April 27, 2009

Say Cheeeeeeesecake, Please…. – Chocolate And Vanilla Zebra-Stripe Cheesecake and Cardamom Flavoured Rose Cheesecake Bars (both eggless): Cheesecake Daring Bakers Challenge – April 2009

Statutory Warning: The contents of this post may cause extreme taste sensations and possibly result in weight gain! Proceed at your own risk. Also be warned that this is a rather long post and you may be tempted to dose off before you reach the end!!

I have been promising to make cheesecake for my daughter for the past month or so, but just never managed to get around to it. So guess who was the happiest when this month's Daring baker challenge turned out to be cheesecake? As Akshaya remarked, " If the DB challenge wasn't cheesecake, who knows how much longer I would have had to wait for cheesecake!"

Yes, the April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.
We had to use the provided recipe but were free to experiment with the crust, flavours for our cheesecakes, shapes and serving sizes and presentation. That's a lot of leeway for individual creativity.

I have made cheesecake before, but they have been the no-bake kind which isn't too difficult to make especially in an eggless version. This challenge required us to make a baked version which I had never done before. Now baked cheesecakes basically have a custard sort of filling, where the eggs are required as binders so I wasn't sure I would be able to find a recipe that wasn't vegan (I don't get most vegan alternatives where I live) yet didn't use eggs.

A detailed internet search threw up this "Eggless Cheesecake" recipe from I Cannot Believe It Has No Eggs Cheesecake from Bakin' Without Eggs by Rosemarie Emro (St. Martin's Press, 1999). I adapted this recipe to suit my requirements and made Cardamom Flavoured Rose Cheesecake Bars. I thought it would be unusual to use these very Indian flavours to make a non-Indian dessert.

My Baked Cheesecake Making Experience:

We don't get creamcheese here in India (as far as I know), so what I always use to make my cheesecakes is home-made paneer, a soft Indian fresh cheese made from cow's milk. My recipes for making paneer and the cheesecake bars follow.

Making Paneer:


2 L milk (4.5% fat)

4 tbsp plain vinegar


In a thick bottomed vessel, over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Add the vinegar and keep stirring the mixture. The milk will curdle and the milk solids will separate and float to the top in a thick cheesy layer. Keep stirring till all the solids have separated and only a cloudy whey is left below.

Place a largish piece of cheesecloth (or similar cloth) in a colander/ sieve and pour the curdled mixture into it. When the whey has drained out, rinse the paneer (cheese) with water a couple of times and allow the water to drain out completely. Now gather the sides of the cloth together and twist the top and squeeze out as much water as you can from the paneer. Keep this as it is in the colander for about an hour.

Lemon juice or yogurt can also be used for curdling the milk to make paneer.

Eggless Cardamom Flavoured Rose Cheesecake Bars:


For the crust:

100gm digestive biscuits, finely crushed

1/4 cup powdered almonds

50gm butter

1 tbsp sugar

For the filling:

1 1/2 cups paneer

3 tbsp crumbled firm tofu

1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/4 cup caster sugar

1/8 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 cup cornstarch

1 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup plain yogurt

1 tsp powdered cardamom

2 tsp rose syrup

1 to 2 drops red food colouring


Melt the butter over low heat. Cool slightly, add the rest of the ingredients for the crust and mix well. I used a 8" by 8" square glass pie dish to make these bars.
Grease a square piece of aluminium foil that will sit well in your pie dish. Carefully press the crumb mixture well, into the bottom of the pie dish.

Now make the filling.
Purée the paneer and the crumbled tofu with 1 tbsp of water till smooth. Put this into a bowl along with the condensed milk, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, corn starch, lemon juice and vanilla. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat this till smooth. Then add the yogurt and powdered cardamom and blend well.

Divide the mixture into two portions. To one portion, add the rose syrup and food colouring and blend well. Now pour the rose cheesecake mixture into the other (white) portion and just fold in a couple of times so the mixture has a marbled appearance.

Pour this into the prepared crust and gently smoothen the top.
Bake the cheesecake (without a water bath) for about an hour at 150C. The cheesecake will look set with a slightly creamy centre. Cool completely at room temperature and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

Then take the cheesecake out and slowly lift it out from the dish along with the foil. Peel off the foil and cut into 12 pieces/ bars. Serve chilled.

Chocolate And Vanilla Zebra-Stripe Cheesecake:

This month has been a bit busy and I haven't really had too much time to spend experimenting in the kitchen. However, the success of my first baked cheesecake made feel a bit adventurous and I decided to bake another cheesecake (2 days ago) using the given recipe substituting only for the eggs.
This recipe and the accompanying picture made me decide to attempt making a Zebra-Stripe cheesecake.

I remember noting down sometime back (from somewhere on the net) that pureed tofu and cornstarch could be used as a good vegan substitute for eggs while making custard or custard-like preparations. According to my notes, 3tbsp puréed tofu + 2tsp corn starch = 1 egg, and I decided to make an eggless cheesecake while substituting for only 2 eggs with 6 tbsp of puréed tofu + 4 tsp cornstarch.

I used Nice biscuits instead of Graham crackers. Nice biscuits (In India, biscuits are what the U.S. calls cookies) are sugar sprinkled thin coconut cookies and since they're sweet I left out the sugar in the crust.

I used home-made paneer here too, but made from 3L of milk (4.5% fat). I don't get heavy cream here so I used 25% fat cream and increased the lemon juice to 2 tbsp as "paneer" is bland. I didn't use any liquor. I also used 1 cup milk chocolate pieces to make the chocolate layers.
Here is the given recipe, with my adaptation in brackets and highlighted in brown.

Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake:



2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (173 gm Nice biscuit crumbs)

1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted

2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar (I omitted this)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

(I also used 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips)


3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature

(3 cups pureed home-made paneer made from 3L 4.5% fat)

1 cup / 210 g sugar

3 large eggs (substituted with 6 tbsp of puréed tofu + 4 tsp cornstarch)

1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream (I used 25% fat cream)

1 tbsp. lemon juice (I used 2 tbsp)

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

1 tbsp liqueur, optional, but choose what will work well with your cheesecake (omitted this)

(I also used 1 cup milk chocolate pieces)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too - baker's choice. Set crust aside. (My cake tin has a removable bottom so I lined my cake tin with greased aluminium foil before layering the crust.)

3. Combine cream cheese (I used puréed paneer) and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs (I substituted puréed tofu and cornstarch) , one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lemon juice, and alcohol and blend until smooth and creamy.

(At this point I divided the filling into two portions. I melted the chocolate over hot water and added it to one portion and blended it well. Then I poured half of the plain (white) filling into the prepared crust and spread it to cover the bottom. Then I poured half the chocolate filling in the middle spreading it, leaving an outer 1/4" of white filling. Then I poured the remaining white filling, again leaving 1/4" of the chocolate filling and finished with the chocolate filling, once again leaving a 1/4 " of the white filling showing. Check the original cheesecake for a better idea.)
4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
(I wrapped the bottom and sides of my cake tin with a single sheet of aluminium foil before placing it in the water bath. I had no problems of water getting to my cheesecake and my cheesecake stayed dry.)

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done - this can be hard to judge, but you're looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don't want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won't crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Pan note: The creator of this recipe used to use a springform pan, but no matter how well she wrapped the thing in tin foil, water would always seep in and make the crust soggy. Now she uses one of those 1-use foil "casserole" shaped pans from the grocery store. They're 8 or 9 inches wide and really deep, and best of all, water-tight. When it comes time to serve, just cut the foil away.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!


We liked the way the eggless cardamom flavoured cheesecake bars turned out, though our daughter didn't find the flavour of rose to her liking. The texture was quite nice and the bars freeze very well.

The zebra-stripe cheesecake was a hit with all of us, even though my zebra-striping effort wasn't quite successful (but I do like the way my cheesecake looks). The crust of the cheesecake was just right with the mini chocolate chips and a hint of coconut from the biscuits/ cookies.

I used milk chocolate because I made this cheesecake especially for my daughter, but I feel that semi-sweet chocolate would have been better giving the cheesecake a more intense chocolate flavour.
This cheesecake was very soft and creamy and I find it incredible that I got this texture without using eggs. This is most definitely going to be my recipe of choice every time I make a baked cheesecake.
And now please do take some time to take a look at the small, big, sweet and savoury cheesecakes in the Daring Baker kingdom.

Also featured at Chefs.com

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April 26, 2009

An English Tea-time Favourite - Crumpets

t's been quite a while since I last read a book by Jane Austen and I am yet to read Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. This month's choice for "This Book Makes Me Cook" was Jane Austen's books and so I randomly picked to re-read Emma.
Emma is a comedy of sorts and deals with the various and not quite successful attempts at matchmaking by the heroine of the book, Emma Woodhouse. Emma is born into a privileged family, lives in Surrey (England) with her father. Her elder sister, Isabella, is married to John Knightley whose younger brother George Knightley is Emma's best friend and critic and eventually becomes her husband.

While there are many references to breakfast, dinner and tea throughout the book whose story is set in Regency England, what stands out are the eating habits of Emma's father, Mr. Henry Woodhouse. Here is a gentle man with hypochondriac tendencies who is always concerned for his own health and that of his friends, to the point of trying to deny his visitors foods he thinks too rich.
This can be seen in Chapter III :-
"She (Emma) then do (did) all the honours of the meal, and help(ed) and recommend(ed) the minced chicken and scalloped oysters, with an urgency which she knew would be acceptable to the early hours and civil scruples of their guests.
Upon such occasions poor Mr. Woodhouse,s feelings were in sad warfare. He loved to have the cloth laid, because it had been the fashion of his youth, but his conviction of suppers being very unwholesome made him rather sorry to see any thing put on it; and while his hospitality would have welcomed his visitors to every thing, his care for their health made him grieve that they would eat. Such another small basin of thin gruel as his own was all that he could, with thorough self-approbation, recommend;"
In Chapter XII, Emma's sister Isabella, her husband John Knightley, and brother-in-law George Knightley (Emma's good friend) come over to dinner and he recommends gruel.
"While they were thus comfortably occupied, Mr. Woodhouse was enjoying a full flow of happy regrets and fearful affection with his daughter.
My poor dear Isabella," said he, fondly taking her hand, and interrupting, for a few moments, her busy labours for some one of her five children--"How long it is, how terribly long since you were here! And how tired you must be after your journey! You must go to bed early, my dear--and I recommend a little gruel to you before you go.--You and I will have a nice basin of gruel together. My dear Emma, suppose we all have a little gruel.
Emma could not suppose any such thing, knowing as she did, that both the Mr. Knightleys were as unpersuadable on that article as herself;--and two basins only were ordered." 

Gruel was a thin porridge made of oats stewed with either milk or water, and served with salt or sugar and milk. It was usually eaten by the poor who could afford nothing else, and invalids, who could tolerate nothing.
While I do like oats in some things like bread, cookies and granola, we most definitely like the others in "Emma" draw the line at gruel!

So I chose to make some crumpets, a typical English tea-time favourite which I'm sure would have found favour with the characters in Jane Austen's books.
Crumpets have always fascinated me ever since I read about them in my childhood story books. On my trip to Mumbai last week, I bought some ring moulds and decided to inaugurate them with these crumpets.
Crumpets are griddle/ skillet cooked leavened and spongy round breads which are an English tea-time favourite.
"This essentially English comfort food has been around for at least a few hundred years, though the actual timing is a little uncertain. Over that time, the crumpet has gathered to itself a whole spectrum of meanings and associations in British culture: coziness, warmth, home and hearthside, the tea table loaded down with nice things... because where crumpets are, tea is usually not far behind. Toasted on one side under the grill or in the toaster or toaster oven, slathered with butter that seeps into all those lovely little holes... a crumpet is something special." (Source: European Cuisines)
Crumpets are very different from English muffins.
"Classic crumpets have a smooth round bottom, and a top riddled with small holes. They are served fresh from the griddle or toasted, and can be topped in jam or clotted cream, although butter is the traditional crumpet topping. Crumpets are never split, unlike English muffins, and they have a slightly bland flavor and spongy texture which absorbs butter remarkably well. The concept of toasting crumpets over a fire is often associated with companionable rainy days in British fiction.
For people who are still confused about the differences between crumpets and English muffins, remember that crumpets have a holey top, they are not split, and they are far less "bready" than English muffins tend to be. It is believed that the English muffin may have been invented by someone who was trying to replicate the crumpet, which explains the commonalities between the two. The recipes for English muffins and crumpets are also very different, with crumpets being made from batter and English muffins being made from a dough." (Source: Wisegeek)
My crumpets were adapted from crumpet recipes from Not Quite Nigella and A Life (Time) of Cooking.



1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp softened butter
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup water (if necessary)
1 tsp butter or oil to make the crumpets


Warm 1/4 cup of the 1 1/2 cups milk and dissolve the sugar and yeast it in it. Keep aside till the yeast bubbles/ proofs.
Put the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the remaining milk and butter. Then add the yeast mixture and stir well into a thick batter. Cover and allow to rise (should take about 45 minutes or so). The batter will now be bubbly and slightly thinner.
If you feel the batter is too thick, add just enough water as necessary to thin the batter to required consistency. The batter should be slightly thicker than pancake batter and flow easily. Add the baking powder and stir well.
Grease the ring moulds well.
Take a non-stick skillet and heat the 1 tsp butter or oil over low to medium heat. Place 3 or 4 ring moulds (depending on the size of your skillet) in the skillet. Pour a small ladleful of batter into each (about 3/4" high) into each ring. Cover the skillet and allow the batter to cook. When done, the top of each crumpet should have a few holes and start to look dry and the bottom will be golden brown. This should take about 5 minutes.
Slowly lift off the rings and turn the crumpets over to cook and lightly brown the other side. This should take about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove when done and repeat with the remaining batter.
Serve for tea with butter, or whatever topping you prefer. This recipe makes about twelve 3" crumpets. 

Simran was similarly inspired by "Emma Woodhouse's tea parties" to make a Fruit Tart, Sweatha made some Baked Apples for "Emma" too, Bhags baked a Fruitcake inspired by "The Watson's", Rachel read "Emma" and baked an Apple Tart, and Aquadaze baked a Buttercake after reading "Pride & Prejudice.
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April 24, 2009

It's Time For Some Shortbread Cookies and Chocolate Chip Orange Cookies

Is there a particular time to make or eat cookies? The answer to that question is most definitely no, though a hot and sticky summer is definitely not the best time (for the person baking) to have the oven going.

Summer time in India, however, is school vacation time (which is 2 months starting from April through June, depending on which school board syllabus the concerned schools are affiliated to). If you have (or have had) growing children at home, you will know that they are very frequently hungry and their very active metabolism requires a lot of fuel to keep them going! Our daughter is no different, and was very happy to help me pick out a couple of bookmarked recipes for me to try out. One was Val's brother Neil's Shortbread Cookies and the other was Lisa's Chocolate Orange Cookies.

I signed up for Taste & Create this month after a long break and was paired up with Val of More Than Burnt Toast. I have previously been paired up with her and made her Mom and Dad's excellent Potato Bread. This time I made her brother's cookies!

If you are new to Taste & Create, this is an interesting event where one signs up to be randomly paired up with, explore a fellow food blogger's collection of recipes and cook from it. This is a nice way to discover a lot of new food bloggers and their blogs.

Akshaya just loves anything shortbread and making Scottish Shortbread from my cookie book is something she enjoys. So it wasn't surprising that she picked a shortbread cookie for me to try out.

I followed Val's recipe exactly (but quartered it as I was trying it out for the first time). I needed to add 2 tbsps each extra of flour and icing sugar to get a dough I could work with. I also forgot to chill the dough before shaping the cookies, so they spread out a bit.

According to Val, "the secret to tender, melt in your mouth shortbread is to really cream the butter!!!" While I, personally, find shortbread too rich for my taste I have to agree that creaming the butter did produce a very buttery and nice shortbread. Akshaya liked them so much that she was willing to forego dinner for these cookies!!

The Chocolate Chip Orange Cookies at Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen (which is the featured blog on Tried & Tasted that is hosted here this month) caught my eye for two reasons. The first one was that this recipe seemed to be a twist on a chocolate chunk cookie with the addition of orange juice and rind. The other thing was the addition of cream cheese to this cookie.

I halved Lisa's recipe and made a few changes because I didn't have a couple of the ingredients. I left out the orange rind, but used store bought unsweetened orange juice. I also added 1/2 tsp orange extract to increase the orange flavour. I substituted the cream cheese with home-made paneer (an Indian soft fresh cheese) which I blended into a smooth, creamy paste. I also substituted the egg with powdered flax seed and water.

I also used some "chocolate chip chunks".
I found a half bottle of chocolate chips in my kitchen had melted into something which was neither chips nor a paste. Yes, that's how hot it is here and the summer has just begun!!! So I put the bottle in the fridge and used some of that which was part chips and chunks, hence "chocolate chip chunks".

The texture of these cookies wasn't quite like I expected in a chocolate chip/ chunk cookie. In Lisa's own words, "Much like a savory biscuit, despite the big chunks of dark chocolate, these cookies will stay moist for a few days stored in an air tight container provided they are not devoured shortly after coming out of the oven."

These cookies were a bit chewy and biscuit-like (as in scone-like and not cookie-like) and a bit moist and sort of cake-like texture on the inside but crunchy on the outside. This is probably because of the addition of cream cheese and the creaming the butter and cream cheese till light and fluffy. They were less moist and more cookie-like the next day.
However, the cookies were nice and the combination of chocolate and orange could never be anything but good.

I am including a gentle reminder here, that there is just a week to the submission deadline (30th April) for Tried & Tasted. So if you have been planning to join in and haven't yet done so, then this is the time to it. I'm looking forward to hearing from you all.

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April 22, 2009

Meeting Some Foodie Friends & A Recipe: Besan-Coconut Burfi (Chickpea Flour-Coconut Indian Style Fudge)

As Akshaya is having her summer vacation, we decided that we needed a short break and headed for Mumbai. Mumbai was rather hot (as are many other places in India right now, including Goa) and not exactly the place for a holiday, but we managed to pack in visiting some family and shopping. How can one go all the way to Mumbai and not shop?

Harini's directions led me to a bookshop where I found some good books at bargain prices. Only a lack of time prevented me from finding some more. She also pointed me to a baking supplies store where I was so happy to find lots of stuff I had been looking for, I felt a bit like a kid in a candy store!

One of the highlights of our trip turned out to be meeting up with Harini and Simran. This almost didn't happen as co-ordinating our schedules to meet together (not easy in a city like Mumbai where getting from one place to another takes up a large part of the day) took a bit of working out.
We finally met and spent some time over some shortbread cookies, pasta and spring rolls. We then said our byes (with promises to meet again) as we all had other commitments soon afterwards (and a couple of husbands whiling away their time waiting for us to finish!).

And now to the food part of this post.
This burfi (or fudge-like Indian confection) is something I have been making for years now. I usually make about twice the given recipe as I tend to make this sweet, sometimes for a festive occasion, but mostly to gift to family or friends as this burfi is easy to pack and transport.

This besan-coconut burfi tastes somewhat like a mysorepak made with coconut but uses a lot less ghee. It is not very difficult to make, but what is critical and determines the texture of the burfi is being able to judge when exactly to pour the burfi mixture onto the greased tin/ plate.
If the mixture is not thickened enough at this point, the result will be a chewy burfi which doesn't quite set.
If the mixture is overcooked, then the burfi becomes dry and a bit hard.
The correct point to transfer the cooked mixture to the greased cake tin or plate would be when the ghee has been completely absorbed and the mixture starts curling away from the sides of the pan, when stirred. This results in a burfi which sets well, is neither too soft nor hard and isn't chewy.

This burfi recipe is slightly adapted from The Vegetarian Menu Cookbook by Vasantha Moorthy.


2 cups fresh grated coconut
1 cup chickpea flour (besan)
2 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsp ghee (clarified/ browned unsalted butter)
3 tbsp broken cashewnuts
1 tsp powdered cardamom


Heat 1 tbsp of ghee (or clarified/ browned unsalted butter). Fry the broken cashewnuts in it till they turn golden brown. Remove them from the ghee and keep aside. To the same ghee, add the chickpea flour (besan) and roast, over medium heat, till the flour loses its raw smell and a nutty aroma emanates. Do not brown the flour.

In a deep and thick/ heavy bottomed pan, heat 1 cup of water and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and allow to boil, over medium heat, till a thick syrup (one string consistency) is obtained. Turn off the heat.

Now add the grated coconut and the Roasted chickpea flour (besan) and stir well till everything is well mixed. Put the pan with the mixture back on the fire, over medium heat, and keep stirring constantly. The mixture will start thickening and start curling away from the sides of the pan. This stage is crucial for the making of this burfi/ fudge.

Add the remaining 2 tbsp ghee, and keep stirring till the ghee is absorbed. Add the fried cashewnuts and the cardamom powder and take off the fire. Mix well and quickly pour the mixture into a well greased 7" by 7" cake tin (or cookie sheet with 1 1/2" sides), ensuring the mixture is leveled. Allow to cool a bit, and mark into squares while it is still warm.

Allow to cool completely, and store the burfi/ fudge in containers. This recipe makes about 20 small squares.

These go to Susan's MLLA hosted by Courtney at Coco Cooks with the theme "Starters & Desserts".
This is also my submission to Srivalli's Mitai Mela which celebrates her second blog anniversary.
Prathibha, thanks for all those nice compliments and I appreciate your thinking of my blog to pass on the award to. It's up on my page.

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April 16, 2009

Penne with Roasted Red Pepper (Capsicum) and Tomato Sauce

"Shall we have pasta for lunch/ dinner?" is a question that my daughter loves to hear. She likes pasta as much as she does pizza, and it would be a tough decision for her make a choice between the two. For me, cooking pasta usually means a filling and satisfying one-dish meal without having to spend too much time in the kitchen.
Last week, my husband was away on work so it was just the two of us at home. It has been getting pretty warm here and the last thing I wanted to do was spend time in the kitchen. But we were both feeling quite hungry and Akshaya wanted pasta.

Right at the top of vegetable bin in my fridge, were some red bell peppers (capsicum) which I needed to use up as we would be away on a short vacation later in the week. We were not in the mood for anything heavy or with cheese in it, so I came up with this slightly different sauce to serve with the pasta.


250gm penne

1 tsp oil

For the sauce:

1 big red pepper (capsicum)

2 big tomatoes

1 big onion, sliced

1 tsp + 1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp garlic paste

1 tsp red chilli flakes (or to taste)

2 to 3 tbsp broken walnuts

1 tbsp honey

salt to taste

1 tsp dried Italian herbs, or herbs of choice


Cook the penne in adequately salted water till done "al dente". Drain, rinse in cold water and drain. Add 1 tsp oil and mix well till the pasta is well coated. This will keep the penne from sticking. Keep aside.

To make the sauce:

Lightly brush the bell pepper (capsicum) with oil and roast/ grill till the outer skin is well blistered. Rub off or peel the skin and chop the bell pepper into pieces. Similarly roast/ grill the tomatoes, peel them and chop them up.
Heat 1 tsp oil and sauté the onions till soft and light brown. Allow to cool a little bit.
Now puree the chopped bell pepper, the tomato, the caramelized onions and the walnuts.

Heat the 1 tbsp of olive oil; add the garlic paste and sauté a couple of times. Add the puree, chilli flakes and salt and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat, adding a bit of water to adjust the sauce to required consistency. Add the honey and the herbs. Cook for another minute and take the sauce off the heat.

Serve warm over penne (garnishing with cheese if preferred) with some salad and/ or fruit on the side. This recipe serves 3 to 4.

I shall be away from Goa and blogging, on a short break. I shall therefore be able to acknowledge and reply to mails and T&T entries only on my return.

May I also once again gently remind everyone that the deadline for T&T submissions is the 30th of April, which is about 2 weeks away?

Also featured at Chefs.com

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April 14, 2009

Velikonocni Kruhki (Slovenian Easter Buns - Eggless)

I am not very sure how to pronounce that either. In Slovenian, "Kruh" means bread and "kruhki" means little breads. Easter, in Slovenia, is called "Velica Noc", meaning great night. So that's what Velikonocni Kruhki means – Easter buns!
Despite that rather complicated looking name, these Easter buns are very easy to make. I found the recipe for them at the Eastern European Food section on About.com.

These buns are made from slightly sweet yeasted dough and are described as somewhat like the hot cross buns without the decorative icing crosses. These buns are part of the Easter "zegen" basket which is blessed on Holy Saturday and eaten on the morning of Easter Sunday.

The zegen (or benediction) basket is an Easter tradition in many Eastern European countries, including Slovenia. Certain foods, including sweet bread, ham, egg and fruit, are put into a basket and covered with an embroidered cloth and taken to church on Holy Saturday ( a day of fasting) to be blessed. This blessed food is then given to every member of the family on Easter Sunday and the first food eaten that morning.
More on Slovenian cuisine can be found here.

Most bread traditionally baked for Easter are usually rich (naturally as they are celebratory breads) and contain a lot of butter, sugar and eggs. Apart from the fact that these Slovenian buns are very easy to make, I chose them because they do not require eggs and they contain my favourite spice – cardamom

I followed the original recipe but halved it to make 6 buns. I didn't have candied citron and did not glaze my buns with egg yolk, but made no changes otherwise. I baked them at 180C for 30 minutes.

The cardamom in the buns ensures that your kitchen permeates with a wonderful aroma when the buns are baking. They are indeed not too sweet and very lightly flavoured and make for very nice breakfast bread, if you would like to make them during the rest of the year.
I am not too sure what these buns are served with, but I found that they are pretty good as they are or quite nice with cheddar cheese.

These Velikonocni Kruhki are my entry to Zorra's BBD # 19 being hosted by Cinzia of Cindystar where the theme is "Spring Country Breads".

These buns also go to Zorra who is hosting YeastSpotting this week.

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April 12, 2009

Colomba Pasquale (Italian Easter Dove Bread)

The Colomba Pasquale is an Italian sweet bread, somewhat similar to the panetonne, and is baked at Easter. Shaped like a dove, the bread is glazed and covered with crystallized sugar and unpeeled almonds. Hence the name, Colomba (meaning dove) and Pasquale (meaning Easter).

There are a couple of stories about the origin of this bread. According to this source, "Colomba's history can be traced to Milan and the victory of Legnano, in 1176, when cities of the Lombard League defeated Emperor Frederick Barbarossa,who was intent on capturing Italy for the Holy Roman Empire. It is said that two doves, symbolizing the Holy Ghost, appeared on the altar of the chariot carrying the battle standards and that the colomba commemorates that event and victory - an example of the role of food in history and food as history."

I came across references to the Colomba Pasquale when I was going through some articles on the various types of bread baked for Easter. The unusual shape of this bread caught my attention and I almost did not make it, as the shape of the bread comes from using a dove shaped mould which I did not have. I understand that one can make the mould oneself, but it seemed too much of an effort.

Then I chanced upon Lien's BBD #8 post at her blog, Notitie Van Lien. In a very detailed and well explained post, she writes how she made and shaped her beautiful Colomba Pasquale by hand. I chose to use her recipe to make the bread, as it is much simpler and can be done in one day compared to most other traditional recipes which involve quite a few rises, including one overnight.

I halved Lien's recipe and made some small changes, only to adjust for ingredients that are not available here.
I used salted butter throughout, omitted the orange zest (it's not the season for oranges and my family is not partial to zest anyway) and the candied peel.
To keep the orange flavour of the bread, I used warm orange juice (store bought) to proof the yeast for the sponge and the first dough.
I only used 2 egg yolks instead of the 1 1/2 + 1 1/2 yolks required as a result of halving Lien's recipe.

I must say I was quite happy with the way my Colomba Pasquale turned out, shape-wise and taste-wise. I know that’s not the best looking bird any of us has seen by far, but I thought my slightly podgy and plump little dove looked a little cute.
The butter, eggs and sugar ensure that the texture and taste of this bread is more cake-like than a bread. They also result in a very tasty bread.
Even though the bread making process took a greater part of my day, this is not a very difficult bread to make. All that is required is a bit of planning, as most of the time involved in baking a colomba pasquale is taken up in the 4 different rising periods required for the dough.
I am sending this to Cinzia at CindyStar for her Easter Colomba Pasquale baking event. This also goes to Zorra who is hosting YeastSpotting this week.

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April 10, 2009

Lisa's Black and Yellow Chickpeas in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce with Luchis (A Deep-fried Indian Flatbread)

I have bookmarked a few of Lisa's recipes to try out and the first of them that I "tried and tasted" was her Black and Yellow Chickpeas in a Sweet and Spicy Sauce. Adapted from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries, Lisa says this recipe makes "an intense but balanced blend of smoky, hot and pungent flavours from fried spices, fresh and dried hot peppers, and mustard seeds popped in hot oil complements an earthy and buttery mixture of beans in this simple but beautiful and fragrant Indian-style chili."

I stayed with her version except that I left out the red chillies (my green chillies were spicy enough), used red cowpeas instead of kidney beans (because I didn't have any), and used fresh coriander for garnishing.

To me, this curry represents an interesting blend of south Indian (mustard seeds, black chickpeas and asafetida) with north Indian flavours. The use of honey (instead of the traditional jaggery, perhaps) is also an unusual innovation in this very Indian preparation.

We had this curry for lunch with luchis.
Luchis are pooris (a deep-fried Indian flatbread) made from all purpose flour and are a very pale golden colour (almost white). These pooris are typical of cuisine of the Indian states of Bengal and Orissa, and very tasty.

This is the recipe that I always use to make them, though not as frequently as we would like as I try to minimize the amount of deep-frying I do.


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tbsp oil

salt to taste

oil for frying the luchis


I use the food processor to knead this dough but it can be done by hand. Put all the above ingredients into a bowl (or the food processor) and add enough water to make a stiff and elastic dough. Make sure the dough is kneaded well or the luchis will not turn out soft. If the dough is not stiff, you will end up with very oily luchis.
Place the dough in a bowl, cover and allow to rest for about half an hour to an hour.

Divide the dough into pieces, rolling each into a smooth 1 1/2" ball. Roll each ball into a thin circle about 4' to 5" in diameter, using oil on the rolling pin and dough to ensure it doesn't stick. Do not use flour, as this will burn up in the oil and discolour the oil and the luchis when they are deep-fried.

Heat the oil in a wok (not till smoking point). Fry the luchis immediately, using your slotted spoon to gently press down the luchis as they are frying, to coax them to puff up. Once the luchis are beginning to just change coclour and are cooked, remove them from the oil and drain on paper towels.

Do not allow the luchis to brown. Also remember that the luchis will not cook if the oil isn't hot enough, and they will burn if the oil is too hot.
Serve the luchis warm with a curry of your choice. This recipe make approximately 15 luchis.

This is my entry for this month's Zlamushka's Tried And Tasted, hosted right here and featuring Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen this month.
I would also like to remind all of you that I am looking forward to all your own "tried and tasted" entries.

On another note, Rachel and I have got back to baking at our blog, The World In Our Oven, after a rather long break. This time we have gone Greek with some Koulourakia (Greek Butter Cookies) so do join us there.

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April 9, 2009

Pachcha Maanga Chammandhi (Raw Mango Coconut Thick Chutney)

Cool misty mornings have given way to hot and clammy days here and I'm really looking forward to the arrival of the monsoons in June. The monsoons bring their own set of discomforts but it would mean a very welcome respite from the heat of the summer!
The summer does have its own advantages though, one of them being mangoes!
Mangoes have slowly started arriving at my market for a couple of weeks now but are so expensive, I'd rather wait another couple of weeks till mangoes flood the market and the prices come down.

Luckily for me, a friend ensured I didn't wait that long by gifting me some mangoes, both raw and ripe, that her mother had brought over from Kerala (harvested from their backyard). Some of the raw mangoes were made into Maangakari, while one mango was used up to make this very tasty mango chutney.

I use the term "chutney" here as I don't know of another that comes close to describe this. A chammandhi is a very thick coconut based spicy chutney from Kerala, which usually eaten with rice or "kanji" which is a rice gruel/ porridge. Traditionally made by grinding on a stone slab with a pestle (called an "ammikallu"), chammandhis come in a variety of tastes depending on what is added to it.

Chammandhi is somewhat similar to thogayal (another type of thick coconut chutney) but does not contain lentils. This chutney from Kerala has become a part of our cuisine too, but our Palakkad Iyer version does not use shallots, which many maanga chammandhi recipes typically do.
To make a good maanga chammandhi, the mango used must be raw and quite sour. Remember that this is a spicy preparation, and the chillies are needed to balance the sourness of the mangoes along with the salt.
Pachcha Maanga Chammandhi (Raw Mango Coconut Thick Chutney)


1 cup unpeeled, grated raw mango

1 cup fresh grated coconut

2 to 3 green chillies

salt to taste


Do not peel the mangoes. Put all the ingredients in your mixer/ grinder and grind to a reasonably smooth thick paste.
Do not add any water, except for a couple of teaspoons full if absolutely necessary.
This recipe serves 4 to 6.

This chammandhi is best when served with kanji (which is bland) and pappads. I also serve this with mulagootal or mulagushyam.

While on the topic of mangoes, a comparitively poor mango season has been predicted this year due to unseasonal rains. Rain during the flowering season of the mango trees causes the flowers to fall resulting in fewer mangoes than usual.
So it was heartening to see so many mango laden trees on our trip back home, last week. My sister-in-law has one such mango tree in her backyard, which partially leans onto her terrace. This makes the business of plucking mangoes very easy, as you can see from my picture.
I came back to Goa with a huge bag full of green mangoes from her tree, and have spent most of the past two days turning them into Maanga Thokku and Chundo.

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