24 January 2015

Recipe for Easy Strawberry Cake

There is a small outbreak in our Indian food blogging community. Of the Smitten Kitchen Strawberry cake. It is catching the fancy of many a food-blogger who chances upon on a punnet of fresh strawberries. And some like me go in search of strawberries so we can bake this devastatingly beautiful cake.  I saw this first posted by Magic Marinade and then Haathitime made it, and then Monika and then many others, I'm sure. 

Also, my KitchenAid 7 speed hand mixer, that I won as a prize from KitchenAid India for the Xmas Baking Recipe contest (my entry), came in last week. I was waiting for something special to inaugurate it. And this strawberry cake was just perfect to get this hand-mixer whirring. It works like a dream, almost like the BMW of hand mixers :) And this is not the last you are hearing about it on the blog.

Back to the recipe, this cake is proof that I'm a girl who wont take directions. The blog clearly mentioned that the recipe doesn't sit well in a smallish tin and yet I took out this smallish tin, because I felt like it. And the result was that the batter rose well above the berries, burying them somewhat. Buried berries. LOL. But every cloud has a silver lining and so on and so forth. So my cake, while not having the ruby strawberries studding the top, they had this intense, oozy, beautiful (permit me three adjectives here, the situation is totally deserving of this) strawberry jam on the inside, that burst into every bite of cake. And the huge crystals of sugar, mostly stayed on the top, forming this crunchy crust giving way to a soft melt in mouth cake inside. So yes, if you have only an 8" round baking tin, this cake is still worth trying :)

Also, SmittenKitchen mentioned that you can use part barley flour, and it blends perfectly into this cake, without screaming "alternate flour". I used Jowar flour (sorghum), as I had bought a bag of this to experiment with gluten free baking and trust me, I couldn't even tell that this cake had anything but all purpose flour in it, it was so light!

The cake slices better after cooling. But, if you are impatient like me (read cake-lover), you are totally forgiven for diving into this cake as soon as it is out of the oven and get your tongue burnt by the molten strawberry lava within. 

TL;DR: If you find fresh strawberries, this is the one cake to try. 

Makes 8 large slices

6 tbsp~85 grams unsalted butter (at room temperature, soft)
1 cup castor sugar +2 tbsp 
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup maida (all purpose flour)
1/2 cup jowar flour* (sorghum flour)
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
300 grams fresh strawberries, hulled & halved horizontally

Prepare a 9 inch round baking pan with baking paper or butter and flour it and keep aside.
Preheat oven at 180°C.
With an electric hand mixer, beat the sugar (1 cup) and butter for 3-4 minutes until pale and creamy. If your granulated sugar has very big granules (like we get in India), it is worthwhile, running it in the mixer (mixie) for a few seconds, just to break down the granule size and then proceeding with the recipe.
Add the egg and beat for another 30 seconds. 
Whisk in the milk and vanilla extract.

Sieve all the dry ingredients and add into the wet ingredients. Mix until just combined, or blend with hand mixer for a brief 20-30 seconds.
Scrape out the batter into the prepared baking pan. 
Place the strawberries in a single layer on the top, cut side down. Sprinkle the 2 tbsp of sugar on top of the strawberries.
Bake at 180°C (in preheated oven) for 10 minutes, after which reduce the temperature to 175°C and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean (don't mind the strawberry jam sticking to the tester).
Allow to cool completely before slicing. Or not :)

*By all means use all purpose flour fully, instead of using any alternate flours. In that case, it will be 1.5 cups maida (all purpose flour) and no jowar flour. 

Check out Magic Marinade's Winter Strawberry Cake Movement compilation here

Recipe for Cucumber Sasive - Easy Cucumber Curry in Mustard Sauce

Continuing with our Karanataka Cuisine series this month, here's a really quick cucumber 'curry' if you may call it that. It's my kind of curry in a hurry. Goes perfectly with rice, and the mustard seeds ground into the spice paste give the mild cucumber a really good fiery kick. It is the kind of pungent heat that opens up your sinuses. I went one step ahead and ground some freshly plucked mustard greens from the garden to the spice paste, to get an extra mustardy punch. If you don't have the fresh leaves on hand, you don't need to bother about them. Since I used the food processor to finely mince the cucumber, this dish took me less than 10 minutes. It's the perfect last minute addition to a menu when you are expecting guests.

The same curry can be made using boiled and grated beetroots, ripe bananas and ripe mangoes. The sweeter or milder vegetables and fruits pair well with the spices in the curry. I've prepared the beetroot sasive several times, but the cucumber curry is even simpler as there is no cooking involved, saves time and I can imagine this would be a perfect curry for the summers.

Recipe for Cucumber Sasive - Cucumber Curry in mustard yogurt sauce

Serves 2
Less than 15 minutes

1 large cucumber (400 grams) or 2 medium
1 cup thick yogurt
3/4 tsp salt

For spice paste
1/3 cup grated coconut
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp mustard seeds
10 fresh mustard leaves (optional)

For tempering
1 tsp peanut oil or sunflower oil
1 dried red chilli
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
pinch of asafoetida

Peel the cucumber and chop into large chunks and finely mince in food processor or using knife and chopping board. If there are too many seeds then scoop them out before chopping. If not, then leave them in.
Whisk the yogurt well in a medium bowl. Add the minced cucumber to this.
Using a mixer, in the chutney jar, grind all the ingredients for the spice paste using upto 1/4 cup water, to a fine paste.
Add this to the bowl of cucumber and yogurt, along with salt and mix well.
Heat the oil in a small tempering ladle or saucepan. Add the dried chilli, curry leaves, cumin seeds and add the pinch of asafoetida. Once cumin starts spluttering, transfer over the sasive in the bowl.

Serve with steaming hot rice.

Karnataka Menu:
Steamed rice
Pineapple Gojju
Cucumber Sasive
Yogurt / Dahi

This post is part of the project called 'theKitchenDivas' which will have a theme going for each month, wherein we will try to do a post a week. The theme for January 2015 is Karnataka Cuisine.

You can find more Traditional Recipes from Karnataka by #TheKichenDivas

17 January 2015

Mangalorean Chana Gassi / Ghassi - South Indian Chickpeas Curry

Gassi (also spelt as Ghassi or Gashi) is a popular curry from Mangalore, made using fresh ground spices and coconut. The most popular one is Kori Gassi, which is a chicken curry. While the spice paste for the curry remains the same, you can make vegetarian versions of the gassi using chickpeas (chana), or black chickpeas (kala chana), mushrooms or breadfruit chunks as the chicken substitute. The gassi is typically served with a roti that is thin, crispy, made using rice flour. The roti is crushed and added to the bowl of curry to soak up all the liquids, and it makes a much satisfying lunch.

You can also eat it with Neer Dosa or regular dosas or even rice. It is a super quick chickpeas curry that doesn't involve chopping and sauteeting onions, tomatoes for the bhuna masala.

Recipe for Mangalorean Chana Gassi (Mangalorean Chickpeas Curry)
A curry from South India
Serves 2-3

1/2 cup dry chickpeas, washed and soaked overnight in water
For Masala paste: 
3-4 dried red chillies 
2 tsp coriander seeds
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup coconut scrapings (unsweetened)
2 flakes of tamarind or 1/2 tsp tamarind paste

1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp salt

Tempering: 1 tbsp coconut oil, few curry leaves, 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, pinch of fenugreek seeds, pinch of asafoetida

Cooking the chickpeas
Drain the chickpeas that have soaked in water for 8-10 hours. Place in a small pressure cooker, cover with fresh water, until they are just submerged. Keep on a high flame, with the whistle (pressure) on. After one whistle, keep on sim (lowest flame) for 12 minutes so. Switch off and allow to cool.

Making the masala / spice paste
In a small kadai/wok, dry roast the red chillies until crisp, about 1-2 minutes, along with the coriander seeds. In a mixer, grind to a fine paste - the red chillies, coriander seeds, garlic, coconut, tamarind, using up to 1/2 cup of water. 

Making the curry
Once the cooker has cooled, you will be able to open it. Ensure that  the chickpeas are very soft - on pressing with the thumb they should completely disintegrate. Drain the cooked chickpeas and place them in the kadai along with the freshly ground spice paste. Add 3/4 tsp salt or to taste and turmeric powder. Bring to a simmer, adding a few spoons of water if required to thin it to a curry consistency.

In a tadka ladle or a small saucepan, heat the coconut oil (or you can use any other cooking oil). Splutter the mustard seeds, add the curry leaves, red chillies, fenugreek seeds, asafoetida and transfer it over the curry.

Serve hot along with rice rotti, rice or dosas. 

This post is part of the project called 'theKitchenDivas' which will have a theme going for each month, wherein we will try to do a post a week. The theme for January 2015 is Karnataka Cuisine.

You can find more Traditional Recipes from Karnataka by #TheKichenDivas

Rava Idli by FunFoodFrolic
Thouthe Kodel (Mangalore Cucumber Curry) by Archana's Kitchen

14 January 2015

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mocha Mix Recipe

New additions to our bedtime routine:
Fans switched off
Extra tee shirt layer for me and a sweater for the kid
Snuggling my feet into fluffy night socks

That's Bangalore nights for you these days (and early mornings too!). 
This morning at 8, the car dashboard read 15°C. Brrrr!
Hey, I'm not complaining, just gloating over my friends from Bombay.

For someone who was born and brought up in a winter-deprived Bombay, without a single sweater in my wardrobe, any winter is welcome. It's such a comforting feeling to snuggle inside the duvet and making sure not even a finger is exposed to the chill in the room. I can feel the Delhi readers and others from the colder climes scoffing at me here, but trust me, for someone from Bombay, even this chill is a lot to get excited about! 

After putting the kid to bed, I like to make myself a big mug of hot chocolate and catch up on the reading from all my bookmarked sites. But many a times, at the end of a tiring day, I am plain lazy to even mix up the ingredients for a hot chocolate in my mug. 

When I spotted sachets of Choco Mocha, Hot chocolate etc in my neighbourhood supermarket in the other day, I picked up one for such bedtime cravings. The ingredients on the pack were dead simple, and of course, being a commercially sold product, the first ingredient was sugar and cocoa was listed as 1%. 

This inspired me to make a bottle of my own Mochaccino (or call it cafe mocha or hot chocolate mocha or anything else you please) mix - so whenever the desire strikes, just add hot water, stir and it's ready - a steaming hot mug of chocolate and coffee, with hints of cinnamon, and hey, we have well over 1% cocoa here! Where chocolate is concerned, more is less, always.

The best hot chocolate mix I have tried is the one from Vosges that the husband had got me from one of his NYC trips - and this was the Aztec Elixir - with added chili to it and it was divine! In fact, we had a pact that we will have it only when both are at home, so one doesn't finish off the good stuff on their own.

Coming back to this homemade mix, it uses regular ingredients from your kitchen. All you need to do is measure out, mix, put into a nice glass jar, label it and you're all set to face hot chocolate cravings. You do have to heat a mug of water though! You can spike it with your liquor of choice, a sprinkle of chilli powder or nutmeg, or a marshmallow, or just have it plain. 

These also make the perfect edible gifts. Wrap up a pretty ribbon around the bottle and add instructions on the label. I can't think of anyone who wont be excited to receive this, especially in winters.

DIY Homemade Hot Chocolate Mocha Mix
Makes over 2 cups of mix
Enough for 16-18 cups of Chocolate Mocha or Mochaccino 

1.5 cups milk powder (also called powdered milk or dried milk)*
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon (optional)

You'll need a large mixing bowl, measuring cups, a whisk or fork and a bottle with a lid. Ensure everything is thoroughly clean and dry.
In the mixing bowl, measure out all the ingredients. With your (dry) finger tips gently break any lumps and mix well and then do the final mixing with a whisk or a fork. 
You can also add in 1 cup of castor sugar to the mix, but I leave it out, so that each cup can be sweetened as per taste - or if someone wants to add a sugar substitute, they can do so while making a cup.

To make a mug of chocolate mocha or mochaccino, add 2 heaped tablespoons of the mix in a mug. Bring a cup of water to boil, add to the mug with constant stirring until the mix is dissolved. Sweeten with a tsp of sugar or sweetener of choice. You can also make this with milk or half and half (half milk-half cream) for a more decadent drink. 

If you are more of an iced coffee fan, check out the video of my favourite (super simple) Vietnamese Iced Coffee

*Difference between milk powder, evaporated milk and condensed milk:
You may wonder, as I have in the past, if there is a difference between milk powder, dried milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk. 
Milk powder and dried milk are essentially the same thing. 
Evaporated milk is actually liquid in consistency, thicker than regular milk. According to Wiki, "It is fresh homogenised milk from which 60% of the water has been removed. The process involves the evaporation of about half the water from the milk, after which the product is homogenized, canned, and sterilized".
Condensed milk also has 60% water removed but has added sugar, while evaporated milk does not have sugar. Sugar prevents the growth of microorganisms in condensed milk which is why it has a long shelf life.

[this post first appeared on Huffington Post India]