Friday, August 28, 2009

Amaretto Tiramisu Cake --- The Ultimate Celebration Cake !!

“ In love the paradox occurs that two beings become one and yet remain two.”-Erich Fromm

When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with…you want the rest of your life to begin soon. Well this is what exactly happened when we met.

Its been two years since our wedding and am still amazed at how fast time flies.
I am madly in love, (more than ever) with the man I married two years back!!

I am the sort who loves both giving and receiving surprises….however small they may be. So had been preparing for the day excitedly…almost feverishly, for the entire month.
(That explains the silence at Zaayeka!)

And since we are out and out foodies….I had to quite literally whip up a storm, first in my head and subsequently in my kitchen.

Why in my head? Well, as you know by now, I love experimenting in my kitchen, pushing my limits and trying things I have never tried before. Barring a few delicacies, I try not to repeat a dish. (I have this personal desire to be able to make to as close to perfection, if not replicate, all the dishes of the world. Yeah I know quite a thought, but trust me I sometimes feel a life time is too short to try all the dishes existing on planet Earth.)

I love my man and as most of you will identify with; we blog-bakers want to show all our love with what we bake/cook in the kitchen. It was ‘our’ anniversary so had to bake a cake nothing short of gorgeous, both in taste and appearance.
Have baked quite a few cakes before (a few still unposted, rest in the archives) mostly using fruits as I love fruits in my cake. Hub however doesn’t care much about fruits in his desserts.

Black Forest Gateau was done last year, Red Velvet cake was for friendship day, Peach torte was for no good reason, Pineapple cheese-cake was just-like-that, Mango pastry went with a courtesy visit to a relative, Citrus cake for an in-law’s birthday……honestly my choices were getting limited in terms of cakes/tortes. Googled a lot and suggested recipes to the hub, each went into the recycle bin with a shake of the head.

(Did I forget to mention quite unlike me he gets picky when it comes to desserts and can gladly skip chocolate. Me on the other hand loves anything with chocolate.)
The cake had to satisfy all the criterions… have chocolate without being too chocolaty, have some sort of nut without being pronounced, no fruits, had to be a layer cake etc etc…S-I-G-H !!

Last week while I was lying wide awake in bed at night, it hit me that I have never made Tiramisu..yet! Then the next thought was can I make a Tiramisu cake?! Told hub excitedly next morning…..he was fine with that but was a little inhibhited about that much coffee in the cake.

Now, we ‘like’ coffee but do not ‘love’ it. An occasional frappe or something is fine, and when I use coffee to give depth to my chocolate cakes is admissible, but that is it. (We don’t take tea or coffee frequently. We are flavoured-milk children.) ;p

Back to square one….thought and thought and thought when luck struck! I was rummaging through the cupboard when I noticed this unopened bottle of Amaretto staring back at me. Tan-ta-ran!! My glee knew no bounds. Headed straight to the kitchen to live the dream I had just seen with wide-open eyes.

This cake was a real delight to make, spread over three days, plus two days to let the flavours set in and mingle before D-day arrived.

Instead of the lady fingers I made a regular genoise (yes with clarified butter/ghee). The crumb/texture of the genoise was light, tender and moist. Sliced it into two. Baked another layer of chocolate sponge, only this time with a little more coffee.

Was still apprehensive about the taste as I have never tasted an Amaretto Tiramisu ever. So to atleast make the cake look appealing decided on making a chocolate rose…yet another first!

** Will add a video-tutorial later,(without the use of corn syrup). In the mean time for those of you who cannot wait here is the link from wherein I got my inspiration.

Made it right after I made the sponges and was pleased with my artistry...more so this successful rose gave me the courage to go ahead with the rest of the recipe I had decided…kinda’ good omen. (fingers crossed!)

Enjoyed making mascarpone. Luxurious and indulgent. Touched up the mascarpone ganache with some semi-sweet chocolate chips and strong brewed coffee. Decided on a plain white amaretto-infused-mascarpone icing.

A day before D-day finished the icing et al, sans the chocolate rose. Wanted to surprise the hub, by placing it at the last minute.

Cut it at midnight and can’t express the feeling of this creamy heaven in the mouth. YUM!

Hub was delighted beyond words and kept admiring the rose while spooning the relish into his mouth…before the congratulatory calls inundate ‘the moment’…
As for me, I was glad he loved it, though he didn’t say it in words…his eyes said it all.
(My man is of few words….one of the reasons I fell in love with this man-boy, and still so in love with !) *blush*

Amaretto Tiramisu Cake


For the Mascarpone Frosting-
1 lt. low-fat cream (25% pasteurized)/organic cream
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice

aprrox. 7 tbsp confectioners' sugar

1 tbsp amaretto liquer, plus extra for soaking the sponges


1/2 tsp strong brewed coffee
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips,melted/microwaved on high for 30 secs.

For the Plain Genoise-
3 tbsp clarified butter/ghee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
2/3 cup fine granulated vanilla sugar/plain sugar

For the Chocolate sponge-
2 eggs
1/3 cup plain flour
3 tbsp unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
2 tbsp butter at room temperature
1/3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp corn starch
a pinch of salt
1/3 cup fine granulated sugar

Flaked almonds for decoration


First prepare the mascarpone.

Bring about 2 inches of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering.
Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. A double boiler of sorts. Keep stirring on medium flame. About 15-20 mins of deliacte heating.
Add the lime juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles.
All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover the back of your wooden spoon thickly. All you will see would be just a few clear whey streaks when you stir.
(It will not curdle the way milk curdles when you make cottage or ricotta cheeses.)

Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four-five layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface, it will firm up on its own during the refrigeration time. Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Add the confec. sugar to this mascarpone cream and whisk by hand till combined.
Set one third of it aside.

To the remaining two-thirds, add the melted choco-chips and coffee brew. Mix together till you get a creamy texture. This is the filling.

To the one-third, add amaretto and hand-whisk till smooth. This is the outer frosting.

Next make the genoise.

Preheat the oven to 180 degress C. Line, grease and flour an 8 inch cake pan.
Sift the flour thrice.
Bring some water to a boil in a large pan/griddle & reduce to simmer. Place eggs & sugar in a large bowl, whisk constantly over the simmering water, heat the eggs to lukewarm.
Remove the bowl from the pan. With an electric mixer, beat the egg mixture at high speed until it has cooled, tripled in volume, and resembles softly whipped cream, about 5 minutes in a heavy-duty mixer or longer with a less powerful mixer.(I used elbow grease and it took me about 10 mins to get the desired result.)

Sift a third of the flour over the whipped egg mixture. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the mixture-quickly but gently-until combined. Fold in the rest of the flour too.
Then add melted ghee/clarified butter in a stream as you keep incorporating it into the batter. Add the vanilla extract at this point.

Pour the batter into the lined pan and bake at 180 degrees C for 35 minutes or so, till the edges of the cake shrink slightly and the top springs back on touch.
Cool and umould onto a wire rack.

Slice the cake into two once completely cooled or you will risk getting crumbly uneven slices. This genoise stays well if cling wrapped, for 3-4 days in the fridge or upto 2 months in the freezer.

Now for the chocolate sponge.

Seive all the dry items together three times.
Cream the butter and sugar together till pale. Add the eggs and beat well till fluffed up to double its volume.
Fold in the dry ingredients into the wet. Pour into a lined 8 inch cake pan.
Bake at 180 degrees C for 35 minutes app.
Cool on wire rack.

For the assembly----

Place one layer of the plain genoise on the cake serving platter.
Sprinkle with amaretto liquer.
Top with some of the filling. Place the chocolate sponge layer next.
Sprinkle this with amaretto liquer too.
Top with the filling. Place the final/top genoise layer.
Sprinkle with amaretto liquer.
Spread the mascarpone-amaretto frosting on top.
Spread the remaining filling on the sides of the cake.

Decorate the borders with almond shavings.
Adorn the cake with the chocolate rose and leaves.

Note: I did not use any simple syrup to soak the sponges as the Amaretto liquer is sweet. If you desire you can add sugar to the soaking syrup, for a sweeter cake.

Also, made....
Mexican Chicken Pizza

and Tandoori Paneer (Barbequed Cottage cheese) Pizza

alongwith some sun-dried tomato pesto layered garlic rolls

....for a truly wonderful brunch.
(Recipes coming-up!)

Friday, August 7, 2009

No-Bake Mirrored Mango Cheese Cake (eggless) …with the goodness of Goji Berries.

Aaaah yes I love mangoes….and I hate it that it’s the tail end of this wondrous luscious’ fruit season here. I have pureed two whole jars of mango and frozen it for…err…a rainy day (in the kitchen). ;p

I love the fruit in its full glory, nevertheless I also like to present its versatility in all forms- shakes, smoothies, ice-cream, mousse, frozen desserts, cakes and currently cheese cake!

My readers would know I am an incorrigible fruit-dessert person of the first order.
Check out the archives at Zaayeka to know more about dragon fruits, persimmons, walnuts, bananas, strawberries, almonds, chikoos, and what not you can do with them!

This cheese cake wasn’t a result of an idle summer afternoon, to while away time in the kitchen…but a carefully thought out plan to create yet another magic with mango.

I just had to make something delectably rich yet light and almost decandent in taste, a spoonful of which melted in the mouth to release just a monosyllable….mmmm !!

I was scouting for a good mousse cake recipe but almost all had egg whites which went uncooked. Somehow I am averse to the idea of uncooked eggs in my dish. So I settled for the no-bake idiot-proof cheesecake instead.

When searching for a recipe I generally review quite a few before I start in the kitchen. More often than not the recipe I use in the end is not a replica of any one recipe but is inspired by two or more recipes give or take a few changes here and there to suit the tastes, ofcourse all in my head! I take the risk, try it in my ‘lab’ (read kitchen) and not to boast but 8 out of 10 times it’s a success. Only then do I post it for the world here.

(And you thought food blogging was easy!!) :p

This recipe I discuss here does not use store bought Philadelphia cream cheese. (I import mine so have saved it for less glorious fruits. A mango can carry the dessert on its own shoulders unaided.) ;p
I made my cheese at home using whole milk. I used one litre of milk to make the cream/curd cheese. It is not mascarpone or quark or greek yogurt or hung curd for that matter but very similar though in terms of the making process and subtly differs from them in textures and taste.

The only thing that was store bought was 25% Low Fat whipping cream.
(Well technically….. I already had that in my fridge, I always keep a one litre pack at hand. Call it hazards of being a foodie.)

It was all good…till I opened my fridge door rather hard resulting in a packet of goji berries falling off the door rack (which I bought from a local while trekking in the Genting hills)….ok so they wanted to go in too.. added them to it.
Turning it into a ‘tasty’ and ‘healthy’ treat!!

Then went a step further to try and mirror it...for 'glamour' (chuckle). I know this reads more like a fashion blog than a food one. C'mon even foods need to sit pretty.

My first foray into "mirror-ing" was not a grand success though.
Used a little mango juice & gelatin, it set well but I had pressed cling foil on top to avoid forming crystals when in the fridge,which resulted in an uneven edge to the mirror. :(

Nevertheless I ate all the uneven-edged slices myself so what was served on the platter to the hub and the guests was smooth looking savvy mirrored cheese cake.

Mirrored Mango Cheese Cake …with the goodness of Goji Berries
(This recipe makes a 6x4 inch square cheese cake. )


1 litre full fat/whole milk
1 tsp citric acid
1/2 cup warm water
2 mangoes- peeled,cored and pureed
1 cup low fat cream
3/4 cup castor sugar (adjust according to sweetness of mangoes)
2 tbsp chopped goji berries (optional)
10-12 graham crackers/digestive buiscuits, crushed
1 tbsp butter at room temperature
1 tsp gelatin
2 tbsp water
5 tbsp mango juice
a dash of lemon juice


Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter. (I added a little cocoa powder too but it can conviniently be skipped.)
In a greased tin foil or spring-form pan (I didn't have a springform pan, so I used a regular tin foil) spread the buiscuit mixture. Press to form a firm base.
Leave to set/harden in the freezer.

Put the milk to boil in a thick bottomed pan.
When it comes to a boil, remove from the flame and keep aside for a few minutes.
In another bowl, mix the citric acid crystals with the warm water.
Pour this mixture into the hot milk and allow to stand for about 5 minutes till the milk curdles on its own. Stir gently if required.
Strain this mixture using a muslin cloth/cheese cloth (double layered).
Hang it for 2 hours in the fridge, with a cup below it to collect the whey.

Now, liquidize the prepared cream cheese, sugar, mango puree in a blender.
Whip the crean till soft peaks form and ever so slightly fold in the cream cheese-mango mix.
Add the chopped berries at this point. Cool.
Pour this over the biscuit base. Leave to set in the fridge, for atleast an hour or two.

For the mirror, put 1 tsp of the gelatin in 2 tbsp of water to bloom.
Heat this over low flame till all the gelatin dissolves. Quickly add the mango juice and the lemon juice. Stir continuously to avoid forming lumps.
Pour this over the set cheesecake. Tap the tin foil/pan to eliminate the bubbles.
Allow to set in fridge overnight.
When serving dip your knife in hot water to cut smooth slices. Enjoy!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Olive Oil-Kissed Walnut Garlic and Dill Povitica (Vegan)....jazzed-up !!

"[Breadbaking is] one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."
M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

I admit I have been lazy. While I have been in the kitchen all the time experimenting, peeking into my friends' and commenting on various other blogs....however I stayed away from posting any recipe on Zaayeka. I blame it on the season...the lovely glassy droplets on my balcony makes me just so whimsical with its pitter-patter; that I just can't tear myself away from them. The lush greenery on the hills (that I see from my window) just perks up when the clouds kiss the earth. Romanticism.....s-i-g-h! :p

Ok I know this is essentially a food blog so I will stick to that without further ado--FOOD!

I made this savoury Povitica, a while ago. I post it only today as the varied types of breads I have been baking is increasing in number and threatens to overtake every other recipes' place on the index, (its been over a month and a half that I have not used store-bought bread, instead making my healthy versions at home) and I do not want my friends/readers to miss out on the magic of breadbaking. Trust me if someone as 'yeast-phobic' as me can make it...sure anyone can!

I am not an authority on bread baking...but I certainly can tell you all about what and how I bake my own bread. I have certainly come a long way from where I started.
And no I ain't talking about quick breads and no-knead breads...I am talking hard-core kneading and rising and rolling and proofing and baking al. All the different colours of the 'rainbow' that is bread-baking.

Traditionally Povitica is a Croatian rolled sweet yeast bread. Essentially a feast bread, it is rolled thin, smeared with the choice of filling (cinnamon sugar, walnuts etc) and then rolled like a jelly roll and baked. The end result is a beautiful swirled slice that the filling creates when the rolled bread is cut.

I made mine a tad bit more ...ahem...gorgeous! (Don't go by my word...look at the pictures.)

The lovely spirals filled with my favourite nut and herbs.

This bread is a little tricky when it comes to putting it together but not impossibly difficult!
Once the dough is rolled out, smeared with filling and cut into strips; the tricky part begins.
Remember not to rush through this process of 'coiling' the strips. Take your time rotating the spring form pan so you can easily start the next strip of dough where the last one left off and gently pressing strips onto the ones that came before it.
Any loose nuts will fall down, so do not worry. Just be gentle. :)

Oh did I forget to mention its vegan !!

Olive Oil-Kissed Walnut Garlic and Dill spiral Povitica (Vegan) :


For the dough:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour + extra for dusting
1/2 tsp sea-salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups luke-warm water
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
2 tbsp margarine

For the filling:
3 tbsp or more garlic paste
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for brushing


In a large bowl,combine the warm water, yeast, sugar and salt and let it rest at room temperature for 5 minutes. Add the olive oil.

To the flours add the margarine and dill. Stir with a wooden spoon or use your fingers to mix,till the margarine is well combined with the flour.
Now add the liquid ingredients. Stir with wooden spoon.
When the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl dust with flour and turn out onto a lightly-floured surface to knead by hand. Knead by hand for 10 minutes, dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes in a greased bowl.

Roll the dough out to an 18×10 inch (moderately thin in thickness) rectangle. Brush the garlic paste all over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle with the chopped walnuts on top.
IMPORTANT-Press the nut filling into the dough by lightly rolling over it with a rolling pin, to allow minimal spillage.

Cut the dough lengthwise into 2-inch-wide strips. Take one strip and roll it around itself before placing it in the center of your springform pan, cut side down. Now, one at a time, wrap the remaining strips around the center strip, until you have a mass of shaped dough that looks like a concentric shell . Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot for 40 minutes or until doubled in bulk (see pic above).

Brush with olive oil and bake in a pre-heated oven for upto 30 minutes at 190 degrees C.

If the middle of the povitica browns faster than the outer portions of the dough, cut a small square of aluminum foil and place it over the part of the cake that is browning faster.

Cool for 5 minutes before running a greased knife around the edges and removing the sides of the springform pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dahi Aloo (Baby Potatoes in a Tangy Creamy Curd Gravy)....comforting ain't it !!

"Comfort food is absolutely moving upscale."
~ Danny Meyer

The world has seen a lot in the last few months. Failed banks, frozen lending, bankruptcies...a stock market like a weary phoenix, rising from its ashes then plummeting again. In turbulent times like these, don't we all need a little comfort food?!

Comfort food, as it turns out, is a global phenomenon. A case in point-- When I am asked what is the one thing that I would want to eat to make me feel really comfortable and soothe my ruffled seams; without batting an eyelid I say Kadhi-Chawal ( Mildly spiced creamy chickpea-flour based curd gravy tempered with mustard and curry leaves, accompanied by plain steamed rice).

**For a variation of the 'kadhi' see this.

And what makes it comfort food?
It's our soul food and I think these are the kinds of food you hanker for. Something that you've had as a child, as a baby. Something that goes down easily. Something that will always be true.

We all have memories of a very special dish that we ate when we were kids. Every time we eat it we feel safe and warm. We are back home. Actually, we don't even have to eat it - just smelling it triggers happy feelings. It then, not just remains food-- it's the taste, the smells, the memories of home!

Studies suggest that comfort food applies the brakes on a key element of chronic stress.

Stress or no stress, at some point in our lives we all crave comfort food. Each kitchen has its own story to tell and its own set of comfort foods. Be it the country side or the huge mansions, the city or the hamlets....all have their fair share of foods/Sunday meals that bind a family together.

I remember how after a really l-o-n-g time when I was returning home from Florida, I called up mom from the New York airport only to request her to prepare my favourite kadhi-chawal, and nothing else but that. It wasn't that I had any issues with food in U.S. Infact it was only here, that I first did try Thai and Mexican. The best pizzas were at my office cafeteria...forget Dominos' or Pizzahut! Mac n cheese ...aah!

Applebees' and Red Lobster are still my reigning favourites when it comes to fun-food. Ybor street dotted with its varied cusine houses, lured me to try the Middle-east and Lebanese dishes too. Yes, I was in a cultural melting pot but oh! how I missed home food. (By home food I don't mean the stuff that Indian restuarants' in foreign land, dish out claiming to be Indian.)

However something is amiss at times....and you CRAVE it badly! Thats' soul food...a.k.a. comfort's cooking!

The dish I talk about here is only second to my all time favourite Indian Comfort Foods.

Its Dahi Aloo. Dahi= curd, Aloo= potatoes, in Hindi.

Dahi Aloo (Baby Potatoes in a Tangy Creamy Curd Gravy):


250 gms baby potatoes,boiled and chopped in halves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 curry leaves
1 whole dried red chilli
1/2 tsp aesofoetida
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp ground coriander seeds/coriander powder
1 cup curd, beaten
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup water or less (depending on the consistency of the gravy)
salt to taste


In a wok, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Once they splutter, add the whole red chilli and ginger-garlic paste. Add the boiled potatoes. Mix carefully.

Now add the turmeric powder, coriander powder and aesofoetida. Stir. Take care not to break the already soft potatoes.

Add the beaten curd and mix thorougly. Finally add water and stir. Season.

Cover and simmer for a minute, on medium flame.

Serve hot with steamed rice or parathas/chapatis.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Berries from the East and the a Gelato !!

"I doubt whether the world holds for any one a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream."

My last post was about my favourite summer fruit, which is nothing short of indulgence.
However not all fruits of this season are to be blamed to go straight to the hips. One such is the Indian Blackberry or Jaamun/Jaam as we call it here.
Although there is a riot of colours at the vendors’ cart, you can’t help but notice this raging crimson-purple oblong shaped berry.

Jamun (Sygium cumini L) also known as Myrtus cumini and Eugenia jambolanum is classified as a minor fruit since most of the trees have been planted accidentally by the ancestors of farmers, who are now happy to find a tree or two on their plots of land. They were grown mainly for shade along roads and highways and in coffee estates to provide shelter for the coffee plants. Cultivation has not been actively encouraged by the government and plantations do not exist. Sigh!

You can read more about the fruit here and here.

I remember my mother using this fruit to make red vinegar and soaking up baby onions in it for a week or two. Those onions then blushed in all their bright hue and decorated any platter with their mere presence (especially with a chicken dish). Ofcourse the tangy oniony taste was the talk of the meal !

Though indigenous to India, these fruits will remind you of the astringency of a good Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (Italian red wine). The same inadvertent ‘ch-tack’ and pursing of the lips after a sip (in this case ‘bite’) is inevitable. You develop a taste for it as with all good things. :)

The harvesting season lasts from the end of March to the beginning of June so, while they were still to be seen , I picked up quite a few to eat…I love nibbling in between meals and what better way than to pop these fruits (coated with some sea-salt) in my mouth and roll away, sucking the sweet-tart juice.
After eating quite a few; the insides of my mouth all purple black and when my tongue refused to take any more astringency of the fruit I decided to make something different out of it.
Thought …thought….and thought till it hit me why not use them (whatever little was left...chuckle!) along with some preserved blue berries to make a Gelato.

What a feast of colour it was right through the process! Talking about colour, I just wanted to share that purple coloured foods are full of antioxidants that prevent and some times reverse the ageing process. So ladies what are you waiting for…the elixir of youth lies in your own kitchen!

There is also a popular short story which features this fruit, and is related to kids during their primary schooling years, about a monkey and a crocodile. We once did a play to the effect, with some children of an orphanage. If interested you can find it here.

Blue berry and Indian Black berry Gelato-

approx. 30 gms of firm Jamun/Indian blackberries
1 cup granulated sugar (adjust sugar according to tartness of jamuns)
4 tbsp dried blueberries, (soaked in two tbsp of warm milk for five minutes)
1/2 lt. skimmed milk
1 tin condensed milk (400 gm)
1 1/4 tsp of strawberry/vanilla extract (your choice)
1 cup whipping cream (25% fat)

Clean the tart berries by washing them under running tap water.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat the berries with the sugar, till they become soft and pulpy.Mash and strain, thus removing all the seeds.Set aside.
At this point I would like to mention that the berries I used here were not very ripe, still very tart and I used a very small amount (since it was a tester) so I could not get the colour. But if using ripe berries/jamuns, you will get a lovely crimson hued pulp.
In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the milk. Mix in the condensed milk and stir continuously to avoid forming lumps. Bring to a boil.
Let cool. Add the whipping cream, extract and jamun pulp. Blend in a food processor.
Pour in a tin/tupperware container and freeze. After an hour, take out the half-set mixture and whip at medium speed. Add the soaked blue berries now.
Pour in ice-cream container and freeze, preferably overnight.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cardamom Laced Mango-Strawberry Heart Chiffon Cakes (Eggless)

"A compromise is the art of 'dividing a cake' in such a way that everyone believes that he has got the biggest piece."

Well that was something I did not have to bother with. Why? 'Cause I already had divided the cake into individual serve-size pieces. Smart me! ;p

If you ever visit me this time of the year (especially in these last couple of weeks) a whiff of an intoxicating perfume will hit you as you enter the door (and make you forget all your manners) while you helplessly follow it to the room where those juicy deep coloured yellow goblets lie on a ruck sack waiting to ripen to be devoured. Ahhh! yes the Alphonsos are the culprit.

There is an over haul of mangoes in my house. They always lure me into buying them as they longingly look at me in all their golden glory, from the vendor's cart. It would require a heart of stone for anyone to ignore this luscious stone fruit. I cannot help having atleast two in a day...I am smitten. But then its only in summers that I get to eat ( and sometimes drink) this fruit, fit for the kings. My weak resolve has lead to my diet being shown the door. Alas!

This mango cake was made in an effort to 'spread' the calories....(chuckle).
We were visiting a neighbour-cum-family friend of ours after a long time so I made these pretty little hearts to share with them.

This mango cake is elegant and light with a hint of cardamom giving it a rich aroma. The lite strawberry chantilly(frosting) and the sandwhiched jam just give it another dimension and depth in flavour. Being eggless and sans butter, its low fat and can be had as afternoon snack/hi-tea too.

While I was at it, I realized just how much treasure we have in the tropics in terms of fruits, and just how much we ignore it and try to kill ourselves scouting for fruits of the temperate regions to recreate all those gorgeous tarts, tortes, pies when we have perfectly valid and delicious substitutes growing in our own backyard! I understand that 'traditionally' a blueberry pie cannot be made into a guava pie...however I see no harm in giving it a shot.

There’s a fine line between tradition and caricature and I see no reason why a banana brownie can’t be transformed into a dragon fruit one, or why a strawberry cake can’t become a persimmon cake. Take a moment to rediscover the tropical fruits and vegetables you have on hand and you may be surprised at how much more they have to offer. Go local !!

Cardamom Laced Mango-Strawberry Heart Chiffon Cakes (Eggless)
For the mango cake:
1/2 cup semolina ( fine variety )
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp corn flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups ripe mango pulp (I used fresh pulp from three medium sized alphonso mangoes)
3/4 cup condensed milk
1/2 cup luke warm low-fat milk
3-4 tbsp canola oil/any odourless oil
1 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup powdered sugar (adjust according to ripeness of mangoes, mine were really ripe/sweet)

For the jam: See here.
For the strawberry chantilly frosting: Read the strawberry whipped cream recipe.

Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees C.
Seive the dry ingredients twice (except semolina and sugar).
In a large bowl, beat the condensed milk, warm milk, oil and sugar till the mixture is creamy and pale. Add the cardamom powder and mango pulp and beat again for a minute on low.
Now add the wet ingredients to the dry, slowly incorporating all the liquid mix. Take care not to lose the trapped air in the batter.

Tip: Always mix a cake batter ever so slightly, like forming the digit '8' with your spoon.

Pour into 6" round greased & lined cake tin. Consecutively you can bake in individual moulds of your choice. Bake at 170 degrees C for 15 minutes.
Cool on rack for about an hour or so, to let the mango flavour heighten.
Slice the individual cakes and layer with the strawberry jam. Frost lightly with the strawberry chantilly. Sprinkle decorations if desired.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Minty Green Apple Granita

"snow gives the most delicate flavor to creams, but ice is the most powerful congealer and lasts longer."
-Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), third President of the United States.

At summer's height, few people crave heavy desserts, but dinner guests always enjoy something fresh and seasonal. Simple granitas, frozen desserts with an appealing icy texture and crunch, fill the bill.

The Chinese had discovered how to conserve naturally formed winter ice for summer use by building icehouses, which were kept cool by evaporation. The harvesting and storage of ice are recorded in a poem of circa 1100 B.C. in the Shih Ching, the famous collection of Food Canons.

However the granita—the precursor to ice-cream was introduced to the world by Italy. When Marco Polo returned to Venice, from China he brought with him ‘ice’; which the able Italian chefs later made into frozen desserts like granita.

Granita is a frozen dessert made with water and a syrup base, much like sorbet. It is popular in Italy, and closely associated with Sicily in particular. In Italy, granita may be served at breakfast, with Italian brioche, or at any other time of the day.

Like many other frozen desserts, granita is probably related to sherbet, a Middle Eastern drink made with syrup, water, and ice. According to legends, granita was invented accidentally by a sherbet seller who left her wares on ice too long, causing the sherbet to turn into a block of highly granular ice.

It should not, however, be confused with shaved ice. Shaved ice is made by drizzling syrup or a flavoring over a dish of ice which has been shaved from a block. When making granita, the flavoring is mixed into the ice, and even when it is shaved, granita has a crackling crystalline structure which is quite distinctive in the mouth.

I have been making this simple ‘drink’ dessert for a long time now using seasonal fruits. I have tried several versions with coffee, lemon, blood oranges etc. Imagination is your limit to the different flavours you can incorporate in your granita.

Here is one of my all time favourite— Green Apple Granita. Generally this granita contains a dark,apple flavoured brandy like Calvados. However, I made it without any alcohol. Just added a dash of flavoured soda instead, while serving.

Minty Green Apple Granita
½ cup water
1 cup sugar
¾ cup unsweetened apple juice
2 tart green apples
2 tsp lemon juice
a dash of flavoured soda (optional)
a sprig of mint,bruised

Peel, seed and slice apples. Place in a heavy saucepan with the apple juice, water and sugar. (I left some apple skin on, just for added crunch.)
Cover and cook over moderate heat until very tender (about 15minutes).
Process the apple mixture in a food processor and stir in lemon juice. Cool.
Add the bruised mint leaves.

Pour mixture into 13 x 9 in. baking pan and place in freezer.
Every twenty minutes, take the pan out and scrape the frozen mixture with a fork until all the frozen pieces are broken into small shavings and mixed well with the remaining liquid. Continue to freeze. Scrape every twenty minutes until no more liquid is in the granita.
Serve it in chilled glasses with a straw and a dash of lemon soda.
Drink your dessert!! :p

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"To cook or not to cook".....with Sushi.

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time there was a girl who always had avoided her mother’s constant calls to help her in the kitchen. The girl would make it a point that she had her hands full so that she could skip entering the kitchen. (Although sometimes her mother was successful in pulling the reluctant soul into cooking; she will only later realize how helpful those sessions were.)
Now this girl of ours, hated the idea of standing in the kitchen for hours at length and cooking.
Our “i-hate-cooking” girl ended up falling in love with a guy, well traveled and ironically a food-lover, who appreciated the nuances of all cuisines.

So when she moved in with him after wedlock, she had to cook. No avoiding then…she loved her man, and wanted to please him by cooking for him.
Then began her calls to her mom to ask for recipes.
Here I would want to mention that although the girl said she hated cooking, she inevitably collected recipes of delicacies she liked. Loved cutlery, gourmet presentations, street food and was an avid food lover herself.

She only later realized that it wasn’t cooking she hated, but the idea of being monitored in the kitchen (her mom was too scared to let the poor girl alone in the kitchen, for something might go wrong…moms will be moms!)

Back to our protagonist, so she learned recipes from her mom and at times innovated upon a traditional dish. Read cookbooks alongwith her dose of fictional ones. She also loved following recipes on the web. Google searched for a particular recipe.
She enjoyed reading the write-ups preceding the recipe in question. Without realizing she fell in love with the blogosphere.

On one such occasion she was marveling at the pictures of a dish on a blog, when it struck her why doesn’t she keep a pictorial library of all the dishes she loves cooking. (mind you “loves cooking”)
Yes, with all the praises showered on her for her culinary skills at her in-laws place she beamed with confidence.

She was toying with this idea when one fine day while watching Travel & Living she stumbled upon a Sushi recipe.
Now she had tried sushi once only but loved it, more so as it was healthy and the dish was rather ‘cute looking’.

Anxiously she tried the recipe, while she was alone(just in case if it was a failure..none would know).
She made Sushi for the first time.
Excitedly clicked it. Proud that she didn’t have a sushi mat yet the rolls turned out perfect. She tasted one slice…and she was impressed with herself and secretly blessed the TV show.
Her husband too loved it and kissed her hands. He suggested she should start cataloguing her recipes with pictures for keepsake.

She almost instantly thought of “blogging”.

That was October of 2008 in Hong Kong. And the ‘girl’ as you must have guessed is none other than me. The dish I am to post today is the first ever to be clicked, with the idea of posting it on the web so that I could share my story with the world.
The birth of “Zaayeka”.

Although it was the first dish that led me to blogging …I only post it today, after about seven months. The picture may not be too great as the novice me made the dish in the evening and was way too excited at the outcome to have the patience of plating and clicking it. :)

Here is the crucial recipe …the reason behind Zaayeka.

Nori Maki-
1 cup cooked sticky or Thai short/medium grained rice (mktd as: Koshihikari rice/sushi rice)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste
Nori wrappers- 4 nos.
a bowl of rice vinegar/water (for rinsing your fingers)
** The special rice and nori wrappers can be found at any of the asian groceries.

Filling I used-
(can be anything of your choice, vegetarian/vegan/chicken/fish etc...get imaginative!)

cooked omelette cut into long strips
carrots, cut into long strips
cucumber, cut into long strips
green bell pepper, cut into long strips
crab sticks/immitation crab meat
strips of shittake mushrooms cooked in teriyaki sauce
(or any sauce of your choice,I used teriyaki for its slight sweetness and to give body to the sushi)

First mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt together.
In a wooden/ceramic bowl place the cooked rice while its still hot and using a wooden spoon,mix in the vinegar solution. Do this in a 'cutting' fashion, this is done so that your rice grains do not break. In other words mix the vinegar solution into the rice carefully.

On a flat surface/kitchen counter, place your bamboo mat. I used a thick zip lock bag which I slit open. The idea is that the mat/zip lock should be able to give enough support to the nori/sea weed wrappers, while rolling the sushi.
Atop the mat/plastic, place the nori/sea weed wrappers.

Wet your hands with water/rice vinegar, so that the rice doesn't stick to your fingers.
Now using your fingers, slightly spread the rice evenly all over the Nori wrappers. Take care not to press the rice so as to mish-mash it.
Leave a margin on one of the long ends of the nori (the farther end from you), for sealing the roll. Just like you would seal an envelope.

Place the fillings of your choice on the spread rice, in one single row (on the end that is closer to you). Using your fingers, smear the 'blank' margin on the nori with some water/rice vinegar.
Now, carefully lift the mat/zip lock alongwith the nori, and roll firmly. Remove the mat and you should have a sealed sushi roll.
Slice it and serve with wasabi/soy dipping sauce. We just ate it plain. ;p

** I understand that it may help if you actually 'saw' the rolling of sushi , so you can watch this video.

I enjoyed my sushi thoroughly. It had the little spicy sweetness of teriyaki, the myriad textures of the various veggies, the smoothness of the crab meat and mushrooms, coupled with the tang of the vinegared rice. A truly satiating experience---both visually and on the taste front.

Hope you can now avoid the long queues outside popular sushi bars and make your very own anytime at home. :)
Do let me know if you have any questions/ about your sushi endeavours!


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Time-Off ...... & Panchmel Daal-Baati.

What a commentary on civilization, when being alone is being suspect; when one has to apologize for it, make excuses, hide the fact that one practices it - like a secret vice. ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

No I ain't apologising nor am I offering any explanation. I know I have been away for some time....but to only replenish the spring within me that will never dry. I have taken time-off to retreat to my soul, my haven for rest. There are days in my otherwise chirpy & active life when solitude becomes a heady wine that intoxicates me with freedom. I am on a high !

Afterall its only in quiet waters that things mirror themselves undistorted.
My alone-time was not without people, yet not 'being' with the lotus flower that is amidst the muddy water yet is above it all....smiling to the sun...content being with itself.

How many times in our lives have we felt weary (not physically) about the fact that we have to keep appointments/dates, call so and so, greet, console, cheer, congratulate, finish the never ending list of to-dos, hit the gym, stay healthy, eat, cook, spend time with family and friends, go to church, play, seal deals, toil at the workplace,chill at a al.

And exactly how many times have we stopped ...shut the whole world out and be with thy ownself ?!! Its important....very important....for to be able to do all that we want to in our lives, we must take a break from all of 'it'. Trust me it works wonders. You are recharged...its theraupatic...and nothing beats this therapy. Talk to yourself....spend time with your own self, when we cannot bear to be alone, it means we do not properly value the only companion we will have from birth to death - ourselves.

And those who truly love you will help you with this. The highest task for a bond between two people: that each protects the 'solitude' of the other.

I am not trying to sermonize here, instead I am sharing with you all what I have attained in the past few days. I have been taking such "time offs"...for as long as I can remember...earlier it was more so unconciously and on hindsight I knew I was cut off from the universe when my mom used to ask me "whats wrong? has someone scolded you...or have you been hurt etc etc."; for she was worried her talkative darling was suddenly quiet.However she was instrumental in showing me the way to 'satsang'.
"Sat" means august and "Sang" means company.

These breaks became more evident when I started attending satsangs (translation: the company of learned men and women) every other Saturday. I am not someone who will renounce the world to attend religious gatherings for hours...infact I am not a religious soul. This particular satsang that I attended however was did not stress that I had to pray everyday, or fast, or give offerings to Gods and Goddesses; it just suggested that I take time off to watch my deeds, my actions, my words, feel proud that He has created me, revel in the joys of humanity, respect myself for I am His child, truly love myself above all....for if I did that I would love all....this isn't selfish ...but selfless love.

I cannot put into words something that is so deep that it needs to be felt rather than heard/read.

By all means use sometimes to be alone. Salute thyself; see what thy soul doth wear.
~George Herbert

Keeping with the "simplicity" , I share with you this recipe. Its a typical Rajasthani dish, made from simple ingredients that the desert belt has to offer.
Rajasthani food was not created in a day. It evolved over the centuries of royal governance of the Rajput Maharajas for whom a lavish lifestyle and lots of good food was as important as collecting revenue from their subjects.
There is scarcity of water and fresh green veggies in the state of Rajasthan, so it is preferred to use milk, butter milk and butter in larger quantities to minimize the amount of water while cooking food.
Out of all the Rajasthani dishes, dal bati churma is perhaps the best known.

Panchmel Daal and Baati

Panchmel Daal:

This is a lentil curry comprising of five different pulses. Hence the name "panch" (five) "mel" (meeting) , meaning meeting of five varieties. It is highly nutritious and full of protein. Those of you who are watching your weight can binge on this without guilt...just skip the ghee/ clarified butter.


1/3 cup split bengal gram/chana dal
1/3 cup toovar/arhar dal
1/3 cup masoor dal
1 tsp urad dal/split black lentils
1 tbsp whole moong/mung dal
3 teaspoons chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder/haldi
1 tsp coriander/dhania powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
2 green chillies, slit
a pinch asafoetida/hing
2 tsp amchur/dry mango powder
2 tsp tamarind/imli pulp
3 tbsp ghee/clarified butter
salt to taste


Clean and wash the dals and add 4 cups of water. Pressure cook for 2 to 3 whistles or till the dals are cooked.
In a bowl, combine the chilli powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala with 3 tablespoons of water and mix well. Keep aside.
Heat the ghee in a pan and add the cloves, bay leaves, cumin seeds, green chillies and asafoetida. When the cumin seeds crackle, add the prepared masala paste and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.
Add the cooked dals, amchur, tamarind pulp and salt and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes. Adjust the consistency of the dal before serving and if required, add some water.
Serve piping hot.


As the name suggests, baati in Hindi means a bowl, as this part of the dish resembles a bowl. For this you need thick ground wheat flour. If you’re getting freshly ground wheat flour , then you can specifically ask the person to grind it to make laddu bati ka atta.
If thick or mota atta is unavailable, you can go with the regular atta/whole wheat flour, but mix three cups of atta, with 1 cup of suji/semolina to make it thick, as that’s the consistency we need to prepare baati. Traditionally, baati is prepared on earthen ovens, with dried cow dung cakes burned as fuel.
However we will prepare it using the trusted oven/gas stove.


3 cups – atta/whole wheat flour
1 cup – suji/semolina
1 cup – ghee/clarified butter
lukewarm water


You need to make soft dough out of the atta and suji mixed with salt, ghee and lukewarm water.
Set aside for half an hour.
Make lemon sized round balls with the dough.
Bake them in an oven on 170 degrees C (approx), till it browns and forms a crisp crust.
Now, if you so desire you can roast it on the gas stove slightly with the aid of tongs, just so that the crust becomes crispier.

Dip in clarified butter/ghee, and serve with panchmel daal and mirchi ka achaar/pickled jalapenos/chillies.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Cheeky Chikoo Smoothie..for the Maman and Gourmand Smoothie/Shake Recipe Contest!

An excerpt from our life; the morning of April 28th 2009.

DH: “Hun I don’t want to have anything for breakfast…not feeling like it.”
Me: “ What…not again…I am not letting you go till you have breakfast…it’s the most important meal of the day.”
DH: “In that case just give me liquid breakfast…one of your fruit smoothies/milk shakes…you have chickoos in the fridge..right?!”

Well that is how the Sapodilla fruit smoothie came about. In my quest to provide wholesome nutrition (without tipping the balance) to ourselves,at breakfast. Here is my Cheeky Chikoo smoothie (pardon the pun). ;p

I am a fruit-person (from the dessert-first type category). If you are a regular reader ….you would know the concoctions I have made using fruits.
Try my Austrian Walnut-Strawberry Torte, or spoon out my Bluberry-Papaya Syllabub, or my prize winning Persimmon & Walnut Croquants Trifle, or the Dragon fruit brownie in true fusion style, the Berry Jam, or the more recent Alphonso milk name a few. I love fruits and I love having them plain as well as in innovative forms.

I added a little ground almonds to this smoothie to make it healthier and it imparts a beautiful nutty flavour to the drink. Since the chikoos were extremely sweet I did away with the sugar too. It’s a simple, no-hassle smoothie prepared in a jiffy.
(Ideal for working couples with/without kids, especially if their significant half/child doesn’t like the idea of having to ‘eat’ breakfasts.)

The fruit of the Sapodilla tree is called Chikoo /Sapota in India.
The use of ripe chikoo in our diet gives agility and freshness.
It activates the performances of intestines. It eliminates the excessive bile in the body.
Infact the Ayurveda has held this humble fruit in high opinion…just do a google search and you will know what I mean.
It is one of the few fruits that have edible skin. I just wash them and slice the ripe brown fruit. However I skip the skin when preparing my smoothie/shake.

Not many of us know that the latex extracted from the chikoo stem forms the base material for the chewing gum.

Cheeky-Chikoo Smoothie

2-3 ripe medium sized frozen chikoos/Sapodilla fruit, washed,peeled & de-seeded
1 ½ glasses skimmed milk, chilled
1-2 tbsp sugar (optional)
3 tbsp ground blanched almonds (which I keep ready in the fridge at all times)

In a blender puree the chikoo fruit with the ground almonds. Now add the milk with sugar, if using.
Blend on high and serve chilled.
This smoothie is pretty filling and a glassful only keeps you satiated till lunch.
Update: I have edited this post as a few friends wanted to vote for my drink for the contest. However thats not happening as I am not listed. Just a tiny glitch in the contest rules and my entry. No problems. Thanks all ..anyways!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Malaai ki Subz ....from my Mom.

A good cook is one who not only makes great food, but makes food taste great with what is available at hand.”
-- My late Nani ji
(the greatest cook I have known from close quarters, followed closely by mum)

That’s my maternal grand ma for you. I have discussed at length about her in few of my earlier posts, like this one.
She was the first one who instilled in me the desire to enter the kitchen and cook up delicacies in a jiffy with local stuff, food that enticed all the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and feel.

We talk about plating dishes now, but she had taught her daughter and grand-daughter about presentation a long time ago. You would want to eat all that she dished out.
My mother being her direct descendant has inculcated the same skills and has obviously (like all future generations) has improved upon them. This is one such dish—
Malaai ki Subz.

I don’t know how many of you out there, collect the malaai (cream) of milk; like my mom I have been in the habit of collecting the milk’s cream/malaai.
It serves two purposes…
1) this makes the milk you drink comparatively less in fats.
2) also, you don’t have to but tetra packs of fresh cream , when you have it in your fridge at all times.

Like most of my dishes this one too has a story. It was when I was in standard eleventh (I guess), when in my ever varying tween moods I had given impromptu invitations to two of my buddies for lunch, without even informing my mum( read designated chef).

Anyways I did surprise my mum with my two friends. I didn’t have to tell her that they would be staying for lunch, for in my home it was a given that guests would be fed as if there was a gala party. So while mum had made lunch only for me, she had to check the pantry and the fridge to come up with something quick for all of us hungry souls.

It was then that this subzi was born. It was made with malaai/ milk cream and some aromatic Indian spices. And with a few veggies thrown in, the malaai was well disguised (urrgghh ! how we hated malaai back then), and the dish lip smackingly good.

I made this dish today, for lunch, as I wanted something tasty yet simple with no elaborate preparations. After which I called mom to tell her that she has taught me so much while not actually saying a word. Thanks Maa!!

Malaai ki Subz
4 tbsp malaai/milk cream
a pinch of cumin
2 tbsp chopped onion
1 medium sized potato, boiled and cubed
2 tbsp chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp carrot, diced
2 tbsp frozen peas
1 tbsp green bell-pepper/capsicum, diced
½ tsp ginger-garlic paste
a pinch of garam masala ( an indian spice mix)
½ tsp chopped green chillies
1 tsp cooking oil
salt to taste

In a wok, heat oil, and add cumin seeds. Once they splutter add the chopped onions and sweat them a little.
Now add the tomatoes, carrots, capsicum, peas and chillies . Add the ginger-garlic paste and garam masala. Add salt as desired. Cook covered for half a minute, stirring occasionally.
Finally add the boiled potatoes and milk cream. Stir well.
Serve hot with parathas/ chapattis.

I share this with Mahimaa for her 15 minutes cooking event, and with EC for her WYF Quick Meal event.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sincere apologies....with the 'King of all fruits'.

Friendship isn't a big thing - it's a million little things.

I know I am very late in posting this, but trust me when I say that I have been extremely tied down with home-shifting, either family and friends visiting over or we making courtesy calls. (Infact as I write this post my hub's busy booking tickets for another trip in May.)
There have been festivities but not without certain mishappenings innundating all this time. In the past month I have seen the frolic of a 'mundan' (a hindu ritual where the kids head is clean shaved) of my nephew, starkly contrasting the deep anguish followed by nervous calm when my maternal uncle lived through a major cardiac arrest.

In all this flurry I admit to have ignored my 'virtual' home and friends. All the wonderful endearing comments and concern as to how I am and whether I am doing fine makes me guilt ridden. For all those who showed concern and who remembered me in my absence, who support me always....I seriously love you guys! You all rock!!
Please accept my apologies though.
Quite true that friendship is a million little things.....a million kind words/thoughts lighting up my day!

It was a love affair long before we knew what love was. They were golden, dripping with a heavenly juice, fleshy and aromatic. As kids we didn't understand why we could gorge on them just once a year, but were happy just to be able to dig into them. The perfumed 'Alphonsos', the green 'Dasheharis', the succulent 'Chausas' and the golden skinned 'Langdas' (I am still intrigued why its called a 'langda' which means crippled), gleaming in their jewel tones - red, yellow and dark green.Decades later, the mango still has such a magnetic hold on my generation. Is it because it is so much more than a mere fruit? It represents a rite of passage, a time of giddy childhood, of endless summer days and life stretched into infinity - an unending field of gold, an abundant orchard of luscious mangoes dangling from countless shady trees....

Mangoes are ephemeral - here today, gone tomorrow - so many Indians hoard them and have found ways to keep the gem-like fruits with them as long as they can. Green unripe mangoes are pickled in so many different ways, to be drawn out in the cold of winter, to be relished - summer relived. Another delicious pickled treat is mango murba - mangoes marinated in a sweet sugar sauce, with garlic and black onion seeds. It's a real comfort food when eaten with a bowl of kichdi (rice gruel) or a chappati - you can feel all's right with the world. For a full-blooded Indian, any time is mango pickle time, and a dollop of ambh achaar enhances any meal.

Where did this wondrous fruit come from and why does it have such a hold on the Indian psyche?

The earliest mention of mango, Mangifera Indica, that means "the great fruit bearer," is in the Hindu scripture dating back to 4000 BC. The wild mango originated in the foothills of the Himalayas of India and Burma, and about 40 to 60 of these trees still grow in India and Southeast Asia.

The mango is a member of the Anachardiaceae family which includes poison ivy, cashews, and pistachios.

So passionate are modern day Asian Indians about their most adored fruit, the cultivated mango, that during mango season in India, families actually argue heatedly about which of the many varieties is best for their favorite mango dishes. For the rest of us, we're just delighted to welcome mango season ( the only good thing about the otherwise sweltering heat), enjoy the luscious tangy fruit that dribbles down our chins, and leave the fistcuffs out of it!

According to M. Varadrajan, author of The History of Tamil Literature, the eye of a woman is compared to a tender mango cut in half, with the stone being the pupil of the eye. Alexander the Great was a big fan of Indian mangoes and The Mughal Emperor Babur called it "O Fairest Fruit of Hindustan."

Alphonso Milk Shake
1 medium sized alphonso or any mango of your choice
1/2 litre of skimmed milk
2 tbsp sugar (adjust according to sweetness of mangoes)
a pinch of ground cardamom

Blend all the ingredients together in a juicer/blender.
Serve chilled with cubes of golden ripe mangoes.


India is a country rich with folklore that sometimes becomes woven into cultural rituals as well as religious ceremonies, and it's little surprise that it's India's national fruit.
It is said that the Buddha was given the gift of a whole grove of mango trees where he could rest whenever he wished. From that time on the mango tree was held in awe as capable of granting wishes.
So revered is the mango tree in its home country that it has become a symbol of love.

(A symbol of the love and adoration I have for my readers/friends and well wishers. I thus offer this exotic fruit as apology.)

Offerings of mango leaves are presented at wedding ceremonies, a ritual that guarantees the couple will bear many children.
In the villages there is a powerful belief that the mango trees grow new leaves each time a son is born. To herald the new birth to their neighbors, doorways are decorated with mango leaves.

Old Sanskrit writings reveal a legend of deep love and beauty that sprang from the mango tree. It was the daughter of the sun, Surya Bai, who transformed herself into a golden lotus to evade persecution of an evil sorceress. The sorceress became angry when the King of the land fell in love with the beautiful lotus, and she burnt it to ashes. Good overcame evil when a magnificent mango tree sprang from the ashes and Surya Bai stepped out from a ripe mango that had fallen to the ground. The King instantly recognized her as his long lost wife, and the two rejoiced.

Health Benefits

Revered not only for their exotic sweetness and juicy quality, mangoes are known for their many health blessings. They contain an enzyme similar to papain in papayas, a soothing digestive aid.

In India mangoes are used as blood builders. Because of their high iron content they are suggested for treatment of anemia and are beneficial to women during pregnancy and menstruation. People who suffer from muscle cramps, stress, and heart problems can benefit from the high potassium and magnesium content that also helps those with acidosis.
One lab test turned up rather startling results that raised mangoes to the "highest perch." Mango juice was poured into a test tube that contained viruses. Shortly, the viruses were destroyed.

Monday, March 30, 2009

"From her blood sprouted .......'chocolate' !!" (Double Chocolate Brownie-Cookies)

Once upon a time a prince went to battle to defend the borders of his father's kingdom against a hostile tribe. His wife, the princess was left to guard the kingdom's vast treasures.
The invaders were fierce--they defeated the princes' army and advanced on the capital city. Alarmed the princess hid the treasure. The barbarians took the city, captured the princess and ransacked the royal keep, seeking treasure.
Not finding it, they tortured the princess. Despite her prolonged suffering she did not reveal the hiding place of the treasure. Enraged they killed her.
But from her blood sprouted the cocoa plant and eversince that time people have known there is treasure hidden in its seeds, as rich and strong as love itself , but bitter as love torn/lost.

Hello dear friends, I'm back with everything that you love about this blog-- the history, the fables, the food, ....and yours' truly; thus making this humble place dearer and special.
Thank you so much for the overwhelming comments on the last post and all those wonderful wishes/comments. I know that they were truly heartfelt because I could feel the warmth when I read them.
All the love I get from my readers, followers, admirers, fills me up with immense joy and pride--thanks for being there...for sticking by me, my friends!
All's well at my end and I am dying to know whats abuzz at blogosphere.
Couldn't wait till 1st April to post this (wink wink). Can't stay away from you guys for long!
Will be off making courtesy calls to all of you now! :)
But not before I divulge the creative recipe of these indulgent Brownie-Cookies, I made for the birthday of a dear kid, of a friend.
Cookies and brownies in one! Could life get any better?!!
Note: This dough requires chilling the dough overnight, keep this in mind while planning your cookie baking.

Double Chocolate Brownie-Cookies
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup cocoa powder (not sweet chocolate powder)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground almonds/walnuts(if not using nuts, substitute with ap flour)
2 tsps baking powder
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
In a mixing bowl combine flour, ground walnuts/almonds and baking powder.
Beat oil, sugar, and cocoa together in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs to oil and cocoa mixture one egg at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Mix in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips. Knead the dough slightly, if required dust with a little flour for ease in kneading.
Wrap the dough in cling foil and chill overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease cookie sheet.
Take the dough out 2 minutes before you intend to bake it.
In between two parchment paper/sheets, place the dough and roll out to about 1/2 inch thickness. Dust your cookie cutter with flour and cut out desired shapes.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes.