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Category Archives: festive fare

Boozey Christmas Fruit Cake

Ever since I started writing this blog, I have visions of creating fabulous posts for Christmas. Each year I plan to make wonderfully festive stuff and post here. Some years I manage, like the year I made and posted these beautiful Date and Fig Ravioli that still count as the best Christmas cookies I have ever baked. Some years I just summarise what I have made in a post that marks Christmas atleast 6 weeks late.

Traditionally in my family, rich fruit plum cake is baked. The dried fruit is bought and soaked in rum by september and the baking and preparation for the festival began atleast a week in advance. The first thing to get done would be the cake, followed by murukku, rose cookies and sometimes kalkals. This is in my mother’s house. Each year, depending on my mood and fancy, things change in the escapades household. Now more than ever, I miss having a large family gathering. For the last few years, Christmas day has been spent with K’s family joining us for lunch, and our friends come home in the evening for drinks and dinner. A couple of years, I had largish parties. This year I am doing almost nothing. I still have no concrete plans.

I spent today baking my version of the fruit cake. It has never disappointed me and each year I feel somehow that this only gets better. I would have ideally liked to bake this cake atleast a week ago and have enough time to feed it with rum / brandy, but if you know anything about me, you will already know that I am not a planner.

So this morning I woke up feeling like a grouch and decided I’d had enough of this non festivity. Proceeded post breakfast to make some cake. I have made three kinds of cake this year. Boozey Christmas Fruit Cake which I am sharing in this post. Another version of this cake that I teach in my classes and a quick Caramel dried fruit eggless cake which I will share in another post. Hopefully I will post all of them before this evening, but there is no telling!

Boozey Plum Cake

Boozey Plum Cake

This is a long list of ingredients and has atleast 3 steps. the soaking of the fruit and making of the caramel can be done much ahead of time.

So here is the recipe for my Boozey Christmas Fruit Cake  (Makes two 9X9 inch cakes or 10 3X4 loaves which can be baked in aluminium tins used to pack takeaway)

I made the batter in the food processor with the plastic blades used to make batter. Feel free to make this by hand, or use a hand mixer.

PS: Ensure all ingredients are at room temperature

1 Cup Unsalted Butter

1 Cup Brown Sugar (powdered to ensure quicker mixing)

3 Cups Maida, sifted and then measured

3 teaspoons Baking Powder

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Salt

2 teaspoons Cinnamon Powder

2 teaspoons Ground dried ginger

2 teaspoons dried or fresh orange peel

1/2 teaspoon Allspice powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

3 teaspoons Vanilla Essence / extract

3 large Eggs

1/2 Cup Applesauce

1 teaspoon Instant Coffee Powder

3/4 cup Caramel Syrup

3 Cups dried fruit soaked in rum

To soak the fruit

Equal parts of Golden raisins, black raisins, apricots, dates, figs, tutti fruiti and a small sprinkling of cranberries (optional) are soaked in Dark rum for atleast 1 day or upto 1 year in advance. Chop the large fruit such as dates and apricots into small pieces before soaking.

To make the caramel syrup

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat 1/2 cup of white sugar on medium high heat without stirring till it begins to caramelise. Heat 1/2 cup of water side by side. When the sugar becomes uniformly golden, stir with a wooden spoon and begin to add the water a little at a time, stirring to ensure there are no lumps. heat through till the water is all mixed with the burnt sugar. If the caramel becomes lumpy, reduce the heat and continue to stir and cook till the sugar lumps melt. Cool completely before using. Caramel can be made ahead and kept in the fridge for a few weeks.

To make the Apple sauce (Makes 1/2 cup)

Skin and core 1 medium sized red apple, chop into pieces and pressure cook with 2 tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon sugar (if the apples are not sweet). Once cool, blend to a smooth puree and use as needed.

For the Cake

Preheat the oven to 170 C. Butter and line 2 9X9 square metal cake pans or smaller aluminium takeaway tins.

Sift the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, salt, instant coffee, ground spice powders. Set aside.

Beat the butter till fluffy. Add the sugar and beat till the granules disappear and the mixture has become fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Add a teaspoon of vanilla after the addition of each egg and beat.

Mix the cooled caramel syrup with the apple sauce and stir well. In 3-4 parts, add the sifted flour alternating with the caramel-apple sauce mixture and mix gently into the butter-sugar-eggs mix. Do this till all the flour and caramel apple sauce has been used. With a spatula, mix in the soaked dried fruit.

Divide this mixture between pans. If using the 9X9 inch pan, bake for 45-55 minutes, checking for done-ness with a toothpick.

If baking in smaller pans, bake 3 tins together for about 25-35 minutes, checking with a toothpick at 23 minutes and adjusting baking time.

Once done, remove onto a wire rack and cool completely in the pan before slicing.

This cake can be made more boozey by poking holes on the top once cooled and sprinkling 1-2 teaspoons of rum / brandy every day for upto 10 days. Make sure to wrap tightly in clingfilm or foil before storing.

Puri and Potato Masala Recipe

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The temperature in Hyderabad is a beautiful 18 C in the early mornings and hovers around the 20’s at least till 9 AM. This is K’s favourite season and sometimes its tough to make out where he starts and the dog ends on the bed. Despite a thick furry coat, one can find Sage snuggled under the blankets with K post his early morning walks.

We planned to spend the weekend with K’s parent’s who live close by. But Sage by dinner time on Saturday, had decided he wanted to go back to ‘his’ house and the non-stop fuss was too much to take. All of us were disappointed, especially me, because I was so looking forward to some total cooking free R&R. Sunday breakfast was supposed to be Puri and Aloo Bhaji and all of us were disappointed we could not go as per plans.

This morning, when we woke up, we spoke again of the missed chance of eating puri and aloo. Anyone who knows me, will tell you that they cannot remember when I voluntarily filled a pan with oil to deep fry anything! Even this blog has very few deep-fried treats. But the beautiful winter morning called out for some indulgence and I set about making an elaborate (for me) breakfast.

Puri (Makes 10-12)

11/2 Cup                     Whole Wheat Flour (I used Ashirwaad Atta)

1/4 teaspoon            Salt

1 teaspoon                 oil

Oil for deep-frying

Water to make the dough

Add about 1/2 cup water to the flour and mix with your fingers, add water a little at a time as required to bring the dough together to make a firm yet soft dough. Apply the oil and knead for a minute. Cover and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 10 equal parts, roll into a smooth ball between your palms, flatten and roll out dusting with dry flour into a 4 inch disc. Ensure the puri is not too thin, else it will break / burst while frying.

Heat oil in a kadai, gently lower the rolled out puri and fry on medium high heat till it puffs up, turn over and fry on the other side. The puri should be lightly golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper before serving while still hot.

Note: Adding a tablespoon of semolina while making the dough results in crisper puris, I didn’t add this since I forgot.

Aloo Bhaji (Serves 3-4)

1 medium Onion, Sliced

4 medium Potatoes, boiled and peeled

1 green chilli, slit

1/2 inch piece Ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder

1/4 teaspoon Turmeric / Haldi powder

1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds

1 teaspoon Urad Dal (Black Gram, husked)

1 tablespoon Chickpea Flour (Besan / Senagapindi)

2 Tablespoons Milk / water

10-12 Curry Leaves

2 tablespoons Fresh Coriander Leaves

Salt to taste

1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice + More to serve

1 Tablespoon Oil

In a pan, heat the oil and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the urad dal and fry till it is turning golden. Add the green chilli, grated ginger, curry leaves and sliced onions. Fry till the onions are turning translucent, about 1 minute.

Add the turmeric powder and red chilli powder fry for a half a minute.

Peel and chop the boiled potatoes into chunks. Add them to the pan, reduce the heat to low and mix well till they are coated with the rest of the ingredients.

Add 1/2 cup of water, salt to taste and cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Stirring a couple of times.

Remove the lid off the pan and stir the curry. Add 1/4 cup water if you want more gravy, test for salt and spices and adjust as needed.

Mix the chickpea flour with the milk/ water and gently pour it into the curry while stirring, continue to cook for a minute till the curry gets thickened.

Take off the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and lemon juice, stir to mix and serve hot with puris.

Diwali Treats ~ Sweet and Savoury treats

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Am not doing anything special for Diwali (yet) this year. But here are all my favourite festival treats. What’s cooking in your kitchens?

Sweets

Balushahi 

Semia Payasam (Doesn’t get easier than this!)

Orange Scented Besan Burfi

Kaddu ka Kheer

White Chocolate Pannacotta (Gelatine free)

Savouries

Nippattu

Namak Paare

Ribbon Pakodi

The Quintessential Sundal ~ Double Beans Sundal Recipe

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Double Beans Sundal

Double Beans Sundal

My friend Siri and I met on monday for a bloggers meet in Hyderabad. While the talk we attended per se was not much to talk about, it was a chance for us to meet many bloggers we had been reading or following but had never met, and for the two of us to meet after ages. We proceeded to have coffee and then went out for lunch. Severely missing the other conspirator Pree. Over some yummy chilli cheese toast and a pub lunch, we gossiped, checked out the other people at the pub, gossiped some more and shared notes on what has been happening in our lives.

In the middle of all the ideas for the blog and whooping my behind for not blogging regularly (really, I never learn!) I told her  I would be posting a recipe for Sundal. The must have during navratri, especially in homes which display the Indian style tableau of dolls called Bommalakoluvu /Gollu. Rolling her eyes, Siri asks me “but why Sundal? Isn’t it just boiled beans with a tempering and coconut?” I laughed and said “yes… but you can easily screw that up too!”

In my defence,  I did think the double beans sundal was better than most sundals. Purely because double beans is one of my favourite beans, I love its texture and it lends itself beautifully to any recipe.

this recipe needs a little of pre work in soaking dried beans for atleast 4-5 hours. Once pressure cooked, there is nothing really to do except temper it.

Double Beans Sundal (Serves 2)

Double Beans        1 cup dried beans, soaked for 5-6 hours and pressure cooked for 2 whistles, water drained

Ghee                       1 teaspoon

Mustard Seeds     1 teaspoon

Hing                        a pinch

Dried Red Chilli    1, broken into two pieces

Salt to taste

Grated Fresh Coconut ¼ cup

Curry Leaves        10

Drain the water off the boiled beans and set aside.

In a kadai, heat the ghee, add the mustard and splutter, add the curry leaves, dried red chillies and hing and turn off the heat. Add the grated coconut and toss.

Add the boiled beans to this, add salt and mix gently. Serve when still warm.

Easter Recipes ~ Baking ~ Candy Studded Vanilla Cookies

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I’ve been wanting to bake these cookies for years. Just plain laziness that I haven’t done it till now! Somehow I give cookies a very step motherly treatment. Am not very fond of cookies, I simply find cakes and cupcakes much more satisfying to make and eat! But even if i may say so myself, these cookies are very good. they have a cake like taste and texture. they are crisp and buttery and not very chewy. They are almost the perfect cookie.

Candy Studded Cookies

Gem Studded Cookies (Makes 12)

Maida                                                              11/2 cup

Egg                                                                  1 (lightly beaten)

Sugar                                                               1/3 cup

Softened Butter                                              ¼ cup

Baking Powder                                               11/2 teaspoon

Coloured Candy                                             36 (use gems)

Grind the sugar to a fine powder.
Beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy. You can use a hand beater or do this with a whisk.
Add the egg and whisk till it is creamy.
Sift the Maida with the baking powder. Add this slowly to the butter and sugar and mix gently till you get a sticky dough.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with foil.
Drop one tablespoon of the dough onto the baking sheet. Make sure the cookies are at least 1 inch apart from each other. Do not overfill the cookie sheet.
Press in 2-3 candies into the cookie dough and bake for 12-14 minutes or till the edges are turning golden.
Remove from the oven and cool completely. These can be stored for a week in an airtight container.

Festive Fare ~ Balushahi (Badusha)

Balushahi

Balushahi

Wishing all my readers a Happy Diwali. May the festival bring you Laughter and joy and may you always be surrounded with family and friends and bask in their love. Celebrate in whatever way you choose, stay safe!

I thought I wouldn’t post any more sweets or savouries. Frankly, my blog has never seen so much activity! but yesterday I did a trial run of Balushahi’s at my MIL’s house and everyone was unanimous with the verdict ~ very good for a first attempt. Not one to be smug with that, I wanted a “very good”. So this morning, after my morning routine, I made a second set. Even if i say so myself, these were almost perfect! Its an easy and forgiving recipe. The only thing to remember is that you do not over mix / overknead the dough and fry the dumplings very slowly on medium heat.

If you know how to make Pooris, this is easier… just make small balls of the dough and deep fry.

I have been fascinated with recipe videos on youtube. I can watch them all day and night. I especially love the ones in Urdu by Shirin Anwar. The format of the programs have changed over the years. She’s now become the elder sister/ aunt and counsellor leaning a lot on prayer (She prays for ages before each program), and her dishes may not be what I may ever make, I cant explain why i watch her videos! I also like the ones by Manjula’s Kitchen from where I got the recipe for Balushahi.

balushahi

balushahi

Balushahi (Makes 12)

Time Taken: 1 hr including resting the dough for 30 minutes)

Ingredients:

1 cup Maida

1/8 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 cup Ghee

1/4 cup Plain Yogurt/ Dahi (make sure it is not sour)

For the Sugar Syrup

1 Cup Sugar

1/3 cup water

4 Green Cardamom’s crushed and remove the peels

A few sprigs of saffron (optional)

1 tablespoon unsalted Pistachios (cut into slivers)

Oil to deep fry

Method:

Mix the maida with the baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl. Add the Ghee and rub it in with your fingers lightly till it resembled wet sand. Add the yogurt and mix into a shaggy dough. Do not over-knead the dough. It needs to be shaggy and light to make crisp Balushahis. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 20 minutes.

In the meanwhile, make the sugar syrup by heating the water and sugar together. when it has melted add the powdered elaichi and saffron strings. Skim off the scum if any and turn off the heat when it has reached one thread consistency.

Remove the cover from the bowl containing the dough and lightly bring everything together. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. make sure the pieces are no larger than 11/2 inch in diameter. It will expand slightly while frying.

Roll into a circle between your palms, press down slightly and make a dent in the middle with your thumb like a thumbprint jam cookie.

Heat about 3 inches of oil in a clean vessel (use a kadai) and test with a small pinch of dough for the right heat. the dough should rise very slowly up and not brown quickly.

The Balushahis have to be fried to a deep golden brown on low-medium heat. If the oil is too hot, they will become overcooked outside and remain undercooked on the inside. Fry about 6 per batch, turning them over gently once or twice to make sure they are evenly fried.

Drain on absobent paper for a minute and while still fairly warm, drench them in the sugar syrup for 5 minutes. Remove them from the sugar syrup and lay them out on a plate. garnish with slivered almonds/ pistachios while still sticky. Store them in an airtight box once they are cooled completely.

Note: The most difficult part for me has been to believe that the shaggy mess of the dough will actually come together after resting to form pillow soft balushahis. I made mine really small and bite sizes and ended up with 16 pieces to a cup of maida.

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How do you prettify your home for festive occasions?

Taking a detour from cooking, I wanted to share a few simple ideas about adding a little bling and cheer for the festival. I am a list maker, I try to be organised, I try my best to finish stuff on time. Most times I succeed, sometimes I fail. I don’t sweat the small stuff. In an earlier life (read – a few years ago) I wanted everything to be perfect ~ the house, the table, kitchen, food, life in general. Almost having a breakdown over it Good sense prevailed and I live to tell the tale. The house is never perfect, but these days, when we have unexpected guests, I don’t scramble around to make it appear like something out of a magazine (which by the way is impossible, because they have teams of people to do that). Living with a domestically challenged K and now a really crazy dog which thinks he owns all the cushions in the house has further drilled down that story!

Last year for Christmas, I did not, for the first time in 8 yrs, put up my tree. Only because we had a young pup in the house and I was paranoid he would swallow the ornaments. yet, I didn’t think it was the end of the world, because hey! it isn’t. its an artificial tree with baubles….  That said, I almost always use my favourite accessories, dim lights and candles to make everything look pretty.

More than anything, it is friends and family and a warm welcoming home that is of importance. No amount of decor can make up for a home that is not welcoming to people. Our doors are always open for family and friends, we love having people over and sharing food and fellowship with them. Over the years, I have found, the more comfortable you are with yourself, the more comfortable and inviting your home is.

here are some things I do.


Bring out the serial lights and put them up where you can, doorpost, balcony, over the mantel or behind the TV. I put them amongst my plants in the balcony.

Rangoli and oil wicks in earthen lamps. I bought these inexpensive ones from a craft bazar and have been reusing them for 5 years now.

Flowers – even the ones that you grow in a tiny pot. use this as a centerpiece on your table .

Put your shot glasses to use and float a single flower in them. Here I used flowers that I found growing in the yard next to where I live

diyas

Use T-lights to avoid messes on your table tops. A Glass jar makes for a beautiful decor addition

diyas
Line up a row of diyas on your side tables – please make sure they are not at a level which can cause harm to your children or pets.

Serial Lights again ~ this time inside a glass jar which lights up the bar beautifully

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