Saturday, 28 July 2007

Another Soup

My mom makes something similar to the recipe that follows and as a kid, I almost never had the soup…any soup. Now I realise what I have been missing out on!
This soup only gets made when I do a Tesco run as I use ‘Dudhi’ (gourd) as the main ingredient. I know, that’s sounds scary to some but in a soup, it’s fresh and light. Try it…

One medium Dudhi, chopped
One medium Potato, chopped
One small Carrot, chopped
One medium Red Onion, chopped
4-5 cloves of Garlic, chopped
1 Tsp Coriander seeds
White Pepper & Salt to taste
Creme Fraiche (optional)

Saute the onions, garlic and coriander seeds in about 1 tbsp olive oil for about 2-3 minutes. Next add in the dudhi, potato and carrot and cook on low gas for another 10 minutes. Add in about 4-5 cups of water and cook until all vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes on low-medium gas). Add the salt and pepper. Run through the food processor or blender in batches until you have a smooth consistency. Heat again before serving (avoid boiling though not the end of the world if it boils). Add a little bit of creme fraiche and chopped coriander to each bowl if you want to make the soup a little richer.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007


Malbec is my favourite. Think it's not just the taste but this silly feeling that I discovered it for myself. All I really did was read the Friday WSJ wine reviews and convince the husband to try out the wine....think I won him over.
A few days ago, we decided to open a good bottle of Malbec to share with my in-laws. The bottle was a Nicholas Catena Zapata, 2002. Nicholas Catena Zapata is made from a selection of the best lots of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec in the Catena Zapata Vineyards. The content is 72% Cabernet Sauvignon & 28% Malbec.
In very basic (non-wine) terms – it’s a rich but not too strong red wine….I like it! Don't forget to air it.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Old Fashioned Crumb Cake

My fall back easy dessert. It's a crumb cake or also known as a coffee cake. Before I go any further, I have to thank an ex-colleague and his wife who introduced me to this recipe! It's a life saver and yummy! The cake is not too sweet (as everyone seems to want it nowadays), takes only 10 minutes to prepare and about 20-30 minutes to bake.

2 1/2 cups of Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup brown Sugar
3/4 cup granulated Sugar
3/4 Oil
1/2 chopped Nuts (e.g. Pecans)
1/2 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Egg lightly beaten
1 cup Buttermilk

Sift together flour, salt and 1.5 teaspoon cinnamon into a huge bowl. Add sugars, oil and mix at medium speed of electric mixer until blended and fluffy. Measure out 3/4 cup of this mixture for topping and add nuts, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon and nutmeg to it. Add soda, baking powder, egg and buttermilk to remaining flour mixture and stir until smooth. Turn into well greased 9x13 baking pan and level top. Sprinkle with topping and press lightly back with back of a spoon. Bake at 350F or 180C for 30-35 minutes. Note the time will vary depending on the oven. In NY it used to take me the whole 30-35 minutes but in London it takes me about 20-25 minutes. If left in too long, the topping will burn.

If you only want to make a small cake, then just halve the ingredients above. That's what I do most of the time. We often have this plain, warm from the oven or serve with Pralines & Cream or Dulce De Leche ice cream.

Below is a picture of the BIG helping DH took....!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

No cooking over the weekend...Aubaine..

No cooking at home a couple of weekends ago. Instead, we tried out two new restaurants (having a good friend visiting from NY was the perfect excuse to expand our London restaurant horizons). I know, that was a couple of weeks ago and am posting only now.. ..I was waiting for my friend to get back to NY and download the one precious picture I took at the first restaurant. Given that I am new to blogging - I had forgotten my camera so had to request my friend to take a picture (and I only remembered when the dessert arrived..was too busy enjoying the food)! Anyway, now that she is back in NY and I have a picture (prefer to post with pictures) are my thoughts on the restaurants.

The first restaurant, Aubaine came highly recommended by a friend from work. He said it was French food so was a bit skeptical since French food does not always hit the spot with vegetarians. This one most certainly did! The ambiance is really nice, especially on a warm summer day. The entire front of the restaurant opens out onto the street, creating a bright and airy atmosphere and you don't feel like you are missing out on a beautiful day (those have become rare in London this summer). We went for a late lunch and between all of us we ordered Beef Carpaccio, Cauliflower soup, salad Aubaine, Roasted Vegetable tartine and Salmon tartine. All of it was fantastic! I had the soup and roasted veg. tartine and both were bursting with flavour. The topper was ofcourse, dessert! Normally we would have just looked at the menu and then skipped the temptation. However, the staff walks around with this little dessert tray and everything on it looks so beautiful and appetizing, we indulged in two desserts for the table! My favourite was this strawberry concoction (forgotten the name so looks like I need to go back!!). It was light, not to sweet and just gorgeous to look at which is finally when I remembered I should take some pictures. It was a lovely lunch and will definitely return to sample the brunch menu which has a eggs in addition to the lunch fare. The lunch fare had tartines, salads, sandwiches and mains. Dinner is somewhat similar with more mains on the menu. They also sell fresh bread and have a special bread of the week. Will definitely return here.

The second restaurant we tried was Tom's Kitchen. Again, loved the place and will post more on it once I go back and take some pictures of the food! We went for dinner, had some lovely drinks...husband loved the Dirty Martini and I thought my Caipirinha was good to. The non-alcoholic Mojito got plus points from my friend who said it was not super sweet, drowning in syrup. They had a brunch menu that mentioned waffles..I'll definitely be going back for that.

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Peas Peas, some soup peas...

Green pea soup....never even crossed my mind until I had the an incredible green pea soup at Chez Bruce back in June. It was unusual yet tasty and so light. So, I finally decided (after over a month) that it can't be that hard to make a good pea soup...and it was not!

3 cups of green peas (if using frozen, thaw and rinse)
8 chopped spring onions
2 cloves of garlic, diced
3 cups of vegetable stock
White pepper to taste
Salt to taste
Crème fraîche
Lambs Lettuce or croutons

In a little olive oil, saute the onions and garlic until light brown. Add in the peas and saute for another 2 minutes. Add in the stock, cover the saucepan and simmer for about 10-12 minutes for young or frozen peas and up to 18 minutes for large or older peas, stirring occasionally. When the peas are tender, ladle them into the food processor or blender with a little of the cooking liquid, add salt and white pepper to taste and process until smooth. Strain the soup (if you don't want any bits) into the saucepan, add in a tablespoon of crème fraîche and heat through without boiling. Alternately, you can strain the soup and ladle into bowls for serving and then add a small dollop of crème fraîche to each bowl to give it a nice visual effect. Finish by adding a sprig of lambs lettuce to the bowl or croutons.

Sunday, 15 July 2007


Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is an ancient food native to the Andean region of Central America. Quinoa has a greater protein content than most grains, and unlike other grains, contains all the amino acids needed to build protein. Thus, a recent favourite of mine – replacing pasta for dinner! Quinoa has a mild slightly nutty taste, firm texture and can be made slightly chewy or creamy. Quinoa should be rinsed or soaked before cooking. To cook it just put 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water, cover and simmer until all of the water has been absorbed. For a lighter, fluffier dish cook in more water for longer. Most quinoa available in the UK is yellow but it is also possible to get red quinoa which can be used in the same way.

Quick and easy recipe:

1 cup Quinoa
2 cloves of Garlic (diced)
1 medium chopped Zucchini
1 chopped Red Pepper
1/2 chopped Green Pepper
1/2 chopped Red Onion
1 large red Chilli
1 small slab of Halloumi cheese, cut into small cubes

Wash quinoa thoroughly. Add 2 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa and cook until soft and fluffy. Separately, in a little olive oil, saute the garlic until browned, then add in the red onions and chilli and saute for 2 more minutes. Follow with the peppers and zucchini for 4-5 minutes, until cooked but slightly crunchy. Stir in the cooked quinoa and mix well. Lastly, add in the halloumi, cook for 2-3 more minutes. Add in a little salt - about half a teaspoon should be enough as the halloumi is quite salty. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve hot.
Have to mention that I only thought of using Halloumi when I saw a Quinoa recipe of Anne's blog. It tastes delicious.

Osteria Basilico

Osteria Basilico is located in Notting Hill on Kensington Park Road. We discovered it when some family friends were visiting and looking for a casual Italian restaurant that served good pizza and wine. Osteria Basilico definitely fit the bill! The pizza's are delicious, thin crust and bursting with flavour. The staff was very accommodating and let us add additional toppings, essentially creating our own pizza. We ordered two pizzas - one with pepperoni, garlic and chillies and the other was a Margherita with garlic and chillies. Yes, we like our chillies.

We also ordered spaghetti with clams and a rigatoni matriciana. The spaghetti with clams was a big hit but rigatoni turned to be very cheesy and heavy. Dessert was the standard Tiramisu and the restaurant did fairly well here. It was light and fluffy and tasted home-made. Not the best I have eaten but definitely good. All in all, will definitely go back to the place. The staff was friendly and accommodating and we got a table on the ground floor by the windows, as requested. Would highly recommend sitting on the ground floor and not the basement which feels a bit stuffy.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Mmm.....Ice cream!

Ever since I left India, a whole new world has opened up for me..... it's the world of Haagen Daz and Ben & Jerrys. I absolutely love ice cream. Favourite flavour for a while was 'Light' Dulce De Leche by Haagen Daz. Unfortunately, you don't get the light version in London so have to revert to the original. I do like the original but at times, it can be too sweet. Good old comfort, don't want to experiment ice cream is Strawberry (Haagen Daz) and the best ice cream bars are Caramel Toffee crunch (Dove) which I have found only in Minneapolis. Favourite ice cream place was the Edina Creamery in Minneapolis.

Anyway, ice cream mixed with cookies is a quick and easy last minute dessert. The other day I combined Dulce De Leche with some Ginger cookies from Tesco's 'finest' brand. It was a lovely combination, the ginger flavour gave the ice cream a refreshing twist without that strong pungent taste that is associated with ginger. Serve in a see through ice cream bowl or even a cocktail glass and it takes it up a notch.
Today, as I was picking up some last minute supplies from Sainsbury Local, I could not help walking by the Haagen Daz ice cream freezer. I was looking to replace the Dulce De Leche I gorged on yesterday and came across a 'Summer Berries and Cream' ice cream instead. It is technically summer, so I got completely taken in by the labeling and bought it. It tasted delicious - fruity, creamy and summery as expected. However, I wanted to add my little twist - just a simple one. So, I crushed a Marks & Spencer biscuit curl over the ice cream and stuck a mint chocolate stick (bought at a 50% off Godiva sale..) and served it up in a fancy glass. cream... someday I'll own an ice cream maker.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Black Outs..

No, it's not an electricity cut. It's the name of the these beautiful deep reddish-black lilies I bought on Fulham road. I know it's not food...but the flowers are just so beautiful, I had to share! The photos don't do justice to the lovely colour. These are the most unusual lilies I have seen available so easily.... guess little things make me happy!

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Amarula Martini

1.5 parts Amarula
1 part Hazelnut chocolate Liqueur
1 part Vanilla Vodka

Mix with lots of ice in a cocktail shaker. Drizzle either some chocolate or caramel sauce inside the rim of the glass and have a dessert in a glass!

Genesis of this drink..have so many of these liqueurs at home from a party that I figured a cocktail was in order. So, I picked a few of them and threw them into a cocktail shaker. It's not hard to go wrong with the sweet stuff.

Incase you are wondering, Amarula is a South African liqueur that is made from the fruit of a Marula tree.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

The proof is in the pudding.....

Last year when we had just moved to London, we got invited to a 4th of July BBQ and that's where I tasted a fantastic banana pudding. Am not really into puddings but this one was just delicious and I actually asked for the recipe. Magnolia strikes again - the recipe is Magnolia Bakery's Famous Banana Pudding. The recipe proportions served about 15-20 people so I decided it would be perfect for Di's BBQ today. Safe to say the pudding was a hit as the huge bowl got polished off! When you read the recipe, don't think of calories please...just enjoy the result! It's not that often we indulge in puddings...

1 can 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1.5 cups ice cold water
1 3.4 oz pack instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups heavy (double) cream
1 12 oz. box Nabisco Nilla Wafers
4 cups sliced ripe bananas

In a small bowl, beat together the condensed milk and water until combined. Add pudding mix and beat well. Cover and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or overnight before continuing. It is important for the pudding mix to set.
In a large bowl whip heavy cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold pudding mixture into the whipped cream until well blended and no streaks of pudding remain.
To assemble, select a large wide bowl (4-5 Qt. capacity). Arrange 1/3 of the wafers to cover the bottom of the bowl, then 1/3 of the bananas and 1/3 of the pudding. Repeat the layering twice more, garnishing with additional wafers or crumbs on top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to chill in the refrigerator for 4-8 hours.

That's the original recipe. I had to improvise slightly as I did not have an instant vanilla pudding mix. I had to cook the pudding (hot milk in saucepan type) and then let it set. I combined the whipped cream with set pudding and the can of condensed milk and it still worked. I think the result was that the pudding was not too sweet. I did get the Vanilla wafers and the pudding mix from the US but am guessing you can find Vanilla custard mix and plain Vanilla wafers (cookies/biscuits) in London. I need to look for a wafer substitute in the grocery stores here but am told that the Nabisco wafers are available at Partridges in the Duke of York square.