Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Countdown 2009....& My Cheesy Herb Challah

"The proper behavior all through the holiday season is to be drunk. This drunkenness culminates on New Year's Eve, when you get so drunk you kiss the person you're married to."

So much so for a laugh...! Ok I am not a sceptic, its just that I couldn't resist adding humour to my last post while I bid adieu to 2008. Its been a year well lived! Have nurtured some great friendships..both in the real and the virtual world. Hope I have touched a few lives on the way.

As I look forward to the year 2009...I can't help but anticipate what it holds for me...for us! However one things for sure...I am going to welcome it with all my heart !!

My experimentations with food knows no bounds. Mum didn't tell me that I couldn't play with my food..so here I am, playing with what I have at hand.Had seen pictures of challahs and wreath breads in so many T.V. shows and cook books. Had wanted to make them for sometime and I am glad I did it today, with obviously my 'savoury' twist in this overtly 'sweet' season. Trying something new is always so gratifying!

I made this Cheesy Herb Challah in the evening to go with my Masala Cola. (will post that later)

Challah is a special braided bread eaten by some groups of Sephardic Jews on the Sabbath and holidays.
According to Jewish tradition, Sabbath and holiday meals begin with a blessing over four loaves of bread (two Friday night and two Saturday afternoon). This "double loaf" commemorates the manna that fell from the heavens when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years after the Exodus from Egypt. The manna did not fall on the Sabbath or holidays; instead, a double portion fell before the Sabbath and holidays.
It is these chunks of bread, recognizable by their traditional braided style, that are commonly referred to as challah.

Cheesy Herb Challah


1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp sugar
a pinch of salt
½ cup warm milk
1 egg , beaten
Extra flour for dusting

1 cup cream cheese
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp dried oregano flakes


In a small bowl of warm milk, add the sugar, salt, yeast and butter. Mix well and rest for 5 mins.
Tip: If the yeast is good, you will see bubbles.

In a large bowl, sieve the flour and make a well in the center. Add the beaten egg and the yeast-mix liquid. Slowly incorporate the flour into the liquid with your hands and knead well to form a soft pliable dough. Put the dough in a greased bowl covered with cling wrap.Let rest for 30 minutes till double in size.
Tip: Take care to place the bowl in a warm place, preferably near the gas stove/oven.

When the dough has risen, punch down and knead again. Let rest covered.

After the second rise, punch down the dough and knead well again.
Roll out the dough into approximately a 6x7 inch rectangle.

For the filling- mix the cream cheese, garlic and oregano together.

On the rolled out dough, spread the filling, leaving about a cm. on each side.
Now, gently yet firmly roll the rectangle dough with the spread, (away from you) to form a long cylinder.

Using a very sharp knife carefully cut the cylinder lengthways in half.
Working with the cut sides facing upwards, twist the halves together to form a braid/plait.
Put on a baking tray and shape the twists into a neat ring, twisting ad pinching the ends of the strands together to close the ring.

(I made a small wreath/challah as I was experimenting. Double the quantity if you want a bigger one.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes until the ring is firm and golden. (or MW for 10 minutes on medium high setting).

Since this is the last post of 2008, I send it over to a lot of friends..that I made this year. :)

I send this over to Lynn (of CookieBakerLynn) for the baking event she is hosting this month.

And to SriLekha(of Me and My kitchen) for her EFM-Savouries for December'08.
Also I share this with Lore for her monthly event-Culinarty Original Recipe.
Heres' for you too Trupti (of Recipe Center) for her Winter Treat event.

And since the cream cheese is white in color, the dish is sent over to Lubna (of Yummy Food) for FIC- White. An original creation of Harini a.k.a. Sunshinemom (of Tounge Ticklers).

The goodness of cheese is good for a pregnant woman, hence this also goes to Sangeeth (of Art of cooking Indian Food) for her Eat Healthy-Pregnancy event.

It was a recipe inspired from a cookery show I had seen long back on Discovery, so this goes to Ruth (of Ruth's Kitchen) for her Bookmarked Recipes event.

I hereby send this over to Susan (of Wild Yeast) for her weekly event Yeast Spotting.

In the nick of time, I rush this over to Annarasa for her Bread Baking Day #15 event-Festive Breads.

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!! My heartiest wishes for a great year ahead. :)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sweet Surrender--Nut 'n' Fruit Maalpua

"I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts." ~Graham Kerr

Picture this, its 4.15 am here. I wake up just to drink water and end up writing this blog post (which incidentally I had decided would do tomorrow..err...today in the normal waking hours that is). Needless to say I am a blogoholic...but I ain't complaining.

I made this dessert yesterday. It was the result of visiting Jenn's blog sometime back,which had challenged bloggers to create a dish with the following three ingredients- bananas, rice, coconut (or coconut milk). This was for the Royal Foodie Joust, and the ingredients were given by Cynthia (of Tastes Like Home) who also is sponsoring the prize for this Iron Chef competition, her book My Caribbean Cookbook, Tastes Like Home.

How could I keep myself away from this challenge (especially because its my first one) !!

Indian cuisine is known throughout the World as a sweet cuisine because almost half of its dishes are either sweets or desserts. Actually, Indian sweets have made Indian food famous throughout history, and they have been accommodated to European and North American menus.

The 19th century renaissance in Bengal brought about a dramatic change in the lives of Bengalis in Calcutta. It is during this time that Calcuttans witnessed the birth of several sweetmeat shops.

And Calcuttans are notoriously known for their sweet tooth. Yours truly is a live example.

Food has always been a weakness for the Bengalis. Studying their food habits since the yester years you will be appalled to find the time and money they spent on food. They were never hesitant in throwing parties and if, for the sake of it, they had to exhaust all their wealth they never did mind. Not only in marriage ceremonies, any occasion to them was a party time (like almost all Indians) and in these parties lavish expenditure on food reduced many to a pauper.

Bengalis, like their brethrens from all parts of India, have been winners in all the delicacies they have presented to the world. Not just mutton, fish and vegetables but the variety of confections and array of fruit dishes have always overawed the gluttons of the world.

I present to you my version of the famous maalpua (luscious pancakes soaked in syrup).

Nut 'n' Fruit Maalpua

For pancakes-
4 cups rice flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup dessicated coconut
2 ripe bananas, mashed to pulpy form
10-12 black peppercorns-- ( to add a little heat to the otherwise sweet dish)
3 tbsp golden raisins
5 tbsp chopped blanched almonds
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 cup broken jaggery pieces, finely chopped/broken/ground-- (can substitute this with sugar )
2 cups lukewarm milk
1/2 cup or less tepid warm water-- (the heat helps in dissolving the jaggery pieces)
oil for deep frying

For syrup-
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
1 tsp cardamom powder


In a big bowl, mix well with a wooden spoon, all the ingredients for the pancakes (except water).
Then slowly add the water(as per requirement) to form a thick batter of pouring consistency.

The batter should not be too viscous, it should be slightly thinner than a cake batter, but not too thin.

Prepare the syrup by boiling together the sugar and water. Add the cardamom powder. Once the syrup is soft ball consistency (that is ek-taar or single thread consistency). Remove from heat.

In a deep bottomed pan, heat oil to smoking point. Reduce the heat to medium flame.
Now, using a ladle pour the batter carefully, one at a time into the hot oil.

I suggest use half full ladles to make small pancakes as they are easier to manage and don't take long to cook.

Deep fry. Once cooked/browned take out from the oil and dip straight into the syrup.
Repeat the process, till all the batter is used. Let soak in the syrup for a couple of minutes.

For serving
- lift the pancakes out from the syrup carefully and place them on a plate. Garnish with flaked almonds. Serve while still warm for optimum taste.

The maalpua will be soft and spongy in the middle while crsip on the edges, with syrup oozing out each time you dig in with your spoon.

The bananas make it moist while the coconut and dried fruits add the nutty flavour. Ofcourse the peppercorns innundate the sweetness while the fennel enhances the aroma alongwith the cardamom.

A truly royal bengal treat! :p

A Request- If you guys liked this recipe, I would request you to vote for this dish, on the FoodieBlog Forum, once the voting starts for this month's January '09 Joust here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My style Dundee/Mixed Fruit Cake....indulgence without guilt!

"Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words."

And for us cooks/bakers, when even buying gifts isn't enough..we put our love into our cooking/baking. The joy in my heart and the love for my beloved is poured with care, into this Dundee cake of mine...and his loving reciprocation in the mm..hmm...yum...sounds he makes after devouring it, allows me to have the satisfaction of a job well done. Loves' labours' not lost..but won!!

Although I do not like to clip/chip off the authentic traditional recipes...I am all for healthy eating, so will cut corners (if I can) on the fats and sugars used in the original without giving up much on the flavour or texture of the final product. And oh yes, did I mention I am bought by the simplicity and ease of a recipe. Hence, most of the recipes you find here, will be simple and relatively easy and are prepared in far less time than their original counterparts. (wink wink)

The origins of Dundee Cake are thought to date back to a time when fruit cake was popular during the 19th century and Keiller's of Dundee sold a version of the cake but with almonds on top. This gave the fruit cake a new distinctive look and flavour and was named Dundee Cake.

This is a really good fruit cake for those who don't like the heavy, rich sort. It does have an excellent flavour and crumbly texture. It's said a large cake should be stored for a week before eating to improve the flavour...well patience in not one of my virtues!

At an unknown date towards the end of the 17th century, Janet Keiller bought going cheap a load of oranges from a ship forced to dock in Dundee harbour due to bad weather. With sugar from her husband'’s grocery business she cannily turned the fruit into marmalade, which she then sold through Mr. Keiller's store. Mrs. Keiller's marmalade proved to be a great success, and in Dundee in 1797 a full-time business was established producing marmalade, and also eventually producing jams, confectionery and Dundee cakes. Keiller's quickly evolved into large-scale food producer, with the work-force and equipment to produce other goods alongside the marmalade.
Dundee cake was first made by Keiller's at some point in the 19th century. They cannot take the credit for the recipe, as similar fruit cakes were made across Scotland, but they were able to produce cakes commercially which then sold across the globe as 'Dundee cake'. The use of almonds on top, to decorate the cake in a distinctive way, was probably just a marketing ploy to ensure product individuality. For Keiller's cake making was also a clever way of ensuring the factory workers were kept busy when oranges were out of season, and to use up any left-over peel.

My style Dundee/Mixed Fruit Cake
2 over ripe bananas, mashed ( in place of butter)
1 cup + 2 tbsp honey ( in place of sugar; you can use molasses too if desired)
3 large eggs, beaten ( u can add two more mashed bananas + one extra pinch of baking powder & one pinch of baking soda instead)
1 cup all purpose flour + extra flour for dusting
1 cup whole wheat bread/pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tbsp ground almonds
1/2 cup chopped blanced almonds
1/2 cup currants
1/2 cup sultanas
1/4 cup chopped glace cherries
1/2 cup chopped mixed fruit peel
2 tsp finely grated zest of lemon and orange (one tsp each)
1 tsp of lemon juice/orange juice
3-4 tbsp whisky/rum/brandy

(my extra additions, optional)-
1/4 cup chopped strawberries/cranberries
1/4 cup chopped fresh/preserved mangoes
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cashew nuts, chopped


Sift both the whole wheat and all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda and spice into a bowl, set aside.
Put all the fruit, including the grated lemon and orange zest(except the bananas), into another bowl. Dust with enough flour to coat all the fruits and peels.
Tip: This prevents the fruits from sticking to one another and forming lumps.

Now in a big bowl, whisk the eggs, honey, orange/lemon juice and your choice of alcohol together.
Add the mashed bananas.
Fold in the dry ingredients to the above (whisked) mixture.
Spoon the batter out in your cake mould and bake in microwave for 8-10 minutes.
Note: The batter would be a little liquidy, thus will take a little longer to cook. And if you are not using eggs...it will take even longer,so be patient and keep checking. :)

(If you want the temperature settings/timings for a conventional oven, please do get in touch.)

Once done, check with toothpick in the centre of the cake,if it comes out clean, its done.
Cool. Decorate or simply cut and store them in air tight containers..or better still...EAT! :)

There is a legend connected to Dundee cake which talks about Mary Queen of Scotland.

The story goes that Mary didn'’t like cherries in her fruit cake, and so a Scottish baker came up with a special recipe which didn't include them. This a 'genuine' Dundee cake should therefore not include cherries.
However almost all the recipes that I have seen include them..its all about flavour and your choices...'coz its your cake!

So you will not find the decoration of blanched almonds in my version, instead tiny dollops of whipped cream and to add to the richness, a whole lot of fruits (and ofcourse chocolate) go in, making this cake healthier ( and yummier) than it already is !

Wising all a Merry Christmas and joys untold for this Yuletide season !! Live, Love, Laugh... !

I share this with -

A dear friend, Sangeeth for her Eat Healthy-during Pregnancy event, as this dish is filled with health,(with all the fruits n sans fat). :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Krusczyki... with a twist

"All the good things in life happen by accident."

I am the author of the above quote...and I say this out of personal experience, take my marriage for instance. You can read all about it here.

Believe it or not, the first cookies were created by accident. In fact a lot of the famous history of cookies is filled with accidents. The very first cookies were just an oven temperature test. Early bakers used very small amounts of cake batter to test their oven temperatures before baking the final cake. These little test cakes were called "koekje", which means "little cake" in Dutch. By accident, the first "cookies" came into being.
Each country has its own favourite cookies. The word 'cookie' generally conjures up an image of something sweet. However, there are a few savoury versions too. Something sweet...something salty...isn't that what life is all about! But then again I digress.

I recently made Krusczyki, which is a deep fried Jewish dessert cookie. I made mine savoury though (with all the sugar-overdose I have been on), a nice twist for this overtly sweet festive season.

Savoury Krusczyki

4 egg yolks
1 cup cream cheese
2 tsp carom seeds
1 tsp caraway seeds
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup melted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
oil for deep frying

In a large bowl mix together all ingredients (except oil) well. Stir into a ball, then turn dough out onto a floured surface . Knead dough for 1/2 hour.
Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
Roll out the dough like you would a flat bread, about 1/4th of an inch in thickness.
Using a cookie cutter cut into desired shapes. (Traditionally they are made bow-shaped.)
Once cut, use a fork to mark/impress the cookies.
Heat oil in a wok and deep fry on medium high heat till crisp and brown on both sides.

Tip: The fork impression helps in cooking the cookie throughout, thus making it crisper.

Traditionally Krusczykis are made in the form of bows/ribbons. However since I am a person who puts all her heart into whatever she does and then expects the results/outcome, with a twinkle in her eyes...I made mine in the form of hearts and stars. ( Yeah I can do with a little self -praise once in a while..lol.)

This goes out to Meeta's current Monthly Mingle-'World of spice cookies'.


Frothy Banana-Cognac Smoothie

“On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it's just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana at..”

Weekends are ours'....no hurry..no work...no botheration. Sleep till late..its catching up on the lost sleep of the week days.We woke up real late in the morning on Saturday, had a good tall glass of Banana-Cognac smoothie(talk about weekend drinking...lol), then decided on a restuarant we would go to for lunch...err brunch.It was a good start to what was going to be a tiring day, ending up in an unexpectedly harried search.

While on our way we spotted a huge gathering and hustle-bustle in place of what used to be the beautiful quiet Victora Park here. The HKBPE fair.
We decided that we would go for our meal, after a quick stop at the Hong Kong Brands Products Expo. It was mere curiosity that led us to the exhibhition, but we are glad we allowed our inquisitiveness to take the better of us. It was simply w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l! With so many top brands and so much to see...like all the vibrancy...all the colour that Hong Kong has ...was all at one place.

It was fun visiting each stall and trying out new things...like putting your palm in a tub of (mild) hot liquid wax (which initially you thought was water) so that I can get my skin tested..(ughh! it was sticky) and well my baby-skin was just fine for my age...lol. Then we went on to the Food-Zone (my favourite) trying all the sweet and savoury dishes on offer..the exotic fruits....sun-dried sea food...wines, sauces,blackbean garlic pastes etc, wafers, home made steamed cakes, varieties of green tea..even a guava tea....the sheer variety was mind boggling! After six hours of endless shopping and ending up buying so much stuff...that we exhausted all the cash(cards not accepted) we had just drawn from the ATM in the morning (and which was plenty because it was worth four three-course meals for two people). It was only then that we stopped...or rather had to..lol.

Now for the unpleasant and frantic part of the day--We came back home to drop off our shopping before we headed for an early dinner. While unpacking and sorting out the stuff , we realized that we had lost a big packet of stationery that I had lovingly picked as gifts for my nephews and sis back in India and (since I am crafty and creative) for myself too. A few picture frame balloons,paint-me and blow-up pictures, glitter fabric colours, stain glass cut outs and some D-I-Y stuff.

As the HKBPE visit was undecided, we weren't carrying our back pack..so all the packets were hand held, and one of it might have slipped without us noticing, in the heavily crowded fair. :(
We searched high and low but to no avail...it was S-A-D...I am batting my moist eyes even now as I write. We did register our concern at the Informations/Lost & Found Stall at the fair, though I do not expect any outcome of it. :(

I tend to get upset if I lose anything....my hunger had vanished...I wasn't tired anymore...my legs weren't paining any longer(or I couldn't feel )....I was searching frantically....all I wanted was my lost packet. Hubby dear made me some Banana Smoothie again to comfort me a little. He is the calming factor in my life...I am the one who gets worked up easily.
Anyways, after a lot of consoling and banana drinks...we did go for dinner. Whatever has to happen...happens! (s-i-g-h!!)

Banana-Cognac Smoothie

(for two tall glasses)

1 cup eggnog (Cognac-rum flavoured)
1 cup rum
2 bananas
2 cups of 2% milk, chilled
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
chocolate shavings for garnish

Blend everything (except chocolate shavings) in a blender. Serve garnished with dark chocolate shavings.
Note: I skipped the natural/flavoured yogurt as I am a milk-child. :)

This is one of the few treats you only get this time of the year--eggnog, so we combined that delicious eggnog flavor with a smoothie-- a calming drink for harrowing nights like ours.

This goes out to Lubna (of Yummy Food) who is hosting FIC-White, an original creation by SunshineMom/Harini (of ToungeTicklers).

Friday, December 19, 2008

Blueberry and Papaya Syllabub...among other things!

"Nothing great is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig. I answer you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen." --Epictetus

One fine day, I was reading a newspaper article on blogs, when a thought crossed my mind-why don't I start writing my own blog.Express my thoughts..share it with the world and make new friends. I toyed with the idea for long and almost forgot about it for sometime.Laziness could be accountable for this.. (head hanging in shame).

For the benefit of my new readers; I dabble in quite a few things in life--adventure sports like bungy and sky diving, travelling, trekking, painting,craft work,playing my guitar,singing, gardening, reading (I may be called a book-worm), writing my heart out, capturing nature through my lens etc etc. So I had to zero in on one thing, for starters. However,I decided on something new that I had started doing--cooking!

I have never really visited a kitchen other than mine own (after marriage), except ofcourse when the frantic cries of my mum demanding that I help her in the kitchen and her constantly reminding me that I could not feed my husband and in-laws (in the future) solely on the know-how of making Maggi/instant noodles; did I ever set foot (read 'dragging my feet') inside the kitchen. So after marriage it was mostly experimentation...(and whatever little knowledge I had gained while helping mum) in my kitchen...my lab...and my hub,my lab-rat. (Pardon me Darling!)

When I started cooking ,quite surprisingly I found joy in it... revving up dishes for my dear hubby and watching him enjoy those dishes were worth all the effort I put. So I started challenging myself and making things he liked or were his favourites...any dish..any cuisine..any drink! This desire went onto a different level altogether after a couple of months...and I decided to share my passion and new found joys with the rest of the world...hence the blog Zaayeka.It means 'taste'...the taste of life!

This post goes out to all who helped me when I was starting out this blog. Although I am still fairly new (just over two months old) and taking baby steps, I think I have learned to crawl on my own. I would especially like to mention a few friends who were patient and kind enough to bear with my no-tech knowledge self and guide me through.

Sudeshna (Here I Cook), Deeba (Passionate About Baking) and Arundhuti (Gourmet Affair) are few of them, who literally held my hand. There are others who encouraged me, stood by my side, awarded my efforts and complimented me, I would always be thankful to them. A need to mention those lovely souls who followed me, subscribed my blog, my readers....the very reason this blog is what it is today. Guys you know I am indebted to you!

Hope I keep getting the love and support and I promise to give back ten times more ! :D

I would also like to thank those who have been kind enough to award me-Sudeshna, Andhra Flavours and Usha.

Food Buzz accepted me on its roll...an honour! Jenn had been kind.

On another note- Are any of you having trouble with my blog page loading taking quite some time, or you are unable to comment as its showing some error message. Do let me know please!

I ask because I have made some HTML chnages like disabling the right click option, with all the blog-lifting thats happening around ( a few friends who have suffered), I want to be safe than sorry!

To celebrate the beautiful friendships I made Blueberry and Papaya Syllabub today.

'Syllabub is a traditional English dessert, popular from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. It is usually made from rich milk or cream seasoned with sugar and lightly curdled with wine or cider.'

Blueberry and Papaya Syllabub

1/4 cup washed blueberries
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp dessert wine ( I used a dash of citrus infused vodka)
1/3 cup caster sugar (depending on the level of tartness u want with the blueberries)
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1/2 cup cubed/diced ripe papayas


Combine the sour cream, wine/alcohol, sugar, lemon rind and blueberries in a bowl. Whisk well.
Place half the diced papayas in a serving glass and spoon over half the blueberry syllabub. Continue layering with remaining papaya and syllabub. Serve chilled.

I am sharing this sweet syllabub, which was inspired/transpired while chatting with an English friend now residing in Georgia, so off it goes to Ruth (of Ruth's Kitchen Experiment) for her ongoing Bookmarked Recipes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cooking with Alicia & Annie--Chocolate Chip Fudge (Brownie)

Fudge brownies are my favourite dessert....(although I don't want to rule out the other options of ice-cream, chocolate, cakes, panna cottas,puddings et al), if possible I would dig in ..and keep digging in my 'huge' plate of fudge brownie with vanilla ice-cream...a match made in heaven!!

I had one this weekend (when my sugar craving had hit again). Its Thursday today and I wanted to taste the chewiness and warm fudginess, all over again. So I made one, this time in my microwave.

Ooey, gooey & chewy Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies were calling my name!
Everyone loves a good old-fashioned brownie with a tall glass of cold milk. I am no different (except I can skip the milk) ;p. Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownies are so moist and chewy it is hard to resist just one...thats why I made a whole bowl...all for myself !

Here is my variation to the original recipe that I found at Annie's recipes.

Chocolate Chip Fudge Brownie

1 cup broken squares of unsweetened chocolate
1 cup margarine
2 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Melt the broken unsweetened chocolate and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Do not burn. Remove from heat.
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in sugar until well mixed.
Add eggs, vanilla and salt and beat well with a fork.
Fold in flour and mix just until smooth. Add the semi sweet chocolate chips to the batter.
Pour into a microwave safe bowl.
Bake at medium high setting for 5 minutes.

Top with vanilla ice-cream and serve while still warm.

I offer this to Cooking with Alicia and Annie's Dec. blog event.

This also goes to JZ (of Tasty Treat) who is hosting her very first event-Santa's Holiday Challenge.

If you are a beginner in terms of baking, this is an easy one-bowl recipe that will surely fetch you appreciation. I send this to Vandana (Cooking Up Something Nice)'s Baking For Beginners' event.

Also, this goes out to Susan (of Food Blogga) for her Eat Christmas Cookies event. You can see a variety of other christmas goodies here.

On my friend, Purva's request I send this to her Christmas Feast Event...its here for you Purva!

"Don't wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cooking with Alicia & Annie--Easy Pancake Mix

I have always watched my mom being busy in the kitchen all day long to make delicacies for us...her way of showering us with love. To her food and love are synonymous.

So now after being married, whenever we visit her in Kolkata, shes' so caught up in the kitchen that she hardly gets time to relax and have a chat with me...a long mother-daughter chit-chat, alas!
And this isn't the story of my mother, but I presume all mothers around the world. The best conversations for them happen in the kitchen!

Ever since I have been looking for ways to make life easier for all the moms that toil hard in the kitchen to pass on the love with which they have prepared the food, to their beloveds who relish the fruits of their labour. I understand traditional ways of cooking should be kept alive, but with the fast paced times that we live in, a little ease and speed is most welcome; especially with working mothers and the 'jack(oops...jill)-of-all-trades' woman of today. In the end it all boils down to cooking healthy and tasty morsels in a jiffy. No harm done!
Heres' another of my cheats, (as I call them) using which you can get away without burning out yourself and yet people will think you have been slaving all day in the kitchen. :p
I found this at Alicia's recipes.
Easy Pancake Mix
12 cup sifted flour ( I use a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flours, in equal proportions)
2 tbsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
4 cup dry milk powder
1 stick of vanilla pod

oil for pan frying

Mix well all ingredients and store in airtight container with the Vanilla pod.
Tip: The Vanilla bean/pod adds a lovely fragrance to this mix.

When ready to use- for each 1 1/2 cup pancake mix, use-
1 egg beaten,
1 cup water,
and 2 tablespoons melted shortening.
Mix well and fry on hot griddle.
A minute on each side.

Serve with vanilla pudding, your favourite jello/jelly and fresh fruits, for a hearty breakfast.

This goes to Cooking with Alicia and Annie's Dec. blog event.

This Pan Cake Mix is gifted to Happy Cook (My Kitchen Treasures) for Home Made Christmas Gifts event. You can find new ideas for such gifts here.

Fishy Tagliatelle with Tuna balls in Marinara sauce

-William Shakespeare

Like many of my other blogger friends (now known and still being discovered..), I too am a self professed Italian food junkie. One Italian friend of mine,had playfully mentioned that there are three basic ingredients that are to be found in all Italian recipes--olive oil, garlic and tomatoes. I don't doubt him, but I really don't think thats' all..there is 'passion' !

Every food has its history that makes it rich and wonderful. Discovering these stories, the facts, the myths...its a joy untold for foodies. Because cooking isn't just about mixing ingredients...its magic, an alchemy of flavours...each dish prepared is a story in itself and the cook the author.

I made this Tagliatelle dish, inspired by David Rocco's La Dolce Vita ("Life is Sweet") that I had seen on T.V. one lazy afternoon while surfing channels (my favourite passtime..lol).

There are two kinds of Italian pasta--Pasta all'uovo, egg pasta such as tagliatelle, fettuccine, and whatnot and Pasta di semola di grano duro, made with semolina, water and a touch of salt.The former are flat and of varying width, while the latter comes in all sorts of shapes, from spaghetti to penne to cart wheels.
Tagliatelle are also commonly flavored with other ingredients, for example spinach, which turns them green, tomato, which turns them red, or squid ink, which turns them black. They are used for hearty fares and lasagne made with tagliatelle are just awesome.

Now a little 'interesting' something on Marinara Sauce-Marinara derives from the Italian word for sailor, marinaro. Due to these origins many people say that marinara sauce must contain something from the sea, usually anchovies. Actually this is not the case, the origins of marinara sauce are that it is the sauce that they made in Naples for the sailors when they returned from the sea.

Here's my favourite recipe for you.

Fishy Tagliatelle with Tuna balls in Marinara sauce


For the Tuna balls--
1 cup flaked Tuna fish
2 tbsp parsley,chopped finely
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese
2 small green chillies, minced
salt to taste
oil for deep frying

For the Marinara sauce--
1/4 cup of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic sliced in half
4 large ripe tomatoes, pureed
3 basil leaves, washed, patted dry and chopped
salt & pepper to taste

For the Tagliatelle--
4 rolls of tagliatelle pasta, cooked in boiling water, drained and set aside

Tuna Balls
Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and using a little water( if required), form a dough like consistency. Now make small balls out of this dough, and deep fry in cooking oil.

Marinara Sauce
Place garlic and olive oil in large sauce pan.
Turn heat to medium and cook until garlic is soft and lightly browned.
Add the tomato puree, basil, salt and pepper.

Cook for a minute or two, then add the tuna balls.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat to a simmer and cook until thickened approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

Finally, on the serving plate lay the pasta/tagliatelle and pour the marinara sauce with the tuna balls on top of this pasta.

Ready to eat!!YUM.

I bring this dish to the Seven Fishes Feast thrown together, by Joe (of Italyville) and MaryAnn(of Findind La Dolce Vita).

What is the Seven Fishes Feast? Southern Italians around the world celebrate Christmas Eve with a Feast of the Seven Fishes, also known as La Vigilia (Italian: "the vigil").
It is a meal that typically consists of seven different seafood dishes.This celebration is a commemoration of the wait, Vigilia di Natale, for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus.
It is quite paradoxically a period of abstinence for the Italians.

Why 7? There are many hypotheses for what the number "7" relates to, one being the number of Sacraments in the Roman Catholic Church. Another theory is that seven is a number representing perfection.The traditional Biblical number for divinity is three, and for Earth is four, and the combination of these numbers, seven, represents God on Earth, or Jesus Christ.

It would be worth all the effort if you enjoyed reading the post, as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I also send this to Truti (Recipe Center) for her Winter Treat Event.

This creative dish I made also goes to Lore (of Culinarty) for her Original Recipes monthly event.

I also send this to Presto Pasta Night hosted by Ruth (Once Upon A Feast)...the first one for Jan. 2009. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Northern Pride & Daal Makhaani (Lentils in Creamy Sauce)

India is such a vastly varying country, in terms of weather, landscape, cultures and ofcourse food. Although all Indian kitchens will stock almost all the same spices and condiments, what element is used often and more commonly in a particular kitchen will depend on the region. So while coconut (in all its form) will be a common thing in the south indian pantry, mustard seeds in east indian cupboards, peanuts in the west and curd, invariably used in west indian kitchens.

Daal Makhaani is the staple of the North Indian people. It is lentils cooked in a spicy and creamy curry/sauce. Pulses are a highly nutritious food group comprising beans, peas and lentils, it is essentially filled with rich proteins and fiber. It is very good for growing children owing to its rich nutritive value. This dish is extremely popular not just in North India but elsewhere as well.
Its the new Chicken Tikka Masala of the world,when it comes to Indian cuisine.

I have my "northern connections" too.
My paternal grandfather was a native 'zamindaar' (landlord/gentry) of a village in Northern India. As a child, a visit to our ancestral (need I say palatial) home was eagerly looked forward to during vacations. We would choreograph (?) dance moves in the humongous chowk in the middle of what looked like six fortresses joined together by corridors and beautifully architectured walls. With four wells in the backyard and a porch you can't see the end of, this was a great place to play hide-and-seek, and would take days (may be weeks) to find one another. It was only inevitable that we kids were counted before and after each meal by my aunt...lol.

I remember clearly, the farm-lands with the squishy mud, I did not want to set foot on, the heavy bucket in the well, which I could not draw without two more adults helping me,...... the smell of the burning charcoal, on which the daal makhaani was cooked slowly for hours by the cook, while she hummed to herself. The aroma of the ghee (clarified butter) and garam masala brought us to the kitchen all the time. We kids hadn't seen anything other than gas stoves in the city, so the charcoal, the mud stove, the huge couldrons were all too amazing for us.

Whenever I make daal makhaani, I am reminded of our village and the rustic beauty of all things there. This is my version of the traditional daal makhani.

Daal Makhaani


1 cup whole urad/black gram lentil
1/3 cup kidney beans/rajma
1/2 cup whole green moong dal
1/2 cup masoor dal
2 tbsp whole red grams/chana

(all the above lentils need to be soaked overnight)

2 tbs grated ginger
2 tsp coarsely ground fennel seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder (accord to taste)
1 tsp. turmeric powder

1/2 tsp dried mango powder or dried pomegranate seeds
3-4 tbs. ghee/clarified butter or oil (I use ghee + olive oil, to make it healthier)
2 tsp. cumin seeds
a large pinch of hing/asafoetida
1 tbsp minced ginger & garlic
1 medium onion,finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp. Garam Masala
1/2 cup fresh cream. ( you can use low fat yogurt)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (for garnish, optional)
Salt to taste
approx. 8 cups water (to cook dal)


Cook the already soaked dal and rajma in 7-8 cups of water with salt, red chili powder, fennel seeds powder, turmeric and grated ginger till all the pulses are cooked and soft.
(Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles--recommended, if you are in a hurry like me).
Lightly mash dal and rajma mixture, keep aside.

In a wok, heat the olive oil and ghee (equal proprtions). Add the cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add the onions and pomegranate seeds.
After the onions sweat and are browned, add the tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste and asafoetida.
Add the garam masala. Stir and finally add the cooked daal to this.
Mix well. Now add the fresh cream and stir.
Add the salt to taste. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander.

Serve with tandoori roti, paratha ,naan and/or plain rice; with a dollop of butter/cream, if desired.
Note:This is one of those dishes where you can't compromise on flavour, hence I don't pinch too much when it comes to the ghee or fresh cream. (Its once in a while indulgence)!!

I would like to send this special dish for a very special event BloggerAid: Because We Can Help.
Giz (of Equal Oppurtunity Kitchen), Ivy (of Kopiaste) and Val (of More Than Burnt Toast), joined forces to raise awareness and money for the World Food Programme of the United Nations' frontline agency in the fight against global hunger.

You can join in too just like I did.

On a similar note : Today, one of the wings of our ancestral home in the village is used for a great cause. It houses a school where all the village kids go to study and receive free lunches....one of my grandfather's few wishes fulfilled!

And most of all, I share this with Suganya (of Tasty Palettes) whos' the gracious host for the sixth helping of the My Lugume Love Affair started originally by Susan (of Well Seasoned Cook) as a monthly event, but which now is on its 6th edition and has hosts lined up for next year already. :)

I also offer this to Trupti (Recipe Center) who is hosting Winter Treat Event.

I send this to Lore of Culinarty, for her monthly event

Quick Strawberry Jam

Doubtless God could have made a better berry, but doubtless God never did.

Phew! Get togethers to attend, parties to throw, pre-christmas/new year shopping, goodies to wrap, gifts to give (and get) and to top it all home made cookies, fruit cakes, pudding and pie...not to mention savoury three to six course meals...and then the 'pressure' to look calm, composed and welcoming...we women manage it all with elan...don't we!

With no kids nor a job, I pretty much have the time in the world u must think...yes and no. I try and find new recipies and cook up as much as I can...blog,read,paint,play, etc..do all that I enjoy doing ...till I have the time, that is. :)
Here's a little something I thought the "busy queen bees" can do with...easy and quick recipes (my regular readers would notice that the past few posts here have been one-pot, no-fuss, no-bake stuff) that can double up as gifts too.

Quick Strawberry Jam

1 kg ripe strawberries
1/4 kg or less sugar
5 pieces of star anise


First, clean and roughly chop the strawberries.
In heavy bottomed deep pan, heat equal amounts of sugar and water. Throw in the star anise.
Add the strawberries and keep stirring on medium heat till all the mix is of a pulpy consistency.
Mash the strawberries with the stirring spoon while leaving a few chunks on. It gives a nice and rich fruitiness to the jam.
Once the jam is ready,pick out and discard the star anise.

Pack in pretty jars and store or gift.
Or, serve with scoops of vanilla ice-cream as dessert.

I gift this to Happy Cook (of My Kitchen Treasures)You can find inspirations here too. :)
And I share this lovely jam with Purva's Christmas Feast Event (of Purva's Daawat).

Pop-In Pakodas

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring,
summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the
winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor
belonging to yourself."

I love the winters...the season when I can wear my warm fuzzy ping-pong shoes and cuddle up in a blanket with a book...all by myself. And oh it wouldn't hurt if mom would make me some of my favourite dal pakodas (lentil snacks) with a mug of hot chocolate/milk. (I don't have too much of a fascination for tea.)

But then reality strikes,I'm not staying with my mother these days..(d-e-e-p sigh!) ; so I had to get my butt up and make this comfort food for myself (and hubby...that goes without saying, isn't it?!).

I made my urad dal pakodas and yes hot chocolate was made by DH. :)

Pop-In (Urad Dal) Pakodas

1/2 cup urad dal/split black gram , soaked over night
2 tbsp green coriander leaves, finely chopped
4 tbsp bengal gram flour/chick pea flour
1 tsp carom seeds/ajwain
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt to taste
4-5 tbsp of water, to make the batter

oil to fry

Grind coarsely the half cup of split black gram/urad dal, in a mixer.
Now in a bowl, mix all the ingredients (except the oil) and form a thick batter.
Heat oil in a wok on medium flame.
While the oil is heating,wet your hands and make tiny balls out of this batter, and keep.
(Size depends on your choice...I personally think tiny snacks are great.)
Deep fry these tiny balls, batch by batch.
Serve hot with chutney of your choice/ketchup.

Wet your hands often, when making this pakoda, for ease with the batter.

NOTE: The split black gram if consumed in excess can induce flatulence, to prevent this carom seeds are used in this dish, apart from the earthy flavour it lends to the dish. Carom seeds are also known to help purify blood impurities.

These pakodas fill the winter eves with coziness, at Trupti's Recipe Center
and Raaga's Singing Chef Think Spice event.

I also share this with Happy Cook (My Kitchen Treasures) for her Home Made Christmas Gifts event. You can see other great ideas here.

And ofcourse it goes to SriLekha (of Me and My Kitchen) for her EFM-Savouries event this month.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cooking with Alicia & Annie--White Fudge Candy

No holiday menu should be without a dessert you can pick up with your fingers.
I have officially thrown out the idea of "sugar control" out of the window this season. As many would voice my opinion that its the time period beginning from Thanksgiving which continues upto the New year celebrations, when no matter how much we cajole ourselves we still end up with a wee bit larger waistline and teeny weeny weight gain..lol.

Add to that, baking goodies in the kitchen for christmas and new years' we self-taste/test almost all the stuff we make (ofcourse we don't want to serve sub standard stuff...or so we would like to think. I personally have no self control (there I have let it out!)...I end up eating (not testing) quite a few of my goodies while they are still warm, in the kitchen. However I do eat small pieces at a time, it kind of makes me feel a little less guilty. (sigh!)
Vanity..thy name is Woman.

Well there are quite a few stuff that vie for the top spot in the Dessert Hall of Fame... one of the good contenders is fudge. This no-bake, no fuss treat tastes like Christmas, if you know what I mean.
I often make dark chocolate fudge, this time however I decided to venture into unchartered territories (for me) with white chocolate.

White Fudge Candy

1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup light cream or evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flaked/dessicated coconut
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup white almond bark (I used ground, toasted-almond powder)
1/2 cup miniature marshmallows ( I used brown sugar instead)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

You can get the original version of the recipie here at Alicia's recipes.Below is my way of making this fudge.

Boil caster sugar, cream/milk and butter to a soft ball stage.
Reduce the heat to low. Add almond bark and brown sugar. Beat until melted.
Stir in nuts, coconut and vanilla. Remove from heat now.
Put in 9x9 inch buttered pan and allow to set.
Cut in squares when cool.

Note: The heat caused to evaporate the milk further and the brown sugar gave a sweet caramelized look to this fudge.

This goes to Cooking with Alicia and Annie's Dec. blog event.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Spaghetti Americana

Pasta is the entrepreneur of the kitchen, using whatever ingredients are available, and turning them into a satisfying sauce. It offers endless variety: it can be straight or curly, fine or thick, fresh or dried. Pasta waits for our imaginations to burst, then rewards us.

I have tried the Spaghetti Americana several times at The Spaghetti House; and by now I think I have gotten the recipe in my head. When I eat any dish of our liking, my mind automatically goes into the "guess-the-ingredients mode". So after eating a couple of times at The Spaghetti House I decided to give the same dish a try at home.

I personally prefer the pasta over the pizza..as they are a healthier choice comparitively (or so I would like to think)! ;p

Anyways healthy or not ...I am a pasta aficionado. If its pasta its got to be good.Made this recipe today for lunch. Easy and all vegetarian.Though my hubby doesn't share my passion for pasta, he still ate what I made (he had no other choice...lol). Needless to say it was yummy and almost as tasty as The Spaghetti House( if not better). I like it on the spicier (read 'hot') side without any parmigiano. So i tailor made it suit my palate...ahem.. "our" palate.

Spaghetti Americana

1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 whole packet spaghetti, linguini, or pasta of your choice
2 large plum tomatoes,peeled and chopped/pureed
1 teaspoons dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 cup black cured Sicilian olives (you can use any olives you like)
1/4 cup drained capers (optional)
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Salt to taste


First boil/cook the spaghetti la dente. (i.e. a little raw). Drain and keep aside.
In a wok, heat the olive oil. Sautee the miced garlic. Add the pureed tomatoes, olives. red pepper flakes and capers. Stir.
Now add the spaghetti and mix well. Finally, add the salt, parsley and oregano. Mix well.
Serve hot with cheesy garlic bread.

This goes to none other than Presto Pasta Nights, held by Ruth (of Once Upon a Feast) and co-hosted by C (of FoodieTots).

The wonderful monthly event that is a haven for pasta lovers' like yours truly.

N.B. The pic was taken in so much of a hurry that a few of them were blurred. Only the above turned out fine. I was sooo hungry and the spaghetti was steaming and calling out my name. :p

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quick and Easy French (Eggless) Dinner Rolls (MICROWAVE)

“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”--Mahatma Gandhi

Bread baking is something new to me. Although I have made several Indian breads (leavened & unleavened) I have never really baked a loaf of regular white bread. It is a little ambitious, when it comes to yeast, patience and me…not quite a winning combination.

However, Usha (of VegInspirations) tagged me on baking for a noble cause. Two very good reasons to go ahead with my “Project Bread”.
One, it was my very first “tag”.
Second, it is for a great cause….to feed the multitudes in Africa who cannot afford the luxury of a piece of bread.

I have been doing social service for as long as I can remember..and I still do. Teaching poor children, co-ordinating with NGOs to re-build schools for children of sex workers’ and drug addicts, teaching dance to orphans and organizing charity shows etc. I was an active member of the Corporate Social Responsibility Committee in HSBC. God’s work still continues...
But never have I done something in the virtual world that will in turn,help in the real world. It amazes how my one act here can touch a life , miles away from me.

Breadline Africa is a registered charity in South Africa that is seeking to put an end to poverty in South Africa and further afield in Africa. Their aim is to break the cycle of poverty and help communities to achieve long term self-sustainability. Breadline Africa was founded in 1993 by social workers and communities in South Africa with minded colleagues in Europe, (who were well placed to source out donations). They are geared to help fund small ground level projects in Africa which are most likely to succeed with financial help.

It launched the Worldwide Blogger Baker Bake-Off Challenge aiming at raising $ 1 M in funds. This bake-off gives us baking bloggers the power to make a difference in this world. What do we do? Bake bread. Give Dough. Feed Africa. Vals says, "You can sign up for the campaign, make a donation, upload your bread recipes and document your culinary adventures in the media center to spread the word. You don't have to donate money but simply just mention the campaign and create awareness."

The following is quoted from the Breadline Africa Bake-Off site:

On 15 October, we launched The Breadline Africa Worldwide Blogger Bake Off.The Blogger Bake Off is an online campaign that challenges bloggers to get involved by baking bread, and then acting by donating to end poverty. And then, challenge their readers and five other bloggers to do the same.

With the money raised, we will be supporting grass roots community projects aimed at ending poverty and hunger in Africa. We’ll be placing container kitchens, vegetable gardens and more in poor communities, sending emergency food relief where needed and helping these poor communities to help themselves.

Quick and Easy French (Eggless) Dinner Rolls (MICROWAVE)

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp oil
1 cup warm water (not hot)

In a large bowl, seive together the whole wheat and all purpose flour.
In a separate bowl take warm water, add the yeast, sugar and salt and oil.

Tip:The yeast should release bubbles when warm water is added. This is a sign of good yeast.The water should not be too hot, as it will kill the yeast instead.

Now, make a well in the centre of the heap of flour, and add the warm mixture slowly.
Knead it well to form a soft pliable dough.Cover the dough in a slightly greased bowl with a cling wrap or moist kitchen towel, for about 2 hrs./ till it doubles in volume.
Then punch the dough back and knead it for another 10 mins. Rest covered again, for an hour.
Punch again after an hour and knead well.

Now, divide the dough into equal sized balls. Using your hands roll each ball of dough to form a long cylindrical (almost snake like) rope.Then, from one end of the long dough rope, keep rolling towards the other end. Twist and seal the loose end to look like rolled buns.

Arrange on baking tray, close to each other. Let rest (covered) for 30 mins.Bake on medium high setting in the microwave for 8 minutes.

Serve with jam, butter, cheese or your favourite dip or curry.

Note: The microwave doesn't brown the tops, like a conventional oven. However they look pretty and have a great texture. Soft and tasty!

The rules for bloggers are outlined below:
1.If you are tagged, copy and paste the rules into your post.
2.Bake bread, do something you wouldn’t normally do, and blog about it. Upload your picture and recipe.
3.Give dough, donate to Breadline Africa and help us end poverty.
4.Tag five bloggers, and ping us so we know you’ve done so.
5.The person who raises the most funds will get to name a Breadline Africa community kitchen and win $500 Amazon Vouchers. There are also three minor prizes of $250 Amazon vouchers for people who receive the most votes in the following categories:
Most Unusual Recipe; Most Nutritious Recipe and Most Traditional Recipe.

I in turn tag Sudeshna, Maria, Arundhuti, Anudivya and Sangeeth.

I send this recipie to Lore.

I send this to Vandana (Cooking Up Something Nice)'s Baking For Beginners' event, beacuse some of us out there also want to use the MW for quick baking. :)