My seven minute strawberry cake

Back in the late 80s when my father bought a microwave we were one of the first in the family to own one. Naturally none of us knew how best to use it particularly since it came with a manual that had everything written in Chinese. And back then we didn’t have my sister in law Ping to translate it for us either (since she was probably a 7 yr old living somewhere in China without a clue that she would end up moving to India) Yeah so getting back to that microwave I would usually pour the batter in a Borosil dish and set the oven for Medium and set the timer for 30 minutes. Because that’s what the recipe said. And because I was 11 and had no idea that a microwave was different from a regular OTG. I’d pray and pray that please don’t let this cake turn to stone and while it cooked there was this pleasant aroma that tricked me into thinking that maybe this time I’ve done it right. Open the microwave after 30 minutes and nopes. Nothing doing. Let’s not get into the number of people whose fillings came out or whose dentures got loose while trying to eat my cakes.

NOW that I’m a grown up (have to admit that somewhere between having 2 kids and turning 35 I’m finally a grown up)…yeah now that I’m a grown up I know that it takes just 7 minutes to make a cake in the microwave.

In October I made this cake for my mom’s birthday ten minutes before the rest of the family turned up.

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Ok it’s not like my mom celebrates her birthday or anything but my family just won’t let go of an excuse to have fun. And we had crazy fun that day. So yeah if you have the things at home you can make a cake in the microwave in 7 minutes too.

All you need is –

1 cup maida
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp strawberry essence
2 tbsp strawberry crush mixed in half cup water
1/2 cup milk
Whipped fresh cream

Sift maida with baking powder and salt and keep aside. Beat eggs using an egg beater until thick and lemon yellow. Gradually add sugar beating until mixture is smooth and well blended, about 5 minutes.

At low speed on the egg beater blend in the maida until smooth. Warm milk and add it along with the essence and beat until smooth. Pour batter into a greased microwave proof tin and microwave for 7 minutes.

Allow cake to cool. Overturn into a plate of your choice. Dribble the strawberry crush dissolved in water uniformly so cake is soaked. Cover with fresh cream and decorate with whatever is on hand. I grabbed a couple of jujubes and sliced them up and used it.

Okay I’m not really proud of this cake or anything because it hardly takes any time or effort to make it. And I was hugely chagrined when I made the KitKat cake for my son’s birthday and everyone was like we preferred the cake you made for your mom’s birthday. *insert straight faced emoticon*

Chalo. Enough with the cakes. I’ll give you the recipe for the Arab ka meetha which Ping made for the cooking competition and got second prize. And it’s not arbi ka meetha as someone on Twitter wanted to know. (ugh can you imagine what that would taste like?) But you have to wait a little while for that recipe ok? Adios.

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Making khajur

The amazing thing about being an Indian is not just all those different cultures and languages and food. It’s how they overlap. What I call khajur at home is called something else by my Kannadiga friends and something else by my Tamilian friends. Of course it’s pretty much the same thing though. A nice, traditional and handy little snack that somehow finds it way all the way to Saudi Arabia whenever someone goes for Hajj. Almost every one I know will take these and go to the holy land to munch on in Mina or Arafat when hunger strikes and you’re too busy praying to do anything else.

Haan, so these khajurs are simple to make and very yummy also.

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Khajur

Here’s the recipe. And the mode of measurement is the pauser which is the large steel glass that is used to measure rice in. You know what I’m talking about? No? This.

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Yeah so if you have one of these at home it’s simple to follow this recipe. Here goes.

2 pauser maida
1 pauser sugar
1/4 pauser sooji
1 cup khova
Cashewnuts and raisins
Khus khus
Ghee
4 eggs

Make a dough of all the above ingredients and keep aside for sometime. Don’t knead. Take portions of the dough, roll out on a floured surface and cut out diamond shapes. Deep fry in hot oil over medium heat. Store in airtight container.

You know, I added that store in airtight container bit myself. Just to look professional. But I always marvel at recipe writers who expect to store food. I mean in my house if something tastes good it’s here one minute and gone the next. God forbid if we ever store something it’s because no one likes it. He he!

Winning entry at the cooking competition

My husband’s sister Shazia lives in China with her family and her son and she was sorely missed at this competition. Because when it comes to things like presentation and everything she rocks. I’m no good at that stuff and the gulab jamun cheesecake looked good because of the cups more than anything else.

Anyway so the winning entry in this competition went to my other sister in law Anjum who put up these fabulous dishes.

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And this.

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Some pretty awesome stuff went down that day. Lots of chaos in the dining hall as we sat our judges down and got them to taste everything. Much fun I say!

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Lunch that day was eaten off these huge plates jam packed with food that all the contestants had cooked. By the end of it all we needed was a spoon and a bottle of Digene. Make that several spoons. *burp*

(Posting soon about the other winning entries)

Gulab jamun cheesecake

So I made this gulab jamun cheesecake for the cooking competition at home earlier this month. I followed the recipe from a blog and decided to try it out because I love doing this fusion thing with Indian and Western desserts. I once made gajar ka halwa tarts and another time I layered andey ka halwa over short bread. So yeah this seemed right up my alley.

But since it was going to be a competition I didn’t know how I could serve it without making a mess out of it. The only option would be to set the cheesecake individually.

At this point I was looking for dessert shot glasses because I wasn’t sure I could carry off the cheesecake properly. Then the husband found these cute flower shaped disposable cups that I decided to use and I started layering the cheesecake.

In theory the cheesecake is easy. Make gulab jamun. Make crust. Make cheesecake mixture. But by the time I got around to completing this all, back was broken I think. At least it felt that way.

It was a lucky fluke having found those cups because when I poured the cheesecake mixture over the crusts, it took the shape of a flower. Immediately I set a jamun in the middle of each one. And this is what it looked like.

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Cute no?

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Maybe if I’d won the prize I’d have to share it with the husband because he was the one who got the cutesy cups. But imagining him in an apron is not such a cutesy sight. Never mind. I didn’t win and so we never had to worry about it.

So if you want to make this, just do as I said before. Make crust. Layer in springform tin or cups. I followed a no bake cheesecake recipe. You follow one too. Pour it over the crust if setting individually. If using a large tin then pour some, set a few gulab jamuns in the cheesecake mixture and top off with remaining mixture. Dot the top also with halved jamuns. It makes for an arresting sight.

A Masterchef Competition at Home

So I’m a big fan of Masterchef Australia. It is the only thing that I sit down to watch on TV religiously. Sometime in the beginning of November, I was watching an episode trying to ignore the ‘I’m going to kill you first, no I am’ games that my 7 year old was playing with his 14 year old brother. My sister-in-law was visiting and we had this brainwave that we should hold a similar competition at home. Then although we had the brainwave together, I ended up doing all the work for it. But it didn’t matter. It was such fun!

We sent off a message to the family group (Thank God for Whatsapp) and then I started bullying people to participate. And I mean actual bullying. We got people to sign up, told them that they had to make one savoury dish and one dessert and bring to my mother’s place where they would be judged as well.

I ran around organizing name cards for the dish and the judges (I chose food lovers from three generations) were to write their scores inside the cards. I ordered certificates from Printo (which unfortunately came after the competition got over) and then even went and got prizes for the winners and participants. Whew. And in the midst of this all, I was also busy going over the final proofs of More than Just Biryani.

So, on the day of the competition I told my husband there was no way I was making breakfast since I had to make the dishes for the competition. Hee. So he went and bought idli vadais for us all. I was making chicken satay and gulab jamun cheesecake. And boy, did I slog over it . Here are some pics from the competition. Go ahead, cover your keyboard or phone with a towel and drool.

Chicken Satay

Chicken Shaslik

Gulab Jamun Cheesecake

Posto Chingri, Arab ka Meetha and a Yummy Chicken Salad
Posto Chingri, Arab ka Meetha and a Yummy Chicken Salad

Will post pictures of the winning dishes very soon. As soon as I bully them out of the winners.

I’m back

Been away on a long hiatus but I’m back. Well, the long break wasn’t because I wasn’t cooking. Actually I wasn’t. If you don’t count the biryani I made for Eid or the mutton I ruined along with the pressure cooker after Bakrid, you’d know that any real cooking in our house is handled by my very efficient mother-in-law. I only get called into the kitchen to make tea or roti or bake cakes. Yes! I did bake a cake for my son’s birthday. Want to see it?

Kit Kat Cake

The verdict for this one was just one word. Yum. I followed the recipe from  here – http://cookingwithcraic.com/2013/05/29/kit-kat-birthday-cake/

Of course, it goes without saying that the cake in that blog is much neater and looks extremely professional. But never you mind. It’s a far cry from the days when I used to bake cakes and everyone would start to pretend hunt for hammers to break them open. No?

As if I would give this away!

Okay, okay. Hang on. I am giving away the recipe. I was just completing a mental sentence about how my mother’s prawn masala is one of those dishes that makes me want to stop people on the road and say ‘eat this’ which is totally outrageous because I would never do it.

It is that good.

A couple of years ago my friend Nusrat had visited us with his family and I’d asked my mother to make biryani. She’d also made this prawn masala then and everyone loved it. Some months back Nusrat called me and was casually asking me if I knew the recipe for this Prawn Masala because he still remembers the taste and how awesome it was.

I was like – dude, you have the recipe in my book More than Just Biryani (which I’d already emailed him because I’d wanted him to read it).

‘Really?’ he was startled.

‘Yes. It’s just that it comes towards the end of the book and you have to read the full book to be able to make the prawn masala,’ I added.

‘Eh…okay,’ he said. And that was the LAST I heard from him. I don’t think he read the book or made the prawn masala. Hmpf.

Anyway, the recipe is simple enough to make, once you can bully someone into shelling and deveining the prawns. That’s what I would do.

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Ingredients

Prawns – 250 gms – shelled, deveined and cleaned

Tomatoes – 2 deseeded and chopped

Onions – 3 chopped finely

Ginge-garlic paste – 1 tsp

Whole garam masala – a couple of cloves, elaichi pods and cinnamon sticks

Salt – To taste

Chilli powder – 1 tsp (depends on how hot you like it)

Haldi – 1/4 tsp

Coriander leaves – a handful

Oil – 3 tbsp

Ghee – 1 tbsp

Method

  1. In a pan, heat the oil and drop the whole garam masala in it. Add the chopped onions and sauté them for a while.
  2. Add the ginger-garlic paste, haldi, salt and chilli powder. Stir well.
  3. Add the prawns, the chopped and deseeded tomatoes and the coriander leaves.
  4. Keep stirring throughout and when the prawns are cooked, lower the flame and let it brown.
  5. Top with ghee and let it simmer for a while before switching off the gas.

Andey ka Pyosi

I hear the humble egg is immensely valuable when it comes to baking. Oh well, why am I being humble myself? I do know how important eggs are to baking because, well, I bake a lot. And why? Because it’s easy and glamorous. Yes glamorous. Can you imagine putting on an apron and making baingan ka bhurta?

Actually why not? But then it just doesn’t do it for me, the way stirring a bowl with gloopy batter does. I’m sure if I were to psychoanalyse myself I’d come up with some interesting insights about why that’s the case. Okay, that’s not why you’re here, right?

I actually wanted to tell you why eggs are so important for desserts but the truth is, I’m not really sure. It probably has something to do with them filling up with air and puffing up when getting cooked I think. So, yes. Andey ka halwa is a favourite at home but here’s a variation of it which is baked and then you can cut it into these golden squares and then they just settle around your hips and other inconvenient places and refuse to budge.

Andey Ka Pheusi

Okay, if I’ve scared off the calorie counters now, I’ll divulge the recipe right away.

Ingredients

2 cups khova

6 eggs

2 cups sugar

4 slices old bread pulverised into bread crumbs (I just love that word – pulverise)

A little saffron

2 tbsp ghee

1 tbsp honey

Method

Mix all the above, give it a whirr with your hand blender and pour into greased tin and bake at 180 to 200 degrees C for around 40 minutes.

THAT’S IT.

Really!

So what’s the catch? No catch. In fact I’ll even tell you how you can make khova right at home. Just not this week. Maybe some other time and I’ll link that post to this so you know where to go if you want to rustle up these Indian meethas. And quietly grow fat.

Comfortably Comforting

Comfort can take many forms but when it comes to food, we each have our own comfort foods and nothing can be better than taking a bite of something familiar, well loved and known to make you smile. Also, comfort food has its roots in our childhood because that is when we shape our memories and form our opinions.

Sometimes comfort food could be a bowl of kheer – all that fragrant rice cooked in milk with crushed cardamom and slivers of almonds, and oh! I find myself talking about sweets again! Before I go into memories of my favourite sweet comfort foods, here are a couple which are a must to any list, be it comforting or otherwise. When I actually started making them, I realised that it’s not entirely a comforting experience for the cook because they can so often be touch and go. If you’re not careful with the ingredients, you could easily mess up. And no one finds mess to be comforting.

When I was small, my cousin Azeem and I ate all the shaami meant for everyone in the family which Ammi had kept on the dining table just before lunch. Now, I really don’t know how true this is because I do not recall doing it. But I can easily imagine the scenario. Shaami is after all something that deserves that kind of attention!

Shaami is a favourite with everyone, right from the little kiddos to all the adults at home, grandparents and those older too. Traditionally, shaami was made on a sil-batta a grinding slab and oblong shaped stone which was used to grind the shaami batter(actually it takes on more of a dough consistency).

How many times I have sat in my grandmother, Amma’s house in Vellore, watching her as she squatted on the ground, moving the oblong stone up and then sliding it down rhythmically, grinding the meat and dal in the process. Just remembering that makes me feel wistful about the good ol’ days because today, even with the mixer-grinder, making shaami becomes a headache. For me at least. And if my mother, mother in law or grandmother had been as lazy as me, we would never have even discovered what shaami was! Thank goodness all of them are/were industrious. And before I digress more, here’s the recipe for shaami.

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Ingredients

Channa dal – 100 gm

Meat – cleaned, deboned – ¼ kg

Onions – 1 big

Whole red chillies/green chillies – 2

Coriander leaves – a handful

Garam masala powder – ½ tsp

Ground coconut – 2 tsp

Adrak-lehsun paste – ½ tsp

Salt

Haldi – a pinch

Method

  1. Put all the above ingredients in an open vessel like a kadai.
  2. Save a little bit of the raw meat separately.
  3. Add just enough water to immerse the dal and meat. Don’t add too much or too less.
  4. Cook on medium flame until the water dries up.
  5. Let the mixture cool.
  6. Adding a little bit of the raw meat, grind the mixture in two batches in a mixer.
  7. Don’t add too much water while grinding. In fact, avoid using water as far as possible.
  8. When the shaami dough is ready, oil your palms.
  9. Take small, walnut sized rounds, and between two palms roll it until smooth and there are no cracks.
  10. Start rolling it oblong and then make both ends taper.
  11. Finally flatten the shaami along the base of your palm gently.
  12. Heat oil in a kadai and fry the shaamis.

Be careful as they might break and sputter. If by any chance they start disintegrating in the oil, mix a little cornflour into the shaami dough.

Oh gourd! This is sweet!

I’ve fought against stereotypes many a time in my life but here is one that I will gladly embrace. It’s all about meat and vegetables and how much Muslims love the former and hate the latter. While I’m not the most voracious meat eater you will find, I do despair when it comes to vegetables. Which is why I think some of the most uninspiring vegetables are turned into cavity defying desserts by the women of our households.

If carrots can be transformed into the ethereal gajar ka halwa, (a couple of bowls of that, and you won’t be anything within the realm of ethereal of course!), and beetroots also seem to make the transition with ease, then the humble bottle gourd cannot be left behind.

Bottle gourd is one vegetable which is insipid in every way, in colour or taste, but there’s this wonderful halwa that khalajaan made out of it recently. It goes by the very un-poetic name of kaddu ka halwa, and although it’s strictly not pumpkin or kaddu, this is what it’s called at home.

Glistening green, sugary and a delight for those who love sweets, this is also a relatively easy halwa to make.

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Ingredients

Bottle gourd – 1 kg

Sugar  –            ½ kg

Khova –           200 gms

Ghee –               2 tbsp

Elaichi –           2

Cinnamon –     1 stick

Nuts

Method

  • Peel the bottle gourd and cut into half. Remove all the seeds and pulp from inside
  • Grate the bottle gourd and keep aside.
  • In a deep bottomed vessel, add sugar to bottle gourd and cook over a medium flame. It will start releasing water.
  • Continue cooking until water dries up.
  • Fry nuts and keep aside.
  • Fry cinnamon and elaichi and keep aside
  • Mix the above two into the bottle gourd mixture and add khova.
  • Cook until ghee leaves the sides.