Posted in Daily, Food

“Quiche” on the Menu

Fill the pastry crust with cheese, tomatoes, egg custard and smoked meat or mushrooms or any ingredient by choice, bake it without covering the pastry and viola’ the “homemade quiche’ ” is ready for the get-together with the extended family, friends, colleagues, neighbours or for a quiet light meal for two.

This savoury open flan consisting of pastry crust filled with eggs, milk or cream with cheese, meat, seafood or vegetables, quiche is one of the popular dishes of the French cuisine which has reached over to various parts and countries of the world albeit with or without modifications.

While the word “quiche” was first attested in French (1805) and the first English usage as “quiche Lorraine” was recorded in the Indiana Evening Gazette in 1925; the origins of this dish may be traced to the German roots. For the word “quiche” may originate from the German “Kuchen” meaning “cake” or “tart”. Food historians have traced the roots of “quiche” to the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, which the French later renamed as Lorraine.

Although this may be debatable as using eggs and cream in pastry was practiced in most cuisines as early as the 13th century. In fact the ” Forme of Cury” and the “Italian Libro de arte coquinaria” of the 13th and 14th century cookbooks have references of recipes known as ” Crustardes of flesh” or ” Crustade” which spell out steps for eggs and cream baked in pastry containing meat, fish and fruit. Since then, these recipes have caught on.

“I do not like a quiche with wet, undercooked pastry underneath, and that is that.” Mary Berry

Quiche can be made with a variety of ingredients with the variants often named descriptively in French like the quiche au fromage ( with cheese), quiche aux champignons (with mushrooms) or conventionally like florentine (spinach) and provençale (tomatoes) to list a few. Although there are many variants of quiche, one of the most popular and famous one is the ” Quiche Lorraine”, which has its’ own National Day as per the foodimentarians ( May 20th).

The authentic Quiche Lorraine originated from the German culture in which the “quiche” was an egg custard pie baked in a brioche pastry (and not in the typical French pie dough). Over the years this recipe had evolved into its’ classical form containing heavy cream, eggs and bacon or chopped ham, but no cheese. This mouth-watering wintry dish is baked until the pastry crust is browning. It can be served as a starter with a dressed crisp salad or as a brunch dish, often enjoyed at room temperature or little warm to keep the pie still crunchy. While the most popular Quiche recipe, includes French soft cheese (emmenthal or gruyere); many modern variations like the Alsatian-style including onions to modern versions with goat cheese, salmon, leek or even broccoli are made today.

So for a quick change from the regular, trying this simple recipe after a busy day may be fun. For the lack of ovens, this dish works fine on cooking with “instant pot” or ” by double boiling” techniques too . As often said, cooking is all about ” experimentation, cuisine mixing with modifications keeping it simple, tasty and artsy as well as fun”.

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Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Origin and Evolution…”Soufflé”

“You can’t make a souffle rise twice.” Alice Roosevelt Longworth

One of the main dishes that declares one’s success in the kitchen is the “souffle'”. Although records have traced its’ appearance to the early eighteenth century in France, soufflés may have been around ever since flour, milk, eggs and butter have been whipped up into different concoctions to please the palate. Essentially a soufflé is a baked egg-based dish made with egg yolks and beaten egg whites combined with various other ingredients and served as a savory main dish or sweetened as a dessert. “Soufflé” is the past participle of the French verb souffler which means “to blow”, “to breathe”, “to inflate” or “to puff”.

 

While, few food historians state that the first appearance is by the French master cook Vincent de la Chappelle in the early 1700s; the popularization of souffle perfected to an art was credited to the French chef, Marie-Antoine Carême, who was “a product of post-revolutionary Paris.” As per Antoine Beauvilliers, who is credited with the “first grand restaurant of Paris, had described the soufflé in “The Art of the Cook” (L’Art du Cuisinier, 1814) as,

“Put in the size of an egg of good butter, a little nutmeg and the yolks of four fresh eggs, the white of which must be whipped apart as for biscuit; mix them by little and little into the puree though hot, mix all well, and pour it into a silver dish or paper mould, put it in the oven. When the soufflé is well risen, touch it lightly, if it resist a little it is enough; it must be served immediately, as it is apt to fall.”

Baked in individual ramekins or typical dishes, soufflés are typically prepared from two basic components; the base as a flavored crème pâtissière, cream sauce (or béchamel) or a purée and the egg whites beaten to a soft peak. While the base provides the flavor, the egg whites provide the “lift” or puffiness to the dish. The base can be flavored with varied ingredients including herbs, cheese and vegetables for savory varieties or jam, fruits, berries,chocolate, banana or lemons and the like, for dessert soufflés. In fact, the savory soufflés can incorporate poultry, bacon, ham or seafood for a more substantial dish.

“The only thing that will make a souffle fall is if it knows you’re afraid of it.” James Beard

 

One of the main defaults while preparing a souffle’ is when it fails to rise. Yet as most chefs will say, one thing to keep in mind in soufflé preparation is that it really doesn’t matter how high the bubbly mixture poufs up while it bakes as long as the ingredients hidden inside should taste heavenly and cloud-like.

“If a dish doesn’t turn out right, change the name and don’t bat an eyelid. A fallen souffle is only a risen omelette. It depends on the self-confidence with which you present it.” Lionel Blue

For avid movie watchers as well as fans of the movies of the black and white era, one may have seen “Sabrina”, the 1954 film starring Audrey Hepburn. One of the scenes is where Hepburn is humiliated at the Parisian culinary school when the master chef humiliates her (and almost everyone) and critiqued their failed efforts at soufflé from “Too low; too high; too heavy; sloppy”. Hepburn sighs to her French baron friend (whose soufflé is perfect) “I don’t know what happened.”
He explains to her that she forgot to turn on her oven. “Your mind has not been on the cooking,” he says. “It has been elsewhere. A woman happy in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappy in love she forgets to turn on the oven.”

While “the fallen soufflés” may be depicted in cartoons, comedies and children’s programs as a source of humor; the process of making it will be easy and fun if one learns to proportionate the ingredients and time the baking right. As they always say “Practice makes perfect”, trying a souffle’ for the National Cheese Souffle’ (May 18th) or Chocolate Souffle’ (February 28th) Day would be a first step towards mastering this art. If not to master, then at least experimenting to make one can result in some “kitchen fun” and good use of leftovers; or simple have and enjoy the “heavenly and light as air” experience.

 

Posted in Daily, Food

Staying “Summer” Fresh

“If life gives you lemons, make apple juice and make people wonder how the hell you did it.” Gurbaksh Chahal

With summer reaching it’s peak, staying hydrated is quite important. Add holidays, children, get together weekends or picnics as well as spending time with friends and family; getting creative is a necessity. With plenty of fruits available this season as well the vegetable garden thriving, it would be fun to experiment and serve something more than chilled lemonade this summer.

“If life gives you lemons, make some kind of fruity juice.” Conan O’Brien

 

Before getting started, few practical tips would make the experimentation more fun and feasible as well as palatable. As per most nutrition experts and chefs, carrots can be juiced with any fruit and apples can be mixed with any vegetables. Cabbage, kale or collard greens shouldn’t be juiced. A little of mint, basil or rosemary gives a distinct flavour to the regular fruit juices. Adding a little of parsley or watercress will not only cleanse the blood but also give a distinct flavour.

Before juicing, washing the vegetables and fruits is a must. A quick tip to clean the berries would be to soak them for a few minutes in a solution of vinegar and water of one cup to ten, respectively and dry them completely. Not only will they remain fresh mould free but also be cleansed. Have fruit juices fresh and early in the morning would ease the health for the day. Fruit juice once made, should be consumed fresh as they may turn too sweet when kept in the fridge for long, or turn rancid or sour when kept outside. T have it cold, add a few ice cubes which can contain a hint of crushed mint in the water frozen as ice cubes.

 

Before juicing, rough skins like those of pineapple and avocado as well as pits and seeds should be removed. An exception to the peels are apple skin and citrus (not oranges) peels which are edible and anti-oxidant rich. And the removed pulp can be added to mayonnaise for a delicious mock salad, or to pancakes, cookies, and even hummus. Not all seeds and greens can be added to food as some can cause gastric upsets as well as food allergies. Few of the more vibrant juices, as seen by their colours fall into the category of :
Big RED: Beetroot, Carrot, Celery, Apple, Pomegranate.
Yummy Carrot: Carrots, Apple, Ginger, Turmeric or Parsley and Lemon.
Green: Kale, Spinach, Cucumber, Parsley, Celery, Apple.
The Detoxifier: Beets, Carrots, Lemon, Ginger, Apple
The Vision: Carrots, Oranges, Ginger with or without turmeric

If the taste of the juice isn’t sweet enough to the palate initially, try adding some stevia or things like cucumber, beetroot and carrot, which can make the juices easier to drink for a newbie. Also although lemonade is one of the summer drinks since school, a dash of lime any juice would spruce it up a bit.

 

Posted in Daily, Food

Hummus: From “Then” to “Now”

From parties to the routine meals or for the dieters as well as snack food for the cravings time after work or before the ” big meal”, this dip has been popular across the world. Little wonder then that with International Hummus Day ( May 13th) gone by, one mayn’t know enough about this dip.

Known as “Hummus” or “hummus bi tahini”, this Levantine dip or spread, is made from cooked or mashed chickpeas or other beans, blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. The word “Hummus” comes from the Arabic word meaning “chickpeas”. However likely from the Greek origins, hummus a part of the local cuisine in both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities, it is known as “humoi” . While originally placed in the Middle East and Mediterranean cuisine, today it has been featured in many local cuisine and recipes around the globe.

While there are a number of different theories and claims of origins in various parts of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, there is insufficient evidence to determine the exact or precise details. The basic ingredients of chickpeas, sesame, lemon, and garlic have been combined and eaten in their local cuisine over centuries. While some food historians believe that variations of this recipe were there during the ancient Egyptian civilizations where then chickpeas were widely eaten as cooked in stews and other hot dishes; they had also been a part of the Greek cuisine and cooking. However records of pureed chickpeas eaten cold with tahini do not appear before the Abbasid period in Egypt and the Levant.

Cookbooks of 13th century Cairo record recipes for dish resembling hummus bi tahina; like the recipe of a cold puree of chickpeas with vinegar and pickled lemons with herbs, spices, and oil, but no tahini or garlic.  Over the years variations exists in the amount of ingredients of the beans, chickpeas pureed as well as mixing of vinegar or olive oil, tahini as well as different spices, herbs or nuts, with or without garlic; made or served by rolling it out and letting it sit overnight. With trade playing a significant role in the spread and share of cuisines, hummus may be one among the numerous foods that had crossed over during the historical periods across the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

Being used as an appetizer or dip, or served with meals; hummus can be had in an numerous ways. It can be scooped with flatbread, such as pita or served as part of a meze (selection of appetizers) or as an accompaniment to falafel, grilled chicken, fish or eggplant as well as with tortilla chips or crackers. Hummus can be garnished with numerous available ingredients like chopped tomato, cucumber, coriander, parsley, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, whole chickpeas, olive oil, hard-boiled eggs, paprika, sumac, olives, pickles and pine nuts. It can also be topped by a mixture of fava beans or can be made with yogurt, butter and topped with pieces of toasted bread ( Jordan and Palestine areas).

There are many variations to the preparation of “hummus” with the various changes of civilizations, culture mixing as well as immigration. Variations like hummus with fried eggplant and boiled eggs, as a chickpea soup or hummus with traditional skhug hot sauce to name a few, are popular in their locale areas. Of recent, African cuisine have brought specialties such as Sudanese Hummus Darfur with eggs, tomatoes, and grated cheese. Many restaurants offer varieties of warm hummus which may be served as chick peas softened with baking soda along with garlic, olive oil, cumin and tahini or as “msabbaha” made of whole chick peas garnishing the tahini (lemon spiked) with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of paprika.

With hummus being gluten free, nut-free, dairy free as well as a perfect spread or dip for snacks, fresh fruits, bread, meat, pita chips and the like; it has gained widespread acceptance across many cultures and cuisines as well for the weight watchers, medical reasons or just for its’ own unique taste and blend. Making hummus isn’t just a work of ingredients but also of art and creativity. With its’ quick and easy preparation with locally available ingredients; “hummus” is something that everyone should try at least once in a lifetime.

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, poetry, Stories Around the World

A Mother’s Love

“Mother is the name for God in the lips and hearts of little children.” William Makepeace Thackeray

Traditionally celebrations honouring motherhood have existed since the beginning. Like the Greek cult to Cybele and the Roman festival of Hilaria, both honouring mothers’ in the form of the the mother goddess in Asia Minor area, Cybele, similar to the aspects of the the Earth-goddess Gaia, the possibly Minoan equivalent Rhea and the harvest–mother goddess Demeter. Similar Christian tradition of Mothering Sunday was started and celebrated mostly by the Church of English, Anglican parishes and the churches in the UK, wherein the fourth Sunday of Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter Day; where people would visit their mother church (baptized church or local parish church or the nearest cathedral). Of late, this celebration also marks as an occasion for honouring mothers’ and giving them presents.

“Youth fades; love droops; the leaves of friendship fall; A mother’s secret hope outlives them all.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

However, the modern Mother’s Day celebrated in many countries as the second Sunday of May, was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her mother Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist, who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Her daughter, Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she had started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”. Her campaign had set off the tradition of honouring mothers’ on the second Sunday of May.

“When you look into your mother’s eyes, you know that is the purest love you can find on this earth.” Mitch Albom

To honour one’s mother goes beyond buying ready made cards and gifts. It involves doing something physical and creatively giving a personal touch as handmade simple gifts, writings, remembrances and memorabilia; marking this day, not as a part of global celebration, but more of a personal and emotional nature. For appreciating and honor their mothers through handwritten letters or personal efforts expressing their love and gratitude, would carry a more emotional note of acknowledge the significant effort, contribution and molding they had played in our lives.

“God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers.” Rudyard Kipling

Mothering would be in all senses physical, emotional, mental and spiritual way in which we have learned to trust, lean and rely on, in our early days. While all of us may have not had the best childhood or the perfect “mothers”, celebrating this day by paying a tribute to that special person who had moulded us, would be parallel to celebrating this special day.

“A mother’s happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected also on the past in the guise of fond memories.” Honore de Balzac

The yellow moon is sleeping behind the clouds.
I look into the sky, as if in a dark forest.
Somewhere among the stars mom got lost,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

Somewhere among the stars mom got lost,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

How many years have passed, I’m still the same:
I never expect miracles from fate.
In the most difficult hour I have a mom,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

In the most difficult hour I have a mom,
And she looks with love at me from heaven.

If my heart is both melancholy and autumn,
I drive myself from the usual places:
Mom will ask the Lord for me,
After all, she looks with love at me from heaven.

Mom will ask the Lord for me,
Because she looks with love at me from heaven.

Andrey Vasilyev

 

Posted in Daily, Family and Society, Food

“Food Fun”: Mix , Match and Experiment

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”  Virginia Woolf

Imagine a menu planned by kids. This was one of the tasks allotted to my child in his kindergarten class. On first hearing this; for all parents, this plan may set off alarm bells of the aftermath of a mass gastric upsets, whereas secretly many among us crave these foods on certain or many occasions. 

 

Imagine a list that ranges from Cheetos to ice cream, pancakes, sandwiches and all the sweet as well as the “street food” in the world. While this may sound too good to be true, some of these combinations though weird actually taste good.

Oreos and Orange Juice
Frosted Flakes and Cheese
Soya Sauce on Ice Cream
Apples with Salt, Pepper and Chilli Flakes
Cake of “Banana Pancakes with Nutella, Cream and Honey”
Avocados and Chocolate
Peanut Butter and Pickle Sandwiches
Bananas on Cheese Toastie
Butter and Sugar Sandwiches
Peanut Butter in Burgers
Rice and Ketchup
Grape Jelly on Scrambled Eggs or Omelettes ..and the list goes on, up to one’s choice of taste, artistic eye and palatable combinations.

 

Though everyday food involves eating healthy as well enjoying food that we love guilt free, the daily meals get a bit of livening up when we get free with the mix and match, go creative as well as enjoy surprising the taste senses.
With “Eat What You Want Day” (May 11th) is being celebrated today, which was initially started to enjoy a guilt free “indulge in your favourite food” day; this is one of the best days to try weird combinations or have breakfast for dinner, break the routine and let the young ones plan one meal for the day (few of us can tolerate Doritos, pizza and ice cream only to an extent).

Whether one wants to have sweet or sour, or indulge in the “mood for something different to taste” for the day; having fun while eating is the first along with being healthy, wise, happy and creative too.

 

Posted in Daily, Food

Evolution of the “Salad”

“A salad is not a meal, it is a style.” Fran Lebowitz

Originating from the Latin sal (means salt) to the Provençal “salada”, later as the Old French salade to finally the late Middle English “sallet” of 14th century or the modern day “salad” which it is now known by, salads have gradually evolved over the years. From simply starting a meal to being the main meal by itself, salads have been redefined both in content, style and flavours. With summer in full swing, fresh produce available and kids at home, salads can be both fun, entertaining and creative.

“Salad can get a bad rap. People think of bland and watery iceberg lettuce, but in fact, salads are an art form, from the simplest rendition to a colorful kitchen-sink approach.” Marcus Samuelsson

Salads were favored since the early Babylonian Era, where the greens were dressed with oil and vinegar. Likewise Egyptians made salad dressed with oil, vinegar and Asian. Even the Romans and ancient Greek Era saw mixed greens with dressing, a type of mixed salad. With imperial expansions, these layered and dressed salads were favourites in the menus of the European courts. Royal chefs often combined many ingredients in one enormous salad bowl including exotic greens as well as flower petals. The favourite salad of King Henry IV was a tossed mixture of new potatoes (boiled and diced), sardines and herb dressing, where as Mary, Queen of Scots, preferred boiled celery root diced and tossed with lettuce, creamy mustard dressing, truffles, chervil and hard-cooked egg slices.

“To make a good salad is to be a brilliant diplomatist – the problem is entirely the same in both cases. To know exactly how much oil one must put with one’s vinegar.” Oscar Wilde

Today salads are made in two classical manners of being artfully arranged or “composed” to ingredients being mixed with dressings or “tossed”. At any point of time on the meal salads may be served; as appetizers or side salads, as well as main course salads with high protein foods (like meat, eggs or fish), or as dessert salads. The latter version is one of the most popular with these sweet versions containing fruit, gelatin, sweeteners or whipped cream.

“It takes four men to dress a salad: a wise man for the salt, a madman for the pepper, a miser for the vinegar, and a spendthrift for the oil.” Anonymous

Technically there are five types of salads. Starting with the green salad or garden salad, consisting mostly of leafy greens with a healthy mix of coloured vegetables. If the latter are more, it is termed as a “vegetable salad”. From olives, artichokes as well as beans, celery or nuts, berries and seeds; these salads can be made in a colourful array. When made on a lettuce leaf, the “wedge salad” is created. When thick sauces are added to salads, they become “bound salads”, the second category of salads. Most types include those with mayonnaise like tuna salad, chicken salads, potato salad or egg salad, which can be served as “scoops” or sandwich fillers, making it a popular necessity for picnics and barbecues.

“As long as mixed grills and combination salads are popular, anthologies will undoubtedly continue in favor.” Elizabeth Janeway

The remaining three types include the “dinner salads” or main course salads, fruit and dessert salads. The former is made with meat, seafood or even eggs like the Cobb salad, Caesar salad and the Chinese chicken salad. With culinary fruits, a quick “fruit salad” can be made to complete the meal or a more elaborate “dessert salad” like jello salad, pistachio salad or ambrosia can answer the sweet cravings. Fancier creations like cookie salads, rice crispies salad, snickers salad or glorified rice salad. Finally topping the salads are the dressings which can be vinaigrette, creamy dressings as well as honey mustard or Italian dressing to mention a few. Dressing a salad depends on the final flavour that one wants to have.

Either for fun or for hunger, salad making can be an entertaining as well creative art, giving ample pleasure for both the taste buds, hunger pangs and health goals. With June being the foodimentarian ” National Month of Salads”, it would be fun to give few fancy salads a try.

“Kids in aprons appeared, putting tureens of vegetable soup on the tables and plates of boiled eggs, potatoes and lentils, bowls of endive-and-radish salad, small rounds of cheese and loaves of brown bread, all looking quite delicious, in Zoe’s opinion.” Christine Brodien-Jones, The Glass Puzzle