Monday, February 18, 2013

Valentine's Day Treats And A Labour Of Love

So, like everyone else, we celebrated Valentine's day this past Thursday. Of course, it is a great day to tell the people you love that you love them. And pretty much every restaurant here had a special Valentine's day dinner menu, and prices to match. And it struck me (very late) that we were already celebrating our third Valentine's day!

With all monetary reserves for the month exhausted on my end, I decided to stick to rustic homemadeism. And what a lofty endeavour did I set out on! A black forest cake it was to be, and an eggless one at that. Now it is in such instances that one should listen to people with much more experience that oneself. I did just that, and used an Eggless Black Forest Cake recipe from Divya's space. If I had to say something about her blog in one word, I can tell you that it has satiated a huge number of my late night cravings. So I wasn't really going to look elsewhere for a recipe.

You can find the recipe here. I'm not re-posting it here as she has everything you need to know listed out there. I did make a small change though. I bought a can of tinned cherries, pitted them and boiled them in the syrup they came in. If you want to do the same, use one can of cherries with only half the amount of liquid in them. Boil the whole thing on a low flame in a heavy bottomed pan till the liquid is almost gone. You can cool this stuff and use it for the cherry filling.

That chocolate artwork is something worth dedicating an entire post to, so that is what I shall do. The cake turned out really most and very tasty. Using real cherries was a good idea too.

On the same day, a cousin and I decided to bake another cake for her to take home. We used a basic chocolate cake (eggless) although you can use any chocolate cake recipe.

We cut it into two layers and soaked it in some syrup to keep it moist. The sugar dusting was a good idea too, as the cake was a bit not sweet enough before the dusting.

So that is what we did. Mind you, baking a black forest is laborious to say the least. Attempt it only when you really feel like it.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Focaccia with Garlic and Lavender

It was quite an idyllic setting for a story. Settlers here were simpletons-they had not much to do, and even less to eat. But in a way, they were rich. No one knows if they had ever realized how valuable the object in their possession was. In fact, when a war was waged to snatch it from them, they did not understand why an army would bother to come to their village, cavalry and all. Great confusion ensued when they were asked to give that coveted object back. The villagers refused to back down- why would they part with their only means of livelihood? The land's produce was all they could trade with the empire, and now those lands had to be given away for nothing!

In the fields, the shrubs were nestled so close that they seemed like a single entity. Their purple flowers were dancing in the gentle breeze, giving off wafts of fragrance that could captivate everyone. A war was waged with the village folk, and it lasted but a day. Accustomed to a peaceful life of tilling and trade, there was no question of them being able to stand in battle, leave along fight one. In little time, the lands were claimed by the enemy.

All this while, the fields were watching. Dancing in the wind was only a distraction. They were watching their people, their caretakers being mercilessly killed.

Once the short battle came to an end, the soldiers reveled in their sadistic victory. Although it was not necessary to kill, they had gone on a rampage, sparing not men nor women, and not the child. A dead silence fell over the fields. The soldiers, well aware of the treasure growing there, harshly plucked all that their hands could gather. By nightfall, the revelry took on new proportions- drunk men lay bare in the fields while their casualties lay a few feet away.

The next morning, messengers rushed to the capital, carrying news of doom and despair. The army they had sent was lying dead in the fields. Not one soldier was spared. One messenger wondered how even one corpse had not a scratch on its being. "They look like they may be asleep'', he said. Even the wittiest of the land's men could not decide what could have killed a thousand men. A Djinn, some said, while others blamed the villagers' vengeful spirits. Soon, a law was passed not to trespass those lands. No one would ever till there. 
All this while, the lavender blooms swayed in the breeze, their purple flowers dancing away, the wind carrying their fragrance to the village of the dead. They would continue to bloom even decades later,even though no one cared for them, for they had been watered by blood, and the lives of a thousand men.

Hehe, yes. I am a huge fan of morose stories. Because anyone can write happy endings, and because closure seems more important to me that a jolly ending. Whether you like the story or not, something must be said in Lavender's defense. It is not a poisonous plant, nor is there a bloody history involving it. It is a simple, unassuming herb that loves to grow anywhere and needs the littlest of care. I even bought a plant recently and it is going strong in spite of my general lack of care. Also, it is wonderful when used in cooking. A little bit of lavender can do what a lot of rosemary does to a dish. Moreover, it treats your tummy very well. Since it is a strong herb flavour-wise, one would be wise to use it in combination with something that can stand up to it- like garlic.

And that is precisely what we do in today's bread. I used an easy to follow Focaccia recipe from Jamie Oliver's website. I'm not posting it here again. Said link has everything from step by step pictures to a very reassuring narrative. For the unenlightened, Jamie Oliver is a world renowned chef and food enthusiast who aims to make cooking accessible to all. One of his dream projects is to teach every child how to cook his/her own meals, so they can cut down on all the unhealthy fast food that our culture teaches them to eat. You can listen to more of what he has to say here. In my personal opinion, he should be knighted!

Anyway, I used lavender instead of the prescribed oregano in his recipe. If you are planning to do the same, use lesser lavender than the amount of rosemary in the recipe. Else, you'll end up with bread that smells like perfume. I used 1/4th of all the quantities mentioned there and followed the recipe to the very end. With bread, it is always better to measure in grams than in cups. Here is how it turned out.

Right out of the oven..

Though you cannot use rosemary in place of lavender in the story, by all means try it in the recipe. And if you haven't made bread so far, give it a shot. Goes well with soups and pasta. Or if you are me, it goes, in half an hour.