Hot Pakoras and Chai is all you need in rains!

Hot Pakoras and Chai is all you need in rains!

Hot Pakoras and Chai is all you need in rains!

I lived most of my life in Bombay (Mumbai). It rains nonstop for days there. It is finally pouring in Bengaluru where I currently live. Along with the thunders and the dark clouds, I am walking down memory lane.

My mind takes me to the 10-year-old ME! I see myself in two ponytails wearing a cotton knee length dress! I am peeping out of the window to see the dark clouds gather. And I know, it’s going to rain! Somehow telepathy worked well when we were kids! With no phones and intercoms, all of us would gather in the building staircase at the exact same time. As heaven unleashes the sheets of water, we would dance carefree! There is nothing that comes close to this feeling.

The rains meant so much more… Jumping in puddles with a bunch of your friends! Tearing down your books, to make dozens of paper boats. Only to leave them in little winding rivers and make a little tournament out of it! The raincoats and boots shopping…so much excitement!

Rain Paperboat

A favourite memory, of course, is around Food! When the rains would tear down, especially over the weekend it was a fiesta time! My mom would fry potato and onion pakoras (fritters)! I watched her carefully, as she served up these golden lovelies! Neighbours walking with pots of ginger tea! Each family would get something! Biscuits, chiwda and all sorts of finger foods.

Everyone in the building was invited. The house was so tiny, still, there was room for each one of us! One pakora party every Monsoon! Giggling and laughing we kids would dunk pakoras in tomato ketchup and just gobble them up! Memories of laughter and happiness are what surrounds pakoras and rains for me!

As a grown-up, I still feel the same joy! As the raindrops hit the hot parched earth letting out a soothing aroma, making my heart smile. I may not make paper boats or jump in puddles anymore. But I still enjoy the rain very much!

If at home and it’s raining my husband would give me a look. And I know it’s “Pokora Time”! I would make a dash to the kitchen and get busy slicing up potatoes and onions. The warm yellow besan batter gives pakoras their unique flavour and crispiness! Then all I do is cuddle up on my sofa with a favourite book, a hot cup of ginger tea, just munching away!

No matter how young or old you are, when it’s pouring cats and dogs, all you want is your plate of piping hot pakoras! It is something that every Mumbaikar relates too!

So, what is your favourite food during monsoon? What is it that you remember eating as a kid, as the incessant rains kept slashing on your window panes!

 

Ooty Produce

Ooty Produce

4 unique Ooty foods you should try!

I work as digital marketing trainer at web marketing academy in Bangalore. The founder of the academy Suresh hails from Ooty. And this post is about the local produce of Ooty which he introduced me too! Back from his recent Ooty trip, he brought with him tonnes of local and food unique to Ooty! Green hills, cool breeze and relaxing atmosphere! I have only seen this gorgeous place in pictures, wonder how I would feel when I take a trip there!

I love to explore and try a variety of local produce that our country offer! So, when Suresh got different fruits and biscuits I was the most excited. I also, knew that I wanted to share my experience. Having never been to Ooty and this experience has put this hill-station on my bucket list! So, he got many fruits and biscuits like peaches, plums, sweet & salted biscuits. But following items were new and flavoursome!

TREE TOMATO

Ooty Tree Tomato

First up is this amazing Tree Tomato! Yes, that right! It’s a tomato but grown on a tree (small shrub, unlike the normal ones!) I did a little digging and found out that these are also known as Tamarillo in different parts of the world. Grown in cooler climates in India, its cultivated in mainly in Ooty and Kodaikanal. It locally is known as Marathakkali. One interesting fact is tomato is a fruit, not a vegetable! Amazed? But it’s true…

Back to Tree Tomato! As you see in the picture it is an egg-shaped tomato. It has a thick skin, so don’t eat that. I tried eating it and no wonder didn’t like it much! It’s sweet and tangy flavours dances on your tongue! Like many others, I didn’t know about a Tree Tomato as it’s not marketed well. Try these for sure.

BIKY

Ooty Biky Fruit

People in Ooty call this fruit as Biky. Its scientific name is Elaeocarpus grown in cooler climate areas. Darjeeling and Sikkim areas grow these. In some areas, it is also known as Bhadrasey. I have never ever seen or eaten this before.

This tiny green fruit actually reminds me of big olives. It has a nice sweet – tangy taste. No wonder in some areas they make Pickles and Chutneys with Bicky.

Apart from these, Ooty grows plenty of exotics fruits. People are just not aware of it. You get mangosteen, pine berry, I even read somewhere you get purple broccoli! I’ll only know about it when I visit this place! You may have to take a local market trip to get your hands on these!

OOTY CHOCOLATES

Ooty Chocolates

Now, you may wonder why I put a chocolate on the list. What is so special about these chocolates? Ooty has a beautiful chocolate history. Known for their decadent homemade chocolates no tourist leaves the city without these.

Tonnes of flavours up for grabs ensures one thing! CONFUSION, which one to buy! My favourite are the dark one! For me, it’s bitter the better! Try the couverture chocolate varieties. They are rich and so satisfying!

VARKI/ VARKEY

Ooty Varkey Varki

The queen of hill station also offers a unique biscuit/ cookie known as Varkey! Available only the local bakery, these buttery bites are delicious! People say the origins of Varkey are traced back to the British India! Usually served with tea or coffee and is perfect accompaniments.

I found this cookie to be a mix of cookie and Khari! Khari biscuits are inherent to Maharashtra. They are crispy buttery puffs that melt in mouth instantly. Varkey is an interesting combination of crispy butter layer with a nice bite! I loved mine with a hot cup of filter coffee!! Yummm These are must try if in Ooty especially Coonoor. Coonoor and their bakeries! I have heard they offer fresh bread and biscuits… and the aroma drags one in the shops. Despite never being to Ooty, I was fortunate to try this beautiful produce! Ooty and Coonor are on this year’s bucket list!! So, watch this space for more. Please share your views and experience especially if you have been to Ooty!!

Coonoor and their bakeries! I have heard they offer fresh bread and biscuits… and the aroma drags one in the shops. Despite never being to Ooty, I was fortunate to try this beautiful produce! Ooty and Coonor are on this year’s bucket list!! So, watch this space for more.

Please share your views and experience especially if you have been to Ooty!!

P.S: The credit for the gorgeous picture of Ooty valley goes to Sajeesh Radhakrishnan.

 

 

 

History of Cakes!

History of Cakes!

History of Cakes!

Table set with a wedding cake and fruit - 1870

Table set with a wedding cake and fruit – 1870

As a baker I have baked tonnes of cakes but have always been intrigued by how, when and where were cakes invented. I came across so much information and would want to share with you all! If Wikipedia is to be believed then the term ‘cake’ is of Viking origin from Old Norse word ‘Kaka’.

The journey from Bread to Cakes!

Earlier bread & cakes were often confused and didn’t have much of a distinguishing factor. It all started as bread and the discovery of butter, eggs, sugar & honey lead to sweet cake type inventions (sweet bread). It was called sweet bread as yeast was used as a leavening agent. Till date, no one really knows when the bread transitioned into to a sweet bread (start of cakes I presume).

I read a beautiful article on howstuffworks.com and am sharing some information from it. According to food historians the Egyptians who were good bakers and made honey-sweetened bread & cakes were the ones who started modifying the bread!

Ramses_III_bakery
The Romans probably perfected the practice of adding yeast as a leavening agent and later Italian’s in the 16th century developed the art of adding whipped eggs to the batter. Although both methods produced lighter cakes these were time-consuming methods and hence by mid-1800’s Baking powder and Bicarbonate Soda were invented. Over the years Greeks gave us cheesecakes and French the gateaux.

Baking a Luxury in middle ages

In earlier days Baking was a luxury owing to expensive ingredients and oven was not an equipment that everyone had at home. It was said that the rich ate the fine floured bread and cakes whereas the poor eat the rye and black bread.Ovens then were owned by wealthy people and were often huge and constructed in their backyard like the Masonry oven shown below.

Masonery Oven

Masonry Oven

From 16th century as globalisation grew, ingredients prices dropped, cookbooks were published and by 19th-century affordable oven (as shown in the image below) came into the picture. This gave the middle-class access to baking! Here’s a little trivia for you, the first ever cookbook was ‘Hedypatheia’ (pleasant living of life and luxury) was written by a Sicilian Greek named Archestratus in 350 BC in which he advises on what foods to be eaten in the Mediterranean world.

Ancient Greek portable oven, 17th century BCEAncient-Greek-portable-oven-17th-century-BCE

How did cakes make an entry into India?

Royal Biscut Factory

Thanks to Baputti Mambally cakes made their way into India. He owned Mambally Royal Biscuit Factory. In 1800’s when Mr Brown, a British man who owned cinnamon plantations asked Baputti to make a cake and gave him the recipe. Baputti agreed and made one of the finest cake! After this, his bakery started making cakes eventually exporting his delicacies to different parts of the world.

Lastly, sharing some interesting pictures of oldest cakes… Enjoy!

Wedding cake made by Willem Berkhoff for the occasion of the marriage of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry on 7 February 1901

Wedding cake made by Willem Berkhoff for the occasion of the marriage of Queen Wilhelmina and Prince Henry on 7 February 1901.

 

Jamaican women selling Desserts

Jamaican women selling Desserts!

 

Pres Eisenhower receiving cake 10th Anniversary School

Pres Eisenhower receiving cake 10th Anniversary School.

 

17th Anniversary cake cutting - US Army Southern European Task Force

17th Anniversary cake cutting – US Army Southern European Task Force.

 

Child_with_Snow_White_cake_1910-1940

Chile with snow white cake. Picture clicked somewhere in 1910-1940.