July 31, 2009

Eggless Gelato In Two Flavours: Pistachio & Mango With Chocolate Chips

We're in the middle of the monsoons, here in Goa. It is raining heavily and the hot summer has given way to much, much cooler days. And on particularly dark and gloomy stormy days, the howling wind and swaying coconut trees make you happy to be indoors. All perfect weather for some very hot coffee/ tea or warm soup.

What to do I do on one such day? I make ice-cream!
If this seems weird thing to do, please hear me out. First of all, as far as we are concerned anytime is ice-cream time. We also happen to be lucky that where we live, even the coolest weather is never too cold for frozen dessert.
Then I discovered that July is celebrated in the U.S. as National Ice-cream Month! I have a feeling that this monthly celebration has more to do with commerce than ice-cream, but we are always ready to celebrate anything especially if it involves food that we enjoy.

So I made some pistachio gelato and then some mango gelato (how could I not?) with chocolate chips. These gelatos (call it ice-cream if you prefer), like all the others I make, are eggless. They contain no cream either, so they are probably less creamy on the tongue but easier on the waistline.

Pistachio Gelato

For this one, I used David Lebovitz's Pistachio Gelato recipe with slight changes. I used only half the amount of pistachios because that's all I had, and the gelato was still pretty good. I wanted to make pistachio gelato right then and there was no way I was going about 7 km into town, in the pouring rain!

Please refer to the original recipe for David's gelato, tips and ingredient measurements by weight. Please also do see Heidi's Sweet Pistachio Butter recipe, which I adapted to make my pistachio paste for this gelato.


2 cups (1/2 L) milk (3% fat)

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch (also known as corn flour)

1/2 cup pistachios (without shells)

1 tsp lemon juice

pinch of salt

1/4 tsp kewra extract or 1/2 tsp kewra water (optional)


First make the pistachio paste~
Boil some water and drop the pistachios in it. Take them out after a minute and drain well. Once they're cool to touch, just rub off the outer skin with your fingers. It should come off easily.

Put the pistachios in your mixer/ grinder/ blender (whatever you use) and run until its as powdery as you can get it. Now add a couple of tbsp of milk (from the 2 cups on the ingredient list) and grind the pistachio to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
Take 1/4 cup cold milk (from the same 2 cups on the ingredient list) and completely dissolve the cornstarch in it. Keep aside.

Now heat the remaining milk in a pan. Add the sugar and stir well. When the milk comes to a boil, turn down the heat. Add the cornstarch-milk mixture (stir well to mix any cornstarch that would have settled in the milk) to the milk, stirring constantly, and cook till the mixture thickens slightly into a custard. This should take a couple of minutes.
Allow this to cool to room temperature and whisk in the pistachio paste, the lemon juice, salt and the kewra extract, till smooth.
Pour into a container (preferably metal) and freeze. Take it out of the freezer a couple of times and beat the mixture well, each time, to prevent ice crystals from forming.
This recipe makes 3 big and 4 smaller servings.

Mango Gelato With Chocolate Chips

I don't know how many of you have paired chocolate with mango. I love it and feel the semi-sweet chocolate works very well with the sweetness of our Indian mangoes. I followed the same method detailed above with small changes.


2 cups (1/2 L) milk (3% fat)

1/4 cup sugar (adjust to sweetness of the mango)

2 tablespoons cornstarch (also known as corn flour)

3/4 cup fresh mango purée

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp powdered cardamom

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


If you are making your own, chop the mango into small piece and add a couple of tbsps of milk for a smooth purée.
Follow the same method, mentioned above, to make the milk-cornstarch custard.

Once the milk custard mixture is cool, add the mango purée, salt and cardamom and whisk till smooth. Put the gelato into a container and follw the same procedure as before, for freezing. After the final beating to break to break the ice crystals, add the chocolate chips and mix well. Freeze till time to serve.
This recipe also makes 3 big and 4 smaller servings.

Both these gelatos go to Ben who is celebrating Ice-creams with his Homemade Event. They also go to Scotty Snacks, Savor The Thyme and Tangled Noodle who are celebrating this month with an Ice-cream Social Challenge.

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July 29, 2009

Majorcan (or Mallorcan) Ensaimada (A Sweet Bread)

Majorca (or Mallorca as the island prefers to call itself) is the largest island in Spain. It is a popular holiday destination for many because of its Mediterranean weather, beautiful locales and relaxed pace of life. The one other thing that Majorca is famous for is its "Ensaimada".

The ensaimada, a typical artisan dessert dating back to the 17th century, is made from flour, sourdough, eggs, sugar, water and lard. The dough is rolled up into a long cylinder which is then wound up into a snail-like shape with two or more clockwise turns. The name "ensaimada" comes from the Catalan word "saim" for pork lard.
Apparently the lard gives it a distinctive taste and texture. Many people now use butter in place of lard while making ensaimada, even though traditionalists still swear by lard.

In fact, Majorca takes its ensaimada so seriously that they have a regulating council which has laid down very definite parameters regarding measurements of the ingredients used to make ensaimadas. Manufacturers of this sweet bread in Majorca have to maintain these standards, for approval by the country's regulatory council, in order to label their product "Ensaimada Malloorquina/ Ensaimada de Mallorca".

Ensaimadas come in many varieties these days, depending on what they are filled with. Two very popular ensaimadas are the "Llisa" or plain ones with no filling, and the "Cabell d’àngel" or angel's hair which is filled with candied stringy orange strands which found inside pumpkins.

Outside Majorca, another type of ensaimada (spelt ensaymada here) is made in the Phillipines, once a Spanish colony. Here, I understand ensaymadas are made as single serve portions. Made with butter, these ensaymadas are more like brioche and usually topped with sugar and a cheese called "queso de bola".

I made my Majorcan ensaimada according to this recipe at Spain Recipes. This recipe uses butter (not lard) and yeast instead of the traditional sourdough.
I halved the recipe (which is given below) and reduced the butter a bit, otherwise followed that recipe. This bread does take some time to make, but a large part of the time is taken for the dough to rise. Rolling out the dough very thin takes a bit of effort but it's not impossible to do and the bread is well worth the effort.


2 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 cup milk, warmed

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 tbsp olive oil

all-purpose flour, for dusting

50 gm butter, softened,

          and some for brushing after baking

powdered sugar, for dusting

"mise en place"


Dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk and set aside.
Combine the sugar and salt together in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour and warm milk mixture. Blend thoroughly. Add the eggs and olive oil, mix well, and knead until soft and well-blended. The dough should be smooth and very elastic.
All this can also be done in the food processor, as I did. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in volume.

Knead the dough again, and using a rolling pin, roll the dough as thin as possible over a floured surface. The thinner the dough is rolled out, the more layers the finished ensaimada would have, and this makes for a bread with more layers. Dust lightly with flour, if necessary, to prevent it from sticking.

It would be a good thing if one can manage to roll out the dough into a rough rectangular shape. Don't worry about an exact shape, as once the dough is rolled up, it doesn't matter.
Brush the entire surface of the dough with softened butter. This bread is supposed to be buttery so go ahead and use the butter stated in the original recipe. It makes all the difference.
I wanted to reduce the butter a bit further. So I mixed 25gm soft butter with 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil and used that on the rolled out dough.
Start rolling the dough from the longer side, bit by bit, from one side to the other (as if you were rolling up a poster). When the dough has been rolled up, allow it to rest for 1 hour.

If you would rather make this bread as smaller single serve portions, then divide the dough into four equal portions. Then follow the same method for rolling and shaping the bread, as mentioned above. Remember to reduce the baking time proportionately. I would suggest about 20 to 25 minutes should be alright, but please keep an eye on the bread after about 15 minutes.

After the dough has risen, coil it loosely leaving a little space between the coils, so that it resembles a snail shell. Once the dough rises and expands, the spaces will be filled up.
Transfer the coil to a greased baking sheet. Cover with an extremely large inverted bowl or bucket, large enough to ensure that the dough will not stick to the bowl's surface when it rises. I used a kitchen towel to cover my dough coil, and the dough didn't stick to it.
Allow the dough to rise for several hours (I let my dough rise for about 6 hours, though most recipes seem to recommend 12 hours!).
You can find detailed instructions for rolling and shaping the ensaimada here.

Bake the dough coil at 190C for around 30 to 45 minutes, or until the top is golden-brown. This bread will brown quite a bit as it is a sweet bread. If you feel it is browning too much, cover the top with aluminium foil halfway through baking.
Brush the surface with melted butter and sprinkle generously with sugar. Allow to cool. Cut the ensaimada into slices (like you would a round cake) and serve with hot chocolate, as traditionally done, or with coffee or tea. This recipe serves 4.
The ensaimada can be served warm or at room temperature and apparently keeps for up to 8 days. Mine lasted 3 days.

This delicious, very soft and buttery ensaimada is my contribution to Zorra's Bread Baking Day whose 22nd edition is being hosted by Stefanie at Hefe und mehr. This sweet bread is also being YeastSpotted!
This month's theme at the food photography event Click is Bi-colour. I'm sending in the "Mise en place" as my entry, as this picture features white and yellow.

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July 27, 2009

It's Cookies This Time - Milanos and Not-Mallows: Daring Bakers Challenge July, 2009

The end of the month signifies one thing in the Daring Baker world. It's time for all of us to post our experiences with that month's challenge, successful or otherwise.
This July, the Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. We were given the choice of making any one cookie or both.

For this month's Daring Baker challenge, we were asked to bake two different cookies, both of which featured one of my favourites – chocolate! It was a different matter that I had never heard of either cookie before.

My Milano Cookie Experience:

Apparently, a Milano is a sandwich cookie with chocolate in the middle and extremely popular in the U.S. In India, the Milano is a chocolate chip chocolate cookie of the slightly more expensive variety which is sold as a "cookie for the grown up". I'm not sure how successful this market strategy has been, as in India, cookies are normally considered a treat for children.

As is my usual practice, I decided to see if our "alternative group" had any eggless options to these cookies. There is a vegan recipe for Milanos in the book, "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World", which can be seen on their website too. I made my cookies using that recipe. You can find the link to the printable versions of this month's challenge recipes at the end of this post.

The only change I made there was to substitute the rice milk/ soy milk with milk. I also added a tbsp of cocoa powder to half the dough as I wanted to sandwich one vanilla cookie with one chocolate cookie to make my Milanos.

My cookie dough was a bit oily and not smooth enough, and my "Milano shaped" cookies ended with cracked edges. I didn't quite envisage this and have no idea why this happened, as other DBers who used this recipe made good cookies.

I decided to salvage my cookie dough by rolling it out to about 1/8" thin and cutting out the cookies with a cutter. Now my cookies looked prettier and had no rough edges either. I baked the cookies as instructed and sandwiched them with the chocolate filling.
As good as these cookies were, they still didn't match my expectations of what I thought the Milano cookie would be like. For someone who has never seen a Milano, this was a slightly unrealistic expectation to have.

So I went ahead and attempted the challenge recipe scaled down to a quarter. This meant using only 1 eggwhite, about 7 or 8 cookies (according to the instructions) and minimal wastage if the cookies didn't turn out right.

My first set of cookies spread out quite a bit looking quite unlike any cookies I've ever seen. I managed to
make them look decent by drizzling leftover melted chocolate over them.

My next two batches turned out the right shape, which made me quite happy. They were a bit on the smaller side than I expected, but I think that's the size they're meant to be as I did pipe the cookie batter as instructed. I let the cookies cool, sandwiched them with melted chocolate and voila, Milano cookies!


While my rolled and cut out eggless Milano cookies looked pretty and were good, I didn't feel there was anything special or unusual about them. If you are looking for a reasonably good eggless cookie, then this recipe makes them.

The Milano cookies I made with the challenge recipe were much nicer in texture, crisp at edge and slightly chewy in the middle. About two hours after they had cooled down,however, the cookies became quite soft and lost any hint of crispness.

I seem to have lose-lose (as opposed to a win-win) situation here when it comes to the weather and some kinds of baking. Either the summer is too hot when all things buttercream (and such stuff) become soft/ melt, or the high humidity ensures that certain crisp bakes become spongy in texture!

If these Milano cookies taste the same as the famed Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, I really do not understand what makes them so popular. I found them good, but not particularly spectacular. Of course, this is just my personal opinion.

The Not Mallow Chocolate Covered Cashew Marzipan Cookies

Making the chocolate covered marshmallow cookies was out of question for me, as marshmallows contain gelatin, which is not vegetarian. Yet the many lovely marshmallow cookies I kept seeing at the DB forums made me wish I could make them.

An alternative to gelatin suggested by some was "xanthan gum" which isn't available here. Agar, which is the usual substitute for gelatin in most things, doesn't work in marshmallows.

Then a fellow Daring Baker, who doesn't like marshmallows, made her Not Mallow cookies using marzipan instead of the marshmallows. I decided to follow suit, as I had been feeling a little sad at not being able to make a cookie covered with that magic ingredient, chocolate!

I made my marzipan using Jugalbandi's Vegan Marzipan recipe.
While making these cookies, we were told to leave them at room temperature for a couple of hours to allow the chocolate coating to set. Given the warmth and high humidity here, I put them in the fridge straight away. I'm happy to report that my cookies were perfect, though many fellow DBs complained that their refrigerated cookies developed a chocolate "bloom".

My halved and slightly altered version of the challenge recipe (I substituted flax seed for the eggs and cardamom for the cinnamon) is given below:


1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup white sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

6 tbsp (80gm) salted butter, softened and at room temperature

1 tbsp flax seed powder + 3 tbsp warm water (whisk together)


Blend the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the butter and using an electric mixer, mix till the mixture is sandy. Add the flax seed powder-water mixture and mix till combined. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.

Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes at 190C or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
You can store the cookies in an airtight container till you're ready to top them and cover them with chocolate.

Otherwise, place a small ball of marzipan (recipe follows) on each cookie, and smooth the marzipan ball down to cover the edges of the cookie. The cookie will look like it has a marzipan dome.

Line a cookie sheet with aluminium foil, parchment or silicon mat.
One at a time, gently drop the marzipan-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.


According to the recipe, my halved version should have given me about 1 dozen cookies. What I ended up with was over 50 cookies!!!
The cookies in themselves were quite good, a bit like shortbread and some where in between crisp and cake-like in texture. My daughter liked them plain and since I had so many cookies, I topped and coated only about 15 of them in chocolate.

The chocolate covered marzipan topped cookies were just heavenly. There was something very satisfying about biting into something chocolatey and encountering the textures of soft marzipan and a slightly crunchy cookie.
This part of this month's challenge got our full votes and this cookie is something I shall be experimenting with again.

Now you just have to see what magic the other Daring Bakers have been weaving with cookies, chocolate and marshmallow.

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July 25, 2009

Rajma Urad Dal Rasedar (Red Kidney Beans and Black Gram Lentils In A Creamy Gravy)

Beans and lentils are something you'll always find in my kitchen, which isn't surprising because they provide the major part of protein in the Indian vegetarian diet. Each part of India has its own favourite/ more used varieties of beans and lentils and very own way of cooking them, whether savoury or sweet. So it is not surprising we have so many different ways of cooking them.

This rasedar (rasedhar refers to a slightly thinner consistency of the gravy) is somewhat like the more famous Dal Makhani (meaning "buttery lentils") or the Maa ki Dal/ Kali Dal, except it is has more of the beans and less of the lentils. It is also a little lighter on the calories from butter and cream.
Of course, this would mean that this rasedar wouldn't taste as rich (should I say buttery?), but that's not to say that it's any less delicious.

The original recipe calls for 4 tbsp ghee and a tbsp of cream and this is fine when you're cooking for a special occasion. That's a little too much fat for comfort (and health) for me to use in everyday cooking, however, so I have reduced the fat a bit in this recipe. You may like to keep it that way too or else use what I do, which is indicated within brackets on the list of ingredients.

This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Menu Book by Vasantha Moorthy.


3/4 cup rajma (red kidney beans)

1/3 cup whole/ sabut urad (whole black gram lentils)

1 large onion, chopped

1 large tomato chopped

1" piece of ginger, minced

1/2 tsp garlic paste

2 tsp ghee (I use 1 tsp ghee + 1 tsp oil/ 2 tsp oil)

1 tbsp light cream (I use low fat milk)

1 or 2 bay leaves

3/4 tsp chilli powder

1 1/2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp garam masala

salt to taste

2 tbsp chopped coriander


Soak the rajma (red kidney beans) in water overnight, or for about 8 hours at least) and the sabut urad (black gram lentils) for about 4 hours. Wash them and cook them together till quite soft (I do this in the pressure cooker). Mash the bean-lentil mixture so that it becomes a bit mushy. Keep aside.
Grind the onion and the tomato into a smooth paste. Keep aside.

In a pan, heat the oil/ ghee. Add the bay leaves, ginger and garlic and sauté for about a minute. Add the onion-tomato paste and sauté, over medium heat, till the raw smell of the onion disappears. Since there is less oil being used in this recipe, you might find the paste drying up. If this happens, add 2 or 3 tbsps of water and continue cooking.

Add all the spice powders, and sauté for about a minute. Now add the mashed bean-lentil mixture and the salt and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. If the rasedar is on the thicker side, thin it down a bit by adding about 1/4 to 1/2 cup water.
Allow the rasedar to simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cream/ milk and mix well. Take the pan off the heat.

Garnish with the chopped coriander and top with fresh butter or cream, if desired. Serve warm with chappathis, parathas or rice.
This recipe very amply serves 4 to 5 people.

This rasedar is my entry to Susan's My Legume Love Affair whose13th helping is being hosted by my good friend Harini.

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July 23, 2009

Sukkar Bin Tahin (Beirut Tahini Swirls)

This is what Natashya, who is hosting the Bread Baking Babes challenge this month, picked to bake. When I saw the picture of these flatbreads, I was reminded of parathas (an Indian flatbread, usually with filling in it). On reading through the recipe and her post, I knew I just had to make this.

According to Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, whose Home Baking, The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World this recipe is taken from ~

"Beirut has a lot of good food at every level, from fancy restaurants to local eateries, from home cooking to quality market shopping. And for a curbside snacker like me, it's paradise. There are sesame-covered flatbreads, grilled meats, and sweet and not so sweet cookies; there's always something nearby to eat.

These tahini swirls, called sukkar bi tahin in Arabic, are flattened flaky rounds flavored with tahini and sugar, not too sweet, not too strong tasting. Serve them warm or at room temperature-they’re just right either way."

Tahini isn't something that's readily available here except in a couple of stores where it's very expensive. I use a lot of sesame seeds in my cooking and sesame seed oil is something that you'll always find in Palakkad Iyer homes, so I made my own tahini. I would like to think my home-made tahini was better as it was fresh and had lots less oil.

I made just half the recipe so I used about 1/2 cup of white sesame seeds and 1 tbsp sesame seed oil. The amounts aren't very exact, so please use your intuition while making the tahini paste.
Roast the sesame seeds, over low heat, until they start turning golden and pop. Take the pan off the heat, cool and powder in the mixer/ grinder. Add the sesame seed oil and a little salt. Process till it becomes a thick paste.
For a detailed explanation, with pictures, to make these flatbreads please see Natashya's post.



1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 cup lukewarm water

About 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp sugar

1 tbsp olive oil


3/4 cup tahini

3/4 cup sugar


In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water. Stir in one cup of the flour, then add the sugar and oil and stir in. Incorporate a second cup of flour, then turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, or until smooth.

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 to 3 hours, until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, place a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, (or a baking sheet) on the middle oven rack and preheat the oven to 190C.

Mix together the tahini and sugar and stir until smooth. Set aside.
Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Work with 3 at a time, keeping the others covered.

Flatten each out on a lightly floured surface, and then roll each out to a rectangle about 5 inches by 10 inches. Spread the top surface with 2 1/2 tablespoons of the filling mixture, spreading it almost to the edges.

Roll up the rectangle from a long side into a cylinder, which will stretch as you roll to about 20 inches long. Anchor one end and coil the bread around itself, then tuck the end in. Flatten with the palm of your hand, then set aside, covered, while you fill and shape the other 2 rectangles.
Return to the first coil and roll out gently with a rolling pin. Roll the other 2 out a little and then return to the first one and roll it out a little more thinly, and so on, until you have rolled each to a round about 6 to 7 inches in diameter. A little filling may leak out—don’t worry, just leave it.

Place the breads on the hot baking stone or tiles (or baking sheet) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and flaky. Transfer to a rack to cool. Shape and bake the remaining 3 pieces of dough.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 golden brown, flaky textured coiled rounds, about 6 inches wide, filled with sesame paste and sugar.


I did half the recipe (3 swirls) as this was the first time I was making these. I also substituted half the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour and used brown sugar instead.
I also found that after rolling up the filling in the dough into cylinders, mine didn't quite reach the 20" length mentioned. So I lightly rolled the cylinders to stretch them out to 20".

My first thought on biting into one was that I should have made the full recipe, as we got only one each. The aroma of these swirls baking, almost makes it difficult to wait for them to cool down till they're safe enough to eat!

The "sukkar bin tahini" is a flaky, slightly chewy flatbread which isn't very sweet and perfect with a cup of coffee. And if you love sesame seeds and bread, just go for it!
And here's my Bread Baking Buddy badge!

These delightful flatbreads are going to be YeastSpotted too.

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July 22, 2009

Savoury Oatmeal Porridge With Vegetables

Oats is not a cereal traditionally eaten in India, and probably came over with the British. Back home, oats does make a rare appearance as "kanji" or gruel/ porridge. Again, I am assuming that this practice must have come about from the British tradition of having oats as porridge, though I've rarely seen anyone having "oats kanji" for breakfast in the past. These days I do find more people having it for breakfast when they don't have much time to make or eat breakfast, yet would prefer to start the day with something healthy and filling. Then there are also those who dislike oats and refer to it as "horse feed"!
Well, everyone's entitled to their opinion but there is no denying the benefits of including a healthy amount of oats in one's diet.

I am the only one in our home who likes oats though my husband and our daughter don't mind oats so long as it's "neither seen nor heard" as in cookies, granola, muesli, pie crusts, pizza bases and other bread. Much as I like oats, the one way I dislike having it is the way most people in India eat it, as "Oats Kanji" where "kanji" means porridge/ gruel. Most people here seem to love the oats sweet with milk and sugar. Even the additon of fruit and nuts couldn't tempt me to have it this way. 

I like my oatmeal porridge salty!
This might sound odd, but I understand that I'm in good company. The Scots originally made their oatmeal porridge using salt because cream and sugar were very expensive.

My mother used to make a savoury oatmeal porridge, which wasn't very thick or thin in consistency, with vegetables in it. It's probably an acquired taste and I like it, probably because I grew up with it.
I have been known to have this not only for breakfast but also for lunch on days when I have only myself to cook for! This version of oatmeal porridge is easy to cook, healthy and very filling.

Savoury Oatmeal Porridge With Vegetables


1 1/2 tsp oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 tsp minced ginger

1 cup finely chopped/ sliced mixed vegetables
(I usually use all or some of these, depending on what I have - potatoes, green peas, green beans,  carrot, sweet corn and or green cabbage)

3/4 cup rolled oats

salt and pepper to taste


Steam cook all the vegetables (except ginger and onion) till just done. I do this in the microwave at 100% for about 5 to 6 minutes. Keep aside.


In a pan, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds, sauté and then add the ginger and onions. Sauté till the onions become soft. Now add 2 1/2 or 3 cups of water (depending on the required consistency) and the salt. Bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and the oats. Stir well, over medium heat, till the oats is cooked and the porridge becomes a little thicker in consistency. This porridge should not be very thick, but more like a thick soup. Season, to taste, with pepper.

Serve hot with fresh fruit on the side, and coffee/ tea for a very filling breakfast/ brunch. This recipe serves 2 people.

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July 20, 2009

Uppuma Kozhakkottai (Steamed Rice Dumplings) With Carrot-Onion-Coconut Chutney

Uppuma kozhakkattai (this is a mouthful, in more ways than one!) is typical breakfast fare in Palakkad Iyer homes. These dumplings are made from soaked and coarsely powdered rice, which are then steamed cooked, making for a tasty, healthy and filling meal.

Normally when we say kozhakkattai, the first thing that comes to most minds familiar with this food, is the steamed rice dumpling filled with a jaggery-coconut mixture. This kozhakkattai is usually made during the festival of Vinayaka Chathurthi.
Uppuma kozhakkatai (as the name tells you) is also a steamed dumpling but shaped after making an "Uppuma" from coarsely powdered rice.

It is slightly time consuming to make these kozhakkattai, but given modern day conveniences, they can made in 2 or 3 stages which makes the whole process much easier. I tend to serve them for Sunday breakfast, and sometimes as part of dinner when we have friends over.


1 glass raw rice*

1 1/2 tsp oil

1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 1/2 tsp black gram lentil (urad dal)

1 1/2 tsp Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)

2 dried red chillies, each broken into 3 pieces

a big pinch of asafetida powder

a sprig of curry leaves

1/3 glass fresh grated coconut

salt to taste

1 tbsp sesame seed oil

*Please scroll down to the end of the page to see what 1 "glass" measures as.

Raw rice (pachcha arishi) is untreated/ unprocessed rice, or shelled but uncooked rice hence the "raw" prefix. This is different from boiled, par-boiled or steamed rice.
Uppuma kozhakattai can also be made with boiled rice, but the texture would be different. Please do not use Basmati rice to make this. It doesn't make good kozhakkattais.


Wash and soak the rice in water for about 3 hours. Drain the water and put the rice on a large kitchen towel. Using your fingers, spread the rice out on a towel in a thin layer. This ensures that the extra moisture is pulled up by the towel. Leave the rice on the towel for about half an hour.

Coarsely powdered rice/ Rice rava

Then run the rice in a mixer/ grinder so that the rice is coarsely powdered in to a "rava". Do not grind into a fine powder. Please see the picture above.

Sieve the powdered rice, to remove the very fine particles. Keep the coarse rice powder aside. The fine rice powder can be lightly roasted (it can get spoiled if it is damp) and stored for some other use in the kitchen.
You may do this part of the recipe a day or two in advance. Store the coarsely powdered rice, in an airtight container, in the fridge.

Heat the 1 1/2 tsp oil in a big pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the lentils and stir fry till they turn golden brown. Now add the red chillies, curry leaves and asafetida powder.

Stir once and then add about 1 1/2 glasses of water for every 1 glass of coarse powdered rice. In this recipe, you should have about 2 glasses of coarsely powdered rice, so that means 3 glasses of water. This is the proportion that works for the rice that I use. This proportion of powdered rice to water can differ a little, depending on the rice you use.

If you are not sure how much water your particular variety of rice will require, you can start out with a ratio of 1: 1 1/2 of powdered rice: water. Keep a pan of water boiling on the other burner. If your rice has absorbed all the water you added and is still looking undercooked (put some in your mouth and if it still tastes raw), then add 1/2 a glass of boiling water at a time till the rice mixture seems cooked. I don't think any rice would need more than a 1: 3 ratio of water and about 1: 2 should work in most cases.

The rice "uppuma"

Add the salt and coconut, and allow this water to come to a boil. Once the water has started boiling, turn down the heat to medium. At this point add the coarsely powdered rice and keep stirring using your spoon to break up any lumps which may form.

Keep stirring until the mixture thickens and starts pulling away from the sides of the pan. This should take about 10 minutes or so. Now add the 1 tbsp of sesame seed oil, and keep stirring till the mixture becomes a cohesive lump/ ball. Take it off the heat and, using the spoon, break up the mixture a bit to allow it to cool faster. This is the "uppuma" part of this kozhakkattai.

Once the dough is cool enough to handle, knead the mixture well so it is smooth and not lumpy. Using your hands, gather up as much of the mixture as you can in your hand and shape it into an egg-shaped and sized dumpling. Shape all the mixture into dumplings.

If you are planning to break up this recipe into stages, you can make this the second stage of the recipe. Place the dumplings in a covered container and refrigerate. I usually do this at night if I'm serving the kozhakkattai for breakfast, on in the morning if they're to be served for dinner.

Steamed and ready to be served

Make sure the water in your steamer (whatever you use to steam food) is boiling. Steam cook the dumplings till they're done, which is about 10 to 15 minutes. You know they are done when you touch them, and they're no longer sticky.

Let the dumplings cool a bit (or they will be too soft and may break while removing) and then remove. Serve warm or at room temperature with sambhar or a coconut chutney of your choice. My personal favourite is kozhakkattais with milagaipodi.
This recipe makes about 12 kozhakkattais.

Onion-Carrot-Coconut Chutney

Here is one of the many coconut chutneys I make to serve with breakfast. A bit different from the traditional coconut chutney, the addition of the onion and carrot not only gives it a faintly sweet taste but allows me to cut down on the amount of coconut.

You can also cut down the coconut further (by half) by adding some toasted/ browned split gram or split chickpeas. This is not the ordinary chickpeas and I'm sure exactly what the English name for it is, but this gram is known as "pottukadalai" in Tamil and I believe "daria dal" in Hindi.


1 medium sized onion

1 medium sized carrot

1/2 cup fresh grated coconut

1 or 2 green chillies (according to taste)

a very small handful of fresh coriander

a small piece of tamarind (or about 1/4- 1/2 tsp tamarind paste)

salt to taste

For tempering:
1 1/2 tsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds


Grind all the ingredients (except those for the tempering) together, adding a little bit of water, into a fine paste which is not too thick or too watery. Remove from the mixer/ grinder/ blender bowl into a small serving bowl.
Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, pour this into the chutney, mix well and serve.
This chutney serves 3 to 4.

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July 18, 2009

A Bit of Mango Madness: Eggless Mango Ginger Muffins

Yes, mangoes are still very much around and not just on my blog. As each year goes by, I'm beginning to find the mango season here is getting longer. Mangoes disappear from our trees and the market, here, with the onset of the monsoons in June.
However, it is still summer in many other parts of India and the mango season continues a little longer there. Technology and progress (read efficient transportation, maybe new hybrid varieties and some genetic engineering?) are now ensuring we're getting summer mangoes in the middle of the rainy season!
In a couple of years, it wouldn't surprise me to see fresh mangoes in December, imported from some other part of the world!!

I have mentioned, previously, that I am actively trying to shorten my "bookmarked" list of recipes. Susan's Mango Bread with Cashews and Raisins and Arundathi's Mango Bread are two of those recipes and they partially inspired these muffins of mine.
Until this year, when I saw so many posts on various blogs dedicated to it, I never realized there was thing like "Mango Bread".
I guess it's really not surprising to find mango in bread. If applesauce, bananas, strawberries, carrots, pumpkin and zucchini can be in bread, why not mango?

I looked through a few recipes and realized that mango bread was basically a quick bread. Most recipes also seemed to use raisins and walnuts (which my daughter doesn't really like), and also called for 3 eggs, on the average. My guess is that this bread would need those eggs to make a crumbly/ fluffier textured bread.
I decided to make muffins muffins(which is also a quick bread) instead and wanted to see if I could come up with an eggless version.

A couple of unsuccessful attempts resulted in this recipe. I have used half of whole wheat flour and half of all purpose flour here. If you want a less dense muffin, please replace the 1 cup of whole wheat flour with all purpose flour. Please also feel free to add raisins and walnuts (I used cashewnuts instead, like Susan did) if you prefer them. I also used powdered cardamom as the spice here, as it really pairs very well with mango.


1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup demarara sugar (or brown sugar)

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

1 1/2 tsp freshly crushed cardamom

3 tsp baking powder

3 to 4 tbsps broken/ chopped cashewnuts

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup fresh mango purée

3/4 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 tbsp flax seed powder in 2 tbsp warm water

4 tbsp oil


Take two dry bowls.
In one bowl, put all the dry ingredients (the first eight ingredients on the list) and mix well with a fork. You might like to either increase or decrease the quantity of sugar depending on how sweet your mango purée is.

In the other bowl, put all the wet ingredients (the remaining five ingredients) and whisk together lightly.
Now pour the mixed liquid into the dry ingredients and fold everything with a light hand till just mixed. Remember these are muffins, so over mixing will result in tough tasteless muffins. A lumpy batter, showing slight streaks of flour is fine.

Spoon the batter into greased muffin pans (or pans lined with cupcake liners), so each depression is a little over 3/4ths full. If you like your muffins domed, fill them a little more, but be careful as sometimes the muffin batter will overflow while baking and make a mess!

Bake at 190C for 25 to 30 minutes till light brown on top and a skewer/ knife inserted into the muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
This recipe makes 12 muffins.

I am sending these eggless mango ginger muffins to Madhuram's Eggless (Whole Grain) Baking Event: Whole Wheat.

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July 16, 2009

Gopi Manchuria – An Indian In China? (Cauliflower Indian-Chinese Style)

Gopi is a common name in some parts of India even though I personally do not know anyone called Gopi. Recently however, I met my first Gopi, Gopi Manchuria to be more precise, but let me start at the beginning.

A couple of months back, we were driving down to Cochin from Goa. It had been a long drive and we were tired. It was after sunset and we never drive after sundown if we can avoid it. We had reached the town of Kasarkod and decided to find a place to stay for the night. Being new to the town, it took us a while to find a place that had reasonably comfortable rooms and served food too.

After a shower, we went down to the restaurant only to find that the menu had very few vegetarian dishes on it. It was late, we were tired and just wanted to eat something quickly so we could turn in at the earliest.

It took us two minutes to decide on chapathis, some plain yogurt and one of the four vegetable dishes on the menu, only to have the waiter tell us that "vegetarian is finished"! Apparently, some large group of people had just been in to eat and almost cleaned out their kitchen.
Further discussion with the waiter revealed that they could make us a "Gopi Manchuria", if we were willing to wait a bit. Maybe the long journey had taken a toll on our brains, but it took us five minutes to figure out he was offering us "Gobi Manchurian" and not a one way ticket to the outer reaches of China.
He was talking about Gobi Manchurian, a dish of deep-fried marinated cauliflower dumplings in a soya sauce based gravy, which is synonymous with Chinese food in India. To deconstruct the name, "Gobi" means cauliflower (in Hindi) and the "Manchurian" part of the name is to tell you that this dish is supposedly of Chinese origin!
Any restaurant, no matter how small or unimportant, will have Gobi Manchurian (you might sometimes not recognize it by the spelling) on their menu if they say they are serving Chinese food too.

In fact, my first introduction to this dish was in Palakkad, which was then just about as far away from Chinese influence as possible. My cousin and her husband had taken us out to dinner and this preparation appeared at our table under the name of Gobi Manjuri! I remember our being rather hesitant about trying out what looked like brown coloured lumps in a rather gluey looking sauce, even though we were assured it was good.

Now Gobi Manchurian is as Chinese as I am Martian. I am sure if this was served to anyone from China; they might look askance wondering what funny looking Indian food they were being served.
I don't mean this in a bad way. After all, "Curry" has become so famous in the U.K. that it is no longer thought of as Indian food but British, yet this very curry does not exist in India! There is a lot to be said about fusion cooking and adapting other cuisines to suit one's own palate.

My first attempt at indoor artificial light photography!

The truth is that Gobi Manchurian is the invention of Nelson Wang, an Indian chef of Chinese origin, the man behind the famous Mumbai restaurant, Chinese Garden.

I remember watching Nelson Wang being interviewed by Vir Sangvi, quite a while ago, and saying he invented the Chicken Manchurian (and the Gobi Manchurian, along the same lines, for his vegetarian customers) because he thought the regulars at his restaurant would more receptive to Chinese food if it was spicy and deep fried. The result was deep fried batter coated chicken pieces (or cauliflower florets) in a hot and sweet sauce. Nelson Wang came up with many such "Indianised" Chinese dishes and has pioneered an Indo-Chinese cuisine that is like none other in the world.

All I can say is that Nelson Wang knew his customers pretty well and this is one dish that has become representative of Indo-Chinese (may also be spelt "Chinees", "Chainis" or "Chainijj" depending on where you're reading your menu) cuisine all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.

Gobi Manchurian (or a Vegetable Manchurian which is another version of the same) can be a quite a tasty preparation if made well. Akshaya really likes this very much with noodles. I still remember her asking for it one evening and my searching for a recipe to try out at home.

I found a recipe in one of my oldest cookbooks, The Vegetarian Menu Book by Vasantha Moorthy. A look at the list of ingredients (this recipe uses tomato ketchup!) might make one wonder if cooking this is really worth the while.
I leave that decision to you, but remember this is a dish that has taken over the Indian Chinese dining experience and is a favourite with many. So, if you would like the recipe I use, here it is.


1 medium sized cauliflower (broken into medium-sized florets)

oil for deep frying

2 tbsp chopped spring onion greens, for garnishing

For the marinade:

3 tbsps soya sauce

1/2 tsp freshly crushed pepper

1/2 tsp garlic, minced (or paste)

1/2 tsp ginger, minced (or paste)

salt to taste

For the batter:

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup corn starch

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

about 3/4 cup water

For the sauce:

1/2 cup tomato ketchup

1/2 tsp red chilli sauce*


Mix together all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Put the cauliflower florets in the bowl, and mix well so they're well coated with the marinade. Let them soak in the marinade for about 20 minutes.

In the meanwhile, mix together all the ingredients for the batter in another bowl. Add the water carefully so that batter has a reasonably thick coating consistency.

Heat the oil for deep frying.
Remove 3 – 4 florets (at a time) from the marinade, with a spoon. Drain off the excess marinade from the florets; dip them in the batter so they're well coated with the batter. Carefully drop the batter coated florets, as one "lump" into the hot oil. You can deep fry about 5 or 6 such "lumps at a time. Fry the cauliflower fritters, over medium heat, till they're crisp and a nice brown in colour. Remove and drain on paper towels.

Do this frying no more than about half an hour before serving, as these cauliflower fritters tend to lose their crispness after a while.

For making the sauce:

*I sometimes have a bottle of "hot and sweet chilli sauce" on hand. If I have that, then I use about 1 1/2 tbsp of this (it's not as spicy as red chilli sauce) instead of red chilli sauce.

Pour the chilli sauce and the tomato ketchup into remaining marinade (after the cauliflower florets have all been fried). Mix well with a spoon and pour into a pan. Heat the sauce just till it starts bubbling. Take the pan off the heat.

This sauce should be a bit on the thicker side. If you feel it is too thick, you may add a couple of spoons of water to thin it down slightly, before taking the sauce off the stove.
I have seen "Manchurian" dishes where the sauce is thick and just coats the dumplings and some where the sauce is a little thinner and more like gravy.

To serve:

Place the fried cauliflower dumplings in a serving bowl and pour the sauce over the dumplings evenly covering them completely. Garnish with chopped spring onion greens and serve warm, with noodles or rice.
This recipe serves 4.

If you would like a slightly different take on the Gobi Manchurian, I can recommend two fellow food bloggers' recipes, because I have personally tried them out. Both the recipes are much lower in calories too.

1. Nandita makes a Steamed Vegetable Manchurian in Gravy which involves no deep frying at all and is much healthier on the whole.

2. A&N, two relucutant chefs have their own version which they call Pseudo Gobi Manchurian, where the cauliflower is stir-fried rather than deep-fried.

P.S. This post is just a humourous take on some incidents in my life and not intended to poke fun at or hurt any sentiments.

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July 14, 2009


You may have noticed that many of my recent posts are adaptations of recipes I "bookmarked" from other blogs. It just struck me that I had this long list of bookmarked recipes that was getting out of control. So I sat down and trimmed the list quite a bit. There's not much point in keeping stuff that I'm never going to make on this list, just because the pictures are so pretty!

Now that my list at a manageable level, I thought I would make and post as many of those recipes that I could and shorten the list further. I hope I'll be able to manage this because every time I cross one recipe off that list, it seems like I've already added 2 or 3 more!!!


These butterflaps were bookmarked from Cynthia's blog and I got the recipe from her. I have baked them a few times since but didn't have pictures of them to post. Now that I have those pictures, it wouldn't be right if I didn't post about them because they are so good.

Do you like warm lightly toasted and buttered bread, with the butter just beginning to melt as you bite into that piece of toast? And do you enjoy the sensation of lightly salted butter and warm, slightly crunchy yet soft bread in your mouth?

If you do, then you know why I had to post this recipe, because that's what eating butterflaps (warm from the oven) is all about. My butterflaps are nowhere near as pretty as Cynthia's are but don't let that prevent you from making them. They're worth the effort.


This recipe has a lot of butter in it, but sometimes too much of a good thing can be dicey. I try to keep my butter (and fat) consumption to the minimum for health reasons, so I have cut down on the amount of butter in this recipe. I also made some other changes to the original recipe.
My daughter liked both Cynthia's and my versions, though she liked the former a wee bit better.

This is the one that got away and had the last laugh!
A butterflap shark?

The first time I made this bread I followed Cynthia's recipe and if you have no "butter issues", please write to her for her recipe. I can assure you that it's worth making the butterflaps her way for the sheer buttery taste of those rolls.
But if you would like to try my version too, here it is.


1/2 cup warm water

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp oil

nigella seeds (optional)

1/4 cup (50gm) salted butter, softened*

1 tbsp salted butter, melted (for brushing on the butterflaps after baking)*

*The 1/4 cup butter is for spreading inside the dough before folding. Use good quality butter for this. The better the butter, the better your butterflaps will taste.

You can also make herbed butter or garlic butter and use it instead of plain butter. Cheese or herbed cheese spread is also an excellent option. I have done both and each one is delicious in its own way.


In a bowl, dissolve the honey and yeast in the warm milk and keep aside for about 10 minutes to proof the yeast.
Put the flours, and salt in another bowl (or food processor bowl), and make a well in the centre. Put the yeast mixture and oil into it and mix well till combined (or pulse a few times).

Now add enough water and knead well until a soft and elastic, but not sticky, dough is obtained. I usually put all the ingredients in the food processor and work everything into a dough. Then I keep adding water a little at a time and knead by hand, till I get the dough to the consistency I want.

Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, rolling the dough in it so it is covered with the oil. Cover with a damp cloth and allow the dough to double in volume (about an hour or so). Punch the dough down and knead for a couple of minutes. Divide the dough into six equal portions. Working quickly (or the dough will start rising again), roll each portion into a ball and gently roll out into a circle (about 3" to 3 1/2" in diameter).

Roughly divide the softened butter into 6 portions with a spoon and smear each portion of butter on a circle of dough, leaving the edges free.

Fold each dough circle over itself in half so it resembles a half moon. Seal the edges well; otherwise the butter will leak out when baking. Fold again half so the half moon now looks like a triangle. Please see Cynthia's step-by-step pictures of the procedure to understand the instructions better, if the above illustration isn't enough.

Press down the edges and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Bake the butterflaps at 200C for 20 minutes till golden brown. Take them out and immediately brush with melted butter, then cool on a rack.
This recipe makes 6 butterflaps.

Butterflaps aren't butterflaps if they're not brushed with melted butter. If you would still like to avoid the butter, you can brush the butterflaps with milk and sprinkle some nigella seeds on them and then bake them.

These butterflaps are going across to be YeastSpotted.


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July 12, 2009

Eggless Orange And Chocolate Zebra Cake

The zebra cake needs no introduction to most food bloggers. It's one of those cakes that scores pretty high on what my daughter calls the "wow" factor but requires no frosting/ icing or any such form of decoration. The cake itself provides all the glamour.

I first saw the zebra cake on Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook. In fact, I discovered Farida's blog soon after that particular post. This is probably the cake I have made the most number of times since, and the last few times I have made it without eggs too.
So it would only be fair to blog about this cake which has always got rave reviews for its appearance and taste.

I made this particular orange and chocolate version for my daughter's birthday and covered it with chocolate ganache. It was a good thing I took the pictures of the cake before Akshaya's friends arrived, or else I would have had only cake crumbs to show you all.

Farida's recipe makes a great cake as most of my daughter's and my friends would be happy to tell you. However, if you have problems with an "eggy" smell/ taste (I do, and my daughter has an extra sensitive nose for "egginess"), then you would probably be thrilled to have your cake and eat it too but without eggs.

Substituting 4 eggs successfully is a tall order and egg replacer isn't something that's available here. Even if it was, I'm not sure egg replacer would work well to replace 4 eggs.
Then I came across a Vegan Zebra Cake at Caffeine Heartbeats. She uses a vinegar cake recipe, which is something I've made before so I knew this one ought to work.

So I adapted her recipe a bit and it's no longer vegan. So now you have the option of a zebra cake with eggs, a vegan zebra cake or this eggless vegetarian cake! I have made all three versions, and personally this one is my favourite. This particular cake is also very easy to make because the ingredients are just mixed up together with a spoon.
If you would prefer a plain vanilla and chocolate zebra cake, just use milk in place of the orange juice and vanilla extract instead of the orange essence.


For the orange batter:

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened orange juice

1/2 tsp orange essence

1 tsp vinegar

4 tbsp oil

For the chocolate batter:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp dark cocoa powder (otherwise the stripes will not show up well)

2/3 cup sugar

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla essence

3 tsp vinegar

4 tbsp oil


Take two separate bowls. In one put all the ingredients for the orange batter and mix well with a wooden spoon. You don't have to beat the batter.
In the other bowl, do the same with all the ingredients for the chocolate batter.

Butter and flour an 8" cake tin. Starting with the chocolate batter, slowly pour a ladleful of batter right in the middle of the cake tin. Do not spread the batter. It will slowly spread out on its own eventually.

Now slowly pour a ladleful of the orange batter in the centre of the chocolate batter. Again, do not attempt to spread the batter. Next pour a ladleful of chocolate batter in the centre of the orange batter.

Keep alternately pouring the batters in a similar fashion till the batters are used up. For a detailed step-by-step explanation of this procedure, please refer to Farida's post.

Getting the layers right needs a steady hand and a little bit of practice. If your layers don't come out right, just run a knife/ skewer through the batter randomly and you will have a marbled cake. So you see, you really can't lose with this cake!

Slowly, without disturbing it, place the cake tin in the oven and bake at 190C for 45 minutes to an hour till a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes in the tin. Remove from the tin and cool on a rack.

Cover with chocolate ganache if you prefer. This cake really doesn't require anything else and is perfect as it is.

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