Monday, 19 August 2013

Spinach and Chilli Straws with Yoghurt Dip

Last week, Indians celebrated their Independence Day and fortunately for all of us, August 15th fell on a Thursday. And that can only mean one thing.. an eagerly anticipated looong weekend!! Whether you took a much-needed vacation or you stayed at home, at some point over the weekend, you would have met up with family and friends.
There is something so relaxed and informal about lazy weekend brunches. It is about easy-going conversations, raucous laughter, good food and those simple pleasures that help you forget about that long list of pending things-to-do, even if its just for a few hours.
And then invariably, the 'remember when..' stories will start. Those timeless stories from your school or college days that have  already been repeated a million times. Not only have you heard them before, you probably were witness to the incident. And yet you laugh so hard, that by the end of the story, you are laughing and crying at the same time.
Helping those stories along are endless rounds of drinks and of course, the munchies that go with those drinks. Munchies in bowls that are conveniently placed on tables around you, so that you can reach out to them, without even realising it. Remember there is no place for dieters at weekend brunches!!
In that list of munchies, these spinach and chilli straws find a place. I found them in the 'Popina Book of Baking'. Isidora Popovic describes them as "crispy, fiery straws to die for with a glass of cold beer and a light dip." In other words, a perfect munchy!!
What caught my attention was the spice mix that she uses to flavour them with. It reminded me of the Methis Puris I had blogged about last year during Diwali. And the final product is almost like them, except with a different shape. Although, what Isidora's Serbian palate found fiery, my Indian palate found mild. If you can handle a bit of spice, I would recommend upping the red chilli content.
Else, these straws are crispy and the kind you will keep eating and then at some point, wonder why are you feeling so full that you can't eat another one. With the yoghurt dip, they are a perfect match to be washed down with a cold drink. The yoghurt dip is a favourite at home and can be had along with chips or even as a healthy filling for a sandwich.  
I hope you had a lovely weekend. Mine got the perfect ending, when a darling flatmate from University announced the birth of his beautiful, baby daughter. Parabens, meus amigos!! 

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Buttermilk Scones with Plum Jam

Some pairings are just meant to be. Calvin and Hobbes, Batman and Robin, Cain and Abel, Taylor and Burton, Popeye and Olive Oyl, Pav and Bhaji, Bennett and Darcy, Fish and Chips, Tom and Jerry, Yuri and Lara, Vanilla Ice-cream and Chocolate Sauce, Asterix and Obelix, Gin and Tonic, Yin and Yang and so on. Well, add one more to the list .. Scones and Jam!!

This is a post that should have come up a few weeks back. I first made a batch of these scones, the day after I made my jar of plum jam. They were so good that we finished them before I had a chance to photograph them. So, I finally got round to making a second batch yesterday before the jam ran out.

These scones are along the lines of British scones. They are made even lighter by the use of buttermilk rather than the more traditional option of cream. Also, these are not sweet scones but plain ones with a hint of salt. I prefer that the sweetness come from the jam alone.

The final product is light and moist at the same time. According to the 'Hairy Bikers', the hallmark of a good scone is that you can pull it apart without any resistance rather than cutting them in half. The scones from this recipe pass that test with full marks. And that plum jam, I have already introduced to you earlier, is just perfect, even if it's me saying so!!

These scones are best served warm, just out of the oven. I had them with just some jam but you could have them with some butter and jam. And since these are not sweet, you can even add some herbs to the mix and they would be excellent with some soup.

This takes 15 minutes to put together and another 15 minutes in the oven. So, in thirty minutes, you have a delightful tea-time treat.

Now, how 'bout you tell me, some of your favourite pairings?? 

Monday, 5 August 2013

Sticky Toffee Pudding

For all the romance of the rains, there is also the practical side of everyday life in the monsoons. There are the traffic snarls, the breakdown of public transport, the smelly, damp clothes, the overflowing drains and lest we forget, the groaning and moaning of everyone around of how they can't take any more rain. And then just to prove a point, the rain gods decide to go all out over the weekend, complete with lashing rain and howling winds.
You know it is completely futile to even think of stepping outside. So, you either curl up with a good book, see a movie that you've already seen before, write a blog post on how much you love the rains or simply, make yourself a hot drink and stare out at the insanity of the weather gods!!
And then you make your way to the kitchen and decide to make yourself a hot pudding that will warm you up, in sharp contrast to the wet, damp weather that has started dampening your mood too. Knowing me, it should have been chocolate but I had a packet of fresh dates lying around. With Ramzan going on, the stores are filled with dates from the Middle East. So, what better time to put them to use and make some warm, sticky toffee pudding.

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a modern British classic that consists of a moist, date cake that is served with a toffee sauce and vanilla ice-cream or custard. For the recipe, I turn to another modern British classic, Nigel Slater. Yes, he's becoming a favourite out here!!
Like many British desserts, this dessert comes together very easily. The instructions are straightforward for the pudding and the toffee sauce.

So, what's the verdict?? The date pudding is delightful. It is moist, not too sweet and surprisingly light. The little bits of date that you encounter as you make your way through the dessert is what makes it special.

I wasn't a fan of the toffee sauce and found it cloyingly sweet. I'd recommend it only for the sugar fanatics. Come to think of it, I could have added some coffee to the sauce, that would have paired well with the dates and taken the sweet edge off the sauce. Next time!!
If you ask me, have the date pudding as a tea-time treat, without any added frills. It is lovely, just as it is, straight from the oven, warm and moist. A perfect accompaniment while you watch the rains, by the window with a warm cuppa!!
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