22 hours, 25 minutes

a wet day in new haven

A week before Thanksgiving last year, I packed my winter coat and a few pairs of skinny jeans, cleaned out my bank account and took a very very long flight to New York.

I would like to go on a rant at this point saying how the plans were all last-minute, how the tickets were bought overnight and how I craved adventure so much, that I spontaneously packed my bags and flew off halfway across the world in 22 hours and 25 minutes. Oh, how I wish that were true.

I did exactly that when I booked for Paris overnight during my Spring Break in 2010. But this time was different. All planned. Lists made. Proper clothing packed. Maps studied. Timings synchronized. All signs that I’m finally growing up.

Central Park

Central Park

You’ll have to forgive me though, before you go scroll through the photos and then come back and yell at me, “Where on earth are all the food photos, woman?!”

Well, I don’t have any. Or, I have two. If you count a blurry photo of a humongous piece of chocolate mousse cheesecake from Junior’s and one random photo of my first time having Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate Mix. So, yes. If you count those two, then I have two ‘food’ photos. Go ahead, you can curse.

I ate at Di Fara’s. I spent an afternoon inhaling Asharokens and staring at the Guastavino vaults at the Oyster Bar. I bought bread from Balthazar and even spent a lovely fifteen minutes at Mast Brothers. And I have nothing to show for it. I spent most of my time gaping at the buildings and flashing goofy smiles at all the doormen while walking down 5th Avenue. FYI, some tipped their caps at me, the others however looked ready to tackle me to the ground.

Continue reading

whatever’s been happening. also coriander marmalade chicken.

Whew.

The best way to do this would be to start with a photo.

Grand Central Subway

More than four months this time and I’ve more to tell you than ever. This is the seventh time I’ve tried sitting at my laptop trying to force a post out of myself. And all I’ve learnt is that when you own a food blog you cannot, and more importantly, should not, force a post. A post that includes a November trip to New York. A post that includes some things that we’ve been feasted on lately. A post with a random photo of an empty dinner plate after a very satisfying Chinese meal. A post that talks of succulent chicken drumsticks drenched in marmalade and coriander.

Someone once told me that New York was magical during Christmas. Somewhere near the end of 2011, a few days before I started this blog, I came across and almost fell for (almost) a charming young man, who at the time was living in New Jersey. We exchanged a few emails, the contents of which concentrated mostly on the magic that is New York City. There were the occasional jokes and teasing remarks that you would expect to find signalling the beginning of any high-school romance surreptitiously drenched in pink soda pops. But mostly, NYC stole the show. Back then, I knew I had to start saving for it. And I did. Only, I didn’t actually know when I’d be making the actual trip or whether I’d be making it t all.

Last year while navigating through the throngs of pandaals that Kolkata throws up every year during Durga Pujas, amidst all the crowds, the lights, the excitement of going in and out of food comas with friends, I wanted to take off. Not a pleasant feeling, I assure you, when you want to laugh and smile at all that your friends are saying. When you can’t stop thinking of how badly you need a break from work and just take off on your own and you have nowhere to go. The very next day, I made it a point to check in with my bank account, as you should when you’re planning to take a trip alone halfway across the world. And then New York happened.

I want to tell you more. So much more and I can hardly wait. But I do honestly think, all the photos would do a much better job at the story than my words ever could. So I need you to wait till the next time I come around and I swear you won’t be disappointed. I haven’t however come empty-handed today, you know. I realize that you’d kill me if I did. So, here’s a picture of an empty dinner plate.

Chinese

This was part of a skirt-busting dinner at Mainland China that ended with an obscene amount of raucous laughter, mounds of darsaan and a group of very serious adults enthusiastically slurping sweet-n-salty  goodness off their dinner plates. We didn’t really bother with much manners that evening.

Continue reading

the banana bread bandwagon.

Anywho, we made it. The bananas and I. We made it right into, and you may want to sit down for this, my first banana bread.

Yes, I know. I’ve been missing a lot in my life. I’ve missed out on boyfriend-made mix tapes, I’ve missed love at first sight, I’ve missed out on the last five bikini seasons and up until last week, I’d been missing out on banana bread. Mix tapes and bikinis I can make peace with but I’m still keeping my fingers crossed about the love-at-first-sight thing.

But a bit of bad news first, dear reader: It is not empty yet. That bag of coconut dust is not. Empty. Yet.

chocolate coconut banana bread

I dump cupfuls of it into baked goods and curries. My friends have started to greet my cupcakes with a tired “Does that have more coconut in it?” A couple of days back when I offered a spoonful of coconut crusted chicken to one of my friends, she actually semi-cringed. She loves coconut. She literally inhaled that cake I made three weeks back. And the chicken was definitely drool-worthy. And she cringed, only slightly though, before opening her mouth.

Continue reading

homemade yogurt. all you need is a towel.

Well, Ok. Not just a towel.

You also need two metal saucepans, a spoonful of yogurt and milk. But I can assure you that the towel is the MVP here.

Before we get down to how most households in India make their own yogurts everyday, let me tell you that yogurt is not what I planned to write about today. Putting up a photograph of gestating bananas in the freezer is only perfectly acceptable when you follow it with a story of banana bread. But you’ll have to settle for yogurt instead because considering how easy this is, I think you need it more than you need banana bread.

I grew up watching my grandmother do it. My mother does a potful of it everyday. My neighbour makes more than potfuls of it everyday. My aunts even do the sweet versions. Mishti doi that Bengal is famous for. And so far, the most I’ve done on the yogurt front is to buy the conjoined packs of flavoured yogurt-cups from the supermarket. Its a bit of work that we here take for granted. It’s not special or wonder-worthy. Like coconut cake. It’s not something to write home about, like roast chicken. It’s like putting on your pants in the morning and going to work. Everyone does it. Like routine. Homemade yogurt is routine.

Continue reading

sun, interrupted meals, fashion, green juice, bananas

Hello you. Look, the sun came out!

the sun came out

And here are a few things that are good right now:

Laura’s The First Mess. I’m sure you’ve been there, but her caponata panzanella makes me want to take a nose-dive into her food, face first and spread-eagle.

You love food? How about fashion? Yes? Now how about this?

Here’s a bit of genius. A ludicrously green juice out of kale, cucumber, eggplants (for God’s sake!), apples and pineapples.

Floral meringue sandwiches. Is it weird that I want lip-glosses in those colours?

I could trade in my Moleskins for these with their hologram-style covers. Could you?

Davide Luciano and Claudia Ficca’s series on Meals Interrupted. A way to look at food, when a meal’s been unexpectedly cut-off in the middle. Every photo somehow makes you think of what the diners did or did not before and after their meal was interrupted. Were they enjoying it? Were they enjoying each other’s companies? Did they make plans to meet up again? Did they see it coming?

And y’all! Look at what I have in the freezer. Over ripe bananas can only mean one thing.

frozen bananas for banana bread!

A chicken masala you need in your life.

with old recipe journals.

You guys deserve much better than what I give you here.

I’m almost always smothering you with chocolate. Cake. Pie. Maybe some bread. I hardly give you any veg. And even less fruit. I can literally see my future. I’m obviously going to turn out to be one of those mothers who pack potato crisps and sugary drinks for their kid’s lunch, instead of something healthy and supremely boring like boiled carrot sticks. I break out into cold sweats at night, just thinking of what to feed you or how not to fail at taking care of my imaginary children. I open the door to my freezer and peer in at cling-film wrapped pieces of chocolate cake, realizing that I don’t really have anything to whip up lunch with. I’m not saying that you can’t have chocolate cake for lunch. Gasp! Who said that?! But if I’m ever going to grow up into an adult and learn to nourish children or learn to pack a suitcase decently, then I’ll have to do more than just frozen cake.

Enter Arpi.

Continue reading

48 hours

it's been raining for 48 hours

Well obviously that’s not the most cheerful photograph you want to start your day looking at.  But I am sort of tired of complaining about the weather. Especially one as stubborn and angry as the monsoon we’re having. Today marks 48 hours of near-zero visibility, noisy drops (or arrowheads) of rain, pitch black rooftops and trousers hiked up to your knees wading through the water-logged wonderlands that are urban Indian parking lots.

But I’m hoping this might cheer you up.

saffron and coconut macaroon tart

I’m sure you remember THE BAG. The one that sat on the counter and gave me the stink eye. That went on for a long time till I responded with cake. Cake kicked that bag’s ass. Cake is not just a shoulder to cry on, it is also a fighter of crime and injustice.

And for that matter so is pie. Pie, if need be, can be the hero you’ve been looking for. Or heroine.

Continue reading

Sundaying

Well hellooo Sunday!

It’s too hot to go outside and a perfect day to eat an insane amount of chocolate (which, make no mistake, I am going to do), I am also going to take exactly fifteen minutes to marinate some chicken for Chicken Masala. Fifteen minutes and that’s it.

I really wanted to give you a recipe today, believe me. But I feel a nap coming on already, so I’ll leave you with this photograph instead along with a list of stuff that I’ve been drooling at lately. I hope you find orchids pretty.

orchids

This article on writing exercises that help when you’re stuck in a rut with the words. The second and the fourth ones are particularly effective. I have written many a post on this blog, starting with a comment I made on someone else’s.

Just bought this. One more bright spot in my cloudy cloudy days. Apparently I’m trying to attract bees to make it seem like Spring again.

The last time I made panna cotta was during a breezy 2009 summer in Mumbai. It had vanilla and mint in it and it turned out in two very distinct layers, sweet, grainy and inedible. It probably wouldn’t have gone this wrong if this was around. Or this. Don’t go around making panna cottas without reading those.

Kate Christensen and the latest from her. I want briny oysters in mignonette and cocktail sauce now. Like right now. And I want a ‘Boat Day’ too.

Elissa Altman talks of toast and gluten-free biscuits. She makes me want to talk about toast all day. Her writing is stuff I like to spend Sunday afternoons with. Or any afternoon.

Happy Sundaying y’all.

to explain the coconut

rainy_day

So far August has been a month of revelations. Apart from being irritatingly monsoon-y, that is.

First there was the fact that I actually enjoy cookies. Quite an eye-opener. Then, Saturday at the office we found out that I can sop up eight whole chicken rolls in 30 minutes flat, when facing a bet.

Wow. I’m like this whole new person.

And it doesn’t stop there. Yesterday, after a particularly long evening at the supermarket, I came to the conclusion that I should not be let loose un-supervised in a supermarket. Because if I am then I’ll return home with half a kilo (a little more than a pound) of desiccated coconut, half a kilo of dried and pitted prunes and a jar of crystallized ginger for absolutely no reason.

I love supermarkets of course. I love that I can look at a shelf of canned tomatoes and think of making pasta. Or, I pick a head of cabbage and I know I might want to make a sabzi out of it. And that’s enough reason for them to end up in my cart. But a half a kilo of desiccated coconut? Where did that come from? If you’re raising your eyebrows at me right now, well then, save it. I can blame the candied ginger to my subconscious mind; I’ve been wanting to do a ginger cake for a long time without actually DOING anything about it. I can understand the prunes — I loved them when I made Nigella’s Christmas Cake last Christmas, so I knew I’d be half-happy snacking on them all day. But the coconut? I’m not even going to try and explain it.

For the rest of the day I sat with my legs propped up on the balcony railing checking out all that’s fugly while the rain thundered on outside. And all throughout, that bag of coconut sat on the counter giving me the I’m-waiting-for-you eyes. Stupid transparent bag.

In the end, when there’s a persistent bag of coconut waiting, there’s not much you can do except turn on the laptop and get out the old cloth-covered monster that is my recipe book. The bright screen and a couple of folded down pages threw up a mix of mind-boggling coconuttiness. It was like I was in a snowball fight. Except that there was no snow, only white sweet powdered coconut.

Continue reading

bragging rights and trashy almond butter cookies

homemade almond butter

If you ever walk out of the Barbican tube station and take a left, keep walking till you get to the four-point crossing with a Starbucks to your left. Clerkenwell Road. A short walk off that road should lead you to several points of culinary  bliss. Namely a deli-style salumeria, the glass windows of which are lined with deep and gorgeously gnarly looking legs of pig. There’s a pizza place that employed a cute delivery-boy who used to bring us discs and discs of late night pizza as we slaved away at the office.

Cross the road and there’s this Asian mom-n-pop place that serves laksa in bowls as big as the Canyon. The yellow of the laksa they serve always reminded me of haldi-milk, a mix of warm milk with turmeric, a.k.a. “cure for common cold” in India. There’s a quaint cafe that serves up freshly brewed coffee, a place so tiny that after you manage to squeeze yourself through other people’s arms and legs and bulky winter coats, you come out of the shop smelling of freshly ground coffee beans, aftershave and expensive leather wallets. Always a good thing when you’re in London.

Continue reading

chocolate beer tart. It’s all good.

DSC_0226_ed

OK, I am aware that these gaps are getting longer and longer. Most of the time nowadays I find myself uninspired to cook. Sure, there are those days when I chop up eggplants for a sautéed something something, but on other days all the work I want to do is to reach for my phone and dial KFC. And after finishing off almost half a bucket, I sit around rubbing my tummy and wishing I’d actually made something. No, it’s not a pretty picture.

I know that this sort of information should not be advertised on a site like this one, where I’m claiming to lead a life in food and gluttony. But in about two seconds I’m going to make it up to you.

Come on in to my kitchen everyone. It’s a rainy day and we’re having pie!

Pie is just right for a rainy day, if you think about it. You’re stuck inside with not a lot to do. You want to get your hands wet and you want the end result to be magnificent. Pie does that. Cake does that too…but all the effort that goes into a pie somehow makes you feel happier.

Pie requires you to pay attention. It requires you to wait patiently with a warm cup of Darjeeling while the crust chills in the refrigerator. It builds up your expectations as you smell it through the oven door. And then it makes you run for a tea plate and a fork.

DSC_0573_ed

I have an appropriate pie for you today. Its got chocolate (like you already didn’t know that) and beer. Yes beer.

I know you’re either probably rolling your eyes right now or not gasping in surprise. And why would you. What with all the Guinness Cakes in our lives, pairing chocolate with beer is hardly surprising at this point of time in Blogger Land. And that’s not where it stops. All that dark malt-y gorgeousness is followed by piles of dreamy boozy frosting. We know of the beer brownies, of the beer cake pops and of the beer puddings. In fact, sometimes I think food bloggers buy beer just so they can make a cake out of it. They’re saying, “Oh, we’re having a dinner party and all our friends are beer-drinkers!” but they’re secretly thinking “We’re making boozy chocolate cake sucker, and you ain’t gettin’ any!”

Oh well. My pie’s going to show them.

chocolate & beer pie

It starts with chocolate, as all great things should.

Continue reading