Serving A Humble Farni – Emirati Cardamom Infused Rice Pudding


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Ramadan is in its last few days. This month has been testing with the scorching summer and long daylight hours. It also meant that there was more time for contemplation, building faith stronger and prayer. Thirst and hunger makes us grateful that with the luxury of food that satisfies both our appetite and fancy cravings while living in a world where hunger and malnutrition exist. What is heartbreaking is the wastage of food not only during Ramadan but throughout the year. Earlier this year, a women from Bihar, India sold her four-month child in hopes of feeding her family. A physically challenged husband meant that there was no income for this family of five. Having deep attachment and affection for my nieces, I cannot imagine the depths of despair that would have surged this mother that would force her to sell her child to satisfy hunger. A thought that multiplied gratitude in my heart infinitely.


Mummy (my mother-in-law) and I begin mornings of Ramadan with the known unknown; what do we make for Iftar today? After 2 weeks we were running out of options from the staple fried savoury bites. My blog roll came to the rescue and I would spend time looking out and bookmarking simple recipes easy on the stomach to break our fasts. Arwa of La Mere Culinaire fame, came with a great post of Farni, three ways. It’s very similar to the North-Indian Phirni except it calls for rice flour. Phirni is made grinding soaked rice coarsely and found Arwas’ mothers recipe much simpler. Don’t mothers always have unrivalled recipes up their sleeves?


Arwa’s snow heart Farni looked so beautiful that I was tempted to make mine using moulds too. The only difference was the addition of gelatine for setting it. I made it for dessert when we had guests for Iftar and made a few extra servings to enjoy over the next few days. My husband loved the flavour of the pudding but he isn’t fond of desserts with the wiggly gelatine texture and asked whether I can make it smoother? With a bit of simmer, in a matter of minutes I had the consistency of the original Farni made before the addition of gelatine. How versatile is that? Let’s get cooking.

Rice Farni Snow Hearts

Recipe barely adapted from La Mere Culinaire 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 Cups Milk 
  • 3/4 Cup Rice Flour
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Rose Water
  • 1 TSP Ground Cardamom (placed in an empty tea bag)
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 2 Sachets Gelatin

To serve

  • Ground Pistachio – 50 grams
  • Slivered Almonds – 10
  • Cinnamon – 1/2 tsp
  • Sugar – A pinch

METHOD

  • Place milk, rice flour and sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat.
  • Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts to thicken.
  • Make sure to scrape the sides so that it doesn’t stick.
  • Add the rose water, cardamom water and continue to cook until it starts to become glossy.
  • Ladle some of the mixture in another bowl.
  • Put 1/2 a cup of the mixture in a smaller bowl, sprinkle 2 regular sachets of gelatin and mix to dissolve.
  • Return the gelatin mixture to the bigger bowl and whisk.
  • Pour mixture into moulds and refrigerate until set.
  • On a small pan, toast pistachio, almonds, cinnamon and sugar lightly.
  • Just before serving, garnish with nut mixture.

Notes
I used individual aluminium moulds to set Farni. To de-mould, place the container in a bowl of slightly warm water for a few seconds. Placing it too long will melt the Farni at the base and it won’t de-mould smoothly.
Omit the gelatine for a thick, custard like consistency.

I spent a while photographing these beauties.






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Looks divine, doesn’t it?

Have a good food day.

Pastel De Tres Leches closer to home – Whipped Mango Cream Pastel De Tres Leches


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It’s been much quieter than I want it to, here. Let’s delve in straight away, shall we? This cake was on my bake wish-list before I had started blogging. I discovered this delight of a dessert in an episode of Ultimate Recipe Showdown: Cakes one of the many afternoon I would spend watching Food Network. The recipe I saw was A Tres Leche Coconut Cupcake with Dulche de Leche Buttercream. I looked up this cake online and sifted through quite a few recipes. There were too many versions to choose from and I ended up bookmarking perhaps an entire folder of recipes.


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So what is Pastel De Tres Leche? Popular in Latin America regions, it is an airily moist chiffon cake permeated with an emulsion of Tres, which is three, types of milk, traditionally – evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. The sponge base is baked, cooled then pricked all over the surface to allow the liquids to soak. Finished off with whipping cream, you would think it would have a soggy texture. On the contrary, I found the texture quite like tiramisu. The scorching summer means we find ourselves at the peak of fresh mangoes. When I finally decided to bake it, I settled on a recipe that called for coconut milk as part of the mixture. For me, having mango and coconut as key ingredients in this recipe may have originated back in Latin America but thinking about the flavours reminds me of home. It couldn’t be more apt for a Malayalee palate.


The Keralite cuisine I grew up eating is lavish with the use of coconut. My favourite use of coconut is its milk. This can go up to three stages of extraction. The first stage is the milk extracted purely from the scraped flesh of the coconut. This milk is snow white, thick and the purest flavour of the coconut. The pulp that remains is then moistened with water to extract more milk. The quality of the milk decreases in density and flavour and becomes more transparent with each extraction. The first coconut milk tastes best poured over Appam (fermented rice pancake), Noolputtu (string hopper) and of course Pathiri (extremely thin rice flour flat-bread). If the meal consists of any three of the  aforementioned breads, the first thing that is prepared is the coconut milk. I would go so far as to say that the bread was an accompaniment to the coconut milk.  As a child, I would drown my Pathiri in the coconut milk and Umma would sprinkle it with a spoonful of sugar. That’s what struck me as the similarity to this recipe.




I love coconut milk, quite apparent here now. Possibly the hardest part is waiting for the cake to soak up the milk; preferably overnight. Yes, the process is elaborate but the combination of moistened milky cake with clouds of mango whipped cream is worth the wait. I’ve used two recipes to make this cake and as always you can find the links to them. Let’s get baking.

Pastel De Tres Leches

Chiffon cake base from Pioneer Woman
Milk Mixture and Mango Whipped Cream Topping from Bites out of Life.

Original recipe by Mellisa Clark.

Chiffon Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 5 whole Eggs
  • 1 cup Sugar, Divided
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Separate eggs.
  • Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla.
  • Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
  • In a clean, dry bowl beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form.
  • With the mixer on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
  • Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined.
  • Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
  • Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.
  • When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times.

Before you whip the egg whites, make absolutely sure that the bowl and your beater  is clean from fat. Even the tiniest amount of egg yolk can prevent the egg whites from whipping to the consistency that is required.

Milk mixture

INGREDIENTS

  • 425 ml fresh extracted coconut milk OR 1 – 15oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • pinch of salt

METHOD

  • In a small saucepan, combine the three milks with the sauce and heat until the milk is steaming.
  • Pour the milk mixture over the cake.
  • Try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

Mango Whipped Cream Topping

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups ripe mango, cubed (about 3 large mangoes)
  • 1 pint heavy cream

METHOD

  • In a blender or food processor, puree the mango. Add sugar by the tablespoon if necessary, based on how sweet the mangoes are.
  • Just before serving, whip the heavy cream with half of the mango puree.
  • Add sugar by the tablespoon if you think the whipped cream is not sweet enough.
  • Beat until the whipped cream holds semi-firm peaks.
  • Spread the mango whipped cream over the cake using a knife or spatula.
  • Dollop on the remaining mango puree, then use a knife to cut swirls into a marbled pattern.
  • You can also use any remaining puree as a sauce to serve alongside the cake.

I lightly sprinkled ground pistachios over my cake and this is optional.



I could not get myself to slice the cake before my guests arrived. There wasn’t much cake left after for me to photograph. Here are the results.

Have a good food day.

Excuses – Halloumi and Mozarella Stuffed Whole Wheat Garlic Bread


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I cannot believe that I have been mulling over this post for nearly two weeks. My ‘Edit Post’ page has been open the tab crying out attention and the final publish poke. Desynchronosis had me either sleeping or awake in sluggish defeat. Every time my brother visited us from the US, I would snort and disapprove of him whiling away daylight sleeping. Having returned from his graduation (woohoo!) and a ten day holiday in the USA, I finally understood his habits. I am an out and out morning person. The week we returned had me wide awake at 3 in the night, distraught that I couldn’t catch sleep. I am pacifying myself and branding Jet lag as the reason behind the recent bout of blog negligence.


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For a change, instead of the usual cake or brownies, my oven was made to bake bread. I placed myself in discomfort with thoughts of all that could go wrong baking bread. Faulty kneading with hands and unrisen dough were on top of my head. If I did find success in that then unleavened bread surface, burnt bottom  and tough, dry and nasty bread. On a positive note, what can be more gratifying than the smell of freshly made bread baking in the oven? I consider that to be the reward of the patience it draws from me to make bread.


So what is Halloumi? It is a cheese native to Cyprus made from a mixture of goat, sheep and sometimes cows’ milk. The beauty of Halloumi is that you can fry or grill the cheese and it will hold itself because of its high melting point. The flavor is a little saltier than mozzarella and has a chewy texture not many people enjoy. I love pan frying Halloumi sticks along with thinly slivered garlic till crisp and brown. The Halloumi picks up on the garlic flavor and along with mint sauce makes a great wrap option.


So what is this bread? Consider them airy pockets of mildy sweet, soft bread filled with garlicky infused Halloumi and fresh parsley. This bread recipe is amongst the simplest I have come across. Unless you have a certain aid in the kitchen you will need to put in some muscle power to knead the bread. As in most bread recipes, having yeast as an ingredient means it will need time to rest. I replaced all-purpose flour with stone-milled Whole Wheat flour to ease off the guilt of indulging in fiber and nutritionally empty bread.

I found this recipe on the website Choosy Beggars. Tina has blogged about this recipe and you have to visit the blog for an excellent step by step process of how to make these nuggets of perfection. Don’t let it overwhelm you. If I had the patience to read and follow the instructions, then you’ll surely have no trouble at all. The recipe for the bread is from Umma. She completely replaced all-purpose flour and has been making mini pizzas and cheese rolls with whole wheat flour for a while now.


Each bite was a flavor party in my mouth. Garlic infused Halloumi or was it Halloumi infused garlic? I relished the sharp taste of parsley. For some heat and flavor, I sprinkled red chilli flakes and sea salt crystals. Exactly why these puffy cushions of bread are perfect on their own or maybe with sweet chai. I made them to accompany a Spaghetti Meatball dinner night and skipped the pasta and mopped up sauce with this heavenly bread.

Here is the link to the recipe.

Halloumi Garlic Whole Wheat Bread Rolls

Makes 16 rolls

INGREDIENTS

For the Bread

  • Whole Wheat Flour – 2 cups
  • Baking Powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Active dry yeast – 1 tsp dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water for 5-10 minutes
  • 1 Large Egg
  • Sugar – 3 tsp
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 3 Tbsp
  • Butter – 2 Tbsp melted
  • Milk – 1/4 cup at room temperature 
  • Hot water – to knead

METHOD

  • In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well.
  • Pour melted butter, oil, egg and milk and fold into the dry ingredients.
  • Stir in the yeast mixture and use enough hot water to form a dough.
  • If the mixture is too watery, add whole wheat flour, 1 tbsp at a time, till it forms a smooth dough.
  • Knead the dough from 7 to 10 minutes forming a single ball.
  • Once the dough is formed, add a little oil in the bowl and coat the dough entirely in oil.
  • Cover with bowl with a tea towel and let it rest and rise for at least an hour.

A word of caution: Don’t expect the wholewheat flour dough to rise as much as regular flour would. It will rise beautifully in the oven.

Stuffing

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 oz Halloumi cheese
  • 5 oz Mozzarella cheese
  • Garlic cloves – 3
  • Parsley – 1/2 cup

METHOD

  • Shred the mozzarella and crumble the Halloumi.
  • Combine the cheeses together.
  • Grate the garlic cloves and mix it into the cheeses.
  • Finely mince the parsley and add this to the cheese mixture.
  • Use your fingers to work the parsley and garlic through the cheese, making sure that everything is well dispersed .
Now let’s assemble this bread.
  • To form the rolls, start by pinching off a small ball of dough by squeezing it between your thumb and index finger.
  • Spread the dough by hand or roll it out into a small circle, about 3.5 inches in diameter. [I used the palm of my hand as a measure].
  • Dollop a generous tablespoon or so of the cheese mixture onto the center of each one.
  • Gather up the sides of your dough circle, and pinch the top together to make a ball.
  • Flip the roll over so that the seam side is on the palm of your hand.  With your other hand, press and turn the ball, gently stroking downwards to stretch the skin of the dough into a smoothly skinned taut mass.
  • Holding on to the base (where the seam was), dip the top (flat rounded part) of the dough ball in a little bit of olive oil.
  • Place the dough balls seam side down in an 8×8 square baking pan. The balls should be close together or touching, but not pressed up tightly. Cover the tray with a tea towel and leave it to rise again, for 45 minutes to an hour, in a warm and draught free place.

Baking Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.
  • If there is leftover cheese mixture, before you put the rolls in the oven, sprinkle the mixture generously on top.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
  • The bread rolls are ready when the top is puffed and golden brown.
  • Allow the bread cool for at least a half hour before you start to pull it apart.


Happy Bread Baking 🙂
Have a good food day.

Loafing Around on a Family Friday – Pistachio Loaf Cake



Yes, YES! It’s that time of the month again. After quite a gap, Family Friday has come and my family came together for a sumptuous lunch catching up from where we left off last time.I love these weekends for far too many reasons. This is the when I get to visit my childhood home and be one, all over again. Umma will be doing all the cooking while I sit in the kitchen, yakking away and being of absolutely no help.
Last winter, Umma gifted me a loaf tin. I vaguely remembered that I had bookmarked a recipe that called for one. When I did find it, I knew it would be a great recipe to try for a Family Friday. This recipe had no chocolate which is the primary reason a few elders refuse to try my baking endeavors. I know that lunch always carries onto tea and this recipe was perfect for the occasion.



A Pistachio Loaf Cake. This recipe is originally from the second book published by the London based, The Hummingbird Bakery. I found two separate posts of food bloggers attempt at the recipe.



This is what my cake looked like straight out of the oven. My loaf tin was slightly smaller than the one specified in the recipe. The sides of the loaf cake weren’t burnt but  I would take out the cake a little sooner than I did, when I bake it the next time.



I had a teeny slice from the loaf. It was light and airy, had the delicate taste of butter and a delightful crunch of the pistachios. Now, time for some icing.





I had a ton of fun glazing and photographing the loaf simultaneously, as you can see. Once the icing glaze was finished, I tasted another teeny slice. The glaze, along with ground pistachio crust, imparted the right touch of sweetness.As I had baked the day before. I was slightly apprehensive of how the cake would taste. However, I am pleased to write that the cake retained it’s moisture and melted ever-so-dreamily in my mouth.



Having sliced the loaf for everyone to enjoy, I sat out on the patio with the ladies and watched their tiny tots play. I watched them talking, squabbling and making up, all in a span of 10 minutes. Oblivious to the conversation(s) around me, l I saw and heard laughter. The kind that has you smiling before you realize you are. The kind that makes you want to laugh along. The kind that make you hope that their innocence never changed. The kind that  makes you wish to  never grow up. I whiled my lazy Friday Afternoon soaking up the sun and grateful for the simple joys of life.



That peeping pink pistachio bit is gorgeous, isn’t it?

This recipe is too easy and I’m sure you’ll have great results, too.

Pistachio Loaf Cake – adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cake Day Recipes

INGREDIENTS

  • 90g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
  • 190g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 190g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • 100g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

For the glaze

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 40g ground pistachios

METHOD

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C then grease a 8.5cm x 17.5cm loaf tin with butter and dust with flour.
  • Using a hand-held electric whisk or a freestanding electric mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure all the ingredients are properly mixed together.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, then add to the creamed mixture in two batches and mix on a low speed until just incorporated.
  • Add the milk and vanilla paste, then stir in the chopped pistachios by hand.
  • Pour or spoon the batter into the prepared tin, then place in the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the sponge feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean, with no uncooked batter sticking to it.
  • Allow the loaf to cool a little in the tin, then turn out on a wire rack to cool down fully before adding the glaze.
  • Place the icing sugar in a bowl, add 2 tablespoons of water and mix together. This will form a fairly runny paste; if the glaze seems too thick, add a little more water to thin it – 1/4 teaspoon at a time.
  • Stir in the ground pistachios, keeping a small amount aside to sprinkle on top.
  • Pour the glaze over the cooled loaf and sprinkle with the remaining pistachios.
Notes
If your loaf tin is smaller than the one specified, test the cake for doneness after 40 minutes to prevent over-browning and consequentially, burning the sides of the loaf.
I didn’t have vanilla paste and used pure vanilla extract.
Finally, here are the links where I found this recipe.
The Extroadinary Art of Cake – Pistachio Loaf Cake Recipe 

Happy Baking 🙂

Have a good food day.

Kesar Pista Kulfi


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March has been wonderful this year. My husband and I went on a holiday to the UK. We have family in Aberdeen who joined us in London for a few days before they became perfect hosts in Scotland. The Granite City is breathtaking with its abundance of nature, chilly-wind weather and lung cleansing fresh air. It was a refreshing vacation for the mind and the soul. On arrival in Abu Dhabi, the temperature was slowly rising. Last weeks’ sand-stormish spell was broken with much longed for rain. Unfortunately, this is the sign that summer is right around the corner and it is not long before we will be forced indoors because of the scorching heat.



Right before I left for the holiday, I read about the Indian Food Palooza on Prerna’s blog, Indian Simmer. I had mentally made a note to participate and was toying around with options. If you know me already, I was thinking of dessert. My cousin in Scotland had great success making Kulfi for dessert for a dinner party she had. We planned on making it together during our stay. We were having so much fun that I didn’t remember about it till I came back to Abu Dhabi.


This Indian Food Palooza has been such a great idea. In Prerna’s words, she and her friends Kathy and Barbara came up with “an event where we could motivate people to cook some Indian food and learn a few things about it and maybe along the way can teach us a thing or two as well.” I had bought an ice lolly maker in anticipation of the summer in Abu Dhabi. It made perfect sense to make Kulfi for the Palooza.


Kulfi is an Indian, no-whipped version of ice-cream. If you do a search for Kulfi on the web, most food bloggers native to India have a story how they were not allowed to have Kulfi sold by the ice-cream vendors on the street. Cream, rose, cardamom and mango are just a few flavors this dessert comes in. I knew I wanted to make my Kulfi with Pistachios and Saffron.


Emerald green pistachios have been a lifelong favorite. I’ve always preferred them raw, shelled and unsalted. Saffron competes with Cinnamon for top spice on my list. The deep red spice deceives as it imparts and infuses a sunshine yellow when sprinkled in lukewarm milk. For a hue lover like me, it is a heady experience every time. I associate the flavor of saffron with luxury. True to all the flavors of these ingredients, this Kesar Pista Kulfi was divine.


The original recipe of the Kulfi I made is from the blog, Food for 7 stages of Life. Without further ado, let’s make some Kesar Pista Kulfi.

Kesar Pista Kulfi

Barely Adapted from this recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 350 ml or 1 and 2/3 cup Heavy Cream
  • 159 ml or 1 tin Evaporated Milk
  • 1 cup Low-Fat Milk
  • 2 tsp Corn starch/Corn flour
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 20 Pistachios, unsalted and raw
  • 20 Almonds, blanched and skinned
  • 3 Cardamon pods
  • 2 tsp Saffron
  • 2 tbsp Lukewarm Low-Fat Milk
  • Coarsely chopped Pistachios to garnish

METHOD

  • In 2 tablespoons of lukewarm milk, dissolve saffron and let it rest.
  • In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, on a medium flame, add heavy cream, evaporated milk and milk. Keep stirring in between. This will prevent the burning of milk.
  • Pulse the Pistachio and Almonds in a grinder briefly to a sandy texture.
  • Dissolve corn starch in 2 tbsp water.
  • When the milk starts boiling, add this mixture and stir well for 2 minutes.
  • Reduce to a low medium flame .
  • Add sugar and stir well.
  • After 4 minutes, add the nut mixture and stir it well.
  • Let it simmer.
  • When the milk reduces to 3/4 quantity remove from flame and let it cool.
  • Crush cardamon pods with a tsp of sugar in a pestle and mortar.
  • Add cardamon powder, saffron milk and stir well.
  • Allow the milk cream mixture to coom completely.
  • Pour it into ice pop moulds/kulfi moulds and put it in the freezer for 8 hrs or until set.
Notes
The original recipe calls for the pistachios to be finely grated. I prefer grinding pistachios and almonds for a nutty bite.
This recipe filled 8 medium sized ice-lollies. I poured the remaining mixture into a glass jar.
Remove frozen kulfi moulds from the freezer 20 minutes before removing.
These Kulfis’ were a feast for my camera too. Take a look.


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Enjoy the summer.

Have a good food day.

Family Friday Chocolate Cake



Yes, it is another dessert and this time it’s a perfectly moist chocolate cake. Two layers of it. Oh, and smothered and piped and dressed in clouds of Nutella buttercream frosting.  This was the first time I was attempting to make two layers of cake. I found a wonderful recipe on Baked Brees‘ blog. Nervously excited, I sieved and whipped and poured and baked and lo and behold, I had on my hand two perfectly moist layers of chocolate cake in the most tempting hue of chocolate.


Then came the frosting. Whenever I make Chocolate Buttercream frosting, I add Nutella, especially if it is chocolate cake. I’ve always preferred the nutty layer of flavor it gives to what could be an overdose of chocolate.


I was done frosting my cake layers and still had half a bowl of frosting left. To prevent myself from licking the bowl clean and then, slumbering in a buttercream stupor, I quickly got out my round pastry tip and iced the cake completely. Well, not completely. Towards the end of my whimsical icing I realized I wouldn’t have enough to finish it. Aah well. Knowing my family, the cake would be sliced and eaten as soon as I put that cake stand on the table.


My nieces, especially the youngest one (a year and a half) enjoyed the cake. As Bree mentions in her recipe, the coffee really uplifts the flavor of the chocolate. I know I’ve found the recipe for chocolate cake for life.


Chocolate Cake (unabridged)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

METHOD

  • Combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla. A
  • dd the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.
  • Pour in the hot coffee.
  • Pour the batter into two prepared pans. I used 9-inch pans. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pans for 30 minutes and then turn them out on a cooling rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Buttercream (unabridged)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 sticks of room temperature butter
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

METHOD

  • Cream together the butter and sugar.
  •  Gradually add the cocoa powder.
  • Add just enough cream to get the consistency for spreading.
  • Add the vanilla.
Notes
  • If you would like to add Nutella to the frosting, do so after creaming butter and sugar and before adding cocoa.
  • I added 4 Tablespoons of Nutella. Feel free to add or lesses according to your taste.

Here is the link to this indulgent recipe on Brees’ Blog.

For more foodography of my cake, head over here.

Have a good food day.

Celebrating a Century with Cookies and Cream – Oreo Cream Cheese Truffles


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Raise your hands if you haven’t been able to stop at one Oreo. How can you? I love Oreo. Pulling it apart, trying minimum crumb-falling tactics, feasting on the cream. You get the picture. I haven’t had it with milk. Never been a cookies and milk sort of person. Say cookies and cream and you have my attention.


It so happened that I was writing this post when I came across this one at Nashiras’ Plateful . Her Oreo blizzard would be a relief to gulp down when the temperature rises. Abu Dhabi is being temperamental right now and it won’t be weeks before this lovely spell of cool mornings and whistling winds comes to an end. It was in this post that I read about the Oreo cookie turning 100 years on March 6, 2012. My post will celebrate the cookie that turns a glorious century.


Couple of weekends ago, it was Family Friday  Lunch at my folks place. Nothing grand. Three families devouring into Ummas’ Dum Biriyani, after our Friday prayers. I made my first Double Layer Chocolate Cake too. Fooderati Arabia had planned a picnic in Safa Park the same Friday. I had planned on taking these cookies and cream truffles. Sadly, I couldn’t make it for the picnic. Lunch carried onto late afternoon and before I could think of leaving, tea plans were made. The truth is Ummas’ biriyani has this soothing sedative effect on a Friday afternoon and I couldn’t move.

Dessert was my chocolate cake. I wrongly assumed that the truffles would not be touched after two layers of the moistest cake (ever!) wrapped in clouds of buttercream Nutella frosting. I love chocolate. However, having the truffles would have been a sinful overdose.  Once again, the men in my family proved me wrong as I watched , in horror, Vappa, the husband and cousins popping one truffle after another. Why the surprise? The second ingredient, of the three, in these truffles was cream cheese.

My darling nieces would have enjoyed making these truffles. Really, they are that easy and fuss-free.



My truffles did not live up to my aesthetic expectations. This was because I made a horrible mistake while making the chocolate sauce with an accidental addition of heavy cream. While melting the chocolate I thought adding a tablespoon of milk would make it smoother. Before I knew it my sauce started seizing into a giant cocoa glob. This was followed by frantic whipping hoping to salvage my sauce. One, I did not have any more stock of dark chocolate chips and  two, I hate trashing any kind of food unnecessarily.


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So here is the recipe for these terrific cookies and cream truffles. Hopefully, your truffles will turn out more polished than my rustic ones. I’m sure they’ll still taste as good as these.


Here is the original recipe that can be found on the Kraft Foods website. And here is the link.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened 1 pkg. (15.5 oz.)
  • OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4 cups), divided 
  • 2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

METHOD

  • Mix cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended.
  • Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls.
  • Place unwrapped chocolate squares in microwaveable bowl.
  • Microwave on HIGH 2-1/2 min. or until chocolate is completely melted, stirring every 30 sec.
  • To easily coat truffles with the melted chocolate, add truffles, in batches, to bowl of melted chocolate.
  • Use 2 forks to roll truffles in chocolate until evenly coated. Remove truffles with forks, letting excess chocolate drip back into bowl.
  • Place truffles on prepared baking sheet; let stand until firm.
  • Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.
  • Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.
  • Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

My Notes

  • I found it much easier combining the Oreo cookie crumbs and cream cheese in food processor. I blitzed my cookies into crumbs and gradually added the cream cheese till it kneaded itself into a soft ball. Make sure not to overwork the mixture unless you want black cookie puree. It helps to freeze the mixture for half an hour before you make it into truffle sized balls.
  • I’m not a fan of microwave cooking. Yes, it was very hard to wean myself off the quick 5 minute mug cake. I used a 120z. Hersheys’ semi-sweet chocolate chips and melted them using the double boiling method. The sauce was silky TILL I added the heavy cream. A lesson well learnt for improvising.
  • After making the truffles I put them in the freezer for half an hour before dipping into the chocolate.

 

For fans of white chocolate, Bakeralla has a fabulous recipe.

Have a good food day.

Warming Up With a Hot Mug of Cocoa


I’m a Keralite who neither loves nor worships tea. Neither does my husband. I don’t drink coffee. My husband does. I’ve never been too fond of either beverages. I attribute that to my sweet tooth. I cannot drink tea without contaminating it with teaspoons’ full of sugar. I enjoy a South-Indian style freshly brewed filter coffee minus the sugar. Sometimes a chai latte. Then again, it’s not something I need to wake up to. Or not drinking it doesn’t give me a headache.

Hot chocolate is another story. There was a time I would gulp down anything sold in that name. Now, it is different. Hot chocolate should taste of real cocoa. Not of milk. Not of malt. Certainly not of whipping cream. The ones sold at supermarkets don’t taste truly like chocolate. Or maybe I haven’t found a good brand yet. The one place that sells my favorite hot chocolate to go is Caribou Coffee. They melt your selection of white, milk or dark chocolate and whip it up in warm milk. Bliss. You can gather I take my cocoa very very seriously.


This winter in the UAE has been the best of what I can remember. The only bother is it becomes extremely difficult to haul myself out of bed. I am enjoying the chill in the morning and grey sky diffused sunshine. On such a lovely morning, imagine my excitement when I found this article online. “How to make perfect hot chocolate.” Here is a food writer who takes the quality of hot chocolate as seriously I do. Felicity Claoke is also the winner of the 2011 Guild of Food Writers awards for Food Journalist of the Year and New Media of the Year which meant I can vouch for credibility.


She has tried six, yes six, methods of hot chocolate recipes before finalizing on what she found to be the best. These included versions spiced with cardamom and even lavender but I feel such strong spices would overpower the flavor of the chocolate. This is it. The real stuff. The star of the beverage is the chocolate and it’s divinely smooth in your mouth and each sip warms you up from within and I can go on.

If that decadent pleasure wan’t enough, I accompanied my hot mug with shortbread. Two different types that included  chocolate hazelnut chunk and chocolate chip. Enough said.



Here goes.

Hot chocolate

Felicity Cloakes’ final tried and tested version.

INGREDIENTS

  • 450ml whole milk
  • 70g 70% cocoa chocolate, finely chopped or grated
  • 30g good-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped or grated
  • 75ml single cream
  •  ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

METHOD

  • Warm about 150ml milk in a pan over a medium heat and stir in the chocolate.
  • Continue to stir until the chocolate has melted into the milk, then whisk in the remaining milk and the cream.
  • Continue to heat until the mixture is hot, but not boiling, then add the cinnamon and a pinch of salt.
  •  Taste, adjust if necessary, and serve.
  • For a frothy finish, whisk vigorously just before pouring.


Enjoy your hot cuppa of cocoa.

Have a good food day.

Butter Chicken a la Umma



I’d like to start this post thanking everyone who have been visiting my blog and supporting me. It’s a high seeing the site stats shoot up everyday and reading such encouraging comments. It’s given me the push for my second post which is coming much sooner than I had imagined. I started on a sweet note so this time round, I’m cooking a savory and traditional recipe . I don’t think it can get more Indian (actually Punjabi)  than with a post of butter chicken.


Transient

Call it Mugh Makhani or butter chicken, this is my favorite go-to dish at any restaurant serving North-Indian food. My personal favorite is the butter chicken served at Moti Mahal in Abu Dhabi. The restaurant claims to be a chain of the original one in Delhi where butter chicken was first introduced. The chicken is grilled in the Tandoor oven (which is the original method of preparing the chicken for this dish) and then added to a buttery, tangy and sweet sauce. All I need is garlic Naan to wipe out the bowl and I am a happy foodie.


This is my first request for a post. The husband dearest has been marketing my food blog and was approached by a colleague asking if I’d be willing to share a recipe for butter chicken. I nearly sent out a quick email. On second thought, I decided to make a post of it. It’s been ages since I’ve had my mothers’ butter chicken and Jeera rice, a combination I love.  This recipe is what she has put together after trying out a few recipes from her assortment of cookbooks and it’s something I’ve been thinking of making and it’s hasn’t happened. Thanks to Sanaa, I get to make it, blog it, eat it and share it. I hope you like this recipe.


The marination of the chicken in ground whole spices is the secret behind a good butter chicken. Traditional recipes use ripe tomatoes as the base to a good curry. This is how mums’ recipe is different. Her version is perfect for a butter chicken which is easy to make and yet, has the fabulous flavor. I read the recipe for the butter chicken made at Ushna, one of Abu Dhabi’s finest Indian restaurant. For a kilo of chicken, they use 5 kilos of tomatoes that are boiled with other spices for 90 minutes to 2 hours. Yes, I read the recipe over and over again and no, I didn’t read it wrong. We had ordered it for husband dearests’ birthday dinner at Ushna. It tasted excellent and makes the elaborate process worthwhile. I prefer the Moti Mahal Murgh Makhani hands down.

When I do have time on my hands, I’d love to try that recipe. If you’d like a challenge too, you can read Ushnas’ version here.


Otherwise, here’s the painless preperation for Butter Chicken a la Umma.

INGREDIENTS

  • Chicken (boneless cut into cubes) – 1/2 kg
  • Butter – 2 tbsp
  • Medium sized onion – thinly sliced
  • Fresh Breakfast Cream
  • Boiling Water – 1 cup
  • Chilli – 2, split lengthwise

For Marinade

  • Peppercorn – 1 tsp
  • Black Cumin – 1 tsp
  • Yoghurt – 1/4 cup
  • Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
  • Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Clove – 3 whole
  • Tomato Paste – 2 tbsp
  • Salt – to taste

METHOD

  • Grind peppercorn and black cumin till powder.
  • Add remaining dry ingredients of the marinade, including cloves, and grind again.
  • In a bowl, add the yoghurt,tomato paste and ground powders and mix well.
  • Add boneless chicken and salt, making sure the marinade coats the chicken completely.
  • Keep in the refrigerator overnight.
  • An hour before making the curry base, take the bowl outside from the refrigerator to bring to room temperature.
  • Heat a saucepan and add butter when it is hot.
  • Once the butter melts completely, add the sliced onions. Ensure the flame is not too high which would then burn the onions.
  • Fry the onions till they are reduced to a dark brown colour.
  • Add the chicken and the remaining marination sauce.
  • Cook the chicken till the sauce reduces and the oil clears (5-10 minutes).
  • Add boiling water, stirring it well.
  • Cover the saucepan and allow the chicken to cook completely until it is tender (15-20 minutes).
  • When chicken is cooked through, stir in the fresh cream and stir gently till it dissolves.
  • Add slit chilli or extra cream on top to garnish.

Note

Overnight marination enhances the flavor of the chicken but it is optional.If you are in a hurry, you can make the marinate the chicken for at least an hour and then follow the same recipe.

Hope you like it Sanaa.

Have a good food day.

Sticky Toffee Pudding


Transient

It’s finally that time of the year. Misty mornings, a little less of the sun and an excuse to have all the hot chocolate you want, what’s not to like about winter? Given the fact it’s gone before you know it, I love making the most of this weather in the UAE. If it’s winter, it also means it’s time to clean up the sooted grills and plan a barbecue.

In Jumeirah at my parents place, we grill outside in the open garden. In Abu Dhabi at my in-laws place, we kick it up a notch. We do a rooftop barbecue. The lawn is home to Mummy’s vegetable garden which has begun bearing produce. Besides, there is a tall bougainvillea and a bushy henna tree which means there’s not enough ventilation. And so, we all brave climbing up and own three flights of stairs in our villa and enjoy grilling on the rooftop with a beautiful view of the city.

This time, we hosted my family for a barbecue dinner. Parents, sibling and his friends visiting from the US, uncle, aunt and cousins plus children maketh 21 adults and 5 children. The more, the merrier is what we believe.


Customarily, the large family get-togethers means I’m making dessert. And I love doing it. I have three cousins who sing praises at me if there’s chocolate in the recipe. My gorgeous nieces make their way through two or three cupcakes licking off only the frosting and handover the cakes to my sister who is more than happy. The plan is to bake a few batches of cupcakes for the siblings and the children and an additional ‘adult’ pudding. I say adult because apart from my beloved Vappa, none of the elders like chocolate  in their dessert. They usually prefer a traditional Kerala Payasam, almost always jaggery based which is something the younger ones including my husband don’t fancy much.


Ever since I really started cooking, I’ve been searching far and wide for a dessert which everyone loves to eat. I had tremendous success with a tiramisu recently. I didn’t want to make the tiramisu again. 4 days before D-Day I leaf through my cookbooks and browse through all my bookmarks on internet. After an hour, I found it. Jamie Olivers’ Sticky Toffee Pudding. How could it go wrong? The reason I loved this recipe so much is because of one ingredient – fresh dates.



Living in the UAE means you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to this fruit with choices ranging from dried dates to stuffed with orange peel, almond, take your pick. This recipe calls for Medjool dates which is a large and succulent variety. I used dates from the supermarket that matched the descripton. True to Jamie’s style, this is a hassle-free preparation without compromising on flavor.



I made this pudding with double the quantity. This means you have to leave the pudding a little longer in the oven than the required 30 minutes. The key is to ensure that the pudding is cooked right through without burning the edges of the pudding. You’re looking for a fairly deep brown. I do think it’s key to make the toffee sauce right before serving, which is not a pain because it’s ready before you know it.


And there you have it. Warm toffee trickling through moist pudding. I’ve never liked toffee  and this recipe makes me want to pull off a Nigella-esque experience with caramel.

We had a great evening which went on past the tiny tots bedtime. The weather was cool throughout the night. With so many adults, there were quite a few suggestions on how to get the BBQ started, whether there was enough coal, the heat required for a good char and a lot more. At one point, it looked like we wouldn’t get much done. Thankfully, it all ended well with smoky juicy meat to accompany an exhausting spread. The highlight was hands down the whole roasted baby lamb. And yes, the Pudding.

You’re going to love very bite. I promise.

Wrapping up my first post satisfyingly.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Jamie Olivers’ unabridged recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 225g fresh dates, stoned
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 85g unsalted softened butter
  • 170g caster sugar
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 170g self-raising flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons Ovaltine
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt

Toffee Sauce

  • 115g unsalted butter
  • 115g light muscovado sugar
  •  140ml double cream

METHOD

  • Preheat your oven to 180ºC/350ºF/gas 4. Put the dates in a bowl with the bicarbonate of soda and cover with 200ml/7fl oz of boiling water. Leave to stand for a couple of minutes to soften, then drain.
  • Whiz the dates in a food processor until you have a purée.
  •  Meanwhile, cream your butter and sugar until pale using a wooden spoon, and add the eggs, flour, mixed spice, cinnamon and Ovaltine.
  • Mix together well, then fold in the yoghurt and your puréed dates.
  • Pour into a buttered, ovenproof dish and bake in the preheated oven for 35 minutes.
  • While the pudding is cooking, make the toffee sauce by putting the butter, sugar and cream in a pan over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce has thickened and darkened in colour.
  • To serve, spoon out the pudding at the table and pour over the toffee sauce.

Note

I forgot to buy Ovaltine which I’m sure would have rendered a difference in the flavor of the pudding. The pudding tasted delicious without it, so feel free to omit it.

Have a good food day.