Sunday, August 19, 2018

Hunt for the perfect yeast, and breadmaking

Like most others, I do like shopping. But if you ask me to spend a Sunday afternoon shopping for clothes at a mall, I'll probably find a way to excuse myself. Shopping for food is of course a different story. Show me a market selling anything to do with food, and I will be happy with or without company.

And so, last afternoon was spent at INA market. There were a couple of essentials that I had almost run out of and a few new ingredients I wanted to check out. I had my handy grocery list in my wallet, and Len for company. Really, the perfect kind of Saturday in the city. I find the prices for imported goods way more competitive at INA than elsewhere in Delhi. Also, it's convenient to have everything under one roof, well almost anyway.

We picked up a packet of dried active yeast and a loaf pan for breadmaking. I must admit, we have been quite unsuccesful at baking bread. Proofing the yeast has been a nightmare. And the dough would just not turn out right. I suspect it was the wrong kind of yeast. Or, perhaps we couldn't get the temperature right? But, all that changed today. Let's just say we were two-times lucky! The morning attempt was a disaster and we had a big bowl of wet, sticky dough that was NOT turning to bread or anything edible. We dumped it outside for the birds and squirrels to feast on. (And they did.) At noon, we switched recipes again and look how wonderfully it turned out!! 

I love how a teeny weeny bit of
butter can lend shine to the crust

Right before slicing the loaf

The original recipe can be found here.

Needless to say, I am thrilled. There is still a lot to learn when it comes to baking bread, but for now I am just thinking of ways to devour every golden slice. Here are my top three choices.
  • with a thick layer of homemade hummus, along with tomatoes, cucumber, and black olives
  • with some homemade peanut butter and jelly
  • toasted with butter

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Inspired quinoa

Here's a confession. I hate being an editor. I don't hate editing as such, but the idea of spending most of my waking hours fixing commas and the like is extremely uninspiring. In the bigger scheme of things, does it matter? Would a life be lost if you spot a typo in a published book? Unlikely. If truth be said, what I really want to do - rather one of the many things I want to do - is this: I want to be a farmer. I want to live on a farm, grow stuff on a piece of land, hopefully sell it and make enough money to do a whole lot of other exciting stuff. There. I said it. That's the dream. I often wonder, do people really like living in the city? The hustle bustle of everyday life. The madness. The lack of time. The cut-throat competition. The commuting! Oh, the commuting! The traffic snarls and blaring horns! 

When I visited Manipur last year, Len and I visited a small town called Kangpokpi, about an hour's drive from Imphal. We met up with a couple of his friends, enjoyed some wonderful hospitality, and soaked in the charming vibe of the town. And in the five-odd hours that I spent in Kangpokpi, I knew I had found my second home. 


Kangpokpi reminded me of scenes from Enid Blyton books. Picturesque and quiet, with narrow winding roads between lush green forest land, gurgling streams by the road, a little cemetery at the top of the hill, a church nearby...

This place was a wee bit spooky, yet peaceful

 So I thought to myself. Wouldn't it just be lovely to have a house in the hills, a quinoa farm - yes that stuff is picking up in Manipur, would you believe it! - a few cows, hens, and of course a dog for company. Speaking of quinoa, I tried my hand at it over the weekend. A Chinese-style one-pot quinoa meal. Len and I both enjoyed it, and we polished off an large bowl talking about the farm we would own one day. 

Interestingly, the climatic conditions in parts of Manipur are conducive to growing quinoa and chia seeds - both native to Latin America - and are being promoted by the state government as potential cash crops in Manipur. Ever since we found out, Len and I have increased in our intake of both chia and quinoa, in the hope that it would inspire us to get off our lazy butts and get that farm in Kangpokpi!

This Chinese-fried quinoa recipe makes enough for two persons. 

What you need

3/4 cup dried quinoa
2 cups water (or, vegetable or meat stock - alternately you can flavour plain water by using something like a bouillon cube)

2 carrots, chopped
1 large capsicum, diced
1/2 cup corn
2 eggs
1 onion, finely chopped
6-7 garlic pods, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped (or, use a hot sauce of your choice)
2-3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil 
1/4 cup spring onions, finely chopped (I missed out on this, but it makes for a great garnish)
Salt, to taste

How to

Start by cooking the quinoa, and prep your veggies on the side. You need to cook quinoa in a covered pot, and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the quinoa is nice and fluffy. The quinoa soaks up the all liquid when it is cooked. 

More the colour, better it is

In a separate pan, heat oil, and add the chopped onion, garlic, and chillies. Fry for 2-3 minutes.

Get your pan nice and hot

When the onions turn transluscent. Add the carrots and let them cook for 4-5 minutes. Then, add the remaining vegetables. Stir fry until the carrots are almost cooked. This should take another 5 minutes.

Stir fry those veggies

Move the vegetables to one side. Crack open the eggs. Once they begin to set, gently scramble them. Season with salt before adding the cooked quinoa.

Scramble that egg

Add the soy sauce, and cook for a few more minutes, or until everything is well incorporated. Garnish with some spring onions. You could also serve this dish with some extra sesame oil and soy sauce on the side.

Dig in!