Saturday, January 30, 2010


This is the second fortnightly Food for Thought meme the brainchild of the very talented Jain from Once in  Blue Moon and of Food With Style.

 The Road Home
**** and a half

Few things could be worse than losing a spouse to sickness and death, and when it happens and you have loved, it changes your life forever.

"Lev pressed a damp towel to his face and prayed that the heartache would pass, like a brief storm, like a nightmare from which it's possible to wake. But it wouldn't pass and so he stood there weeping....."

"When men cry it's never for nothing..."

It was the premature death of his wife, Mariana, that Lev wept for.

Lured by the opportunities of a capitalist country Lev had travelled to London from Auror, a deprived village in Eastern Europe, in search of a new life for his daughter and his mother back home.

Lev spends a year in London, with memories of Mariana tucked into his heart, sometimes reliving his past at will and at other times helplessly. 

It is a story of Lev, as an immigrant in London, his shift from one ideal to another, the loneliness he encounters, the displacement he feels, the despair of poverty, the friendships, the love affair, his foolishness and finally the discovery that he dared to dream.

This is a story that is profound, enchanting, painful and bittersweet. I loved it.

Because ..............

Tremain writes with such depth and intensity for every character. She makes them breathe and pulsate so I could touch them; each one fascinating and complete. Each precisely and expertly chiselled that it leaves you without a doubt to whom and what they are.

Tremain made me savour the book like a sweet not wanting to go too fast lest I lose its sweetness too soon.

Tremain made me tender and kind towards Lev's despair, his confusion, his rage and even his blunders because he was kind, gallant and genuine.

Tremain made me laugh thorugh Rudi, Lev's wild, impulsive and unpredictable friend.

Tremain made me cry.

It was woeful........It was wild...........It was beautiful.

Ruffled only by.................. 

An ending that was too predictable too soon before the end; it felt like a deja vu. If she had not let on a little too early and had ended the story with an optimistic hope rather than as a gift too neatly wrapped it would have been perfect. This was one of the three little brown spots in the apple. But I'm not going to make mountains out of molehills. I'm not going to nitpick.

It won the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.

This book proved perfect for Food For Thought because the story centred around Lev starting out as a dishwasher and later as a vegetable cutter at GK Ashe, a classy, high end restaurant, where he observed the chefs as they worked. So I had a vast uppity choice from paragraphs of detailed descriptions through Lev's eyes and mind.

I chose my favourite. A dessert named chocolate tart

It was also the dish on which Lev's mother, Ina, made her first comment, after a long and stubborn silence, marking her recognition and approval of Lev's dream.

She said, " I liked the taste of that. It reminded me of sleep."

The recipe...........ceated by Sydney's Aria pastry chef, Andrew Honeyset.......

This is a recipe I had extracted from a beautiful blog I had only recently discovered called Citrus and Candy. I had scrolled down innocently. And quite shockingly I found myself face to face with this gloriously evil tart. We glared at each other. I ~ stunned. It ~ proud. And I realised.......

That I had come. I had seen. And I had been conquered.


The recipe is as exactly as I had found it. I dared not fluster a speck... 

  Chocolate pastry :

320 gm plain flour
60 gm cocoa powder
160 gm sugar
pinch of salt
160 gm cold butter, diced 
2 eggs

Filling :

270 gm good quality chocolate, chopped
60 gm butter, diced
315 ml cream
3 eggs
2 egg yolks

Chocolate glacage :

300 gm dark chocolate, chopped
240 cream
300 ml chocolate sauce (recipe follows)

Chocolate sauce :

60 gm cocoa
200 ml water
120 gm sugar
25 gm butter, diced

Make chocolate pastry :

Place flour, cocoa, sugar,salt and butter in bowl of food processor and process till fine as breadcrumbs. Add eggs and process till it holds together. 

Turn onto a lightly floured boared and gently knead till just smooth.Shape into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Place in fridge fro 10 mins to rest. 

Roll out pastry according to the tart pan or mould you're using. It's important that you use a tart tin with a removable bottom. You could roll out the pastry between 2 sheets of baking paper. Let the pastry be about 3mm thickness. Line the tart tin. Place in fridge for 15 mins to rest. 

Line pastry with paper and fill with beans or rice and bake 10 mins, take out, remove, beans, and bake again for another 5 - 10 minutes or until firm. Keep aside.

Make filling :

Preheat oven 160 C.

Place butter and chocolate in a bowl. 

Place cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Pour hot cream over th ebutter and chosolate and stir until it all melts and the mixture is smooth. Stir in eggs and stir until even and smooth again.

Pour the mixture into the tar shell up to about 3/4 full leaving enough room for the glacage.

Bake 25 minutes until the centre is just cooked and the top just set. Take tart out and allow to cool to room temperature before topping with the glacage.

Make chocolate sauce for the glacage :

Combine cocoa,water and sugar in a saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, stir in butter till melted. Strain through sieve placed over a bowl and set aside.

Make Chocolate glacage :

Place chocolate in a large bowl. Place cream in saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in chocolate sauce. Stir to mix well and is smooth.

Assemble :

Pour the glacage over the cooled cooked tart up to the rim. Put in refrigerator to set and firm up. 


It was rich, deep and sonorously soothing  ~ like sleep.

Thursday, January 28, 2010


She must have been about 17 or 18 and I about 4 or 5 because I remember standing in my grandaunt's kitchen having agreed, with a nod, to a cookie or something when my young aunt had asked me if I wanted a snack.

Kneeling in front of me she tried to coax and bribe me out of my shyness so that I asked for it by speaking up. I couldn't. 

So I simply stood there, blinking, head down, tongue tied while I felt my lips pursing up, hoping she would give it to me still because I really, really wanted it. And of course she did. 

That was my first memory of my Aunt Montel.

Thirty years on I found myself coaxing recipes from her instead. Recipes that she would not normally share because those were her trade secrets. 

Food was a constant in her home even at the oddest hours.  I think she was born with a whisk and a wok in each hand and landed feet first in the kitchen.She was a foodie in every sense of the word.

Sadly, she passed on a couple of months ago, a little too early. She will be missed by those who knew her through food and by us, her nephews and nieces, because she never did have children of her own, her husband having died a day after their wedding. And she, never having remarried since.

But she did not depart in vain. I have kept a couple of her treasured recipes that I had pried from her over the years. And of course the memories.

So when Ju, The Little Teochew, emailed and asked me if I had a sugee cake recipe that I could share with her my Aunt Montel came immediately to mind. 

I searched for the brown tattered exercise book where I had scribbled the recipe. It was nowhere to be found. Then I remembered that I had had it typed out, printed and filed safely between plastic covers in my old recipe file. I wiped the years of dust off and emailed Ju.

And now Aunt Montel's sugee cake is going to be famous-amos because I'm blogging about it in synchrony with Ju, The Little Teochew, the first person I am sharing it with. And, strangely, with the rest of the world as well.

I'm quite sure my aunt would have proudly and happily consented and I'm quite sure too that she is now happily reunited with her husband.

I knew Ju was going to bake it as beautifully as she always does and make my aunt very proud.

She did a spectacular job!!! Just look at that cake!!

Ju did however make some adaptations to the original recipe and please credit Ju, The Little Teochew adapted from Cherry on The Cake, if  you decide to follow her adapted recipe. 

Thank you Ju! I think this makes Ju and I related no?   :)        

~ wipes tear~

The original recipe...............

250 gm butter, softened
250 castor sugar
125 SR Flour
1 tsp baking powder
125 gm semolina flour
50 gm cashews, ground
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp buttercream essence
5 eggs plus 1 yolk, the whole eggs separated

Preheat oven to 150 C,

Stir semolina flour, Self Raising flour, baking powder and nuts together in a bowl and leave aside.

Seperate all the eggs. Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Add cold milk, vanilla extract and buttercream essence and mix well.

In another bowl beat egg whites till stiff. Fold in flour mixture into creamed mixture. Then fold in beaten egg whites gently until well mixed.

Bake 150 C for 50-60 mins until skewer comes out clean.


~ I used a rectangular 6x9x3 inch pan

~ I reduced sugar from 250 gm to 220 gm

~ I did not beat the eggs separately and it still turned out ok

~I used ground almonds instead of ground cashews

~If you don't have buttercream essence use brandy instead or rose essence

~ I increased the vanilla extract from 1 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons

~ I have seen recipes where a pinch of cinnamon is added. Just a thought.

~ Tent the cake batter with foil because the high sugar content makes the cake brown too quickly

~ For topping I used almond slivers, Gently sprinkle them over the cake batter before putting it in the oven

Hop over to Ju's for more photos!!!!!

Friday, January 22, 2010


A 10 mm star nozzle was what I thought I had for these churros. I was wrong. But I had to have it. So I dug, I dig and I dug. 

Finally I settled for the disc-cum-spout star nozzle from a cookie press and used a piping bag to sheath the nozzle with. Very awkwardly I might add. I won't even begin to describe how the contraption looked or worked. But for few odd moments it did. 

The reason I did not use the whole cookie press thing was because it jammed up and it would not press.

However, to cut a long story short the churros turned out looking just the way I wanted them to look. 

Long and slender, 
long and slender, 
Each little churros 
A lady's finger.

And delicious? ~ Utterly ~ Utterly ~ Utterly ~

Then I made a bitter hot chocolate
As a dip or a drink
And the sweet little churros 
I dipped within. 

Were they delicious? ~ utterly ~ utterly ~ utterly~

The recipe..............adapted form Vogue Entertaining and Travel with some necessary  tweaks.......

The dough for these churros are very like the dough for cream puffs or eclairs. The only difference being they are fried not baked and are sweeter. They are also denser inside and not hollow like a cream puff would be. 

And did I say they were delicious? utterly ~

1 cup (4 oz) plain flour
1 cup (4 oz) self raising flour
11/2 cup sugar Or less Or much less

2 cups water
a knob of butter
1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks

lots of cooking oil

Mix 1/2 cup of the sugar with a pinch of cinnamon in a plate and keep aside for later.

Sift both flours together and put aside.

Put the water and 1 cup of the sugar and the knob of butter in a large heavy based pan and bring to a gentle simmer stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Once the sugar has dissolved and the small bubbles appear in the syrup pour both flours in. Stir immediately and vigorously until it becomes a smooth and quite stiff paste and the dough leaves the sides of the pan. Almost. 

If it appears not too smooth, don't worry. Just throw it into the mixer bowl and turn on the machine with the paddle attachment and let it do the work for you for about 15 to 20 seconds.

(Transfer the dough to a bowl of an electric mixer and using the paddle attachment turn on the mixer.) While the mixer is working throw in an egg yolk and beat until the egg yolk is well beaten in. 

Put in the whole egg next and continue to beat. If you find the mixture a little too stiff still add in the other yolk as well and beat well. By this time the mixture should be firm and not too soft but not too stiff either otherwise it will be difficult to squeeze out the dough through the nozzle.

Prepare a piping bag with a 10mm star nozzle if you wish of a plain nozzle if you prefer. Fill it up with half the mixture.

Heat up a medium pan with oil enough to deep fry the churros. Heat up the oil until a piece of bread browns in 10 seconds.

Have a small knife ready near the stove. Pipe the paste directly into the oil as long or as short as you like them to be. Mine were about 10 cm in length and using the knife cut the pastry off from the nozzle. 

Do a few at a time depending on how large or small your pan is. Fry them for about 2 minutes turning so they get evenly brown all over. Finish off the rest of the dough. Drain on kitchen paper and toss teh fried churros in the cinnamon sugar.

Serve with a chocolate dip or a hot chocolate drink. Utterly delicious. 

The hot chocolate drink...........from Chocolate Cooking by David Schwartz...

6 oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces
6 fluid oz hot water
1/4 pint (450 ml) milk

Thicker than hot chocolate, this beverage in Spain is served with churros for breakfast.

In a saucepan, melt the chocolate with the hot water, whisking until teh mixture thickens. Heat the milk in another pan. Divide the melted cocolate between 4 hot mugs and, without stirring, fill each with hot milk. Serve immediately.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Food for thought is a blog created by the wonderfully creative and talented Jain, of Once in a Blue Moon. It combines reading and food. The general idea is to read a book, cook a dish mentioned in the book, take photographs and write a review of the book. And finally post it and link.
So when Jain invited me to join in it was the highlight of my day. I could never imagine saying no to such an exciting and enthralling idea! So here I am with my first contribution to Food For Thought!

To find out more about Food For Thought just click here.

*** and a half

I would probably never undergo the trials and tribulations of being a new immigrant nor would I ever suffer the pain of despising the sound of my own name. On those two counts I've been blessed. And I hope my children feel as blessed as I do. Unfortunately this was not the case for Gogol Ganguli.

Like many children of immigrant parents, Gogol straddled two cultures painfully, petulantly and reluctantly; the one pulling him back in and the other cajoling. Add to that a strange sounding name that he detests Gogol struggles both in his search for an identity and in coming to terms with his own name.

The novel follows Gogol through his experiences, his frustrations, his love affairs, his marriage and finally the understanding and acceptance of his name. 

It also follows the lives of Ashoke and Ashima as immigrant parents, their heartaches and concern for their childrens' apathy for their Bengali culture and traditions.

This is The Namesake, a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri, author of the highly acclaimed Interpreter of Maladies, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

The picture below shows Jhumpa Lahiri, author of The namesake. 

Although the theme appealed to me and I always love novels that deal with internal conflicts I did however feel that this book fell a little short of my expectations.

It didn't draw me in emotionally as I hoped it would so that I pained with them, so that they touched the very core of my nerves. But in spite of that I found it very readable. It kept me going because I did want to know how the story would end. 

But when it did The Namesake did not leave me with that lingering, meaningful and profound sensation or at the least a satisfied sigh. I guess it didn't quite do it for me.

But Lahiri writes beautifully, her prose fluid and her potrayal of emotions and details sharp and distinct. But many a time I wished that Lahiri would show rather than tell. And certain incidents in the story I found to be somewhat superficial.

I believe too that even in the most conflicting of moments life has its humour. In the Namesake there was none. How I would have loved to have laughed just a little.

To those who did love this book ~ please don't hit me.

For from each and every book that I have read, brilliant, good or mediocre, I have always either learnt something new or been reassured of a belief. 

I was reassured that nothing could be more precious or appreciated than the sincere love of a parent for a child. Regardless of challenges faced. And now I also know what a corbel is.

On the whole I would say that The Namesake is readable.

There is no lack of food vignettes in this book; or in the varieties of Indian food which I love. In fact the book starts the very first page with a recipe. 

My eyes widened in pleasant surprise and it was one of the reasons I decided to settle on this book as a first contribution to Food For Thought.

I had dog eared so many pages where the characters had either prepared food or ate them that I thought that I was going to go insanely indecisive again. However 'I did it'. I picked one.

Finally I chose a dish for it's simplicity and the occasion for its significance. It is a rice pudding or payesh.

It occurs early in the book and the occasion was Gogol's annaprasam or rice ceremony at the age of six months. 

This is the recipe that I have re-created for the rice pudding that Ashima had prepared......

1/2 cup basmati rice, washed and rinsed at least 5 times
1 1/2 cups of water
2-3 cups full cream milk
1/2 sugar or more
1 tsp saffron, soaked in 1 T warm milk

4 cardomom pods, shelled and seeds crushed a little
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1 cinnamon stick
some crushed pistachios for garnish
cinnamon powder for garnish

Boil rice in water until it is cooked and is soft and fluffy. Add milk, sugar, cardomom seeds, cinnamon stick, chopped almonds and saffron and simmer for another 20- 30 minutes. You may add more water or milk if necessary.

Cook and reduce until the pudding is thick and pudding like. Serve in a bowl sprinkled with cinnamon powder and chopped pistachios, warm or cold.


This dish is like a book with three main characters, all equally important, interesting and with personality.

Noodles, sundried tomatoes and prawns. Each one different in flavour, texture and taste. I used whole wheat organic noodles which had a good bite to it, prawns that were full of flavour, succulent and juicy and sundried tomatoes that were quite intense, a little sour and with a sweetness of its own.

The little sidekicks were a couple of garlic cloves and some chillie paste to spice things up a little. And some sweet basil leaves to add interest and to humour me.

It turned out to be a very simple, interesting and delicious dish. And I loved it.

I first came across the use of sundried tomatoes in a noodle cookbook I had bought once upon a time long long ago. Yes ~ that long. 

And ever since then I have been meaning to try sundried tomatoes because it was an ingredient that was new to me and it sounded and looked really good. After many many years of meaning to-s I have in the end made it. 

And I'm glad I did. It's good. So very good. Like all simple things in life.

Here's the recipe by Kit Chan that I tweaked a little...........

6 oz dried noodles, boiled according to instructions, kept aside
7-8 large prawns, shelled  with tails left intact  and deveined
5-6 sundried tomatoes, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, pounded or grated to a paste
1-2 tsp chillie paste,fresh or bottled
2 tsp light soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
some sweet basil leaves, washed and drained
2 T cooking oil

Season the prawns with soy sauce and sugar. Keep aside

Pound two pieces of the sundried tomato to a paste using a pestle and mortar. 

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. Saute the garlic and then add the prawns and saute until the prawns are just done and pink. Lift off the prawns and keep aside.

Add the remaining oil and saute the sundried tomato paste and the chillie paste for a minute. Add the noodles and mix well. Add a little stock or water if too dry. Sprinkle some salt and and mix well. 

Throw in the prawns and basil leaves and mix again. Serve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I feel a little silly doing this again.......But here goes... 

The e-exchange...........

"Oh JU! i am making this tonight!!... LOL ~ I've had the jam in the fridge for a week...and tonight I'm making it ~ what a surprise when I came over and saw your tarts!!! we have the same same mind Ju! :)


LOL!! Zurin, you must share your recipe with me!!! Looking forward to reading about your bake soon.

GONE Ju .....the tarts did not survive the night....LOL....i only made 25 pieces because I was craving them...i was hoping no one would ask for them but not so. Now I have nothing to blog about..well nothing decent ...unless I blog on my left over chicken curry from last night (before it's time for lunch)...

uh uh.. I don't think so ~.

Anyway I'll just go stick my head into my pantry, the fridge, the freezer ..whatever..and see what I can come up with for this very demanding blog of mine!

The things we do! SIGH 


Gone?! LOL!!! Must be really yummy! And er ... 25 pieces won't go very far considering there are more than 2 people in your house! ;) I think 25 pieces aren't enough for my 2 older kids, so you must have rationed your tarts? He he!

Yes Ju ..only 25...which means..... I have left over pineapple jam!! Wooo hoo!

So the pineapple jam became an overnight star! 

That was my dear friend Ju, The Little Teochew up there :)

The recipe............ 

Contrary to what many people think making pineapple jam is as easy as pie. I lied. It's easier than pie. 

You just need to watch the pot and stir it once in a while. And it doesn't take long at all. I think I cooked this in half and hour. 

And I have to say that this is really good. The cinnamon makes all the difference.

1 small pineapple
50 - 60 gm of light brown sugar or more if you like it sweeter 
1/2 tsp of cinnamon powder
1 small cinnamon stick
2-3 cloves

pinch of salt

Peel and chop up the pineapple discarding the fibrous stem in the middle. 

Put all the pieces in food processor and pulse until very fine and mushy.

Place the pineapple mush, the sugar and the cinnamon stick in a thick based medium sized pot over a small flame.

Cook until the jam is dry or as moist as you like it. Add cinnamon powder and a little salt if using. Taste and make it just perfect for you.

Cool and store in a jam jar. Make pineapple tarts or spread on toast. YUM!


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