Cottage cheese cake - Paneer Cake : Perfect tea-time treat

A trip to Madras is incomplete without a drive to Pondicherry. Once, we took up a homestay and stayed over for a couple of nights - walking around the lovely streets in the French quarter, peering into some bookshops, boutiques, incense and candle shops while we were there. During a peek into one such bookshop I came across this little book on baking called Baking Delights by Aruna Sheth with the kind of recipes my mother's generation would make at home. The sections include breads, biscuits, cakes, multi-purpose meals, puddings & pies and snacks.

I have a liking for all things old-fashioned and so I got this home. After reading those quaint old recipes many a times - I fell in love with one Cottage cheese cake, the recipe of which had no butter or oil. With my slight modifications, I turned this into a faux mava cake, using the Mixed Fruit essence and some tutti frutti - a total 70s style cake, perfectly simple to make, and just right with that cup of tea / coffee - feels like a treat but not like a sinful indulgence.

So here is the recipe for Cottage cheese cake with Tutti Frutti

Makes 2 small square cakes or 1 loaf

1/2 litre milk, 1 tbsp white vinegar - to make paneer
1.5 cups atta
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar, or slightly less, ground with seeds from 3 cardamoms
4 tbsp milkmaid
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp vinegar
1/4 cup tutti frutti in any colours
1/4 cup milk (if required)

  1. Bring the milk to a boil, add the vinegar and stir till milk splits to give paneer and clear whey. Filter out paneer and save the whey.
  2. Preheat oven at 180 C.
  3. Line 2 square tins of 12 cmX12 cm with foil or a loaf tin. Grease the foil with some oil.
  4. Sieve the flour with the baking soda and baking powder.
  5. In a large bowl, mash the paneer well with the oil, milkmaid. Add 1 tbsp vinegar, sugar-cardamom mix to this and half the whey water.
  6. Add the flour in batches into the whisked wet ingredients. Use the reserved whey water and extra milk if required to get a batter consistency.
  7. Fold in most of the tutti frutti, reserving some to decorate on the top of the cake.
  8. Divide the batter into the two square tins or a single loaf tin, sprinkle remaining tutti frutti on the top.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes (in case of two small tins) or 45-50 minutes for loaf at 180 C reducing the temperature after 20 minutes to 160 or so in case of square tins to prevent excessive browning of the tops.
  10. Remove, cool in the tin itself for 15 minutes and remove out with the foil. Slice and serve warm.
Food-shopping in Hyderabad
Where to buy Tutti-Frutti - Branches of Heritage- Fresh, QMart-Banjara Hills, branches of Ratnadeep
Disposable aluminium foil baking containers available at most supermarkets - eg. Balaji Grand Bazaar in Road.1

    Vegetarian chili made with black eyed peas and a Mexican Pizza

    Ingredients inspire dishes. My sudden love for Mexican cuisine is totally inspired by the tins of Chipotle Chillies in Adobo sauce that Nupur (One Hot Stove) was so sweet enough to gift me when she was visiting us in Mumbai last year, among many other gifts including a handmade Eggplant cap for Atri :)

    Having never cooked Mexican food before, they were just lying at the back of my kitchen shelf for many many months. The day I opened the can and took a teeny taste of the contents, I was sold on this. One tin goes a long way and the large chillies soaked in adobo sauce are bursting with heat and smoky flavours, giving any Mexican recipe an authentic touch.

    This Chili dish is something you can serve as a stew to eat with soft tortillas, top slices of bread or make it thinner and have it as a hearty soup on a cold evening. Whichever way, this is guaranteed to be a sureshot crowd pleaser and the spicy flavours will easily agree with the Indian palate.

    Vegetarian Chili with black eyed peas
    serves 6

    2 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
    4-5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    5-6 mushrooms
    1 green capsicum
    1 red capsicum
    1 onion
    6 medium tomatoes
    2 cups boiled black eyed peas (Pressure cooked with enough water until very soft and mushy)
    2 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce (or use regular green / red chillies finely chopped)
    1/2 tsp red chilli powder or more as per preference
    1 tsp dried ground oregano
    1 tsp freshly ground cumin 

    Finely chop the garlic, onion, mushrooms and capsicums.
    Fill a large pot with 2 L water. Score the tomatoes with a cross at the smooth end. Allow to come to a boil and drop the tomatoes. Once this comes to a simmer, turn off flame and cover for 2 minutes.
    Fish out the tomatoes and place them in tap/cold water, until cool enough to handle. Peel off skins and chop to a medium dice, seeds included.

    1. Heat the oil in a large wok. Saute the garlic for 30 seconds, before adding the onions, capsicums and mushrooms. On a medium flame, let these cook for 7-10 minutes with a pinch of salt added towards the end.
    2. Once the vegetables are nearly done, add the chopped blanched tomatoes, cooked black eyed peas, chopped chipotle / chillies and spice powders along with a tsp (or as per taste) of salt. Add 1/2-1 cup of water, cover with a lid and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
    3. Check for spiciness and salt, adjust the taste according to your preference and remove into a serving bowl. This chilli should be quite dried out if using as a pizza topping or else the base will get soggy. If serving with tortillas or rice, you can leave some amount of liquid in the chili.
    You can use black beans, kidney beans or any other beans instead of black eyed peas.

    For Pizza
    Ready pizza bases - 6
    Black eyed peas chilli
    Grated cheddar cheese - 1 cup
    Dried oregano
    Dried chilli flakes (optional)
    Preheat oven to 200C
    Spread the chilli over the base. Top with grated cheese and bake for 5-7 minutes, till cheese melts.
    Sprinkle oregano and if you like it really hot, then chilli flakes too.
    Keep a chilled beer or iced water handy!

     We started the Mexican dinner with a bowl of guacamole and baked corn chips (Italia brand). It was the most fun dinner we had in a long time. Thank you Nupur!

    If you happen to spot tinned chipotle chillies in a supermarket near you, please leave a comment and I shall include it in a note here, to help the readers.
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