Friday, December 25, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

"From home to home, and heart to heart, from one place to another. The warmth and joy of Christmas brings us closer to each other."
Emily Matthews

 Daily Tiffin wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas.
Have a great holiday season and a prosperous new year.

This post was written by Deeba

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A Time For Giving ... Bitter Orange Marmalade

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Posted by Deeba PAB

It’s the time of the year that I like best. A time for giving, a time for sharing, and a season full of joyous spirit. Now is perfect for baking, cooking & gifting home made food stuff, and is a longstanding Christmas tradition. A tradition which is about giving, and not so much about getting. Baked goods play a huge role in celebrating holidays. Add fudge, praline, jams, jellies, relishes, homemade chocolates and life sparkles with festivity.

This is also the time of the year that the tangerine tree is laden with fruit & calling my name. I have a tradition of making bitter orange marmalade at this time of the year, packaging it in reusable jars that I collect through the year, and gifting them. I have a long list of bitter marmalade lovers who await their annual 'share'!

Most people in India grow these tangerine trees for it's ornamental beauty as the fruit is sour beyond belief. I make this traditional British-style marmalade with a recipe handed down from my mothers' friend. British marmalade is a sweet preserve with a bitter tang made from fruit, sugar, water and, in some commercial brands, a gelling agent. American-style marmalade is sweet, not bitter.

Bitter oranges originated in the northeast of India and neighbouring areas of China and Southeast Asia. During the first centuries of their empire, the Romans took a great interest in the fruit; however, as their domination of Europe ended, so did the cultivation of oranges. By this time, Arabs had established both themselves and the bitter orange in Spain. With the Moors' irrigation technology, the fruit flourished in the once-dry land.

Some believe that the British passion for the fruit – or rather, the fruit transformed to marmalade – began with a happy accident in 1700, after a young Dundee grocer named James Keiller took a risk on a large consignment of oranges that were en route from Seville, on a ship sheltering against a storm in Dundee harbour. The oranges were cheap, but Keiller couldn't sell them: the flesh was far too sour. His shrewd wife, however, used the oranges to make a spreadable preserve. The jars went on sale in Keiller's shop and soon demand became so high, the family had to order a regular shipment of oranges from Seville. By 1797 they had opened Britain's first marmalade factory.

Tangerines are easy fruit to preserve as jam, as the seeds are high in pectin content. This particular recipe has the seeds tied together in a tiny piece of cheesecloth & immersed in the ingredients during the process. I think it adds to the conventional bitter edge to the marmalade.

Tangerines - 1 kg
Sugar – 1.250 kg
Water - 250ml
Sterilize 4-5 jam jars, including lids. Place a sterilized metal spoon in each jar (this ensures that the glass jar will not crack when the hot jam is poured in).
Halve the tangerines and deseed them. Tie the seeds in a small piece of cheesecloth and reserve them.
Snip the peels and pith included into strips with kitchen scissors.
Put the strips, with the pouch of seeds, in a heavy bottom pan on full heat. Boil for 2-3 minutes till the peel is tender, stirring constantly.
Add water and boil for 2-3 minutes. Now add sugar, stirring constantly.
Continue to boil on full heat for a further 10-15 minutes until the mixture thickens & the strips becomes translucent.
Drop a few drops on a cold metal plate to check if the jam is setting properly. After 30 seconds, it should congeal and look jellylike.
Put off the flame, discard the muslin pouch with the seeds and allow the jam top cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes.
Now pour the marmalade into the jars, and seal after 10-15 minutes. (Refrigerate if you like. I do because I make a batch that lasts me 6 months.)

This post was written by Deeba

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Quick Indian

Friday, December 18, 2009

Posted by Bina

A perfect example of an oxymoron! I bet it's what some of you are thinking. Especially if you believe a common misconception about Indian cooking; that it is complicated and time-consuming. In reality, it's quite the opposite. Just look at the delicious, quick and healthy Indian meals made with little fuss in millions of Indian home kitchens everyday. Food that makes its way into lunch boxes packed early in the morning, evening meals with family and leisurely meals with friends. You can do it too. It is not difficult, I promise!

The series will hopefully inspire you to cook Indian food in your own kitchen. The recipes over the next few months will be simple, vegetarian dishes that are typical to everyday meals-vegetables, legumes (lentils and beans), rice, breads, snacks/appetizers, chutneys and desserts. Don't be fooled by their simplicity though. Many of them are also great for entertaining, and show up on my table when friends just drop by and stay for a meal, as well as for formal parties.

All the recipes are fairly quick but factor in some time for prep work like chopping vegetables, soaking beans etc. You can, of course, use frozen vegetables when possible. Canned beans are really convenient but make sure they are rinsed well before cooking. As far as cookware and tools go, you will need a very basic coffee grinder for the spices and a blender for the chutneys. I know many Indian cookbooks suggest using a kadai (a wok shaped vessel) for cooking but it isn't a must. I use regular, heavy-bottomed pans (nonstick and stainless steel) and only use the kadai for deep-frying.


Any talk of Indian cooking is immediately followed by that of spices. The seemingly endless variety can be very daunting. It's true....there are a lot of spices used in Indian cooking in general. However, you don't need to have all of them in your pantry, and not all of them are used together at the same time. Usually, it a combination of just a few spices that go into the making of a dish. Speaking of spices, a wonderfully detailed explanation about individual spices can be found here.

The initial recipes will use spices that are easily found in your grocery store. As we move along, we will add others like fenugreek, asafoetida, curry leaves etc. that might require a trip to the local Indian or Asian store. You can buy most of the spice powders/mixtures readymade. I do. Except coriander powder and garam masala, which I make at home. It is really not hard to do and makes a huge difference to the taste. Garam masala is quite possibly the most recognized among all the Indian spice mixtures. Many recipes for garam masala are very elaborate and are jealously guarded secrets. Mine is simple and not a secret at all!

Garam Masala

3 tablespoons cumin seeds

6 tablespoons coriander seeds

1 1/2 tablespoons black peppercorns

3 tablespoons cardamom seeds

3 sticks whole cinnamon (about 2 inches long)

1 tablespoon nutmeg, freshly grated

1 1/2 tsp whole cloves


  • Put all the above spices except the nutmeg powder in a heavy bottom skillet or pan.

  • Dry roast it on medium to medium-high heat stirring very frequently. Keep stirring till the spices start turning darker.

  • Take the skillet off the heat and transfer the spices into a plate to cool.

  • Add the nutmeg.

  • Once the spices come to room temperature, grind it to a fine powder in the coffee grinder.

  • Store in a bottle with a tight lid (I use jam/jelly bottles)

  • Herbs and stuff

    Ginger, garlic, mint and cilantro are easily found in stores. You can use jalapeno, serrano or other hot peppers instead of the Indian or Thai chillies. The curry leaves will require a special trip to an Indian and Asian grocery store. I have found that the best way of storing them long term is by freezing. However, directly freezing fresh curry leaves results in the leaves turning black over time and also having an off taste. Flash-frying it first and then freezing works very well for me. Just remember to add the frozen leaves directly to the dish while cooking and not in the tempering oil (The moisture in the frozen leaves makes the oil splutter). When added during cooking, the leaves get rehydrated and look and taste very much like the fresh ones.

    The following recipe can obviously be scaled up or down based on your needs.

    Preserving Curry leaves

    1 cup curry leaves
    3/4 tbsp canola/peanut/vegetable oil


    1. Wash and dry the curry leaves (A salad spinner is great for this)
    2. Spread them on a kitchen towel and leave them for about 10 minutes.
    3. Heat the oil in a wide skillet (not nonstick). The oil should get very hot but not smoking
    4. Add the curry leaves and stir lightly for about a minute on medium heat. The leaves will make a crackling sound and start turning crisp.
    5. Transfer to a plate and cool completely.
    6. Put in a ziploc bag and freeze for upto 6-8 months. (I have frozen them for a year with no loss of color and flavor).

    Stay tuned because future posts are all about recipes that will hopefully have you cooking up a storm!

    This post was written by Bina

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    Baby Proofing...or how to Protect your House from your Baby

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    Posted by Hilda

    Conventional wisdom has it that you are protecting your baby from your house when you baby proof it. Well, really you're protecting them from you and your bad habits... you know what I'm talking about: leaving change and small things everywhere when you clean your bags and pockets, the cables that, even when painstakingly separated, manage to get back into an impossibly tangled mess a day later, etc... as soon as you own up to that, the whole process of proofing will become more straightforward.
    Once a baby is crawling or walking, making your home safe for baby is almost a daily chore. Here are some important things to watch for:
    • As soon as your child can sit up or be on all fours and therefore reach up and touch them or pull them down, remove mobiles or hanging items from his/her crib.
    • Keep any items that will fit into the palm of your hand if you close it, such as coins, small toys or pieces of toys, buttons, balloons, etc... off any surface that is at or below your waist level since a child who can sit up and crawl could possibly stand up and pull those items off a low table.
    • Beware of curtain or blind cords that hang, shorten them or position them on a hook high up on the wall so they are well out of reach of the child. 
    • If you use doorstops (for example we have to have them everywhere here as our doors are fire-safety doors), buy the all-plastic all-in-one large doorstops or doorstops that are much bigger (e.g. we have a small bean bag door stop that is a bit larger than the size of our child's head) and absolutely remove plastic ends from non-plastic doorstops as those are a serious hazard and several infants choke on them each year.
    • Put away any chemical or hazardous substances preferably in high-reach cabinets with locks or put child-proof locks and other babyguards on any lower cabinets which might contain these items. Remember that substances hazardous to a baby include alcohol or medication of any kind.
    • Pad the edges of any item of furniture that has square or fine (and therefore sharp) edges. You would also be well-served to put any glass furniture (e.g. glass coffee table) in storage for a few years, or simply get rid of it for a more child-friendly material. We don't have glass furniture because, while I love glass tables, my husband fell on one when he was two, thankfully not injuring himself, but it was a close call and he now harbors a mild fear of glass furniture as a result. Anyway, we have a baby so case closed.
    • Cover all electrical outlet with child-proof covers. The more commonly found plastic plugs are easily pried out, particularly if you have an extremely persistent child (guilty as charged). 
    • If you must have houseplants, place them out of the baby's reach and become very familiar with every one of your plants' names and potential effects if ingested. It's the 21st century people, if you're reading this you can google your plants; it takes a couple of minutes and could save you so much grief.
    • If you use a crib bumper, remove it when your baby can get on all fours as he might use it to climb over the side of the crib. Seems unlikely, but you don't want to find out the hard way.
    • Secure heavy stand-alone furniture such as shelves and commodes to the walls so your child cannot topple them if he/she tries to climb up on them. By the same token, try to hide or securely cover all appliance cords (IKEA has cord tubing for this specific purpose) so that your child cannot either pull table-top appliances off surfaces or items such as audio/stereo equipment off their perches - try to position those things far back and high away from your child's reach to begin with. If, by some miracle, you still have a VHS player or more likely, a CD player, find a guard to put in front of their "openings"; most of us are old enough to remember at least one baby "feeding" the VCR...
    • On gates and guards: If you have any heating units or a fireplace, position gates or guards to prevent the baby from crawling too close to them, for obvious reasons.
    • If you have any staircases that are more than two stairs, install a hardware-mounted gate, meaning a gate that fastens directly on the wall and uses a latch to open and shut, rather than a pressure-mounted gate that works through a mechanism of two sliding panels designed to reach the opening dimension and lock by pressure. Pressure-mounted gates are fine between two rooms on the same level but are not recommended at the tops of stairs.
    Of course, these are not all the things you could possibly think of, but it's a good list to start with. If there are any other obvious things missing, please feel free to add them

    With the holidays upon us, take care that your safety checks include such things as menorahs (brass and candles) or christmas trees (pine needles, ornaments - i.e. small breakable objects, tree lights, etc...).

    Most importantly, if you feel overwhelmed at the idea of doing all of this, remember that you can do it progressively while your baby is still stationary and that just a bit of prevention can avoid emergency room visits later.

    Happy proofing and Happy Holidays!

    This post was written by Hilda

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    Wednesday, December 09, 2009

    Posted by Jamie

    Tis the season to be jolly, according to one well-known holiday song. And it certainly is what with the swags of gaily-colored lights and the glittery garlands strung up and down the streets, the holiday music piped into shops and city squares adding a festive rhythm to your already bouncy step. Candy shop windows have become wonderlands of silver and gold, boxes tied up in plump velvet bows and crystal dishes filled with every chocolate delight. Toyshops greet you with fluffy cotton snowmen and jolly Santas prancing through the snow laden with gifts for all. Friends chattering non-stop about holiday meal preparations, the pies and the cookies, the turkeys and hams, the family flying in from the four corners of the earth to celebrate together amid laughter and seasonal joy.

    And if you don’t celebrate Christmas? I know how easy it is to get swept up in the festivities, the bright lights and the wonderful culinary traditions. “I don’t celebrate Christmas” is often greeted with quizzical, confused looks and “Why not?” follows the surprise. For many, this holiday is universal, a sharing of love and human kindness, the excitement of decorating and the pleasure of giving and receiving gifts. Yet when raising children in another culture or religion, how does one balance the traditional/religious side of Christmas with the non-religious commercial side, that part of Christmas that kids see others celebrating, and often watch enviously from afar?

    I have tried to raise my children in a Jewish home, yet they have celebrated the odd Christmas whenever they spent their winter holidays with their French grandparents: chopping down, dragging home and then decorating the tree, pulling out tiny figurines and setting up the crèche in front of the fireplace, hanging stockings and receiving Christmas gifts directly from the hands of Jolly Old St Nick (le Père Noël or better known as Tonton Claude!), and eating their fare share of Bûche de Noël and marrons glacés. We even had a small tree once or twice in honor of their heritage and their grandparents, but the real excitement and joy seeped into our house at Hanukkah time: the boys drew and cut out Maccabees and Assyrians when they were small, creating a cardboard version of the great battle scene in which the tiny Jewish army, made up of a band of brothers, defeated the powerful, well-armed great Greek Syrian army who were out to wipe out the Jews; and still every year the boys pull out these tiny figures and line them up on the dining room buffet, they hang glittery, shiny garlands of silver and blue and prepare the two Menorahs (one for each of them to light). This is the Festival of Lights, the holiday in which we are reminded of the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by that mighty Assyrian army and the oil in the Holy Eternal Light that burned for eight days instead of one until more oil could be prepared. We therefore light candles on a Menorah, the special holiday candelabra, for eight nights, starting with one candle on the first night, and adding one more each night. On the eighth and final night of Chanukah, all the candles are lit. And, of course, there is a gift on each night, with the lighting of each candle. And lots of latkes, the traditional treat of Hanukkah, fried potato pancakes eaten with fresh applesauce.

    Yet, how to deal with the Christmas season for those of us who don’t celebrate this holiday? Food is always my way! Bring in a little of that Christmas cheer by baking puddings and cakes, stollen, panettone, gingerbread men and whatever other little goodies and treats that can be baked and offered to your loved ones. The kids can bring in their friends to share in the holiday goodies or pack them up and dole them out to neighbors and colleagues. And why not mix it up? Here is my absolute favorite cut-out cookie recipe, buttery sweet and tender, never crumbly and dry: every year I pull out my Hannukah and Christmas cookie cutters: the Star of David, the Menorah and the Dreidl along with the sleigh and reindeer and Santa cookie cutters. Glazed and sprinkled with colored sugar or rolled in nuts or simply eaten plain, these are the best cookies ever!

    This year I’ve made my traditional Hanukkah cookies, drizzled with white chocolate and sprinkled with blue, but for the Christmas in me, I’ve used my ruffled cutters in 4 sizes to create a Christmas tree. Once cut out, I brushed the edges of the shapes with a bit of beaten egg then dipped them carefully in crushed green pistachio nuts to give the idea of a fir tree. They baked up perfectly! I then sandwiched them together with “snow”, a fluffy lemony mascarpone-goat cheese cream with plenty of whipped cream folded in. I piled up the layers then sprinkled them with a little bit of gold sugar crystals and some gorgeous pink praline, a gift from Pam.


    2 sticks (1/2 lb, 225 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
    ¾ cup (150 g) sugar
    2 large eggs
    ¼ tsp salt
    1 Tbs Amaretto (optional)
    ½ tsp vanilla – use 1 tsp if omitting the Amaretto
    3 ½ cups (525 g) flour

    In a large mixing bowl, cream together the softened butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

    Add the eggs one at a time, beating briefly after each addition just to incorporate.

    Beat in the salt, the Amaretto and vanilla and then about a third of the flour until smooth. Gradually beat in as much of the remaining flour as possible using the electric beater, then stir in the rest with a wooden spoon or a spatula.

    Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. If you haven’t stirred in all of the flour you can knead in the rest quite easily. Once you have a smooth, homogeneous dough, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

    Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).

    Working with about half the dough at a time, roll it out to a thickness of not less than 1/8-inch (no less than .3 cm), being careful that the dough is very evenly rolled out. Carefully cut out shapes with your cookie cutters. Gently transfer to a cookie sheet (I use unlined, ungreased cookie sheets with no problem at all). If you want the fir tree effect, just gently lift the cookies one by one, brush around the edges with a beaten egg, then dip in crushed pistachio nuts before placing on the cookie sheets. I also brushed my Hanukkah cookies very lightly with egg wash and doused them with colored sprinkles.

    Bake for about 10 minutes. They will be set and appear cooked but they will NOT brown. You’ll know they are cooked because they will slide right off the cookie sheet when just nudged with a spatula.

    Allow to cool. You can now frost them or drizzle with melted chocolate as I have done.

    This is adapted from a recipe I found on Meeta’s blog What’s for Lunch Honey?

    7 oz (200 g) mascarpone cheese, drained
    1 oz (30 g) fresh, tangy goat cheese, drained
    2 Tbs (30 g) superfine sugar
    Finely grated zest of ½ lemon
    1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ tsp Limoncello

    ¾ - 1 cup (about 200 ml) heavy whipping cream
    Edible decorations (colored sugar, chopped nuts, etc)

    Make the Lemon Mascarpone Cream:
    Place the mascarpone, the goat cheese, the sugar, zest, cinnamon and Limoncello in a mixing bowl and beat until smooth and creamy. Chill.

    Have the Lemon Cream, the whipping cream as well as the glass bowl and beaters for beating the whipped cream very well chilled before making the “snow”.

    When ready to make the Cookies and Cream Christmas Tree, beat the heavy cream in the chilled bowl with the chilled beaters until thick. Using the same beaters, beat the Lemon Mascarpone Cream briefly (in a large bowl) just to loosen it and make it smooth and creamy after chilling in the fridge. Add the whipped cream to the Lemon Mascarpone Cream and beat briefly to blend and thicken.
    To create the Cookies and Cream Christmas Tree:

    Simply pile up the various-sized ruffled cookies which had been trimmed in chopped green pistachio nuts from largest to smallest, placing a large dollop of snow/lemon cream carefully in the center of each cookie round before placing another cookie on top. Decorate by sprinkling the snow with colored sugar decorations.

    This post was written by JAMIE

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