Saturday, May 26, 2012

Baker's Corner: Pavlova

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. It is made by beating egg whites to a very stiff consistency before folding in caster sugar, white vinegar, cornflour, vanilla essence and slow-baking the mixture (similar to a meringue). It is served with fresh cream and fruits. This dessert has a crisp crust and a soft, light interior. It is believed to have been created in honor of Anna either during or after one of her early tours to Australia and New Zealand. I've read that the nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the source. 

The first time I saw someone make pavlova was on one of the earliest episodes of the British television show - Come Dine with Me. It seemed easy to make and it looked pretty interesting. Ever since I watched the show, I've always wanted to make it but never got around to it. Recently, I made up my mind to try it out for the first time after being put to shame by the talented kids of Junior Masterchef Australia who were effortlessly churning up the delectable dessert in a pavlova challenge. It turned out fantastic but it wasn't all smooth sailing as you will soon discover!

I must share with you some experiences of my pavlova (mis)adventure. I made two cardinal errors during my first attempt due to which I had to throw the whole batch away (boo...hoo!). I didn't separate the eggs carefully enough which resulted in a little egg yolk getting incorporated into the whites. And also, there was a teeny-tiny piece of eggshell in the egg white mixture that I overlooked and noticed only as the whisking process was going on. At the time, I didn't think that it was a big deal but 8-10 minutes into whisking, I realized that I wasn't going to see white peaks anytime soon in the future! The egg whites stubbornly remained a disappointingly bubbly mixture. I immediately rushed to my culinary agony aunt 'Google' to find out  what had gone wrong and then realized my folly. Well, what do you do? *Sighs* You make mistakes and then learn from them, right? So, I discarded the old batch, cleaned the whisking bowl and beaters thoroughly, dried them with paper towels, separated the eggs very carefully using an egg separator ensuring that no yolk or shell fragments fell in and let the egg whites stand for 20 min at room temperature before whisking. Thankfully, my patience paid off and the second batch turned out perfect! Within 5 mins, I saw the egg whites turn into glossy-stiff peaks. I was one happy baker! 

This is not exactly what I would call a perfect or dainty dessert. It will most likely have cracks in it (adds to the rustic charm!) and while slicing, it may fall apart a little and the fruits may go tumbling down. Don't worry about it. Just serve it in its messy state....the taste will more than compensate for it!

An Update: Since this post, I have made pavlova umpteen number of times and it has always been a smashing success. In the 'method' section, I have mentioned the different combinations of fruit that you can try

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Recipe of the month: Mysore Masala Dosa

Ah! Masala dosa....the thought itself sends my taste buds into a tizzy! Whenever I eat these dosas, I'm transported to a world of nostalgia. Masala dosa, for me, sums up all the good things about my home land - vibrant, warm, humble, comforting, satisfying and familiar. The golden-brown, crispy shell of the dosa, the fiery kick of the red chutney, the soft and creamy texture of the mildly spiced potato filling and the earthy warmth of the coconut chutney all form a harmonious symphony of textures and flavors. It is no wonder that this dish has made it to the list of '10 foods to try before you die' compiled by the Huffington post! My mom makes these dosas all the time and it is one among the many varieties of South-Indian 'thindi' (breakfast) that I look forward to eagerly. You always know when it is Masala dosa day at home because the preparation for it starts the previous day itself. My maternal uncle is renowned for his Masala dosas and my whole family would (and still do) frequently congregate at my granny's home for a generous weekend dose of his dosas. And I cannot forget to mention the mouth-watering Masala dosas that we used to enjoy on Sundays at Nalpak in Mysore. I always make it a point to go there whenever I'm on holiday in Mysore and sink my teeth into those delicious dosas. So, as you can see, me and Masala dosa have quite a bit of history!

When I moved to Singapore, one of the first items that I was very anxious to learn to make was dosa. At the time, I thought I was attempting something akin to climbing Mount Everest! It makes me laugh thinking about it now because it is actually quite simple and I do it all the time. There have been several instances where I've been almost half asleep, grinding the batter at 11 pm in order to prepare dosas for breakfast that morning. The reason I can get away with such midnight dosa ventures is because I have the weather on my side....the only time I'm grateful for the hot and humid weather in Singapore is when I make idlies and dosa! It aids the fermentation process greatly. Anyways, getting back to the point - back home, bulky stone grinders are used to grind the rice and dal together. I didn't have that when I came here (and I still don't). My mom told me that I could grind the rice and dal using a regular blender but she did have some concerns about how long the blender would last once I started doing that. True to her concerns, I am on my 4th or 5th blender now! I've always thought of buying a grinder but the lack of counter space combined with the fact that the dosas I make turn out pretty good anyway has gotten me to procrastinate.

Here is my mom's recipe to make Masala dosa. In the past, I've experimented with other dosa recipes but I always come back to this one because it works the best for me. The recipe for the red chutney (the addition of which elevates it to 'Mysore Masala dosa') is adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's website.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Movie recommendation: Vicky Donor (Hindi)

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Vicky Donor is a 2012 Hindi movie directed by Shoojit Sircar and produced by John Abraham. I wanted to go to the movies on my birthday (with no particular movie in mind) and this is what I ended up watching . I must admit - it injected a whole lot more fun into my day!

There are movies that come with huge expectations and end up sorely disappointing the audience and then there are movies that come from nowhere and go on to become tremendous successes. How much can you expect from a move that is based on the concept of sperm donation and infertility? Not much if you ask me. But that is where Vicky Donor steps in to prove that even a small budget movie with no star cast, no foreign locales and an unconventional plot, can strike gold if it is given the right kind of treatment. This is one surprise packet that no one saw coming. Vicky Donor is fresh, daringly different, light-hearted and a laugh riot but yet manages to bring to your attention an issue that is seldom talked about and if so, in hushed tones. This is progressive cinema without the preaching and moral policing (now isn't that a relief!).

Monday, May 7, 2012

Another year older…

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“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” 
                                                          ~Mark Twain

At certain times, don’t you just wish that time stood still? It may be while gazing at a rosy sunset, taking a stroll down a desolate beach, watching the starry night sky with a loved one, glimpsing a beautiful rainbow in the monsoon, admiring the gorgeous colors of autumn or standing atop a mountain with the breeze in your hair, looking at the wispy clouds below. These are the moments that take your breath away. Unfortunately for me right now, there is one more that decidedly makes the list - celebrating a birthday (the moment which is literally taking my breath away!). As sad as that sounds, it is regrettably true. After you reach a certain stage in your life, you just start dreading birthdays. Not that I ever had dreams of immortality or anything but with so much to see and experience in one lifetime, time just seems to be whizzing by at breakneck pace. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie Review: Hugo

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I never imagined that a day would come when I would be wearing 3D glasses and watching a movie in the comfort of my own home but here I am writing this review after doing just that. Technology I tell you....what will they think of next!  

So, me and DH received two free 3D movies  along with the accessories when we bought our new Sony Bravia 3D TV set and one of the movies was Hugo. Having not watched a movie in several weeks thanks to a packed schedule, I thought it was high time to soak up some movie magic (and what better than a Martin Scorsese movie in 3D to do that?!).