Football and Brownies

It’s 3 p.m. in the afternoon. The outdoors is at a sunny 22° C. I’m snuggled against a 1984 Argos couch in the living room watching England play against Slovenia, hoping that this time it wouldn’t be as painful as it was the last time.

Earlier today , I had tried….tried desperately to cook myself a decent meal of grilled chicken breasts stuffed with mozarella. It wasn’t as successful as I had wanted it to be. Due to lack of string or toothpicks to hold the damn breasts together.

Somehow, this day is not agreeing with me. My room is currently not very different from a blast furnace, which makes it absolutely impossible to work in it. Last night’s party has contributed to very little sleep and hence it is with difficulty that I’m trying to focus on the goal Dafoe just scored for England. But all is not lost. I am looking forward to the grocery store trip I’m planning to conduct in an hour. And also I’m looking forward to downing a few pieces of ‘luxurious’ brownies (shamelessly nicking the name from Tamami), I whipped up early in the morning. Inspired heavily by Fanny’s recipe.

If I start describing how the brownies turned out, it would probably bleed over to two or more posts. All I can say, is that, they’re luxurious indeed. The dark chocolate leaves a heavenly after-taste in your mouth and the amount of sugar is just right, especially for someone like me (who’s compulsively picky about anything sweet). I did modify the recipe according to my taste, of course. My allergy to following recipes word-to-word kicked in, I suppose.

I replaced plain flour with self-rising flour which makes the brownie slightly less dense, but gorgeously chewy nevertheless. The cocoa powder was Green & Black’s 70% and a tablespoon of instant coffee makes all the difference. It transforms the simple brownie into an indulgent and strangely addictive dessert (the word ‘snack’ here would be a complete understatement). Its sticky to the right texture, dark, handsome, chewy, fluffy and unforgiving. I won’t lie to you….this brownie will make you feel seriously guilty.

I’ll stop writing now and make another trip to my refrigerator.

P.S.: – England – 1, Slovenia – 0, Half-time.

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Truffles

rain

Yep, monsoon’s still here. No more about that.

It is more than a serious problem when you’re still learning how to cook and are allergic to following recipes, at the same time. Its still manageable when either of the above is true. But when both are obvious and you happen to be adamant not to change any of it, its bound to get downright dangerous…..and hopeless.

But no, I’m not adamant or anything. I’m more than willing to actually follow one of the recipes out of one of the many brilliant cookbooks I have. I’m just plain lazy. Every time I start with one, some tiny voice inside me wrecks havoc till I tweak the recipe in some way or the other. And I would rather learn the hard way. The really hard way. Doing what I do is hazhardous. You could end up with burnt pots, singed palms, cut-up fingertips, dish towels on fire and sometimes food without seasoning in it. There have also been times when I’ve had to feel my way through thick smoke just to get to the stove-top.

I’ve heard Aditya declare (for about the millionth time) how he follows a cookbook recipe word for word the first time, and then experiment with it in his own sweet time and come up with something new and different.

Liar. They’re always the same and never any different.

 I once fed cold macaroni tossed with tomatoes and cloves of garlic, all raw, uncooked, mashed up together in a sad brass mortar and pestle. It was horrible. And that’s an understatement. The mortar and pestle led a brassy taste to the tomatoes and along with the strong garlicky twang, not to mention the undercooked pasta that stuck to your teeth, the outcome was so puke-worthy that I was banned from my friends’ kitchens for the next four months. They begged me to learn how to cook knowing what a champion-eater and mess-creator I have been all my life.

At the time, I was using this blog as a showcase for my graphical endeavors and writing about college. Everything changed when I called up my Mother and asked her to guide me through a simple meal of eggplant curry with cut-up sausages! Then came okra and brown rice. That’s right…I couldn’t boil rice to save my life. My mother was too kind to guide me through basics.

Out came the digital camera, out oozed some fatty brainwaves, 18 months later and I’m still struggling to be moderately good at whipping up a decent meal.

This weekend I tried to relive last year’s Diwali truffle-happiness. Recovering from a relapse of typhoid can punch quite a lot of air out of you. But the truffles were worth the effort — they always are. Three sorts, not much work, a whole lot of mess and gastronomical divinity in the end.  I don’t know why I keep putting myself down as a cook….these truffles rocked, you know.

dark chocolate truffles

Dark Chocolate Truffles

What you need:

  • 1 and half cups dark chocolate (70%), chopped into approximately equal sized peices
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (optional…I like my truffles to be distinctly bitter so I didn’t add any)
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper for the Chili Truffles
  • 20ml espresso shot, for the Coffee Truffles
  • 20ml dark (or white) rum, for the Coconut and Rum Truffles
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • Cocoa powder for coating

How-to:

  • Divide the chopped chocolate equally into three glass bowls.
  • Heat the cream till its almost about to boil. At this point, you can add in the sugar, if necessary, and stir to dissolve it in the cream. Take it off the heat and pour equal amounts into each bowl carrying the chocolate.
  • Let the mixtures stand for 60 seconds, before gently stirring them(from center towards the edge) till all the chocolate has melted.
  • Add the cayenne pepper to the first mixture and stir in gently. Add the espresso to the second and rum to the third and gently stir. Cover each bowl with cling film and chill in the freezer for about a couple of hours or till the ganache has set.
  • Set each bowl in an ice-bath(so the ganache doesn’t melt) turn by turn. Use a spoon or a scooper to scoop out the chocolate and roll into truffle balls. I spread cocoa powder and rolled the chili truffles in them to coat. The rum truffles were rolled in dessicated coconut.
  • Don’t forget to eat ’em!

 

truffles

Good Ol’ Chocolate Mousse

mousse1

Fact 1: I’ve never met anyone who does not like chocolate mousse. No one.

(If you don’t like it, leave a comment telling us about it….

if you like it…well then,leave me a comment about that too!!)

Fact 2: Its easily one of the easiest desserts to make which provided maximum satisfaction.

Fact 3: Flavor options are…well, unlimited…since whatever flavor you choose is bound to work.

I, however, prefer the classic chocolate mousse, with nutty or fruity tones.

Intially the idea was to make a white chocolate mousse…but then I remembered, I already had one in the kitty, so decided to do the other “good ‘ol” chocolate Mousse. This one, is loaded with hazelnutty goodness.

What You Need:

250gms of dark chocolate (I used 60% cocoa), chopped in bits

– 100gms Hazelnuts

– 3/4 cup of heavy cream

– 2 egg whites

– 2 tablespoons of sugar (if you need it to be sweeter…I didn’t use it any)

– Whipped cream, white/dark chocolate shavings to garnish

How-To:

Preparing the Hazelnuts

De-shell and roast the hazelnuts in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper at 275 F 15-20 minutes.

– Remove from oven before the nuts brown completely….golden brown is what we want.

– Roll a damp kitchen towel against the nuts and rub the skins off them.

– After the skins come off, roll then dry with paper towels and grind them to fine powder, in a processor.

mousse2

The Mousse

– Halve the amount of cream in two separate bowls.

– Heat one half over a low flame, till bubbles start to appear. Don’t let it boil over.

– Add this cream to the bowl of chopped chocolate and let stand for a minute.

– Whip the egg whites and sugar (if you’re using any), till stiff. An electric beater works perfectly fine unless you’re willing to exercise your arms using a hand-beater.

– Add the egg white foam to the warm chocolate and cream mixture and gently stir centre-out till no white streaks remain.

– Stir in the hazelnut flour into the chocolate. Mix well.

– Whip the remaining cream into soft peaks that hold their shape. Pour the cream into the chocolate mixture and fold in gently.

– Pour in serving glasses/cups and allow it to set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

– Garnish with whipped cream (a little of the heavy cream whipped to peaks with confectioners’ sugar) and chocolate shavings (both dark and white, in my case), before serving.

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.