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!