Friday, 25 December 2015

Chocolate Cake With Strawberries, Pomegranate And Mint Wreath

Things have been so quiet around here on the blog that Christmas almost passed us by. Rather than going into why I've been missing in action, I'm just going quietly slink in and join the Christmas party because that's all that matters!
We may not celebrate Christmas at home but there's no reason why one can't put up the twinkly lights, pull out the pretty plates, bake a cake and raise a toast to the year gone by! 

And that's what we did. The cake is my trusted eggless chocolate cake with a fudge frosting that I bake every time I need a cake on short order and am assured will not disappoint.
How could I not jazz it up keeping the colours of Christmas in mind?! Luckily, strawberries and pomegranates are in season right now and a few mint leaves from the garden did the job beautifully. And lest I forget, thank you Pinterest for the inspiration.

This is the first time I have used fruit in such a way to decorate the cake and I must admit I absolutely love the final result. It hardly took any time and effort and made the cake look so festive. It's an idea which I shall be turning to time and again.
And on the taste front, the fruit cuts through all the chocolate and freshens up the cake and the palate, both in danger of being overwhelmed in this season, where indulgence is the norm.

Wishing you and your families a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! I wish that you spend the last week of this year surrounded by family, friends, laughter, good food and all that makes this season special!


Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Mohanthaal - Traditional Indian Gram Flour And Cardamom Fudge

Every year, come Diwali and you will see me scouring my mother's cookbooks looking for a traditional Indian sweet recipe to try my hand at. And of course, when I say every year I mean every year since I started writing this food blog. For every other time, I believe in the convenience and practicality of store-bought. 

Turns out that I have apparently tried all the easy stuff there is to make. So, this year, it was time to get a bit ambitious. So, with great enthusiasm, encouraged by Mama of course, I zeroed in on making Mohanthaal, a traditional besan (gram flour) and cardamom sweet from Gujarat that is then topped off with slivered pistachios and almonds.

But honestly, when the time arrived to make it, the only person enthusiastic about making it was Mama. Thankfully, she insisted and persisted and made this absolutely delectable Mohanthaal that I can share with you. All that yours truly did was to measure out the ingredients, read aloud the directions from the recipe book and cut the squares of the finished product, which as you can see are all crooked and uneven!

However, if you have the enthusiasm, it all seemed quite easy or at least that's how Mama made it look. And not too time-consuming either. And the end product was nothing short of professional and even better than the shop bought stuff and no, I am not being biased!

Each little cube of this Mohanthaal is packed with all that is right about Indian festive sweets. It is rich, indulgent, flavoured with cardamom, topped off with nuts and meant to be shared with as many people as you can this festive season!

This Diwali, amidst all your shopping, I hope you bought some traditional diyas to light up your homes.The potters who create them are a traditional, cottage industry that will face an unfortunate decline without all our collective support and patronage.

Wishing all you beautiful people and your families a very happy and blessed Diwali, from our home to yours!!  

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Orange and Cranberry Muffins

Am sure you experience it too .. the burgeoning of small businesses all around us. In the past few months, I have been introduced to so many of them. From those working directly with the weavers of Varanasi to one that is pioneering India's first range of organic and artisanal chocolate. I have bought from social enterprises that are helping women stand on their feet to businesses where an individual has taken a leap of faith to strike out on their own, with only their passion as their surety. And it's been an inspiring coincidence that so many of them have a woman behind the enterprise.

What strikes me most is to see the level of detail and care and planning that goes into these businesses. Beside their core product, be it the brand name or the packaging or their social media presence, there is so much soul and feeling that goes into it and invariably, it is an extension of the entrepreneur's personality. So, it is always a delight to meet the person behind the brand. 

So, I was tickled when a friend launched her own wellness company, 'Pahadi Local',  that is dedicated to sourcing natural products from the hills. J, is an old friend from college who has found her mojo as a serial entrepreneur and it's a fascinating journey, which you can read here. The first products to be launched are 'Gutti ka Tel' - pure, unadulterated apricot kernel oil and 'Khal' - an apricot scrub made from the residue after the oil is extracted. 

While shamelessly plugging a friend's business comes with the territory of being an old friend, these are also products I personally use and vouch for. I have dry, sensitive and extremely moody skin, ever since I was a child and that's taught me two lessons. One, the skin should be well moisturised at all times and second, only use products that are natural and stay wary of anything artificial and chemical. Mess with these two points and it's not been pretty!

The apricot kernel oil works on both counts, especially when the season changes to Winter and the skin can do with all the help it can get. It really rejuvenates your skin and rest assured, it is so pure and safe that it is used by babies and pregnant women. Anyhow, that's my personal experience with 'Gutti ka tel' and I'd recommend, if nothing else that you at least connect with 'Pahadi Local' to know about their products.

Talking about Winter, the past few weeks have seemed as further away from it as can be. It's been to the point of being uncomfortably hot. But, on this blog, we like to play pretend every once in a while and so, made these orange and cranberry muffins that Isidora Popovic describes as 'appealing on a cold winter's morning'.

These are zesty, citrusy, moist orange muffins that are packed with cranberries and topped off with pistachios. They are good for the morning as they are not too sweet and citrusy flavour is a great pick-me-up. Unfortunately, I had to make do with dried cranberries but just imagine how pretty these would be with the fresh ones. 

Now, I would love to hear if you or someone close to you has been involved in an interesting start up. Hope you're having a good week!!

Note: You can connect with Pahadi Local on their Facebook page or on +91-75064 69522 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Apple And Brandy Syrup Cake

I do envy all those of you who are experiencing Fall right now. The colours of the leaves, the crispness in the air and the general cosiness that the season evokes, be it the clothes, the food or just the general, toasty vibe.
You could argue that the Winter is anyway pleasantly mild in my part of the World but with the way the weather is these days, Winter or whatever we pass off as Winter is still a while away. So, I did the only sensible thing one does when you can't get what you want. You bake a cake, of course! And this one has the flavours of Fall!!
It's an apple cake with a supporting cast of oranges, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts that once baked is then glazed with a brandy syrup. Much like other cakes on this blog, this one too, is not much of a looker but don't be hasty in judging it.
It's a dense, moist cake that is crammed with flavour. The star pairing is that of apple and cinnamon with the undertone of citrus giving it some freshness. The toasted walnuts and raisins provide the tiny pockets of texture and taste that are always welcome. If anything, the flavours are slightly reminiscent of a Christmas cake.
Over the course of the baking, the apples stew in their own juices with the sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar on top and will remind of you of everyone's favourite Apple Pie. The brandy syrup keeps the apples and the cake below moist.
A warm cake does not need any embellishments I believe, but if you'd like, you can pair it with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream or even some vanilla custard, depending on how the weather is in your part of the World.
Now, if only the weather would oblige....Have a lovely week ahead!!

Friday, 25 September 2015

Chocolate, Almond and Orange Biscotti

Since I don't have anything interesting to share when it comes to food, I thought I'd pop in and say hello and share with you the books that I've read recently. The first is Elif Shafak's 'The Architect's Apprentice'. I have been wanting to read more of her work after she captivated me with her earlier book, 'Forty Rules of Love'. And the second book is the final instalment of Amitav Ghosh's 'Ibis' Trilogy, 'Flood of Fire'.

I am no one to critique these novels or these writers except to say I am just in awe of both of them. Their ability to write a story of fiction, breathe life into its characters and then build the plot to a crescendo whilst capturing the drama of human emotions that beats at its heart, is story telling at its finest.

Ghosh's book is richer and more complex but that's also because his canvas stretches across three books. And I also feel that his book is steeped in the culture of traditional Indian storytelling, with its myriad of sub plots whose paths intersect and intertwine through the book.

But, most of all these books remind me that the more I read, the more I realise how little I know. Both are books of fiction that are set in a factual, historical setting and one can only marvel at the sheer research undertaken by both authors to write these books. Shafak's novel has the Ottoman Empire as its backdrop while Ghosh's novel is set in the theatre of the Anglo-Chinese Opium War.

And I'll admit my knowledge of both is abysmal. In fact, my knowledge of history overall is patchy and wonder if it has anything to do with insipid history curriculum that we had in school. And it's a handicap because to the understand the issues of the present, one needs to view them through the periscope of past events.

Now, that's enough of a ramble about the books that I've read. Instead, let me tell you about these biscotti. I saw these on Pinterest and there was something about them being dipped in chocolate that made me want to bake them.

These are dry, crackly cocoa biscotti with a hint of orange and cinnamon that are given texture with almonds and pistachios that are then dipped in shiny, glossy dark chocolate so that nobody can find any fault with them. Biscotti are some of the easiest and least time consuming biscuits to make. I will say though that these biscotti taste better the next day when the flavours have been allowed to deepen.  

I am currently reading Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' and wondering why I haven't read it till now. I'd love to hear what you are reading, no matter what the genre is. Have a lovely weekend!! 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Chocolate Hobnob Biscuits

It's been a bit quiet around here, hasn't it?! It's not that I have been super busy but rather the mind's been a bit preoccupied and honestly, before I knew it, the days have just gone by! I've even had a few posts in mind but they've just remained stuck right my mind! I've had the time, the inspiration, the kitchen to myself and yet, for reasons that remain unknown I've just stayed away from the kitchen.
And then this week, as it always happens, I wanted to pre-heat the oven again. Just like that! So, to ease back into the groove with things, I decided first up to fill up the biscuit jar that's been lying empty for way too long.

I saw these biscuits on Izy's blog a few days back and I knew had to bake them. For no other reason than nostalgia. Chocolate-coated Hobnobs and chocolate-coated Digestives have kept me company through many an exam and late night project submission deadlines. And for some reason, I always chose the dark chocolate ones over their milk chocolate peers. Well, the reasoning was that the virtues of dark chocolate would counter the evils of excessive and stress induced snacking. The mind's ability to twist logic around to validate our decisions is simply genius!!

But, coming back to these biscuits that I baked. Hobnobs are oat-based biscuits and this recipe is brilliant. There is no white sugar, no white flour, no eggs and they taste even better than the shop bought ones. You could leave out the chocolate topping but I advise against that. The chocolate completes it. And with the Indian climate, store them in the fridge. Hobnobs taste better when cold.
You should hopefully see some more activity on this blog in the coming weeks. In the meanwhile, I hope you've been well..xx!

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Chocolate And Pear Tart

On a rainy, weekend afternoon, there are very few things better than heading into the kitchen for a baking session, especially when it promises to reward you with a tart at the end of it all. The pears have arrived in the market, signalling that the seasons are changing. The first of the season have arrived, plump and juicy. So, of course, they made it to the tart, paired with chocolate, a timeless combination.
The recipe I have used is from the much loved and much used 'Popina Book of Baking'. It is a chocolate short crust pastry tart that is filled with a chocolate sponge that is then topped off with some pear slices.
Many will wonder if the pears are too delicate a fruit to pair with something as decadent as chocolate. It is something I have wondered about in the past but I have always been proven wrong. Somehow, pears seems to effortlessly stand up to stronger flavours such as chocolate or even blue cheese. Not only does it cut through the richness of chocolate but somehow the chocolate helps to enhance the flavours of the fruit.
The tart is a fair bit of work but I promise you the result makes it all worth it. The crust is a regular short crust that has cocoa added to it. The cocoa, I think, is more for the visual aesthetics rather than for the flavour. Because all of the flavour is in that filling.

The filling bakes into a soft, moist, chocolaty cake whose texture is regularly punctuated by the crunch of the toasted almonds in the fillings as well as those juicy pears on top.
You could pair it with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream to serve it as a dinner party dessert but I enjoyed it straight out of the oven, warm with a cup of coffee. Like I said, it is worth all the effort and time spent on it.
Have a beautiful week ahead!!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Île Flottante With Fresh Cherries

The good thing about the stone fruit season is that the season in India is more or less in line with the season around the world. And that means you are never short of ideas for what to do with the fruit in the basket. And amongst all those ideas, I have a soft spot for French desserts. They can be elegant, they can be rustic, they can be simple, they can be flamboyant and sometimes, all at the same time. And I'm always taken in by how pretty they sound. Makes me wish I had paid more attention in class when we were taught the language in school!
Like this dessert I made with the last cherries of the season. In English, it would translate as 'floating islands', which won't elicit much of a response. But, say 'ile flottante' and it's time to pull out the little black dress for the occasion, even if you have no idea what it means.

'Île flottante' is a dessert that consists of poached meringues that are served floating on a crème anglaise, French for a vanilla custard. There are numerous recipes on the Web and I turned to the most economical one that was Mary Berry's.
The meringues use the egg whites and the custard uses the egg yolks and Mary's recipe uses them in equal number. Which is just perfect because I find nothing more frustrating than when I have leftover yolks or whites at the end of a recipe, which then means I have to go look for another recipe just to use them up!
The recipe is also resourceful in the sense that it uses milk to poach the meringues and once that's done, you use the same milk to make the crème anglaise. Perfect score in home economics, I say!
Preparing the dessert was not difficult but I'll admit it was a bit too fiddly for my liking, specially the bit about poaching the meringues. Although the meringues transformed themselves into soft, fluffy clouds as promised, I just had to keep second guessing myself, never really knowing if I was getting it right. In contrast, making the custard is quite simple and remember it is better served chilled.
This is a very rich dessert that makes quite an impression when it first appears. There is that white, soft, fluffy, delicate meringue served on a bed of pale yellow crème anglaise, whose simplicity of appearance belies its extravagance in flavour.
That would also mean that if you are looking for something simple and light, you will find this dessert a tad overwhelming. And that would also hold true, if you are a person who likes the taste of eggs to be hidden in your dessert, because it plays a starring role in both the elements.

What I would have preferred is a little less sugar in both the elements. This dessert is usually served with a caramel sauce but that would have just piled on the sugar I think. And that's why, thank goodness for the cherries. The freshness and the slight, natural tartness of the cherries cut through all the sugar and the richness of the dessert.  So, the cherries were a brilliant idea, courtesy David Tanis for the NYT.
Have you made or eaten ile flottante?? Do tell me what you think of it. Hope you're having a good week!!

Friday, 24 July 2015

Chicken Pulao

A week before I left for University, my concerned mother dropped a few packets of dry spices, a couple of pages of handwritten recipes and 2 books on Indian cooking into my bag. Knowing fully well that my cooking repertoire extended to eggs and toast, you'd think she was being a tad optimistic but there's a reason they say Mum knows best!
Settling in with the new flatmates, the first thing my darling but absolutely incorrigible American flatmate, Sam, said when we introduced ourselves was "Oh, from India!! I love Indian food, you must make us some..". Of course, I laughed nervously, mumbled something and changed the topic. But, Sam was anything but persistent. So, guess who came to the rescue - one of those cooking books that Mum put in the bag. I looked for what seemed the easiest recipe, a chicken pulao, read it a million times, crossed my fingers and toes, said a little prayer and attempted to make it. And would you know it, the stars were on my side!!
A fool proof recipe and those spices that Ma had packed, resulted in a simple chicken pulao that not only won over Sam but also Becca, the only competent cook in the house. It was restrained, subtle and packed with flavours, a complete antithesis to the somewhat dodgy fare they had been exposed to from the ubiquitous curry houses that dot the British landscape. So successful was that attempt, that friends, flatmates, neighbours, classmates, anyone and everyone who wanted a taste of Indian cooking was fed that chicken pulao. By the time I left, I could make it with my eyes closed. Never did I alter it and never did I attempt to make anything else!!
So, why am I telling you this all now?! Over the weekend, I made a chicken pulao from Maunika Gowardhan's blog that tasted a lot like the one I made all those years back in University. It is Indian home cooking at its simplest and most flavourful. I paired it with a tomato and onion raita, just as I did, back at Uni.
Flavoured with whole spices, this is one pot dish where the chicken is slowly cooked to create a flavourful stock in which the rice is also cooked in. As it cooks, the fragrance that permeates your kitchen will itself tell you that you are onto a winner. There are no harsh or overpowering flavours. It's just simple, hearty, fragrant home cooking that will nourish, comfort and satiate all at the same time. Perfect for an easy weekday dinner. 
I have always said that the most important aspect of food is the memories it creates and the memories it brings back. And this chicken pulao brought back the best of them, when each of my flatmates tried it. 
The one time I was heavy handed with the chilli would be the one time when Hania and her mild, Egyptian palate would try it, only to then go on and finish a whole tub of ice-cream after that. Matthew was just happy to have a meal so that he did not have to resort to having a Mars bar between slices of bread for dinner. John would have preferred his Brazilian bean and rice but was too much of a gentleman to say otherwise.
And then there was Vince from Hong Kong who never got to try the dish. Because, for the whole time he lived in the flat, he would stay awake all night, have his dinner in the wee hours of the morning and breakfast was somewhere in the middle of the afternoon. So, of course with all the collective wisdom at our disposal, we came to the most rational and logical conclusion. We decided that he was a spy!!
Like I said, the best memories! Have a great weekend ahead!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Plum Coffee Cake

I never really know what my next post is going to be. It is usually guided by the season of the moment but apart from that, I get my ideas from just about anywhere. Like last fortnight, when one of the total five readers that this blog has, asked me for a plum and frangipane cake, I was more than ready to oblige. And then Ma pointed out that it's been a while since I had baked a cake. Considering she is also among those five readers, I couldn't put it off any longer!
So, on 'popular demand', I made a plum coffee cake. And no, a coffee cake has no coffee in it, it is just meant to be had with a cup of coffee!!  

Cakes like this one are my favourite cakes to bake and you will see versions and adaptations of it in the recipe index. It is seasonal and so simple that all it requires is a hand whisk and two bowls, one each for the dry and wet ingredients. Once you have all the ingredients in front of you, it doesn't take more than ten minutes before you can pop it in the oven.

This is a simple cake that is given character with ground almonds and orange juice. It has no butter but uses a yoghurt-oil mixture that yields a super moist cake. The best part of the cake is its topping. The plums are sprinkled with sugar before baking. This ensures that the fruit cooks during baking and goes all soft and roasted and it releases all its beautiful juices that makes it just the perfect accompaniment for that cake beneath it.
While the fruit cooks, the sugar sprinkled on top caramelises to make this dark, slightly crunchy crust that contrasts beautifully with the vibrant, moist cake inside. You don't need to serve this cake with anything, just maybe a cup of coffee.

This is such a flavourful cake that has this beautiful, rustic charm about it that I can see you enjoying it as much as we did.
And if you have any ideas for future blog posts, I am always listening! Have a great week ahead!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Saffron And Anise Poached Apricots With Cardamom Scented Yoghurt

As I mulled over on how to finish off the last few fresh apricots in the bowl, I headed over to social media for a spot of inspiration. And the timeline was filled with stories on Ramazan and a lot of them had to do with food. They were bloggers sharing ideas for 'iftar' dinners at home and articles by food lovers on the cities' most revered and popular eating joints, each an institution in their own right. Photo features on the tiny lanes of the traditional Muslim neighbourhoods, all lit up and buzzing with food stalls, crammed against each other, that come up every evening of Ramazan to  cater to the faithful, after a long day of fasting.
This is rich, decadent food in all its glory, that pulls no punches. And amidst all that food, mostly meat dishes, there is of course, always a mention of something sweet. Most of it were familiar sweets like phirni, malpuas, jalebis, sheer khurma, falooda but there were a few unfamiliar ones, like sandaal and 'khubani ka meetha'.

'Khubani ka meetha' caught my eye because 'khubani' is the Persian word for apricots. Popular in Hyderabad, it is a dessert made with dried apricots that are cooked with a sugar syrup to make a sort of a compote that is served with cream. However, the photographs are not too kind to it. The compote looks like some sort of brown sludge which I'll admit does not look very appetising.
But, I liked the idea of cooking apricots in a sugar syrup. Only instead of the dried ones, I used the fresh apricots that I had. And instead of cooking them into a compote, I decided to maintain their integrity by gently poaching them with some saffron and star anise.

Star anise because I like the way the spice flavours fruits and saffron because it imbues everything with that beautiful colour. I paired the apricots with some lightly sweetened and cardamom scented yoghurt. But, feel free to use whipped cream or even, some vanilla ice-cream if that is more to your liking.
Poaching fruit is a beautiful way to use up the fruit for a simple dessert. The cardamom in the yoghurt is very subtle because the star of the show are the apricots. That reduced saffron syrup just ties it all together beautifully with the help of those chopped pistachios on top.

It is fruity, lightly scented and delicately flavoured and does the job beautifully for a dessert on a week night. Try it before the apricots simply vanish from the market!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Cherry Clafoutis

I don't think the romance of the first rains of the season will ever fade for me. I simply let my senses take it all in. I see the rain wash away the grime and dust of the Summer months, I hear the sound of the rain drown out everything and then there's that scent of wet earth which is just pure magic. I don't think there is a person out there who is immune to the charm of that fragrance. They say you can buy the fragrance, bottled and sold in the markets of Old Delhi and Mohammed Ali Road in Bombay but it won't have half the magic as when you smell it with the first rains!
The rains, not only signal my willingness to enter the kitchen again but it also heralds the season of stone fruits. You will see the first cherries come during the last days of Summer but somehow, I am in no mood to enjoy them as long as temperatures stay on the wrong side of 40 deg C. Summer is after all, for mangoes and the monsoons for stone fruits, for which I have a soft spot.
Ever since I started writing this blog, I have wanted to make a cherry clafoutis but I have always put it off under the excuse that I don't have a cherry pitter. You would think that at some point, I would be convinced to buy one but procrastination, I'll have to say, is my Achilles' Heel!
So, a cherry clafoutis had to wait till Sunday evening, thanks to a cherry pitter that the sister bought for me. Last evening, I also made a beautiful goats' cheese and tomato tart but unfortunately by the time it got done, all trace of natural light was gone and I couldn't manage any photographs.
Clafoutis is a baked custard which sets rather firmly and that allows it to support a lot of fruit, in this case cherries. Searching around for a recipe, I got the impression that cherry clafoutis is a rustic French dessert with every home having its own recipe. I used Raymond Blanc's recipe that is his mother's and like a good son, he claims it's the best!
Apart from pitting the cherries, there is hardly any work that goes into a clafoutis. Note to self; you are not supposed to dust sugar on the custard as soon as it comes out of the oven. The sugar melts instantly and spoils the lovely golden hue on the custard as you can see from the photographs.
If you can overlook that misstep of mine, this is a wonderful, homey dessert, perfect to round off a hearty dinner at home. The cherries are macerated in some cherry liqueur. You won't taste it but I suspect, it saves the dessert from tasting too eggy. It is not too sweet, filled with fruit and the flavour of baked custard makes it a wonderfully familiar and comforting dessert on a rainy night. Most would tell you that you should have it warm, but I quite liked it cold too. You decide!
Before the deluge, I hoped you managed to take in some of the magic of the rains!!

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Summer Fruit White Wine Sangria

".. ..the heat was so intense that Babur was surprised any living thing could stir. As the days passed, the flat, brown, dry landscape with its teeming people beneath a relentless sun began to oppress Babur. He felt leached of life and vitality. It was not much better at night when mosquitoes whined and his attendants could do little to cool his tent designed for colder climes. He found no refreshment in looking at the sluggish Jumna. Its fetid banks of cracked mud made him long for the swift rivers and bracing air of his homeland."

That is an excerpt from Alex Rutherford's 'Raiders From The North', chronicling the life and times of Babur, the first Emperor of the Mughal Empire. And that passage describes, Babur's first tryst with the Indian Summer. The man has my sympathies. I am Indian, born and bred, and till date I haven't figured out a way to bear the scorching cruelty of the Indian Summer. Coming as he did from the lush and fertile Fergana Valley, set in the cooler climes of Central Asia, little wonder that the Indian Summer was such a shock to his system. But then, such were the treasures and riches of India, that going back was never an option.

History tells us that to deal with crushing homesickness that engulfed him, he turned to one of his favourite fruits from his homeland, melons. The legend has it that every time he cut open a melon, he wept for his homeland. Clearly, the summer heat did a number on him!

So fond was he of the fruit that he taught his gardeners to grow them here. And so, much like Babur and his sons, the melons of Central Asia would find a home in India.

And good for us. For on a hot, listless Summer afternoon, the succour that a slice or two of chilled melon provides can never be expressed in words. It needs to be experienced. Some like it with a squirt of lemon on it, but I like it just as it is. Especially, these days when the heat wave just does not seem to end!

And I think I might have a found one more way of using melons. And it is in this beautiful sangria recipe that I came across. It is white wine that is flavoured with the flavours of Summer - melons, mangoes and mint. Think of it as Summer in a glass!

The success of this sangria lies in using ripe, fresh fruit. Longer the fruit is allowed to steep in the wine, more likely that the flavour of the fruits will shine through. And look at that beautiful colour! It is fresh, light, fruity with mild zesty tones that will perk up any Summer afternoon or night!

History also tells us of Babur's fondness for wine and I'd like to believe that this sangria that combines his love for both wine and melons would have gotten his royal seal of approval. As am pretty sure that it will get yours too!!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Orange And Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones

So, what do you do when Summer shows no signs of ending or abating and you find yourself wanting to bake?? If you've read this blog for a decent period of time, you will know that it is next to impossible to find me in the kitchen in the Summers and even less likely that I switch on the oven.
And yet, last weekend I wanted to bake. Am pretty sure it's the heat that's making me behave so out of character. So, on what would feel like the hottest Sunday of the year, I woke up little earlier than usual to bake for breakfast. I like to have the kitchen to myself when I bake and a weekend morning is a good time to get that. Ma did walk in to make herself a cup of tea, bewildered and bemused by all the action, wondering what had gotten into me. But, bake I did and these orange and dark chocolate buttermilk scones were the end result.

I wanted something that was quick, fuss-free, not too much prep time and something a little out of the ordinary for the weekend and these scones ticked all the boxes. Follow the recipe, there is hardly much to do and once you have all the ingredients in front of you, it shouldn't take you more than half an hour to have scones on the breakfast table.

The only issue I had with making them was that because of the heat, the cold butter softened up real quick and the scones were not as flaky as I would have liked them.

But, they top scored when it came to taste. The orange was zesty and bright, perfect for breakfast. And did I hear you ask why chocolate for breakfast. Well, why not, especially when straight out of the oven, the chocolate chunks are little pieces of molten heaven. But if it's too much and I can't see how, you can replace them with raisins.

Fresh out of the oven, we ate them just as they are, washed down with a cup of coffee. But, if you like, you can slather some jam. A berry jam would be good!

It's been a bit quiet around here. Except for this one time, I haven't really ventured into the kitchen this Summer, that seems to be getting hotter and longer with every passing year. I hope you've been  well.. xx.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Cardamom Crumb Cake

It is universal. That need for a 'pick-me-up' that strikes every day, around late afternoon-early evening. The English have made a ceremony around afternoon tea.  And they say for the Swedes, the concept of 'fika' is a social institution. It means taking a break from work, most often coffee, with one's colleagues, friends or family. And I don't need to explain how sacred 'chai-time' is for most Indians. Although I do feel sometimes, we take more chai breaks than are necessary!
No matter where in the world you are, no matter what you are doing, it was always nice to take a few minutes off mid-afternoon for a cuppa. And you know what goes best with it.. cake, of course!! Not everyday though. Metabolism is not what it used to be. But yes, every once in a while you can't beat the charm of a good, homemade, no-frills cake! 

And that's exactly what I thought when I came across this neat recipe by Dorie Greenspan. What drew me initially to the recipe was the mention of cardamom. Cardamom is one of my favourite spices. We use it extensively in Indian cooking but I haven't used it that much in my baking.
On a closer look, this cake is also flavoured with orange and coffee. While I am partial to all three flavours, I did wonder if they would come together or would one of them, say cardamom, dominate and obscure the others.
Well, no worries on that count. Warm out of the oven, this incredibly moist cake does justice to all three flavours. You will be able to taste all three with none overpowering the others.
The winning component of this cake, is of course, the crumb on top. It not only gives the cake character but also helps accentuate all three flavours that are present, which complement each other beautifully.
Another interesting facet of this recipe is that you have to rub the orange zest into the sugar so as to infuse that vibrant, citrusy note into the sugar. And it is that citrus scent and flavour that lingers on in your mouth, long after you've had your piece of cake!

On a separate note, I used demerara sugar instead of regular white sugar, keeping my New year's decision in mind to use a healthier alternative for my everyday, home baking. but, feel free to use regular, white sugar.  

As you can see from the photographs, this cake is not much of a looker. But, it more than makes up in the taste department. This is a very flavourful cake that I can't see how you can not enjoy! And it will taste even better the next day!

Cakes like this one are the reason why I bake. Something to share with family and friends over a cup of tea!
Do you have a treasured tea-time ritual?? Tell me! Have a lovely week ahead!!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Mango And Banana Frozen Yoghurt

Oh dear dear, Summer's here! Normally I would have begun on my rant but that's so predictable that it's pointless. So, instead let's talk about things that I think will interest you.

Last week, Monica Bhide, food writer, storyteller and in the words of her book, 'culinary explorer, cultivator and teacher', asked on Facebook if anybody would like to read her soon to-be-released book, 'A Life of Spice'. Of course, I put up my hand and she very graciously sent me the Kindle link to her book. I started it on Saturday afternoon and read it pretty much uninterrupted till I finished it by Sunday afternoon.

The book is a collection of essays that Monica has written over the years. To say that it is about food or about Monica's love for food would be missing the point completely. Her stories are about how the memories we have and the memories we look to create are invariably and inextricably linked with food.

Of the family who will always remember their last meal as they leave their home forever, never to return. Of the adult who will always become a child when she returns to her parent's home, craving the dishes of her childhood. Of the experienced cook who will always remember all the disasters as a novice. Of the mother who feels her child is growing up too fast and holds on to those precious moments when they bond together over the kitchen counter. Of the immigrant who has adopted a new country but will never shake off the food and customs of the homeland. These and many more of Monica's stories bear testament to the fact as time passes and life moves on and change is inevitable, we are left with memories and more often than not, they have a connection with food. 

And while these stories are a peek into Monica's life, they are so evocative that they compel you to explore your own 'Memory's Kitchen'. Read the book and you will understand where I get the term from!

Monica confesses to a torrid romance with food and she proves it when she deftly brings it to life in her writing. "...coriander whimpers, cumin smolders, mustard sizzles, and cinnamon roars.." is just some of the magic she creates with her words!

And talking about food, I made some mango and banana frozen yoghurt. The weather is certainly calling for it. It takes just three ingredients and it's so fuss-free, I don't think you can even calling it cooking.

You can't fault the dessert but I would make two suggestions to make it better. We are right in the bang of mango season and I wonder if the banana was really necessary. Personally, I would stick solely with the mango.

And secondly, you know I don't like my desserts cloyingly sweet and yet I found this dessert lacking something. I won't recommend that you add sugar but rather you drizzle, a generous amount at that, of honey over the yoghurt. It instantly transforms it from the ordinary to the elegant. Perfect for lazy summer weekends!

Before I sign off, I'd like to draw your attention to a petition by Dastkar to protect the intellectual property rights of India's traditional handloom weavers from the powerful powerloom lobby. Please do take time to read this petition and sign up your support to protect India's rich textile legacy.

Over the weekend, a powerful earthquake hit Nepal and we've seen the devastating images all through the weekend. For those looking to donate/help/volunteer, this link might be of help. A prayer for the victims as they stand vulnerable and defenceless in the face of Nature's might!

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