Sunday, December 18, 2011

Star anise and cinnamon flavoured green tea

Life for a “board student”, a student studying in 12th grade, is like a roller coaster. What with all the running from one class to another, 7 days a week, the loads of assignments, homework, tests, exams and not to forget, the high expectations and pressure from your parents, teachers and loved ones. I hardly get any time to cook or blog, or even come online for 5 minutes in a day.

But I think it is during times like this that you learn to appreciate the small things in life. When you wake up wondering where the book and specs that you had slept on with was and then see it safely on your study table, you know that your mom cares for you. You become happy when you come to know that your test marks are highest among your friends’, not bothering to find out how much the real topper has scored.  The high expectations from your parents make you realize that they trust you and know your capabilities. 

Somehow, this also happens to be the year when we try to do something out of our comfort zone, like how I am trying to be a little naughty now. Enough of the “Miss good who never does anything wrong” image. I have learnt that a little talking and joking during classes  and bunking classes couldn’t hurt. And breaking rules, well, that really don’t sound like a major sin anymore J. So my motto for this academic year is “Enjoy the small moments in life and don’t worry about the consequences”.

We had a “cooking without fire” competition last week. To me at least, the rules sounded crazy. I mean, how can you cook anything without a stove, microwave oven, refrigerator or blender??
I managed to prepare this strawberry and honey salad, hummus sandwiches with tabouleh and chocolate pudding with a mint leaf. They were supposed to represent the green past, barren present and hopeful future. And to top it all, I prepared some truffles.

The results were announced yesterday. When I came to know that I hadn’t won, it hurt. Yes it did. But just for a moment. Coz when I knew that my best friend had won the first place, I was in cloud nine.

I think in all this craziness, it is hot beverages that keep me sane. I seem to have fallen in love with anything hot. And every beverage has its own time. Just before I start studying, I need some green tea. When I need something out of ordinary, I go for hot cocoa. When I am cramming at night, I need huge doses of coffee. And when I need to take a break and just rest with a novel, I go for this special green tea.

I got this idea from a book, Comfort Food. It is one of the best cookbooks I have owned. They have wonderful recipes and all of them shout “Comfort”. Do try to get your hand on a copy of the book.

Star anise and cinnamon flavoured green tea:
1 cup water
1 green tea bag
1 star anise
1 small bark cinnamon

Boil water with a cinnamon stick. Let it cool for 2 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour the water into a tea cup. Dip a tea bag and a star anise seed. Steep the tea bag for about a minute. Remove the tea bag and serve the tea with the star anise. 

Thursday, December 1, 2011


For those of you who are new to it, hummus is an Arabic dip which has been gaining popularity worldwide lately for its taste and nutrition. It is basically a paste of chickpeas and Tahini, which is sesame seed paste.

There are some foods that we never eat. We might have never tasted it,but the very sight of it tells you "There is no way you are going to eat it". For me, Humus was one such dish. No, there was nothing wrong with its presentation. Instead it was the way I used to see Nada eat it. Hummus is something that has been a regular on our dining table since my childhood. It was always served with Kubbus(Arabic bread), and sometimes, grilled chicken. And whenever it was served, Nada would plop a large blob of hummus onto her plate, dip her fingers into it and lick it like it were heaven. Ugh!! Disgusting. It was only about 4 years back, when Nada had learnt her table manners, that I decided to give this white paste a try. 
I remember that day very well. It was midnight. All my cousins were at home and we were awfully hungry. A raid in the fridge and Nada emerged with a packet of kubbus and a bowl of cold hummus. And man..was it good!! I couldn't believe what I had missed all those years. Though the dish is usually served at room temperature, I have always preferred it cold, just like how I had it that night.

Growing up in Qatar, Umma never prepared hummus. She never had to, since we get to buy it in every other restaurant there. It is said that we realize the value of something only when we lose it. And that is exactly what happened when we came down to India 11/2 years back. We began to crave for Arabic food, including hummus. Luckily, this recipe that I got from an extremely old Lipton cookbook(yeah..I know..I too am wondering as to why a tea company would publish such a recipe) came to my rescue.


2 cups cooked chickpeas* with 1/4 cup of the water it was cooked in
3-4 garlic cloves
5 tbsp olive oil and more for garnishing
2 tbsp tahini
juice of 1/2 lemon or to taste
salt to taste

Grind all the ingredients to a thick grainy paste. Add chickpea water if it gets too thick. Check the taste and add lime or tahini if required. Garnish with of a squirt of olive oil and chickpeas. Serve with any flat bread, preferably kubbus.

*To cook chickpeas, soak the chickpeas overnight and pressure cook till you get the smell of cooked chickpeas- usually 3-4 whistles.