Wednesday, December 17, 2014

We tasted apples. To little changes.

What do you get when you put sixteen little children, red juicy apples, a couple of really really funny songs and a story in a room?

Giggles, grins, sparkling eyes that go wide, crunching and munching,millions of questions, amusing tales and a lot of fun.

This and more was exactly what I took back home with me from the Apple Workshop that I put together for the little ones as part of my Food Revolution Diaries (The workshop was for the children between the ages of 3-7 and was free for everyone who wanted to attend).

Last Wednesday a couple of us gathered for a story telling session.

That evening began like a lot of stories do; once upon a time. Only this time the protagonist was a tiny apple seed and it was R-E-A-L-LY long time ago. It was the story of the first apple seed on the earth.

As the evening progressed the rain fairies and the sun fairies also visited us so that the apple seed could grow into a beautiful and big apple tree with red, round and mouth-watering apples. The children sat on the floor cross legged, all eyes on me, eyes that clearly had many questions and eyes that grew wide each time the apple seed grew.

A tiny worm also wiggled out to help. It made the earth soft for the seed to break free. But the apple seed was still asleep.

Then two chirpy birds came and whispered “wakey wakey” into the apple seed’s ear and the apple seed kind of heard them. She rubbed her eyes, opened one eye just a tiny bit and then the other, stretched her arms and whoosh got out of “bed”. The children smiled and laughed for that is how “we get up each morning when mum/dad wakes us up to get ready for school”.

The apple seed began to grow from a seed to young sapling to a tree full of blossoms. Just like my engrossed audience had become “big and tall from the babies we were some years back”. The storm fairy came to test the young tree’s strength just like sometimes “we fall in the park and mum tells us to be strong and brush off all that dirt” they told me.

In between all this a woodland fairy dropped by, some stars were wished for, those wishes were granted, the little scientists carried out some truly serious apple research, they sang and danced with apples on their heads and then on their ears and a little later the apples were on their noses, the junior food critics tasted two different types of apples and rated them on taste, texture, yumminess quotient, scribbling, coloring and with that the workshop came to an end.

Honestly speaking I wasn't sure if that day when we walked out had we just had fun (which isn't bad either:)) or had the session made any little difference and opened their minds and palates to eating more apples. It was only later when the parents began to message me I was smiling.

One was surprised because her child had never eaten a whole apple. She usually makes a face after eating a few wedges I was told, one mentioned mine her child had never tasted green apples and she was happy about it. Another one was amused that with friends around the child had eaten the apple with the peel where as at home he always requested her to remove it.

Some of them wanted to do this tasting exercise with more varieties of apples for scoring it made them feel important and a lot of them are waiting eagerly for the next workshop I hear. One even tried the apple recipe I shared that day. I haven’t stopped grinning ever since. They explained the lifecycle of “our” apple seed to their parents. Grin just became wider.

Children are so receptive to new foods they have never tasted or food they have previously rejected in another form when you make it enjoyable and with peers isn't it?  They all had an apple experience to tell me and each other. “My mum makes applesauce and I like that”, “mine gives me apples but they turn brown at school and I like only white wedges (with the experiment they now knew what causes browning and how to stop that :) YAY!), “I going to check for bruises on apples when I go shopping with my mum” and so much more.

My little chefling wanted to give the opening speech at the workshop! “You are my mum and are conducting this workshop which means I am the hostess too”, she said and wrote out the cutest opening words ever!

I asked her later that evening about the most memorable part of the workshop. It wasn't anything to do with the workshop if that’s what you are thinking. She bit into an apple that evening and a tooth that had been tickling her nearly came off! That was the biggest thing for her that evening! The tooth fairy will be visiting me soon and I am very very excited (a first for her!)

Later that evening she asked me if we could taste strawberries at the next workshop (If you'd like to see more snaps from that day the complete album is available here).

The workshop was made possible with the help from a lot of people who came forward because they wanted to be a part of creating Food Revolution here at Dubai.

The lovely ladies, Cecilia and Anette from DinnerTime were really kind and got the children the apples from the Greenheart Organic Farms. Tina, the lady behind Splash n Bounce generously offered the space to conduct the workshop. Big thank you ladies for being a part of my Food Revolution Diary and for getting our little ones to eat fresh and eat real.

This for me would be my Food Revolution moment of the year. I joined the wonderful and very encouraging team of Food Ambassadors very recently (two months old here so technically not the moment of the year type of a moment but hey it is the drop that counts!) and I am so happy that we enjoyed our apple story and biting into apples. Post the workshop even if a handful of kids out of the group of sixteen who came that day end up including apples in their diet and in turn convince their friends to try a bite from theirs I think we may have a little proud moment here.

There is a beautiful post by a fellow Ambassador Mardi Michels here and when I read it I found myself nodding in agreement. It is also about those little changes.

2015 is almost here and it is going to be my goal to connect with more and more children this year through cooking, telling stories, getting parents and kids to be in the kitchen together, writing and more.

Then there is the big day on the 15th of May that I can’t wait for and together we will bring about a Food Revolution at Dubai.

To the little changes. To the big ones. To healthy eating. To real food.

 Images:  If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission. Just ask! I have taken the liberty to share the snaps of the children who attended the workshop that day, should any parent want me to remove their child's picture please let me know and I will do it immediately.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Chocolate Fondue and Christmas.

'Tis The Season to Be Jolly and that means my little chefling will have her friends over for an evening of fondue and Christmas card making. There will be Christmas carols in the background, sparkling fairy lights, the Christmas tree standing tall and proud with ornaments both store bought and handmade, warmth of the vanilla candles, cider simmering on the stove and big smiles and fuzzy hearts.

She and her tiny friends will together “make” the fondue and then share it. Fondue is such a communal way to eat. The children will eat from a common bowl of chocolate, picking their favourite things to dip but taking care that they leave enough of everything for their friends. They will learn  that they need to be fair and equal and will go back home with the kind of happiness that only sharing can give them.

Plus the abundance of lots of tiny platters make it just the Christmassy thing to do.

Chocolate Fondue

For the sauce:
100 grams of dark chocolate broken into pieces
100 ml thick cream
50 ml milk
For dipping & coating use whatever you have on hand. Here are some ideas:
  • Fruits of your choice: apples, grapes, pears, bananas, strawberries, raspberries, etc
  • Sprinkles
  • Chocolate curls
  • Pretzels
  • Marshmallows
  • Dessicated Coconut
  • Edible glitter
  1. In a double boiler or heat-safe bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt chocolate with cream and milk stirring, until smooth. Transfer to a fondue pot and light a candle (If your children are old enough this task too can be given to them, under your supervision). Teach them if it gets too runny, simply put more chocolate.
  2. Depending on the age of the kids ask them to help you peel the banana, wash the rest of the fruits, separate the grapes from the stem.
  3. Give them a child friendly knife and ask them to slice the bananas, chop/slice the apples and the pears and cut off the strawberry tops
  4. Next ask them to fill all the little plates/bowls with the rest of the fondue accompaniments.
  5. Pick up the skewers and dunk everything into the warm chocolate and enjoy. 
  6. Little children with chocolate all over their faces and sticky fingers come free with this recipe.
Add some zing to the sauce by adding a splash of vanilla, a bit of orange juice, grated lemon /orange zest or mint extract.

Do you have more ideas on things that would be fun to dip?

Merry Christmas everyone.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share that a couple of us have gotten together for a Christmas Festival of sorts on our blogs. One post a day to inspire you to make Christmas cards, decorations, read Christmas  books, try out Christmas  recipes and make Christmas goodies with your little ones (Yes, that would be me:))

Hope to see you guys drop by everyone's blogs and share the love.

Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission. Just ask!

Come join a set of fabulous bloggers sharing their Christmas moments - Easy Holiday Crafts, DIY ideas, Recipes , Decor ideas and book recommendations with you .

Starting from today till Christmas and beyond, each one of us will be writing a post related to Christmas.
Participating blogs
ArtsyCraftsyMom - munniofalltrades - hfareensspace - roohiscollections - hellomommyhood - attachedmoms - totschooltotallyawesome - Themomviews - -
rugsoflife - oneandahalfminutes - shishuworld - ruskandtea - aspoonfullofideas - orangekitchens - obsessivemom - rachnaparmar - parentingmantras -
onboardthemommyship - kwikdekoblog - thekeybunch - momzspace - whatscookingmom - coloursdekor - happypeopleevents - fantastic-feathers - beingzoesmom

So sit back, relax and check out all the fabulous Christmas Bonanza posts from our participating blogs in the linky. Support us by sharing our posts using the hash tag #ChristmasBonanza

This Linky is for participating blogs only, but We would love to see your Christmas Crafts too. Come and link up your Christmas post at

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kids in the Kitchen : The Artsy Craftsy Mom.

I am so happy to have Shruti as our first guest for a new series on the blog, Kids in the Kitchen. 

You must have gotten bored of hearing the following lines (and for the nth time) on why I think it is important for us to lead our kids to our kitchens because that is how we can give them the opportunity to know and love food. 

Through Kids in the Kitchen series I'd like all us to meet parents and children who bond, have fun and make life long memories in the kitchen.

Meet Shruti and her daughter Lil P. 

She is the heart and the mind behind the very popular blog, The ArtsyCraftsy Mom. She is the kind of mum who goes crazy in a craft shop and is super creative both at home & at work. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, and has 11+ years of experience in the corporate world as a Quality Lead & Analyst. She is a certified PMP and love organizing & estimations.

Please tell us a little about you Lil P?
Lil P  is the centre of our existence. Our darling princess. She is a girly girl…loves pink, fairies, princesses, play acting, memory games & Barbie movies.. She loves bear hugs and is constantly giving us kisses (sic). She an active 8 year old who is mighty inspired by Master Chef Kids. 

Does Lil P “cook” with you? How do you involve her  in the kitchen/during meal times/ grocery shopping?
I am lucky to have a cook at home who comes in during weekdays to help me out. I love cooking for my family over the weekends and naturally Lil P has to get involved. She is my little helper at home. She helps set & clear the table, wash vegetables, cut fruits & make salads. 

We bought her an induction stove and she loves to "cook" on that. She makes garlic bread, pizza, dosa and other simple stuff under our supervision. She also knows how to use the cooker & makes a mean coffee. 

How do you think her getting involved in the kitchen has brought about a change in her food habits?

Being a working mom I rarely get to spend a whole day chatting with her, so on weekends I make it a point to have her involved in a lot of kitchen activities. We discuss her tiffin menu for the next week since we follow a weekly menu plan. Getting her involved in menu planning has helped me immensely. Earlier we would both get frustrated with food; me with her not finishing her food and she was getting upset at not getting enough choices. With a weekly menu, she knows the "healthy" choices and we throw in a few "junk" items.

For example our Monday menu looks like this:
Early morning at 7.30 a.m.: Fresh fruits (she is allergic to milk)
Breakfast at 9 a.m.: Two stuffed mini dosa + nuts
Lunch at 1 p.m.: Two mini palak paneer paranthas + cucumber + cheese
Bus snacks at 4.30 p.m.: Junk, finger foods like a chocolate cupcake or biscuits
Dinner at 7.30 p.m.:  Rice + sambar + veg salad + curd
Post Diner at 9 p.m.: Fruits. As a rule we don't give her any artificial sugary stuff after 7.30 p.m. 

Friday is a fast food day and she gets to plan the menu. It could be anything; mini burger, pizza or noodles. Letting her have a choice in menu planning helps to get her interested in trying healthy foods she might normally turn her nose up at. I also see a greater appreciation towards how & where we get our food from, making healthy choices and the effort it takes to cook. 

How do you deal with mess/chaos that comes with her being in the kitchen? More importantly how do you maintain your sanity?

I think the turning point in my life was once I kept a cook. Earlier, I would get really stressed about the daily chaos that comes with getting dabbas (tiffin boxes) ready, getting ready for work & getting her ready for school. When my daughter wanted to help me I couldn't really find the energy or the enthusiasm to get her involved. But that's just me. For my mom, cooking for family was a way to de-stress, for me, it’s the opposite. I enjoy cooking only on special occasions & weekends at my leisure. Also what helps keep the chaos under control is to plan well & plan ahead and always laying some basic ground rules. 
1. Safety comes first. There will be no compromise on that. 
2. If there is mess, everyone helps clean the mess no matter who created it. 

Is there any recipe that Lil P would like to share?

Get the recipe here.

Thanks Shruti & Lil P for visiting Orange Kitchens.

Did you enjoy getting to know Shruti and Lil P? I'd love to hear.

Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission.Just ask!  The two pictures in this post are from Shruti.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Farmers' Market and what it gives our children.

As parents we are forever planning, creating, teaching and doing things for our children. Some fall into our comfort zone and some require big sacrifices that we happily make. Today I am going to ask you do one more thing for your little ones. 

All it requires of you is to get up from bed, pick up your bags and walk/drive down to a farmers' market with your children. We need to do this for them for simply by taking them down there we are giving them much more than you can imagine. 

Take your children to the farmers' market and give them the following:
  1. Give them an opportunity to meet real food and see what it really looks like: Real apples and brinjals don’t always have to be shiny and sparkly (not everything shiny is magical :) yes my little chefling that one is for you, beware they have been wax and oil coated), real okra doesn't have to deep green (they have been dipped in copper sulphate), real water melon isn't necessarily a ruby red ( it could have been injected with gulal ), real mangoes, bananas and chickoos do not carry within them calcium carbide (that the fruits have been exposed to hasten the process of ripening). If they don’t see real food they won’t know it from all the fluff and the shine in the stores.
  2. Give them a chance to understand & appreciate the concept of seasonality: Growing up I would relish mangoes with their juice dripping all over my bare arms in summers and squeeze the juice from the orange peels into my sister’s eyes (sorry mom) in winters. We ate according to the season. Things are different now. Especially here in Dubai when most of the produce is imported and strawberries are available throughout the year. When our children begin to visit the market often they will being to notice that some fruits and vegetables that are available throughout the year in a supermarket are not available and we as parents and the local farmers can help them understand this better.
  3. Give them a world to make relations:  My dad knows his barber. They are friends. He knows exactly what my dad wants to be done to his hair. Dad knows his car mechanic too. My dad, the mechanic and the car know each other well. Doctor too. Butcher, milkman, vegetable seller too. Our kids today have wings. They are not going to be living at one place for long. But what we can gift them is the gift to know the farmer who grows their food for whatever little time they are in a particular city. Isn’t it so much better than the walking down the aisle of a store the size of football stadium and picking up the vegetables in your list. Give them faces to remember not aisles.
  4. Give them a chance to say hello to new foods: Never seen a turnip or some kale. Shall we pick this since we’ve never tried it before? Ask your child. Involve the farmer selling it for he/she may have a good recipe in the family. They grow it after all. The kids will be more willing to try something new if their new friend, the farmer tells them to. But don’t get upset if they don’t like it after the first bite. Be prepared for that. At least they tried. May be the next time with a new recipe they will like it better or revisit that fruit/vegetable after a few weeks.
  5. Give them the knowledge that food doesn't come with hundred ingredients: I saw an interesting video the other day. The voice over was something like this: “Food is stuff that grew in the ground, swam, it was planted, nourished, had a hand to it. Food isn't something with a hundred ingredients”. The farmers' market is also a place where they will meet bakers, cooks, food artisans who are not willing to compromise on the quality of food. Show them that the baker at the market is using only flour, eggs, nuts and butter. There aren't a hundred chemicals, preservatives and additives in her list of ingredients. The juice has ONLY fruit. Ask them to compare that with what is written on a juice tetrapak. They will remember this lesson for life and thank you years later.
  6. Give them values of community support and pride: Going to the farmers' market will instill in them values of supporting local groups who work so hard to get a healthy meal on to their tables. They are honest, sincere and hardworking people and need a platform to sell what they create. The bigger stores are too big for the smaller quantities they may be producing and this is where we can help them. We get real food. They get work. Plus there is this sense of pride that comes with eating what your country/city is producing.
  7. Give them a chance to suggest what they’d like cook what you've chosen together: Let them choose some veggies and fruits and discuss what you want to make with it. You will be amazed at some of the ideas your kids will have. May be they heard that from a new friend they made at the market or they saw it in one of your recipe books. May be grandma told them about it the last time they visited her. Or it could be their good friend, the farmer.
  8. Give them a chance to experience outdoors: A lot of our kids are busy with school and activities during the week, during the weekends there are errands to run or a movie to watch or a dinner to go to (most within a mall), interests to be pursued (indoors or if outdoors within a controlled environment) intercepted by a rare picnic or a visit to the beach. Too few and far in between. By taking our kids to the farmers' market each weekend we are gifting them the chance to run around in the garden come Friday. They will feel the grass under their bare feet, smell the fresh produce, see saplings being exchanged, bite into a juicy red tomato and hear the stories behind the produce. It is a picnic for all of their senses.  
  9. From farm to table is a lot of work: I keep telling everyone that showing our kids the way to the kitchen means that they get a chance to see how we prepare a meal (it is okay even if they don’t want to help). They see the amount of work that goes getting their dinner ready and begin to appreciate the value of a home cooked meal. There will be days when they don’t like what you put on the table but may agree to try it out because they saw how much time & skill it took to cook it. The same holds true for the farmer’s market. Taking them to the market where they will get a chance to understand the life cycle of the vegetables/fruits and how hard the farmer worked to get it from his farm to our table will make them think twice before leaving a half eaten apple or throwing overripe bananas into the bin. They will ask you to make banana bread instead.
  10. Give them a place to gather and grow: The market is so much more than sellers and buyers coming together. It is a place where will gather with our families, exchange a smile with a familiar face, wink at the farmer who knows he needs to save that last bunch of greens for us for he is our friend first (others will give dirty looks, just give them your biggest smile and ignore), meet people with similar food interests, make new friends, share a muffin or two over a picnic mat and more. This kind of learning is what our kids deserve. Allow them to learn, gather and grow.
If I have managed to convince you to go to the Farmers' market even once then I am sure you will want to know where in Dubai that is possible.

There are now more than one markets at Dubai but the one that I would highly recommend is The Farmers' market at the Terrace by Baker and Spice for the simple reason that they are the only ones who are really connecting the farmers to our tables. There are no middlemen involved so you get local organic and good quality produce at the lowest prices.

The first ever Farmers’ Market  on the Terrace was founded and organized by Baker & Spice in April 2010 at Souk Al Bahar. They identified local and organic farms to supply ingredients to their kitchen and soon after wanted to share it with the community and that is how Yael Mejia the heart and the mind behind it brought it to all of us. Come November the market is open each Friday (till May).

I was invited for a gathering over breakfast last Friday when the market returned for its sixth reason.  Over a gorgeous spread of ka’aks with sesame seeds , labneh made with leftover coffee milk, clementine and fresh ginger syrup, homemade pomegranate syrup, muesli with fruits, English muffins with three different combinations of  chicken, lamb and wilted spinach all topped with a fried egg, Russian tea breads, mince pies and more together we welcomed the farmers for this season.

I also had the pleasure of meeting UAE’s first woman farmer, Shaikha of Organic Oasis, Anastasia who produces olive oil on her family grove on an island, called Samothrace and hear the lovely and enterprising Yael Mejia talk.

I have always been the type of child who always paid attention to what the teacher told me(read:boring) so when Yael both demanded and scolded all of us for not helping her enough in spreading the good word and increase awareness the good child will do exactly what the teacher told her to.

People get out of your bed, the weather is beautiful, pick up your bags, pick up those naughty kids too and come down to the farmers' market. I demand. There is a gorgeous, green world waiting for you.

The market is open from 8 a.m to 1 p.m each Friday at the Jumeirah Emirates Towers’ Ballroom Garden. See you every Friday.

Like Yael said, lets gather and grow together.

Read more about the farmers' market : Here is what Carla at Memoirs of a taste bud, Debbie at Coffee, cakes and running, Dima at DimaSharif, Francesca at Kitchen in the sand, Ishita at Ishitaunblogged and Sally at My Custard Pie had to say about it.

Disclaimer: I was a guest at the opening but all the views and why I think our kids should eat real are my own.

Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission.Just ask!  Also this calendar is only for personal use.

Monday, December 1, 2014

25 days of Christmas. Advent Calendar.

It is the first of December people! It is time to put up the Christmas tree and fix those fairy lights. What are you going to be doing today and the days that lead up to Christmas?

Sara and I have our plan ready for today and the next 24 days. We'd love you to join us by downloading this advent calendar (right click, save and cut). You can mix and match the dates and the activities according to your schedule and convenience.

So who is joining us?

Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission.Just ask!  Also this calendar is only for personal use.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Food Revolution Ambassador Monthly Challenge: November 2014

Hello lovely people. It is that time of the month when I get to share the monthly challenges that we as Food Revolution Ambassadors aspire to do. 

October Challenges. Check. 
November Challenges. Check. 
Double whoa.

(I had so much fun attempting the October challenges, read my experiences here and jump right here to read how my tryst with making pasta from scratch made the entire world conspire in helping me mastering fresh pasta

If you are new here: At the beginning of each month the challenges are announced. These challenges are for inspiring the entire team and to make deeper connections with everyone (fellow food ambassadors, friends and family, anyone who wants to be a part of this challenge too), share our stories , whether we failed or conquered and more. The idea is to complete as many challenges as one can.

Challenge One: Slow Cooking! We live in a fast food world, but this month we’re asking you to slow things down, try out and share your slow cooked food recipes with us. 

I agree we are all pressed for time. There are household responsibilities that we can't look away from, children who we want to do everything for, work where we need to show up each morning, interests and passions that I think everyone in life needs to develop for sanity and give meaning to our lives and more. In between all this we need to feed our tummies. Feeding our souls isn't enough. So we begin to look for shortcuts in the kitchen and rightly so. Frozen peas, ready to roll out pastry, tomato purees all become our friends. They help us put a meal on table in under thirty minutes.

But sometimes it is nice to slow down things. Endlessly stirring that pot of risotto with music in the background is my favourite thing to do when the mind needs some calm. Have you tried it? Getting the oven ready to dry tomatoes that will be used across meals is another. The oven does the work here, slowly; while we get to enjoy the results.

The pleasant weather here at Dubai called for a slow cooked lamb and date tagine. I cooked it in pomegranate juice with mejdool dates for company. It was slowcooked and after three hours of being on low heat it was exactly what I had imagined; rich, sweet and sour. Tender too. We had it with spiced couscous sprinkled with generous quantities of dried barberries and an onion and pomegranate relish.

Challenge Two: N is for November, and nectarines, and nutmeg… we want to see your recipes for dishes beginning with the letter N or using ingredients with the letter N. 

A for Apple, B for Ball, C for Cat and D for Dog. This challenge for it took me back to my kindergarten class. Wasn't singing the alphabet a lot of fun? Only this time it was double the fun for it we were singing food. Sara and I often play this game at home and in the past I have had the kids loving this exercise in some of my food workshops when asked to name fruits and vegetables for each alphabet. So I decided to play this challenge with Sara.  N was a tough one for. She stopped at Nectarine. That is when I gave her a hint. Who do you like watching on TV, I asked. She rattled all the names that came to her mind. Siba, George and Gary, Ina, Jamie. Aannd I asked? N for! Nigella mamma. Nigella she screamed. I showed her the ingredient that matched the name. She was quite amused. How can she share her name with some seeds? :) May be one day we will come across seeds that are called Sara I laughed.

N is for Nigella Seeds: With Christmas around the corner I tested a batch of tomato and raisin chutney tempered with "Nigella Seeds". I also added ginger and red chilli powder for that little kick. I love giving edible gifts to all our loved ones on festivals and I am hoping this little jar of red garnet chutney dotted with black nigella seeds will make everyone around me happy. Trust me no store bought gift can ever match up to handmade love.

Challenge Three: Share your holiday traditions. Holiday season is almost upon and we want to know what your holiday traditions are and what food makes it to the table for your family gatherings.

My favourite challenge for the month. Celebrations, company and the customs. There is something so magical about the festival season. Be it Diwali, Holi, Thanksgiving or Christmas...I heart them all. Observing family traditions some that my parents made and we love to observe and some that we are creating for my little chefling each year.

Each festival comes with its own customs and rituals but certain tradition remains constant; making edible presents for loved ones, filling up our home with candles & flowers, setting up the "welcome table", making sure there is abundant home cooked food for everyone and that essential element; the spirit of sharing that for me translates into going overboard when it comes to dips, mezze, platters and fondues. That and more.

But what I love most about the festivities is seeing the happiness shining on my little girl's face, yet somehow reliving my own childhood memories.

Thank you lovely readers. For being there and motivating me to show up here; each time I a little voice in my head whispers hey is any one even reading this? For the kindest emails and messages you send me. For making Orange Kitchens a part of your lives. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. 

Eat real. Stay healthy.

Images: If you like any of the pictures on the blog and would like to use those please write to me. I put in hours of work behind each post and would love to share it with you but it would hurt me if  use those without my permission.Just ask! 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Gifts for food lovers: Cookbooks

My bookshelf is bursting with cookbooks (we are talking three digits) and though in an ideal world I would be using all of them in a real world very far away I often end up revisiting my old favourites.

When the year began I set some food goals for myself. One of them was:

"Use more cookbooks rather than using the same ones over and over again: I own several cookbooks. But you know what like a lot of you out there (please tell me you belong to this group) I end up using the same ones each time for they and I have made this little bond over the years. They are familiar and I trust them. They help me when life takes over and I have to get a meal on the table each night. But this year I am going to get to know my other “friends” a little better".

I would say I did okay on that front. This year I was determined to dive into more of my collection. Some I cooked from, some I opened for inspiration, some helped in my work and some made my bedtime happier. 

I am often asked which ones are my favourite, which ones would you recommend, which ones make thoughtful gifts and more. Last year I did attempt to share little notes on some of them on the Orange Kitchens Facebook page here and here but I realized only a handful  of crazy cookbook lovers and more importantly readers with immense patience were actually going to work their way through the mammoth album and reading each note. 

With Christmas just around the corner and 2015 almost here this post will give you a quick tour on books that have worked for me (it could be different for each one of us and some of you cookbook junkies please do give your opinions I'd appreciate that), those I think would make memorable gifts this Christmas and some that I think would be nice to include in your collection to expand your repertoire of recipes in 2015.

Some were and are my bibles and some I decided to have a casual fling with this year. Looking back I think we are in for a long lasting relationship now.

Without further ado.

Indian Cuisine.

50 great curries of India: I have lost count of the number of times I have cooked from this book. I have tried and tested almost all the recipes and each one is a keeper. My favourites have to be the dalcha (meat with lentils), kaali mirch cha mutton (lamb with herbs and black pepper), kori gashi (chicken in thick coconut gravy) and the annas curry (pineapple curry, really love this one!). The book gives you a taste of some of the finest recipes from India and a good book to have in your collection.

India Cookbook: Don't let the size of this book intimidate you. True to what is written on the cover if there is only one book that you can have in your kitchen library then this is the only one you'll ever need. Written by Pushpesh Pant, a noted Indian academic, food critic and historian India this book was named by The New York Times as one of the best cookbooks of the year and rightly so. It takes you through the length and the width of the country and makes you marvel how flavours changes every hundred miles in India.

Indian Cuisine (regional) 

Hajra's recipes of life, for life: This is not a book that you buy for pictures. You buy this one solely for the recipes. Cutchi Memon food straight from the heart. khatti dal gosht (Tangy lentils with mutton), kadhai keema (Open pan cooked mince), ande ki kari (Egg curry), kofte ke salan ( Spicy meatball curry), baghare baingan ( aubergines in a piquant sauce), aam ki khatti mithi chutney (sweet and sour mango chutney) and ofcourse the many many biryanis. If you love Muslim cooking then this is a must have. Also the book comes in the form of menus which is awesome because someone has already taken care of all the menu planning.

Kashmiri Cuisine: I got this one on a friend’s recommendation and find myself going back to it time and again. I recommend this book not only for the recipes but also the gorgeous pictures of Kashmir and its people. I especially love the section on chutneys and pickles. Muj Chetin Doud Dhar (Grated radish in yogurt), Doon Chetin ( walnut chutney) , Talith Muj Chetin ( Fried radish chutney) are often eaten as maincourse at our home

Calcutta Kitchen: The book is about Bengalis and their love for food and more. It carries many a stories and recipes from the heart of a Bengali kitchen but also talks about the Raj era, the Muslim culture and the Portuguese influence when it comes to food. A mesmerizing read from Simon Parkes. Kosho Mangsho, shorshe baata maach (fish with mustard and chillies), doi maach ( fish with yogurt), chingri maacher malai curry (shrimp and coconut curry), begun shorshe (eggplant with yogurt and mustard) and cholar dal (yellow split peas with coconut and raisins) appear very often on our dinner table.

The Suriani Kitchen: Latika starts with a great foreword on Syrian Christian Cuisine and takes you to her grandmother’s home and narrates magical family tales. Paddy fields, palm trees, ferrys, get the idea. I heart the black and white illustrations and her memories of family that are interwoven with the recipes. Avial (mixed vegetable curry), kaalen (Mango & yogurt curry), parippu (lentils with coconut milk), meen arapu roast (spiced fish roast), meen vevichathu (yesterday’s fish curry), meen molee are some that we have often at home.

French Cuisine

My Paris Kitchen: Recently added to my ever growing collection of books this one is lush beautiful. One that you read because over the years you've fallen in love with a man called David Lebovitz. His stories and his life in his tiny kitchen at Paris and how he celebrates his life, his friends and each day through food. The bread, the cheese, the wine and the chocolate. Fresh produce too. If you want to travel to Paris sitting in your room this book is what I would recommend. 

Mastering the art of french cooking: Want to study (Study with a capital S) French cuisine then get the two volumes. Very intimidating no doubt. I marvel at the amount of work and the years Julia Child put into making these two volumes happen. Read “Dearie” to know more about her life and that will make you appreciate each lesson even more. Wearing a string of pearls around your neck is highly recommended :)

Around my French Table: If it has Dorie’s name written on it then it really doesn't require any explanation. Does it? France has always intrigued me and Paris happens to be my favourite city in the world. I would give anything to live there. Years back when we went there I had a tough time coming back:) Dorie writes the book in such a beautiful and personal tone. It’s my ambition to cook my way through this one. The lovely photographs, the coffee table like look and Dorie’s to-die for recipes keep tempting me to come back to it. Oh! Butter!

Italian Cuisine

The Silver Spoon: Want to get acquainted with all the elements that come together to make a great Italian meal...the ingredients,the sauces, produce, et al then this massive book is a must have in your cookbook library. It is a classic. But not a book if you like stories behind each recipe. This is straightforward with directions and ingredients from all over Italy and really very easy to use.

Nigellissima: This isn't the book if you want authentic Italian Food. But if you love Italian food, simple and quick recipes and prefer to work around the ingredients you have on hand then this book is for you. Lets just say it is Italian with a British accent and it is for Nigella fans really. 

Recipes and dreams from an Italian Life: There is something so beautiful about Tessa Kiros...the way she talks, the way she cooks and the way she puts her books together. I had the pleasure of meeting her early this year and it made my love for her stronger. This book is the kind of heirloom you want to leave for your children, It is the kind of book I want to write for my girl. Family recipes, stunning pictures and that  Tessa stamp all over the book. 

Middle Eastern Cuisine

The new book of middle eastern food: It is my bible-my encyclopedia on Middle Eastern cuisine. Its an old classic printed originally in 1972 and has been called “the landmark in the field of cookery” by James Beard. The book has very simple and very healthy recipes from all the four regions; Iran, Arab cooking from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, Turkish cuisine and North African cooking ( Morocco). If you like to see pictures then this is not the one for you. It has over 800 recipes but only about 24 pictures. But if you like the idea of reading all about the middle eastern cuisine...the history of the food, classic cooking tales, eating habits, many many snippets from literature and more. I have cooked so much from the book that I am not sure which recipes I like the best. Having said that the salad section in my favourite.

The mezze cookbook: As a child I would often dream of hosting pretty tea parties complete with delicate china, doilies, sandwiches and teacakes. As I grew up I realized I disliked tea and coffee was made for me. But I still lived with the romantic idea of enjoying little bites with friends and families. Only they were not very British but middle eastern. If you love mezze, get this one. The hummus beiruty ( Beirut style chickpea dip) gets made by kilos at our home and so is the Mohamra (walnut dip). Gemista (stuffed vegetables) is another gem. Over 90 delicious appetizers from Greece, Lebanon and Turkey.

Asian Cuisine (excluding Indian)

Bill's everyday Asian: A big favourite once again. Whenever I don’t have any energy or the enthusiasm to cook I turn to this one. It instantly gets me all excited plus I like the fact that when it says Everyday Asian it really means recipes for everyday cooking. Almost all of the recipes ask for very little chopping, very few ingredients, cooking time is very little (well most cook on their own in the oven) and are very healthy.

Seoultown Kitchen: I adore kimchi. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and then again the next day. Crazy right? And when someone shows me how to make not one but several types and how to pair it with different foods then I love it! Classic napa baechu kimchi, daikon kimchi, cucumber kimchi, a kimchi aioli, kimchee broth, kimchi salsa...all yum!

Vietnamese Food: I like this one more for his journey than the recipes (the recipes are good too); from the corporate world and for taking that leap of faith and following his food dream. Resonates with me, each time I read it. If ingredients like crispy fried shallots, roasted peanuts, marinated chillies, fish sauce and lemon oil make you salivate then go and get this one now.


Baking: Dorie visits me kitchen again. Love love love the book. Not your night time reading book simply for the fact that this one will definitely require some muscle to lift. Blondies and brownies, cookies and cakes, pies and tarts...each needs to be tried at least once. They never ever fail to deliver. A must have if you love baking and she gives you so many variations of the same recipe (playing around) which is what I love about the book the most.

Chocolat: Love chocolate? Is it a BIG yes?  Then I can guarantee that you will appreciate this book. I added this to my library early this year and since then have baked my way through it and every little thing from this book has come out perfect. Now that is a sign of a good book. So much so when it is chocolate now I don't find myself going to other books at all. By the way that cake on the cover you see up there is going to be made in my kitchen this afternoon:) 

Booze Cakes: Is there a better than thing in life than booze plus cake? Really, I ask you? A match made in heaven. Classic cakes like the honey spice beer cake,golden rum cake, trifles. Cake shots like the pina colada cake shots,rum and cake or the long island iced tea cakes. Wait there is more...homemade booze! Oh and all the recipes are rated on the booze meter Lightweight, feeling it and totally tipsy. Got to love a book like this.

Vegetarian Food

Plenty: This man taught me how eggplants can be so much more than baigan bhartha. With buttermilk sauce, with soba noodles, with lentils, with tahini. Spectacular recipes. Some recipes are pretty straightforward and some I should mention require special ingredients, time and skill. Is it worth the effort? Yes. The next time someone tells you vegetarian food is boring and you can't do much with just vegetables show them a recipe or two from this one.

World Vegetarian: Over the years I have constantly made an effort to include more veggies in our diet and just when you think there are only so many ways one can cook okra or beans or even the humble potato. enters Madhur Jaffrey. A thug book weighing as much as my daughter and with virtually no photographs but indispensable in my kitchen. The book is neatly organized by ingredients (vegetables,lentils, and has the name of the country where the recipe is from. 

River Cottage Veg Everyday: I adore this one for its easy and clean recipes and its watercolour like illustrations. Vegetarian dishes that have such great flavours and depth. Once again a book that stays more in my kitchen than on the bookshelf.

This and that.

Encylopedia of sandwiches: A book that comes in the shape of a sandwich, has the history and hundreds of recipes for sandwiches from all over the world and is my savior so many times a month when all we want to eat is a sandwich for lunch. Written by blogger Susan Russo of Foodblogga; a blog that I was introduced by another fellow blogger; the book makes you look at the humble sandwich with new eyes.

The perfect scoop: You’ve got to love a man who has a great sense of humour, creates luscious icecreams, gelatos, sorbets and granitas,writes well and umm...lives in Paris(?). Another book from which I have tried nearly everything and has never disappointed me. The perfect scoop and my ice cream maker are my best friends. Oh and if you haven’t read his book The sweet life in Paris then you must.

The best little marinades cookbook: Most days when I stand in front of the refrigerator praying that dinner should materialize on its own, this book always comes to my rescue. Don’t be fooled by its size. Tons of inspiring, zesty marinades, dry rubs, pastes and more that have often helped me to put together a meal with whatever I have in my fridge and my pantry.

Kitchen wisdom.

The flavour thesaurus: An essential on any food lover's bookshelf. It inspires you,surprises you, provokes you, teaches you...and more.

Larousse Gastronomique: Want to know ANYTHING & EVERYTHING about food and cooking? Go to this one.

Julia's Kitchen Wisdom: For Julia lovers. 

Nigella love. 

You can either love this woman or loathe her. I obviously love her. Love her for the ease with which she cooks, how forgiving she is of herself and others who cook for her, how butter and chocolate are her best friends and she isn’t ashamed to admit it (though in her latest avatar she seems to have lost a lot of weight and is clearly staying away from both). I love her for the beautiful stories she tells about her family and friends. 

Feast: I like how the book has been divided by festivals/occasions and gives menus for kinds of get togethers. The chapter on Chocolate (Chocolate cake hall of fame) is used the most at our home.

Nigella Chrismas: If you need a good reason to buy this one it has to be for the incredibly easy chocolate fruit cake. Its part of out Christmas menu every year (along with many other desserts and hot spiced cider ofcourse) and no one seems to get tired of it. Aah..and also the christmassy pics that put you in "it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" mood immediately.

Kitchen: The book is comprehensive, cozy and gives great comfort.

Just because.

Ottolenghi the cookbook: I couldn't have hit publish without including this one. The thing is I couldn't decide which category to fit this one in. It has a little of everything. You will obviously notice a strong influence from Jerusalem but  there is also Italy, North Africa, Lebanon and more. Chocolate fudge cake. Check. Apple and Olive oil cake. Check. Orange polenta cake. Check. Carrot and walnut cake.Check. Almond and orange florentines. Check. Unusual and innovative combinations and each one works. 

So there you have it...some of my favourite cookbooks. I'd love to hear your recommendations.  

Do you like gifting cookbooks? Which book is on your wishlist this Christmas? 

Visit my cookbook library here.
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