Tagged: snack

Kickpleat’s Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips

4th of July. Independence day here in the United States, day of siege for those of us who happen to live anywhere within a few blocks radius of the Bay. For it is the day hordes of people descend upon the city. Some are tourists involved in long weekend travelling, others just live around the city and decide that is the day they want to visit. It’s the day when city inhabitants head out while the ones from without try to get in.

Amey and I learnt our lesson about this day the year we first moved to our apartment. We had flown out of the country and hit upon the brilliant plan of arriving back on 4th of July. The airport was like a circus with none of the fun and excitement. Getting a cab was next to impossible; the moment they heard our address, cab drivers suddenly dug their tires into the tarmac and refused to budge. As we threatened to melt into sad little puddles in the July heat, a tough old lady with green hair and a moustache took pity on our wilting forms with matching duct taped luggage and decided to drive us home, with dire warnings about how much this was going to cost us with the traffic. We could see the fog slowly inching into the city over the western hills as the cab slowly headed north at about the same pace.

An hour later we were still five blocks away. As the fireworks lit up the twilit sky, jet lag was starting to hit us both badly. But every car in front of us, behind us, next to us, was frozen in place while idiots scrambled with their cameras trying to photograph flashes of light created by distant firecrackers. As the driver’s yelled profanities reached levels that were starting to shock even my well-seasoned husband, we decided the best course of action was to get out and start to walk before some of surrounded ‘happy’ people started to hurl beer bottles at us. Just as the last firecracker lit the sky, we grabbed our luggage out of the trunk, took a deep breath and headed homeward, only to find ourselves thoroughly thwarted. From the swells that flooded towards us, it seemed like all of humanity was in San Francisco watching the fireworks. I was walked into, trod upon, and thoroughly bruised. A guy in green shorts and very questionable breath nearly shattered my eardrum with a ‘Merry Cracker day’. Amey was nearly strangled when he was given a bear hug by some girl wearing star spangled tights and a neon green tank top. We nearly lost an arm several times when out-of-breath and judgment impaired morons kept mistaking our bags for ‘something to sit on’. Bruised, bloody and heartily sorry to be alive, we finally made it to our building thirty minutes later. Amey was missing a contact lens, I was missing a slipper and my mind, at least two-and-a-half handles were broken. But-we-made-it-home, ostensibly all together. As we fell asleep on the carpet, we could hear the people and traffic outside and swore we’d never be out on July 4 as long as we lived in this apartment.

A few years later and July 4th comes around last weekend. The traffic started building up with bumper-to-bumper vehicles by 3 pm. Mothers yelled. Kids cried. Cars blared Michael Jackson through the stereo, loud enough to make the glass in my windows look like jelly. I looked out (at a safe distance from the glass of course) at the sea of people and was fervently grateful for not having left home. The fog meant it was a cool day so Amey and I celebrated in the warm embrace of an enchanting banana bread.

This is the kind of bread that is so comforting, it is magic. It can make all your woes disappear. First there is the fact that it smells like heaven when it is baking in the oven. Seriously, if Napolean or Hitler had a whiff of this bread in their day, they may have given up all ideas of world domination. This bread could bring about world peace. In the very least it brought our neighbours who we barely know knocking on our door. It smells like your favourite childhood bed is ready and waiting. It smells of misty dreams. And then, there is the way it tastes. Of bananas and fresh cinnamon, of cheery comfort. I’m sure it would bring searing warmth to cold days. It bought us an hour and a half of reigning peace, divorced from blaring car horns and yelling tourists. It brought us freedom from care.

Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips
adapted from a recipe via Everybody likes Sandwiches

Makes one medium loaf

Bananas – 3, very ripe.
Eggs – 2
Unbleached all-purpose flour – 1 ½ cups
Agave Nectar – 3/4 cup
Baking Soda – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 2 tsp, ground
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Butterscotch chips – 1/2 cup
Walnuts – 1/2 cup, broken into pieces
Raisins – 1/2 cup
About a 1/4 tsp of sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon for sprinkling over

– Preheat your oven to 375°F and lightly butter a loaf pan.
– Mash the bananas well. Add eggs and stir in briskly to combine with the mashed banana.
– Add flour, agave nectar, baking soda, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
– Fold in the butterscotch chips, walnut pieces and most of the raisins, reserving a few
– Pour the mixture into the prepped loaf pan.
– Top with an even sprinkling of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the saved raisins.
– Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Cook’s notes:
I love nuts in sweets, and bananas and walnuts are a match made in my dream paradise. In fact, this is what they would serve there on demand all day. I was curious about the recipe having no fat of any kind whatsoever but there was no cause for concern. The bread turned out rich and delicious. It has a dense, soft crumb that breaks apart with the slightest pressure and fills you with a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. The warming tones of the cinnamon weave themselves through the other ingredients to create a richly spiced, out-of-this-world bread. I replaced the sugar with agave nectar and butterscotch chips for the chocolate the original recipe calls for. I didn’t miss the sugar at all and the butterscotch chips simply disappeared into the cake, leaving behind their caramelly hints. The whole thing comes together in ten or fifteen minutes and after that the oven does the work. Bake this on a weary day and you will feel your spirits rise with the bread. It gave us our Independence Day.

Sev Puri

Crossing continents has meant adapting to new ways. And for the most part this has been fairly painless. But sometimes I do miss the most ridiculous things. Like tea-time. Not because tea-time is ridiculous, oh no, far from it. It’s ridiculous because I wasn’t much of a tea-drinker back home and yet, I feel a twinge of nostalgia thinking of it. Or maybe that’s just that horrible cup of yoghurt that I ate for lunch today. (Raspberry yoghurt can’t be blue, I tell you!)

Food-minded as I am, I liked how the day was clearly marked into meals, breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Without tea-time there just seems to be too long a time between lunch and dinner. You see all kinds of food products and fast food vying to be your ‘in-between go-to food’. But then of course, they are promoting the wrong fourth meal. Tea-time is where it’s at. And the reason I was so fond of it was while everyone else savoured their tea, I loved the snacks that went along with it.

If you are thinking along the lines of delicate madeleines and cucumber sandwiches, let me stop you right there. That’s not what tea-time is about where I’m from. Bring out the Nan khatai (yummy shortbread)  and the khari biscuits (a rough kind of puff pastry biscuit that’s heaven dipped in a cup of tea) and Parle-G. Sometimes it was stuff you got in stores. Sometimes it was home-made, like this recipe I’ve mentioned before. But that’s the stuff you had on an ordinary day. When it was a special tea-time, (which in case you’re interested could be anytime between 3 and 5 in the afternoon), the day we had guests, especially a collection of her friends, tea was an absolutely special meal. Such times were also known as the days my mom lost her sense of humour.

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Aloo and Onion Bhajjis

I woke up with a start today, completely disoriented, something that hasn’t happened in a long time. Today was like coming out of a mental fog. There was no clarity of day or time. Was I late for work? Had I missed a test? (Yes, it must be only me who deliberately picks eight o’clock for all her exams when she could pick absolutely any time. This way it gets over and done with faster, you see.) But then, just as suddenly, the eerie-ness of it all faded. It was my Friday off. My next test is at the end of a month. There was a moment of quiet calm. And then it was effectively shattered by a sharp and precise thwack-thwack-thwack of a hammer. Construction workers don’t have Fridays off.

The renovation of my apartment building continues merrily on. It inevitably figures in my conversation because these days it is over on my side of the building. And at times, it is cacophonic. There is a strange desperation that claims your life when your home is no longer your refuge, when the simple act of reading a book or listening to music could be summarily interrupted at any time by loud noises and vibrations that has utensils bouncing off the dish rack. The situation also has the odd air about it of bringing my work home with me. The noise doesn’t consciously bother me unless it’s very close, but every time there is a new, different noise, part of my brain automatically engages in trying to figure out what machine it is, what phase of work is going on. Probably normal given my profession, but certainly not something I want to do on an off-day. Fortunately this is San Francisco. There is no dearth of places to be. So we packed some snacks and decided we’d be somewhere else.

There is an amazing array of food that could pass as snacks in Indian cuisine. Some of them just as easily become a side dish in a meal. Bhajjis (or bhajiyas or pakoras) are one such snack. They are the Indian version of fritters. They just use a different flour for batter and are principally made of vegetables. The flour here is chickpea flour, way tastier than most flours are. There is a basic and very simple ‘no yoghurt or buttermilk’ batter with a one time dipping given to the veggies. The veggies can be practically anything large enough to hold, dip and fry.

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Guacamole

The need to be different and unique; I went through it too. That was before the time I realised I am different and unique, as are we all. No wait, come back…I wasn’t beginning to preach. This point will become a character sketch, you’ll see.

Anyway getting back to the need to be different; I believe it first truly struck me when I was five and in first grade. The teacher called upon us to each name our favourite fruit, as a prelude to the five sentences we would write about it. Right away, the aspiring teachers’ pet (moi) decided she was going to dazzle the class and the teacher with my sensational choice. As I listened to the litany of ‘mango (the easy highest favourite) apple, orange, banana, grapes……’ , I mentally whizzed through the fruits I liked and decided to go with watermelon which no one had mentioned. (Not very surprising; in India we are spoiled by an abundance of fruit, kids would largely think of melons last.) I had already started composing the write-up in my head, probably along the lines of ‘Watermelon is red. Watermelon is sweet. Watermelon is juicy’ (hey I said I was 5!) when the unthinkable happened. A friend stood up and said ‘Watermelon’. Black thoughts, probably along the lines of what Caesar must have thought of Brutus, passed through my head. But reeling from this unexpected blow, I rallied and thought of another fruit; the pineapple. That would show ‘em you can’t keep me down. At this point I’d probably eaten the thing once (who knows? I don’t have perfect recall), knew it was pretty good. Yup by the time the teacher got to the S’s, no one mentioned pineapple and I had my very own, only vote, favourite fruit. Was I cool or what? (*choke* sorry I can’t believe what a chump I was once.)

Life is not without its little ironies. While I didn’t know it then, pineapple is one of the very few things I grew up to be quite allergic to. Pineapple in its raw form can give me a sore throat a hypochondriac would be proud to acquire. Sad really, I do love the fruit, but I can’t eat it. Stuff like that cured me of any claims on being unique pretty soon.

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Cherry-Orange Bread, adapted from Everyday Greens

It would be rare to see coffee in my hand. I reach for it only when I absolutely need a boost for an early morning or from a long and tiring day. It wasn’t always like this. While I never drank copious amounts, it used to be what I asked for often instead of tea. But either the beans or the processing here is different from India. And whatever the change is, it leaves me with a bitter taste, both literally and figuratively. The smell of some coffee beans brewing early in the morning can make me nauseous. I’m sorely disappointed that I can’t enjoy any and all varieties. I read somewhere that the palette changes every seven years. I do hope mine learns to like all coffee. Meanwhile I’ll stick to the tried and tested. I get my coffee from a jar bought in the Indian store.

Working where I do brings with it, among other good things, every other Friday off. Though most of my weekends these past months have involved wrestling with books filled with cost estimation, grades of soil, Modernism and the like, I’m nevertheless still thankful for these alternating long weekends. I wake up early in the morning, grab the requisite cup of coffee to help keep my eyes open and jog my brain, and hit the books with the fervent hope that they won’t hit back too hard. It’s difficult to put up much of a fight when I’m just about barely awake.

Today, the caffeine carried me through some part of the morning.Then I realized methods of project delivery were starting to leak out of my head. My early morning meant that I was hungry earlier than usual as well. Luckily, there was still some orange bread left over. While I would normally never advocate this for a meal; indeed, it’s original intention had been for an afternoon snack, I was glad to have it at hand. It meant I didn’t have to get up and futz around the stove, racking my already hurting brain about what to cook.

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