Herb infused olive oil

Today I am sharing this easy recipe for Herb infused Olive Oil.

I remember a few years back I went to this restaurant in Delhi. I can not recollect the name of the place (I am growing old), but what I remember is the big basket of assorted bread and the bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar that they kept before our meal was served. That moment is when my love affair with dipping bread in olive oil started.

When I was in the US, the days when I wanted a quick snack, I would take a nice crusty loaf of bread and serve it with some herb oil. This herb oil recipe that I first used to make focaccia has been a favorite in my kitchen. Its a great way to use up all the fresh herbs that are growing in the garden or when you have extra from the store after using it in a particular recipe, which I always did.

Don’t have fresh herbs? You can use dried and still get great results.

Use this herb oil recipe to make focaccia; or as a dipping oil for your baguette. The herb infused olive oil also does well as a salad dressing or  you can use it to drizzle over your pasta. Looking for favor ideas for your wedding? Herb infused olive oil bottles are an elegant gift to give your guests.

Since there are not too many ingredients- make sure you use the best. You want the herb flavor to be more pronounced, so there is no need to use extra virgin olive oil. Make sure to wash all the herbs going into your oil and let them dry as much as possible, preferably overnight. This will decrease the risk of bacteria growth.

There are two ways to go about infusing the olive oil. You could go the slow way and cover all your herbs with olive oil in a sealed bottle and let sit in a dark place for 1-2 weeks. Or you could heat your olive oil to 100 F and then add all your ingredients to let infuse. This makes the oil infuse more quickly and you can enjoy the benefits of this simple yet flavorful recipe.

This recipe is adapted from the gorgeous  Bread Baker’s Apprentice cookbook by Peter Reinhart .

Read More →

Diyas at Maloya Colony, Chandigarh

Diyas brushed with gold at a potter’s house at Maloya Colony, Chandigarh

I love this time of the year. Everywhere you go it’s festive season. While my American friends celebrated Halloween on 31st, Sunday for us Indians was spent celebrating Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.

Diwali is one of the biggest festivals in India. It’s our Christmas. The day we exchange gifts, dress up in our finest, celebrate togetherness with family.

Diwali is celebrated for different reasons across India. In the north, Diwali marks the return of Lord Ram to Ayodhya, after defeating Ravana and rescuing his wife Sita. In the south, Deepavali/Diwali is celebrated to mark the death of Narakasura, a person who had performed many atrocities on his people. For Sikhs, Diwali is the day when our sixth Guru was released from imprisonment. The foundation stone of the Golden Temple, one of the most holy shrines of Sikhism was also laid on Diwali.

While different people celebrate Diwali for different reasons, the common message is the victory of good over evil. Diwali also symbolises hope, of letting go of what was and making place for the new/for change.

Jalebis

Fresh Jalebis being made during Diwali

There is also a scientific explanation behind the festivities that make Diwali. Diwali is celebrated in the months of October/november, the date changes since it follows the lunar calendar, a little after the rainy season ends. The rainy season brings with it various insects, micro-organisma and by cleaning our homes and lighting diyas, we prepare for a healthy new winter season.

Diwali has always been one of my most favorite festivals. For most Indians, Diwali preparation starts days in advance with visits to boutiques and stores to stitch or buy new clothes, shopping for new crockery, electronics and ordering boxes of sweets to be gifted. Diwali is the business community’s New Year and its the time when you will find the best sales and deals in the market. Big Bollywood movies also schedule their releases around Diwali time.

Gobind Sweets during Diwali

A popular sweet shop in Mohali, Punjab a day before Diwali

For the mithai walas (sweet shops), Diwali is huge. Shops are flooded with customers buying boxes and boxes of different sweets.  Over the years, traditional mithais have been replaced by diet namkeens and low fat twists on traditional sweets like date gujiyas, oat ladoos, dry fruit and muesli barfi catering to diet conscious Indians. Green Diwali (which is a welcome change) has led to a slightly more responsible Diwali. While certain things have changed the essence of the festival remains the same.

If you want to see India on the streets, there is no better time than the days preceding Diwali to be here; be prepared to be overwhelmed though. The traffic can be crazy and crowds in the popular markets are so bad that keeping a track of your loved ones can be a task, but seeing how everyone flocks the markets and the excitement everywhere makes Diwali time the place to be in India.

Crowds at phase 7 Mohali during Diwali

Crowds at Mohali a day before Diwali

For me, Diwali is all about decorating the house with lights and being with family. While the chinese lights make life easier, Diyas and candles for me are what bring the charm to this festival.

While our preparation for Diwali starts weeks before, for businessmen, shopkeepers and the potters who make Diyas, preparing for Diwali starts much in advance. The Kumhars (the potter community in India) in the Maloya colony of Chandigarh start as early as 2-3 months, with each potter making around 2 lacs (200,000) diyas that are then sold to retailers. Some even start 6 months before Diwali preparing Diyas to be sent out countrywide.

The Kumhar colony of Maloya, makes their own clay by using the mud from the fields that they treat and make clay. The clay is then shaped into diyas on electricity operated wheels, and then laid in the sun to dry. The firing process is also rudimentary with no kiln but instead a pit in the ground is made. A layer of dried cow dung discs is put in it that acts as fuel. The sun dried diyas are laid between hay and covered with ash so that the heat is trapped. The diyas are left to fire sometimes for 2 days and once the pit is cool to touch, the finished diyas are then collected and painted or left as is depending on requirement and order.

Here are a few photos from my trip to the Kumhars of Maloya colony, Chandigarh who have been making and supplying diyas for generations. If you are in the area do visit them for an insight into the wonderful work they are doing on a daily basis.

Read More →

A one pot hearty ten bean soup/stew with spinach and potatoes and flavored with curry powder.

Hearty Ten Bean Soup with spinach and potatoes

There is a slight nip in the air when we go for swimming in the morning these days. The onset of winters is here and while the cold does bring with it its own cons, I am excited to cover my extra flab with long coats, scarves and layers of sweaters. It means you can eat that piece of donut and only worry about it when spring arrives! Well, it never works like that, but yes winters can be a little more accommodating when it comes to added calories.

Fall/winter season also means apples, and squashes are back in the market.  There are so many pies to be made- I have an apple pie recipe that I love and somehow whenever I make it I never get a chance to photograph it- it gets polished off way too quickly. But I promise this season I will post the recipe, because it is really good.

Another about this season is that soups become a thing again. So much yes for that and this ten lentil soup will be the perfect thing to cozy up with during the coming cold months. You wont even have to worry about added calories; your summer clothes wont curse your winter choices.

Read More →