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.

My First Time

…making ice cream, that is.

mango_ice_cream

Ok, that’s a lie.

I did contribute to a luscious white chocolate and cinnamon ice-cream at my friend Aditya’s place about a year back. I was responsible for the custard and he did all the physical work required. It was an achievement where I was concerned, since back then, the only other thing I could make apart from custard, was coffee. The credit for how and where I learned to make custard, goes to my mother, who would make me accompany her in making caramel and fruit custards for dessert whenever we had special guests over. My job in all that custard-making was to pour out the liquids into individual serving bowls and spoon in sauce over the caramels.

But I watched and learned. And it has finally paid off.

I’m a little late actually with my current tub of ice-cream, since summer’s been long gone here. But mangoes are still flecking the market and we have kilos of it stuffed into the refrigerator.

Indians love their mangoes…no conditions, no doubts and no species spared. If we’re not making lassi or aamras, we’re either making kulfi or just contentedly sucking the stone-seed dry on warm, humid afternoons. And then we have some more after dinner.

Before this, I had been satisfied with the humble espresso slushy, that I had taken so much pain in whipping (breaking up the ice crystals, they call it) with all my physical strength. It did turn out slightly crunchy…but only slightly, mind you.

This time taking no chance, I used a blender.

mango_ice_cream

Mango-Cinnamon Ice-cream

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 2 mangoes, stone removed

How-to:

  • Heat 1/2 cup cream, 1/2 cup milk and half the sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer till the mixture is almost ready to boil off. Take the mixture off heat and let it stand for a minute.
  • Beat the egg yolks with the rest of the sugar till the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the cream mixture into the egg mixture slowly stirring constantly so the eggs don’t scramble.
  • After fully incorporated, strain the mixture back into the pan and put on medium heat. Keep stirring firmly till the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Cool the custard completely before adding in the cinnamon powder and mango puree. Mix thoroughly over an ice bath.
  • Pour the mixture in a freeze-proof container (preferably air-tight) and freeze for about two hours.
  • After two hours, take out the container and either whip the mango custard thoroughly with a fork to break up the ice crystals or just blitz the entire thing for a minute in the blender. Pop the slushy mixture back into the freezer. Blitz once again after an interval of two hours. After the second blitz the mixture would require 2-3 hours to reach the correct consistency. Alternately of course, if you’re one of the lucky ones with an ice-cream machine (one of those that I’m still saving up for), freeze the mixture according to the manufacturers’ instructions.
  • Let the ice-cream stand for sometime before serving, if it hardens up too much.

ice_cream

mango_ice_cream

Midnight Cravings

What do you do when you’re up at 1 o’clock in the morning craving something chocolate, something warm and something that doesn’t take much work?
You thank Chef Wan for the Chocolate Valentino flourless cake.

I didn’t follow the recipe word for word and played around with the amount of butter a little, but it turned out nom-worthy anyway…

What You Need:
– 250 gms bittersweet chocolate, chopped to bits
– 2 eggs, yolks and whites separated (since I’m only baking for two, and in a hurry)
– 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (salted worked for me last night)

How-To:
– Melt the chocolate and butter in a baine marie
– Whip the egg whites till fluffy (but not super-stiff)
– Take the molten chocolate off the heat and let si for a minute.
– Stir in the egg yolks into the slightly cool chocolate mixture (you don’t want the chocolate to be too hot at this moment, otherwise the yolks would just cook in it….ew!)
– Fold in the whites into this chocolate-yolk mixture in 3 parts. Fold. This is important, becaue you don’t want the whites to deflate. The cake will turn out flat if they do.

–  Bake for 20-25 minutes at 350-375 degrees. The cake ideally should look like a brownie, on the surface.

– Cool on the rack.
– Slice. Eat.

And then thank Chef Wan again.


A few things I learned while making this cake :
1)Its very difficult to whip egg whites to peaks with one hand while you’re holding your cellphone on the other, talking to a certain someone. Earphones, at this point, come in handy.
2) The cake tastes better the next day.
3) Too many eggs and the cake turns brownie-like on cooling. Refrigerating overnight, makes it slightly crunchy. I had to leave it out for sometime to bring it back to cake-like consistency.

4) Tastes a whole lot better along with vanilla or banana-strawberry ice-cream.

The next morning, I just had enought time to make some chocolate ganache to ice the cake with. Very simple. Chop chocolate. Boil cream. Add it to the chocolate, Stir from the centre outwards to melt the chocolate. Adding artificial flavors or alcohol is optional. Spread evenly on the surface of the cake.

Divine.

White Chocolate and a Tired Chicken

What do I like about chocolate mousse?

Well, the question should really be, “What I don’t like about it?”.

Its chocolate, its as sweet or bitter as you want it to be, it can have any added flavor that you’d want, fruits, nuts, foam, requires far less time to set than ice-cream or semi-freddos (a highly attractive feature to seek for in recipes, when it comes to impatient bums like me), it melts in your mouth, and what not.

So, I tried to choose between a sumptious honey-chicken-prawn-pilaf dinner and a white chocolate mousse, for the sole reason that I didn’t feel like making both….but ultimately ended up doing so, anyway.

This time its a white chocolate mousse…

Ingredients:

100gms white chocolate

– 1 heaped tablespoon of unsalted butter

– 2 egg yolks

– 1 egg white

– 50gms heavy cream

– 4 teaspoons of castor sugar

– vanilla essence (I used 2-3 drops of a really strong one)

How-to:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie. Take it off the heat after the chocolate’s melted. Let it stand for minute and beat in the egg yolks.

– Lightly whip the cream (lightly…only soft peaks).

– Combine the chocolate and cream well.

– Beat the egg white till it holds its shape, gradually adding the sugar in.

Try the inverted bowl test. The white should be whipped to such a consistency that, if you hold the bowl inverted, it shouldn’t plop out!

I usually hold it over my head…but that’s me.

– Fold on the chocolate-cream mixture into the egg white gently.

– Pour in glasses and chill in the freezer, till set. 2-3 hours should do it.

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.