Buyer's guide to Wusthof Henckels and other Chef's knives.Knife quest begins!

I have been using a set of Farberware knifes that came as a set with a knife block and shears. They were "full tang" which in ENGLISH just means that the blade extends into the end of the handle and "riveted" to mean that the blade was well secured to the handle with three visible metal rivets. This ensures durability so you don't have to be worried about your blade breaking off from the handle.
Then one day I broke off the tip of my Farberware Chef's knife, cutting into a hard piece of cheese and decided that it was time to do some research and buy a "good" chef's knife.
That's where I got completely lost. So apparently knives are primarily of two types:
Forged blades which are apparently considered superior to stamped blades or blades that are cookie cutter type cut from a piece of steel. Forged blades hence have a heft and weight that stamped blades which are thinner don't. While forged blades are apparently easier to sharpen at home, stamped blades retain there sharpness longer.
Carbon blades are supposed to be superior but more high maintenance and prone to rusting. Stainless steel blades are rust resistant and inexpensive.There are also Ceramic blades which hold the sharpness longest but can also chip and break easily and are not for a klutz like me. I will be looking for a blade which has a combination of carbon and stainless steel for edge retention and rust resistance.
I got myself a very sharp little knife from Chicago Cutlery for about $6 and use it for small everyday tasks like peeling and slicing fruits, veggies etc.

Santoku knives are great for chopping, dicing and mincing vegetables. The blades have hollows that prevent food from sticking onto them. They can also be used instead of cleavers when you want to be nasty to a big hunk of meat. I'm also mastering the cut and scoop technique that these broad blades facilitate (through knife skills demos on youtube- awesomeness! ) They are sharp and like my older knives, full tang and riveted. However they don't have a pointy end so you can't really use them to slice into something like a watermelon.

So you see, I still need a good Chef''s knife. Since that's one I know I will be using the most, I want to make sure that I get a good one, that will be easy to maintain and keep its sharpness.The brands that I am considering are Wusthof and Henckels as well as Victorinox which is the most popular and highly rated on sites like with over 400 reviewers as well as several food bloggers swearing by it.
The Wusthof brand has several brand lines and while there are lines like the Gourmet line and the Emirilware line, which are cheaper because unlike the other lines they are stamped and not forged blades, they are considered inferior. The lines to look for and the more expensive are Wusthof Ikon, Cordon bleu, Culinare and Classic as explained here
Henckels has just two product lines- the higher end Zwilling and the affordable International line.
Aside from a good knife, those in the know, including an aunt who has been using them for years, also suggest a good pair of kitchen shears or scissors. I use my Farberware shears to cut up meat, chicken and fish right in the bowl so no drippy icky juices all over the place and clean up is so much easier. I also have a pair of chicago cutlery scissors I use for everything else including chopping up salad right in the salad bowl, snipping herbs. cutting dough, etc. There is also a bottle opener at the end of mine! Use those shears! You'll be glad you do-prep work just gets way easier.

Will keep you posted on my Great Hunt for that elusive Chef's Knife!

Jeni's Splendid Pistachio Ice cream Recipe - Homemade Artisan Ice cream!

Growing up in India my favourite brands of ice cream was Vadilal's which had fresh fruit bits, the mother dairy ice cream of Delhi which is very rich and creamy, and the now no longer available Dollop's which had a very interesting Gorilla vanilla that I still remember the taste of. I also LOVE Naturals and their pink gauva ice cream is JUST like biting into a frozen yet smooth luscious guava. I've heard that their Tender coconut ice cream is absolutely divine and I can't wait to taste it.I remember visiting a distant relative's Joy ice cream franchise and seeing a long ribbon of vanilla ice cream fall into a vat and thinking he must be the luckiest person on earth to have all that ice cream right in his back yard.

Coming to the US, I have fallen in love with Haagen-daz, though Ben and Jerry's was a bit of a disappointment.I have heard that the Bi-rite creamery in SFO is really good so that's next on my list.
The best ice cream I ever ate however is all the way on the other side of the country but then, Jeni's Splendid Ice creams are worth travelling all the way to Columbus for. Or you could mail order it. I choose option 3- Make some!

Jeni Britton is an Ice cream Goddess and makes artisan ice cream which has one simple secret- She doesn't use eggs so that nothing interferes with the delicious flavor of the cream and flavors as innovative as goat's cheese with roasted cherries, salty caramel to chocolate cayenne. She uses cornstarch to thicken the base, as well as cream cheese to add some scoopability.
I always hated pista ice cream. Usually it is bright gloopy green mess. Not so at Jeni's. Here is what it looks like!
Before you make it, you might want to read some tips from Jeni here
If you don't have an ice cream maker, use this method to make it without one

Jeni's Splendid Pistachio Ice cream
Recipe Source: Jeni Britton's "How to make Ice cream like an Artisan"

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 ounces cream cheese, softened (3 tablespoons)
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup toasted pistachios, very finely ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt ( I didn't have any so I skipped this. Don't add regular table salt as this could make it too salty)

  • In a cup, mix 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch. In another large bowl, whisk the cream cheese until smooth.
  • In a large saucepan, combine the remaining milk with the heavy cream, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the milk mixture to a boil and cook over moderate heat until the sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. Turn off the heat, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil and cook over moderately high heat until the mixture is slightly thickened, about 1 minute.
  • Gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese until smooth. Whisk in the pistachios, almond extract and salt. Set the bowl in another bowl filled  with ice water and let stand, stirring occasionally, until cold, about 20 minutes. Jeni suggests keeping the base in the fridge overnight to develop the flavours, but you don't have to.
  • Strain the ice cream base into an ice cream maker, pressing the pistachios with the back of a spoon to extract all the flavor, and churn according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

I used my cuisinart flavor duo ice cream maker and after about 20-30 mins the ice cream was creamy and had a soft serve consistency-good enough to eat right away.
However to make it firmer like proper ice cream:
Pack the ice cream into a plastic container (I used a zip lock freezer safe container)
Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the ice cream and close with an airtight lid. Put the container in a plastic bag and freeze the pistachio ice cream until firm, about 4 hours or overnight.
It might be really hard after, so leave for about 5 mins before serving so that it become a tad bit softer.
Here is a picture of the ice cream straight out of the machine where it has a soft-serve consistency. The pictures at the beginning of the post are after it has been frozen overnight.

Verdict: This is the very first time I'm making ice cream at home and I was shocked frankly, at how good this came out! So forgive me for gushing. It was delicious, the flavour of the cream and pistachio really came out wonderfully. I didn't have corn syrup so I used some Jemima's pancake syrup since it listed corn syrup as one of the main ingredients! Yes I know, substitution queen-that's me. However this made my ice cream a tad bit too sweet, but that's all. Everything else about it is dreamy, creamy, glorious and I am not ashamed to admit- I licked my bowl clean!

Variation: NExt time I make this, I will definitely try adding a little rosewater and drizzle on some honey :) 

Light Lemon Cake- Vegan & Dairy-free

I know, I know, yet another lemon cake. What can I say? I'm obsessed! I have to also say this one is my current favourite. I like the fluffy texture of this one the best, but then it's not vegan. It's also not as easy to throw together, and this one slides right out of my calphalon bundt pan so very satisfyingly! 
We are just settling down after a delightful family get-together for Jelly Bean's Christening. Now our little apartment suddenly seems large and empty without the 3 boys and my adorable niece who was completely besotted by Jelly Bean  declaring "she's so cuuttee!". She's only 3 and hasn't quite grasped the complicated concept of genders yet. She solved the dilemma by addressing everyone and everything as "she" (including the sofa) possessiveness indicated by "she's"! I got to bake to my heart's delight and this cake was a firm favourite with the kids and adults alike.

Lemon Cake
Recipe source: This is an adaptation of lemon gem cupcakes from Veganomicon posted on here
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar, plus
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups rice milk (I used soy) 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
Frosting (Optional-I didn't frost mine)
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine, softened (non hydrogenated)
  • 1/2 cup soymilk
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Prep Time: 15 mins Total Time: 35 mins

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.2
  • If making cupcakes line two 12 muffing tin with paper liners or else grease a cake pan.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, combine oil, sugar, rice milk, vanilla, lemon juice, and zest.
  • Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until smooth.
  • Fill each muffin tin about 2/3 full.
  • Bake cupcakes for 17-20 minutes.
  • Remove cupcakes from muffin tin, and place on wire cooling rack.
  • Frost when fully cooled.
For the frosting: 
  • Beat the margarine with a hand mixer until fluffy.
  • Stir in soy milk and lemon juice.
  • Add confectioners sugar and mix until smooth.
  • Frost cupcakes.

Verdict: Light, just the right moistness and a wonderful lemonyness that bursts in your mouth as you take your first bite! The texture is like a good pound cake and it's not too sweet but sweet enough to not require the frosting. Would make a wonderful accompaniment to your cup of Earl Grey tea.