Traveling, festivals, dinner parties, marriages and relatives have kept both V and me busy.
V leaves tomorrow for US but I am staying in India for another month and half since lot of my close friends are getting married in November and in December I want to be here in India when a very special guest arrives in our family.
I have not cooked a bit since I left US for my 3 months vacation in India. I have a feeling by the time I go back I would have forgotten how to cook. We have hardly stayed at home for me to do anything related to cooking. If I have been home, I use that time to catch up on leftover sleep- since everyday we have been sleeping only after 1am and getting up early in the morning and busy with some work or the other the whole day. Yes, things have been that busy!
Luckily, I was able to finish this month’s challenge before leaving US. Its probably the quickest I have done a challenge. Of course later I had to pull a “me” by not drafting the post before leaving. As a result this post comes in a day late, even though the challenge had been completed in the first week of October.
The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!
I have been MIA yet again, missed Easter celebrations too (hope y’all had a great Easter day). These disappearing acts are all thanks to traveling but now my close-to-three-months long India vacation is over and hopefully, jet lag permitting I should be more regular with my posts!
After a very, very long plane journey from Kerala to Phoenix, and then a four hour drive to our town, I am finally at home, back to V- back to married life, back to keeping the home clean, doing the dishes, washing clothes (though the excuse of jetlag is keeping me from doing any of that)!
I must say, that V has kept the house pretty pretty clean. Much cleaner than what I would expect from a guy. Barring the kitchen, I think everything has been pretty much under control. I also got home to flowers (I know- awwww…) and wait for it…..a Macbook! V surprised me with a new laptop for me- an anniversary cum valentine cum his bonus gift ! (Hmmm….I hope this was not his way of showing how happy he was to have me away for such a long time and the gift was a way to thank me for the peace he had while I was away =/)
Either ways I am a happy girl! And this post comes to you from my new Mac! It is so white that I actually washed my hands before using it. I am still getting used to the changes. A lot of the Windows OS functions do not work on Mac and I need to figure that out. But its a good thing – that would keep me busy for a while. I need something to keep me occupied. Even though it feels great to be back, I miss home. I miss the hustle bustle in India- the oh so many people- crowded streets, markets- it is just so empty in the US! I am eagerly waiting for my Friday coffee morning now- and catching up with my gang of girls after what seems likes ages.
I am still reeling under my India trip hangover. The last few days in Kerala with my parents were great. I have fallen in love with Kerala food. We had the most amazing prawn curry and king prawns at this resort in Kovalam called Uday Samudara. We had our table right at the beach, which was perfect. The beautiful sea breeze and the noise of the waves splashing made a delicious meal even more special.
I also got a chance to go on a Lion Safari. There is a small national park near Neyyar dam in Kerala where the lions are kept in their natural habitat. We saw two lioness’ and one lion up close from our bus. It was pretty exciting! After that we went to a crocodile farm, but it was sad to see the way the crocodiles were kept in cages. I did notice that crocodiles are pretty lazy reptiles. They just lie around half immersed in water and stay still the whole day. What a life!
But the best part of my Kerala trip, besides the ayurvedic massages, was the trip to the Duke Forest Lodge. Its a 130-acre Rubber plantation and is home to various spice trees and plants including cocoa, vanilla, coffee, cardamom, cloves, pepper, nutmeg. Unfortunately, the vanilla blooming season starts in June so I could not get my hand on any vanilla pods, but the manager told us that in June-July the whole estate smells of Vanilla when the green Vanilla flowers turn black. Its a lovely time to visit the estate.
At the lodge they also grow cacao trees- yes, the trees that give us cocoa, the key ingredient for chocolate, chocolate which is something that most of us can not do without. The Cacao fruit pulp is white and if you suck on them they taste like custard apple. The beans along with the pulp are fermented and then dried, where the pulp trickles off, leaving behind the cocoa beans. The cocoa beans are then shipped off where they are processed to make cocoa powder, cocoa butter, nibs and the likes.
The Lodge is perched in a Rubber plantation. They have about 3000 rubber trees and a good rubber tree gives about 2 bowls of latex sap daily. Each bowl sells for about Rs 80 (roughly $1.50), so it is quite a profitable business for the lodge. The Duke Forest Lodge also is a beautiful place to stay if you plan a trip to Kerala. They have 14-day packages where the stay includes yoga, ayurvedic massages and detoxification meals. They have villas with Jacuzzis and of course, you have the added benefit of being surrounded by spices of all kinds.
And if you are in Kerala, you have to visit the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple, which is an architectural wonder. There is a dress code there though- the men have to the Kerala Mundu (white Dhoti- piece of white cloth wrapped around the legs), and keep their chest bare. The women need to be dressed in a sari. Both the dresses are available for hire or to buy near the temple.
Also one should not miss a ride in the backwaters of Allepey-Kovalam, a trip to the tea plantations in Munnar (unfortunately, my Munnar trip did not happen this time) and the Jewish synagogue, the Kathakali performances, the Chinese net in Cochin. And while you are doing all this, do not forget to feast on the local Kerala cuisine- appam and stew, Kerala parantha, prawn curry, fish curry, coconut water- just thinking about it makes my mouth water. As souvenirs pick up spices from the local markets. In Thiruvananthapuram, you could also go to Sarwaa, in Sasthamangalam where handmade products, organic and ayurvedic ware cover a good part of the shop.
There are a lot of other places to cover in Kerala but these are the ones that I have visited and would recommend.
And since you all have been so patient reading while I have been blabbering non stop, I am posting a recipe too. Its been long since I made a 100% flour recipe and god I miss such breads. Of course whole wheat is healthy and it is tasty, no denying that but its nice to have a no wheat just plain ‘ol flour bread. And this one here hits all the right spots!
This is a bread machine recipe but of course it can be made without one. For making a bread without a machine check this post out.
makes 750 gms
- 50 gm butter, softened, diced
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 260 ml liquid milk
- 400 gms white bread flour
- 1 tsp yeast
Put ingredients according to your bread maker’s instructions. Set loaf size to 750 gms and use appropriate cycle.
If you do not have a bread maker, you can see this post.
For the past few days, ever since India beat Australia in the Quarter Finals World Cup Match cricket has been the talk of the town. From Facebook updates to my college chain mails to newspaper articles- wherever you go – the India Pakistan match is the topic of conversation. I can only imagine the excitement in my hometown Mohali, where the match is being played today. The advertisers, airlines, hotels, all are cashing in on the much anticipated match. Jokes on Afridi and his men are doing the rounds among Indians on social networking sites while the Pakistinis are doing the same on their pages for the team in blue. The mind games have begun on both sides. After long I have been excited about a match- I think there is something about playing Pakistan that triggers every Indian’s blood and the do or die spirit takes over. Defeating Pakistan is for most Indians like winning the world cup. Every Indian today is praying that India wins- I have no more nails left to bite!
Putting the excitement aside for a while, I completed my first Daring Bakers challenge, although a little late! *Victory clasp!*
Jamie found this recipe on a piece of yellowed paper in her dad’s collection of clipped out and hand-written recipes from the 1970’s, no source, no date, and she tried the recipe and it was brilliant!
This entry was supposed to be posted on the 27th but since I was busy packing, travelling, shopping, packing again and more travelling, only now I got the time to bake for the challenge. I enjoyed myself thoroughly in this challenge. The recipe yields two cakes and thought I would do one savory version and one sweet.
While the sweet dough kneaded to form a sexy (as Ria and Jamie put it)!, elastic and smooth dough, I had a tough time with the savory dough- I just could not get the elasticity called for in the dough. I used the bread maker’s dough cycle, then used my own muscle strength and boy how I used them! I’m sure tomorrow I’ll have sore muscles- yes I had to knead THAT much!
I also had trouble with the dough rising. It took longer than usual and did not rise as much as I hoped it would. One mistake I did with the sweet dough, which could be a reason for the not rising problem is that when heating the milk with water and butter- the milk almost boiled and it was still quite hot when I poured it in the flour mixture. But, that still does not explain why the savory dough did not rise. Maybe the yeast?! Hmmm…..Anyways the dough eventually did rise.
In the savory version I thought of putting cheddar cheese and have mentioned so in the recipe but when I got to rolling of the dough I realised that I had no grated cheese on hand. Pressed for time as the match had started (the long rising time changed my whole schedule- I was supposed to have been done with baking by the time the match was to start), I put parmesan cheese- but would still recommend the cheddar cheese.
I decorated the savory yeasted cakes by painting on it using a coffee-yolk mixture. (To see how to paint on your bread check this out!) For painting I did not have a brush. I used an unused lipstick brush from my kit. Of course I washed it thoroughly. The things I do for baking!
The oven still gave me problems while baking- it does not heat evenly. So I had to make sure that I keep shifting the trays. It also took me longer than the stated time to bake the yeasted cakes as they were not getting brown from the top-nor was the hollow sound coming. As a result the sweet yeasted cake got burned from the bottom. I miss my own oven!!:(
I decided to make some rolls day before. My dad loves home made bread and after I made some spinach bread a few days back for him, I thought I’ll treat my dad some more and make some garlic and herb rolls.
I have tried several recipes of garlic bread but somehow all fail when it comes to the garlic flavor. One bite and I question whether I added any garlic or not. But, not with this one! Not only did I up the amount of garlic in the bread, but with this cool basting trick I found at Annie’s Eats, while figuring out how to make knotted rolls, you would be sure you are eating a garlic flavored bread.
Annie also has step-by-step illustrated instructions on how to make the knotted rolls. In case you would like to shape them like knots do check her post.
Fresh out of the oven, with some butter slathered on- these make a fantastic eat!
Today was coffee at my house. Its always fun having these coffee meets. Get to talk and learn so much from the diverse group of friends I have. We had a new girl join us. I remember, how, about 8 months back I was new to this group. And now the group feels like family- people I can count on when I need someone here. Its always fun to cook for them- they are all so generous with their compliments! Also, it gives me a platform to not only experiment by baking extravaganzas, but to introduce my friends to Indian food. They now all know about Samosas, kathi rolls, mint chutney and I feel happy to have made them taste that part of the world. Today, though, I did not go Indian. I kept it simple with buttered garlic on a home-made Spinach bread and carrots served with tzatziki dip. For the sweet tooth there was fruitcake and I also kept some olive-cheese-pineapple on a stick appetizers. Surprisingly the latter were quite a hit with the children!
The idea for Spinach bread had been haunting me for a while. I had a bunch of spinach in my fridge and thought it would be an interesting way to use it up. Found a recipe here. I wanted to add some feta cheese but did not have any in the fridge. And cheese had to go in the bread! So instead I added some parmesan cheese. I also added roasted garlic to the dough. The bread came out very flavorful. I served the bread baked with some garlic-herb smothered butter and everyone devoured them!
Next time I will replace some of the all-purpose with whole-wheat flour – you know, make it all healthy and all . Would also add some powdered flax seeds! Oohh, the sound of it makes me want to run to the store and grab a bunch or two of spinach. (What would you know, we finished both the loaves at the coffee today- yes! it was that good!)