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20 September 2007

Cocoa Ripple Ring



This is one recipe that really appealed to me from the Better Homes - Desserts CD sent by an online friend and blog reader - Ritu. My additions to the recipe were addition of some lovely blue-green poppy seeds and a generous swig of Cointreau. I'm not the one who generally indulges in icing, but since the ripple cake split horizontally as i was trying to turn it out from the ring, the fudgy icing helped bind the layers together.

I stuck to the recipe apart from the two additions mentioned above.





Cocoa Ripple Ring
Time Taken: Under 45 min
Makes 8 servings
Recipe Source: Better Homes



What you need:

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs

1 1/2 cups sifted AP flour
3/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp poppy seeds

2/3 cup milk
2 tbsp Cointreau or Grand Mariner
1/3 cup presweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup broken nuts

6 1/2 cup ring mould

Directions:
Cream together butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Sift together flour, salt, baking powder.
Add to creamed mixture along with poppy seeds alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Mix in the liquor.
Spoon 1/3 of batter into well greased 6 1/2 cup ring mold or 9 x 9 x 2 inch pan.
Mix pre-sweetened instant cocoa powder and broken nuts; sprinkle half over batter in pan. Repeat layers, ending with batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes; turn out of mold, serve warm.

The fudgy top was made using the leftover sweet cocoa-nut mixture, some cream and a tbsp of butter. I had a quite a bit of the cocoa-nut mix leftover after sprinkling between the layers, so it was a good way to put it to use.

The poppy seeds give a lovely spotted look to the cake and the orange liquor gives it the exotic taste. I'm sure this cake will do well as a coffee-cake sans the fudgy topping, but with it, it's just super to carry to a friend's place or a picnic or just to make someone happy! This slice of cake is for my dear friend and her hubby S as they've celebrated their 1st Anniversary this week. Here's wishing you both a lifetime of happiness :)

14 September 2007

Seven-Cup Cake for Ganesh Chaturthi


In case you see the picture and wonder why the cupcakes are flat, this is a 7 cup-cake and not 7 cupcakes.  These are the ones that my mom, aunts and grandmom turn out into perfect little squares during festivals, in a jiffy. I'm always a bit wary about making them because of too much sugar and ghee and there's the uncertainty of them turning out properly. These can be made with just milk and sugar - called 'milk cake' or with chick pea flour, sugar and ghee called Mysore Pak, or even with nuts like almonds and cashews. As a child, these were the only cakes that were made at home apart from some failed sponge cake experiments conducted in the pressure cooker. I wanted to recreate some of that childhood magic and take this to my parents and relatives for Ganesh Chaturthi tomorrow.

Traditional Indian 'cakes' need no baking, because they are not actually cakes but fudgey sweets made using sugar, milk and some other ingredients, a bit of slaving over the stove, some elbow grease – and your 'cake' will be ready. Small pieces of these goodies go a long way in satisfying your sweet tooth. Some of these 'cakes' require almost an hour of stirring over a hot stove. This one, on the other hand takes 20 minutes at the most, but the results make people think otherwise. If you need larger quantities, make this in batches, that way you can give your elbow some rest in between batches.





Seven cup Cake

Category: Indian sweet, Milk sweet, Festival food
Time taken: Under 30 minutes
Makes: One 9 X 9 sheet 1/2" thick, can be cut into 25 squares




Ingredients

1 cup besan (gram flour)
1 cup ghee
1 cup freshly scraped or dessicated coconut
1 cup milk
2 cups sugar [if your sugar is not as sweet then add 1/4-1/2 cup more]

A few saffron strands or cardamom powder for flavouring

Directions
Grease a 9 X 9 baking sheet (or a deep dish) ghee and keep aside.
In a heavy bottomed wok, place 2 tbsp ghee.
Add the cup of besan to this and on a very low flame, roast it till fragrant - say around 4-5 minutes. Keep a close watch and saute constantly so as not to let the gram flour brown or burn.
In a large bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients including flavouring of choice {saffron strands or cardamom].
Once the gram flour is aromatic, tip the contents of the bowl into a wok. Keeping the flame low at all times, constantly keep stirring the contents till reduced to nearly half. For the quantities specified, this takes 15-17 minutes.
At the end of 15 minutes, immediately transfer the contents of the wok onto the greased baking sheet.
Smoothen out the surface with the edge of a flat spatula or by patting under few layers of foil, to make the heat bearable.
Score into squares or diamonds using a pizza cutter /knife.
Cut out when completely cool.

(The recipe is traditionally called a seven cup cake or the seven heaven cake because of three cups of sugar and 1 each of other 4 ingredients, making it easy to remember. However, in my experience, 2 cups of sugar is more than enough for our generation's sweet tooth. And even my grandparents are quite happy with that :)



11 September 2007

Cabbage curry with Bengali spices



Inspirations come in different ways. The inspiration to cook Bengali vegetarian food came after my visit to Oh! Calcutta - one of the more authentic Bengali cuisine restaurants in Bombay. S and I actually wrote down all that we had ordered in detail so that one of us could blog about it. We even fought over who'd write about it first. And then like how it happens sometimes, the paper got pushed inside a drawer and neither of us wrote about that brilliant meal that proved that Bengali food is not all 'phish' We had started with an amazing hyacinth beans patties steamed in banana leaves with tomato-khajurer chatni. The flavour was very unusual and just the perfect start to the meal. For the main course it was a chorchori - a mixed vegetable dish in mustard-green chilli gravy and a Alu-Pulkopi Daalna - Cauliflower and potatoes in a spicy gravy. We had this with plain rotis and ended the meal with Rosogulla in Payesh.Will you believe it if I told you we'd done this dinner almost 4-5 months ago and I still remember every single taste of that evening? That's how good it was.

The next step was to try and replicate some of these beauties in my kitchen for which I had to get hold on one special ingredient called Kalonji - Nigella seeds to make the Paach Phoron, since I had the other four ingredients in my pantry.
Paach Phoron is a typical Bengali whole spice mix made using 5 spices in equal proportion, namely-

Cumin seeds
Fennel seeds
Nigella seeds
Mustard seeds
Fenugreek seeds

You might have tasted all these spices individually, but mix them up and you will discover and entirely new zone of flavour, something heavenly that you have to taste to understand. The first time I'd got hold of some ready made Paach phoron that my friend got for me from Kolkotta, I was so addicted to this taste that I used to add it to any vegetable dish. This simple cabbage saute I made yesterday is truly Bengal inspired. It uses both paach phoron in the tempering and mustard powder for extra flavour, some slivers of green chillies and that's all there is to it.





Cabbage curry with Bengali Spices
Time taken: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-3 people
Category: Indian side, Vegetables


Ingredients
3 cups shredded cabbage - tightly packed
1-2 tsp vegetable oil or mustard oil
1 tsp paach phoron [see above]
2 light green chillies, deseeded and diagonally sliced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coarsely ground mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt

Directions
In a heavy based wok, take 1 tsp oil. Once moderately hot splutter the spice mix (paach phoron). Saute the chillies for a few seconds.
Add the shredded cabbage with salt and turmeric powder - on a low flame, saute every 2 minutes or so, until the cabbage is almost cooked buy maintaining slight crispness.
At this stage, sprinkle the mustard powder and saute for a minute or so.
Serve hot with rotis or a bowl of curd for a light / low-cal lunch.


Check what Haalo has to say about Paach Phoron and she has some eye-catching pics of the spices there too.



This one goes to Sunita's event - Think Spice: Think Mustard





4 September 2007

WBB # 15 - Announcement & Gokulashtami

Weekend Breakfast Blogging is back to home ground this month. Guest hosts are lined up for WBB # 16 and 17. If you would like to take up hosting for December 07 and onwards for 08, please put in a line to me at saffrontrail@gmail.com.




A wonderfully organized full fridge
[Under Flickr Creative Commons License]

If you have a fridge as full as that, then it's time to raid it for WBB # 15... because we're talking leftovers this month.

Breakfast is no hassle if you have leftovers from dinner. Some staples like bread, eggs, spreads, left over curry etc. on hand and you can whip up delicious stuff in the morning in no time at all. The inspiration for this month's theme came from the delicious 'Chole parathas' I made yesterday from Sunday's leftover Kabuli Chole. You'll have to wait it out a bit to hear the details of that one, my dear readers.

I have seen fantastic ideas from the blogosphere where stuff lying around in the fridge have been used creatively the following day to make a lip-smacking meal. One such recipe and presentation that stuck to my head is the Curried Noodle Patties from 101 Cookbooks. So raid your fridge for leftovers and do something creative with it for breakfast. You can also share with us your favourite tips for leftovers.



The rules of the game:
Prepare a breakfast from leftovers.
Blog about it including a link to this post in your write-up.
Send me a mail at saffrontrail@gmail.com - with 'BREAKFAST' mentioned in the title-
Please include the name of your entry, the permalink of your entry in the mail.
If you have a picture to be included, please resize it to 640X480 pixels and attach it with the mail.
Last date for submitting entries is 30th September - Midnight, Indian Standard Time [GMT + 5:30]
Round up will be posted sometime in the 1st week of October.

Look forward to seeing you all then!




Lord Krishna with Radha
[Photo Courtesy: Swami Gaurangapada: Flickr Creative Commons]

Hope all my Indian friends are munching on Gokulashtami bakshanam (goodies). My mom and aunts have gone the whole nine yards as usual and made varieties of seedai, murukku, thattai, athirasam, vella aval and some more sweets. I'll be making the simple vella aval (beaten rice with jaggery and coconut) and Panakam for naivedyam this evening. The rest of the goodies are mine to take when I visit my parents' house next. I have a picture taken last year, same time, with my mom and aunt slaving in the kitchen to prepare an array of goodies. You'll find it here.


3 September 2007

Eating out - Diva Maharashtracha

WBB News
Glenna has posted the round up of WBB # 14- Ethnic breakfasts. Check out breakfasts from the world here. WBB comes back to Saffron Trail this month, I shall be posting the theme tomorrow. We have a couple of hosts lined up for the next two months. If you are interested in hosting WBB, please write to me at saffrontrail@gmail.com.

Check the viral ad for Orbit White chewing gum below based on Sholay! You'll laugh your guts out!





You must have heard of Goa Portugesa and Culture Curry, two popular theme restaurants in Mumbai / Bombay. I believe these even have mention in the Lonely Planet's guide to the city of Bombay. Goa Portugesa as the name suggests specialised in Goan food and Culture curry serves up a melange from the South Indian states. I have been to neither. The restaurants are run by a couple, Dr. Suhas & Deepa Awchat. It was announced in the papers that their new and third restaurant Diva Maharashtracha -specializing in authentic Maharashtrian cuisine had a vegetarian food festival on for the month of Shravan, Sumanth and I decided to give it a go. Besides, we had never dined in an authentic Marathi restaurant, despite living in Bombay.


After a heavy duty Sunday late afternoon workout in our gym, we felt we had earned ourself a good meal. Having made reservations, we landed there 15 minutes before time. All 3 restaurants are located next to each other near Hinduja Hospital or the Shivaji Park area in central Bombay.


The outside is done up like a Maharashtrian fort, albeit a bit too shiny for a fort! After a short wait and a glass of complementary Kokum Sharbat, we were shown inside to the tunes of the traditional Peshwa style announcing trumpet. It was only later I realised that everytime someone opened the door, the recorded music played automatically, and after hearing the long drawn trumpet screech around 5 times, I was quite sick of that sound ;)
[Update: This instrument is called Tutari, credit to this enlightenment goes to our Maharashtrian friend, Kedar]

Made to sit in one of the corner tables, I did not get a view of the entire place but there was live music playing within...from popular Marathi songs to Bollywood and even ghazals.

We ordered the Solkadhi, a coastal drink made using coconut milk, kokum extract. This was too thick and milkshake-like for my liking. Having spoilt by the coastal restaurant opposite Ogilvy in Lower Parel, I was expecting that kind of a taste. They were nice enough to replace it but still the taste wasn't the same. Hubby had a Shahaleche Limbu Sharbat, which is nothing but a lime squeezed inside coconut water, served in the shell.


Mango pickle - Green chilli thecha - Garlic coconut red chilli dry chutney

For starters we decided to go with steamed savoury modak filled with mushrooms cooked in milk. While the filling was creamy and full of flavour, the outer cover of the modak made with rice flour was made out of a press (not handmade), hence quite thick and kinda under cooked. This was served with a green coriander chutney and we also had the option of eating it with the red garlic powder or the green chilli thecha, as you can see from the picture above.

For the main course, we ordered a Paneer-Makai in hirwa rassa (Paneer & corn in green spinach-coriander gravy), Chaulicha usal (small black eyed peas sprouted and dry sauteed with spices and coconut) and Khamang Kakdi (read more below). From a choice of breads available, I chose the simple poli (a larger sized phulka made with whole wheat flour) and Sumanth had one each of the Jowar and Rice Bhakri. The rice bhakri came in by mistake instead of the jowar and he decided to try it anyway.

The sprouts usal as delicately flavoured and garnished generously with coconut. The lentils were cooked just right and not mushed up, each grain having its own identity and flavour.

The green gravy did not find much acceptance with me, may be it was great but somehow I did not love its flavours much. The paneer was soft and fresh in it though.

The Khamang Kakdi was the star of the evening. Well, how much can you expect from a simple cucumber salad anyway, right? But this one was rich in flavours in an unusual (for me) peanut-coconut dressing was the surprise of the evening. I fell so much in love with this diced cucumber salad, dressed in coconut, bit of yogurt, green chillies, curry leaves and peanut - tempered with potent hing (asafoeida), cumin and mustard seeds. And I can announce that I have already tried making it for our lunch, with the omission of peanuts as its out of stock at home. You can eat it as it is, or as a sandwich filling or with some masala rice. Stuff like this inspires quite some creativity. I'm going to be making this again and again and again. And I promise I shall posting a recipe of this one in the next few days. Let me stop gushing here.

They serve the rotis hot and fresh from steel casseroles. Sumanth downed some two glasses of Matha - plain and simple salted buttermilk along with the meal.

Remembering how much we had to run to burn a few hundred calories, we decided to give the desserts a skip. There were some special desserts from the Sravan Menu, sounded interesting but not tempting enough for us to break our resolve.

Except for the disappointment with the solkadhi and the modak covers being somewhat undercooked, the main course was a pleasure to eat. Having eaten quite some times in my Marathi friends' homes, I know that the tastes and flavours were authentic without adding the ubiquitous ginger-garlic paste and garam masala in everything.

Service was attentive and quick. But alas, there was a hair in one of the small bowls and the waiter without noticing continued to pour a gravy into it - resulting in wasting a whole portion of the gravy, realising only after I pointed it out to him. The restaurant was pretty crowded and bustling, mostly a Maharashtrian crowd as I understood.

I would like to point out that the damages indicated in the Times Food Guide 2007 are not at all accurate and the actual rates exclusive of desserts and alcohol is just about double that, with almost a 25% tax levied (this includes VAT plus service charges).

While the food was good, the ambience is too noisy and music a tad loud for our liking, it is surely worth a one time visit to sample authentic Maharashtrian food, both for the non-Marathi Bombayite and people visiting from around the country.

Please check out their menu on the website to know more about the chicken / meat / fish dishes served.

Ratings
Ambience - 2.5/5
Service - 3.5/5
Food - 3.5/5
VFM- 3.5/5

Details:
Diva Maharashtracha
Marathi Cuisine Unlimited
Near Hinduja Hospital, Shivaji Park,
Mumbai-400016
Tel- +91-22-24440202/0707
Website: http://www.divamarashtracha.com/

Useful Links:
-Check out some Malwani Recipes (coastal Maharashtra) here, including one for Sol Kadhi
- Malwani cuisine on Wiki

On the occasion of the super-flop movie - Ram Gopal Varma's Aag - here's an ad -spoofed from the original Sholay :


For more such superb viral ads, check out here.

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