Monday, October 17, 2016

Book Review - The Queen's Poisoner (The Kingfountain Series Book 1)

After a long time, I found a fantasy that has a strong story line along with good language. The authour touched and explored the various feelings that make us human without having to resort to profanity or vulgarity.
The characters are balanced and betray some weakness or the other. Not everything is explained in this particular book for it has a sequel.
Be sure to read the authors note at the and of the book where he explains how the idea hatched and developed.
Background image sourced from Spellbook 03 HD Pictures

Book Review - The Mill on the Floss

When I started this novel, I had no expectations. I just wanted to read something with old houses, farms, ponies and woods. As the story progressed, I got more and more interested in the characters. The book is a delightful study of human psyche that is a wonderful blend of innocence, guile, avarice, pietism, and cant, with strong undercurrents of pride, honour, and filial responsibility.
The end though tragic also answered the poignant question that caused Maggie all that grief. If there was a way to help Maggie find the answer before she died, it would have been a most amicable end from a romantic point of view.
Alas real life isn't always amicable or even void of strife.

Background image sourced from Spellbook 03 HD Pictures

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Lemon Curd Recipe

Lemon Curd Recipe

  1. 1 egg yolk
  2. 1 tablespoon butter
  3. 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  4. 2 tablespoons sugar

This yields a little less than a quarter cup of curd.


Cream sugar and butter. Add the lemon juice. Taste the mixture to ensure you like the taste. If it is too lemony, add another tablespoon of sugar. Add the egg yolk and mix well. Transfer the content to a saucepan and put it on the stove on low heat. Continue stirring until the spatula or whisk leaves marks. Switch off the stove and immediately transfer the content to a vessel. This prevents over cooking. Use as desired.

Image is that of lemon cupcakes with lemon curd and soft meringue topping.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Whole Wheat Bread - Some notes

Whole Wheat Bread - Some notes

Baking bread is not quite as intimidating as you may have imagined. It does however require patience and perseverance. I tried several times to make the perfect whole wheat bread and although my loaf is not perfect, it is as near as it gets. After a lot of baking, reading up, and watching youtube videos, I made a list of tips and lessons learned. I hope the following list helps make your whole wheat bread baking experience more pleasurable. I also read a few books one of which helped me immensely. You can find it on Amazon.

Click here for the recipe I follow written by PJ Hamel.

Below is the list of ingredients I tweaked for the context (cup is 240ml)

Maida 1 tsp (Original recipe doesn't encourage the use of all purpose flour but I find it makes the bread taste better)

Whole wheat flour (from the mill down the road 😊) 3.5 cups (original recipe says King Aurther's Whole Wheat white flour which we don't get)

Nestle Dairy whitener - 1/4 cup (original recipe says bakers special dried milk)

Orange juice - 1/4 cup (Or juice of half a lemon)

Honey - 1/8 cup (original recipe says 1/4 cup)

Veg/Olive oil - 1/4 cup (tried this with sesame oil and it tastes fine)

Butter - 1 tsp

Salt - 1/2 tbsp

Instant dry yeast - 2.5 teaspoons

Some seeds (toasted-pumpkin, flax, onion and white sesame)

Warm water - 1.25 cups approximately

The procedure given in the original recipe is foolproof even if this is your first time making bread. So, I dedicate my post to a few hints, tips and lessons that will hopefully make your bread baking experience pleasurable.

  1. Oil is essential. It doesn't help the yeast multiply or strengthen the gluten strands, but helps smooth the surface and prevents carbon-dioxide from escaping so keeping the yeast alive and active.
  2. The teaspoon of butter in the list of ingredients (which isn't there in the original recipe) improves the flavour of the loaf, especially if you are using sunflower/saff-flower/sesame oil.
  3. Rubbing a little butter on top of the finished loaf makes the crust tastier.
  4. Be economical with the seeds. If you try to put too many, they will fall off the finished loaf and get wasted. Onion/kalonji seeds go particularly well with wheat bread although flax and sesame are good too.
  5. Instead of adding the entire quarter cup of oil to the dough, use 1/8 cup while mixing the dough and the rest while kneading. This way, kneading is easier and smoother and you don't have to use additional flour to knead.
  6. For shaping the loaf, tip the risen ball of dough on to a oiled surface on the counter and pat it out. Then roll it like you would roll a mat. Tuck the edge and the sides and pick it up and tip into the greased tin fold facing down. The reason is that if the log or the loaf is loose and wobbly, the risen loaf collapses in the oven. If you read all comments on the King Arthur's blog, you will get this information but I didn't and my loaf collapsed 😒
  7. Even if you get a large orange, limit the orange juice to a quarter cup (80 ml). If oranges are not in season, use juice of half a lemon. I never did make whole wheat bread without the juice of orange or lemon although I have no idea what the juice of either lemon or orange does. But when I substituted lemon for orange it still worked and that is that 😀
  8. Knead the dough till it is glossy and smooth. If you poke the dough with your index finger, it must bounce back almost immediately. That is the indication that the gluten is completely developed. If it doesn't bounce back, knead more.
  9. Do not go by the timing given to determine if your loaf has risen enough. Poke the loaf with your index finger again. If it bounces back however slowly, it still has time. But if it doesn't bounce back, it must go in the oven immediately because it has risen full capacity and is on the verge of collapsing.
  10. Watch a good video on kneading. It is basically stretch and fold and it takes at least 4 turns to stretch and fold the entire dough one time.
  11. Keep the dough tacky(looks sticky but doesn't really stick to your hand). If you ended up adding a little too much water to the dough, just bake it for a little longer so it dries out a bit. Once my bread broke in half and it was a sad thing to happen after so much kneading and expectation.

Now for the crust

  1. Grease the loaf tin lightly. If there is excess oil/butter, it will make the crust oily.
  2. Higher the baking temperature, thicker and harder the crust.
  3. I read somewhere that baking the bread for 10 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius (centigrade) and then reducing the temperature to 180 degrees Celsius for the rest of the baking time helps make a thin soft crust. But I never tried.
  4. I don't preheat the oven but bake at 200 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. I just came up with the temperature and time after a few attempts because baking at 180 for 40 minutes didn't quite dry the loaf. Excessively moist bread crumbles easily which is no help when making a sandwich or toasting a slice. I also keep a few ice cubes in a microwave-oven-safe dish over the turntable beneath the loaf tin. If you use a OTG, I suppose you can just throw in the ice cubes at the bottom of the oven.


I also made multigrain bread replacing a total of one cup of whole wheat. It was very dense but tasted very good indeed. Procedure in the next post.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The thing about a book

The thing about a book
A good book takes you on a journey over oceans, mountains, deep dark forests, tracks and trails, war grounds, and modern cities; makes you look through windows, down hallways, and reach into people's hearts and minds. But what it does to your desire after you are done reading

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Boy Guilt

Read the review - Always

When my son started play school, I went shopping for water bottles he could use at school. He chose a pink bottle and I reluctantly bought it for him. Why reluctantly? I abhor gender stereotyping. I bought the pink water bottle because he liked it. But I did worry that someone would tease him. He was only two and a half years old at the time. Until recently, pink was his favourite colour and I would let him pick a pink mini mouse toothbrush and strawberry flavoured toothpaste instead of an orange flavoured one. But that is where rebutting the gender stereotyping ended for the both of us. When someone mentioned I dress him in a frock as an infant, I vehemently shot the idea down. Deep down, I knew if I had had a girl instead of a boy, I would have gladly dressed her in blue overalls and got her pants and t – shirts. I would have bought her blue coloured shoes and let her cut her hair very short. I would even have encouraged my hypothetical daughter to study math and play basketball or cricket, or choose a challenging career that involved travel and late nights if the said hypothetical daughter were so inclined. Having said that, I will never encourage my son to grow his hair long. I will never approve if my son were to cross dress. Someone suggested that cross-dressing is rampant in India when I refused to dress him in a frock as an infant. I was livid. But if my hypothetical daughter were to wear trousers or men’s’ formals, I would gladly approve and appreciate. See, if I had a daughter, my so-called abhorrence to gender stereotyping would have worked out so much better but as cosmos would have it, I gave birth to a son. At the shoe shop the other day when my son said, “Mamma, those purple shoes are for girls. Boy’s shoes are over here” I said with mild outrage and not so righteous indignation, “Where do you learn to talk like that baby!” but secretly I was relieved. Hypocrite much?

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Golden Earth

Read the review - Always

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times
Some climbed the ladder of cognizance and paradigms
Was it a folly or a crime?
That some slid into a mine
Of deprivation and ignorance
And sheer human belligerence
Came heroes with their bows and arrows
Only to hang by the gallows
Later, some went to the moon
To conquer the galaxy soon
They denounced caste and creed
But had no power over greed
Buildings rose all over the earth
Only to find water in dearth
Of air and water, there was contamination
Among scholars and seers animation
“Save the earth!” said a master
“Beyond redemption!” bellowed the forecaster

Then came the young’un with his heart of gold
“I will plant trees and raise farms”, he told
His teacher smiled albeit a sad smile
Said she to him, “The world is hostile
With all their learning and all their riches
Humanity thinks they hold the switches
To abundance and affluence
To thwart the famine and create an effluence
But what use is gold and silver
Gems of color and metals that glitter
When one day the water is all salty
And seasons are all faulty
Depleting rains and fiery winters
Melting snowcaps and chilly summers”

But the young’un said, “Have fortitude!
For I am determined and have aptitude
To make humanity see their error
And open their eyes to the terror
Of indulgence and pestilence
Of precious and finite life’s sustenance”
So saying, he planted a seed
His mates copied his action with speed
And then in half a century, the earth was green again