Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy no reason at all cake

Cakes are possibly the most popular form of dessert. Or at least in my household. Somebody reading my blog is bound to have that perception. Quite rightly so though I must confess rarely eaten as dessert. I seem to be averaging 2/3 cakes a week. And nobody seems to mind.

But then cakes straddle different kinds of occasions with ease- ceremonial ones like birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, tea times, breakfast times(banana bread and lemon poppy seed cake), snack times at school and then all the in between times- "a little snacky", " could do with something sweet" etc.

My colleague M attended a baking course where she learnt this cake. She was kind enough to share this recipe with me. And I have made it umpteen number of times since then. Both the ingredients(apple and date combine) as well as the crust( cinnamon, sugar and nuts) make this a little different from the regular chocolate/vanilla fare.

Date Apple Cake

Preparation time: 20 minutes, Cooking time: 45 minutes, Serves- 1- 5


Apples- 2 cups(chopped fine)
Dates- 1 cup (again chopped really fine)
Refined flour(Maida)- 1.5 cups
Sugar(Powdered)- 1 cup
Sugar(granular)- 1 tbsp.
Eggs- 2
Vanilla essence- 1.5 tsp
Baking soda- 1 tsp
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Butter- 1 cup
Cinnamon powder- 1/2 tsp( finely ground)
Nutmeg powder(optional)- 1/4th tsp
Sliced almonds- 1/2 tbsps (Sis has sent me some thinly sliced almonds which makes it soo simple)


Once you figure out that baking most cakes just requires you to sieve the dry ingredients together, mix the wet ingredients and then assemble it is really easy and quick. This one has a few additional steps. Do pay close attention to how the cake comes together.  
  1. Sieve together the flour along with the baking powder and soda. Keep aside.
  2. Beat the two eggs with the vanilla essence until light and fluffy, Again keep aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl combine the powdered sugar and the butter( keep the butter out of the refrigerator for a couple of hours to make this step easier). You will be tempted to taste the butter and sugar combine as you used to as a child( at least I used to and that kinda explains the weight) but don't. Save your calories for the cake- it will be worth it.
  4. Once the butter and sugar have mixed well( should take about 10 minutes or so) start to add the other ingredients. Alternate between the flour and the eggs- a little bit from each type till you are done with the two.
  5. Next add the apples and dates. You could also add 1 tbsp of the sliced almonds or save all of it for the topping. Add the nutmeg if using.
  6. Pour( now this is not really a pouring consistency cake) so just spoon it onto a greased dish. Flatten the top with a spatula.
  7. Then sprinkle some granulated sugar, cinnamon and the sliced almonds over them.
  8. Preheat the oven at 200  degree centigrade for about ten minutes and the bake the cake. Initially with just the lower coil for about 30-40 minutes and then with the upper and lower coils for another 10/15 minutes till the crust starts to look a rich, golden brown.
Take a bite and you can almost feel the burst of flavours in your mouth. The part that I like the most about this cake is the smell of apple and cinnamon combine as the cake is baking. Always puts
 me in a cheery frame of mind. The kitchen just smells divine.
Store ideally in the refrigerator(if you can manage to make it last that long) and warm it for about 30 seconds in the microwave before you serve. It also goes well with fresh cream or ice cream. You can start your day with a slice of this cake and down it with a glass of milk or pack it in your lunchbox and relish it after a light lunch. So go ahead and indulge.

And as I sign off I am reminded of the lines ' cream coloured posies and crisp apple streudles....these are a few of my favourite things'. Baking is definitely one of mine.

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking !

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Basic Instinct

Given all the talk around food porn I thought a header like " Basic Instinct" was sure to grab eyeballs. While the post has to do with a primal need namely food and that too comfort food the attempt has been to amplify/dramatize. And isn't that what a lot of food writing/recipes are about- give it an unusual name, a twist here- a turn there and a you have a brand new avatar. Many a times these do help create interest in long forgotten or lesser know dishes. And in sharp contrast the recipe that I discuss below is a far cry from any such frills. Its strength and appeal lies in its simplicity. The kind of food that you reach out to when you are looking for warmth and nourishment from within. Dishes that use a minimum of ingredients and spices but yet taste fabulous. One bite and you are filled with nostalgia. You immediately( at least in your head) start to reminisce about Mom/Grand mom's cooking and happy, carefree times. Coming back in the good old days to that familiar aroma and knowing in your heart that 'all was well.'  

Dalma is staple in Odia households. Roti and dalma for dinner is possibly the most common menu you would come across and this cuts across socio economic classes. It is really easy to prepare, in three quick steps- boil daal, add vegetables and then the tempering. You are done. Retains an earthy flavour and tastes delicious. 

Dalma(Yellow lentil cooked with vegetables)

Serves 6, Cooking time: 30 minutes


Arhar daal/toor daal)- 1 cup
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Ginger- 1/2 an inch- pounded
Mixed vegetables(you could use your own combination of vegetables but a mix of starchy and green ones work best- any four from the ones mentioned below)- chop all vegetables the same size.
         Potatoes- 2, quartered(large chunks)
         Brinjal- 1 large, cut into large pieces
         Parwal- 3/4 halved
         Pumpkin- Half a slice( about 1/2 cup when cubed)
         Broad beans- 2/3, chopped into large pieces
         Colocasia- 2, halved
         Green banana- remove skin and chop
Grated coconut- 1/2 tbsp.
Ghee: 1 tbsp.
Whole cumin(Jeera) - 1 tsp
Red chillies- 2/3
Roasted cumin and red chilli powder- 2 tsp( dry roast cumin and red chillies separately and coarsely grind them together. Store in an airtight jar and use as required- 2 tbsp of cumin with 3/4 red chillies)
Salt to taste


  • Pressure cook the daal with 3/4 cups of water, salt and turmeric. You must end up with a fairly runny consistency.
  • Transfer the cooked daal to a large kadai/wok. Bring the daal to boil. Add the ginger, vegetables - one by one starting with potatoes then followed by the others.
  • Cover and cook for a while on low heat and then open and cook.There could be some scum on top, ladle it out.
  • Once the vegetables are done, separately prepare the tempering/tadka. Heat the ghee, add the whole cumin seeds, once they sputter add the red chillies and sauté for a minute or two. Add this to the daal vegetable mix.
  • Top with the grated coconut and the roasted cumin/chilli powder.
  • Serve hot with plain steamed rice or hot chappatis.
  • Enjoy.
There are modern day variations of Dalma with onions( one could sauté some onions in ghee and then add the pressure cooked daal to it) and tomatoes( add it with the other vegetables). But I love it in its purest satwik form. It also make for a complete meal and tops my list of one dish healthy meals. Best had freshly prepared and the taste lingers in your mind for hours afterwards.
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Cakes- the long and short of it

I never tire of baking cakes. On an average a cake a week. Easy to bake, store, serve, pack in lunch boxes. And once you have got the measurements right it becomes a 'never fail' recipe. But despite all that baking I still have fairly limited repertoire- the same ones tend to get repeated week on week. I tend to be partial to the traditional way of baking cakes- so in a conventional oven and with eggs.

Have always viewed the microwave cakes with scepticism- for the ones in a hurry/too lazy to make a 'proper' cake etc. And as for the eggless variants- they are no real cakes. The egg substitutes(condensed milk, curd) make them denser- they don't look or feel like cake. A poor replica of the original. And they just don't taste as good.

I love to watch cookery shows (can watch them for hours especially the delightful Nigella), leaf through food magazines and food sites/pages. It is in one such page that I came across this gorgeous looking chocolate cake- smeared with chocolate ganache and topped with strawberries. The photograph caught my attention and prompted me to read some more. And then I read the words "eggless" , "microwave" and was just about to skip the post when " six minutes" popped up somewhere in the narrative.  Sounded quite unbelievable but I was tempted to give the recipe a shot. So on my next grocery visit I came back armed with strawberries, Nestle dahi(curd) and Cadbury's Cocoa powder as the recipe had specified. I chose to make it on a day when we already had a good menu going(I wasn't banking on this one).

So went ahead and baked the cake. To my surprise and delight the cake turned out just the way it was described( see picture above once more). It was fluffy(in fact the cake almost doubles in quantity), soft, moist and delicious. Quite amazing that something so heavenly is so easy to make and gets done in a jiffy.

Ekta's Eggless Choco Strawberry cake 

For the cake
1 Cup nestle dahi, any other dahi should work as well. If using home made dahi strain out the water

1/2 cup oil + 2 tbsp more
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup maida
1/2 tsp baking powder
1tsp soda bi carb
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 cup Cadbury cocoa powder- this gives it a rich brown chocolaty colour, some of the other brands are a lot darker
7-8 strawberries( cut the strawberries, sprinkle some sugar over it and microwave for about 30 seconds to a minute till it becomes mushy)
Chocolate sauce
Mix 1/2 cup icing sugar with 1tbsp cocoa powder and a little water n mix (no need to cook, sauce is ready)
  1. Mix together sugar, dahi/curd , vanilla essence n oil till sugar dissolves. This takes a couple of minutes, continue to stir till you get a nice, creamy consistency.
  2. Sieve the dry powders together.
  3. Fold in the dry powders into the wet mix with a spatula.
  4. Grease a baking dish( the cake rises quite a bit do choose a deep dish) and pour half the batter into it. Gently place the strawberries making sure you cover the batter. Next, pour the remaining batter to cover the strawberries.
  5. Bake in a microwave for 6 minutes.
  6. Once the cake is done allow it to cool( this is the hardest part but do be patient else you will end up with uneven pieces). Then pour the chocolate sauce over it and decorate with strawberries. The cake without the icing tastes equally good.
  7. Drool over the masterpiece and then 'attack'.

I can't help but agree with Ekta when she says this is the "quickest and yummiest" cake she has ever eaten. And with that begins my journey of microwave baking and well eggless cakes( feeling sheepish as I say this). Thank you Ekta. You have managed a convert.

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!