Blimey, it’s 2016!

Just a couple of hours into a brand spanking new year! I wish you all the best of health, success and happiness this year. I personally am looking forward to 2016 cause I ended 2015 on a really bum note suffering with severe depression. The stress of moving house, juggling cooking, cleaning and looking after a toddler gave me a few ugly nervous breakdowns forcing me to take antidepressants to cope with every day life. Sigh! 

I’m back on my feet albeit feeling like I would plop flat on my face any second from the drowsiness of being medicated. 2016 take your best hit. I stand on the unshakable Rock who is my Lord. 

Is it November already?!

And just like that we are in the month of November!

We’re officially a month away from Christmas and it’s getting real cold and dark now. And that can only mean one thing. Its time to get my bake on!

Here are a few things I baked in the past week.

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Schwarzwalder Torte

Or just Black Forest gateau¬†to you and me! ūüôā Back home in my hometown in India, this cake is by far the most popular and quite literally flies off the shelves for birthdays, Christmases and what have you. I have been fed quite a few Black forest cakes (far too many to remember!) in my time and quite naturally wanted to master it when I took up baking after getting married and moving to the UK. So what followed was a barrage of BFCs everytime a cake was needed and I ended up putting off hubby and myself of it for a few years. Last week I was looking at some old photographs on my laptop and realized that I hadn’t made the cake in almost 4 or so years! So I decided to bake it on a whim last week and gosh¬†did it turn out well!

I even got sonny boy to help…

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The cake isn’t hard to bake or assemble in any way. What’s important however is that you need a really soft and good chocolate sponge cake as a base for it. Your gateau will only be as good as your sponge base, so if you’ve got practice baking decent fatless chocolate sponges, you’ll have no trouble getting this cake right. I went with my trusty chocolate chiffon cake recipe as always and baked it in a 9inch tin. From here on, it’s just a matter of sandwiching the layers of cake with tinned or fresh cherries and freshly whipped cream. Now you can splash a bit of Kirsch (cherry brandy) on to the layers if it is solely for adults. Or you can just use a simple sugar syrup in its place which will work just fine. I skipped both in an attempt to tone down the calories; plus I was really lazy that day! I also didn’t bother covering up the sides with whipped cream, well cause I didn’t enough left to do that. It still tasted wonderful. Considering that no where in the cake I had used butter and just decorated with cherries and unsweetened cream, this cake is actually not that bad as a diet breaker. It is far less calorific and tastes lighter¬†than most other cakes. Here’s the instruction for the assembly¬†I followed aside from my usual recipe for the chocolate chiffon cake

Apple and Bread Pudding

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This is a first. Owing to my dislike for butter and cheese I had never previously attempted a bread and butter pudding in my kitchen. I was forced into finding a recipe¬†to use up a loaf of stale bread I had knocking around and ended up stumbling upon this recipe on the internet. I altered the recipe considerably in the end and didn’t use any butter at all. To my surprise it turned out very well. Here’s my take on the recipe

Ingredients

  • 6 to 10 slices of stale bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Handful of raisins
  • 2 to 3 cups of apples, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of oil (or use butter)

Method

  1. Toss together torn/cubed bread, sliced apples and raisin in a bit of oil or melted butter and transfer to the baking dish
  2. In another mix, mix together the egg, sugar, cinnamon, milk and vanilla. Pour over the bread and apples in the baking dish.
  3. Bake in a preheated oven at 175 C for about 45 minutes or until brown.


That is all from the baking department for now. On to something more exciting.

Homemade Playdough!

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It would seem that I’ve arrived on the homemade playdough scene a bit¬†too late! On googling, I was hit million and one ways to make playdough and it all seemed a bit too much for me! Clearly all the homemaking mamas in the world think it’s a big hit with their kids and have gone on to make tonnes of tonnes of this stuff. I nearly decided against making a playdough but thought I’d try a small quantity for starters.

The recipe for the dough is in the collage/picture I have put up above. Or if you, like me, think this is all a bit too much and want to go for an even simpler recipe. Just mix any flour with water, knead and hand it to your child! I remember playing with ‘chapathi‘ dough every time my mum would make it for dinner, as a little girl back in India. I’d make cute little cups and dishes with lids, paint it and let it harden in the sun. So there’s no reason for you to buy another tub of expensive playdoh from the shops again.

Here’s a small selection of interesting playdough recipes I’ve come across so far

I made my batch of playdough in orange and pink and sonny boy had a lot of fun playing with it.

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What have you been upto recently in the kitchen or with the kids? Let me know if there’s anything interesting I could possibly try out too. In the meantime, enjoy the last two months of the year. My family and I will be moving to a another house hopefully, so¬†I have a busy November ahead of me. See you on the other side.

Sharmila

To new beginnings…

This marks the beginning of an exciting season in my life! I am officially a self-employed baker!

IMG_2228There, after years and years of just playing with the idea of baking and selling my cakes, I finally decided to take the leap. I took my first order roughly about a week ago when a dear friend I know asked me to bake a few cupcakes to sell at her church. Only recently, I had invited her and the family over for dinner for my son’s 3 birthday in September and she was too kind in her praise for the car themed birthday cake and cupcakes I had made for the occasion. I’d told her that I’d be happy to bake anything simple if she ever needed it.

So when she approached me to make some cupcakes for a fund-raiser at her church, I leapt at the offer and made some really nice soft-as-cotton-wool vanilla cupcakes with an equally lovely light-as-air chocolate icing. The cupcakes had turned out better than I had hoped and I was rather pleased with it. In fact, I can still picture the look on the lady’s face as she told me how professional the cakes looked when I delivered it to her and it made me beam with pride. I’m going to etch that moment in my mind for posterity in case I ever begin to doubt myself and my baking abilities again. You see, every time the thought about starting a cupcake business crossed my mind in the past, thoughts of fear and doubt would shut it down. This was the real reason it took me this long to get started on my baking business. Despite many friends and family encouraging me and prodding me to advertise my skills locally, I tended to brush them aside and played myself down. I’d reasoned in mind that my cakes won’t somehow be as good as the others or that nobody would really buy from little ol’ me. Well, I’ve proved myself wrong!

IMG_2317Funnily enough, on the Sunday that I set off to handover the cakes after attending church, I had affirmations and encouragements from a number of sources saying how good the cakes look and that I have a business in the making. I even remember rummaging through my cupboard for a bag to put my cupcake boxes in and hurriedly pulled out one that seemed big enough but hadn’t bothered to look at what it said on the side. It was only when I grabbed the bag later on my way out the door that I realised it said ‘Selling Like Hotcakes’ on the front! I nearly fell down laughing! (See picture above) On the way down in the lift, I had two neighbours walk in on a different floor and say to me as the first thing how tempting and polished the cakes in my bag looked and asked me for a sample! Two others complimented me similarly seeing the boxes of cakes in the car as they walked past us in the car park after the church service! It was all beginning to sound a little crazy to me after that!

I began to wonder if God had planted all these folks on that day to be there at the right time and place, just so they could speak words of encouragement into my life. Words that I badly needed to hear. To give me a nudge, perhaps. I think He did. I thought to myself that I’d be a fool not to give this a try, after all the prompting and affirmations I’d recieved that day. So after what started out as a favour for a friend, this is me, giving my dream a try. Lets see how far I can go sweetening people’s lives in their moments of celebration.

Sorry about the sappy stuff. However it was important for me to put this on my blog, cause of how significant it is. Since the birth of my son, I’ve looked at ways to earn an income while staying close to him. After a few months of hunting for part-time evening jobs and not coming across any that offered flixibility in terms of working hours, I figured I should give this a try for what it is worth.


Moving on, I made something that I hadn’t done in a very long while. Lasagna. I must confess that I am not a big fan of cheesy foods. I’ve had a life long hatred for milk and other dairy products that I just can’t explain. If anything smelt cheesy or milky, I wouldn’t eat it. Hence I’ve always pulled the cheese off my pizzas and always asked for barely there sprinkling of cheese on my Paninis if I have to order them at a caf√©. I’m aware that I sound a bit alien to some folks, especially here in Britian, where almost everyone is a closet cheese-connoiseur. In fact, I personally am yet to come across another person who has a dislike for cheese like myself. However since my son’s birth, I’ve consciously tried to include cheese in my cooking and diet in a bid to get him to try all foods so he doesn’t end up hating it for no reason like I do. So I made this vegetarian Lasagna a few days ago, albeit with a little hesitation, but it turned out so good that even I enjoyed second helpings of it!

Aubergine and Mozzarella Bake

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I had enough Aubergine to fit two loaf tins, so I baked one for dinner that evening and froze one away for later. I took the recipe from here and instead of grilling the Aubergine slices in the oven, I fried them on a griddle, which took a bit of time, but was well worth the effort. I’m going to skip the recipe and instructions for this dish just cause the link I’ve included is rather detailed and it would be unnecessary for me to repeat it here. Here are some more pictures of the cooking and assembly of the Lasagna I took though.

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If you’ve never tried a vegetarian Lasagna, I’d highly recommend this one to you. You will not be disappointed. Do give it a try. ūüôā

Plus, I tried my hand at making my own pesto for the first time! It was much better than the popular store-bought stuff and incredibly easy to make as well. I only wish someone had told me about this earlier!

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Home Made Pesto

Just blitz together the following in a blender and add to cooked al dente pasta.

  • 2 cups of basil leaves
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup of parmesan or other hard cheese (I used sparing amounts cause I found the smell of the cheese too strong. You can sprinkle more as a garnish later on however)
  • Walnuts or pine nuts – 1/2 cup
  • Garlic gloves – 2
  • oil – 1/2 cup (olive or sunflower oil)
  • a splash of lemon juice

In other news, I’ve finally slipped into autumn mode after wrapping up some hobbies I started way back in summer. While going on a lovely walk early one morning, I was blown away by the beautiful autumn scenery before me.

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Both my son and I enjoyed running around and playing among autumn leaves and my spirits were soaring. I picked a few leaves on my way back hoping to make something with it later on during the day. Here’s what I came up with after playing around with it on my carpet.

Craft Ideas using autumn leaves

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As you can see from the collage, I’ve merely rearranged the leaves to give you an idea of all the different things you can do with it. I ended up stringing the leaves to make a bunting for my living room for the day and later took it downstairs to hang it between two trees by the entrance of my building. While it looked really pretty outdoors (I’d forgotten to take a picture of it), it got blown away by the winds by the next morning! If you want to make a wreath out of the leaves as shown in the picture, you can either choose a polystyrene base or simply make your own by cutting an old cardboard box (into a round or heart shape) and sticking the leaves on top of it.

After nearly a year I’ve started going to Forest school at my local woods with my son, and we are both enjoying it tremendously! Here’s a picture of my son enjoying pasta cooked on an open fire at the woods.

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I guess those are all the updates for now. Hope you have a fabulous end to the month of October whereever you are. xx

(Update:I managed to get an online certification for a Level 2 food safety course this afternoon while my toddler napped and by evening, I’d managed to convince another friend to let me bake for her daughter’s 2nd birthday party. I’ve also finalised the logo and name of my business for putting on the application form for holding a stall at a food fair at my local arts centre. I don’t know why I have tears as I type this. Maybe its because I know God’s hand is behind all these sequence of events that seem to just happen one after the other.)


O Give thanks unto the God of gods, for His mercy endureth forever

Psalm 136:1


Summertime Reveries (2)

Boy is it getting darker sooner these evenings! Not to mention the weather getting colder and wetter! I hope you been doing well nonetheless. I’m still trying to finish the last of my projects that I started earlier in the summertime this year!¬†I wrote in my last post about a few things I’ve enjoyed the past few months and¬†carried it way into autumn and here’s a few more to add to that list. Mostly recipes.

Apple mania!
This year, I cooked, baked and consumed a record number of Apples like never before and I must say, I’m looking rather well-rounded because of it! Oh well, apples are good for me! So¬†I guess there’s nothing to worry about.¬†(Seriously, I’d pick Apple Crumble over a bag of crisps, any day. Well, on most days anyway!)

This is the apple tree by my building that gave a bumper harvest this year. IMG_2272

So besides the usual crumble and pie recipes, I also found a rather good recipe to make with my foraged Apples. Instant Mango Pickle. That’s right, you did read it right! Mango Pickle, with Apples instead! I know it sounds bonkers, but it works. I was dubious about the whole thing myself when I came across it for the first time; but having made this recipe over a dozen times in the last 4 months alone, I can certainly tell you that you can make an excellent Mango pickle out of Apples!¬†When the Apples are¬†still unripe and mostly green, it has a tangy and sour taste that is¬†quite similar to green Mangoes, believe it or not. So it is a wonderful replacement for when one¬†can’t source Mangoes easily, like here in Britain. The pickling method in question here though is different to the one used out in the West, i.e., preserving in bottled filled with brine or vinegar. Indian pickles come with a lot of chilli powder alongside the salt and vinegar and is finally tempered in hot oil with mustard seeds. This particular recipe is an instant version requiring no real pickling, and one that most Indians would go GaGa for anytime of the year. Once made, this pickle will last only a few hours before disappearing completely or if you are lucky enough to have family members with a little bit more self-restraint, unlike my own brood, it will last a few more days. I don’t even bother bottling this pickle, just cause of how soon it disappears right off the stove top. So I practically made it every few days the past four months. Try it for yourself.

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Cheat’s Mango Pickle

  • Any number of chopped Apples – Should be mostly green (leave the skin on). Or use Granny Smith in any other season
  • Salt, to taste
  • Chilli powder, to taste
  • Roasted & powdered fenugreek seeds, a tablespoon
  • Oil, a few tablespoons
  • Asafoetida, a few pinches
  • Mustard seeds, a teaspoon
  • Curry leaves, optional
  • Vinegar, a teaspoon, optional.

Start by heating oil in a pan and splutter the mustard seeds. If using, add the curry leaves now, followed by asafoetida and chilli powder. Lower heat and add the chopped Apples. Add the salt and vinegar and mix well. Do not cook the Apples, you want to retain the crispy texture. Now take it off the heat and mix in the powdered Fenugreek seeds and set aside for a minute before beginning to stuff all of it in your mouth! Cause once you start eating this stuff, you’ll be hooked!

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Lemon Pickle

As if I hadn’t consumed enough Apple/Mango pickles this summer, I also made this rather lovely Lemon pickle. The bottled Lemons you are seeing in the picture have been pickling for a good 6 months after¬†I went through a phase of squeezing Lemon juice¬†quite literally on top of everything I ate in the beginning of this year. Not wanting to throw away the remains, I’d put them in a bottle, topping each time with a bit of salt and left them to pickle over the course of the next few months. After six or so months (I’d shake and turn the bottle over every now and then) I was welcomed by the gorgeous smell of pickled lemons upon opening the lid. From here, I simply tempered it in hot oil with mustard seeds and added chilli powder to the whole lot. This is great with any rice dish and tastes better than the over-priced, imported, store-bought stuff you get in the Asian shops. It actually tastes much like my mum’s own version and made me feel a bit homesick eating it!

Apple CrumbleIMG_2217

Like I mentioned earlier, I did also make tonnes and tonnes of Crumble with the Apples. I just couldn’t seem to get enough of crumbles this year. My recipe for it is rather simple; a bit of sugar and cinnamon added to chopped Apples, and then Microwaved for a few minutes until soft. Before topping with a Crumble mix of oatmeal and plain flour (half and half) sugar, cinnamon and sunflower oil and baked in the oven till the top is brown.

 

Enna Kathrikkai
(Baba Ghanoush, Indian Style) 

IMG_2244My husband is a big fan of eggplants and loves this dish that is usually served with Biriyani at Indian wedding banquets. It is quite similar to Baba Ghanoush,¬†except it is not roasted and cooked fully on stove top until soft and mushy. I took the recipe from here and my husband was all praise for how close it tasted to the authentic version he’s eaten at Indian weddings. I made this quite a few times at my husband’s request this past summer,¬†and we enjoyed it¬†with both rice dishes and¬†chappathis;¬†and even with slices of white bread sometimes!

Those are all the recipes I tried this last summer besides the usual fares. I’m nearly done with my language-learning CDs¬†as its time to return it to the library. I really hope to continue this streak by keeping up with the French, German and Spanish I’ve learnt over the months. It’s truly been a remarkable summer in terms of all the number of things I’ve been able to do. I’m picking up more autumn-type hobbies with the evenings getting longer and colder. i.e., Crochet, knitting, Macrame, not to forget, reading books! (I’m going to get a Kindle, finally. Yay!) I guess the colder weather brings with it its own charms. Here’s to hot chocolate, sweaters, scarves, cozying up under a duvet and marathon book-reading sessions!

Summertime Reveries

I cannot believe¬†it is autumn already especially cause it felt¬†like we only had a wisp of a summer this year around in Britain. None the less, I made the most of it by springing to the park with my toddler and picnic mat, every time Mr Sun out for a few hours, to do a spot of ¬†quick sunbathing before the ominous clouds loomed back in. Fast forward to Mid October, and even with the crisp cold autumn air and the crunchy yellow-brown leaves lying everywhere, I find that my mind is still¬†stuck in summer-mode wanting to spend a few more weeks doing summertime things! However I just managed to push myself into wrapping up¬†a few projects that I started 4 months ago! I’ve still got a few more to go before I can finish it all and post about it on the blog. So bear with me while my mind and soul catchup with the season and read on to know aaalll the things I dabbled in this past summer!

Continue reading “Summertime Reveries”

snoogums-boogums turned 3!


My boy turned 3 and I had to up the ante on the party department! So after two parties and tonnes of party food and cake later, I can certainly say that I had more fun than my tot in the last week.

My son¬†has lately been obsessed with the Disney cars movie so I decided on hosting a Lightning McQueen themed party. (If you don’t have a car crazy little boy like I do, Lightning McQueen is the name of the animated car the Disney movie is based onūüėú)

Continue reading “snoogums-boogums turned 3!”

Cheat‚Äôs Bhel Puri (Indian street salad)

I’m back after visiting my family at the scorching yet lovely Chennai! I spent 4 weeks doing nothing but relaxing and enjoying the company of my family, all the while stuffing my face with much missed traditional South Indian fares both homemade (by mummy of course) and shop-bought. It sure was fun. It would have been more fun had it not been for the searing heat and time zone difference which my toddler didn‚Äôt take very kindly to.¬†

The first week of our stay was the hardest for him as he refused to eat or open his bowels and had constant temper outbursts as he struggled to adjust to changes in the time zone and the hot weather. Praise God he bounced back to his normal cheery self after causing us all to worry and lose sleep over him! If there’s one thing I’ve learned on this holiday with my toddler, it’s that kids can make or break a holiday despite all the meticulously planning in the world. Sometimes it just a matter of riding it out through unexpected problems like this that helps the most instead of fretting and wasting precious holiday time!

Anyway, it‚Äôs nice to be back in my bed and cook in my own kitchen after a nice refreshing break. So what happened to the low calorie diet I went on prior to my holiday? Ah, well! I temporarily relaxed my diet while in India and surprisingly have maintained my weight despite indulging myself a little. I‚Äôm going back on the low carb diet with a renewed conviction to prime myself up for a glorious English summer here. Here‚Äôs a recipe for a starter/salad that I have always enjoyed every time I go back home. It‚Äôs called Bhel Puri, and is essentially a salad put together with puffed rice, Sev (deep fried noodle made of chickpea flour), tamarind sauce and any assortment of preferred ¬†veggies. It is refreshing and light and hits all the taste buds in your tongue with its sweet, tangy and spicy notes. Back home¬†Chaat¬†dishes¬†like Bhel Puri, Paani Puri and Pav Bhaji are amongst the most popular street foods that people prefer on an evening out by the beach or while with friends in the city. Here’s my version of the recipe. Feel free to add any veggies you have knocking about in the fridge to this dish. Sweet corn, shredded cabbage or zucchini etc all work very well.

Easy Bhel Puri (Cheat’s recipe) 

Ingredients

  • Maggi Tamarind Sauce (or any shop bought tangy sauce or plain tomato ketchup)
  • Chaat Masala
  • Sev or Bhujia (I used Haldirams)
  • Puffed rice
  • Mix of shredded/chopped veggies
    I used plenty of chopped onions, tomatoes, carrot, cucumber and cubes of boiled potato
  • Chopped coriander to garnish

 Method

  • Mix 2 ‚Äď 4 tablespoons of the tangy sauce in a bowl with the chat masala.
  • Add the salad and mix. Before serving spoon the mixture on to a plate and top with a handful of sev and puffed rice and garnish with coriander

Give it a good mix before eating and enjoy the party of flavours in your mouth!

Cooking with a Toddler around…

toddler

It can be very daunting at first to cook with a toddler or young baby at home. I have a little sunshine of a boy aged 2 years and 6 months, and it is only now that I have learned a few tricks to keep him occupied and happy while I quickly go about cooking dinner or lunch. When my son was much younger, I mostly did all my cooking during his naptimes and that worked a treat for me until he became more active and reduced his naps to just one a day.

These days I’ve braved up and started cooking while he is still awake and around me; I can tell you that it’s not as scary as I thought it would be. Here are my two pennies worth on how to hang out with your toddler in the kitchen and make it fun!

  1. Kids of all ages love cooking. So let them join in the fun. Their little brains come to life at the variety of colors, textures and smells of ingredients we use everyday and it is a feast for their senses just to see food being, rolled, stuffed, mixed, chopped and then see it bubble, boil or bake away to it it’s last form before it reaches our plates.
  2. Make sure it’s all safe. A bit of safety can assure you and your toddler have lots of fun. Rearrange any knifes, crockery, glasses lying around to keep them out of sight. Only have your child around if you are doing some light cooking like sauteing, steaming or pan frying. Save anything that requires vigorous boiling, deep-frying or pressure cooking for when he/she’s not near. If you can help it, try not to cook with raw meat in front of your toddler either. Use your judgement and trust your instincts. Only you know your child and if it scares you to cook around him/her in the early days, start small and cook easier ‘safe’ dishes or use recipes that need little or no cooking (and hence less child-monitoring) until you are sure your toddler can be trusted to listen to you when warned. It is also a good habit to teach kids to wash hands properly before and after cooking. If your child is too young, put them on a high chair or prop them on to a stable chair so they see can what’s happening. Remember to always stay calm. If the child is reaching for something hot or sharp you happened to miss moving before they spotted it, say it to them calmly and explain why, without raising your tone
    .
  3. Make it a regular affair. The more your child sees you carrying out everyday chores
    Helping mummy roll out Chapathis
    Helping mummy roll out Chapathis
    around the house, the more comfortable he/she will get with you being a little occupied and not having your full attention for a few minutes. My kitchen isn’t very big but I have a bit of counter space that I seat my toddler on. You can see from the picture that he is rather close to the stove top, but then my son and I have grown so accustomed to cooking together and have good boundaries established that I feel confident he will listen to me (and he usually does!) when I tell him something’s hot. Plus he has a great sense of awareness himself from observing me constantly all these days.
  4. Be ready for a bit of mess. I do most of my lunchtime cooking with him near me as in the picture, and I am much more relaxed about having him around than I did when I started out. Don’t let the health and safety boffins ruin all the fun. Just relax and stay calm. If your child messes anything,  show him/her how to clean up properly.
  5. Offer your child a specific task and watch them do it with enthusiasm. My son loves picking out herbs (most mint, coriander and fenugreek) for me to store in the freezer. He also like whisking eggs, mixing flour, peeling potatoes, rolling out dough, mashing vegetables, chopping with butter knifes etc. You can also allow them to help you with washing up. It could be something as simple as passing rinsed dishes to them to put back on the drainer or even wiping a cup or two. You’ll find that more often than not, they are quite happy to be your ‘little helper’.
    image_2DSC_0761Whishking eggs for an omelette
  6. Offer them a taste of raw vegetables and other ingredients. This is a great opportunity to let them explore different tastes and textures of ingredients you are planning to cook with. My little man loves onions ( yes, onions!!) and he’s always sneaking some into his mouth every time I have some around chopped and ready for use.
  7. Give them utensils to play with. My boy loves mimicking me and he has his own spare pot, pan and wooden spoon to pretend he’s cooking.  He likes raiding my larder my cloves of garlic to toss around with his spoon, to make things look more real.
  8. Put on a show! Pretend you are a TV chef and announce what you are about to do next. Throw in sound effects (Use a blender, mixer or pressure cooker and show them whats about to happen to the food you put inside) But be warned not all kids start liking new noises instantly.
  9. Finally, have fun whatever you are doing. Cooking together is a great time of bonding for me and my son. I know that soon there will come a day when our kids wont be that interested in hanging out with us in the kitchen. So try to relish these moments. And when you are done, always eat your meals together. Kids pick up good dining etiquette and other manners easily when they see it being modeled for them. So go on. Switch off the Television and turn on some good music and get cooking with your wee ones. I hope you will have as much fun as my son and I.

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Do the thing you fear, and the fear of death is certain – Mark Twain

A Busy Bella and her Bath !?

Or, well… err, just Bisi¬†Bele¬†Baath.¬†

Corny joke aside, I finally succeeded in my attempts at making this good old rice dish with a funny name¬†that is ever so popular in Southern India. In my previous attempts I have never been able to get the consistency or the flavours in the dish ‘just right’, thanks to¬†the only baby-sized pressure cooker in my kitchen, that I would often have to wash after each use to cook the lentils, rice and the veggies in turns for¬†making the dish. And not to mention the long list of spices that need to be roasted and ground to give that right level of pungency and flavour; I would have almost¬†given up¬†making it altogether¬†had it not been for two lovely people whose gifts of love have made my life so much easier. First, my mother’s fabulous¬†homemade sambhar¬†podi that she so generously packed by the truck load; and I’m glad she did so, cause I seem to be reaching for it by the spoonfuls almost everyday in my cooking. And the second is a Super duper large Pressure cooker (compared to the one I had earlier on) by¬†my very thoughtful Sister in Law.

My new pressure cooker flanked by the miniscule older one.

And here’s a picture of the best Bisi¬†Bele¬†Baath I have ever tasted…

…with a dollop of thick yoghurt by the side

I followed a recipe from here¬†down to the tee, but replaced the multitude of ground spices with my mother’s version and threw in every rotting vegetable I could find in the fridge.¬† The proportion I stuck to was a cup and a half of rice for one cup of lentils; and added about 8 cups of water along with veggies and cooked it down¬†to a delicious-looking-brown-sludge!

Something else I made for the first time was this Chilli Chicken recipe inspired by a similar dish that we had the pleasure of tasting at my Husband’s Aunt’s home last month. Here’s what it looked like…

Sharmila

For old times’ sake

My earliest memories of eating Keerai sadham are of the time when I was around 14 years of age and every saturday morning my mother would get huge bundles of fresh spinach leaves from an old woman who sold it home to home where I lived in Madras; I remember how up until that time I had been that archetypal kid who hates all things green, but somehow eating the distinctly coloured green rice with mango pickle and crumbled potato chips seemed like the most natural thing to do on a Saturday afternoon, all while cosily watching Heidi on Cartoon Network with my sisters. 

While I do not get fresh hand-picked Spinach brought to my doorstep¬†on the 11th floor of a building in the middle of the city every weekend, I still make it a point to cook the dish just like my mother used to. For old times’ sake. Over time, I have modified it slightly and have come up with a microwave version¬†that saves one a lot of time.¬† Here’s the recipe for it…¬†

 

For about 250 gr of Spinach, add two tomatoes, one onion, three green chillies and¬†8 cloves of garlic. Now I haven’t bothered to peel the Garlic pods here, all because it will slip out easily with a squeeze¬†once it gets cooked down in the microwave.¬†

 

 

After about 6 or 7 minutes in the microwave, this is what it looks like.  After everything has steamed down to a mush, you could either use a potato masher or a hand blender to further squash it into a pulp. Now all that remains to be done is to temper it with some mustard seeds, cummin, urad dal, sliced onions and red chillies in hot oil and pour it right back into pulped Spinach. I like to eat it by mixing it in a bowl of hot rice, usually with a boiled egg, some chips or poppadoms. 

  

And there it is, the best comfort food for my homesick soul. 

  

Sharmila