store bought without apologies

Not a very good way to start this post would be by saying that I’m not fond of puff pastry. Just something about the flakes that scatter when I bite into it and then proceed to stick to my lips when I pull away. Ultimately, I keep wiping myself after every bite.

And this has kept me away from freshly-made croissants and cream puffs. I only eat the stale ones. Less flakes.

And all this hostility towards puff pastry, till I made it myself last week.

Well, being the lazy big-buttocks that I am, I had never imagined having the patience to roll, pat and fold over and over again. But I did. And yes, I could go on about how I achieved a sense of accomplishment and yada yada yada. But I didn’t. To say that the pastry I made went on to become lovely flaky chutney tarts, would be a lie.

After all the hard work, sweat and toil and unlimited glances at the recipe did not result in success. The first batch did not rise and came out half-cooked and soggy…sort of like sad deflated bread slices. It can’t get any worse, I thought foolishly as I raised the temperature hoping the even hotter air would make it rise. Then the second batch came out. Brown and burnt to a crisp with an even under-cooked center.

So I gave up. I went to the store and bought ready-rolled puff-pastry sheets. And no, I’m not ashamed of it. All you with your noses turned up can stick it really, because, the next time I’m trying my hand at puff pastry would be if I’m in either one of the following situations:

1) my children, off-springs of my own flesh and blood, request me to make some, or

2) someone has a gun pointed at my head.

That’s it for now. If you want a really good puff-pastry making guide try Keiko’s recipe.

Tomato & Pineapple Chutney

500 gm of tomatoes, diced
1 pineapple, diced
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
1/2 cup of honey
Pinch of salt
5 cloves
5 crushed cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup of sultanas

Combine everything in a deep-bottomed pan and put on low heat. Cover and cook for 15 minutes till the fruits have started breaking down. Add 1 cup of water. Raise the heat to medium. Cover and cook till the mixtures starts resembling a chutney, i.e., all the fruit has turned into mush and a thick syrup has formed. Take the cover off, and boil on high heat till most of the moisture boils off. Cool and serve with or after meals, especially Indian ones. Great on toast or cream-crackers as a snack…or just by itself, straight from the fridge. Keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days covered with cling film.

For the tarts:

Store-bought puff-pastry sheet, either ready-rolled or in a block
1 egg, lightly beaten
Tomato & Pineapple Chutney
Strawberries
Peanuts or Toasted Almonds or Pistachios, slivered or roughly chopped, to garnish
Lightly whipped double cream , to garnish

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C. Line a tray with baking parchment or greased aluminum foil. Cut the sheets into rectangular tart-sizes. I can get about 8 pieces out of one sheet. Make a grooved border all around, about 1/2 an inch away from the edges. Use a pastry brush to brush the borders with the beaten egg. Lay the tarts on the tray. Arrange the chutney, or strawberries on the inside of the egg-washed edges and bake in the oven till the pastry is all puffed-up and the edges are a crispy golden colour. It takes about 18-20 minutes. Serve immediately topped with the nuts or with lightly whipped cream.

looking for confidence

I should probably rename the post title to “Chocolate cake for unemployed singles”.

I get compulsive and impulsive and all sorts of other ‘-ulsives’ when I’m bored or disappointed. And most of the time the solution to all that, involves food. If you need evidence, you need only to look at my ever-increasingly wobbly backside.

And boring has been happening a lot lately. Since I left my last job, I’ve had a whole week’s worth of free-time on my hands. And guess what. I’ve been going around town visiting all the specialty food shops I can find – an activity which had only been dream until last week. Usually, my daily routine includes a visit to Waitrose on my way home from office and a tour of the Selfridges Food Hall on the weekends. Don’t you dare look down on me because I visit “food halls”….Selfridges has an Italian  porchetta collection to die for.

But I digress. I’m not here to talk about porchetta, I’m here to talk about the 300gm-bar of Valhrona 70% that I bought from the chocolate section. It features in my Gâteau Au Chocolat. Now it has been ages since I’ve baked. Not since, I packed up my kitchen and left for a three-month tour of India. So when one of my housemates left a wire whisk on the kitchen counter, the temptation was too much to resist. However, I realized that I’d almost lost the confidence to bake. It’s not really like riding a bicycle…or a bicyclist *wink*. I’ve lost the patience to measure the ingredients, the strength to whisk the whites, the rules to remember while melting chocolate and I’ve forgotten to not be afraid of folding egg whites into batter. Whisked egg whites can smell fear.

And that’s why the the cake turned out flatter than normal, and downright soggy than lusciously moist. It was like the cake was ratting me out to be a novice baker!

The chocolate however, did not disappoint. The only irony is, the recipe comes from Green & Black’s.

Claudia Roden’s Gâteau Au Chocolat
 from Ultimate Chocolate Collection

250gm dark chocolate (70% at least, please)
100gm unslated butter, plus extra for greasing
6 large eggs, separated
75gm caster sugar
100gms ground almonds
Flour for dusting

Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C. Grease a baking tin and dust lightly with flour to prep it. Melt chocolate and butter on a double-boiler (or microwave) and cool for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile beat the egg yolks with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and almond flour to the chocolate mixture and mix well. Beat the egg whites till stiff and fold the mass into the chocolate mixture, gently but with confidence! Pour into the tin and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on how your oven heats up) or till a skewer inserted in the middle comes out slightly greasy. The cake does not rise much and the middle should still be a little under-baked when you take it out to cool. Cool. Cut up in slices and serve with lightly whipped cream, berries, or nothing at all.

of crossroads and chocolate

It doesn’t feel like October here. I’m reporting dank, drowsy and drizzly from London. And here I am, with the first full-fledged food post on The Subjectivist.

I need a place to store everything that catches my eye. Everything that sounds in my ears and fills my tummy to the brim. I need to write. I need to photograph. I need to cook and make. I need to sketch and dance every one in a while. And I need to share it with all of you. But there is only so much a single girl can do or remember. And hence, a blog.

While I drool over Ralph Lauren’s fall-winter collection this year, I sit in my white-washed room trying to chose between two crossroads. Should I continue walking alone along the platforms of Liverpool Street, straight to my day-job as an Architect? Or should I head back to India, back to my family, back to my old friends? Back to an old life?

But while I contemplate all that over a steaming hot cup of coffee and a virus-infected laptop, let me tell you how Nigella Lawson has helped me improve my mood.

Strawberries still dot the shelf at the supermarkets. So I stuffed a couple of boxes in my bag and came home trying to decide between a berry crumble or a strawberry sauce to accompany cakes and meringues. In the end, the weather convinced me to go for something hot, gooey and chocolatey (insert sarcastic quip about fickle-mindedness here).

The strawberries stared up at me forlornly from the shopper bag. So as an immense act of gluttony, I dunked all of them in a lusciously honeyed serving of cream. Some of them even made it to the top of the hot pots. The recipe can make about 4 hot pots, although I had to downsize the quantities to make for one.

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Hot Pots

1 cup of chocolate chips (or chopped dark chocolate about one and a half 100gm bars)
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
Icing sugar, to dust
Strawberries and cream, to garnish

(The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of dark chocolate chips and 1/4 cup of white chocolate chips, but since my addiction to dark chocolate leaves no room for its white cousin, I’ve used up a whole cup of dark)

Pre-heat the oven to 170-180 deg C. Grease 4 ramekins and place them on a baking tray. I find that leftover butter-wrappers, or fingers dipped in olive oil work best for greasing ramekins/tins.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a double-boiler and set aside to cool a little. Combine eggs, sugar and flour in a bowl and mix in the chocolate mixture.
Divide the mixture equally into the ramekins and pop the tray into the oven. bake for about 15-20 minutes or till the tops are cracked . On inserting a toothpick or skewer, it should come out greasy and smothered in chocolate goop.
Sprinkle the tops with icing sugar. Garnish with strawberries and serve with some lightly whipped cream.