Apr 29, 2008

Birthday cakes

It was one of the most pleasurable moments of my son’s fourth birthday when we decided to bake a cake of his favorite character. He is an ardent fan of many of those comic characters he reads in books about and he really adores them.

I quizzed him a lot on what would make him happy and since he was hooked on to this wonderful book of “The hungry caterpillar” by Eric Carle, he suggested having a caterpillar cake for his 4th birthday.

I was very happy about his choice but had no idea how start up with the design of a caterpillar. I Googled and came up with some wonderful ideas and lots of varieties to choose from. This was simplest of many cakes.

I got some round aluminum take ways packs and baked simple sponge cakes, I referred to Sagari’s sponge cake recipe. They were awesome.

I baked five sponge cakes and assembled them like a caterpillar I used Wilton’s butter cream icing for the frosting.

It was a great hit among his classmates; they just loved the design & enjoyed biting into the caterpillar, now there was no telling who was more hungry!! The hungry caterpillar was reduced to a few crumbles. And we too had a wonderful time hosting those little angels.


We also had a small party among our close family friends and I had made an Ocean themed cake for him too, since I needed a big sponge for this cake, so I decided to order a readymade sponge and I used the butter cream icing to frost the top.

It was so fascinating for the kids to have a view of the underwater. I made seaweed with fruity rolls up and I managed to get some yummy gummy sharks and other sea animals from the Chocolate section of the supermarket.

That was really fun for me as well!.


Apr 24, 2008

Shahi Dum Chicken Biryani

“The mere mention of the word Biryani and you are reduced to a Pavlovian subject, Salivating over the aromatic basmati rice and the marinated succulent chicken with perfect blend of spices.”


It is our family’s favorite dish. I owe to my mother in law who has passed this recipe and is always treasured by me as one of the precious possession.



Ingredients

2 cups Basmati Rice500

chicken cut into pieces marinate with

½ cup yogurt

Masala – 1

Onion -2 large finely chopped
Tomatoes - 2 finely chopped
Ginger paste -1tblsp
Garlic paste -1tblsp
Cardamom - 5
Cloves- - 5
Cinnamon -1 stick

Black whole Peppercorn-1tsp

Bayleaves -1 to 2 leaves


Masala-2

Poppy Seeds(Khus khus) -1 1/2 tblsp
Aniseeds -1tsp
Mint Leaves -1/3cup
Fresh Coconut or Desiccated -1/4cup( optional)
Green Chillies - 1 or 2
Coriander leaves chopped-1/2 cup

Dry Masalas

Turmeric powder -1tsp
Chili powder -2tsp
Coriander powder -2tsp
Cumin powder -2tsp

Garam masala-2tbslp

3 to 4tbslp- oil/ghee


Few Strands of Safforn dissolved in milk
Salt to taste
Cashews nuts fried lightly in oil.
Silver foil ( Chandi varak)

Few drops of Tandoori colour(optional)

Method


  1. Partially cook the rice adding salt and cinnamon. When cooked drain the water and spread the rice in a plate .Sprinkle color randomly.

  2. Grind masala 2 using little water to a paste and keep aside.
  3. Heat oil /ghee in a wok add whole spices(cardamoms, cloves, and cinnamon & bay leaves, peppercorn) to it

  4. Add chopped onions and sauté till translucent.
  5. Add ginger & garlic paste.
  6. Add chopped tomatoes and add all the dry masalas, sauté it till done.
  7. Add marinated chicken and cook for 5 mins.
  8. Add very little water and cover the lid. lower the fire.
  9. When the chicken is partially done.
  10. Add the grinded masala 2 to the wok and keep string it for 4 to 5 minutes.
  11. Cover and cook the chicken till done.
  12. Add salt to taste.

Preparing Dum

Take a heavy bottom vessel with a perfect lid that fits the vessel so that the steam cannot escape.

Grease the bottom of the vessel with ghee .Layer a portion of rice. Add a portion of cooked chicken curry on the top. Layer again with the rice and chicken finally topping with rice.

Sprinkle the saffron dissolved in warm milk and few mints leaves.

Cover the lid and seal the edges with wheat dough.

Cook on low fire for 5 to7 mins .Switch of the fire and leave it for a hour.Remove the lid just before serving it .

Savor it and enjoy it with Raita. Voila!!!!!!!!!


PS- For better results

I marinate the chicken over night.I use an electric rice cooker to cook rice .I use ¾ cup water to 1 cup rice. Rice turns out to be grainy.

Wheat dough.-knead plain flour using water to a soft dough.

Can substitute the dry masalas with a ready made biryani masala.

For mutton Biryani-I follow the exact procedure except use Raw papaya paste appox 2tbslp for marinating meat.Note, just add raw papaya paste only 2 hours before cooking. It is an excellent meat tenderizer.




Apr 21, 2008

CHOCO PISTA COOKIE DELIGHT

I am obsessed with green color. Well do I need to mention that! Let me make it clearer. I am obsessed with the soothing green color of the pista nuts. Last weekend I had been on a hectic shopping spree. That’s when I realized the climate has changed and it getting warmer and warmer, I don’t even feels like wearing a light sweater.

I got home and made some ginger tea. I was longing to have some nice crunchy cookies to dunk and relax in the comfort of my own castle (read my tiny but cozy two bedroom apartment)

My cookie jars were partially empty with some leftover soggy biscuits. I was not in a mood to bake them right away. But after a few sips of the ginger tea somehow I felt like my run down batteries getting recharged, energy gushing into my tired soul. I thought of warming my oven and getting the trays and mittens ready.

Baking is a kind of meditation for me. I feel relaxed while shifting flours and whisking eggs.I really wish I should have joined the Hotel management course rather than getting myself into a MBA program. Well that’s long story, we will talk about that later!

So I decided to get my hands on the old successful cookie recipe. I have done tried a couple of times using walnuts but I imagined the combination of choco pista would look sensational.


I used my basic cookie mix. I used the same ingredients from my earlier post of checker board cookies.


Roll the dough and divide the mix into 60 : 40 ratio . Add 2 ounce of melted chocolate and I cup of roughly chopped unsalted pistaous to the small portion.

Divide each dough into round balls

1- Using a rolling pin ,roll the plain dough into a flat circle ( chappati).
2- Roll the choco pista dough into logs.
3- Place the log in the rolled flat round circle and seal the edges.
4- Roll gently to make a shape of a log.
5- Cling wrap and store them in a refrigerator not in the freezer to set.
6- Keep at least for six to eight hours.
Preheat the oven at 180’c. Line a baking tray with a butter paper. .Slice the log and arrange them in a baking tray. Bake them for 8 to 10 mins.

Transfer them in a wire rack. When cool and store them in a airtight container.

Apr 15, 2008

Cream of Roasted Red pepper and Tomato soup

I was busy with nothing in particular. My hubby was traveling! The weather was not to my liking, my son was being naughty. Not at all in a mood to cook.Well with so many excuses I was compelled to try out this amazing and delicious soup for dinner

Rohan managed with some left over butter chicken curry. So I could not give much thought to my dinner after a busy non-eventful day. With a plethora of restaurants at your fingertips to choose from in Beijing I was still reluctant to go out.

So I finally decided to treat myself with a warm soup and some garlic bread.

Here is the recipe for the hearty soup for my wearisome bones and my nonchalant mood.!!!!!




Ingredients

1 large tomato

1 large red pepper

2to 3 cloves Garlic mince

½ onion chopped

½ cup milk

¾ cup vegetable stock or water

1tbslp olive oil

1tsp cream

¼ tsp nutmeg

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Dried herbs for garnishing.



Roast tomato & red pepper in the oven at 230’c for 20 min or till done. Cool and remove the skin.

Heat oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic and onion. Sauté till well done. Finally add the roasted pepper and tomato. Sauté for couple of minutes.

Grind the above using the stock. Heat a saucepan. Pour the puree and add milk. Stir on low fire and care should be taken not to boil the milk. Add ground nutmeg.

Season with salt and pepper and garnish it with herbs and cream.

Serve warm with your choice bread.

I had made my garlic bread at home.

Garlic bread. -

Make a paste of 1 tbslp butter, 1 tbslp olive oil, 1 tbslp garlic mince ,dried herbs and salt.
Apply on the sliced french loaf and bake it till golden brown.

The recipe is adopted from http://aww.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=307614



Apr 11, 2008

Mini Almond and Cranberry Florentine

Spring is just around the corner and it is a great feeling to feel it in all its glory. Especially after a harsh and long winter, it’s great to see the buds on the Cherry trees and chirping of the birds. More and more people are getting outdoors.

Weekends are full of activities. It is fun to be outdoor and soak in the bright sunlight. Last weekend since I was alone along with my son, I was kind a feeling lazy to plan any activity for both of us except for eating out.

On of our family friend buzzed me and she had planned to come over to my place along her boy who is of the same age as my son. It was such a great idea and I was thrilled to have them. We decided to go out for lunch and in a very nice restaurant with an absolute great out door setting.

Since she was expecting her second baby, I was kind of curious to know her cravings to see if there was something in my mind’s cookbook to offer her. She had no fascination except for the sinful and evil cakes and cookies!!!!!! Apologies I always refer to them as sinful, but this is one sin that is not on the 10 commandments list.

Long time back I had bookmarked a wonderful cookie recipe from my favorite magazine Super food ideas. I have always wanted to try them out but this was a god sent opportunity to try out the mini Almond Florentine. I always get tempted to see them in the glass jars at the cake shop.

After a long struggle with my conscience eventually I eventually pick up few to quench my temptation. But I hardly find any traces of almond even though the shop boldly advertises Almond Florentines.

Since my first few disappointments I now have started making my own Florentines packed with almond and coated with a thin layer of chocolate I am pretty certain I will not get tempted any more or at least so I think.

This is a very simple recipe that hardly calls for any raising agents or eggs. Although I am not a vegetarian but some days of the week I prefer to be a vegetarian these Florentines are a boon and I enjoy them with my morning cuppa!!!!!

I checked my pantry I had everything except Cherries. So I substituted it with dried cranberries. And boy they were great and heavenly !!!!. here goes for all of you sweet natured people and who share my sweet tooth.

Ingredients

I cup Flaked almond
½ cup cranberries chopped
¼ cup plain flour
40g butter
2 tbslp Brown sugar
2 tbslp Golden syrup
150 g good quality dark chocolate

Method
Mix almond, flour and cranberries.Heat butter, golden syrup and sugar in a pan. Continue heating on a medium fire till the sugar has dissolved.

Add the butter mixture to the combine flour and almond mix well. Preheat the oven to 180'c. Line a baking try.Place a teaspoon of mixture on tray with gap of an inch. Gently flatten it with a spatula. Bake them for 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer them on to a rack. Melt dark chocolate in microwave for a couple of minutes on medium high. Stir with a spoon and let it cool down.

Using a spatula gently spread the melted chocolate on the base of the Florentines Place the chocolate side up on a wire rack.

When the chocolate has set store them in an airtight container and relish them when ever you have the cravings or just want to treat yourself for holding back your temptations to buy them from the cake shop.


Apr 8, 2008

Sorisa batta kalara bhajja- Oriya dish



As I was going to through my to do list this balmy April evening with the wind ruffling my tresses through the open window I saw the little red flags waving and beckoning me sit down and take a more closer notice.


That is when I realized that the count down to the WOW Karela competition hosted by Creative Pooja is well under way. I was thrilled by her choice of my favorite vegetable. I love bitter gourd. And I always love this particular recipe that is at the heart of my home state of Orissa.

When ever I feel like preparing a very traditional and authentic cuisine relating to my home state I feel very emotional and living up to the high standards sometimes stops me from experimenting too often.

Sorisa batta (Mustard paste) is very popular in Orissa and adds a rather strong flavor to the dish; the above dish has got very contrasting flavors of bitter karelas and spicy mustard paste. A bit likes the Yin & Yang of Taoism.


Ingredients

1 large bitter gourd.
Oil for pan frying
2 tbslp- rice flour
1tsp Turmeric powder
salt to taste

Mustard paste

3 tbslp mustard seeds
1 to2 green chillies
3 cloves Garlic.

Method

Dry grind the mustard seeds and then add chillies, garlic and water. Make a thick paste so that it can coat the bitter gourd completely.

Slice the bitter gourd and steam or boil them aladente

Drain the water and mix the paste with boiled or steamed bitter gourd. Add turmeric, rice flour and salt to taste.



Heat oil in shallow frying pan. Gently spread the bitter gourd and fry them on both sides till crisp and well done.








The is my contribution to Wow - bitter gourd vegetable of the week

















Apr 5, 2008

Sesame prawn salad




Blogging is becoming more intense and is overpowering me and I just feel I cannot concentrate on other things except for cooking more and more and sharing it with all of you my online friends. When my local friends buzz me I have been putting them off by saying please I am busy, catch u later, ha ha. Such has become my addiction to the net and to food blogging.

After Rohan goes to school I do have a lot of house chores to be finished but things are now taking a set back and I just feel like sitting in front of laptops and keep browsing blog sites . It is an amazing world & it sort of feels like entering into Narnia. I feel so relaxed and calm with this new found friend.

Today I had put my foot down to structure my routine and try to balance myself better. I hope to be successful in my new attempt at balancing my addiction and house chores.

Since we are a having long weakened break in china and my hubby is traveling so I have nothing much planned except taking Rohan for his extra curricular activities .I wanted to have some nice salad. I checked my freezer section and what do I see!!! Wow prawns. I always love them and I had bag of mixed greens.

Long time back in a Sichuan restaurant I had a wonderful salad with a slightly different dressing. The first time I could only figure out the sesame oil in it rest I figured out with our subsequent visits. I asked the chef but he was reluctant to share the secret ingredients.

Well now I have discovered what goes to make this wonderful dressing with a little brainstorming and experimenting. That I have been making regularly.

I love the nutty flavor in sesame oil and a mixed with a little fresh orange juice and spicy soy sauce renders the salad a wonderful flavor...


Ingredients

Prawns 10 to 12 shelled and de veined
I bag of mixed greens( approx 200grms)
1-Red pepper sliced
1- yellow pepper sliced
1 tsp- Garlic mince
½ cup Cherry tomatoes
1 –Orange Segmented
1 tsp- Sesame oil

Ingredients for the dressing

Roasted sesame seeds- 1tblsp
Sesame oil-1tbslp
Soya sauce-1tbslp
Chili flakes- 1/2 tsp
Fresh orange juice-1/4 cup
Fresh lemon juice-1tbslp
Brown sugar-2 tsp






Method
Heat oil in a pan. Sauté garlic and prawns till done. Season it with salt.
Arrange a bowl for the salad. Add cooked prawns and drizzle the dressing. Voila you have a really interesting twists to the Salad.






















Apr 2, 2008

Guilt free- Warm chocolate fudge cake


The moment we picture our self eating cakes and cookies we instantly dread the calories loaded in it. That’s what stop us from having sinful cakes. I always love baking cakes and I think it is a kind of passion in me to always try out new recipes.

I do subscribe few magazines and the tempting picture in it drives me insane. This cake was so tempting and it was featured in low cal section. Usually the chocolate cakes have 26 g fat per serve but this cake is only 9.3 g fat per serve. Wow what a reduction!!!

I have bake it couple of times and it was always irresistible for my family. It is very simple cake without any raising agents and extra butter.The hazelnut meal also adds a nutty flavor to the cake.The original recipe had called for a good quality dark chocolate approx 75 % cocoa .This time I made a slight variation of using orange flavored chocolate. The orange and chocolate combination is always divine.

I personally have an addiction to orange flavored cookies or cakes. I have also tried these cakes using plain dark chocolate and adding fresh orange zest. The original recipe is adapted from October2007 edition of Superfoodideas It is an Australian magazine and I am a loyal subscriber of this wonderful magazine. I have been a regular reader for last 5 years and since having moved from Sydney to Beijing . My husband subscribed the magazine for me. So every month I have some new tempting recipes knocking at minds doorstep and also thanks to the creative food blogging website where there is no limit our imagination.


Ingredients

½ cup boiling water
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup plain flour
1/3 cup hazelnut meal
80g darkchoclate with 75 % cocoa ( melted)
2 eggs
1tbslp orange zest
Walnuts ( optional)

Method

Mix the boiling water and cocoa until smooth. Add melted chocolate, hazelnut meal,plain flour, sugar, eggs and orange zest .Using a hand blender whisk until well incorporated.

Preheat oven to 180’c and grease a muffin tin. Pour the batter and fill the muffin holes .Bake for 15 mins.

serve warm.
If you don’t mind having a slightly calorie loaded dessert for the evening , here is a wonderful option of having it with a scoope of vanilla ice-cream and drizzled with warm chocolate syrup.


Variation- Hazelnut meal can be replaced by Almond meal.

Apr 1, 2008

Tomato dahi poda-Oriya dish






Very simple side dish with no elaborate procedure. Not in a mood to cook so this recipe comes in handy.I always make it because it is perfectly healthy with absolutely no oil .


My Mil makes it very often with just tomato .I have done a slight variation by adding green chilies or green pepper.

This is although a very simple dish but is full of natural flavor with out any tempering. The freshness of ginger and cilantro are very much enhanced.

Yogurt is always good for the digestion so I prefer doing it often.

It goes very well with pulao.


Ingredients

2 tomatoes
1 long green chili or green pepper
1 inch grated ginger
Salt
1tsp Jeera and lanka powder

Chopped cilantro for garnishing

3 tbslp of thick yogurt.

Roast the tomatoes and chili in a heavy bottom pan with out oil. Cover with a lid and simmer the fire for 10 to 15 min.
Cool the tomatoes and remove the skin.

Roughly mash them and add yogurt, ginger, jeera and lanka powder .Season it with salt and garnish it with cilantro.