A chocolate frosted peanut butter cake and what is to feel trapped in a time capsule

April 5, 2014 | By

Some of the best books  grace my book shelf but I have no time to read them. I look at them with guilt and they look back at me with a lot of contempt. They don’t say much, mostly because I don’t give them a chance. I turn away to tend to some of the more ‘urgent’ things that need my attention. My bedside table has some of the lighter reads and some cook books. Nigella’s cookbooks are always at my hand’s reach. I flip through some recipes and read a line of two from the novel who’s name I forget until I close to book to look at the title.

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I am drifting. Again. This happens when I get too busy in my busyness. I read a post written by Saheli called Floating and I knew I was feeling the exact same thing. What’s reassuring is I know its just a phase and it will pass, so I am not despairing.

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Initially I used to fight it but it never helped. Now I just drift along only because I know it will end. There are few things I know make me feel better and one of them is baking.  So I baked a chocolate frosted peanut butter cake. It was a friend’s surprise baby shower. I poured myself into it and even before I prepped for the cake, I hadn’t a shred of doubt that it will be wonderful.

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The pictures are pathetic because they were rushed, but who cares! The cake was fantastic. I didn’t need anybody else to tell me that and I didn’t even have to taste it. I just knew it. There are a few things you should know about the cake before you try it.

– Its barely sweet and that allows the peanut butter taste to shine through.

– It uses no butter. Only oil and the cake is soft as a baby’s bottom.

-The sweetness is from the chocolate frosting which if you avoid, you’d be doing the cake a lot of disservice.

– The recipe has been adapted from here

For the recipe, click on the recipe card below.

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Before I end this post, there is a video I would like to share here. It is a Ted talk by one of my favourite writers – Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame. She talks about the creative process and of managing our own expectations that we have from our creative selves. It made a lot of sense to me. I watched it twice and each time it felt like she was talking to me. Here you go.

Happy Weekend!

Parenthood and other things + Chocolate Pistachio Fudge

Musings of a New Mom | February 19, 2014 | By

Being a parent is the most fortunate thing to happen to anyone -  seems like an overstatement but I think it’s absolutely true. When Mimi was born, it took me a while to step out from the state of awe. Tiny and vulnerable, my new-born looked like the most exquisite thing I had ever laid my eyes on. Unfortunately, unlike most of you, I didn’t take to motherhood naturally. It took me a great while to figure her out. I was too scared to trust my instincts or for that matter even my husband’s as far as Mimi affairs were concerned. Be it her colicky experience, her natural tendency to run before she started walking, her difficulty in pronouncing ” Y” and “Th” words ( words like yellow were pronounced as Lello and Bath was Baff).  Rather than trusting my own instincts, I would look up the internet or talk to my mother who I thought is the authority in raising a child since she managed to make something out  of me! But over a period of time, I have understood Mimi and my instincts are better positioned to work and deliver.

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Despite having four solid years of experience of raising a child, both my husband and I still struggle when it comes to trusting our instincts as parents. It becomes increasingly difficult especially when a credible source like school and especially your child’s teacher tells you certain things about your child that you find difficult to refute. It was when Mimi joined nursery that I went back to work. It was  a trying time for both of us because we spent nearly 3.5 glorious years together before this abrupt separation happened. ( including the pregnancy months when I took a sabbatical from work)

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The first year passed incident-free but the second year onward we received a steady stream of complaints from school regarding her behaviour. Mimi suddenly resorted to displaying sudden bursts of temper and several cases of disobedience. These complaints did not cease even after several attempts of intervention with Mimi. We, as parents, were at our wits end. The teacher and school started to label her as someone with ADHD and that increased our anxiety levels beyond imagination. Every single day was spent trying to make Mimi understand about good behaviour but none seem to work. Somehow we resigned to believe that maybe Mimi did have ADHD and perhaps as the teacher suggested would need medical attention and therapy.  We spoke to several counselors, Psychotherapists and child psychiatrists and each one of them strongly recommended that we should wait it out because at 3  years it was too early to diagnose anything. It was the most grueling time for us as parents and midst all of this confusion, the school gave us a hard time questioning our parenting skills.

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Finally, after months of sleepless nights, we decided to trust our instincts and take her off the school especially when certain stray incidents of discrimination came to my knowledge. It was as if the school did not want her too. Truce was declared and Mimi spent  several months at home doing what she liked – painting, writing, watching her favourite shows, eating wonderful food and chilling out. What surprised me was that she was  a completely different person at home as compared to how the teachers projected her – A devil child.

For a parent, there no bigger grief trust me.

Once she was off school, there was collective sigh of relief and life went on.  Towards the beginning of a new year, I went up to one of the smaller nurseries in town and requested them to take Mimi. The new school gladly took her and Mimi began a new life with new classmates, new teachers and a brand new atmosphere. By the grace of God, she took to this new school rather easily and the positive environment did a good deal of good. Her beautiful character sparkled through and she started to enjoy the new tryst. There were never any complaints from school and we thanked our lucky stars that she found a loving environment that cherishes her for what and who she is.

We are so happy that we trusted our instincts and got her off the previous school without falling for the teacher’s random observations of Mimi having ADHD. These days ADHD has become the easiest label given to a child who is slightly naughty. I feel it is utterly unfair when schools and their ‘qualified’ teachers assume this easy way of relinquishing all responsibility when it comes to handling children with different capacities and energy levels by pronouncing them as either developmentally slow or suffering from ADHD.

Hence a lesson to learn from our bitter experience would be always, ALWAYS trust your own instincts in matters relating to your child.

Only yesterday we got to know that Mimi got accepted at the “Big School” after a thorough interview process and fantastic recommendation from her current school. We are so proud of her and how she has transformed in the last 6-8 months with the new school. It is a big milestone for us as parents and a beautiful opportunity for Mimi. This joyous moment called out for something sweet and beautiful and the chocolate pistachio fudge was the right choice – instinctively. :-)

It asks for very few basic ingredients and very little prep. It is fudgy and full of chocolate goodness. You would be surprised how quickly these vanish – these little bites of heaven. Enjoy these one at a time with your children and treasure every moment spent with them because time’s flying away. Wishing you all a terrific mid-week!

Click to see the enlarged picture of the recipe card

Click to see the enlarged picture of the recipe card

 

Hello, I love you….

Musings of a New Mom | February 12, 2014 | By

It is that time of the year where corny rules and cheesy is the flavour of the day. Valentine’s Day is a week away and my inbox is spammed with emails from chocolates and flower companies with shopping suggestions. As years have rolled on, Valentine’s day for me isn’t about fluttering heart beats and romantic cards anymore. As a matter of fact, the only times I have been aware of this love-day was when my husband surprised me with gifts. Even he knows that this day doesn’t stir me though I appreciate all his efforts. But this year, it was different. This new person in my life just blew my mind away with the most wonderful gift. I know now that you can never be too old for mush.

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Do you see that little red heart in the center of the red velvet I and U?

My baby made it for me. She drew a heart which she claimed was only as big as her own heart that beats “thud thud , thud thud”. She coloured it with her red colour pencil and used her child-friendly scissors to cut the heart out. She came up to me while I was busy with something in the kitchen and called out, “Hello, I love you..”

I turned around to see her holding out this little red paper heart out to me.

“Happy Valentines Mamma. Keep this in your purse. I made it for you. Don’t ever lose it.”

I took it from her tiny fingers that were dented from the intense pressure of colouring the paper heart.

RVB3I stood in the kitchen holding the paper heart long after the little artist was gone. I placed it delicately in the palms of my hands wondering how much I loved this little person. To have her reciprocate in this fashion was the ultimate joy I have ever experienced. My child is growing up and she is exploring different emotions. I sense a change in her and in the way she reacts to the world around her, including me. Her reciprocation blew my mind away. For that moment, I felt she loved me more than I thought I loved her. I slid her precious heart in my purse and as I looked up I saw her observing me. She smiled because she was happy I was following her instructions.

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When I got back to my chores, I noticed her rummaging through my purse to make sure her heart was in the right place and safe. Satisfied, she went back to doing her own thing. That is when I thought of making these lovely red velvet chocolate brownies to show my 4 year old how much I appreciate her gift of love. I used a red velvet recipe to capture the colour of her red paper heart that went “thud,thud thud thud”.

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The recipe makes a very small batch – just enough to please a 4 -year-old girl. 16 pieces in all but full of chocolate and red velvet goodness. I refered to Averie Cook’s recipe to make these decadent plum coloured beauties.

The recipe is below in the recipe card (click on it to see the enlarged version). I urge that you make this small batch of beautiful red velvet brownies and see how happy it makes your loved ones.

RVB5It is remarkable how love takes different forms as we grow older. Its meaning and its essence changes over time and becomes mellow and enduring. My daughter’s eyes lit up the moment she saw this chocolate covered squares and I realized I hit a home run.

Hope everybody has a beautiful Valentines.Celebrate love, celebrate closeness and feel lucky.

“Crabby” Chocolate Croissants from Nigella Express & why cooking can change your life

February 7, 2014 | By

My love affair with Nigella’s recipes is legendary. I already have all her popular cook books and by the end of April this year, I will have added another one of her books to my ever – burgeoning collection of books. My poor book case in groaning under the weight of so many books and soon I would have to buy a new one or build a make shift one to accommodate the new ones.

On back to the point of this post. In this post, I share Nigella’s Cheat’s chocolate croissant. When I watched the video, I couldn’t believe making a croissant could be this simple. Well they are cheat’s croissants and so they had to be quick and hassle -free. This year, I hope to undertake the real croissant challenge working my way through the layers of pastry sheets and tubs of butter.

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When I made mine, they turned out to be slightly different looking as compared to Nigella’s.  Says a lot about my incredible crafting abilities. My chocolate croissants looked like crabs heavy in the middle after a large meal. But, but , but, they were enormously delicious! Isn’t that what we want at the end of it all. So I thought I should rightfully call these croissants “Crabby” ( only in the way they look and not crabby- mood inducing)

Step-by-step instructions

Step-by-step instructions

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For the recipe you could see this incredibly engrossing video of Nigella doing her cheat’s chocolate croissant for Nigella Express.

Usually I am a very keen cook and I love spending time in the kitchen dishing out home made meals. But off – late, I am all about lazy cooking and cheat’s meals. Guess its the weather in Bahrain that is making me snuggle up on my couch and eat whatever I can lay my hands on. It was then I came upon this very interesting video my Micheal Pollan ( Fantastic , fantastic author of the book called “Cooked“) To anybody who enjoys to read about now culture intersects with food and behavioral patterns, this book is for you. 

I want anyone who is reading this blog to watch this video with all the care and attention you can. In here, Micheal Pollan stresses why and how cooking can change your life! It completely transformed my perspective about how powerful it is to take control of what we eat and feed our families. Learning how to cook and/or applying ourselves in the kitchen can result in long term health and other benefits.

 

C2Michael Pollan’s empowering thought process sure had enough pull to get me off the couch and start cooking again instead of reaching out for comforting / addictive packets of food that are so easy to make. Hope it makes you all who don’t cook enough at home, sit up and make that conscious promise to cook and eat healthy.

Next weekend, I have my favourite comfort food – Couscous and vegetables – that I will cover on my blog. Make sure you come back for this healthy couscous recipe. Take care and happy weekend, all!

The last of my bucket list : Khandvi

January 18, 2014 | By

How much I enjoy cutting off items on my list! I don’t regard myself as some one with an OCD yet when it comes to making plans and lists, I may just be one. The final item on my list which I finished before the end of the year was Khandvi. Khandvi is a savory snack from the Indian state of Gujarat. I am extremely fond of Gujarati food because I was brought up there. Though my roots are in Kerala, my heart is with Gujarat. I speak and write fluent Gujarati but not my mother tongue which is Malayalam. Every October, during Navratri, I pine to go to Ahmedabad (where I did my Engineering degree) to enjoy the 9 days of festivity. Then comes Uttarayan, the festival of kites in January which I miss more than ever. When I think of Gujarat, I think of vibrant colours, cheerful and hospitable people and lip smacking food. Gujarati food tends to be sweet, even the savory ones. It is believed that a meal is not complete until it encompasses all the tastes of savoury, pungent, sweet, bitter and tangy. This holistic approach to food makes Gujarati food satisfying.

K2My mother mastered a lot of typical Gujarati recipes including dhokla and handvo. I have never managed to get any of these right at the first attempt. It only means these recipes are a bit tricky to master and require considerable practice. I had a similar experience while making Khandvi where it took me to two back – to- back attempts to get it right.

K4Khandvi is prepared usually from bengal gram flour but it can also be made using moong dal/ mung bean flour as well. The flour is mixed thoroughly with yogurt or butter milk and spiced with tumeric and ginger-green chilly paste. This is cooked on a low flame until the flour-yogurt mixture is done well. There is a test to figure out whether the Khandvi will roll without breaking. For that, you need to scoop a spoonful of Khandvi batter and apply it on a greased plate ( with oil). Let the Khandvi cool and with delicate fingers try and roll it out. If the Khandvi does not roll it means the batter is not done and needs more cooking. Sounds easy? Its NOT!! After rolling out the Khandvi, it is tempered with sesame seeds, mustard seeds, dried red chillis and curry leaves. The final touch is to garnish it with chopped, fresh coriander leaves and fresh grated coconut.

Khandvi should melt in your mouth! Mine did and I was happy the way it turned out.

K9I used the Late Tarla Dalal’s recipe – the pioneer MasterChef of India. She passed away last year leaving behind a legacy of amazing regional recipes and ‘Continental’ ones too. If you want to take a look at Tarla Dalal in action, here’s the link.

Here’s the recipe for people who are intrigued enough to try it themselves. It is a great recipe and so simple too. But simple doesn’t always mean easy.

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Now that I cleared my bucket list, I was meandering  around my statistics and discovered what my top 5 recipes posts have been in 2013.

1. The Apple turnovers

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2. The Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

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3. Poached eggs in baked beans

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4. Flourless Chocolate – Orange Cake – Nigella recipe

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5. Chocolate Mousse

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It has been a fantastic year for me as far as my culinary achievements go. Crossing off a culinary bucket list, visiting France and enjoying oysters  on my birthday, contributing recipes and other food related articles to magazines and attending several food related events in Bahrain have been the highlights. All this reflection and contemplation on the year gone by only tells me that there is so much to do in 2014 that I can hardly wait to start. I take this opportunity to thank each one of you readers of  my blog who take time out to come to my space and leave your thoughts in the comments section. Reading these comments always, ALWAYS  makes my day. It only means that you do enjoy my words and this creative space of mine. Thank you again!

Judging a Masterchef competition + Flourless Chocolate Orange cake

November 30, 2013 | By

An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.

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It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.

The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task.  But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.

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The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.

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It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:

1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in  lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc

2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo

3) Pumpkin rissotto

4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon

photo (3)The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.

The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.

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All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.

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And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.

COC5I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.

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Mimi’s chocolate cupcakes w chocolate ganache & her favourite sunny spot

Musings of a New Mom | September 20, 2013 | By

Though the summer holidays are long gone, it would unfair, if I didn’t do post on Mimi’s baking projects. The blueberry swirl cheese cake,  ginger -orange cookies (whose pictures I do not have), Mimi -special marshmallow brownies and these chocolate cupcakes have been Mimi’s baking trysts. From an objective standpoint, I have to say, she is quite good and loves to get her hands dirty with flour, sugar, butter trio. It is a joy to see my 4 -year-old taking interest in baking. It makes baking extra special.

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There are many things that Mimi says which don’t register at that precise moment. Several days or even months later, an epiphany would come and with it such clarity.  Mimi stopped going to school long before the term was actually over. Probably that school wasn’t right for her. Anyhow, the moot point being Mimi spent a lot of time home being pampered silly by her nanny ( when I was away at work) and by us (  when my hubby and I got back home from work).  Not going to school had in no way stopped Mimi from learning new things, tricks and tactics. It is amazing how children are learning continuously without really being aware of the process. Somehow, it is us, the smart adults who think we know everything, thereby stalling the glorious process of learning.

CM5While she was at home, Mimi threw herself wholeheartedly into the solving her puzzles; starting from 10 pieces, 20 pieces, 50 pieces and now 100 pieces.  This was her main activity during the day, from there on she would do some reading, pretend played with her stuffed animals, a tea party in the afternoon with her stuffed animals again, rode her bicycle in the house ( scaring the nanny by whizzing past her at lightning speed) and then finally waiting for us to come home from work. She would then run to us, all excited and happy and cling around my husband’s neck persuading him to take her swimming. On most days, she would already be in her swim wear eagerly looking at the door.  Weekends were mostly about spending time playing and reading. At times we baked together and quite recently, Mimi has been baking all by herself. She took my help only to measure her ingredients. Otherwise she was handling her show quite confidently.

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The chocolate cupcakes and the marshmallow brownies were completely her baked treats. They were scrumptious and delightful.  I helped her melt the chocolate in the microwave and then finally pushed the cupcake tins into the oven.

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I have observed her enjoying the mixing and adding of ingredients. At times, she even tasted the batter and nodded her little head in approval. The batter -test is something that she is used to as I would always let her have a lick of the batter whenever I baked. Her reaction to the taste of the batter gave me a heads up about the end product.

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During this cupcake baking session, as I stood and watched her from a distance, she looked back and smiled at me. I smiled and gestured to her, if she needed some help. She immediately said, “No mamma, I can do this all by myself.” I beamed for I was a proud mamma of an ferociously independent 4 -year-old. Then she looked at me and I knew  a question was coming my way. She asked me,

“What is your favourite sunny spot , mamma?”

In that moment, I took some time to understand her question and then remembered feeling stumped. I did not have an answer. She continued with the buttering of the cupcake liners and then said, ” Mamma, cupcake is my favourite sunny spot.” That is when I understood what she meant by  a ‘ favourite sunny spot’.

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I pushed it to the back of my mind and it did not come up until the day I was at sitting the porch of my parents home (India, Kerala), sipping on a late afternoon tea and watching the thick sheets of rain pouring around me. It was a moment perfect because of its stillness. There was nothing preceding or succeeding. Just a thought- less few minutes of listening to the rain falling on the roof and on the plants. A moment where I wasn’t thinking, analyzing or guessing. Only listening. And then I remembered Mimi’s question and now I knew the answer to that.

This was my favourite sunny spot. A moment of perfect stillness. Nothing to cloud my vision except for the blanket of rain drops falling from the skies. Ironically, it wasn’t sunny. Far from it.  But this was decidedly my favourite sunny spot – on my parents’ porch, sipping my warm tea, watching the rain. I called out to Mimi, who was busy watching “Chotta Bheem” on the telly. She came out to the porch, slightly annoyed with the sudden interruption.

“What is it, mamma?”, Mimi inquired.

“Mimi, this is my favourite sunny spot!” , I replied. She looked at me quizzically and then took off to continue to watch Chotta Bheem.

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“As for the cupcake recipe, this is the same as Nigella’s old fashioned chocolate cake that we baked as cupcakes. The only difference was the batter was poured into cupcake liners to fill them to 3/4 so as to not let it overflow when they are baking. We baked it at 180 C /350 F for 15-20 minutes until the top feels firm. For the  dark chocolate ganache – 

150ml cream

200g chopped dark chocolate

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.”

It is as simple as it gets but like all of Nigella’s recipes, these cupcakes are big on taste.

For Mimi, baking these chocolate cupcakes meant being in her favourite sunny spot and for me it was that exquisite moment of watching the thundering rain.

What is your favourite sunny spot?

News and My Culinary Bucket list + Millionaire’s Shortbread

February 9, 2013 | By

Well how do I begin..

Lots of news to share.

First things first. You may recollect I had requested all my blogger friends and readers for Facebook votes for a photo contest that Mimi (my daughter) was participating. The news is she won the title of the cutest kid in Bahrain. Mimi won a professional portfolio as the prize for winning the contest. The details of how Summer ( the professional photographer) managed to get some shots that were portfolio -worthy would be a blog post in itself. In a nutshell, I can summarize the photo shoot as:

Mimi– hates wearing girly stuff- made to wear a dress- cranky best- hell broke loose- wouldn’t pose- cried till her nose was red– a super stressed hubby and me– a super patient photographer( Summer Weeks)– asked us parents to step out– sorted the shoot and the change of clothes herself– got some photos that were portfolio worthy– phew!

Well the moral of the 58 word story is – the photos are here and I am so glad to share a few of them in this post as a thank you to all my blogger friends who took time out to vote for Mimi. We are so happy with the photos and at what a beautiful job Summer has done.

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Now for the second round of update – My recipes were featured in one of the leading Magazines in Bahrain – The Bahrain Confidential. For this I have only one person to thank – Pooja Rajpal – my beautiful friend. I have blogged about these recipes and you could take a look at them here and here.

BahCon-Anita-LRFor the third round of update. I have, inspired by Sally, decided to build a culinary bucket list for this year. This is no rocket science stuff. It includes all the culinary pursuit that I have been procrastinating endlessly. Either I am too lazy or plain scared to take it up. So to put all that unimportant fears and insecurities on the side and take up all the challenges  one by one would be my culinary goal for the year. In the bargain, I feel, this bucket list will give my blog a new and adventurous feel. Basically, anything to keep going. Otherwise, knowing me, I would keep making those old-fashioned chocolate cakes, brownies and cookies over and over again. This bucket list not only features new bakes and recipes I intend to try but also would help me push my gastronomical boundaries. Ofcourse the list is subject to change.

Why?

Because its my list. I can do what I want to with it. ( that’s just me justifying my ever-changing goals in life!!)

So here goes my Culinary Bucket list in no particular order:

Barbecue- It may sound funny but I have never got the opportunity to attend a barbecue. But I did in early January, this year and I can’t wait to share my experience of doing so with the locals here in Bahrain. So this I can safely tick off my list.

Macarons – Dread to even try. Have been procrastinating for too long. Have to tackle the bulls by its horns now.

Pavlova – Plain laziness. The only worry I have is, what would I do with all the yolks that remain once I used all the whites of the egg.

Oyster – Ernest Hemmingway called it tasting the sea. I would like to experience this myself. Hopefully, this should happen sometime in April ( why April? I won’t tell you, just yet)

Quail eggs - I have seen these delicate, patterned eggs on the supermarket shelves but using them in my recipes always made me uneasy. Hoping to put a good quail egg recipe on this blog.

Baklawa – Being in this part of the world, its shameful that I haven’t tried my hand at any dessert of the middle eastern origin. Considering how much I love Baklawa and enjoy licking off the honey laced pastry bits off my fingers, its time I try and recreate this beautiful dessert at home.

Learn how to pipe – Chocolate ganache has been my go-to cake decorating option all the time. My piping skills are absolutely dud and I need to try to do some skillful piping this year to put my piping related anxiety at rest.

Swiss roll - I failed miserably at making the yule log for Christmas. It was a defeat in every sense. The log, the rolling, the cream filling; everything. The Swiss Roll will be conquered.

KhandviThis Gujarati (Indian) delicious snack made from gram flour has given me a tough time. But again, like the Swiss Roll, I shall endeavour to tame this rogue snack.

Jalebi - I have been aspiring to make Jalebis for as long as I remember. I know for sure that my hubby would be very thrilled to see this in my culinary bucketlist.

Now with that out-of-the-way, I shall  turn my attention to this delicious, wickedly sinful and indulgent shortbread called the Millionaire’s shortbread that uses more butter than you can imagine and tastes a bit like heaven.

A slice of heaven would be a perfect description.

While the other description would be – ‘ deliciously buttery, crumbly shortbread with a layer of insanely addictive fudge and topped with a shiny coat of melted chocolate. This tri-layered slice of heaven is a calorie bomb but what is life without a little indulgence here and there. During times like this when I am savouring a delicate slice of Nigella’s Shortbread, I tend to completely forget about my New Year resolutions about losing weight and such insignificant issues.

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Surprisingly, it is very easy and quick to assemble as most of Nigella’s baking treats are. Literally three short steps and its done. That trickiest part is to be patient let the darn thing set well. But I am not blessed with that virtue and cut them into slices before it had the time to meld into each other like a single unit. The result was  as you can see in the pictures, uneven slices that don’t look good in photos and the chocolate layer sliding over the fudge layer that reminded me of drifting continents.

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I console myself with the fact that food needs to taste great; never-mind it doesn’t look too good.

I packed these shortbread pieces for my daughters last day of the term party and took some to office.

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Now for the final update, that I remember at the fag end, because there is so much happening that I am losing count. My hubby and my sweet friend Gayathri participated in a Quiz contest – India Quiz 2013 on the eve of the Indian Republic Day in Bahrain and won the 2nd prize. It was a fantastic moment for us. My hubby had been an avid quizzer during his college days but I never had the chance to see him in action. This was the first time I saw him participate and do so well and finally win it. It was a moment of ultimate pride for me. Also that Gayathri was his quiz partner made it ultra special. Kudos to both of you and I am so so so so proud of you!!!

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Now for the Recipe Card;

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Hope you all have an (nice) eventful week ahead!

Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Why baking is so important to me!

December 8, 2012 | By

A few days back,  one of my colleagues asked me why I baked. I was taken aback by why she should ask me such a question. I told her, I baked because:

  • I love to bake;
  • It gave me a breather;
  • A creative outlet;
  • The satisfaction of practicing a craft;
  • I need to keep my blog going, so I had to bake;
  • Because my daughter requested cakes and cookies and joined in during the preparatory process

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Every single reason more compelling than the other. Baking gives me such comfort and helps me de- stress. I told my colleague that I find myself baking more on weekdays, after I come back from office since it simply dispels the stress that I have accumulated in the entire day. After a long day’s work, when the defeatist in me is working hard to put me down and beat my confidence into smithereens, baking restores in me the hope that an action as simple as mixing, flour, eggs, chocolate, butter and sugar can create magic. These days my 3 year old is plenty excited to do her bit in helping me bake her favourite kind of cookies and cakes. She helps me with the mixing bit and keeps asking me in between ” Is it done mamma?” Every other evening, when I come back from work, I find her enthusiastically waiting for me at the door and the moment I open the door, she would leap at me and give me a big, tight hug. She would then relate her classroom and Ms. Linda (her class teacher) stories of the day before making a request for chocolate cookies. She would then say she wants to help me bake cookies. She would rush to get a balloon whisk from the kitchen drawer. Most days I try to dissuade her by distracting her with her story books or some homework. But some days I feel I need that tiny speck of magic to dazzle and sparkle the fag end of my day. My daughter makes sure that she is a part of it.

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On one such overwhelmingly difficult day, when I came back from work, Mimi said she wanted to bake chocolate cookies. I was reminded of a lovely chocolate cookie recipe on Himanshu’s blog. I felt drawn towards it more because it looked like just the kind of cookie, I would love to sink my teeth into to dissolve my depression. Crinkly and sinfully chocolate-y, these cookies have the power to singlehandedly ensure world peace. No, I am not exaggerating. I wouldn’t try making the same recipe twice. But with these cookies I did.  Himanshu’s cookies seem like they have just dropped from some professional baking magazine while mine were not the most eye-catching. Both the times. But my official tester ( Mimi) passed them by gobbling 2 of these giant cookies straight out of the oven; so I was pretty sure that these would be a big hit even in office.

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I made a few changes in the recipe, which are:

  • I reduced the amount of sugar
  • I used white chocolate for the chunks
  • doubled the recipe

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Raspberry Brownies (Birthday Post -2)

May 11, 2012 | By

I am a bit embarrassed about posting stuff about my birthday when my birthday was more than 2 weeks ago. But I love the recipe and can’t help but share the wonderful time I had with my family and friends on my blog. So this is the second installment wherein I would talk about a lovely brownie recipe, nothing more. Promise.

It looks divine

What would one do, if one falls in love with one’s on creation? Is that terribly narcissistic? I hope not.

Ofcourse the recipe was adapted but the effort was all mine so it is okay to call it my creation, isn’t it? I love this brownie for its simplicity. The ruby pink-ness against the barren brown-ness and the burning candles against this gorgeous expanse looked like  the stars that are shining down. Maybe I imagine too much and try to draw parallels to where there are none.  But beautiful looking food almost always evokes strong images in my mind and this brownie did just that.

Just before I popped it into the oven

The brownie was asked for a generous amounts of  chocolate but that sweetness was offset by the tartness of the raspberries. The recipe was adapted from the latest issue of the BBC GoodFood magazine. It had made it to the cover of the magazine for all the right reasons. Looking at it, there was little reason not to bake this on my birthday.

Do try this brownie and I am sure you’d be as crazy about it as I am. Apart from the lovely brownie which was my birthday cake, I had another wonderfully scrummy cake to cut gifted by Anamika Arun of Taste Junction. It was a delicious, full of chocolate goodness, one my utter favourites – A mud cake. I was spoilt for choice. I also was gifted another eggless version of a gorgeous chocolate cake by Gayathri of Food & Fiction which was divine. I couldn’t help but finish most of it myself since they were so good and made for me with such thought and care. Now you know why this birthday was the best ever ( I can never tire of announcing this every now and then)

The mud cake- thanks Anamika

Gayathri’s Yummylicious chocolate cake with nutella buttercream frosting

Some more photos from the dinner party at my place.

The children had a lovely time blowing off candles on both the cakes. The food was an Italian spread with bruschetta, spaghetti and chicken balls, salad, vegetarian pizza and Salad. Fun, cheer, conversations and laughter filled my home that evening making it so memorable.

the party people

With this I end my birthday post saga with great memories and with a realization that birthdays can be fun. It is just not about getting older but also about trying to spend time with the people you love and cherish and making memories for times to come.

Classic “Compensatory” Chocolate Chip Cookies

April 16, 2012 | By

Chocolate Chip Cookies command three things – you cannot stop at just one and you can never get tired of them and they beg to be made again and again; especially if they are Dorie Greenspan’s best Chocolate Chip cookies ever!!

If you are wondering why I have called them ‘ Compensatory’ then you ought to read this post.

Mimi loves chocolate chip cookies and I have made these many times before but they vanish before I can photograph them. So this time I planned  my baking such that I had some time to photograph before they got devoured.

 

I clicked a few pictures while they were baking their way to the chocolate spotted golden discs. It is so wonderful to see each scoop of dough spread out into a beautiful cookie. Each one unique and gorgeous in its own unique way. That is the most beautiful part of having home-baked goods.

 

This recipe is a Dorie Greenspan recipe and like all her recipes they tend to be butter and sugar heavy. Since I have already made these couple of times, I have tweaked the butter and the sugar according to the way we like it. Mimi doesn’t like it if it’s too sweet. She enjoys the dull sweetness from the bits of chocolate scattered intermittently in the cookie. She is my official tester of my cookie dough. If she licks it off the ladle and doesn’t spit it out, it means it really is very, very good.

Recipe for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 25-27 large cookies

Ingredients

All Purpose flour – 2 cups

Salt- 1 tsp

Baking soda – 3/4 tsp

Butter – 225 gms but I used 200 gms, which works perfectly well

Caster Sugar – 3/4 cup ( original called for 1 cup)

Light brown sugar – 1/2 cup ( original called for 2/3)

Vanilla essence – 2 tsps

Eggs – 2, large

chocolate chips ( bittersweet) – 2 cups ( I had run out of these and used actual bitter sweet chunks of chocolate)

Toasted walnuts – 1 cup, finely chopped

Preparation

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F/190C/ gas mark 5. Line the baking sheet with a parchment paper

2. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda

3. Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.

4. Add sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so., until well blended

5. Beat in the vanilla

6. Add eggs one at a time, beating well for a minute or so before adding the other egg and doing the same.

7. Reduce the speed of the stand mixer and add the dry mixture in 3 lots and then add the chocolate and nuts

8. Spoon the dough on the parchment paper keep enough distance between two such scoops so that there is enough space for them to spread out and shine.

9. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the mid way point for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are brown at the edges and golden at the center. They may be soft in the middle but that is alright. When they cool down they harden sufficiently giving it the right kind of bite.

10. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully using a wide spatula transfer them to a separate plate to cool to room temperature.

 

So it is as easy as that and still happens to be a favourite with my family. Do try these and  see yourself reaching for your cookie jar every now and then.

Taking Baby Steps With Some Chocolate Mascarpone Mini Cups

March 10, 2012 | By

Just a few posts ago, I wrote about how I was homeschooling my toddler. I was enjoying that experience to the hilt and thought of continuing it for as long as I could. I could see how much it was helping my child learn faster and it was the best way to fill up my time as well. But life has its own quirky way of sneaking up on you and changing it without any prior warning. Usually I’m up for such change of tracks but this new development put me out of my comfort zone and overnight I was fraught with worry about how I was going to manage things from now on. I should have been happy and don’t get me wrong I am happy with this new development but when you are a mum, your happiness has to wait in line till your child’s priorities have been sorted out.

The thing is, after a gap of 2 whole years, I landed myself a job in Bahrain. This was when I had almost given up hope and decided on focusing on doing something entirely different with my life. My first instinct was to stress out about how I was going to manage Mimi. I wanted to home school her given its definite advantages but now with a full-time job which was too good to give up, I had to make alternate arrangements. My kind housekeeper obliged to play the nanny for certain part of the day until I got back home from work. So with that in place, I decided to look for a school that would not only accommodate my child in the middle of the year but also fulfill certain criteria that were important to me with respect to its curriculum and discipline. Most of the schools refused outright asking me to apply the following year and some just didn’t make the cut. Finally I found a leveler in a school that was close to my home and seemed right in most ways for Mimi to attend. Thankfully, they had one last place to offer her and the deal was sealed.

Her first day was on the 1st of March. I constantly spoke to Mimi the previous few days about how she was going to school and what she would do there. I even prompted her every now and then about waking up early since she had to leave by 7 30 am. I never in my dreams thought that she would actually pay heed to what I was telling her. For a  2.5 year-old , she is pretty smart, I must say. She woke up at 6 45 am on the first day on her own and quietly let me dress her up. To see her in her white shirt and beige skirt ( which was too long btw) and her red sweater, I was shedding a silent tear on the side. She posed for me and seemed happy to be going to school. The moment she entered the school compound, she let-go off my hand and rushed to the playpen. She was excited to see the swings, the slides and all her favourite fun activities in one place. I had a tough time coaxing her to see her class. Her class teacher seemed like a kind but firm sort of lady and that put my mind at rest. Leaving Mimi with them was difficult as she is not used to being restricted in a room. After some distraction tactics, I managed to slip away and come home. To return to an empty house seemed very weird. I found myself fidgety and anxious. I worried about Mimi and whether she would have had her breakfast or not or whether she would sit in one place or not. I used that time to bake something (obviously) so that I don’t combust and evaporate. I made these dainty little cups of joy using ofcourse our ( Mimi’s and mine) favourite ingredient Chocolate and another beautiful ingredient Mascarpone. Making these required some focus and that helped me calm down.

While I make/bake something with the intention of blogging about it afterward, I usually start the post in my head with the process. The story, the outline, the character building, the sweet reminiscences start swirling in my head as I start putting the ingredients together. And by the time the task is done, my blog post is ready to be published in my head. So then, it is only a matter of typing the words down on the blog page.

So during this chocolate mascarpone exercise, I thought about how Mimi and I are going through similar experiences in our lives right now. But Mimi has had a head start since she started school before I join work. I join work this Sunday ( 11th of March) and it would be my first after 2 long years. I have had some sort of preparation only because of the zillions of interviews that I had attended but to actually imagine myself in office- that was scary. I thought about how I would have to look serious all the time, wear stuffy coats and trousers ( as opposed to the breezy night pyjamas and comfortable Ts  that I never get out of) and attempt making adult-like conversations with my colleagues ( in contrast to the baby talk that I have practised with my child these 2 years). How in the world was I going to fit in? I am going to feel like a fish out of water the first day. And since my role is primarily going to be a client facing one, I don’t know if I still have it in me to hold anyone’s attention. All of a sudden, the whole job thing started to look like a mistake. I wasn’t feeling up to it. NOT AT ALL. My heart began to race and I had to call my mother. Though I didn’t tell her about my anxieties, but I told her about Mimi and her school. I always feel a lot better after talking to her. She told me about the time when she had to leave me and my brother with our nannies to go back to work and how difficult it was for her ( this was without any prompting from me about my chaotic mind frame).

Only when we have our own children do we realize what all our parents would have endured raising us and we take it all for granted. Unfortunately, these bursts of realization come very late. So talking to my mum laid most of my fears to rest and I concentrated on getting my tiny desserts done well. I don’t know where I got the recipe from but I must thank whoever that person/cookbook/blogger is. These fabulous pieces of ecstasy are meant for those special occasions; the first days sort of celebration. Indulgent but not being overly so.

Recipe for Chocolate Mascarpone Mini Cups

Makes about 20 cups

Ingredients

 100 gm plain chocolate ( for the cups. You will need petite -size paper cups to make these chocolate cups)

Filling 

100 gm milk chocolate

200 gm mascarpone cheese

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

cocoa powder for dusting

Preparation

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Break 100gm plain chocolate into pieces and place it in a bowl. Set it over a saucepan of hot water. Stir until the chocolate has melted. Spoon the melted chocolate into 20 paper cups ( the smallest ones), spreading it up the sides, with a small spoon or pastry brush. I think the pastry brush helps to spread it out evenly and reduces waste. Place these tiny paper cups upside down on the baking tray and leave to set.

2. When set, carefully peel away the paper cases. You have to be very careful lest the chocolate breaks. I had some mishaps but I used those broken chocolate cups anyways. It is chocolate after all. I cannot let anything chocolate go in waste.

3. For the filling, melt the chocolate. Place the mascarpone cheese in a bowl and beat in the vanilla essence. To this add the melted chocolate until well combined. Leave the mixture to chill in the refrigerator, beating occasionally, until firm enough to pipe. I was excited to do the piping but my piping nozzle kept dropping off every time I tried to squeeze the chocolate mixture out of it, into the cups. Finally I gave up and used a spoon to fill the cups.

4. In case you have a better quality piping bag and nozzle with you, a star nozzle would be the best to pipe the mixture into the cups. Decorate the cups with a dusting of cocoa powder. Keep in the refrigerator until you want to serve.

*If you have paper cups of a thicker variety, it would be easier to have better shapes.

These were an instant hit with Mimi and my husband. I even sent some off to my friend Gayathri, whose birthday is on the 11th of March. I dedicate these chocolate mini cups to Gayathri and wish her a beautiful birthday. I know she would make a spectacular cake on her birthday for herself and I cannot wait to have a taste of it.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GAYATHRI

While you all read this post, I would be in office trying to look professional. I feel the giggles coming already! I must imagine how difficult it must be for Mimi to step out of her cocoon into an unknown territory without knowing a thing about what lies before her. Atleast I have 5 years of work experience before I took a break. In that terms, Mimi has it tougher but I am sure both Mimi and I will manage and succeed by taking baby steps while enjoying the process.

We need your best wishes and prayers so that we manage to tread these unknown paths with confidence and great optimism.

The Nostalgia Trip With Tiramisu

December 18, 2011 | By

December is such a wonderful month for resolutions and nostalgia. I am always high on nostalgia and find myself fleeting several feet high up in my past, rarely wanting to get down.  While resolutions and me don’t really go hand in hand, I did have a bunch of resolutions written down last year, more out of peer pressure than anything else. But nostalgia is my friend. That is because my past and present are as evident to me as night and day.

All the time before 2009 was the past and time after that would be my present. As for the future, it’s not really my bother because I have always been the take-it-as-it-comes kind of person. You must be wondering about, how I got to this clear division of my past and present? Well it is simple really. I got pregnant in Jan 2009 and since then I have been living in the moment; in the present. Any event, occasion before that time is my past. When I think about my past, I see a very different person because, I looked different, I did different things and lead a different life. The year 2008 was an important year for me in many ways. Not only because I fell pregnant the next year, but I did a lot of growing up in that year alone.  Out of the 12 months, I had to be on my own for the half of it. That alone time, gave me lot of time for reading, watching movies, working out and reflecting. Now when I think about that time, I experience mixed emotions. Alone-ness sometimes turned to fierce loneliness and sometimes the sheer joy of being in my own company surprised me to no end.

In my opinion at a sub-conscious level my mind and body were preparing for a life altering event; arrival of Mimi. But ofcourse at a conscious level I wasn’t aware. I can say this now with some ounce of surety, because I lived a whole life in the year 2008 before embarking on this wondrous journey of being a mother.

The year started with prepping for the half marathon in November. A healthy diet and exercise became the norm and I completely enjoyed my running  jigs.

Middle of year saw my hubby moving away to Seattle for  next 5-6 months. To fill my time, I joined spinning classes apart from my regular gym and running jaunts.

I haunted all the book shops in the city and gathered an enviable collection. Weekends were devoted to reading through different books at the same and at a rate that surprised me. I can proudly claim that I may have read more books in that year than the rest of the life put together. It is during this time, that I read a life changing book , ‘ Eat Pray Love’. To me, during that phase, this book made so much sense that it has etched an indelible mark. I even bought extra copies for my girlfriends and my mum too. I also read the Harry Potter books several times and  you can quiz me about anything in the books and I am sure, I won’t disappoint.

I also watched a whole lot of movies  that I always wanted to watch but never had time to. I was able to watch brilliant movies like ‘Closer’,  Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind’, ‘ My house in Umbria’, ‘ Talented Mr. Rippley”, “Under the Tuscan Sun’ and many more. Under the Tuscan Sun and My house in Umbria clearly remain as favorites even today. If you haven’t seen them yet, get your copy of the DVD and watch it. I also watched the entire Kill Bill series and I think, Uma Thurman is a Goddess. I worship her.

In between, when I felt the world was closing in on me, I took a breather and went visiting my parents in Kerala. I spent a whole lot of time with them discussing, chit chatting and mostly just being around them. I am so glad I took that time off.

I went around Delhi to explore places I hadn’t been before and stopped for coffee at the quaintest little coffee shops that served the most amazing coffee.

I also went partying on weekends and danced the nights away. I was always the quintessential party girl and dancing was my first love and my greatest stress buster.

For an office assignment, I found myself wandering the streets of Amsterdam ( The Netherlands). I spent my time admiring the mannequins on display in shops only to realize they were actual people displaying their ‘wares’. It was here I fell in love with the foulest smelling cheese and the heavy wooden clogs.

Just around Christmas, I traveled to Stockholm ( Sweden) to see Santa Claus and tell him my little wish. It is here, I started to believe again in the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus when I saw my wish come true.

Just before my wedding anniversary and the year-end, my husband returned. He bought my first Chanel perfume and we celebrated it with Champagne. That was my first taste of Champagne and I loved it.

We took a memorable trip to Goa with friends and that was my last real vacation.

2008 was a year that I experienced  momentous joys and also fell into the deepest chasms of despair. During my trying moments I picked myself up by rewarding myself with little things that made me happy. It could be a new dress or a new music CD or sometimes a guilty dessert. I always felt chocolates loved me unconditionally. They always set my mood up and I felt positive  even on the dreariest days.

It was during this year that I also coined the term, ” Earn your dessert”. According to this,  only after doing my 7 km run every weekend, I would reward myself with a dessert and it had to be Tiramisu. I loved Tiramisu in puddings, in biscuit flavours, in cakes and in ice creams. Funnily, I may have never had an authentic Tiramisu, if there is any such thing. In the most up market Italian restaurants in Delhi, I was certain that they had a sponge cake or a pound cake dipped in coffee essence and not the lady fingers which made it more Italian. But what the heck, it tasted wonderful, this not-so-authentic Indian version of the Italian Tiramisu.

So 2008 was the year of the Tiramisu for me; bittersweet. 

So to toast my Nostalgia that December, I made some kick -*** Tiramisu inspired from a lovely blog -Sunshine and Smile. Kankana’s blog has become my go-to blog for most of my experimentation in the kitchen and I must add, the success rate has been 100%.  I tried this decadent tasting Tiramisu only to realize how ridiculously easy it is to make it. To stay true to my fond memories of Tiramisu, I decided to use  pound cake strips dipped in espresso.

Recipe for Tiramisu

Ingredients

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

4 tbsp mascarpone cheese

24 lady fingers or strips of pound cake or sponge cake

2 tbsp cocoa powder plus extra for dusting

1 cup strong espresso, cooled down to room temperature

1/2 cup bitter-sweet chocolate shavings, for garnish

Directions:

1. Beat the egg yolks and sugar in an electric mixer or whisker until they are thick and pale.

2. Add mascarpone cheese and continue beating until smooth.

3. Add 1 tbsp of coco powder and mix until its thoroughly combined.

4. Dip each ladyfingers/ pound cake strip/ sponge cake strips  into espresso for about a second and place on the bottom of the serving bowl (I placed 3 in each).

5. Next, pour the mascarpone mixture over the ladyfingers.

6. Now, arrange another layer of soaked ladyfingers and top with remaining mascarpone mixture.

7. Cover the bowls with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (I keep it overnight).

8. While serving, sprinkle some more coco powder with chocolate shavings.

Muffin Monday : Chocolate Brownie Muffins

December 5, 2011 | By

The Muffin lady is back again!

Well, that is the title I have been bestowed by none other Arva of I Live in a Frying Pan.

I kind of like the sound of it.

For this Monday An of Bakerstreet shared with us the recipe of Chocolate Brownie Muffins. There was no way I was going to miss making these lovelies.

An called them the best of both worlds – Brownies + Muffins. It cannot get better than this. They also are full of nutella goodness and I added plenty of choco chips to make it even more irresistible.

The recipe has been adapted from the Women’s Weekly Home Baked and in my opinion, is a keeper.

The only change I should have made would have been  to avoid pistachios and add walnuts  instead. Pistachios felt a little weird but then they did give them that spot of colour which I loved. I also added 2 tablespoons of instant coffee for that special punch.

Recipe for Chocolate Brownie Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients 

2 cups Self Raising Flour

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/3 cup caster sugar

2 tbsp coffee powder ( my inclusion)

60 grams melted butter

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

1/2 cup nutella

1 egg, lightly beaten

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup sour cream

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 400F

2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar.

3. Add in the nutella, egg, milk, sour cream and butter. Gently stir to combine.

4. Stir in the pistachios and chocolate chips. Spoon the mixture into a prepared muffin tray.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes

Baking these lovelies definitely makes me feel festive but as I observe my expanding waistline, all the cheer evaporates almost instantly. I wish that God give me the strength to resist baking in the coming months, so that I can get my diet and exercise schedule on track. Until then, well, I am going to enjoy these brownie muffins with my morning cuppa.

Hopeless, I know!!

Muffin Monday is an initiative by Baker Street. A culinary journey of sharing a wickedly delicious muffin recipe every week. Drop in a quick line to join her on her journey to make the world smile and beat glum Monday mornings week after week.

Nutella Pots and A Blog Award

December 2, 2011 | By

Blogging happened to me purely by chance. One balmy afternoon, at my parents home, whilst observing my 5 month old sleep peacefully under the rhythmic whirring of the fan, I had this incredible urge to say a few things. The whole household was asleep and there wasn’t anyone I could speak to. I browsed through a couple of blogs on the internet and marvelled at how much people wrote and how well, too. On a whim, I decided to create my own and Slice of my Lyfe ( I did not get ‘Life’ since it was already taken) was born. Post after post I felt, I had so much to say and my blog was taking it all like a good sport. Nobody read my blog in the beginning except a few friends who knew about it. I didn’t care. I never got any comments. I still did not care. I loved that I was able to pour myself out to the world without the world judging me at any step. It was an incredible feeling.

In my nearly 2 years of blogging, I feel my blog has shaped itself into what it is today; a food blog. This is my 145th post and it deserved a toast. I didn’t feel, I needed to wait for it to cross a 150 or a 200 to celebrate because 145 as a number is just as good. My blog is all about me and my inspiration and that inspiration I sought from inside of me. I felt it was important to recognize my own progress and take pride in my accomplishments ( even at the risk of coming across as being completely self-absorbed). I also felt it was important to share my achievements with others and brag a little. People who find something valuable in my blog and come back again and again to read it understand this about blogging and do not take it in any other sense. The recognition and support of these positive souls around me nurtures me and motivates me to give the best that I have.

One such friend that I made in the blogosphere is Cassandra of Food My Friend. We have supported each other by going to each other’s blog and discussing our love and passion for food and related things. A vegetarian, a bunny lover and an impulsive holiday booker, that is Cassandra for you. Most importantly she is somebody who takes pride in creating her own recipes and being a perfectionist while she is at it. Do take time to check out her lovely blog.

Cassandra was ever so kind to bestow my blog with The Liebster Blog Award. Thank you Cassandra for this lovely Award which would be my first in all this time. It makes me feel very special and happy to be recognized with an Award such as this.

A little about the Award : Liebster is a German word meaning darling or beloved. The Liebster Blog Award is to recognise your favorite up-and-coming bloggers . It requires a little rule-follow which is as under:

1.Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.

2.Reveal your top 5 bloggers and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.

3.Copy and paste the award on your blog.

So to spread the love, I have a list of five bloggers ( not in any order) that I feel are terrifically passionate and it shows through their blog.

1. Nashira – who  blogs at nashplateful is a brilliantly talented cook. I say this with a lot of force because I have had the good fortune to sample her food and gracious hospitality when I went visiting her in Doha. A mother of two boys, Nashira is passionate about photography and can spend hours perfecting a shot. She is the only blogger that I know who uses a point and shoot camera and still comes out with DSLR kind results. She is somebody I totally relate to and can talk to for hours. Hop over to her blog to see yourself get addicted to Nashira’s casual chatter in her posts and luminous photography.

2. Ameena – who blogs at FancythisFancythat is a mum to the adorable Maya. Ameena writes about her everyday quirks in little postlets ( that is what I call them) which actually run quite deep. There is so much lesson and meaning to what she writes that if you didn’t know better, you would only laugh it off and forget about it. I take her blog very seriously and I earnestly feel she has a great chance at being a life coach ( I am sure Ameena, herself may be quite surprised with this admission of mine).  Take a look at her blog and decide for yourself.

3. Gayathri – blogs atFood and Fiction and happens to be my first friend when I landed in this alien land ( not alien anymore, I love Bahrain). . After a business degree and five years of working with a Corporate, Gayathri decided to give it all up to be home maker and mum to an adorable 2 1/2 year old. Gayathri and I share a deep love for baking and reading. Her blog is a testimony of her passion for baking cakes and writing little fiction pieces. Only if she took herself seriously, I believe she has it in her to publish many of her written pieces.

4. Anamika – blogs at Taste Junction  had a flourishing career in the advertising industry, but took a sabbatical to move with her hubby to Bahrain. A mum and home maker now, Anamika divides her time cooking up some delectable food ( which is lip smacking good) and taking fabulous pictures of the same. Anamika’s eye for detail and aesthetic has given me the necessary inspiration to improve my photography capabilities. Anamika enjoys writing as well in her spare time and it would be worth your while to read it in her scribbles section of her blog.

5. Arva - blogs at I Live in a Frying Pan and is probably the biggest foodie I have known in the virtual space. Her passion for food shines through from her posts about the quaint little places that she discovers in Dubai. I find myself in splits every time I read her foodie adventures and admire her for that since I know how difficult it is to get people to laugh. As I have mentioned to her umpteen number of times before that she has that special ability to make any sort of food look five-star quality and that says a lot about her photography skills.

Now after that felicitation, I think I need to toast these beautiful people with some Notoriously Delicious Nutella pots for their consistency with blogging and endless zeal for life.

These Nutella Pots are just right for occasions like this. Sweet, creamy and full of nutella goodness, this bi-coloured custard can only whet your appetite for more. Without further ado,

Recipe for Nutella Pots

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 eggs+2 egg yolks

1 tbsp castor sugar

1 tsp cornflour

600 ml milk

75 gm plain chocolate

4 tbsp of nutella  or any hazelnut chocolate spread

To Decorate – grated chocolate

Preparation

1. Beat the egg yolk, eggs castor sugar and cornflour together until well combined. Heat the milk until almost boiling.

2. Gradually pour the milk on to the eggs; whisking as you do so.

3. Melt the chocolate and nutella in a bowl set over a saucepan of gently simmering water, then whisk it into the eggs.

4. Pour into 6  ramekins  and cover them with tinfoil. Place it in bain -marie /roasting bin after filling it with boiling water that comes halfway up to the sides of the ramekins.

5. Bake in a preheated oven, 160C/ 325 F/ Gas Mark 3-4, for 35-40 minutes until the custard is just set. Remove from the tin/bain-marie and cool. There after, chill the ramekins in the refrigerator until required. Serve decorated with grated chocolate.

This is a make-ahead dessert and so easy to put together. The two colours of the light and dark chocolate settle on their own and in my opinion is the ‘wow’ factor of this pudding. You have to make it to believe it!

Happy Blogging!

Dorie’s Marbled Loaf Cake for Ana

October 18, 2011 | By

People who have followed this blog right from the beginning would know the original intend of this blog was never to be a food blog. I wanted it to be a journal to record my  mommy memories and following that, sharpen my writing skills. But somewhere in between I started baking and that influenced me so much that slowly and steadily I started chronicling my baking adventures and at times, misadventures as well. I guess, everything has to evolve and my blog did too. The content might have changed from diaper stories to Dorie recipes but the passion for writing  prevailed.

During the course of my 1.5 years of blogging, I also happened to join the Bahrain Writers’ Circle that aimed at getting  fellow writers and authors come together once a month to talk informally about writing and related topics. It has been great for me, a home maker, to venture out once a month to meet like-minded and inspiring bunch of writers. An offshoot of this circle  is the Creative Writing Workshop that is the brain child of the beautiful Ana Corradini Boreland.  Ana is from Brazil and came to Bahrain with her husband. She is a journalist, translator and an author of 14 children’s books. A live wire, Ana brought such energy to her Writing Workshops that we were forced to come out with our creative best. She spent hours  building wonderful writing exercises for us that manipulated us to push our writing boundaries. The truth be told, I feel a difference when I write now and try not to be as uni dimensional, like I used to be once. I try to gauge a topic from all corners and then attempt to bring out the best ( in my opinion) that I possibly can. These workshops by Ana instilled in me a confidence  and the courage to stop being so self-critical. Not in many words, her message was – ‘Unless you put yourself out there, there is no way you are going to know how well you can do something‘ and  “Unapologetic-ally be Yourself“. Her workshops were fun, informal and such a source of joy that I looked forward to them from days on end. But I had an inkling that  it was just too good to last and soon we heard some bitter-sweet news from her about moving away from Bahrain. To say, that I was heart-broken, would be an understatement and due to unavoidable circumstances I wasn’t able to attend her last workshop. But I wanted to tell her how much her time, effort and energy meant to me and as a going away gift I baked her the classic Marbled Loaf Cake.

Thank you Ana for every laugh, every word of encouragement and for simply being you.

Recipe for Dorie’s Marbled Loaf Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups plus 2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour

1 ¼ tsp Baking Powder

½ tsp Salt

1 ½ sticks (10 ounces) Unsalted Butter, at room temperature

1 cup Sugar

4 large Eggs

½ tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup whole milk

4 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, melted and cooled

1/2 cup  of Chocolate chips – milk & semi sweet for topping

Directions:

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 9×5 loaf pan, dust the inside with flour, and tap out the excess. Place the pan on an insulated baking sheet.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth, about three minutes. Add the sugar and beat for another two to three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Don’t be concerned if the batter curdles and stays curdled. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour mixture in three additions and the milk in two (begin and end with dry ingredients), mixing only until each addition is incorporated.

4. Divide the batter in half and stir four ounces bittersweet chocolate into one half and keep the other half plain. Scrape the batter into the pan. Top it with chocolate chips.

5. Bake the cake for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. If the cake looks as if it’s getting too brown during its bake, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for about 15 minutes before unmolding, then cool the cake to room temperature right side up on the rack.

6. Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to four days.

Ana, I hope you enjoyed the Marbled loaf cake and here’s wishing you all my  best!

Random Bakes of Kindness & a Thank You Note to Vanessa

September 7, 2011 | By

A few months back, I did recipe testing for Vanessa Kimbell, who is the author of the fabulous book ‘PREPPED‘. I tested her recipe for Chocolate Savory cookies which were nothing short of gourmet cookies with a homely touch. I was thrilled to bits when she mentioned me and my blog on her blog. I kept track of how she was managing the whole show- writing the book, maintaining a blog, her three children, a house, cooking, baking, marketing, a radio show… Phew. The list is endless. How can somebody do so much at one time! But that’s Vanessa for you. I was impressed by her passion and it is this passion that fuels her to give her best at all times.

Fast forward and one day I receive a package. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw it was from Vanessa. It contained her gorgeously sexy book – Prepped. It is shocking pink in colour and contains page after page of spectacular photographs. It was easy to understand that this book is a blessing in disguise for all those spontaneous moments such as unexpected guests, impromptu parties et al. It gave me brilliant ideas and ways to save time by prepping a few basic things beforehand so that it eliminates the last-minute cooking hassles.

I kept flipping through it again and again, completely overwhelmed by her gesture. Since then I had been meaning to do a post to thank her as well as try one of the recipes in her book.

The opportunity came in the form of an initiative by Vanessa herself. She called out to all food bloggers to participate in her Random Bakes of Kindness Project. In her own words, she described the initiative as,

“Blogging seems so me myself and I recently.  It’s so easy to focus on nothing but the food and my own life and I  really wanted to add a human element to baking.  Sometimes it’s not about the food as such .. it’s more about the person eating the food and how it makes them feel. I am sure there must be someone in your life who deserves a spontaneous thank you, a kind word and some recognition for just being a marvelous person. I know it’s a bit random .. but that is what makes it out of the usual and for me that makes it special.  The unexpected just means more.”

This was a fantastic way to thank her as well as do my good deed for the day. I decided to participate and for the same baked ” Chocolate Cookies”  from Prepped.

Morsed is a sweet little guy who works with our building housekeeping team. Once every week he comes to my apartment and works very hard to keep it spic and span. He originally hails from Bangladesh and misses his family a lot. This is one emotion we are all familiar with. He has been doing housekeeping for us for a long time and I thought his services deserved to be acknowledged in a special way. I baked a batch of Chocolate cookies and gave it to him as a Eid gift. He was absolutely taken aback since he didn’t expect it at all. He fumbled and floundered, and I couldn’t help but giggle :-) . He blushed the most when I took a picture of him. I have never seen anybody so nervous but I am sure the cookies will more than make up for all the awkwardness.

So that is how I concluded my Random Bake of Kindness project with Vanessa. But I feel, it will not stop here. It is a splendid feeling to do something out of the blue for someone who might not expect it. I think, I have caught the bug; drivers, building caretakers, maids, shopkeepers, watch out!

Jokes aside, I must thank Vanessa for sending me a personally signed copy of her book, for starting this wonderful initiative and giving me and opportunity to look outside of me. The cookies were delicious and that gives me tremendous encouragement to try out other recipes as well.

Vanilla- Chocolate Pudding – Celebrating Mother’s Day

May 8, 2011 | By

Wishing all the beautiful Mums A VERY HAPPY MOTHER”S DAY!

This day holds more meaning today because I am mum too and that am able to spend it my mother is like icing on the cake. My daughter is too young to understand the significance but she did give me a BIG HUG and rubbed her pudding smeared face all over my dress.

Sigh! Cleaning up is a 24X7 job when you have a naughty toddler.

I wasn’t really going to do anything for Mother’s day because I feel, as a mum atleast one day you can decide not to do anything and only relax. I began the day in that lazy state of mind and by afternoon,  post after post started dropping in into my inbox. Every single one of them was about Mother’s Day celebration, brunch ideas, desserts, parties, day outs etc. It was difficult not to be affected by all the infectious enthusiasm of my fellow food bloggers. On a whim, I got up and busied myself in the kitchen scavenging for ingredients without the faintest idea of what I was going to make. But as one of my favourite author quotes – when you want something (done) badly, the entire universe conspires to give it to you. So I found all the right ingredients to make a simple Vanilla Chocolate pudding. Since it is incredibly hot here in Cochin these days, the mood was to have something chilled and sweet.

Recipe for Vanilla and Chocolate Pudding

Ingredients

1 litre milk ( I used two 500 ml Amul milk packets)

400 ml condensed milk

8 tbsp sugar

5 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

6 tsp of gelatin

4 tsp of vanilla essence.

white and dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preparation

1. Boil milk in two separate vessels ( 500 ml each) with 3 -4  tbsp each.

2. Once the milk boils add the condensed milk – 200 ml each in both the vessels and keep stirring at low -medium heat

3. Add the 3 tsp of vanilla essence in one of them and the 5 tbsp of cocoa powder in the other and keep stirring till it dissolves well in the milk mixture.

4. Dissolve gelatin 3tsp + 3tsp separately in 2 small bowls of warm water. Pour it into the respective milk mixture and keep stirring

5. Let the chocolate and vanilla mixtures cool.

6. Pour them into moulds/bowls and chill in refrigerator. It would take about 5-6 hours to set completely.

7. Decorate with some white and dark chocolate chips and some caramelized sugar topping.

So it did look like an ideal Mother’s day celebratory pudding and I am glad my mum enjoyed it as much as my daughter.  Isn’t it incredible that all the 3 generations of mums and daughters were together for Mother’s day celebration!!

N.B. I had already published this post but editing it again to write about the method of making caramelized sugar decoration.

You will need : 3-4 tbsp of sugar ( I used the white sugar). Keep a sheet of foil ready on the kitchen top.

Preparation: Heat the sugar in a pan on a stove and let it melt.

The moment you see that the sugar has melted and has taken on a light brown colour, remove from heat. It will continue to caramelize and take a deeper colour.

Take a fork and start drizzling the brown liquid sugar on the foil in a random pattern.

Let it cool down on the foil.

Once it cools down, it would be easy for you to pick it off the foil and break it into pieces to use as  decorative pieces on top of cakes, puddings, cupcakes etc.

Super easy and yet so beautiful!