Monday, April 30, 2012

Boring Disclaimer. Marbled Chocolate-Banana Bread with Peanut Butter Frosting.

After almost a decade of their existence, I've realised the purpose of blogs. To be foist-fully heard.

No, I'm serious. I can text it, Status Update it and yell it along with the best of them, but I won't be heard as much as if I post it along with pictures of "deelishus!" food.

I'm so thoroughly grateful and happy to have people in my life who offer to send me cookies from across the seas and soup from across the streets. And to the people who make curious/concerned phone calls at the increasingly skyrocketing Bangalore-to-Madras rates. You're all very cool. Very occasionally.

Disclaimers aren't as cool, though. They are pesky, annoying and I almost always check "Agree to all terms and conditions" without reading them. You might want to read this bit.. You can doze off and pretend you have. I almost always do. Here goes.

Kindly take everything I say with a pinch of salt (make it Fleur de Sel, if you can lay your hands on some). I never, ever speak as a medical practitioner in this site. Butter and dark chocolate do not cancel each other out. My 8-year-old sister can tell you that. As a doctor who sees hoards of people with a plethora of lifestyle diseases, whose origins are almost always in the refrigerator, I know I have a responsibility. Which I hope I fulfill within the confines of my Outpatient Department and the people who call me for the purpose of medical advice.

On this blog? I'm your average twenty-four-year-old. I care equally about shockingly-blue skinny jeans and the fibrofatty plaques on  arterial walls. I blissfully lie to myself that Frozen-Yogurt is healthy. I touch the petri-dishes that handle-bars on the local trains are, without the fact even registering in. I regularly extol the virtues of raw cookie dough (the kind with eggs in it).

Sometimes I do not know if I'm typing out on a sordid Blogger text box or performing theatrics at The Globe. That's just me. I'm sorry. It's nearly impossible for me to completely cut the medicine out of it. I might tell you to add in flax seeds or talk about how crucial Calcium is.

But, please, please take caricature-ish verses on Butter with a pinch handful of salt. Call me during working hours, and I'll ask you to stay off both.

Not here. Of course, if it falls under the ambiguous umbrella of Healthy, I'll tag it.

I've spoken enough for my generation and the next. We'll head on to the Recipe of the Day.

Banana Bread. You can never have enough recipes for it.

This loaf has less calories than your average nut-studded, brown-butter-filled loaf. It has chocolate in it, though. Taste (and calorie count) is heightened by the addition of creamy, slightly salty Peanut Butter Frosting. That's all I'm saying.

Latha (tamil-muslim-word for big sister)'s little helper enjoys the cake of our labour!

Marbled Banana Bread:
(recipe source for bread: Post Punk Kitchen)


1 cup mashed over-ripe banana
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (canola, sunflower)
1/3 cup milk (make it almond to go Vegan!)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons boiling water, divided

Peanut Butter Frosting:
1/4 cup peanut butter (Creamy/crunchy are both fine)
2 tbsps milk
1 tbsp butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
a pinch of salt.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mash bananas (3 or so), until you get a cup's worth.

Beat in the sugar, oil, vanilla and milk until you get a smooth mix.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt until combined. Fold it into your banana-egg mix gently. It's OK if there are tiny streaks of flour. Do NOT overmix.

Measure out one cup's worth of batter in a separate bowl and keep both portions aside.

In a small cup, mix together 3 tbsps cocoa powder and 3 tbsps boiling water until it forms a homogeneous mix. Add this cocoa to the cup's worth of banana bread batter and fold with a fork until it's combined.

To the remaining plain banana bread batter, add 3 tbsps of boiling water and mix with fork until combined.

You now have your batter duo.

 Layer one batter over one corner of the greased loaf tin.
Add the chocolate-filled batter to the other half.

Swirl it around carefully with a blunt bread knife. Over mixing defeats the purpose of a marbled bread!

Bake for around 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Slice and frost with the Peanut Butter frosting while still warm.
Peanut butter frosting comprises of all the ingredients blitzed together in a blender. Thin out with more milk or sweeten/thicken it with more powdered sugar. It really is that simple!
Enjoy with a cup of tea/coffee.

Or just attack the frosting, then the bittersweet chocolate portion and then the scented banana portion.

Laatha's little helper is always right. When it comes to food.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

For probably the first time in Forever, I do not feel like cooking, eating or blogging.

It started off with a foot injury. Which was strapped in an adhesive cast and advised nothing more than rest.

I sprayed an OTC painkiller all over my foot. Something Big Pharma promotes a lot, and nothing Tripati/CIMS warns you explicitly against. However, given my lifelong battle with allergies, I broke out in huge hives/blebs/eczema and host of other things that have no business being mentioned on a food blog.

So I'm on a month-long course of icky medication that seems to have cut off interest in life food. Fear not. It won't last more than a week, at the most.

Please make a batch of  brownies. Send me some.

Or soup. Make some Minestrone. And send me some.

I've truly hit rock bottom when I crave soup more than cookies. Cannot wait to be un-sick.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie 101, 201, so on and so forth.

If you've ever seen the "About Me" page, you would've read the bit about being "The Girl Who Makes Chocolate Chip Cookies."

After all that build up and a year-and-a-half's worth of frantic food blogging, I realised that there isn't ONE honest-to-God Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on the blog. Shame on me.

My excuse is that I make these little babies so often that I don't pause to take photos of the process. I've been making the TollHouse cookies since Time Immemorial (actually, 2002). They've almost never gone wrong on me and I don't believe in fixing things if they aren't (can't bring myself to say ain't) broken. Then the food-blog lifestyle happened.

And thus began my search for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in the Whole Wide World.

After much experimentation, the thing I've inferred is that term "Best" is purely subjective. I love my cookies to be cakey and chewy, with a high chocolate:cookie dough ratio. I don't do crisp, biscuit-type cookies. I'll scarf down packet after packet of Walkers' shortbread, of course. But if there was a plate of biscotti versus a plate of cookies, I'd be pigging out on the cookies.

As would my trusted merry band of guinea pigs.

"B****, please. Don't be up in my space when I'm watching ToyStory3 for the 1000th time."

P.S.: We eat rice by the sack-and-drum full. However, we do not let our kids swear. I swear.
Nigbe's "B****, please, I'm eating" poker face. The expert judges don't give anything away.

It's an easy recipe... that automatically means it's easy enough to screw up. I'll show you pictorially (and spare you the thousand words), on what you should and shouldn't do.

The butter has to be softened and at room temperature, as per Nestle Tollhouse's original CCC recipe. I heat my butter until it's just about melted; this helps to melt down the dark brown sugar and imparts a robust flavour to the cookies. It's boring to wait around for the butter to soften... even at Madras, where it takes about two minutes.

The recipe originally calls for an egg and a egg yolk. Since our Indian eggs have very little albumin, I dump two full eggs in. I suck at separating whites and yolks, anyway.

Use the darkest demerara sugar you can find. Light brown sugar works, not as good as dark though. Not only does it stay a little granulated, giving your cookies some crunch, it melts into a delicious, chewy caramel goodness. As for the white sugar, use granulated, not powdered!

For cakey cookies, use All-Purpose flour (maida). Alton Brown recommends Bread Flour only, the NY Times recommends a blend of Bread flour and Cake flour, but this is a moot point at Madras. For authentic cookies, use AP flour. You can experiment with wholewheat once you master basic CCCs.

Oooh. The most important part. The chocolate chips. Could you buy a log of disgusting cooking chocolate and chop it into chunks? No.

Could you throw in whatever chocolate you have on hand? The pre-made chocolate chips you find at Nilgris and other supermarkets? HELL, no.

No. No. No. No. And no.

Use only chocolate that you love eating. It doesn't work otherwise. And make sure you chop big fat chunks out of it. Since I found Galaxy Smooth chocolate bars on sale, I bought eight bars of it, ate four, and used the remaining for these cookies. How I wish I were lying.

I've used milk and dark chocolate chips in the ratio of 2:1. It gets too sickeningly sweet, otherwise.

Beat the eggs, sugar and butter as much as you want. After you add in the flour, chocolate chips and other random mix-ins, get a hold of yourself.

Always, always, always add salt. Eat the cookie dough, if you don't feel very strongly about Salmonella. Even if you don't have the time to refrigerate it for 24 to 36 hours, stow it in the fridge for at least half an hour. It is a whole lot less messy and has a deeper flavour that way.

That texture, that grittiness, that colour, that's what you want.

Browned edges, pale-ish centre. That's the cookie cooked. Let it cool for a couple of minutes before you take it off the pan/sheet.

Ooooh. Yes.

Cool completely on a wire rack before you throw it in an air-tight box. Remember, baked cookies keep up to three days. If you freeze the dough in the form of balls, in a Ziploc bag, it lasts for a couple of months. Refrigerating cookie dough is permissible for up to 5 days.

Nothing like a plate full of freshly baked cookies, though. That's Love, that is.

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe:
(Adapted from Baking Illustrated)


2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1.5 cups milk and dark chocolate chunks.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped. (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325 F or 160 C. Line a baking tin with aluminium foil. You don't have to grease it.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix well and keep aside.

In another bowl, melt the butter and let it turn lukewarm. Add in the sugars and beat for around 2 minutes. Blend in the eggs and vanilla essence until combined.

Now add in the flour mix. It's better to fold in by hand, but if you must use the beater, do it at the lowest speed and STOP when it's moderately combined.

Stir in the nuts (if using) and chocolate chips.

At this point, refrigerate the cookie dough (after eating several spoonfuls raw, of course) for at least half an hour. Using a ice-cream scoop or a soup spoon/ladle type thing, form balls out of the cookie dough.

You can Saran/cling-film wrap the bowl with the dough in it, so that it doesn't absorb any of the refrigerator smells.

Place about 1/4 cup worth of cookie dough on the sheet. Space the cookies, as they tend to spread and bake.

Bake for 15 minutes and check if the edges are mildly brown and hard. The centres have to be puffy, soft and tan. Rotate the sheet once during the baking process so that all of the cookies get equal heat.

Take it out and cool it on the sheet for 2 minutes. Let it completely cool on the wire rack.



This is fun variation I found at Kevin and Amanda's site when I had a hankering for Red Lobster's Chocolate Chip Cookie Lava Cake.

It's supremely simple.

You can do this in a muffin tin or biscuit tin. Press down about quarter cup of cookie dough. Add a square or two of chocolate.

Stuff back with more cookie dough.

Bake away until the edges are golden brown! After a minute or two, turn out the cookie/cake monstrosity (in a GREAT way).

Serve with vanilla ice cream and fudgy sauce of your choice.

This is Lust. This is.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

French Toast: Middle Eastern or Mediterranean?

I've been baking cookies. You know, trying out the bazillion "Best Choc-Chip Cookies Ever!" recipes floating around the food blogosphere. I've succumbed to all the tricks and tactics of the trade: adding an extra egg yolk, using cake flour, stuffing it with chunks of chocolate, refrigerating cookie dough for 36 hours, resisting eating raw cookie dough for the 24+ hours. The whole nine and a freaking half yards.

So you know what my post is going to be. Not Chocolate chip cookies. Had enough of them  for a while.

Middle-Eastern French toast.

I'm sorry for the build-up. Please go do some cardio+crunches(20 reps, 3 sets), and I'll have about six batches of Chocolate Chip Cookies prettily ready for you in a couple of days!

Middle-Eastern French Toast was the result of a happy accident. By that, I mean I overheard my 8-year-old sister instructing mum on how she wanted her french toast. It could also mean that I stole a slice of her French toast (and swooned) as I'd rather my metabolism went for a toss than eat Ragi Kazhi for breakfast. P.S.: It isn't a frou-frou thing. I like Kazhi, just not the ones made with Calcium-enriched Diabetic food.

Sumi had this brilliant idea of adding pinches and pinches of saffron strands to the French toast egg mix... she probably thought it'd make it taste like kheer or sheer korma.

She isn't at the age where she understands how much each milligram costs... and if I tell her that mind-altering drugs cost less, I'd be killed by mum for a) "spoiling your sister and making her exactly like you" b) even if it's been two years since I graduated Medical school, Mum chooses to believe that her 24-year-old daughter has no clue about the existence of "drugs" or where babies come from; simply because unmarried girls mustn't know/speak of "these things".
I'll spare you the lengthy diatribe this post is evolving into... and teach you how to make Middle-Eastern french toast.

It's easy, you'll know how to make it already (I use the base recipe from i am baker). To go along with it, I suggest a simple, luxurious dry-fruit milk we make only (justifiably) in the month of Ramadan.

Middle-Eastern French Toast:


2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tbsps milk
2 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
3/4 tsp rosewater
7-8 strands of Saffron
5-6 slices bread


Heat the 2 tbsp milk until it's boiling. Add the saffron strands to it and squeeze the extract out of it. Keep aside the saffron to infuse in the milk until cool.

In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk (both the plain and saffron-soaked), sugar, salt and rosewater.
Silly me forgot to do the saffron-infusion before hand. You must, though!

Heat an non-stick pan or griddle. Add a pat of butter or ghee.

Dip a slice of bread into the milk mix. Do not let it soak too much, as there won't be enough egg-milk mix for the rest of the bread.

Cook the dipped bread on medium-low, about 2 minutes on each side.

Do NOT use skim milk and wholewheat bread. Please.

Take it out and serve hot with Saffron honey and butter!

A dusting of confectioners' sugar is pretty handy when you're out of honey.

Could not resist a couple of bites fresh off the griddle, pre-photo session!

Dry-fruit milk:

1 cup whole milk.
5-6 walnuts
4-5 almonds
4-5 unsalted pistachios
5 raisins or a couple of chopped up dates
a pinch of saffron
1 tbsp sugar (or more, per your liking. Remember, dates are sweet!)


Feel free to use and hold off on the dry fruits of your choice!

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap/lid, and refrigerate overnight (minimum7 hours).

You can eat it by itself or with the french toast!

Suddenly can't wait for Ramadan. For more reasons than one.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Amadora Gourmet Ice Cream & Sorbet and Other Delicious Stories.

Have you noticed the dwindling frequency of reviews on the blog?

I'm naturally suspicious of all things new. I debate for hours days over a new brand of cocoa powder or hair conditioner. I double-glove up for every patient. Safe-and-boring trumps sorry-and-impulsive in my profession.

Which is why, on the rare nights that I do get to dine out, I'd rather go to a place where I know I'll love the food and ambiance instead of taking a chance.

I've been told that it's very narrow-minded, unadventurous, blah and the like. So with a few daring people in tow, I headed over to Amadora off Khader Nawaz Khan Road, a couple of days back. You should know that we fueled up on Falooda and Lime Mint coolers at Fruitshop beforehand, because one should always be prepared for disappointment/the worst.

Turns out my fears were unfounded. If there was disappointment, it was probably because the Salted Buttercream flavour (Fleur de Sel, how I love thee) had run out by the time we got there.

Top row L-R: Sweet cream, Earl Grey, Strawberry (YUM!), Chocolate
Bottom Row L-R: Lime Sorbet, Trifle Pudding, Stracciatella and other assorted Deliciousness.
In a cacao-pod-shell, I found a place I'll be going back to. Possibly (hopefully) in the near future. How often do you hear me say that?

If there was a "Custom-made food in small quantities" fan club, I'd be the Admin/Moderator. Sorry to go all Bourdain on you, but if there is one food I'd never pay money to buy/eat, it'd be a close tie between mass-produced Chicken McNuggets or McDonald's creation for the Indian market: the Pizza Puff (please don't exist). If there was one cause I'd rally over, it would be to take those two things off the menu. If there's, if there's, if there's.

But. You don't even have to be that snooty to enjoy Amadora's ice cream. There's a Mami's Kapi flavour.

Made from Kaaveri coffee (Sarbs gets on a Tamilian kick each time she comes to Madras. Breakfast at Sangeetha, sandwiches at Alsa Mall, that type of thing). The ice cream is brilliant, rivalling the Espresso-bean ice cream you get at Escape.

As History has dictated, I had the Chocolate flavour. Which annoyed the cousins and W a little bit, because how much more safe-boring-generic can one get?

I had the last laugh and the best flavour. The texture was a revelation! The mixture of milk and dark chocolate left me with the right amount of the chocolate high (Hi, I'm Rabia, and I'm a choco-holic). It was worth every last paisa of the 170 bucks I paid for a scoop. In saying that, I must add that half a scoop satiates even the most addicted of chocoholics (except hopeless cases. eg: me). I'll go so far as to say that I might cheat on Nutella with it.

Yeah. I said it, and I'm not taking it back.

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you could have the Earl Grey Tea with Dark Chocolate Chunks. I stole a couple of chunks (sweet heaven) from Nigbe, but the ice-cream, per se, didn't make my tastebuds sing, you know? Reminded me too much of Jasmine rice/tea.

Nigbe loved it though... don't know if it's because I treated her to it and she felt obligated to say that she did. She finished it in five minutes flat and kept saying she wanted more at five-second intervals, so I'll leave you to infer.

W tasted every flavour, making all the right critic-y faces. He was torn between the Vanilla (specks-of-Vanilla alert!) and the Trifle-pudding flavour. He finally settled on the Trifle Pudding, because "he's Urdu Muslim and very proud of it." Or he knows those are the only flavours I wouldn't steal too much of. He firmly thinks he had the best and even turned down the routine half-cup flavour-swap.

Oh, and the place is pretty nice! Loved the jigsaw-shaped tabletops and the high bar/salon stools. Not sure if Mum and her 40+ posse would find it comfortable. Actually, not sure I'd find it comfortable 6 months from now if I continue eating at this dedicated momentum.

I must also mention that as soon as we entered, there was a waft of eggy-waffle-scented conditioned air... And due to bad experiences in the past, I chose to skip the cone. I'm an idiot. That was the smell of Summer (in an ideal world where powdery gloves, coconut oil, Local trains and spirit-cotton do not exist).

It was eggy-delicious; the cone had some body to it, instead of being a sad, flaky cone-ice cone. I really am an idiot. I'm glad that there aren't any toppings, because these aren't the type of ice-cream to drown under a blanket of hot fudge. Wouldn't complain if there's a Salted Caramel topping though!

If there's one teeny grouse, it would be to slightly increase the quantity or slightly reduce the price. But since I work with expensive ingredients a lot, I can understand and I've paid way more for way worse.

The whole thing left me feeling good, despite the hefty bill. This is my brand of food. Like it-Like it, respect it and feed it to those you love, hoping they'll love it (and you, back).

I'm crossing my fingers that it stays this way and that they come out with more brilliant flavours. You can easily see that every one of those flavours have been created and churned by people who know and are passionate about their food. Who treat their customers well and let you try as many fancy flavours as you want (but also are genuine enough to request you jokingly (?) to spare them the 25-paise each barely-used discarded spoon costs!)

Madras needs people like that, stat.

Almost as much as I need the chocolate ice-cream. STAT.