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!!
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