Sunday, 30 September 2012

downton suppers: curried leek and chickpea soup

curried leek and chickpea soup
i had planned tartines of fried figs tossed in pomegranate molasses and thick slices of grilled halloumi for tonight’s downton supper. however o who does not usually comment on my choice of cooking firmly disagreed. for him downton suppers must always be bowl food. so here i was on sunday afternoon faced with little more than several leeks and some sad looking chillies in my vegetable compartment and no inclination to wander as i was feeling under the weather. i usually use leeks to make risotto or pilaf. however, i did not fancy standing over the hob for a risotto and did not enough herbs to make a fragrant pilaf. it was the half eaten remains of a pot of creme fraiche that came to my rescue as it inspired this soup. i love soups like spinach or tomatoes with chickpeas with a stir of creme fraiche. but we never ended up using it as the leeks were silky enough on their own. 

Saturday, 29 September 2012

a weekend in nathia gali

governor house walk

in nathia gali the air still remains crisp although it does not have the clarity is used to. the smell of the pines is a mere whiff. it doesn’t retain the pungency of my childhood but then recollections are always more vivid than real life itself. my memories of this hill resort are of pakoras smeared with a thick chutney made from anar dana, desperately yellow pound cake and peppery chicken sandwiches made with bread that was soggy in the middle and dry around the edges. in summer nathia gali provides a welcome respite from the heat of the plains and at a time when pakistan is in the throes of dire energy crisis, it was just what we all needed. my favourite season to visit though is towards autumn when the mist settles amidst the trees softening the sharpness of the pine needles. mama has images of this season on her blog. it makes me wistful.

a breakfast pudding fit for the breakfast club

this recipe is being re-posted as part of the breakfast club. i am a breakfast stickler. as i write i am trying out a recipe for a coffee and almond granola. it could all go very wrong but if it goes right you will find a recipe by the by.

the breakfast club

Thursday, 27 September 2012

making mama's chappal kababs

mama's kachay keemay kay kabab
last week i posted mama's kabab diaries on the blog. i wanted to maintain her recipes the way they had been written but she and i have rather different styles of writing them. i also figured that there would be some variation in the recipe when i make it in london. so we comapred notes on some of the ingredients that were likely to change. we went back and forth over the kind of cottage cheese to use as the one that you get in london is not a creamy crumbly one like you have in pakistan. after much deliberation i decided to make the recipe without the cottage cheese. the most important part of this recipe is the mince. if you are not using the cottage cheese use mince that is at least twenty per cent fat. i used aberdeen angus mince beef from waitrose and it worked perfectly. we both agreed that i should use more onion than the recipe calls for to maintain softness as that is what the cheese is meant to do. here are my notes on ilona's chappal kebab recipe. 

Friday, 21 September 2012

downton suppers: orecchiette with spinach crème fraiche

orecchiette with spinach creme fraiche
it’s nine pm on sunday evening and thirty-two is getting ready for a downton supper. tv buffs will know that i am talking about downton abbey, the award winning period drama whose first series aired in twenty-ten. o and i have our pet favourites in the crawley family and its household and were looking forward to the return of the dowager duchess and her witticisms. 

ilona's kabab diaries with recipes

a year or so ago i tried to get mama to write for my blog. it seemed logical to do so not only because she is an excellent writer but also because i thought it was a smart way of getting her to pen recipes that i needed. as you can see it never worked. despite feeling a little peeved about it i understand why. she runs a creative business called atelier ilona lighting. this is a line of bespoke lighting. she also does a range of projects that include furniture design and embellishment with decoupage, photography and printmaking. she is a published poet, contributes regularly to nukta art magazine and when she isn’t too busy doing all that, cooks up culinary creations for human beings and cats and also paints handmade sari’s and block printed scarves for me.


plums, a poem, a recipe for rosemary marsala syrup

plums and nectarines with rosemary marsala syrup
i didn’t drink alcohol until my early twenties. my first memory of a screwdriver is far from endearing. but that wasn’t the case for boozy puddings and cakes or chocolate with liqueur. my first brush with the latter was with cherries surrounded by a thin and sharp kirsch sealed in a shell of chocolate. many years later when i met o i discovered that love tastes bittersweet like the memory of those kirsch chocolates. since then i have had many chocolate liqueur loves like contrieau, rum, champagne truffles and squares of milk chocolate with a capsule like centre of pear liqueur. 

Friday, 14 September 2012

a brownie birthday cake with a rescue mission

brownie cake with crumb frosting
i have become the unofficial birthday cake baker for the family i have married into, and for my friends too. most of the time i do this willingly because what can be better than a home baked cake with a flourish of irregular frosting. it is very rarely that my baking efforts  go pear shaped and where they have i’ve been able to bandage them. but this isn’t the story of a cake like that. this is the story of a birthday cake that needed a rescue operation that enlisted the support of the hoover, a tub of cream cheese, plenty of oven cleaner and 'trying to stay calm when all you want to do is scream'. the end result was a cake that was every bit what i had wanted it to be but its passage, just like life was far from smooth.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

a september curry made with chickpeas, spinach and coconut

chickpea, spinach and coconut curry
september is a month of transition. it is on the cusp of two of my favourite seasons, summer and autumn. the morning sunshine is soft like custard. london often sees a last gasp of summer with a sticky and hot day or two interspersed with slightly cooler ones.  a hot day will return me to a colourful salad that celebrates the vibrant colours of berries and stone fruits. on days when there is a whiff of autumn i want something warm with autumnal tones. this curry is that kind of a day in a bowl.  

Sunday, 2 September 2012

ginger's comfort emporium and thoughts on food for 'grown-ups'

king's cross ice cream festival
i have often heard of food and flavours being described as ‘for grown-ups’. i have on occasion used the description myself but it never ceases to puzzle me. mostly because when i was growing up i liked a lot of foods that most children didn’t. i ate stuffed bitter gourds gently steamed in a masala of lentils or minced meat. i loved vegetables such as courgettes, turnips and squash and i loved hummus only when it had the real assertive tahina flavour. i ate the stuff with a fork rather than pita when i was around eight years old. so you can understand why i find this description a little confusing. 

but on saturday, after queuing for an incredible forty-six minutes at ginger’s comfort emporium at the king's cross ice cream festival i finally realised that there are foods that are for grown-ups only. ginger’s comfort emporium hits the nail on the head when she describes her iced confections as being for ‘grown-ups’. her ice-cream van is colourful and quirky. it looks like a confection itself, as its body is pastel pink and plum brown with gold writing. i had a really hard time choosing my flavours as my hubby had abandoned me and gone home. 

banhmi11 and the architecture of a sandwich

op la di beef banh mi
over the recent months i have become quite concerned with the architecture of sandwiches. this concern was brought on by a encounter with a sandwich that had a delightful filling. however, the bread that held it together was so crumbly that it kept falling apart. in his trusty oxford companion to food davidson writes of the sandwich in its classic formulation as ‘two pieces of bread either side of a filling’.