Today, 5 years back, I started my blog with no specific objective. I didn’t know I could write. I didn’t know that written words would actually help me express better than spoken ones. Today, I understand, how much succour writing has provided me and the innumerable opportunities it has given me. Truth be said, writing and blogging have opened my mind’s eye and when I write, I see, what I saw much better and clearer, though back-dated. Reflection through writing is meditative and therapeutic at times.
I owe a lot of my happy moments to my blog – Slice of my lyfe
One such happy moment is today when it completes its 5th year.
I hope to keep writing and keep wondering.
Before I forget, let me announce the winner of my giveaway #4
Mayuri Vivek Guralwar
Congrats Mayuri! You win yourself Rachel Khoo’s – My little Paris Kitchen. I hope you enjoy this book as I have.
It was a wonderful 4 weeks, celebrating my blog anniversary and making a big deal about it. And why not! Both my blog and I deserve it. Thank you to all the readers of my blog who participated in the giveaway. There will be more giveaways in the future so don’t be too disappointed.
Bahrain celebrated its 42nd National Day on the 16th of December. The entire island country is painted in the colours of red and white – the colours of the National flag. At night, it is a spectacular display of red and white lights which illuminate every road and building and turn it into something like a set from a Baz Luhrmann movie. However busy our lives might be, it is difficult not to get caught into the whole festive spirit of the nation. We enjoyed our long awaited 2 day off (16th and 17th December) from work and packed it with exciting things to do. Most of the restaurants were running discount in the honour of the National Day and the Accession Day (17th of December). Most of the malls were jam packed with people shopping and dining. There were bands playing and entertaining the crowds too.
We managed to savour some authentic Bahraini breakfast at the Saffron in Muharraq. They have a set menu that they never change and despite that they are ever so popular. The breakfast is an extended affair so be prepared to be served courses after courses of wonderfully unique breakfast savories and sweets and breads. All this washed down with cups and cups of hot, karak tea.
On the personal accomplishment front, I managed to tick off two items from my culinary bucket list for the year during the mid – week holiday. One of them was baking my favourite dessert – The Baklava and the other was learning how to pipe. The piping post will follow soon.
Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo sheets, separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts are also sometimes used is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. So you have alternate layers of phyllo sheets and chopped nuts. Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelogram, triangles, or rectangles.
A syrup, which may include sugar, honey or rose scented or orange scented syrup is poured over the baked baklava and allowed to soak in for many hours. Baklava is usually served at room temperature, often garnished with ground nuts. I attempted the Turkish baklava which is traditionally made by filling pistachios, walnuts and almonds between the layers of phyllo dough soaked in cold orange-lemon sugar-honey syrup.
I was less than satisfied with my attempt and wouldn’t mark it as a roaring success. After baking and post soaking the phyllo+nuts filling with the citrus scented syrup, the phyllo layers were quite flaky and not soft from the syrup. But from a taste perspective, it was beyond delicious. After much contemplation and reflection I realized my folly. I finished the ritual of laying down sheets of phyllo and buttered them with melted butter and then a layer of nuts on top and let it rest for more than 2 hours before putting it in the oven to bake. The butter sheets hardened and after became quite crisp. So if you attempt this recipe which is seriously amazing – DO NOT LET THE BAKLAVA REST FOR MORE THAN 15 mins and immediately put it in the oven to bake!!!
Despite that technical hitch, I shall confidently cross of the Baklava off my Culinary Bucket list and move forward to attempt the next one.
Here I share some random pictures from in and around my visits to different places in Bahrain and the interesting things that caught my eye.
An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.
It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.
The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task. But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.
The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.
It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:
1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc
2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo
3) Pumpkin rissotto
4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon
The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.
The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.
All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.
And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.
I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.
These days I am obsessed about my culinary bucket-list and am focusing on getting them done before the year ends. I finished with the Pavlova and the bbq, done with the oysters too. Then I thought since its festival time, why not attempt jalebis and see how I fare. I googled plenty of recipes – with yeast and without yeast. Finally I settled for a recipe on Showmethecurry site. If you haven’t seen this site before, you should definitely see what a treasure cove of video-recipes it is.
Jalebi is “made by deep frying maida (all purpose flour) batter in pretzel or circular shapes, which are then soaked in sugar syrup”
A good jalebi depends on:
1. The consistency of the batter
2. The temperature at which it is deep fried
3. The sugar syrup’s richness and flavour ( cardamom /saffron)
I read about all the dos and the don’ts before attempting the recipe to be very sure about getting it right the first time. The only investment I made was in on an empty squeezy bottle ( the ones that you would use for filling up ketchup and mayo)
Just before I get on with the recipe and other formalities, I would love to wish each one of you a beautiful Deepawali. I hope this Deepawali ushers in light, joy, prosperity and luck to all your lives. Usually during Deepawali we are in Delhi where we celebrate it with my in laws and extended family. It is a wonderful time to have family get togethers, dinners, shopping, gifts and food. Delhi is a land of wonderful food and once you get a flavour of Delhi food, its difficult to love food anywhere else ( Ahmedabad comes a close second). This year we aren’t travelling to Delhi and we will miss the crackers, the sweets and all the family gatherings. Mimi will miss being with her cousins and bursting crackers.
But munching on this juicy, crunchy jalebis provides succor to our Delhi-Deepawali-deprived souls.
The only hitch I thought was that the sugar syrup wasn’t enough. Otherwise the recipe is top notch.
How infinitely true is it when you think about friendships and realize that the friends you have had in school were the best sort. They all come with no conditions apply policy. And as you grow older through college and then work, all the friendship become more conditional. As children in school we have no expectations when we get into a friendship. Wish I could say the same about all the friendships through the rest of the course of my life.
Ofcourse, there are exceptions to this all the time. I have a fair share of such unconditional friendships even now. Touchwood.
Well this is a special Eid post inspired purely because one of closest school friends happened to share an awesome Shir Korma (vermicelli milk pudding) recipe with me.
Nafisa and I go a long way from school to now being whatsapp buddies. The thing with her is that there is never any awkwardness even if there were long periods of being out of touch. As a matter of fact, we were 5 friends, – Sunita, Nafisa, Kavita, Poorna and me. Whenever I think of one, memories of all the others come on automatically. There was never anything that we did not do together. Sunita was the prankster, Nafisa the level headed one, Kavita was everybody’s agony aunt, Poorna was quirky and funny while I was the nerd. We made such a fantastic team together and never tired of having fun all the time.
Nafisa and I also played basketball together for many years. That is where we got extremely close. We could discuss anything and everything under the sun – teenage crushes, gossip, everything.
We parted ways after school and during college we couldn’t keep in touch as much as we would have loved to. Life took over and then here we are living our busy lives with our babies and husbands. She is a proud mother of a 2-year-old (nearly) beautiful Naisha. Thank God for technology and here we are chatting up on whatsapp whenever time permits; discussing motherhood woes and joys.
Eid was a special time while growing up with Nafisa. I remember Nafisa and her sisters wearing splendid shararas / ghararas and looking so beautiful. They invited us to their homes where we were served delicious Shir Korma and other delicacies.
Nafisa’s mother is such an excellent cook and so is Nafisa. So during one of our whatsapp rants I asked her to share her Shir Korma recipe. Shir Korma is a milk based pudding with vermicelli, nuts and raisins. This is usually made during Eid celebrations. I have tried to replicate it with the best of my efforts just to capture the essence of the Eid celebrations with Nafisa’s family 20-25 years back. Nafisa is sad that she wouldn’t able to spend this Eid with her mother due to some special circumstances. Perhaps this post will rehash all her Eid memories and make her spirit a little lighter.
Thanks so much Nafisa for this wonderful recipe and taking me back in time.
Nafisa, here’s wishing you and your beautiful family all the happiness and prosperity on this Eid.