My First Award

An award?

Me?

For what?

My blog?

I admit, I was a little blank at first. But then, it sank in. And then, it really sank in.

My blog’s been around since February, 2008 – and initially it was about my ridiculously tumultuous college life and all the random photography and graphic design I did. It was quiet sometime before I knew I wanted to blog about food. What I love most about food blogging and food-blog surfing are the stories. Stories that lead up to the meal, or recipe, or eatery, and stories that come after all the food has been eaten.

Lan from Angry Asian Creations passed on this award to me! Ye-eah!

Lan – thanks a ton! I’m glad you like my blog…and my experiments in the kitchen and my photos! Honestly, I get excited whenever a comment from you blinks on my screen!

I wanna pass the love on to blogs and bloggers I follow without fail –

Melissa and Denise over at Twin Tables – Their stories are a delight to read and their food’s always simple and creative!

Amanda over at Konosur – I enjoy her blog ‘coz its just classy and her presentation’s always clean and super-elegant.

Alexa with Artsy-Foodie – OK, now its all artsy alright… 🙂 Her blog’s an inspiration really, her photographs make me hungry and I love the way she makes the most complicated recipe seem simple!

Its almost difficult finding time to cook and try out new recipes, but all of you make it so much more easier! Thanks for all the inspiration!

The Weirdest Diwali…

Happy Diwali !!!

Well, belated, at least.

Now, this is another festival Indians go crazy about.

Fire crackers, sweets, gifts (oh yeah!), dry fruits, rangoli, new clothes (yet again!) and more sweets! Plus, Bengalis have their Kali Puja the very next day. So we just have to let go of watching our blood sugar levels for the two days.

It’ll be difficult for anyone to find a town, city, suburb or countryside free of noise, colors, light, fumes from the fireworks or plates and plates of badam burfi piled high.

Indians don’t celebrate with food – they celebrate food itself.

Every festival in India is always up for a million dollops of pure ghee, barrels of molasses, milk by the gallons, saffron by the fistfuls, nuts and fruits by the kilos. Some of the concoctions melt in your mouth, some fill you up with the first serving, some you get addicted to, some taste strange, some reminds you of something ancient and historical, some burst with flavor, others are subtly strong – but all of them make your mouth water, frankly.

This year was slightly different for me. Well OK, a lot different.

Firstly, it rained cats and dogs day before yesterday, which was a mood-killer. The dampness not only affects the performance of the crackers (obviously), but it dampened all our spirits. The fireworks industry in India is massive. And for a day the dealers sat with their hands holding up their heads!

Secondly, I cut down on the amount of crackers.

Well, because after 20 years of experiencing fascination and borderline obsession with fireworks, I got bored this year…much to the surprise and shock of my family and friends.

Thirdly, because I made sweets. And not the traditional burfi or kheer or halwa. But, I made truffles.

Yes, you read that right. Truffles.

Gorgeous dark chocolatey, walnutty ones.

All for a mid-morning coffee snack! And for two very special gift-packages. Recipes are right at the end of this post.

Evening was spent lighting lamps and diyas all throughout the house. And the rest of it was spent inhaling the fumes of burning nitrates and carbonates!

Anyway, back to the aforementioned truffles. I’ve been obsessed with them since……well, since Sunday. That’s when we were gifted this gorgeous box of six sinfully chocolicious rum and brandy truffles! Too bad, none was left to photograph. So, I made some of my own with walnuts, considering the fact that we have a whole kilo of walnuts leftover from when I made cookies a week back.

Chocolate Truffles rolled in Walnuts:

– 250gms of dark chocolate (I used one with 60% cocoa content)

– 150ml of heavy cream

– Walnuts, roasted and chopped coarsely

Chop up the chocolate in shards and chunks and put all of it in a bowl. Heat the cream till it reaches its boiling point. Be careful not to let the cream boil over, at this point. Pour it over the chopped chocolate and let stand for a minute. With a whisk or a wooden spoon start stirring the cream-chocolate mixture, from the center towards the sides of the bowl. Mix thoroughly till all the chocolate has melted. We don’t want any streaks of cream either. What you have now, is chocolate ganache. Pour in a shallow bowl/tin lined with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours or till a tablespoon of it can be rolled into a ball.

After the ganache has set, spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. With a teaspoon (or one of those rare melon scoopers, if you have any) scoop out some and start rolling into a ball. The consistency of the chocolate at this point should be such, so it doesn’t stick to your palms much. Roll the balls in the chopped walnuts till they’re coated evenly and pop all of ’em into the freezer again for about an hour before trying any.

Walnut Rock Truffles with extra crunch!

– 125gms of dark chocolate

– Half a cup of roasted walnuts, chopped

– 6 tablespoons of granulated white sugar

– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

– 1 egg white

– 2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Chop the chocolate. Add butter to it and melt on a double-boiler. Meanwhile, combine the walnuts and sugar in a bowl. Start adding the egg white to the mixture slowly to make a dough. You won’t be needing all of the egg, since we want the “dough” to be sticky and disintegrated. Take the chocolate off the heat and add the vanilla essence. Now, my essence was too strong for my taste, thats why I only used a few drops. Go ahead and add a few drops more, if yours is milder. Add this melted chocolate to the “dough” and mix well. Pour (or spoon, rather) it onto a plate lined with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours or till you can cut it into pieces.

The extra chocolate shards and curls that were leftover…I just added ’em to my coffee. 🙂

All in all, this year Diwali, was kinda weird……

Cookies and Bandhani

I’ve been obsessed with my mother’s closet since I don’t remember when.

Its weird if you think about it – I’m a full-grown twenty-three (almost twenty-four) year old woman who can cook and housekeep like an expert (at least, by now I can), but I still cannot resist rummaging through my Mum’s dressing table or try on her saris, whenever I get a chance.

I know, I need help.

Anyway, while my dark chocolate & walnut cookies were baking, I pulled out all Ma’s old dupattas. Cottons, silks, chiffons, crepes, lace and what not…she even had one in a ‘fishnetty’ lycra material.

OK.

Most of them have faded and some have huge holes in them and some are torn in half, literally. But what caught my eye was this hot pink bandhani-work dupatta, which was surprisingly intact, kept twisted properly and not the slightest bit faded. The color just popped and said “HI!” to me!

For all who’re wondering what on earth is “bandhani” – bandhani work is a type of tie-dyeing art particular to Gujarat and Rajasthan, India.

As for the cookies – well, they’ve got chocolate, walnuts and honey in them.

What You Need –

1 and a half cups regular, all-purpose flour

– 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder (Dutch is preferable, but any good quality cocoa powder would do)

– Half cup of walnuts, chopped coarsely

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 3/4 tsp baking soda

– 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

– 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

– 3 tablespoons of honey

– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

– 2 large eggs

How-To:

– Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Prepare cookie sheets.

-Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together.

– Cream the butter with sugar till smooth and fluffy.

– Add the eggs one at a time beating continuously. Add the vanilla essence and honey.

– Add in the dry ingredients an stir to make a creamy batter.

– Add in the chopped walnuts and mix well.

– Spoon out the batter (1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the sheets leaving enough gap between each lump.

– Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes. Cool the cookies on cooling racks and serve with…uh milk? I prefer vanilla ice-cream though.

Ssshhh…

If you keep really quiet, you can almost here a pin drop…if only the crickets shut up.

I know I know, I’ve been away for God knows how many days. Weeks, rather.

But, in my defense; I WAS BUSY. No, really.

The festive season in Bengal is infectious and a hectic one. It affects everybody and somehow, work and hobby takes a back seat. I don’t know exactly what is it about Durga Puja, that makes every red-blooded Bengali jump up and go in a frenzy. Maybe its the faith, the aarti, the idols, the fumes of dhunuchi, the red of vermilion, the sound of dhak, or maybe its just the idea of wearing a new outfit everyday, dancing carefree to the beats of the dhaaki, gorgeous aloo bhaja and biting into the occasional naarkel naaru, the pandal-hopping, and everything else that follows. Whatever is it, I know this is one occasion everyone comes home for.

Well, honestly, I seriously didn’t have time to breathe, what with the proshad bitoron, and running around trying to gather the kids together for the evening performances. But I did get a few chances to click away happily at everything around me.

Mum and the ladies lined up for sindoor khela

Buli (the one in yellow) and me…yes yes, I know I look drunk….I’m not though…

My Get-Well Food

Its been a long week. The flu did not worsen like I had thought it would, thankfully. The cold is still giving me a hard time though. The good thing that has come out of all this is, I have had about 16 cups of yellow lentil soup soup with two dozen pieces of mini-naan over the span of the last seven days. No, seriously.

I remember, Amanda’s (from Konosur) comment on the stuffed peppers, about an Indian flat bread or naan recipe. I guess I was waiting for a bout of influenza to finally get off my bum to blog about it.

The naan has Central Asian origins, resembles a pita but softer, in India its a North Indian staple.

Naan (makes one large or 4 bite-sized ones):

Half cup plain white flour

– Half a teaspoon baking powder

– 1 teaspoon of sugar (naan is more sweet than savory)

– A pinch of salt

– 1 tablespoon white oil

– 2 tablespoons of milk

– 1 egg, beaten

– Chopped parsley, or chopped coriander, or sesame seeds or nigella seeds

Pre-heat the oven to maximum heat. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Mix the oil, milk and half the beaten egg well and add this to the flour mixture. Pour this into the center of the flour and knead adding water if necessary to form soft dough. Grease a bowl with a few drops of oil and roll the dough around in it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rest in a cool corner for about half an hour. Roll out the dough in an elliptical shape. Stud the surface with the coriander/parsley/nigella seeds/sesame seeds. Brush the top lightly with the remaining egg. Prepare the baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes or till the naan’s puffed up and golden brown. Serve with a hot lentil soup.