Currently Loving…

I’ve stopped hating Mondays. They are no more the I-don’t-want-to-wake-up, tedious mornings of trying to drag yourself into decent clothes and running to the bus-stop. No more dreading Monday-morning chores or work updates.

We, this semester, have only one hour of lecture on Monday…and that too late afternoon. Oh happy day!

Meanwhile, work is on full-throttle….have cooked a bit over the weekend, but today I’m putting up 5 things that I’m loving currently.

1 – The SRB sem room at the school.

2 – This car that I find parked everyday near the Lenton Drive.

3 – Sherry….rich and sweet.

4 – These wedges from Acne (I’m trying to get my hands on a pair of medium-heeld wedges before Easter Break starts)

5 – Spring by Ben*Jammin. I have no clue what the lyrics mean though…

Have a happy week!

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Lemon Cake

We have quite a baker at the 189.

Hana. Vietnamese. Management post-grad. The cutest thing. And excellent with flour, eggs and sugar.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve trudged home after a long day at the University, only to find a chocolate cake waiting on the kitchen counter. Or a plate of blueberry muffins on the top shelf of the refrigerator. And I’ve shamelessly gobbled up most of them. They’re always delicious and somehow the perfect fix for my bouts of ‘munchies’. And it doesn’t end there. She brings on Pho just when you need it, sushi just when you’re craving it and of course, she just happens to be my Salmon Queen.

Another reason I love her so much….she gushes about my cooking and photography enough to put me on the ninth heaven.

The weekend slipping by right now has been an extremely sweet one. One birthday including a wholesome cheesecake and Hana’s spoon-licking lemon cake. Not to mention store-bought tiramisu (yes, store-bought). And now, I’ll be starving myself for the next week.

Lemon cake with Blueberry spread

Inspired by the Paris Pastry

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup of milk
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs

How-To:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans.
  • Sift together the flours, baking powder and salt.
  • Combine sour cream with lemon zest and juice.
  • Beat the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy (about a minute) with an electric-whisk. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
  • Add the flour mixture and sour cream and beat on low-speed until just combined. Do not overmix.
  • Divide batter between prepared pans until the top are golden and a fork run through the center, comes out clean. This takes about 30-40 minutes.
  • Cool pans completely.
  • Level the top of one cake and spread blueberry jam evenly all over. Place the other cake on top of it. And enjoy with tea or coffee!

I ♥ Lazy Weekends

Thank goodness for lazy weekends. I had one after a long time.

I re-stashed dark chocolate bars throughout my room.

I had a long lunch at Pranjal & Ashwin’s. We booked tickets for Europe and I made a drink out of Mango-orange pulp and soda. It tasted good. No joke.

I brought out my trolley-bag…even though its way too early to start packing.

On Sunday, I snoozed on happily till noon when I was woken up by a couple of girlfriends who barged in to announce how my favourite IPL team had won their last match.

I treated myself to a couple of bowlfuls of mint-chocolate chip ice-cream from Waitrose.

A sun-beam sneaked into my room late afternoon. Its March in England and the Sun is starting to show.

I found two pairs of shoes the workmen left behind in a house under construction.

I also made chicken and caramelized onions in soy sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 250 gms of boneless chicken pieces
  • 2 Spanish onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of white granulated sugar
  • 5 big cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 inch block of ginger, sliced into fine strips
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon of fish sauce
  • 1 table spoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • 500ml of chicken stock (plain water will also do)
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • Chopped coriander or red chillies, to garnish (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

How-To:

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they start to turn brown. Add the garlic, ginger and sugar and cook on low heat till the onions caramelize.

Add the chicken pieces, cloves, fish sauce, soy sauce, honey and chicken stock (or water). Stir well. Cover and cook on medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Check to see if more stock or water needs to be added (you don’t want burnt-bottom pans!) and cook for a further 15 minutes or till the chicken has cooked through.

Season with salt and black pepper. Keep in mind that the soy sauce and fish sauce has already made the dish salty.

Boil off most of the liquid on high heat, if you want a thicker gravy. Or leave it be if you want it to be more brothy.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves or red chillies and serve over steamed rice.

I ♥ lazy weekends.

A Gallery & Some News

New Art Gallery at Walsall, simple, vibrant, informal and interactive – just as it should be.

Oh and yet again, I’m running behind on my best wishes to all you gorgeous ladies out there……Happy Women’s Day!

A 3-day delay is unforgivable really, especially when I’ve turned up without a recipe to show for it and also because I owe my schoolmate Sagarika, a loud thank-you for tagging me!

I should also let you know that my lifelong dream of visiting The Louvre (…or Pompidou, or the Eiffel Tower, or Pierre Hermé…) is no longer a distant possibility.

That’s right….I’m off to Paris for my Easter Break!!!

*Jumps up and does a pirouette!!*

I’m packing my camera, sketch-pad, water colors and a stuffy itenerary (something that I plan to put up soon for all of you scrutinize and add to).

Meanwhile, I have a request.

For all those of you who are lucky enough to have visted the city before, I desperately need help with the must-sees, must-eat-at, must-shop-at places in Paris!!!

Knick-knacks, high fashion, low fashion, shows, macarons, bistros, stationery, pottery, antiques, artichokes, coffee, et all!

Any suggestions?

Hello Again

Is it too late to roar out a ‘Happy New Year!!’ ?

Ah well. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!! Hope all you lot out there have a lovely one!!

I realize and I understand that I deserve to be shot to death considering the fact that this is my first post after a very long break. But I have an excuse! Yes, I do!

I was busy.

Same old story, did I hear someone say?

It is, in a way. I mean, nowadays I keep wondering what in f***’s name made me decide to come back to school again. (Should I bring on the cussing a little later into the post?)

They’re wringing our necks at the altar of higher education after flogging us with a whip made out of post-graduate degree certificates. And then they have some more sadistic fun by dipping our head into a humongous vat of boiling midnight oil. I hope I don’t sound gruesome. I’m kind of enjoying all the pressure. It’s a high….in a way.

After a bout of snow and a dose of wet and slippery cityscape, we’re finally back to dry, sunny windy days. All through winter, I couldn’t think of much except coffee and chocolate. Maybe a chicken and leek soup. Or a spicy pumpkin curry. Or even greasy pasta with fatty bacon bits. And did I forget to mention Donata’s lovely mulled wine?

Yes, Donata made mulled red wine for my birthday and I tried making some on Christmas, the one that I spent in Nottingham. Glorious sweetness, heady oranginess and spicy red rolling wine. Its like someone trapped a festival in a deep wok.

And yes. We used a well-seasoned chinese wok to make it. Groovy, eh? Kind of surprising it didn’t end up tasting like sesame chicken…

And yes, I have been cooking.

Shocking. I know.

Right now as I’m typing this, I’m feeling this deep sense of guilt that I didn’t take phototgraphs (or even notice) of any of the dishes that I whipped up in the last couple of months. I made them without paying attention. I ate them….no…I gulped them down with water. And even more shockingly, I never even talked about any of them.

I am aware that I put white bread into my mouth whenever I’m hungry….its difficult to miss white bread in England. And then there are those instances when I’m suddenly made aware of the heady smell of rosemary and burnt chicken skin coming from the kitchen, which reminds me that I had shoved something chicken on something tray-ish into the oven 2 hours back. And then I go, literally, stumbling down the staircase to the kitchen to turn the damn oven down so the smoke doesn’t set off the fire alarm.

Shovelling food down your pie-hole — I have finally realized what the phrase means, because apparently I’ve become a champion at it.

Apart from that I’ve taken to collecting cookbooks. Always a good thing. And its almost become sort of an obsession, at least, one of the strongest after my use-garlic-in-everything period. Perhaps its an outlet for my foodie-motions since I haven’t been writing. I know I know, I’m not the one to follow recipes or measurements, but the cookbooks are especially helpful when you’ve been swimming in a pool of drawings and case studies and just need something to bust your stress at 3 a.m. in the morning (along with a cup of cocoa, of course).

I’ve been getting emails and comments from my readers checking back for new posts and have been disappointed, and that’s made me ecstatic! Oh…well, not your disappointment but the fact that you remember me! And as a thank-you here’s a simple rosemary and yogurt chicken dish I prepared about a week ago. Easy and hassle-free.

(And oh yes, I have a ‘pie’ coming along specially for Women’s Day!)

Rosemary and Yogurt Chicken

Ingredients:

  • 6 pieces of chiken thighs or drumsticks
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 cup of yogurt (sour cream would do fantastically too)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

How-to:

  • Marinate the chicken with all the ingredients except black pepper, in a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the refrigerator for an hour or two.
  • Pre-heat the oven (I use fan-assisted) to 275 F.
  • Lightly grease a roaster with oil. Place the chicken pieces in it so that they don’t touch each other. Cover with aluminum foil.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 200 F, and pop in the roaster for about 35-40 minutes. Check to see if the juices run clear.
  • Season with ground black pepper and serve with a warm bowl of rice and a garden salad.

The 189

189

Dear Ma,

I’ve reached safely. Sort of sorry that its taken me a whole of three weeks to let you know. This letter follows up with more.

The journey uptil Birmingham was comfortable and I made the mistake of imagining that every thing would go smoothly further on. Its me, Ma…can anything be right?

Nothing much went wrong though, except that I got lost.

Boarded the wrong bus, got off at the wrong bus stop and was almost heading towards the wrong city. I managed. You taught me well.

What I did learn from the incident though, was that bus drivers in the East Midlands are possibly the most helpful people on the face of the planet and people here in general are frightfully polite and impossibly patient. Can you imagine me starting and ending each and every utterable sentence with ‘thank you’s and generously scattering a few ‘please’s in between words? All those years you spent patiently correcting my tongue, has finally paid off. I don’t know how long it’ll be before I burst into colorful linguistics in the middle of a conversation. I’ll let you know when that happens.

I also learnt that its perfectly normal for a strange, balding 45-year old man in a fluorescent uniform to utter the words “Last stop, love!”, with me in his mind.

Rows of sloped-roofed brick houses, a chilly bite in the air, cheerful old ladies in cardigans with checked shopping carts and unmistakable accents.

After three tumultuous weeks, I have finally been able to settle down a wee bit. A wee bit.

Moving into the house had been easy, not without a slight hitch concerning the wrong code to the keyhold. I’m garaged in the 189 on Station Road.

Meeting my housemates was even easier and much more fun, considering the fact that we’re a group of four including a German, a Vietnamese, an Italian and me, of course. We’ve already been out on ‘pub-night’ and Guiness won the day. I’ve already done some cooking with it, by the way…a sumptious lamb stew, that left a characteristic bitter taste in my mouth — I think I still need to get used to the concepts surrounding slow-cooking and roasting. But I did oven up a batch of slightly-burned and juicy breasts of chicken, smothered in olive oil and herbs….they came out with extra-crispy, extra-dark and extra-salty skins. Not sure I’ll be making that anytime soon. I did try Alejandra’s chestnut-bacon-green apple soup too….bursting with flavor. Donata (German, if you please), has started swearing by it.

But what I will be making soon….at least, I’ve started  researching it, if you can believe that…is a pork and ham pie. Its spiffingly marvelous!

The all-covering pastry crust is wonderfully crunchy against the salty pork filling and jelly. And I like it cold. And yes, I’ve added a few inches to my hips too. What? Don’t look at me like that!

Pork and Ham PieThe first thing that grabbed me when I took the bus (the right one) to the University, was the size of the campus. You can walk yourself to death, honestly and you still won’t be able to cover the whole thing. And if you’re in heels (like I was) then don’t even try. Apart from that, Nottingham is downright beautiful. The cite centre reeks of party hubs, fish n chips and a large gong that chimes to the tune of the Big Ben. No doubt, the city’s much quieter than London…and more studious in a way.

We’ve already had a social trip to London, where we trailed behind Prof Lau….and no, I could’nt go down to Battersea, unfortunately (since we were busy loitering around the Bridge for quite a large part of the day).

me_barbican

I’ve made friends from 9 different countries, I’ve already worked with a group of them, I’ve been quick to discover the nearest Hindu temple, have found myself knee deep in post-grad shit (sorry) and haven’t been able to get myself a decent amount of Indian spices. Don’t give me that eye again, I plan to do that very soon.

And yes, you read that right….9 different countries, not many Indian spices in the kitchen yet.

More interestingly, I have come across a seafood pasta dish that I want to tell you about.

Its not utterly special or anything, but the simplicity of it made me wonder why I hadn’t tried it before. It comes from Hana, my surprisingly Vietnamese housemate, and the dish itself made Stefan, the oh-so-Italian, smile and slurp up every last morsel of it.

hana

sphagetti salmon

Spaghetti with stir-fried Salmon and Portobello Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 2 salmon fillets cut up into bite-sized chunks (no bones or skins please)
  • Half a cup of chopped portobello mushrooms (I prefer them quartered for a more robust flavor)
  • 1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
  • 2 smallish spring onions, chopped finely
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic, smashed
  • Spaghetti – 2 portions (the size of these may vary according to who would be eating)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil to fry
  • Chopped parsley to garnish with

How-to:

  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, and save 2 tablespoons of the starch water the paste boils in, before draining teh rest of.
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and onions and fry till translucent and soft.
  • Add the mushrooms and saute for three minutes on medium heat, before adding in the salmon and soy sauce.
  • Cook the salmon till the pices start losing the pink color. We want light pink though, not white.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and pour in the starchy water along with the drained pasta. Toss everything toether for a minute.
  • Serve with sprinkles of parsley on top.

salmon spaghetti

I hope you and Dad enjoy this one. The salmon melts in your mouth really…oh, the Scottish salmon, rather. 🙂

I’ll leave you now to get back to my daily run to the Library.

Lots of love,

Amrita

P.S.:- Shreya’s invited me to Milan for Christmas and now I don’t know whether I’ll be spending it there or at Cardiff! Will let you know!

Madness…and frozen yogurt

offer letter

Moving.

This has now officially (and permanently) become my status.

I should really rename this blog Messy Brainwaves That Keep Moving.

Its not really enough that I left home at 18 years of age to attend graduate school in Baroda, shuttling between that sleepy city and my hometown. Five years on, it wasn’t enough when, looking for work with a decent enough pay to allow weekend eat-outs and shopping, I trudged to Mumbai dragging my tired bags along.

Now, Nottingham is standing on the edge of the parapet yelling for me. The offer letter has arrived for my post-graduation degree and I’m currently extremely busy freaking out.

Part of me is nervous out off my existence, because I don’t know what to expect. Part of me is sad, because I’m leaving everything I know and love for a whole year at least. Part of me is constantly confused and on the edge with handling formalities and arrangements. And the final part is just plain excited at the prospect of poking my head through to Europe!

Where will I stay? Its already late. The University halls are all booked. I have no place to stay. I don’t know when I’ll get there considering the fact that I haven’t booked anything that resembles an air ticket. The initial offer letter had the wrong subject on it. The new one hasn’t been dispatched yet. I haven’t registered with the University, mostly because I have to be present IN PERSON to register myself as a student. I don’t have any syllabus or class details. I still have to pack. I still have to go grab myself a new laptop. I’m in a mess and technically homeless. I’ve lived in three different cities since mid 2008 and now I would have to move my arse (see how English I’ve become already) off to a whole other country. And all I’m concerned about is how high a cloud I would be on, eating my way through it!

I’ve already started on a list. My query on black puds on Chow has met with passionate responses from UK’s proud patriots.

And all this even while I’m still nine and half hours of flight time away from my destination. The amount of sleep I lost over my broken heart and Thesis is nothing compared to the amount of sleep I’m losing now.

Every fear and piece of stress has now blended themselves together with the fact that my brother is also on the verge of flying off to Georgia, USA for his pilot’s license. People around the house keep tripping over boxy luggage, yells over the phone on international calls, trying very hard to hold decent conversations with the Brits, lists are growing longer by the minute, the VISA people might as well have put up permanent residence in our apartment, piles of winter clothes dot every room.

Out of all the madness, I will try hard to chill with frozen yogurt.

Brown Butter Caramel Ice-Cream

I need frozen yogurt. I would settle for a rich and creamy ice cream any day, if it didn’t come with a side of guilt. Fro-yo on the other hand, goes easy on me. And my skinny jeans, which is a good thing considering the fact that I bought two pairs of those yesterday.

And then I go and add copious amounts of butter and sugar to natural homemade yogurt. Homemade, because its always been that way. Me, my mother before me and my grandmother before her — we always, always, (always) have an over-sized bowl of curd resting overnight under a damp cloth, quite calmly at one dark corner of our kitchen counters.

The brown butter was a first for me, but thanks to Techamuanvivit, that problem was dealt with. At this point, I should remind my readers that I’m a certified harbinger of burnt caramel, burnt to the point of no return. But I’m doing better nowadays, really.

ice cream

Brown Butter Caramel Frozen Yogurt
Ingredients:
  • Half a cup of unsalted butter
  • Two cups of Greek yogurt (of if you prefer, homemade yogurt, strained through two layers of cheesecloth and hung for two hours)
  • 1 1/2 cups of white sugar
  • 1 tablespoons of water
  • A pinch of salt

How-to:

  • Heat a pan and add the butter. Cook on low heat (no stirring please) till the butter melts. It will bubble up seriously as it cooks. Shake and swirl a few times to prevent hot spots. Cook till it turns a golden brown…any further and you’ll end up burning it. Brown butter needs you to have a sharp eye.
  • Pour it out into a cool glass bowl.
  • Put the pan back on heat and add the sugar with the water. Turn up the heat and swirl the sugar around (stirring would only make the sugar crystallize again). Cook till the caramel takes up a slightly thick consistency.
  • Stir the caramel slowly into the butter and let the mixture cool for 3-5 minutes before folding it into the yogurt (in a separate bowl) along with a pinch of salt. Pour the mixture into a shallow freeze-proof box with a cover and freeze for 4 hours.
  • After four hours, break up the ice crystals with a fork and blitz them in a blender till smooth. Pour back into the container and freeze for another 4 hours.
  • Scoop, dunk and nurse a big bowl of it as soon as you’re ready…..or crazy.