Recipe Cards

Most of my food knowledge comes from watching videos. It began with consumption of copious amounts of cooking shows hosted by some of my cooking idols. It graduated then to the flavour du jour – deceptively short cooking videos served on virtually every platform on the internet. I could watch for hours the manicured hands, the distressed wood cooking surfaces, the gleaming copper measuring utensils, the shiny new stove top,  those sparkling cookware with not a scratch on them. I have tried hard to find fault with such cooking demonstrations and have realized that they are indeed flawed. Rarely are cooking times, prep times, measurements or other crucial tips shared. But its all very pretty, so yes, I still watch them. For entertainment, for new ideas and for inspiration to try something adventurous in my kitchen.

The Facebook page of Live To Eat – Vivre Pour Manger as I have chosen to call it, gives a more casual and offhand cooking instructions. It is more conversational and probably not the best way to share recipes. You will find links on most of my pages for recipe cards. You will also find them in this page.

Do you seek that warm hug from a steaming bowl of fragrant soup, that bite of a tangy rasam and rice stolen in a little bowl way before lunch time, that spoon full of baked goodness that does burn your tongue but offers you exactly what you are looking for – comfort. Comfort food means different things to different people, but it is most often something piping hot, mellow in flavour, creamy in texture and most certainly a little heavy on the calories. My childhood dinners comprised or rice, mixed with hot milk and the vegetable dish of the day. Even now, on those truly awful days I sneak some hot milk onto my dinner plate and savour it much to the amusement of the family.

These days I veer towards creamy, cheesy, somewhat bland but comforting dishes, all of which have cheese and while sauce in starring roles.

Whatever au gratin: Find a combination of vegetables and/or meat you love. I prefer the trio of spinach, mushrooms and corn (baby corn or kernels). Whatever you plan to use, precook them, season and flavour them per your preference.

White sauce: Heat equal quantities of olive oil and butter over low heat, in a small saucepan, add finely chopped garlic. Add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and sauté till the flour is gently frothing, and the raw smell dissipates. In small batches add a cup of milk, stirring after each addition to yield a smooth, lump-free mixture. Add a pinch of grated nutmeg, some dried herb (parsley is least intrusive in flavour), salt, freshly ground pepper and stir until the sauce thickens. Take care to work on low heat while preparing the sauce.

To assemble, place prepared vegetables/chicken in a shallow oven proof glass dish, optional to add some grated sharp cheese and paprika. Bake until topping has begun to brown.

It is only when you remove the shroud of mystery surrounding something, do you see it for what it really is – something relatable, something that no longer elicits fear from you. In my food experience several restaurant dishes have transitioned from awe to meh, after my having figured out how to make them. It is of course the result of several trials, a great many errors and a few successes and it has got me to a point, that I can identify most ingredients in any given dish. Early dining experiences had me wondering what on earth went into that fragrant herbed butter that restaurants placed alongside warm bread, or what made a sauce so delicious and creamy.

Case in point is the Quiche. It sounds somewhat snobbish and you really need to know how to say if before you order it! Some face palm memories for me there. My version of the venerable quiche follows my broad food mantra – almost any ingredient you have on hand will work well.

Quiche 101 – it all starts with the base. Make the base on a good day, unhurriedly, calmly and by pouring a lot of love into it! Start with 1 cup of flour, a pinch of salt, 200 grams of very cold (not frozen) unsalted butter and 2-3 teaspoons of cold water in which you have added some ice cubes. I make large batches of pie base in one sitting and freeze them for future use. But keep the ratio the same. TIP: before storing that brick of butter, cut into 1 inch cubes and store this in your butter dish – overall easier to use than trying to saw into a large hunk of cold butter. Start by lightly mixing salt and flour in a large bowl. Using a paring knife, add chips of chilled butter to the flour. With just your fingertips rub butter into the flour. Use quick and light movements to get the best results. Once all butter has been reduced to pea sized bits into the flour you should have a coarse bread-crumb-like consistency. To check, inch a bit of the mixture between your fingers – it should hold shape at least for few seconds. Bring together what can now be called the dough with a light hand, add the cold water in drops while continuing to lightly knead the mixture into a dough. At the moment it begins to come together, stop. Pat into a ball and chill immediately, and for at least 30 minutes before use. Roll out the pie base about ¼-1/3 inch thickness and lay over the baking dish. Press down the edges, trim the ends to get a neat finish. Place a sheet of greaseproof paper over the top of the pie, add some pie weights and bake for 15-18 minutes at 150 degrees C. The colour of the base should be a very light blush, nowhere near a brown.

Fillings- aside from the mandatory heavy cream, eggs and grated nutmeg, you can put anything into a quiche and it will work. Some options: roasted broccoli, sautéed mushrooms, torn up slices of salami, sliced sausages, sautéed spring vegetables like coloured peppers, tender haricot beans, zucchini, diced cooked potatoes, whole spinach, corn kernels, shredded rotisserie chicken. Whatever you plan to use, ensure they are precooked. For the custard mix in 200 ml of heavy cream into a bowl with 2 eggs lightly beaten, a pinch of grated nutmeg, salt, freshly ground black pepper and some form of fresh or dried herb.

First place the filling and spread evenly over the baked pie base, use as much or as little as you prefer, but do not over fill. Now pour the egg and cream mixture to just cover the filling. If you wish, add some grated cheese over the top for an extra dimension. Bake for 5-8 minutes or longer depending on the size of your pie dish, until the custard at the centre is firm. Keep an eye as this can go from just-done to over-cooked within a couple of minutes. Serve immediately.

A great make ahead dish, a quiche with colourful fillings and a rich cheesy top makes for a great dinner party dish.

 

Desserts always add a special touch to any meal, particularly the boring ones. Unfortunately, they seem like a big process and scares most of us away from cooking it, not eating. Here is very simple dessert that you can make with in-season produce and leftover bits from your kitchen cupboard.
Start with the base – (even stale) sponge cake slices will do just as well as (stale) biscuits. If using cake keep the slices intact. If using biscuits, throw any kind into the food processor – salted, digestive, marie, cream filled – all with a pinch of salt and a table spoon or two of melted butter. Press this mixture into a buttered glass dish. Now for the topping – prepared custard, prepared jelly, seasonal or canned fruits – layer them up. Here’s how the layers go – base (cake or biscuit), fruit, custard finally jelly. Smooth down the top most layer to hide imperfections underneath. Refrigerate for a few hours, bring to the table with some drama.

Those rare opportunities to raise a toast to a victory or success – here’s a great beverage to make in a jiffy and serve in style. The aroma of cinnamon and apples will make you wish for a longer winter. Here’s how to get a party started. Boil 2 cups of water, throw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon (spring for the real stuff not those vile cassia barks), 3/4 of a cup of sugar. Add half a cup of dried cranberries, two green apples sliced thin, peel and all. Let the fruit and spice flavours gently infuse – may take about 30 minutes to an hour. Strain, cool, add lemon juice and store in the fridge. To serve pour the infusion into a glass and top with club soda. For those who prefer to imbibe, add some spiced rum to the infusion and top with club soda. Your home will smell like celebration.

Those rare opportunities to raise a toast to a victory or success – here’s a great beverage to make in a jiffy and serve in style. The aroma of cinnamon and apples will make you wish for a longer winter. Here’s how to get a party started. Boil 2 cups of water, throw in a couple of sticks of cinnamon (spring for the real stuff not those vile cassia barks), 3/4 of a cup of sugar. Add half a cup of dried cranberries, two green apples sliced thin, peel and all. Let the fruit and spice flavours gently infuse – may take about 30 minutes to an hour. Strain, cool, add lemon juice and store in the fridge. To serve pour the infusion into a glass and top with club soda. For those who prefer to imbibe, add some spiced rum to the infusion and top with club soda. Your home will smell like celebration.


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