Thursday, 31 January 2013

vanilla notes + whole bean vanilla biscuits

butter stains on parchment and half a whole bean vanilla biscuit
have you ever looked up vanilla in the dictionary? its adjective element is described as ‘having no special or extra features; ordinary’. now consider this – a slim crème anglaise that softens a bittersweet terrine, crème patissière piped into profiteroles, a soft set custard gently flecked with an abundance of black vanilla seeds and classic desserts like crème brûlée and caramel custard. they would be bereft sans vanilla. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

a different version of ottolenghi's krantz cake

almond orange blossom krantz cake
the trouble with christmas is that it leaves an abundance of sweet things in its wake. there are boxes of chocolates tucked into drawers, biscuits languishing in the biscuit tin and homemade christmas cake. there was also leftover marzipan that needed to be dealt with. a little short of new years eve i had some friends coming over for tea so i decided to turn the left over marzipan into ottolenghi’s krantz cake. the recipe that appears in jerusalem is beautifully illustrated – a plait of dough that reveals an interior of chocolate and pecans. i reworked the recipe by replacing the chocolate and nut mixture with my homemade marzipan and plenty of orange peel. the sugar syrup was replaced with honey and orange blossom to give it a glossy finish. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

buttermilk skillet chicken

buttermilk skillet chicken
there are some vegetables whose ‘keeping’ qualities make them residents of my vegetable drawer for longer than necessary. red cabbage is one of them. its outer coat may begin to loose its glossiness after a couple of days but one can always peel back the layers to a skin of firm shininess. i always have one of these ‘keepers’ in my drawer for mid-week suppers. most often they are the ones that inspire creativity.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

a conversation on punitions (punishments) and pakistan

punitions, just out of the oven
late last year in writing about malala yousafzai, kamila shamsie used the words of pakistani writer nadeem aslam "pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery. but no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave." those words resounded in my head through out january tenth and after when a series of bombs in quetta targeting the shia community left ninety-three dead and many others injured.

it appears that mine is a nation where resilience is punished with brutality.

i wonder whether humanity has extinguished itself in pakistan. at the end of twenty-twelve i had only one wish that pakistan may begin to turn a chapter (for the better). but barely two weeks into the year and the killing continues unabated with a brazenness that defies humanity and imagination.

Friday, 11 January 2013

defining perfect and dorie greenspan's 'world peace cookies'

just out of the oven world peace cookies
perfect exists in plural. it can be yours, mine or ours. my husband would describe it as a gemini whose singular element is composed of many selves. it could be a perfect day, a moment, a taste or even a memory. the twenty twelve winter solstice was perfect. it was a warmer than usual day with sunshine so crisp and light so sharp the world appeared as a precise cut-out. the blue of the sky in transition from the longest night to day graduated from ink to cobalt to pale-silver blue. it was a friday and i started the day with bridget’s asana practice. breakfast was a fitzroy bun from honey and co. a clever combination of middle eastern flavours – mahleb (marzipan of cherry kernels), pistachios and sour cherries rolled into a brioche like dough that had been generously brushed with syrup. it was baklava-esque. i finished with a milky latte.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

edible gifts; homemade gianduja, red wine truffles et al.

edible gifts for my family
this past christmas was all about edible gifts. they were inspired by m and m’s gifts to us two years running. in twenty-eleven m gave us a bottle of rosemary infused olive oil from her grand father’s olive groves. it was grassy in colour with a strong aroma and sharp taste. along with it came a jar of homemade muffin mix. m had layered the ingredients and then added a christmas tag with handwritten instructions. on christmas twenty-twelve we got bee wilson’s consider the fork along with a bottle of homemade mulled wine syrup. these were such perfect ideas for food lovers that it got me inspired to make some of my own. some of these were for londoners and others were bubble wrapped for international carriage.

christmas eve dinner at babcia's and a recipe for christmas cake

the anatomy of a slice
it is christmas eve and we are gathered around babcia and daddy’s dining table in lahore. there is crisp linen on the table and the pretty china that is usually resident in the glass fronted cabinets has been laid out for dinner. our first course is always barszcz. this eastern european staple is a traditional polish first course for christmas eve dinner. babcia ladles the soup and passes it around the table. sometimes she will finish it with a squiggle of cream that is edged a vivid crimson where it meets the soup. warm dinner rolls in the shape of a knot are served on the side.

that chocolate cake

that chocolate cake for a's twenty-twelve
this last year i rediscovered my love for baking. it is something i grew up doing in mama’s kitchen. i have many happy childhood memories of measuring ingredients in cups, cracking eggs into mixing bowls and holding the beater to cream butter and sugar, whip cream and transform egg whites into stiff peaks for meringues. it was mama who taught me how to make my own buttermilk to add to scones and how to sift flour without making a mess. the action of tapping the sifter against the base of the palm never ceases to make me feel like i am seven and standing over a mixing bowl in mama’s kitchen.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

a soup of simple constitution

because a good lentil soup begins with browning onions
the season of indulgence has come to an end. both o and i are suffering from the ill effects of excess. thirty-two is still heaving with chocolates, cake, marzipan and cheese but all i have been craving is a soup of simple constitution with some cleansing elements like astringent ginger and fresh chilli that flushes the skin and breathes openness into the nostrils. this recipe is culled from a combination of nigel slater’s but is deeply rooted in what i think is the most comforting pakistani food – dhal. it is a gentle yellow bolstered by turmeric and finished with a spoonful of crème fraiche with roughly chopped chilli and chive. i also included some olive oil croutons made from two languishing and very stale slices of poilâne country loaf. the oven crisped them to sharp crunch. large bowls of soup with a couple of episodes of modern family were the perfect way to end the festive season. and in o’s case it helped tide over a rather unforgiving hangover.

naamyaa café - bangkok street food in islington

naamyaa café, islington 
alan yau’s newest addition to london’s casual dining scene is a bangkok style café in islington. his signature style is evident in the modern and sleek dining space accentuated by terraced golden bodhisattva’s. the menu here is based on bangkok style street food and that element of the street is fashioned through an open plan kitchen and bar. the air is heady with spice and the cacophony of human conversation as it rises above the theatre of cooking sounds - hissing and sizzling.