Friday, December 21, 2012

I Made Marmalade

Of late, I've been getting more active on Facebook and have been uploading a lot of pictures of food, mainly of my daily meals. Two nights ago, what went on to Facebook was not a picture of a daily meal but of midnight madness - I attempted to make marmalade, with oranges and limes, for the first time ever and it was quite a success.

The picture was quite pale despite the oranges and limes that went into it but it attracted some attention, especially for the knotted piece of cloth that was in the dish. A couple of friends asked me why and I was very relieved I knew the answer - I had done some research before getting bored and confused and didn't do anything crazy like I do when I'm eager to get on with it and not have to delve into a whole lot of learning. But then I've been called the Queen of All Things Shallow (for joking that I'd rather have a good figure than good health) so you see why I am not so inclined ...

But I digress. My marmaladic venture has its genesis in a recent conversation with my uncle who was complaining about not being able to feel the peel in most marmalades. I threw the words 'thick-cut' and 'macerated' at him and as I was saying them, I felt like I had to finally make it. I had always been fascinated by the idea of making marmalade, easily my most favourite preserve, by the idea of soaking oranges in water overnight, ever since I read the recipe, but never did anything about it because I didn't like the idea of making anything using so much sugar - I mean, eating it on a croissant or a piece of toast at a breakfast buffet at a nice hotel is one thing, but keeping it in your fridge everyday and eating it just because it's there? Nah ...

As you can see, I capitulated.

I went through several recipes which had several instructions on how to remove the pith and tie it up in a muslin bag with the pips and etc, etc, etc. I was in a hurry (it was close to midnight, I had already dithered for two days), I was tired and I didn't want to do any complicated operations. I finally came across David Lebovitz's recipe for Seville Orange Marmalade. He made it with six Seville oranges and one navel orange. I used four Nagpur oranges and three rather big organic limes but didn't make any adjustments to the rest of the recipe. The Scotch is optional so I didn't bother with that either, we don't stock any. He sometimes uses the overnight method, I did. The recipes with overnight steeping of raw oranges entailed a lot of work the following morning, which I wasn't inclined to do, so I went with this.

I didn't really cut the pieces in any aesthetic manner, the limes were tough to cut and to my surprise, were totally seedless. The oranges didn't have fat pips either, they only had pipsqueaks of pips, pardon the bad pun. But I collected them for whatever they were worth, and they were worth the effort. Reading all those recipes had taught me that the pips were the most important ingredient to help the jam set - they contain pectin, the gelling agent.

That piece of cloth there was the only thing I had close to a muslin bag or a piece of muslin - I put all the pips in it, tied it up nice and tight and put it into the vessel.

After boiling it and leaving it overnight as per the recipe, I brought it to a boil again. I don't have a candy thermometer but kept stirring very frequently the next day while it was boiling, and after one hour, removed the cloth. Then after about 45 minutes, I did the has-it-set test. I passed, but I wanted to be sure and boiled it a little more because I thought it was too liquid even then. Maybe I was right, or maybe not - I ended up with a nice, thick marmalade which is not runny. This morning I had it on a piece of shallow-fried bread, it spread pretty easily with some difficulty, because there was so much peel in it, and tasted heavenly. It also wasn't as bitter as it was when I took it off the fire yesterday morning. And it had a lovely, rich colour.

A note: Towards the last 30 minutes, there was much foam in the marmalade when it was on the fire. Some more Internet searching and I learnt that a tablespoon of butter helps get rid of it. I did add the butter but it didn't seem to have any effect. I finally skimmed off the foam.
Beware of sensitive teeth - at one point when I looked into the vessel, just the steam made my teeth tingle!

Friday, December 07, 2012

Some Things I Need To Say About Food, Facebook, Etc

1. It's so heartening to cook for people who like to eat well. I was reminded of that today when a friend came home after some six months of falling out of touch and lit into the food with gusto, especially the bread pudding I had made for dessert. I have to admit that I too fell in love with the pudding and kept shaving off little slivers with a spoon and putting them in my bowl hoping to minimise how much I ate but at the end of it, we had left just two spoons which The Spouse was grateful for.

 I remember another dinner we hosted a few years ago for The Spouse's academic advisor and his wife. She must have been in her mid- or late 50s, a petite, twinkling, cheerful woman, who kept serving herself several helpings of everything on the table and appeared to enjoy every morsel. Why did it fill me with such joy to see someone enjoy their meal so much? Probably because such women are rare to come by.

 I've seen many who have one piece of paneer and claim to be full and not eat anymore. To add insult to injury, they say, "Oh, I can only eat this much." Some of them take it a notch higher and writhe in discomfort, pat their stomach and tell me they have a big belly and it needs to shrink. Needless to say, these are the people who do not have either a weight problem or a belly-size problem. Some don't do all this, they simply look ready to cry at the torturuous thought of putting another grain of rice in their mouth.

 Then there are the others who are outraged if you ask them whether they are hungry and would they like to stop somewhere for a bite. They are indignant that I should even ask. They never feel a base passion like hunger! Well, get this: Most of us get hungry and actually eat. Even like to eat. And we don't believe you when you say you don't. Especially if you go on trying to convince us that you can go on and on working, walking, shopping, doing anything, except feel hunger. Rile us a little more with such statements and we'll tell you that most of what's wrong with you is because you never allow yourself to have a decent meal.

About Facebook 

I am on Facebook as Whenmysoup CameAlive. I get friend requests from many people who don't identify themselves. If you are a blogger and don't have that information or a link to your blog in your 'About' section, please introduce yourselves through a private message.

 If you're a reader or someone connected to the food and beverage industry, or anyone who wants to make fransip with me, please do the same thing. I am wary about adding people without knowing who they are or why they want to be friends with me, even if we share 134 mutual friends.

I'm sure I speak for several bloggers when I say this. In fact, I used to try and check out the requests but it turned out to be impractical. So I simply do not add anyone who doesn't make it easy for me to identify them. Please do not add me to groups on Facebook without my permission - I find it maha tiring - and am crushed - to see the red notification flash only to tell me yet another recipe has been added to Magnificently Quotidian Recipes. Nor do I want it to flash only when I'm being invited to Farmville or open a message to see I'm in some group conversation to discuss something equally mundane.

Some real interaction would be nice. But I don't interact either, you say? Fine, then let us both coexist in companionable silence and contemplate why we are being unsocial on a social network, but please don't try to punish me for it by adding me to groups, chain mails and games - I will simply leave the groups and turn off game invite notifications.

And while I'm ranting, here's another one: I know we're all on social networks to draw attention to ourselves, our blogs, looks, or whatever aspects of ourselves we choose to promote. Should we not draw a line, though? How far will we go to get attention? Flaunting utterly private moments of ourselves, even in less than pleasant situations, do we really want publicity in exchange for coming across as tacky?

 Yeah, I'm probably in fuddy-duddy cantankerous crone mode now, but I needed to say it.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Discovering Radishes In a Pod

Some sort of underdeveloped beans, I thought, when I saw them a few years ago. I couldn't quite decide whether they were cluster beans - they really were not. What they were, I could not tell. Neither could the seller. I didn't even think to taste them - come to think of it, I don't really taste many raw vegetables except in salad, and I certainly don't taste them when I'm buying them. I do, though, flick the tops of ladies' fingers (okra) to see whether they're good enough to take home. I know that riles a lot of people.

They were chilling in my fridge, when Anita put out this post and I got to know they were radish pods. I don't remember what I did with them then, probably a stir-fry. This time when I saw them at the store they were a little wilted - not their fault, I usually do my vegetable shopping at the fag end of the day - but I bought them anyway. I remembered they were pretty hardy, took a long time to cook and there was no harm of their withering into insignificance.

I tried dissecting them to look at them more closely but I couldn't find much. A pod pre-supposes a seed, but I couldn't find any after I cut them, though before I did, I could see and feel some bumps. I'll blame it on their thinness.

 I searched for both moongre and radish pods and came across quite a lot of both information and recipes. I finally came across this one and chose it because the tempering seemed quite different from the kind I usually use. Well, only the carom and cumin must have stuck in my head because I quite forgot the curry leaves, ground coriander and green chillies the next day when I made this dish. I had decided to give the tomato puree a miss and replaced the courgette with bottle gourd, which is as mildly flavoured. I had also had some soaked cow peas in the fridge, which I boiled and tossed in.

And oh, I did taste a few raw ones and they were very much like radish. I've seen other descriptions say they weren't quite radish-y or that they were milder but I couldn't discern a difference.

 My cousin who was visiting and tasted the stir-fry said it was excellent.

 I can't remember whether I used chilli powder or not. Not, I think.

 Radish pods/moongre: 250 gm
Bottle gourd, peeled and diced: 1-1/2 cup
Cow peas, boiled: 3/4 cup
Ajwain/Carom seed: 3/4 tsp
Jeera/Cumin seed: 1/2 tsp
Turmeric: A pinch
Chilli powder: 1/2-3/4 tsp (Optional)
Salt: To taste
Cow's Ghee/Oil: 2-4 tsp

 Top and tail the pods.

 In a pan, melt the ghee and temper with the carom and cumin.

Add the radish pods, saute for a couple of minutes.

 Now add the bottle gourd, mix well and saute for about four minutes.

 Then lower the flame, add the cow peas. Add salt. Mix.

 Cover and let it simmer. You can sprinkle some water if you like.

 Keep checking to see at what stage you can bite through the radish pods. I think it will take a long time to soften them (unless you use the pressure cooker) but I liked them when they still offer a bit of resistance. And I couldn't taste any radish once they were cooked.

I'm sending this off to Elena at Zibaldone Culinario who's hosting WHB this week, created by Kalyn and now run by Haalo.