Occasionally flipping through open tabs on my phone and laptop has become a fairly repetitive activity. As I do that now, in the last month of the year, it presents an interesting recap of the year gone by. In 2023 not only did I search about lots of things, people and events but expectedly my search queries included food items and recipes. From wanting to recreate recipes to scratching my head about how to use a new ingredients, this 2023 recap in open tabs might offer up interesting food for thought for you too. All food and cooking puns intended!
Gur Saunf Cookies: Longing for a lingering taste
During the winter of 2022, soon after returning from a much awaited trip to India, I made plans to recreate a specific biscuit. Not the big, savory ones from southern US, instead what we in the subcontinent have inherited from the British and what Americans call cookies. Though cookies are different. We can debate how, and which is better when (can a cookie hold up to being dunked in tea?) later. For the sake of moving on with this anecdote, let’s agree to disagree if you think cookies are better (They aren’t!).
So anyhow, the biscuits in question are made and sold by Verma Bakery in Patiala, Punjab. They are marketed as Gur Cookies but don’t let that fool you. They aren’t soft and chewy, instead these biscuits are crisp, and some might even say tough. Besides the familiarity of that texture and the firm bite it demands what was absolutely delicious was the version with saunf i.e. fennel seeds. Slightly savory with a mild licorice-y flavor and the wholesome sweetness of gur. I could’ve eaten a whole tin of those! Alas, we had to return home and with no space in our bulging luggage, the biscuits didn’t make it. But come May, my father was able to bring us a tin of Verma Bakery’s Gur Saunf Cookies. That half-eaten tin is sitting in my pantry to serve as a control for my recreation. Which hasn’t happened, yet. With about a week to go in 2023, will I achieve this goal?
My hopes remain high as do the number of open tabs on my phone and laptop. Amongst them are two recipes that could be tweaked to hopefully recreate Verma Bakery’s magic. One from our very own Sakshi for her Eggless Ginger Cookies and another from Cook with Manali for her Whole Wheat Jaggery Cookies.
Eggs, oh eggs!
After I had set my intentions on the aforementioned biscuits, another conundrum arose: the fast rising cost of eggs and how to manage our consumption without breaking the bank or our much loved routines. The most important routine in question beyond consuming eggs in our daily meals was that of baking my trusted two egg cake recipe every week. Now a cousin did scoff at my concern. But when you go through two dozen eggs easily in a week, I’d say my worries about overspending on one grocery item weren’t too overblown.
So then began the hunt for a recipe needing only one egg instead of two. And voila, there it was, Ma’s One Egg Cake on Food.com which the author described as possibly being a Depression-era recipe which their grandma baked. Made perfect sense to me considering the soaring costs of eggs. I’ve baked this recipe on repeat ever since and it makes for a great accompaniment with our morning cups of tea and coffee.
Wait, there was more cake
The price of eggs notwithstanding there were still other cake recipes open in my tabs. One of which is a recipe for an oatmeal cake. A friend and neighbor had baked it. A charmingly ugly delicious cake, the recipe looks simple enough but it is yet to come to fruition in my kitchen. Then amongst the endless stream of emails from outfits such as Bon Appetit and Food52 I chanced upon a recipe for a New England Spider Cake which form the images looks almost like a fluffy, custard-y dutch baby. It too is yet to grace my cast iron!
More in the 2023 recap
While what and how others cook is always inspiring, sometimes it is the things we receive which force us to be creative as well as to educate ourselves. This year I learned about two really tasty greens thanks to my Tucson CSA pickups: Mizuna and Tatsoi. Both have added variety and texture to my salads and if I could I would replace all the spinach with tatsoi in all salads, period.
Instagram “Saves” and Facebook feed inspiration
In addition to searching for recipes due to a need, or inspired by something someone cooked, I also found inspiration on social media. My instagram account is more a place for “saves” than anything else and so is the feed on Facebook which is where I saw a mentor from college share an image of her mango palada payasam.
A familiar but different dessert
Now we have two recipes for payasam on the blog but palada payasam was new to me especially one with mango in it. On speaking with Sakshi I learned that rice ada is a kind of rice flake used to make palada payasam. That is what differentiates this from other kinds of payasam which could use vermicelli. This recipe remains on the back burner for now and will hopefully be used at some point.
A lemony vinaigrette
As summer rolled on we got to enjoy meals and laughter with neighbors who’ve become friends. For one such meal we were treated to a crisp salad with a seriously good dressing which led me to search for a lemony vinaigrette. That is how the Lemon Vinaigrette from Bon Appetit came to be one amongst several tabs open on my phone. Mind you this recap shares a severely edited list.
A new go-to restaurant for spicy noodles
When 2022 was rolling around we spent Christmas making noodles thanks to the Xi’an Famous Foods Noodle kit ordered by visiting relatives. That process was fun and kept us all busy for a while. So in December 2022 with another NYE celebration fast approaching I decided to recreate that activity with homemade noodle dough. It was a partial success, but fun nonetheless. Needless to say hot oil noodles of the kind sold by Xi’an are one of my favorites now and in searching for a restaurant that makes them in Tucson I found Fatman Kitchen. From its unassuming and self deprecating name to the consistent quality of its noodles, this is one tab that will perhaps remain open for a while to come!
Spice it up: An Indian Schezwan Sauce
I am unsure about the reason or inspiration behind this particular search but looking up “Indian schezwan sauce” led me to purchasing a bottle of Ching’s Secret Schezwan Stir Fry Sauce. Honestly, this one has been one of several good buys this year. Its versatility has meant I’ve spread it on bread to make cucumber sandwiches or ham and cheese sandwiches, used it as a chutney with dal-chawal or made spicy ranch with it. All successes! The one way I haven’t used it is to spice up noodles. Perhaps that day will come too.
2023 Recap: Back to Biscuits & Baking
It’s not the holidays without some time spent watching the Great British Baking Show. From contestants easy camaraderie to predictable yet still surprising reactions from hosts and judges, the show, known as the Bake Off in the UK, lulls you into a space that feels comfortable, warm and safe. It was on this show that garibaldi biscuits were once the task at hand. After a virtual hunt I found them at the British Food Shop, though am yet to place an order. While these biscuits remain out of reach, there is much else to desire and salivate over while watching the show.
And just like the show I’ve come to adopt a new holiday tradition: that of baking James Beard’s Persimmon Bread courtesy of a recipe shared by David Leibovitz. From the first bake in the Fall of 2021 to now buying and ripening persimmons for the bread, its safe to say this open tab is here to stay – as a bookmark and a recipe jotted down for easy access.
Looking ahead to 2024 and more open tabs!
This 2023 recap in open tabs has revealed a lot that has become a part of my repertoire as well as much that I have read and mulled over but not acted upon. I am looking forward to discovering more about food in 2024 as well as all the open tabs that will create. Wish you and yours a wonderful season of warmth and hopefulness for the new year.