Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Yoga House

Working on a yoga festival immediately makes you conscious of the food you eat, the way you exercise and how far you can stretch. I don’t know about you, but I used to be able to walk around my own head once upon a time. (No need to get excited, it’s a combination of Adho Mukha Svanasana and Dhanurasana done in a circular motion.)

Look - yoga on the road (thats me on the left)
The Yoga House is a café/ yoga centre that opened in Bandra a few years ago. It’s completely organic, and much to my disappointment once upon a time, completely vegetarian too.

Imagine how excited I was about the place once I went vegan! I’m not a huge fan of salad; I get hungry an hour after I eat it, even if I’ve had a whole lettuce and accompaniments. I decided to order the Quinoa burger – oddly titled ‘I am Detoxifying’. It’s a quinoa patty, with watermelon seeds, basil, coriander and spring onion, served with hummus.

Super yum
It is FANTASTIC. It doesn’t really feel like there’s no meat in it. It’s nice and filling, and really sits in your stomach; you don’t need a snack at 4pm after that. I use the hummus to cover the burger for ‘sauce' because it's ever so slightly dry without it. A drizzle of olive oil on the size could do wonders by adding that slightly moist element to the burger. Still amazing without it though.

We also ordered ourselves the Somerset Tartine ‘I am English’ – with cheddar, zucchini, mustard, tomato and onion,

the Mediterranean Salad ‘I am Sunbathing’ – essentially a greek salad with bulgur wheat,

Too many onions for me
their signature hash browns – a large pan sized piece of grated potato with mozzarella, red and green peppers, spinach and herbs,

MMMM potato
and the Vegetarian Brown Rice Paella - 'I am Dancing'  - which is broccoli, carrots, red, green and yellow peppers, raisins, almonds, garlic and onion.

The paella and Mediterranean salad aren't too great, I'd definitely give them a miss. The rest of the food is hearty, healthy and keeps you happy.

The food at Yoga House is fantastic, and if you’re into lovely earthy flavours, you just can't get better. They’ve moved house from their 3 room café to a huge bungalow ten minutes further from where they used to be and expanded their menu, classes and outlook :D 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Jimmy Jammy

The amazing part about my new house is that the kitchenaid gets pride of place on a countertop, which means that I can bake ANY TIME I WANT without the hassle of lugging it from my room to the kitchen, unpacking, washing and repacking. I’ve gone a little crazy the last few weeks and made everything from crème anglais (for an ice cream that failed), to pizza dough, to meringues, to a variety of other baked goods, all with my trusty blue mixie (mixie, nixie, twixie… get it??). I’ve tried this jam tart a few times (thank you Smitten Kitchen) and have made some adjustments based on material availability in India as well as what was in the house when I decided to cook.

Last slice anyone?

Jimmy Jammy Tart adapted from Smitten Kitchen

What you need
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup semolina
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
130 grams room temperature butter, cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
1 large whole egg
1 large egg, separated
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
1 jar of jam (around 450 grams) (I used Bhuira jam for this – made with love by a friends mum up in the mountains - and it was delicious. You get a whole variety of flavours to try, not necessarily just in dessert, but also on toast or even on its own.)
So good

Step 1
Mix the butter and sugar together until its smooth. (I use very coarse sugar, so it takes a few minutes more than it takes other people to mix. The butter should be a lovely pale yellow before you move onto the next step.)
Step 2
Add the egg + second yolk to the butter-sugar mixture once its smooth. If you’re using a stand mixer, this process becomes super easy because you just pour things into the bowl and watch it work. Make sure this has combined before adding the dry ingredients.
Step 3
Whisk your flour, semolina, baking powder and salt together before adding to the
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until the dough just comes together. This is a sticky, fall apart dough that’s absolutely yummy if you want to keep picking at it (I did!).
Step 4
Take a third of the dough and transfer to a lightly floured counter. Roll the dough into the shape of a log that’s roughly 2 inches thick and 7-8 inches long. Wrap tightly in clingflim and put in the fridge.
Step 5
Put the rest of the dough in a pie or tart dish. The original recipe says to use one with a removable bottom, but I never seem to be able to find one when I’ve decided to make this. I always end up using a glass pie dish and it comes out just as well. Use a dish that’s got a 9-inch diameter, any smaller and you will have too much dough left over.
Using your hands, press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Put it in the fridge for at least an hour. (If you’re using a glass pie dish, make sure you take it out ten minutes before you put it into the oven or it will shatter when cold meets hot.)
Dough chilling, waiting to be baked
Step 6
Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C.
Take your jar of jam and slop it around on the pie base. Make sure it's spread out evenly.
Even enough?
Step 7
Take the dough log out of the fridge and using a very sharp knife, quickly cut it into thin circles. I’m incredibly impatient and not at all precise, so mine varied in thickness and size. It doesn’t really matter all that much it tastes delicious no matter what.
Waiting to be carved
Arrange them in concentric circles over the jam to form a top. You need to them to overlap slightly. Any leftover bits of dough can be stuck and squashed into gaps when you’re finished being artistic. 
So many gaps to fill!
Whisk the remaining egg white with a teaspoon of water in a little bowl until frothy; and then brush onto the tart lid. Sprinkle the top with sugar and bake it for 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden.

Let it cool completely and serve with ice cream, or simply on its own.


Thursday, 26 June 2014

Pizza Pan

Have you ever watched a random TV show that suddenly gets you completely hooked? I spend the first hour after I get home from work lounging on my bed watching random TV, and talking to my dad through the door, who is in the identical position on his bed. We both happened to be watching Gordon Ramsey’s Ultimate Cooking Course one evening, and couldn’t stop watching after.

My husband (oooh I said husband!) and I love making pizza. We love eating it even more, but hey who doesn’t! We bought ourselves a pizza book from Italy, as well as a wooden pizza tray and it makes things so so so fun. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m an over excited cook, and I can’t make something without having ten people over to try it (even though it may bomb completely the first time). Queue pizza and ice cream night….

I’ve obviously not been working much, so I had a day to spend at home with my trusty kitchen aid (Mixie loves being on the counter all the time).

Sausage pizza, ready for the oven
Gordon’s Pizza Dough

You will need
500 grams flour
1 tbsp. sea salt (or fine salt, or any salt)
14 gms. yeast
1 tbsp. caster sugar
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
325ml lukewarm water

If you’re using a stand mixer, this is the easiest dough in the world, it kneads itself! If not, there’s always something extremely therapeutic about pummeling dough.

Step 1
Mix the flour and salt together and make a well in the middle.

Step 2
Put the yeast, sugar & oil into a glass with water and leave it to prove. This will become foamy, bubble and extremely yeasty to smell, that’s when you know it’s done. (Should take around 7 to 10 minutes)

Step 3
Slowly add the liquid to your dry ingredients, keeping the mixer on slow. You are using the dough hook, and not any paddle. If using your hands, bring the flour in from the sides with a fork and swirl it into the liquid until it starts to come together.

Step 4
Work the rest of the flour with clean hands, kneading till you have a smooth, springy dough.

Step 5
Put the ball of dough in a large flour-dusted bowl, sprinkle with flour and cover with a damp cloth. Place in a warm room for an hour until doubled in size.

Step 6
Tip the dough onto a flour-dusted surface and knead it around (i.e. PUNCH IT UP) a bit to push the air out with your hands. You can either use it immediately, or keep it, wrapped in cling film, in the fridge (or freezer) until required.
(Timing-wise, it's a good idea to roll the pizzas out about 15 to 20 minutes before you want to cook them. Don't roll them out and leave them hanging around for a few hours, though - if you're working in advance like this it's better to leave your dough, covered with cling film, in the fridge.)

While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, why don’t you start working on the sauce? It’s the world’s simplest sauce and takes no time at all.

My homemade Pizza sauce

This recipe can double up as a pasta sauce as well. It’s simple, easy & requires the least amount of monitoring I've ever seen. 
You will need
2 400gm cans of peeled tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
5 or 6 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
50ml tomato puree
Mixed Herbs to season
Salt & Pepper to season
Olive oil

Step 1
Add some olive oil into a pan and sauté the onions & garlic. You want them to become soft, but not burnt & brown. This should take between 5 & 7 minutes.

Step 2
Add both cans of peeled tomatoes to the pan. You need to pulverize these to make a sauce. I like using a potato masher and really squishing them up. If you’re so inclined, you could put the tomatoes into a mixer and blend them first. That makes the sauce much smoother.

Step 3
Let the tomatoes bubble and boil, and allow the water to evaporate. Season with salt & pepper to taste, and add a handful of herbs. I use rosemary and thyme, but there is really no restriction when it comes to herbs, any and all are wonderful. The pizza sauce should not take more than 25 to 30 minutes to cook, and you don’t really need to stand over the pan. Go take a shower, wipe down your kitchen counters, and maybe lay the table for dinner. It’s not going anywhere. 

A whole lotta passata

Making the Pizza

Pre heat your oven to 180degrees, and get rolling!

All set up and ready to roll
Once you're ready to make the pizzas, divide the dough into balls & keep them covered. The original recipe asked for 4 balls, I made them smaller (owing to the size of my pan & oven) and turned out maybe ten pizzas that day.

Production line begins

The original recipe asks for ovenproof pans, which unfortunately I don’t have. I did the next best thing and slipped the pizzas from my pans onto a silicon baking mat. It worked just fine.

Pizza Toppings

You will need:
2 balls fresh mozzarella, shredded (I was so excited to do this, that I bought 3 different kinds of mozzarella to try out. I wanted to measure the melting point of each, compare tastes, look & feel. If you’re like me, feel free, it makes things much more fun in the kitchen.)
Basil leaves
Olive oil
5 or 6 English breakfast sausages (I took the sausages out of their skins, sliced them into thin discs and lightly fried them, making sure they stayed soft)


Step 1
Roll one ball out on a floured work surface until it's the same size as your pan. (If you have 2 pans, you can do 2 pizzas at the same time, it works like magic).

Roll, roll, roll your dough

Step 2
Add a little olive oil to the pan and add the pizza base, pressing it into the pan. Cook it over a medium heat until the base crisps and the dough starts to cook through and bubble up, about 5-8 minutes. (If you’re Indian, this is going to look very much like bubbly naans while cooking)

Wrinkly old pizza base
Double time

Step 3
Spread 2 tablespoons of the tomato sauce on them, and a heaping handful of shredded mozzarella. You can also add any other topping you want. I mixed things up and served my friends margarita pizzas as well as something I’d loved in Italy - salsiccia aka sausage! 

Sausage pizza, ready for the oven

Step 4
Put the prepared pizza on your baking mat and put into the oven until the toppings bubble and the cheese really starts to ooze everywhere. This should be another ten minutes. 

Waiting for the oven
Step 5
Drizzle with more olive oil, top with either basil leaves or rocket lettuce & serve on a wooden pizza tray.

I'm getting hungry again
Not plated yet!

A bit over exposed, but you get the picture
I served the pizza with simple salads to accompany:  Asparagus from a tin, marinated mushrooms, pasta salad and a rocket & iceberg lettuce salad.

Happy helper making the pasta salad
We approve

So I usually sign off with a bad pun or two. Want to hear a joke about pizza? Never mind, it's too cheesy. 


Thursday, 19 June 2014

Count Couscous

I’ve been intrigued with couscous for a while. Not the kind you get in hotel buffets which is completely dried out and ice cold, but the actual warm, soaked in chicken stock kinda salad. So what does a tired, hungry vegan (yes I have been vegan on and off for a while) eat on Sunday nights when everyone else is having chicken curry? You pull out a box of couscous that you bought over a year ago, any vegetables you can find and make a go of it. The results can be surprising. 

I’ve tried two different couscous brands with varied results – pearled couscous, which is slightly larger and resembles ermmm…pearls, has to be boiled in salted water for ten minutes before its ready to eat.

The other kind seems to be more traditional, no cooking, just soak it in either boiling water or hot chicken stock for ten minutes and voila!

I’m pretty sure you can mix cous cous with anything you want, however I’m partial to a vegetable mix of red and yellow peppers, carrots, garlic and onion. We try to stick to quantities, but it’s just so hard when you’re a greedy gump. Any that’s left over is usually finished the next day before lunchtime, so it’s actually ok if we make too much.

So healthy
What you need
I packet pearl OR 1 cup regular couscous
1 red pepper (cut into thick slices)
1 yellow pepper (cut into thick slices)
2 large red carrots (sliced length wise)
1 or 2 small whole onions
5 or 6 large cloves garlic
Olive oil
Lemon juice

Step 1
Preheat your oven to roasting temperature (around 200degrees C). The printed temperatures wore off my oven ages ago, so I am assuming it’s around that!

Step 2
Put the peppers, carrots, onion and garlic on a baking tray and douse liberally with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 30 – 40 minutes or until the carrots are soft and sweet (go on, you know you can taste them if you want to).
All prepped
Step 3
If you’re using pearl couscous, put a pot of salted water to boil and add the couscous when the water is done. Leave for ten minutes or until you can taste the doneness with your teeth (this is the identical process to boiling pasta).

Step 3 again!
If you’re using regular couscous, you don’t need to make chicken stock from scratch (because life’s too short to make stock!). Use stock cubes, no one will blame you and more importantly – no one will know!

Stock piled

Step 3.1
Put one cup of couscous in a glass bowl and cover it with 2 cups of boiling hot chicken stock. (If you’re going with the vegetarian option, you can use veggie stock or even plain water.) I like my couscous fat and fluffy so I add more liquid than most recipes call for. You can alter to your tastes. The less you put, the dryer it grain.

Absorbing the stock
Step 4
Roughly chop the peppers and carrots up into pieces that are around the same size. SQUOOSH the garlic out of its skin so it comes out soft and sticky, and make sure you peel the onion layers away from each other. They’ll fall apart at the slightest touch, so it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Step 5
Add the vegetables to the couscous and mix well. Drizzle olive oil on the top and serve. Optional garnishes are lemon juice and parsley, which I leave entirely to your discretion. You can eat this as a meal in itself (which I do, all the time!) or serve as a salad accompanying fish, chicken or mutton.

It’s delicious, decadent and not so heavy on the tummy though I promise you, you will be full to bursting by the time you’re done eating.

I'm super excited with how bright these pictures are!
Pearl couscous

Giant portion for 1 
Ignore the spoon!