In a Jam!

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Our home was raided by monkeys! It’s a true story!!

We live in a pretty, green part of the City & every couple of months in the year our terrace & the ones of neighbouring homes are “vacation resorts” for roaming hoards of our primate cousins. A few years ago our terrace was a nursing / maternity home for a monkey family. We would wake up with the noise of them jumping up & down on the roof. “Daddy” Monkey once even managed to stare down my otherwise intimidating husband, when the latter yelled at the baby monkey swinging on the cable! While the babies are absolutely adorable, & it’s lovely to observe them through the window grills… It’s a bit scary when you walk into the room to see tiny, dusty almost human paw prints on the chest or TV & notice missing apples!! And you know you have been raided! One morning we woke up to the sound of my sister-in-law running round with a broom, trying to coax a tiny, frightened baby monkey out of the house. The poor creature must have snuck in through an open window & forgotten how to get out :-( We somehow managed to get him out the front door.

Since then, they pretty much stopped visiting. Until this afternoon…

Bombay’s actually got a winter happening this week. So of course I make the most of the crisp, cool weather by keeping all the windows wide open! And I definitely wasn’t expecting any visitors of this kind! I had lunch, checked on the dinner that was made for tonight. The food was still too warm to pop it in the fridge, so I made sure the bowls were covered & went to my room to watch The Truth About Cats & Dogs (sucker for romcoms!) & get a little shut eye before I started on my baking adventure of the day. I came down to the kitchen about 2 hours later & saw a pack of biscuits & another of chips strewn open on the window pane. The steel box of chapatis (whole wheat flatbread) was lying open with at 4 missing & one lying on the table! The bowl of spiced potatoes with peanuts was uncovered with nearly half the contents gone, with bits of food all over the table! And of course the creepy telltale paw prints. I freaked out! A quick look around the house… I was alone! Thank heavens! And thank the stars for making me lazy today… else the monkeys would’ve been in for a treat! I usually place things to cool by the window… well never again!

The recipe I’m going to share today has nothing to do with primates! The only thing that’s relevant here is that the key ingredient is from an area known for its notorious monkeys! My parents brought in the New Year with friends at a hill station called Panchgani, about 280 km from Bombay. And when they returned they brought back 4 kg of strawberries!! Now we are a family of strawberry lovers & I love using them when I cook, like here or here. But still 4 kgs?! Well anyway, after distributing (some), indulging in strawberries & cream (a lot!), we still had quite a bit leftover. So Ma said, “Let’s make Jam! (To be translated as, “YOU make Jam!”)

I looked up a recipe or two online that didn’t require pectin, jam sugar or any preservatives. From ones I liked, one used cornflour / corn starch & the other was made in the microwave. So I merged the 2, added my twist & here it is…

Homemade Strawberry Jam!

Ingredients

  • 250 gm fresh Strawberries
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • Juice of 1 small Lemon
  • A lot of patience!

Method

  1. Wash, hull & cut the Strawberries. I left the smaller ones as they were, as it’s nice to bite into a whole strawberry, once in a while!
  2. Mix in the strawberries, sugar, lemon juice, & leave to rest for 5 to 10 minutes in a sauce pan.
  3. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes till the sugar dissolves.
  4. Bring to the boil & then reduce the heat to low.
  5. Now patience needs to kick in as you stir occasionally & wait for the jam to thicken. This could take up to 30 to 40 minutes.

And there you have it!

Note

Ma is a bit of a purist, so I made 2 batches of jam. One was with the above recipe & the other had “my twist”! I cut down the amount of lemon juice & added some orange juice along with mint & spices. I think it worked :-)

This recipe yields about 250 gm of Jam & was absolutely delicious with:

  1. Candied Orange Peel & Rosemary Pancakes made with fresh cream as I ran out of milk and buttermilk! Can you believe that! 
  2. Raisin Scones I followed the recipe from my super talented friend Lidia’s blog. They were light, crumbly & yum!
  3. Peanut Butter & Jam Cookie Cups the baking adventure of the day when the monkeys attacked!

A Happy New Year!

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A very, very Happy New Year to all of you from The Odd Hour Kitchen :-)

It has been so very long since my last post that I forgot my password :-( Silly me!

I have missed logging on & reading all my friends’ blogs, interacting & connecting with folks I’ve never met but yet who are like kindred spirits bonding over our love & passion for food. I have really missed that!

And I’ve missed writing.

So one of my New Year Resolutions, one which I do not intend on breaking, is to be more regular on my blog (at least more than once in 4 months!)… and to remember my passwords!! Fingers Crossed!!

Well one of the main reasons why I haven’t been blogging is that I have been baking… like a lot! I haven’t felt as centered, at one with myself or simply delighted than when I’m in my Kitchen, mixing, whisking, tasting away! I think I may have found my calling.

I took the plunge & decided to take my passion for food a step further… The Odd Hour Kitchen is now a small home bakery :-) So with the apron, I now have on a little entrepreneurial hat. And it is such fun! I get to bake all the time, in my Kitchen with my music and spread love & joy through what I bake! All this without the extra calories (& the guilt that goes with it!) from the earlier days, when I just had to bake & whatever came out of the oven went straight to my hips! To be fair, I did share with the husband (who complained about the increasing inches round his waist!), my parents (who honestly don’t need the extra sugar!) & of course eager friends & family. But now with this new “venture,” my food is helping me connect & reach out to so many more!

It started with the Raksha Bandhan festival in August, the day which, according to Indian tradition, celebrates the bond & love between brothers & sisters. The sister ties an ornamental thread or Raakhi on the wrist of her brother who promises to protect her all their life while she in turn pledges to pray for his well being. The brother has to then gift her something pretty, while the sister gets him something sweet… of course, what would an Indian festival be without any mithai (sweetmeat)! There are loads & loads of Indian Sweets… kaju katlis (diamond shaped bites of heaven made with cashewnuts), laddoos (ball-shaped sweets made with different ingredients like chickpea flour, semolina, coconut & of course sugar & clarified butter), I could go on, & on…

But it’s not uncommon to go with chocolates, cupcakes, cookies either. In fact some of my first experiments in baking were nearly charred brownies for my brothers on Raakhi day!

Now, since I don’t burn my brownies anymore, & I have added a few more goodies to my repertoire, it seemed like a great time to open up my Kitchen to more people on Rakshabandhan! So I updated my Facebook page, sent out emails, Whatsapp messages to friends & family & put out 3 products on my menu… bite-sized versions to go with the Indian mithai theme.

And I got a surprisingly decent response & with that the exhilaration of baking to meet orders & deadlines… very exciting! All charged up then, I participated in a Bake Sale & then opened up for Diwali, the Hindu New Year. So far, I’ve been working from festival to festival & with a fairly fluid menu. Of course if somebody calls me & asks me to bake something for them off the menu, any day of the week… I never pass up the opportunity :-D

I’m hoping to crystallize the menu, get more organized & get myself out there a little better in terms of visibility this new year… & lets see where this goes :-) Meanwhile I’m happy to be experimenting, trying out new recipes & baking on request!

So, if you live in Mumbai (or have friends & family that do), & want to indulge your sweet tooth you could call, mail or check out my little online store for comforting goodies.

Here are some of things that I’ve been baking over the past few months.

These CHOCOLATE STREUSEL Cupcakes are perfect with a cup of tea or coffee… not too sweet, with a delicious crunchy chocolate chip topping.

DEVIL’S FOOD CUPCAKES… Rich, Dark, Moist & Mysterious… with a surprise filling in each… Eggless too! For a friend’s dessert night

Light, Melt in Your Mouth… I made these ALMOND SHORTBREAD COOKIES the first time for a friend’s baby shower

This one’s a Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free CHOCOLATE FUDGE cake… The husband’s childhood buddy & his brother dropped by for dinner & stayed till 5 am! The brother had all these diet restrictions… so this is what I served!

I call these BROOKIES… A Brownie & Cookie Hybrid :-) I made these the first time as an experiment on my unsuspecting brothers… it worked! I do them with home made Salted Maple Caramel Sauce & Almonds / Peanut Butter & Snicker Bars / Orange Marmalade

So that in a nutshell is what I have been up to over the past 4 months… with of course a trip or 2 to Jaipur to teach at the school & a visit to Singapore to  see my adorable little babus, my nephews. I do hope to cook more, share more recipes & be around a lot more!

To sign off… Magic, Dreams, Love, the Time to enjoy a good Book, favourite Music or a Quiet Moment alone, the Spirit to give wing to your Creativity, loads of exciting Adventures (inside the kitchen & out!) & of course Joy, Peace & Health…. That’s what I wish for you all this New Year!

Chicken Khichda / Haleem

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It is Eid today… the day that marks the end of Ramzan or Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. For the past 29 – 30 days, devout Muslims the world over do not eat anything from dawn to sunset. However when the sun goes down everyday, at Iftar, the fast is broken.

If you walk through streets around the Bombay Central Station, Mohammed Ali Road, Dongri, Mahim – There’s such an atmosphere of festivity! The streets are lit up with fairy lights, groups of people milling about, all dressed up & the roads lined with stalls selling everything from bright clothes to jewellery & shoes to… of course… Food! Oh! It’s such a treat! It’s been a while, but I remember for a couple years, going down to Mohammed Ali Road with my friends at least once during Ramzan during Iftar, to, well put it politely, stuff ourselves silly!

You wouldn’t know where to start! Of course, if you were fasting, you would with dates & some fruit from the dried fruit & juice stalls & then move on to the real stuff. But that never applied to us! We went straight for the meat & chicken Kebabs, Tikkas (marinated chunks of Chicken or Lamb grilled to melt-in-the-mouth perfection over charcoal), Naans (flat bread), Baida Rotis (thin, soft flatbread stuffed with meat, coated with eggs & deep fried), Biryaani (saffron & spice laced rice layered with a flavourful meat or chicken gravy), my favourite Khichda / Haleem! You can’t end the feast without anything sweet… so there are Malpuas (crisp little pancakes deep fried in clarified butter) served with Rabdi (sweet, creamy, thickened milk) or Phirni (a delicate rice pudding flavoured with cardamom) in little clay pots… The feast is surely not for the faint hearted!

For the past 8 – 9 years (maybe more!), we’ve been invited to be part of the Iftar & Eid celebrations at the Khan residence… & that is another experience altogether! Pure gastronomical heaven! The everyday food out there is out of this world… so you can imagine what these special dinners would be like! Nalli, Biryaani, Kebabs, Mutton cooked the Moghlai way, Khichda.. & of course Auntie’s special Sheer Khurma (a special vermicelli pudding)! How our dear friend turned vegetarian & more importantly, remained one, growing up in this household, is something that always baffles me!

Gosh I’m salivating as I write this, & feeling rather sorry for myself as I’m going to miss the festivities, being with my friends (who are more like family) & of course the food at the Eid dinner at the Khans’, for the second year in a row! I’m in my home away from home, Jaipur, working (for a change!) for 2 weeks :-(

I knew I was going to be missing out so, a few days before I left Bombay, I made my favourite Khichda / Haleem for my family! Khichda is a one-dish meal, comfort in a bowl… I love it! And this is my first attempt at making it!

I used these websites as a reference for the recipe - Khana Pakana & Kulsum Mehmood, & followed the tips & suggestions given to me by the lovely elderly Bohri Kaka (uncle) who sold me the ingredients at Crawford Market  (the one stop wholesale bazaar in Bombay for everything!) :-)

So here it is the recipe for a meal that satisfies the soul, with a special Eid Mubarak to everyone!

Ingredients

Polished Whole Wheat

Mixed Lentils

  • 250 gm Polished Whole Wheat Grains
  • 150 gm Mixed Daals (red, white & yellow lentil & Bengal gram)
  • 450 gm Boneless Chicken Pieces
  • 2 – 3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • Red Chilli Powder (to taste)
  • Turmeric Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Dhania – Jeera / Cumin & Coriander Seed Powder
  • Special Haleem Spice (recommended by the sweet Kaka at the shop)

Spices

  • 2 stick Cinnamon
  • 3 – 4 Cardamom
  • 2 Star Anise
  • Mace
  • a pinch Nutmeg Powder
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 2 tablespoons Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter – Lots of it!

To Serve:

  • 3 large Onions (finely sliced & deep fried)
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Special Haleem Spice
  • Lemon Wedges
  • Ghee / Clarified Butter

Method

  • Soak the wheat overnight (at least 8 – 10 hours) in a large vessel filled with water. Pour in 1-2 teaspoons oil & some salt. (Kaka’s tip: Do not wash the wheat or disturb it while soaking. It affects the cooking process)
  • Soak the lentils for about 2 hours.

Marinated Chicken

  • Dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, star anise, mace & cardamom & grind to a fine powder.
  • Marinate the chicken pieces with ginger-garlic paste, salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, the spice powder from Step 3, nutmeg powder, 2 teaspoon Haleem spice, cumin & coriander powder & mint leaves. Leave to rest for about an hour.
  • In a large heavy bottomed vessel, heat 2 – 3 tablespoons of ghee, add the onions & sauté till the onions turn golden.
  • Add the marinated chicken & stir fry for about 10 minutes. Add more ghee if you need to, don’t be shy!
  • Drain the soaked wheat & lentils & add to the chicken.

Soaked Wheat Grains, Lentils & Marinated Chcken

  • Add enough water to cover the chicken & grains, plus some more & simmer on a low flame.
  • Now this is where patience kicks in! Allow the chicken & grains to cook for 6 – 7 hours, stirring regularly. (I kid you not! That’s how long it took! You could pressure cook the whole thing. But Kaka said the true taste emerges when the Khichda is slowly cooked over a long time. I believe him! It’s totally worth it.)
  • Add more water if it gets too thick or starts to stick to the bottom of the vessel.
  • Once the wheat has softened (around 6 hours later), take the vessel off the flame, remove the chicken pieces & keep aside. Using a hand blender make the wheat & lentil mixture as smooth as possible. Add the chicken back to this thick, porridge-like mixture & place the vessel on a very low flame.

The Khichda Cooking Slowly

  • Add another 2 teaspoons of the Haleem spice & check the seasoning. (I find it easier to taste my way through a dish like this, so at this point if you feel you need to add more salt, chilli or spices, go right ahead!)
  • If possible, leave the vessel on the flame till you are ready to serve.

To Serve

The Condiments – Melted Ghee, Haleem Spice Powder, Mint Leaves, Deep Fried Onions, Lemon Wedges

Ladle the Khichda into a bowl. Pour a generous amount of ghee over it, sprinkle a bit of the Haleem spice, some mint leaves & serve with a wedge of lemon. Then sit back & watch the expressions of your family as they dig into it!

This recipe serves 6

Busy Week Baking!

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It’s been quite a week! The incessant rain, the work at home… And of course, my Kitchen Adventures!

We had a family reunion on Sunday at my aunt’s. It was amazing! Almost everyone was there, together after years! Great conversation, alcohol, food! I was requested to bring along dessert… which I did!

On Sunday – Flourless Orange & Almond Cup Cakes with Ginger & Spice Infused Candied Orange Peels

Then my dietitian, who’s helping me on my weight loss quest (Oh have I been cheating! Luckily she doesn’t follow my blog!), requested me to experiment & work on a few baked goods that are healthy…

On Monday - Whole Wheat, Jowar (Sorghum) & Bajra (Millet) Breadsticks And Whole Wheat & Millet Crackers

On Monday – Whole Wheat, Jowar (Sorghum) & Bajra (Millet) Breadsticks
And
Whole Wheat & Millet Crackers

On Tuesday - Oatmeal & Banana Muffins

On Tuesday – Oatmeal & Banana Muffins

And my Ma & Dad had guests coming over for dinner & guess who was in charge of dessert?

On Wednesday – Mocha Almond Cupcakes

And of course I read up a bunch of recipes & wanted to try them all! Maybe next week?

:-)

Amo La Pizza!

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I love Pizza… I so do!

The local Pizza Delivery number used be on our speed dial & up until 6 months ago it was dinner almost every Sunday evening. The husband & I would, at one time, order & almost finish eating 2 large pepperoni pizzas, between the 2 of us! I say Almost, because I would save a couple slices for breakfast! There’s something  oddly satisfying about leftover pizza, straight out of the fridge!

Well, that was 6 months ago. Now with the whole “We need to eat healthy!” thing that we have going & all the other changes we’ve had in our home & lifestyle, it’s been a while since we’ve reached for the speed dial! Though while I was recouping at my parents’ last month, we ordered from this new place that had opened in their neighbourhood, Francescos Pizzeria & it was so good! There was a Bianca, with 5 cheese, sage & a dollop of sour cream on the side & an Eggplant Parmigiana… I had never eaten eggplant as a pizza topping before this… & that’s pretty healthy too!! Indulgence without the guilt!

So when I read about a Pizza Making Class happening at Serafina, the Bombay branch of the popular New York Pizzeria, I was super excited! Back in the day Ma & my grandmother used to make pizza from scratch at home… dough & all. It was delicious but they didn’t quite make the thin, crackly crust that I love. It was going to be awesome learning how to… Specially since I’m still in my I love being a Student mode!

My friend Kiran (you should check her blog, All You Need Is An Egg Plant for her food experiences wherever she travels, gorgeous photographs & great recipes) & I decided to sign up together… We hadn’t met in a while, so what better way for 2 baking enthusiasts to catch up than over mixing bowls!

Serafina had a very warm & comfortable vibe & the chefs, specially Chef Rahul & Ashish, who were going to teach us were very good at what they do & extremely generous when it came to sharing tips & techniques.

I think making pizza is so therapeutic!  You vent out all your aggression & frustration while kneading the dough. And then you pour all your love into gently stretching & rolling out the dough, & spread the sauce & sprinkle the toppings with joy… And feel great & very proud on seeing a delish result!

My Very Own Hand Made Pizza…. Perfect with a glass of White Wine Sangria…. followed by a Red one!

The Pizza just before I popped it into the gorgeous Wood-Stone Oven. The sauce was made by the chefs using special tomatoes from Italy. I wanted to keep the flavours simple, so I topped the pizza with Black Olives, Mozzarella & Basil

I did it! I stretched out & shaped the dough by hand… & did not make the map of India! See, it’s almost a circle! I used the rolling pin just to finish it.

The dough I kneaded… but of course we didn’t use this one. The dough I rolled out had been resting in the fridge for 5 hours.

My work station just before we started… with all the ingredients neatly laid out, & a Recipe Booklet!

Some More Biscuits & the Facebook Page

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Well encouraged by the success of the buttermilk biscuits I made 2 days ago, I thought I’d experiment some more.

I used this recipe from Joy of Baking & tweaked it around a bit. I made half  a batch with Cheddar & Rosemary & half with Chocolate Chips & Lemon Zest.

Cheddar & Rosemary Biscuits

Chocolate Chip & Lemon Zest Biscuits

While the Cheddar ones were a hit with everyone (yay!!!) the Chocolate Chip ones didn’t quite live up to expectation… of course it’s chocolate so you can’t go wrong, yet they weren’t as delish as the cheese ones.

No problem! Gone Wrong? Made Right!

Inspired by an Ice Cream Burger (little Brioche buns layered with ice cream)   my friend Priti had at The Sea Lounge at The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel on Father’s Day this year, I decided to make my very own Ice Cream Sandwich!

My “Made Right” Ice Cream Sandwich

Slice a biscuit in half.

Spread a generous amount of Nutella & pop into the microwave for 15 seconds.

Scoop on a dollop of Chocolate Chip Ice Cream… And it’s ready!!

Oh! And yes… I have a  Facebook Page up now! Check it out & spread the love :-)

Moong Dal Pudlas (Split Green Gram Pancakes)

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I’m back home!

After a month of TLC at my parents’ following a brief illness & ban from the kitchen, I’m up & about & ready to take on the world! I did start making up for the 3 weeks away from my favourite space by making this, & this & of course this over at my parents’!

And now…I’m back in my Odd Hour Kitchen, planning menus, packing lunches for the husband… fun stuff!

Here’s my first dish back :-)

Pudlas (Gujarati), Uttapams, Appams & Dosas (South Indian), or Chillas (North India) are various Indian Pancakes or Crepes. The South Indian ones are made with a fermented Rice Flour batter or with Semolina (Rawa). The Gujarati & North Indian ones are made with various Lentils (Dal) or non-fermented Rice Flour batter & even Semolina.

This recipe that I’m going to share with you, is my maternal grandmother’s. She would use Whole Green Gram Beans or Moong, which she soaked overnight. But I didn’t have any  yesterday & I wanted to keep the batter ready in the fridge for this morning’s breakfast, so I want ahead & used the Split Green Gram or Moong Dal.

Moong Dal

These Pancakes are very easy to make & perfect for a heavy breakfast or a light-ish dinner. They use a little oil, but are Carb & Gluten Free… so they aren’t bad for you either! In fact they are high in Vitamins A, B, C & E & Minerals like Calcium, Potassium & Iron. The Dal is rich in Protein & Fibre & a perfect food to help you in your weight-loss regime :-)

Ingredients

Soaked Moong Dal

  • 3/4 cup Moong Dal / Split Green Gram (soaked for 4-5 hours)
  • 2 small Onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 inch piece Ginger (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tomatoes (finely chopped)
  • Coriander (finely chopped)
  • Cumin Seeds / Jeera
  • Salt
  • Oil

Method

The Batter

  1. Grind the Dal in a food procession with the ginger, garlic, green chillies & 1/4 of the onions. Do not add any extra water.
  2. Pour the mixture into a bowl, add the remaining onions, cumin & salt.
  3. The batter is supposed to be a bit thick, like porridge. But, if you feel it is too thick, add a little water.
  4. Heat a flat non-sitck pan or skillet & grease it with a little oil. Drop a ladle-full of the batter as you would normally for pancakes. Sprinkle some tomatoes & coriander. Once you see the edges come away from the pan, drizzle a little oil around the pancake.Carefully flip the pancake to cook the other side.
  5. Serve hot with a Sweet Chilli Sauce or Mint Chutney or Yogurt.

This Recipe makes about 16 Pancakes.

The batter can be stored in the fridge & used over the next 2 days.

A Left-Over Lasagna

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The Mango Season is on it’s way out in the City, but that never stops us at the Vakil household! Each year Ma gets dozens of Pairee Mangoes … sweet with just the right amount of tartness & the pulp not too thick… perfect for the juice & squeezes out batches of Aam Ras (Mango Juice), packs it small boxes & freezes it… to be defrosted & eaten when the craving hits you after the fresh fruit is gone! This Ras, in our Gujju household is eaten as a meal accompanied with either Pooris (small, round, deep fried whole wheat flatbread), Poli (thin, layered whole wheat Roti or flat-bread) or our family favourite Safed / Chokha ni Rotli (cottony soft white flat bread made with rice flour).

Safed / Chokhani Rotli

These Rice Flour “Tortillas” are soft, melt-in-your-mouth, & surprisingly light. You could go through a half dozen of these without even realizing it! And they take on the flavour of Mangoes beautifully.

To make these Rotlis, you basically mix equal parts of rice flour & boiling water to which salt & oil are added, & knead out a soft, firm dough. Then you roll out small, thin rounds & roast them on the tawa or griddle. I’ve never tried making them myself… the process always seemed a little complicated for me! And besides I have to admit, with great embarrassment, that I cannot roll out a perfect round Roti / Rotli / Chapati to save my life!

Yes… this Good Gujarati girl married into a Mighty Maratha family cannot make the traditional, staple, Indian flat-bread :-(

But what I can do is make good use of these beautiful Rotlis on the rare occasion that we have a small batch leftover!

And that’s just what I did… Made a perfect light dinner in this gorgeous cloudy weather, after a long walk through my favourite streets in the City, Hot Chocolate & Contemporary India Art… a lovely evening out & about with my oldest, closest pal! Because guess what? I’m not under house arrest any more!

I made my version of a wholesome, flavourful Lasgna using these beauties!

Note: You could use Whole Wheat or Corn Tortillas instead of the Rice Flour ones.

Ingredients

  • 6 – 9 Safed Rotlis
  • 100 gm Cheese (grated)
  • Salted Cracker Crumbs
  • Olive Oil

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Filling

  • 200 gm Cottage Cheese (crumbled)
  • 100 gm Sweet Corn (boiled)
  • 1 Green Capsicum (finely chopped)
  • 1 small Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

 

 

 

 

 

Sauce

  • 8 – 9 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 2 Onions (finely chopped)
  • 8 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 dried Red Chillies (torn to bits)
  • 1 teaspoon Kallonji (Onion or Nigella Seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon Jeera (Cumin Seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Ajwain (Carom Seeds)
  • 1 tablespoon Kasoori Methi (dried Fenugreek Leaves)
  • Red Chilli Powder / Chilli Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Haldi / Turmeric Powder
  • Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Mixed Herbs
  • 3 tablespoons Tomato Ketchup or Puree
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine

Method

Filling

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl & keep aside.

Sauce

  1. Heat the olive oil in a pan & add the cumin, carom & onion seeds.
  2. When they start to crackle, toss in the dried red chillies, onion & garlic. Saute till the latter are a light gold.
  3. Add tomatoes & salt. Cook till the tomatoes are soft & then add the chilli powder, turmeric, herbs & fenugreek leaves.
  4. Add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water or stock & the ketchup .Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Pour in the red wine & simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  6. Remove from the flame, allow to cool & then coarsely process the tomato mixture to make a chunky sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Putting it Together

  1. Grease a deep baking dish and arrange a layer of the Rotlis.
  2. Pour some of the tomato sauce over it & then spoon in the filling.
  3. Cover with the tomato sauce, followed by another layer of the Rotlis, sauce & filling & continue doing so till you run out.
  4. Top up with a layer of the tomato sauce. Cover with grated cheese, cracker crumbs, chilli flakes & herbs.
  5. Drizzle olive oil over generously & bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for about 25 minutes.
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of hung yogurt whisked together with some chilli flavoured cheese spread.

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This Recipe Serves 4

Kaanda Bhajjias & the Pouring Rain

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The Monsoon has hit the City & the view from my parents’ bedroom is this…

Or a variation of this… Sometimes Darker, Stormier, Rainier & Prettier!

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It’s my favourite time of the year! The incessant rain, thunder, the cool breeze or insane winds, the strange sepia-grey light in the morning, … flooded streets, cancelled meetings, rain holidays, stalled trains, traffic jams not withstanding!

These are the days you want to ditch your umbrella (it wouldn’t stand a chance anyway with the crazy wind!), get into your flipflops, splash into puddles on the promenade by Marine Drive, bite into hot, spicy corn-on-the-cob, roasting slowly & deliciously on charcoal while you get drenched to the bones! Sigh… been a while since I’ve done that!

Right now though,  I’m glad I’m under house arrest & enjoying the rains from the indoors. It has a bit of romance of it’s own… hot cups of coffee or chocolate, music to go with the mood, a good book, a blanket to cuddle into & a Bombay rain staple… Bhajjias! 

Bhajjias or Pakoras as they are called up North, are little deep fried crispy pieces of goodness that are perfect with a hot cup of tea in the gorgeous rainy weather! You have Batata / Aloo (Potato), Mirchi (large green chillies), Daal (Lentil), Paneer (Cottage Cheese) & even Bread Pakoras!

But our family favourite… actually the Bombay street favourite… are Kaanda Bhajjias… light, crisp batter-fried Onion Fritters!

With everyone at home on a rainy, rainy Saturday evening, & a rained out India vs Pakistan Cricket Match on TV the weather & mood were perfect for these. And guess what… I could make these as my ban from the kitchen has been lifted!

Ingredients

  • 8 large Onions (finely sliced)
  • 4 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 2 inch piece of Ginger (grated)
  • 2 teaspoons Jeera / Cumin Seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Haldi / Turmeric Powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons Red Chilli Powder
  • Coriander Leaves (finely chopped)
  • 5-6 tablespoons Besan / Chickpea Flour
  • Salt

Note: You could increase / decrease the quantity of Green & Red Chillies depending on how spicy you’d like the Bhajjias to be. These were moderately hot.

Method

                                              

  1. Mix together the onion slices, green chillies, ginger, cumin, turmeric, coriander leaves & red chilli powder in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle enough Besan / Chickpea Flour to coat the onion slices. Make sure that there is enough to coat & hold the onions together without making it thick & batter-y.
  3. Season with salt & mix well.
  4. Take handful of the onion mixture, squeeze together to make sure it holds its shape & drop into a deep wok of hot oil.
  5. Fry till a deep gold brown & serve hot with Mint Chutney or Spicy Tomato Sauce.

Note: It is very important to season with salt at the very end, just before frying, that way the onions do not lose water into the batter. It’s necessary to keep any moisture away from the batter so that the Bhajjias get all crispy & crunchy :-)

This recipe serves 4

A Year Older & Banned from the Kitchen…

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It’s been over 2 weeks since my last post! I’ve missed cooking! I’ve missed writing my blog! I’ve missed connecting with you, my friends in the blog world!

A lot was going on, both at work & home that didn’t leave me much time to cook blog-worthy dishes… if I made notes &  jotted down recipes, I couldn’t take great pictures, & if I did take some, there didn’t seem to be any time to write…

I did land up baking these for my last batch of theatre workshop kids… They were a hit… both the kids & the cookies :-)

Red Velvet & White Chocolate Chip Cookies; recipe from http://www.gonnawantseconds.com

Well it has been a roller-coaster ride these 2 weeks… physically & emotionally.

I turned a year older on May 24 :-)

A lovely day spent with Ma & a scrumptious lunch that my pal Priti took me for, at Umame, a Pan Asian Restaurant… and we forgot to take pictures… And dinner at our favourite Smoke House Deli.

Celebrations continued on Saturday with aimless driving around the City & a bad film… a really bad film, with the husband & a Mexican dinner at Sanchos with old friends… a fun, memorable birthday weekend!

A Strawberry & White Chocolate Mousse Cake on a dinner date with the husband at the Smoke House Deli

3 days later I was in hospital for 2-3 days :-(

And this is the view I’m limited to since, for another 10 days!

The pretty lamps, curtains & the ceiling fan in my parents’ bedroom!

It’s nothing serious. I just need to rest, relax & generally look after myself. And like I’ve said before, the best place to head to when you need some serious TLC & pampering is to your Ma & Dad’s!  So here I am for the next 10 days or so.

The only bummer is that I absolutely have to lay down flat in bed all day!!! And that’s just driving me nuts! While I’m all for being lazy in summer & chilling all day… this is just… arghhhhh!! Forget about going out… I’m not even allowed to cook!

So here’s what I’m going to do… a project with my Ma that we have been procrastinating over a long while. We are going to document her traditional family recipes… our favourite comfort dishes, festival specials, recipes passed down by my grandmothers. Most of the recipes are in her head, some in tattered notebooks & scraps of paper & my grandmothers’ recipes in our native Gujarati script, which I’m embarrassed to admit I can’t read all that well! We’re going to put them all together & compile our very own Family Recipe Book!

I’ve also been catching up on my blog-reading & living vicariously through all the Kitchen Adventures of my fellow bloggers… And I have compiled a wishlist of all the recipes I wish I could make right now! 

Here they are… And when I do make them, I will keep you posted :-)

Strawberry Cupcakes (Tea With Erika)

Chocolate Hazelnut and Sea Salt Fudge (All The Things I Love To Eat)

Homemade Sweet Rolls (The Joy of Caking)

Mexican Chicken Soup (Gluten Free Gus)

Grilled Sun-dried Tomato Pesto Pizza (Good Food Not Much Time)

Maple Syrup Cake (Oh Lidia)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge (350 Kitchen)

Homemade Ricotta Cheese (From The BartoliniKitchens)

Bread (Gone-Wrong) Pudding

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To begin with, sorry for the incomplete post you may have received last week… I was trying out the WordPress app on my smart phone, & of course being technologically challenged, I ended up posting my draft instead of saving it!!

Well it has been a couple of those days…

All I’ve wanted to do is lay curled up in bed with a book, a movie or sweet dreams! I can’t seem to get myself out of bed to do anything…I guess I’m in the “Summer Holiday” zone! It’s May! My birthday month! The Mango month! The month you just loll around & do nothing. The month you nap all afternoon & hang out with friends all evening. The month that you sleep in late & stay out all night. The month with near zero responsibility, right?

Ahem… Shivani, you were 18 a long, long time ago! Snap out of it!

It didn’t seem to be a great week for baking either… While at breakfast over at my parents’ on Monday a light bulb went ping in my head while I watched Ma make herself a PBJ sandwich. How about making a Peanut Butter Jam Bread?

So I did…

It looked pretty & all, but the texture wasn’t quite what I imagined or liked too much :-(

Then I decided to bake a batch of these gorgeous Lemon Cookies 

Oh & I left them in the oven too long… Too embarrassed to put up the “after” picture :-(

So there I was stuck with a ”not-so-great” PBJ Loaf & some pretty singed Lemon Cookies & a strong resolve that I couldn’t just throw them all away! 

And once again a light bulb went ping inside my head & I thought…

“Gone wrong? Make right!”

I got together:

  • 2 Eggs
  • 150 ml Cream
  • 2-3 tablespoons Sugar
  • Icing Sugar to dust
  • 3 tablespoons Butter
  • My (not-s0-great) Peanut Butter & Jam Loaf

Then I:

  1. Whisked the eggs till light & frothy.
  2. Added the cream & sugar & combined them well.
  3. Generously buttered a baking tray.
  4. Dipped slices of the PBJ Bread in the Egg-Cream mixture & arranged them on the baking tray.
  5. Poured the remaining mixture over the bread.
  6. Dotted the top of the pudding with butter & sprinkled some sugar over it.
  7. Baked it in the oven at 180 C for 30 minutes.
  8. Dusted it with some icing sugar.
  9. And smiled!

Not too bad at all! A warm, comforting, very “home” dessert… I was happy I made it right!

Now any suggestions what I could do with the Lemon Cookie Crumbs? Do tell!

Lemon Rice

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It’s too hot to cook! It’s too hot to think! It’s too hot to want to do anything… period!

At times like these, you need a quick fix, light meal that isn’t any trouble at all!

Tangy, flavourful & super comforting, Lemon Rice, is it! This is a South Indian dish that is lightly spiced, with the lentils & peanuts adding a lovely crunch to it. You could have it by itself, with a bowl of yogurt on the side or serve it like a salad for brunch.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups steamed Basmati Rice
  • 2 Lemons (juice)
  • 5-6 Curry Leaves
  • 1 tablespoon white Urad Daal / White Lentil
  • 1 teaspoon Jeera / Cumin Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Rai / Mustard Seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Haldi / Turmeric Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Dhania-Jeera Powder Ground Coriander & Cumin Seeds
  • Chilli Powder
  • Salt
  • Fresh Coriander Leaves
  • Roasted Peanuts (coarsely ground)
  • 2 tablespoons Ghee / Clarified Butter

Note:

Fresh Green Chillies & Grated Ginger would work wonders too! Didn’t have them at hand, so used Red Chilli Powder. If you use these, add them at Step 2.

Fresh Coconut (grated) would also make a great garnish to this dish, highlighting its “South Indian-ness”

Method

  1. Heat the ghee in a wok & add the curry leaves urad daal, jeera, & rai.
  2. When the spices start to sizzle & the lentils turn a light gold, add the haldi, dhania-jeera & chilli powders & stir fry for 2-3 minutes till you get a beautiful aroma & the flavours all merge together.
  3. Add the cooked rice, lemon juice & salt & mix well so that each grain is coated with the spices.
  4. Garnish with coriander leaves, coconut & peanuts.
  5. Serve hot.

This recipe serves 4

An Early Mother’s Day Lunch

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Ma came over for lunch on Friday…

Oh yes that is a big deal! Don’t get me wrong. I am a good daughter. I do see my Mother about twice a week at least. Since it’s more convenient, I end up doing most of the visiting. We tease her that she visits my sister, who is in a different country all together, more often in a year, than she comes over to ours! And we are in the same city! Yes the Bombay traffic is awful & with an hour & half journey one way, we might as well live in different towns… but she could do better than drop by once in 6 months!

Anyway, Ma decided to come over for lunch Friday (Yay!). Since it had been a while & with Mother’s Day right round the corner, I wanted it to be special. It is unbelievably hot in the City, so she requested something light & simple.

So here it is, a light, simple yet special menu for Ma on her special day :-)

Pear & Nut Salad

Eggplant Boats

Spinach & Cottage Cheese Quiche

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie

Pear Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 firm Pear (cored & sliced)
  • Mixed Nuts & Raisins
  • Honey
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Cinnamon
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Iceberg Lettuce

Method

  1. Arrange the pear slices on a bed of lettuce.
  2. Sprinkle the nuts & raisins over it.
  3. Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together & drizzle over the salad just before serving.
  4. Serve it chilled.

Eggplant Boats

Ingredients

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 Tomatoes (diced)
  • 2 Spring Onions (finely chopped)
  • zest & juice of 1/2 Orange
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • Basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ajwain / Marjoram
  • 1/4 teaspoon Jeera / Cumin
  • Chilli Powder
  • 5-7 Black Olives (chopped)
  • Salt
  • Olive Oil
  • Bread Crumbs
  • Cheese
  • Bottled Tomato Pizza / Pasta Sauce

Method

  1. Slice the eggplant lengthwise into 2 halves. Carefully scoop out the flesh, leaving the exterior intact. Place the eggplant halves face down in salt water & chop up the scooped out eggplant.
  2.  Heat oil in a wok & add the jeera & ajwain. When the spices start sizzling, add the garlic & onions. Saute till brown.
  3. Toss in the eggplant, tomatoes, olives, orange zest & juice & stir fry till cooked.
  4. Season with salt & chilli powder. Keep aside.
  5. Pat dry the eggplant boats & lightly rub the skin with olive oil. Place on an un-greased baking tray.
  6. Fill each boat with the cooked eggplant & tomato mixture.
  7. Sprinkle the boats with bread crumbs & cheese.
  8. Cover the boats with aluminium foil & bake in the oven at 180 C for 25 minutes. Uncover & bake some more for about 15 minutes.
  9. Warm the pizza/pasta sauce & pour over the eggplant boats before serving.

Spinach & Cottage Cheese Quiche

The Quiche was inspired by 2 chefs Rachel Allen Jamie Oliver. I am an avid watcher of Food Shows on TV. If I don’t have the time, I record them & then watch them back to back! During a couple of these marathon TV watching sessions, I saw that with a few simple additions, the 2 chefs transformed the quiche to something else!

Jamie Oliver added Parmesan Cheese & Rosemary to the pie crust & Rachel Allen added a layer of boiled Potatoes & Goat’s Cheese to the Quiche before adding the Spinach Filling. I wanted to try it out ever since.

Mother’s Day Lunch is the day!

The above dishes were perfect for a loving mother-daughter duo! With a chilled glass of Pomegranate juice to start & warm Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies to end, with loads of bonding girl talk & gossip, it was a lovely lunch indeed!

Happy Mother’s Day Ma & to all the Moms out there :-)

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

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A fresh batch of gooey Nutella-Filled Chocolate Chip Cookies, just out of the oven! I love the way my Kitchen smells!

These are for Rudra & Nemo…. Chittoo’s nephews :-)

Chittoo is my oldest friend ever & the real force behind me starting this Blog! It seems perfect that I’m baking something specially for her & her loved ones on my Blog’s 3rd Month-versary!

Chocolate & Banana Pancakes

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It’s summer time in Bombay! And that means it’s time for Summer Workshops all over the City! And that means I am employed for the month! When you freelance… that is a big deal!

I am trying to get back to my old early morning routine… up by 5.30 am & out of the house by 8.15 am… & using the time in between to exercise (still trying to be regular about that!), make & eat a good healthy breakfast & pack an equally good & healthy lunch for the husband & me.

What I love about being on a diet at this point in my life is that I do have the time to cook! (Even with the occasional project like this one!)  Up until now, whenever I was on one (& there have been many over the past 12 odd years!) I never could spend much time planning & making the kind of meals I would’ve liked. So I was stuck eating quick fix meals like steamed veggies or soup made for a week & frozen or boiled egg whites or… did I mention steamed veggies? Boring!! Now that I am totally giving in to my food obsession & I can dream up, plan & cook whatever I want… making sure it’s healthy and delicious :-)

My foodie partner in crime, Priti, like me, constantly struggles with wanting to eat food that is oh so good! & the need to healthy. Most of our lunch dates start out with good intentions to eat light, eat right & eat healthy… & end up with the two of us in a blissful food coma! Seriously… no regrets! But recently, once again we have been trying to support each other towards healthier goals.

The other day Priti called, saying she gave in to a pancake craving… I don’t blame her, I’d give in to one any day of the week! Now pancakes are always delicious, but they don’t have to be unhealthy, right?

So this one is for Priti, me & all of us that crave a Pancake Breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) without the guilt :-)

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup Oats (ground coarsely)
  • 2 teaspoons unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  •  1/4 cup Buttermilk
  • 1/2 Egg
  • 1 small Banana
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Honey
  • 1 – 2 squares Dark Chocolate (chopped into pieces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon Sugar

Method

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together, except the last 2.
  2. On a non-stick pan melt a teeny, tiny, next-to-nothing smidgen of butter & pour in half the batter.
  3. When little bubbles start forming on the surface of the pancake, sprinkle 1/2 the chocolate pieces over it & flip it.
  4. Once cooked serve it hot with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon sugar sprinkled over it.
  5. Use the remaining batter, chocolate & cinnamon sugar to make the 2nd pancake.

A filling, satiating breakfast, very satisfying breakfast… the dark chocolate complements the sweet banana & honey beautifully…. mmmmmmm :-)

This recipe makes 2 yummy-licious, totally guilt-free pancakes!

Rosemary & Garlic Pull Apart Bread

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Do you remember the first time you baked your own bread?

I  feel the same excitement each time I put a loaf together… this one included…

You know what goes into it, you know the science behind it (roughly)… but still the feeling when this… some flour, salt, herbs…

…after a bit of yeast, water, milk, oil, some time & a lot of patience… turns into this…

And then you knock it down, your hands may get all messy but your soul is in harmony with the rhythm of the dough as you knead it & stretch it….

You pour all your love into the soft, warm, pliable goodness as you season it, flavour it…

…And mould it, give it the shape your heart leads your hands to…

A little more patience, some more time, the aromas wafting from the oven driving you crazy with anticipation…

And there you have it… warm, comforting food for the soul…

Do you remember the first time you baked your own bread? The feeling of awe, excitement & magic… that you were instrumental in creating something so wonderful, so fulfilling… so perfect!

The recipe is inspired by Baked By Rachel & baked in my brand new oven :-)

 

Brooklyn Blackout Cake

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I really need to check my tickets like a million times before I travel next… especially if they’ve been booked by someone else! There I was on Saturday afternoon, all content after my theatre workshop in Jaipur, excited to head back home that evening… when I just happened to glance at my ticket. And guess what… I was booked on the flight home the next day!! Long story short, I got an extra 24 hours in the city, which was great since I had been supremely lazy this trip & hadn’t gone anywhere! So I went shopping (yay!), had a drink & a traditional Rajasthani dinner with my friend (camera played tricks so no pictures :-()… & lazed some more all of Sunday!

But my delayed return home meant that I would not have the time to a bake a birthday cake for my father-in-law before mid-night Sunday… or would I?

While relaxing on Sunday, I caught up on my blog-reading. I was going through one I had just started following Food Made With Love… the name itself got me interested because that’s what I believe in too, spreading love through food! And I hit jackpot! I saw a recipe for a Brooklyn Blackout Cake. I was very intrigued… this was the 2nd time in 2 days that I came across that cake! Seemed like there was some history to it. And there is! I love background stories to everything! I went & asked my best friend, Google, & here’s what I found.

The Brooklyn Blackout Cake is a soft, crumbly, 3 layered chocolate cake (usually Devil’s Food) with a wonderfully deep yet light chocolate custard / pudding filling & frosting, topped with a layer of finely processed cake crumbs. Sigh… I wanted to sink my teeth into that one right then & there!!

The original cake was invented by a New York bakery, Ebinger’s,  which was a Brooklyn institution from 1894 to 1972. During World War II, the Civilian Defense Corps in the U.S., regularly practiced blackout drills. In Brooklyn, which was close to the naval yard, blackouts prevented the battleships which were dispatched from being silhouetted by the bright lights of the borough in the background. So the dark, almost black cake was named after these blackout drills.

This rich, intense cake was somewhat of a staple in New York, the cake that you took as a gift at a dinner party, for birthdays or just as a treat! It was apparently the kind of cake that grandparents tell their grandkids about… “You have no idea what you have missed!” types. Ebinger’s shut shop in 1972. Of course the authentic Brooklyn Blackout Cake recipe was lost with that. Many bakers, bakeries & die-hard Ebinger fans have since tried to recreate this yummy-licious cake. 

The recipe I followed is from Food Made With Love, which was in turn from the Humming Bird Bakery Cookbook. Luckily I had most of the ingredients I needed & my doll of sister-in-law picked up the rest by the time I landed! So I reached home & got down to making the Brooklyn Blackout Cake for my father-in-law’s birthday!

Ingredients:

Cake

  • 100 gm Butter, (softened)
  • 260 gm Caster Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 45 gm Cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
  • 170 gm Plain Flour
  • 160 ml Whole Milk

Chocolate Custard:

  • 250 gm Caster Sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons Maple Syrup
  • 125 gm Cocoa Powder
  • 200 gm Cornflour
  • 85 gm Butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

To Sprinkle:

A pack of Chocolate Chip Cookies, blitzed in the food processor

Note:

The original recipe called for:

  • Unsalted butter. If you do use this, you need to add a pinch of salt.
  • 500 gm Castor Sugar. I thought I’d start off by adding half the quantity of sugar & taste my way along to see if more was needed. I think 250 gm was enough
  • 1 tablespoon Golden Syrup. I figured that the Maple Syrup enhanced the sweetness & added this rich flavour to the custard.

3 x 20 cm cake tins, base-lined with grease-proof paper

Method:

For the Cake

  1. Cream the butter and sugar  until light & fluffy.
  2. Add the eggs one at a time,whisk & mix well ,scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula after each addition.
  3. Beat in the vanilla extract, cocoa powder, baking powder & bicarbonate of soda (plus salt if using).
  4. Add half the flour, then all the milk, & finish with the remaining flour. Mix well until everything is well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tins & smooth over with a palette knife.
  6. Bake in the preheated oven at 170 C for 2o mins (if using 3 x 20 cm tins). 
  7. Leave the cakes to cool slightly in the tins before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Chocolate Custard:

  1. Put the sugar, golden syrup, cocoa powder & 600 ml of water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.
  2. Mix in the cornflour with 120 ml of water, then whisk into the cocoa mixture in the saucepan.
  3. Bring back to boil , whisking constantly. This is important else the custard will be lumpy. 
  4. Cook until very thick, about 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat & stir in the butter & vanilla extract.
  6. Pour the custard into a bowl, cover with clingfilm & chill until very firm.

It looked so pretty & delish even without the crumbs!

Putting it Together

  1. When the cakes are cold, using a serrated knife, slice a thin layer off one of the cakes.
  2. Put this layer into a food processor and process to make fine crumbs.
  3. Put one cake on a cake stand and spread about one-quarter of the chocolate custard over it with a palette knife.
  4. Place a second cake on top and spread another quarter of the custard over it.
  5. Top with the last cake and spread the remaining custard over the top and sides.
  6. Cover with the cake crumbs and chill for about 2 hours.

 Note;
  • I used the wrong sized cake tin (a larger one!) so the cake didn’t rise enough to give me 3 layers + crumbs
  • I sliced 2 layers & instead of cake crumbs, used the cookie crumbs
  • Also since I made 1 large-ish cake, it took longer to bake almost 35 minutes.

I finished frosting just after midnight, so we ended up cutting the cake the next day. It stayed well in the refrigerator & I kept it out for an hour before serving. It was so worth the wait! Soft, gooey & rich, rich chocolate!! And surprisingly light too. This cake is going to be baked pretty often I think!!

This recipe serves 12 people.

PS: I would like to thank Robert Simon for informing me that the Original Ebinger Brooklyn Blackout Cake, was made with Coffee. That, I can imagine, would take the cake to another level! Am definitely going tot add in the coffee the next time I make it :-)

Baked Chicken

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This has got to be my laziest trip to Jaipur, ever! Apart from my classes everyday & going over to my friend’s for dinner last night, I haven’t done anything! I’m blaming it on the weather… it’s too hot in the afternoon to go anywhere.

Though today this is how it was outside when I got done with lunch… cloudy, breezy & a light drizzle…

And when I woke up from my nap (it’s summer in India… you have to nap right?) it was warm & still all over again!

Anyway, I thought I’d make myself useful & write in a post sharing a recipe for a dish I had cooked over a month ago. As you will notice after reading the ingredients, this was before my diet days!

Ingredients

  • 450 gm Chicken Breast
  • 1 large Onion (finely sliced)
  • 7-8 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • ½ Carrot (chopped)
  • 6 Mushrooms (sliced)
  • 150 gm Corn Kernels (boiled)
  • 1 small head Broccoli (florets)
  • ½ each green, yellow & red Bell Peppers (chopped)
  • 200 ml fresh Cream
  • 2 tablespoons Milk
  • Fresh Basil (finely chopped)
  • 200 gm Cheese (grated)
  • Bread crumbs
  • Dried Oregano, Celery Salt & Pepper
  • Olive Oil

Method

  1. Make diagonal slashes on the chicken & rub in minced garlic, pepper, oregano & celery salt. 
  2. In an oven-safe pan heat a tablespoon of Olive Oil & sear the chicken quickly both sides till brown & keep aside.
  3. In the same pan sauté the onion till soft & pink.
  4. Add the carrot, mushrooms, broccoli & bell peppers & cook for a few minutes.
  5. Place the chicken on the veggies, drizzle olive oil generously, cover pan with foil & roast in the oven for about 35 minutes at 200 C. 
  6. Remove the chicken from the pan & cut into slivers.
  7. To the veggies add cream, milk, basil, corn, salt, pepper, 150 gm cheese.
  8. Cook till the sauce thickens
  9. Pour over the chicken slivers.
  10. Sprinkle the bread crumbs, 50 gm cheese & basil over it & bake for 20 – 25 minutes till the cheese melts & the crumbs turn golden.

Serve hot with a side of mashed potatoes.

This is one of those “comfort” dishes… mild, gentle flavours but rich enough to make you feel all warm & gooey & totally content :-)

This recipe serves 4 people.

(Almost) Whole Wheat Focaccia with Goan Sausages

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It’s 4 am IST as I start to type this & I’m at the airport waiting to take off to Jaipur, Rajasthan. I was so terrified I would oversleep & miss my flight, that I pretty much didn’t sleep at all! And now I need to make sure I don’t doze off & miss boarding the airplane all together! I hate early morning trips!

It’s been a month since I last visited the Pink City & even as sleepy as I am, I’m pretty excited about going back. A new set of kids to work with, a new workshop, new things to explore & discover! Being a drama teacher really is a fun & exciting job. But a week away, also means time away from my Kitchen & being able to cook! Sometimes it’s a good thing, other times… well, like when I spent a month there in December, I so missed cooking that I nearly put out a  status update on Facebook asking my friends if they had friends in Jaipur who would loan me their kitchen for an afternoon! I was luckier on my last trip when I caught up with an old friend who invited me home for a delicious Bengali style Mutton & her daughter & I baked a cake!

I couldn’t leave home for a week without making something…especially since the past week was chaotic (as usual) & I couldn’t cook anything interesting (or blog-worthy!) since my last post. And once again there was this urgency to bake!  You know how it is!

I haven’t baked bread since I started my diet in March. I’m okay with all the light meals eating right, the salads & healthy desserts, but if there’s one thing that I’ve truly craved & missed is some warm, fresh home-made bread… the soft crumb, the crust, the aroma!

And this Sunday… I gave in! I teamed the bread with another one of my favourites… Goan Sausages!

Goa is a small state on the West Coast of India & a very popular tourist destination. It’s got beaches, the river, churches & quaint architecture. It was a Portuguese colony & you can still see the influence on food, buildings, lifestyle & even the language. I love Goa & if I could, I would go live there tomorrow! Get a small shack on the beach & start a bakery. I’ve had some of my best vacations there, with family & a rocking one with my girl friends! The food here is amazing… a lot of fresh sea food….prawn, lobster, calamari, cooked with spices & coconut, bebinca, a traditional dessert with coconut milk & sugar, pork sorpotel & xacuti, & of course Goan Sausages!

These sausages are a blend of Portuguese sausages with Goan spices &  are packed with flavour… fiery & tangy all at once & go very well with crusty bread. You can’t stop eating them! Luckily my regular cold storage stocks these so even if I can’t be in Goa, I can bring a bit of Goa home & team it up with a bit of Italy :-)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups + extra (for dusting) Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 cup Plain Flour (hence the “almost” in the title!)
  • 10 gm Fresh Yeast
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons Sugar
  • 5 – 6 tablespoons + extra (for drizzling) Olive Oil
  • 3/4 cup Milk + water
  • 1 Egg (beaten)
  • Salt
  • 200-250 gm Goan Sausages

Note: I’ve used milk & egg here because whole wheat tends to make the bread denser & dryer & these bring back the softness & lightness.

Method

  1. Mix the yeast, sugar & a few tablespoons of lukewarm water in a small bowl. Cover & keep aside for about 10 minutes till it gets frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour & salt.
  3. Add the yeast, egg, milk & olive oil to the flour to make a soft , sticky dough. Add more flour or water to get he right texture. A lot of this depends on the weather & humidity in the air.
  4.  Turn the dough onto a floured counter & knead gently till it comes together smooth & elastic.
  5. Place the dough in a large, well oiled bowl, cover it with cling film & leave to rise in a warm & dry place for about an hour or until it doubles in size.
  6. While the dough proves, prepare the sausages. Remove the meat from the casing & saute in a non-stick wok, without any oil. Splash some water in the wok. Cover it with a deep plate & pour water into the plate & allow the sausages to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep aside.
  7. After the dough rises, knock it back & knead well.
  8. Pat the dough out to a square shape & place in a very well oiled baking tin.
  9. Cover with cling film & leave to rise for another half hour.
  10. After half hour spread the sausages over the dough, sprinkle olives & generously drizzle olive oil over it. 
  11. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220 C for about 25 minutes.

I’m so glad I gave in to my bread craving! Couldn’t stop eating this fresh, crusty, chewy yet soft bread! And the sausage topping…. Delish!

I stuffed some of the remaining sausages into the leftover dough & made this as a snack to carry with me to Jaipur :-)

Off Season Gingerbread Men

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My home smells like Christmas… warm, cinnamon-y, Gingerbread-sy!

And that’s all thanks to my darling little nephews! Ahaan, the 3 year old, helped me bake some “Zinzer”bread Cookies the last time he was visiting here in January. I thought I’d roll out  the dough & have him stamp out the shapes. But no sir… that’s too easy!

He wanted to stir & stir & stir the butter & sugar! And when turned my back for a bit  to get something, he was busy adding spoonfuls of some more  butter & sugar! Since then, almost every time we speak, it’s “Maasi, I want zinzerbread man!” He apparently even told his mum the cookies she made were “Nice, but not like Maasi’s!” Oops! Didn’t make my sister too happy!

Anyway, so my parents are flying over to visit my sister (lucky them!) & I have been ordered to send a batch of cookies with them!

Luckily I had the kitchen all to myself this morning before all the craziness started. Music on, on, ingredients in place, I got to work using the same recipe from Pham Fatale I had worked with earlier. My sister’s family is vegetarian so this one had to be Eggless. The boys don’t eat honey either & I didn’t have molasses on hand, so I used Maple Syrup. A good call, because I love the rich flavour of Maple, it adds depth to the cookies. The last time I made these I used lemon zest & juice, which was good. This time I used Orange… it was heaven!  Add powdered Cinnamon, Cardamom & Nutmeg along with the key ingredient Dried Ginger Powder to this & you’ve got Christmas in your oven!

The Orange Juice-Cinnamon Glaze drizzled over the cookies made them even more magical & Christmas-y! I can’t get over the aromas wafting out of my oven, lingering around my Kitchen… sweet, spicy, & so festive!

Sending all my love to my little babus with these cookies! Save some for Mama & Papa too, okay?

:-)

Basa… En Papillote

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The past 5-6 days were super hectic but fun, starting with the Maharashtrian New Year, Gudi Padwa, on Thursday & a steady stream of family visiting over the weekend. Food of course played a very important part in the festivities! Puran Poli (sweet, thin flatbread stuffed with jaggery & lentils), little date & nut squares (which were actually sugar-free), Mango Shrikhand… Sweets always take centre stage during Indian festivals! It took a lot of will power to not reach out for the mango & yogurt dessert, though I couldn’t resist a bite of the Poli! The main courses too were rich & masaledar (spicy)… mutton curry, kheema (minced mutton), prawns, chicken, served with wada (small, flat, deep fried rice & white gram flour flat bread, shaped like donuts) & neer dosa (light rice flour pancakes)… sigh…my diet!

Anyway, although the food was tasty beyond words, we had had quite enough of the heavy, fiery flavours. It was time for a palate cleanser, something light, fresh & flavourful without the excesses. It was time for my favourite fish… Basa!

I wanted to use a new recipe book I had recently bought & try a technique I had never used before. And luckily for me the Easy Everyday Simple Cookbook (edited by Anne McDowell) had just the thing… a recipe for a Basque Baked Haddock in Parchment or “En Papillote” (French). I had Basa in my freezer so went ahead & used that instead.

“En Papillote” is a cooking technique where fish, poultry, meat or even vegetables are wrapped in parcels of parchment paper & baked. The moisture from the food itself or from water, stock or wine is held in by the paper to steam it. In some traditional South East Asian, Indian & Parsi dishes the meat or fish is wrapped in banana or cassava leaves & then steamed or grilled, which also adds a subtle flavour to the food.

I had first heard the word “En Papillote” on MasterChef Australia. I was an avid follower of the show, which in many ways influenced the way I looked at cooking, specially the non-Indian, Global Cuisine. Almost every episode was an “A-ha! So that’s how they do it?” or “Wow! I’ve gotta try that at home now!” moments! More often than not, the husband & I would be watching the show (yup… this was one show that I watched which actually interested him!) while eating dinner…terrible idea! Because there we were in our living room with our plates of Okra & Roti (whole-wheat flatbread)… BORING!! While on screen, the contestants would be prettily plating up dishes like Roast Pork Belly with Seared Scallops & Apple Brandy Sauce or Stuffed Middle Eastern Snapper with Onion Rice & Salsa! And the desserts…OMG! I could cry! So then I started revising my dinner menus a bit. Even if it was a simple Indian dish or even an omelette or a sandwich, I made an effort to make sure I served it pretty J Then we didn’t feel as left out!

“En Papillote” seemed exotic & somehow I never got around to cooking with that technique. Well there’s always a first time, I guess! So here it is, my first attempt… Basa “En Papillote”!

Ingredients

  • 800 gm Basa fillets
  • ½ each red, green & yellow bell peppers (finely chopped)
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 cloves Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tomatoes (skinned, seeded & finely chopped)
  • Juice & Zest of 1 Orange
  • 4 tablespoons White Wine
  • Black Olives
  • 1 tablespoon Basil
  • a handful of Coriander
  • Chilli flakes
  • Dried Herbs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Sheets of Baking Parchment Paper

Note: The original recipe asked for:

  • Only Red & Green Peppers, I added the Yellow ones ‘coz I had them & I love the colour!
  • Juice of 1 Lemon, which I didn’t have, so I used Orange instead & added the zest for good measure.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Oregano, none in the fridge, so threw in the Basil & Coriander
  • I added the Chilli Flakes ‘coz hey, we’re Indian & we love the heat!

Method:

  1. Mix together in a bowl all the ingredients, except for the fish & olives, like a salad.
  2. Cut the parchment into squares larger than the size of the fillet. I could not manage squares for some reason (I’m geometrically challenged I think!) so made rectangles.
  3. Place a piece of fish on the parchment & spoon 1-2 teaspoons of the salad over it. Scatter olives too.
  4. If you’ve managed a square, fold the parchment over the fish to make a triangle. If not, just fold it tightly over the fish to make whatever shape you can (like I did!) Either way, remember to fold the edges together tightly to make a sealed parcel. Repeat this with all the fillets.
  5. Arrange the parcels on a baking tray & bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 – 190C for 20 min

Note: If the size of fish fillets is small, then you could arrange 2 – 3 pieces per parcel. Cut the paper accordingly.

Serve immediately! It tastes best piping hot! You could serve it with some garlic bread & buttered mushrooms (like I did) or any other side-dish you might like. The fish is steamed to perfection, absorbing all the flavours beautifully. The dish is truly very simple, healthy & easy to put together & yet looks & tastes gorgeous!

  This recipe serves 4

Mango in a Raita

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It’s that Time of the Year! The Mango Season…or like my friend Chittoo’s nephew Nemo calls it “Mango Holidays”! :)

Come April & the King of Fruits makes his presence felt all over the city. Neat piles of the orange-yellow fruit dot street corners, fruit & vegetable markets, traffic signals… everywhere you look crates, baskets, hay & the bright mango colour.

Mangoes are my favourite fruit. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I was born right in the middle of the season. Growing up, our home, from April to June, smelled like a Mango Orchard!

A household of 11 people ensured that there were crates of the fruit at home any given point in time. The space outside the kitchen had the dozens of ripe, fragrant fruit stored in piles of hay ready to eat. The extra, not-so-ripe ones used to be stored just as you entered through the front door. So whether you stepped out of your room first thing in the morning or came home after a long day at school, the beautiful, sweet & heady scent would hit you smack in the face! And with that the promise of a treat in store… slices or cubes of mangoes for breakfast, bowls of freshly squeezed & strained mango juice or Aam Ras with Poli (thin, layered whole wheat Roti or flat-bread) or Safed Rotli (cottony soft white flat bread made with rice flour) for lunch, tall chilled glasses of mango milkshake or mango Lassi (yogurt based smoothie) for tea & mango Shrikhand, sweet, thick yogurt flavoured with chunks of the fruit with Pooris (small, round, deep fried whole wheat flatbread). If Mango is the King of fruits, my Ma is the Queen of Mango Shrikhand makers! The Shrikhand she makes is light, not too sweet with just the perfect balance of fruit & yogurt. I absolutely LOVE it! She was sure to make this dessert every year on my birthday. Even now she makes it around my birthday & freezes it for me if I’m not around :-)

There are loads of different types of mangoes. There’s the Alphonso or Hapoos, saffron-red skin , plump, firm, & sweet. That’s the one we eat sliced or cubed, in Shrikhand, Lassi, Milkshake. Ma & my Grandma would fill large earthen jars with firm, ripe Hapoos mangoes freshly crushed mustard seeds to make Bafana, pickled ripe mangoes to be eaten with split brown rice khichri a few months later during Shraavan, the Hindu month of fasting. Then there is the Pairee, slightly green, just a wee bit tart, perfect for Aam Ras or juice. Then there are the large Rajapuris & yellow Dussheris that crop up later in the season when the best Hapoos & Pairees are on their way out. After that you have the Langras,& others… honestly we are a bunch of Mango snobs who don’t look beyond Hapoos & Pairees! And no matter what anyone says…. you get the BEST mangoes in Maharashtra! Most of the mangoes in Bombay come from Ratnagiri on the west coast of the state. The rest of the country, just doesn’t measure up!

I could live on mangoes! I think back in the day, we hardly ate any vegetables during summer! Of course the grown-ups tried to ration out the amount of mangoes we ate… but it rarely worked! My favourite way to eat a mango was to suck on it… with skin & all & become a complete mess, with mango juice down to the elbows & all over my face!

Or as a mango sandwich… thick slices of the fruit on a thick slice of white bread,  buttered…well…thickly!

The recipe I am going to post today is a Mango Raita. raita is a yogurt based condiment usually with onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, pineapples, or potatoes & is used as a sauce, dip or a refreshing complement to a spicy dish. As far as possible, I hate tampering with the natural flavour of the fruit. But this savoury-sweet-mustardy version is a delicious accompaniment to any meal. At home, if there was a vegetable dish cooked, that we didn’t much care for, this mango raita was made to lure us into eating… “If you have 2 spoons of peas, I will give you some more kairi (mango) raita!” or if we had unexpected guests, this added a special touch to an ordinary meal.

The raita made at home was a traditional one, more yogurt & less fruit, with the former being more liquid. I chose to deconstruct it a bit so that that the yogurt adds to the flavour without over-powering the taste of mango. While I have used the same seasoning my mother did, I added the sesame & almonds for an extra crunch (I always need that!) & a lovely warm toasty flavour  & mint for colour & freshness.

So here it is… My version of the Vakil Family Mango Raita!

Ingredients

  • 2-3 ripe Alphonso Mangoes (cubed)
  • 1 cup thick Yogurt (hung & beaten)… gosh that sounds violent!
  • 1-2 teaspoon Mustard Seeds (crushed)
  • 1-2 teaspoon Cumin Seeds (roasted & ground)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
  • Salt
  • Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • Roasted Almonds (roughly chopped)
  • Toasted Seasame Seeds

Method

  1. Toss the mango with some mint leaves & sesame seeds & arrange on a serving plate.
  2. Whisk the yogurt with the mustard seeds, cumin powder, salt & sugar.
  3. Pour the yogurt over the mango.
  4. Garnish with the rest of the mint, sesame & almonds

 

PS: All the pictures in today’s post are courtesy

My Dearest Husband :-)

Baked Yogurt With Figs & Honey

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It was a happy day indeed!

My 16 month old nephew, Aviloo (his older brother calls him that, so we do too!), looked at a picture of me & said “Maasi” (maternal aunt in my native Gujarati)!! He has just about started talking & after saying “Mama”, “Papa”, “Bird”, & “Ball”… it’s “Maasi“! Of course Mimima (his grandmother & my mum), Nana (his grandfather & my dad) & Maasa (my husband) are extremely upset ;-)


The best thing in the world is to have a sister! I’ve always wanted an older brother too, but I wouldn’t trade my sister for all the chocolate in the universe! She’s been my pillar, my all time-go-to, my best friend! So then the worst thing about having a sister is that it’s so very, very difficult if she lives far away from you! And especially if she has 2 little boys you love the most!

Her older son, Ahaan, is 3 & at that magical age when everything is about stories & questions & drama & discoveries & tantrums… a very entertaining age if you are the doting aunt waiting for daily updates about “What did Ahaan say / do today?” Not so sure if you are the Mom or Dad being constantly bombarded with Whys, Hows, Whats & of course the NOs!

And little Ahir or Aviloo who is in his own quiet way lighting up our lives with bright dimpled smiles, cuddles, squeals of delight & wonder at everything, wanting to explore, do things his brother does. When Nandini called to tell me he said “Maasi”, I was super excited & very moved. I haven’t been around the tot or spoken to him as much as I did with his brother & yet he called my name!

How I wish I was with them! I miss them so much!

Silly as it may sound, I wanted to make something to celebrate & also in a way bridge the geographical distance.

My sister, my brother-in-law & my nephews are vegetarian. She complains constantly that I don’t post enough vegetarian & egg-free dishes. So here is a dessert I have been meaning to try my hand at, using the one ingredient the boys can’t get enough of… Yogurt!

Since I am on a health trip & attempting to make desserts that are not only delicious but healthy too, I will not make this one an exception. Almost all the recipes I looked at needed condensed milk. Sneaking spoonfuls of sweet condensed milk & Nutella from the fridge late at night… is a very comforting childhood memory. I love it! And it’s been years since had some. But tempting as it was to use the real thing, I looked for a healthy substitute. I’m so proud of my restraint!

I decided to make condensed milk at home!I found a recipe that seemed the simplest & most hassle-free. And no, I did not substitute the sugar! That would be asking for too much! I just cut down the quantity of sugar :-)

Ingredients for Condensed Milk

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons Instant Powdered Milk
  • 1/2 cup Warm Water
  • 3/4 cup Sugar 

Note: I thought 3/4 cups Sugar was too much so I used 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon Brown Sugar + 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract. The next time, I may use 1/2 cup or less.

Method

  1. Mix the powdered milk & warm water in a bowl.
  2. Set the bowl in a pan of hot water & stir in sugar &  vanilla extract until dissolved.
  3. You may want to set it in the refrigerator or use it once it reaches room temperature.

This recipe makes 1 1/4 Cups

 I have adapted the following recipe from Meatless Monday’s Apricot Pistachio Baked Yogurt

Ingredients for Baked Yogurt

   

  • 2 cups Low Fat  Yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup Home-made Condensed Milk
  • 2 Figs
  • 1 tablespoon Honey
  • 2 tablespoons Water
  • 2 Star Anise
  • 2-3 Cloves

Method

  1. Tightly bind the yogurt in a muslin cloth, place it on a sieve over a bowl & keep aside in the refrigerator for about 30-40 minutes.
  2. Once the water has drained out & the yogurt is thick & creamy, combine it with the condensed milk until smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture into a medium sized baking dish or individual ramekins & place in roasting pan filled with water & bake in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes

  1. Meanwhile heat water with star anise, cloves & honey & add the figs.
  2. Turn the heat off after a few minutes & let the figs stew for a bit in the spice infused honeyed water.
  3. Pour the fruit over the baked yogurt & serve warm or chilled.

The boys will surely love this but I think I too, may have discovered one of my favourite non-chocolate desserts! It is light, creamy, a bit like caramel custard in texture. The star anise & cloves cut through the sweetness of the figs & honey & add another dimension to the flavour.

This recipe serves 4-6 people

Strawberry Cake with An Orange-Basil Glaze

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HAD to bake today! It has been so long since I last baked.

This cake was put together with such a sense of urgency! Almost as if I didn’t bake right then & there, something awful would happen! After a pretty harrowing past couple days, I knew where this was coming from. There’s a whole lot of change going on in my life. I am pretty good with that usually, in fact I thrive on it. It suits my restless Gemini spirit just fine, adapting to  new experiences, new feelings… reworking things to make it all  fit & brand new. But sometimes change comes with a sense of losing control… of yourself, the situation. You tell yourself to be patient & ride with the tide, more often than not, it works. But there are days when my “Zen”-ness all but disappears… I so desperately needed some Kitchen Therapy!

I didn’t bother with photographs or music & just got right down to it!

 I wanted to use Strawberries (they were heading to the trash-can in a couple days!) & Oranges (just bought a dozen yesterday). And of course it all had to be “almost” in sync* with my diet plan & diabetic-friendly since my mother-in-law is visiting.

I remembered reading a scrumptious  Apple Yogurt Tea Cake recipe on Sam’s blog, Le Pirate & used that as the base reference for my cake. I didn’t have macadamia oil, so I used olive; substituted the sugar with Sugar-Free tablets; used a combination of whole wheat flour & oat meal instead of plain flour, & added some crushed roasted peanuts I had leftover from yesterday & an orange-basil glaze just for fun!

Ingredients

For the Cake

  • 1.5 cups Oat Meal
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3 tablespoons Crushed Roasted Peanuts
  • 15 tablets Sugar Free / Sweet ‘n’ Low powdered / 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons Yogurt (beaten well)
  • 1/4 cup Milk
  • 1/3 cup + 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 150-200 gm Strawberries (chopped)
  • Zest & Juice of 2 small Oranges

For the Glaze*

  • Juice of 2 Oranges
  • 2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • A few leaves Basil (roughly chopped)

*The reason why this is “almost” in sync with my diet plan. You could avoid the glaze, but then again…

Method

Cake

  1. Whisk together the oat meal, whole wheat flour, peanuts, Sugar Free tablets, orange zest & baking powder & soda,  & toss in the chopped Strawberries.
  2. Beat the eggs well & add vanilla extract, yogurt, olive oil, orange juice & whisk well.
  3. Add the liquid mixture to the dry one & combine it gently. Don’t over-mix.
  4. Adjust the consistency of the batter with milk.
  5. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 C for about 30-40 minutes

Glaze

  1. Heat the orange juice & brown sugar mixture with basil leaves on a low flame till the sugar melts & the consistency turns syrupy. Strain & keep aside till the cake is done. 
  2. Use a skewer to poke some holes on the cake & pour the syrup over it while still hot.

Oat-Meal & Whole Wheat Cake with Strawberries & Orange-Basil Glaze

And Sam is so right… this cake hardly takes any time to put together & in spite of using oat meal & whole wheat flour, instead of refined, plain flour, the cake still turned out wonderfully moist, soft & oh, so delicious!

This recipe makes a 7 inch loaf… a perfect breakfast treat for a harrowed girl on a diet… guaranteed to make you feel better :-)

Thai Style White Radish, Cucumber & Carrot Salad

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Okay, so weekends are absolutely the WORST, for my diet! And this one even more so since we were in Pune, (a city 2 hours away from Bombay) for a birthday reunion with my husband’s family. The healthiest thing I ate this weekend was  my spring Saturday salad! After that… well, the less said the better. But totally worth it!

Mutton cooked in the traditional Maharashtrian way, with loads of spices, Chicken Kheema or Mince, Pandhara Rassa or White Gravy, which is Chicken or Mutton stock seasoned with spices, poppy seeds, cashew & coconut milk… I’m going to stop here as I’m practically drooling over my laptop!

And did I mention I snuck in a couple of Gulab Jamuns, dumplings made with Khoya (solids from freshly curdled milk), deep fried & dunked in a light, sweet, saffron tinged syrup?

Oh I sinned this weekend :-(

Well as usual I had to atone for the excesses on Monday, with another Salad just like last week!

I love Thai food, with its fresh, light ingredients, the sweet, sour, spicy & salty flavours all bursting in your mouth at once… it’s like an Oriental carnival.

One of my fave Thai dishes is Som Tam or the Green Papaya salad.

And that’s what I felt like having today. I didn’t have the key ingredient… the Papaya! So once again I improvised. Here’s my take on Som Tam using Whatever’s in the Fridge!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 Cucumber
  • 1/2 Carrot
  • 1/2 White Radish
  • Crushed Roasted Peanuts
  • Basil Leaves (finely chopped)

Use a peeler to scrape out the veggies into pretty little ribbons.

Dressing

  • Soy/ Fish Sauce
  • Honey
  • Chilli Flakes
  • Tamarind Water

I tasted my way through the dressing. The thing is to find the perfect balance of the 4 flavours for you.

Putting It Together

  1. Arrange the veggie ribbons in a bowl.
  2. Drizzle the dressing over it.
  3. Garnish with the crushed peanuts & basil.
  4. Serve cold

I have made a version of this adding left over prawn. You could also add tofu.

This recipe feeds 1 errant girl on a diet who indulged this weekend (but doesn’t regret it one bit)

:-)

My Spring Saturday Salad

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A light, luscious salad with Strawberries, Cucumbers, Iceberg Lettuce, Almonds, Cherry Tomatoes & a refreshing Apple Cider – Olive Oil Vinaigrette with Mustard, Cinnamon, fresh Rosemary, Basil & a drop of Honey

Zucchini & Cottage Cheese Bake

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I don’t have a kitchen :-(

Well it’s not as dramatic as it sounds, it’s just that I don’t have access to my cook top & counter area… basically I can’t use my Kitchen…today! And weird as it may sound, it almost makes me feel homeless. Do you know the feeling?

The Kitchen is MY space, a place where I feel one with myself. Be it any stress, any trouble, any mess… there isn’t anything that can’t be worked out for me here. Simple acts of kneading the dough & knocking it back, whisking eggs, getting my hands messy with cookie dough, stirring a sauce… so very cathartic! And now, even more so since I’m on a break from work, specifically to explore my passion for food, the kitchen is my refuge, & if I can’t use it… it makes me very :-( especially if I’m at home!

Like I’ve said before, some write, paint or run to get it out of their system… I cook!

Snap out of it Shivani! (I tell myself) It’s not always about you! What’s everyone going to eat tonight?

Hmmm…. There’s the neighbourhood Chinese Stall that Daks (my sister-in-law) suggested we could order  in from. (The other half of my Gemini self  chirps in) There’s something about roadside Indian Chinese food! It’s a cuisine in itself… totally unauthentic, absolutely Indian, incredibly tasty…

Ahem… and not to mention definitely unhealthy! 

Well alright then, that will be dinner for everyone else… I’ll just watch! 

I have to keep reminding myself of my weight loss regime! I’m on a quest to eat right… healthy food that is not only good for you but tastes great! And now with the added  lack of Kitchen space (added lack??? never mind!), something that can be made in my trusted microwave convection oven.

I looked up a simple recipe using Zucchini, because that’s What I had in the Fridge! I found one I liked on Health.com which required zucchini (of course), corn kernels (which I had in the fridge but can’t have), tomatoes (always in the fridge), Parmesan (yum! but no) & panko (had to look that one up).

So I tweaked the recipe around, with the mise en place in my bedroom… the only dust-free space in the house, & set out to make a Zucchini & Cottage Cheese Bake.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 each Green & Yellow Zucchini (sliced)
  • 4 Tomatoes (sliced)
  • 8-10 cloves Garlic (halved)
  • about 200 gm Low Fat Cottage Cheese (I made it from 1 ltr Skimmed Milk)
  • 2-3 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • Celery Salt
  • Garlic Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chilli Flakes
  • Dried Mixed Herbs
  • 2 slices Low Fat Cheese (cut into little pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon Oats
  • 1 tablespoon Celery (finely chopped)
  • 2-3 tablespoons Amise Marinade (I had made a skinny version of Roger Mooking’s Trinidadian Style Chicken last week & frozen the leftover marinade which is basically a chutney or pesto of garlic, shallots, green onion, parsley/coriander)

Method

  1. Grease a baking tray with a teaspoon of olive oil & arrange the tomatoes in a single layer.
  2. Top it with the halved garlic cloves & 1/2 of crumbled cottage cheese & season it with celery salt, pepper, chilli flakes & herbs.
  3. Arrange the zucchini slices & sprinkle the rest of the cottage cheese over it. Season this layer as above, adding garlic salt.

  1. Toss in dollops of the marinade over the dish.
  2. Mix the oats, celery & low fat cheese bits in a bowl & sprinkle the mixture over the vegetables.
  3. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the veggies & cheese & bake uncovered in a pre-heated oven at 200 C for 25 minutes.
  4. Cover the baking tray with foil & bake for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot.

This recipe makes 2-3 servings for a certain person on a diet who was feeling deprived & sorry for herself ‘coz she couldn’t eat the roadside Indian Chinese that everyone was eating, but who couldn’t care less now as this Zucchini & Cottage Cheese Bake is so much more wholesome, healthy ahem & not to mention… Delicious :-)

Murg Methi – Chicken with Fenugreek Leaves

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This is a delicious, low fat Indian Chicken dish with a yogurt based sauce. The yogurt gives it a bit of tang which is balanced out by the slight bitterness of fenugreek leaves.
Fenugreek leaves have Protein, Vitamin C, Potassium & helps reduce blood glucose & cholesterol.
I had this with a Roti & a Diced Zucchini Pesto Salad

Roasted Aubergine & Tomato Salad

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This weekend was a true test for my will power & determination! I mean I was a good girl up until Saturday night… followed the breakfast & lunch requirements. And then dinner was at the Khan residence. You see it is almost a crime to be on a diet or a fast when you are eating at the Khans’! My dear husband who usually fasts Mondays, conveniently forgets what day of the week it is if we’re over on a Monday! But still I was very proud of myself. I ate my salad & chick peas, & then just one teeny, tiny helping  (okay… not that tiny!) of their famous Khichda / Haleem (a wheat, barley, lentil & meat dish)… delish!! It’s a weakness… I can’t resist it, ever! And it’s something that I am going to attempt to make one of these days.

Anyway to make up for the little cheat over the weekend, I decided to start the week on a healthy note with this Roasted Aubergine & Tomato Salad. It is my spin on a dish Ma makes which is winner every time she serves it up!

Ingredients

  • 3-4 Baby Aubergines / 1 long Aubergine (sliced into very thin rounds & dunked in cold salt water)
  • 2-3 Tomatoes (quartered)
  • 1/2 Onion (sliced finely)
  • 4-6 cloves Garlic (each clove sliced length-wise into 2)
  • a handful Coriander Leaves (finely chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon Ginger Garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • Chilli Flakes
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Dressing*

     

  • 1/2 cup Low Fat Yogurt (beaten well)
  • 1 tablespoon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Low Fat Cheese Spread
  • a handful Mint Leaves (finely chopped)
  • a small piece Celery (finely chopped)
  • A drop or 2 Honey

Method

  1. Place thinly sliced aubergines in a bowl & toss in 1/2 teaspoon olive oil & the ginger garlic paste. Mix well & keep aside.
  2. Grease a baking tray with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil & arrange the quartered tomatoes on half the tray.
  3. Place 1/2 clove garlic on each tomato.
  4. Arrange the aubergine & onion slices in the remaining space on the tray.
  5. Make sure the vegetables are all laid out in one layer.
  6. Sprinkle the chilli flakes, salt, pepper, cumin powder & sugar over the vegetables.
  7. Top it with the coriander leaves & drizzle the remaining olive oil over it.
  8. Bake in the oven at 200C for an hour.
  9. Meanwhile, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing & keep aside in the ‘fridge.

Putting It Together

  1. Arrange the roasted tomatoes in a single layer on a serving plate.
  2. Make a layer of aubergines over it.
  3. Top with the onions, bits of garlic & coriander scraped out from the baking tray.
  4. Pour the dressing over the roasted veggies.

You could serve the salad at room temperature or cold

This recipe serves 1 person on a diet who is making up for the indulgence over the weekend!

When Ma makes her Aubergine Platter, she makes a gravy with finely chopped tomatoes & onions, seasoned with cumin powder, turmeric powder, salt & chilli powder. She then deep fries the aubergine slices & layers them over the gravy & covers the dish with beaten yogurt, garnished with green coriander, cumin & chilli powder. It makes for a fresh & delicious side dish.

I tried to make it healthier by roasting the aubergines & tomatoes. The coriander leaves, onions, garlic & aubergines crisped beautifully in the oven, in contrast with the soft, sweet, juicy chunks of tomatoes. The mint & honey yogurt balanced out the spicy veggies.

*Jazz up the Leftovers

This recipe will make more dressing than you will need, but that’s fine. Refrigerate it for later & you can use it as a:

  • Marinade for poultry or meat
  • Healthy Spread for a sandwich
  • Topping for Grilled Mushrooms or Roast Potatoes
  • Dip with Cucumbers & Carrots (if you feel healthy) or Chips, Crackers (if you’re not!)
  • Mix-in with Rice for a quick, light summer meal

“Holi” Fruit ‘n’ Oat Muffins

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A Belated Happy Holi everyone!

It was Holi on Wednesday… the Hindu festival of colors, the day we welcome Spring & with it blooming flowers, new crops, a newness in the air. Of course in Bombay we skip directly to the searing Summer heat, but still it is one of the City’s favourite festivals.

Image Courtesy bloggermoms.com

The festival of Holi started Tuesday night, with Holika Dahan,with large bonfires lit in every neighborhood & lane in the City. People circle the fire pouring water around it & place coconuts into it. The roasted coconut fresh out of the embers with a little bit of sugar is one of my favourites!

The fire is symbolic of the triumph of good over evil. Each year while growing up, Mom would tell us the story of Prahlad,  who was a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu. His father, the Demon King Hiranyakashyapu, had been granted a boon that he could not be destroyed by day or night, neither indoors nor out, not on earth or in the sky, by neither man nor beast or any weapon. This made him arrogant & he demanded that all should worship him, & him alone. None were to worship the Gods in Heaven. Prahlad refused to bow down to his father’s will. In a final attempt to stop him from praying to Vishnu, Hiranyakashyapu, ordered  Prahlad to be lit alive on a pyre, seated on the King’s sister Holika’s lap. Holika had been given a boon that fire would not harm her. But as he sat on the pyre chanting Vishnu’s name, Holika  was consumed by the flames, while Prahlad was untouched. This burning of evil & salvation of good is celebrated as Holi.

Image Courtesy magicalmumbai.com

The next morning Spring is welcomed with the vibrant festival of colours. People throw colored powder, gulal, & colored water on each other. Traditionally the colors were made by crushing dried flowers like marigold & gulmohar. In fact in parts of North India Holi is still played with fresh  flowers. Playing Holi, breaks down or at least lowers all barriers of religion, gender, age as families, friends, neighbours all get together & celebrate.

As kids we would spend the better part of the morning becoming a right royal colorful mess with our friends & neighbours in the apartment complex we lived in. Of course Dad & Dadaji (Grandfather) would be totally paranoid that we would ruin the walls or furniture. We didn’t care :-) I loved the colours, even though it was a pain getting it off your skin & hair. We could tell which kid in school had the best time during Holi by the bright red ears or blue finger nails & green peeping through the hair!

Food is, as with all festivals, a very integral part of Holi. At home Mom would make these little dumplings with steamed purple yam (kand) & raisins, with thick sweetened yogurt (shrikhandh or matha). Gujjiyas too are a staple in the North. These are crescent shaped dumplings made with wheat flour & stuffed with grated, roasted coconut & dried fruit. My husband’s family, which is from Maharashtra, make Puran Polis, thin, flat roti-bread stuffed with jaggery & lentils.

Over time, I have stopped getting all colored up at Holi, though I make sure, no matter where I am, to be there for the fire ceremony. For some reason I feel most at peace when I walk around the flames… like I am letting go of all the negativity, the chaos of the year gone by & breathing in the newness of spring, with all its hope & tranquility.

This Holi, I woke up wanting to make something special. But I’m on a diet! All the traditional goodies are banned :-( So maybe I could make something colorful, symbolic of the festival, yet which fits in with what I’m “supposed’ to eat!

Among other things, I’m “allowed” 2 tablespoons of oats a day with more egg whites than I care to eat, low fat yogurt, olive oil, nuts & fruit…hmmm… well what am I waiting for? Muffins it is!

Since flowers are the basis for all  the color, & hence significant to the festival. I got my little flower shaped muffin tins out with the pretty colored paper cases. The red plums & figs on top make the muffins more vibrant… I hope! In any case you could do this with Whatever’s in the Fridge!

I’m making these for breakfast. The proportions here are keeping in mind my daily allowance of ingredients. So it is  a true experiment.

Ingredients

  • 8 tablespoons / 1 cup Oats
  • 1 Egg + 1 Egg White
  • 4 tablets Sugar Free / Sweet ‘n’ Low
  • 2 tablespoons Low Fat Yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons Olive Oil
  • 12 Almonds
  • Zest & Juice of 1/2 an Orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 stick Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 pinches Cinnamon Sugar (my cheat ingredient!)
  • a pinch Salt
  • slices of Figs, Plums, or any other fruit

Method

  1. Grind the oats with the cinnamon, almonds & Sugar Free tablets till it’s a coarse powder.
  2. Add salt, baking powder & baking soda to the oats.
  3. Whisk the eggs & vanilla till frothy.
  4. Stir in the yogurt, oil, orange juice & zest & whisk well.
  5. Gently fold in the oats. Do not over mix.
  6. Pour the batter into the greased & lined moulds.
  7. Arrange the fruit on top & sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on each muffin.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 20-25 minutes or till the cake tester comes out clean & the top is golden.

Note

My allowance of the ingredients in the recipe, per day is: 2 tablespoons of Oats, 5 egg whites, 1 cup low fat yogurt, 4 teaspoons olive oil, 6 almonds & 1 fruit.

The muffins aren’t too sweet, so if you like, you could add some honey to the batter.

So this well within what’s  okay for me if I have 1 Muffin a day… Yay!

This recipe makes 4 muffins.

Basa with Chillies, Garlic & Basil

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The Big Fat “W” Issue is taking over my life… again! Now don’t get me wrong… I’m super comfortable in my skin.I always used to be what they call “pleasantly plump” (I’m actually way past the pleasant stage now!) & that didn’t get in the way of anything… dating, work. In fact (touch-wood) I pride myself on my stamina & energy & the ability to zip around all over the place, multi-tasking. But my genes aren’t exactly that great, & I am 30-something (sigh)! And with every passing month it’s become easier to gain a kilogram than to lose even 100 grams!

Over the years I’ve tried the whole spectrum of gyms, diets, workouts, walks, yoga… Not that none of it worked. It’s just that I couldn’t get myself to be consistent! I’d work hard, lose some weight & then the interest. So basically over the past 10 odd years it’s been a cycle of kicking my butt (or getting it kicked), feeling & seeing the difference… then back to square one!

This time round it’s even more difficult because there’s so many recipes I want to try out… pies, cakes, quiches, cookies, breads… none of which are going to do anything for my weight watching quest! But I don’t have a choice… I’m on a regimen… get some exercise, eat at regular intervals & eat healthy!!

So I’m going to cook & post recipes that work with what I’m supposed to eat.  I’ll bake too… but I promise it will be for someone else, not me!

For tonight’s dinner I tried to recreate a Basa dish that I had eaten a month ago at a restaurant, which left me completely unimpressed! They gave us dessert on the house to appease us :-) I’m hoping to do a better job on it!

Basa is a freshwater fish, native to the Mekong River Delta, Vietnam & Chao Phraya Basin, Thailand. The flesh is moist, with a light, firm texture & no bones. The flavour too is pretty mild, which makes it versatile while cooking. Like most fish, Basa is high in protein & low – fat. Perfect choice for my dinner!

Basa with Chillies, Garlic & Basil

Ingredients

  • 400 gm Basa (fillets)
  • 1/2 each Red, Yellow, Green Bell Peppers (sliced)
  • 2 Spring Onions (finely chopped)
  • 2 stalks Celery (finely chopped)
  • 3/4 cup Basil (finely chopped)
  • 8 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 3 dried Red Chillies (soaked in warm water)
  • 1 teaspoon Olive Oil
  • Fish Sauce
  • Soy Sauce
  • Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce

Method

Marnated Basa

  1. Blitz 3/4 of the garlic & red chillies with a dash of soy sauce to make a coarse paste.
  2. Marinade the fillets with this paste & leave to rest for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Heat the oil  in a pan & add the rest of the garlic, onions, celery & bell peppers. Saute till soft.
  4. Move the veggies in the pan to the edges & place the fillets in the pan & quickly heat them on both sides.
  5. Spread half the veggies on the pan & place the fish on it & top it up with the rest of the veggies.
  6. Splash a little water into the pan.
  7. Season with fish sauce & a dash of Thai sweet chilli sauce & toss in the basil
  8. Leave on the flame till the fish is just about cooked. The take it off the flame & cover for about 5 minutes allowing the fish to cook a bit.

The Basa I had at the restaurant was pretty bland & not seasoned well at all. The fish sauce & sweet chilli sauce have added depth to the flavour, & really brought out the taste of the 3 key ingredients: the sharp garlic, hot red chillies & fresh basil.

Since I’m on a low-carb diet, I had this with a side of steamed veggies & a bowl of soup. You could serve this up with jasmine rice or plain steamed rice or noodles.

This recipe serves 4 people on my diet or 2 with regular appetites!

A 100 likes & La Fraise

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I got a 100 Likes on my blog! Yay!

Thank you all for taking the time to read & appreciate the recipes. I’ve really enjoyed writing the posts over the past month since I started writing the blog. And this is very encouraging!

So thanks again :-)

Now I’m on a diet starting tomorrow! And I can’t bake desserts, cakes or anything sweet, fattening or unhealthy… basically all that is yummy-licious… for the next 10 days!! Even if it is for someone else! Poor me :-(

I had to bake a cake one last time to celebrate the 100 Likes on my blog!

This is my sinful, decadent, experimental swan song… for about 10 days! (Boy am I dramatic!!)

I made this Flour-less Chocolate Almond Torte with Strawberries, for the first time on New Year’s Eve 2012-13. My inspiration was a dessert called L’Orange at Moshes, one of my favourite restaurants in Bombay. It’s an orange, hazelnut & chocolate cake & I absolutely love it!! The season for strawberries had just begun in Bombay around then & I just couldn’t resist the baskets of the lush, plump, red fruit I saw everywhere. So that’s what went into the cake instead of oranges & since hazelnuts weren’t available in my neighbourhood, I used almonds.

I looked up a bunch of recipes & eventually decided to merge 2-3 of them. It was a real experiment of sorts. I had no idea how it would turn out! My electric beater wasn’t working, so I didn’t get the volume & texture I wanted. And somehow the chocolate glaze hardened too quickly. It looked pretty & tasted great… I mean strawberries & chocolate – you can’t go wrong with that!

Our oldest, closest theatre friends (well they’re like family), that we were spending New Year’s Eve with, they loved it! These guys have been the most encouraging towards my food-foray! They’ve been guinea pigs, given feedback & generally been super, super supportive. Love them!

 

But for me… still not quite La Fraise (Strawberry in French)!

This is my New Year’s Eve 2012-13 Torte.

The Torte 2012

The Torte this time round seems to have risen better & is beautifully moist. (Okay so I sneaked a bite from a cup cake version I made to taste!!). I was a bit worried since I realized after popping the tin in the oven that I may have forgotten to put in the correct amount of a pretty important ingredient! But it seems just fine! Thank heavens! The glaze too is lighter & softer.

Fresh out of the Oven

I am not writing out the recipe yet as it is still a work in progress. I re-worked proportions, used an electric beater (my new one yay!), changed the glaze a bit,.

Will the experiment work? Will I be closer towards achieving the L’Orange result. Fingers crossed!!

La Fraise 2013

The Pre-Diet Torte 2013

In case you have a recipe or tips to help me get it right… please share!

Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato & Olive Loaf

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The last couple of days have been crazy… I’ve been zipping around from the North East end of the City to the South to North West to the Centre & back home! For anyone who is familiar with Bombay… that is no mean feat! The traffic is insane. Any distance which, in the the dead of the night takes not more than 15 minutes by car, during the day takes almost 45 minutes! And that’s not even peak hour!

Today I had to travel for an hour & a half one way for an appointment which lasted all of 45 minutes! Of course the return journey was during rush hour, so don’t ask how long it took me! Enough time for a nice, long nap in the auto-rickshaw (tuktuk)… again no mean feat!

Luckily I had cooked dinner before I left, a hearty Chicken Stew (recipe on its way!). I wanted to bake some bread to go with that. But by the time I reached home, I didn’t have the patience, energy or the time to wait for the dough to prove & rise. But then again… I had to bake!! I needed a yeast-free recipe. My trusted Australian Women’s Weekly Muffins & Breads came to the rescue… I made a muffin in a loaf tin! The original recipe had Prosciutto, which I didn’t, so I added Olives & Cheese instead.

Ingredients

  • 375 gm Self Raising Flour
  • 90 gm Butter
  • 1 Egg (lightly beaten)
  • 310 ml Buttermilk
  • 80 ml Milk
  • 50 gm Sun-Dried Tomatoes (drained & chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Basil (chopped)
  • 1 – 2 cloves Garlic (crushed)
  • 4 tablespoons grated Cheese
  • 6-8 Olives (halved)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

  1. Sift the self-raising flour & salt into a bowl.
  2. Gently rub in the butter till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the chopped basil, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic & pepper to the flour.
  4. In another bowl whisk together the egg, buttermilk & milk.
  5. Combine the liquid & dry mixtures gently. Do not over-mix.
  6. Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin.
  7. Sprinkle the olives, some more sun-dried tomatoes & cheese over the top.
  8. Bake at 190 C for about 25 minutes till golden brown.

Crusty & soft with the Basil, Sun-Dried Tomato & Olives mingling beautifully. The next time, I will add some more cheese, maybe in the batter too. The looks & tastes light but is quite filling. I would toast a slice tomorrow, top it with a bit of Ricotta for breakfast.

This recipe makes a 7 inch loaf

Red Velvet and that Little Girl’s Smile…

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I first heard about Red Velvet Cake three years ago. My sister was going to have her baby in London & I went to help her out. Priti, foodie partner in crime & one of my closest friends told me, “You have to try the Red Velvet Cupcakes at the Humming Bird Bakery! They are divine.”

On another trip, I would’ve gone there on day 2! But at the time thanks to my adorable newborn nephew Ahaan, I didn’t go anywhere… Not even to watch a play. Didn’t want to miss a gurgle or a coo!

Back in Bombay, over the past couple of years, we tried looking for a “divine” Red Velvet CakeDeliciae Desserts at Out Of The Blue, Bandra, had a good one. Our favourite ones are from California Pizza Kitchen at Phoenix Mills  & Cuppa Joe’s at Bandra which unfortunately shut shop :-(

I had promised Priti that I would attempt baking her one & that too before either of us starts our diets (fingers crossed on that one!)!  So after a hectic weekend of  meeting some friends after months, hanging with the family & eating a big Sunday lunch at Mom & Dad’s… yesterday was the the day.

Also, I was very excited to use the latest additions to my kitchen – a new hand beater, with a stand & all (thank you husband) & a Spring-form cake tin (thanks Mom & Dad) :-)

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I have used Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet Chocolate Cake & Cream Cheese Frosting recipes.

Ingredients

Cake

  • Unsalted butter, for cake pans
  • 2 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups Canola Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/4 cup Red Food Coloring
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons White Vinegar

Note: 

I ran short of Red Food Coloring so I used a little over a 1/4 cup of Beetroot Juice in addition to the 20 ml bottle of red food colouring I had

Didn’t have Canola Oil so I used Sunflower Seed Oil

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz / 225 gm cream cheese, room temperature
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
  • 1 cup Icing  sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Note:

I added the Zest of 1 lemon & a 2 teaspoons of Lemon Juice to the the frosting

The reviews of the frosting said it wasn’t sweet enough, so I added about 2 extra tablespoons of Sugar

Also I would cut down the butter by about a tablespoon or two… got too heavy for me.

Method

Cake

  1. Pre-heat  the oven to 350 F / 175 C & generously butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans. Sprinkle with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside. (I went with using 1 large cake tin)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and cocoa; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (YAY!!!), combine the sugar and oil, and beat on medium speed until well combined.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Add food coloring and vanilla, and beat until well combined.
  6. Add flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  7. In a small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar until combined. Add to batter, and beat for 10 seconds.
  8. Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans (or into the one).
  9. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. (Mine took longer, almost 45-55 min)
  10. Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans, and return to the rack to cool completely.

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Frosting

  1. Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese.
  2. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended.
  3. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth.
  4. Add vanilla & lemon zest, and stir to combine.
  5. I followed the advice on one of the reviews of the recipe & stuck the frosting in the freezer for 1/2 hour, after which I added the lemon juice & whisked it well.

Putting it Together

  1. Slice the cake in 1/2
  2. Cover the bottom 1/2 with the frosting & place the top 1/2 on it
  3. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the frosting

The result…  Quite yummy! The cake is soft & moist. The next time I would add more color or beetroot (which adds to the flavour). The lemon juice & zest in the frosting made it lighter & fresher.

OMG Shivani! It’s awesome!!” Priti’s verdict! :-D Yay!!

      

This recipe serves 8-10 people

Quiche-licious!

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I’ve been a teacher for about 13 years. But nothing thrills me more than being on the other side! Okay, maybe not while I was at school… or maybe the last year or 2 at college! I’m talking about now. I enjoy being a student! The idea of entering a space with the specific aim to learn something new, or to do something you’ve done before in a different way… so exciting!

After I graduated, whenever I got a chance I would enroll in short courses or workshops – Comparative Mythology, Languages, Pottery, Dance, of course Theatre! But over the years I got caught up with work & home & generally life, that I didn’t really land up being a student “just because”!

Last year, call it a mid-life moment or an epiphany or whatever, I decided that it’s now or never! So I took time off, did not take on much work (it helps that I freelance!) & enrolled in a baking course. Those 6 weeks at baking class were something else! And I promised myself that I’m not going to lose out on any opportunity to learn… new techniques, new cuisines… whatever catches my fancy!

So I attended a workshop on South East Asian CookingBread Making  & yesterday I spent 2 hours learning more about making Quiches at The  Pantry, a French style cafe-bakery, courtesy Brown Paper Bag Mumbai.

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I did a bit of reading up on Quiche and was pretty surprised to find out that the French dish has its origins in Germany. In fact the word “quiche” has its roots in the German “kuchen” (cake).

WP_001385A Quiche is a pastry crust with a filling of eggs and milk or cream which, when baked, become a custard. Quiche Lorraine is originally an open pie with a filling of custard with smoked bacon or ham and cheese, usually Gruyere.  The bottom crust was apparently made from bread dough originally, but that has since evolved into a short-crust or puff pastry crust.f6b2b111-4578-4245-8504-b01faa7ed5c9

It is a versatile dish, perfect for a light meal, part of a brunch, a miniature one would do well as an appetizer & you can play around with the ingredients. Spinach, Mushrooms, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Corn, Smoked Chicken… mmmm! The seasoning is fairly simple too, salt, pepper, a bit of nutmeg. So it is really important that one uses fresh & really good quality ingredients especially the cheese. The surprise ingredient for me in the Spinach Ricotta Quiche that we made was Sesame Seeds… I didn’t think that they would use that in French cooking!

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I’ve made shortcrust pastry before & quiches too. Usually one uses ice cold water & butter & you leave the pastry to rest for at least an hour so that it binds well… but yesterday since the cafe was converted into a teaching space & there was a time constraint, the ingredients were at room temperature & we could not leave the pastry to rest. And guess what? That worked too :-)

And what was awesome too was that the recipe booklets that they gave out, had proportions for single, individual servings. So if one afternoon I get a sudden craving for a Quiche,  it would be pretty easy & quick for me to experiment a bit with the filling & rustle one up! And when I do, I will post recipe & better pictures :-)

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Crusty Cheese & Mustard Dampers

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It’s been one of those weeks… Or weekends… Or days… Or whatever! Been a bit unsettled & distracted… In an ‘HEA-Combo’ Funk…. You know the HEAD, HEART & the Bombay HEAT! I went for a long(ish) walk, watched romantic comedies on TV, chatted with the girlfriend and sister… Nothing helped! Not even the Kitchen managed to pull me out of my ‘zone’ :(

I looked through some new recipes online… Was tempted to try some…. ok… All!

Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies, Hazelnut Chocolate Brownies, Double Chocolate Hot Chocolate! Everything Chocolate! I realized that this would soon turn from a Comfort Baking Session to a Comfort Eating Marathon! And I so do not need the extra calories!

So the next morning I bundled myself into the car with the husband & headed into town to see Ma… When in a Zone Head Home… Always works :) She said she would make me Broccoli Almond Soup (comfort without the calories!) & I knew just what I could bake to go with that!

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Sometime ago, when I was going through a Muffin phase, I had picked up The Australian Women’s Weekly Muffins and Breads. The recipes are simple & no fuss. And what I loved the most were the Scones!

I have been meaning to try out these Dampers, which are an Australian bread. Traditionally Dampers were made by stock-men & other travelers as they camped out in the bush, with not much with them other than sacks of flour, sugar, tea, available meat & a camp fire to cook on.  The original recipe used flour, salt & water or milk, with baking soda used sometimes as a leavening agent. The bread was baked in the ashes of the campfire. The travelers ate this bread with dried or cooked meat or golden syrup and almost always with a swig of rum or tea

And it tastes great with soup too!

Ingredients

  • 600gm Self Raising Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • 30gm Butter
  • 500ml Milk, approximately

Topping

  • 30gm Butter
  • 2 tablespoon Seeded Mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 120gm Parmesan Cheese (coarsely grated)

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Note

I didn’t have seeded mustard, so I used mustard seeds, interesting flavour!

Add a dash of Olive Oil to the Topping to make it easier to spread on the Dampers.

I didn’t have Parmesan, so used regular Processed Cheese.

The recipe did not call for salt, but I put some anyway.

I wasn’t concentrating enough… forgot the Cayenne Pepper!!

Method

  1. Sift flour & mustard into a large bowl.
  2. Rub in the butter & stir in enough milk to mix to a soft, sticky dough.
  3. Turned dough onto a floured surface & knead till smooth. Press dough out to about 1.5cm (5/8 in) thickness, cut into 7cm (2 ¾ in) rounds
  4. Place the rounds, just touching, onto greased baking trays.
  5. Spread the topping.
  6. Bake in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

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Note

The temperature wasn’t specified in the recipe, so I pre-heated ay about 300C & baked at 250C

The first batch was pretty pale, so I brushed the tops with extra olive oil for the next one. They browned better.

Just for fun at Step 3, I spread the topping on the dough after pressing it out & then rolled it up tightly & sliced out little rounds. They looked pretty!

The result the dampers were crusty on the top & soft, light & flaky on the inside. The mustard seeds gave a smoky flavour. Warm with a dab of butter… Comfort all the way!

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This recipe makes 15 Dampers

Tuna Pasta

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We are in only in March & the temperature yesterday was already 39 C!!! It is HOT & that’s an understatement. As much as I hate being cold, this… it’s just… well 3 more months of this weather is enough to turn anyone’s brains into overcooked noodles!

The heat coupled with the sound of the drills & cars from the neighbourhood… not to mention the dust… was enough to send me into a funk!

Anyway dinner had to be made so I pulled myself out of my calm & quiet place ( & Gary Marshall’s New Year’s Eve on TV!) & set out to cook dinner to work myself out of the funk!

Tuna Pasta seemed ideal… It’s light, summery & it was the one decent thing I could put together with “Whatever’s in the Fridge”!

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Ingredients

  • 2 cans of Tuna (160-180gm each)
  • 1 Capsicum (cut in strips)
  • 3 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 1 pack (200ml) Tomato Puree
  • 6 cloves Garlic (chopped finely)
  • Chilli Flakes
  • Celery Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried Oregano
  • Sugar
  • ½ glass Red Wine (more or less)
  • Olive oil

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Note

I haven’t written out the quantity for the herbs & spices because I tasted my way through it. The husband & his folks like things spicy, so I upped the amount of chilli flakes but balanced it out with the sugar.

I realized when we sat down to eat that I could’ve tossed in some chopped black olives too.

I had 2 different cans of Tuna, a red chilli one & a regular one. They balanced each other out.

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a wok & sauté the garlic till it’s brown.
  2. Add the capsicum & tomatoes & cook till soft.
  3. Pour in the tomato puree & add the seasoning.
  4. Swirl in the wine. Adjust the amount depending on the consistency of the sauce & taste.
  5. Add a little bit of sugar & then the Tuna. Mix well.
  6. Spoon onto the pasta.

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Served with a bit of minced Goan sausage & store bought garlic bread on the side… a good fresh & quiet meal to round off a hot & noisy day! Got a “thumbs up” on this one!

This recipe serves 6 people

Kadhai Paneer… Cottage Cheese in a Wok (literally)!

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Ever since I was little, I remember, our house had constant visitors… family, friends, distant relatives, dad’s work colleagues. They’d come over for lunch, dinner or drop by for tea. My grandfather’s oldest friends would come by every Sunday for breakfast. We had Diwali (the Hindu New Year) & Raksha Bandhan (a festival celebrating the bond of brothers & sisters) dinners for the entire family… aunts, uncles, cousins. My grandmother & mother would cook traditional Gujarati delicacies… Ghugras (whole wheat crescents stuffed with green peas or green beans & deep fried)Undhiyu (a mixed winter vegetable dish with green beans, raw banana, purple yam, with a special baby garlic & turmeric chutney) in winter, Puran Polis (flatbread stuffed with a mixture of jaggery & lentil) during the rains, Ras (fresh Alphonso mango juice)  & Dhokla (soft & fluffy steamed triangles made with fermented rice batter) during the mango season, my mother’s famous, fresh & deceptively light Shrikhand (thick sweetened yogurt with saffron & cardamom) all year round… a special Mango version for my birthday in May every year!

It was a different story when my parents’ “gang”, their oldest, dearest friends or people from my dad’s work-place came over. Mum would then make Pizza from scratch (my paternal grandmother taught her to bake bread & pizza base at home… She was quite ahead of her times), Mexican, Chinese, cuisine from other parts of India. It was at these dinners that my sister & I, as a couple of 10-12 year olds were allowed to contribute to the menu.

At first Ma entrusted us with simple stuff, like a yogurt dip or salad or toppings for crackers. Then gradually as her confidence in us grew, we made dessert or a main course once in a while. If there was one thing she was very particular about back then (actually even now!) is, “Please don’t experiment on the guests!” So we had to make something we had made before AND/OR follow the recipe to the T… which worked for me, at times, when I would make a particularly boozy Chocolate Mousse & get very stern looks from Dad! “It’s in the recipe Dad! See there it says TABLE not TEAspoons!

But they would always, very proudly tell their friends, “Nandini (my sister) made the dip!” or “Shivani made the pasta salad!

Of course now that Nandini & I have our own homes, own kitchens, own parties, we experiment away on our guests! This also means that we don’t really cook at too many Vakil dinners anymore.

Last week, though, I had a chance, after a long time, to cook once again in my mother’s kitchen. I happened to be around the day my mum was organizing a dinner party for a friend from France & her Italian friend & a bunch of my dad’s old colleagues. She planned an Indian menu of course, with a mix of our native Gujarati dishes & some North Indian ones, with her signature aubergine dish.

My contribution to the menu was Kadhai Paneer, a Punjabi cottage cheese dish, from Nita Mehta’s recipe book. And yes, I did follow the recipe to the T… almost!

Ingredients

  • 250 gm Paneer (Cottage Cheese, cut lengthwise)
  • 2 Capsicums (cut in strips)
  • 2-3 Tomatoes (chopped)
  • 10-12 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 inch piece Ginger (chopped finely)
  • 1 ½ inch piece Ginger (grated)
  • 2 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
  • 1 ½  tablespoon Dhania Seeds (coriander seeds)
  • 2 dried Red Chillies
  • 1 tablespoon Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • A pinch Methi seeds (fenugreek seeds)
  • 4 tablespoons Oil, plus more for Deep Frying the Paneer
  • Salt

Note:

Since I was cooking for a European palate, I cut down the quantity of the chillies (both green & red) & deseeded them to cut down the heat.

I am not too fond of biting into ginger, so I used 2 inches, grated.

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Method

  1. Dry roast the red chillies till brown & crisp. Coarsely grind the roasted red chillies & dhania seeds together.
  2. Heat a tablespoon of oil & sauté the capsicum for about 5-7 minutes till done. Keep aside.
  3. In another wok, heat the oil & deep fry the Paneer pieces till golden brown. Keep aside.
  4. Heat the rest of the oil & cook the minced garlic till brown.
  5. Add the red chillies-coriander seed powder & stir fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes, followed by methi seeds, salt, green chillies & grated ginger. Cook till the oil separates & tomatoes soften.
  7. Add the capsicum, paneer & dried methi leaves. Give it a good mix.
  8. Serve hot with parathas / tortillas

Note:

If you want to go a little healthier, you could skip Step 3. The cottage cheese could be added directly to the tomatoes. Just be careful while stirring it in & don’t over stir as the paneer might crumble.

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This recipe serves 6 people

Jazz Up The Leftovers

The Kadhai Casserole

Grease a small but deep microwave/oven proof bowl generously. Arrange some tomato slices in a neat layer. Season with salt, pepper & any other herbs/spices you might want to use. Cover the tomatoes with buttered rice & top it with some paneer. Continue making the tomato, rice & paneer layers till you run out. Grate some cheese over it & pop in the microwave / oven till the cheese melts or browns.

Devil’s (Improv) Cake

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A great thing about Jaipur is that I always land up meeting interesting people & have memorable encounters each time. I don’t think I’ve ever been entirely lonely & friendless in the Pink City in the past 6 years! (Lucky me!)

I’ve watched very corny Bollywood blockbusters at one of Jaipur’s oldest movie theatres with French & British volunteers from school! Spent cold evenings swapping recipes, music & stories with a Russian teacher while her hair-dryer warmed up the room! I’ve joined a large group of American exchange students on the precarious roof tops of 2 storey buildings in Tripoliya Bazaar, watching the Teej Festival procession of camels, elephants, horses & dancers. This one afternoon, I learnt the ghoomar, the traditional Rajasthani dance. My “teacher”, a traditional folk dancer lived with her family in a tiny, tiny unfinished home but had performed the world over.

Teachers like me, who came to the school from Delhi & Bombay every once in a while to teach drama, photography, puppetry, who I met “coz we were sailing in the same boat”, are now good friends. After class or on weekends we’d drive up to the forts or walk around exploring the bazaars or even better grab a beer & kebabs at the street stalls on a chilly winter night! And the best part… it’s always a surprise; I never know who I’m going to meet!

This time round though, I was very excited to catch up with an old, friend whom I was going to meet after nearly 15 years! I last met Reema at her wedding. She has moved to Jaipur now & invited me home for dinner, the day I reached & then again on my last night there! A home cooked meal is always welcome! And when someone offers to cook mutton for you, the Bengali way, you’ve got to love her! And what better way to demonstrate that love by baking for her & her family :-)

Reema & Amit have 2 gorgeous daughters Arushi & Ayesha, who love chocolate. So I found a Nigella Lawson recipe for Devil’s Food Cake & gave the list of ingredients to Reema, who organized it all. Ask me where you can get gorgeous block print razais (blankets) or the best lassi (a thick, sweet, yogurt based drink) in Jaipur, & I’ll be able to tell you with my eyes shut! But basic groceries… absolutely clueless!

I volunteered to buy the chocolate… very optimistic, I know. Of course, I couldn’t find any dark cooking chocolate… so I improvised*… that’s what theatre people do best, don’t they?

So ingredients in place, our equipment in order, my eager 12 year old assistant, Arushi & I began our Devil’s Improv!

Ingredients

Cake:

  • ½ cup Cocoa Powder
  • ½ cup (packed) dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 cup Boiling Water
  • 9 tablespoons Butter (softened), plus some for greasing
  • ¾ cup fine Powdered Sugar
  • 1½ cups Flour
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs

Frosting

  • ½ cup Water
  • 2 tablespoons dark Brown Sugar
  • ¾ cup Butter (cubed)
  • *350gm dark Chocolate (chopped)/ 2 cups Chocolate Chips

*My Improv Ingredients

  • 4 Orange Silk Cadbury Chocolate Bars (chopped)
  • 4 Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate Bars (chopped)

(The grocer gave me very strange looks when I asked for 8 bars of Chocolate!)

  • Zest of 1 Orange
  • 2 tablespoons Orange Juice
  • 1 tablespoon Instant Coffee Powder

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Method

Frosting

  1. Heat water, brown sugar & butter in a pan over a gentle flame, till it melts.
  2. When the mixture bubbles, take it off the heat & add the chocolate.
  3. Leave it to melt for a bit & then add the coffee powder & orange juice.
  4. Whisk the mixture well till it is smooth & glossy.
  5. Leave the frosting to rest, whisking it every now & then. It will thicken as it cools.

Note:

I had cut down the amount of water since I was going to add the orange juice, but I still found the frosting on the thinner side. It would be a good idea to reduce the amount of water, even if you aren’t adding the juice.

It helps to make the frosting first, as it has enough time to thicken while you make the cake.

Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease & dust or line the bottom of 2 8 inch round cake tins (We had just 1, so went with that)
  2. Pour the boiling water into a bowl with the cocoa & sugar. Whisk & set aside.
  3. Get your “sous chef” to cream the butter & powdered sugar together. Peep over her shoulder to see if she’s beating well until pale & fluffy :-)
  4.  Sift the flour, baking powder & baking soda in another bowl & set aside. (We realised at the time we started that we were out of baking soda so I increased the quantity of the baking powder to about 1¼ teaspoons… it worked!)
  5. Add the orange zest & vanilla essence to the creamed butter & sugar, mixing all the while.
  6. Now add an egg, quickly followed by a large spoon of the flour mixture; continue mixing as you add the 2nd egg & the rest of the dry ingredients.
  7. Finally fold in the cocoa mixture & mix well.
  8. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans (or 1) & bake for about 30 minutes or till a cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Set the cake tin on a wire rack for about 5-10 minutes & then turn out to cool.

Putting It Together

Carefully slice the cake in half. Set one half on a plate. Spread a generous amount of the frosting on it & set the other half on it. Cover the entire cake with the rest of the frosting.

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Nigella’s Notes

  • The cake can be baked 1 day ahead & assembled before serving. Wrap tightly in cling-film & store in an airtight container. With our weather, it might make sense to refrigerate.
  • Un-iced cakes can be frozen the day they are baked, for about 3 months. Thaw for 3-4 hours at room temperature
  • Iced cake will keep for 2-3 days in an airtight container in a cool place or the fridge.Image    Image

The Review

Our Devil’s Improv worked!! The taste of orange was a pleasant surprise for our “audience”. It balanced the otherwise too sweet milk chocolate. And coffee added richness to the flavour. The cake was soft, light & melt-in-your-mouth.

Did I hear “Encore!”? ;-)

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This recipe serves 8-10 people

Salad, Jaipur Ishtyle!

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When I’m not cooking, eating, gossiping, reading or weeping through back to back reruns of Grey’s Anatomy… I teach drama.

And one of my favourite assignments is with a school in Jaipur (The Pink City), Rajasthan

I’ve been going there for about 6 years now. What started off as an annual 10 day trip, has now (over the last 2 years) become a week a month thing. And I’m not complaining… unless it’s winter (like now) & I’m freezing my butt off (I really am!)

The kids are great… enthusiastic & bright. And we’ve done lots of fun & interesting theatre work together. Right from Improv & Mime to Storytelling Sessions with Puppets & last year, I worked with about 300 3rd & 4th graders on a big school production of Indian short stories…. Good times!

The people here are warm & vibrant….. color everywhere…

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I don’t shop much when I’m home in Bombay (well ok, not that much), but I have a weakness for silver, & I get my fix here, along with block-print & tie-dyed cotton fabric, & of course… footwear :-)

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Being in Jaipur is like being on a working holiday. I’m free after 2:30pm, so after lunch & a nap (yes it is absolutely essential to my existence in Jaipur, as I work with nearly 120-150 children a day. I deserve it!!), I take off & absorb the Pink City, take in the sights, the smells & yes, the food!

This time round, however, the cold weather & a bad cough kept me hostel bound my first few days. But Thursday evening it got warmer, so I went for a walk around the old part of the City to buy a stole for my parents’ French friend & catch up with my young cousin Parth. Of course my camera went with me :-)

         

Winter is on it’s way out, so you there aren’t as many of these thelas  or stalls as you would find November to January. Gajak, Chikki & Rewdi are like brittle, made with Sesame or Peanuts & Jaggery. When I was here in December, almost every corner had Gajak stalls & the rich aroma of gooey Jaggery made you feel all warm & comfy inside.

Peanut Chikki & freshly roasted Groundnuts are found pretty much the year round in Bombay. But here, apparently it is a winter thing.

Dal (Lentil) Kachoris & Pyaaz (Onion) Kachoris are a Jaipur street speciality. These are slightly flattened balls of flour, stuffed with a lentil or an onion & potato filling & deep fried in pure ghee (clarified butter), served with sweet date & tamarind chutney & a spicy coriander & green chillies chutney…. Yum-my!

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Our walk through the streets of the Bapu Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar & Johri Bazaar, ended with Raj Kachori at Laksmi Mishtan Bhandaar (LMB) one of Jaipur’s oldest establishments where you get all sorts of chaat / street food in a restaurant as well as Rajasthani thalis (meals), mithai (sweets) & namkeen (savoury snacks).

      

Rajasthani food is packed with spices, but very rich . I’m trying to eat right (yeah right!) I want to  make something that’s healthy using elements of Jaipur street flavour. I don’t have a kitchen to make this here, so if you do try this out, let me know how it turns out :-)

So here’s a Salad… Jaipur Ishtyle!

Ingredients

  • ½ cup Bean Sprouts (raw)
  • ½ cup Chickpeas (boiled)
  • 1 small boiled Potato (chopped)
  • 1 Spring Onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 small Cucumber (finely chopped)
  • 1 Tomato (finely chopped)

Dressing

  • ½ cup (or more if you feel) Thick Yogurt (beaten well)
  • Ground Rock Salt (to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon Amchoor (Dried Mango Powder)
  • 1 tea spoon each of Jeera & Saunf (Cumin& Fennel Seeds, dry roasted & coarsely ground)

To Finish

  • Tamarind Chutney
  • Green Chillies Chutney
  • Coriander
  • Aloo Bhujia (deep fried potato vermicelli)
  • Roasted Peanuts
  • Pomegranate Seeds

Method

  1. Whisk the ingredients of the dressing together. Adjust the seasoning.
  2. Pour a generous amount of dressing over the salad, almost covering the vegetables.
  3. Drizzle the chutneys over the dressing & garnish with coriander, aloo bhujia, peanuts & pomegranate seeds.

Enjoy! And tell me how it was :-)

Prawns with Orange-Mint Sauce

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I grew up in a vegetarian household. Like many Hindus from Gujarat, my parents do not eat meat, poultry or fish. But unlike most, they never forced their views on the subject on my sister and me. The only thing my mother is extremely strict about is “No bringing anything home that is ‘non’-vegetarian!” Eggs are allowed.

So growing up, we could eat what we wanted. It started with a chicken sandwich at a birthday party, and then went on to sharing “dabbas”/“tiffins” or lunch boxes at school, and being invited home for prawn curry rice & stuffed bangda fish (by friends from the Konkan coast) or butter chicken & tikkas (by friends from Punjab, in the North) or Mutton Dhansaak (by Parsi friends). And of course special restaurant dinners or lunches my parents took us to… Italian, Chinese, Thai, Mexican… Like I said before, I come from a family of foodies (only they are vegetarian)!

My sister subsequently decided to turn vegetarian. I struggled & tried doing that for 2 months when I was 16… Then gave up!

Now while I’ve been eating meat, poultry & fish for over 30 years (please don’t try & figure out how old I am!), I only started cooking “non-veg” 8 years ago… when I got married. Because you see, the husband is from the state of Maharashtra… and they are allowed to eat & bring home anything!

Chicken was the first thing that I learnt to cook (on a tour of a play around the U.K. post my wedding…. but that is another story all together). Sea food, which is a staple with my in-laws, seemed complicated to me.

One day, I decided to rise to the challenge & cooked (for the husband, specially!) Prawns in a Spicy Peanut & Coconut Curry with (wait for it) Ripe Jackfruit!!! Oh how he hated it! I still think it was an experiment that worked (for me)… Spicy, Salty, Tangy & Sweet… What do you think?

So after that I got a bit conservative (but only for a bit ;-)) and avoided using jackfruit (ripe or otherwise!) in anything!

Anyway, here’s a Prawn dish that my “navra” (“husband” in Marathi) actually approved of, which also, by the way, can be made with “Whatever’s in the Fridge”!

Oh & do check out how to “Jazz up the Leftovers” at the end of the recipe!

Ingredients

200 gm Prawns

Marinade:

  • 2 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 2 teaspoon Tomato Paste
  • ½ teaspoon Pepper
  • Garlic Salt (to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon Red Chilli Powder (less or more as per your taste)

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Note: I would suggest spicing up the prawns with more chillies to offset the sweetness of the sauce.

Sauce:

  • 1cup Orange Juice (I used Tropicana)
  • Zest of 1 Orange (didn’t have any so used 2 lemons)
  • 2-3 Star Anise
  • 3-4 cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1 inch piece Ginger (finely grated)
  • 1 stalk Celery (finely chopped)
  • ½ cup Mint (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoon Sugar (less or more depending on taste)
  • 2 tablespoon Cornflour
  • Butter & Olive Oil

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Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade very well.
  2. Coat the Prawns evenly with the marinade mixture, cover & keep it in the fridge while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Heat some butter in a pan & add the star anise.
  4. Once you can smell the spice a bit, add the garlic & ginger & sautee for a few minutes.
  5. Add the zest & celery & cook until soft.
  6. Whisk the sugar, cornflour & orange juice & pour into the pan. Stir well & let it simmer till the sauce thickens.
  7. Take the sauce off the flame & strain it & keep aside.
  8. Heat some more butter in the pan, add a dash of olive oil & toss in the prawns. Stir fry for about 5-6 minutes (depending on the size of the prawns) till they are pink & just about cooked.
  9. Put the sauce back on the flame, add the mint & give it one good boil.

(Option 1 Appetizer) Serve the Prawns with the Orange – Mint Dipping Sauce

(Option 2 Main)  Add the Prawns into the sauce & simmer for 2-3 minutes. Serve hot with noodles or ginger-garlic fried rice.

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This recipe serves 2-4 people.

Jazz Up the Leftovers:

A Quick Prawn Thai Style Salad

Grate a carrot, a cucumber & a white radish. Add slivers of bell peppers. Toss in the prawns coated with some of the orange-mint sauce. Whisk together a little honey, some soy/fish/oyster sauce, tamarind water/paste & red chilli paste. Add a splash of this dressing to the prawns & veggies, toss in some crushed, roasted peanuts & you’re good to go! It makes for a healthy, light meal.