Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Rich Chocolate Mud Cake

She had been waiting to bake this cake since morning, since the minute she had seen the recipe. It was a cake that was calling out to her. She loved chocolates and she loved coffee and she loved whisky. A cake that had all three - now that was going to be absolute nirvana.




Now with the kids fast asleep and the husband not expected back home for at least another hour, she could finally start baking.



But just as took the whisky bottle out of the liquor cabinet, she heard the key turn in the lock. The husband was back earlier than expected. On any other day she would have been thrilled but today she felt a small pang of disappointment. "There goes my baking," she thought to herself.


"Having a drink all alone, are you? he smiled as he walked in. "Pour me one as well, I'll take a quick shower and join you."


"I wasn't drinking. You know I never have a drink alone! I was just about to bake a cake but you've put paid to all my plans now by coming back earlier," she smiled.

"Cake with whisky in it....now that sounds intriguing. Never heard of one before."


"I'm sure it is going to be yum. I can just feel it."


"Tell you what - let's have a quick drink and have dinner and then we can bake that cake together!" He had never quite understood her passion for baking - he wondered why she bothered putting in so much effort when there were very good gourmet cakes available all over the city. But over the years, he had learnt better than to dissuade he from baking and deprive her of the pleasure she derived from baking.


"Sounds like a great plan," she beamed.

An hour later, he was ready to bake.

"Now?, she said, looking at the clock. It was a quarter past ten. "Too late for that now. The cake takes an hour and a half to bake. I am just too sleepy - the whisky has made me way too drowsy, no way I can sit up and wait for it to bake! I'll bake in the morning. Clear the kitchen, will you please? I can barely keep my eyes open."



"Sure thing."



He started putting away the measuring cups and the cake pan and happened to glance at the recipe that she had printed out. Whisky in a cake? With chocolate and coffee? Somehow, it just didn't sound right to him. Rum and chocolate and coffee was a great combination, but whisky? It just didn't appeal to him!



As he put the whisky back into the liquor cabinet, his eyes fell on the bottle of Kahlua. That was it....Kahlua, and not whisky, was perfect for the cake.


Suddenly, he was in the grip of an overpowering urge to bake the cake right away, all by himself. Soon, he was in the kitchen, melting and mixing the ingredients, getting intoxicated by the combined aromas of coffee, chocolate and Kahlua.



Two and a half hours later, he had not just baked the cake but had also set in on a platter on the table and secured with a ribbon - as a surprise for her - his face radiating the pleasure of someone who had just discovered the urge, the joy and the satisfaction of baking from scratch.




This food fiction is off to Jaya of Spice and Curry who is hosting Of Chalks and Chopsticks - 6.







Rich Chocolate Mud Cake (adapted from from Australian Women's Weekly).


Ingredients:


(A)

Butter: 250 gms
Sugar: 1 and 3/4 cup
Dark Chocolate: 200 gms
Kahlua: 1/3 cup or 80 ml
Instant coffee granules: 1 tbsp
Warm water: 250 ml or 1 cup


(B)

Plain Flour: 1.5 cups or 225 gms
Self Raising Flour: 1/4 cup or 35 gms
Cocoa Powder: 1/4 cup or 25 gms


Eggs: 2



Method:

In a saucepan, mix together all the ingredients listed under (A). Stir on a low heat until the chocolate melts. Cool it to room temperature.



Whisk together all the dry ingredients listed under (B). Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until you get a smooth batter.

Lightly beat the eggs and add it to the batter.


Grease and line a (deep) 20 cm or 8" cake pan and transfer the batter into the pan. Bake at 160 deg C for 90 mins or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.




Notes:

1. I pre-heat the oven for this recipe for just about 15 minutes.
2. I halved the recipe and baked it in a 6" square tray; it took me just under an hour to bake my cake.

3. I thought that the water was a bit too much, so I plan to reduce it to 225 ml the next time.





This is a dense and intensely chocolatety cake with a whiff of coffee and Kahlua. I served this cake with some raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream - sinfully delicious!




Sending this cake off to Ria who is hosting Meeta's Monthly Mingle, the theme this time is Chocolate Extravaganza.





Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baked Vegetables in White Sauce

Let me tell you a little of how we spend our weekends. Now we aren't the kind of family that plans a variety of activities to do over a weekend - we are much to lazy for that. In fact, we are the kind of family that spends its weekends lounging on the sofa, listening to music or reading some books and not moving a muscle for as long as we can help it.


Yes, we do our fair share of going out. But a lot of it is related to food and eating out. For eg. we go very often to the beach in the mornings because we love having breakfast at the South Indian restaurant there. Or we end up at the Botanical Gardens because having lunch at a restaurant there over a couple of beers on a hot, sunny afternoon seems almost magical. You get the drift right?



But much as we enjoy eating out, come Sunday evenings and we crave for a dinner that is very simple to make and very hearty. Most of the times, we settle for some piping hot aloo parathas or a hearty spanish omelette. Occasionally, I make kathi rolls from some leftovers.


Often, I dig up and pick out bits and bobs of vegetables buried in my crisper and throw them together into a low fat white sauce.





Now I know what you are thinking - that 'low fat' white sauce is an oxymoron. Well, not quite.

Based on an idea I saw on Raaga's blog, I make my white sauce with skimmed milk and low fat cheese slices. The resultant sauce is adequately thick and creamy and perfect for a light and satisfying Sunday evening vegetable casserole.






Ingredients:

Butter: 1 tbsp
All purpose flour: 2.5 tbsps
Skimmed milk: 2.5 cups (the milk should be at room temperature)
Low fat cheese slices: 3
Salt, pepper: to taste
Mustard paste: 1 tsp


Mixed vegetables: approximately 2 cups ( I used 1/2 cup each of green peas, broccoli and cauliflower; 1 carrot and 1 potato )


Grated cheddar cheese: 2 tbsps


Method:

Steam all the vegetables and set aside. You might need to cook them separately as the cooking time for every vegetable varies. I zap them in the microwave for a few minutes).


Melt butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and mix it well. Cook on low heat for about 4-5 minutes, without allowing the flour to turn brown. I take my pan off the burner a few times when doing this in order to avoid browning of the flour.


Stirring constantly, slowly add the milk in a thin stream and in small batches. (Here's what I do to avoid lumps in my white sauce - transfer the flour from the pan into a mug and add a little milk and mix it thoroughly. Then transfer it back to the pan and add the rest of the milk. The result? Completely lump-free sauce)


Keep stirring and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, add all the salt, pepper powder and the mustard paste. Finally add the cheese slices and mix well till the cheese melts. Simmer for a few more minutes till the sauce thickens.


Arrange the vegetables in a baking dish, I use my 9" pie dish. Pour the sauce over it, sprinkle the grated cheese over it and bake in the oven (pre-heat the oven first) at 200 deg C till the cheese starts to brown.


Serve with some brown bread.


Taking this vegetable casserole to Nupur's Blog Bites - 9, the theme this time is Holiday Buffet.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Muffin

A few months ago, I woke up in the morning with a headache so severe that I couldn't even bear to move my head. A couple of hours and a couple of painkillers later, the headache was still just as bad. The only way was to sleep it off but with my (naughty) daughter at home and no one to babysit her - the husband was travelling too - sleep was a little hard to come by.



I put her in front of the telly telling her she could watch it for as long as she wanted to. I expected her to be glued to the telly but the moment she realised that she had a free rein to watch her favourite cartoons, she quickly lost interest in watching them.



"Play with me", she said to me.

"Why don't you fix some puzzles", I suggested. "And then you when you are done, you can have some chocolate". Yes, I was subtly bribing her to leave me alone for some more time. To her credit, she did manage to keep herself busy with the puzzles for a while and I gave her some chocolate as promised.

"But I don't want to have chocolate", she said. I was flummoxed - I mean I can't ever say 'no' to chocolate and here she was, a 5 year old, refusing to have any. But I hadn't heard the rest of it....



"......I want chocolate chip muffins. You make some muffins now", she demanded.



"Mama's head is aching", I explained to her. "Let me rest just a little while longer, then I'll have some tea and make you the muffins", I told her.



She nodded and went off to her room. I could hear toys being scattered and then the sound of a tap gushing and braced myself for a major clean up operation later in the day. Moments later, she was standing next to me, her toy teacup filled to the brim with water in one hand and a tube of Euky bearub in the other.


"Mama will drink the tea and put the balm and she will become alright and then we can make the muffins", she proclaimed confidently.


Anything for such an adorable caregiver! I headed straight to the kitchen and started to fix her some muffins right away.




Some days remain etched in memory forever. I don't think I can never ever forget the sight of my little girl helping me to make the muffins that day. I measured out the dry ingredients and she whisked them together. Then she poured out the wet ingredients and I mixed everything together to get the batter ready. I spooned it out into the muffin tray and she sprinkled the chocolate chips on top. In no time, the aroma of freshly baked muffins wafted through the house.






These muffins are very very quick and easy to make. I have stayed true to the original recipe from Joy of Baking except for a very minor change - instead of sprinkling the cinnamon on top, I mix it into the batter. A very small change but one that makes a significant improvement to the taste.



Ingredients:

All purpose flour: 3/4 cup
Whole wheat pastry flour: 1/4 cup
Baking Powder: 1.5 tsps
Salt: 1/4 tsp (omit if using salted butter)
Cinnamon Powder: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp
Semi sweet/ bittersweet chocolate chips: 1/2 cup

Egg: 1
Milk: 1/2 cup
Butter OR Oil: 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp
Vanilla essence: 1 tsp


Method:

Pre-heat the oven to 190 deg C/ 375 deg F. Grease a muffin pan with butter or baking spray.


Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Reserve a tbsp of the chocolate chips and toss the the rest into the dry ingredients.


Melt the butter and let it cool completely but don't let it set again. Whisk together the cooled melted butter, milk, egg and the vanilla essence. Fold this mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring until the ingredients are just combined.


Spoon into the prepared muffin pan. Sprinkle the reserved chocolate chips on top and bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the muffin comes out clean.





Incredibly moist and with a delicate crumb, these muffins are best eaten on the day they are made and best served a little warm. I prefer them with bittersweet chocolate chips, but they are slightly bigger and don't look as nice as ones with the semi sweet chocolate chips.

You could also make them with oil, they are a little more denser when made with oil but are definitely more healthier and just as tasty.

Enjoy!



Sending this cake off to Ria who is hosting Meeta's Monthly Mingle, the theme this time is Chocolate Extravaganza

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Punjabi Chhole

In terms of cooking, this has been a quest like no other. The quest, an obsession even, for the perfect chhole recipe. Over the years, I have tried numerous recipes for making chhole. It was the first recipe I would look up in cook books and blogs. Some worked, some didn't. Then I came across this recipe and I thought that my quest had come to an end.

Until I tasted my friend M's chhole. The best that I had ever had.

And while I do have a couple of 'friends' who blatantly proclaim that recipes are not for sharing, I am fortunate to have many more like M who don't just share the recipes but also the specific brands they use and the small tips that make all the difference to the ultimate taste.

Take a look, looks absolutely lip-smacking doesn't it?



Pre-preparation:

1. Masala paste

Green cardamoms: 6
Black cardamom: 1
Cloves: 4
Cinnamon: 1" stick
Black pepper: 10
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Coriander seeds: 2 tsps
Garlic: 10 cloves
Ginger: 1.5" piece
Green chilli: 1




Lightly toast all the above except ginger, garlic and green chillies for 2 mins on a very low flame. The objective here is to not roast but simply warm the dry spices. Then grind all the ingedients to a smooth paste, using some water as required. This masala paste can be kept in the refrigerator for about 10 days.


2. Bouquet garni:

black cardamoms: 2
green cardamoms: 4
cinnamon: 1" stick
cloves: 8 nos
tea bag: 1, optional (I don't use one as I don't like my chhole to be black, I much prefer the vibrant orange)


Put all of the above into a small square cheesecloth or a net and secure with a kitchen twine.

Making the chhole:

Onions: 2, finely chopped
Bay leaf: 1
Tomato paste: 2.5 tbsps OR Tomato puree: 5 tbsps (brand - Leggo's or Heinz)
Masala paste: 2 tbsps
Chickpeas/garbanzo beans: 3/4 cup
Salt to taste
Chicken curry powder (MDH brand) OR Chhole masala (Everest brand): 1 tsp



for garnishing:

cumin seeds: 2 tsps, roasted and powdered
onion: 1 small, finely chopped
corainder leaves: 2 tbsps, chopped


Method:

Soak the chickpeas in plenty of water overnight or for about 8-10 hours. Drain and wash thoroughly.

Add 1.5 cups of water, slip in the bouquet garni and pressure cook for atleast 5-6 whistles. If you don't use a pressure cooker (really?), you could also cook them in a slow cooker or boil them in a thick bottomed vessel till soft.

Heat oil in a wok and add in the bay leaf. Let it sizzle for half a minute and then toss in the chopped onions alongwith a pinch of salt; fry till the onions turn limp.

Now add 2 tbsps of the masala paste and fry till the raw smell disappears, about 5 minutes. If the masala paste starts to stick to the pan, sprinkle a few drops of water.

Next put in the tomato paste, salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder. Stir fry till the oil separates from the mixture.

Then add in the cooked chickpeas (discard the bouquet garni) and the chicken curry masala and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and let the chickpeas simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting the amount of water as per your preference. It might seem way too long but trust me on this - the longer you cook chhole, better the taste. In fact, I transfer everything into my crockpot and let it simmer away for about 3 hours.

Just before serving, stir in the roasted cumin seed powder and garnish with some finely chopped onions and coriander leaves.

Puris, bhaturas, rotis or rice....enjoy them with just about anything!


Sharing this with Priya who is hosting MLLA # 30, event started by Susan.

It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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