Monday, December 13, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Lollipop Toppers!

This was a cupcake order for a 4 year old girl's Birthday Party and her mom wanted something pink, girly and sugary. I was very inspired by two webistes: The Cupcake Project and Martha Stewart's kiddie cupcakes! I wanted to give this girl something pretty and edible... and I thought the lollipop toppers gave this cupcake a bit of an edge with younger kids!

Recipe to follow soon... or you can e-mail me for orders or recipes at: 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad - Eggless Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Buttercream

This cake is dedicated to my mom and dad and I wish I could ship it to them... but they were in my mind while I was completing this order for my neighbor's anniversary! Their brief was simple to make an eggless chocolate cake that the kids would enjoy.. and I kept it real simple. I added a bit of color with the M&M's for the kids... but apart from that I wanted to keep it simplistic and chocolaty!

I scoured through many blogs and 100's of recipes to get this right. I went back to my cupcakes recipe but it was too soft and didn't know if it would hold well as a full fledged cake to be layered and then I chanced upon Maduram's Blog - lovely tips for eggless cooking, clear instructions and beautifully decorated cakes for her Wilton's Classes... I read a lot of her recipe's and used her tips to bake two great moist eggless cakes.

I also used Rachel Allen's Chocolate Buttercream recipe which uses - butter, whipping cream and icing sugar to get a fantastic soft layer. To make sure the cakes remained most I spread a chocolate ganache on the cakes before layering and icing them.

The end result is as seen below:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oreo Cookies n' Cream Cheesecake.... mmmmm - need I say more?

Cheesecake has always been my weakness - ever since I was in the US - whether it's the first cheesecake I ever ate at the Cheesecake Factory over 10 years ago or at Serendipity 3 or at the numerous cafe's after a lazy Sunday brunch... I just could never get enough of them but some of them were sometimes overly dense and do not have a lightness about them.

I have been waiting to find a great recipe that put to good use my 1000Rs of Philadelpia Cream Cheese - a winner of a recipe that would be wiped clean out of it's box and here is surely a winner. I made this for my father-in-law's Birthday and my son couldn't keep his hands off this cake. I did a lot of research on the recipes for over a month and couldn't find a recipe that I thought was perfect... so I used a combo or a couple of recipes. The other issue was whether I should add flour or not to the cheesecake so it doesn't crack - most people advised to add a bit but mine did crack 'coz of a couple of mistakes I made - so I had to cover it up with a chocolate ganache. Again, there was a lot of debate on the water bath - I wrapped my springform multiple times with foil but didn't have the guts to dunk it in a water bath for fear of spoiling my very expensive cheesecake and causing a soggy base... so I baked it without one and was very impressed with the results. I used a modified version of Nigella's Passionfruit Cheesecake recipe eventually tweaking it about a bit.

You can feel free to e-mail me for the recipes or tips or place an order for the same. This is one cake that won't last till the end and almost finished by 5 adults and a toddler!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with real chocolate.... a winner!

I have been practicing baking cakes! Believe it or not everyone needs tons of practice and I can vouch for it 'coz I went from baking from the box to baking from scratch over two years and it has only been practice! Yesterday I baked a chocolate buttermilk cake and the day before that Dorie's EVO & Yogurt Cake in a loaf pan.

I was watching an episode of Rachel Allen: Bake and she inspires so many of her students to bake and over come their fears of being able to come up with a simple birthday cake.. so I decided to use her basic recipe and tweak it around a bit.

The other thing she did was putting together the batter without any mixer - just a mixing bowl and wooden spoon and I wanted to do just that - she epitomizes how baking can be simple task with glorious results.

So here goes - the recipe is tweaked a bit from what I can remember - but I used my own measures since she measures in grams and me in cups - do not have a weighing scale as yet...

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake

11/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar - castor will also do - but this adds a lovely color and flavor to the cake
2 eggs
1/2 cup good chocolate melted ('coz thats what I had in my fridge- would have liked to use at least 1 cup - had to add 2 tablespoons hershey's chocolate powder to give it a chocolaty boost)
1/2 buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 vanilla bean

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Beat the butter with the wooden spoon. Add sugar and beat till creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat with hand till almost custard like. Now add the vanilla bean and chocolate and mix well after each addition.

Sieve the flour and chocolate powder into the batter and slowly mix it into the batter but do not over mix. add the baking soda and baking powder in the end. Mix and pour into the prepared cake tin.

I have been lining my tins at the bottom and sometimes along the sides to be on the safer side. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Turned out to be a gorgeous cake - not too sweet - not too dry - perfect for icing or having plain with tea and coffee. You can increase the sugar if you want to serve it plain but with icing the cake is perfect as is. What I liked about this cake was that it was light and airy 'coz of the addition of buttermilk and didn't have a heaviness to it while eating it. Also, the cake was gone within a couple of hours.. so it has 5 stars in my recipe book. It is a must try and do tell me how it turns out.

Just a note: Rachel Allen baked it in two tins and served it with a chocolate butter cream frosting to be used as Birthday Cake but I just put globs of colored icing on it I had left to keep it simple and healthy for the baby who gobbles up most of the goodies baked in my house but yet wants some color on the cake!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday!!!!

I have been working on the cake for the last couple of days... 'coz I have the tiniest oven ever and to just get some great sponges out took me two days - baby calling every time I start beating the egg whites and sugar, once the cake turned out half baked 'coz I took it out in panic as it was getting charred on the top but all in all I was pleased with what I got.

My husband really likes the taste of fresh fruit, some cream and mascarpone with the fruit. I couldn't think of a winter fruit that I would put into a cake at this time of the year so first I got two butterless sponges  out of the way - to save on the calories. Sandwiched three layers of cake with whipped cream, mascarpone cheese and a tin of strawberries from the strawberry filling sans the syrup - I used to the syrup to brush the sponges and soak in it. Topped it with whipped cream, chocolate shavings and chocolate squiggles!

Since I couldn't lay my hand on any fresh strawberries  there aren;t any on the top but they would have completed the look... I am going to soon put up a piece of cake to show all the layers! This is the first time I have been able to decorate a cake without feeling awfully bad about it... so here are the pics I have already.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The most sinful Chocolate Cupcakes Ever...

My son's best friend turned a year older and to celebrate her b'day in school I did a batch of chocolate cupcakes - but the school teachers didn't want them frosted! So for the last few days I have been looking for a recipe for a cupcake that would remain moist without any frosting and thinking up ideas to decorate it without adding a ton of extra sugar to it...

I luckily chanced upon the Cupcake Project at the nth hour and it was a boon! I found the best cupcake recipe ever and it worked out well!

So here goes - the order was for 20 cupcakes and so I made two batches of batter and got about 24 cupcakes from it. The recipe calls for filling the muffin liners about 2/3 full but I wanted a puffed up top and filled it almost to the top. The result was gorgeous peaked cupcakes that melted in the mouth and gave an extra bite of chocolate chips in every mouthful... absolutely sinful for the children!


1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/3 cup mini milk chocolate chips

The only thing I omitted here is the salt since my butter was salted and I added a 1/4 cup of brown sugar to make this more moist and give it a deeper flavor.

Beat the butter till softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating till well combined and you seemed to get a wonderful mousse like batter. Combine all the dry ingredients into a separate bowl. Stir the milk and vanilla together in another bowl.  Now add 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar-egg batter and combine. Now add the milk-vanilla to this and beat. Keep alternating till all the dry and wet ingredients have been incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips with a rubber spatula till just combined. Now scoop it into muffin liners till almost full. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degree Celsius for 20 minutes.

Since the cupcakes have to be delivered at 8am, and I wanted them to be as fresh as possible - I have just finished baking and decorating them. And since the pictures were taken around 11pm the pictures are very dark and grainy but for now they will have to do and maybe I can try and get some more pics in the morning?

Also, since I couldn't do any frosting I just decorated the cupcakes with smiles made of sparkles and silver sugar balls and heart sugar candy.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Pictures from my kitchen....

I have been really caught up with Diwali, celebrating my son's second birthday and travelling a bit with my hubby - so blogging has been on the back burner and though the cooking and baking is happening there hasn't been time for quality pictures. There have been a few dinners and kiddie parties that I managed to get pictures from that I thought I would share with you...

The first one is from a kiddie party - Burgers and Yummy Garlicky Mashed Potatoes - except for the bun the burgers were homemade from vegetables, potatoes, soy chunks and the kids loved it! The masked potatoes were boiled with garlic and herbs, milk and cream added to the mash to make the potatoes really soft and creamy.

The next one is Nachos with refried beans, cheese and spring onions.

The third one is a trifle again done for a kiddie party that's why the somewhat garish colors - it was filled with custard, home made spongecake and fruits - topped off with a low fat cream whipped with icing sugar and decorated with fresh cherries and sparklers - all in all a pretty healthy dessert.

Lastly, there is some corn on the cob in the background and individual no bake blueberry mousse cups!

Hopefully, I should be back with some more fun stuff soon!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin & Caramelized Onion Soup

Well to be truthful it isn't exactly fall like weather in India but it has gotten a bit cool in the mornings and late in the evenings. But this soup is dedicated to my days in NY when I could barely put together a meal to save my life but a warm soup with cheesy bread was a welcome respite during Oct-Mar and I had an open kitchen and my roommate was always hassled about our clothes smelling of food. Now I do not have to worry about things like that and there is always SOME smell wafting from my kitchen - I like my house to smell warm - like cinnamon and spice or like bread baking or freshly baked cookies. The best compliment I did get was from my neighbor sometime back that whenever she opened her house she felt like coming into mine coz of the smells wafting from it.

So I got myself some pumpkin because my baby insisted and I thought I would humor him and then just didn't know what to do with it. Pumpkin or kaddu is usually cooked in a sweet / savory way to be had with pooris in our house but I am just not a poori person. Also, baby didn't like poori and hubby travelling so no one to eat poori and my hubby does run a mile from some veggies I may add that pumpkin is one of them... so I am sitting in my room looking at this huge piece of pumpkin thinking what I can do with it when I decided to roast it whole so it doesn't get spoiled. I just drizzled it with some olive oil and popped it into the oven for an hour at 250. The house suddenly started smelling gorgeous with the smell of roasted pumpkin. Sometime earlier I had sautéed some onion, ginger and garlic for curry and all the smells combined together smelled heavenly... so I decided to just combine them into a soup!

So, everything for this was totally done andaaz se - please follow your nose for this recipe and when it smells right I think you're done :)!

Roasted about 300grams of pumpkin
3 red onions sliced thinly + 3 spring onion bulbs
3-4 big cloves of garlic
4-5 cups vegetable broth

Saute the onions in some olive oil, then add some garlic and salt for seasoning. Cook this mixture down till the onions turn burnt sienna colored and are absolutely caramelised. Add the pumpkin and mash it all up - add some of the broth so that the veggies don't burn. Now puree this and add more broth  - till you like the consistency. I didn't make this soup too thin - 'coz the thickness gives it more flavor and depth. Add a bit of fresh cream to season this if you are not worried about the calories and some brown bread croutons or garlicky cheese bread to make a complete meal out of this! 

And sorry about not putting up pics folks.. I am travelling again - nothing exotic - just visiting my parents.. and I forgot my camera in the hurry of packing all and sundry for my 2 year old... so I have a huge backlog to catch up on!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Really Dense Eggless Chocolate Cupcakes with a wonderful Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

My mil's birthday was yesterday and we needed  an eggless recipe - the first eggless recipe I have tried and I think everyone seemed happy to eat these lovely cupcakes and they were approved by my son too! My family has always been very supportive of my baking and have eaten whatever I have put in front of them - when I first started out my cakes were very amateurish and kiddie looking and I didn't think they tasted great but were always met with rave reviews from my hubby and his parents. Back in time, I didn't know you could get whipped cream in India and didn't know fine sugar and butter would make a lovely cloud like, ethereal and fluffy white mousse like mass with which I could decorate my cakes and cupcake with but I have definitely come and long way from there  :)!

So there really easy chocolate cupcakes have one key to their softness - stir in the same direction - do not change directions. This should make about 11-12 cupcakes. Bake for about 18 minutes but check after 15 - since one of my cupcakes got slightly burned from the corner.

1.5 cup flour
1/3 cup good cocoa powder - like Hersheys
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fine sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup buttermilk (milk + 2 tsp lemon juice)

Sieve the dry ingredients. I used a hand mixer to mix the sugar and oil. Then added the buttermilk and vanilla extract. Then to this I added the dry ingredients and mixed it together with a spoon. I found that I needed to add a couple of teaspoons of milk to this to make the consistency right. The vinegar was added in the end and mixed and immediately poured into the cupcake liners. But I had switched off the oven b'coz od some incessant bells and the cupcakes still rose inspite of discovering it after a whole 5 mins of the cupcakes being inside - maybe coz the oven was already hot - I don't know but my guess is that the recipe was good?

Vanilla Buttercream frosting:

1/2 a vanilla bean
3:1 sugar and butter ratio - depending on how much frosting you want to make i.e. 3 cups sugar and 1 cup butter
2 tablespoons whipping cream

Whip together with electric mixer to form a cloudy mass. I frosted the cupcakes by piping the frosting on and then added some chocolate chips on top to give a nice contrast on the top.

The pictures were taken in the evening so aren't very bright but should be on soon.

And the carrot cupcakes got over before I could take any pictures... so am going to bake a batch soon to have them on here!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Do you want cupcakes, cookies, biscotti especially made for you???

I have had friends, family and all tell me that they are liking what they are getting and so I think I want to try my hand at giving more people what they want... so I decided to customize cupcake, cookies, bar cookies and tarts for people who just want healthier desserts for their family or dinner parties.

I will be putting together a formal menu with pictures and prices soon. But I can be contacted at: for any inquiries.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Healthy Carrot Cupcakes - yes, you heard it right!

I have been back for a couple of weeks and am a couple of pounds lighter!

Hanoi - was full of cooking adventures - like making Indian Aloo Paranthas without a chakla and belan (Indian Potato Flatbread without a rolling pin) and the likes - it didn't leave much time for posts. All I was doing was cooking and playing with the baby. So a little bit of running behind your tot and being too tired to eat can do wonders for you :)!

Well, so I have been on a slightly health food trail trying to keep that weight down now that I am back - oats and fruit in the morning, salad, soup and sandwich in the afternoon - you're getting the drift.

Now, I was craving cake and carrot cake seemed like the healthiest option at the mo. A little bit of googling around - toying between eggs and buttermilk, looking for something soft and moist enough not needing the cream cheese icing and I hit jackpot.

The recipe I have is for 6 cupcakes. I went through sooo many sites that I can't remember which one it is from... now all that I am waiting for is that the camera battery should charge soon so I can get pictures before the cakes vanish!

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar packed
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
3/4 cup carrots - grated very finely
1 egg
a little bit of salt
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180C. Just put all the dry ingredients in the bowl. Beat the oil and sugar together. Add the egg and beat. Add the essence and mix. Now add the flour bit by bit and mix. In the end I just added the grated carrots and mixed it with a spoon - till just mixed.

Spooned the mixture into my cupcake tin till the cupcake holders were 3/4 cooked and baked them for 18 minutes.

These babies turned out to be super soft and almost melted in the mouth. My son ate them warm... waiting for the hub to be home and tell me what he thinks. They could do with a little drizzle of icing sugar mixed with water if you want to do a glaze but if you want to keep it healthy stay away from all the glazes and cream cheeses in the world. Also, I don't think anyone could tell they were made with whole wheat flour but I am still testing...

Will be back with pics soon.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Hanoi, Vietnam : Places to eat at... when you're feeling homesick!

I know the time gap between my posts seems to be getting longer and longer and they aren't any pictures but things can be a bit crazy sometime.

This article is especially for the expats or tourists visiting Hanoi, Vietnam and are craving food other than Vietnamese.

Food seems to bring about a great festivity to the people in Hanoi. Everywhere you look you see families eating breakfast, lunch or dinner together chattering away while sitting on their colorful plastic stools oblivious to the tourists or other people around them. To eat the true Vietnamese food you can stop at any of the million places on the road where families are eating noodles or rice out of their bowls (different variety of noodles are also sold in stalls on the road). Accompaniments to this can be a variety of fish, pork, beef, veggies. A staple of the Vietnamese cuisine also is the Pho bo (beef noodle soup) served with lots of fresh red chillies and lime and Congee again served with meat and an assortment of sauces - traditionally made with beef but you can get yours with chicken too. Breakfast every morning at the hotel seems more like lunch with either congee, miso soup or Pho ga (Chicken noodle soup) and is so filling that there is hardly any place for a full blown lunch. The more exotic and contemporary Vietnamese dishes - snails, clams, pork intestines with blood and all (yes, you did read it right),spring rolls filled with a variety of vegetables / pork / chicken or tofu cooked and then served with a matured duck egg sauce can be found at all the good fine dining places here. A common site here is that everywhere you go you can see women with balancing baskets of food on her shoulder slung over a bamboo pole. This can be as exotic as rice cakes or boiled sweet potato but after a while an average person staying here for more than 10 days does start to get a bit homesick.

I am not a fan of experimenting with my meat and stick to chicken and vegetables. Also, with a small baby around me my excitement to experiment is a bit diminished... so I am always looking for places which serve basic sandwiches and fries and bottled water and have an air-con so that I can feed my baby in a cool place.

The options for expats and tourists who are home-sick are quite a bit. You find a number of restaurants around Hoan Kiem Lake that cater to the palette of tourists and Vietnamese alike. The Little Hanoi (Every thing from Vietnamese food to Tandoori chicken baguettes can be got here and the food is really tasty. This is just at the entrance of the old quarter and you can watch the hustle bustle of the old quarter from the confines of a nice air-conditioned sit down place which makes you feel right in the middle of it but still gives you yours pace) ), Thai Express (over looking the lake for good thai fast food), KFC (for your burger and fries craving), Opera House Cafe (great place to lounge and enjoy that evening beer or Vietnamese cold coffee with condensed milk). There is a coffee shop at the Hotel Zephyr that looked very chic and modern and have been meaning to try it out but haven't had the chance to step in. The good old Indian food craving can be satisfied with a visit to Tandoor (at the old quarter) or Asia House (Indian and Indian Chinese near Hai Ba Trung ). And there is always the good old Highland's Cafe, Hanoi's answer to Starbucks that has multiple branches all over the city and is always full of families and people sipping on their cuppa, chatting or expats / tourists surfing the net (you can get everything from breakfast to a decent meal here with an assortment of cold and hot coffees and tea to accompany it).

Since I am currently living in a service apartment I have been cooking a lot and L's Place at Hai Ba Trung (near the Cuban Embassy) is a great place to stock up especially is you are looking for food for kids (all ages). They have kiddie food (<1 year and up), cereals, chocolates, veggies, fruits, even chicken (which seems hard to get around here) , toys and household items. A one stop shop for anything you need for the house.

There is much to discover in Hanoi and I have just started discovering every page of this rich, culturally enriched book but it can be a bit challenging with a baby. Museum and shopping updates are going to be to be up soon - so do watch this space if you are planning a trip to Hanoi or just want to read more about this gorgeous place.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Cooking with 3 pots and 1 pan... my mis-adventures...

There are things (and people) that we take for granted in life and only when we are forced to give them up do we realize the comforts that we have surrounded ourselves with.

Usually, I am up at 6am ready for my yoga and by 7am when I am back my help serves me a warm glass of coffee milk which I manage to gulp down and skim through the paper before my son wakes up and demands I attend to him. I often crib about how I don't get alone time or miss a session 'coz I was awake the night before trying to get my son to sleep etc.

I am currently in Vietnam, yes Vietnam out of all the places, with no help and my 20 month old and me having a go at it all alone! I have been under the weather then passed off the bug to him.. but am still managing with no help for cooking and looking after him. We seem to be more relaxed and since I am less hyper it transfers to him and he is calmer too... I actually thought I won't survive without help but it's been a week and I am coping fine!

Yes, I do miss doing nothing and sipping on a cup of chai knowing everything will sort itself out and there will be food for the baby to eat but I am more at peace now. The other adventure that I am on is trying to get meals ready in time or before time and actually cooking with only 3 pots and 1 pan (a non-stick) that I couldn't have survived without - so I bought one the day after I landed. In Gurgaon, I have 6 pressure cookers to choose from when I am cooking and currently I have a mini 1.5ltr which I am using for everything!!!! I am terribly lucky to have packed it off with my husband in advance otherwise we would be waiting for hours to get food ready on the electric stove we have in the apartment. The only regret I have is the baking I have to abstain from since there is no over here.

Over the next few days, I am going to document surviving on how I manage to cook with my limited utensils. My son is not keen on experimenting with Vietnamese cuisine so I am also trying to cook Indian food here and the limited items on my list currently are - rava dosa, upma, subudane ka porridge, khichdi, a variety of dals with chawal, bhindi and various chicken curries. My hubby and son are not a fan of veggies but I think they are missing their paranthas and roti.

Am going to keep trying to blog from here about the markets, cuisines and things to do with children.

Over and out for now - time to head into the kitchen to get the evening snack ready.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mumbai - City of Dreams...

This article is just some food for thought (but no actual food or pics included). It is about Mumbai - the city I always call home, even though I currently reside in Gurgaon (which is in Northern India)! For those of you who live in India or who reside outside the country - I will definitely have it on my "one of the places to visit" list.

I live in Juhu near the beach and there is nothing quiet about where I am - this hustle and bustle is what I love the most about the city and what keeps me going. At any given point of the day or night there is a continuous flow of traffic that can be seen from my window and honking of horns. There are a million people thronging the beach even in this weather when the rain doesn't seem to have ceased... and the city is full of some kind of vibrancy that makes you want to go out there and live your life and makes your dreams come true - maybe this is why it is called the "City of Dreams"!

Since, this is a food blog I will tell you about a few restaurants and places to eat that I touched upon on this trip. I couldn't go around trying a lot of new restaurants since the weather has been really blue and getting out with a baby can be quite a chore. Also, my throat is slightly under the weather so I am trying to keep it real simple. I had to go to my bhel-puri and paani-puri joint - which is in the by-lanes of santacruz between Yoko's and Tresori (e-mail me if you want directions). This guy is great for all kinds of chaats (Indian Street Food) - I think he beats Elco (on Hill Road)  since he has not commercialised it and turned it into a big shop and is yet really hygienic! He has a loyal clientèle and I have been going to him for the last ten years... Then there is Candies (in three locations in Bandra) and it has the most awesome selection of food if I may add - during my stay at Lilavati during my delivery my family was a regular at this food joint. This time there was a change in their desserts... beside the regular fare they had the cutest mini muffins - carrot, carrot - zuchini, banana, chocolate, red velvet - name the flavor and they had it. Thy had cutesy mini pies,  mini chocolates and miniature everything. In this day and age of super sizing portions it was a relief to see - coz I could try a couple of things without feeling guilty and I am always trying to cut my "dessert" intake - so these sizes really help! I also ate some Indian-Chinese at Juhu Gymkhana and it didn't fail to make me happy - chilly chicken and fried rice is the way to go when in India!

Apart from this my ten days in Mumbai flew by, also because I had a nasty cold which refused to go... the one day that the hubby showed up we tucked the baby in bed and decided to visit Olive - I just love this place - but the baby got up and we had to be back even before we had ordered drinks!

For those of you who follow my blog and are not from India.. I am going to try and put up some pics of some Indian Street Foods - so you can get a feel of what I am talking about.

I am still travelling and shall be back with some great food pics and recipes soon!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Off and On...

I am going to be blogging sparingly for the next month because I am travelling to visit family... if you subscribe to the blog you will receive an email as soon as there is a new post!

Thank you for the patience...

Friday, July 2, 2010

Kiddie Party Treats - Totally Sinful !!!!

I have been a fan of Bakerella Pops since forever - she has the yummiest and most scrumptious looking bite sized food ever!

So when I knew I was going to have many many kids over (read more than 10) and I had some serious baking to do... I realized I am going to try and make some "CAKE POPS"! I also ended up making some very Christmassy sugar cookies - and got inspired to turn them into "COOKIE POPS"!

Accompanying this I also had some Mini Cheesecakes (Oreo cookie and Blueberry flavors), Chocolate and Walnut Biscotti, Chocolate and Walnut Fudgy Cookies, and Banana Walnut Loaf Slices - the mothers needed some treats too!

Yeah, I think I was going crazy and into baking over-drive for the last few days - but it was well worth the effort!
More photos to come :)!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Father's Day... belated post and still everything not up!

Yes, this is a very belated post for Father's Day which was a hectic Sunday - with meeting relatives and taking the baby to the mall.

So, we did not get to eat all the yummies prepared till the day after... there was Mango Cheesecake (vanished before it could be picturised), Pita and Hummus, Pav Bhaji (an Indian fast-Food kinda dish), Peanut Butter & Chocolate Chunk Blondies, Chocolate and Walnut Cookies... thought we can keep him happy for a couple of days with the food.

A hectic time so the photography has been a bit slow... but I leave you with two pictues - with a simple hummus I whipped up and some peanut butter and chocolate blondies - recipes and more pics to follow!!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Banana Cherry Walnut Loaf with a hint of Chocolate served with a cherry compote - phew!

Well with all the baking going on in my house nowadays and me touching the big 3-0... I am realizing that exercising thrice a week is just not helping me stay in shape - so my next best option is to try and tweak everything to be a bit healthier!

Like Joey would say -
"Banana's - Good "
"Cherries - Good"
"Walnuts - Good"      
"Chocolate - Good"
"What's not to like?"

Well, I haven't been a fan of bananas truthfully and usually stay away from anything bananas - but looking at the plight of the bananas and abundance of cherries in my house, I had to finally take matters in my hand. I toyed with a lot of options thinking individual banana and cherry crumble cakes - but it was too much work and too much butter! Muffins - nah! I wanted to bake something wholesome that could accompany morning tea or coffee or be a perfect snack for the evening and not set me back on the calories - so I thought about baking a loaf  with the bananas and the perfect nut to balance this seemed to be walnuts so I decided to try my hand at baking a Banana and Walnut Loaf .

Now, I found an easy one bowl Banana Bread recipe which was the only way I wanted to go since it was 12:45am by the time I figured out what I wanted to bake - I thought I would tweak it to add the walnuts and that would be easy enough. When I breezed into the kitchen I realized  I had forgotten all about my cherries that were pitted had been marinating all evening in some balsamic vinegar and vanilla sugar. Well I thought I'd throw in some cherries into the recipe for an extra burst of vitamins... so well I was now going to bake myself a Banana Walnut and Cherry Loaf.

I got all the ingredients together and started mixing everything together but the aromas that wafted to me kept hinting to me that something was missing. Well luckily for me the flour had to be added in the end and so to enhance the butty flavor of the bread and to make it really wholesome I used some millet flour (naachni ka aata) in it to. I was almost done when I heard the baby crying - had to go to the bedroom soothe him and come back - the pan was ready and I was ready to pour everything in and poured in some batter and realized I had forgotten the baking soda in the process!!!!! Back in the bowl went my batter and I added the soda at which point I realized - what the hell - since I had already made a mistake - I can take one more chance - a hint of cocoa powder in this would make this near perfect for me coz I can eat anything chocolate and the batter was already looking kinda brown to me - so I quickly added this and into the oven went the loaf finally... so what came out was a Banana Cherry Walnut Loaf with a hint of Chocolate and even the hub seemed to get up at night and asked me why our room was smelling of chocolate and vanilla and all things nice (coz I had forgotten to switch on the exhaust in the kitchen and the aromas had wafted into our room :))!

So here are my ingredients:

2 large ripe bananas, smashed

      1/4 cup freshly pitted cherries tossed in vanilla sugar and balsamic vinegar       
      1/4 cup walnuts  
      1/3 cup melted butter
·     3/4 dark brown sugar
·     1 egg lightly beaten beaten
·     1 teaspoon baking soda
·     a pinch of salt
      1 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nachni ka atta or millet flour - this really provides a nutty and roasted chocolate flavor to this loaf - I was more confident about using it as it added a beautiful full bodied flavor to my Biscotti
2 teaspoons unsweetened chocolate powder


Preheat the oven to 170C. Mash the Bananas and add the butter and mix well. Mix the sugar until well incorporated. Add the egg. Now add the flours+chocolate a little at the time. The mistake I made was to add the baking soda last but please add it and the pinch of salt before the flour. When the batter is completely mixed - just toss the cherries and walnuts in and mix lightly. Pour into a greased loaf pan and pop into the oven for an hour. After 30 minutes when I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer - I reduced the temp. to 165C and went to sleep. I woke about 30 minutes after the oven had tinged and moved the loaf to a wire rack - and it was looking gorgeous!

Pictures have arrived!

I forgot to tell you all about the Cherry Compote - compote is usually defined as anything cooked in sugar so mine wouldn't be a conventional compote - like I said  I am on some kind of self-imposed DIET! Well, so I took about 1/2 cup of my marinated cherries (they just had drizzle of balsamic vinegar and vanilla sugar on them) and covered them in a microwave safe dish and heated them in the micro for a couple of minutes till they were a little slushy and syrupy!

You can sieve a bit of castor sugar on your cake before serving or drizzle with cherry compote or also make a tangy lemon syrup to drizzle over it! All these are great to make this look fancy but for now I am going to keep it simple since I am trying to watch my sugar! Please wrap in cling wrap and keep to retain its moistness.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Growing Up - take a chance on me...

Yes, part of it does remind you of  the ABBA song! But my post is all about me growing up and maturing as a food blogger and being ready to take a chance on preparing and baking different kind of foods. Earlier I wanted to stay within my comfort zone and was terrified of trying out a new recipe but I actually stumped myself today.

I baked some Biscotti that I wasn't sure would come out too well ( so it is with cheesecake baked in water baths, puff pastry from scratch, galletes and numerous other things which you are going to see posted on my blog from now on..) but I had to go ahead and give it a try. And I changed the recipe all together. This was for two reasons - firstly, I wanted it to be something that my toddler would enjoy and secondly, I wanted to make it a bit healthy. Anyways, Biscotti are supposed to be a nice hard double baked biscuits but I didn't overbake mine so that the son can enjoy them! Though these biscuits are not overloaded with butter and sugar I still tried to make a healthy variant of the original recipe since I was out of all purpose flour.

So here is the original recipe - adapted from a scrap of paper which is part of my recipe collection - I wish I could remember which website I got it off - with my substitutions mentioned on the right.

31/2 cup flour - I used half all purpose flour and half cup millet flour (nachni aata - this has a very earthen chocolaty taste to once roasted)
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
11/2 cup sugar (I used a mix of brown and regular)
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chocolate chips or nuts ( I omitted this as it was a trial recipe)
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence

I cream the butter and sugar together with my electric mixer. Then added the eggs and vanilla essence. I mixed all the dry ingredients and changed the attachments for my mixer to the dough mixer. I mixed the flour a little at the time and then oiled my hands and used a floured surface to knead the dough since it was very sticky.

I divided the dough into two and made two loaves which were slightly raised in the middle and left at least 4-5 inches of space between the two since they expand quite a bit.

I bake these loaves for 25 minutes at 165C. The only problem I faced was that my dough after 25 minutes was a little crumbly on the top and even tough I used a serrated knife to cut it - a couple of pieces broke into two.

One cut into individual cookies, I baked them for 10 minutes on each side at 150C. The aroma that wafted through my kitchen had my son singing "mama chok-it (coz he cant say chocolate)". And they were worth the effort and time.

I will definitely substitute in the nuts next time.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grilled Chicken Sandwich & Chocolate Custard Pudding with a chocolate cake base topped with Whipped Cream - a perfect "ME" Lunch...

This one is for all the women out there who haven't had a "me" moment in a while... I look back at my life sometimes and see it seems to be always revolving around my family! I hardly cook myself mushrooms or paneer / cottage cheese b'coz I know there are no takers in the house. My husband and son will eat anything chicken and a few veggies here and there! So my meals are usually dictated by what everyone would like to eat. 

If any of the mother's out there have taken a moment to step back and look at their life they will notice their routine meanders around the child going to sleep and trying to fit in all household chores at that time, especially if you are a stay at home mom or doing their groceries while dropping their child to his / her various classes... have you ever gone for a pedicure and not wondered if your child has eaten or has your house-help finished all the chores??? 

Well, so last night I decided that I am going to have a "ME" day once a week and do something that only pleases me without thinking about anyone else and without feeling guilty about it later!

I know I am totally off the recipe bit but I am coming to it now... so well today, I went to the gym without worrying if the baby will miss me and that was a start! And I decided I won't eat his leftovers however hungry I am... since the baby fell asleep early - I made an easy grilled chicken sandwich for myself than I really enjoy eating and haven't eaten in ages. 

I had some leftover chicken from some soup I had made a couple of days back and shredded it to the bone. I had some hung curd from some mousse I had made yesterday and I wanted to eat something light and yummy - and this is what I came up with!

1 cup shredded chicken
1/2 onion and 1/2 tomato finely chopped
5-6 jalapeños finely chopped
5-6 olives finely chopped
oregano, salt and pepper for seasoning.

Method: I sauté the onions and tomatoes in a bit of olive oil and then leave them to cool. I beat the hung curd with a fork and add the cooled onions and tomato mixture, jalapeños and olives to it. I seasoned it with oregano, salt and pepper. I sometimes add grated carrots to it also but I was out of it. I then added as much dressing I wanted to my shredded chicken and mixed it lightly.

I added the chicken mixture to my brown bread and grilled it in the toast maker using a bit of margarine. The result was a very nice light dressing for a yummy sandwich! 

By now, I was also craving something sweet and chocolaty and comforting. My husband is more of an ice-cream person and my son is more of a cake person. Well... since, today was my "ME" day I thought I will make myself this chocolate custard pudding that I have been thinking about for a while and whoever wants to eat it more than welcome. Yes, this is a slightly sinful pudding and has the texture of a mousse but since it has custard powder and milk and whipped cream I would like to think of it as a luscious pudding that slowly dissolves in your mouth.... 

Well there are the ingredients:

500grams Milk
40grams Pillsbury Custard Powder
1 tbsp Cocoa Powder (I used weikfield)
¾ cup cooking chocolate
2tbsp Sugar
½ cup low fat cream
1 box cake mix – chocolate
1 tablespoon vanilla essence

Bake the cake as per directions on the box. Cool on wire rack for about 20 minutes. 

Mix custard powder with half cup of milk and keep aside. Boil the remaining milk with chocolate, cocoa powder and sugar. When it comes to a boil add custard powder and stir continuously and stop it from forming lumps (like you are making a chocolate custard). Remove from heat and let it cool at room temperature. When the mixture is cool, add vanilla essence and whipped cream to this. Now keep the mixture in the freezer till semi-set in the bowl you have mixed it. remove it when it seems semi-set and whisk it a bit with a wire whisk so it kinda smoothens. Now you can assemble this in a big square glass dish or in individual glasses like I did coz I just thought it looked prettier - though you cannot differentiate the layers coz of the chocolate on chocolate! 

I took some liquor glasses and spooned some of the cake into the bottom. Then poured the whisked pudding into them. I topped it off with swirls of whipped cream. and sprinkles to make it a bit girly but you can dress it up more elegantly with a wafer roll or just whipped cream or have it as is!

So this was my extravagant lunch today... what the heck, there is always yoga and healthy salad for tomorrow!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Muffins and Mousse!!!!

I have been busy in the kitchen the last few days.... and you are soon going to see some posts for Dal Makhani and Simple Punjabi Chhole but in the meanwhile since all the chocolate chip muffins were polished off by friends and family I had to come up with a another snack for myself to nosh on.

I found some blackcurrant crush that I knew was going to expire soon and it has been on my mind to use it well. I had hung some yogurt to use it and make a fresh yogurt mousse with but with that done I had about 6-7 tablespoons to go and didn't know what to do with it! And then I had it! Like I mentioned in my earlier post I had the muffin recipe to perfect and experiment with since I had just started exploring this genre so what better than to use it to make blackcurrant muffins!!!!! They haven't risen as much as I would have liked them to but I think I have to work on my oven settings for that!

So here are the recipes - I wanted to keep it as simple as possible as my son has been needing my attention recently and not letting me spend the amount of time I would require to whip up some intricate goodies! These recipes are soo easy that I am not breaking it down into ingredient and method and just putting it down all together.

Blackcurrant Mousse:

I used 400 grams yogurt and hung it in a muslin cloth for an hour. To that I added 200 grams low fat cream and about 3 tablespoons of gelatin dissolved in a bit of warm water. To this I added about 1/2 cup of blackcurrant crush and 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar. I whisked it all together except the gelatin which I added slowly in the end. I made individual portions of this to make it look pretty! And before I poured this into the cups I layered them with digestive biscuits mixed with a bit of butter. Set in the fridge for about 30 mins and they were yum and sooo done to be devoured! They have a ohh soo fresh and smooth flavor - the perfect cold dessert for these warm summer nights !

Blackcurrant Muffins:

I took the recipe for chocolate chip muffins and omitted the chocolate chips from it. Here it is:

I then made the batter and poured it in the muffin liners in a muffin tin and added a tablespoon and a half of blackcurrant crush into each muffin liner which were holding the batter. I swirled some and left some as is to see what the result was and they came out perfect! Moist and not too sweet. Melting in the mouth - perfect as an accompaniment for a cup of hot chai, cold coffee or after food dessert! Now the only variation I want to try is to make it with some whole wheat flour to make it healthier!!!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Easiest Hors d'œuvre - Savory Potato and Cheese Bread Baskets

These are the easiest Hors d'oeuvres ever. They are simple and elegant - put together in a snap (less than 15 minutes) and can be made in advanced and baked just before serving! People will be wondering what they are and asking you the recipe - trust me on that. To top this they are made with brown bread and mashed potatoes - comfort food and health all thrown together in one dish. You can make this with white bread but the brown bread gives it a nice color. Also, you can reduce the butter and make it all in olive oil if you want it to be very very healthy! (The brown bread katori's are inspired from Nita Mehta's cookbook but filling and ideas are all original) You can definitely experiment with the filling.

Do tell me how they turned out but I know they are soo easy that my friend's kids were able to put them together in a jiffy!

Here is the recipe:

6 pieces of brown bread - cut in the shape of a round or katori
2 potatoes boiled and mashed
oregano and butter for seasoning
2-3 tbsp grated cheese - cheddar preferably
Hot sauce of your liking
Sprigs of coriander to decorate

Roll the round shape bread with a rolling pin or belan till very thin. Brush with a little olive oil and put inside a muffin tray and bake for 10 minutes at 190C. Meanwhile take the mashed potatoes and put it in a pan with the butter and oregano and saute till slightly browned. You can add chilli flakes, jalapenos, peppers or any other seasoning to this to make it suit your taste buds. When the bread baskets are ready - spoon the potato mixture into this. Top with grated cheese and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from tray. Top with hot sauce and sprigs of coriander (to get a great contrast of colors and to draw a little bit more of oohs and aahs when you serve it. The coriander in my house was over so I just did my photo shoot without it). Serve hot while the cheese looks like it's still melting and these will melt in your mouth.

Simply Chocolate Chip Muffins!

The newest recipe book that I have added to my collection is Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess - and that has inspired me and shown me how cakes, muffins, cupcakes can be easy to whip up and not a nightmare! The way her book conveys the message to you, it is as if she is right there telling you, "Go on! You can do it! No biggie!" So this afternoon when I was craving something chocolate I thought about baking myself a batch of muffins to have with my cold coffee... 

Well, so here is my first go at muffins. I am using ingredeints I had on hand and making them was as easy as 1-2-3... so I am going to have to try variations before I can conclude that I have mastered muffin making but my first attempt definitely seemed like a success. Within 30 minutes I had a batch of freshly baked muffins on the wire rack cooling and a delicious aroma wafting from my kitchen... and I still managed to catch a nap with my sleeping baby! So all in all it turned out to be a productive day :)!

This post is dedicated to all the mothers who have young toddlers and still seem to find their life a little topsy - turvy. Trust me it will come back all together bit by bit... here's a start for a little treat for your little munchkin with that cheeky grin who has you wrapped around your finger. You can try using whole wheat flour to give it a healthier twist - it makes a perfect evening snack to take to the park with your toddler! No more guilt about giving them only packaged snacks.... you can make mini muffins which are perfect for babies under 1.5 and regular sized ones for the older ones. Better still make an activity out of it coz they are going to be really happy helping put this together! Also, I find cooking therapeutic so making dinner and dessert is very relaxing... and putting together a homemade dinner and dessert after taking care of the baby the whole day makes you feel like giving yourself a pat on your back and sinking your teeth into the soft muffin is your reward for that.

So here goes the recipe:

I read a few recipes before I put mine together - mine makes 6 regular sized muffins.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 large egg
1/4 cup butter at room temperature
1/2 cup milk chocolate
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup demerera sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of baking soda

A useful tip Nigella Lawson gives in her book is to mix all the dry ingredients and leave on the counter the night before. Mix all the wet ingredients in the fridge the night before. Then in the morning - just melt the butter - mix the dry and wet ingredeients and you have a yummy breakfast in under 30 minutes :)!

So the batter is as easy as mixing the wet ingredients together and the dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix slowly till all mixed together with a wooden spoon. Do not over mix as this will cause the muffins to be hard.

Scoop the mixture equally into 6 cupcake / muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes at 190 degrees. And your mouth watering dessert / breakfast / snack is ready to be dvoured hot or cold!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Magic Bars, Seven Layers Bars (thought I got only 5 from my pantry at the last minute), Easy Peasy Yummy Treats - call them what you make like!

These were the yummiest and easiest bars I have ever made and healthiest if I may state. I have been staring at the pics and salivating at pictures of bar on various websites but never got down to doing anything about it. My sweet tooth got the better of me last night but I had promised myself to eat healthy till I work off all the sinful food I had eaten and added to my waist during my seven day holiday!

Now all the bar recipes seemed to be pretty great about substitutions and coming up with your own variations - so here goes what I did at 3am.

Firstly, these are the easiest bars to make. The condensed milk binds them together - so they hardly need any butter - no added sugar and no mixing, whisking - nothing. This in my dictionary was = PERFECT!

I used oats as the base of my bars. 1.5 cup quick cooking oats mixed with 1/2 cup melted butter - pressed into a square dish over some butter paper. When I had that down, I spread some ready made almond and raisin muesli over it - about 1/2 cup. Then on top of that went 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup chopped walnuts. On top of that I poured a 400gram can of condensed milk and baked for 35 minutes at 180C. Mine were overly brown on the top - I am guessing because of miniature oven I have. Next time I will bake for 25 or 30 minutes only.

But these bars were finger licking delicious - my husband like them - they were packed with fibre and nuts - and I didn't feel that bad about being derailed off my "eat healthy routine"!!!

I looked at a lot of websites and I thank all of them for the pictures and inspiration but this recipe isn't a direct copy of any 1 of them....

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Turkey - Istanbul & Hillside Beach Club - Fethiye (Especially for all my readers with children)

Yes, I have been away and it has been one of the most relaxing vacations I have taken in a while. Hillside Beach Club is set far far away in the fairytale town of Fethiye. It is Wi-Fi connected and very modern and yet you will not ending up touching your TV remote or laptops or sit on the computers they have set-up that offer free internet because there is soo much to do. And since it's full board - all the yummy food is on the house form 730am onwards. It is a relaxing food fest interrupted with activities of  your choice (read: diving, sailing, aquarobics, pilates, shows, swimming) or anything else you please from the host of activities going on around the club! They have a children's club that keeps kids of all ages on their toes with interesting stuff to do - archery, darts, swimming, play areas and the kids want to keep going back for more. Yet, you will find time to sit on the pebbled beach and throw pebbles into the sea, observe the fish from the pier and sun bathe to your hearts content if you are not to busy swimming in their beautiful private bay. I guess I can ramble on and on about this but if you need any more details from me please feel free to e-mail me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Decadent Chocolate Brownies...

Chocolate cravings always come unannounced! But this one has been lingering at the back of my head for the last few days but I just haven't had the time to put something together. Usually in these situations I just use a brownie or cake mix and add my own twists to it... but I have decided to only use the ready-made mixes in a real real emergency and I had no excuse to not bake from scratch today.

So I started sifting through the numerous recipes I had and looked online for something easy not requiring sour-cream or buttermilk and I wanted to make something from Barefoot Contessa's recipes. I used to watch her show when I was studying in the US and found he way she put together her things very interesting...

Now the easiest recipe with all the ingredients available in my kitchen turned out to be a Brownie Pudding recipe (which I noticed much later) and I was in the mood of brownies... so since I had brought out all the ingredients and measured them, I said what the heck, I will bake them like brownies and see what happens! What is cooking without a bit of experimentation and imagination all rolled into one?

So this is the recipe:

1/4 pound unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup sugar
11 oz Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (1.5 cups - didn't have syrup - so used a little under 1.5 cups mixture of melted chocolate chips, Fruit n Nut Bournville & Cadbury Dairy Milk)
1tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs at room temperature

Now this recipe, called for baking the ingredients together in a water bath - but I just did the usual thing with the batter. I creamed the butter and sugar. Added the eggs and vanilla and whisked some more. Add the flour and poured it into a square pan. I added about 1/2 cup of chocolate chips on top and put it into the oven at 175 degree celsius and baked for 20 minutes - it wasn't done. I baked for about 9 minutes more and the top seemed a little over done - so I would suggest bake for 25 minutes and immediately put to cool on a wire rack. The result was a nice and gooey brownie. Pretty heavy with all that chocolate in it and I topped it with a really nice fudge sauce. Hope it looks as gooey and chocolaty as it turned out to be!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Juicy Couture - Aam Panna / Green Mango Cooler & Pink Lemonade

Nothing beats the soaring temperatures of Delhi better than these yummy, fresh, pink and green hued drinks! Lemons, Cranberries, raw green mangoes all rich in Vitamin C and lots of minerals and have numerous health benefits that I could go on about but I am sure most of us are aware of it. But just seeing the kayree / green mango and lemons at the fruit shops remind me of the mouth watering drinks that we have grown up drinking every summer! I still remember our fridge always having some kind of homemade sharbat - be it rooh afza, nimbu paani, aam panna or orange tang.

So, I am going to give you a twist to the humble lemonade and the very Indian aam panna which will give you, your kids and friends lots of respite from the heat and beat dehydration. Also, a dash of vodka in the drinks can make yummy cocktails to serve at a ladies night or enjoy with your hubby over a homemade Sunday brunch!

Here go the recipes:

Pink Lemonade
5 tbsp powdered sugar

6 cups water
1 cup cranberry juice
Juice of 3 lemons

Mix the water and sugar well. Add the lemon juice to this and mix well. Now add the cranberry juice and mix again. Chill and serve cold with ice cubes. You can garnish this with some lemons. Makes about 6 cups of lemonade. And yes it is unbeliveably simply but taste simply divine and noone with be able to guess how simple it is to put together.

Aam Panna
4 green mangoes washed and boiled in a cup of water
1 cup powdered sugar
100 grams mint leaves finely chopped
2 teaspoon bhuna hua jeera powder (roasted cumin powder)
4 teaspoon kala namak (rock salt)

Remove the mangoes from the water and remove their pulp. Put aside the water. Add sugar to the mango pulp and whisk it together in the mixie. Add about half the mint leaves and whisk it again. Strain this through a big sieve. Now add the remaining mint leaves, roasted cumin powder, rock salt and the water used to boil the mangoes. Mix this well and store in an air-tight glass bottle in the fridge.

This is a concentrate. Now use 1 part concentrate and 2 parts water to make your cooler - adjust sugar and rock salt to suit your taste. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and lemon. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Essence of Curry - Curries in a Jiffy: Recipes to get you started

I have been meaning to pen this post for a while - I have spoken about "pyaaz ka masala or sauted onion paste" before! But suddenly I see more of a flurry around the "curry" and especially trying the make it yourself kind and mine being a typical north indian household I have to have "A CURRY" made for dinner aat least 3 days a week! So I thought why not I try to simplify it as much as I can for all our readers.

Firstly, dear readers let me tell you that I couldn't cook to save my life before marriage - especially Indian food. Give me a Pav Bhaji or Pasta Dish and I could whip it up in no time but Indian food always seemed way to time consuming for me to even try my hand on. Until I got married and realised that I can live on "chawal (rice)" but my hubby needs his "curry" so I decided to get some tips from the ever dependable mother and tried to turn my cooking skills around bit by bit...

I feel the essence of the curry is to get a flavorful gravy together without it being too full of oil and spices. The base of 90% of the curries in India is a good "pyaaz ka masala or sauted onion paste". So once in a week, I have my help make it and I shall tell you how useful it is and then give you the recipe for it.

To get together any curry in my house, I just have to use a tablespoon of my sauted onion paste to a tablespoon of oil and crackling cumin, add a little tomato puree or freshly grated tomatoes - saute it some more. Add any spices, vegetables or meat to this basic paste - add water - give this a whistle in the pressure cooker or slow cook it in a heavy bottom pan and voila the curry is ready!!!! Yes, it's that simple. 

The only thing you need to add or subtract from the above is the kind of spices used, the amount of tomato puree or onion paste used etc - you get the drift. Now let me give you the recipe for my sauted onion paste.

I use about 1kg red onions, 10 big cloves of fresh garlic and the same amount of chopped ginger. I half the onions and add the onions, ginger and garlic mixture to my food processer and blitz it all together till it forms a paste. don't feel hesitant to add a couple of teaspoons of water to this to get it together. Once this is done - take a heavy bottom pan and put the paste in this, sprinkle a little bit of salt on this and let it cook on low heat. The original color of the paste is more towards lilac but after being cooked for almost 20 minutes it starts browning and that is what you to patiently wait for since this is what adds the flavor and color to your curry. If you think the paste is sticking to your pan too much - add a couple of teaspoons of water to this - enough to scrape the stuck onions paste from the bottom of the pan - the darker it - the better you curry is going to look and taste - just be careful not to burn it but making this paste is going to take a good 20-30 minutes. This can be stored in the fridge for a week or two in an airtight container but that container will probably have to be dedicated to onions after that 'coz it's going to get a strong smell.

Now here are a few basic curry recipes to get you started:

Aloo Matar ki Sabzi (Curried Potatoes 'N Peas) Recipe:

2 potatoes cut into small cubes
Half the amount of frozen peas
Spices: 1 bay leaf, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste, 11/2 teaspoon coriander powder (dhaniya powder), salt and red chilli powder to taste, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 small grated tomatoes or about 11/2 tablespoon of tomatoe puree
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sauted onion paste that you have prepared
1 cup water

1. Take a pressure cooker or heavy bottomed pan -> Add the oil and let it heat a bit - add the bay leaves and cumin seeds and wait till cumin splutters.
2. Then add the ginger-garlic paste, onion paste and tomatoes and saute it. Add the coriander powder, turmeric powder, salt and chilli powder to this and saute this till you can see it sticking to the bottom of the pan and oil leaving this mixture. Add about a tablespoon of water to this so that the mixture doesn't burn. 3.Add the potatoes and peas and saute it in the mixture till well coated. Now add the cup of water to this and let it cook till the potatoes are cooked. If you are using a pressure cooker - this will cook in two whistles.

For easy variations :
1. You can use a mix vegetables like beans, carrots and peas instead of potatoes = Mixed Vegetable Curry
2. You can make the curry only with peas and add hard-boiled eggs (w/o the shells) to the curry = Egg Curry
3. You can make the curry only with peas and add sauted cottage cheese cubes/paneer to the curry = Paneer Matar or Curried Cottage Cheese and Peas