Monday 14 December 2009

Alsisar Haveli- Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Hi all! Back in Sydney safely and can now finally get back to blogging so I can share some of my India trip highlights with you :)

Here are some pictures from Jaipur in Rajasthan, India. Jaipur is known as the pink city because of the many pink palaces and historical sites. Pink is also considered to be the colour of welcome and hospitality.

There are few places in the world where one can visit a city and stay in a palace instead of a regular hotel - Jaipur is one of those places, and staying at a heritage haveli made our time in Jaipur very special indeed. It has been special for another reason - see, the royal family in ownership of the haveli is in residence along beside us. But let me explain how this is possible... Before the British arrived in India, the country comprised many princely states, and within those there were princely regions/areas. So for example, where there is the King and Queen of all of Rajasthan, there is also the royal family of specific areas within the state. So anyway, this is how it was before the British arrived. And the royals' income would have come primarily from taxes. But when the British came the royals had to give up their royal powers, but were permitted to hold onto their titles. But to make a living (no more tax income!), many have opened up what would have been private palaces to the tourism trade.

So if you are visiting Jaipur, my recommendation is to skip the big 5 star establishments and head for a heritage hotel like this one - it will make for a very memorable stay.

Private courtyard

Dining hall & restaurant

Swimming pool
After dinner puppet show
Bye for now!
Ladybird x

Sunday 13 December 2009

Groceries in Gujarat, India

It's been a little while since my last post from Singapore and I am at last here in India! India - truly a land of contrasts, and a place where your senses are bound to be overloaded. It is a country that deeply affects its visitors. No matter what kind of person you are, India will leave a strong impression on you - you may love it, you may hate it. For me personally? I love it.

I have been looking forward to blogging about India for a long time but now that I am actually here it is proving to be a little difficult. Internet access is not always readily available, and sometimes photography of food is sometimes not just practical. However.. I will endeavour to share with you what I can.

So I'll start with where we landed - Ahemadabad in the state of Gujarat. Gujarat is in western India and is a vegetarian state of approximately 20 million people. Here we are fortunate enough to be able to stay with family which of course makes for a very homely stay in a place. One thing I love about Gujarat is that as a vegetarian state, one is spoilt for choice when it comes to food. The variety of traditional vegetarian foods available is mind blowing! I also saw so many fruits and vegetables that I had never seen let alone eaten before, so it was quite an adventure.

Most middle class Indian families in Gujarat and Rajastan purchase fruit and vegetables from mobile grocery vendors. These men wheel their carts (or lahri) through the streets calling out to advertise their wares. All you have to do is open your front door and you have a fruit and veg shop right in front of you. Beats going to a supermarket if you ask me! I just had to take a picture of this, and the vendor was only to happy to oblige.. happily posing with his wares :)

As for the quality - no doubt some of the best fruit and veg I have seen and tasted in a long time. The first thing that struck me was that they did not look perfect, and they were a lot smaller than I am used to seeing in Australia. However, this is because they are organically grown. The bananas were sooo tasty, and the tomatoes were good enough to eat whole, the carrots were almost red in colour.. I could go on and on, but alas my soon to expire internet connection prevents me from doing so!


Ladybird x

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Raj Restaurant, Singapore

Greetings from Singapore! Mr Ladybird and I touched down here late last night and spent today rushing around doing some last minute shopping before we fly out to India tonight. We also got ourselves a new camera - can't wait to try it out on the trip! At any rate, all that shopping makes for a very hungry traveller, so we stopped by Little India for some lunch.

We both ordered Chole Batura - a very traditional North Indian dish. The chole is the yummy chickpea curry, and the batura are these oversized hot, and crispy puris. They are enjoyed with raw onion, and we also had some cooling raita on the side. The raita was very good - the yoghurt was freshly made and was cooling on the palate.

So a very enjoyable lunch indeed. This airconditioned, vegetarian oasis was a much needed ecscape from the heat, hustle and bustle on the streets of Singapore today.

Anyway, I had better sign off for now... Stay tuned for posts coming soon from India!

Take care for now,

Ladybird x

Saturday 5 December 2009

Flourless chocolate cake

Sometimes only a good flourless chocolate cake will do on a weekend, and this one is very simple and oh so decadent... Perfect served warm with raspberries and cream.

It was also a good way to use up some eggs and leftover almond meal!

250 dark cooking chocolate
150g butter
155g caster sugar
100g almond meal
5 eggs, separated
icing sugar (for dusting)

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius and butter and flour a 20cm round springform tin. I also like to cover the base with a circular cutout of of baking paper.
2. Stirring occasionally, melt the chocolate, butter and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.
3. Remove form heat and stir to combine. Then stir in ground almonds, and mix in egg yolks one at a time.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff and peaky, then stir a couple of spoonfuls into chocolate mixture. Then fold remainder of eggwhites through with care.
5. Put mixture into prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes.
The time, however, will depend on your oven, so make sure you do a skewer test in the centre of the cake to check that it is cooked through. If it doesn't come out 100% clean don't worry - at least you know it will be moist inside!
6. So that the cake does not collapse after baking, turn the oven off and leave the cake in the oven with the door open for 5-10 minutes, then remove to cool.

I was delighted with how the cake turned out because last time I made it, it sank quite a bit in the middle - but not this time! I think leaving the cake in oven with the door open for a few minutes made a big difference :)

I don't think flourless chocolate cakes are supposed to look perfect, but it's nice not to have it go *flop* and look like a crater...

It was nice and moist on the inside too, without being dry or grainy as flourless chocolate cakes can be sometimes.

So all in all a successful evening's baking. Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Ladybird :)

Thursday 3 December 2009

Crunchy top banana muffins

I have a small food snobbery confession to make - I don't really like spotty, overripe bananas... Ever since I was young, I've never been able to eat bananas that look like this. I used to always ignore them in the fruit basket in the hope that someone else would take pity and consume the really ripe bananas so that I didn't have to.

That was before I discovered baking as a young girl! I mean, I still dislike spotty bananas, but they are also seen as an opportunity through a baker's eyes. Banana bread, banana cake, banana muffins - the list is endless :)

I made these muffins very early this morning and they were delicious. The crunch of the topping before you bite into the soft and moist muffin below - yum! I also really love that these muffins contain linseeds. Linseeds are very good for you, but are rarely used in baking recipes. My crunchy top muffins are a great breakfast on the run, or they'd make a nice morning/afternoon tea :)

So here's the recipe!

(For the muffin)
125g plain flour
3 tbsp soft brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
50 ml milk
50 ml vegetable oil
2 large ripe bananas, roughly mashed
(For the topping)
1 tbsp linseeds
15 g cold butter cut up
40g demerara sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Start on the muffin topping by giving the linseeds a good bash in the mortar and pestle to break them up a bit. Continuing on the topping prep, combine the SR flour and butter in a small bowl and rub together with your fingers to produce fine breadcrumbs. Add the demerara sugar, cinnamon and linseeds, then stir in the water and lightly combine.

Now the muffins - sieve the plain flour, brown sugar and baking powder into a bowl and make a well in the centre. In another bowl whisk together the egg, oil and milk with a fork. Pour the wet mixture into the bowl with the dry muffin ingredients. Stir together. Stir in mashed bananas until just combined, don't mix too much.

Divide mixture among 6 muffin cases, sprinkle the muffin topping over each. Bake in oven for approximately 25-30 minutes - you may wish to do a skewer test in the middle of a muffin to check they're cooked before them removing from the oven.

Have a great day, everyone!

Ladybird x

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Christmas giveaway winner

So it's finally time to draw the winner of the Christmas Giveaway competition. Thank you to everyone who entered - there were some very thoughtful entries. The winner has been randomly selected.

Drumroll, ladies and gentlemen....

Congratulations to Kat of A Cupcake or Two! You have won the 200 Christmas Recipes cookbook! Kat, your cookbook will be in the post as soon as I get your postal address. You'll have it well in advance of Christmas so that you can start planning some tasty dishes and treats for your family and friends :)

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Roast beetroot & walnut salad

A couple of years ago I received a very panicked phone call from Mr Ladybird who was overseas at the time. He wanted to know whether or not he should go to the doctor because he was very alarmed to see that, well... his "fluids" were very unusually coloured. He thought he might be very sick. After initial concern, I paused and asked, "What did you eat for lunch?" The answer - "Beetroot". My reply: (sigh) "I think you're going to be fine, sweetheart..."

Afer this emotionally scarring experience, Mr Ladybird still loves beetroot and has been asking me to make a beetroot salad for a long time... so today he got his wish! This salad made for a delicious and colourful dinner this evening :)

2 tbsp red wine vinegar
80 ml (1/3 cup) walnut oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp dijon mustard
12 french shallots
12 garlic cloves
6 medium betroot, topped and cleaned well
1 tbsp vegetable oil
70g baby betroot leaves (or rocket in its absence)
50g (1/2 cup) whole walnuts, dry toasted

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
2. In small bowl whisk together red wine vinegar, walnut oil, crushed garlic, dijon mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
3. Place beetroot, whole shallots and whole garlic cloves (i.e. skins on) and veg. oil in oven proof dish.
4. After around half an hour, remove the shallots and garlic cloves - they should be soft and the skins should be starting to peel away (if not, leave in a little longer).
5. Continue cooking betroot in oven until tender when pierced with a skewer - probably about an hour since the dish first went in.
6. Allow the beetroot to cool slightly. Meanwhile, slip the shallots and garlic from their skin.
7. Peel skin off beetroot (or leave it on if you are feeling particularly health conscious), then cut into wedges.
8. Toss together vegetables with dressing and allow to cool to room temperature.
9. In a large bowl, gently combine vegetables and dressing with walnuts and rocket.
10. Arrange on large platter, and enjoy!

The cooked beetroot will stain your chopping board, so it's a good idea to cut them on a plate which you can then put in the dishwasher ;)

Interesting beetroot facts
  • Did you know that the ancient Romans considered beetroots an aphrodisiac? In fact, I read tonight that it is rich in the mineral boron which is important in the production of human sex hormones - so the Romans were probably onto something there...
  • Also, beetroot contains betaine, a substance that relaxes the mind and is used to treat depression. It also contains trytophan (also found in chocolate!) which contributes to a sense of well being... hurrah!
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