Friday, 31 December 2010

kabul restaurant

o and i spent christmas and new year in islamabad with our families. the best part of my trip home is feasting. the day usually starts with a cup of strong and perfectly brewed tapal tea and toasted roghni naan (i will be putting up a separate post for this). lunch could be any manner of pakistani salan - vegetables in masala, kebabs, chicken salan or tarka dhal. aside from all the home made food there is a ritual that i take very seriously. i have to eat at 'kabul restaurant' at least once. this time mum and i had a quick lunch there in between shopping and running around on last day of twenty ten.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

christmas twenty ten

a christmas collage
i had a wonderful christmas surrounded by my parents and sibling, my other half, my grand parents and my god mother (of sorts). it was also princess zubeida's first christmas made merry with welcome scraps of roast beef and chicken bones. we had a sit down dinner for eight and here is what we ate

a cream of mushroom soup (with porcini that had travelled from turin, italy).
a salad of mixed greens, capsicum and apple with a blue cheese and honey dressing.
roast chicken whose cavity had been stuffed with citrus. 
a pan roasted beef tenderloin.
red cabbage seasoned with bruised juniper berries, sugar, orange zest and fruit vinegar.
potatoes dauphinoise.
red and white wine.

for dessert there was christmas pudding that had travelled from london with custard and mama's home made bread and butter pudding.

it was a very special christmas because it was the first time babcia and daddy had come to be with us. usually, we celebrate christmas in lahore with my grand parents. mama had been anxious thinking that they might not like the tree (after all it was very modern) and that something would happen to the food but it all went very well. 

a very contemporary christmas tree
in fact disaster didn't strike until two days later when after making two rather successful 'makowiec' (pronounced mah-koh-viets), mama succeeded in burning the poppy seed mixture to a crisp and made the whole house smell. polish 'makowiec' is a christmas tradition in my mother's household. my grand dad makes it every christmas and i love both versions - the soft moist almond one as well as the dark crunchy poppy seed one. 

mum also made a fantastic and very boozy christmas cake. it was very dark and full of dark fruits and bright red maraschino cherries. she had fed it with a homemade orange liquer. as per tradition my grand parents had brought mrs cross' christmas cake. i much preferred mum's as it is moist and boozy and more fruit to cake. cross' is lighter, crumblier and less fruity. 

what i love about christmas is that you can indulge at whatever time you please so on christmas day i had cake for breakfast and makoweic for tea. i'll think about counting calories in the new year. for now, bring on the champagne truffles that o and i brought back for the family from la maison du chocolat. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

the humble spud

the humble spud is a real treat once scrubbed, salted and baked for a leisurely time in a hot oven. i love the slight cackle of skin when you press the hot potato in a kitchen cloth to let it release it's soft fluffy yellow centre.  the humble baked spud can be jazzed up or dressed for comfort with some melted butter, or the usual suspect of grated cheese and beans. today o and i ate ours with hot smoked salmon flakes in creme fraiche with crunchy cornichons and a dusting of dried dill (only because i didn't have any fresh and it's too cold and snowy outside to go get some). 

a christmas inspired cookie

we may well have a white christmas this year. the world outside our window is blanketed in white. i had a couple of friends dropping in today and decided to bake a christmas inspired cookie. a cookie that had the warmth of spice, a hint of liquer and texture and crunch. what i really wanted to do was bring together some of my favourite things into one.

i love polenta for it's slight grittiness and decided i definitely wanted it to be a part of my cookie. then there was the left over crystallised ginger that i had been storing up for christmas and was in desperate need of being used. i also wanted raisins not just because they add a fruity element but because they provide a lovely sponge for soaking up brandy. i often use o's apricot brandy and what would christmas be without cinnamon and orange zest. there is nothing like a sharp clean citrus to remind me of christmas. so i whizzed roughly hundred grams of raisins and crystallised ginger in the food processor. to this i added the zest and juice of an orange and two tablespoons of apricot brandy. 

while the ginger and raisin sat in their brandy bath i creamed a hundred and fifty five grams of butter with a hundred and forty grams of sugar (a mix of caster and demerara) and then added two eggs and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. the dry ingredients to be blended into this are a hundred and forty grams of polenta along with two hundred and ten grams of flour sifted with one teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder. i also add a teaspoon of powdered ginger and a two teaspoons of cinnamon before adding the boozy fruit mixture. 

preheat the oven to a hundred and seventy degrees.
drop the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for ten to twelve minutes. 
let the cookies cool slightly on the sheet before you remove them. 
o, a square, i, l and i absolutely loved them. 
strangely, the texture of them reminded me of the semolina that my mama used to make for me when i was a little girl. she'd toast the semolina in butter till it released a nutty smell. then she'd add the sugar letting it caramelise slightly after which there would be the brisk incorporation of eggs whisked with a little milk. the texture of familiarity really made me miss home...
t minus four days

Friday, 17 December 2010

homemade granola

there is nothing that i love more homemade granola. mine is ultra crisp. this particular batch was four grain flavoured with a syrup made of 'gurr'. in pakistan you get raw sugar in misshapen balls. often it includes nuts. it's got a dark treacle-ish taste with a rounded saltish edge. to the syrup i added some olive oil and some sea salt. for a slight spice i added cinnamon, ginger and some grated orange zest. once it had been roasted in the oven on low heat for around an hour and a half i let it cool and then added chopped dates and sunflower seeds. i love eating it greek yoghurt and some grated apple or sliced banana.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

on grief and birthday's plus nigel slater's chocolate almond cake

lighting candles on the cake
it was o's birthday today and i was in two minds about birthday cake. of course there can be no birthday without cake but then there are no rules on bereavement. when is it okay to celebrate? and what exactly is celebration? of course religion's prescribe periods of mourning but then in o's words, his grand father put a period on an official mourning at three days. i am no fool to believe that prescriptions of time periods will determine the passing away of a loved one. grief isn't linear, it is interspersed with sadness and the celebration of happy memories too. after all, homer was right when he said that 'life and death are balanced on the edge of a razor'. 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

the chocolate diary: martel chocolaterie geneva

it is half past midnight and after a frustrated google search for the website of martel chocolatier in geneva, i have given up. i don't get why, in this day and age the chocolatier does not have a website. anyway... the reason why i have been googling is because aside from the fact that their chocolates are excellent, i really want to know the name of one particular truffle that i just can't work out the filling for. my boss bought me the chocolates as a thank you for work done on our division's ministerial meeting. i had wrapped it up carefully and hidden it for a rainy day.

i opened it up today as i was in need of comfort after a stressful few weeks of being unwell. in addition o has had to fly out in emergency as his grand father is very unwell. so here i am past midnight, sitting on my couch with a still recovering foot eating seriously good chocolate. the orange peel in dark chocolate has all the zest of an orange made rich with a dark chocolate covering. the peel itself is surprisingly moist, as if it had been soaked and candied. there is an rather irregular and craggy truffle which is hard to bite but which gives way to a light and feathery chocolate mousse. it is basically three tiered with the crispy and crunch praline enclosing a soft centre but is itself dipped in chocolate ( i much preferred the dark to the milk). there was also a small pyramid shaped chocolate whose square tip was some kind of a crystallised fruit jelly. under the chocolate was a centre of pate de fruit with a very subtle flavour. the stars of the show were the dark chocolate ganache and a rectangle of chocolate with dull gold lines on its surface. i really want to know what the filling for this is as it had tones of passionfruit and an end note of sea salt with a hint of berry. 

this was chocolate heaven. 
               i am saving some for another rainy day.         
                             and i hoping that either i will be making a trip to geneva soon or someone will bring me another box.