Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bread in Taipei

We had been having a very different set of food for breakfast in Taipei. Not that I am completely unused to having rice for breakfast; it put me in mind of my younger days when Ma would fill us up with steaming, fluffy rice with a dollop of butter before we went to our respective school/colleges. But the first time that we went down for breakfast at the institute canteen, I decidedly avoided the congee they offered. Rice gruel, vegetables and egg/tofu makes for a very heavy meal, and I was surprised that Taiwanese children would swallow that without a demur. On Sunday, however we were reassured that children the world over seem to prefer bread and eggs. The place was awash that morning with couples and their youngsters. Without exception all of them sported a white bread sandwich.
Bread in the form of loaves are increasingly popular in all cultures. The first evening we arrived, unsure about what was available, we had gone down to the convenience store and got ourselves a couple of buns. The ones which have a core of custard, has a shiny brown surface and goes spongy after the first bite. Most days we have had bread for breakfast since we came. And it has been mostly terrible. The day after our arrival we stumbled onto a Carrefour. I had read that they are one of the biggest supermarket chains in Taiwan. When I came to bread section, I was happy. Lots of brown crusted breads. Various kinds of shapes and all neatly labelled in plastic packets. Perhaps that itself should have warned me. In France, Carrefour's bread section is varied, decent and always carried in paper packets. I was in for a disappointment here . All the breads we looked at were so soft that they carried a dimple, once you had pressed them to check the texture. The Taiwanese obviously prefers his bread soft, but at Carrefour I didn't expect the product to undergo such a change.
There are many bakeries around the city. Almost all neighbourhoods have a few. The window display is tempting though we didn't try anything. I am hopeful that these would be better. In a rush to pick up some items which could be eaten on the run, we picked up some breads from FlavorField one day. These have been the best we have eaten here. There was a open faced sandwich with cheese and bacon. Another with tuna. A strange round roll with potato, sausage and something orangey which we couldn't identify. None of the toppings were great. But tthe bread itself would pass muster. We also got a mixed grain loaf which had a satisfying crunch and chewy texture.
It all reminds me that there is no substitute to making it yourself. But where does one draw the line btween convenience and making from scratch?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Spicy Paneer

I had to clean the refrigerator out since we are away for a fortnight. I unearthed a vaccumm-packed brick of paneer. So came up with this quick dish. It looks very elegant, can be made as an appetiser for a formal gathering and takes very little time to put together. The sauce drizzled over was from Beyond kimchee with some changes made to suit what was on hand and Indian tastebuds.


200 gm Paneer

For sauce
Adapted from Beyond Kimchee

1 shallot, minced, instead of green onions
Jaggery, instead of the sugar
Pinch of ground black mustard

Cut the paneer block in little less than 1 cm thick slices. Salt them. In the meantime mix the sauce ingredients. Pat the paneer pieces dry. In a non-stick pan, heat a tablepoon of groundnut oil. When hot, place the paneer slices. Cover them. Cook over moderate flame for 5 minutes each side, until golden. Drain and keep warm. Just before serving arrange the slices and drizzle the sauce. All the sauce will not be required. Store the rest in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Orange cake

In India, oranges are very much winter fruits. In some ways I am glad it is that way. Their bright orange globes and tangy aroma brings the cooler months of winter to mind while the sun scorches everything around now. I had made a batch of oranges in syrup when I bought some little oranges a few months back. They turned out to be just the thing when I wanted to make an orange cake. I took the basic recipe from Orangette. Instead of lemon and orange, I made it only with oranges. Also I used roasted, ground pecan instead of almonds. I adored the idea of olive oil in cake! I used an ordinary olive oil i.e non-extra virgin. I think that allowed the cake to retain its orange hue.

Adapted from Orangette
3 small orange in syrup
170 grams almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
4 large eggs, at room temperature
½ tsp. table salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons of marmalade mixed
3 Tablespoons of water

Roast and ground pecans nuts. In a large bowl put all dry ingredients, except sugar and mix. Whip eggs one by one. Add the olive oil and blend with eggs. Add the sugar, oranges and whip. Pour it over the dry ingredients and mix with hand. Oil a round cake form and bake for 45 minutes at 180 degree centigrade. Make a thin sauce out of the maramalade and about 3 tablespoons of water. When done, pour the sauce over the cake and let it cool.