4 reasons why salad lunches are a good choice

Indians and oil/grease-free cooking don’t go together typically. Yes, people do choose it over fried foods nowadays because of awareness, but their hearts keep longing for their exes. So I don’t know who’s going to buy it when I say that salad lunches, vegetarian for that matter, are awesome. Usually, foods like these go with the label of healthy cooking, which is the Indian Morse Code for bland. Haters gonna hate, call me a gastric-lost traveller in the world of food, but what the hell. I love low-slash-non-spiced food and I won’t deny it. I am a hardcore fishetarian too – whether baked, steamed or curried. Yet…I chose this darling over my already lightweight, non-spicy, gluten-free, traditionally Assamese must-have luncheons of fish curries and rice platters. So there must be a delectable reason for that.

Pause for a breather.

The reason I chose vegetarian salad lunches on the menu is because salads are:

Delicious

The humble texture of parboiled veggies sprinkled with a dash of olive oil, salt/pepper, lime and nuts – is equally, if not profanely, sublime.

Last minute friendly

They usually don’t need too much attention or sticking to a recipe. You can go wild and yet come up with a wonder of a salad. I like a gluten-free salad, occasionally with lightly toasted cottage cheese and mostly without meat.But you may have your way and sprinkle hard/soft cheese shavings or boiled/baked/grilled meats over yours.

Safe for the tummy

They are also, for lack of a better word, healthy. They are pleasing, comforting and reassuring for the delicate lining of the tummy.

A good, post-hangover meal

Salads are wonderful accompaniments for a wine-and-dine. But they are also gut saviours when you don’t want to have anything heavy and yet want to keep off being hungry. A bowl or plate of veg salad post-4am-parties and a tepid slumber is respectful towards your digestion and lets your gut rest.

I love my food to be light and hearty. How do you like yours?

Bougainvilleas in a flower pot: A simple way to tame its overarching 

I love bougainvillaeas. They have a brilliant colour. They look most gorgeous when perched on wrought-iron arches or are growing across a roof or atop a gate. Sadly, I have neither of the arrangements. Mum gave me one of her old planted bougainvillaeas when dad retired from the tea gardens and I planted cuttings of it after I moved to a different place. So right now, I have the parent branch planted in the soil, and two children growing in flower pots.

FullSizeRenderThe trouble with bougainvillaea is that the branches stretch over and have no sense of direction. They can grow into any side they choose and go a long way. But I remembered something I saw in a nursery and used that idea to manoeuvre the plant into something more manageable. Usually, the bougainvillaea stem is quite malleable though it might not appear so. Better if you catch it young. So before this baby (see right) could flower, I wound the stem round and round, tying it to four posts that I planted firmly into the soil around the flower pot. So now, the flowers have started blooming in that fashion and it looks beautiful.

I am also planning to pay more attention to its parent plant, now that the children are taken care of. The It is growing mighty slow, maybe because of its slightly shady spot, but that is the ideal place for it to grow bigger and arch wider. I am willing to make the best efforts to make it suitable for it grow up into a tall shed of pink and white. I have recently put a bamboo canopy over it and tied the over-arching branches to the criss-cross so it can grow accordingly.

 
How do you plan your garden design? Do you have any tips for me? Please feel free to share. I’m a new gardener and very curious to learn the trade.

Gluten-free + egg-free: Chocolate cake in a bowl

I swear I began the recipe for a mug. I had seen enough of those pretty cake-in-a-mug pictures of my friends to finally park my procrastination and try it out.

But you must remember, I am a clumsy cook. So the measure went a little overboard. The first trial – cake in a mug – was a dry one. I over-microwaved it and I won’t show you that picture. But I’m a cake glutton. So I punched holes into it and poured a sweetened orange-butter syrup and washed it all down.

Now, coming to the cake in the bowl. The timer was set for a minute at first (once bitten, twice shy). Then, peeking at the rise through the microwave window, I increased the time a couple of times, 10-20 seconds at a time. So, I can say it took me about 2-2 & 1/2 minutes for the cake in a bowl.

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Gluten-free flour: 3 tbsp

Sugar: 3 tbsp

Curd: 1 tbsp

Veg oil: 1-1 1/2 tbsp

Pinch of salt

Cocoa powder: 2-3 tbsp

Baking powder: 1/4 tsp

Pinch of baking soda, optional*

I whisked it all together in the same microwaveable bowl I’d bake it in. No preheating required really. You can simply put it in, choose microwave mode (not convection) and set the timer. Ka-Ching! Cake is done. Dig in with a spoon.

Do you have any quick and easy baking ideas? Please share. I’m all ears.

Chocolate Walnut Cake

The husband doesn’t like eggs in his cake. Yes, he can be absurd like that. But who am I kidding? I am not an easy-eater myself. So yesterday I tried a Yolanda Gampp in my clumsy kitchen and whipped up a walnut cake. Actually, two walnut cakes frosted into one. Mind you, it isn’t gluten-free. It was a special one for the husband and he isn’t gluten allergic. Hence…

So anyway, here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Walnut Cake

Flour – 4 cups

Curd – 2 cups (you can reduce if you want)

Baking powder – 2 tsp

Baking soda – 1+1/2 tsp

Vanilla essence – 1 tsp

Sugar – 3 cups

Butter – 1 cup

Veg oil – 2+1/2 cups

Walnuts (chopped roughly) – 2 cups (for batter) + 1 to 1+1/2 cup for frosting

Dark chocolate – 300gms

I baked two separate cakes so I could frost the mid layer easily. You may bake one big cake and slice it half. Your take. I made the batter together however.

Sieve (it makes the batter smoother if you don’t have a blender) and then blend the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Make a well in the middle and add the curd, vanilla essence, oil and butter and whisk it with your hand or machine as applicable to you. I did it manually with a whisk.

Add the walnuts and check how thick the batter is. Usually I like my batter a wee bit runny but on this eggless occasion, I decided to have it a little sticky. Now, halve the batter and bake it separately or wait till the first one is done (like I did; now isn’t my kitchen clumsy?!).

For the frosting: Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate. I put a little milk in my saucepan and added the chocolate to melt it.

After the cakes are done, let them cool. Put the crusty side (usually the top) on the cake plate or in my case, just a dinner plate. Frost the top of one cake with just a big dollop of the chocolate. Place your other cake on top. If the edges protrude, slice the extra off and then pour the rest of the melted chocolate on top. Let it pour down the sides and level the top and sides with a dinner knife. Now sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top and the sides. My chocolate ran down to the plate a little, so I sprinkled walnuts there too. I wish I had taken a picture when the cake was whole. Clumsy me! But I saved a piece for the click before the guests could wipe the plate clean.

So go ahead and make your unassuming chocolate walnut (truffle sorta) cake. And let me know how it works. Share your ideas too. I’m sure you’d have smarter ways to make this than I did.