Chocolate Burfi

Indian sweets/desserts are not to be underestimated. The technique, the artistry and the expertise that goes behind bring a mass of milk in different forms and infusing them with the flavoring agents like Saffron, cardamom and many others takes some time to master. I have met more failures in trying to create an Indian dessert than with my baking experiments with flour, sugar and butter.

So for long, I have practiced a few Indian desserts which are firm favourite with my family and see to it that I do not mess up. Some of them being Kheer/payasam or Milk pudding with vermicelli or rice, Gajar halwa or carrot pudding, badam halwa or almond pudding, rawa halwa/sheera or semolina pudding and many such variations. For these desserts, my technique, measurements are set and I don’t mess around with them so they come out foolproof each time.

All photos courtesy : Namit Bhatia

Touchwood! (So much for my confidence)

But this time around, I was in the mood to experiment with any Indian dessert that was not only something that my family would love but also easy to put together. Burfi came to mind instantly, since my daughter loves it and calls them ‘Diamonds’. No trip to any sweet shop in Bahrain or India is complete without buying her, her favourite dabba (packet) of Diamonds. She confuses burfi with Kaju katli which is a cashew and milk preparation. But either of the two or (even better) both bring a sparkle to her eyes. When shown the dabba to pick one piece, she would say, “Two pieces, pwhweese, petty pwhweese” and I melt. Only the knowledge that too much of sugar would definitely be a problem that I would have to tackle when Mimi in her sugar rush would turn the house upside down, makes me a bit strict and I don’t let her have more helpings.

For the uninitiated, Burfi is a type of Mithai (a sweet) which is solid and is made from condensed milk/dry milk, sugar and seasoned cardamom or flavored saffron and laced with Vark (edible silver leaf) and nuts like pistachio

I tried making Chocolate burfi a week back, the result was not something to be proud of. I struck the attempt off as a failure and gave up on it entirely, until I recalled talking to a friend about an event she is running on her blog that called for all things chocolate. That inspired me to give Chocolate Burfi a second chance and more focus. The result was entirely satisfactory and the family received it with much gusto and enthusiasm. I took some to office where they were polished off in no time.

The burfi was incredibly soft and flavoured just right. I did not have any whipping cream on me so I used the normal heavy cream which worked just fine. I referred to the burfi recipe as explained by the talented duo of SHOW ME THE CURRY. It was so easy and the results were splendid. The chocolate and the milk layers were so distinct and it made this dessert standout. I garnished it with vark ( edible silver leaf) and some pistachios.

Now for the event; Riddhima is a good friend, colleague (for the littlest time) and fellow food blogger. She is an excellent cook and her blog is a testimony of how passionate is about trying different cuisines.

Her Contest goes like this; The Monthly Food Blog Event & Giveaway, “Cook.Eat.Delicious-Desserts!” This month’s theme is Chocolate!…. The event runs from August 1st-31st.

CookEatDelicious.com has started this great event.

I am sending this off to the above event that I am so incredibly excited to be a part of.

Weight Loss Woes & Peppers Stuffed with Scrambled Eggs

I do not even know where to begin or how to begin. I am struggling for words to convey my utter stupidity and trust me it is not an easy task. Against all well- intentioned warnings, I embarked on a fasting project for the 3 weeks of Ramadan. With fellow Muslims who were fasting (for religious purposes ofcourse) it felt like this was opportunity I should avail myself. I had it easier because I did not shun water or coffee. Coffee killed my appetite for the short-haul and long hours of starving killed my appetite for good.  I came back home to have my only meal for the day with butter milk. Mostly these meals were vegetable stir fries with beans/lentils or Chicken. If for some reason, during the day if I felt my energy reserves sapping, I would indulge in a banana or an apple. I did this for 3 weeks and worked out on and off depending on whether I had the will power for it or not. Surprisingly, I did not feel weak at all. I felt quite energized and found that fasting kept my mind alert ( or maybe it was the black coffee that did the trick). The 3 weeks passed so quickly that it did not feel like a chore at all. It felt like an achievement for some strange reason; the knowledge that I could do without food for hours and hours and still not feel depressed was empowering. It weirdly felt right. Only the first 3 days of fasting seemed a bit difficult to tackle but after that it was really easy. Weekends were a bit relaxed but I still stuck to the 1 meal a day rule even over weekends.

Towards the beginning of the third week, I realized, I wasn’t losing any weight and on the contrary I had put on weight. A fact that was confirmed after a visit to the hospital during a random medical check up routine. I was really taken aback but not surprised ( to my surprise!!). It had to happen. Starvation lead my body to get into the famine mode and storing every bit that  was being consumed and in turn made me gain kilos. I have to admit it was depressing to say the least.

I thought Ramadan was the best time to experiment because most of the locals in office were fasting and food and water was banned anywhere around them as a way of being sensitive to their feelings. Food and water was allowed to expats in the pantry under conditions such as no aroma/smells should emanate from the food consumed in the pantry. This meant heating food in the pantry microwave wasn’t allowed until 2:30 pm. It was only after 2:30 pm that the expats were allowed food because that is when the locals were given the rest of the day off for the entire 30 days of Ramadan. Expats too could follow the suit but most often than not, we had to sit back to finish work. It wasn’t unfair, but it was a new way of working for me. My hubby had 2 years of experience behind him working during Ramadan. Generally speaking the work load is not that intense as most offices closed at 1 or 2 pm.

I digress.

The point of discussion here is against my better sense, I fasted for 3 weeks, my body got used to the new system and the result was I put on more weight inspite of eating healthy (most of the times) and fewer calories. I chose to put this up on my blog only to emphasize and re-emphasize, that starving doesn’t serve any purpose at all. Atleast for me it was an absolute failure considering the objective that I was hoping to achieve. Having said that, it felt like a torture to listen to a Bahraini colleague go on about the tonnes that she lost because of fasting. Guess it worked for her and not for me. My metabolism chugged slowly and probably came to a stop because of my stupid venture.

Since then I started eating more frequently, working out in a more disciplined fashion and making all attempts to rev up my metabolism. Hopefully, in a few weeks time I should be able to reverse the damage that I have done to my body and my system. No more of such moronic experiments for me, I have decided.

I began by eating my breakfast and I realized I wasn’t hungry for breakfasts at all and felt like throwing up whenever I had a bite or two. In order to whet my appetite ( or whatever was left of it), I tried making eggs in interesting ways. One such breakfast was a Peppers filled with Scrambled egg. It was scrumptious and was easy to wolf it down with it a glass of apple juice.

My system jolted to a start by recognizing good tasting food and since then it has been quite comfortable eating breakfast.

These Peppers are visually appealing and shout ‘ Healthy’ from a mile away. That is why I am so drawn to them. Growing up I hated them but over time I have started to love their taste and the freshness they bring to stir fries and salads. As for the scrambled eggs which were laced with mushrooms, herbs and tantalizing seasonings, they were most filling ( all the pun intended). The pepper cook slightly but their crunchiness  is retained which I believe is the highlight of the recipe. While making them I thought they would be tricky but with a friend’s help, I managed well. Served with warm wholemeal toast and some more scrambled eggs on the side, it was just the perfect start to my day.

I dedicate this healthy and delicious breakfast to one of my favourite food bloggers whose birthday it is tomorrow. Sangeeta, who ONLY blogs about healthy recipes and makes me feel like a culprit with my posts talking about only white flours, butter and sugar. She is a wonderful person with whom I have had the opportunity to interact at a personal level and I am so thankful that our food-laden paths crossed.

Happy Birthday Sangeeta! Wish you all the happiness and luck in this world. Much love!!

 

 

 

Restaurant Review Project 23 – Beyroute

 

We are nearing the end of our 5 day Eid holidays bonanza and my view has had a 360 degree flip. At the start of the holidays, I was feeling underwhelmed about not going for a mini-vacation outside this hot country. I gave many a hints to my hubby who adamantly refused to take any. Well, there’s a reason why he didn’t. It is because we are going on our annual leave towards the end of October. Disappointed, that all the people I know were making the most of this 5 day break by visiting the nearby countries, I didn’t feel there was much to look forward to. Anyone who has lived in Bahrain would know that entertainment options are very limited. Eating out and visiting friends (if any) are the only two options given the weather at this time of the year.

So for one of the dinners we went to one of the restaurants that we always meant to visit but never got around doing it. Beyroute – which is a Lebanese restaurant on Budaiya highway has been one such joint. Budaiya has been an area where some unrest has been reported time and again and for that reason we had missed visiting Beyroute. But being legendary ‘foodies’ we decided to brave all the unrest and finally ended up visiting Beyroute. Was it a food journey worth risking our lives for , if you would ask; perhaps not. But having said that it would be only fair to admit that some of the traditional dishes were exceptional.

olives, fava beans, hummous

Beyroute is beautiful to say the least. When you enter the vicinity, you would be struck by how beautifully it has been done. There is something deja-vu-ish about its interiors but not it in the cliched sort of way. It is has a calming effect on the mood which in my opinion is because of the right kind of lighting and colors. The walls are adorned by classic black and white photographs of old Beirut. The seating is wooden chairs and tables which were slightly uncomfortable after sometime. For any fine dining, in my view, requires comfortable seating because people who come to dine aren’t in to grab a meal on the go but to enjoy the full length of the meal, savoring the flavours, making conversations and essentially enjoying the whole dining experience. And comfortable seating is definitely one of the main factors that ensures that people remain seated rather than shift uncomfortably after 15 minutes of being seated. So that was definitely one glitch in the whole dining experience.

Now for the food.

Beyroute diners are given steamed/boiled fava beans  and brined olives on the house. This was my first time tasting fava beans and I loved them. Somewhere they reminded me of green peas but their texture and taste is milder and more filling.

For starters we ordered the customary hummous with bread which was devoured soon. The silken hummous was excellent being the finest I have tasted in recent times. Bread was fresh from the oven. We also ordered for watermelon juice which wasn’t fresh and was laden with sugar inspite of having told the server that sugar was a strict no-no. For the main course, we ordered our individual dishes.

The first being the Spinach Manakeesh  which was sumptuous and belly filling to say the least with the generous stuffing of spinach and cheese stuffed inside the flat bread.     For my vegetarian friend, Falafel is staple at all Arabic joints and Beyroute was no exception. We were served crispy and crunchy falafel with a not so charming dip and pickled, radish, turnips and carrots.

Lentil soup with crispy, fried bread, Crunchy falafel

Our hearts were warmed with a hearty lentil soup served with wedges of lime and crispy, chips-like deep fried pita bread on the side. Our appetites were more or less satiated after this and a batch of fresh fries with ketchup.

While ordering, we didn’t consider the portions and soon realized that we had over-ordered because we had Grilled hammour platter, Fattet Djei ( a chicken dish in a deep bowl) and Fried eggs in olive oil to finish.

Grilled hammour was delightful with the flesh grilled to perfection with soft and crumbly fish meat spiced just right served with a salad on the side and a lip smacking dip.

The Fattet Djei (chicken in a deep bowl) and spinach manakeesh (down)

The Fattet Djei was a let down or maybe our palette wasn’t used to such  bland Lebanese dish. It just felt like some warm yogurt with cooked chicken, crispy, deep fried pita bread and fava beans with absolutely zero seasoning. After a few spoonfuls it was left on the side, ignored and untouched.

The fried eggs were comfort food at its best and I had ordered that for my daughter who showed very little interest unfortunately. She was content munching on the steamed fava beans and sipping on the sugary watermelon juice.

hammour and fried eggs in olive oil (lebanese style)

It was a lot of food of which the fish and falafel had to be doggy bagged.  The total bill came to 20 BD for 3 people, which is moderate considering the amount of food we had ordered along with a watermelon juice and a large bottle of water.

The staff was polite and most considerate except in the case of the watermelon juice. For some reason, I felt reluctant about sending it back because somewhere I knew they would probably bring the same glass back ( just a hunch from extensive experience of eating out at numerous restaurants)

Happy to announce that Beyroute has been SLICED!!!

Our experience has been above average in all the departments concerning the ‘ Eating out” process at Beyroute. Would we come out of our way to dine here; well that remains to be seen. Right now, when I ask the dinner attendees if they would visit Beyroute again, the answers vary from a strict NO to maybe ( if someone else is paying).

Now for the verdict;

Food – 3/5

Service – 3/5

Ambience 3.5/5

Overall – 3/5

Beyroute would see better days if they changed their seating to something more comfortable, probably serve liquor and deliver more value by revamping their cuisine to do justice to all the money they’ve spent on their splendid decor.

This is my penultimate Restaurant Review and with the 24th review, I would conclude my Restaurant Review Project. It has been such an exciting and long ( long , long long ) food journey that has over shot all the expected timelines. Nevertheless, it has been the most amazing one.

My Most Beautiful thing loves Sesame Shortbread Cookies

In a month and a little more my little bundle of joy would be all of three.  This realization hits me and knocks the air out of my lungs. 3 incredible years of intense joy, sparkle and so much learning. She would join kindergarten in September, just before her birthday. These days she has her summer camp going on and each day she is looking forward to go to her camp. They go visit exhibitions, science centers, paint together, play games, sing and dance. Everyday she comes back having learnt a new word, a new rhyme, a new song and a whole new understanding of the little world that’s hers.

All photos courtesy : Namit Bhatia

These days she has come up with this funny way of addressing every body with a title –  “Mr. Mamma, can I have a cookie please?” or “Mr. Papa has gone to office.” It is hilarious!! Mr. Uncle has come home to see us and Mr. Teacher sent home  a note today.

She loves cookies and I sometimes indulge by making some for her at home in the flavours that she likes. She loves simple, uncomplicated flavours with exciting toppings like M&Ms or smarties.  I spotted this easy-peasy shortbread recipe from the BBC GoodFood Magazine that I had to try cause I knew she would love it.

Summers in Bahrain

 

A few months ago, I had a chance to participate in an online event where I had t write about ‘My Most Beautiful Thing’. Thought it was most appropriate to share it here considering the emotional rollercoaster that I am on these days.

“When I think of ‘My Most Beautiful Thing”, I close my eyes and try to conjure up various images of people, places, moments frozen in time, of situations good and bad, of being successful and of possessions. In my mind, it feels like a reel of a movie moving with a clickity- click sound. The first image is of my daughter, Mimi smiling, then comes the park where Mimi and I chased after each other, of a time when I held her for the first time, of the time when she cried the nights away because she was a colicky baby and of the day I decided to take a break from work to be with Mimi, of the feeling where I have felt that she was all I wanted and she was all mine. There isn’t a single other image that comes into my mind. Mimi dominated every single frame, back to back.

In my opinion, everybody has that moment in life, when their life undergoes an incredible transformation. For me, having Mimi has been that supremely important time in my life where I completely changed as a person and my outlook changed forever. Things that made me fret earlier, make me laugh now. She filled my consciousness with a divine light and unending love. She taught me how to love with a tremendous capacity without asking anything in return. I feel, this is the closest I can ever get to what people call God.

 When the world is going crazy around me, I come home to her after a hard day’s work and she runs to me with all the glee on her face. All the stress gets archived automatically in unknown folders in the deepest recesses of my brain. The clouds clear and her sunny smile shines down on me. World’s a beautiful place when Mimi smiles. She even solves problems for me and my hubby. Mimi doesn’t like the sound of an argument and immediately plants herself between my hubby and me, shouting, ” Guys!! Guys!!” . We are forced to stop our bickering and give her our complete attention and looking at her lovely face full of concern makes us laugh. That puts an end to any argument however insinuating it might have had the potential to be.

It is said that something that gives us unsurpassed joy, also becomes the source of immeasurable pain. My heart has been a witness to this innumerable times whenever Mimi was sick or when she had to be even vaccinated. It literally tears my soul apart to see her cry or in pain. All I wish during that time is for all that hurt and tears to come to me and that life’s trials should spare my child.  I realize that in life she would have to weather many storms to see a clear day but for that moment, I would like to weather all those stormy nights for her.

I know she is looking out for me when she seeks me out in my pensive moods. She forces me to dance my blues away with her on the most ridiculous songs playing on the local radio channel. Another wonderful thing we do together is to sing songs aloud like there’s no one around and we watch our favourite animation movies together. That is her way of saying, don’t think too much, just enjoy and be with the moment.

As it is pretty evident, Mimi is my muse, my inspiration, my strength and my weakness, all the same. As the movie reel in my head keeps doing a clickity – click, I still see only Mimi doing what she does, playing, running, jumping around, hugging, painting, going to school, demanding an unfair share of ice cream and spitting out her greens. I am so looking forward to this beautiful journey with you, Mimi. This post only captures a fraction of what I truly feel for you. But whatever little, someday, in the future, when you read this, you would know how much I love you.”

Birthdays so far & a Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

 

July is a month of birthdays on my calender. I love planning for birthdays, cakes, parties- that sorta thing. It was my hubby’s birthday middle of July and it was the first time in 8 years that we weren’t together to celebrate his birthday. He was travelling for work and we ( Mimi and I ) missed him on his birthday. But the the clock struck 12, Mimi sang “Happy Birthday’ to her Papa, making him all teary-eyed over the phone. It was a beautiful moment for all of us. It was decided that we would wait for him to come back to us over the weekend and we would celebrate his birthday with some good old-fashioned chocolate cake and lots of chocolate frosting.

This was a trigger good enough to take me down the memory lane –

2oo5, the year he got angry – I met him at the Alumini Party in June and we started dating soon after. His birthday in July was eagerly anticipated and we cut a cake the day before and he hinted that he would wait for my call at 12 am. I was the early-to-bed, early-to-rise kind of person and I slept without wishing him. He was upset and he called me, reminding me that I forgot to wish him. I thought that was terribly cute. But he still holds it against me everytime we discuss his birthday.

2006, the year I got angry – Married and nearly settling into our new life, his birthday was my chance to make amends for the previous one. I co-ordinated with friends and decided to throw him a surprise birthday party. I called for his favourite food from his favourite restaurant, decorated the place, invited friends, and made sure he didn’t have an inkling about what was going on. It was  a working day and we went to our respective offices after deciding on some vague dinner plans outside for his birthday. Come evening and I eagerly awaited his return along with some 15 odd friends, at home. He got extraordinarily late owing to the bad traffic. I kept panicking and kept calling him every 2 minutes asking him where he had reached. In one of those calls, he realized and asked me if I had planned a surprise birthday party for him. I was completely shattered that he could guess it so easily. He could have atleast pretended to be surprised. I got upset and felt cheated for all my efforts. But we did have a good party and great memories too from that birthday.

2007, when we wanted to be all by ourselves –  Like they say, today’s tragedy is tomorrow’s comedy. For this birthday, we went to a Japanese restaurant and laughed at the previous years’ mishaps and arguments sipping on sake and munching on some delectable prawn tempura. It was quiet. It was memorable. It was about us.

2008, when he was set to travel long term for work – This was a birthday with lot of mixed feelings. He was all set to travel to the US for 8 long months. A week from his birthday, he was to board his flight to Seattle. We had to drink our blues away so we went to our favourite pub in town with a few friends and laughed the evening away. But somewhere in the corner of our hearts, that birthday still serves as a reminder of having spent the longest time away from each other.

2009, when I truly surprised him at work –  I was 6 months pregnant that year and we celebrated his birthday in the UK. I ordered for a birthday cake, chocolates and flowers to be delivered at his work place. He called me from office expressing how much he liked the surprise and how it made his day. It was a good, good day, where all three (well, almost 3 ) of us had a good time together, cutting that cake and gorging on the hand made chocolates

2010, when I baked him his first cake I was excited because this was my first time baking and to be doubly certain, I bought the Betty Crocker Cake mix. It was the easiest thing to do, but I still messed it up. I burnt the cake at the bottom. I was very, very disappointed. To salvage my efforts, I slathered the burnt mass with some ready to eat Nestle’s Strawberry cream or something like that. Mimi who was all of 10 months licked the (so-called) frosting off the cake and made a face at the burnt cake. But he was happy to blow candles off it, cut a piece and savour it like it was the best thing he had ever tasted in his life.

The burnt chocolate cake with some silly frosting

2011, when I messed up his cake again – I had a year of baking experience behind me when I embarked on making a black and white torte for his birthday. I was confident about getting it right. It didn’t seem that complicated when I read the recipe. We had some friends for dinner – an informal party of sorts. The torte was a disaster. But again he was a good sport about it, appreciated my efforts and enjoyed his slice. Sigh!

2012, when I finally got the birthday cake right against all odds – With friends expected in the evening and much, much cooking to do, the best chocolate cake ever wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. I struggled with baking it due to lack of time and finally felt that I won’t be able to go ahead with the frosting at all. But with some help, I managed to assemble this gorgeous, satiny cake together. It was well received and polished off.

I got the recipe off one of my favourite blogs all time which needs no introduction at all – My baking addiction. Jaime’s best chocolate cake has become my best chocolate cake recipe that I am going to make again and again. The recipe is a keeper. The intense chocolate and coffee flavours are sprightly without being overwhelmingly so. The colour is to die for. If I were to define pure, chocolate indulgence, then this cake does it for me. I would highly recommend this recipe and if you have been looking for the perfect chocolate cake recipe then your search ends here. The chocolate butter cream frosting makes the cake more memorable and festive. The recipe for the chocolate butter cream frosting is  here.

all photos courtesy – Namit Bhatia

This birthday was as memorable as all others. Growing older becomes bearable with some chocolate cake, I believe and I know that my hubby would agree too!