Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Review : “How I cook” by Skye Gyngell


I enjoyed reading Skye Gyngell’s “How I Cook” (Quadrille Publishing). It is a beautifully illustrated, well thought-out book, targeting towards making a simple family meal a memorable one. The refreshing thing about this book is that it doesn’t fall into the trap of being a yet another catalogue of recipes.

The book has a relaxed, laid back summer afternoon feel. This is the kind of book you would refer to when you are not in a rush and would really want to enjoy your food with family and friends. Many of the recipes are delightfully simple and yet remarkable in their outcome. I tried her recipe for the roasted Sea bass with lemon and thyme. It took me only a few minutes to put together and it turned out beautifully. This book is also very suitable if you are cooking for any occasion or for someone special.


The book is categorised according to different themes and occasions like ‘Sunday lunch’, ‘Late night supper’, ‘Time to spare’ etc. Each of these sections has recipes for all three courses so that you don’t have to look elsewhere to see what starter will go with the mains you are making. The book has a wide spectrum of recipes most of them are complimented with lovely photographs by Jason Lowe. It covers from very simple recipes like cucumber sandwich to as complicated as slow cooked lamb shoulder. Along with the traditional recipes you will also find some not so widely known like Pashka (I loved the suggestion she made for this particular recipe. Read the book to find out! ). If you like spicy food like I do, then you will love her recipe for Rouile. It is simple but with absolutely delicious end product.


The book makes me feel like it is already summer. There are so many recipes that you can make in advance and take with you for picnics. They will be delightful alternatives to dull sandwiches.

This book doesn’t confuse novices with complex techniques. It gives clear step by clear tips and instructions on cooking and also storing food. I found her tips on Strawberry sponge cake very useful. Skye also encourages you to use the fresh produce or simple things like having small pots of fresh herbs in your kitchen window, which I completely agree. It is so useful to have some fresh herbs handy when you are putting together a dish. It adds a new dimension to the food.


I must say after reading this beautifully crafted book, I do feel like going to her restaurant and trying out some of her wonderful creations.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Valentine’s Day Chocolates

I love Chocolates. 


Who doesn’t? But seriously, this is something that I can have any time of the day or even night. That’s why when I received a big box full of chocolates from Sainsbury last week. I was over the moon again. There were seven different types of chocolates in it which I will be sharing with you here in two posts. It felt like opening a box of treasures as they show in the pirate movies.  

CS_131 CS_48

Now, since Valentine’s Day is approaching soon, I am sure everyone will be thinking what can you get for the very special person in your life. What ever gift you choose two things are must chocolates and flowers. Without them your day is not complete (at least for me it’s not! ).


I always wanted to photograph chocolates. I have seen many gorgeous photos of chocolate and it made me drool every time. This time I thought I will first photograph them before I eat them. I must tell you it was difficult, very difficult, not to have a bite while taking the photos.

Marc de Champagne: Filled with genuine French Marc de Champagne made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes


Milk Chocolate: A traditional Gysi-family recipe using chocolate from Ghana and Ecuador


Vanilla Caramel with fresh Swiss cream


Rich Dark :  Made with single-origin chocolate from Madagascan Trinitario beans


Belgian Milk Chocolate Flaked Truffles


But I tried, and tried hard not to eat, as they were such a temptation but you can’t stay away from them for long time. So I ate one or two ..may be more during the photo shoot but I managed to finish the photo shoot before I finished the chocolates.

End of part one ..There are few more chocolates which I still haven't photographed yet! I will cover them in my next post.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Courgette Paratha

I have this really weird habit of picking up things that I really don't need while shopping. I know it’s a common complaint many men have against their wives, but I think I do it more often than I realize. Especially when I am doing grocery. I end up buying things and then keep thinking what shall I do with them. That is exactly what happened when I last went to the supermarket. I bought 1 kg of Courgettes (2 packets, around 6 of them). Then I forgot about them. I rediscovered them back in my refrigerator three days after I bought them. They were buried under the tomatoes, the green beans, the mushrooms, the green chillies, the coriander etc. etc. Well, now you know how my veg. basket looks like :)


Anyway, when I rescued the courgettes underneath all these vegs, I started to worry that what do I do with them. These are similar to a veg we get in India called “Lauki” in Hindi and “Lau” in Bengali. The typical dish that we make with these are with prawns called “Lau-Chigri” which we had recently. I looked in the internet and guess what I found a recipe in BBC Good Food called “Indian Bread with courgettes and coriander”!! That was unusual!! I didn’t expect that at all!! So I thought of giving it a try and an hour later, there I was serving courgette paratha for dinner. As usual I didn’t follow the recipe word by word and started adding different things and made my own version of it. I must tell you it’s quite difficult to handle the dough when you are using fresh raw veg as it releases lot of water and  becomes a nightmare to get the right dough consistency but the finished product was good. I loved it. Hope you like it too. 



3 Courgettes / 500gms  (pealed and grated using the coarsest side of the greater)

1 tsp cumin seeds (dry roasted and made into dust)

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala powder

200 gm of plain flour and some extra for rolling the paratha

200 gm of roasted chick peas flour (we call it “Chatu” in Bengali) (you may find this in Indian store or replace with whole meal flour)

3 tbsp rice flour

2 tsp grated root ginger

3 tsp of green chilli paste (optional, I added because I like it)

Oil for frying



Mix all the dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl and then add 2/3 tbsp of oil in the flour mix. Give it a good mix then add rest of the wet ingredients in to it and start kneading. You will not need any water to knead as the grated courgette will release a lot of water. I found this step bit difficult as the dough is very sticky at this point. I put few drops of oil in my palms while kneading the dough, which helps to make the dough not sticking to hand. Continue kneading till you have a smooth dough. Make a log out of the dough and cut it into 12-14 equal portions. One by one take each portions and roll the in your palm to make small flat balls. Dip them in dry flour and set them aside. Dust the rolling plane with flour and start rolling each of the balls to thin parathas. Heat a heavy bottom frying pan and place one paratha and cook until you see little brown spot on the side facing down. Turn it over and cook till you see the brown spots again. Pour a teaspoon full of oil on and around the paratha and cook for 1 minute on both sides or until they are fully cooked. Serve them with your choice of veg or meat curry.


I made simple potato with onion, tomato and cumin slowly cooked on low heat. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dark Chocolate Tart and a Bright-Eyed Snowman

My long  holiday is over. I am back to work now! I had a great break of two weeks of uninterrupted holiday, being at home, no work, just relax, eat, sleep, watch movies, listen to music and most importantly do nothing! But things happen and as usual I have a story to talk about.


As the holiday started I decided I should do a signature bake. How I got the idea of the signature bake I will tell you later as it is altogether a different story, for now let me tell you this story. I was all geared up for this new bake, thought about the flavours and how should I go about it, what will be the quantity of the ingredients etc. I kept everything ready so that after dinner I can start baking. I was making spiced bread rolls. After dinner I placed the bread roll dough in  the oven for baking and started watching a movie.  It was a very interesting Hindi movie called Phas Gaye Re Obama.  I loved the movie, if you haven’t seenit then please do, or if you have already seen it then you know what I am taking about. Anyway the timer reminded me of the bread rolls in the oven and I reluctantly went and checked. The rolls were almost done but some how I felt the inner part need little more time in the oven. So I turned off the oven and kept the rolls in it and went back to my movie. I was planning to come back in 5 minutes and take the rolls out of the oven. I watched rest of the movie and then saw another movie and finally went to bed at 3.30 AM in the morning. Next day, I woke up around midday and went to the kitchen to make something for brunch. That’s when I opened my oven and saw the poor bread rolls. They became so hard, they almost felt like rocks, which I can probably break only with a hammer. I was so disappointed. My first attempt of the signature bake was a disaster caused by negligence. In case you are wondering what happened to my bread rolls look at the last picture of this post. I bet you won’t be disappointed.


Anyway, I was not going to give up so easily so I started on my next baking project which was dark chocolate tart. This was a success. I make sure I wasn’t distracted by anything. Here goes the recipe :)



For the tart base (pastry):

150 gm flour

100 gm butter

6 tbsp cocoa powder

2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

water for the dough


For the dark chocolate filling:

100 gm dark chocolate (60% or more)

3-4 tbsp coconut milk (thick and creamy, from the can)

3 tbsp of cherry liquor

Sugar (optional – I don’t like very sweet chocolate so I didn’t add any but if you prefer please add sugar to your taste )

Cherries for decoration



Add all the dry ingredients together and mix well. Now slowly add little water and start making the dough. It will be a moderately soft dough. Roughly around 40-50 ml of water will be required. now wrap it on cling film and keep it in the fridge for half an hour or so. Mean while on a bain marie  melt the chocolate, add the coconut milk and mix it together. Add the cherry liquor and sugar (optional) and keep mixing until it’s a homogeneous mixture.


Take the pastry out of the fridge and roll it out evenly, big enough to fit into the pie dish with a little overhang. Cut out the extra overhang to give the pie a nice edge. Now pre-heat the oven to 220 degree C, place a baking sheet on top of the crust, fill with beans and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Take the pie out of the oven and remove all the beans and the baking sheet and bake for another 10 minutes. Take the pie out of the oven and let it cool for 10-15 minutes. Fill the pie with the dark chocolate filling and keep it in the fridge for at least couple of hours before serving. Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee.


OK! Now back to the bread rolls, those days it had snowed heavily and my husband was very keen on making a snowman. So, when I finished baking my chocolate tart, he took me out in the back garden and showed me this.


He had used two of my bread rolls to make the eyes of the snowman…”At least they are of some use!!” he added , when I gave him “a look”.