Archive for June, 2011


My kids’ 3rd birthday was round the corner. We had huge plans for their birthday. Last two years’ celebration was restricted to just family, prepared some good food and 2 cakes! Ever since they joined the crèche, they had been part of their peers’ birthday celebration and would come home with return gifts. They would ask me when they would be celebrating their birthdays. This year, June 8th was going to be a Wednesday. They joined school starting June 6th. Their birthday was celebrated in advance at their crèche where they had lots of friends. It was on 3rd which was their last day at the crèche before hopping on to school. After a lot of brainstorming and surfing around the blogosphere, I finally went with my very trusted Zebra cake. I topped it with some Chocolate frosting and concluded with a note ‘Happy birthday Mantam’ using whipped cream.
Second celebration was on 8th where we had them distribute toffees at school. Sticking to traditional values, I made a Payasam / Payesh on that very day.
Final celebration was at home where we had a small get-together with friends, colleagues and relatives. Unfortunately there were no kids in the guest list. So we had organized a few games for adults. We did all the decorations and preparation ourselves. Abbas suggested that food and cake will be brought from outside. I somehow couldn’t give in to the idea of people coming home for lunch and not eating my cooked food. We ended up in a win-win negotiation. I could cook a few dishes which would be easy for me to rustle up and not dedicate huge time in the kitchen. Rest would be outsourced. Finally we had Naan, Matar Paneer, Dal Makhani and Kheer ordered. I prepared Mint Coriander Ghee Rice, Methi Murg, Tomato Chutney, Boondi Raita, Salad, Papad at home. Last but not the least was the birthday cake which I was adamant on baking on my own. I intended to stick to the protocol of baking 2 cakes but on second thought stuck to just one. I’m glad I chose the ‘Celebration Chocolate Cake’ by Hershey’s. It truly was decadent and won me accolades. I must say it was one of my best after Chocolate Honeycomb Cake.
Ingredients
Hershey’s Cocoa – ¾ cup
Boiling water – 1 cup
Butter or margarine – ½ cup+ 2 tbsp
Sugar – 2 cups
Eggs – 3
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
All-purpose flour – 1 ¾ cups
Baking soda – 1 ½ tsp
Salt – ¼ tsp
Milk – ¾ cup
Dairy sour cream – ¼ cup (Can be substituted by yoghurt)

Method

1. Heat oven to 350°F.
2. Grease three 9-inch round baking pans. (I used rectangular pan and halved the batter and baked twice in it. I ended up with a 4 layer cake)
3. Line bottoms with wax paper-grease and flour paper.
4. Mix cocoa with boiling water in small bowl-stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.

5. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
6. Stir in vanilla. Gradually add cocoa mixture, beating well.
7. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt- add alternately with milk and sour cream to butter mixture, beating until blended.
8. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
9. Cool 10 minutes. Remove from pans to wire racks; carefully peel off wax paper.
10. Cool completely.

Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

Butter or margarine – ½ cup
Hershey’s Cocoa – 2/3 cup
Powdered sugar – 3 cups
Milk – 1/3 cup
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.
Assembling:
  1. I baked 2 square cakes. So I horizontally cut each cake midway to get 4 layers.
  2. Place one layer on serving plate. I uniformly drizzled 3-4 tbsp of aerated cola (I used coke) This step ensures that you get a moist cake. Some use sugar syrup but I prefer cola.
  3. Spread the frosting uniformly with a spatula. Place the next layer and repeat the steps.
  4. Once all 4 layers are in place. Cover the top and sides with the frosting.
  5. I garnished with almond flakes and piping birthday note using whipped cream.

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Jamai Sasthi is a festival celebrated in West Bengal (not sure about other regions) which was very new to me as are several other Bong festivals. This day is special for sons-in law of Bengal. They are invited for a grand meal at their in-laws’ place and pampered to the zenith. Mothers-in-law observe fasting on that for the well being of their son-in-law or Jamai. A platter full of exquisite dishes is spread for the Jamai and he gets special honour and is under the limelight. Fathers-in-law get busy with shopping for their Jamai leaving no stone unturned to make this day special for him.
When in Kolkata, all my married colleagues wrapped up work as early as possible and rushed to leave for the day. The glow on all married men’s faces looking forward to the feast and special treatment was worth watching. Abbas always sported a sad face as he would never get this ‘Jamai Adar’. So, I would always cook something special and tell him – “What if you don’t get to be a part of Jamai Sasthi? We will have Bor and Chele Sasthi for you!” (Bor meaning Husband and Chele meaning Son)
How I wished there was ‘Bou-ma Sasthi’ as well observed by mothers-in-law for their daughters-in-law. What say women???
Well, this dish is one of the must-haves on a Jamai Sasthi menu along with other delicacies. Here goes:
Ingredients:
Prawns – 400g, deshelled, deveined and cleaned
Mustard Oil – 3 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tbsp
Ginger paste – 1 tbsp
Garlic paste –  1 tbsp
Cumin paste – 1 tbsp
Chilli powder – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 6, slit
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Sugar – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp (Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon – pounded or powdered)
Coconut milk – 1 1/4 cup (I used Maggi Coconut Milk powder)
Ghee – 2 tsp
Method:
1. Marinate prawns in a pinch of turmeric powder and salt. Shallow fry in oil and keep aside.
2. Heat mustard oil in a pan and add sugar and cumin seeds.
3. When cumin seeds splutter, add ginger paste, garlic paste, cumin paste, red chilli powder and turmeric powder and saute.
4. Add prawns and slit green chillies and stir for a few minutes.
5. Pour in the coconut milk and salt, cook for few minutes.
6. In the end sprinkle garam masala and ghee on top and serve.

Boneless chicken pieces lying in the freezer are life savers at times. It’s when I’m in no mood to chop or sauté and sweat in the kitchen for a long time. I just let rice and dal cook on stove top, while the frozen chicken pieces left to thaw. Spiced chicken meat balls like these add a special touch to the otherwise bland meal. I am absolutely in love with these balls ever since I first caught sight of them in Sailu’s blog. According to her, these balls could be grilled as well but I have always deep fried them. Try these, they are too easy to prepare and the blend of spices that go in are sure to create an outburst of flavours in your mouth when you munch on these balls!!!
Ingredients:
1/2 kg boneless chicken pieces, cleaned and washed
8-10 fresh green chillis
1/4 kg onions finely sliced
8-10 fresh green chillis
5-6 dry red chillis (adjust according to your choice)
15-20 garlic flakes
3″ piece ginger chopped
small bunch coriander leaves, chopped
4 tbsps coriander seeds
1 1/2 tbsps cumin seeds
2″ cinnamon stick
3 green cardamoms
5-6 cloves
20 cashewnuts or you can add peanuts as well
salt to taste
oil for deep frying
Method:

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamom, red chillis and cashewnuts and stir for a minute till a nice aroma emanates the whole kitchen. Be careful not to burn the spices. Cool.
2. First grind the roasted ingredients along with ginger, garlic and green chillis to a coarse paste. Next add the chopped raw onions, coriander leaves, chicken and salt and grind further to form a smooth paste like shown in the picture above.
3. Add a tbsp of oil to the ground mixture and mix thoroughly before shaping into small lemon sized balls.
4. Heat oil for deep frying. Once it’s piping hot, reduce flame to medium and place these balls in the oil and fry them to a crisp, golden brown color.
5. Serve hot with tomato sauce or green chutney.

Oats Puri

Remember my rant about using (sneaking in) oats in our day-to-day food here? I have found another way of using up oats. Yes it’s our very own Puri or Chapathi dough which gets kneaded every other day in Indian households Just add a fistful of oats while you are kneading the dough. It will not make any difference taste wise. But it does give me a satifaction of having consumed oats which I can never have in the conventional way….

Chicken Anonymous

Whenever we bring home Chicken, I neatly classify the pieces under different heads. Chicken legs are separately placed for kids as they will turn into lollipops. Chicken breasts or the boneless pieces are kept aside for them to be later used for making appetizers. Liver and wings for making stew for children, and the rest of the pieces will be dunked into a spicy curry…
Boneless chicken pieces lying in the freezer come very handy during times when I have to rustle up good food in less time. I frequently go for Chicken Masala balls which require grinding few spices along with chicken, making balls out of the ground paste and deep frying them. Recently when I wanted something easy, tasty as well as something new. That was when my mind went through a flashback where Sindhu (sis) and I had made a starter out of prawns after watching it in a Kannada cookery show. I went ahead to prepare it by substituting prawns with boneless chicken strips (No idea what else I substituted). Abbas was bowled over by the taste. But when he asked me what was the name of the dish, (which he rarely asks) I was taken unawares. I am unable to recollect the name of the dish! Hence I christen it ‘Chicken Anonymous’??? Bless the lady who invented this, I only remember her face vaguely, but she had curly hair!!!
Ingredients
Boneless chicken – 1 cup (cut into bitesize pieces)
For marination:
Egg – 1
Cornflour – 1/4 tbsp
Dark soya sauce – 1 tsp
Pepper powder – to taste
Salt – to taste
For the sauce:

Garlic – 4-5 cloves, finely chopped
Green chillies – 2-3, finely chopped (as per spice tolerance, increase or decrease)
Curd – 1 cup
Curry leaves – 15 sprigs
Kasuri Methi – 1 tbsp

Green chilli sauce – 1/2 tbsp or as per spice tolerance
Soya sauce – 1 tsp
Maggi Cube – 1 nos
Green chillies – 2-3, finely chopped (as per spice tolerance, increase or decrease)

Salt
Green food colour – a pinch (optional)
Oil – for deep frying + 1tbsp for sauce

Method:
1. Marinate the chicken pieces with egg, pepper powder, salt, soya sauce and keep aside for 15 mins.
2. Deep fry in oil till golden brown and keep aside.

3. Beat together curd, green chilli sauce, soya sauce, maggi cube, kasuri methi, salt (soya sauce and maggi cubes have salt, so add salt after checking), colour(if using) and keep aside.
4. Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic, green chillies, curry leaves and saute for a while.
5. Remove from flame, add curd mixture and fried chicken pieces. Combine. Place back on flame and cook until u get a desired consistency.
 

Muesli Snack Bars

I had again entered the blogger’s block. Feels like it’s been ages when I last fed my blog… I have been very lazy to cook, let alone click and post about food. I can’t totally avoid cooking but I was sticking to simple and easy stuff which would mean less kitchen time. It all started off with internet cable in our locality cut down accidentally. It took 10 days for it to be restored. So many days of recluse from the blogging world somehow cut down my hyperactivity. I went into hibernation mode and was silently enjoying it. Got bored of being inactive too. So I’m back today with a bookmarked recipe from Ria’s Collection
Had bought muesli for kids and they simply dislike it. Tried all my marketing skills to get them to eat muesli but they were reluctant to buy. The muesli container would stare at me each time I opened my kitchen cabinet looking for something else. Yesterday I chatted with Ria in FB and asked her if she has any recipe which could be prepared using muesli. She instantly suggested her Snacks bars which had oats which I could substitute with muesli. I immediately rose up from seat, donned my apron and set off to bake this goodie. I’m glad I did. It was 11 PM at night and I was starving waiting for Abbas to arrive home. It was a breeze to make, got made in a jiffy. While it baked in the oven, every nook and corner of my home was filled with an aroma which was mesmerizing.  I was a happy girl for having used up muesli in such an elegant way!!!

Makes 12 bars
Ingredients:
1/4 c coconut oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c granulated sugar (Oops, I overlooked this and omitted. But sweetness was just right for me)
1 egg
1 tbsp skim milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup oats (I substituted with muesli)
1/2 c + 2/3 c  wholewheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 c dessicated coconut (I didn’t add this as I dislike coconut in any form other than paste)

For topping:
3/4 c chocolate chips, melted (I melted a small bar of milk choclate)
Broken cashews or almond flakes – 2 tbsp

Method:
1. Pre-heat oven to 350F / 180C
2. Beat together oil, sugars, milk, egg & vanilla for 2 mins or till the sugar dissolves.
3. Dump the dry ingredients into the wet and mix together until just combined with a rubber spatula.
4. Spread this in a lightly greased 8 x 8 in. square baking tin and bake for 20-25 mins or until golden( It will be soft to touch).
5. Take it out and spread the melted chocolate over it. (I sprinkled broken cashew pieces on top.) Cool completely and cut into bars.
6. Store in an airtight tin.





Sending this to Bookmarked Recipes Every Tuesday event hosted by Priya