INCREDIBLE IDIA AND A BOWL OF PEA SOUP

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
The idea of IDIA (Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access) was started by Shamnad Basheer (ex-Professor of the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS)) as a movement to eliminate inequities in access to higher education. Statistics show there’s a shocking dearth of diversity amongst the students clearing entrance tests for most national law universities, the IDIA team was set up to help change these statistics. Their main aim is to provide access to resources required to crack the CLAT to students from marginalized communities and regions, who wouldn’t be able to get through the exam otherwise.

Local IDIA Chapters have been set up across the country which have started an intensive training programme for students who are interested in pursuing law as a career. IDIA also selects students for the training program through its exam called IDIA National Aptitude Test which is held every year in several centres across the country. Contact Diptoshree Basu (INAT Coordinator) at dbasu3@gmail.com to find out how you can contribute, that is through donations, volunteering or maybe even mentoring some of the students that IDIA is trying to help.

I thought an appropriate pairing for the inspiring work being done by IDIA was this nourishing but simple Pea Soup – they’re both good for you and good for your soul.

 
 Serves 2
Recipe Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

What you’ll need:

1 cup shelled peas
2 onions (sliced)
2.5 cups vegetable stock

Foodnote: I usually melt Maggi cubes into hot water for this but I’ve heard they may contain MSG. Explore other brands of stock cubes to find one you like.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 lemon (juiced)
Red chilli powder to taste
Oregano/Thyme/ Rosemary/ Parsley or whatever seasoning you prefer

How to:

1. Pop olive oil into the container you’ll be using. Heat the oil a bit and then add the onions, stir while they soften and caramelize.

2. Add the peas and stir till soft. Add the stock and the rest of the ingredients (except the lemon juice) and let cook for about 15 – 20 mins.

3. Puree the mix and check the seasoning. Adjust as per taste.

4. Add a squirt or two of lemon juice and serve.

THE GOOD PEOPLE AT GOONJ AND MEXICAN MOCHA CRINKLE COOKIES

“No one has ever become poor by giving.”
Anne Frank
, diary of Anne Frank

 

I think we all want to do good. I believe most people would like to leave the world a better place than they found it. Sometimes this life we’re trying to better gets in the way of our efforts at improvement. Our good intentions can get buried under smaller but more numerous daily distractions. Unfortunately the world we live in makes ordering pajamas from a different country easier than helping the one we live in. Thankfully, people like the ones behind Goonj can inspire and remind us to do better.

Instead of throwing out your old stuff check out the Goonj website for the donations they accept and considering passing these things on to the people who need it more. They do excellent work reusing old clothes through their donation and Cloth For Work programs. They’re also working to collect relief material for those struck by floods in Assam, Bihar and West Bengal and trying to forge long term strategic relationships between well off urban schools and rural schools. You can read more about their exceptional work at their website (http://goonj.org/).

Whether you just want to donate some things or some money, do reach out to this outstanding organization to see how you can help. One of the easiest but most effective things to do is organize a clothes drive to collect old clothes from our friends and acquaintances – me and my friend have tried this with enormous success.

Remind yourself of how much good we can all do if we put our minds to it and bake yourself these celebratory cookies once you’re done. They’re lovely, crunchy, sticky, spicy and chocolatey all at the same time and very, very easy to make.

 

Makes about 20 fat cookies
Recipe adapted from A Spicy Perspective

What you’ll need:

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 ¼ granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp instant coffee granules
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla essence
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 pinch red chilli powder

How to:

1. Whisk together the cocoa, granulated sugar, coffee, cinnamon, red chilli powder, baking powder and salt. Add the oil and mix together.

2. Add the vanilla and eggs – beating the batter till smooth. Refrigerate for an hour or 2 to firm up the batter.

3. Preheat the oven to about 170°C. Pull out 1 or 1 ½ inch balls of the batter, roll into balls and then roll the balls in a plate of powdered sugar.

Note: This rolling into balls business is not going to be as easy as it seems. This is the problem with most recipes. People just write stuff like “roll into cookies and bake” like it’s simple without telling you that this is going to be a fudgy mess that refuses to hold any kind of shape and destroys your manicure. So the best way to go about it will be to flour your hands lightly, use a spoon to scoop out the quantity you want (a heaping teaspoon is about right) and to use your fingers to scrape the batter off the teaspoon and into the powdered sugar. At this point use the sugar to give you traction and roll the dough into a ball.

4. Plonk on a greased baking tray and bake for 10 mins. Let the cookies cool completely before trying to scrape them off or eat them.

GOOEY CHOCOLATE FILLED CHOCOLATE COOKIES

“To do good is noble. To tell others to do good is even nobler and much less trouble.” ― Mark Twain
There’s nothing more exciting for a writer (even a lowly food blogger) than somebody appreciating your work. Thank you so much to everyone who’s ever bothered to call/ write in/ message words of kindness. You have no idea how much motivation it offers to someone who spends most of their time worrying about spoons and spatulas. It’s easy to feel stupid or like you’re wasting your time while everyone’s employed at something more lucrative but every compliment lights the way.To spread the sunshine, here are some food writers I love to follow, who are doing amazing things out there in the big, bad blogosphere:

1. Tongue Ticklers: Also run by someone who juggles foodblogging and a day job, this site has incredible vegan recipes with some mindblowing food photography. There are lots of Indian food blogs out there but very few with this level of aesthetic polish.

2. Sugar and Charm: An old favourite, I’ve been following Eden Passante and her beautiful family’s adventures in California for over 3 years now. A very pretty, very pleasant, very feminine blog filled with design inspiration, photographs and mouthwatering dessert recipes.

3. M Loves M: Mara puts together some really charming outfits, simple recipes along with some great photos on this simple but elegant blog.

4. Passionate About Baking: Another Indian blog and this one has some hardcore, over the top desserts! Delightful to look at but a little intimidating to try, a lot of these recipes are on my ambitious to do list.

5. Sinfully Spicy: I realize I gravitate towards girly, dessert blogs and since we can’t survive on cookies and cobblers alone, I’m going to end with this blog that has some seriously delicious savoury dishes.

One thing all these blogs have in common is the superlative food photography, I wish I could intern with one of them to figure out how they do it! These are of course just 5 out of the hundreds of food blogs out there and maybe I can make this into a more regular series where I get you more lovely links.

The only problem with the world wide web is that it stretches so far and while I’d like to send each of these talented blog owners a batch of these decadent chocolate cookies with gooey chocolate filling, I can’t. I made these for a lunch my parents threw and realized that you never grow out of the desire for a crumbly, chocolaty, overload. Or at least my parent’s friends haven’t. And I haven’t either. These are their own reward.

 

Makes about a dozen cookies
Adapted from Good Food magazineWhat you’ll need:

200g dark chocolate
2 tbsp butter
1 egg
¼ cup sugar
¾ cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
About a cup of NutellaHow to:

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter together.
3. Whisk the egg and sugar till light and fluffy.
4. Stir the flour and baking powder together. Sieve it in batches into the egg mixture.
Chill the dough for 30 minutes to firm it up.
5. Now for the tough part, make 2 inch balls out of the batter and roll it into a fat little circle. Spoon the Nutella into the centre and fold it up like a gujiya. Try to ball the batter into a little bit of a circle so that it bakes into a cookie shape.
Foodnote: As you know, as I repeatedly say, there’s no great value in making food very pretty. It’s best to focus on making it delicious. This cookie is going to be a gorgeous, deep chocolate beauty and nobody is going to judge you if it’s not a perfect circle.
Try to work the Nutella in the best you can, the more you can fit in, the better the cookie will be. Don’t worry about getting the shape perfect. I started out trying to make a dimsum sort of shape but I wasn’t able to work that one out so I picked this half moon instead. Eventually I’d manipulate the half moon into a sort of circle but you can see the cookies aren’t perfectly round even in the end.
6. Seal your little chocolate dimsums and refrigerate them again for about 10 – 20 minutes.
7. Plonk the cookies on a greased baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
8. Let cool completely before devouring.

 

SNIPPETS: WHERE WE TRY TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS

I have to confess I never thought this blog would last this long.

I thought it would be one more thing I start enthusiastically and quickly tire of. I know it’s only been 8 months but I’m still as excited and nervous about putting a post up as when I started in June. I  feel terrible if I’m not posting things regularly (and I know I havn’t been) or if something doesn’t turn out looking the way I want when I hit publish.

In 8 months I think I’ve barely managed to get the basics together – the blog presentation, font size and post format. It’s going to be a long time before I manage to master sufficient technology to make this mess of food writing presentable. But there are moments I consider milestones (which most right thinking people would probably consider obvious glitches).

Anyhoo, barrelling on with the things I’ve learnt:

1. I really like taking pictures but it’s shocking how mediocre I am at it and also how *@#&*$% difficult it can be. It seems easy. Just hit the round button on the top of the camera but don’t even get me started on how much I obsess about lighting. It’s why I hate all my restaurant review photos – I usually go out for dinner and all these places with soft, warm, romantic lighting just end up looking dim and vaguely orange.

2. Recipe writing is really hard. Till a friend pointed it out recently I realized I never mention how many people a recipe will serve. I know that’s really obvious but it didn’t even strike me and now of course I’m mortified and can’t believe I missed it.

3. I worry about strange things. This is true for me generally also but now I spend a lot of time being anxious about whether I should specify cup measures or gram measures. I’d like to use cup measures because I assume anyone trying to cook will at least have a cup at hand but I can’t be sure these are standard measures and if it’s a fancy baking thing I don’t want you to buy all those expensive ingredients and end up with a puddle of flour and eggs because the proportions don’t work. Wow. That was a long sentence. It’s because I worry.

Apart from my fears (there are many more which I won’t bore you with now) there are things which make me really happy about this blog. No, it’s definitely not it’s wild popularity (it is the world’s smallest food blog I’m sure).

Starting to write restuarant reviews has been a lot of fun. I really enjoy it and since I eat out a lot it’s nice to put my two cents in. I apologize to all my lunch and dinner companions for my embarrassing, tourist-y photo taking every time we go out. So there are definitely going to be more of these. Also I’d love to hear if you disagree. I mean it’s great if you agree but I’d be really interested if you had a different experience at these places.

Also, guest posts! Love ’em! Not just because I’m lazy but because when someone is doing something awesome I want to tell everyone! So far I’ve introduced you guys to Vrinda who has contributed very many exciting recipes I wouldn’t have the courage to try, Lekha who with Danish has her own blog that I love, Radha and her lovely blog and Aashmita’s adorable illustrations.

I’d like if this was a more regular thing so expect to see more blogs I love, people I admire and projects which I think are interesting. It might not all be food related but then I promise to supply a recipe so nobody forgets this is the world’s smallest food blog.

ROSEMARY AND THYME DINNER ROLLS

 
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight…

Breadmaking is one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world’s sweetest smells… there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.” ― M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

MFK Fisher was a genius.

I’ve been thinking of getting into baking bread for a while and putting it off because it was too intimidating. Then I found this great blog by Chef John Mitzewich http://foodwishes.blogspot.in/ which has hundreds of really well edited video recipes. Anyway now bread making is becoming a little bit of an obsession and I’ve been making rolls and loaves every weekend. The only problem is that I don’t have an electric mixer yet and to knead this baby by hand is crazy hard.

Anyway, back to the recipe – the video format was specially helpful for this dinner roll endeavour because it let me see exactly what the dough should look like at different stages. Very useful when you’re trying something new and cooking blind since you’re not entirely sure how to get to the photoshop-perfect-end-photo you see in a recipe. (Unlike the really imperfect end photo here – please don’t be discouraged by my amateur, yellow, blurry pictures).

These rolls are a great first step into bread making and baking. They’re so pretty and the rosemary and thyme together smell amazing.They’re also light (unless you plan to add more butter to the recipe – I would never say no to you adding more butter to anything) and most importantly they taste great. Replace with oregano or any other seasoning you like. This would pair perfectly with an otherwise heavy meat dish or a pasta plate.

So here’s the video recipe for the dinner rolls: http://foodwishes.blogspot.in/2012/12/rosemary-honey-pull-apart-dinner-rolls.html.

Some notes on things I did differently from the video and some general thoughts:

1. I did all the kneading by hand (first with a whisk then with a strong wooden spoon and finally by hand). If you don’t have an electric mixer this can be quite an effort.

2. I didn’t have fresh rosemary and thyme so I used a couple of tablespoons of dried seasoning and it worked perfectly well.

3. Don’t just ration out 3 cups of flour for this. For my dough to get to the right state I ended up using a lot more plus extra for flouring surfaces etc.

4. This is a time consuming process so if you’re planning it for a party or an occassion it’s probably best prepared in advance and warmed up for the event.

5. Bread making (specially if you’re kneading by hand) is messy so get your apron on.

Oh and many many thanks to Mythili for finding me the foodwishes blog! I really need to make a batch of this and have it sent over!