Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cumin and Black Pepper Ghee Shortbread

When we came to Kuwait some 7 years ago, we lived in a different, much older building that overlooked a busy and bustling shopping lane.  Most of my days were spend filling up forms and applying for jobs or cooking up storms with food network always playing in background. You could find me, either mimicking Nigella Lawson while stirring my pot of stew, or practising my British accent every time Gordon Ramsay came on. Those were the shaping years of my cooking style and opened up a whole new world of food for me. I cooked 5 meals a day, dessert included.

One such December day, when whole of Kuwait was enveloped in fog, I starred down at the large hoardings of sales and flickering red and blue lights, keeping cozy with warm, dark and hot chocolate mug in my rabbit fur socks (which are now buried deep into suitcases of memories), while Jamie cooked a Christmas feast on television. I snapped out of my trace, eager to cook. It could be his darling lisp or sheer passion for food, that inspired me to cook a Christmasy feast that day.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Harissa Spiced Beans With Eggs

When I started this blog some 4 years back, I couldn't imagine myself eating egg even slightly underdone. I have written a whole post on it, and here we are today, I love to eat my eggs under done specially if they are fried, poached or baked. Except for of course this egg curry which is a staple in my house requiring hard boiled eggs. Another food I have been averse to is refried beans mostly because I always ended up trying them from a can and the awful texture and smell put me off even before trying it. Four years since and to say this refried bean inspired baked egg where the yolks are best kept oozy, is a family favourite just reminds me why I love coming back to blogging.

After reading this post by Heidi of 101cookbooks on maintaining a long term blog, it got me into thinking why I blog. I have been (in internet terms) been blogging and maintaining this blog for a long time despite it being very different from how Heidi does or the scale of it for that matter!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad With Tamarind and Mint Chutney

As soon as I stepped out of the airplane, the humid, sticky air paved through my hair. I wondered if I should have infact had dinner on the plane, it was 2 a.m. and spending time to find any restaurant in this murky weather could be disastrous. To my relief, we sailed through the customs and airport procedures which admittedly is always the case at the Ahmedabad airport, the largest city of the North Western State - Gujarat . But I could hear my stomach growling increasingly and to break to my father who was receiving me, that I hadn't had my dinner, specially so because I was pregnant, would create a very stark reaction from Papa. It wasn't as if I didn't try, I did but I couldn't help feeling like I would throw up, really.

Our hired driver, who was going to drive us for next 6 hours to our home in Udaipur was confident about the hygiene of this particular South Indian restaurant. Talking about the hot crispy paper dosas, and dunking fairy white idlis in spicy broth of lentils called sambar created such sparkle in his eyes, it's the kind of thing only one foodie sees in another. He escorted us to the dingy staircase to the restaurant, the walls on both sides of the staircase filled with posters of Gods, the bollywood actors along side - who of course are no less than God. The spare lighting and the curved staircase created an illusion of a cave, where 'Anita loves Amit' and countless other lovers engraved their love on whatever was remaining of the wall. The driver assured us as Papa ran his handkerchief over his forehead - 'There is air conditioner inside.'


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Smashed Thyme Potatoes With Garlic and Lemon Sauce

My small counter space is overcrowded with pots and pans, produce and spices while I make a saucy chicken for dinner. My pyjama top is leached in turmeric, along with stains of ghee.  There are hints of cayenne or perhaps it is spats of tomato juices, and then there is garam masala, sprinkled like scant pepper from a miller. If you looked close enough, you'll also find last week's beetroot and chocolate cake masked by the fragrance of detergents but the red hue filtering through the wash. A few more wears and it might require trashing for most people, I though will hold onto it a little longer.

One could argue, there is apron for a reason, but my occasional bouts of intense cooking are fuelled by carrying those stains, spices and aromas like a badge of reminder of the end result and often times inspire food with 'connected flavours'. Let me explain; they say sniffing coffee clears your nostrils to distinguish between flavours, in which I think spices and the aromas seem to connect flavours. Laces of floral and citrusy mace and headiness of nutmeg, always drive my senses to apple and orange pudding Ammi makes, which in essence has no jaiphal (nutmeg) or javitri (mace). Nor, Ammi would ever approve of such an addition I reckon. 


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Baklava Pistachio Sandwich Ice cream

The ice cream peddler in his Ottoman-esque costume of golden vest and red fez, teased the customers with the metal pole he used for stirring the Turkish ice cream. The ice cream was so stretchy, it dangled on the pole without falling off, much to the amusement of passersby. He further taunts by offering the cone and grabbing it back, tossing it in the air, inverting the cone just when you think the order is ready. Occasionally, you are party to the drama by getting a lick off the ice cream. We watched in bewilderment, despite having witnessed it nearly everyday of our 5 day stay in Istanbul. On this day though, we had decided to put our affair with the pistachio ice cream with hazelnut aside and find our way to Karaoke gulluoglu, a baklava parlour. As we navigated through the narrow by lanes for a good hour, it was tough not to pull up a chair and sit in any one of the countless baklava shops in the same area. But we resisted for the promise of having the best baklava with the best kaymak (rich Turkish buffalo clotted cream) in town.

Once we reached, we realised looking around at other tables that baklava here wasn't just a pastry on go or a dessert to have a slice off. It was to be devoured over golden hued warm tea, over conservation that lasted for hours, with friends that schemed of how is the perfect way to go about a relationship. So despite, having stuffed ourselves with the best kind of freshly grilled mackerel sandwich just outside of the shop, we decided to order one of each type of baklava we could lay eyes on.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Apple and Almond Halwa With Orange Whipped Cream

One of the first sounds I would wake up to in our town house, was an intense conversation between Gita Bai, the vegetable hawker and Ammi on life and such.

Gita Bai, the hawker who got the freshest produce in town made her first stop at our house. She would talk about her sons and daughters, their lives and miseries, the son who has ran away to the city, the daughter who has not been able to conceive a male child yet and the crops that are not doing well.  She would explain how she quickly, which I suppose was quite relative, wants to finish selling the vegetables so she could attend the road construction. Yes, attend, so she could get her name on the list of workers of the day, just so she could get paid but didn't necessarily have to work on the road. Ammi would listen, often losing her debate on what's really the right thing to do against Gita's theories of survival, being the only earning member in the family.

Sometimes I would sit next to Ammi, pick up the pea pods from a wooden weaved basket that was lined with floral but rugged cloth. Opening the tender bright green pods and discovering how many little balls would come out of it kept me amused and entertained. They were always sweet, the ones Gita Bai would pick up and hand me that is.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Zaatar Halloumi and Olives Sandwich with Cherry Tomatoes

I have missed blogging! A lot of good things been happening around here. Good work opportunities and a food photography and styling workshop with Nourish of Qout Market  last week - all just feels surreal and I'm immensely grateful. 

It's not to say we haven't been cooking in fact my repertoire of cooking under 45 minutes has certainly increased many folds. So I thought perhaps, this is a good recipe to start start off this week.  Halloumi zaatar sandwich has saved me through many quick five minutes lunches before our  meetings during corporate years and now continues to be a fall back munch when I'm drowning in work. It is not even a recipe really, but if you haven't tried the combination, you are in for a treat. The salty halloumi, pungent zaatar and bitter olives contrast beautifully with sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes. This is also good time to bring out that fancy schmancy extra virgin olive oil as fruity flavours of the oil really shine through.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Curried Red Quinoa Peas and Paneer Salad

Our terrace in my hometown in India looks down to acres of empty land. Empty of human occupation that is. To the left was 'the glorious land', there were trees as tall as our house, shrubs and bushes at every inch of the land that had been kept untouched and wild for no one had the time to clear that forest of sorts. 

On the right was the barren land, one that got cleared every few months for weeds and wild grass.   We could look down at these two lands of extreme in its entirety divided by a tall muddy brick wall. During summers, monkeys would often sit on it and trespass into our garden area for treating on the mangoes much to my father's dismay. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Green Chutney, Avocado, Tomatoes and Fried Egg Open Sandwich

During my days of living in India, my sister in law and I had a customary late afternoon walk. The sun would calm down, the streets started to buzz again with horns and hawkers after the sleepy high heat afternoon hours. People from all walks of life, blue collar to white could be seen taking a break or snatching a bite of this and that on the street. The unsaid truth about our walks was, we never returned home without filling ourselves with some kind of street food. It was the real purpose of 'the walk'. Careful of never talking about it at home of course, my mother in law just as my mother would never approve of us eating on the streets.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Corn Halwa (Indian pudding) with Raspberry Coulis

In some days we are heading into Eid ul Fitr -  a celebratory day for Muslims marking the end of Ramadan - the holy month of fasting. Growing up Eid was the day of new clothes, new jewellery, new shoes and everything a little girl would wish for. Delicious, gluttonious food flew left and right and at the end of it all you would sure feel like you can't eat for rest of the year. Our heavily embroidered Indian outfits where neatly folded and packed to open for the next coming Eid given they were impossible to wear on any other day. But Eid wasn't Eid until we were handed our Eidi - the gifts given to kids by relatives and friends. We sat enthusiastically in the hallway in anticipation of who would visit us, what gifts they would bring and who would end up collecting the most money (the most common form of Eidi).


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Thandai Peach Galette

We were on the bed, laying in our usual position, heads further away but legs tangled into each others. It was something that bothered him at first - my inability to sleep with my head dug into his arms. It is so theatrical, one can't really breathe comfortably that close, I can't breathe I would exclaim. He understood not just the need for physical space, but the space I needed to learn and grow, to fail and concur, to find my individuality as a tender and seemingly unsure twenty year old.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Chicken Jalfrezi

It's that time of the year again. Most of my stories, food or otherwise revolve around our vacation time growing up that we spend in India, usually once a year.  The hustle bustle, the vibrant colors, the chaotic traffic and the glorious glorious food were all part of the fun we talked about rest of the year. 

Since Tasnim was born this is our first vacation to India and we are mighty excited. Now that she takes a bit of spicy food, we might finally introduce her to some spicier Rajasthani fare! If you don't follow me on Instagram where I post regularly - you might be able to catch glimpse of the fun and food. Meanwhile, here's a tantalising chicken recipe that is sure to be a family favourite.  

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Photo Shoot For Nutri Juice

A while back I photographed for Nutri Juice, which is a smoothie and juice parlour that makes smoothies on order with all natural ingredients and no sugar or additives! I didn't really think I was into smoothies until I worked for them. May be it was because I was adding way too many things in name of nutrient into my jar and/or adding the wrong ingredients. What I learned was, keeping it simple was the way to go for a smoothie.


Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mango and Coconut Cardamom Tartlets

My grandfather sat on his jute weaved bed under a mango tree, an ice bucket full of mangoes  underneath, a sharp rectangular knife in his hand. It was as if he waited for someone to arrive so he could serve them mangoes, from the tree that he sowed when no one lived in the town and the very first bricks of his house where being laid.

I remember him running his knife through the mango's skin so neatly, there wasn't even a a mistakable bit of flesh left on it.  He never let anyone stop at one, there would be seconds, thirds and fourth. When one would eat no longer, he would propose them to try another variety of mango that he had planted a few years ago. 

As we played around his garden, he would call and give us a thick chewy slice of a mango fruit leather as our 'candy'. As the lunch time rolled, grandmother would get our thali (food plate) to the bed - a simple meal of stir fried okra, roti and aam ras (sweetened mango pulp with a dash of milk or water).  And despite our over dose of mangoes, we ate most of the roti in the aamras. Almost through his lunch, nanaji as we fondly called him would call out to grandma to get some aam ka acchar (mango pickle) for the last few bites of his roti. The pickle that's made from the raw green mangoes he plucks himself when his beloved tree begins to fruit, he would say with pride.

A dark brown kernel that's collected from the inside of mango seeds, sun dried for weeks is then handed to us an aftermeal mouth freshener and digestion aid. A hard tasteless candy that you chewy into, but the cooling and refreshing effect is felt once you sip water after it. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Okra and Onion Stir Fry

I might have mentioned it before, my mother got married very young and had me when she was barely 18. It meant, I have remotest memories of her 20s but 30s is clear as yesterday.

I remember her favourite cobalt blue salwar kameez, the duppata falling perfectly on her slender shoulders, the chiffon sleeves loosely wrapped unto the elbow. Her skin, always complimented as porcelain like, was exactly that but I often marvelled at her rosy lips, one she would intensify with a rosy pink lipstick, the only colour she ever wore. Her gold kissed brown hair tied into a simple pony gave more reasons to focus on her face. A beautiful young woman, who only cooked good food, made sure we had a freshly made juices after school, evening snack before dinner and fruits as after dinner dessert.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Photo Shoot For Cocoa Room

Cocoa room hardly needs any introduction of course, but the fact that you get to photograph one of your favourite breakfast places in Kuwait, is a deal to be happy about! Since the last time we had our breakfast there, they have added quite a few new things on their menu like pictured above Turkish poached eggs on garlic yogurt drizzled with clarified butter, paprika and mint served with sourdough bread that totally makes me weak at the knees. Here are some of the shots from the shoot. Hope you enjoy them!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Zucchini Koftas in Creamy Coconut Tomato Sauce

My family moved to India from Kuwait when I was just out of high school.  At a confused end of teenage years, academic pressures and moving countries left me at very angry-at-the-world grumpy seventeen year old. To add to the pain, we were shifting to a town. A remote town.

There was nothing much to do at first. No scratch that, there was nothing to do at all. Cousins, whom now I know where ticketed by Ammi came to hang out with me, often returned disappointed in my lack of interest to create a conversation. The only activity that felt remotely similar to my life in Kuwait was reading. I begged cousins to borrow books from the school library. I asked them to hunt down people who might have used books. Most of the books I gathered had been left unattended for years. I felt a terrible comfort in those yellowed pages, sniffing through the smell of old pages that sometimes would surprise me with  the stale smell of dried roses. Days would pass into nights, and I would for all I can remember, sleep reading. 


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coconut And Lime Olive Oil Cake

Must have been sixth or seventh grade, a classmate who's name I have conveniently forgotten but the taste of her mom's tender pound cake, the one we used to get the thinnest slice of considering it had to cater to a class of twenty five, still lingers on in my fondest memories. The sight of the glossy aluminium foil loaf pan would get us all excited and I would for an otherwise timid child be a part of all the hullabaloo the class created.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Work Update - The November Company

 I have been such a huge fan of Bibi Hayat's events and everything she does looks beautiful! So when she called me to photograph her bakery - November Bakery for the upcoming mother's day, I knew it's going to be fun. They decided to go with the citrus theme for Mother's day which is so refreshing compared to all the pinks being overdone otherwise.

Some photos from the shoot I styled and shot.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Panko Crusted Ginger Lamb Chops With Mint Labneh

My daughter will eat or at least attempt to eat anything that can be held in hands and has some crunch to it. Because potato chips (ahem) are not an option I'm always looking to turn regular recipes into finger foods and add some crunch to it. 

These chops, that Ammi makes with ginger and then pan fries them until well done sprinkling water as it dries to keep it moist and juicy has been a family favourite for years but I think the crispy panko makes it even better. 

Mint, ginger and lamb are a fabulous trio, so the mint labneh is a must here. It cuts the spiciness and adds a fresh dimension. Greek yogurt would work well, but if you have time let the yogurt drain in the fridge overnight to get creamy tart labneh. Ginger is a natural meat tenderiser so you don't have to cook the lamb chops for too long, else they get tough. 


Monday, March 10, 2014

Tadka Dal - Everyday Indian Lentil Soup

India and dal are synonymous to each other. One can't be in India if they haven't had some version of dal, whichever part of the country they may be in. It's not like we talk lengths about it or how it should be made. For most cooks can blindly make dal, a little bit of this and that lentil, a few spices from the masala dabba (a spice box used by Indians to keep day to day spices), a trusty pressure cooker and a pot full of dal is always simmering away.

As much as dal is a necessity, so are the condiments served with it. Achar (pickle, usually lemon or mango), kachumbar (an onion salad) and if it wasn't enough some papadam (wafer-thin lentil crisps) to crunch on are always stationed close to a bowl of dal. While roti is fine, fragrant white grain rice is the lustrous companion one craves. Slurping through the dal coated rice is truly what composes comfort food for most Indians. In my family, it is a twice a week affair, but many vegetarians will tell you that they have some form of dal everyday along side a vegetable preparation. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Green Goddess - Quinoa, Avocado, Peas and Pistachio Salad With Coriander Basil Pesto

Couple of years back, I started growing Italian basil. There is a local variety that's good for flavour but I somehow always missed the lighter hued, crisper Italian basil that holds much better in recipes. It grew rather well.  Every once in a month I could gather enough basil for a jarful of pesto and I treasured it more than saffron. I added it to pretty much everything for a day or two. Pesto paratha? Yes. Pesto curry? Yes, been there. But of all things, we savoured a sprouted wheat berry salad with coriander basil pesto and cherry tomatoes and it became a regular at dinners. And then, I stopped making it.

Well that and I got pregnant, I travelled, then I travelled more and my basil plant died. Amongst the new responsibilities of being a mother, getting meals ready for my family and just trying hard to be good at everything, I forgot all about my balcony herbs.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chana Bateta - Chickpeas and Potato in Tamarind Sauce

If you ever happen to be in India, outside a Bohra pilgrimage place, you will likely spot a stall with chickpeas and potatoes simmering on the stove, stationed closely would be suspicious looking neon red liquid, a deep brown tamarind sauce and chopped red onions. On placing an order, the vendor wearing his rugged topi (a white and golden threaded Bohra cap) takes an earthenware bowl from the tall stack and ladles in heaps of chickpeas and potatoes. He will ask you if you liked it spicy, and even though the thoughts of the burning sensation crosses the mind, it is inevitable to answer - yes.

My favourite has to be the vendor in my own town or the one found in Mumbai. They both have different approach to it. The former adds red chilly liquid and tamarind followed by fresh sprinkling of chopped coriander. The one is Mumbai adorns his with fresh chopped onions, diced tomatoes and sprinkle of red chilly powder along with tamarind sauce.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Restaurant Photo Shoot - GIA

I recently did a photo shoot for a local deli/cafe called GIA and unlike others it is all about wholesome, rustic and home style food. I'm in love with their quinoa salads and have whole new love for quinoa now then ever.

Clearly then, the guidelines for the shoot were real, unpretentious and realistic food with no restaurant like styling which was very refreshing to see. Here are some of the photos from the shoot.

Blog Design Created by pipdig