Monday, October 20, 2014

Diwali memories and eating fire crackers.

Three days to go and it will be Diwali. Diwali always evokes beautiful and cherished memories of childhood and home (especially now that we are far away from both home and loved ones).


Clay Diyas, mithais, strings of marigolds and mango leaves, rangolis, torans and more. Walking down the memory lane this Diwali (If you’ve grown up in India some of these will definitely take you back to your childhood).

  • Helping dad fix the electric “ladis” (fairy lights) a day before “Dhanteras”.
  • Going out with mum and dad to get a silver coin on the day of Dhanteras.
  • Polishing the brass lamps and candle stands with “Brasso” till they begin to shine like gold.  
  • Buying new traditional clothes way in advance for the big day. Silk saree for mum, a kurta for dad and lehengas or churidar kurtis for us. Matching bangles too.
  • Going to the local potters to buy clay diyas (smaller ones for the whole house and one large one that mum would fill up with ghee to last the whole night long).
  • While at the potter picking up a clay urli to float flowers and a few terracotta lanterns too.
  • Debating on which Ganesh-Lakshmi clay idol was the prettiest and choosing that with mum and dad.
  • Picking up mithai dabbas for all the loved ones and wrapping them up in shimmery silver and gold gift wraps those that flew and were so difficult to handle if the fan was on. Switch off the fan someone would say and that helped.
  • Gifts too. Thoughtful ones. Ones that our parents knew would make our loved ones happy. Sarees and shirts for the help at home.
  • Spending hours making detailed grocery lists with mum for all the mithai to be made; laddoos, barfis, namak pare and more. She made the list and we just hung around dreaming about the mithai.
  • Waking up on Diwali morning and jumping out of bed to make a rangoli. Sometimes floral, sometimes geometric.
  • Making tiny feet (“S” with five tiny dots for toes) at the entrance of the house and all the way inside (representing Goddess Lakshmi’s feet) just in case the Goddess lost her way.
  • Visiting the phoolwali mandi to buy ladis of gendas and aam patte by the kilos. Some loose flowers and two garlands for the pooja too, mum would always say.
  • Filling up all the vases and nooks and corners with flowers of all sorts and getting that sense of pride looking at how festive and gorgeous “our” home looked and felt.
  • Filling up the plates with mithai and bowls with almonds, cashews, raisins and pistachios in anticipation of all the guests and relatives who would visit us during the day and in the evening.
  • Setting up the pooja place. Cleaning that white marble slab in our living room till it began to gleam. Placing the Idols (but wash your hands first, we would be gently reminded). Thali full of diyas , kacha doodh in a silver katori, tikka with grains of rice and a few drops of water, sandalwood agarbattis in the silver agarbatti stand, dhoop shaped into a cone, khulle phool, mala and the prasad.
  • Carefully filling up all the clay diyas with ghee and oil and putting in cotton wicks way before the pooja.
  • Singing the aarti together while waiting eagerly for the pooja to get over so that we could run out and light diyas and burn fire crackers.
  • Making sure each and every corner of the house, balcony, verandah, even the window sills were lined up with the diyas.
  • Dad bending down with us to light them all after the pooja with candles that were lit from the bada diya in the pooja thali.
  • Melting the rear end of the candle with a lighted one and then sticking it on the window sills.
  • Getting disappointed and frustrated when the lit candle would die because of the strong breeze.
  • Writing my name in the air with the phooljhadis.
  • Jumping over the chakris.
  • Feeling mesmerized by the gorgeous streaks of fireworks from the anars.
  • Cautiously bending over to light a bomb and running away from it at the first sight of spark.
  • Covering my ears with my hands as someone lighted up the red ladi of bijli bombs.
  • Filling up those obnoxious toy guns with dot bombs and irritating the hell out of my parents with its high pitched sound.
  • Lighting up those “saanp” tablets and strategizing on how to throw them in one over the other to make the longest snake. Oh it was so gross but we seemed to enjoy it back then.
  • Awestruck at the sight in the sky. Glimmer, glitter, sparkle everywhere.
  • Walking down the road with mum and dad and looking at all the houses sparkling due to the brightness lent by string lights and the gentle flicker of the diyas.
  • Wishing it could look this festive all year round.
  • Coming back home to mum’s scrumptious and traditional dinner of kali daal, allu gobhi, shahi paneer, lauki ke kofte, dahi bhalle and more.
  • Eating countless mithais till our tummies began to hurt. Then popping in one more for it was Diwali after all.
  • Tired. Happy. Content. Finally getting into our beds with a prayer on our lips asking for blessings and thanking someone up there for illuminating our lives with love and togetherness.

Did these take you back to your childhood and your home? What are some of your much loved Diwali memories?


As we grew up we became aware how children our age and younger were being forced to make fire crackers since demand for fire crackers swelled during Diwali and ofcourse the pollution it caused and slowly fire crackers went away from our lives. Strangely we didn't miss them. For Diwali was always much more than burning a cracker.

One sparkler for “shagun” remained.


From observing my parents, celebrating in the house that I grew up in, learning traditions that my parents passed on I started making traditions of my own with my partner. Sara joined us a couple of years later. Now I make mithais and plan our dinner, he fixes the lights and she makes the rangolis and the cards. Just like that the roles have changed.


This Diwali my little girl will wear her pretty lehenga with a tikka on her head. Sparkly bangles are a must she says. We will get that one sparkler for shagun and watch her write “Sara” with it and celebrate this festival of lights.

Wishing you all a very happy Diwali. Sparkle. Glitter. Shine.

Oh and just because we are saying no to firecrackers doesn't mean we won’t be having any. We just ate some “Firecrackers” and they were delicious and made my little chefling squeal with delight. 


Fruit crackers 

Ingredients

For the fire crackers:
  • Water
  • Sugar
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Cloves
  • Star anise
  • Vanilla extract
  • A squeeze of lemon
  • One peach, peeled but stem intact
  • One plum
  • One apple
  • One clove
  • Squeeze of a lemon or any juice
  • Chocolate ganache to dip (I make mine with 70% dark chocolate, cream and vanilla extract)
  • Golden star sprinkles (or any other glittery ones if you have on hand)
  • Piping bag

For the matchbox:
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Chocolate ganache to dip
  • An old and clean matchbox

Instructions:
  1. For the anar (flower pot sparkler): Peel the pear and poach it with some sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, vanilla and a squeeze of lemon. Remember it to turn it around midways. Allow it to cool and dip it in chocolate sauce and sprinkle gold stars.
  2. For the gola bomb(Round bomb): Poach the plum with some sugar, cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, vanilla and a squeeze of lemon. Remember it to turn it around midways. Allow it to cool and dip it in chocolate sauce and sprinkle gold stars. Add the clove on top for the wick.
  3. For the chakri (spiral sparkler): Cut round slices of apple and coat it with any juice you have on hand. This will prevent discolouration. Fill the piping bag with the chocolate sauce and make spirals on it.
  4. For the matchbox: Dip several small pretzel sticks chocolate sauce and let the chocolate set. Line the inside of the matchbox with foil or butterpaper and transfer the “matchsticks” to the matchbox.

Boom.Boom .Boom. Enjoy your firecrackers. I can assure you these will light up any little girl/boy’s Diwali day.

p.s. If you’d like to make an edible gift with your little one then you might enjoy this post, here.

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!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Chocolate Nariyal Laddoos For Diwali (Chocolate coconut truffles)

Diwali is just round the corner. Twinkling diyas, homemade mithais, strings of marigolds, fragrant incense sticks, rangolis and torans. It is such a magical time of the year; one that we wait for all year long. 

Planning the décor, deciding the menu, handcrafting gifts, observing family traditions some that our parents made and we love to observe and some that we are creating for Sara each year.
But what I love most about this festival of lights is putting together handmade edible gifts for family and friends and for all the people who help us get through each day. The guy who comes over to help me with the cleaning each week, our security guard who makes sure we sleep well each night, the laundry guy who never forgets to say hi to Sara when he comes home to drop our clothes. Diwali is only Diwali when you share your happiness with everyone around you and sometimes it is so easy to forget that amidst all the bling.
A box of besan barfi (chickpea fudge) one year, moongphali and til gajak (peanut and sesame brittle) the next and gulkund (Rosepetal) chocolates the year after.
Sara has been observing this tradition for the last couple of years (just like I saw my mum doing the same all these years) but it is only now she is understanding & more importantly experiencing the joy of thanking people who she values for being there and I am happy to help her make them a part of her big day.
That big smile when she slips in a box of homemade truffles into a friend’s hand and wishes her a Happy Diwali or that hug from her teacher when she gives her a handmade Diwali card or that awww from masi when she paints her a terracotta diya is what makes Diwali truly special. No store bought gift can ever match up to handmade love and this is one tradition that I’d like my little girl to take away from us.

This year she is making Diwali cards and these chocolate truffles for all the people who matter to her (I have been helping her make a card for everyone ever since she turned two and it has a become a ritual of sorts).
Just like the previous year the cards won’t be perfect; probably she will get tired after making a few and will ask me to help her, she will “sign” her name in her “royal” handwriting and later feel shy giving them. The truffles won’t be all round, there will be chocolatey mess in the kitchen, some will land in her mouth before we end up packing them, some will land on the floor and I will be spending a better part of the day cleaning but what a wonderful day it will be.

We will both acknowledge all the kind and loving people in our lives, we will talk about why and how much we appreciate and value them and how our lives will be incomplete without them and how giving a piece of our heart in the shape of a truffle will make them grin ear to ear.


Do you have any family traditions that you observe or any traditions that you would like to create this year? Are handcrafted presents one of those? I would love to hear about it.

Chocolate nariyal laddoos (Chocolate coconut truffles (Makes 20 balls)

Ingredients
  • Two 100 grams bars of dark chocolate (we used 70%, if you’d like take a 50 % or even milk chocolate)
  • 4 tbsp of cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp of soft butter
  • 1 cup of desiccated coconut
  • Cocoa powder and desiccated coconut to roll (drinking chocolate/ sesame seeds also work )

Instructions:
  1. In a large bowl, break the chocolate into small pieces with your hand.
  2. Micro it on low for about 2 minutes. Checking and stirring every thirty seconds.
  3. Add the cream, vanilla and butter and stir. You will now have a glossy chocolate mix.
  4. Add the desiccated coconut and stir.
  5. Shape them into tiny balls on a tray lined with foil or parchment.
  6. Roll some of them into drinking chocolate and some in desiccated coconut
  7. Put them into mini cupcake cases/boxes.
  8. Gift them to your friends and get ready for lots of tight hugs.
Wishing all you awesome people a sparkling and a "green" Diwali.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share that a couple of us have gotten together for a Diwali Festival of sorts on our blogs. One post a day to inspire you to make Diwali cards, decorations, read Diwali books, try out Diwali recipes and make Diwali 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 Diwali moments , easy Crafts, DIY ideas, Recipes and book recommendations with you .

Starting from today till Diwali and beyond, each one of us will be writing a post related to Diwali.
Participating blogs

So sit back, relax and check out all the fabulous Diwali Dhamaka posts from the participating blogs in the linky.
Link in your Diwali posts here

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Becoming a part of the Food Revolution.

A couple of days back I took a pledge and today I am so happy to share it with all of you. 

“My name is Prachi and I volunteer for the Food Revolution. I give my spare time for free to further the mission of Jamie’s charities'. The Food Revolution has selected a number of volunteers from around the world who showed a deep commitment to real food and I’m thrilled to be one of them.”

A big thank you to team Food Revolution for giving me an opportunity to be the Food Ambassador for Dubai, UAE.

For those of you who know me and my little chefling through this blog and outside of it, you know how much this means to me. Sharing our experiences has helped us built a connection with all of you and in the process we are hoping that at times we have ended up inspiring you to cook and share meals with your kids.

I strongly believed that food is an important part of the environment that one grows in. I feel that children who are involved in preparing food are more likely to try out new flavours, respect their food and respect where the food that they eat comes from. So this opportunity has gotten me all excited and I want to put all of my energy towards instilling the love for wholesome and nutritious food amongst children.
Through the blog I hope to share my journey, the trials and tribulations, the highs and the lows and most importantly inspire our children to fall in love with cooking and real food and give them a life skill.

Don't go away yet. I need your help but before that I'd like to give you an overview of what the Food Revolution is all about.

About the Food Revolution: “The Food Revolution is a movement that allows people who love food to come together to share information, talents and resources and also to pass on their knowledge and bring food skills to life. All around the globe, people work together to make a difference. The Food Revolution is about connecting with community in schools, restaurants and local businesses. We want to inspire change in people’s food habits and to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone”.

Why we need a Food Revolution: “For the first time in world history we have over 1 billion people underweight and over 1 billion people overweight or obese. Our farming, health, business and education systems aren't working, making diet-related diseases among the world's biggest killers. Cooking skills used to be passed down from generation to generation, but this pattern has been interrupted and lost. As a result, we are eating more convenience and processed foods than ever before, having lost our connection with what real, healthy and wholesome food is – we need a food revolution”.

About Jamie Oliver and the Food Revolution: “Jamie Oliver is the founder and driving force behind inspiring millions around the world to join the Food Revolution. The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA) founded the Food Revolution Voluntary Ambassador program in 2012 with a vision of galvanizing an already growing global foodie community into a movement with purpose. That purpose is to keep cooking skills alive”.

About the Ambassadors: "They are enthusiastic volunteers in cities and regions around the world who support the Food Revolution all year round. They play a leadership role in connecting individuals, schools, businesses and organizations at a local level to ensure their collective voice is heard. Ambassadors are the spark of enthusiasm that work towards turning this into a local movement by connecting the dots of support. The Food Revolution aims to give those who have been working tirelessly a platform to share their knowledge with the local community and open up opportunities for even more people to learn about real food through participation.

Food Revolution Day: “A united effort across all of Jamie’s foundation projects in the UK, US and Australia Food Revolution Day is a global day of action for people to make a stand for good food and essential cooking skills. It's a chance for people to come together within their homes, schools, workplaces and communities to cook and share their kitchen skills, food knowledge and resources. Food Revolution Day aims to raise awareness about the importance of good food and better food education for everyone by focusing on three simple actions – cook it, share it, live it.


Food Revolution Day 2014 took place on the 16 May 2014 with more than 10,400 events across 121 countries. 8400 schools participated and 30,000 individuals participated in it. It touched the lives of over 120 million people.

I am going to need your help.

I need to talk to you. I need to listen to you. I need your help for achieving what I have set out for.

All you awesome parents, hardworking teachers, the enterprising teams running local businesses and restaurants, wonderful conscientious people who are behind the farmers’ markets, the ever giving community groups and organizations, the voice of Dubai; local newspapers, radio stations and magazines who would like to help me achieve this goal or have ideas on what I can do for our kids at Dubai or are in position to help me spread the word around please get in touch with me.

Let us make a difference in lives of our kids and bring about a Food Revolution at Dubai.

Eat real. Stay healthy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

50 things I've told Sara to persuade her to eat her food.

Whenever I meet other members of my family,friends or readers who follow my blog most begin by saying, "Oh, so that is your little chefling!" “Yes she is”, grins her mother. This is followed by, “We read your blog. You are such a lucky mum. Your girl eats everything and our children...sigh!”

“No! I am NOT”, I want to shout out loud.

Hmm…I understand that this little blog gives you an impression that my little girl ALWAYS wipes her plate clean. Each and every time. From the steamed broccoli to the stir fried mushrooms (Okay, broccoli she does but hey she doesn’t even touch those mushrooms). 

It is time to show you that a child who eats everything is work of fiction. Mine definitely doesn’t. I always try my best to practice my three commandments and a lot of times I fail. I pick myself up and restart.

  • Convince her to at least try. She may or may not like it but that is not important. What is important is that she is open to tasting.
  • Try and not offer desserts/TV/ playtime as a reward for finishing the meal. Ahem. I am lying. Guilty as hell. I am a mum after all.
  • In this house we don’t waste food. If we don’t finish our food. We get leftovers. May be sometimes dressed up as bestovers but we eat them. Period.

The times I fail are often. These are just some of the lines that I have "used" in the past to persuade her to eat and to finish her meals on time. Don't you judge me? :) I am a mum, okay? Mums are allowed these kinds of things.

  1. If you eat this walnut you will become really smart. Do you see the shape of this walnut? It resembles our brain. Walnuts are good for your brain.
  2. If you eat this carrot your eyes will sparkle. Do you know it has this thing called vitamin A, something like a magic potion for eyes?
  3. If you eat this tomato, your cheeks will become all red. You will look so cute and mamma will get red and juicy cheeks to kiss.
  4. If you don’t eat carrots then you will have to wear specs like mamma. Then how will you read more books? If you don’t read more books, then how will you become smarter? But I am already eating walnuts to become smart, mamma? Gulp.
  5. But this morning you didn’t eat your walnut. If you don’t eat that walnut then you will become silly. Do you want to be silly? Yes, I want to be silly. Silly is fun.
  6. Fish is so good for the brain. Look at papa he quizzes. He quizzes because his mum fed him fish. Don’t you want to quiz? No, I want to do ballet and become a fairy.
  7. Then you must finish your fish. Children who finish their fish can fly. Really, if I finish this fish I will be able to fly? No, not now. When you eat a thousand fishes that will make your magical wings stronger and then you can fly. At the age of 18, okay? Okay mamma.
  8. Dinner? What dinner? I never gave you dinner. That was snack. This is dinner. Sometimes when she has had a really early dinner and I know she is getting going to get hungry come midnight or she has had inadequate dinner according to her mother, her mother fools her into thinking she never ate dinner. The poor little thing believes her mum. Totally mean. But that is okay. She can do the same to her kids. I swear I won’t stop her.
  9. You can watch another episode of Charlie and Lola ONLY if you finish this entire bowl of dal.
  10. You need to taste this and then decide if you like it or not? All chefs need to. They must. Else they are fake chefs.
  11. Almonds help you remember things. Do you want to forget that Sofia song or what? Here, eat these.
  12. Come on finish your food quickly. We also need to eat those brownies, right?
  13. I want EVERYTHING on that plate finished. Do you hear me?
  14. If you don’t finish your food then God will get very upset. So many kids don’t have food to eat and look at your plate, it is full. We are so lucky and we must appreciate that.
  15. If you eat this cabbage your hair will grow longer than even Rapunzel’s.
  16. Alright, this is the last bite. Okay, one last bite. This time I really really promise last bite.
  17. If you want to go down and play, you have to finish that glass of milk.
  18. Oh my goodness look how tall you’ve become after drinking all that Horlicks (Read: 5 ml)
  19. If you don’t eat then that kitty who is hiding somewhere in our house, she will. Here, my eyes are shut now. Kitty Kitty come and finish off Sara’s food. Oh kitty ate? Surprise!
  20. Can you roar like a lion? She opens her mouth. Quicky shove food inside. Can you roar like a tiger now? Cheetah?
  21. Oh for God’s sake put on that obnoxious Barbie song on your phone so that I can force feed her while she is busy watching that mindless video.
  22. We have all finished our food.
  23. Don’t you want to go for that party or not?
  24. What do you mean you don’t like eating a banana? You have always loved bananas.  Now I don’t. What do you mean by now you don’t? Mamma, people change.
  25. But you loved it when masi made it.
  26. But you loved it when nani made it.
  27. Because I said so.
  28. Because my mamma told me it is good for health and mammas are always correct.
  29. God told me. How can God tell you mamma? God doesn’t talk to people. Sssh…he does, only to mammas. I don’t believe you. Then I don’t believe that you can talk to fairies. Mouth shut. Food in.
  30. Oooooh but you can’t call any food “bad”. God gets very upset. Ok, mamma I dislike this. Now ok?
  31. You are not getting up from your chair till you finish that porridge.
  32. This is khicdhi. It is yum. It is good for your tummy and will make your fever go away. But it is yukh. No problem, don’t eat.  We can get a suppository from Dr.Menon instead.
  33. Should I put Nutella on it?
  34. More Nutella?
  35. Should I sprinkle some chaat masala on it? With lemon.
  36. Don’t keep that food in your mouth. You are supposed to chew it.
  37. Chew faster.
  38. Faster Sara. Faster.
  39. No, you give me THAT spoon. I don’t have all day to watch you sit and eat.
  40. Fine you are still on your first bite let me call your friend’s mum and tell her we won’t be able to come for the playdate because Sara is still eating.
  41. Come let’s see who comes first? Papa, you or me? Mamma, this is not a competition. Please let me enjoy my food.
  42. Zucchini is good for you. Pumpkin is good for you. Brussels sprouts are good for you. Asparagus is good for you. If they are all so good for me then how come none of them taste good?
  43. How is it possible that you like to eat coconut pieces but don’t like coconut milk in a curry? I don’t.
  44. Do you want to faint while doing PE at school? Finish your breakfast now.
  45. You will miss your school bus if you don’t eat quickly. Don’t you want to meet your friends?
  46. Okay let me call your teacher.
  47. Fine. You don’t want to be a real princess. That is fine by me. Real princesses eat everything.
  48. I am counting till ten.
  49. Now I am going to take away that plate from you and won’t give you food even if you are hungry.
  50. Sara last warning and I mean it.

Mussels and Orzo One Pot Meal.




She tried. Made a horrible face and then ate her “plain” orzo stir fried in some olive oil with sun dried tomatoes, olives and oregano.




Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • ½ tsp garlic paste
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • About a litre of any homemade stock (store bought is also fine)
  • 150 grams of orzo or any tiny pasta you like
  • 200 gms of mussels
  • Fresh herbs like parsley, basil
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions:

  1. Take the olive oil and stir fry the onions till they are soft and pink.
  2. Add the garlic paste and sauté the onion-garlic for 2-3 minutes on low heat.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook till they leave oil.
  4. Allow the contents of the pan to cool down and then blitz to make it into a smooth paste.
  5. Put the smooth mixture back into the pan.
  6. Add the homemade/store bought stock and salt and bring it to a boil.
  7. Add the orzo and cook till it is almost done. About 10-12 minutes.
  8. In the last five minutes add the cleaned mussels and leave it to simmer.
  9. Add the herbs. Check for salt and add some pepper.


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!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Because she loves tea parties.

Sara likes tea parties. She loves “hosting” them. Most afternoons after school she likes to make tea for me. Sometimes her dolls join us too.
Often there are sandwiches, cookies and a pastry or two. I get directions on how to hold the cup, “with your pinkie out because a princess ought to behave like a princess”.

While “drinking” our tea I ask her how was school? There are days when she has a lot to tell. There are days when she doesn't. "It was good", she says. Then there are days like yesterday when she said, "Oh! it was very exciting". "Wow! Tell me all about it Sara", I said.

“I can’t remember what we did. But I remember it was very exciting!”

Umm. Alright.

But I digress.

I can’t remember if as a kid I loved tea parties as much as she does. Perhaps it has got to do with overdose of all the princess books she has been reading. Alice in Wonderland too.

A couple of weeks back she got back from school and asked if she could have her friends over for a tea party. "Tomorrow evening mamma. Like real tea, mamma. Wearing princess gowns".
"I will need to make invitations", she added. "They need to go out today. I will give it to them at the park this evening".
With very little time on hand we downloaded this free printable and she wrote out her friends' and her own name in a “Royal” font no less (Read: curly plus wiggly handwriting equals royal)
"But what will we serve Sara"? 

"It is my tea party, can I cook"?, she asked. "There has to be tea and cookies and those tomato squares that we made the other day".

We agreed. I did a little prep work the next morning so that she could “cook” after school.
Chocolate milk for tea in “royal” cups: Years back I was gifted these dainty china cups which I always ended up using for dips and desserts. We took them out and she helped me fill each one with some “tea”.
Teabag cookies: Because to make tea we need teabags and we also need cookies to go with it. I had been waiting for a chance to make these ridiculously cute teabag cookies ever since I saw them everywhere and now was my chance :) I prepared the dough in the morning and kept a teabag stencil ready for her to cut them out. From there on it was easy. While she dipped each teabag into the warm chocolate ganache I tried very hard to be okay with it not being “perfect” and not dipping it back in. For my little chefling's cookies were more than perfect in every way. I attached the tea bag labels (free printable) and she squealed with excitement.
Tomato, basil and goat cheese squares: These happen to be Sara’s favorite and I feel they are a nice change from the usual pizza/pasta for a kid’s party. Since they have both the tomato and the cheese the children are willing to try. Plus they look like “grown up” food which was perfect for her “grown up tea party”.  
I prepared the dough and sliced the tomatoes before she got back from school. We then cut them into squares and she adorned each square with tomatoes slices, a generous sprinkle of  basil and goat cheese. We painted them with egg wash and they went into the oven.
We also had some gooey brownies which were a surprise for the chef who had spent all afternoon cooking for her friends.
The girls had so much fun that evening. They sat on the chairs wearing their pretty dresses and dipped their teabags into their tiny cups. They drew teacups and kettles and milk pots and sugar pots and played some more pretend tea. They talked. They laughed.

My little girl was exhausted by the end of it all. "Was I good hostess mamma"?, she asked.

"The best", said her proud mum.

Does your little one like playing “tea party”?

For us this party was much more than just a game. See for yourself.

Sara learnt:
  • It is nice to invite friends over and it is even nicer when the invitation is handwritten. It makes our friends feel special.
  • There is a lot of work that goes into cooking for friends and family. It is exhausting but there is no greater joy than feeding your loved ones.
  • Toys when shared with friends multiply your happiness.
  • When you take care of your little guests you go on to become a great little hostess and get many many hugs from all of them.
  • Lastly, when we pour too much of chocolate milk into a tiny cup we get a chocolate puddle on the kitchen slab which then trickles down to the floor and that means lots of cleaning :)
I learnt:
  • All get togethers needn’t be planned. Yes, I am Monica types. Sara taught me a great lesson. Sometimes impromptu plans are way more fun than planned ones.
  • What they make doesn't have to look "perfect". What is important is leading them to the kitchen and allowing them to touch, feel and see where their food come from. Trust me whatever they make with their two little paws will be beautiful and will leave you teary eyed. 
  • You don’t have to necessarily DIY each little element of your party. Didn't I already mention I am Monica with a DIY obsession? It is okay to take help from others. These two ladies helped us with invitations and tea bag labels and tons of you inspired us to try out your super creative tea bag cookies.
  • I love having her with me in the kitchen. The questions that she asks, the advice she gives me, the talks we have, the mistakes she makes and the mess she makes, All of this and more makes my day brighter.
Would you like to have a cup of tea?

Tomato, basil and goat cheese squares.
Ingredients
  • 450 grams puff pastry (readymade is fine) I use this recipe
  • One egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp of dry basil plus more for sprinkling later
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • Salt
  • 4 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 100 grams goat cheese, cut into tiny wedges
Instructions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with some parchment paper.
  2. Roll out the puff pastry thin and cut it into squares or any shape that you like. We made ten medium squares.
  3. Put them on the baking sheet and fold the sides of each of the squares to make a sort of slightly raised border (about 1 cm). Brush these borders with the egg wash.
  4. Mix the garlic paste, olive oil, basil and salt together and brush all the squares with it.
  5. Arrange the sliced tomatoes on the squares, overlapping a bit. About two to three slices per square. Bake for about 15 minutes. The tomatoes will be tender and light brown.
  6. Take the baking sheet out and add a wedge or two of the goat cheese and sprinkle some basil on to each square. Return to the oven for another 7-8 minutes. The cheese will  be melty but will still hold shape.
  7. You can serve it both hot or at room temperature.
Images : Personal Album. All images belong to orangekitchens and are subject to copyright. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chowing down with chai and companions.

Ask most Indians and they would agree that there is something about garam garam chai (hot tea) that makes chilly winter mornings’ warmer and sultry hot summer evenings tolerable. Weekends when there is no rush are calmer when you have a cup in hand and the breathtaking sunrise for a view. Weekdays when one is running around like a headless chicken the same cup of chai (or cha as my maternal grandmother would say) when multiplied by three or sometimes four helps you keep your sanity. Chai simply makes your life better.

Or for me it was always what came with the chai; the conversation, the people, the place and the snacks; yes especially the teatime snacks.

As a kid I would love cupping my hands around my mum’s hot mug of tea and dipping Parle-G or a rusk that would inadvertently break and fall into her cup of tea and she would give me that look that simply said I told you so. But never were we allowed to drink tea, “kids don’t drink tea”, she would say and we would eagerly wait for the day when we would make the transition from enjoying the tea-dipped soggy biscuits to drinking our first cup of that magical masala chai. Till then my sister and I made peace with having tea parties of our own with our toy kitchen.

Cream biscuits were my favorite while my sister stuck to her Nice biscuits which I for some reason totally detested. You know those that come with little crystals of sugar. She preferred those more than “my” cream biscuits which came with fluorescent synthetic cream (Now when I think about it. Uggh!); I mean who in the world doesn’t like pulling apart the two biscuits, licking the cream in between and then dipping the jhoote biscuits as my mum would call it in her cup of tea!

Growing up I fell in love with coffee over tea (blasphemy I know for a north Indian!) but the taste of what was served with the tea never left me. Hot Pakoras straight out of the kadhai, samosas from the bagal wale Sharma ji ki dukaan, steaming hot jalebis on a rainy afternoon, bhujjias for those still evenings; those that mom kept in her Tupperware dabba lest they lose their crunch, a packet of Bikanerwala kaju namkeen opened hurriedly when sudden guests came along and the regular tea partners that kept changing depending on mum’s mood; glucose biscuits, rusks or a Marie.

Weekends would mean mum would make us a cake in her round oven and we would eat it the minute it came out of the oven while mum would have it sipping her adrak wali chai (ginger tea). Tea pairings have just started doing the rounds in the culinary world today but ask any Indian, there has always been a chai for every occasion and reason. Ginger, green cardamom, black cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and sometimes even saffron, sometimes added individually and mostly in various permutations and combinations but all brought together depending on the mood, the need and ofcourse the accompanying snack.
But I digress. Coming back to life around that cup of chai.

Once I began college, some of the best memories that I have are from the tapri as my hostel mates from Mumbai would call it. In between classes, on the evenings when the mess would be shut or late nights when the innumerable projects kept us awake; we were there all the time. Laughing, talking, cribbing all over that little glass of chai  with a packet of biscuit or packaged dhokla bought from the very same tapri or when we really lucky some homemade mathri couriered by a loving parent.

Tea time was sacred for it was here we shared both our excitement and fears of an unknown future that awaited us after college; jobs that come with both financial independence and responsibility. Those that came with bosses we learnt to love and hate and came with the sacred chai time. The first organization that I worked for there the brand management office was part of the factory premises which meant there were fixed tea times. You couldn't just walk out of your cubicle and order tea. You had to wait for it to arrive. It was like a ceremony where tiny steel glasses came along with a mammoth steel coffee vending dispenser complete with a tap. We would queue up to fill our two drops of chai and dug out of our pockets mini packets of murruku that we had been handed over at lunch time on our way out from the factory mess. Over those crispy round spirals we felt sorry about how each of us had landed a heartless boss. Each Friday the murruku were replaced with cake that had multi-colour glaced cherries in it. Life was good. There was a certain comfort in following that routine much like the regular cup of chai brings with it.

And now if you can excuse me please, I have got to join my girlfriends on our monthly date who are all very happy that the kids are finally at school and we can all have our cup of tea over some adult conversation. Ahem, I’ll have a chai lattee please ! One day I promise to give you my heart dear tea till then we’ll settle with the snacks that you bring along. Pakoras, anyone?

Here are some of my favourite teatime snacks? What are yours? I’d love to hear.

My favourite teatime snacks*
Description
Allu tikkis
Deep fried potato cakes, served with a spicy coriander and mint chutney.
Banana chips
Deep fried or dried slices of bananas enjoyed as chips
Bhajjis
Sliced or ball of vegetables, fried in usually a gram flour batter. Best enjoyed with tamarind chutney.
Bhujjias
Crispy yellow deep fried snack  prepared by using gram flour and spices like red chilli, black pepper, cardamom, cloves and salt.
Biscuits or biscoot as it is also known as
Needs no explanation. The likes of Parle-G, Nice, Marie, Bourbon, etc all Indian kids grows up with.
Farsaan
Collective term for snacks like dhokla, kachori, khaman, khandvi, muthia, etc all enjoyed with tea.
Kachori
Flattened ball stuffed with spiced lentils, potato, or beans and enjoyed with a variety of sweet and sour chutneys.
Mathri
Flaky biscuits made from flour, water and cumin seeds
Mixture
Depending on the state it is may be a combination of fried lentils, peanuts, chickpea flour noodles, flaked rice, fried onion, curry leaves, etc.
Murukku
Crunchy twists made from rice and urad dal flour.
Pakoras/ Bondas
Vegetable/s or minced  meat, coated in batter (usually gram flour) and deep-fried.
Rusks
Dry biscuit bread that has been baked twice.
Samosas
Triangular savoury pastries fried and containing spiced vegetables (usually boiled potatoes and peas) or minced meat.
Shakarpare/ Namakpare
Diamond or square shaped, sugar coated, crisp sweets made with all purpose flour. Savoury ones are called namakpare

Allu Bhajjis with Hari Chutney (Serves 4-6)


Ingredients
For the Hari Chutney
  • 125 grams coriander, stems removed and chopped
  • 3-4 green chillis, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 gooseberries, chopped
  • Juice of a lemon
  • ½ tsp rock salt (optional)
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • Salt to taste

For the Potato Bhajjis
  • 500 grams potatoes, sliced and immersed in ice cold water
  • 150 grams chickpea flour
  • ½ cup coriander, chopped
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ajwain
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 150 ml water
  • Sunflower Oil to deep fry
  • Chaat masala to sprinkle 

Instructions:

For the Hari Chutney:
1. Simply blend together all the ingredients for the chutney.

For the Bhajjis:
  1. Mix all the ingredients except the potatoes into a thick batter. 
  2. Drain the water from the sliced potatoes and immediately put it in the batter. See that all the pieces are coated evenly.
  3. In the meantime heat the oil in a wok. Test if the oil is hot enough by dropping a drop or two of the batter. If it sizzles it is ready to fry.
  4. Take four-five batter coated potato slices and carefully drop it into the hot oil. When it becomes golden yellow take it out on a paper towel to absorb the extra oil.
  5. Do the same with all the other slices and sprinkle chaat masala on it if you like.
  6. Serve with the Hari chutney and enjoy.
Images : Personal Album. All images belong to orangekitchens and are subject to copyright. 
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