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Archive for August, 2010

Beetroot Halwa

You’d think having lived in NZ for at least 3 years, I would have bought Beetroot at least once during this time. I have not, well, until recently, when I decided I just had to buy it. When I added it on to my grocery bill, I thought of making either Beetroot curry with coconut garnish or Beetroot Halwa.

Obviously known for my notorious sweet tooth, the latter won hands down, the compulsive craving for me to make Beetroot Halwa way too overpowering to ignore. So Ram & I ended up making this beautiful melting hot red velvet delight.

First we shredded the Beet in the food processor. Poured some milk on to a pan and brought it to a light boil.

Shredded Beetroot

Then added the Beet to milk so it can be cooked until tender.

Cooking Beetroot in Milk

Then after the beet was cooked tender, added the required amount of sugar and stirred it until it dissolved.

Stirring in the sugar

Then as the water from the beet dried up, started adding ghee little by little.

Beetroot working in the ghee

Last but not the least, a twist to the Halwa, which I call the “enhancer” – freshly ground cardamom powder. Half a teaspoon of it ought to do the trick.

And to sign off with flair, ghee roasted Cashews mixed with the Beetroot Halwa which looks like Pomegranate seeds glistening the midst of the halwa.

Cashews strewn in the Beetroot Halwa

And the taste was as good as it looked!!! Luscious and mouth wateringly delicious.

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The Food Show

To describe the Auckland Food Show in three words – “Bustling, Colourful & Inspiring”.

Never did I think that one of my long forgotten wishes was going to come true. When Ram came home that evening, he had this really smug grin that made me wonder what he was up to! He asked me to open a plain white envelope. I looked at him with narrowed eyes all sorts of things racing through my head. Could it be movie tickets? A pay rise?(Yeah right, we are barely out of recession…duh!!!) Invite? A surprise holiday?…… I wish!!! Ram a holiday in Bali would be nice :). I slit open the envelope with these thoughts playing around in my head.

And what do I find? Two tickets to the Auckland Food Show. I was stoked. No words. No reaction. Just a gaping silence from me. My eyes misted and I smiled sheepishly, thanked Ram for surprising me and for remembering such a tiny detail from a long forgotten conversation.

So both of us got our very first taste of attending a Food Show in the midst of Food Connoisseurs. We were clueless where to begin. We scanned the hall to find on one end an amphitheatre that was going to host cooking shows by top celebrity chefs from New Zealand and across the world. And the remaining floor area housed stalls in various shapes and sizes of the gazillion retailers offering up their produce for the people to sample and judge. And if they were lucky to win the vote, some spot sales and collection of their business cards for tying bulk deals.

I realised that the Food Show is such a wonderful platform for companies to showcase their products and build their public image.

Hawkers galore –

Some of the stalls had such enthusiastic sales people inviting people to sample their products that the hawkers in the streets of Mylapore would have had a healthy competition. The stalls boasted a wide range of products and services right from the most divine cheeses to exotic fruit juices, luscious wines, electronic gadgets, delightful chocolates, rustic chutney, organic preserves and many many more items. I am sure one can imagine the scale that I am trying to describe. Humongous!

GeeBees Chai –

We started around by visiting the first aisle of stalls. An announcement was made that the first cooking show was going to start in a few minutes. Ram and I checked the schedule and made a beeline to the amphitheatre.When we were doing so, we almost bumped into a poor girl standing with a tray of tiny plastic cups carrying samples of different teas. The aroma of the tea assailed us. We tried Ginger Chai, Cardamom chai and my favourite of the lot Masala Chai. I looked at Ram wistfully wanting to buy them. Ram said let’s go for it and we picked up a box of each. They are sweetened and flavoured tea packets sold for instant chai and all we need to do is add water. Worth trying!!! And by the way I checked out the price, it’s $10 a box with 10 sachets in it. A dollar for a mug does seem expensive but not when you have it once a while.

Annabelle White & The Feijoa Chocolate Man

Annabelle White –

We hurriedly paid for the tea and made a move onto the theatre. We went up 7-8 steps and grabbed a couple of seats right in the middle for a good view. We faced a middle-aged live wire on stage who was so vivacious she would have put young people to shame with her boundless energy and smile. She was Annabelle White. Her every sentence was punctuated with wit and humour. Her theme was Comfort Food, Home cooking tips and fun while cooking.

She singled out Ram as he was acting cheeky. When she asked the audience to “Hold on tightly to your chairs”, Ram being Ram literally did that. Am sure you can get the drift. So she cornered him and said “you, the man with the baseball cap. Can you please stand up please?”. His neighbour on his left and I poked him in the ribs to stand up. Annabelle said “Because you have been cheeky you need to be punished. So what chocolate would you like – Feijoa Milk Chocolate or Caramel Chocolate? Am pretty sure you will be picking Feijoa……I mean who can say no to it….”, when Ram interrupted and said “Caramel chocolate”. Annabelle became all animated and sent her assistant flying to us with a pack of mouth melting Caramel chocolates and that’s how Ram was named the “Feijoa Chocolate Man” for the remainder of her show.

She shared not just some tips for home cooking, she also shared some of her recipes which I am yet to try, but I am pretty sure will turn out as wonderful as her. I ended up buying her Cakes and Slices book from the book stall eventually that evening. After the show we even managed to talk to her and got treated to a photo opportunity too.

I am sharing some of Annabelle’s tips –

  • Food should always be served with seasoning and a little bit of sweetness to add that oomph factor
  • Rubbing lemon on apples prevent it from browning and also increases its flavour
  • Pumpkin Soup will never taste the same, with a dash of lemon juice and adds a wonderful zing to it
  • Never add salt to boiling peas as it hardens the peas
  • Add oil only while draining your pasta and not while cooking it

We pretty much stayed put for the next two shows as the crowd had just started milling into the Food Show. So it definitely pays to go early for good seats and some fresh perspective.

Stefano di Pieri

Stefano di Pieri –

Next on stage was accomplished Jack of All Trades / The Self taught Chef Stefano di Pieri who is based in Mildura, Australia. He was a person who had a nice fading Italian accent, adding just the amount of rustic charm. His love for food was apparent from the way he handled the food. His show focussed on Modern Italian Cooking. He spoke about bread making  and demonstrated making a Rosemary Foccaccia. I have always pronounced Foccaccia as ‘fo-k-asia’, but apparently the right Italian way of pronouncing it was ‘Fo-kaa-ch-ya’. He also demonstrated making a Piadina, a traditional Italian flat bread which according to him is something like a Pita bread.

Some of the things I learnt from him were –

  • If you want really good bread always purchase a high quality grade flour
  • Use flour without gluten
  • Some of the ingredients he suggested we can use to liven up your boring bread is to add Sultanas, Rosemary, Thyme etc while making your bread
  • While making bread always ensure you prepare it in a warm environment. Warmer the environment the better your bread will turn out
  • The world’s most expensive mushrooms are Porcini Truffle Mushrooms. There are 2 varieties apparently – White Truffles and Black Truffles. White Truffles comes from Piedmont in Italy and the Black Truffles from Périgord from France

Stefano’s show was certainly different, presented on a different level altogether and something I could appreciate because I just love Italian food. Sitting without moving for over 2 hours was a real pain. But well worth it. We finally waited it out for the next show, for the chef who is a common face on New Zealand Televisions these days and Ram’s favourite.

The most animated Chef – Richard Till

Richard Till –

The temptation to yell out to Richard, for him to say “Shop smarter NZ” in his overtly enunciated voice was just too much. But I was on my best behaviour. Richard’s theme was method and technique. But I have just 2 words for his show. Sloppy and entertaining. He spoke about browning of onions, cooked a rabbit and made Aioli which was the saving face. I wouldn’t say I was wowed by his presentation, but there is just something about him that keeps you on the tenterhooks. But as an after thought, it’s probably trying to understand his talk and accent which was the challenging part during this particular show.

I will hunt down my recipe sheet and share the Aioli recipe shortly.

There after we started scouring the numerous stalls sampling items of interest and buying if it was great. Have put the pictures of only brands/products that are worth mentioning.

To die for Almond croissants

Paneton – A french bakery located in Auckland central. We just happened to pass by their stall. The aroma of warm bread drew us like a moth to a flame. We saw the array of food for sale on display. Those Almond croissants that they had made were the best I have ever ever had hands down. So soft and almondy, the medley of  smells of melting butter, almond essence and warm baked sweet bread was so mouth-watering and irresistible. I can’t get the softness of the croissant off my head. It was that perfect!!!

You will find this jewel at 21 Halsey Street in Auckland opposite to Victoria Park.

Nuttz

Nuttz – As the name goes, nuts in such a variety of flavours. The show stealer was their Moroccan Tagine cashews. Also good was the Chilli and Lime cashews. Packed with flavour and quite addictive I must say. This sales representative for Nuttz, was quite enthusiastic, even tried on some of his linguistic skills on us. Bubbly and energetic living up to the brand name he represented.

Equagold Vanilla Woman – Suddenly in the milling crowd, I came across this golden statue or that’s what I thought. I gaze at the golden spectacle with open curiosity, the head-gear dazzling me and suddenly I get a wink.and that’s when I realised it’s a human statue. I immediately had to get a picture of the golden human statue.

The Golden human statue

Heavenly Fudge –

Heavenly fudge

Butterscotch is the flavour. Mouth melting. Worthy of finger licking. Delicious!! Need I say more. Gorgeous!!!

Masala Dosai in the middle of a Food Show –

While all we were getting were tasty nibbles and small samples, we were hungry for a good bite of food especially since we missed breakfast to accommodate all that tasty samples. And wonder of wonders, in the middle of the rows and rows of stalls, the smell of masala dosai filled the air. Our noses followed the aroma of the dosai and saw fresh hot dosais being made. And paired with Mysore style sambar and coconut chutney, it was the perfect lunch that afternoon.

Masala Dosai

After buying some Sun dried tomatoes and Greek Olives and booking a snazzy Kenwood Food Processor, we returned home with a full stomach and our minds filled with images of food and foodies memories!!!

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A weather to fit the mood

Panic and fear were my first reactions when I heard the commotion. The sight of the unfriendly jogger lying on the ground paved way to a hurricane of anger within me, surprisingly not at him, but at who had done this to him.  A rush of adrenalin surged through me and I charged at the urchins with Molaga at my side. Even during this, my satiric humour took over. I thought to myself that I was the Damsel (well not exactly in shining armour) riding to the rescue of the knight (in distress). And Molaga, well not exactly my noble steed, I chose to think of him as the Noble Canine.

I quickened my pace and stopped sharply two feet from the gang. As if to command the urchins attention, Molaga gave a series of loud barks. The urchins were startled and backed away to one side hurriedly away from the jogger. I didn’t see the jogger, I was trying to focus on the urchins and remove the immediate threat off the scene. I schooled my face with my best stare and put my left hand out forward as if to ward them off and yelled – “Can’t you see he is in pain? Back off or I’ll set my dog on you!!!”. Three of the urchins exchanged quick glances amongst themselves and fled. The last one was still undecided whether to take me on and Molaga or run for his life. He gave it a half-hearted shot anyway and said, “Look at him, a loser. A lost case. Eh!” and made a sniggering noise as if to win me over. My hate for foolish acts of bravado mounted, I rolled my neck and sighed and loosened my grip on Molaga’s collar and all I said was -“Molaga….” in an undertone. Panic split his face and he careened off without another word.

After scanning the area quickly for any further threats, I squatted beside  the victim and gently put my hand on his shoulder. I rolled him onto his back and bent over him to check for any injuries. Molaga also fretted on my side sniffing the jogger from time to time, his forehead marked with worry wrinkles. He even tried to give him a lick on his ear as if to wake him up. I shook the jogger gently to shake him into consciousness. He rested his head on the ground and exhaled loudly. He opened his eyes in a state of confusion and fear, he raised himself weakly on his elbows and bent his knees. I noticed his startlingly bright hazel eyes, dilated in fear.

When he saw it was just me and Molaga, he relaxed his crouching position and ran his fingers through his hair in relief. I immediately reassured him – “Hey it’s okay. Are you all right? Are you hurt anywhere?”. No response. He looked at me uncomprehendingly as if I were talking to him in Greek. His expression changed to one of exasperation and then anger. I could not even begin to fathom the reason for his misguided anger. He stood up jerkily and dusted his rear without realising he was going to get more mud on his clothes. He raised his right hand to his forehead, as if he was tensed and in the midst of a mental battle. He then looked up and said in a stilted tone -“I am not like this usually okay! Just…just…leave me alone” and he spurned off without a backward glance.

My jaw literally dropped at his weird reaction. I just couldn’t believe that I was brushed off like this and that too when I had put myself at risk to save him from that gang. The ungrateful wretch left me standing in the pouring rain, the disbelief cementing me to the ground.

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Molaga playing 'Fetch'

When I reached home, it was to find Molaga just as I had expected, hanging around the window, wagging his tail off at the sound of my car hoot and jingle of the keys opening the front door. And not a second inside, he was all over me like he hadn’t seen me in decades.  His unconditional love was gratifying and always a welcome feeling that I appreciate every single day.

So after our evening pamper and cuddle session and my quick freshen up, I walked up to the window to check if the sky was clear enough to go for our evening walk. Vacillating in my decision, with my mind leaning towards taking a rain check on that walk, I turned around to tell Molaga that, only to find myself cornered into changing my decision. I should say forced to change my decision. It was as if my golden brat knew I was going to tell him “No walk today”, he stood there with his big brown puppy eyes, the leash hanging off his snout, a silly wide grin pasted on his face.

How could I say no to this puppy? So I took the leash and smiled down at him saying -“You win”. And we drove down to the nearby regional reserve. This particular one was one of our favourite hangouts called “Waikowhai”. This place had a nice winding and sloping path leading up to the beach. “Waikowhai” is a Maori word that literally translates to “Kowhai by the Water”. The “wh” in the word Waikowhai is pronounced like “fa”, so the pronunciation goes something like “Why-Ko-Fa-i”. Kowhai is a beautiful yellow bell-shaped flower that is very native to New Zealand (as pictured).

Kowhai

Waikowhai is one of those unique parks which boasts a wide-spread vegetation lined with native trees and plants alongside the pathway leading up to the waterfront. The shore itself is encrusted with pebbles, sea shells, rocks, sea weed, driftwood etc. On the right side of the beach are cliff walls sporting a dog exercise area nearby where our canine friends can be unleashed and are able to run with wild abandon. One would think it was a white sand beach if it weren’t for the crunch of sea shells under your feet. With the very picturesque setting and salty air beckoning us, we started our trek down the slope.

Molaga let off the leash was a lot subdued today making things a lot more easier for me. As we made our way slowly, I saw a bunch of urchins hanging around a bench. I could hear their guffaws and rude noises long before I reached them. I ignored them and made my way past them entering the exercise area. I picked up a dry driftwood and threw it far into the water. Molaga ran into the water with all the excitement he could muster and went to fetch the piece of wood. He brought it back and dropped it at my feet, and shook himself dry and of course spraying all the water on me in the process. He then stepped back two to three steps backwards at an angle and shuffled his front paws front to back as if to mimic the throwing action. After playing “Fetch” for a while, we trudged on a bit further down the beach. The temptation to sit on a rock and dip my feet in the water was very compelling. I sat gazing into the horizon when I heard the splish-splash on wet sand as if someone was running on shallow water. I turned to my left to find a lonely jogger running back towards me and onto the path leading back to the car park. He was tall and brawny, dressed in dark running shorts and rain proof jacket covering his head. I nodded and smiled at him in a friendly manner expecting him to return the smile. Um, wrong! He looked at Molaga, then me, scrunched up his eyebrows, narrowed his eyes at me and jogged past me without even so much as a nod. His sharp stare made me feel edgy. So much for friendly smiles, I thought to myself. I shrugged my shoulders trying to get the hazel eyed stranger off my head.

As if to dampen my mood further, the sky just then decided to cry on me. I quickly whistled to Molaga and we started our trek back to the car park. As we made our way up, the rain started pouring and lightning and thunder flashed in the sky.

The way up was very steep and more tiresome and the wet weather didn’t help one bit making the already loose soil slushy. The concrete tiles were running with muddy rain water.

Suddenly I heard a commotion up ahead of me. Even in the rain I could hear that eerie yelp like that of a wounded animal. A noisy scuffle broke ahead of me on the walkway. Molaga’s ears perked up and he started growling from his throat. I knew he had sensed a threat. I kept a hold on his collar and peered through the sheet of rain. There in the distance, I saw the jogger cowering under a tree with his face between his knees crouched in a foetal position as if in pain. Three out of the four young urchins were swarming him with insults, mocking remarks and rude gestures. I wasn’t sure if they had attacked him but he seemed to be writhing in pain as I saw him clenching his stomach.

I knew friendly smile or not I had to help him then and it had better be fast!!!

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