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May 2, 2015

Pal Poli to celebrate 8 years



8 years ago, today, I sat at the computer and toyed with the idea of starting another blog. I loved cooking and I enjoyed writing. I wasn't quite sure of my reasons. But I was addicted to reading food blogs at the time. And I felt that, given how varied my cooking was, and how much friends enjoyed my food, people would enjoy the blog too. And they did. 

Over the years, I've gotten busier with other things. And this blog, like the other, got neglected. I've been cooking a lot. And I've been cooking newer things too. And most of the time I do remember to take pictures. But I find that it is the sitting myself down in front of a computer and typing out these stories that I am unable to do.

Can I find a list of excuses? My laptop conked out. The computer is in my son's room and I can't go in there when I'm done for the day because he's sleeping there. My photographs aren't good enough. And I can find many more such. But I suppose where there's a will, there should be a way. Just that in my case, there seems to be a won't. This blog has seen fewer posts in the last two years than it did on that one day in July 2007. How is that for statistics?

In the last one year, I've cooked and baked with my son, who seems to enjoy cooking more than eating. I wanted to see if there was truth in the fact that when children help make something, they are more eager to try it. I think there is some truth to this. But the day I decide that it should probably work is most likely the day that it doesn't. 

However, in all this time that I haven't blogged, I have actually used this blog for its original intended purpose: my personal recipe book. I've gone back countless number of times to check if I have the ingredients right, if I'm missing a step. And often, reading the recipes and the stories behind them makes me nostalgic. I was feeling especially nostalgic one day and thought about the Pal Poli that Amma used to make. For a week, I made it in my head, over and over. It was so simple. And I could almost taste it. Finally, about 3 weeks after I'd made it 12 times a day in my head and I was just dying to taste it, I actually made it.



For the Poli:

1 cup Maida
2 tbsp Semolina
1 tsp Ghee
A pinch of Salt
Oil for frying

Mix the ingredients except the oil into a hard dough using as little water as necessary. Divide the dough into 24 pieces. Roll them out using a little bit of oil into 4-6 inch discs. Keep these covered with a cloth until all the pieces have been rolled out.

Heat the oil and drop the rolled out polis into the oil. Deep fry them like pooris.

For the Masala Milk:

1 Litre (4 cups) Milk
1 400g tin Sweetened Condensed Milk (I used Milkmaid)
A pinch Saffron
1/4 tsp Cardamom, powdered
1 tbsp Milk Masala Powder (I used Everest)

Bring the milk to a slow boil and add the condensed milk, stirring all the while to make sure the condensed milk doesn't stick to the bottom of the vessel. Add the saffron, cardamom and the Milk Masala powder.

Arrange the polis in a dish and pour the masala milk over them. Let the polis soak in the milk.


Enjoy this dish warm or chilled. I was surprised at how easy this dish actually was and it got me thinking about the mental fatigue I seem to associate with so many of my childhood favourites.

I make no promises of what the 9th year holds for The Singing Chef. I shall endeavour to come here as often as I can and blog as much as I can. But for the time being, to those of you who have always been there for me, I want to share a little piece of sweetness, a little piece of my childhood, and say thank you for helping The Singing Chef become what it has. Thank you for being an integral part of my life. 



January 1, 2015

Cointreau Pound Cake



Another year gone by. Another broken promise. I attempted to post 40 recipes in 2014. I ended up posting 9. It was a lot more than I'd managed the year before, but nowhere close to what I'd have liked. It wasn't for want of time. The blog was more a victim of circumstances. When I had the time, my computer didn't work. By the time I replaced my computer, I'd also changed jobs. A new job means new teams, new flight schedules and everything else that comes with the territory. And then suddenly, it was the end of the year.

I don't want to sum up 2014 or what it meant to me. As with every year, it had its ups and downs. However, 2014 gave me more than just a fair share of bad news. But I don't wish to dwell on that. I wish to acknowledge the not so good, but focus on the good. I was able to spend time with family and friends. I was able to embrace many good things that this city has to offer. And that is my plan for 2015 as well. To spend my time with family, friends and work. To do as many things as possible that make me happier and healthier.

Baking always makes me happy. Blogging makes me happy too. And blogging about baking should be bang on target. So here's a simple recipe to usher in 2015.


1 1/2 cups Cake Flour/Plain Flour

2 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups Ricotta Cheese
1 1/2 cups Sugar
3 Eggs
1 teaspoon Orange Essence
2-3 tbsp Cointreau
Butter and Flour for preparing the cake tin  

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Prepare a 10" round tin. (I used a spring form ring mould.) 

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Cream the butter with the sugar and ricotta until the mixture is fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the orange essence and Cointreau and beat well. 

Incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter, adding a little at a time. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool a little and cut into pieces.

Enjoy and have a Happy New Year!

August 16, 2014

7 cups to Heaven - 7-cup Barfi for Janmashtami



For the longest time, I stayed away from even attempting to make Indian sweets. I even stayed away from thinking about making them. When it came to celebrating festivals, I always made my own rules. Why might Krishna only want uppu seedai and vella seedai for Janmashtami. Why not chocolate cookies? Or buns? Why make Indian sweets and savouries for Deepavali. Why not cookies and cakes again? You get the drift, don't you? I simply didn't want to move out of my comfort zone. So, I found every excuse not to.

A few years ago, I was a visiting with a friend and she had made a snack with beaten rice and a sweet. I asked her if she'd brought the sweet from India or if one of her family members had visited. She told me that she'd made it herself. I immediately asked her for the recipe and made it soon after. Three years later, it remains the only Indian elbow greasy sweet I can make confidently. 


1 cup Ghee
1 cup Besan
1 cup Milk
1 cup Almond Meal/ Dessicated Coconut (or a combination of the two)
3 cups Sugar
Cardamom and Saffron to taste
1 tbsp Ghee for greasing the plate/cake tin

Grease a large thali or plate and keep aside. (I've even used cake tins when I didn't own a thali.)

Heat 1/2 cup ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the besan and fry it until the raw smell of besan goes and you are left with the wonderful aroma. To this, add the milk carefully. Add all the other ingredients, including the remaining 1/2 cup ghee. Keep stirring until the mixture comes together and begins to leave the sides of the pan.

Transfer to the greased thali/plate and smooth the mixture down carefully. Cool it a little. Cut it into diamond shapes with a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. When fully cool, store the pieces in an air tight container.

Be sure to share this with your friends and family. You may want to hand out recipe cards with this as people are bound to ask you for the recipe. Especially if you're like me and no one associates any traditional sweets with you, they're probably thinking - if she can make it, why not I?

On that happy note, let me sign off while wishing all of you a Happy Janmashtami.

Check out some other not so traditional Janmashtami recipes on the blog here.

August 3, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Cake


Mindless TV viewing for me has to be food related. I'll admit it - being a food blogger, the shows can't make for too much mindless viewing for me. One of the things that surprise me is that, often, people in contests forget basic recipes. It must be the intense pressure of getting it all done in that short amount of time. How else can one forget how to bake a basic sponge cake?

I haven't been in a pressure situation like that when it comes to cooking gourmet food. But for the most part of our stay in Gurgaon, my everyday cooking was done under pressure. Will the vegetable be done in time, will the dal be cooked, will the rice be done, etc. Fortunately, I didn't have to refer to recipes for my everyday meals. 

I also could make one basic cake from memory. Over the years, I have modified the same recipe to yield a variety of cakes. And not one has disappointed. I'm not a big fan of apples, except in apple pie/crumble. I have taken the essence of an apple pie and made it into a cake. The cake was gone in no time at all. And I think it is simply because this has the best of both worlds: You can have your cake and eat your pie too!




1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Sugar
1/4 cup Butter
1/2 cup Milk
1 Egg
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
A pinch of Salt
1 Apple, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
2 tbsp Brown Sugar
1 tsp Icing Sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/350F.

Grease an 8" cake tin with butter. Arrange the apple slices on the base to form a pattern. 

Mix the cinnamon powder with the brown sugar. Sprinkle this mixture over the apples.

In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and the sugar. Add the egg and beat well. Add the milk and vanilla and beat again.

Sift the flour with the salt and baking powder. Add this to the sugar-egg mixture and mix until incorporated. Pour this over the apple slices. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. 

Transfer the cake to a cooling rack. Sprinkle the icing sugar over the cake.

I do hope you try this and I'll look forward to hearing from you when you do. After all, that is what makes a blogger happy. I started on this journey 7 years ago. My cooking has improved a great deal since. I've also made some amazing friends along the way. 4 years ago, my namesake started talking to me about this idea of holding a food bloggers' meet. There were lots of ideas, a lot of discussions between her, Aparna, and me, and a seed had been planted.

As I type this, the very first Indian Food Blogger's Meet is underway in Bangalore. While I am sitting rather far away and cannot claim to have anything at all to do with it, in many ways it feels like my baby. I've had so many whatsapp chats with Arundati over the past few months that I feel I'm a part of it. I came so close to attending the event myself and am feeling terrible at having missed it. But, nonetheless, I'm on cloud nine myself - to see a dream that I was once a part of, come true. Proud of you! This is a cake to celebrate the IFBM2014 organizers.

But, come August, we also start the celebrations in this household. With the exception of last year, I've always come with a cake to this blog in August. And this year should be no different. The beloved CTO (Chief Tasting Officer) of this blog turns a year older. Our celebrations are postponed to until he returns from this business trip. But let that not stop me from saying, Happy Birthday, Sachin!

May 11, 2014

Oat and Fruit Bars



My little one is obsessed with sticky and chewy sweets. It all started with the Vitamin C supplement that I started to give him. Sometime ago, I handed him a dried apricot and told him it was just like a "sticky sweet". He loved it and asked for more. I then introduced him to raisins, which he enjoyed as well. Then, I got quite excited and bought a whole array of stuff from the dried fruit section. And he soon lost interest.
I wanted to put the stuff to good use. I thought I'd make the jewel blondies again. But since cookies keep better, I decided to look up recipes for dried fruit cookies. I came across this Pillsbury site and decided to try this recipe. I modified the recipe a little and made fruit bars instead of cookies. The next time around I will reduce the sugar in the recipe to maybe 3/4 cup in all.
The end result: bars full of the chewy goodness of oats and dried fruit. This is a keeper recipe and I am sure adding nuts or chocolate/butterscotch chips will work well too.
Ingredients
¾ cup Sugar
¼ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup Butter, softened
½ tsp Vanilla
1 Egg
¾ cup Flour
½ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Cinnamon Powder
¼ tsp Salt
1 ½ cups Rolled Oats
1 cup Dried Fruit (I used Apricots, Raisins, Cranberries, Blueberries and Cherries)

Heat the oven to 375 F/190 C. 
Line two cake tins with parchment/baking paper. (I used 9" square tins)
Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl until  fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla beat some more. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and mix well.
Add the oats and the dried fruit. Mix together until well blended.
Divide the mixture equally into the two cake tins. Bake for 8-9 minutes.
Remove from the cake tins and allow to cool a little on a rack. Cut into squares while still warm using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter.
Store in an airtight container when completely cool.
These will go into A's snack box next week and maybe I can now safely say goodbye to the store bought cookies/bars.

May 9, 2014

Instant Mango Pickle




When you're a food blogger, people expect certain things from and of you. They expect you to know recipes for many/most dishes. They expect you to tell them what they can substitute and sometimes also what they need to do to fix something that has gone horribly wrong. I have to admit I don't always have answers. I usually follow a recipe that I have. Often enough, I tweak it. If it works, it comes on to the blog. If it doesn't, it is simply forgotten.

Two summers ago, a friend wrote to me saying she was craving a certain type of mango pickle. Would I happen to know how to make it? Or could I ask my mother who would be bound to know about this? Amma and Appa were visiting me then and I decided I should ask Amma for the recipe.

Considering how I almost never eat pickles, Amma was a tad bit shocked that I was asking her for a recipe. However, she gave me the recipe and this pickle is now an annual feature in my kitchen.

1 cup Raw Mango, diced into 1/2" cubes
3 tsp Chilli Powder (I use Kashmiri Chilli Powder)
2-3 tsp Salt (according to taste)
2 tsp Oil (I use Gingelly/Sesame/Til Oil)
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafoetida
1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

Add salt, turmeric and chilli powder to the mango pieces and mix well. 

Heat the oil in a tempering ladle. Add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. When the mustard splutters, let the oil cool. Then add the tempering to the pickle.


On a dry griddle/tawa,  heat the fenugreek seeds and toast for a few minutes. Grind to a powder when cool with some turmeric powder. Add this to the pickle.


Enjoy in a variety of ways: With Tayir Saadam or Narlya Kheeri.





This is a fresh pickle which does not keep for very long. I store it in the fridge and use it up within a week or so. I hope you enjoy some of my simple pleasure this summer.

May 7, 2014

Apple Cheese Tarts and an itch to celebrate


And I'm back. After what feels like aeons. These past few months have been crazy. I wanted to throw A a homestyle party for his third birthday. For the longest time, I wondered how Amma managed to do everything at home for our birthday parties. Only our birthday cakes came from Adyar Bakey House. Everything else was home made. I also wanted to make his birthday cake from scratch. So, I signed up for a couple of Wilton Method cake decoration classes. 


Many of the things I made for his party warrant individual posts on this blog. We had a jungle themed rainbow cake, lemon ricotta cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, coriander buns, cheese, jam and chutney sandwiches, potato cheese buns, semia upma, samosas and potato smiles. We had games such as pin the tail on the donkey and musical chairs. In short, I tried to recreate one of my childhood birthday parties for A. We all had a great time.




But all this kept me very busy. And kept me away from the blog. Since I posted the last post on this blog, I've cooked and baked a great deal. I've tried some new recipes, I've tweaked some old ones. I've sometimes fallen into a cooking rut - cooking similar food everyday simply because it doesn't require much thinking. 

However, I had to make the time today. I'm already a good five days late. The Singing Chef turned 7 on May 2nd this year. We hit a milestone barely 5 posts ago when I reached the magic number of 600 posts. And now it is time for another. I will stick to my usual way of celebrating with something sweet. I present to you - Apple Cheese Tarts.

For the pastry:

1 cup Flour
1/3 cup Butter (cold and diced)
2-3 tbsp Ice Cold Water
1/2 tsp Salt

Place the flour, butter and salt in a mixing bowl. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Gradually add the water and knead into a soft dough. Do not knead too much. Roll out the dough 1/4" thick and stamp out circles slightly bigger than the diameter of a muffin mould.

For the filling:

2 Apples, peeled and diced (I used Granny Smith)
1/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Cinnamon Powder
1/4 cup Cream Cheese

Place the apples and sugar along with the cinnamon powder in a pan. Add 1/4 cup of water and cook over a low flame until the apples are cooked. Stir in the cream cheese. Allow to cool.

To proceed:

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F.

Lightly grease the muffin pan. Place one circle of pastry in each of the moulds. Fill the cups with the filling. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

This recipe yielded 12 tarts.

Allow the tarts to cool a little before savouring them. This is the stuff desserts should be made of: a little sweet, a little salty, and a tad bit tart. 

Thank you all for coming along on this wonderful journey. Seven years is a major milestone in any relationship. This one is no different. My cup overflows with joy and gratitude for the friends I've made, the support I've received and the love I've felt. Happy birthday, Singing Chef. I say this a lot and still mean it every time I do: I never expected you to become what you have. But I am so glad you have.