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.

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