The Best Homemade Peanut Butter

homemade peanut butter

Peanut butter is really one of the easiest things to make. Four ingredients, whack it in the blender and you’re done, right? Right. But – remember, peanuts have a very dense composition, and after grinding to a paste, becomes a big blob of clay-like consistency that can obliterate your wonderfully convenient machine if you decide to get lazy and dump a whole load in thinking you’re being super efficient. I made one kilogram of this and had to do it in three batches. 

The first few times I made peanut butter was in a small 30-year old ‘National’ food processor that my parents passed down to me and I realised that if I wanted the machine to last longer than a week, I would have to forget about making peanut butter in it. The old faithful did a good job but is too precious to destroy. Then, just before this batch, I tried it in a mixer grinder and that was a total bust because after a minute the machine got so hot that I didn’t let it go further, and as a result, got a more powdery mixture than a creamy one. This is also because I’m trying to limit oil addition to the minimum. Put a ton of oil and no worries, but the beauty of making your own peanut butter is that you get to control your ingredients. No preservatives, minimum oil, salt and sweetener to your preference. It’s all good. Which is why, because my kids love peanut butter so much, I persevere in this labour of love. 

peanut butter

After considering how much I really wanted to keep making peanut butter at home, I started researching powerful blenders and then zeroed in on the Vitamix, which I requested the husband to bring back from his trip to the U.S. He very sweetly complied and this mean machine, considered the Rolls Royce of blenders, still groaned under the load of 350 gms of peanuts, so I had to keep giving it a break. Once it even stopped and I had a mini panic session but then realised it has an automatic switch off when it gets overheated and you’ll have to sit back for 45 minutes before powering up again. Could be best to do this in two batches.

The Vitamix was well and truly worth it. After about seven to 10 minutes of blending, I got a smooth, creamy peanut butter which tastes as good – if not better – than the store bought ones, without any of the nasty preservative stuff. I used honey and Himalayan pink salt in my recipe and very little oil. It’s well worth it. Use a heavy duty food processor for this. You won’t get the consistency of store bought peanut butter but you’ll definitely get  a healthier version. 

Ingredients

350 gms raw peanuts (skins removed)
½ tsp Himalayan pink salt (or any salt)
2 tbsp honey
1½ tbsp flavourless cooking oil

Get Started 

  • Dry roast the peanuts in a large frying pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes stirring continuously till they become a light brown. Some bits may get burnt with a black char but you can remove those. Make sure they don’t burn too much. (Can do this in batches of two). 
  • Cool the peanuts completely and they will become crunchy. 
  • Blend the peanuts again in a heavy duty mixer grinder or food processor and add the salt, honey and oil. Keep it going for at least five to seven minutes till the peanut mix becomes a nice paste. The texture of your peanut butter will totally depend on how powerful your blender is. 
  • Also the mixture becomes really dense, putting a huge load on the machine so it would be prudent to whiz and stop after every couple of minutes to avoid overloading your machine, or you can do this in two batches. 

Pictorial Steps:

Grilled Vegetable Coleslaw Sandwich (No Mayo)

vegetable coleslaw sandwich with no mayo

Every Monday, eight kids from the village behind my residence come to me for cooking lessons. They’re this amazingly enthusiastic, wonderful bunch of 12 to 15-year-old girls and boys whom I’ve been teaching now for more than a year. And while I do love teaching them, it’s a real struggle to come up with new stuff every week that they can make in the limited space of my kitchen. Also, vegetarian food….

Many of the kids don’t eat meat or eggs and as with most children and many adults, they have tons of issues with most vegetables including capsicum, beetroot etc. Some don’t like cheese, some don’t like bananas and the list goes on and on. Heaven help! Also my repertoire of Indian vegetarian food is zilch! Or was, until this lovely bunch came into my life. Now, not only am I teaching them, but am learning so much and so many new things myself, that’s it’s positively illuminating! 

Lately we’ve been making and perfecting lots of Indian street foods – vegetable momos, samosas, paranthas, sandwiches, burgers, vada pavs, pakodas and what not. All the stuff whose ingredients are easily available in their homes. This week, we made coleslaw sandwiches. This is one thing I would never never have made on my own, because…… cabbage and carrot in a sandwich!!! Who does that? And whaddya know, they were awesome! Just shows one should kick out their preconceived notions and try new things every once in a while. Might get pleasantly surprised.

The sandwiches were a big hit with the kids (even with the green capsicum), and an even bigger hit with my household, who got to eat the extras. If 12 year old kids wolf down cabbage and capsicum without complaining, I consider that a win. And so I thought, why not share it with the world?

pan grilled coleslaw sandwich with no mayo

Making the sandwiches was a breeze. Photographing them? Nightmare! Maybe since I’m an amateur, my photography skills aren’t the best and places to photograph are very limited, but sandwiches have got to be one of THE WORST things to make look sexy. Ugh! That’s my disclaimer here. But anyway, don’t go by the picture, go by the glowing references I’ve made above. Try it and you will be surprised. Eat them crisp. If they’ve been hanging around for a while and become soggy, just heat them on a pan again for a bit. Okay then, here you go. 

Ingredients (makes 6 sandwiches)

Dressing

400 gms thick yoghurt hung in muslin cloth for 1 hour 
1 heaped tsp garlic paste
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cracked black pepper

Filling 

½ cabbage chopped finely
2 medium carrots, grated (not too fine)
½ green capsicum chopped finely
½ small onion diced finely
1 green chilly with seeds chopped very finely
12 slices of bread (Any except sourdough)*
Butter for all the slices

*Do not use sourdough bread as the yoghurt dressing already has a tangy flavour so it will become too tart.

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Soak the chopped cabbage in salt water for about 15 minutes. Then drain the salt water and rinse well with fresh water. Drain and pat the cabbage dry with clean tea towels or absorbent paper. This will get rid of any organisms that could be lurking in the folds of leafy green vegetables. We do this with lettuce too. 
  • Mix all the ingredients under “dressing” together and set aside for 10 minutes in the fridge. 
  • In a large bowl, put all the ingredients under “filling” then add the dressing to it and mix really well. You will need to add at least ¾ teaspoon more salt here and maybe a bit more pepper. Do not skimp on the salt, because when you put it in the bread, the sandwich will taste bland. 
  • Place a generous amount of the filling on one slice of bread and top with the other. Then butter the two outer sides of the sandwich in a thin layer but covering every part. Place the sandwich on a pan on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes till the underside is golden and deliciously crisp. Then flip it over and repeat for 3 minutes. Keep an eye on the heat; you don’t want the bread to burn and turn black. I didn’t cut the crusts off my bread. You can do so if you want.
  • Do this with all the sandwiches and serve immediately. 
  • You can have the sandwich on its own or pair it with a green chutney (mint or coriander or both) or with ketchup.

Important notes: Do not hang the yoghurt for more than an hour. It will become too dry. If using double the amount of yoghurt, say 800 gms, then hang for 1.5 hours.

Chop everything finely. You do not want big chunks of anything in your mouth.

Use any bread you want but regular white bread will taste the best!

Pictorial steps:

Power Packed Chia Pudding – Healthy Breakfasts

I first ate this at the Perch restaurant in Delhi’s Khan Market and loved it. Till a month ago, I hadn’t ever gone near any chia dishes. I somehow have this healthy disregard for all these exotic superfoods such as quinoa, goji berries, acai berries, chia and those that come from far, far away which are extremely expensive and not sustainable in the long term. However, I enjoyed this so much that I decided to buy ‘exotic’ and just make it. 

The first time I made it, I added a few tablespoons to a litre of milk! It was woefully inadequate and I had to add wayyyy more seeds. And one litre of milk?? That was the action of a chia novice. My reasoning was that as I had limited supply of good quality coconut milk, I could combine it with regular milk. The milk diluted the flavour of coconut which wasn’t to my liking. 

Nevertheless, that batch got made, eaten, distributed but then I made another. This time I got it right. I soaked the chia seeds overnight (in the right proportion this time) in water so that it didn’t get too heavy. This also gave me the flexibility to use other milk as my son is allergic to coconut. Then I mixed each bowl individually and was very pleased with the result. 

In India you have an alternative to chia seeds; they’re called sabja, or sweet basil seeds. They swell a lot more than chia seeds so the gelatinous composition is a bit more. You could even use this instead of chia seeds. I used the Chaokoh brand of coconut milk which I feel is the best of all the kinds of coconut milk I’ve used with the consistency nice and thick. 

This dish is power packed with nutrients with the nuts, seeds, fruit and coconut milk and is absolutely yum. We are now having this at least twice a week at home. You can use any fruit you like, but try to include the mango for sure and definitely add the nuts and seeds. They give the dish a lovely crunchy texture. It’s quite a filling dish so will keep you feeling full for a while and make you ready to tackle your day. Enjoy. 

Ingredients (serves one)

*I first soaked 1/2 cup chia seeds in 21/2 cups of water overnight (This would make approximately 8 bowls of chia pudding with the chia proportion listed below). 

4 tbsp bloomed chia seeds*
10 tbsp coconut milk (I used the Chaokoh brand)
11/2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp roasted walnuts coarsely chopped
1 tbsp roasted mixed seeds (watermelon, melon, pumpkin)
1 tbsp diced or sliced apples (can use any)
1 tbsp diced mango
1 tbsp pomegranate seeds
1 tbsp diced nectarines

You can add any fruits you like. 

Get Started 

  • Add the bloomed chia seeds to a serving bowl and mix it well with the coconut milk and the sugar. You can use any milk but coconut milk gives it the best flavour I feel.
  • Then sprinkle the walnuts and mixed seeds all over and top with the fruits. 
  • Enjoy your healthy and delicious breakfast. 

Pictorial Steps:

Low Calorie Chicken Caesar Salad – No Mayonnaise

This has now become my most popular salad at home. Somehow, I’ve gone back to the simple classic, giving weight to the phrase ‘Old is gold’.  My favourite leaf is now Romaine lettuce, overthrowing the very popular rocket leaves and arugula with their peppery flavour. In fact, this is the only leafy salad my kids eat happily and actually like and has become a house favourite. 

My daughter loved it, surprising me to the core. Rocket leaves, most people’s favourite, is actually in her words, ‘The worst food I ever ate’ and the poor green has even starred in an essay titled that. Nevertheless, since I’m hell bent on making my kids eat everything, especially vegetables, I’m over the moon to think that some salad has found favour. 

This is a very simplistic Caesar’s salad. It has a very easy dressing – unlike the traditional Caesar’s salads which have Worcestershire sauce and anchovies etc –  but this dressing packs a punch. Simple, clean flavours of everything you would naturally have in your kitchen at all times. In salads I now use Himalayan pink salt, but if you’re using table salt, you may need to use less. 

All the seasonings are according to individual preferences. You want to add more or less of anything, yoghurt, salt, pepper, garlic, feel free. Though this is the bare minimum of yoghurt you should use. Don’t reduce the yoghurt, can make more but not less. This is just what I use. I make this salad with my homemade mayonnaise too, and it comes out as well. There’s very little difference in flavour between the more calorific mayonnaise and the yoghurt, thanks to the garlic and the lime and the pepper which flavour the low calorie dressing beautifully. 

Chicken Caesar

Since I have no fancy breads at home, I make do with my humble multigrain slice for the croutons in the salad because face it, what’s a Caesar’s salad without croutons! I don’t butter or oil it however, it will absorb enough from the dressing anyway. This salad has no iceberg lettuce as I find it extremely bland and tasteless. I’ve added green lettuce and Lollo Rosso here. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it. 

Ingredients (Serves 1)

Dressing

1½ heaped tablespoons thick yoghurt (40 grams)
¼ tsp garlic paste (4 gms)
¼ tsp salt (2 gms) I used Himalayan pink salt
6 turns of cracked black pepper from a pepper mill (1gm)
1½ tsp lemon juice

Salad 

1 chicken breast + pinch of salt and pepper + 1 tsp oil
8 small and medium leaves of Romaine lettuce 
1 leaf green lettuce 
2 leaves Lollo Rosso lettuce 
1 slice of multigrain bread or any bread of choice for your croutons
1 wedge of parmesan cheese + a vegetable peeler

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Wash the lettuce well and dry out the moisture with paper towels or napkins. 
  • Combine all the ingredients under “dressing”, mix well and set aside.
  • Lightly sprinkle a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper on both sides of the chicken breast. Heat the oil on a pan on medium and place the chicken breast on it for 1.5 minutes. Then turn the chicken breast over and keep for 1.5 minutes. Then turn the gas on to the lowest setting, cover the pan with a lid and keep it for 4 minutes. Then place it on a chopping board to rest for at least 10 minutes.  
  • After that, cut the chicken breast into 1 cm cubes. I find it easier to eat in smaller pieces. Less cutting required while eating. 
  • If you don’t have fancy breads at home, make a slice of multigrain toast in your toaster then place it in an oven that was heated for 5 minutes then turned off. Keep the toast in the oven for about 10 minutes. Place the bread in the oven after the heat has been turned off. This will give it that additional crunch. Then break it into small pieces about 1 cm.
  • Tear the lettuce into bite size pieces and keep in a large bowl. Add the chicken and the pieces of toast. Pour in the dressing and toss well with two forks till the dressing has coated everything evenly. 
  • Place the salad on a serving plate or bowl and shave strips of parmesan cheese with the vegetable peeler and place all over the salad. 
  • Eat immediately.

Important Notes: In summer wash the salad leaves with ice cold water else the leaves will wilt faster than you know it. Rocket leaves especially are a soggy mess especially in the Indian summer and cannot be kept in the refrigerator for too many days.

Pictorial Steps:

Rustic Banana Walnut Cake (Eggless)

This is a cake I’ve been making for many many years now and it never fails to get polished off in a day. It’s definitely not a perfect looking cake inside but has a rustic, homemade appearance with the baking soda and yoghurt combination making the edges and corners of the cake a slightly chewy darker brown. Thats actually the most delicious part.

The eggless recipe gives it a moist texture with the overripe bananas contributing to that further, giving it a lovely caramelly taste. Be sure to try to use overripe bananas here. You can use the seriously overripe ones with black skin that you would otherwise be throwing out into the trash. The more ripe the bananas, the more complex a flavour you’ll get. 

This cake takes a bit longer to cook because of the general level of moistness so don’t be worried if you have it sitting in the oven for more than an hour. Mine takes about 1 hour 10 minutes in my oven to be perfectly cooked but every oven is different, so just follow my instructions on the recipe. Don’t be worried about the darker bits. Thats the yummiest part! Eat the cake warm. It’s the best then. There’s no cinnamon or other flavouring here as I just wanted the banana flavour to stand out and that comes most with overripe ones. 

Ingredients

3 overripe large bananas
2½ cups flour
2½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1½ cups sugar – powdered 
⅔ cup oil 
1/2 cup yoghurt
1/2 cup water
1 tsp vanilla essence/extract (optional. Not used here)
100 gms walnuts roughly chopped

Get Started (Pictorial steps below)

  • Line a 9 inch diameter or square baking tin with butter paper/parchment paper and oil the sides of the tin. 
  • Preheat your oven to 180°C with only the bottom heating rods turned on. 
  • Mash the bananas in a bowl nicely. 
  • In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  • Add the sugar to the oil in another bowl and mix till they combine well and the sugar dissolves a bit. I’ve found this gives it a lovely smooth texture and better taste. 
  • Now add the bananas and the oil and sugar mix to the flour. Fold the batter well. It will become a bit lumpy. Then mix the yoghurt and water together and add it to the batter. Fold well. Don’t mix too vigorously as the gluten in the flour will make the cake very heavy. 
  • Pour the batter into the lined baking tin and bake in the centre rack of the oven for an hour and 10 minutes. Yes this does take a while as the batter is a bit dense because there is no egg to give an extra lift to the cake. 
  • Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, your cake is done. if there’s still batter on the cake, keep it for another 10 minutes and test with the skewer again. 
  • Once the skewer comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool. After it has cooled, run a sharp knife along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the sides of the tin.
  • Flip the cake over on to a plate, remove the butter paper from the bottom and place the cake upright on a serving dish. Enjoy it warm. 
  • You can store the leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge in summer. Heat the cake for 30 seconds in a micro before eating again. In winter, you can leave it out for a couple of days in an airtight container.

Important Notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. If you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top. 

The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

Don’t use anything less than a 9 inch baking tin as this is a large cake. If you’re using 2 tins, then adjust the baking time of the cake. It will take less time to cook. So check on it after 40 minutes. Only remove the cake when the skewer comes out clean.

Pictorial Steps

Gourmet Balsamic Chicken, Avocado Sandwich

Sitting at home today with one sick kid, a twinging back that’s stopped all my much required exercise and super high temperatures, I suddenly got the idea to make this sandwich. I had an avocado sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks so thought it’s better to use it up than let it rot. As it is, avocados are super expensive here, I really feel like crap wasting them. 

Close to lunchtime I decided to get cracking. The longest part about this dish was the thawing of the chicken breasts. Everything else can be done in a flash and in literally half an hour you’ve go yourself a gourmet sandwich. The poor kid, who had been complaining of hunger pangs from 12.30 p.m. was finally given his food at 2.30 p.m. (chicken thawing time consuming) after being mollified by fruits in between, but it was oh so worth it. He inhaled 2 sandwiches at the speed of light, muttering words of appreciation and I even got a big fat hug out of it. He even helped assemble the sandwich! “Should I blog it?” I asked. “Most definitely”, came the answer. So here it is!

You can use any bread you want. I used simple multigrain bread that was lying at home and did not toast my bread. You can even add some leafy greens such as rocket leaves to the sandwich. If you like rocket, it will give the sandwich more complexity. I thought about leaving half a sandwich for the husband for when he comes back at night but …… nah. I was sooooo hungry that I ate two whole ones myself. 

Ingredients (Makes 4)

For the chicken

2 chicken breasts + salt and pepper
1 tbsp oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 level tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp kashmiri mirch flakes or paprika (optional)

For assembly

8 slices of bread (I used multigrain)
Cashew butter or mayonnaise
4 small tomatoes or 3 large ones sliced into rounds
1 large ripe avocado sliced fine or spooned 
salt and pepper 

Get started (Pictorial steps below)

  • In a small bowl mix the balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli flakes nicely and set aside. 
  • Slice the chicken breasts horizontally into halves. You can flatten the fatter parts with a rolling pin so that they cook evenly. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides. 
  • Heat the oil in a flat bottomed non-stick pan or stainless steel pan. Add the chicken and grill on medium heat for 1 minute on each side. Then add the balsamic vinegar mixture and on high heat let it bubble for five minutes, turning the chicken every once in a while so that the sauce caramelises every side. After five minutes turn off the heat, coat the chicken well with the remainder sticky sauce in the pan on both sides and remove them onto a plate or foil and leave them to rest while you start assembling the sandwich. 
  • Spread the cashew butter or mayonnaise on four slices of bread. Then add a layer of sliced tomato on each slice of bread. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the layer of tomato. Then add a layer of avocado over the tomato and top that with the balsamic chicken. Spoon the juices that have run out while the chicken was resting over the chicken and avocado. Do not waste a drop. 
  • Place the remaining slices of bread on to each of the sandwiches. You can spread cashew butter or mayonnaise on the top slice too or forgo it if you wish. You can even add some rocket leaves to the sandwich if available. 
  • Enjoy your yummy sandwich warm. 

Important Notes: Do not overcook your chicken, stick to the timings I’ve given here. Chewy, rubbery chicken will most definitely ruin your sandwich no matter how lovely the balsamic coating is. 

Use VERY MILD chilli flakes. You don’t want it overpowering the dish.

Pictorial Steps 

 

Masala Appe (Super Healthy Snack)

 

I first had a really delicious version of this at my friend Padmini Rao’s place. She, being from Andhra Pradesh, makes great South Indian vegetarian food and I keep pestering her for her amazing lemon/mango/tamarind rice which is the best I’ve ever had anywhere. Every time she calls us over for a meal I get a huge container of the stuff back for the next day. However this post is not about the rice but about these super healthy and very tasty appe’s or paniyarams – soft fluffy fermented rice and lentil balls which have been fried (in a teeny weeny bit of oil) in a special pan with little craters in them. 

One such meal at Padmini’s place, she had these onion coriander appe (she calls them Punugulus) and a whole lot of stuff as appetisers and my kids, uncle and I had gone on an empty stomach. My appetite is legendary with my family and friends. I can reallllllly pack in the food. But the person who surpassed me that day was my son. He attacked these little balls with such gusto and before we knew it, he’d eaten at least 12, one after the other, grabbing them with his left hand, right hand, chowing them down as if he’s been starved for the past few weeks! And he carried on and on and on! My uncle and I were staring at him in a mixture of shock and awe. Luckily, it was a good friend’s house so there was no embarrassment there, rather a testament to her cooking skills.

The appes were really delicious, and it struck me that this was a super healthy snack one could give the kids after they return from school, a great alternative to the usual sandwiches and bread options one finds it so easy to rustle up. After my son had severe gastric issues, I’ve limited sandwiches to just once a week. 

So I decided to make these little idli pockets at home adding a few more vegetables ( I keep trying to get as many veggies into the kids as possible and luckily they’re now used to it and are very good about eating them. Wayyy better than I was as a kid). The great part nowadays is that in most Indian cities, idli batter is readily available in most grocery stores, so one doesn’t need to soak the rice and lentils for a few hours, then grind them and leave to ferment for another 8 hours. You can just buy it readymade. 

But where I stay, it’s even better. We have these ladies who’re making their specialty food at home available to us. This time I got fresh homemade idli batter for these. You will see a difference in the texture of the appes of store bought and homemade idli batter. The store bought one will make fluffier and more rounded appes and the homemade ones are more grainy and won’t fluff up so much on the other side, but they will be much tastier. These ones came out great and as usual the son ate almost half the appes made. Even the husband, who normally runs the opposite direction when he sees vegetables ate these happily (although didn’t get as many many as he would have liked thanks to the son). 

You would need a special appe or paniyaram pan for this. It’s a good investment. I got lucky as I kept borrowing a friend’s pan to make these and she ended up gifting me one! There’s lots one can make with this. The appes can be eaten with any kind of chutney, coriander/mint or tomato, or coconut, or ginger tamarind, or even ketchup, though I’d avoid that. So here we go with my version of this healthy yummy dish.

Ingredients (makes 36)

500 gms idli batter (fermented rice and lentil batter)
1 thin carrot (approx 60gms) finely diced 
1 medium onion (approx 80gms) diced 
1/2 cup packed coriander leaves (approx 10 gms) roughly chopped
1 tbsp ginger (approx 6 gms) very finely diced
2 long green chillies de-seeded and very finely diced
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp oil in a bowl

Get Started (Pictorial Steps Below)

  • Mix all the ingredients except the oil, together. 
  • Heat an appe pan on medium-low. Dip a cooking brush into the oil and brush the craters of the appe/paniyaram pan with the oil. I use this method to keep my oil use to the minimum, but you can also just pour a couple of drops of oil into each of the craters with a spoon or a bottle with an oil pourer. 
  • Put a tablespoon of batter into each of the craters and fill to the top. Keep it on medium-low heat for 5 minutes till the edges of the batter start firming up a bit. Then with a knife, loosen the edges and gently roll over till the raw part is completely under. Keep it on the heat for another five minutes and remove onto a plate. Repeat this process till you finish all your batter. 

Important Notes: Keep the pan on medium-low heat at all times. Don’t want the batter to burn.

Pictorial Steps: 

The Best Summer Salad – My Accidental Not-so-Greek, Greek Salad

 

This is a totally unexpected post and yet another salad, but I was compelled to put it out there. You know when the food gurus say that food tastes best with the freshest and good quality ingredients, they’re not lying. So over the weekend, we had a little organic market fete thing going on where I stay, and one of the stalls there was displaying just four items – cherry tomatoes, candy tomatoes (yes they’re a thing apparently), mini cucumbers and mini red and orange bell peppers. 

I have a thing with colour. I get very attracted by lots of different colours, much to my mom’s amusement and sometimes dismay when I was a kid. I would always choose the most colourful sweetmeat or dish on the menu and generally wouldn’t like it very much – but that’s not going to be the case here. I traipsed over to the stall tasted the cherry tomato and was impressed. Then ate the candy tomato and liked it even more! They were firm, sweet, fleshy and delicious. I fell in love.

Now let me tell you why I’m gushing about these tomatoes. I normally don’t like them much. Cherry tomatoes and all these exotic mini fruits are not natural to India and to our cuisine, so they are sold in specialised vegetable stores, fancy supermarkets and are exorbitantly priced. But for the high price you generally get these thin skinned mushy ones that pop like a jello ball in your mouth. Not very appealing. Not that these are not pricey, but because the quality is so good, they are so worth it once in a while. And no, I’m not being paid to promote the brand. Stumbled upon it for the first time. Am just very impressed with their quality of produce. 

The very bright, young women and men at the stall from `Nature’s Miracle’ informed me that this was a product of hydroponic farming, a process that uses no soil, but just mineral-rich water to grow plants. The stall was not selling any of their products that day, but had a lot of stock and because I expressed such love for the veggies, the lovely people just gave me a couple of bags of the stuff when they were packing up for the day. Very sweet of them. 

When I was making this, It didn’t occur to me that it would end up like a Greek salad, but somehow it did. Greeks don’t use salad leaves in their traditional salad, but I did as it was a ‘use fast or the leaves will die situation’. I had just bought feta cheese and salad leaves that afternoon but the leaves were in a precarious condition, already wilting even in the refrigerator in the intense Indian summer. 

My kids shocked the ever loving daylights out of me. They ate a bowlful of tomatoes as a snack while on their homework and other than the bell peppers, ate a huge portion of the salad an hour later. My son even tolerated the rocket leaves which he normally hates! I was so happy he was eating them which he never does, I even let him eat it with his hands and make tower formations and designs with various ingredient combinations. He’s actually eating salad leaves! I’d let him eat them with his toes if he wanted. 

The daughter begged off the leaves and ate everything else, though the enormous amount of feta cheese didn’t hurt! The three of us polished off the whole bowl, and it was quite a bit, though I ate half of it. We skipped the onions because none of the kids wanted it. The husband, however, who wasn’t present for lunch that day, would have still run three miles away from it because in his own words, he is “allergic to vegetables”. 

Normally I don’t go gaga over what I make but somehow, it was such a lovely experience overall – the lovely ingredients, making the salad with the kids getting involved on a relaxed Sunday afternoon. Sitting around the table chatting, the daughter cutting the tomatoes and olives under my very sharp supervision, laughter and communication. It was a ‘matchbox moment’, where you take your best memories and file them away in a matchbox sized compartment in your brain. 

Ok enough yapping, heres how I made it. 

Ingredients

Dressing

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/3 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper 
2/3 tsp dried oregano flakes

Salad

12 cherry tomatoes cut in half*
12 candy tomatoes cut in half*
3 mini cucumbers cut in 1cm half moons*
2 mini sweet bell peppers (red and yellow, or orange) diced* 
10 pitted green olives halved
10 pitted black olives cut in half or three slices
3 leaves of romaine lettuce roughly shredded (optional)
Handful of rocket leaves (optional)
80 gms feta cheese, cubed or broken into chunks

Get Started 

  • Add all the ingredients under “Dressing” to a small glass jar, seal the lid tight and shake till well mixed. Taste and see if you’d like to add more seasoning.  When satisfied, set aside. 
  • Get all the ingredients under “salad” into a large bowl, shake the dressing in the jar nicely and pour over the salad vegetables.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing nicely with 2 large forks or salad forks till the dressing coats all the veggies nicely and evenly. 
  • Place the salad on a serving dish or bowl in layers, scattering the cubes or chunks of feta cheese over each layer. Do not toss the salad after putting the cheese on it as it will start becoming a part of the dressing – especially if you’re using soft feta. Serve immediately.

Important Notes: The salad has to be served immediately after putting the dressing on the vegetables. Do NOT add the dressing a few hours before else it’ll suck out all the moisture from the vegetables leaving you with a soggy, tasteless mess.

Deliciously Fluffy Double Chocolate Cake

Coming up with the recipe for this lovely chocolate cake was so enjoyable especially as all the variations I tried out came out brilliantly! The Universe was being kind to me this time, after all the culinary disasters I’ve had in the past few months. I tried three different proportions, all of which worked, and even managed to get a delicious accidental eggless brownie out one of the tries!

What I wanted originally was to come up with my own recipe for a dense chocolate loaf but ended up with this delicious moist, soft, fluffy tea cake which can be eaten on its own without any icing. I put some tips and tricks together that I’ve learned from baking different types of cakes and hit up this proportion, which I must say is super versatile! By just eliminating some things and adding and subtracting, this cake can become a brownie, or a dense chocolate loaf, all of which I will put out on the blog subsequently. 

I just need a few days off from baking cakes. Too much sugar and I definitely need to shed quite a few of those excess pounds that have come from eating most of the cakes I’ve been baking, myself.

For my desserts, I use dark cooking chocolate compounds, which give a dark chocolate taste without that lingering bitterness that comes from 50 and 70 percent cocoa chocolates. I can’t eat those in desserts and neither can most of the people I know around me. That’s definitely an acquired taste and unfortunately, something I don’t have. For all the chocolate purists, you’re most welcome to use dark chocolate. This cake also has oil, which I’ve found has this wonderful way of keeping it moist and not allowing the cake to harden and dry out as pure butter cakes tend to do once cold. 

I want to bake a cake that could be eaten on its own without icing. It’s easy to make cakes taste good covered in butter and sugar and chocolate and all the other stuff, but sometimes, one needs the simple stuff that can hold their own without fancy toppings. This cake sure does. However, you can always drizzle chocolate sauce over it. One of my friends took it one step further, dunking it in Baileys Irish cream! I sent small portions of this cake to four houses and got great reviews. Family of course, loved it. So here goes. 

Ingredients

150 gms flour
10 gms cocoa powder
½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
120 gms semi-sweet chocolate (I used Van Leer dark chocolate compound)
60 gms butter
120 gms fine sugar (or whack coarse grains in a blender)
2 tbsp oil (I used rice bran oil)
2 eggs
100 ml milk
½ cup (130ml boiling water)

Get Started (Pictorial steps below)

  • Pre heat your oven to 180°C with only the bottom heating rods turned on. 
  • Line an 7 or 7.5 inch diameter baking tin (without a removable bottom) with butter paper/parchment paper and oil the sides of the tin right up to the top. The batter is too runny for a tin with a removable bottom.
  • Sift the flour and cocoa powder together onto a large plate. Add the salt, baking powder and baking soda and set aside. 
  • Melt the chocolate either in a microwave or a double boiler. I whacked my chocolate compound block with a rolling pin and melted the pieces for three minutes in a microwave. You can start with two minutes and keep going for 30 seconds to a minute more if the chocolate hasn’t melted and then stir till smooth. Add the 2 tablespoons of oil to the melted chocolate and mix well. That will prevent the chocolate from hardening up again. 
  • In a stand mixer or a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugar on high for at least 2 minutes till light and fluffy. Add the melted chocolate to the butter and mix for another 30 seconds. 
  • Then add the eggs one by one, mixing each one well into the batter before adding the other. 
  • Put in half the flour and cocoa mixture into the butter mix and fold till smooth and creamy. It may seem too dry in the beginning but will incorporate well. Then add half the milk and fold in. Repeat with the other half of the flour and milk. 
  • Lastly, pour in the half cup of boiling water and mix well till fully incorporated into the batter and the batter becomes smooth with no lumps. 
  • Pour the batter into the baking tin and place in the centre rack of the oven and bake for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. It should come out clean. If there is batter stuck to it, keep the cake in the oven for another five minutes and check again. 
  • When the skewer comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the tin for at least half an hour. Then run a knife all along between the the edge of the cake and the tin to loosen it from the tin and flip onto a plate. Remove the butter paper from the bottom of the cake, place it right side up on a serving dish and eat to your heart’s content!

Important Notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. if you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.

The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

The batter is very runny so you will not be able to use a baking tin with a removable bottom. 

Don’t use a larger or smaller baking tin. This is the perfect proportion for a 7 to 7.5-inch tin. 

Pictorial Steps

Broccoli Salad with Hazelnuts and Feta Cheese

I’ve gone on a salad spree suddenly. That’s the only inspiration coming to me these days, Heaven knows why. Maybe it’s the cheese, or the nuts, but I’m not going to go so deep into it. However, it’s going down a treat with all the people I’m feeding them to, so nobody’s complaining. My next post will most probably also be a salad, that’s if the avocado that’s been languishing in the fridge for I-don’t-know-how-long, hasn’t died. 

I first tried this salad in a cafe in Amsterdam, but as interesting as the ingredients sounded, the broccoli was raw, which didn’t appeal much to me, hazelnuts had to be hunted for and the dressing had no kick. However, I thought I’d try to customise it to my taste, so here it is. This has the same dressing as the Georgian salad I made a while ago minus the walnuts. The honey, lemon olive oil dressing is evergreen and can be used on practically everything as it has no exotic ingredients. 

I kept the broccoli florets small, but you can keep it larger according to your preference. Since I didn’t have cherry tomatoes, I de-seeded and diced one small tomato weighing approximately 8 grams. I used Delakis white cheese as that was what I had with me. The broccoli florets should have a bit of a crunch. Blanch them for less than a minute if you want them crunchy and a bit more than a minute if you want them less crunchy. 

The result was a really tasty zingy, nutty, salted cheesy salad which is so simple but also very healthy. You can have it as a side dish or your main meal if on a diet. You can replace hazelnuts with almonds or walnuts, but the beauty is in the hazelnuts here. 

My daughter just gobbled up the salad as she loves broccoli. It was a hit with most people I tested it on. I could keep eating the salad because other than the broccoli – which many people do not like but is a wonderful superfood – what is there not to like! 

Ingredients (serves 2)

Dressing

2  tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
⅓ tsp Himalayan pink salt (if using regular salt reduce quantity)
Pinch of black pepper 

Salad

150 gms broccoli separated into individual florets
1 small tomato de-seeded and diced small or 5 cherry tomatoes halved
¼ medium onion diced small
40 gms peeled hazelnuts dry roasted and halved or very lightly crushed
60 gms feta cheese or white cheese

Get Started 

  • Boil 500 ml of water with 1 heaped tsp of salt. When the water comes to a boil, throw the broccoli in for about 30 to 40 seconds and then remove the broccoli from the water. You can pour cold water over the broccoli to stop them from cooking further. If you want the broccoli less crunchy, keep them in the boiling water for another 30 seconds. Set aside to cool. 
  • Put all the ingredients under “Dressing” in a small glass jar and shake it till they mix to form a smooth emulsion.
  • Place the broccoli, tomatoes and onions in a bowl and pour the dressing on them. Toss the ingredients together with two spoons till the dressing has coated each floret nicely.
  • Then remove the salad ingredients to a serving dish, leaving the excess dressing liquid in the mixing bowl itself. Scatter the hazelnuts all over the salad ingredients, then crumble feta cheese, or place dollops of the white cheese over the top and serve immediately. 

Important Notes: You can prep all the ingredients before hand but DO NOT pour the dressing over the salad until you are ready to serve. The salt in the dressing will suck out all the moisture from the onions and the tomatoes and leave your salad a tasteless and soggy mess. 

Soy Orange Prawns

This has been a really expensive post. After four attempts, trial and error, error, error, I finally managed to get the damn dish right. I mustered up all my resolve, positive energy, thorough perseverance and willed it to be this time. Didn’t want to waste the lives of another few kilos of prawns in hapless experimentation. 

Kinnow Oranges

Am happy with the result though and the lesson here was – just keep it simple. I was earlier experimenting with fried garlic, mirin, sesame oil and whatnot, and the results were.. just no. Ultimately I went with all natural and as few ingredients as possible and got the desired result. We could use this lesson in life too. Keep it simple and uncomplicated and you get the best results. 

My poor friends and family, they were forced to try all the failed versions for their valuable feedback. Guinea pigs zindabad. Now I can make it up to them by feeding them the proper version, if they have the inclination to even come near the dish! You can try it though. The result will be a glossy, caramelly, orangy taste with a hit of spice from the chilli flakes. Finally I can say that it is yum. So here goes. 

Ingredients 

6 large prawns (approx 130-140 gms)
Juice of 2 oranges (approx 160 ml) (do not strain the juice, you need the pulp)
1 tbsp thin soy sauce (I used the Thai “Healthy Boy” brand)
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp finely minced garlic 
1 tsp finely minced ginger
1 tsp oil (any vegetable oil)

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Mix the orange juice, soy sauce, chilli flakes, ginger and garlic and place it in a saucepan. On medium heat boil the juice for two minutes till thickened a bit and remove. Set aside.  
  • In a non-stick pan, heat the teaspoon of oil and fry the prawns on medium heat, flipping them so that all the sides are cooked for two minutes, then add the thickened orange juice mix and on medium-high heat, toss for exactly four more minutes till the sauce has dried and coated the prawns. 
  • Remove, plate and serve immediately. 

Important notes: I used a low sodium, or thin soy sauce. If you’re using regular soya sauce, then put less. Maybe just 1 tablespoon. Do not use dark soy sauce. It will overpower the flavour of the orange.

Prawns cook at the speed of light and if you’re using smaller ones, the cooking time will be considerable shorter. It is so easy to overcook prawns and ruin the dish with rubber in your mouth.

Every hob is different and it is up to you to know how high your heat goes. Someone else’s medium heat could be your high heat and so on. 

Pictorial Steps

Rocket Salad With Apple, Cranberries and Pine Nuts

Salads are so varied and so versatile. The main thing however, is managing to keep the leaves crisp and fresh so there’s a bite to it, and making sure the dressing is not too runny or insipid. In summer, when everything is hot including the water from the taps and filters, you should wash the leaves with cold water from the fridge. If you wash with warm water, the leaves will wilt and die immediately. This is experience speaking.

Salad ingredients

I always first soak the leaves in water with some salt added to it for about 10 minutes then rinse it with fresh water. Then shake off all the water from the leaves and keep them in the fridge if you’re doing this in advance. Assemble the salad when ready to serve and only put the dressing on it at the last minute else the leaves will wilt due to the moisture. 

It hardly takes any time and the dressing in the bottle is a very handy trick I learned from watching Jamie Oliver’s shows! You can use any apple. I used Golden apples from the northern Indian state of Himachal. They have a wonderful texture and the perfect balance between sweet and tart. Use any cheese. can even go with cubes of cheddar, though feta as well as parmesan work very well. Ok now, enough rambling, will get on with it!

Ingredients (serves one if this is all you’re eating)

20 gms pine nuts
60 gms rocket leaves 
Half an apple diced into 1cm cubes
¼ medium purple onion diced finely
10 gms dried cranberries cut in half
Shavings of parmesan cheese (can also use feta cheese)

Dressing

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
¼ tsp himalayan pink salt (put less if using table salt)
⅕ tsp cracked black pepper

Get Started 

  • Dry roast the pine nuts in a pan over medium heat and keep shaking them till the aroma wafts up and the start releasing a bit of oil. Remove immediately and set aside on another plate to cool. Do not let them burn. 
  • Wash the rocket leaves nicely and remove the moisture from them. Tear the leaves, if very large, into bite sized pieces and place them in a large bowl. 
  • Add the diced apple, onion and cranberries to the rocket leaves. 
  • In a small glass bottle, add all the ingredients for the dressing and shake well till it all mixes together nicely. 
  • Pour the dressing over the rocket mix and toss with two forks nicely till the dressing coats every leaf nicely. You can try putting less of the dressing into the salad at first and see if you need more. Don’t have to throw it all in at once. 
  • Now arrange the salad leaves on a serving plate or dish and sprinkle the pine nuts over it. 
  • If you’re using a block of parmesan cheese, use a cheese slicer or a vegetable peeler to peel wafer thin strips and arrange them over the salad. If you’re using feta cheese, crumble the cheese over the top, or cut in squares and place all over the top. 
  • Serve immediately. 

Important Notes: Salad leaves, once the dressing has been added, wilt very soon after due to the oil and moisture. If using tomatoes and cucumber in salads, the salt tends to draw out all the moisture from them and they become soggy and inedible if kept for too long. So serve and eat immediately. 

Lightening-Quick Nutella Crunch Pudding

I came up with this quick and easy dessert after wracking my brains about what my 7-year old could make for a small cooking competition. As it was a cold-cooking competition, where there were no hobs or electrical appliances allowed, anything other than assembling was not possible. Since the kid has not been introduced to any types of cooking or cutting and chopping and I didn’t have any kid-friendly knives around, I didn’t want to take that chance with salads and other laborious prep, so went with the quickest and easiest option. Didn’t turn out half bad! For Nutella lovers, this is a lightening quick and yummy dessert. 

The kid didn’t win a prize for this, but I’m putting it down to a lack of good taste of the judges 😉. The only addition here was the chocolate sauce which will cut down the sweetness of the Nutella and add just that extra punch. This dessert has creaminess, crunch, chocolate hit and tart from the cherries. Overall a pleasing combination, and best of all, it’s so easy and quick, you can have your children make the dessert every time this is on the menu! My little monkey is planning to make this on a large scale for the whole family for Sunday lunch and has taken complete ownership of it. 

Layering

It’s not gourmet cuisine, but it’s tasty and moreover an express dessert for when you don’t have time to labor over the more complicated preparations. It looks impressive and is also light on the tummy, so you don’t feel the heaviness that comes with eating a rich pudding. Am not going to talk too much about it now. Will leave the field open to you. 

Ingredients (Serves 2)

4 tablespoons mascarpone cheese (80gm) (can also use cream cheese)
4 tablespoons Nutella spread (80 gm)
2 tablespoons fresh cream
6 small digestive biscuits (or 4 large ones) broken up into tiny pieces
40 gms walnuts roasted, cooled and roughly chopped 
12 cherries roughly diced (I used canned cherries)
8 tbsp dark chocolate sauce (optional)

Dark Chocolate Sauce

50 gms dark chocolate broken up
100 ml cream
8 tbsp milk

Get Started 

Chocolate Sauce

Heat the cream in a heavy bottomed pan and when it comes to boil on the sides, turn off the gas. Add the chocolate. Leave it for a minute undisturbed, then stir till mixed thoroughly. Add the milk and mix well. See if it’s runny. If not, add another tablespoon and mix. Cool and keep aside. 

You will have more than enough left over. Can use it for making chocolate milk or make a larger batch of this pudding. 

Pudding

In a bowl, mix the mascarpone cheese with the Nutella spread till you get a smooth, even paste. 

Place one tablespoon of crumbled biscuit at the bottom of each of the serving glasses. 

Then add two heaped tablespoons of the Nutella mixture over that. Smooth the mixture so that it becomes an even line. 

Now sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the biscuit crumble over the Nutella mix and then sprinkle some walnuts all over that. Then add all the cherry over the walnuts in both glasses and drizzle chocolate sauce over that. 

Add 2 tablespoons of cream to the remaining Nutella mix in the bowl, mix well and divide them evenly across the two glasses over the cherries. 

Sprinkle more biscuit crumble and walnuts over the top. Drizzle with chocolate sauce and add a whole cherry on the top for garnish. 

This dish can be enjoyed at room temperature or refrigerated. 

Georgian Style Salad with Walnut Dressing

On holiday in Saint Petersburg, Russia, we were recommended a Georgian restaurant Khochu Kharcho (English name) by the receptionist at the hotel we were staying in and I must say, it was a really good one. The food was delicious and there came my introduction to this salad. I found the crushed walnut dressing very interesting and thought to myself that I must make it. 

As usual, I went about adapting it to my tastes and added a bit more flavour than the dish at the restaurant. I made it tangy with a hint of sweet and salt. The dressing here should be a bit sharp because when you add the crushed walnuts, it will soak up all the flavours fast and if the dressing is a bit bland, your entire dish will taste quite underwhelming. 

This is a very simple but really tasty salad. The walnuts give it a sweet and nutty flavour and also make the dish quite substantial, therefore you don’t feel that residual hunger that comes from only eating cucumbers and tomatoes. I ate the whole thing by myself for lunch! It was so fresh and light and I didn’t want to get into a large meal. I thought I’d eat half but then just carried on and on till there was nothing left on the plate. 

If you don’t have walnuts, you can replace them with roasted and ground peanuts. I wouldn’t replace them with any ground seeds though, such as pumpkin or sunflower or watermelon seeds, as they have a distinct and strong taste. Leave out the oil if you don’t have it. As they say, it’s the simple things that taste the best. This super easy salad is totally doable, even by kids. It has everything that’s always available in the house and I can guarantee you it will be on your dining table often. So go ahead and try it. 

Ingredients (serves 2)

2 medium cucumbers 
2 large tomatoes (or one cup cherry tomatoes halved)
½ small onion sliced widthwise into 3mm strips
⅓ cup or a handful of coriander leaves chopped coarsely

For the dressing

3 tbsp lemon/lime juice
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil  (optional) 
½ tsp pink salt (can make it ⅓ tsp if using white salt)
⅛ tsp cracked black pepper
½ cup walnuts roasted and crushed into a coarse powder (can also use peanuts if you don’t have walnuts)

Get Started 

  • Peel the cucumbers (or if you have young ones can keep the skin on), halve them lengthwise and then halve each half lengthwise. Remove the seeds and cut each length into either 1cm cubes or diagonally to resemble a diamond like pattern. 
  • Cut the tomatoes the same way after de-seeding them. Removing the seeds ensures that you do not have a ton of water leaking out of the vegetables, making them soggy. If you’re using cherry tomatoes no need to de-seed. Just cut them in half. 
  • Mix the cucumbers, tomatoes, sliced onions and chopped coriander leaves in a large bowl and keep aside. 
  • Add all the ‘dressing’ ingredients except the walnuts in a small glass bottle and shake it really well till all the liquids meld together. Check to see if you need to add more salt, lemon or honey. The dressing should be slightly tangy else the walnuts will make it bland.
  • Pour the dressing on to the salad ingredients and toss well. Then sprinkle most of the crushed walnuts – reserving a little bit for the end – and toss some more. 
  • Remove the salad onto a serving dish, sprinkle the leftover crushed walnuts over the top and serve immediately.

Pictorial steps

Mini Chicken a la Kiev

Anyone in India who’s had any association with Calcutta/Kolkata and its famous continental food restaurants such as Mocambo’s, would have heard of or tasted Chicken a la Kiev. It may be made a little differently there, but the dish is essentially a chicken breast, stuffed with garlic parsley butter, breaded and fried. It’s got clean, simple, subtle flavours but is absolutely delicious. It’s quite a popular dish all over the world, but despite its Ukrainian name, its origins are debated between the Russians and the French. Ah well, whatever.. I’ll just enjoy the dish.

Ironically, all these years I never went for it and on a trip to Russia last month, I tried it for the first time – having taken a bite off my mom’s dish in a lovely restaurant called Panorama in the city of Vladimir – and loved it. Then I thought, why not make it myself? And so I did. The first time it came out very well, then I said, “let me blog it”. You can just guess what happened with that attempt. 

The third time, very good friends of ours came over for dinner to eat this after I’d crowed to them about the dish. I made the large size ones, using the whole chicken breast in the shape of a ball. I fried them for a minute, put them in a 400°C oven and after 10 minutes thought I saw all the butter leak out. So I pulled them out of the oven, rested them a bit, and served them. As one of my guests cut into hers, she found the middle raw and pink! I apologised profusely, took all the Kiev’s back, shoved them into the oven again for another 10 minutes – luckily, only one Kiev was cut into. 

Then was the even more ridiculous part where the Kiev’s were sitting on everyone’s plate but no one was allowed to cut into it for the next 10 minutes until my signal as they had to be rested. God! if it were anyone else other than these dear people I would have died of embarrassment, but they’re totally chill and once they got the go-ahead, they really enjoyed the dish. My earlier fears were unfounded and the butter was intact in them. One of them when cut into had the butter sprouting out like a fountain! Lesson, keep the fat ones in the oven for 15 to 18 minutes.

Anyway, to make things much simpler, I decided that the best, most convenient and fool proof way was to make mini Kiev’s and fry them all the way. I sliced each chicken breast into two and made smaller rolls. That way you can eat less! I fried them for 5-6 minutes in medium-hot oil and rested them for about 10 minutes before cutting them open. Success! 

This dish, while seeming quite simple with the bare minimum ingredients is quite tricky to cook, simply because of the fluidity of the butter stuffing, so one has to follow my instructions in the important notes section after the instructions very carefully. You can have it with a salad and mashed potatoes or steamed vegetables. It’s a pretty heavy dish so don’t make too many things alongside it. Let the main dish shine. 

Ingredients

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 

For the stuffing

40 gms salted butter
1½ heaped tablespoons flat leaf parsley leaves chopped very finely
¾ tsp garlic paste

For the coating

1½ heaped tbsp flour + ½ tsp salt. Mix and spread on a dinner plate. 
1 egg whisked in a large bowl.
½ cup breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs on a dinner plate. (I used panco)

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • If you want really juicy chicken meat follow this first step. Soak the chicken breasts for two hours in a litre of water and 1½ heaped tablespoons of salt.  After two hours, drain the water and wash off the meat with fresh water. Then keep it on a sieve till most of the excess water drains off. Can pat dry with a clean absorbent napkin. 
  • Soften the butter and mix in the finely chopped parsley and garlic paste. Mix well and turn it over on to a sheet of cling film. Shape it into a rectangle about 2 inches wide, 3 inches long and 1 cm height. Wrap the cling film gently over it to keep the shape and put it in the refrigerator till it hardens up. Can keep this for one and a half weeks in the fridge. 
  • Clean the chicken breasts of all fat and cut off the extra flap under them (check pictures below).
  • Cut horizontally along the side seams of the chicken breasts through to the other side and place the pieces side by side on a long sheet of cling film leaving a few inches of space between each and cover them with cling film. With the flat side of a meat tenderiser or a flat bottomed pan or a rolling pin, bash the chicken till the meat has flattened to about 2mm in height. Try not to tear the meat from the middle. If you have, cover it with another flattened piece of chicken 
  • Remove the top cling film cover on the chicken, cut a 1cm wide, long strip of the butter and place it width wise on the the top of the widest part of the chicken. Roll the chicken tightly over the butter till you get to the end. 
  • Wrap the chicken roll tightly in clingfilm and twist the ends nicely sealing the two ends well and refrigerate for at least two hours. Can even keep it overnight. 
  • When you’re ready to fry, heat about half a litre of oil in a wok or a saucepan on medium. 
  • Remove the cling film covers on the chicken, first roll it in the flour, making sure to coat every bit of the roll. Then coat it with the beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs. You can keep the crumbed chicken in the fridge for 15 minutes before frying if you want, or if you think the butter inside has gone soft. 
  • Fry them on medium to medium-low heat (so that the outer covering doesn’t burn) two pieces at a time, for at least 5 minutes, rolling them on all sides to get an even colour all over. Then remove the rolls and place them on a plate covered with an absorbent napkin to soak up the excess oil. Rest them for 10 minutes so the the chicken meat absorbs the moisture. 
  • Serve immediately with a nice salad or grilled vegetables. Cut into the chicken and watch the delicious garlic parsley butter ooze out. Enjoy!

Important notes: Make sure there are no holes in the chicken that the butter can seep out of while cooking. Cover up the holes with another layer of finely pounded chicken and wrap the chicken up tight in cling film, making sure to seal the two ends tight. 

Coat the chicken very well all over, especially the sides, with the flour, egg and breadcrumbs so that there’s no exposed parts the butter can leak out of.

Chill the parsley butter very well so that its easy to wrap the chicken around it without it melting and oozing out the sides.

Fry in medium-hot oil. Do not let the oil get too hot, else the outer covering will burn and go black. Keep it at a steady medium to medium-low heat depending on the intensity of your hob. 

Pictorial steps

Coconut Delight Cake (Eggless)

This cake is a tribute to my Indian heritage and is inspired by my love for coconut and jaggery combinations in many Indian sweetmeats made for certain festivals. One item called Modak, a rice flour dumpling stuffed with coconut and jaggery is a particular favourite and every time a friend’s mother-in-law makes it, she’s been given strict instructions to make an extra batch just for me. This was the flavour base I was going for in the cake. 

Modak, said to be the favourite sweetmeat of the Hindu God Ganesha, is made as an offering to on Ganesh Chaturthi, the day Lord Shiva gave his son Ganesha an elephant head and declared him superior to all the other Gods. I wait for this time of year to get that plate of Modak and I DO NOT SHARE! As it is, my kids are allergic to coconut and the husband and father-in-law can tolerate it in small amounts, so I don’t feel guilty devouring all of them on my own. 

These days I’ve been looking at substituting white sugar with the slightly healthier jaggery powder in as many things as possible, such as my Double Apple Pie and I’ve even made my Banana Walnut Muffins with the substitution and they’ve both turned out fantastic. Jaggery, while still being a kind of sugar with a high calorific content, is still a better option than sugar, which has empty calories, because jaggery retains molasses which have vitamins and minerals. However, it cannot be used as a substitute every time as it has a very distinctive flavour and pairs very well with certain foods and fruits. 

As a lover of almost all things coconut, and since I’m all about experimentation, I decided to bake this cake incorporating all the traditional flavours that I love. As usual, as is my luck, the first time I made it, it came out well. The second time, which was for the purpose of the blog, failed, because  —— just because i had to blog it! I dumped too much coconut over the top and the middle sank because of the weight. The third time, I tweaked it a bit and got lucky. Thank goodness, as it’s painful as hell to have to make the same thing over and over to get it right, especially when most people in your home cannot even eat it! You also run out of people to send it to! 

This is a very soft cake as jaggery has a soft and crumbly texture. Coconut lovers should try this. It’s different, and tastes even better the next day as the coconut absorbs the jaggery even better. 

Ingredients

1¼ cup coconut powder
1¼ cup flour 
2½ tsp baking soda
4 cardamom pods – outer casing removed and seeds powdered
1 cup light jaggery powder (shakkar) 
1/2 cup yoghurt mixed with 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil 

For the topping

3 heaped tbsp coconut flakes 
2 heaped tbsp jaggery powder

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Line the bottom of a round 8 inch diameter baking tin with butter paper/parchment paper and oil the sides. 
  • Preheat your oven to 180°C or 350°F. Keep only the bottom heating rods on. 
  • In a large mixing bowl add the coconut powder, flour (sift it in), baking soda and cardamom seed powder. 
  • In another bowl, mix the jaggery powder, yoghurt and oil together so that the jaggery dissolves (it may not dissolve fully, but that’s ok). 
  • Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients till well mixed. Pour the batter into the cake pan, mix the coconut and the jaggery under “topping” and sprinkle it all over the surface of the cake, putting more of the topping on the outer edges closer to the pan than the middle. Make sure you sprinkle very little topping on the middle of the cake because if you go heavy, the centre will collapse. 
  • Bake in the centre rack of the oven for 35 minutes. Insert a skewer into the centre of the cake and if it comes out clean, remove it from the oven and let it cool. If there’s cake batter stuck to the skewer, keep it in the oven for five more minutes and then test it again. 
  • Cool the cake in the tin, then run a knife all along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the tin, flip it on to  plate upside down, take off the removable cake tin plate and butter paper and flip it top-side up onto your serving dish. 

Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. if you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.

The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

Pictorial Steps

 

Dahi Kebab Parcels (Yoghurt Parcels)

I got obsessed with making Dahi Kebabs a month ago. I’ve made it at least three times in two different ways, and this will be the fourth. Early last month, when I realised I’d made a whole bunch of yoghurt dip for a couple of dinners and and little bits of it got left over, I got the idea to stuff it in bread and fry it. Didn’t want any dip going to waste. Since then, I’ve made Dahi Kebabs three times this way and once in cutlet form. 

This way, yoghurt filling rolled in bread, seems to have found more favour with the family especially the brats who at this point in life have no issues with weight or cholesterol or any of the problems related to overindulgence in all yummy tasting things that adults seem to have. The dish’s journey to the blog has been quite eventful. The first two times, there was too much moisture in the yoghurt filling so I had to add breadcrumbs. Also, the second time I made a huge batch. Third time lucky they say, and it held true for me. I found the right consistency and balance of flavours and Voila! here we are. 

All the ingredients FINELY chopped

This is a very crispy and tasty dish, albeit a bit heavy with the deep fried bread, but hey – those are always the best parts right? One can indulge sometimes. It is a popular dish with Indian food caterers and at weddings and we’ve all enjoyed it at those occasions. The key here is to get thick yoghurt and have it hanging in fine muslin cloth for a long time so that there’s no whey  (water) left to loosen the curd and as a result, you will not need a binder such as breadcrumbs. 

I hung 600 grams of yoghurt (I used Nestle A+ brand) for 12 hours and got exactly 200 grams of the curd after all the whey dripped out. Keep a container under the hung yoghurt to collect the whey. Whizz the paneer (cottage cheese) nicely till smooth and chop all the ingredients very finely. Believe me, you do not want a large chunk of onion or ginger or red pepper in your mouth. All the flavours have to meld beautifully to give you a well rounded bite. Another thing, the dish is better eaten the next day as keeping it for another day or even two in the fridge allows all the flavours to really sharpen. Roll the bread finely. There should be no sponge left on the bread. 

Your enjoyment of this dish will depend on how meticulously you have gone about preparing it. There is little room for error, yet, it’s actually very simple to make. Also, please DO NOT throw away the whey that collects in the container below. It is packed with nutrients and can be used to knead chapati dough as well as had as a drink mixed with black salt and roasted cumin.

I got the bread rolling technique from a youtube video on nishamadhulika.com. Was a wonderful and easy way to do it. I’ve changed it up here though. Try this dish. It’s a crowd pleaser. 

Ingredients (Makes 12 parcels)

For Hung Curd Mix

600 gms thick yoghurt hung in fine muslin cloth for 12 hours (you will get 200 gms of curd). Collect the whey (water) in the fridge. Do NOT throw. 
100 gms paneer (cottage cheese) 
1 tbsp ginger root diced finely
2 long green chillies deseeded and diced finely
1/2 cup loosely packed coriander leaves chopped finely
2 heaped tbsp onion diced finely
1 tbsp finely grated carrot
2 heaped tbsp red bell pepper diced finely
2 heaped tbsp yellow bell pepper diced finely
1/2 tsp salt (I used himalayan pink salt)

To Assemble

12 slices of bread
1 tbsp flour mixed with 4 tbsp water to form a paste
1 bowl of drinking water and a brush
Oil for frying

Get Started (Pictorial Steps Below)

  • Cube the paneer and blend it in a mixie or food processor till smooth. If you don’t have either of those, mash by hand or an egg beater. 
  • Mix the paneer and all the ingredients under ‘hung curd mix’ together nicely and set aside.
  • Cut the edges of the bread and roll the slice flat with a rolling pin till the bread is about 1mm thick. Flip the bread over and brush water all over the surface. Not too much. It should not become soggy. 
  • Turn the bread over again keeping the dry side up. Add one tablespoon of the hung curd mix into the centre of the slice keeping at least 3/4 inch space on either side. 
  • With the back of a spoon, line the top and the two sides of the bread with the flour paste. Do not line the bottom. 
  • Raise the bottom part of the bread slice over the hung curd mix and stick it to the the flour paste covering the top of the slice, making sure the seam is sealed well and no filling is seeping out of it. Press the sides of the bread together to stick them. Make sure the top doesn’t break. Can cut off a bit of the sides if they look untidy. Do this till you finish all the hung curd mix. 
  • Arrange the parcels on a flat dish side by side. Do not place one on top of the other. Shallow fry the parcels in a pan with about 1cm of oil up the sides on medium to medium-high heat depending on your stove till they are golden brown on all sides. Do not fry them on high heat. It will make them too dark. Can keep it for two or three days in a well cooling fridge and then fry it. The longer you keep it, the better the flavour. Do not fry and then store. 
  • Once they’re done, remove onto a plate lined with a paper napkin to absorb the excess oil. Cut into half and serve immediately. Can serve it with a mint or coriander chutney or even ketchup or chilly sauce.

Pictorial Steps

Aromatic Chicken Curry – With No Masala

In many of my posts I’ve referred to myself as being a lazy cook. That is, If the dish has too many ingredients, I couldn’t be bothered with it, so most Indian fancy curries are out. That’s the downside. The upside is, that I try to make a tasty dish with as few ingredients as possible and most of the time it works! Who was that who said, get the laziest person to get the job done and they will find the easiest way to do it? Well – that’s my motto. Easiest way to do things, and here I’ve done precisely that.

In most Indian curries you will have spices such as coriander, cumin, chilly powder, turmeric, garam masala etc. I’ve done away with all of those and only used aromatics. Onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and green chillies. The dish came out spectacular! The key here is to reduce the ingredients completely, frying them very well for a very long time so that the flavours get intensified. Then you really don’t need anything else. If you want a spicy version, use three green chillies slit through the middle with their seeds intact. For much less heat, remove the seeds. For children, omit the chillies altogether, or just add one de-seeded chilli.

This dish really is a must try and will rival any chicken curry with a ton of more ingredients. I am so sure of that. You can even shred the chicken and make it like a bhurjee (scramble). Don’t shy away from using enough onions and tomatoes, remember the more of those, the more flavour you’ll get. And most important, make sure the aromatics are nicely reduced till they’re releasing oil. The colour will come from the stuff sticking to the bottom, which you will be deglazing every once in a while.

The yoghurt is optional, it changes the flavour a bit, giving it a slightly creamier texture. I used it the last time I made it. This time I have not. Both versions are yum. You can make it twice. One time with and one time without. Do not use a non-stick pan for this. It’s best to use a nice stainless steel pan or kadhai (wok) to get the browning at the bottom which gives the dish its character and flavour. Not going to say more. Have at it.

Ingredients

500 gms boneless chicken cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 medium onions sliced finely
2-3 green chillies slit (deseeded for less heat or omit completely for kids)
3 heaped tbsp crushed garlic
2 heaped tbsp crushed ginger
4 large tomatoes de-seeded and diced finely
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp peppercorns crushed coarsely
5 tbsp mustard oil
2 heaped tablespoons yoghurt (optional)

TOP TIP

Keep a glass of water handy as the bottom of the pan will keep browning up as the water keeps evaporating and the mixture starts releasing oil. When this happens, you will have to pour little splashes of water (not too much) to get the browned parts off. This is called deglazing. You will need to do this at least 5 times during the course of the cooking. The deglazing is what gives the dish its colour. Don’t add too much water every time you do this. You don’t want the onions getting boiled. The entire cooking process takes 45 minutes. You have to stir continuously but it’s worth it!

Get Started (Pictorial Steps Below)

  • Heat the mustard oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté the onions in the oil on medium flame stirring continuously till they are browned and almost caramelised. Around 10 minutes.
  • Add the green chillies, ginger and garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes till the rawness of the ginger and garlic go. When the bottom of the pan starts browning, add a splash of water and deglaze the bottom. Keep sautéing till the bottom of the pan starts browning again.
  • Then add the tomatoes and keep stirring for five minutes till they soften. Add the salt and keep stirring till the tomatoes release all their water and the bottom of the pan starts browning again. Deglaze the bottom of the pan with a splash of water, get all the brown bits out – watch the sides of the pan and deglaze that too. Keep stirring till the mixture starts releasing oil again and the pan browns again. Deglaze and continue stirring.
  • Keep stirring all the ingredients together till they have become nicely reduced and starts releasing oil again, then add the chicken. Stir the chicken for another 10 minutes. Add the crushed pepper now. Add the yoghurt if using it and keep stirring. When the bottom of the pan starts browning, deglaze again. Repeat this two more times in the next 10 minutes. Once you’re satisfied with the taste, remove from the fire and serve. You can make it ahead of time and heat by adding a teeny bit of water and stirring till it all evaporates.
  • Enjoy this dish with parathas, or chapatis, or rice.

Important notes: Since there are no masalas being added to this dish, the flavour will come from the slow reduction and caramelisation of the aromatics mix. Don’t add too much water, just small splashes every time the bottom of the pan starts browning up, and mix everything and keep sautéing till the water evaporates again. The key is to reduce the aromatics to a stage where there is total concentration of flavour.

DO NOT add too much water when deglazing each time. Add enough to only cover the browned bits.

Don’t let the bottom get black. That means it’s got burnt. That will spoil the flavour.

Keep stirring all the time. If you don’t stir for a while your dish will get burnt.

Pictorial Steps:

Kala Jamun Frozen Yoghurt (Java Plum/Black Plum)

Kala Jamun, or Java plum or black plum is a fruit that grows in South East Asia in the summer and is a superfood. Its health benefits have been touted far and wide but it’s also an acquired taste. Most people I know don’t like it very much and when I was younger, I didn’t either. However, my dietary choices as I grow older are veering more towards foods that have amazing health benefits than those that simply taste good.

Jamuns are loaded with nutrients and vitamins. It apparently helps combat a host of diseases such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer and even improves eyesight. It also helps fix issues of the digestive tract. The deep purple, almost black fruit tastes earthy, mildly tart, sweet and something I’m not able to describe, and is available from May to July.

My aim with this blog is not only to try and turn those not-so-liked fruits and vegetables into dishes that people will enjoy but also to educate people about the health benefits of local and seasonal foods that one should be consuming to give their immune systems a good and natural boost. In this recipe I have used only natural ingredients. There’s no processed foods or sugar, and as a result it’s a very healthy and low-calorie option to beat the heat and also get some nutritional goodness into you.

Most of my family members and some friends liked the frozen yoghurt but there will also be those who don’t like it simply because they don’t like the fruit. Try it and see how you do. It is super healthy and has the most glorious purple colour. I’ve kept it very simple here but one can also experiment with a bunch of spices and aromatics. Go for it.

Ingredients

400 gms Kala Jamun (after deseeding)
400 gms thick yoghurt hung for 2 hours (hung curd)
1/3 cup honey
4 tbsp lemon/lime juice

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Remove the flesh of the jamun from the seed. The weight of the flesh without the seeds should be 400 gms.
  • Whack the jamun in the blender till there are absolutely no lumps.
  • Add the honey and lime juice and blend nicely till you get a lovely smooth purple paste. Then add the hung yoghurt and blend more.
  • Taste and see if you would prefer to add a bit more honey or lime juice. Adjust accordingly.
  • Blend again a bit and once you’re satisfied with the taste and pour it out into a clean and dry container appropriate for the deep freeze and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Important notes: Pick nice ripe juicy jamun for this, not the dried and semi ripe ones.

Do not hang the yoghurt for too long. It should not become too dry. Two hours is enough. If you feel it’s too dry, add a wee bit of regular yoghurt to make it smooth.

Pictorial Steps

Deliciously Tangy Masoor Dal (Red Lentils with Mango)

If you haven’t been made aware of my infatuation with mango, raw or cooked, this post should do do it for you. I love the fruit and will look for any excuse to use it in dishes. This is one dish that’s a winner in my eyes because it’s so simple and light. It’s again a Bengali concoction and one of my favourites. The Bengali cuisine my family cooks have very few ingredients in the form of spices and flavouring but they pack a punch in flavour.

So few ingredients

This is one of the only dals’ I know how to cook and that too because I love to eat it and it has so few ingredients and of course, there’s the tang of the mango. One should use a sour mango if you want a tangy taste to the dal and use a semi ripe mango if you want a sweetish taste to the dal. I used a raw mango. Most Bongs would also add sugar to the dal but I do not. I like the spicy hit from the chillies and the tang from the mangoes and the salty taste with the earthiness of the kala jeera.

This dish is best had with hot steaming fluffy rice. You can also add a nice dry potato dish to it or a dry vegetable dish to it or even fried fish or cutlets. This dish is a pretty forgiving one so overcooking the dal is not a possibility. Just don’t burn the spices in the beginning when frying them. Do not under-salt it as the taste will become insipid when mixed with the rice.

There’s not much more to say about this other than just make it and eat it.

Ingredients (serves 8)

300 gms Masoor Dal (Red Lentils)
1.5 litres water
1 medium sized raw mango peeled and sliced into fingers (155gms approx)
1 tsp kala jeera (kalaunji or nigella seeds)
1 tsp haldi powder (turmeric powder)
2 long green chillies slit and partially de-seeded
2 tsp salt
4 tbsp mustard oil

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Wash the Massoor dal nicely a couple of times and drain. Then soak it in water for 20 minutes and drain that water. Then boil the dal in the 1.5 litres of water mentioned above with the salt and the haldi powder for 20 minutes.
  • Heat the oil in a kadhai or a wok or any deep saucepan. Add the kala jeera, green chillies and mango and stir on medium heat till the mangoes start wrinkling a bit. Make sure not to keep the heat on too high as the jeera will burn. Stir for about three minutes.
  • Then add the boiled massoor dal to the oil and mangoes and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to break down the grains till the grains of the dal have become fine and less grainy.
  • Add about 300 ml more water if you don’t want the dal too thick and boil till you get the flavours of the mango and spices. Add a bit more salt if needed. I added half a teaspoon more salt. It may seem like a lot of salt but this is a large dish which will feed at least 7 to 8 people.
  • Remove after 30 minutes of simmering and stirring when you’re satisfied with the consistency and flavour and serve immediately with rice.

Important notes: Make sure you simmer the dal for at least 30 minutes in the oil and mango else the flavours of the mango won’t get incorporated.

Use mustard oil to bring out the flavour of the dal.

Pictorial Steps

Sprouts Salad with Raw Mango and Pomegranate

The Indian summer, especially in the National Capital Region, brings upon us intense heat, combined with hot winds called Loo and frequent dust storms accompanied by rain. In this weather, I sometimes lose my appetite for the usual hot dal, rice, vegetable curry and foods with the usual spices used in Indian cooking, but still want that desi taste with all the right balance of nutrition. So here’s a sprout salad that gives me the protein, fibre, nutrients and tummy filling goodness all in a fuss-free bowl.

This salad works very well for me especially because I’ve gained back a substantial number of kilograms shed last year with the right kind of eating and exercise by not following said right eating and a halting of any exercise for the entire duration of winter. Now it’s regret time and move-my-ass time. So with a resumption of yoga and dance about five times a week, I not only need to shed the kilos but also need the energy to keep up these high intensity workouts without passing out while I’m at it.

The salad has a good balance of sweet from the pomegranate, sour from the mango, crunch from the cucumber, tang from the lemon, pungent flavour from the black salt and herb-y hit from the coriander and mint leaves. I had a raw mango lying in the fridge for a bit too long and it started ripening a bit, but was still more raw than ripe. I used that. It’s fine either way.

I can eat a huge bowl of this on my own for lunch and for dinner. If you do not have access to black salt, you can use a smaller quantity of regular salt or any other salt like rock salt, or Himalayan pink salt, or finely ground sea salt. Adjust the seasoning according to your taste and enjoy this healthy fresh energy giving salad.

Ingredients

150 gms moong sprouts
1 tomato
1/2 cucumber
1 medium raw or partially ripe mango
1 long green chilly
1 medium pomegranate (seeds)
4 tbsp lemon juice
2/3 tsp black salt (kala namak) or any salt
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
1/2 tbsp chopped mint leaves (optional)

Get Started

  • Add the moong sprouts to boiling water and boil for about 4 minutes. Drain completely and cool.
  • De-seed the tomato and cucumber and dice them finely along with the raw mango.
  • De-seed the green chilly and chop very finely so that you don’t get big chunks in your mouth.
  • After the requisite chopping, mix all the items under ingredients together, taste for seasoning, add more of anything you want and serve.

Rustic Egg Chops with Ham and Cheese

One forgets about the simple dishes like egg chops, so easy and delicious. It’s been literally decades since I’ve eaten them and last month on a trip back home with my family, my mom mentioned egg chops for dinner and it kind of rang a bell in my head. We made the simple ones back there, just covering the egg halves with a potato mixture, which was delicious and I would eat no less than four of them in one sitting. That gave me an idea though. How about we go for a slightly more fancy stuffing inside.

So I removed the yolks from the halves, mixed them with finely chopped mozzarella cheese (you can even use cheddar or actually any cheese of your choice) and finely diced cubes of ham and stuffed them back into the whites and then coated them in a potato mixture and then breadcrumbs. These are shallow fried in very little oil but one can also deep fry them.

The chops came out yum and found great favour especially with the carnivorous husband and son, because well, ham and cheese are a pleasing combination anywhere right? And the two of them sharing the same lack of regard for vegetables and healthy food will always go for the higher calorie, cheesy, meaty options instead of the simpler but healthier ones! If you want a cheesier and gooier filling then you can toss out the yolks and just stuff the whites with cheese and ham but that’s quite a waste of yolks to consider.

You can have these egg chops for dinner and pair them with simple stir fried vegetables or also this vegetable medley or a salad. Makes for a nice and fulfilling nutritious meal. The chops come out light and soft and are an absolute treat. One thing to mind, if your eggs are small eggs, use medium sized potatoes, if the eggs are large eggs, use larger sized potatoes. 

Ingredients

5 medium potatoes boiled and peeled
1 small onion diced finely
1 green chilly diced finely
1 heaped tsp crushed garlic or garlic paste
1 tsp salt
4 eggs hard boiled and peeled
3 tbsp grated cheese (cheddar or mozzarella)
1 slice ham diced and roasted in 1/2 tsp of oil
1 cup bread crumbs
Oil for light frying

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

  • Mash the potatoes and add the onion, green chilly, garlic and salt and mix well. Keep the potato mash in the refrigerator for an hour or so to make it harden up a bit.
  • Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Remove the yolks from the whites and put them in a separate bowl.
  • Mix the cheese and the ham with the yolks and stuff them into the yolk cavity of each egg white section and even covering the whole surface of the egg if there’s enough cheese mix.
  • Divide the mashed potato mixture into 8 portions. Take a portion, flatten it on your palm, place the stuffed egg-half upside down on the potato mix and wrap it all around the egg. Then coat the egg roll with breadcrumbs. Repeat with all the other portions.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick pan on medium to low heat and place the egg chops in the pan. Make sure the breadcrumbs stick nicely to the chops and there is as little excess crumbs scattered in the oil else they tend to burn and blacken the chops. 
  • Turn the chops as one side gets browned. Once the chops are evenly browned (not too much though) on both sides, remove them onto a serving dish and eat immediately.

Pictorial Steps

Baked Piri Piri Broccoli

For all broccoli lovers, here’s an interesting way to enjoy the vegetable as well as get the dramatic presentation effect. That whole head of broccoli situated like a colourful tree on a plate is sure to get attention. Broccoli is a vegetable many people don’t seem to like – certainly almost everyone in my family hates it – but as it is very healthy and full of nutrients, I thought trying to get creative with it might help. Alas, the kids….their broccoli rejection is so absolute, that they wouldn’t even consider liking it, however, two non-broccoli haters loved it!

For people who do like broccoli however, this dish would be one to try. I’ve used my own piri piri sauce here which is really mild and tangy so if you’re using my recipe and want more heat, you can add some chilli flakes to it, or some chilli powder. This is a recipe even kids (who like the veg) can enjoy because of a lack of intense heat. If you’re using store bought piri piri (or peri peri) sauce, that would be more spicy, so you would need to gauge how much you want to add to your marinade.

For someone like me who made every attempt to avoid most vegetables in my childhood, I’ve become a remarkable vegetable lover. A few bad health experiences because of unhealthy eating in my early 20s made me realise that what my parents have been harping on all my life about nutrition was so true – that there is no substitute for plenty of vegetables and fruit in your diet to remain a functioning healthy person.

This a very very simple recipe, involves very few steps, is low calorie and is a vegetable-lover pleaser. You can serve it up for a lunch or dinner party. It is moist and full of flavour. A few important things to remember – get young broccoli, not a very ripe one else you won’t get the crunch, blanch for only 1 minute in boiling water and no more and lastly bake on high heat for 25 to 30 minutes for the nice char grill. OVEN TIP: If you have a 28-litre or smaller oven, the baking time will be less. Mine’s a 35 litre oven. If you have a larger oven, the baking time may be more. This is something you have to be mindful about.

Ingredients

1 large head broccoli
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp yoghurt
6 tbsp piri piri sauce (my sauce recipe )

Get Started

  • In a large pot of boiling water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and then add the whole head of broccoli. Remove the broccoli from the pot after 1 minute and let it cool on a plate. Cut the stalk in an even straight line so the whole head can balance upright on a plate. Make sure the broccoli is young and not overripe else you won’t get the crunch and texture.
  • In another bowl, mix the yoghurt with 3 tablespoons of piri piri sauce and 1/2 teaspoon salt, making sure all ingredients are blended nicely. Rub the marinade all over the broccoli making sure to go between each floret. Turn the broccoli upside down and rub the marinade into the florets from there.
  • Once the entire head of broccoli is nicely coated, place it in a dish, cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least two hours, can even keep the whole day and even overnight.
  • When ready to eat, remove the cling film, rub the remaining 3 tablespoons of piri piri sauce all over the broccoli inside and out and bake the broccoli in an upright position in a preheated 250°centigrade oven for 25 minutes with both top and bottom heating rods on. After 25 minutes shut off the oven and keep the broccoli inside for another 10 minutes if you want it drier. Else, remove and serve immediately.

Pictorial Steps

Double Apple Pie With a Twist

This is a healthier version of the regular apple pie because it uses jaggery powder instead of sugar and you wont even know the difference. It came about after my younger child was laid up with a terrible bout of allergy related respiratory infections and the poor baby has not been allowed to eat any candy or desserts as sugar makes a sore throat and chest infections even worse. Jaggery on the other hand, actually helps to clear the chest. Therefore, with so many food and fruit restrictions, I’m adapting my desserts to replace sugar and add ingredients she is allowed to have.

Here I’ve used a combination of Granny Smith apples, which have a sour tart flavour and Fuji apples which have a sweet flavour. The two apple varieties are also firm fleshed so they do not dissolve into mush while cooking. I didn’t use any lemon juice as the Granny Smith apples have enough of a tang on their own. All my desserts generally have less sugar and sweeteners as I try to get away with the minimum amount required to make it palatable but as jaggery is not as sweet as sugar, you may want to add more.

I’ve used organic jaggery powder here. Jaggery comes in two forms. Light brown and dark brown. The dark brown one has a concentrated treacly taste and the light brown jaggery is less intense. I’ve used the light brown powder here. In India, jaggery is called Gur and the powder is called shakkar. It’s available in abundance in the winter months so better to stock up and keep in airtight containers for the rest of the year if you think it’s not going to be available later.

Jaggery Powder

I’m on a mission to try and replace white sugar as much as possible in my desserts. Of course, any replacement will still have the calories, but then instead of empty calories and harmful effects, alternatives like jaggery and honey have nutritional value and health benefits. Jaggery, made with sugarcane juice, has a host of minerals and salts that apparently clear your lungs, stomach, intestines, purify the blood and even relieves constipation if taken in small amounts on a regular basis. Diabetics of course have to refrain.

If you think you want to try something interesting and different, you can try this.

Ingredients

For the Pie Base (shortcrust pastry)

300 gms flour
3 heaped tbsp jaggery (shakkar) powder (add more if you want it sweeter)
Pinch of salt
150 gms butter cut into 1 cm cubes and chilled
2 eggs whisked

For the Filling

6 apples (4 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji) peeled and sliced finely
4 heaped tbsp jaggery powder
1 heaped tsp cinnamon powder
50 gms walnuts roughly chopped (optional)

Get Started (pictorial steps below)

Pie Base

  • In a large mixing bowl, add the jaggery powder and salt to the flour and mix. Then add the chilled butter and rub the butter into the flour till the mixture resembles fine bread crumbs.
  • Add three fourths of the beaten eggs (leaving the rest for brushing on the pastry later) to the flour mixture and mix together gently till the flour clumps together. Do not knead into a hard dough.
  • Wrap the pastry in cling film flatten into a circular disc and chill in the fridge for at least half an hour.

For a detailed pictorial idea of how to make a pie base go here. Please follow only the basic pictorial instructions up to the rolling part but follow the recipe in this post. This recipe has some modifications.

Pie filling

  • Place the sliced apples along with the cinnamon and jaggery powder in a heavy bottomed pan and heat on medium flame for about 10 minutes, turning gently every once in a while to make sure all the apples are softened and coated well with the cinnamon and jaggery. Do not overcook as you only want the apples to stop releasing their water. Once softened set aside to cool.

Assembly

  • Preheat your oven to 180° centigrade with only the bottom heating rods on.
  • Take out the pastry after chilling and cut off about 2/3 of it and place it between 2 sheets of cling film and with a rolling pin (belan) roll into a circle large enough to cover a 9 inch diameter tart case. The pastry should be about 2 mm thick. Pull off the top sheet of cling film and invert the pastry onto the pie tin making sure to have a fair amount topping the sides. Remove the top layer of cling film.
  • Chill the pie case with the pastry in the refrigerator and begin rolling the remaining 1/3 of the pastry between two sheets of cling film to cover the pie on top. Put the cover in the refrigerator with the cling film.
  • Take out the pie tin and pour the softened apple filling into it, making sure to spread the apples evenly. Throw in the walnuts, then cover it with the remaining dough and fold in the sides of the pie crust to seal the edges of the pie. Poke the top of the pie crust with a fork all over or make decorative holes to allow steam to escape while baking.
  • Brush the top of the pie liberally with the remaining beaten egg.
  • Bake in the centre rack of the oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, let it cool for a bit. Eat the pie warm or cold.
  • If you have leftovers, place them in an airtight container and keep out in a cool place or if in warm climate, in the refrigerator. Do not microwave to reheat, the crust will become soggy. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven for 20 minutes for the best taste.

Important notes: Keep the butter chilled for the pastry and keep the pastry chilled after rolling and before baking. Pastry tends to melt and become a mushy mess in hot climates and will shrink with melted butter. The chilled butter and chilled pastry will give it a firm and crisp texture and will not shrink.

Use only the heating rods at the bottom of the oven for this. If you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off, you can place an oven tray between the rod and the pie. Direct heat from the top will end up burning the top crust before the bottom has a chance to cook.

Do not overcook the apples. You want them to hold their shape and not become a mushy mess.

Pictorial Steps

Very Berry Strawberry Cake

January and February are super high calorific months in my household. It’s birthday season for four fifths of my family, and so far I’ve already baked four cakes in less than a month. Everyone has a different request and I try to oblige them all. I’ve baked a chocolate cake, a tutti frutti cake, a strawberry vanilla cake and this full on strawberry cake. There’s one more coming up in a couple of days and then I will TRY to take a bit of a breather from these high sugar high calorie but oh so yummy treats. I will try!!

As you may know from my previous posts, I try to keep the sugar and butter down to the bare minimum, so this is a no-butter, no-oil cake and it has only enough sugar to make it palatable. The icing has only white chocolate, strawberry compote and cream and no added sugar and there’s just one tablespoon of sugar in the strawberry filling. There are strawberries everywhere and for those who love strawberries and anything to do with them, this is the cake for you. You can even omit the icing all over the cake if you wish and just keep the centre filling with just strawberry slices and whipped cream if you do not want a rich cake.

This cake will surely get you many appreciative compliments and I hope you will take the trouble to make it. You’re going to need a lot of strawberries for it but hey, It’s well worth the (not so much) effort.

Ingredients

For the Cake 

5 eggs
3/4 cup powdered sugar (whack normal sugar in a grinder till fine)
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup strawberry puree
2 tbsp hot water

For the filling

250 gms ripe strawberries sliced thickly
1 tbsp sugar

For the icing

200 gms white chocolate
250 gms double cream
200 gms strawberries diced roughly

Get Started (Pictorial steps below)

Filling

Put the sliced strawberries and the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan and boil on low heat for about 2 minutes till the sugar has melted and the strawberries are slightly soft. Remove from pan into a bowl and set aside.

Icing

  • In the same heavy bottomed pan used for the strawberry filling (do not bother to wash) place the diced strawberries and boil down till most of the moisture has evaporated and it becomes more like a thick chunky compote. Remove and set aside.
  • Crush the white chocolate into smaller shards and melt in the microwave for two minutes. Remove and check if the chocolate has melted completely. If not, put it in for a minute more. Once the chocolate has melted, stir it well and keep aside.
  • Beat the heavy cream with an egg beater till its nice and fluffy. Then add the melted chocolate to it and fold nicely. Add the strawberry compote to it and fold till well incorporated. Your icing is ready. After you’ve added some icing to the middle of the cake, whisk the rest of it for about 30 seconds to get a nice pink colour and slightly firmer icing so that it does not run down the cake. 

Cake 

  • Line the bottom of a 9 X 9 inch square pan with butter paper or parchment paper and oil the sides of the pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C with only the bottom heating rods on.
  • Sift the flour in a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or plate. Add the salt and baking powder to the flour and set aside.
  • Crack the eggs in a mixing bowl or in the bowl of your stand mixer and beat on high speed till they are slightly fluffy. About 30 seconds. Then add the cup of sugar to the eggs and beat on high speed (stand mixer speed 8) for a minute and a half till the mixture has quadrupled in size and becomes slightly thick. The mixing blades should make well defined grooves on the batter and it should form stiff peaks. If the mixture is still pouring down from the mixer blades then beat for another 10 to 15 seconds on high till the stiff peaks form. 
  • Fold the flour gently into the beaten egg mixture in two parts making sure it’s all incorporated. Then add the strawberry puree to the mixture and fold till fully incorporated. Lastly, fold the two tablespoons of hot water into the batter and pour it into the baking tin.
  • Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 50 minutes. Then insert a skewer into the middle of the cake and if the skewer comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven. if the skewer has even a little batter stuck to it, keep the cake in the oven for another five minutes and test again. Remove only when the skewer comes out clean.
  • If, when you take the cake out of the oven the cake starts sinking in the middle, turn the baking tin upside down and keep it atop a cake rack till the cake cools. The part that’s sinking will come right back up! This would mean that you use a baking tin thats slightly larger so that the cake  – which tends to rise quite a bit – does not come above the sides of the pan (a 9 x 9 square tin is perfect for this. Please do not use a non-stick baking tin for this cake. 
  • After the cake has cooled completely, run a knife very straight and carefully along the edge of the cake to loosen it from the sides of the pan and turn it upside down on to a plate. Remove the butter paper lining from the bottom of the cake and place the cake straight side up on to a serving dish.
  • Cut the cake in half, set aside the top part and add a layer of the chocolate icing to the lower half of the cake. Then add the sliced strawberry compote all over the top of the icing. Place the top part of the cake back over the bottom half of the cake.
  • Then using your knife, cover the cake on all sides and the top with a thin layer of icing. This is called a crumb coat, because it catches all the crumbs making them stick to the cake so that it does not come all over the outer icing. Then nicely coat the whole cake with the rest of the icing and make any decoration you wish. I made swirls with my knife.

Enjoy this lovely light cake.

Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. If you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.

Do not use a smaller baking tin where the cake can rise over the top. This cake rises a lot so stick to a minimum 9 inch diameter tin or a 9 x 9 square tin because you may need to cool the cake upside down to prevent it from sinking in the middle. For that reason also do NOT use a non-stick pan as the cake will slide out.

The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

Pictorial Steps

Stir Fried Vegetables with Mint and Fennel Seeds

Here’s another take on stir-fried vegetables. There are not too many ways to make vegetables taste very different and keep them free of honey or sugar or cheesy or creamy additions that make them taste awesome and one can only play around with condiments and combinations. Here is my attempt at making a whole bunch of healthy vegetables taste a bit different as well as be palatable. I’ve used dried mint here but you can even use fresh mint leaves chopped very finely. The fennel seeds was an addition that came after I smelled the dried mint and immediately thought that fennel would complement it in some weird manner. I tried it once and loved the taste so thought I’d share the new flavour combination with the rest of the world.

This is a fresh and super healthy combination with olive oil being the only processed item. They say that the more colourful the vegetables, the healthier they are, and this dish takes on almost rainbow hues! For vegetable lovers, this would be a wonderful plate of food and you can combine it with a cottage cheese steak or chickpea cutlets or just have a whole bunch of it on its own. Non Vegetarians can compliment their steaks or grilled meats and seafood with this.

My kids who gag at the thought of bell peppers got them removed and were not so unhappy with the broccoli, carrots, mushroom and corn, and getting them to eat even that was a feat. When I asked them how they liked it, the son scrunched up his nose and said “even though I hate broccoli and mushrooms, the flavour is nice’’. Well, that was encouraging. The husband? Don’t even  ask. He hates veggies period, however, he picked at the corn and the carrots, taking two pieces each and said – `nice flavour’ when pressed.

This is definitely not a favourite kids dish but will find favour with anyone who loves veggies and those that are trying to cut calories. If you want children to eat red and yellow peppers then you can try making my bell pepper pasta which I’m sure they will love, and they won’t even know they are eating the stuff and it’s a great favourite with adults too. I like banging flavour so there’s a whole lot of everything in here. You can add less lemon juice and other condiments if you like.  So here it is, my colourful veggie platter.

Ingredients

Vegetables

1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
2 large carrots
2 cups broccoli florets
1 cup corn
200 gms button mushrooms

Flavouring and Seasoning

1 tsp salt
2 tbsp very finely diced garlic
1 tsp dried mint (pudina) leaves flaked or fresh mint leaves chopped finely
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds (saunf) ground coarsely
4 tbsp lemon juice (can reduce to 3)
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4 tbsp olive oil

Get Started 

  • Remove the seeds and the white membrane from the bell peppers and slice them into 1 cm wide strips.
  • Peel the carrots and cut them into 1 cm wide strips. (refer to the pictures)
  • Blanch the carrots and corn in a pot of boiling water with 1 tsp salt in it for a minute, then add the broccoli to the pot and blanch all veggies for another minute. Remove the vegetables from the water immediately after 2 minutes and keep aside.
  • Cut the mushrooms into quarters, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a non-stick pan and on maximum heat toss the mushrooms till browned. With such high heat they should not release water as long as the pan is not overcrowded. If they do release water, keep stirring them till all the water evaporates. Remove onto a plate.
  • Heat the rest of the oil in the pan on high heat and throw in the red and yellow peppers. Char them nicely on all sides for about 1.5 minutes, then throw in the rest of the vegetables and stir them all together.
  • Add the diced garlic to the pan and toss. Then add the lemon juice, salt, mint and fennel. Toss them all till well mixed for about another two minutes and remove from pan to a serving dish. Serve immediately.

Important notes: Keep a large frying pan for this dish. You want a nice char on the vegetables and they should be slightly crunchy and not soggy. If you overcrowd the pan you will end up with a soggy dish as you won’t get the appropriate amount of heat to the veggies and they will end up being steamed.

Simply Delicious Lemon Coriander Chicken

I first tasted lemon chicken like this at Gyani Da Dhaba in Dharampur, in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh and fell in love with it. It’s been five years since my introduction to the dish and the taste really lingered on, so I thought, If one can’t get to the dish, why not try to recreate it, or at least attempt to. So yesterday, I got down to it, and the outcome was much to my and my family’s satisfaction. It may not have tasted exactly the same as the Gyani dish, but it tasted really really good!

The flavours are clean and simple and the dish uses a minimum of ingredients and still comes out a winner. If you want to add a little more gravy to the chicken, the instructions for that are under the Important Notes section at the bottom. This is one of the first chicken dishes both my kids actually liked! My daughter usually does not like to eat any meat or chicken and wails of “the chicken is chewyyyyy’’ mostly assaults my ears whenever she is given chicken anywhere, but she enjoyed this much to my very pleasant surprise!

I used chicken on the bone and left out the breast pieces, as they cook the fastest – at least 10 to 15 minutes faster than the thigh and leg pieces – and by the time those are cooked the breast pieces are as chewy as leather, so out they went. You can make a boneless preparation but the cooking time will then be much less. The minimum marination period should be two hours for the marinade to seep into the chicken nicely but the longer you keep it, the better. You can even leave it in the fridge overnight. I marinated the chicken in the afternoon and cooked it at night, giving it at least seven hours.

This dish, like most of my cooking, has few ingredients, short cooking time, is easy, fuss free and tastes great. Try it.

Ingredients

For the Marinade 

750 gms chicken pieces on bone (breast pieces removed)
150 gms thick yoghurt
1 heaped tsp coriander powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi) powder
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the Final Preparations

2 medium onions diced finely
2 tbsp lemon juice
1.5 heaped tbsp very finely chopped coriander leaves and stem
3 tbsp vegetable or olive oil

Get Started

  • In a bowl, add the yoghurt, coriander powder, salt, turmeric powder and 2 tbsp lemon juice to the chicken pieces, mix well and keep in the fridge for at least two hours.
  • When ready to cook, heat the oil in a large non-stick pan, add half the diced onion in the oil and lightly fry on medium heat. Add the marinated chicken pieces to the pan, shaking off the excess marinade and keep turning them till all sides turn an opaque white colour.
  • Once the raw look has gone from the chicken, add the rest of the marinade and cook covered on medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, add the rest of the diced onions, lemon juice and 1 tbsp of the diced coriander and cook uncovered for another 10 minutes till the marinade dries up and starts releasing oil. You don’t need to add any water to the dish.
  • Check to see if the chicken legs (drumsticks) are fully done as they take the longest to cook. If they are not done, keep the chicken on the gas for another five minutes. If the chicken is fully cooked, remove it onto a serving dish, sprinkle the remaining 1/2 tbsp of diced coriander over the top and serve immediately.

Important Notes: Make sure the chicken is not overcooked or undercooked, which is why it’s advisable to keep the heat on medium and medium-low, so you have better control over the cooking process.

If you want more gravy, add double the yoghurt to the chicken but then you will have to adjust all the marinade flavouring accordingly. You may then need to add 1/2 tsp more of salt and coriander powder, 1/4 tsp more of turmeric powder and more lemon juice to taste.

Delicious Eggless Tutti Frutti Cake

I’ve been on a baking frenzy the last week. Most of it has been experimental, tinkering with ratios and ingredients to see if I can come up with the perfect cake. Managed to get a pretty good version of the Vanilla Butter Cake in the last post and then decided to work on an eggless version of it. I’ve been making eggless cakes for the longest time since my little one was allergic to eggs for the first three years then luckily outgrew it. However, the eggless baking continues because the cakes seem way more moist and rich compared to those with eggs without needing to put a huge amount of butter in them.

I had some tutti frutti lying around for a while and thought why not use it up, so bunged it into the cake with a few walnuts, reduced the sugar a bit as the tutti frutti is sweet too, and Voila!, got another hit cake! The only problem with baking a good cake especially one with walnuts (my weakness – actually one of my many weaknesses), is that every time I pass the damn thing it pulls me in like a magnet and I’m compelled to eat some! Anyway, it’s been gobbled up, so that temptation is over till the next time I bake it.

I had sent some cake to a friend and the response was -“why did you send so little? Make it again and send more!’’ Okay! This cake is a hit with children too. The colours, the nuts and the fruitcake look is really appealing to them. This is the cake I make for the children when I bake my christmas cake with all the alcohol in it. That way they get to eat something similar without the forbidden stuff. Incase you were wondering what tutti frutti is, it’s small squares of candied fruit.

The cake will last for at least four days out in an airtight box in winter and in summer you will need to refrigerate it in an airtight box and microwave each slice for 30 seconds before eating. It does not dry up much even after three days – the beauty of eggless cakes! So try it for yourself and let me know how it turns out.

Ingredients

300 gms flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
100 ml yoghurt
200 ml milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
150 gms sugar (finely ground or castor)
100 gms butter
160 gms tutti frutti
100 gms walnuts roughly chopped

Get Started 

  • Preheat your oven to 180°C with only the bottom heating on.
  • Line the bottom of a loaf tin with butter paper/parchment paper and oil the sides. Set aside.
  • Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
  • Mix the yoghurt, milk and lemon juice together and keep aside.
  • In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till the mixture is light and  creamy.
  • Add the yoghurt mixture to the butter and sugar. Mix well.
  • Then fold in the flour mixture in two batches. Fold gently till you get a smooth batter.
  • Then add the tutti frutti and walnuts to the batter, fold them in well and pour it into the loaf tin. (I used a 11 x 4 inch tin)
  • Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. After 30 minutes, it may be wise to slip a baking tray between the lower heating rods and your cake rack so that the heat doesn’t hit the bottom of the pan directly as there are chances of the cake getting burnt as the height is a bit high and the eggless batter takes a while to cook. Test the centre of the cake by inserting a skewer right to the bottom and if the skewer comes out clean, remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool. If the skewer has runny batter on it, keep the cake in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. test with the skewer again and only remove when the skewer comes out clean.
  • Then, once the cake cools, or if you don’t want to wait so long, feast on your delicious creation!

Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. if you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.

The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

Moist Vanilla, Butter Cake

How to make that perfect vanilla cake that does not have too much butter or sugar or all the things that are harmful for you and still get it to rise well, fluff up and taste awesome? Err, tough job (and healthy cake is kind of an oxymoron) but it is a work in progress till I personally feel satisfied that I’ve nailed it. However, that’s not to say that this cake didn’t taste awesome. I didn’t quite get the level of fluffiness I wanted, but the cake turned out moist, dense and buttery and the reviews were great.

A well made vanilla cake is one of life’s simple pleasures. It requires no frosting or fancy toppings to taste amazing. All my cakes are lower in sugar and I try to get the butter or oil content to the bare minimum (as much as will allow me to cut without losing flavour or balance). So here I went with a 3-2-1 ratio of flour, sugar, butter and got a really good flavour. I added quite a bit of milk to keep the moistness up. The milk made the batter a bit runny, so I had to cover the bottom of the tin with aluminium foil from outside so the batter did not leak out while baking. Please be mindful of the baking time as it is a runny batter so it may take about 50 minutes.

As it is, in my house no cakes last more than a day and a half. Nowadays, in a valiant attempt to not feel so guilty about baking too many cakes and desserts and eating most of them myself, I’m sending at least half of it to friends. That way, we get to eat not more than a slice or two and are not given to further temptation with it sitting on the table beckoning to us enticingly every time we pass. So we (literally) have our cake and eat it!

Try this recipe out. Sometimes plain vanilla is just what one needs!

Ingredients

300 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
200 gms sugar (finely ground or castor)
100 gms butter
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence/extract
200 ml milk

Get Started 

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C with only the bottom heating rods on.
  • Line a round 8 inch diameter baking tin with butter/parchment paper at the bottom and oil the sides. Since the batter is a bit runny, if you are using a baking tin with a removable bottom, place a sheet of aluminium foil around the bottom of the pan from outside and fold up the sides that batter does not leak out of the bottom of the tin. Set aside.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together till light and creamy. Then add the eggs one by one, beating after each egg and adding the other after the previous one has been fully mixed in. Add the vanilla essence/extract and mix.
  • Fold the flour, baking powder and salt mixture into the butter mix. Then add the milk and fold well into the batter.
  • Pour the batter into the baking tin and place it in the centre rack of the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. After 45 mins, test the middle of the cake with a skewer while it is still in the oven. If the skewer comes out clean, remove the tin from the oven and leave out to cool. If there is still runny batter stuck to the skewer, keep it in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. Re-test with the skewer and only remove from the oven when the skewer comes out clean.
  • After the cake has cooled, run a knife between the edge of the cake and the tin to loosen the cake from the sides and remove on to a serving platter. Enjoy.

Important notes: I only use the heating rods at the bottom of my oven for baking my cakes. if you have an oven where you don’t have the option of turning the rods on the top off you can place an oven tray between the rod and the cake. I don’t use ovens which have only heating from the top.

Do not use a smaller baking tin. Stick to a minimum 8 inch diameter tin

else the runny batter will not set in the given time and the bottom will burn while the centre remains uncooked. You can bake the cakes in two tins. If you’re splitting the batter into two tins, then check if its done with a skewer after 35 mins.

The most important thing to note when baking is to Know Your Oven. Every oven behaves differently. There have been cakes that have called for 40 minutes of baking time and mine has taken an hour. This knowledge is critical for your baking success.

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