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Strawberry Cake

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Strawberry Cake

Strawberry Cake

No cake has haunted me as much as this one. Also no post has disappeared 3 times after being written and saved!

Four weeks ago, the interwebs starting popping pictures of a beautiful strawberry cake. First one avid baker/blogger posted it and an avalanche was set off. Since we are a small incestuous group of bloggers who are connected on multiple social media platforms, I began seeing versions of cake all through the week and with each cake my anxiousness to make it increased. Sunken berries, wheat and other flours, egg-less and versions with egg, round, rectangular and square. There is a whole album dedicated to this cake if you want to check out the other versions. I stockpiled strawberries because I feared they would not be available as the season here is just a few weeks. And oh! I commented on how much I wanted to make this cake on every single picture that I saw.

I think everyone who saw my “OMG I need to make this cake” comment gave me the eyeroll.

the various stages of the cake

the various stages of the cake

I’ve now made this cake thrice over two weeks. The post has mysteriously disappeared thrice and the cake gets eaten so rapidly that I do not have pictures worthy of posting. But it is a fabulous cake, the sponge is gorgeous and I cannot wait to try it with other fruit. It comes together in no time and the most tedious thing to do if you ask me is to hull and slice the strawberries and then arrange them symmetrically on the batter before baking

The original recipe is from the famed blog Smitten Kitchen.  I used home made white butter and the flavour was so deep that I saved the rest of the home made butter to make this cake again a few days later. I reduced the quantity of sugar and surprisingly, my cake took only 35 minutes to bake as against 50 mentioned in the original recipe. To stop the strawberries from sinking into the batter, I baked the cake at 200 degrees C for the first 10 minutes on Anand’s recommendation.  This also gave me a beautiful golden crust on top and the sides.

Golden brown edges

Golden brown edges

Strawberry Cake (Makes a 9 inch cake)

Note: The batter rises quite a bit while baking and using a smaller tin will cause the fruit to be buried under the batter. So please use a 9 inch tin.

Original recipe is here

6 tablespoons – Unsalted butter, at room temperature

1+1/2 cup – Maida (or All purpose flour)

1+1/2 teaspoon – Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon – Salt

2/3 cup – White sugar (pulsed in a food processor for ease of mixing)

1 tablespoon – Granualated sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup – Milk (at room temperature)

1 teaspoon – Vanilla essence

250 grams – Strawberries, hulled and halved

Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees. Butter a 9 inch baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, salt and baking powder and set aside.

Beat the butter and the sugar till pale and fluffy, takes about 2 minutes. Add egg, vanilla & milk and beat till combined.

Add the flour mixture in 2-3 batches, mixing gently with a spatula. Do not overmix the batter.

Pour this batter into the buttered and lined cake pan, smoothen the top with the spatula. Arrange the halved strawberries, cut side down close together till most of the batter is covered. Sprinkle the cake with the granulated sugar.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200 Degrees Celsius for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 175 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes or till a cake tester comes out clean. The original recipe calls for 50 minutes.

Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Unmould and slice.

This cake is best eaten fresh and still warm from the oven. If you have any leftovers, refrigerate it in a covered box.

 

Watermelon Feta Salad ~ My version

I buy feta cheese at ridiculous prices here in Hyderabad and have it spoil while I make grand plans to use it inventively. A few days ago, I discovered a still fresh stash of feta in my fridge and cringed at how much I paid for it and how carelessly I kept it. That discovery hardly prompted me to do anything about it. I have been in a food funk lately and I won’t lie.

The only food I am interested in cooking these days is to pack into K’s lunch. One day its a glass noodle salad (which he won’t eat, its for his colleagues), one day plain dal, rotis and sabzi. That apart, I’m eating leftovers.

I have rocket lettuce growing out of control on my rooftop, I’ve neglected it beyond belief. I’m too lazy to go up and have left my plants un-watered for days on end. It is some wonder that they continue to grow. The watermelon lay in my fruit bowl alongside the apples, threatening to topple the bowl in which it sat since sunday and I wondered if I should just slice it up for Sage. I have an assortment of paper tea cups on my kitchen window. I have some lettuce, some garlic chives and radishes growing in them. The radishes I grow only for the leaves and it makes for an excellent rocket leaves substitute.

radish leaves in a salad

radish leaves in a salad

Yesterday, I was online after ages and was trawling my favourite food sites. Suddenly overcome with a fresh dose of guilt, I bolted to the kitchen to make lunch for myself. I gathered the watermelon with Sage underfoot, fished out the feta salad that lay languishing in the fridge and plucked out the lettuce from the paper cups (still too lazy to walk upstairs).

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon and Feta Cheese Salad

Watermelon Feta is one of the easiest salads to make. It is also the most forgiving. Usually onions and mint leaves are added. I don’t like either in salad so I skipped the onion and swapped out the scanty lettuce leaves for the mint.

I’ve found fresh paneer to be quite a good substitute for feta. Add salt to the milk and make it freshly at home using this recipe for an easy replacement if you cannot source feta cheese where you live.

Watermelon Feta Salad (Serves 2)

2 cups Cubed and de seeded watermelon (preferably chilled)

1/2 cup of cubed feta cheese

handful of lettuce (or mint leaves if you prefer)

8-10 pitted green Olives, brine rinsed off

For the dressing

2 tablespoons Extra virgin Olive oil

1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

In  a small bowl, add the ingredients for the dressing and whisk well with a fork.

Add the watermelon chunks, lettuce and olives and toss a bit. Pour half of the dressing over this and toss it. Add the cubed feta chunks and pour the remaining dressing over the feta cubes. Serve immediately. Make sure the watermelon chunks are chilled.

Mango cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting

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Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

I am nothing if not a mango fiend. I brave the summers in Hyderabad only because of the fabulous array of mangoes we get here. The most popular and commercially successful one is the Banaganapalli. While my favourites are Shakkar gutli (a small apple sized mango that is sweet as sugar – shakkar +sugar) and Imampasand for its flavour, the humble banaganapalli is a good fruit to use in bakes and desserts.

I made my basic vanilla cupcake recipe and swapped out the vanilla for a dash of mango essence and pulp. The result was a moist, subtle mango cupcake. I went a few steps further and slapped on some mango flavoured buttercream. My mantra seems to be “when in doubt, go the whole hog”

I made this for a party and it was a huge hit. Try this with fresh mango pulp while the last of the season slowly inches out or with frozen if you cannot get fresh mangoes in your part of the world.

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes (makes 12 medium ones)

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar (I used regular sugar, powdered for ease of mixing)

2 eggs ( use 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt for an egg-less variant)

1 teaspoon mango essence

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of mango puree (mango pieces chopped and pureed in a blender with a splash of water)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenhiet or 175 Celsius and line muffin trays with paper liners

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the yogurt (or eggs, beating well after each addition) and beat well. Beat in the mango essence.

In another bowl, whisk the flour with salt, baking soda and baking powder

Add the mango puree and flour to the butter-sugar mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Evenly fill the paper liners with batter and bake for 18-20 minutes or till a tester comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Edited to add: Sometimes the consistency of the mango pulp/ puree can make the batter thicker than desired. Adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk / water to the batter to get cake batter consistency will help.

For the mango butter-cream frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

11/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar / icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon mango essence

1 pinch of salt

1/2 cup mango puree

Whip the butter for 1 minute on medium speed with a hand whisk/ blender until creamy. Add the sugar in 2-3 batches and whip on low speed till it has mixed well. Add the salt, essence and mango puree and mix till blended. Use as required. If the buttercream is too runny, add upto 3/4 cup more icing sugar to make piping consistency.

I used a star tip nozzle to pipe swirls on the cooled cupcakes. Added a few slivers of chopped fresh mango as garnish.

 

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

 

Beat the Heat series ~ Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

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Remember when as children, everyone strained their ears for the tinkle of the bell that the ice cream vendor would sound? Kids would rush out and pick their favourite frozen treat. Popsicles are by far one of the easiest things to make. It is as simple as making a fruit crush/ juice and freezing it and doesn’t need any specific recipe. They are also one of the best ways to beat the summer heat. I tried my hand at quite a few of them recently for an article I was writing and was quite happy at how simple it was to make them with whatever fruit is lying about at home. Devoid of artificial colour and excess sugar, these make for a nice treat.

Kulfi or ice cream moulds with the sticks are easily available in metal or plastic in supermarkets or any store selling utensils. They are also inexpensive to buy. Make sure the mould is filled right till the top for it to freeze better. If the moulds are unavailable, plastic disposable cups can be used with an ice cream stick stuck in the middle. These ice cream sticks are easily available in most grocery store.

I made a mint tea by boiling fresh mint leaves in a little bit of water as K does not like whole or crushed mint leaves except in a chutney. I think adding fresh mint leaves as they are will add a nice contrast to the popsicle, so do try it out if your family is less picky than mine!

Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

Watermelon Mojito Popsicle (Makes 6 medium popsicles)

2 cups Watermelon chunks (deseeded)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons white rum

1/4 cup water boiled with 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves and 1/4 cup sugar to make a simple syrup, strain out the mint leaves and use the syrup.

Method

Chop the watermelon and remove the seeds. Add all the ingredients in a blender jar and blend till it is smooth.

Pour this equally into the popsicle moulds and close with the lid. If not using the moulds, divide equally between 4 paper cups and place a wooden stick in the middle.

Freeze for at least 8 hours for best results. Rub the moulds between the palms to warm it slightly and pull the stick gently to unmould. Enjoy it immediately.

Eating with the Seasons ~ Custard Apple Icecream {No Cooking}

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Sitaphal Ice-cream

Sitaphal Ice-cream

One of the only fruits that I love but frustrates me is Sitaphal or Custard Apple. So much jaw work and while the fruit is tasty, the ones with a lot of seeds can leave you with a sore mouth! The season lasts just a few weeks and all over Hyderabad one can see vendors selling piles of this fruit.

While I love eating fruit fresh as they are, I am trying to use them in more ways that just bite into them. Any Hyderabadi worth his pride will tell you about the fabulously hand churned ice-cream that is made at a place called Famous Ice-creams. They use seasonal and fresh fruit in the ice-cream that is of soft serve consistency. Sitaphal Ice-cream is available only when it is in season, and it one of their most popular flavours.

Since I figured out an easy way to remove the seeds from the custard apple, this was the ice-cream I wanted to make. Removing the seeds has been my most excited accomplishment this past week! Earlier this used to be done by hand. However there is an easy way to do this if you have a blender.

Sitaphal (Custard Apple) Ice-cream (makes 4 medium servings)

Custard Apple Pulp                          2 cups with seeds, processed to remove the seeds, else use 1 cup seedless pulp

Condensed Milk                                  ½ cup

Cream                                                   1 cup (use low fat)

Milk                                                       1/4 cup

Vodka                                                   1 teaspoon (optional, helps reduce crystallisation)

Put the custard apple pulp and the milk into a blender and pulse for 1-2 second intervals a couple of times. Ensure you do not pulse for more than a second at a time.

Transfer the pulsed custard apple pulp to a soup strainer/ large sieve placed on a vessel and with the back of a rounded spoon, mix crush it in a circular movement to push the pulp through the sieve. In a while, the seeds will separate, scoop them out and discard. Use the pulp that remains.

Add the cream, condensed milk and seedless pulp and vodka (if using) to the same blender and whiz for 1-2 minutes till fully incorporated.

Remove into a container with a lid (preferably metal for faster freezing) place in the freezer and allow to set for 3-4 hours.

Remove the container from the freezer, with a fork, stir up the ice cream and freeze again for 2 hours. Repeat the stirring at least twice, this is to break up any icicles. This gives you a creamy texture.

When you are ready to serve, scoop into a bowl and serve with a mint leaf garnish. This is a soft serve ice-cream.

{Vegan MoFo 2013} Fruit Hedgehog ~ No Cooking

Fruit Hedgehog

Fruit Hedgehog

Happy Onam to all those celebrating. The Sadya today and yesterday (because it was a holiday and everyone in the family were home) at my MIL’s place was outstanding! It amazes me how she cooks multiple items with patience and enthusiasm. In a decade now, I have never seen her skimping on effort. Waking up early and standing for hours at the stove to make a delicious spread for festivals, birthdays and scheduled rituals. Just thinking of the number of dishes makes me dizzy.

Today I am sharing a method (not so much a recipe) of putting together an attractive fruit hedgehog. This is something you could use as a center piece on your table, add to the dessert offering or use it as a fun activity to keep a couple of kids engrossed for a couple of hours… If you have a fussy child, who refuses to eat fruit, this is a fun way to get them interested in shapes and colors and encourage them to eat the end product.

Fruit Hedgehog (Makes 1)

Orange                                               1, cut in half

Watermelon Cubes                        1 cup

Grapes or plums                             1 cup

Kiwi                                                     2, skin removed and cut into 1 inch cubes

(Use any firm fruit of your choice which will hold its shape, you could use apple, pear, firm papaya or musk melon etc

Slice the orange into half and place the cut side downwards in a plate.

skewer 2 – 3 cubes of fruit of different colours including the grapes onto a toothpick and stick the sharp end into the orange, about 1/4 inch inside to hold it in place. Continue with all the fruit and place the skewers on the orange to cover it completely. Cut a tiny triangle from the rind of the watermelon for the eyes or use a couple of raisins to make eyes. Place in the fridge for atleast 30 minutes before serving chilled.

Beet and Orange Citrus Salad with Walnuts {Recipe}

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Beetroot and Orange Salad

Beetroot and Orange Salad

My love for beetroot is well, err, nonexistent to tell you the truth. It cannot be easy to get over years of being subjected to an overcooked grey green goop of a ‘curry’ to be eaten with sambar and rice in a hostel mess or any one of the several (cheap) eating joints one frequents as a singleton / student / working woman in a new place that actually turns out to be this brilliantly coloured beetroot! Imagine my shock and horror when I realized, hours of cooking can turn a beautiful wine coloured beetroot into a grey mess.

My favourite way to eat beetroot is boiled, chopped, with simple mustard and curry leaves tadka, salt and a dash of lime squeezed on top.

I also love them as cutlets which are very popular in the Escapades family and in a raita where they look so glam! Up next I want to try out this beautiful Beetroot and Gruyere Cheese Salad. Just look at how gorgeous it is!

I was supposed to join my friend Preethi who writes the blog The Meal Algorithm in her salad a day quest. she is posting one salad per day for the whole month of August and I failed miserably. This is a make up post honestly 😦 Check out her blog for some pretty awesome salad recipes

beetroot and orange salad

beetroot and orange salad

Beetroot and Orange Citrus Salad

Serves 2

Beetroot                                                          4, boiled and skin removed

Oranges                                                           3

Walnuts                                                           1/3 cup

Mint Leaves                                                    a few

For the Dressing

Orange Juice                                                   2 tablespoons

Honey                                                             2 teaspoons

Extra Virgin Olive Oil                                    2 teaspoons

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Skin the oranges with a knife, removing the skin and the white membrane. Slice into rounds
  2. Boil and skin the beetroots, slice into rounds
  3. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk lightly with a fork. Set aside
  4. On a plate, assemble the beetroot and orange slices; sprinkle the mint leaves and walnuts on top. Drizzle the salad dressing and serve immediately
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