confectioners’ sugar
·         1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·         Rainbow sprinkles

METHOD: Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners. In a mixer fitted with the paddle, attachment beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and almond extracts. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a small bowl. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.

Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center of the cupcakes spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting. To make the frosting cream together the butter and cream cheese until very smooth. Then add the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Frost each cupcake then place the sprinkles on a plate and roll the sides of the cupcake in them.

The Best Macaroni and Cheese Ever
·         1 (8-ounce) package elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
·         2 tablespoons butter
·         1 clove garlic, crushed
·         1 teaspoon onion powder
·         2 cups whole milk
·         1/4 cup all-purpose flour
·         6 cups sharp cheddar cheese
·         2 cups breadcrumbs
·         1/2 cup butter, melted

METHOD: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large saucepan, melt the 2 tablespoons of butter, add the garlic and cook until the garlic is softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the onion powder, then whisk in the flour and milk, then cook until slightly thickened.  Add three cups of the cheddar cheese and stir until melted in the mixture.  Toss the cheese mixture with the cooked pasta, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir the remaining grated cheese into the pasta.  Spoon into a large baking dish.

In a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and melted butter.  I always like to add a bunch of freshly ground pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt to this mixture.  Spread over the pasta.  Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.  Serve piping hot!


Vanilla Peppermint Martini
·         Candy canes
·         2 1/2 ounces vanilla vodka
·         1 ounce peppermint schnapps
·         Lime
·         Fresh mint
·         Ice

Directions: Crush your choice of candy canes to rim the martini glasses. If you don’t want to rim with crushed candy canes then just dangle a miniature candy cane on the rim of each glass. Chill the martini glasses by filling with crushed ice and cold water. Remove the water and ice from martini glasses. Wet glass rim with lime wedge and coat with crushed candy canes. Pour vodka and schnapps in a shaker over crushed ice and shake well. Strain peppermint martini into glass and add mint sprig. Drink up girls!

February 24, 2011

Killer Combo

As most of you would’ve guessed by now, I’m a big fan of the Zara experience. Therefore, it obviously comes as no surprise when I say that every time something new is launched, be it a drink or a new menu, I’m right up there with my bunch of Zara loyalists to try, test and taste what’s on offer.

So one sunny afternoon, when the boss and I were facing frustrating times at work, we decided to go sample the new Combo lunch offer that just underwent a facelift recently. Off we trotted the two of us, with our uber sweet colleague in tow and found ourselves in the cool confines of the resto bar, which seemed like the much needed R n’ R we required.

To soothe our tired minds, the three of us opted for some refreshing mocktails (A virgin Pina Colada for me and Strawberry Coladas for them) and found bliss on a hot summer day. Perfectly blended, creamy and luscious, with just the right bite of sweet and tart, this kept us happy as we waited for the starters to come.

And then in all its delicious glory, arrived one plate after the other. First up, were the pick of the starters – Crumb-fried curry flavoured eggs served with spicy mayo (perfectly boiled and crisp-fried eggs with a curry cream on the inside that complemented the spicy, golden yellow mayo), Vegetable Quesadilla (the ideal on-the-go meal oozing cheese and crisp vegetables, offset by a tart, pungent salsa verde) and the ever popular Crumb-fried cottage cheese fingers (served with a Zara cocktail sauce).

As we waited for our entrees, the first course being polished off in a matter of minutes, I couldn’t help but notice that even on a Wednesday, the placed was packed to capacity. The main course of choice was Cottage Cheese and mixed peppers in a creamy curry sauce served with rice. Even though this was my colleagues order, much to his dismay I wolfed down most of his dish. The curry sauce was one of the best I have tasted in recent times – creamy, voluptuous, with a full flavour. Also hitting the sweet spot was the Grilled stuffed chicken breast with tomato salsa and potato wedges and the Mixed vegetable pancakes topped with cream sauce. Perfectly cooked and bursting with flavour, it is no wonder why these combo lunches do so well at Zara.

Sufficiently stuffed to the gills, but refusing to take no for an answer, us three musketeers went ahead and asked for dessert and boy! Were we happy! The Cream Caramel with coffee cream was sublime perfection, owing to its light, fluffy airy texture; a sharp contrast to the doughy, sweet, indulgent goodness of the Crispy fried apple roll with vanilla ice cream.  As we walked out with a content smile on our faces, I couldn’t help but break into song and dance...today being ladies’ night at Zara, guess who’s coming to dinner!

February 23, 2011

Masterchef Mania

I’m addicted to TV. I can spend hours on end obsessed with the ‘IDIOT’ box, watching one mindless show after the other (read Splitsvilla and the like), but never really get bored. Reruns of Friends, repeats of My Wife and Kids, Nigella Lawson’s heaving bosom and paltry kitchen skills and Charlie Sheen up to no good every day – bring it on baby! If this is the curse of technology and hence television, then I revel and relish every single moment of it.

By now I think you have a fair idea about what I do in my free time (this is apart from the aged grape juice induced inebriation) and how I like spending it. So this brings me to one of my most favourite shows on TV at present – Masterchef. The American Idol of the cooking world if you will, Masterchef has taken the culinary world by storm, whipping up quite an appetite for foodies like me.
So, why is Masterchef such a success? Apart from being able to connect and see your dream being lived out on the teletube, there are other, subtler undercurrents in the Masterchef phenomenon, that need to be teased out if we are to understand its success.

 I think that the nature of the show is similar to most reality game shows. It's still about groups, people getting on together, liking each other, and yet competing. The fact that the audience isn't involved in ‘voting’ them out, takes some of the negativity out of it. The food thing is important as well. It taps into the whole desire for ‘authenticity’ trend, which in fact is something that fills the gap of class, religion, etc.

I guess you could even say the show invokes a romantic ideal of food, so we can escape from our everyday reality – which is counted in seconds, and we live each one of them. Moreover, I am not sure if it is a Gen Y and X thing (I hate those labels), but I think it taps into a deeper need for connection with people.

Simply put, shows like Masterchef make you feel good. It makes you want to go into the kitchen, imagine your own cookery contest and whip up a meal, only to be adjudged No 1 by the people you love. It makes you believe in the every day, the ordinary and the ability to convert that into something special. This is where it delivers – because it’s like a warm bowl of comforting goodness on a chilly winter night…and you know what? It doesn’t matter if the person making it was gastronomical guru Gordon Ramsay or a chunky, clunky and clumsy looking construction worker Jake. Ultimately, it warms the cockles of your heart!

February 21, 2011

Medium Raw: Well done

Anthony Bourdain – the name in itself commands a sort of fear, respect and inspiration to most aspirational foodies world over, me included.  Bourdain has come to be known as one of the most celebrated chefs, critics and authors worldwide – someone who will make you cringe with his abusive, almost callous and cold critique of food (McDonalds’ chicken nuggets was by far the worst hit).

I have no reservations in saying he is the cherry on the cake of food programming. For one thing, he does not pretend to be an intellectual. Unpretentious, often downright uneducated about the country he visits; his reactions are honest, very human and frequently funny.  He takes his food as it comes. And his people too. He is no gourmet in this series and doesn't pretend to be, though he knows what tastes good and what he likes. He is not, never ever, condescending. His humour is self-deprecatory which is attractive as against Vir Sanghvi's self-congratulatory style (‘Rude Food’ is by fare one of the most obnoxiously bad food shows I’ve ever seen).

Bourdian can also write quite a mean cookbook, his most recent being - Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. After making waves with his best-seller Kitchen Confidential, which looked at the goings on inside the kitchen from an outsider’s point of view, Bourdain’s new book is slightly more tempered - a trait that much reflects how the man himself has become after decades in the business.

Bourdain is a perennial outsider and that's why he is such an interesting and illuminating writer. Never feeling comfortable in the status quo, he is able to cast an inquisitory eye on the cult of celebrity that has come to be associated with cooking these days. Reflecting back on his upbringing, there is no trauma or suffering in his childhood. It seems a need for stimulation and excitement takes the young student into the world of haute cuisine and then into a descending spiral of drug and alcohol dependency. While Kitchen Confidential caught the angry young man, today Bourdain, the father of young girl, no longer cares to indulge the mortal dangers of being cool.

The alternative rebel and adult engage in a fierce debate throughout the book. He offers an admonitory chapter on the real seductions of becoming a chef. He describes the frightening challenges of running a profitable restaurant in economically difficult times. He rails against vegetarians like George Orwell once did, but in a far more furious way. The chapters that describe the suicidal man he was following a divorce, the addiction to hard drugs, are now replaced by the need to live for someone else. Now his concerns are mainstream. The shock at the way the meat industry delivers their product to our supermarkets and his careful counter programming of his daughter against the seductive marketing of McDonalds.

Yes, he is tamer, but don't be fooled: he is not by any means domesticated. Medium Raw is a fitting title for  the man whose love affair with food continues much as a protective, almost possessive lover who lives for his muse; but he does so now while coming to terms with his whoremongering and making peace with selling out to a food network. All this while his bark and bite remain clearly intact. Well done, indeed!

February 19, 2011

Bleeding Blue!

World cup fever is officially in the air! From the Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy 'De Ghuma ke' jingle to Pepsi's doosras & palti shots, to the 6 new World Cup chips flavours, February beckons the largest cricketing event to be staged in the sub-continent. By no means, a small task.

What is staggering though is the scale of its importance to the cricket playing nations. With the fixtures and schedules known, teams are in full preparation. Extra practice sessions, rigorous fielding drills, hours of strategic planning, are the main work outs for all the teams.

For some like Sachin, Muralitharan, Ponting, Kallis, this is their last chance for a shot at the most prized tournament in the cricketing world. With just one shot remaining in their artillery, expect nothing less than a powerful explosion. They will be ready to stretch their body, twitch their muscles and rub off some wounds to lay their hands in the coveted World Cup trophy. Remember, wounded dogs bite stronger.

As for me, I’m all set to watch the match (even though it’s a working day) at office. The action will continue late into the evening as our men in blue get set to start off with a bang against their Bangladeshi brothers…while I have decided to support our boys with some blue spirit of my own, quite literally!
Here are the some of my most favourite ‘BLUE’ cocktails. Get into the spirit guys, World Cup fever has just begun…BLEED BLUE!

Blue Lagoon
·         1½ oz vodka
·         1½ oz Blue Curaçao
·         Lemonade
Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Add the vodka and Curaçao and top up with lemonade. Stir well. Serve garnished with a slice of orange. For a Blue Lagoon shot, mix ½ oz vodka , ½ oz Blue Curaçao and ½ oz lime juice with ice in a shaker. Strain into a shot glass.

Blue Martini
·         ½ oz dry vermouth
·         1½ oz gin
·         1 teaspoonful Blue Curaçao
·         A dash of bitters
Fill a shaker with crushed ice. Add all the ingredients and shake well. Serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

Azure Martini
·         2 oz gin
·         1 oz Triple Sec
·         1 oz Blue Curaçao
Fill a shaker with crushed ice. Add all the ingredients and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.

Blue Margarita
·         2 oz tequila
·         1 oz Blue Curaçao
·         1 oz lime juice
·         ¼ oz sugar syrup
Fill a shaker with crushed ice. Add all the ingredients and shake well. Wipe the cut lime around the edge of a martini glass and dip into a saucer of salt. Carefully strain the cocktail into the glass.

Carolina Blue
·         1 oz gin
·         1 oz Blue Curaçao
·         1 lime
Fill a shaker with crushed ice. Squeeze the juice from the lime into the shaker. Add the gin and Curaçao and shake well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass garnished with a twist of lime.

Blue Hawaiian
·         1½ oz white rum
·         3 oz pineapple juice
·         1 oz Blue Curaçao
·         1½ oz coconut milk
Fill a shaker with ice. Add all the ingredients and shake well. Strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Serve garnished with a cherry and a slice of pineapple.