Yesterday, I spent a fun-filled, educational morning learning to make Salads. Let me confess that I have grown to love Salads over the years – fallen in love with the mix of colours and come to appreciate the blend of flavours & textures. Although I make them much more often at home than I used to in the past, and often have them as a one-dish meal for lunch, I still stick to a few basic favorites. Attending this workshop gave me a chance to extend my repertoire. Also attending a class like this is enriching in so many ways other than just learning new recipes don’t you think? I mean, you can get a million recipes online, but that one-on-one interaction with fellow enthusiasts, the humour, the banter and of course sharing the fruits of your labour with a great bunch of people is priceless and inspirational!
This is my second workshop with the very talented Nandita. She is a medical doctor, writer, chef and author of Saffron Trail, her blog which focuses on Indian vegetarian cooking and baking, her other passion. The first workshop I attended was called Breaking Bread where we learnt how to…you guessed it…bake bread! She’s a great teacher – patient, funny and experienced. She keeps it simple, is open to suggestions and encourages interaction. She conducts the workshops in her beautiful house with a gorgeous garden where she grows a lot of the ingredients that we used in the salads! Organic goodness 🙂 I hope you take a few minutes to check out her blog (just click on the link above). I promise you won’t be disappointed 🙂
And now to the pictures!! What I really loved yesterday was the fact that I had my 50mm lens with me! Had a field day clicking pics. I love that salads are so colourful and vibrant! Just the pictures guaranteed to recharge drooping spirits 😉 Although I can tell you this – they were even better tasting then they look 🙂
We made 4 salads, learned how to grill fruit, bake croutons, caramelize nuts, ‘chiffonade’ basil and to my great delight discovered the ‘julienne peeler’, a boon to people like myself with minimal knife skills 😛 Another highlight for me personally was when Nandita casually sprinkled a few orangey-gold edible marigold petals on the Chick Pea & Grilled Apple Salad we had made – so frou frou, so moreish!
The other day I made Jam. No, Really! I made Jam 🙂 I know for those of you expert bakers and chefs out there (and there are many of you amongst my friends), this may not seem like a big deal, but it is to me! Rather obvious that, since I’m blogging about it 😛
I’m NOT a jam-making kind of person. I’m not very fond of jam, but I do love strawberries. Although I can cook well enough, I do not enjoy the routine kind of cooking (the much maligned fish curry-rice meals which are a Goan staple). Instead I enjoy trying out dishes from various cuisines, salads mostly, coz they’re easy and tasty, if you can get your hands on fresh produce; but mostly anything that catches my fancy and is simple to make. Perhaps that’s why despite Nigella insisting that baking is uncomplicated, (and she does a good job of making it seem so!), I’ve always been rather afraid of giving it a shot! But I digress as I so often do! Back to the jam story. Bear with me 🙂
My friend S, is…what’s the word, ‘Superwoman’! She’s a busy pediatrician, Mom to a teenager, loving friend, dedicated wife…you get the picture. She’s one of those people who manages to have chocolates and a gift ready for Ishaan no matter how short a notice I give her of our visit! She never forgets Birthdays, anniversaries, and all manner of other special dates that do not exist in my calendar! Saying she has a full day, every day is the understatement of the century, and yet, she manages to come home at 9 o’clock at night, exhausted from seeing patients, and make…uh huh…strawberry jam!
So you see, why I HAD to make it don’t you? I mean really, although I am hard-pressed for time, I’m nowhere close to that kind of busy (although some days I do feel like the mother of a dozen kids rather than just the one!). A lot of my busy-ness (Is that a word?), comes from horrendous time-management skills and a penchant for surfing the Internet 😛 (I’m so happy to be living in the 21st century where one can safely blame the World Wide Web for all of one’s problems!). But this was just a smack in the face, especially coz the jam was delicious and she said it was easy-peasy. But mostly coz I was ashamed at myself for not stepping into the kitchen these past 2 years (I kid you not! One of the advantages of living with Granny & Mom, although it’s also the reason I’ve been avoiding the kitchen, if you get my meaning ;-))
So here goes…Delicious strawberry jam in 5 Easy-Peasy Steps.
Weigh the amount of strawberries you want to turn into gooey, jammy, deliciousness. Now weigh out the same amount of plain white sugar. So if you’re using 500 gm (about a pound) of strawberries, you need 500 gm of sugar. No complicated formulas 🙂
Cut up the strawberries (the large ones, you can leave a few of the smaller ones whole), mix them with the sugar and leave to macerate overnight. For those of you who have an ant problem (like we do in Goa), leave the vessel with the sugared-berries in a dish containing water, so any rogue ants will meet their maker through drowning! It’s all about being merciless!
The next morning, the strawberries will be floating around in a ruby-red liquid that’ll remind you either of jewelry or vampires depending on what kind of person you are 😛
Then, it’s on to a low flame (best to use a heavy-bottomed vessel for this part), stirring occasionally, enjoying the bubbly pink froth, until the mixture gradually reduces and turns into ruby-red glistening jam studded with golden pearls!
S instructed me to test consistency by pouring the liquid on to a glass plate and checking for runniness. When you have the consistency you want (keep in mind, the jam will thicken further when cooled), stir in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of clarified butter (ghee) and turn off the heat. Done!!
Now for the MOST important step, without which all of the above have no meaning and are just a waste of time: Toast thick slices of bread to just the right shade of crisp golden-yellow and slobber on butter (Ignore calories at a time like this! Really! Do I have to even say that?), while still warm. Then apply a thick layer of the jam, take a sweet, gooey, crunchy bite. Welcome to Heaven 🙂
And so there you have it, an easy way to make some pretty awesome strawberry jam. I store mine in the fridge although I reckon it will stay outside in colder climates. Not sure for how long though coz as you might have noticed – No preservatives! Unfortunately Ishaan refuses to even taste it, so I cannot report its effects on children 😛 I do find it makes adults very happy though 😉 All in all, here’s what I learnt. Jam-making is not that different from life. You start of with a mixture of acid and sweet, add a little heat and wait for a transformation. In life, so often the same principles apply. You start of with a mixture of good & bad, then some stress comes along and acts as a catalyst for life-transforming changes. Both require patience and both are easier to make & manage with experience! Ooh! I’m turning all Jamisophical, all of a sudden 😛 Good time to stop huh?!
So, final words…use liberally when asking for favors 🙂