Adios 2012 : My top 5 this year

While every year is filled with tons of memories, there are a few moments that you happily recall when the year comes to a close. These are what I think my top five of 2012 were...

Started writing for BBC Good Food India

Was lucky to be one of the few people selected to attend the artisan bread making workshop with Maurice Chaplais

Pic courtesy: Breadworks/ Maurice Chaplais

Being a part of this parody music track that went viral


Got my first opportunity to be a part of a TV show

Bloggers' unconference at Kanatal

I wish you and your loved ones much peace, joy and fulfillment in 2012.

Oreo Brownies - It doesn't get more sinful than this

I'm not a fan of Oreo cookies at all. I once even tweeted that they taste like sweetened cardboard and I found a lot of people agreeing with my sentiment. For me, the best cream biscuit will always be Britannia Bourbon. It was my favourite treat as a kid, we waited for someone to get it home as it was never a frequent buy. Now, I have all the freedom to eat Bourbon biscuits with tea every afternoon, but my diet consciousness prevents me from doing so. 

But yes, once in a while, I love to indulge in the joy of eating my favourite biscuit. OOPS, I nearly forgot that this post is about Oreo Brownies. These brownies actually redeem the Oreo cookie for me. The catchy ad line in Hindi "Twist Karo, Lick karo, Dunk Karo" has suitably appealed to my 4 year old, who thinks of Oreo has a great treat (thankfully, treat only). So I decided to bake these for his birthday party, both for the parents and kids. I baked them a couple of days in advance and put them in the out of reach refrigerator so it wouldn't get raided well before the party :) And they were MUCH loved by everybody.

The Oreo patterns on top of the brownie not only make them look stunning, different, but also add a great texture when you bite into them. Let me tell you a secret, the cookies are both inside and on top of the brownie. Inside they become soft and chewy and on the top they turn crisp. 

Try them with your favourite chocolate cream biscuits - Dark Fantasy or Bourbon for the same effect. These are not 'healthy' brownies. Insanely rich, wicked, FULL of chocolate, very little flour - these are meant to be shared with a crowd. The recipe says 16 pieces, but feel free to cut each square further into half. It's *that* decadent. If you are home alone on a weekend, feeling blue in the mood and you bake a whole tray of this - you are not going to stop at one, and then you'll blame 'that Saffron Trail blogger' for busting your weighing scales. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Recipe for Oreo Brownies
Makes 16 x 2"square pieces
Recipe source 

You'll need:
8" square baking pan
165 grams unsalted butter
200 grams dark chocolate (chopped finely)
4 eggs
16 Oreo cookies, cut into quarters
3/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cocoa powder
Pinch of salt (omit if using salted butter)

How to make:
  1. Line a 8x8 square pan with parchment paper, coming up to the sides, for easy removal once baked. Grease with butter, keep aside.
  2. Preheat oven at 180 Celsius. 
  3. In a heavy bottomed pan, melt butter on a low heat. Once nearly melted, remove from flame. It will melt fully in the residual heat. Add the finely chopped chocolate to this and stir till the chocolate fully melts in the heat of the melted butter. Keep aside.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the 4 eggs with a balloon whisk or electric whisk until nearly tripled in volume.
  5. Add half the sugar along the sides so as not to knock out the air from the eggs. Whisk gently until incorporated. Repeat the same with remaining sugar until the sugar no longer feels grainy to touch in the egg mixture.
  6. Add the chocolate-butter mixture to this. Whisk gently to combine well.
  7. Add 1/3rd of the quartered Oreos to the batter.
  8. In a small bowl, mix with a fork- the flour, cocoa and salt and add this to the above mixture. Whisk well to combine everything together.
  9. Pour this into the greased parchment.
  10. Top this with the remaining Oreos arranged in a single layer all over.
  11. Bake in the middle of a 180 C oven for 40 minutes, until a tester poked into the center comes out nearly clean.
  12. Remove from oven and rest for 10 minutes. Pull out with the parchment intact and cool on a wire rack for 2-3 hours or overnight. Cut into 2" squares (16 pieces) and peel off parchment. Refrigerate for a few hours for a great texture.

Note to self : Dear Nandita, Ditch the diet plans. Make these with Bourbon biscuits for your birthday!
Feedback from those who tried this recipe:

How to make yogurt in winters?

You need
1/2 litre milk (previously boiled is ideal)
Few small pots / cups (4-5)
1 heaped teaspoon of yogurt with live cultures

  • Warm the milk to a temperature where you can keep your little finger immersed in milk for 10 seconds - this will be considerably warmer than room temperature but one which is easily tolerable by your (clean) little finger.
  • Add the yogurt to this pan of milk and with a hand whisk, whisk well till combined and frothy.
  • Pour into small cups / containers and keep covered in a warm place like an oven or microwave for 6 hours. You could also set in small sized casseroles or kiddie hot-pack lunch boxes. 

Top 5 tips to make yogurt at home in winters
  1. Make sure the milk is reasonably warm.
  2. Set in smaller cups as this sets quicker than one large pot of yogurt.
  3. You could place the cups in a tray filled with warm water so the setting process starts off quickly.
  4. Adding a piece of green chilli to each cup also helps set the yogurt better. Don't worry, it wont make the yogurt spicy.
  5. Keep in a draught free place like the oven or the microwave. Don't turn on the oven by mistake though!

Watermelon Feta Salad : Super easy and super gorgeous

Tell me this picture doesn't want to make you grab a fork and have a go at it? And let me tell you this is a picture from my iPhone 3GS (yes, I'm slowly working towards the fund for an iPhone4S). I know this is not the perfect salad for winter, but with a bunch of other spicy, hot foods on the table, it goes beautifully. Handful of ingredients, no cooking involved, can easily make a BIG batch - it doesn't get easier than that.

This is my version and there are many variations to this. Some recipes use black or green olives, sliced onions, crushed dried herbs - somehow I don't like the taste of onions paired with watermelon and I like to keep this as minimalistic as possible.

The salty feta plus sweet watermelon plus sour balsamic is a drop-dead gorgeous combination that few people can resist. 

Recipe Watermelon Feta Salad
Printable version of recipe here

Serves 5
Takes under 15 minutes

Half a large watermelon, cubed (roughly 5 cups)
Handful of seedless grapes (optional)
200-250 grams feta cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey (optional)
handful of freshly plucked and washed (and dried) mint leaves
1 cucumber, halve lengthwise, remove seeds and cut into half moons


  1. Take a large platter, scatter the watermelon chunks and grapes.
  2. Spoon small chunks of feta and scatter them evenly across platter.
  3. Do the same with the mint leaves and cucumber.
  4. Drizzle olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey* around the entire platter.
  5. This is one salad that SHOULD NOT be tossed or the feta will become a paste and the salad will look all messed up. Let this sit in the fridge for 10-15 minutes and then serve as it is.

*If the watermelon is sweet, you don't need to use honey.
Also, it's not necessary to completely deseed the watermelon, which is a time consuming and next to impossible task. 

Top 4 tips for a great Watermelon-Feta salad:

  1. Fresh crisp watermelon
  2. Reasonably good feta and be generous with it
  3. Fresh mint leaves - this makes ALL the difference

The secret to a two minute 100% homemade pasta sauce

Are you curious to know this secret? Because I'm sure as hell excited to share it with you. 

This is truly magic and I'm not lying. I've struck gold with this two minute pasta sauce - just two ingredients, loads of flavour, loads of health and vegan to boot- perfect for kid lunchbox, your lunchbox or a quick weeknight dinner. 

And if you've made pasta for dinner, just cook a handful of extra pasta and save it in the fridge. With this sauce, your kiddie lunchbox can come together in less than 5 minutes. It's a promise. I even got myself a quick facial with the bits of leftover secret ingredient.

So, time to reveal the secret ingredient....

How to make two-minute pasta sauce from scratch?
Printable version here

Take your blender (or mixer) out.
Quarter one large ripe tomato. Halve a fully ripe avocado. Scoop out from skin. 
(Don't throw away skin*)
Blend the tomato (skin, seeds and all) and flesh from half avocado to a puree.
Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Smash and finely mince 1 clove of garlic. 
Add the puree, 1/2 teaspoon salt and warm for one minute. Add salt and 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil, crushed between finger tips (or any other dried herb you fancy).

Coat pasta in this sauce and warm through.
Garnish with fresh basil if you like.

This makes enough sauce for a really saucy pasta for one or lightly coated pasta for two.
You can easily scale up the recipe using 1 large avocado + 4 large tomatoes, 2-3 cloves of garlic and 2 tbsp olive oil for four people. Add chilli flakes to the oil, if it's only for adults or if your kids don't mind the spice.

*Rub your face with the leftover bits of avocado inside and wash after 10 minutes for glowing baby-soft skin.

Avocado gives the sauce a mellow creaminess without adding any cream or dairy to the sauce whatsoever. Avocado is sold as butter-fruit in several parts of India.

You could even prepare this with your kids and teach them to warm the sauce in the microwave and they can toss the pasta in this. The best way to make your kids eat healthy food is to involve them in the cooking process. The next time you do your food shopping, make sure you buy an avocado, just to try this recipe out and you'll know that I'm not joking about this magical pasta sauce.
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