Window Bird-watching and Spinach Frittatas

I woke up to the happy chirping of birds outside my window this morning, and the lingering smell of paint. My bird-book packed away against the dust (you’ve got to read my previous posts to know what I’m talking about) I can’t identify most of them except for the obvious, the kites, ravens, crows, pigeons, and sparrows, all speaking their own languages, and sharing space, as the Lord intended. The sparrows chirping out their greetings have been scarce this time, who knows why, but the mynahs have been creating a racket, adding to the constant cooing of pigeons which abound, much to my dismay. The odd Asian Koel or two settle down amidst the leaves of the tree, some brave enough to perch on the barren branches of the tree across my window whose only reason for being, its status as favoured bird sunning spot, its long claw like branches soaring heavenward, serving as a perch for its feathered visitors who drop by faithfully every morning, in their myriad sizes and hues.

A curious crow strikes a pose for the camera and a parakeet drops by, just to check on the painters doing their work. Then there’s also a ringed parrot which drops by every alternate day. I think the parakeet and he or she take it in turns to show up. One not wanting to upstage the other I suppose, in some screech or squawk code that I would not be able to decipher.  

“They aren’t in yet. They come in at 10” I yell out to my green visitor, the parakeet, who stopped by this morning, with his red beak and long blue tail, as he squawks and flies off.

The kingfisher usually camera shy, sits on a wire a safe distance away. Today he perches on the tree. An early bird, he’s up before the sun starts its climb up from the horizon, staring into the distance, his vividness dulled by the limitations of a tiny camera, and a sun that hasn’t yet risen.

But the White-browed Wagtails pop by every now and then, hopping about before the fierce sun compels them to seek refuge amidst the larger branches of some densely foliated tree. And then there are the others, the red vented Bulbuls, a friend and I had nicknamed the Elvis birds, and what looks like a Tailor-bird with its long slightly curved beak, and the green Bee-eaters, with their exquisite colouring and long needle like tail extensions, their rudder against the air currents.

Speaking of birds, I’m a bit wary of the larger ones, the kites who soar majestically in the sky, and who I secretly admire, and the ravens, the variety of crows with their wings flapping menacingly close, with talons and beaks that can rip and tear. Whoever said that fear was an irrational emotion needs to have his head shrunk. There’s absolutely nothing irrational about a bunch of ravens swooping down and trying to scalp you one tiny bit at a time. So yeah, I’m wary of large, big-beaked birds, and I hold du Maurier and Alfie responsible. Ol’ Daph if I may take the liberty to refer to her as such, wowed me with Rebecca. Such an easy read for a young voracious reader, it had none of the jargon that many writers employ to impress their verbal prowess on their readers. No frequent visits to the dictionary or the use of a guide, like I was compelled to use the first time I read Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’, or should I say ‘attempted to read’, when I was still in school. Silly me! But Rebecca was a joy, and I consumed it from cover to cover, feeling her overpowering presence in the room as I read through, wondering if she was watching me, her presence all too real. I ultimately did manage to re-read Ulysses in its entirety several years later, with some degree of understanding I hope, but that’s another story.

So birds bring to mind Daphne du Maurier, and Hitchcock, who found her work so compelling, he made three of them into films. ‘Birds’ scarring a couple of generations, creating an aura of dread around ravens and crows, with a terrified Tippi Hedren cowering as those big black flapping beasts tried to gouge her eyes out.    

Given my fear you’d expect me to avoid our feathered friends all together, so it is a bit odd that I would count bird-watching as a hobby. But it is a truly fascinating activity, one I discovered twelve years ago, all thanks to a friend I met on the meditation trail. A gentle soul, Toni advised me on which books to buy, and took me through the paces. Generous enough to commend my sharp eyesight as being better than her field-glasses at spotting details, she would often ask me to verify the striations or the hints of coloured crown or neck or underbelly. Toni passed away from cancer a few years ago, her tryst with the disease thankfully short, her numerous postcards of stained glass windowed cathedrals from places she visited around the world a reminder of how fortunate I was to have known such a wonderful soul.

So the birds chirrup and chirp and caw and squawk and hoot and gurgle, and trill excitedly when the sun comes up each morning before the city awakens and the raucousness of the day drowns out their voices. And a tiny baby owl pops out from under the rafters of the old printing press in front of my window a short distance away, but too far for me to get a clear shot. A crow doing a couple of sorties, curious at this plump little morsel that suddenly materialized out of nowhere, and then curiosity satisfied or fearing Mama Owl lurking somewhere, flew off. The baby, popped back under the rafters, then stepped out again, in what I would like to think was a bit of gauntlet throwing down, and finding the crow gone hopped back up.

What a hoot!

Two coffees downed I figured I should get brunch going before the painters turned up. After a couple of days of boiled egg and bread breakfasts I felt like I had earned my lavish eggy feast…

A Spinach Frittata with Grilled Tomatoes.

Limited choices make for simple, speedy and very tasty decisions.

Here are the ingredients –

4 eggs

2 loosely packed cups of fresh spinach, roughly chopped

One large clove of garlic, thinly sliced

½ teaspoon salt

2 chillies (I used 1 green and 1 red, just for colour)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese (more if you want it cheesy)

2 tomatoes cut down the middle… for grilling

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

My oven packed away, I had to cook this on the stove top. But I covered the pan with a tiny wok like utensil called a kadhai, which fit snugly over the egg pan. This is a super easy recipe. All it entailed was whipping up three of the eggs, folding in the spinach and 1 tablespoon of Parmesan (leave a little for later), before adding the garlic, chillies and salt. I couldn’t seem to find my pepper mill, so left it out of this recipe, but a twist or two of freshly milled white pepper (or black if you like) would be lovely, without overpowering the spinach which I wanted coming through.

Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the same amount of butter into the pan, swirling it around, before adding in the egg mix.

Keeping the heat low throughout the cooking process, whip up the fourth egg with a tiny pinch of salt and the rest of the Parmesan and pour it over the already cooking eggs.

Cover the eggs with the kadhai and cook/bake for 5 – 7 minutes. Remove the lid and flip the Frittata over for that lovely golden crust.

kadhai covered…

Serve with grilled tomatoes, or anything you fancy. I chose to go with grilled tomatoes and decided to share it with a friend.

What a delightful way to start the day.

 

If it’s Tuesday Orange Pancakes, and a doze of ethics

The Tuesday just before the Lenten season begins with its prayer, fasting and reflection on our humanness, and of being dust and returning to being one with it, has been and will always be synonymous with… Pancakes!

I’m talking crêpes, the thin, curled at the edges kind of pancakes I grew up eating every Pancake or Shrove Tuesday from the time I could eat solid food. But now my kitchen’s been laid siege to, ambushed by a couple of painters who are trying their best to overcome their natural instinct to dawdle and still do their work with a smile, while nodding sagely at every comment I make or fault I point out, and then promptly forgetting it the next moment. But they’re a nice twosome. The older one with his collection of racy Bollywood songs on full volume and a mobile phone with 3G on cricket match days so he can watch the Indian cricket team lose to Australia and then to Sri Lanka in the tri-series during his break, lamenting loudly whenever the home-team drops a catch or loses a wicket. The younger one, eager to move on as he told me yesterday, and away from a career in house painting to start a food stall selling fried batter coated spicy potato balls called batata (potato) vadas. 

They work in tandem to get the job done these two and they’re not bad. Better than most I’ve encountered before them, they get through their day cracking the odd joke or two, sans any protective gear against the acridness of the primer they apply to the walls, or from the dust they inhale from sandpapering the walls. They’re simple folk, the older one hasn’t been to school, taking up jobs within a certain radius of his home because he cannot read the destination on the bus, even when its written in the vernacular. But he’s happy that I understand and attempt to speak his language, even though my attempts are at best atrocious.

I should inform you now that India is a country where hundreds of different languages and dialects are spoken, so it’s impossible to know them all. That said, it pays to know the local lingo, howsoever broken your attempt may be. So I pop by every now and then and engage in banter with the guys. It helps get the job done.

My kitchen still needs a couple of coats on the highlight wall, a brilliant yellow, but they ran out of colour… again. I’m planning to have a couple of words with the painting contractor when he drops by next, but given that he did that with my bedroom as well, it seems like the norm. The concept of ethics when it comes to work is still a very niche concept in India, with customer service way down the pecking order of things. ‘You want, you buy, and you shut up’ the mantra, or, perhaps it’s… ‘I’m working isn’t it, so what’cha cribbing about’.

A school friend who now lives in Canada and works as a physiotherapist there, once complained about the patients at the hospital where she worked. Many of them on state sponsored medical care, they cribbed about the wait and the quality of treatment, and just about everything else, she said. Those were the moments she thought most of home. Of having to wait hours in the waiting room of a doctor’s clinic, despite paying an average of 200$ US per visit, for just for a 5 minute consultation. No chance of reclaiming your money unless there’s something seriously wrong with you which warrants surgery. Then you can add that tab to your Medi-claim bill, cross you fingers and send up a prayer to the Lord that the doctor spelled your name right, and hope that the consultation fee was for something related directly to that surgical procedure. ‘Proximate cause’ and all that spiel.

Medical Insurance is big business in India, and human life here (and I suppose in many countries around the world), cheap and dispensable, not to mention that we’re all potential cash cows. So you better take that medical insurance policy, pay your yearly premiums and hope and pray that you don’t need to use it. The government does precious little apart from implementing new schemes mostly in rural areas for the economically deprived, most of which are prone to misuse and abuse from within that hallowed bunch of government servants themselves. Can you imagine one woman delivering eight babies in a five year period and we’re not talking multiple births. Now where are those Guinness Record guys when you need them. So the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) gets scammed of hundreds of thousands of rupees, with fake birth claims and cataract operations on non existent patients, and my medical insurer loads my premium when I put forth a claim for money already paid for an essential surgical procedure. That, when the amount I have claimed is less than half the amount I’m insured for. I wonder if it happens around the world, but I’m really peeved with my insurer. So I’m increasingly on my knees praying to the Lord to keep me healthy. I just hope I don’t need to get my knee-caps replaced.

Speaking of prayer, I started this post with pancakes. So yesterday once the painters had left for the day I managed to reclaim part of my kitchen and whipped up a tiny batch of pancakes. I couldn’t let the day go by without at least trying to whip up a couple even though my kitchen was quite bare. Rather than stress myself out, I decided to go with what I had instead of griping about what I didn’t. And I ended up with a delightfully light and tiny, but extremely delicious batch of Orange Pancakes. All it took was some self-rising flour, an egg, orange juice and yoghurt instead of milk. I added in a little nutmeg, grating it on the edge of a serrated knife, and a little sugar (just about a teaspoon) to counter the acidity from the citrus. The next time I make these I’ll zest the orange as well, but the zester was packed away.

Batter meets butter...

I love crisping up my pancake at the edges, so they don’t just look like they have a frilly edging of a different colour, but the texture provides a lovely contrast to the softness of the pancake. Then place some cut segments of a lovely plump orange all along the centre, before drizzling over some condensed milk.

My mum’s Pancake Tuesday pancakes are filled with sweet and juicy grated coconut with raisins, with a touch of rose water and cardamom. So these pancakes are a departure from tradition as I know it, but they were delicious nevertheless.

Paint Update: They’re still not done with the kitchen, and I’ve plateaued as far as take out goes. Another bite shall make me… I’m not saying the word. After all, this is primarily a food blog.

Have a holy Lenten season.

Dust, Paint, Basic Dining and a 2nd Liebster

I’m having my house painted which means that my kitchen is not just out of commission, it’s out of bounds. But this is India improved, so what used to be a 25 day job, 10 years ago, has thankfully come down to 15, give or take a couple.

I’m hedging my bets on give by-the-way, with a silent prayer to the good lord of the kitchen. Withdrawal symptoms can be a female dog with a bad attitude. (Gee Ma, why did you have to fine us every-time we used a cuss word when we were little. It’s cramped my vocabulary for life, not to mention that I’m compelled to use six words when one succinctly stated one would have done the job most effectively.

Mothers!

My house is coated in a fine powdery dust from all the scraping, not to mention that awful smell of primer that goes on to the walls, getting your throat all itchy. Thank heavens for Hot Toddy, glugged by the tiny mug-full every evening, and big airy windows that send in gusts of cool breeze. The only down side to all that lovely breeze being corners, not to forget the appliances and other little things the infernal dust manages to find its way into, despite being covered. I’ve learned that tarpaulin, plastic sheeting and newspaper, howsoever lavishly applied, offer no protection against dust. Besides, even if you do a thorough job of cleaning, you never manage to catch all of it. The painters who clean up after their work is done for the day don’t, so I’m left vaccuming and mopping the floors twice over when they’ve left.

But I shouldn’t complain too much. I’ve had to step on their tails a bit, but they’re on point now.

Mother trained me well.

Well worn = Experience?… Hopefully

But having a kitchen out of bounds means that I’m compelled to eat take out at lunch and dinner, until my body finally rebelled and I walked out on auto-pilot down to the local veggie vendor and got myself some basic supplies. I had left out a tiny pan for frying eggs, and one saucepan along with a wooden spatula… everything else boxed away safely against that darn dust. The saucepan I used to par-boil the kernels of corn, before tossing the corn with a little olive oil, a knob of butter, some garlic and two chopped green chillies (de-seeded). Adding in the spinach, cabbage and tomato (I removed the pulpy innards ;-)) and chopping them into largish chunks, before finishing it off with some pan-fried pieces of tofu, and a sprinkling of sea salt… all in my tiny egg frying pan.

Reminded me of camp way, way back when.

A simple and light dinner for one, packed with fresh veggies and a good protein fix from all that yummy tofu.

Fresh n Basic Cooking with Crunch

How’s that for basic, fresh, wholesome and good food.

But it isn’t just the food I’m grateful for, I’ve also got to thank Beccy from A Foodies Voyage for honouring me with a 2nd Liebster Blog Award.

My mug of hot toddy runneth over and falleth to the floor, which means more cleaning ;-(… but I’m truly honoured for the mention Beccy and here’s a ‘Thank You’ coming your way with a basketful of virtual baked goodies ;-).

And now in the tradition of the Liebster Awards here are the rules…

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog. (√ check)

2. Link back to the blogger who presented the award to you. (√ check)

3. Copy and paste the blog award on your blog. (√ check)

4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 5 (or 3) blogs of 200 followers or less. (√ check… I’m passing it on to 3)

5. Let them know they have been chosen by leaving a comment at their blog… (shall do so when I finish this post. First things first… right?)

I’ve got to confess that it isn’t just my stomach that’s been rebelling since the painting started, my typing fingers are a bit stiff (I’m a two finger typist/computer user), but I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and having received it shall pass it on post-haste (not exactly this time around) lest the luck of the Trojans befalls me 😉

So I shall attempt to fulfil my blogging duty and pass on this award to –

1. Jillian from Whisky Drinkin’ Chimney Sweep whose blog and recipes I love… and have got to try (and I mean every single one of them yummies).

2. delicio8 who is a self confessed bad-ass… don’t believe me? Check out her blog, where she admits that she’s ‘bad to the bone and sweet to the tooth’. Now that’s a person I identify with.

3. Angela or Los Angelas (her blog moniker) as she’s also called from Up close in my world, who puts together a real treat in her photo n food blog, while her cat mews in appreciation.

These are my three chosen blogs, amidst the scores of other fantastic blogs I’ve been so very lucky to read, follow and adore. I wish them all, and these three blogs in particular the very best till I return to my kitchen, and life as I would like it to be.

So here’s the night-sky from my window, with the stars twinkling…

twinkle… twinkle…

Have a fabulous weekend… and see you soon.

Supernaturally Sage, Roasted Garlic, Potato n Cheddar Kaiser Rolls

I’ve been watching reruns of Supernatural… and dreaming of ghouls and goblins and spirits… evil and good… and sage and garlic, and potato bread with cheddar.

I got that from my mum, my fondness for the macabre. She reared us on tales of witches and goblins, and scary sandmen, and old men with huge sacks who materialised out of thin air, only to snatch kids from their beds in the middle of the night. You’d think she half wanted to scare us to death with those stories. But we survived them and she, all three of us.

Not that we weren’t scared. I grew up terrified of the dark and made sure I tucked my sheets under me securely when I slept, just in case… but nothing supernaturally scary ever grabbed my feet or appeared in front of me as the Clock struck 12 or was it 3 am… the witching hour. But I wasn’t lucky enough to even catch a shadow of a glimpse of something remotely scary, or a glimpse of a shadow… If I did I would probably be six feet under.

I finally saw Psycho, when I was in my twenties. The original Anthony Perkins version, with my mum, who else, through the cracks in my fingers. And those were the non scary scenes. It took another 5 or was it 10 years for me to watch the entire film… on DVD. A camera may add 10 pounds, but a small screen works wonders with reducing fear. After all, you can perhaps count on sage and garlic to keep evil spirits at bay, but there are no protective herbs to ward off Mama Bates’ cross-dressing psychotic son.

By the way I love garlic… cooked of course, not raw. Roasted it’s even better, magically transforming its pungency into something sweet and a bit nutty. How lovely is that. And I love sage and have been dying to bake a sage and potato bread, but didn’t want to do any old potato bread. So I bunged in some mild yellow cheddar (a cupful), about 5 cloves of roasted and chopped garlic, with one rather large potato (parboiled till almost done and grated) and 1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped sage into a bowl and kept it aside while I went about activating the yeast and preparing the rest of the dough.. 1 cup of whole-wheat to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (+ extra for kneading/dusting as required). Add to that  2 teaspoons salt and 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, and you’ve got your dough on the go.

keeping evil kitchen spirits and sprites at bay

Drizzle some olive oil over the ball of dough and place it in a well oiled bowl. 

poof... or is it prove? 😉

 It took about 2 hours for the dough to almost treble. And once I saw it, I knew I had the makings of a delightful loaf in hand. The only question was… Did I want a loaf of bread or something different. So I tossed around a few ideas in my head before finally settling in to making Kaiser Rolls.

I punched back the dough, gave it a good knead and rolled it out into a log before cutting it into 14 pieces. Rolling each piece into a ball, then covering and letting them stand for 15 minutes before shaping the rolls.

And here comes the fun part.

Step 1… Flatten each ball of dough into a circle using the tips of your fingers

you can see all those specks of yumminess…

Step 2… Fold one end in

Step 3… Fold 2

Step 4… Now make the 3rd fold

Step 5… All folded in

Brush them with eggwash and sprinkle on some poppy seeds or black sesame seeds, like I did and leave them upside down for their final proving. An hour should be good.

I scattered some seeds on the parchment paper as well, so the rolls were well and truly embellished. Then upturned them for another 15 minutes before popping them into the oven. One lot on a parchment lined tray.

And another into a muffin tray…

Baking them in a preheated oven at 230 degrees C for 20 – 25 minutes.

Definitely worth a trip to YeastSpotting.

And here they are… my Sage, Roasted Garlic, Potato and Cheddar Kaiser Rolls.

Taking a bow...

The Versatile Blogger Award

2012 is proving to be a good year. I ended January with the Liebster Blog Award coming my way and now with Vered Simons from http://eatnowtalklater.wordpress.com nominating me for the the Versatile Blogger Award, I’m quite chuffed.

And the rules for this award are:

A) Thank the person who nominated you and link back to them in your post… But of course!

So here’s a shout out to Vered, not just for the award but for all her comments and ‘Likes’ on my posts since The Cook, The Baker and The Clay Boy Maker came into the big wide world of blogging. Thank You! 🙂

B) Share 7 things about yourself… Do I have to?… Really?… Oh well!

Here goes….

1. I prefer lean meat and detest fat and chicken skin.

2. Since I’ve started this blog… which led to a baking overdrive, I’ve had to buy new jeans… honest! The old one’s just don’t fit any more.

3. I love the opera, and operatic music, but can’t sing. Not even for my supper. Now, isn’t it a good thing I cook?

4. I love plantain chips, salted and sprinkled with chilli powder and lemon… I’m not mentioning those jeans again.

5. I’m a chronic learner, a perennial student if you will. Got myself a Bachelors and Masters in Law, in my 40s, just for kicks.

6. Secretly wish to go out and spray paint Mumbai, the city in which I live, and I mean the entire city, with one gigantinormous can of spray paint… bright green and purple. If only it wouldn’t harm the ozone layer.

7. I love the mountains, but I live near the sea… That’s life I suppose 😉

C) Pass the award on to 15 bloggers…

No mean task this and I hope to make the magical number. But even if I don’t, here are some of the blogs I love to stop by and more than deserve this award. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

And they are…

1. http://susartandfood.wordpress.com/ Susan blogs about food and art and her cat among other thing. A definite place to stop by, browse and smile a while.

2. http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/ Marilyn Gardner who authors this blog, posts on a variety of subjects and her sensitivity while dealing with issues, even those alien to her cultural background, keep me visiting her blog for more.

3. Barbara or Smidge as she’s also known in the world of blogging from http://justasmidgen.com/ whose love for life comes through in her writing. A writer, a poet, an artist, a cook… who also plays the cello.

4. Seth and Jenn Kendall’s delightful food blog Home Skillet http://hskillet.blogspot.in/ for their yummy recipes and the lovely photos accompanying them

5. Ramona from http://curryandcomfort.blogspot.in/ who is an absolute wiz at what she does. Don’t miss the variety of dishes she churns out… and gives you a step by step demo at times as well.

6.  Tara from http://sugarspiceandbacon.com/ for her lovely recipes, especially the Cheddar and Rosemary Crackers. Yum!

7. Elle from http://ellesphotographicadventures.wordpress.com/… whose photo blog is a real treat for the senses.

8. http://klutzychef.wordpress.com/ for her matter of fact way of being, and writing and for her delicious recipes and lovely food photos.

9. Carol Anne from http://thisisrocksalt.com/, who rocks out a mean Old Fashioned… cupcake among other things. Fedex some to me puhlease!

10. A naturalist to the core of his being, Alok who lives in the foothills of the HImalayas, works to empower local communities and chronicles butterflies and moths of the region among other things. A modest man Alok chronicles his work/passion at  http://forwildlife.wordpress.com/ Drop by his blog or rather his Nature Log (he doesn’t see himself as a blogger :-)) if you’re a nature lover or just anyway. It’s well worth the visit.

11. Jess, a brilliant baker and cook who I met on FoodBuzz and I’ve only just started following on Twitter. Drop by http://cake-o-cake.blogspot.in/ and you’ll be glad you did.

12. April at http://gluten-free-zen.com/ because she is a marvellous cook and baker, whose recipes are gluten free. A must see for all the recipes and my personal favourites, the Breads, especially the French Bread.

… and I fell short of the 15 blog mark but I hope that’s okay.

D) Contact the bloggers I have chosen to let them know that they have been selected!…

Have a great week of Food, Fun, Love and Peace…

Black Olive and Marjoram Semolina Bread

I must confess. I had never eaten semolina bread up until now, and didn’t know it was so hearty. Had just one buttered slice at brunch today, with my alfalfa omelet, and it was quite enough to take me through to dinner.

But it makes a darn tasty loaf and quite a good looking one too. The only problem was that I didn’t have any fine semolina flour. In fact, I’ve yet to see it in the supermarkets or at any of the stores here, though semolina itself in its more grainy form is used in many dishes, both sweet and savoury.

So I improvised, and ground 1 1/4 cups semolina in the food processor, to as fine a consistency as I could. Adding in the 12gms of fresh yeast I  had activated in about a 1/2 cup of warm water, along with another cup or so of the water, till the mixture resembled scrambled eggs. It’s important to allow the semolina-yeast mixture to sit for at least 15 – 20 minutes before adding the all purpose flour (2 cups), so that the semolina absorbs the water. Then add in the rest of the yeast mix, more warm water (if required) and a teaspoon of coarse salt, before folding in the chopped and pitted black olives (1/3rd cup), 4 – 5 tablespoons of fresh sweet marjoram and 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil… my little additions to the loaf.

All speckled with green and black

Given that I had never even tasted semolina bread before embarking on this venture, and to compound matters, had neither the bread flour nor the fine semolina flour suggested by most recipes, I decided to follow the three-prove method suggested by Macheesmo

3 hours for the first proving… After the dough has more than doubled, press it down or knock it back if you like… Go on! Get all that anger out! Bread making‘s a great anger management tool. All you therapists and psychologists out there take note. So yeah… knock it back, knead it lightly and return it to the re-oiled bowl for the second proving of 45 minutes to an hour.Once the dough has risen, press it down and roll it out with a light touch of the rolling pin, before folding the dough back in and shaping it into a loaf. You can also use a pat down motion with the palms of your hands, but the rolling pin is quite good.

The dough for this bread was really soft, so I sandwiched it between two towels while it sat its third prove (about 30 minutes or so, till it got nice and puffy). I’m glad I used the towels. I probably would have had Semolina Flat Bread if I hadn’t.

Finished by brushing the loaf with egg wash, sprinkling on some sesame seeds and slashing the top (diagonal cuts) with a very sharp knife, while the oven was preheating.

I removed the towel supports just before baking the loaf for 35 – 40 minutes at 190 degrees C… and this is it.

My Black Olive and Marjoram Semolina Bread… ready for that trip to YeastSpotting.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes then transfer the loaf on to a wire rack to cool for at least 30 – 40 minutes before slicing into it.

Now slather on some butter and take a bite…

For my first attempt at Semolina Bread I was quite pleased, though I may tweak a few things here and there when I try another variation… starting with a finer grain semolina perhaps.

The bread is quite hearty, even on its own, so I haven’t been eating more than a slice at a time. The olives in the bread were quite lovely to bite into. But the marjoram is what made this loaf special for me… a delightful addition.

Quite similar to oregano, marjoram has such a distinct sweetness of its own, I’m thinking up a zillion ways in which to use it…

Perhaps in something sweet the next time.

O is for Oodles of Sesame Noodles and Whiskey Hoisin Meatballs

So I’ve been malingering and having a good time at it.

I love to laze. My mother’s rants of an idle mind being a devil’s workshop all through my childhood having paid rich dividend, I’m taking care of that department quite well. I’m constantly thinking… of what to do next, or what to cook or bake. Or what to read, or write, or what’s next on my ‘to learn’ list.

Yeah… my mind’s never idle Ma, even if the rest of me chooses to take the odd break 😉

So with the Liebster Award under my blogger-belt, and passed on to other fascinating bloggers, I still had dinner to make, a good book to read, ‘The Big Bang Theory‘ to watch, and a couple of lines to add to ‘the novel’ on the write.

First things first I suppose and this is it.

Whiskey Hoisin Meatballs with Sesame Noodles.

I’ve always said that ‘Everything Tastes Better with Booze!’ And it’s something I’ll maintain… and what’s better than cooking in it. Think of all that flavour coming through… as the alcohol slowly seeps into the meat, with the rest of the sauces, mingling and tingling… and then you heat it all up… and the potency miraculously lifts up and away. And all you’re left with is pure taste without the kick.

Hic!

Okay, so all of it didn’t quite lift off into the heavens, but it’s okay if just that wee bit hangs on… to remind you that you put in a cupful of the good stuff.

So before you get to the meat, you’ll need to put together the marinade, which is basically – 4 heaped tablespoons Hoisin sauce, 1 tablespoon dark soy, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon white pepper powder, 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, pinch of sugar, a teaspoon of ginger-garlic powder and a cup of Jack Daniels. And believe me when I say that Jack Daniels and Hoisin sauce are a match made in epicurean heaven.

Put the marinade in a bottle, cap it shut, give it a good shake, and refrigerate until you’re ready to use it.

You’ll also need 2 spring onions and just the green of a third. All chopped fine and reserved for later.

For the meatballs, I used about 320gms of minced beef (Ah well, that’s how I portioned it earlier. You know how I am with weighing-scales). You can use chicken, or pork, or a combination of beef and pork instead of the beef.

Marinade the mince with –

1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

pinch of salt (the marinade has enough salt)

1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/4 cup fried onions (You’ll need 2 medium onions, chopped fine and fried till it just caramelises)

1 teaspoon cumin (toasted and ground)

1 teaspoon ginger-garlic powder

2 tablespoons fresh chopped coriander

1 spring onion green (chopped fine)

6 tablespoons Marinade

1 egg

Combine the meat and the rest of the ingredients and refrigerate for about an hour. Form the meat into balls and bake, covered, in a 200 degrees C oven for 30 minutes till cooked through.

Meanwhile, sauté two spring onions (reserve some of the green) in two tablespoons sesame oil. Once the onions turn translucent, add in the rest of the marinade, cover and cook on a really low flame for 10 minutes. Then add in the baked meatballs, cover and cook for 40 minutes to an hour, occasionally turning them around to ensure that the sauce permeates through the meat (if required you may add in a splash of whiskey :-)).

I served the meatballs on a bed of noodles (a 200 gm pack, boiled in salted water and drained) tossed in coriander (just a sprinkling), 2 tablespoons sesame oil, and 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds. Finished off with a sprinkling of spring onion greens.

I hope Aleksandr Orlov (and Darren Walsh) won’t mind if I say… Simples!

It really is!