BROWNIES (and a little nostalgia)

 

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I have been meaning to post these recipes since a long, long time….but life gets in the way of blogging and the old laptop plays up like your stubborn teen and the Y key needs to be stabbed atleast 5 times before it works…… in the interim moments of inspiration come and vanish and before I know it, its months since I have typed out my story.  I am trying to avoid the Y key but is so damned tough (LOL)

 

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These are the lines that move my heart with a little regret, a little sorrow and nostalgia. It makes me wish I had held on longer to those baby moments, wish I had done some “conscious living” when I held his baby fingers and made him walk, when his dribble slid down my neck, when I bathe him and ended up getting wet,  Wish I had built more sand castles on the beach with him instead of burying my head in a novel, played with his lego blocks more often. Wish I hadn’t used a sharp voice when his little fingers couldn’t colour within the line or when more food ended up on the T shirt than in his mouth. Wish I had spoilt him a little more, laughed and tolerated his naughtiness without feeling the need to correct him, behaved his age and less mine.  I wish and I long for that little baby who made numerous demands on my time, energy, patience and emotions. I long for that little boy who loved to watch “scaredy” movies and wanted stories read in the characters’ voices, who lost his socks, always had untied shoe laces (and still does),  who called out in the middle of the night and always found an excuse to snuggle into my bed.

As I watch my lanky teen silently doing his own thing, wordlessly browsing through is phone I miss that chatter. His eyes roll at “lame” “Mom” jokes, there are no more secretive giggles, all you get are moody nods, monosyllabic expressions and demands of a different kind. Occasional smiles, Thank yous and Hugs suddenly bring that little boy to the fore and light up my bleakest days.  So now I “live” and cherish these hugs, smiles, laughs and conversations to the fullest and when I hear “Can I have some brownies?” instead of saying “Too much sugar”, I wink and say “Why not?”

 

 

 

BROWNIES

The Oreo Cookie Brownies are a family favourite and I carry them as gifts whenever I have forgotten to buy one and to bake sales and whip them up for easy brownie desserts or just thaw the frozen ones in my freezer ( ha…ha). It’s a recipe I sourced from La cuisine d’Helene by Ina Garten.

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The second one is by Jamie Oliver, everyone’s favourite guy. This is the second time I have made them and they are extremely soft, gooey and moorish. I kept the proportions the same but just changed the method.

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Don’t you all think baking brownies is somewhat like mothering? How can you go wrong with so much love (chocolate, butter, nuts), attention (keep an eye on them, don’t over bake, ever) and a little bit of common sense?….. and your brownies will turn out just fine.

 

RECIPE 1

OREO BROWNIES (by Ina Garten from la cuisine d’Helene)

Makes a 10×12  inch pan

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240gms butter

250 grms semi sweet chocolate chips

90 grms dark chocolate

1 1/2 tablespoon instant coffee granules

1 tablespoon vanilla

60 grms flour

1/2 teaspoon baking poder

1/2 teaspoon salt

25 Oreo cookies chopped into tiny pea sized bits

  • Pre heat oven to 180 C
  • Line a 10×12 inch Pan  with grease proof paper. Make sure the corners are neat and not crumpled
  • In a heat proof bowl set over a double boiler melt both the chocolates and butter stirring to break up lumps.
  • In a large mixing bowl  whisk together the sugar, eggs, coffee, vanilla.(I give it a good whisk till the mixture is thick and frothy. this is against brownie making principles. But this is what gives my brownies that crust on top when baked)
  • Add the slightly cooled butter and chocolate mixture to the egg mix and stir till its well mixed and smooth.
  • Sift together flour baking powder and salt. Ad a tablespoon of the flour mix to the oreo and coat well.
  • Add the oreos o the chocolate mxture, followed by the flour. Mix well to ensureno lumps of flour remain.
  • Pour the brownie mix into the pan and bake 35 minutes until a skewer inserted 3inches from the side of the pan comes out clean. do not over bake. cool to room temperature and refrigerate for 2 hours before cutting.

 

 

RECIPE 2

CHOCOLATE WALNUT BROWNIES (Jamie Oliver)

Makes a 10×12 in pan

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200 g quality dark chocolate (70%)

250 g unsalted butter

75 g dried sour cherries , optional

50 g chopped nuts , optional

80 g quality cocoa powder

65 g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

360 g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Line baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Break chocolate into a large bowl, add the butter and place over a pan of simmering water, until melted, stirring regularly.
  3. Sift the cocoa powder and flour into a separate bowl, add the baking powder. Stir through the  nuts (if using).
  4.  Beat the eggs and sugar until froth and add to the slightly cooled chocolate mixture. mix in the dry ingredients until you have a silky consistency.
  5. Pour the brownie mix into the baking tin, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. skewer inserted an inch or 2 from the edge of the tin should comeot clean and the centre must be soft and goey/
  6. Allow to cool in the tray, then carefully transfer to a large chopping board and cut into chunky squares.
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COCONUT CARAMEL MINI BITES

 

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I was speaking to a friend last week and she asked “So what’s the plan for Valentine’s Day?”  Am I the only one who gets asked stupid questions? Every year I reply “Nothing special” and feel like a freak. This time I answered “Oh I am wearing my new black, lacy corset with the pink stilettos and taking the dog for a walk”. The man of the house heard this and choked on his beer and peanuts and the gawky teen rolled his eyes and muttered under his breath. Did I say something wrong? Freak! So, my friend and soon-to- be enemy pressed on ”Seriously, how will you show love, come on”   Show my love? Oh yeah…..for the last 5 years we wake up at the crack of dawn to pack food and drinks so that a young boy can pursue his passion, I load endless number of dishes into the dishwasher and piles of colour coordinated laundry into the washing machine, I tolerate male blindness and make lost T shirts appear out of thin air, I have cleaned blood, puke and poop endlessly, driven at 100 km/hour on empty roads to get the boy to training on time, held hands, prayed for patience and rejoiced at the victories, cried for our losses, smiled when I wanted to bash up the 2 men. We have shared, fought, kissed away tears, made up after a spat, held hands and assured each other, tied a fractured wrist in a splint, massaged aching backs, iced sore shoulders, supported each other’s dreams, gone to hell and back  and lived every minute of everyday for each other through thick and thin, sick and sin.  If that doesn’t show love, nothing  will. I guess everyday should be a celebration then.

 

 So 2 days before the advent of the “romantic day” Man of the house flew away on business leaving me with the temperamental teen. Teen declares “I want something different, coconutty”  Since no heart shaped candies were likely to come my way I decided on these coconut caramel bites to please the teen and see if it evoked any romance in my 40 plus heart. Fat chance!

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I have seen this recipe on one of the cooking shows where vegan food and vegan cheesecakes are ooh-ed and aah-ed over. They used coconut oil in the recipe. My only relationship with coconut oil went as far as my hair, so I decided on butter. Ofcourse being a healthy treat they omitted sugar but I did not want to risk feeding them to the bin so sugar won over healthy.  I have no big love for home made chocolates but these little treats are quite good. They are chewy in the centre with the bitter chocolate coating offering a contrasting flavour. Teen was generous with his praise and going “Mmmm”. I got a Happy “Momentine” hug and make some more  soon whispered in my ear…..ha ha….Love is in the air.

 

 

 

RECIPE

 

COCONUT CARAMEL BITES

 

MAKES- 15 PIECES

 

130 grams finely shredded, dessicated coconut (unsweetened)

 

200 ml coconut cream

 

50 grams  sugar

 

1 teaspoon butter

 

190 grams dark chocolate (baking)

 

Line a tin or cookie sheet with non stick paper, In a shallow saucepan heat sugar with a teaspoon of water on medium heat. The sugar will start darkening at the edge. Swirl the pan so as to avoid burning the sugar. Do not stir. Let the sugar darken to a golden brown.

 

Put off the heat and add the coconut cream. It will start spattering. Put the heat on medium and stirring constantly heat the mixture for 4-5 minutes till it thickens. Add in the coconut and continue stirring on low heat till the mixture comes together to form a sticky dough. Turn off the heat and add the butter and mix.

 

Spoon the mixture onto the lined sheet and shape into a 4’ by 8’ rectangle, using your wet fingers or the back of a spoon. The layer should be even and a little thicker than ¼ inch. Freeze. After 40 minutes in the freezer remove and cut into 15-16 squares. Do not separate yet. These are quite a heavy treat so don’t be too generous. Freeze for another hour or 2.

 

Line another large cookie sheet with non-stick paper. Melt chocolate over a double boiler/ bain-marie. Do not over heat chocolate. Stir occasionally. When partially melted remove from heat and stir, so that the remaining lumps melt in the residual heat. Remove filling from the freezer. Break into the cut pieces. Using 2 forks dip each piece of filling into the chocolate, turning over to coat it evenly. Place on lined sheet. Sprinkle with dessicated coconut (optional) Working fast coat all the pieces and return tray to the fridge.

 

Remove from the fridge (30-40 mins). Store in an air tight container. Keep refrigerated

 

 

 

KHOW SUEY(MY WAY)

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Happy New Year dear readers, visitors, my regulars and the irregulars. By the time you read this we will be half way through the month. Its been one hell of a roller coaster year for us. Moving cities, setting up home in a new place for the 3rd time, a certain loveable boy in my house has turned 15 and shot up by 4 inches overnight, to tower over Dad, , using a new oven in my miniscule kitchen and discovering that 180o is 200 and amidst the ups and downs of life and this wonder called living I feel l lost myself somewhere and discovered a new me, I left behind a piece of my heart elsewhere and fell in love with a new place, a new home and I learnt that I can sand, prime and paint a dresser as well as I can bake. Phew that’s one helluva long sentence and I am out of breath.image

Coming out of the festive season and emerging out into a brand new year knowing that the hype is behind us, has a calming effect on my household. Father and son have realised that we have a kitchen at home too…. with a cook! So we decided to welcome the New Year with a quiet dinner of Khow Suey {Kha-o Sway}. A Burmese dish with Thai, Chinese and Indian influences. Khow Suey is a curry based dish eaten with noodles and topped with interesting little tit-bits like crispy fried garlic, sprouts, crispy onions, chopped parsley, peanuts and a dash of lime juice. Its unusual, simple yet very flavoursome and hearty. It has such a “family feel” to it. It is so much fun to construct your own bowl of Khow Suey at the table and take a helping of the toppings as per your taste. It can be made in a vegetarian, seafood or chicken version. For a change the recipe is longer than my introduction but don’t be intimidated by the length. It’s a simple and fun dish to make and eat. I always make 2 portions extra and yet find that there are raised eyebrows and expressions saying “That’s all?”

Its a very forgiving dish and you can make a plain curry with no additions and just let the toppings do the talking. Go ahead and give it a try….”your way”…”my way” or “the Khow Suey”

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RECIPE

KHOW SUEY

Serves 4

For the curry:

1 tblspn coriander seed powder

1 large onions, chopped roughly

Ginger- thumb-sized

4-5 cloves Garlic

3-4 fresh Red Chillies (alter according to your spice threshold)

Zest of 1 lemon

1-2 tablespoon oil

300 ml coconut milk

  • Grind all the above ingredients to a fine paste
  • In a deep vessel heat the oil, lower the heat and fry the paste on low heat of 4-5 minutes, stirring so occasionally. If the paste sticks to the bottom of the pan, add a little water. Turn off the heat and add the coconut milk. Cook the curry on low heat for 6-7 minutes stirring often. it should be thick and creamy. Add salt to taste. Keep aside.
  • For Vegeterian curry: Red and yellow peppers, Carrots, Water chestnuts, Brocolli. A total of 300 grms of vegetables chopped to bite sized pieces. Stir fry in a pan with a tablespoon of oil and a pinch of salt, on high heat for 5 mins. Keep aside. Add to the curry before you serve.*
  • For prawn/ chicken curry: 400 grams of prawn or chicken (cut into 2 inch pieces). Can be added to the curry and cooked till done. This step can be done just before you serve. *

 

*The reason for the last minute addition of the veg and meat being that it doesn’t over cook to a soggy mess.

Noodles:

  • 5 portions of noodles (approx. 450 grms). Cook according to instructions on pack. Drain in a colander. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons of oil and mix well coating the noodles to avoid sticking. Keep warm.

Toppings:

  • 10-12 cloves of garlic sliced thinly, deep fried to a golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and place in a small bowl
  • 1 large onion sliced and deep fried to a golden brown. Drain on kitchen towel and place in a small bowl
  • 100 grams bean sprouts stir fried
  • A handful of peanuts, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup coriander chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • 2 hard-boiled Eggs (cut into quarters)

Put above toppings in individual serving bowls and line the bowls in a tray ready to serve.

 

Assembling Khow suey

  • In a large soup bowl or deep dish add a portion of noodles. Top with curry. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of each topping and a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!!

DIWALI SWEETS

SANKAR PALA & NANKHATAI

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Yes, its Diwali time for us Indians. In every household in India in whatever way and whichever form everyone will celebrate Diwali, whether it lighting lamps, doing Laxmi Pooja or kids bursting crackers. It’s so Indian to celebrate Diwali, irrespective of your faith, community, class. This year we are in Singapore, with its large Indian community it lacks the festive hustle and bustle. All around there are posters wishing Happy Diwali, announcing Diwali dinners and the Metro compartements are decked up with Indian motifs but the buzz and the beat, the colour and dance and FOOD (deep fried, sweet, savoury, spicy) its just not here. To put it kindly this is a polite, watered down version of the Diwali a Mumbai girl is used to.

A true blue Indian Diwali is an assault on your senses. The noise and colour and crowds and the food is enough to drive you into a tizzy and go meditate in the Himalayas after the festivities are done. The crackers are burst a million a minute, its one continuous “rat-a-tak-tak”. If migraine is not your thing then care for some asthma please? The streets are jammed with people in all their jhatak (shiny, gaudy) finery, the loudspeekers are belting out Bollywood music and the food is the focal point. The fantastic array of sweets and savouries, makes the noise and crowds and the sudden surge in air pollution bearable. Visiting friends to wish them has a special attraction. Even Mr. Junior the sullen teenager who is reluctant to accompany us on meet and greet sessions is quite excited and doesn’t pout or show attitude. From chaklis to chivda, gulab jamuns to gathiya, from mithai to mawa barfis, it a feast fit for a king.

I can guardedly say that though I don’t miss the crackers and noise and air pollution, I did miss out on dressing up in my sari and jewellery and making the gourmet tour around the city. Yes, away from home Diwali is Rookha-Sookha (Sad and Dry). If not the buzz, I decided to re-create the food that would certainly brighten our Diwali.

Sankar pala and Nan Khatai are two popular diwali farsans (snacks).

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Sankar pala is a crispy fried cookie which is sweet and mildly savoury and an excellent accompaniment to your cuppa. Nan Khatai is an Indian cousin of Shortbread biscuits but laden with ghee and cardamom. I topped it with nuts to add to the richness. Both are easy to prep and have very similar ingredients but the final product is chips and cookies (makes sense??)

So dear ones, my readers and visitors, thanks for stopping by and reading my crazed essays and showing your “Likes”…Happy Diwali! Go on make these rich, ghee laden, sugar filled sweets and enjoy the festivities…….if you can’t then what’s the point of those salads.

RECIPE (from  vegrecipesofindia.com )

SANKAR PALA

1 ½ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup Semolina/ Rava

½ cup castor sugar

3 tablespoons ghee (melted)

Pinch of salt

½ to ¾ cup warm milk

Sunflower or any odourless Oil for deep frying

  • In a bowl or thali sieve the semolina, flour and salt. Add in the sugar and mix well using your fingers.
  • Pour in the ghee and rub it into the flour.
  • Add the milk a little at a time, bringing the dough together with your hands. Keep adding the milk till you get a firm but pliable dough. You may not need to use all the milk.
  • Divide the dough into large tennis sized balls and roll it out to 1/8th inch thickness. Cut the rough edges using a knife or pizza cutter. Cut into diamond shapes. Reusing the scraps roll out more dough.
  • Heat oil in a deep vessel. Turn down the heat to medium-low. Fry the cookies until golden brown, turning and flipping often. Drain on kitchen paper and store in an air tight container.

 

 

 

NAN KHATAI

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A close relative of the short bread cookies, these are popular cookies in western India, made usually during Diwali by The Maharashtrian and Gujarati communities. Most households in India do not own ovens. The ladies make the dough at home and bring it to the commercial bakeries for baking. Before the festival you can see long serpentine queues of women sitting on the pavements outside bakeries, patiently rolling the dough into balls and lining them up in tins, cheerfully chatting away, blissfully unaware of the traffic chaos they are causing. They are forgiven for the sake of these heavenly cookies and anyways all is fair and taken for granted in the spirit of Diwali.

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RECIPE

1 ¼ cup All-purpose Flour

¼ cup semolina

½ teaspooon Baking Powder

½ cup Caster sugar

½ cup or 8 tablespoons Ghee, at room temperature

¼ teaspoon Vanilla essence

1/2 teaspoon Powdered cardamom

pieces of cashews, Almonds and pistachios (soaked in milk)

  • Mix cardamom powder with the sugar.
  • Add the ghee and mix with a whisk until light and creamy. Add vanilla essence and mix well.
  • Sift the flour semolina and baking powder over the ghee mixture and using your hands bring the mixture together to form a crumbly dough. Add 1-2 tablespoons of warm milk if the dough falls apart.
  • Shape the dough into ping-pong sized balls and flatten them slightly. Embed the tops with the soaked nuts. Line them up on a greased tray and bake for 15-17 minutes at 170o C, until just golden around the edges.
  • Let them cool in the tray for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an air tight container.

 

 

VANILLA AND CHOCOLATE MARBLE CAKE

 

imageLately I have been letting my other pursuits take over my free time and my passion for baking?……hmmm, not really. I look back on the past month and I have baked atleast thrice (relatively lesser than I did in Mumbai) So the conclusion I come to is that I have been lazy and not putting it down on my blog. So this morning I woke with a firm resolve to shelve the patchwork runner I am working on, the most trying and absolutely pointless book that I am reading so that I can discuss it at a book club (that’s a discussion for another day!) and get to work on my blog. So the morning started with a few clicks of the the cakes (yes 2 cakes) I made last evening and you will notice that they both look similar but nonetheless different in taste and composition. I must mention out here that I have been baking for the last one month without a weighing scale. I eye balled a cheesecake and the 2 cakes yesterday were a combination of eyeballing and cup measurements, which I rarely do. Just when I shoved the tins into the oven, the doorbell rang and my new weighing scale was delivered. Hah!! Looks like someone up there is testing my patience and love for baking.

So why 2 tea cakes?? Its my husbands Birthday week. Every year I ask him with the same enthusiasm “Which cake do I bake for your birthday?”, with a hope in my heart and a prayer on my lips that he will ask for a gooey, yummy, dripping with chocolate something. Nooo, that’s not what he wants. He wants tea cakes. My monster teen looks at him with his “come-on-are-you-serious” look and pips in “who has sponge cake for his birthday?” we do every year in September (LOL). So I decided to bake 2 cakes, ofcourse tea time cakes with a chocolate element . The Vanilla Chocolate Marble cake and Banana Chocolate swirl cake with a streusel topping. Hopefully that would satisfy both the men.

The marble cake has been adapted from Rum scented Marble cake from Epicurious. I have made it plenty of times and I can’t deny that its been wonderful, so chocolatey that the white vanilla cake is lost. The marbling always turned out muddy with just a few grains of white, I might as well have made a chocolate cake. So this time I reduced the chocolate batter to half and did not put a knife through the cake to marble it. The chocolate forms a ripple through the cake. There are 2 distinct flavours in the cake – an orange scented white sponge and a very gooey, rich vein of oozy chocolate running through it.

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Tonight I intend to turn it into a dessert with a dollop of fresh cream and drizzle of melted chocolate. Monster teen must know that his Mom isn’t so boring after all!

RECIPE

VANILLA AND CHOCOLATE MARBLE CAKE

Base Batter

1 1/3 cup all-purpose Flour

¾ cup Sugar

1 teaspoon Baking powder

Pinch of salt

175 grams Butter, softened

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

3-4 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Chocolate batter

50 grams dark/ bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon cream

¼ teaspoon coffee granules (instant is fine)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

  • Pre Heat the oven to 160o C. Grease and line an 8 inch baking tin.
  • In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients-flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Give it a stir. Add in the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture is a smooth heavy paste. About 1-2 minutes.
  • Whisk the eggs with a fork in a medium bowl, add in the orange juice and vanilla and mix well. Add the egg mixture to the batter in 3 parts, whisking well for a minute after each addition. Scrape the side of the bowl after you complete mixing.
  • For the Chocolate Batter- combine the cream, coffee and baking soda and add it to the melted chocolate, stir well to dissolve the baking soda. Add ¼ cup of the base batter to the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Spoon the 1/3 rd base batter on the base of the prepared tin. With a teaspoon drop the chocolate batter in concentric circles on the base batter. Spoon on another layer of the base batter and continue spooning some chocolate batter over it. Once done, gently run a butter knife or a tooth-pick around the tin in S-shape. Do not over mix, r you will end up with a muddy looking cake. I refrained from running a knife and baked the cake as is.
  • Bake in a pre heat oven for 42 minutes (approx), or remove when the centre of the cake feels firm to touch.

BANANA AND CHOCOLATE SWIRL CAKE

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Banana cake or bread has been an on-off favourite of ours for many years now. I have given it a very healthy avatar (click here) and lately it was starting to become oh so Ho-Hum that my teen son refused it as a pre workout snack unless I cut down on the fancy stuff, namely bananas, dates, oats and wheat flour. In the face of such strong revolt I had no choice but to give my Healthy Banana Nut cake a makeover. So I decided to take heed of the free advice and cut down on the banana, add in a chocolate element and topped it with crunchy nuts, oats and honey mix. A dash of cinnamon ofcourse heightened its oomph factor.

 

RECIPE

BANANA AND CHOCOLATE SWIRL CAKE WITH CRUNCHY TOPPING

140 grams plain flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

140 grams castor sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 large banana mashed (you can use 2 for a more pronounced banana taste)

¼ cup mixed nuts chopped roughly (almonds, cashews pistachios)

(*divide into ½)

85ml milk

Chocolate Swirl

30 grams dark/ bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

1 tablespoon cream

¼ teaspoon coffee granules (instant is fine)

¼ teaspoon baking soda

Topping

½ the mixed nuts from above *

2 tblspns oats

2 tblspns honey

1 tablspn melted butter

 

  • Pre heat oven to 180o C. Grease and base line an 8 inch baking tin
  • In a large bowl beat together the sugar and butter until light. Add in the egg, vanilla, cinnamon. Beat to mix well.
  • Add half the nuts, banana and mix.
  • Sift the flour with the baking powder. Add it in 3 parts alternating with the milk and beating between each addition.
  • For the Chocolate Batter- combine the cream, coffee and baking soda and add it to the melted chocolate, stir well to dissolve the baking soda. Add ¼ cup of the banana base batter to the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Spoon half the banana batter and top it with blobs of chocolate batter. Continue this process until both the batters are exhausted.
  • Mix the ingredients for the crunchy topping and sprinkle it evenly over the top, gently pressing down with damp fingers.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven for 30-35 minutes. If the top starts browning mid way then turn down the oven temperature to 180. Insert a toothpick to see if the cake is done.

 

 

  • Pre heat oven to 180o C. Grease and base line an 8 inch baking tin
  • In a large bowl beat together the sugar and butter until light. Add in the egg, vanilla, cinnamon. Beat to mix well.
  • Add half the nuts, banana and mix.
  • Sift the flour with the baking powder. Add it in 3 parts alternating with the milk and beating between each addition.
  • For the Chocolate Batter- combine the cream, coffee and baking soda and add it to the melted chocolate, stir well to dissolve the baking soda. Add ¼ cup of the banana base batter to the chocolate mixture and stir well to combine.
  • Spoon half the banana batter and top it with blobs of chocolate batter. Continue this process until both the batters are exhausted.
  • Mix the ingredients for the crunchy topping and sprinkle it evenly over the top, gently pressing down with damp fingers.
  • Bake in a pre heated oven for 30-35 minutes. If the top starts browning mid way then turn down the oven temperature to 180. Insert a toothpick to see if the cake is done.

 

PS: I mixed a tablespoon of the chocolate batter with the topping to add stickiness and flavour.

GOBI MANCHURIAN

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I wouldn’t blame you if you thought this post is about the Gobi Desert in Mongolia or a lesson in politics on the disputed Sino-Soviet region of Manchuria. Its none of the above ….it’s about the fusion of Indian and Chinese cuisine, where the slogan “Hindi Chinny Bhai Bhai” (Indian Chinese Brotherhood) is revealed in a new and tastier light.

Let me start at the beginning….the Indian Chinese community that settled in the Indian city of Kolkata over a century ago, developed a range of Chinese vegetarian options to suit the Indian palate, using local vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes and the Indian staple Paneer (cottage Cheese). These veges or paneer are batter fried and served in spicy, tangy gravies that may resemble Chinese gravies but are clearly favoured and flavoured for the Indian palate. These gravies are an amalgamation of soya sauce, chilly sauce, a good dose of tomato ketchup, ginger, garlic and chilly and some more chilly.

From Kolkata to Mumbai and Ahmedabad to Allahabad , every city and small town in India caters to the Chinese food craze. From Chopsuey to Hakka noodles to Chilli fry to Spring rolls, its all there on the menu of street stalls and fancy restaurants. Chefs dish out their versions of Teriyaki, Manchirian, Cantonese, Thai and the general population is lapping it up and licking their bowls clean. They refuse to stop there…..as if embracing the Chinese cuisine and making it your own wasn’t enough now Indian fast food, Bhel and Dosas have a Chinese version as well. The humble Bhel ( a mix of puffed rice, crispy puries, onions, sev and tangy, sweet chutneys) has a Chinese brother (or sis), the Chinese Bhel – a concoction of crispy fried noodles, capsicum, onions, soya sauce and a red hot sauce that passes off as Schezwan. Any self respecting Chinese cook would commit suicide before he pronounced the dish as Chinese.

To get back to Gobi (cauliflower) Manchurian, I can say it’s a consolation prize for the vegetarian population who would otherwise miss out on the taste of China with a large helping of desi-ness. The cauli florets are batter fried to a crisp much like chicken or beef and then rolled in this very delectable, finger–licking sweet and sour gravy. Served with fried rice or noodles it ticks all the right boxes.

We Indians love to take a thing Phoren (foreign) and give it a Desi kiss and make it our own. Look, how we got the Big Mac to serve potato burgers and Paneer Wraps in India and see how the British are eating Chicken Tikka Masala (albeit their Anglicised version) by the ton. I am confident that in the light of the contribution made by the Indian Chefs to their rich heritage, the Chinese will soon declare Gobi Manchurian as their National Dish.

RECIPE

GOBI MANCHURIAN

For the Crispy fried Cauliflower

1 medium Cauliflower (approx 400 grmas)

½ cup all purpose flour

¼ cup cornflour

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon chilly flakes (optional)

1 egg white

Oil for deep frying

For the gravy

5 cloves garlic chopped (coarsely ground)

1’ piece of ginger chopped

1 fresh/ dried red chilly cut into 4 pieces

1 tablespoon oil

2-3 tblspoons dark soya sauce

1 tblspoon chilli sauce

3-4 tblspoons tomato ketchup

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon cornflour mixed in a tablespoon of water

finely chopped coriander and green onions to garnish

  • For the crispy fried Cauliflower: Wash and break the cauliflower into large florets. Sprinkle salt and keep aside.
  • In a deep bowl mix the flour, salt, chilly flakes and egg white with a whisk. Add water to make it into a thick coatable batter (almost like cream).
  • Heat oil in a deep pot. Lower the heat to medium. Dip the florets in the batter to coat evenly and fry them in oil to a golden brown. Once fried, let them drain on kitchen papers to absorb the excess oil.
  • For the gravy: measure out all the sauces, sugar and vinegar in a bowl, stir to dissolve the sugar. Add 3 tblspoons water
  • In a shallow pan heat a tablespoon of oil. Fry the ginger garlic and chilly on low heat for a few seconds. Add in the sauces and bring to a boil. Put off the heat.
  • Just before you serve, reheat and toss the florets in a non-stick pan to crisp them up a little bit. This will help to get rid of excess oil. Re-heat the sauce and add in the cornflour paste to thicken. If the sauce is thick without the paste eliminate the use of cornflour.
  • Add the cauliflower, stir to coat. Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and chopped coriander.
  • Serve with fried rice.

 

  • If you like more gravy feel free to double the gravy ingredients.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

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Its been a tough, tough few weeks. Change is good, change is needed, but change is a challenge. When in Mumbai I was raving and ranting about the dirty streets, the mad traffic, the choking pollution and dust, the rogue drivers, the incessant honking, the pot-holed roads and the hawkers and the noise….. Now I am in Singapore- the streets are clean, the traffic is disciplined, public transport is beautiful, no one honks, the roads are satin smooth and I have all my wishes fulfilled!! So why am I mopping around house feeling blue, wearing tattered Tees and tracks?? I am so missing home, the buzz, the noise and the constant doorbell that announces the arrival of maids and the vegetable vendor and the fish vendor who argues and haggles for half an hour…Homesick??? Yeah that’s it. The quiet that I so longed for is almost deafening, I hunger for the excitement of driving in and out of narrow, people packed streets, haggling with the vendors in the markets, challenging my lungs to breath in the fumes (that’s an exaggeration …LOL)….so you see I have become a little batty too! Anyways I mustn’t grumble too much….a little dose of Homesickness is good. It teaches you to count your blessings.

On the bright side, the ingredients out here are amazing. I don’t have to go hunting for stuff, its right there in my backyard. Fresh and of the finest quality. So as a pick-me-up I went ahead and bought myself the most expensive butter, the best chocolate chips and got to work on banishing my blues. What better way to do it than with cookies! I particularly like the ones which are cakey in the centre and crispy on the edges and that’s what I found on BBC Good Food. They turned out to be a crowd pleaser (Junior, Senior Man and Me).

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The dough is not too sweet, so semi-sweet chocolate chips work well, I added some dark chocolate chunks and they were like the surprise element in every bite. Makes you guess….will it be sweet or bitter.

So as I come to the concluding part of my post, I am into my 4th cookie or is it the 6th…. Who cares! They are homey, cakey, dunk-worthy, fill me with joy and maybe someday I’ll have a friend to share them with. Until then I have the whole box to myself!!

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

Makes 25-30 cookies

150 grms salted Butter,

100 grms light brown sugar

60 grms granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

225 grms plain flour

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon salt

200 grms semi sweet chocolate chips or chunks (I added some dark chocolate chunks)

  • Beat the butter and sugars till light. Add in the egg an vanilla and mix well.
  • Sift together the flour, salt and soda bicarb. Add to the butter mixture and stir in well till incorporated. Add in the chocolate and mix in.
  • Lightly grease and line your baking tray with parchment paper. Take your measuring teaspoon (with a scoop) and drop dollops of the cookie dough on the tray keeping an inch and half distance. Chill in the refrigerator for 10-20 minutes before baking.
  • Preheat oven to 170o C. Bake cookies for 13-14 minutes until they turn a deep brown and are yet soft in the centre. Once baked leave them on the tray to cool slightly and then transfer them to a wire rack.