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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Birthday Cake

I’ve had a perfectly lovely day, thank you. Lunch with my girlfriends, a spot of shopping and lots and lots of sun. Plus, birthday kisses from my son, the best-ever birthday present from Sid, and tons of emails and phone calls and Facebook wishes from all of you!
What more could a birthday girl ask for?
What’s that? Did I hear you say, “Cake?”
Perfectly right you are - Cause every Birthday Gal deserves Birthday Cake.
The problem is, of course, is that if I’ve got to have Birthday Cake, I’ve got to make it myself!
Is that bad? Like throwing one's own party? Well – I can’t really help it, can I? Because Sid can’t bake. But that’s alright, cause he’s a dude and he has other strengths and one really can’t be good at everything. Unless you’re George Clooney. Swoon. Die. (And then eat Hummus and come to life again.)
Yeah, so Sid can’t bake. But I have been hard at work teaching Ranbir. Since I’d really like him to be good at everything. And given that he can’t walk and can’t really talk, he’s totally helping my cause. And on the baking front – I must admit, we haven’t been very successful either. See, we cruise along just fine until we get to the bit where I ask him to measure out the bicarbonate of soda. Then he just stares at me as if he doesn’t understand what bicarbonate of soda is.
It confounds me.
Anyhow, I’m confident that by my next birthday he’ll be whipping ‘em out like a miniature male Nigella Lawson. He’ll be two and half then. Or am I being over-ambitious? What do you think?
So: yes, getting back to the task at hand – it appears then, by my very logical process of elimination, that it’s all down to me, folks. So, shall we give it a go?
Now, first things first. I don’t know about you, but Birthday Cake to me, is always, always, always Chocolate. It’s just the way it is. Nothing else will do.
In fact, quite sadly, the only Birthday Cake I remember from my childhood is the one where it wasn’t chocolate. It was one of those fancy figure cakes - Snow White, I think. Or was it the one with the glass slippers? Cinderalla? I rather think it was. Because I distinctly remember there being a large Pumpkin in the background. And wasn’t that what the handsome prince turned into? Or was it the frog that turned into the prince?? (I’m not going to tell you how old I am today, but I’m clearly too old for Fairy Tales. Which is sad. And rather Grim(m).
Anyhow, whatever my cake was that year – I can tell you with absolute and positive certainty that it was Pineapple. And I remember this because I’d have happily exchanged all the Cinderella’s’ (or was in Sleeping Beauties?) in the world for some good old Chocolate Cake. I feel terrible about admitting this of course, because having just become a parent, I can appreciate how hard parents work on thinking up new party ideas and themes and characters and cakes and flavours every single year for like 13 straight years. And it sounds terribly ungrateful of me to complain.  
I never said it then, because I didn’t want to hurt my parents’ feelings.
Now of course, I don’t give a damn about their feelings.
Kidding. Only kidding.  Thankfully they compete with each other on which one of the two is most technologically challenged, so I’m fairly confidently that my secret lies safe in the vast but unattainable realms of cyberspace.
So yes, I believe – deep within my aging heart – that Birthday Cake’s gotto be chocolate. It just does. That’s all.
Now before we begin, I have to caution you to follow this one at your own risk because I will publicly admit that I’m absolutely rubbish at baking. Food is a different story. With food, you throw in a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and if you’re (somewhat) creative and (largely) lucky, you end up with something that can be quite satisfying, But baking? Baking means figuring out if 1/3 is greater than 2/6. And baking requires a level of patience and precision that I fundamentally lack. I just don’t think I was born with either. Which is why, with this cake that I’m just about to make, I’m whizzing everything in a food processor. Because I can’t bear to measure out and mix a hundred different things separately in a hundred different bowls. And then wash them all. Especially on my birthday. It’s insufferable. So, for all the lazy cooks out there – here’s a super short-cut route to some pretty darn tasty Birthday Cake.
Here’s what you need:
For the cake:
-         250g  bitter-sweet chocolate - I use the Chocolate Society's Cooking Chocolate, 70% cocoa-filled little ovals of heaven!
-         1/2 cup unsalted butter
-         3 eggs
-         2 cups sugar
-         2 tsp vanilla extract
-         1 tsp baking soda
-         2 cups flour
-         1/2 cup cocoa powder
-         1 1/2 tsp baking powder
-     1/2 cup of sour cream
-      1/2 tsp salt
For the Ganache:
-         1/2 cup heavy cream
-         180g bitter-sweet chocolate
And, here’s how you do it:
Preheat the oven to 180°C and line and butter your baking tin. Add all the cake ingredients - flour, sugar, baking powder and bicarb (this is where Ranbir stares at me like a deer in the headlights), cocoa, butter, eggs, vanilla and sour cream - into a food processor and process until you have a thick, smooth, creamy batter.  Pour the batter into the prepare tin and bake about 25-30 minutes - check by using a fork to see if it comes out clean.
Make the ganache: Finely chop the chocolate. In a saucepan bring cream to a boil over moderately low heat. Remove pan from heat and add in the chopped chocolate, whisking until chocolate is completely melted.  Let cool slightly, then pour it over cake until it is completely covered.
Sorry, but now I'm going to need to excuse myself so that I can admire what we've just created. 
Sigh. It’s beeeeaaaautiful.
Chocolatey and rich and luscious and moist and melting...just the way Birthday Cake should be.
So, come, celebrate with me. Go on – count the calories another time.
Because, it’s my birthday. But mostly: Because, you’re worth it!
:)



Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Immortality, anyone?


So, I’ve just read an article that says eating meat will “increase my risk of dying.”
(7 Reasons Not to Eat Meat.)

Hmmmm. Let’s all put our thinking caps on and process this wild and wonderful insight, shall we?

“Increase my risk of dying?”

Umm. Okay. Hang on a minute: if eating meat will “increase my risk of dying,” will not eating meat decrease my risk of dying?

Really?? Because – call me na├»ve – but all this time, I have gone through life believing that I will – eventually – die. Which, my poor mathematical skills notwithstanding, implies that my risk of dying is a 100%, no matter what I do.  No?

Come on people, if you want to give me serious advice on matters of life and death, couldja first please just learn how to write? I mean, go ahead - tell me that eating meat will increase my risk of dying younger or earlier or more rapidly or whatever (and I might even believe you) – but please don’t tell me that eating meat will "increase my risk of dying.” Because in doing so, you are implying that not eating meat will keep me alive forever. 
Which is really a bunch of hogwash. 
And so, even if I wanted to believe you (in the deep, dark recess of my subconscious mind) – now, I don’t.
And so, I’m going to eat meat – gobs of it – for the rest of my (not-immortal) life. 
So there.

Anyway and anyhow, apologies for the ranting. But, I’m an English Major. And badly written articles (no matter how illuminating) bother me. Of course, if you overlook – (but just for a minute because I really can’t stand much more than that) – the poor use of the English language and the highly misleading promise of eternal life, there is another problem with this article.

And that of course is - as my friend Elizabeth, rightly says - tomorrow there’ll be another one that exactly and precisely contradicts it. Such as one that tells me a Vegan diet will kill me. As will carrots and cell phones. You see, too little exercise will give me a heart attack, while too much “creates free radicals which cause cell damaging, oxidative stress.” Not a clue what that means, but it doesn’t sound good.

And it doesn’t stop there. 
Too much sleep will shorten my life (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/1820996.stm)
and too little sleep (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_deprivation) has caused death in lab animals. 

And so it seems, my friends, that the only way one can escape dying – is to die!

Anyhow, while I’m still around on this bountiful Earth, I thought I’d to put my meat-eating, under-exercised, sleep-deprived, ready-to-explode-any-second, BOOM... 
...brain to work and think about the kind of foods that have (in my view) a near-zero chance of killing you, so that I could write about them on Yummyami, and help you all prolong your lives. That – I thought magnanimously – would be my good deed for the day.

And so I’ve been thinking and thinking. And thinking.
And I don’t know if it’s the meat or what, but I gotta tell you – I’m struggling. I mean I can think of loads of things that fit the bill. Like cucumbers. But then I couldn’t really tell you what to do with them. Except the obvious I mean. Such as:

1. Peel cucumber. Or leave unpeeled.
2. Cut into vertical strips.
3. Or slice. 
4. Or dice.
5. Eat until you (never) die

This is not a recipe. This is a travesty.
This means that you would never read me. 
And:

What’s the idea of writing, if I’m never to be read
What’s the magic of living, if I’m never to be dead

Aha!

And so, since I aim to please, I have thought of one thing. One thing that satisfies the three cardinal requirements of today’s Yummyami post: It must be 1) good for you, 2) tasty (or what’s the point of it all) and 3) require you do to a tad bit more than pluck it off a tree.

And that one thing – (drumroll please) – is Hummus.

Now, I have a love affair with hummus. Indeed, I have had for many, many years. Hummus and I met when I was in college and over the past decade (decade? yikes!), we have grown to love, respect and understand each other. We’re like an old married couple in a marriage that never gets old. Ha! The stuff that romance books are made of. Yep, it's true - we have it, Hummus and I. That perfect relationship where the passion remains (and grows), but there is also trust and friendship. Reliability, dependability and (always) fidelity. Hummus will never let me down, nor I – it.  In fact, since I’m so “in the moment,” let me formally declare my love. 

(Sorry Sid, you’ve just been displaced for some beige mush.)

So – here we go:

I, Yummyami, take thee, Hummus, for my lawful companion, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, through thick and thi…

Umm. What was that?  Thin?

Uh oh. 
So sorry, but I’m going to need to amend these vows. Cause I aint staying faithful to any Runny Hummus! Every girl’s got standards, you see. And this girl needs her hummus to be thick. 
At all times. 
Or I might be compelled – despite my better judgment – to go back to Sid.

But no worries – that’s hardly a show-stopper! Because hummus is meant to be thick. And creamy. And delicious. Let’s give it a go, shall we?

Now, hummus is not a difficult recipe. I’ll be honest - it’s not easy. (Like cucumber.) But it’s not difficult either. Yet, most of us – myself included– just grab the stuff off the shelf.  I mean, why not? It’s sitting there in a neat little pot, all nicely packaged, just waiting to be grabbed – and you think to yourself: why bother?

You have a point. But here’s the thing – just try my recipe and you’ll see the difference. This is the “Real Stuff” and if you have the time and the inclination, Hummus made fresh tastes sooooo much better! Honestly! And to boot - no preservatives to kill you either!

I mean I’ve asked Perfect Husband to step aside for Perfect Hummus. That accounts for something. No?

So, here you go folks!

Here’s what you need:

- 2 cups dried chick peas (I think these work so much better than tinned ones), soaked overnight
, in about twice the quantity of water
- 1 tbsp salt

- 3 garlic cloves, peeled 
- 3/4 cup tahini or sesame seed paste

- 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

- 1/4 tspn paprika or cayenne pepper
- Pinch of cumin
- 1 tspn extra virgin olive oil

I hope you can appreciate, by the way, that I painstakingly googled all the above ingredients to make sure none of them will kill you. And I can safely declare that they won't. As of today, that is. As of tomorrow - not so sure. Anyhow, live for the moment, the wise men say - so here's how you do it:

Drain the soaked chickpeas, and put them in a saucepan with water and salt. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the chick peas are soft.  Remember, we’re ultimately going to mush these, so they need to cook until they’re almost falling apart – this can take upto 2-3 hours. Just read a book or twiddle your thumbs or something. You may need to add more water if the chick peas seem to be boiling dry.
 Meanwhile, in a food processor, chop the garlic cloves. Add tahini, lemon juice and water, process until smooth and completely mixed – you want to balance the heat of the garlic, with the zing of the lemon. Now, add the cooked and drained chickpeas, cumin and cayenne to the bowl of the food processor with the tahini mixture. Process until well blended, while adding water, as needed. Go slow with the water – thick hummus can be thinned (with water) but runny hummus takes a lot more work to make thick again! And runny hummus is a deal breaker, remember? Never vow to stay true to runny hummus. You're better off with a Sid.

When it's all done, serve topped with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and enjoy with literally anything you have on hand – chips, cracker, pita wedges, carrots sticks, cucumber…anything goes! And it’s the versatility of this dish that makes me go all soft in the knees and causes my heart to race and the butterflies to do their thing (whatever it is that they do), inside of me.  

That, and the fact that its good for you. Oh SO good for you. You see, hummus is high in iron and vitamin C and folate and vitamin B6.  The chickpeas make it a good source of protein and fiber; the tahini – which consists mostly of sesame seeds, is an excellent source of methionine (a good amino acid). Depending on your recipe, it carries varying amounts of monounsaturated fat (the good kind). And finally – it is great for vegetarians because it serves as a complete protein. 

And of course – like I endevour to make all Yummyami recipes – it is absolutely delicious. Thick and creamy and nutty and silky smooth. Yum!

So: till death do us part then? 

Or: if I eat you, and only you (maybe with some cucumber thrown in) – is there a chance that I may live forever?