Thursday, February 26, 2009

My Vegan Ginger-Snap Cookies ...& a months' break !!

Phoebe: Observe the art of seduction. Watch, learn, and don't eat my cookie.”

FYI--I am an ardent blogger and get extremely excited each time I see a comment or an increase in the "followers' list" of my blog. However a couple of days back I discovered that my blog followers' list was short by a couple of followers/readers. I was so dishevelled and saddedned that a few of my readers actually stopped following my posts/blog, even after all the time and effort I put into making my posts interesting & informative, with easy and healthy recipes(food for the body) together with cultural and food history(food for the mind).

But thanks to Natasha (5 star foodie) I got to know that it wasn't my posts but a technical glitch that made a few of my followers 'anonymous' instead of the usual 'public' followers. And that my followers have to change their status to 'public' once again to make up for the lost numbers in the followers' list of my blog.

Please read here for all the details and share your experiences.


If ever I was to sit and make a list of my favourite cookies Ginger snap cookies would sure feature on that list (ofcourse my version with choco-chips). This is a highly addictive, chewy cookie that you will not stop at one, especially if I tell you its all healthy too! The subtle hint of cardamom and the warmth of the ginger is sure to please your palette during this last lap of winter.

Generally I do add eggs to my cookie dough, but these were made especially for a vegetarian friend of mine, sometime early in January '09, so I skipped the eggs. However,the taste was even better I guess 'cause my hub asked for seconds and thirds (which isn't the case normally as he is not very enthusiastic about spiced cookies).

My Vegan Ginger-Snap Cookies
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup molasses/brown sugar
2-3 tbsp golden syrup (you can use corn syrup too)
2 tsp root ginger powder
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
a pinch of cardamom
1/3 cup canola oil/cooking oil
1/2 tsp baking soda
a small pinch of salt

Spray cookie sheet with nonstick spray; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl beat the oil with the brown sugar, baking
soda, ginger, cardamom, salt and golden syrup; beat until combined.
Stir in the whole-wheat and all purpose flours with a
wooden spoon. Add the chocolate chips.
Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
Place 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Flatten a little with your palm.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 to 11 minutes or until set and tops are cracked.
Remove from cookie sheet. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: The longer the cookies bake, the more crisp they will be.

A note:

I will be taking a months' leave from blogging due to personal reasons(shifting homes).
Its just for a short while and is much needed. (Trust me on this one!)
Will look forward to seeing all you guys once I am back. Do keep stopping by though....and please keep my (virtual) home abuzz. Its a request!


Monday, February 23, 2009

I don't need a 'STRAW' to drink this 'BERRY' Shake !! :p

"Imagine," said the wise man, "that the moon was made of strawberry. Would all socks be pink and all flowers meringue? Perhaps... and when evening falls shall we slide down the crescent laughing as we splash into warm waters of sweet milk, how enchanting life would be."

Guess where I got this quote from.......

......a tube of pink strawberry milkshake scented body scrub! lol.... Who knew toiletries could be so whimsical.

Today is Maha Shivratri - the name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva and it is believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati.
On this festival people worship Lord Shiva-The Destroyer. This night marks the night when Lord Shiva danced the 'Tandav'.

About the Lord-
Shiva - the word meaning auspicious - is one of the Hindu Trinity, comprising of Lord Brahma, the creator, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and Lord Shiva or Mahesh, the Destroyer and Re-Producer of life. Shiva is known by many names like "Shankar", "Mahesh", "Bholenath", "Neelakanth", "Shambhu Kailasheshwar", "Umanath", "Nataraj" and others.

He is the most sought-after deity amongst the Hindus and they pray to him as the god of immense large-heartedness who they believe grants all their wishes. Around him are weaved many interesting stories that reveal His magnanimous heart. Not only this, but the related stories and legends also enrich the Indian culture and art.

A few of the stories attatched to this festival-
(1) This is a famous legend on Shivaratri and happened during the churning of ocean by Devas(gods) and Asuras(demons) to get ‘Amrit’- the secret blessed rasa(juice) that could give eternal life. While churning the ocean, a pot of highly toxic poison was also released before the amrit could be found. Lord Shiva drank this posion. For the poison to have no effect, Lord Shiva should not sleep. So the ‘devas’ and ‘asuras’ kept praying the whole night. Pleased with the devotion Lord Shiva said "whoever worships me on this day will get their wishes fulfilled".

(2) There once lived a tribal hunter who was a Shiva devotee. One day he lost his way while hunting and was lost in the forest at night. Soon wild animals started to gather around him and he climbed a Bael tree. In order to keep himself awake, he started plucking the trees' leaves and dropped it down repeating ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. In the morning, he discovered that he had been dropping the leaves on a Shivling/Lingum. And the word spread that he was saved by Lord Shiva. People started celebrating the day as Shivratri.

The story is mentioned in the epic Mahabharata by Bhismha while lying on the bed of arrows. The hunter was re-born as King Chitrabhanu who could remember his previous births.

(3)Apart from these myths, it is said that the reunion of Lord Shiva and Parvati happened on this day, hence it is auspicious.

The Festivity-
People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water and they keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" continues. Offerings of Bael leaves are made to the Lingam as Bael leaves are considered very sacred and it is said that Goddess Lakshmi resides in them.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the "Shiva Mahimna Stotra" of Pushpadanta or Ravana's "Shiva Tandava Stotra" are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the 'Panchakshara' Mantra, "Om Namah Shivaya". He, who utters the names of Shiva during Shivratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins and attains Nirvana.

Infact its believed that if unmarried girls/spinsters fast on this day and pray to Lord Shiva they are granted the husband of their choice soon.

Well I cannot confirm this myth as I never fasted and still have been blessed with a man I could never have dreamed pride....the reason behind my smile, my husband.

I made this milkshake today for myself and those who fast can take this too as its fruits and milk which is permissible during fasting.
Strawberry Milkshake
2 glasses milk, chilled (skimmed/2 %/ whole)
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
2 tbsp scant sugar (adjust according to tartness of strawberries, mine were extremely sweet)
In a blender churn all the ingredients together. Garnish with a strawberry slice and serve.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Foodies Face-Off....Blogger Aid....& Guacamole in Avacado skin.

"...the avocado is a food without rival among the fruits, the veritable fruit of paradise."
— David Fairchild

My parents-in-law are here and I have been treating them to my home made delicacies...infact as I write this my f-i-l is telling he needs a digestive as the narkel-chana daal I made was so good that he has had a lot for lunch...burp! Well thats that for playing a gracious hostess.

Here's a piece discovered while yours' truly was surfing widely on the web that has made everything possible in our world. This may or may not be true but it sure is a fun read. This is something every foodie would be interested in....

Amanda Hesser says this in her essay, "Foodies Face Off" first printed in the Times Magazine. In it, she and her then boyfriend and some other foodies meet at Craft right after it first opened. Though she doesn’t include a list, she makes some observations about foodies that may be universal:
1) Foodies bitch about everything, including the menu layout.
2) While other people when dining out try to avoid long silences at dinner, foodies are fine with them. After all, they need to concentrate when they’re memorizing the menu, scrutinizing an entree, and savoring the first bites of each course!
3) Foodies often drink alot. A drink list for the night that includes prosecco, reisling, gamay, barolo, grappa, and a bourbon may be an individual’s, not the table’s.
4) A table of foodies cannot overlap orders.
5) Even if the chef has created a dish that’s “supposed to entertain your palate from the first bite to the last,” expect to plate swap at a foodie dinner.
6) A table of foodies may make slightly obscene noises– moans, slurps, etc.– thorughout the course of a meal.
And last,
7) Non-foodie friends who dine with a table of foodies will be at various times throughout the meal angst ridden, embarassed by wonkiness, or incredibly bored.

Now something close to my heart......

I did the Blogger Bake Off first virtual effort at returning to the society in my own small way.

The next was when I joined Blogger Aid , a group I joined because we can help ! It is striving to support the World Food Programme of the United Nations'.

You can read more about it at Giz, Ivy or Val' s blogs. The wonderful persevering people behing Blogger Aid.

A widely popular food with a rich history, guacamole is used as a sauce, dip, accompaniment and salad by millions of Americans every day.The basic ingredients for guacamole, aside from the main star avocado, includes lime or lemon juice and salt. I like to mix it up more myself and have a guacamole dip my style...with a secret ingredient---the Spice of the Gods, playing with the original invention of The Aztecs.
I send this simple yet different Guacamole recipe of mine to the cookbook to be published in aid of initiative of Blogger Aid.
Book your copy today and spread the word!

How can I sign off without my signature.... Here's some fascinating information.

The word "avocado" descends linguistically from the ancient Nahuatl (a dialect of ancient Aztec) word ahuacatl, meaning "testicles."

When the Spaniards encountered the Aztec empire back in the 1500s, the locals were making a sauce called ahuaca-mulli, which means "avocado-mixture." The dish was prepared by mashing avocados, sometimes with tomatoes and onions. Sound familiar? Add a few hot peppers and a touch of cilantro, and you've got modern guac.

The Aztecs believed the avocado to be an aphrodisiac, they called the avocado tree ‘ahuacuatl’ which means ‘testicle tree’. The ancients thought the pear-shaped fruit hanging from the tree resembled (and I guess they weren’t too far off) testicles and believed that eating the fruit would make one potent and sexually stimulated. So on that date this week, throw out the dark chocolate and put down some avocado slices. :p

Friday, February 13, 2009

Glad to be back....with Dates & Almonds Moon(cake) Cookies

“Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday and celebrate just living!”

So I am back from Malaysia -Truly Asia, my short holiday with my best friend (read my hub). The last few days have been crazy, we’ve seen and done so much, I will try and give you a concise run down!

We reached Kuala Lumpur and drove down to surrounding villages/beach villas and also spent a day at Gentings- the world famous ‘city of entertainment’. As you must have guessed my bones refuse to budge anymore…lol. I am tired yet exhilarated and refreshed …all at the same time.
(No one can understand a woman…not even she herself! ;p)

Please pardon me for not sharing all my personal pictures and other details of our holidays in this post, as I have my apprehensions because of a previous bad experience. And since this is a Food Blog I will restrict my escapades to the culinary world alone.

Talking of food, what was most intriguing were the meal times here. Malaysians have four meals in a day, like most of us—breakfast, lunch, dinner (at 7.30 pm) and supper at around 11-12 pm in a Mamak Stall.
A Mamak Stall was the very first thing we saw in Malaysia (after the international airport that is), when our friends took us there for a midnight snack of Tea Tarek, Chicken satay, Roti Chennai and Nasi Lemak .

My first lunch was delightful here…the waiter travelling around with his trolly complete with dim sums in all varieties ..steamed, deep fried, sticky chicken rice-buns, some other tasty morsels the names of which I don’t remember yet their taste still lingers on my tongue.

Being high on soups I tried the famous Thai Laksa at the Food Republic here with lots of chilli (hot hot!) and Tom Yam at a Resturant. Ha Mee at Chinatown was a winner with prawns and stir fried noodles.
Malaysian food is basically a mix of different cuisines –Indian, Chinese, Islamic, Thai, Korean, Indonesian etc. so it has something for even the most picky eaters.
You can read more about this cuisine here.

Apart from the regular touristy things we also visited places like Chinatown, Little India that had some character and it was a pleasure browsing the streets.
Putrajaya was miraculously quiet and spotlessly clean. Although we could not enter the Putra mosque the domed structure was very overwhelming.
We were lucky as we visited KL during the Thai Possum festival and could see the serpentine queues of devotees piercing their bodies to prove the purity of their soul and get their wishes granted at the Batuk Caves. I was told that if at piercing ur cheeks/or other body parts like toungue etc no blood oozes that is an indication that your soul is pure. (I have no intentions of confirming this theory though.)

The KL tower was good but I was mesmerized by the renowned KLCC Twin Towers. Had read a lot about this engineering marvel and there I was walking on its bridge. The drive from KL to Gentings was picturesque and inundated with wonderful flowers and tress, very scenic and calming. The theme park was 'relatively' not very big but was surely fun. ‘Sky Venture’ was one of my favourite rides. We stopped at the Genting Temple on our return to KL and it was here that I saw the deep connection of Malaysia with India…the 18 immortals of the Malay Buddhism, all hailed from the ‘land of milk and honey’.

As for shopping I shopped more for food items than clothes/accessories as far as I can remember. Infact all my souveniers were also food items. ;p
Goji berries, dried guavas (something I had never seen before), large sunflower seeds, chicken floss, exotic nuts etc. And oh yes I bought some art & craft stuff too like the paper lanterns, paper mache birds and various kind of beautiful beads.(For those who don’t know, my creativity is also vented out in crafts and paintings!)
We returned the second day following the 15th day of the Chinese New Year and have been catching up on sleep since then. (Honestly I can sleep more ….snorezzzzzz!)

Ok I will not take any more of your time, ranting about my fun and frolic Malaysian holiday. Instead I will share with you what I made recently.
Note: I could not take pictures of all the stuff we ate, less people think I am crazy. My apologies to my readers!

I do not know the Chinese name of this cookie, so I call it the Moon Cookie because of the mooncake-mould imprints. The mooncake craziness is the direct result of me buying my first wooden mooncake mould, when we went to China (Shenzhen etc) last year.

This is another one from my ever growing list of culinary adventures. It was inspired by the cookies I bought at the Hong Kong Brands and Products Expo, around the time of CNY and couldn’t wait to duplicate it at home.
The only difference being that I baked them with dates and almonds paste instead of the orthodox lotus seeds’.
It is an unusual take on this traditional pastry that came out more crumbly like a cookie. Never the less a tasty treat and fun to make.

Dates & Almonds Moon(Cake) Cookies

For Pastry-
½ cup plain flour
½ cup almond meal
1 tbsp corn flour
½ cup fine sugar
1 tbsp rice flour
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
¼ cup margarine
2 tbsp or less buttermilk

For Filling-
¼ cup ground almonds
1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped and ground to a paste and cooked for a minute over low flame.
1 tsp ground cinnamon powder
2 tbsp golden syrup (can be substituted with brown sugar, adjust according to desired sweetness)

**Combine all the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4.
In a large bowl combine the margarine and sugar and microwave them together for 30 seconds on high. Allow to cool.
Beat together the egg and buttermilk and add this to the cooled margarine+ sugar bowl.
Add the remaining dry ingredients to this bowl. Mix until well combined with a wooden spoon. Knead the dough onto a floured surface, adding extra flour until it forms a ball that can be easily handled.

Now for the fun part—
Divide the dough into small parts (according to your mould size); flatten and place a spoonful of the filling in the center. Pinch to close and place in a mooncake mould, which has been dredged with flour. Pat down well to completely cover the mould, then knock the mould to remove the cookie.

Tip: Keep your palms floured at all times while pressing the filled cookie dough into the mould.

Place on a lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool before consumption. Store in an air-tight container.
It tastes best if eaten after two days.

Sorry but I couldn’t help sharing this interesting piece on mooncakes—
Mooncakes were used as a medium by the Ming revolutionaries in their espionage effort to secretly distribute letters in order to overthrow the Mongolian rulers of China in the Yuan dynasty. The idea is said to be conceived by Zhu Yuanzhang and his advisor Liu Bowen, who circulated a rumor that a deadly plague was spreading and the only way to prevent it was to eat the special mooncakes. This prompted the quick distribution of the mooncakes, which were used to hide a secret message coordinating the Han Chinese revolt on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month.
Another method of hiding the message was printed in the surface of mooncakes as a simple puzzle or mosaic. In order to read the encrypted message, each of the 4 mooncakes packaged together must be cut into 4 parts each. The 16 pieces of mooncake, must then be pieced together in such a fashion that the secret messages can be read. The pieces of mooncake are then eaten to destroy the message.

I share this wonderful recipe that I have duplicated, with Copycat Recipes at Palachinka. If you want to drool over more do stop by Jennifer- The Domestic Goddess' blog.

Edited: My in-laws are coming over to visit us tomorrow for a week, its their first visit here so will be busy again. Will try to post something , however if I don't please understand my inability! Love you guys. *hugs*

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Persimmon-Walnut Torta Claudia À la mode....& a sweet interlude !

My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M's and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.

I am on the 12-step chocoholics program: I am never more than 12 steps away from chocolate!

Smile! Yes thats what I am doing as I write this post. I am not a quitter...I will NOT give up chocolate ever. Add chocolate to almost anything and it turns out superb. (I am solely referring to chocolate in the sweet form, please.) This cake is a twist to the old fashioned Italian torte.

My first experiment with persimmon was a grand success and so I decided to include this exotic fruit in a cake, till this wonderful recipe almost serendipitiously fell in my lap.

Now my hub's colleagues all know about my madness in the kitchen, the love of food and the enthusiasm I have for my blog. So one kind soul passed me a recipe which she had read somehwere about this gorgeous torte. As usual the creative devil (or angel?!) in me changed it a bit here and a little there to make this famous way!
Quite in time for the anniversary of my marriage registration last year. :)

A layer of spiced persimmon torte sandwhiched between two chocolate cake layers with luscious smooth chantilly and a kiss of rum/brandy.

It takes about an hour to prepare this classic creamy layered torte and it tastes best when chilled for atleast four hours.

This torte carries a special meaning for two reasons. First, its exclusivley for my hub...the love of my life. I can't thank God enough for His match making skills. ;p Second, I had promised myself that I would create new things that I have never tried before at the onset of 2009. And I for one keep my promises. (wink wink)

As promised this cake turned out great and it was an extremely satisfying experince baking it. Its been only a couple of months since the last cake I made exclusivley for my darling...and I am very happy at the result.

I used plain walnut-chocolate chip pound cake instead of the Pan di Spagna which is quite similar to Genoise. It's a simple cake whose major function is to serve as a base for layer cakes, roll cakes and so on. Its characteristic is in that it uses bakers' yeast, which I have conveniently traded for chemical leaveners like baking powder/baking soda (found in self raising flour). I also added ground walnuts to give it a rich flavour.

For the persimmon layer I used the fruits' puree as well as chunks, for the surprise in the mouth. And ofcourse I added extra chocolate chips in all the layers. :)

Persimmon Torta Claudia À la mode

For the chocolate walnut layers-(two 8" layers)
1 1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 eggs, separated
1 tsp vanilla extract
butter for greasing the pan
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup softened butter

For the persimmon layer-(one 8" cake)
1/2 cup persimmon puree
a few chunks of chopped persimmon(optional)
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup self raising flour
1/3 cup sugar (adjust according to tartness of persimmon, mine were very sweet)
2 eggs, separated
1 tbsp softened butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamom powder
1 tsp rum (optional)

*A couple tablespoons of Brandy/dessert wine (eg.Marsala from Sicily)

1 cup of whipping cream
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp of icing sugar
a dash of vanilla extract

**Mix all of the above and whip till the cream becomes frothy. Refrigerate.


For the chocolate walnut layers-
Preheat your oven to 375 F (185 C).

Beat the yolks, butter and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow, light, and has expanded considerably in volume (tripled or more).
Whip the whites to firm peaks. Fold them into the yolks, and then fold the flour,cocoa powder, ground walnuts and the vanilla.
Finally, add the chocolate chips.
Grease and flour a fairly high-sided round 8-inch pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until done (a toothpick inserted will come out dry, and the cake will pull away from the sides of the pan).
Turn the cake out onto a rack to cool.

For the persimmon layer-
Preheat your oven to 375 F (185 C).

Sieve the flour with the nutmeg and cinnamon.
Beat the yolks with the sugar and butter till creamy and pale yellow. Add the rum. Add the flour mix. Then add the persimmon puree and mix lightly together.
Beat the egg whites till they form soft peaks. Fold in the whites into the yolk-flour mix.
Finally add the chocolate chips and the persimmon chunks.
Bake for approx. 30 minutes, keep a check till done. Let cool once done.

For Assembly-

Begin by cutting the chocolate cake once , so as to get two discs.
Place one of the discs on the serving plate/table top. Sprinkle with a little brandy/dessert wine.
Spread a layer of the whipped cream on top of it.
Place the persimmon layer next. Sprinkle this, too with some brandy.
Then spread the whipped cream over it. Cover everything with the last chocolate layer, pressing gently so it sticks.
Chill the cake in the refrigerator (not the freezer) for 4 hours.

Remove the cake from the refrigerator and pour the remaining chantilly over the top of the cake. Decorate with walnut halves. Chill.

Serve this delight and fascinate yourself and others! :)

This is in honour of the celebration of love....our love, this valentine month. I share this recipe with The Alchemist Chef.

Also, in keeping with the 'nuttiness' I also share this with Aquadaze.

An Interlude---

Friends, I am off to Malaysia for a week, to celebrate with my valentine. Hence, will not be here on the blogosphere, wanted you guys to remember me with something this post. :)

(I secretly hope that I will be missed...ok I know its not a secret now !) ;p

Keep smiling and do share your views. Will be back soon. :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Dragon-fruit Double Chocolate Brownie with Chocolate Dulce de Leche

"I have this theory that chocolate slows down the aging process.... It may not
be true, but do I dare take the chance? "

The first time I ever ate a brownie was at Nahomes’ in Kolkata, India. It was during school days, that a christian friend of mine introduced me to the oldest bakery at New Market in Kolkata.I never had tasted anything quite like it and since then brownies took over the top spot of cakes in my ‘love-it-list’.

I loved placing bets..still do.. (mostly because I won....and before your mind starts wandering, it was just for fun and strictly non-monetary) on silly things, like “you bet we won’t have tuitions today”…or “I bet the project submission dates will be extended..” etc etc.

And the prize would always be (yes you guessed it !) either a Cadbury’s Perk/Crackle or a Nahomes’ Brownie.

FYI- I still place such bets and almost always win!! ;p

The most important aspect of a brownie, for anyone who loves brownies, is texture.
I generally prefer a brownie, somewhere between chewy and fudgy. However I made this of the third kind—cakey.

A cakey brownie has a moist crumb and a slightly fluffy interior. The batter contains less butter than the other recipes, and I include milk for moistness (the milk is a great way to extend a brownie's shelf life). I don't use much flour and while brownies don't usually use chemical leavens, I add some baking powder to keep this cakey brownie light.

When I mix cakey brownies, I use a bit of cake-baking technique, too: creaming the butter and sugar first (rather than melting the butter) and then whisking the batter to aerate the mixture and get a light crumb. I think this brownie improves on sitting at least one and even two days after you bake it.

I used dragon fruits in this brownie to give it an exotic taste and feel.

As we all know I love experimenting with different flavours and cooking techniques in my Take for example the microwave tarts , chana dal medhu vada, fruit and nut malpua, steamed squash dumplings, my exotic trifle, macha tea & coffee cake, chives n shrimp balls, my style krusczyki, chicken lollies....and the list continues! ;p

Dragon fruits-
A pitaya or pitahaya is the fruit of several cactus species, most importantly of the genus Hylocereus (sweet pitayas). These fruits are commonly known as dragon fruits.

By eating the highly nutritional pitaya fruit, you gain all of the general health benefits of the pitaya nutrients simply because pitaya fruit is a great all around healthy fruit to eat with lots of beneficial nutrients which are readily metabolized from the natural pitahaya fruit (For example, dragon fruit vitamin C is more easily absorbed than vitamin C from a pill supplement).

One special health benefit of dragon fruit is that ot helps control levels of glucose blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. Its a store house of dietary fibre and Vitamin C.

Dragon-fruit Brownie with Chocolate Dulce de Leche

Dragon-fruit Brownie

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp instant coffee
1/2 cup margarine
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup dragon fruit pulp & juice
¼ cup or less warm milk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

First sieve the flour, baking powder, coffee and salt. Keep aside.
In a bowl, whisk the sugar and margarine with vanilla extract. Add half of the milk to this.

Microwave the semi-sweet chocolate chips for 1 minute, stirring occasionally.

Cut the dragon fruit in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon.

Note: Since the seeds are slightly bitter in taste, I used half the pulp; and used the juice of the other half (with a strainer).

Whisk the wet ingredients into dry. Add the pulp and the dragon fruit juice to this. Add more milk, if required. Pour in your choice of baking tray.
Bake for approx. 30 minutes. Keep a check.

Tip: Brownies are done when the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs still clinging. It's okay for the pick to look moist, but if you see wet batter, keep baking.

One last word: although it's awfully tempting to cut into a pan of just-baked brownies, hold off. The flavor and texture of this brownie will be at its best—and definitely worth waiting for—when completely cool.

I made two brownies and sandwhiched them together with a layer of chocolate buttercream in between. You can try this icing too.
Then topped my brownie with some fresh Chantilly and drizzled with the Chocolate Dulce de Leche .

For Chocolate Dulce de Leche-
(This is my version for simplicity sake!)
I added chocolate chunks to the condensed milk to add flavour. You can use your choice of flavouring or keep it plain too.

In a microwave safe pie dish, empty half a can (200 gm/7 ounces) of condensed milk. Add ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips over it. Stir in a pinch of sea-salt.
Cover tightly, twice with MW safe cling foil.
Place this in a deeper baking tray (MW safe) filled a little over half with water.
MW on medium high for 8-10 minutes. Keep checking mid way through.
(Adjust time/temperature setting according to your MW oven).
Once done, let cool. Whisk until smooth.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Warm gently in a warm water bath or microwave oven before using.

Now for some history lesson--
It is said that Dulce de Leche originated in Argentina in 1829 in the providence of Cañuelas in Buenos Aires. Two opposing forces were on the brink of ending a war. The General Lavalle and the General Manuel de Rosas came together in order to make a treaty.

The General Lavalle arrived very tired at the campo of General Manuel de Rosas. Manuel de Rosas wasn’t in the camp at the moment so General Lavalle entered into his tent and took a nap.

While the General Lavalle was napping a serving woman was preparing “la lechada” for the camp. “La lechada” is prepared by heating sugar and milk. The woman went to speak with the General Manuel de Rosas in his tent, but when she entered she discovered the enemy. She didn’t know about the treaty the two generals were about to make, so she ran to find soldiers.

The General Manuel de Rosas arrived moments before the soldiers, and stopped them from waking the sleeping General Lavalle. In the chaos, the woman forgot about “la lechada.”
When she remembered and checked on “la lechada,” she noticed that it had become a dark brown jelly substance. It is said that a very (brave) and hungry soldier tried the jelly and then dulce de leche was born.


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

Also, this was a dry run for my Valentines' day dessert recipe. Wait and watch for Feb 14th! :)
I share this lovely dessert with The Alchemist Chef's Valentines' Day Recipe Competition, who is striving to have a great collection of recipes before the "Celebration of Love" day !
Another V-day giveway notice( if it interests you)--
Check this place for a surprise V-day basket of goodies!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sonth ke laddu --- Energizing Power balls

“Food is so primal, so essential a part of our lives, often the mere sharing of recipes with strangers turns them into good friends…”

I recall as a child, whenever my mom (a complete home-maker) met her sisters/sis-in-laws/girl-friends or there was an all-women gathering/kitty party etc, ‘food’ was the inevitable topic and exchange of recipes the most popular pastime.

I remember my mom asking us in the morning at breakfast what we wished to have for lunch, and then at lunchtime, what we wanted to eat for dinner….and the cycle continued. Her world revolved around us and feeding us.
Infact my dad, a great food enthusiast, fueled it further by encouraging her to try new recipes…and inviting guests all the time. If that wasn’t enough we had guests at times who arrived unannounced, since they happen to pass by our place. And God forbid but if it was meal time, mum would go out of her way to feed them. Phew!

So exchange of recipes wasn’t really a pastime…but almost a necessity. Like, a rajasthani neighbour of ours taught mum how to make Gatte ki Sabzi, my granny’s famous Narkel Nadu was inspired by her bengali maid's cooking…etc etc.

Although a great cook, my grandmother, (I am sure we all feel that way about our grannies) never had a recipe book…so my mom has never really had one…and obviously that means there has not been any handing down of a recipe book to me, too.
So what happened to the recipes that changed hands…well that’s in the head! And now with the computer age it is a mammoth task for me to memorize all the recipes (especially because I try to explore cuisines of the world too)…so I use my blog to document them.

Here is one such recipe that I got from my grandma and then my maa. Sonth ke laddu are a sweet delicacy made of whole wheat flour, mastic gum, root ginger powder, almonds, raisins, clarified butter, fenugreek seeds, sugar, dry fruits etc. They are very healthy and provide warmth to the body, hence best eaten during winters. Its specifically great for lactating mothers. Each time there was a pregnancy in our family (sisters-in-law , married cousins, pregnant aunts etc) I looked forward to these laddus….I just couldn’t stop at one. ;p
Made them for the first time and have been having them for breakfast regularly.

These laddus are also referred to as Methi ke laddu or Gond ke laddu.

Sonth ke laddu


2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp methi/fenugreek powder
1 ¼ cup powdered sugar/confectioners’ sugar
½ cup clarified butter/ghee
½ cup almonds,chopped
½ cup raisins
¼ cup mastic gum/gond
1 ½ tsp root ginger powder
Milk for sprinkling


In a deep bottomed pan, sieve the whole wheat flour. Roast this flour with 2 tbsp of ghee, on medium heat. Take care not to burn it, keep moving the flour till its turns a slightly darker shade. It will release its nutty aroma. Remove from heat.

In a different wok, heat 2 tbsp clarified butter. Add the mastic gum and roast on medium high heat, till they puff up.
Remove from heat and let cool. Crush them coarsely in a grinder or by hand.

Now, in a bigger bowl mix the flour & mastic gum with all the other ingredients. Mix well with hand and make golf-sized balls.
Note: Sprinkle with a little milk, if required to bring the mixture together.

Store in air-tight jars. The shelf life is upto 15 days.

My pictures are on two scales—yellow and white. Thats because the food pictures are taken as and when they are cooked- evening or day. I don’t wait to click later (for fear that we will finish the food before any pictures can be taken…lol..). I am not a pro at food-photography. A simple Canon digital camera and with practically no lighting system. Golden mellow lights are all good, nice looking and very comforting ..but when it comes to taking pictures in them they aren’t exactly the best lighting.

Thus you may not find the greatest of pics. But trust me I try and plate the tasty morsels like a pro. (The keyword is ‘try’ here.)

I send theses laddus over to Think Spice-Think Twice event, brainchild of Sunita.

And to The Alchemist Chef's Valentines' Day Recipe Competition, as this dish is a celebration of love for tradition and food!