I think I will be disqualified from entering any Michelin star restaurants in the future for using the word “stylz” in my header. Soooo not on, but hopefully it conveys my excitement about having dined at a Michelin star restaurant for the very first time (possibly the last) in my/our life. ZOMG!
So, we were cruising through the Kentish countryside and a good friend had informed us of a “very affordable” Michelin star restaurant called “Apicius“. Apicius refers to a collection of Roman cooking recipes though the word “apicius” was a common phrase for the Roman “foodie” back in 4-5 A.D. Intrigued by their name and under £30 lunch fare, I found out where they were (Cranbrook, Kent), their number and decided to call and ask if they’d have a table for Sunday lunchtime. This was about 6pm on Saturday and I was pleasantly surprised to be offered a table the following day. So began our Michelin dining adventure.
Did you know that the “Michelin Red Guide” which rates and lists all Michelin starred restaurants was an invention of the Michelin brothers of the Michelin tyre fame ?
Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.
The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!
Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise
What is a dosa ? For starters, it is pronouced “Though-sah”. It is a South Indian crepe or savoury pancake and is the pride and joy of that part of the country. There is nothing like a fresh brown, crispy dosa served with a little blob of butter melting on top of it. The city where I come from (Bangalore) and the state it belongs to (Karnataka) take the humble dosa very very seriously. In fact, a good dosa joint is worth sitting in traffic for along time. Luckily for us, when we visited Bangalore, one of the best dosa places in town was across the road from where we stayed. At the cost of about 60pence a dosa, we had they to our heart’s content!
The traditional dosa is made mainly of lentils ( urid dal) and par-boiled (partially boiled and dried) rice with little embellishments such as fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds. One starts by soaking the lentils and rice overnight to soften them. Then, each ingredient is ground to a slightly gritty (grit size about 1mm) paste in a strong kitchen blender or a dosa grinder. The batter for dosa is then made by mixing the two pastes, adding a bit of salt and allowing the batter to ferment for 8-10 hrs but usually overnight. The natural yeast in the air are what makes dosa batter ferment. If you are in a cold country, then your best choice is to place the dosa batter inside your boiler cupboard to ferment.
The resulting batter is airy, slightly tangy smelling and an absolute treat once cooked. Mum says that the ratio of rice to lentils for dosa batter is 3:1 and perhaps a tablespoon of fenugreek seeds (to soak with the lentils). Cook dosas like you would cook any pancake with vegetable oil to easy the edges of the pan. While a lot of taste is in the dosa itself, the things that go with dosa add a whole new dimension to this traditional crepe. The most popular form of filling for a dosa is one made with boiled potatoes. In addition, dosas are served with chutneys (dips) made of coconuts, chillies, onions, garlic and roasted lentils.
Today’s blog is going to be about the friends of a dosa. The dosa I made was a cheat as I bought an instant-mix by a company called MTR. If you don’t have easy access to an Indian store to buy MTR dosa mix, you can make dosas out of semolina and standard flour. Use one cup of semolina and half a cup of standard flour, mix in one cup of yoghurt, salt and enough water to make a pancake-like batter. To jazz it up a bit, you can add finely chopped onions, green chillies and cumin seeds to the batter too.
Dosa and its friends: Top left = Potato curry ; Top centre = Lentil, onion and chilli chutney; Top right = Coconut and coriander chutney; Bottom centre = MTR’s instant dosa
I’m in love with French peaches. Normally, I keep a safe distance from peaches because they are furry on the outside (yep, I have texture issues) and I always found nectarines to be sweeter. Until I came to France of course. The peaches here are amazing – juicy, sweet and slightly tart at the same time and so full of flavour. The nectarines on the other hand are juicy but not so sweet and taste rather watery. Between us we have gone through well over a dozen peaches in about 3 days.
Continuing on with the summer holiday series, this was the dessert course for our fancy dinner on one of the holiday evenings. I found the recipe in a Donna Hay book but I couldn’t find it again. So this recipe is a recollection of the steps I followed in making the dish.
The hardest part of this recipe was to beat egg whites to a soft peak by hand as our house didn’t come with an electric blender. It was a good upper arm work out for sure. The recipe called for some Cointreau but we didn’t have any so I used something called “Appertif de Noix” which I read is a walnut wine (http://frenchholiday.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/walnut-aperitif-aperitif-de-noix/). I thought it worked well while being subtle and allowing the flavour of the fruit their full right to shine.
Try this simple yet elegant recipe and enjoy!
Peaches and nectarines with macaroon topping, served ona bed of melon with custard. Looks like a smiley face doesn’t it ?
Here in the UK, pretty much any “Balti”, “Tandoori” or “Indian” restaurant will feature a “Korma”. My general reactions to this word are (a) spelt wrong (b) wrong colour (c) tastes nothing like I remember it (if I decide to try it) (d) not coming back here again.
The kurma (right spelling) I do remember is my mother’s one and she often made it with chappati (unleavened whole wheat flat bread). As a child I remember not liking it very much – there was some flavour/spice in the dish I didn’t like. It was only when mum gave me the recipe for kurma did I realise what it was – aniseed/fennel seeds. It is the same reason I don’t like Sambuca or liquorice. Yucky aniseed! There are always ways about things you don’t like – my solution here has been to use the smallest amount of fennel seeds I could get away with. And this time, I did like my mum’s kurma.
The recipe falls in the category of “Over-the-phone” recipe which is more accurately an “over-SKYPE” recipe these days. The way it goes is this.
Me: Hi mum, I was thinking of Dish-blah that you used to make and wanted to make it.
Mum: Oh that – easy peasy (when you have made it for more than 30 years, sure)
Me: So, how do I make it ?
Mum: Chillies, coconuts, 10 more ingredients ………Got it ?
Mum: Do you want to write it down ?
Me: No, it’s all in my head
Growing up, mum always said to me that no one taught her how to cook. She just watched and learned. When it comes to recipes, I’ve never seen a single one written down by either my grandma or my mum. It is something that is communicated by word of mouth and remembered purely by repetition. So it is some sort of false pride deep inside me that says that if gran and mum can remember recipes, so can I. I try my best but in some cases, I have to resort to the neatly typed up recipes on my laptop. More recently of course, I have this blog to jog my memory. Enough blah,blah and now for the recipe.
I think I mentioned in a post before (Fenugreek) that “soppu” in Kannada refers to green leafy vegetables. This includes spinach, silver beet, fenugreek leaves and a whole host of leaves that were easily and regularly available where I grew up in Bangalore. “Soppu” was usually more expensive than vegetables but given it is full of minerals and vitamins, mum never skimped on them. We’d have soppu 2-3 times a week quite easily.
“Palya” is another Kannada word that usually refers to any cooked vegetable. Potato palya, carrot palya, beans palya are commonly heard in a Kannada household. “Mudhdhe” means (to me at least) a sticky ball of rice/rice+lentils/several different flours. The addition of lentils to these cooked greens makes them sticky and if cooked long enough, it can come together into a sticky ball.
In England, I don’t often find the greens that I grew up on and even if I did, I couldn’t tell one from the other because mum and dad always shopped for them not I. So, for this dish, I’ve gone with spinach which you should be able to get your hands on in most places. In this particular form of the recipe, I use frozen spinach but the fresh kind can be easily substituted. With fresh spinach, expect a lot more moisture and a slightly longer cooking time.
Dasara is a ten day festival of dolls that is celebrated in the months of September/October in India (lunar calendar). It is a Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil. Each of the 10 days is dedicated to a different God/type of prayer. As part of the celebration, most homes in South India erect a temporary staircase indoors. The staircase has odd numbers of stairs (from 3 upto 11), is covered with a white cloth and idols of Hindu Gods and dolls that recreate many tales from Hindu mythology are places on the stairs. The putting up of stairs was my favourite annual project with dad. Dad being a mechanical engineer had metal stairs custom made to fit our home and the dolls that my mum had collected over 2 decades. I was in charge of passing dad the tools, nuts and bolts to put this framework of stairs together. Fun days!
The other part of the ceremony is for little kids is to visit every home in the street to see their display of dolls and to collect the day’s offering which was usually a snack of some kind and a piece of fruit. More often than not, the snack would be a little bowl of “usli”. This recipe is dedicated to my “usli” collection days and the fun days of Dasara.