Monday, September 28, 2009

Eat Cake

Cake can set most things right. At least for Ruth, heroine of "Eat Cake" by Jeanne Ray, the book our club is reading this month. She bakes when she's happy or sad or stressed. Basically, cakes are the ultimate comfort for Ruth. And then she uses these cakes to actually set things right with her life.

You know what I like best about Ruth. Her firm belief that cake eating has to be a happy thing; not the "guilty I am breaking my diet" thing. I am totally with her there; even though I don't always agree with her solution to problems. But no one said this is a serious read. Instead, Eat Cake is one of those feel good books you pick up when you are lost for next reading idea.

Eat Cake also comes up with a series of cake recipes, all of them extremely complicated or elaborate. In fact, every recipe has at least one quirky element. I read this book just before I left for London so I had no time to try one of her elaborate masterpieces. Instead, I picked Pistachio Cake. The quirky element in this one is cardamom.

I decided to make regular cupcakes replacing pistachios with almonds and cardamom with vanilla. But I don't think you can do regular with this book. The moment I opened my new bottle of vanilla essence and dropped 1/4 tsp into the batter, I knew the label was wrong and I have added coconut essence to my cake instead. So here it is, the very tropical almond cake.


Grind 1/4 cup almonds in a food processor taking care they don't become a paste. Add 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt. Combine 3 tbsp milk and 1/4 tsp vanilla essence (or coconut if you are feeling adventurous).

Beat together 50 gms butter with 1/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add one egg and beat well. Alternately add almond flour and milk in batches, starting and ending with flour and mix until combined. Pour into 6 cupcake pans lined with paper and bake at 180C for about 20 minutes.

Ann, our newest member, makes the pistachio cake for real.

Sweatha bakes an easy microwave version of the carrot cake.

Also head over to Jaya's for another review, although she did not have the patience to create one of the complicated cakes.

And to Aqua for her review and a recap of some gorgeous baking experiments

.For October, we are reading the Hindi Bindi Club by Monica Pradhan. If you liked the Joy Luck Club, you will love this. I've read this one before, but can't wait to go back and try one of the recipes. Want to read with us? Just leave a comment here.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Going Away


What's your biggest fear when you are travelling? Losing your passport? Missing your flight?

Mine is getting stuck in a hotel room with nothing to eat except chips and bad chocolate. Which is why I always pack a bunch of granola bars and some nuts. Except this time I had a look at the list of ingredients and was super shocked at what goes into that granola bar. Just think of all that sugar and chemicals.

So I'm packing my own granola this time round. The recipe was inspired by smitten kitchen, but I've managed to change it beyond recognition. For one, I made granola not bars. And two, I made it on stovetop rather than switch on my oven.

But the basics remain the same. Mix a cup of rolled oats with 1/2 cup chopped almonds (I whizzed my almonds in the blender rather than chop them). Heat a non stick pan and add the oats-almond mix. Roast on a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until lightly toasted. Be very careful and take the pan off immediately if they start to brown. Mix in 1/4 cup of ground flax seeds. Now pour in 1/3 cup honey and mix well.

Add 1/2 cup dried fruits of your choice. I used golden raisins and dried black grapes, but anything you fancy works. Line a tray with waxed paper and pour the granola in. Cover with another sheet of waxed paper and let cool. Break up into chunks and pack into an airtight container.

Now I'm ready to face that hotel room. See you after a week.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Spinach and 3 Cheese Risotto


So I had this pack of arborio rice for a whole year, and I did nothing about it. Then, a few days back, I made my first risotto. And I've been feeling like making a new one every other day. This one's my favorite so far.

Like any other risotto, start by making stock. For my 1/3 cup of rice, I need 1 1/3 cup of warm vegetable stock. Chop 1/2 cup of spinach. Cut ricotta into small cubes. Grate cheddar and parmesan cheeses separately. How much of each of these three? Really, as much as you like.

Now, heat a tsp of olive oil in a pan. Drop your 1/3 cup of arborio rice and toss of coat. Add 1/3 cup stock, reduce the heat to medium and let cook. When the rice has absorbed part of the stock, add another 1/3 cup. With the third addition, add spinach. When the water level reduces this time round, check the rice for doneness. You may need the last 1/3 cup of stock, or not. Either way, once the last bit of stock is added and the rice is done but still has a bite, cook it for another 2-3 minutes. Add ricotta, cook for another minute or so and turn off the heat. Stir in grated cheddar, then top with parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Just a Dosa


Are you sitting there scratching your head, wondering what I am doing blogging about a plain dosa. And not a very good one at that. Well, the thing is, I've wanted to try my hand at dosa making for quite a long time. That seemed to be the only way to get exactly what I wanted : crisp but not paper thin plain dosa. And finally, I did!

There's no recipe for this one, because it's made of store bought batter. That's one good thing about Bombay. Every store around here sells freshly ground idli and dosa batter, so you never need think about soaking and fermenting things for 2 days and what not.

It's pretty much instant. Buy the batter, drop a couple of tbsp on a heated nonstick griddle, spread it out as thin as a crepe, add a bit of oil, let it brown, then fold. Still to perfect the technique but the initial results were not too bad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Breakfast Carb Fix


It's like bircher muesli but better. What you do is mix 2 tbsp of rolled oats with 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt and leave them to soak overnight. Next morning, blend the yogurt/oats with 2-3 slices of pineapple (or another fruit; I think apples would be great) and a tbsp of no sugar strawberry jam.

Raise a toast to a new day.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Loot



What's a girl to do when all the home stuff stores in the vicinity go on sale at the same time. And I really only bought necessities, like pots and pans. And you can never have too many sunshine yellow bowls or way too many glass bowls, can you?

Ah okay! so maybe the Japanese soup bowls were really not a necessity. But let's not get all technical here. Specially about my new quirky wine color mugs...anyway, just thought you might want to know what I have been up to all this weekend since I am certainly not cooking.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Risotto Primero


Even with all the cooking I do, I've never made a risotto. Surprising, I know. It's just rice, right? But there's something about the precise technique that books and recipes describe that scares me off. Plus anything that requires making stock doesn't fly in my book. And I never ever have wine in my fridge.

But I love eating risotto and I've had a pack of arborio rice hanging around for a long time. As I often do when making something the first time, I went to foodgawker and searched for risottos. Plenty of interesting ideas popped up, but this sweet corn risotto caught my eye. The recipe doesn't call for any wine, and this is just the season for local corn. And stock? well, I just used one of those nifty stock cubes.

Thyme made a lovely pair with the fresh local corn I bought, and I added tons of parmesan and fresh pepper to up the flavors a notch. See! I made risotto and it wasn't scary and it was totally delicious.