Culinary Expert, Writer & Consultant
I write about food history and stories most often around ingredients, cuisines, and the people who cook them. I also own and run A Perfect Bite Consulting and @APBCookStudio through which I curate culinary experience and help F&B brands and businesses connect with their consumers.
Made for Each other and a recipe for Shekhars Basic Crusty Sourdough.
Happy New Year!
Yes I know. I have not written in a long time! No year end
recap, no New year’s goals. At some point in everyone’s lives, comes a time
when all best laid plans fall apart. Thats what happened to me toward the end
of 2011. The year didn’t end the way I wanted it to. Disappointed I decided to
retreat into myself and just stop worrying.Well, I guess sometimes one needs to
take a step back and breathe a little. So I did. But once I got back to Mumbai
I got caught up in the whirl of events and appearances I had committed too. And
everyday I would log in to my blog with the plan to blog and switch off after a
while because nothing seemed right to post about for the first post of 2012.
Well today I am determined to break through this blog block.
And I could not have found a more appropriate topic to post
Valentines Day is almost on us and that means that it will
be 16 years to the day I held my husband Shekhars hand for the first time. (Yes
I am soppy like that.) I remember some of our earlier Valentines days, I would
get so upset because Shekhar neverdid any of the conventional things one would
like to be at the receiving end of on the day. But relationships are like
recipes, they take their time to reach the perfect results. Today I put Valentines
day right up there with Instant coffee, heat and eat food, 2 minute noodles, 30
minute pizza delivery. Just like food is becoming less about enjoyment and more
about being unavoidable. Valentines day has come to be a sort of fast food fix
- one begins to feel like one is becoming a scrooge like person for not
celebrating it. Full of clichés and symbols of love.
But these are not so important. What more important is
showing your love everyday. Its in that cup of coffee he wakes you with when
you have worked late at night, that smiley he draws with Sriracha on your
omelette when you are stressed out or
the garnish he takes extra care to put on your plate to surprise you.In those lucious
peach muffins honey drizzled over. And most of those who know me, know that I
am utterly, passionately and hopelessly in love with my husband but he is a
very private person and does not like too much attention. But he loves his
food. He loves my cooking and most importantly he is the wind beneath my wings,
the flame under my cooking pots, the olive oil in my pesto, the chilli in my
chutney.... (ok. ok I'll stop!)
A while ago family dinner was becoming an endangered
activity in our home until I woke up to the smell of sourdough bread baking one
Friday morning last year. While I was not looking Shekhar had given in to a long standing yearning to
bake. Inspired I cooked up the best spaghetti and meatballs, ever to go with it
that night. And ever since, cooking is something we do together for daily meals
as well as more elaborate meals for friends and family. I know I drive Shekhar
nuts cooking all sorts of exotic things, getting frustrated when they
go wrong and struggle to juggle everything I do so I can get that
post out on the blog on schedule. But I have made it my life's
work to bring fun and creativity back to everyday cooking and he has been
an equal partner in helping me do that. the many cooking projects we get into
together that include our friends and family in our love. Because beyond a
point a marriage grows to include families. The thing is, Shekhar and I held
hands, and we have kept holding them through everything. I truly believe we
were Made for each other.
And I am very excited to share that he has agreed to do a
couples cooking class with me this Valentines day called Made for Each other in
which we will showcase dishes we do well together. Look at our Class Schedule
for details on that class here
I have been mentioning Shekhars breads a lot and many of you
have asked for his recipes. So here is his recipe for:
Basic Sourdough Bread Rolls in 4 simple stages
Stage 1: Making a Sourdough starter (10
Take 1½ cups of flour (maida)
in a large bowl (plastic or glass), and add 1 teaspoon of instant dry yeast. If
using Blue Bird yeast (slightly bigger), you may want to add ½ teaspoon more.
Make a small well in the middle and add 7/8 cups of water into it.
Mix by moving a (sturdy) fork from the center of the water
well outwards in circular motion for around 2 minutes. The end result should be
a sticky mess.
Cover the bowl and keep overnight (8-10 hours).
Stage 2: Making the Dough (10 minutes)
In the morning, the dough would have risen into a wet mass
with lots of air bubbles. This will be very soft to touch, and sticky to
Add another 3 cups of flour (you could do 1 cup maida and 2 cups of whole wheat flour)
to the mixture.
Sprinkle another ¼ teaspoon (or ½ teaspoon of Blue Bird)
Sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoon of salt
Mix 2 teaspoons of regular sugar into a bowl containing 7/8
cups of water, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and 2 tablespoons of
milk. Stir briefly.
Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour the liquids
into it. Mix the entire lot again, with a (sturdy) fork, until it starts coming
together into soft but crumbly dough.
Pull out the dough out on a lightly powdered flat surface (a
kneading bowl or thaali will also do)
and start kneading this dough. This can be done by lifting one side of the
dough, folding it and pushing it down with your knuckles. Sprinkle maida, as required, to keep the dough
from sticking. Repeat this for at least 5-6 minutes until the dough is soft and
Return the dough to the bowl, cover it, and leave aside for
around 10-15 minutes to rest.
Note: Kneading and resting are the most important steps in
baking bread. Kneading is required for the gluten in the maida to start its linking process. Resting is required for the
yeast create air pockets that help the bread rise.
Stage 3: Shaping the bread (15 minutes)
Pull the dough out on a flat powdered surface. Cut the dough
into small equal portions with a knife. Gently, yet firmly, roll each portion
into a cylindrical shape that tapers at both ends. Don’t press too hard, or all
the air contained in the dough will be released. Place these rolls on a lightly
powdered baking tray with enough distance between them to allow them to expand
(usually 1-2 inches depending on the size of the roll). Use a knife to slice
6-8, 1-inch long diagonal strips on the top of each roll. Lightly powder the
top of the rolls with maida.
Cover the tray with a piece of cloth, and keep aside for 1
Stage 4: Baking (30 minutes)
Pre-heat the oven (gas/electric oven or OTG) at 220°C for
about 15-20 minutes before baking. Place
the tray into the oven quickly and close the lid. For a crusty bread, you should
spray a fine film of water into the oven using a water spray at 5 minutes, 6
minutes and 10 minutes. This water should ideally steam quickly, so the oven
has to be opened and closed quickly to maintain its temperature.
Bake for 20-22 minutes. The bread should have a nice brown
crust on top at the end of the baking process. Remove it from the oven and
transfer it to a wire rack for cooling.