Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thank you, and Farewell

Dear friends,

I would like to thank those of you who supported and inspired this project. At this point, Life has introduced new chapters I must fulfill. So, it's time to turn the page on a small attempt at food blogging and move on.

The cooking, baking and experimenting will continue. Gluttony's grip is far too strong to quit ;)

So, I thank you for visiting.

Be well, eat well, and enjoy life's little moments.

Azarakhsh

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Summer in a Jar: Albaloo Jam


Whispering through softened giggles, my cousin and I tip-toed to the neighbours’ backyard. We had been chasing each others’ shadows all day, amazed at their untouchably real presence. All that running had our stomachs in knots of hunger, craving all things sweet. In a blink of mischief, we had a simple plan: one of us was to push the other up the crumbly wall, pick as many berries as we could hold and dash into a corner to eat them. Two scraped knees, a handful of squished jewels and berry-stained smiles later, we noticed our shadows. They were closer to us than they’d been all day.

Confused and curious about the shapeshifting shadow, we thought it was punishment for eating before lunch. The air thickened with smells of lunchtime, lickably near. Every home had its palette, some meat-heavy, some sugary and some swelling with simple luxury: bread.
My Brother's Home-made Ciabatta

“Kids! Wash your hands!” had us dashing back home on hot cobblestones, barefoot and drooling. A few unpleasant body scrubs later, we had a glorious lunch followed by an event that teased our taste buds into morality. As a practical joke, we were given a bowlful of albaloo. To our eight year old eyes, they looked and felt like cherries; glistening a deep red and perfectly ripe. One bite in, and our faces danced between expressions of pleasure, pain and utter confusion. The cherries were evil! And tart! And jaw-clenchingly sour!

Years later, we have learned two things : Sour Cherry jam is an Iranian favourite and shadows are shorter at noon.



Here is my Mother’s recipe for Albaloo (Sour Cherry)  Jam with a personal twist:


Albaloo (Sour Cherry) Jam


Albaloo (Sour Cherry) Jam

Ingredients
  • 5 cups Sour Cherries ( I used the frozen variety, available in specialty Persian/Middle Eastern stores)
  • 2 cups raw sugar (or 1 cup sugar and 1 cup honey)
  • 2 Apples (Granny Smith), skin on, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp salt
  •  Juice of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Sterilized jars.


Method

  • Toss all ingredients, except the lemon zest, into a heavy pot over medium heat.
  • Bring everything to a gentle boil, and let everything cook and mingle.
  • Stir frequently with a wooden spoon to prevent the mixture from forming a burnt layer of gooey bitterness at the bottom of the pot.
  • The mixture will form a frothy layer on top. Some people insist on scooping it off. I didn’t, because the froth then turned a sweet film of jam as it cooled.
  • In about 40-50 minutes, the mixture will have reduced considerably.
  • Turn off the heat. If you like your jam chunky, then skip the next step.
  • Using a hand blender, puree everything into a smooth consistency.
  • If the mixture is too runny, place the pot back onto medium heat and cook off the excess liquid.
  • Once the mixture reaches desired depth and thickness, turn off the heat.
  • Stir in the lemon zest. Taste and adjust lemon or salt content to balance the acidity.
  • This mixture will thicken as it cools. 


Preservation

  • There are two primary ways of preserving this.
    • ONE: Pouring the cooled jam into freshly sterilised jars (Jars that have been recently washed with soap and hot water, and dried. Do not touch the inside of the jars). These will keep upto three months in the fridge.
    • TWO: This method allows for longer preservation. Processing. This seals up the jars and gives them a better shelf life. Please click here for a link.


Enjoy! 

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Fun Facts 



Sour Cherries are called Albaloo in Farsi. It is pronounced all-baw-loo.

Here is some more information about sour cherries in Canada. 

For the health-curious souls among you, here's some information about Cherries in general. 


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Comfort

Do you compulsively turn your pillow over, just to feel the cool hug of unsquished comfort? Do you just jump into bed or toss and turn into that cozy perfection of a snug blanket and a cloud under your head?

The past two days have been a somewhat vibrant grey, with gentle rain-showers and cooler breaths of spring. It may not be a frostbitten winter day, but it certainly called for a warm pick-me-up. What better than soup to soothe the soul?

"Soup puts the heart at ease, calms down the violence of hunger, eliminates the tension of the day, and awakens and refines the appetite."
Auguste Escoffier

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup




Ingredients
  • 1 medium-large sweet potato
  • 1 medium onion, roughly diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium white-flesh potato, roughly chopped
  • 2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 1/2- 2 cups water
  • ½ tbsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp ground (dried) coriander
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg (optional) 

Method
  • Preheat oven to 400F/205C
  • With a fork, prick holes around the sweet potato
  • Place potato on a baking sheet lined with parchment, and roast for 40-50 minutes.
  • In the meantime, drizzle the olive oil into a pan on medium heat
  • Sautee the onions for 3-4 minutes, till translucent
  • Add garlic, turmeric and coriander. Continue sautéing for a minute as spices toast and release their fragrance.
  • Add tomato, carrots, and potato chunks. Give it a quick stir
  • Cover all vegetables with chicken broth and water.
  • Let this gently simmer, covered, for 30 minutes on medium-low heat, till potatoes are fork-tender.
  • The sweet potato should be done by now.
  • Remove from oven and let it cool, as the pot simmers.
  • Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and scoop out the roasted sweet mash.
  • Add this to the pot and turn off the heat.
  • Using a blender, puree everything into a smooth, velvety soup. Be sure not to fill the blender to more than half its capacity, so puree the soup in batches if necessary. An easier option is to use an immersion blender.
  • Stir in the tarragon and nutmeg (optional).
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  •  Serve with fresh lime wedges for a fresh kick to balance the sweet and spicy flavours.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Savoury


Sunshine has made a comeback, just in time for perfectly lit fields of green and “blossom puffs” of flowers.  You know summer is lickably near when your sleeves shorten and you start to crave ice cream on an hourly basis. Then again, ice cream knows no season. Nor does pleasure.

Food and pleasure is inexhaustible topic.  Ice cream in hand, I was observing children joyfully running about after a meal while their guardians laid back in the comfort of fresh air and sun-licked skies.  It was then that I realised how little I’d valued the pleasure in doses of laziness.   
    
Student life adds a pejorative pinch to laziness. Those sleepless nights were driven by a motivation away from laziness, away from distractions; towards a goal. Result? Stress. Remedy? Sleep.  Time? Scarce.  Moderation is key. Reward your hard work with moments of laziness. Your mind and body will thank you.

One morning, the sun's rays sliced through my blinds and woke me up. In a state between hunger-pangs and cravings for comfort food, laziness demanded basics. Bread, butter and all things comfy. 


Savoury French Toast

Ingredients

Note: This list is designed for solo-indulgence. Double, triple, quadruple as needed

  • 1 slice of thick-cut bread (2 inches)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp dried herb(s) of choice (I used oregano)
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste.
  • Sliced or grated mozzarella cheese*
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Thinly sliced salami or deli

*Note:  Choice of cheese may vary. Great melting cheeses are Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Jarlsberg...to name a few. More on varieties of cheese in the near future. 

Method
  • In a shallow bowl, beat the egg well, whisking in the herbs, salt and pepper

  • Place the bread in the bowl, till both sides have soaked up the egg mixture.

  • On medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter and a drizzle of olive oil (olive oil prevents the butter from burning)

  • Once hot, carefully place the egg-soaked bread in the pan.

  • Once it reaches a golden brown colour on one side (about 2 minutes), flip onto other side for about a minute.

  • Turn off the heat.

  • Now, add the diced tomatoes, sliced salami and cheese on top.

  • There are two options now:
    • If you have a cast-iron skillet, place it right under a low broil setting on your oven until the cheese bubbles into happiness.

    • If not, turn the heat back on to medium, place a lid on your skillet/pan and leave it on for about 10 seconds till the cheese has melted.
  • Enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Life's Little Pleasures

You know that ‘old book’ smell? Out wafts woody vanilla scents from the crunch of time-stained pages. That smell always tugs at my stomach, begging for dessert. Fortunately (or unfortunately) libraries prohibit eating. With good reason. Why ruin perfectly scented comfort?  

There’s a beautiful line in Oscar Wilde’s “A Picture of Dorian Gray”:  Lord Henry Wotton says,
“I adore simple pleasures, they are the last refuge of the complex.” 
Lord Henry’s an indulgent hedonist, critical of everyday struggles, rules and expectations. The Arts seduced him. Easily. 

Simple pleasure.  Two most cherished words; relaxed and rewarding. Away from that brain-clogging complexity, towards the little things in life. Be it skipping through strawberry fields, watching the shape-shifting clouds or connecting starry dots in the sky; be it blossoms of spring or sizzles of barbequed steak; whatever breathes meaning into your Life.


This morning, I was inspired to ‘deconstruct’ my breakfast from cereal, milk and fruit into a more decadent indulgence. Sometimes, as Lord Henry said,
“...there's only one way to get rid of temptation, and that's to yield to it”.
I craved a creamy, sweet escape. It just happened to sound more appetizing en français. 

 
 
Parfait pour le Petit Déjeuner


Ingredients
 
Serves  1-2
  • 1 cup cereal
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries (or any fruit, or combination you desire)
  • 1 cup full-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp rose water
  • 2 tsp maple syrup

Optional
Crushed pistachios for garnishing

 Method

  • Start by mixing the rose water and maple syrup into the yogurt with a spoon, till it has a slightly runny consistency.  I used Greek yogurt. If your yogurt is already runny, then just incorporate it.
  • Alternatively, you may save the maple syrup for drizzling, instead of mixing it with the yogurt.
  • In a serving dish of your choice, neatly arrange a layer of your favourite cereal. I used slightly crushed All-Bran flakes (I like its subtle sweetness).
  • Now spoon some of the yogurt on it, till it’s just covered.
  • Neatly arrange some sliced strawberries in 2-3 layers, as desired.
  • Spoon some more yogurt on it, till just covered.
  • Repeat the steps till you’ve layered all ingredients.
  • Garnish in a way that pleases your eyes into hunger.
  • Enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
All literary quotes were cited from Oscar Wilde's: A Picture of Dorian Gray (1985 Penguin Edition). 


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Chocolate

Do you ever have that stubborn ache of desire, whose only cure is a perfect touch of chocolate? In the movie Chocolat (2000), one of the characters says “it melts ever so slowly on your tongue, and tortures you with pleasure.” I disagree with the torturous bit. The words “guilty” and “pleasure” are an impossible fit. Especially when a chunk of glistening chocolate meets your tongue, streaming into your senses. What a beautiful feeling.

Last week, the sky was an uninspired gray, waiting with humid patience before a heavy rain. It was too warm for the comfort of hot chocolate, and too cold for chocolate ice cream.

My earliest memory of a kitchen was with my Mother, impatiently standing on tippy-toes, baking chocolate cake. It was a simple, quick recipe that was a fairly quiet affair. All we needed was a big bowl and a whisk.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

Note: All ingredients must be at room temperature.

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup raw sugar ( Alternatively, use a light-coloured honey)
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup plain, runny yogurt (Full Fat).
  • 1 tsp baking power
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ to ½  cup cocoa powder  (More cocoa adds a richness and bittersweet depth to cake)
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • Pinch of salt

Method
  • Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C
  • Sift all dry ingredients into a big bowl
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add all wet ingredients
  • Start whisking slowly from the centre, drawing in the other ingredients
  • Once all ingredients are incorporated into a gorgeously velvet batter, stop whisking.
  • Pour into a baking pan (this batter is good for a 9” pan, or 24 medium muffin tins)
  • Place in middle rack of the oven, and let it bake for 35-40 minutes.
  • Start checking the cake at 30 minutes if in a pan, and 25 minutes if in a muffin tin. Insert a toothpick at the centre. If the toothpick comes out clean, it’s ready.
  • Enjoy!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fun Fact


Chocolate breaks all barriers. This delightful pleasure sounds the same across cultures. Here's a cross-cultural exploration of the word chocolate.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chocolate or Caramel?


Sometimes, satisfaction comes in a freshly-baked cookie; crunching stress away with every bite. Or perhaps, sinking your teeth into the warm, silky streams of chocolate oozing through the buttery crumbs of pleasure.
 
I've been in a cookie-mood since a fellow Persian has been posting really temping pictures of her baking adventures.

In a post-exam sugar low, I asked a dear friend whether he wanted chocolate chip or caramel cookies. His response led to eye-rolling laughs and this recipe.



Chunky Choco-Caramel Cookies

Preheat oven to 375 F
.


Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinammon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 bars of Skor, chopped  (If you can't find Skor, use any hard toffee of choice)
  • 1 bar (100g) of Dark Chocolate, chopped. 

    Method
  • Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy
  • Beat in the eggs, vanilla, cinammon and baking soda
  • With a wooden spoon, mix in the flour till fully incorporated
  • Fold in all the chunks of Skor and chocolate.
  • Take tablespoonfuls of the batter and roll them into golf-balls. 
  • Place each cookie-dough ball 2 inches apart on the baking sheet
  • Lightly press them down into discs with your palms
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, till edges are a toasted golden-brown.

    Notes:
     
  • Oven times and temperatures may vary.
  • 10 minutes will render more chewy cookies. 12 minutes tends to be the perfect time at 375 F for a crunchy skin on a perfectly chewy cookie. Baking for longer will make it crunchier.
  • The cookies will become crunchier as they cool over time.
  • These will keep for about a week, covered in a cool, dry place. 

Decadent Rubble
Have a sweet day :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Never Say No Nutella.

That playful pitter patter of raindrops; the sun squeezing through stubborn black clouds. Students nervously tapping their pens and flipping pages; cramming words into tired minds.

Had I stayed in that scene any longer, I would have failed my exam. So, I rushed back home and needed a quick but effective solution. 2 hours to exam-time, and stress saw two things: Nutella and a spoon.

Bad idea. That sugar rush would be sure to crash in the middle of the 3-hour marathon between my brain and hand. Then, this happened...


Nutella Hot Chocolate

Note: If warm milk tends to make you sleepy, please do not have this before an exam.

Ingredients
  • 2 cups Whole Milk
  • 1 tbsp (or more) Nutella

Optional
  • Ground Cinammon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper

Method
  • Heat the milk and on medium heat in a small, deep saucepan
  • If adding spices, add some of it now to infuse the milk
  • Before the milk starts to simmer, take a spoonful of nutella and slowly stir it in
  • As you stir it in, the milk continues heating up and the nutella, along with it.
  • Once the spoon is clean of nutella, start whisking vigorously
  • Keep whisking until the milk is deightfully frothy
  • Turn off the heat
  • Pour into cup(s)
  • Enjoy!
Needless to say, that was the most fun I had writing an exam ;)



Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Final Crunch

Thesis: Done. The first thing to satisfy my tired mind and numbed body was a slice of Canadian decadence: a buttery bite of maple-pecan pie, oozing with ribbons of caramel. Then, a cup of delicately steaming Persian tea. Now onto final exams. 

When the pressures of exams start to steamroll your brain into pudding, it's time to take a break. Nothing can be accomplished with exhaustion.
Here are a few tips:
  • Drink plenty of water. Limit your caffeine intake, according your body’s needs.

  • Include heart-healthy proteins and fats in your daily diet. If you’re a vegetarian and are allergic to nuts, try avocados with a spirtz of lime, salt, and a light drizzling of olive oil.

  •  Eat plenty of fruits. Bananas and apples are my go-to fruits for an energy boost. They don’t perfume the entire room and are easy to carry around.

  •  Don’t forget carb-rich foods, to feed and stabilize your energy. That creamy cheese-smeared bagel or steaming bowl of honeyed oatmeal may be your best friend this season. 

«La destinée des nations dépend de la manière dont elles se nourrissent.»
Physiologie du
goût- Brillat-Savarin



Most importantly- REST. The battle with Time is a difficult one. Strategize, sleep and fight with a clear mind.

Good luck, everyone!   



Friday, March 25, 2011

On Smiles and Smoothies

There are some days when your smile weighs down and withers into sadness.

Stress can have a similar effect on your spirits. You feel the aches and pains of sadness, with the added touch of a furrowed brow, a nervous wreck and that never-ending list of things to do. 

Here's a trick: take a minute for a mood-boosting, soul-soothing potion. In reality, it's the work of seconds.  Bananas have a well-earned reputation of being a power-food. Easily digested, easy on the wallet and tucked in a sunshiny yellow smile of a skin.

This post is dedicated to a dear friend who reminded me that ''darkness is just the absence of light''. The light streams back and shines through a smile renewed.

Banana Smoothie

Note: If lactose intolerant, use almond milk.

  • 1 medium-large, ripe banana
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup yogurt (or vanilla ice cream)
  • Honey, as desired
  • Ice, as desired

Optional Sense-Pleasers
  • Pinch of  Ground Cinammon or Nutmeg
  • A few drops of pure vanilla extract

Note: Vanilla, in scant amounts, acts as a flavour enhancer.

Method
  • Put all ingredients in a blender, blitz away and let it all blend into a smooth, creamy glory.
  • If you don't have a blender, this can become a creative process. Take a strong ziploc bag and crush the ice + chopped up banana with your heaviest textbook (or rolling pin). Pour the stress-busting smoosh into a cup and add the rest of the ingredients. Whisk together (you may use a fork, if you'd like). Granted, it may not be the smoothest smoothie, but you'll be in brighter spirits.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fun Facts

= Bananas contain a lot of potassium. You will not spontaneously catch fire if you eat too many. As tasty as they are, moderation is key. 

= Here's some detailed nutritional information.