Wednesday, December 28, 2005

My new London blog is now live!

My new blog is now up and running. Here's the link:

Lulu Loves London

I haven't yet had time to add my favourite blog links etc but will be doing so soon.

Come visit!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bye Bye Manhattan, Hello London!

I can't believe that today is my last Sunday in Manhattan. In New York. In the United States. H and I are relocating to London for our respective jobs. The movers come tomorrow. We fly Tuesday. We'll be in London for breakfast on Wednesday morning. Wow. I feel kinda sad that we're leaving the city barely a year and a half after arriving here. And just when I had almost gotten over the Bay Area and was become a New Yorker!

But London is one of the most loved cities in the world. Everyone tells me that I'll love it even more than San Francisco and New York. I'm excited that London has such an eclectic mix of cultures and traditions. Also, the city has undergone a culinary renaissance in the past decade - I can't wait to go on my food adventures. But the most delightful part about living in London will be that Paris, Nice, Madrid, Barcelona, Casablanca, Zurich, Milan, Reykjavik, Prague, Dubrvovnik, Vienna, Ljubljana - to name just a few of the fabulous European Cities I'm dying to visit - are just a hop, skip and an easyJet ride away! Not to mention Bombay just 8 hours away as well. Woohoo!

Lulu Loves London, shall we say?

Saturday, December 17, 2005

MEME: You are what you eat!

Rums tagged me for this latest meme on listing my ten favourite foods. I had a really hard time restricting my selections to just ten. It was also difficult to keep the list consistent in terms of produce, ingredients, dishes or types of cuisine. As a result, my list is a bit of a hodgepodge of all the above. Since this meme claims that you are what you eat, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of me in my kitchen, my favourite space in the world.

CHEESE. My love affair with cheese began with the Amul cheese that K (my parents' cook who has been with our family for over 30 years) used in my toasted cheese sandwiches, the perfect after school snack for a 10 year old. It continued through high school with Britannia cheese spread with jeera (cumin) that I was crazy about. Then it was Cheddar, Swiss, Monterrey and Pepper Jack at Davidson. And then my love for cheese was taken to an entirely new level when I lived in Paris and Tours my junior year in college. I must have tasted over a 100 types of French cheese and I loved every one of them, including some of the stinkiest varieties. My French host family served us a cheese plate after dinner every night and that's how my knowledge of cheese really improved. These days, I experiment with new cheeses from all over the world, including some fantastic artisinal ones frm the U.S. I hesitate to list just a few but my top faves are Brie, Manchego, Fontina, Jarlsberg, fresh Mozzarella, Tomme de Savoie, Reblochon, Chevre and Comte.

IYENGAR FOOD. I once read somewhere that Iyengar food is food for the brain. It combines all the elements in the right proportion. It is pure vegetarian and is based on a diet of rice, pulses, vegetables and yogurt. Garlic is strictly prohibited and onions are used sparingly in modern Iyengar households. This was my staple diet for the first eighteen years of my life. I probably didn't love it as much growing up as I do now. I prefer this cuisine to any other I've discovered since leaving home. This will make my dad and mom smile, I'm sure! I love vatral kuzhambu, aviyal, mysore rasam (spicier and tangier than tomato rasam), paruppu usili curry, manga pachadi, masala sundal, thenga thuvaiyal, puliodarai (tamarind rice), and the best of all, thair sadaam or yogurt rice.

CHAAT. I can never get enough of bhel puri, sevi puri, pani puri, dahi batata puri, samosa chaat, dahi vada, pavi bhaji, ragda patties, the list is endless. Indian street food as it is called these days is growing in popularity and I am thankful for that. I would go stir crazy without being able to satisfy by regular bhel cravings.

INDIAN CHINESE. Sweet Corn Vegetable Soup. Lemongrass Soup. Veg Manchurian. Chili Garlic Potato. Paneer Fry. Veg Chopsuey. You get the picture. I love the Indian version of Chinese food. Everything deep fried and drowned in lots of masalas with extra spicy sauces, vinegar and green chilies. Not sure my tummy loves Indian Chinese as much as I do!

INDIAN PICKLES. I am crazy about pickel given what a thair sadam gal I am. Eternal favourites are vadu manga, manga thokku, chunda, manga inji. H has gotten me into carrot pickle and garlic pickle, both of which are great with parathas at 3 am in the morning!

MEXICAN/SOUTHWESTERN. This is probably my favourite cuisine after South Indian and Chaat. My love for Mexican was nurtured in Northern California though I've heard that the food per se is better in Southern Cal and Texas. I'm crazy good quality pico de gallo and freshly baked tortilla chips. I also love tomatillo salsas and have been experimenting with different type of tomatillo and chili combos lately to create spectacular salsas. Vegetable burritos, cheese and bean burritos, mushroom quesadillass are regular selections of mine on any Mexican menu. I love corn, beans, cilantro, tomatoes, lime. So you know know why anything Mexican Southwestern is always enticing!

SPANISH TAPAS. An unusual choice for a vegetarian because authentic tapas at the bars and restaurants in Spain isn't exactly vegetarian (I learnt the hard way on our honeymoon in Andalusia!) but I love the flavours and have made this my number one party cuisine. Roasted red peppers. Patatas bravas. White bean salads. Marinated olives. Banderillos. Tostadas. Mushrooms in garlic and olive oil. Potato croquettes. Frittatas. All to be enjoyed with warm crusty bread, glugs of good quality extra virgin olive oil and lots of sangria.

BASIC ITALIAN. Fresh pasta, basil, tomato sauce and olive oil. My idea of a great Italian meal. Nothing too fancy, just the basics. I love Pizza Margherita for its simplicity. I've become a huge arugula fan thesedays so I enjoy simple Italian salads with arugula and freshly grated cheese. I also love homemade risotto, my favourite being a Wolf Gang Puck recipe for Wild Mushroom Risotto with Truffle Oil which you can find on the Food Network website. A terrifc dish for seduction - yes, it works every time!

FRUITS. I could live on fruits alone. And there's not a single fruit in the world I don't love. Banana, grape, mango and avocado are my favourites. I prefer enjoying fruits by themselves rather than in desserts, milkshakes, pies etc.

MY SWEET TOOTH. And finally a bit on which sweets I love the most. Jalebis. Mishti dhoi. Rasamalai. Turkish delights. Nutella. White chocolate fondue. Creme brulee. Sorbet.

What a long post! Hope you enjoyed it. Were you surprised at my selections? Do you love any of the same foods I do? Would love to hear your comments.

I'm tagging five new blog friends - Indira,VKN, Melissa, Sury and Meenakshi.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The gift of friendship

When we came home from dinner on Sunday night, my doorman surprised me with a beautifully wrapped gift which he said my friend Shivani had just dropped off. I gently opened the box when I got to the apartment though I was dying to tear it apart and see what was inside. To my complete delight and ecstasy, I found lots of yummy homemade treats and a heap of Hershey's kisses thrown in. I didn't know which one would be the first best bite as all the goodies smelt heavenly and looked utterly ready to melt in my mouth. I reached for a piece of what looked like a lemon curd treat and dug in with my eyes closed. Yummmm...what followed was pure lemony creamy bliss that lingered well after the first bite. I called Shivani immediately to thank her and to also get the exact names of everything she had personally baked for me - lemon squares, carrot cake with cream cheese, chocolate chip cookies, magic cookie bars (graham crackers crumbs, chocolate chips, walnuts, coconut flakes and condensed milk), sugar cookies and mint chocolate surprises. Shivani and her sister spent all day Saturday (11 plus hours) baking goodies for their friends and family. What a special gift! Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Shivani.

For those of you contemplating homemade food gifts, you can also consider foods like candied nuts, spiced olives, fruit jellies and mulled wine spice mixes to name a few. Drop into a beautiful jar, tie a nice bow and your gift is ready to be parted with this season of giving.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Roz ka khana (everyday food)

Except that roz ka khana at my house is not Indian. H is one of those few Indian guys who doesn't need Indian food everyday. I was annoyed at first but it has actually helped me to grow and expand my culinary skills.

When he does crave Indian food, I try to do something different every time to impress him. Last night I made rotis from scratch. I had several failed attempts in the past few years but I learnt a few tricks when I spent the weekend last summer with my best friend, Darshini, in London. She is quite the Gujju cook extraordinaire and she shared with me her mother-in-law's secrets for the perfectly puffed and soft rotis.

For every cup of atta (best to get chapati flour from an Indian grocery store), add 1/3 cup of warm water and 1 tbsp oil. As you knead the dough till it all comes together nicely, add a few tsps of milk. That's the first trick. And boy, does it make a difference in the softness of the rotis. Set aside the dough and cover with a slightly damp cloth. That's the second trick. After about 10 minutes, divide the dough into golf ball size balls and keep covered until all the other dishes are ready and the family is seated at the table. At that point, take each golf ball and roll into a flat circular shape.

After every roll you must dip the dough in a big bowl full of atta. How thin you roll the chapati will determine how much it puffs up. I haven't yet mastered either this or exactly how hot the pan needs to be so you don't burn the chapati but I hope to get it right next time around!

By the way, you don't have to use loads of ghee when cooking the chapati. Just make sure that the grid or pan is hot enough and cook on both sides till browned.

I made matar paneer and spinach moong dal as accompaniments to the roti. Of course, lots of raw onions chopped up, a few baby tubs of yogurt and a few varieties of Indian pickle were close at hand.

H was amazed how delicious the rotis were even though they weren't perfect. Now he doesn't want to ever have store-bought rotis! His next challenge to me: gobi parathas. Now that's a dish I would not attempt without oodles of ghee!

Monday, December 12, 2005

CONTEST: The prizes

Congratulations to Sandeep, Faffer and Sandhya for winning the contest last week. Sandeep who is based in Delhi will receive a copy of Rachel Ray's new cooking magazine, Every Day with Rachel Ray. I picked it up while traveling last week and was totally hooked to it - she makes food and cooking so accesible and fun! The other two winners live in America so it easier to send them bulkier items :) Faffer is going to get a bottle of Apricot Butter that I made and Sandya will receive some fine Belgian chocolates from Le Pain Quotidien. Enjoy your gifts and thanks for participating!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Mediterranean Veggie Burger

I'm amazed how mainstream veggie burgers have become. As a freshman at Davidson in North Carolina, I used to ask for "Hamburgers without the beef" at the local McDonald's only to receive dumfounded stares from the staff taking the order. McDonald's has a McVeggie option these days but I find their burgers and fries unbelievably greasy. I had shied away from veggie burger at fast food joints, choosing only to indulge in the frozen patties that can be grilled at home. But a few weeks back I discovered a very flavourful and healthy veggie burger at New York Burger which has me hooked.

Homemade chickpeas and fresh herbs (parsely, dill, mint etc) are pound together and cooked to make an amazingly fresh and tasty patty that is served on a whole wheat bun with cucumber dill yogurt on the side. The burger comes with Idaho fries which are freshly cut and fried in 100% soybean oil so no transfats or cholestrol lurking around. I like to wash down the burger and fries with a fresh lemonade frappe.

New York Burger
303 Park
btw 23rd and 24th