Thursday, May 3, 2012

I have Moved!

Yes! This has been a long time coming since I've spent months battling with the idea of moving over to WordPress. I've finally done it! So, now has a new avatar! Please update all your bookmarks and head on over, folks! All those who are subscribed to my blog here will have to subscribe again on the new blog. Sorry for the inconvenience, people, I really hope you'll all bear with me through this transition.

This blog will still remain here, though, since a lot of past links still point to this blog.

See you over at the new blog!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Vegetable Manchurian for #SundaySupper

Have you ever been so in love with a certain cuisine since your childhood only to harshly discover later on in life that what you thought was authentic is actually not? Ok, I wouldn't put it so dramatically as 'harshly' but, it was big news to me when I tasted the real stuff.

I'm talking about the Chinese food I was head over heels for when I was a kid. Growing up in India, we had our own version of Chinese food, just like the rest of the world. I know the Chinese are shaking their heads at us as we continue to indulge in those but, it's hard to let go of dishes that were your favorites as a kid. I ain't giving up my version of Chinese food anytime soon!

My earliest memories are of when I was around 10-11 and we had these family friends (who're actually like family to us) who were patrons of this little Chinese restaurant in the city of Hyderabad called Nanking. For special occasions, Nanking was the one we turned to. It was like going to the fair for me. THE event. I didn't care what the others ordered but, I had to have my Chinese Chopsuey, Vegetable or Cauliflower Manchurian and Lemon Chicken. I was ready to cry murder if my wishes weren't granted. Somewhat along the lines of Sheldon and his chinese food. But, lucky for me, the Uncle (in India, everyone's an Uncle or an Aunty if they're much older than you, even if you're not related to them AT ALL) always asked me what I wanted and made sure I got it. They also had a home I loved to visit because I would stare in wonder and awe at all the things they had. I always laugh at kids who do that nowadays, but, when I remember the exact same thing I used to do, the laughter dies down a bit.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Pork Stew in Red Chile Sauce by Diana Kennedy

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

Like many grand dames and queens of various cuisines we've featured in the 50 Women Game Changers in Food series, we have one such person at #45 with prestigious honors in Mexican cuisine - Diana Kennedy. She is a firecracker, for sure, giving even the Jalapeno chile a run for its money. Not one to suffer fools, Diana does not pay any attention to hospitality or little niceties, like many journalists/interviewers who've witnessed it first hand will tell you. Food is of the essence. A correspondent for AP wrote in an article, "The queen of mexican cuisine is scolding me with a wooden spoon." She apparently wasn't very happy with the way he was handling ingredients. 

Source: Edible Austin
She's a perfectionist and anyone who's eaten her food will attest to that. She's a strong supporter of the local food movement and the preservation of local and cultural richness of true Mexican cuisine. She has an expansive garden at her home in Mexico, where she grows her own fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, coffee and just about anything under the sun, including a few almost-forgotten edible plants from the old days in Mexico. 

Diana was born in England in 1923. She emigrated to Canada in 1953 and four years after her stay there, she was headed back to the UK via the Caribbean to visit a friend in Jamaica. On her way, she visited Port Au Prince, where she met her husband, Paul Kennedy, whom she married within a year. Paul was a New York Times correspondent and they moved to Mexico in 1957. That is when her love affair with Mexican cuisine began. Taught by her maids, friends and their families, Diana grew more and more interested in discovering the real flavors and ingredients of food in Mexico. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fruit & Nut Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches


That's a word that doesn't exist in my vocabulary when people ask me for favors or if someone's asking me to help. Not that it's voluntary. There are so many times when I've been asked to help with something I have no intention or interest in and I don't know how to say "No". In my mind, I'm flailing my arms in the air and yelling, "no way in hell am I doing that", but in reality, I'm standing there with the biggest encouraging smile on my face eagerly agreeing to help. 

And when I'm faced with the really pushy and persuasive people, even the tiny defense I'm able to muster up gets reduced to the level of crumbs under our table that my puppy destroys in a matter of nano-seconds. 

So, after that, I'm left muttering and grumbling to myself, spending days wanting to hide under my bed just so I don't have to do whatever I've been asked to do. 

Does that ever happen to you?

And then there are times when I willfully undertake something I know I will make a mess of because I don't think things through in my excitement. The party my thoughts are having in my head drown out the voice of reason meekly trying to make some sense. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Breakfast Bars by Nigella Lawson

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

At #44 on the list of 50 Women Game Changers in Food, Nigella Lawson doesn't really need an introduction. Her name and fame speak for her. She's the reason why everyone wants to be a 'domestic goddess' and sensual cooking took on a whole new meaning. That alluring smile of hers can draw the attention of even the blindest bat. Even if one's not really interested in cooking, you can stare mindlessly at the gorgeous face gliding across the kitchen, ruffling through her pantry to show us interesting bits of knick-knacks hidden inside and cooking up food we can all relate to. And that's what I love about Nigella. There's no fancy moves, fancy techniques or juggling a million bowls in the air...even the way she cuts her vegetables is just like anyone would. It's her charisma and inviting persona that charms her way into your life.

Source: Food Network
Nigella's built quite the empire out of her love for cooking, despite the lack of any professional training. The words of her late husband, John Diamond, speak volumes and ring so true - "How proud I am of you and what you have become. The great thing about us is that we have made us who we are."

Nigella holds a Degree in Medieval and Modern Languages from Oxford and that led to an admirable career in journalism. Not happy being a full-time executive, she quit and started freelance writing, working on articles and columns for the likes of The Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, Vogue, The Times Magazine, Gourmet and Bon Appetit. She was inspired to write her first cookbook, How to Eat, when she saw a dinner party host reduced to tears with a dessert mishap. That was followed by her widely popular cookbook, How to be a Domestic Goddess, that won her the title of Author of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2001. She went on to host her own cooking show, Nigella Bites and write many more cookbooks that would become people favorites.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Parmesan and Fontina Beignets by April Bloomfield

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

April Bloomfield, at #41 of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food, is synonymous with New York's 'Gastropub' culture. For April, it's always been about the food. You cannot mess around with the food when you're eating at any of her restaurants. Literally. She won't entertain any changes to dishes you request - it's her way or the highway! Her business partner, Ken Friedman, is believed to store condiments in a special shelf for guests who ask for things like mayo with their burgers. Hey, when you're a famous chef who's earned her chops, you get to dictate how your food goes down. And it's working... because she has TWO Michelin stars under her chef's hat, one for The Spotted Pig and the other for The Breslin, two of the three restaurants she owns with Friedman.

April Bloomfield
Source: Food Network

April was born in Birmingham to a middle-class family with no roots whatsoever in the culinary world. Her mother made steaks that were 'gray' and not something you fondly remember. She fell in love with her granny's cooking though, when she spent a year with her grandparents. April wanted to join the police force, but after she missed the application deadline, she was forced to consider other options. One of her sisters was already enrolled in culinary school and that inspired April to follow. Once she started school at the Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies, she took a great liking to the art and thus began her passion and journey to the top.

After culinary school, she honed her skills further working at Kensington Place, Bibendum and The Brackenbury, eventually securing a spot at the River Cafe. That's where she caught the eye of Jaime Oliver, who urged Mario Batali to check her out during one of his visits here. Batali was sold the first time they met and was impressed with her battle scars in the kitchen. He could see her passion and is supposed to have said this of her, "She's a star. I can tell." That's a pretty massive compliment for someone. He offered her a job and April packed her bags and flew over to America. She spent the summer working at Alice Waters' restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, before moving on to eventually set up her own restaurants with Friedman. There are some lovely stories on her life that you can read at The Guardian and The New Yorker. Mind you, they are a bit long, though.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Sunday with Four Cheese Scalloped Potatoes #SundaySupper

Happy Easter one and all! Easter means so much to me ever since I can remember. Most importantly, for me, it is the day Christ rose again from the dead and gave us all hope in the promise of eternal life. I've been blessed to have grown up and be part of a most wonderful family that is held together tightly by the love of God, which translated beautifully in the love we shared for each other and everyone around us. I can never finish counting my blessings for all the love and care my parents showered my brother and I with.

Growing up, we traveled a lot around India because of the nature of my dad's job. We'd move cities every four years or so and with each move, came the painful goodbyes and the rounds of settling in and making new friends. But, you won't believe it. More than making friends in every city, we made new "family" wherever we went. Every city. They went over and above the call of close friends and didn't make us feel the absence of our close family at all.

So, every celebration and holiday didn't leave us missing the laughter and fun that people usually share with family because, we DID have family around us.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Candied Sweet Potatoes by Elizabeth Andoh

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

I know I'm not a child, but, I unconsciously went into my own mode of Spring Break - ending up with a Blog Break. I haven't blogged in over a week and somehow it was good to take that break. I did miss blogging and not catching up on a lot of my favorite blogs. I will be getting to all of them this weekend and I apologize for not being there all this while. I did something for my blog during this period though - I bought my own domain name! :D It's not a big deal but it felt like my home got a face lift. And over the next week or so, I'll be tweaking some design stuff too. But next week's going to extremely busy, with Easter coming up and a lot of choir commitments during Holy week, so let's see. It's going to be fun!

Source: The Japan Times
For now, I'm getting back to my blog with the 50 Women Game Changers Series and we have one of the culinary world's leading experts in Japanese cuisine at #41 - Elizabeth Andoh. Though she's not of Japanese heritage, Elizabeth's heart and home have found their place in Japan for over 4 decades now. How she ended up in Japan happens to be a "happy accident" as she puts it. She was born in America, grew up here and studied in New York and the University of Michigan. While she was a student here, she learned of this unclaimed scholarship to Japan and took it thinking it would be interesting. So, in the mid 60s, she landed in Shikoku in rural Japan, where she later met the love of her life. Overcoming the initial cultural shock, she grew to love the place and all of Japanese culture and food. She learnt a lot from the Andoh family during her initial years - Senior Mr Andoh was the one who first took interest in teaching young Elizabeth how to speak Japanese and his wife was an inspiration when it came to food and matters of the kitchen. Her mother-in-law was a vegetarian much like the people born in the late 19th and early 20th century in Japan - Elizabeth later dedicated a book on Kansha cooking, inspired by this. 

Having developed a deep interest in the philosophy and art of Japanese cuisine, Elizabeth enrolled at the Yanagihara School of Traditional Japanese Cuisine in Tokyo. Shortly after, she launched her own culinary arts program in 1972, called A Taste of Culture. The program hosts tasting sessions, market tours, cooking classes and workshops for foreign tourists and expats who are interested to learn the intricacies of Japanese food and cuisine. She has since been the greatest advocate for Japanese cuisine among english speaking chefs and cooks.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding

There are now two things I love from Ireland - Boyzone (yes, the boyband...stop shaking your head!) and this super-awesome rum raisin rice pudding I discovered on the St. Patrick's Day menu suggested by Food Network. What's even better about this rice pudding? It's by Ina Garten. That means automatic inclusion in my book of favorites.

Since we just passed St. Paddy's Day, I decided to partake in some Irish edible goodies with a side of Boyzone for a mini Irish weekend. You're not allowed to judge. Or else, I'll throw a Ronan Keating doll at you. Not that I own one. But, I will carve one out of a potato for said task. That'll make it an authentic Irish doll. Ha! *cough* Really bad joke.

I must tell you about my history with Boyzone though, since they were one of my first few celebrity crushes (not counting this Indian actor who I told my mom I wanted to hug when I was 8 or 9 years old). I don't like any of their recent songs but, I still love the albums they released in the late 90s and early 2000s because I spent days and nights obsessing over them. Listening to them now brings back memories from my teen years and I can't help but laugh. My brother would go round the bend when I used to listen to them since he hated boybands and Pop in general. He'd make fun of them all the time and say mean things. You know how I've got my revenge? A lot of people say HIS 3-month old son looks like ME when I was a baby. Mwahahaha But, obviously this is good news for my nephew since he's inherited my good looks. ;)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Jam Thumbprint Cookies by Ina Garten

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

I am thrilled beyond belief that this week at #39 we have Ina Garten. Yes, THE Ina Garten. My favorite Food Network cook. For the novice cook and baker I am, Ina is an absolute joy to watch and I can sit for hours in front of the TV watching her gracefully and effortlessly pull delicious meals together. She, to me, is the epitome of simplistic elegance. When you watch her cook, you feel like there's nothing you can't do. She really does make you go, "how easy is that?", at the end of every show. Seriously. At least to me...after I've wiped off all the drool.

Source: House Beautiful
I secretly, Ok, not so secret anymore, wish my life would take the course hers has. Now, I know I'm not some big-shot brainiac working my way up to the White House Office of Management and Budget, like she did, but, I would like to think my humble career in PR comes close, even if it's a trillion miles away. Ina released all the stress and immense pressure she faced at work, by turning to her love of cooking and entertaining with dinner parties and soirees over the weekends and during any free time she got. On the side, Ina also indulged the interior decorator in her by buying, refurbishing and reselling homes. This also fattened her piggy bank, which would later come in handy.

In 1978, when Ina was looking for other creative outlets, she chanced upon an ad for a specialty food store on sale in the Hamptons. Curiosity aroused, Ina decided to investigate. After her visit, she made a low offer thinking the owner wouldn't really bite and that would give her more time to think about it. But, as fate would have it, the owner called the next day and handed her the keys to the shop. Dumbfounded, but thrilled, Ina bid adieu to the White House, dipped her hands into her piggy bank and took over the shop, previously called "Barefoot Contessa". Ina liked the name and decided to stick with it. That was the beginning of the story of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

In the 18 years that followed, Ina nurtured and grew the shop into a prominent hangout that was well-known for both its style and delicacies. The store saw a lot of footfall from affluent New Yorkers and celebrities alike. It certainly caught the eye of director Nancy Meyer, who used the store as a setting for her movie, Something's Gotta Give (I need to watch this one again and pay attention now!). In 1996, Ina sold the store to two of her employees.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Potato and Caraway Cakes by Darina Allen

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

At #38 this week, we have Darina Allen, a culinary visionary and celebrity in Ireland. She's got two grand founding achievements under her belt - she's the founder of (a) the internationally renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School, Country Cork and (b) the first Farmers Market in Ireland. She still teaches at their family-run school and is actively involved in sourcing and setting up new farmers markets.

Credit: Koster Photography / Source: Cookstr
Her love for all things organic and locally-sourced also manifests itself in the way she runs the school, which is strategically located on a 100-acre organic farm. The emphasis of all teaching and operations at the school is on using the finest quality of home-grown and locally sourced ingredients and making a sustainable use of resources. The farm grows countless varieties of produce and seasonal goods, so students learn with the freshest ingredients possible and also experience first-hand the advantages of supporting your local farmers. 

Besides being a chef and teacher, Darina has written many popular, award-winning cookbooks including Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cooking School Cookbook (nominated for best international cookbook by the James Beard Foundation) and Irish Traditional Cooking (winner of the Langhe Ceretto Prize in 1996). She's also food-writer and has appeared on many television shows and series as well. Darina was named Cooking Teacher of the Year by the IACP in 2005, and was the recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Ulster in 2003. You can read more about her achievements on her website.

Now, Darina is exactly the kind of chef/cook I love learning about since I just discovered a whole treasure-trove of recipes on her website. It's an interesting mix of Irish and international recipes, which has now been added to my list of go-to sources. I had the toughest time choosing a dish for this week since I literally wanted to make ALL of them. Seriously! I'm going back to the website for more!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Roasted Portobello & Spinach Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I'd been dreaming of a grilled cheese sandwich for a while now. Not literally, but figuratively.

During my sleep though, I never have ordinary dreams. Only over-the-top bizarre ones where I wake up wondering what in the world just happened. My dreams will start with one scenario but switch to different scenarios seamlessly. It's actually fun waking up and piecing things together. Like watching a movie with a random storyline which shifts and changes during the entire course with no purpose at all. I never remember my dreams beyond half an hour, but for that half hour, it's a thrilling ride to decipher what I dreamt about.

For the longest time, I had a recurring dream where I'd be all alone in a deserted place. The place resembled the house and colony we lived in at that time. I'd be running through the streets and eventually the house looking for someone, anyone. But, there would never be anyone. It was quite a disturbing dream, come to think of it. All I'm glad is that I don't have those anymore. Nowadays my dreams mostly revolve around friends and family and some random storyline. These I'm actually cool with.

But, even better than the real dreams are my dreams of a delicious grilled cheese sandwich. I'll take dreams of that ANY DAY. In fact, I pray for these grilled cheese kinda dreams to become real. Who wouldn't??

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm feeling the love with some Reader Awards

I'm just taking a moment, actually more, to drop what I've been doing and thank some lovely people for a couple of readers appreciation awards they've handed to me. It thrills me no end to receive such awards, even if I take ages to acknowledge them (sorry guys!). The reason why I take a while is because I'm always left scratching my head wondering who to pass these on to since I'm really bad at that. So, I decided to just club them all together and do my best.

The very first award I received was by the delightful Choc Chip Uru. She's just a teen but, you won't be able to guess by the amazing desserts she concocts. Seriously, she's probably half my age but already has double the talent! At her age, all I could think of were which Backstreet Boy was cuter and when I could get home to play my computer games. My mom would literally have to drag me to the kitchen if she needed help. But, CCUs parents are truly blessed to have such a wonderful daughter. I'd adopt her in a second if I could ;) You should absolutely make regular visits to her blog for the most drool-worthy dessert recipes.

The next couple of awards were given to me by the Happy Little Tomato. She's funny, she makes yummy-to-the-tummy desserts and she resembles Snooki (that's what she claims and I'd have to agree ;)). What more could you want from a fun food blog? I just recently started reading her blog and it brightens my day to see a lot of desserts, because I'm a dessert girl (can you see a trend?). You give me desserts instead of meals, and I'll be the happiest kid on the planet. So, head on over to Bridgett's blog and get your plates ready.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fried Apples with Pecans

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

Out of the 50 Women Game Changers in Food that we're learning more about, I'm thrilled to see someone as young as Severene von Tscharner Fleming make it to the list. At age 30, she's an accomplished young farmer, film-maker and activist with an impressive list of achievements - she's helmed a documentary on agricultural farmers, founded an organization - The Greenhorns, co-founded the National Young Farmers' Coalition and kick-started a whole movement for young farmers across North America. Phew, I feel like I've done a lot just by reading her story and the passion with which she continues to do wonders to help the nation's farming infrastructure.

Severine hails from a family where her maternal side inherited a farm for six generations. She grew up on the farm and that foundation eventually had an impact on the path she chose to persevere in life. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Severine played an active role in college activities as well, and that's where the idea for her documentary was born. While organizing a film festival at college, she noticed that all films that looked into the prospects of farming and agriculture portrayed very grim scenarios. But, as part of a young farming community, she knew very well that was not the whole truth and there needed to be awareness of the great possibilities and opportunities for young farmers. She decided to document her journey in building a network of young farmers who shared the same vision and to use the documentary to reach out to others across the nation, to inspire, help, support and offer guidance. Greenhorns, the organization, is a non-profit that promotes, supports and recruits young farmers in the US. They produce content and communications for young farmers — including film, radio, a blog, wiki, a guidebook, press, workshops, conferences, a coalition, mixers, GIS mapping and more.

Since Severine is more of an activist and farmer, there aren't any recipes of hers online that we could use to highlight her work this week. But, their website has a link to blogs of others in their farming community. So, I picked one of them and found this extremely simple recipe for fried apples and pecans.

Don't be fooled by how simple the dish looks and how easy it is to make. The aroma that fills your house when your sauteing the apples in butter and cinnamon is like heaven in a pan. It is even more yummy than the smell of baking cakes. Oh. Nothing compares to it. This doesn't even need any sugar or accompaniments. The girl who'd made it recommended serving it with fresh whipped cream. But, I preferred it without anything because the apples had such a delightful flavor on their own. Just make sure you use juicy apples. 

Fried Apples with Pecans (adapted from the blog, Make Wine & Cheese With Me)

Ingredients and instructions
  • 2 crisp, tart and sweet apples, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/4 teaspoon or less of cinnamon powder
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter (I love salted butter)
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2 teaspoons pecans, quartered or halved
In a saucepan, melt the butter on medium heat. Once it is melted, add the apple slices and stir till all the slices are coated with butter. Add the cinnamon powder and the lemons and mix well. Saute on medium low till the apples get tender and soft. 

Remove the lemons and serve.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette - Healthy Living [] Mary - One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] Sue - The View from Great Island [] Barbara - Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] Nancy - Picadillo [] Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie - Most Lovely Things [] Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce - More Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Choco-Cranberry Beer Bread

Things have been a little quiet in the Beetle's kitchen. I've been making peace with my sacrifice of meat for Lent. I'm not a big meat person like my husband, who, by the way, effortlessly gives up meat every Lent. I don't crave meat normally whereas my husband NEEDS meat with every meal. The day I cook a vegetarian meal, the first question he'll ask is, "where the meat at?", regardless of how delicious the dishes may be. For him, a meal is not complete without meat.

Majority of my cooking is based on what my husband would like to eat because left on my own, I'll survive on instant noodles or takeout for every meal. So, I thought giving up meat would be easy, given that (a) I don't crave meat and (b) I wouldn't really feel like cooking meat just for myself. But, ever since Lent began, my eyes have been involuntarily hunting for meat. I have to literally fly past the meat section at the grocery store because I look like a kid standing at the candy store with no money from mom to get candy. It doesn't help when I'm reading my favorite blogs and you have irresistible pictures of chicken, steak, beef or the 5-letter B-word (my favorite). Yeah, even saying it makes me cringe with temptation.

Every day I stand with the fridge door open, hoping the contents in the vegetable drawer will talk to me and tell me what delicious dish I can put them in so I won't miss meat. The ungrateful things aren't really helping, so I grabbed the bottles of beer that had been pushed to the back of the fridge and hunted for a beer bread recipe.

I'm not fond of beer and the husband drinks beer depending on what his mood dictates. So, these bottles had been sitting inside for quite a while. Now, I'm aware of what people say about not cooking with ingredients you don't care about, but, I couldn't care less about that right now. My good friend, Alton Brown, had this lovely video on how to make Beer bread and I got down to business. 

While Alton made a cheese and dill beer bread, I switched up the flavor components and decided to throw in cranberries and chocolate. I needed the chocolate to appease my meat cravings. One thing I would note about Alton's video and recipe are that he uses one whole 12 fl oz bottle of beer, but, to get the texture from his recipe video, I had to leave a few sips behind. Otherwise, it got soggy. So, watch out for that. You want a gooey texture and not a smooth, flowy texture.

I wasn't stopping at the beer bread because I was pulling the big guns out for this one. I remember watching Bobby Flay demonstrate an orange-honey butter on The Worst Cooks in America. I decided to make a cranberry-honey butter to go with my bread. Best. Decision. Ever. I can eat the cranberry-honey butter all by itself, if I wasn't reminded of the fact that it is still butter! Sigh

The combination of the cranberry-honey butter and the bread is amazing, to say the least. You could also overload on chocolate and toast your bread a bit before slathering with some chocolate sauce. *SLURP* Pure yum!

Choco Cranberry Beer Bread (adapted from Alton Brown's Beer Bread recipe)

Ingredients and instructions
  • Nonstick spray
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw if frozen)
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces cold beer, ale or stout
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, optional

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside.

Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cranberries and stir in the beer just to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds, if using.

Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Cranberry Honey Butter (adapted from Bobby Flay's version on The Worst Cooks of America)
Ingredients and instructions
  • 1 cup cranberry juice, ready-made or home-made*
  • 3/4 stick butter, slightly softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • Pinch salt
Place cranberry juice in a small non-reactive saucepan over high heat and reduce to 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons. Place butter in a bowl and add the cranberry syrup, honey, and salt; mix until combined. Scoop into a large ramekin, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.

*Home-made Cranberry Juice

If you're feeling all adventurous and have your kitchen mojo on, make your own cranberry juice as well. Mind you, I've just learnt that cranberries in their fresh state or on their own are very sour and bitter. So, constitute the right amount of sugar according to your taste. I like mine sweeter than bitter so I added more sugar. Taste as you go.

Ingredients and instructions:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
In a soup kettle, bring water and cranberries to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until berries begin to pop.

Strain through a fine strainer, pressing mixture with a spoon; discard berries. Return cranberry juice to the pan. Stir in the sugar, lemon juice and orange juice. Bring to a boil; cook and stir until sugar is dissolved.

Remove from the heat. Cool. Transfer to a pitcher; cover and refrigerate until chilled. Yield: 1 cup.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Deviled Eggs by Edna Lewis

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

We have another inspiring story this week as we look back on the life of Edna Lewis, who's at #36 of Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food. Edna is one of the legends of southern cooking. She grew up in Freetown, Virginia, a town founded by freed slaves, one of whom was her grandfather. All the families in Freetown lived on farms and that's where Edna's foundation was established. Every morning, all of them would help harvest crops and vegetables and raise poultry, which was their basic livelihood. At the age of 15, when the great depression struck, Edna left Freetown in search of a better life. She landed in New York and sustained herself through odd jobs. She worked as a seamstress, window dresser and also in the office of the Daily Worker, a communist newspaper. 

Edna loved cooking for her friends and slowly, her cooking started gaining popularity and praise among friends and acquaintances. In 1948, her friend, John Nicholson, an antique dealer, asked her to take on the role of head chef at the restaurant he was opening. The restaurant was a huge success and attracted famous guests like Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner and Truman Capote, who were regulars. She worked at the restaurant, serving up delicious southern food, until 1954.

She went on to travel, teach and write her own cookbooks. Her landmark book, The Taste of Country Cooking, was one of the first cookbooks by an African-American woman to reach a nationwide audience and is credited for starting the interest in genuine Southern cooking. While cooking for one of the festivals in Atlanta, she met Scott Peacock, who was in awe of her and wanted to follow her to learn everything she had to impart. Over the years, they both developed a deep friendship, working on recipes together, and even co-authored the popular cookbook, The Gift of Southern Cooking. Edna passed away in 2006, at the age of 89.

So, to honor her, I picked the recipe of Deviled Eggs, that was a dish Edna and Scott developed. This is a lovely, light appetizer that's both simple and tasty. It's extremely easy to whip up and highly customizable. Once you have the base, you can throw in either cayenne pepper to add a little bit of spice or add a herb to infuse some flavor. This is something ANYONE can make since all it involves is boiling an egg and mixing stuff with it. Unless, of course, the eggs you're working with don't co-operate with you. Like mine did. I use brown eggs that take much longer to cook and I can never figure out the right time to pull them out. So, I may have had to fight with the shell to get it off and it made my job a little harder to hide all the flaws on the outside of the egg white. But, otherwise, it's a fool-proof recipe!

While preparing the eggs, I suddenly thought of mixing things up a bit and utilizing the egg mixture in a couple of different ways. It works beautifully as a cracker topping and I'd nibbled on all of them by the time I cleaned everything up! All you have to do is chop the egg whites into tiny pieces and mix it up along with the yolk mixture (this is perfect especially if you have un-cooperative eggs like mine that come out damaged when you try to take their shells off). Then, spread away on your favorite cracker.

That same egg mixture can be used as a sandwich filling too. This is something familiar to me since my mom makes similar egg sandwiches. So, experiment and have fun with it! The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination! 

Deviled Eggs by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock

Ingredients and instructions:
  • 1 dozen large eggs
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons snipped chives and chervil (I couldn't find either so I used scallions and they tasted delicious too)
Put the eggs in a large saucepan with water to cover by 2 inches. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Immediately remove the pan from the heat, cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Pour off the hot water and fill the saucepan with cold water. Gently crack the eggs in the water to loosen the shells.

Shell the eggs. Cut a very thin slice from the bottom of each egg so the eggs will stand up. Slice off the top third of each egg and scoop the yolks into a coarse strainer; reserve the whites. Press the egg yolks through the strainer into a bowl. If you're too lazy like me to use a strainer, just mash them with a fork.

Blend in the mayonnaise, cream, sugar and vinegar. Season with salt. Using a teaspoon or a pastry bag fitted with a star tip, generously fill the egg whites. Arrange the eggs on a plate, sprinkle with the chives and chervil and serve.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette - Healthy Living [] Mary - One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] Sue - The View from Great Island [] Barbara - Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] Nancy - Picadillo [] Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie - Most Lovely Things [] Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce - More Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chocolate Mousse with Brandied Cherries

It's Fat Tuesday! Now, I LOVE southern food but, all I'd had running through my mind the last week or so was - Chocolate. I've never really craved chocolate before but, I get these sudden pangs of desire so strong that I have to do something to satiate them.

Growing up, all I'd ever want were strawberries or something pink. Be it an ice cream sundae, cake, jam, just about anything that could have strawberries in it. And as I got into my 20s, that slowly changed and I found love for anything sweet! I'm still not a very big fan of chocolate ice cream and will most probably pick that last if I had a choice of ice creams. Actually, that holds true for just about any dessert, I'd probably pick the chocolate dessert last, unless I was in one of my current chocolate-lovin' moods. 

I know I probably have made a million people go, 'what is wrong with this person?' but, hey, someone's gotta give a lot of love to the other desserts out there, too, right? Well, I think so :)

Last week, though, I had to hunt my chocolate desserts down since nothing else would satisfy. So, I made chocolate mousse. And I wanted something more with that, so I threw in some brandied cherries and nearly died with how rich and decadent that whole thing was. I couldn't get enough! The mousse tastes terrific with fresh strawberries too, because that's how I ate them after the brandied cherries were happily in my tummy. It tasted just like chocolate-covered strawberries. Oh. so. divine!

Chocolate Mousse with Brandied Cherries (adapted from Alton Brown's recipe on Food Network)
Ingredients and instructions:

For the mousse:
  • 1 3/4 cups whipping cream
  • 6 ounces quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks cut up
  • 3 ounces espresso or strong coffee
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon flavorless, granulated gelatin
For the cherries:
  • 1 tin of dark cherries
  • 6 tablespoons of brandy or cognac

Prepare the cherries first. Empty out the cherries alone in a bowl with a couple of teaspoons of the juice as well (you can save the remaining juice for another dish or drink it all up, like I did). 

Add the brandy or cognac and mix well. Make sure all the cherries are immersed in the brandy. Cover and put it away in the fridge to soak while you prepare the mousse.

For the mousse: Chill 1 1/2 cups whipping cream in refrigerator. Chill metal mixing bowl and mixer beaters in freezer.
In top of a double boiler, combine chocolate chips, coffee, rum and butter. Melt over barely simmering water, stirring constantly. Remove from heat while a couple of chunks are still visible. Cool, stirring occasionally to just above body temperature.

Pour remaining 1/4 cup whipping cream into a metal measuring cup and sprinkle in the gelatin. Allow gelatin to "bloom" for 10 minutes. Then carefully heat by swirling the measuring cup over a low gas flame or candle. Do not boil or gelatin will be damaged. Stir mixture into the cooled chocolate and set aside.

In the chilled mixing bowl, beat cream to medium peaks. Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture to lighten it. Fold in the remaining whipped cream in two doses. There may be streaks of whipped cream in the chocolate and that is fine. Do not over work the mousse.

When you're ready to serve, spoon a few of the brandied cherries and a little liquid in a bowl or martini glass. Spoon some of the luscious mousse on top and chill for at least 1 hour. 

(If mousses are to be refrigerated overnight, chill for one hour and then cover each with plastic wrap)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Farfalle with Wild Mushrooms and Crème Fraîche

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

This week we're shining the spotlight on Delia Smith at #35 on the list of 50 Women Game Changers in Food. For someone who is Britain's best selling cookbook author and has been teaching the nation to cook since the 1970s, Delia doesn't evoke the kind of recognition or awe one would assume came with those accolades. That could also be because she has humble roots in the world of cooking and appeals to cooks all across the board. She's not one of your exuberant chefs that display complicated or fancy techniques. She's more down-to-earth, working her way through the kitchen in a laid-back manner, teaching you the basics and simple techniques in cooking. That has obviously endeared her to the larger population.

Critics sometimes call her dull, lacking in passion while working with her ingredients but, who are we kidding - she's sold 21 million copies of her cook books. She's had no formal training in culinary school. She started out enthusiastically cooking for her boyfriend when she was a young girl. I guess she truly believed the phrase - the way to a man's heart is through his stomach - even though they eventually didn't stay together. But, that was the beginning of her journey with food. She started working in the kitchen of a restaurant, doing the dishes, slowly working her way up to waitressing and then even cooking. She landed a food writer's role at The Daily Mirror's new magazine in 1969 and was on her own cooking show by the early 70s. Cook books followed and slowly she was educating the whole nation on British cooking. You can read an exhaustive biography of hers in an article by The Independent and also pore through tons of her recipes on her website, Delia Online.
I picked a pasta recipe because it is both simple and unassuming like her but, incredibly delicious in taste. The husband and I ate this along with baked meatballs in a white wine sauce and it was one of the most perfect meals! The crème fraîche really makes the difference here and lends such a delicate, creamy touch to the pasta. I love mushrooms in any shape or form, so having them in the dish was just the perfect combination for me. You should really try this, it's simple and easy to make. Bon Appetit!

Penne with Wild Mushrooms and Crème Fraîche by Delia Smith

Ingredients and instructions:

  • 1 lb 2 oz penne rigate (I used farfalle) 
  • 1 lb mixed fresh mushrooms (flat, chestnut, shiitake or mixed wild mushrooms, for example), finely chopped 
  • ½ oz dried porcini mushrooms 
  • 9 fl oz (250 ml) crème fraîche (If you don't have this, you could substitute with 3/4 measure sour cream and 1/4 measure heavy cream - still tastes divine) 
  • 3 tablespoons milk 
  • 4 tablespoons butter 
  • 4 large shallots, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
  • ¼ whole nutmeg, grated 
  • lots of freshly grated Parmesan (Parmigiano Reggiano), to serve 
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper 

First pop the porcini in a small bowl, then heat the milk, pour it over the mushrooms and leave them to soak for 30 minutes. Then heat the butter in a medium frying pan over a gentle heat, stir in the shallots and let them cook gently for 5 minutes.

Next, strain the porcini into a sieve lined with kitchen paper, reserving the soaking liquid, and squeeze the porcini dry. Then chop them finely and add them to the pan, along with the fresh mushrooms and the balsamic vinegar.

Next, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Give it all a good stir, then cook gently, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, until all the liquid has evaporated.

About 15 minutes before the mushrooms are ready, put the pasta on to cook (see How to Cook Perfect Pasta below). Then, 2 minutes before the pasta is cooked, mix the crème fraîche into the mushrooms with the soaking liquid, and warm through.

Drain the pasta in a colander, return it to the hot pan and quickly mix in the mushroom mixture, then place the pasta back on a gentle heat so it continues to cook for 1 more minute while it absorbs the sauce.

Take it to the table in a hot serving bowl and hand the Parmesan round separately.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite.

Val - More Than Burnt Toast [] Taryn - Have Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] Miranda - Mangoes and Chutney [] Jeanette - Healthy Living [] Mary - One Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] Sue - The View from Great Island [] Barbara - Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] Nancy - Picadillo [] Mireya - My Healthy Eating Habits [] Veronica - My Catholic Kitchen [] Annie - Most Lovely Things [] Claudia - Journey of an Italian Cook [] Alyce - More Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bananas Foster by Ella Brennan

(Part of a weekly series by a group of bloggers, featuring Gourmet Live's 50 Women Game Changers in Food - see end of post for list of bloggers participating & their blogs)

At #34, this week we have Ella Brennan, the queen of New Orleans cuisine. It is so strange that I was in New Orleans last year and never heard of Ella Brennan! Commander's Palace and Brennan's? Yes. Hurricanes from Pat O'Brien's? Oh yes. While reading about Ella, I wish there was more I'd learnt about her while I was in New Orleans because she is quite the restaurateur who's made an impact internationally. Unlike Paula Deen in Savannah, I heard absolutely nothing of Ella in New Orleans. Sad. Or maybe I just wasn't looking in the right direction.

Ella's story begins in High School when her brother, Owen Brennan, acquired a restaurant in New Orleans' French Quarter, which over the years gained its popular name, Brennan's. She criticized everything in the restaurant and didn't fail to tell her brother how she felt about the food either. So, Owen asked her to step in and prove her worth. And prove she did. By 18, she was practically running the restaurant, including operations. She had a voracious appetite for knowledge of the restaurant business and picked up as much as she could from tons of books she read and anyone from the restaurant arena she met. From there, she slowly worked her way up as a restaurant scion. She's had her share of ups and downs in life, battling through family feuds (she gave up working with Brennan's during the rift with Owen's family), growing her restaurant empire through acquisitions, including Commander's Palace, and also braving the shutting down of restaurants that didn't quite make the mark. But, in her entire career that spans over the last 65 years or so, she's forged on in taking Louisiana cooking worldwide and pioneering the notion of nouvelle Creole cuisine. In 1996, Commander's Palace was honored with the Lifetime Outstanding Restaurant Award by the James Beard Foundation and later, also with a Lifetime Service Award.

Now, Ella's not been known to cook though she has inspired and created some of the signature dishes you eat and hear of in New Orleans. One of those being Bananas Foster that she invented with the then chef of Brennan's (it is extremely strange that Martha Stewart features the exact same recipe as hers on her site). And that is what I chose for my weekly series feature. What's even better? I got to eat ALL of this deliciousness because the husband is allergic to bananas! Haha!

This dish absolutely strengthened my thoughts on butter and brown sugar being caramelized BFFs. I had to restrain myself from swiping at the mixture melting together because it is awesome! With the rum kicking in, the bananas that cook in this mixture take on a divine taste that you won't want to see the end of. I hope you enjoy! Bon Appetit!

Bananas Foster by Ella Brennan

Ingredients and instructions:

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ cup banana liqueur (if you can't find any, you could use 1/2 teaspoon of banana extract mixed with water and a little rum to make 1/4 cup - I did this and it turned out really well)
  • 4 bananas, cut in half lengthwise, then halved
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 4 scoops vanilla ice cream
On low heat in a skillet or heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Once the sugar has melted, gently add the banana liqueur or the banana extract with water mixture. Put the bananas in, cut side down. Let it cook till it gets soft and the underneath starts browning.

This is where it gets interesting. Once the bananas are ready, slowly add the rum. Let the rum get hot and start smoking. Stand as far as you can and gently tip the pan on its side to ignite the rum. Once the flames subside, turn the heat off. 

Serve your bananas with ice cream or Cool Whip, like I did, and drizzle with the warm sauce.


Here's a list of the other bloggers participating in this series. Do go over to their blogs to see what yummy dishes they've whipped up. If you'd like to join the group, please get in touch with Mary of One Perfect Bite

ValMore Than Burnt Toast [] TarynHave Kitchen Will Feed [] Susan - The Spice Garden [] Heather - girlichef [] MirandaMangoes and Chutney [] JeanetteHealthy Living [] MaryOne Perfect Bite [] Kathleen - Bake Away with Me [] SueThe View from Great Island [] Barbara Movable Feasts [] Linda A - There and Back Again [] NancyPicadillo [] MireyaMy Healthy Eating Habits [] VeronicaMy Catholic Kitchen [] AnnieMost Lovely Things [] ClaudiaJourney of an Italian Cook [] AlyceMore Time at the Table [] Amrita -Beetles Kitchen Escapades 

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