April 27, 2011

Flavoured Caramel Mousse (a.k.a Fake Maple Mousse!) in Almond Meringue Nests: Daring Bakers’ Challenge, April, 2011

It must be way past midnight of the 27th of April for Daring Bakers in Japan and Australia, while those on the west coast of the US are probably fortifying themselves with a cup of coffee to face the 27th. Here, in India, it’s past dinner time and I’ve just realised I should have posted my challenge by now. Since I don’t have too much time to think about or write up a detailed post if I want to meet the deadline, this is going to pretty much a “bare bones” sort of post.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at The Daring Kitchen!

I almost did not do this month’s challenge. Have you ever wondered what a movie would be without a hero or a heroine? Or how a book would fare without a central character for the story to revolve around? This month’s challenge was something of a similar dilemma for me because the central character here was “Maple Syrup” and we don’t get it in India, at least not where I live!

We had to make Maple Mousse and serve it in an edible container of our choice. Great challenge but how do you make Maple Mousse without maple syrup? I’ve never seen it or tasted it so I didn’t even know if I could substitute something for it.

Our hostess, Evelyne, suggested using butterscotch as a possible flavour substitute. When I asked my fellow bakers for information about the flavour/ taste of maple syrup, Audax suggested that “his tastebuds sensed maple syrup in this order - firstly a light caramel sweetness (which is a predominate flavour) with a soft front note of vanilla with a little coffee and cocoa and then a trace of curry leaf and then a distinct back note of fenugreek seed (the second most predominate flavour) and a touch of rum and white wine. The mouth feel is like thin runny honey (it tastes nothing like honey)”.

Abbhi suggested it tasted like Indian palm sugar to her, while Shaz said, “To my nose it has slight coffee undertones, something smoky/woody. Then of course there's the sweet taste, but I don't find it overly sweet, again, I think it's pretty smoky, like caramel + burnt hay (maybe?)”.

Their helpful suggestions gave me a faint idea about what maple syrup was supposed to be like but with all those flavour nuances involved there didn't seem any substitute that could come close to the original thing. Not unless I had ample research funds, a couple of years’ time, a well-equipped laboratory and accident insurance cover!

However, when my daughter heard the month’s challenge involved mousse, she wanted me to make it. She knew there was no maple syrup to be had, but for someone whose two most favoured flavours are vanilla and butterscotch/ caramel, the idea of a caramel mousse was irresistible!
So I decided to make a caramel mousse flavoured with some of those flavour elements I was assured were typical of maple syrup, a sort of “faux” or “pseudo” maple mousse if you’d like to think of it as such.

I adapted Carole Bloom’s Caramel Mousse with additions of creamy home-made paneer, jaggery (Indian unrefined palm sugar), some cocoa, coffee and fenugreek!
Flavoured Caramel Mousse


3/4 cup cream, divided into 1/4 + 1/2 (I used 25% fat)

1/4 cup Demerara sugar

1/4 cup powdered jaggery

1/4 tsp fenugreek powder

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tbsp strong coffee decoction

1/2 tbsp water

1 tsp honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

20 gm salted butter, softened

1/2 cup creamy paneer, ricotta


Put the sugar, jaggery, fenugreek powder and cocoa in a small bowl and whisk together a couple of times so they’re well blended.

Now put this along with the honey, coffee decoction, water and vanilla in a small heavy bottom pan and place on high heat. Allow it to come to a boil and stir gently a couple of times till the sugar has melted, looks syrupy and you get aroma of rich caramel. Take care not to burn the caramel because the mixture is brown in colour and the caramelisation is difficult to judge visually.

Take the pan off the heat. Add the butter and mix well till blended. In another small pan, heat the 1/4 cup cream and add that to the caramel whisking gently till well blended. Allow this to cool and transfer this to a container and allow it to chill till the caramel sauce is thick.

Beat the remaining 1/2 cup cream, with an electric mixer on medium speed, until it forms soft peaks. Take the chilled caramel out and just lightly beat/ whisk it to make it smooth, if it seems set. In another bowl, whisk the creamy paneer (or ricotta) by hand till a bit fluffy and add it to the caramel, folding it in by hand.

Next fold in the whipped cream till blended. Spoon the mousse into 6 equal portions, either into small glasses/ bowls and chill till ready to serve. This mousse should keep, if covered and refrigerated, for 2 days.

You may also pipe it out into glasses or edible serving containers just before serving. This recipe makes 6 smallish servings.

Almond Meringue Nests

If you will take a look at this month’s challenge on the various Daring Bakers’ blogs you will see an astounding variety and some very creative edible containers that have been used to serve the Maple Mousse.

I’m afraid the closest I could get to doing anything like that was to make Almond Meringue Nests. Once again it was my daughter’s love for meringue that was partially responsible for this decision. The other part was that I couldn’t think of anything beyond chocolate for an edible serving suggestion!

I discovered that one needs about 2 tablespoons per egg white to make a good stiff meringue batter. By trying to keep to this at a minimum, and adding lemon juice to stabilize my meringue, I managed to prevent my meringue nests from becoming cloyingly sweet. But then, who ever heard of a meringue that wasn’t sweet?

If you will look closely at my meringue nests you will see they are "golden" rather than white because of being about 10 minutes longer in the oven than they should have. This didn't make any difference to the taste though. My nests also look slightly spotted which is the result of the high humidity that I live with here.
So I'm hoping that all future Daring Baker challenge hosts would be challenging us  to bake stuff that doesn't need me to challenge the humidity which will get worse in the coming months of monsoon!

Almond Meringue Nests


3 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsps powdered almonds


Use egg whites that are at room temperature as they whip up to more volume.

Put the egg whites, almond extract and salt in a medium sized clean mixing bowl. Beat with a electric mixer until soft peaks form. When you lift the beater out of the whites the peak will curl. Add the lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar and beat well. Keep adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until the egg whites stand up in stiff peaks.

Gently fold in the powdered almonds. Without deflating the meringue batter, transfer to a piping bag with a star pastry nozzle or a ziplock bag.

Pipe the meringue into nests on parchment lined baking trays, leaving about 1” between them. Bake them at 130C (250F) for about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow the meringue nests to dry in the closed oven for 40 minutes.

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and gently peel the nests and store in air tight containers till required. This recipe makes 6 meringue nests about 3 1/2” – 4” in diameter.


There is no doubt what so ever that this mousse is sweet! And I understand that would have been the case even if I had used maple syrup. So if you have a sweet tooth and you would love to indulge it, then this is your dessert.

The mousse was good and I found the taste additions from the cocoa, coffee and fenugreek added an interesting twist to the caramel. Who knows, maybe I did get close to the taste of maple syrup after all. My daughter declared the mousse very pleasant, and crisp meringue never fails to please her! So this challenge was declared a reasonably good one, if not outstanding.

The light textured creamy mousse served in an equally airy but crisp almond meringue nest was an excellent combination. It wasn’t the most original combination of flavours or even a very creative edible serving bowl for the mousse but the softness and the crunch made a nice contrast in every bite.

For me personally, I’d have been happier if only I could make the meringue and the mousse a little less sweeter…….

I'm giving away two cookbooks, and if you would like to try your luck at winning one of them then please leave a comment at the giveaway post. The giveaway is open to bloggers and non-bloggers world-wide till the midnight of the 30th of April, 2011.
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April 25, 2011

Food Photography Basics #4: It’s All About Light – Exposure

In the next few posts in this series, we will be exploring the various aspects that control the amount of light in photography. Do remember that food photography, like any other kind of photography, is about photography first and food second so the basic concepts of photography apply here too. All the photographs in this post are going to be "egg-centric" for no other reason than that we've just been through an Easter weekend!
There are various factors that go into making a good photograph but it all boils down to light and well we get to know it and learn to use it. In photography, this means understanding exposure.

So, what is exposure?

As Wikipedia explains it, “Exposure is the total amount of light allowed to fall on the photographic medium (photographic film or image sensor) during the process of taking a photograph. So exposure is a measure of how bright your photograph can be, and in DSLRs the camera usually sets this automatically by default using an inbuilt metering system. If too much light comes into your camera you will have a blown out or overexposed image. If there’s too little light, the image will be dark or underexposed.

Talking specifically about shooting food photographs, most photographers prefer to shoot in “Aperture Priority” mode (where you decide the aperture, and ISO setting, and the camera calculates and sets the shutterspeed for optimum exposure). Yet sometimes one finds that the photograph is either overexposed (too much light) or underexposed (not enough light) by some degree.

The easiest way to correct this brightness, or lack of it, in your picture is by making exposure compensation adjustments. The exposure compensation slider is usually indicated on the camera as a graduated line (in my Canon 450D screen it is below the shutterspeed and aperture readings) progressing from a –ve value on the left, a “0” in the middle to a +ve value on the right. “0” is the base (the setting I’m assuming you shot the image you want to correct for exposure) from which you can move to the left (darker) or to the right (brighter), one stop at a time.

So if you move to the right one step from “0” to “1”, then your image will be twice as bright, and the next step to “2” will make it twice as bright as it was at “1”. Conversely your image will be half as bright at "-1” and half as bright as this at “-2”.

If this sounds confusing, just take a look at the photograph below and you will understand what I’m saying. You can see the image in the middle of the tile ("0") is the the one at optimum exposure (as decided by camera) on those on the left are overexposed and those on the right are underexposed. These phothographs were taken at aperture setting f /3.2 and ISO 100 using a 50mm f/ 1.8 II lens. The shutterspeed values changed according to exposure compensation levels.
This means that adjusting Exposure Compensation really is useful mainly in semi-manual modes like Aperture Priority, Shutterspeed Priority modes. In Manual mode you can adjust your settings to give you the exact exposure you're looking for.

1/30             1/60            1/125          1/250           1/400

This will correct exposure levels to some extent but however might not always give you the particular exposure level you desire. For this you have to also take into consideration which light metering mode will work best for your particular situation.

First let’s just take a look at what a metering system is.
A metering system measures the amount of light in your area of composition (the picture that is in your viewfinder/ frame) and calculates an average amount of light to decide the “correct” exposure for your photograph. This means that your final photograph is exposed just right, neither too bright nor too dark. However, the camera's metering system is designed to meter for about 18% grey with which it calculates the shutterspeed or aperture or exposure depending on your mode of shooting. While this is fine for exposure in average light conditions, the camera can miscalculate in a situations where there's a lot of white (or black in your frame. In such situations one can use a grey card to adjust exposure.

Then there are small hand held devices called light meters which will measure the light in the area of your frame or focus, and based on this you can calculate best shutterspeed and aperture settings for optimum exposure. A light meter is a good thing to have but not absolutely necessary and the DSLR’s inbuilt light meter does a reasonably good job most of the time.

Depending on the situation you are photographing you can select the most suitable metering mode for it. DSLRs usually come with 4 metering mode choices – centre weighted metering, spot metering and evaluative metering. Canon DSLRs also have a partial metering mode which is really a slight variation of the spot metering mode.

What you read might sound a bit confusing but if you try shooting in each metering mode, you will come to understand the differences. As I keep saying in every post, it takes practise and exploring each metering more to become comfortable with them and this will eventually help you figure the best metering mode for your photographs.

Evaluative Metering:

Depending on your camera, there will be numerous metering zones within your frame (mine has 35 metering zones). Evaluative metering reads the entire scene, and chooses the best overall exposure. This is a good metering mode to use for general photography and also if you’re not too sure what mode to use.

Spot Metering:

In this mode, the camera meters the light from a “spot” you decide on within your frame to give the desired exposure. Here, only about 1 - 5% of the frame is metered to calculate the exposure and the rest of frame is ignored. This is useful in a setting where your subject is backlit (light comes from the back) and would be silhouetted with the subject detailing showing up dark in your photograph. You can use spot metering to light up your subject better.

Partial Metering:

Partial metering is a variation of spot metering in some sense, as the camera uses only about 10-15% of the entire frame to calculate exposure. If there are very bright or very dark areas on the edges of your frame you can avoid that affecting the exposure of your photograph with this metering. This is also good for macro shots and backlit subjects except the camera meters a slightly larger area than in spot metering.

Centre-weighted Averaging:

Centre weighted average metering is somewhere between evaluative and spot metering. In the centre weighted average metering, the camera meters light from the centre as well as the other areas in the frame. It tends to concentrate between 60 - 80% of light sensitivity towards the centre of the image resulting in a good exposure.
This mode is less influenced by small areas of varied brightness at the edges of the viewfinder and good for a large variety of shots. This mode of metering is somewhere between partial and evaluative metering. This is a good mode to use when you want more control over what’s in the frame, especially around your area of focus.

Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB)

Sometimes the light situation can make it difficult it difficult to decide the settings which could give you the best exposure. It could be a situation, like photographing a frozen dessert perhaps, where you need to work quickly to get the perfect shot. At such times you could use the “Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB)” feature which most DSLRs have. To use this, you turn the AEB function and set the function. Once you depress the shutter button, the camera will take three shots at the same time of the same frame - one optimally exposed image, an underexposed and one overexposed. If your camera is in single shot mode you have to depress the shutter three times for the the three shots but just once if in continuous/ burst mode.

If you use AEB in either Aperture Priority mode or Shutter Priority mode you can have a little more control with the exposure as you can set the aperture or shutterspeed and the camera calculates the exposure depending on your settings.

So that’s all there is to exposure? Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, no!

Exposure (the amount of light in your photograph) is dependent on 3 other factors. These factors are equally important and as often referred to as points of the “Exposure Triangle”. These factors are Aperture, Shutterspeed and ISO. You can make changes in one or more of these to ensure a better or desired exposure for your image. Apart from affecting the amount of light in your images, changes in each of these factors will also affect your image in other ways.

(Source : Robert Ellis)

A larger aperture (smaller f-number and bigger opening) means more light but gives you a shallower depth of filed (DOF) or blurriness and vice versa.

A lower shutterspeed results in more light in the camera but can capture motion blur. A faster shutterspeed will mean less light but you can freeze motion in your images such as falling/ pouring motion of liquids.

A low ISO means low sensitivity to light which you can use in a well-lit situation. Low light conditions require higher ISO values but can end up making your photographs “grainy” or “noisy”.

In the following posts, we will see each of these three factors in detail and how they can make a difference in photographs.

If you have any questions about what has been covered in this post or otherwise, please leave a comment here or send me a mail and I will do my best to answer your questions.

Useful Links :

DSLR Metering Modes Explained

Metering Modes Explained

Understanding TTL Metering


The 18% Grey Card

Using A Grey Card For Correct Exposure

The Exposure Triangle

Automatic Exposure Bracketing

So Far In This Series

Food Photography Basics #1 : Do I Need A DSLR To Get Good Photographs?

Food Photography Basics #2 : Which Camera? What Lenses?

Food Photography Basics #3 : Getting Started

Finally, just a mention that I'm giving away a couple of cookbooks and you might like to give your luck a swing. All you need to do is leave a comment.

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April 20, 2011

Gluten-Free Cookies: A Review, Some Vanilla Bean Cookies And A Giveaway!

There are a lot of things I have learned food-wise since I started blogging about food. I never knew that there were so many people allergic to nuts and lactose intolerance was something I came across in my reading, simply because no one that I knew had any of these conditions.
Similarly, the term “gluten-free diet” was something I came across when I saw so many food bloggers talking about family members or friends who had Celiac Disease and had to necessarily adopt such a diet.

This would seem really funny because the South Indian community I belong to and whose style of cooking is what I follow in 90% of my daily cooking is actually gluten-free! We eat a rice based vegetarian diet and almost all our regular cooking as well as festive cooking and sweets/ desserts (except the ingredient called asafoetida) do not use any wheat or gluten. Now this was food we grew up with but I never recognised it as a gluten-free diet .

Of course, our traditional cooking does not involve baking being an avid baker, I have come to realise that it is not easy to bake without the very basic of the ingredients like flour, butter, sugar or eggs. Also having done a lot of baking without eggs, I know that while it can be difficult to substitute for these ingredients, it is not impossible.

So when Sellers Publishing sent me a review copy of Gluten-Free Cookies by Luane Kohnke, I was quite interested to see what the book would reveal. I know of a lot of fellow food bloggers who are excellent bakers, and who bake gluten-free on a regular basis but I have never consciously baked gluten-free. The only reason for this has been because the staples of this style of baking like gluten-free flour blends or binders like xanthan/ guar gum are not available where I live.

All the same I went through the book and found several recipes I could make with the ingredients I had on hand. Everyone who has teenagers at home can vouch for how hungry they can get. My daughter has started her summer vacation from school, and that means she has more time to think about food and get hungrier. Her two favourite flavours in ice-creams and bakes are vanilla and butterscotch/ caramel and as far as she’s concerned one just cannot have too much of it or go wrong with it.

That decided that I was going to try out the Vanilla Bean Cookies from the book. These cookies are very butter rich and use corn starch as the flour of choice. I expected to find some taste of corn starch in the baked cookie but am happy to report in the negative. The recipe says the chocolate chips are optional, but I would say go ahead and use it if you have it on hand. It definitely improves these cookies.

I made half the recipe in the book and used only 100gm of butter (my butter comes in easy to use 100gm slabs) instead of 1 stick (about 113gm) stated but my dough seemed too sticky to be defined as “dough”. I added a couple of tbsps of corn starch and that helped some.

Otherwise the cookies were good – like a flatter and slightly crunchy chocolate chip cookie. And no one will ever believe they’re gluten-free, unless you tell them so! My resident cookie expert pronounced them “quite good” which is heaping praises on it, if you know her. Her usual responses to my questions about something I’ve baked or cooked for the first time tend to range from “yuck!” or “this is awful”, when something hasn’t quite made the grade to ““there’s something not quite right about this” when its passable whereas “it’s okay” usually translates as good.

The recipe below is the full recipe as in the book. I used a half recipe and made 30 cookies (about 2 1/2” in diameter each).
Gluten-Free Vanilla Bean Cookies

(Adapted from Gluten-Free Cookies)


1 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean, cut into quarters

2 cups cornstarch

1/2 tsp fine grain sea salt

16 tbsps (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten lightly

1 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)


In a food processor, pulse together the sugar and vanilla beans pieces till they’re pulverised. Sieve the mixture to remove any seeds. (I didn’t sieve the mixture)

In a medium bowl, sift together the vanilla sugar, cornstarch and sea salt. Add the butter. With a pastry cutter, cut in the butter till the dough resembles coarse meal. Mix in the vanilla extract, egg and chocolate chips, combining thoroughly. Chill for 30 to 40 minutes.

Using a small scoop (I used a melon baller), shape the dough into 1/2" or 3/4” balls and drop onto parchment lined baking sheets, spacing them about 2 1/2" apart. These cookies are full of butter and will spread a lot!

Bake at 190C (375F) for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown. Cool on cookie sheets for one minute, and then transfer the cookies with the parchment sheets to wire racks and cool them completely.
Store the cookies in an airtight container for upto 1 week. This recipe makes 60 to 72 cookies.

Baker’s Note: You can buy premade vanilla sugar in gourmet food stores and online merchants. Make sure they’re gluten-free.

More about this book:

The introduction to this books starts with the sentence, “Cookies are one of life’s greatest pleasures” and Luane Kohnke sets out to make this true with her book on gluten-free cookies. Her book has a selection of 50 cookie recipes covering a variety of cookies.

The book opens with a detailed introduction to the world of gluten-free baking. She explains well and very concisely what grains/ flours are gluten-free and how to ensure that ingredients for baking are truly gluten-free. She also details the ingredients and equipment used in gluten-free baking, the various possible flour blends that can be used, as well as stores and online vendors from whom these can be sourced.

Recipes are short and concise but easy to follow, and each one is accompanied by a photograph making it visually pleasing as well.

The cookies in the book include –

Classic Cookies including Chocolate & Pecan Cookies, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Ginger Molasses Cookies and Oatmeal Almond Cookies With Dates;

Favourites With Children like Jam Thumbprints, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups and Sweet Cinnamon Snickerdoodles;

Fruit Cookies including Banana Bites, Lemon Drops, Date WALNUT Logs and Coconut Surprises;

Bars And Squares such as Macadamia Nut Blondies, Fruit and Nut Granola Bars and Rocky Road S’Mores;

And a whole lot of Meringues with names like Lavender Clouds and Fudge-Filled Drops! She also includes a chapter on special cookies for celebrations and special days.

Luane Kohnke, a gourmet cookie baker for more than 20 years, studied baking techniques and restaurant management at the Institute for Culinary Education in New York City. She also writes a blog featuring a lot of cookies, both regular and gluten-free. She developed an interest in gluten-free baking when a friend’s son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.

The Giveaway:

Going by the Vanilla Cookies I just made, I don’t think you need to have to be on a gluten-free diet to bake or enjoy the cookies in this book. Don’t think of these gluten-free cookies as “substitutes” for the real thing, but as a new experience in themselves. If you bake cookies, then you should be looking at these and here’s just the opportunity to make that happen.

Sellers Publishers, as always, have sent me an extra copy of Gluten-Free Cookies to giveaway to my readers. You can see a couple more cookies from this book here.

They have also sent me a giveaway copy of 500 Mediterranean Dishes by Valentina Sforza.
Mediterranean food is considered one of the healthiest diets in the world and there are probably very few who do not enjoy this style of cooking. The essence of this cuisine is in the use of fresh, unprocessed and locally produced ingredients.

One of the latest publications in their 500 Series of Cookbooks, this particular edition stays true to the hall mark of well-presented and colour coded recipes with variations on each recipe, accompanied by beautiful photographs. The book covers antipastos, tapas, mezethes; soups, salads, breads; whole grain and light pasta, cous-cous and rice; recipes incorporating eggs, cheese and other proteins; fruits and desserts too.
You can see some of the recipes from the book in some detail here.

So I’m giving away two books this time, one each to two lucky commenters here.
If you would like to have a chance at winning this book, please leave a comment at this post and I will enter your name in a random drawing. You do not need to do anything else, but please you ensure you leave a link to your blog or an e-mail id or someway I can contact you in the event you win.

This giveaway is open till the midnight of the 30th of April, 2011. The giveaway is open to everyone, and non-bloggers are most welcome too. I will ship worldwide.

Good luck!

This giveaway is closed!
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April 16, 2011

Quite A Bit Of A Pickle- Avakkai Urugai (Andhra Style Mango Pickles), Quick Chilli Pickle, Stuffed Chilli Pickle, Cauliflower-Carrot-Turnip Pickle & Lime Pickle! Oh, And Besan Parathas Too!!

I was in quite a bit of a pickle, literally and figuratively. I think the post title should give you an idea why! I have been told by some that it is because I am Libran and maybe that is one way to explain it. I have long had this tendency to swing between energy highs and lows. When I am feeling like doing things, you’ll find me rushing around trying to get a hundred things done, getting to everyone around me in the process, and then tiring myself out. On the other hand I have these periods when there’s so much to be done, but I just can’t seem to find the energy to get started with it.

We Indians love our pickles no matter which part of the country we belong to and, summer or winter, if there’s something we can make into a pickle we will. Given sheer variety of spices Indians cook with, it is not surprising that our pickles reflect this and I can’t say enough about the mouth-watering (pun intended!) kinds of pickles one can find here. Nowadays, the trend is store bought pickles but everyone knows it’s not the same as the home-made stuff.

So early last week, while in one of my energetic phases, I got this urge to get pickling. I’m Indian, love pickles, the summer’s here with mangoes and other vegetables and fruit that could be pickled, and I had any number of empty glass jars waiting to be filled. How many more reasons does one need to start pickling???

It started with some green mangoes. My friendly vegetable lady brought me some freshly plucked and very fragrant green mangoes at a bargain. I had previously bookmarked this, this, this and this to make. Yes, that’s a lot of pickle to be made!

So I bought a whole lot of chillies, perhaps not the exact kind requires for these pickles but I had decided to pickle chillies and came back with what I could get at the market.

Summer’s here, of course, and the winter vegetables are almost gone but I was lucky to find some winter carrots and turnips (shalgam).

Avakkai Urugai (Andhra Style Mango Pickles)

Every part of India that grows mangoes has its own way of pickling them, and it is difficult to choose one or two or even three which stand out above the rest. Each type of pickle invariably has something that’s unique about it and this includes the popular Aavakaaya mango pickle from Andhra Pradesh. Pickles from this state are very well known for their “fire” as people native to this state like their food very hot (from chillies). This is not surprising as almost 45% of the chilli production in India is from this state!

I still remember my first introduction to the Aavakaaya pickle when I was about 16. We were having dinner at my parents’ friend’s place. They belonged to Andhra Pradesh and I was thrilled to see a mango pickle at the table. Suffice to say that I spent the rest of the evening wiping my tears and nose, and with my tongue on fire which sensation eventually subsided to leaving it numb.
I have always been careful with pickles since and never dive in when tempted and have learnt the hard way that a taste first is prudential.

So every summer, once the mangoes are here Aavakaaya is one pickle I always make along with Maangakari (Quick Mango Pickle), Maangai Thokku and Chundo (Sweet And Spicy Mango Pickle). The traditional Aavakaaya doesn’t have chickpeas in it but I happen to like this version too so I’ve made it that way.

For this pickle, you need sour green mangoes which are hard, still somewhat tender but have central cores which have started becoming hard. You need a very sharp knife to cut through this core, and the inedible seed has to be discarded. Then cut each mango half into approximately 1/2” pieces. Oh, make sure your mangoes are completely dry to start with.
Avakkai Urugai (Andhra Style Mango Pickles)


6 smallish green mangoes (cubed ~ 2 cups)

1/2 cup dried chickpeas

2 tsp salt (or to taste)

3 tsp red chilli powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1/2 cup sesame oil

1/4 tsp asafoetida


Put the mango pieces and the chickpeas in a steel or glass bowl and add the salt, chilli powder and turmeric powder. Stir gently, to coat the pieces, and keep aside.

Heat an iron kadai/ wok/ skillet and dry roast the mustard and fenugreek seeds (do not brown), over medium heat, till they start giving off an aroma. Take them off the heat, allow to cool, and then grind the seeds to a fine powder in a mixer/ blender.

Heat the sesame oil in the same kadai/ wok/ skillet but do not let it reach smoking point. Add the asafoetida to this and take the oil off the heat. Add the powdered mustard and fenugreek to the oil mix and allow it to cool.

Pour this oil over the mango pieces and mix well with a spoon, using a folding motion of the hand. Transfer the pickle to a sterile glass jar, and store at room temperature stirring the contents once a day, for about a week.

The pickle can be eaten in about 3 weeks and should keep without refrigeration. This recipe makes enough pickle to fill a medium glass jar. For larger quantities, increase proportions of the ingredients as required. Serve with rice and yogurt for the best combination.

Anita’s Quick Chilli Pickle:

This pickle caught my attention when Anita posted it because it is one of my personal favourites. Not ever having made this pickle, I just had to make it. I never knew this was a Rajasthani pickle and they apparently use a variety of green chillies called “Athana” which is long and fleshy.

A very easily made pickle, the main flavours you get are salt, mustard and a bit of tang. The chillies, of course, lend the “fire” but this is not a very spicy pickle as pickles go. My advice would be to choose the longish green chillies which aren’t very hot to make this pickle.

Since I followed Anita’s recipe more or less, you can read it at her blog. As she says, it’s a great accompaniment to any Indian meal, parathas, burgers and hot dogs. And you definitely need to try it out with south Indian curd rice (yogurt and rice).

Rajani’s Stuffed Green Chilli Pickle:

Rajani’s “bharwan mirch ka achaar” or stuffed green chilli pickle was another pickle I had planned to make. Since I was buying chillies to make Anita’s pickle, I bought enough to make this one too. This pickle is probably a Rajasthani one too, and here the chillies are slit and stuffed with a “masala” (mix of powdered spices) before being pickled.

Again, it is best to use the mildly hot kind of long, green chillies unless you can find the red winter chillies Rajani says are the best for this pickle. I followed her recipe more or less, just that I used a quarter of her recipe, reduced the turmeric by half, and I used sesame oil rather than mustard oil. I know that makes a lot of difference to the final flavour of the pickle but we don’t like the taste/ smell of mustard oil.

This pickle is really good with parathas and dal chawal (rice and lentils) but my favourite combination is with “thayir chaadam” (south Indian curd rice/ yogurt and rice).

Madhur Jaffrey's Punjabi-Style Pickle (Cauliflower-Carrot-Turnip Pickle):

This sweet and sour pickle uses typical north Indian winter vegetables and since they’re available here in Goa, I thought I’d try out this pickle I saw on Anita’s blog. We don’t like pickles which are made with vinegar and so I hesitantly approached making this one. It was the sight of those little red turnips (shalgam) at the market for the first time this winter that finally made me decide to give this a chance. Red juicy and sweet winter carrots are in plenty and cauliflower is something we seem to get here the year round.

I was going to use Anita’s recipe, but her recipe needs curing the pickle in the hot sun. Now wouldn’t it just happen that as soon as I decided to make the pickle that the skies started clouding over? The days are still hot but one needs a strong sun work its magic over the vegetables and spices to make the pickle!

That’s when I found Madhur Jaffery’s Instant Punjabi-Style Pickle which was more or less like Anita’s version except the sun had no business here, which I used. Imust emphasize it as always better to stick to the written word when you’re in unfamiliar territory, at least the first time round. This was the first time I had made a pickle using vinegar as the main preservative!

Of course, the sun does give a flavour to pickles that no amount of cooking can re-create so this pickle was definitely different in that aspect from Anita’s. I was pleasantly surprised to find the pickle wasn’t all that vinegary to taste and for once, I have ended up liking a pickle with a vinegar base. This is another pickle that is very good with parathas!

Simran’s Mom’s Lime Pickle:

I guess the summer’s got to a lot of us food bloggers in India, at least the ones whose blogs I try to read regularly. Simran had posted this pickle on her blog and just looking at that picture brought back memories of eating this pickle in homes of my parents’ friends.

When we first came to Goa, we had this “Aunty and Uncle” couple (all elders, family or otherwise, who are not specifically designated by a defined relationship, are Uncles and Aunties in India) who were our neighbours. Now this Aunty was a fantastic cook and I remember her lime pickle which looked and tasted like this.

I used a quarter of Simran’s recipe and kept to it more or less. I didn’t make any changes worth mentioning. This pickle takes some time, about 2 weeks or so, to reach “maturity” compared to the others. The salt, spices and the sun have to work their magic till the limes soften to an almost mushy consistency.

One more interestingly spiced sweet and sour pickle where the “heat” comes from the black pepper this time, and not the ususal chillies or red chilli powder. This is a north Indian pickle so you’ve got to try it with parathas, though you might be forgiven for just dipping you finger into the jar for a taste!

I’m now the very happy owner of a fresh batch of a variety of pickles. My pickling stint is far from done as I still have some more Mango pickles and a carrot pickle to make, and who knows, I might just discover some more pickles I would be tempted to make.

And just in case you are looking for something other than the routine chappathis and parathas to serve with the pickles, I suggest trying these very flaky and absolutely delicious besan parathas which Anita made for Manisha and family when they went visiting her recently. Manisha has posted them with detailed pictures and a write-up on how to make them.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank Asha who organised this auction to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross so they may continue the good work they have been doing tirelessly. I’m happy to have been a part of the small group of bloggers along with Liren, Simone, Trissa and Vanille who were part of this effort.

Our special thanks to all those who did bid against the various items on auction, and helped us raise USD 925 for the Japanese Red Cross. You can see the details below. The winners of the items will be receiving e-mails from Asha with further details.

Item                                                         Winner                           Amount

Breakfast Basket (Asha)                          Arun Manickavasagam     $100

PB & J Hamper (Asha)                    Nancy Eatough                 $200

Afternoon Tea Basket (Liren)                  Nancy Eatough                 $150

Dutch Basket (Simone)                           Sarah Samuel                    $100

Eggless Decorated Cookies (Aparna)      Sarah Samuel                    $25

Margaret Fulton Favorite (Trissa)            Maria Pearcy                    $45

Stafanie Alexander Gift Set (Trissa)         Brendan Doggett               $275

Kiwi Basket (Vanille)                              Robin Cammarota             $30

                                                                                        Total    $ 925
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April 12, 2011

To Market, To Market, To Buy Some………………..

One place I would love to show you around, is the market where I shop for my vegetables and fruit. I live in Panaji (also known as Panjim) in Goa and for me, nothing quite compares to the experience of going to the market, seeing fresh and seasonal produce. Though a lot of it is grown locally and brought to the market each morning, fresh from the fields, most of the produce comes in daily by truck from neighbouring states. The new market complex where the market has been housed for the past few years doesn’t have the charm of the old market, but is less congested as there’s a lot more space now.

Since a real, ordinary tour is out of question for geographical reasons, a virtual tour is all I can do. I have wanted to do this for a while, but every time I go to the market I’m carrying back my week’s quota of shopping and there’s no place for a camera or photography in that.
One of the few advantages of having to ferry around a teenager to and from her classes is the “waiting” time between “drops” and “pick-ups”! I almost always do my reading in this time, and in the past year I have taken to carrying my camera with me as well.

Last week I had about an hour to spare in the morning and I put it to good use wandering around the market, this time with my camera. I’m afraid some of my photographs are a bit blurred, but the Panaji Municipal Works didn’t have photography enthusiasts on their priority list when they built this new market. The effects of low ambient light, bright fluorescent lights and the absence of a tripod can be seen in some of the photographs.

What you can see in my photographs is about 10% of the market which doesn’t include the fish market, the flower stalls, the part that sells grain, lentils and groceries, the shops selling kitchen ware, clothing, home décor stuff and all those knick-knacks, etc.

So, join me as I take you on a little virtual tour of the market in my part of the world. I hope you enjoy this little glimpse of what my weekly fruit and vegetable shopping entails.

This is a cartoon depiction of a typical Goan market scene by Goa’s very own Mario Miranda. This cartoon panel is one of three or four that decorate the walls inside the main market building.

These women are selling green mangoes, okra, red pumkin (lal doodhi/ mathan), drumsticks (shinga/ murungakkai), snake gourd (padval/ podavalangai), spinach, yard long beans and even some flowers!
The market has stalls and enough space inside, but you will find women from the villages on the outskirts and within Panaji bringing fresh vegetables from their gardens/ fields for sale. They're here early in the morning, selling seasonal vegetables most of the m leave by about 10:00am or 11:00am once they've sold everything.

Two ladies selling vegetables, one outside the market and one inside.
The lady on the left swas sitting outside selling sweet potatoes and eggplant. This particular variety of puple eggplant is big (about the size of a large coconut) and has very little seeds. This is the season for them and they are good for dishes like "baingan bhartha" and other such dishes that require roasting the eggplant.
The lady on the right was taking "forty winks" till her customers started turning up.

Coconuts are an important and essential part of Goan cuisine. This lady also sells the local variety of small and sweer yellow bananas called "elchi/ velchi". I believe they're supposed to have the flavour of cardamom (hence the name, from "elaichi" for cardamom), but maybe my taste buds aren't sensitive enough because I've never caught the flavour int hose bananas!

Freshly pressed extra virgin coconut oil for sale. Many of the coconut sellers at the market also offer coconut oil for sale. The oil is extracted in the traditional oil presses and no commercially produced coconut oil comes even close in terms of taste and flavour!

Two local variety of beans that are in season now. On the left are cluster beans (chitki/ kothavarakkai) and on the right are the extra long variety of yard long beans (vaal/ payaru). You can also keep seeing a lot of green mangoes in many of the pictures, and the ripe mangoes have just started arriving.

One thing I really love about Panaji Market are the flower stalls. Flowers are an important part of Indian life since they're very much a part of our rituals and traditions. The man on the left is stringing flowers into garlands, which will look like those hanging behind him or those in the baslet on the right.
Flower garlands with mango leaves strung in between are considered an important requirement especially when auspicious ceremonies being conducted.
Apart from being used to decorate the alter in churches and chapels and homes, Goans have a practise of gifting bouquets on important occasions. Even outside the market, one can find numerous corner flower stalls seeling the most beautiful variety of flowers either as bunches or in elaborate arrangements.

Here is a simple flower basket arrangement of yellow roses. It was too early to photograph more as the stalls were still unpacking fresh flowers. The guy on the left is selling a variety of areca nuts, betel leaves and paraphernalia required by paan chewers. Areca nuts and betel leaves are also bought for Hindu religious traditons and rituals.

Goa being a tourist destination, especially with foreigners, means that there is a demand for all kinds of cuisines which demand traditionally non-Indian vegetables, fruit and herbs. While most five star hotels and upmarket restaurants here source their requirements of these from the suppliers directly, one can still find them being sold by many of the stalls at the market. American sweet corn, aspapargus, zucchini, Chinese cabbage, cherry tomatoes, different kinds of lettuce, a variety of fresh herbs including celery, parsley, thyme, rosemary, basil and oregano are now easily available but for a price.

These avocados are grown in India but we now also have fruit from all over the world including kiwis from New Zealand, pears from South Africa, Fuji apples and pears from China, grapes, plums and the whole variety of apples (Golden Delicious, Garnny Smiths, Gala and so on) from the U.S.!
Two days back I bought Galangal for the first time and last week I discovered a stall selling "FRESh NooDLES". If you take a good look at the picture (click on it for a larger image) you can see he has green and yellow zucchini, red cabbages as well as Hershey's Syrup, Nutella, Pickled Olives and Tabasco on his shelves!

Our summers are very hot and the only thing, in my opinion, that makes them bearable are the mangoes. Some might argue with me, but if you have eaten Indian mangoes you know they're among the best in the world. And I don't mean the much hyped "Alphonso" variety which isn't a patch on some other varieties we get in India.
In Goa it is also the season for cashew fruits (and nuts naturally). Here the cashew apple (as the fruit is known) is processed to make a rather potent (and smelly, if I may say so) alcoholic drink/ liquor called "feni".

Summer in south India is also the season for the jackfruit. It is a fruit that has been compared to the Durian though I believe it comes nowhere close to that legendary fruit in terms of small or taste, thankfully!

In my traditional Palakkad Iyer cuisine, we use this fruit in its raw form as well as when it is ripe. The raw jackfruit is cooked into a variety of savoury dishes featuring a lot of coconut. We also make a kind of pappadum (deep-fried crisp) with it. Raw jackfruit chips/ crisps fried in coconut oil are another absolutely delicious thing to make.
The ripe jackfruit is eaten as it is or cooked into desserts and sometimes preserved into a kind of thick jam with jaggery. This jam is used as filling in sweets or made into a coconut milk pudding called "payasam/ kheer".

Jackfruit is not one of my favourites and I tend to avaoid it though its popular with my family. Cutting it, cleaning it and removing the edible flesh is a rather complicated, messy and time-consuming job. Luckily for people like me, one can find pieces like these for sale which makes life a whole lot easier. It also means that small families don't have to wonder about what to do with a whopping big jackfruit!

Big, juicy and sweet pineapples. Another fruit which has started making its appearnce at the market. Papayas and watermelons too.

Another fruit which I've been seeing a lot in the past couple of weeks is the rose apple, wax apple, love apple, water apple or whatever you call it. Back home we call it "champakkai". Funnily enough, I've been seeing only the pale green variety and not the more commom reddish pink kind.

With the cool winter almost gone, the last of the strawberries are around, but giving way to the more seasonal sweet green seedless grapes and "loose jacket" oranges (as we call our Tangerines) of the summer.

Limes (not lemons) become very expensive in summer because they're in demand for making the most popular of all summer thirst quenchers - "nimbu paani" (lemon water/ lemonade). The best time to buy them is in winter when they're cheaper and can be made into a variety of delicious lime pickle.

Another favourite summer thirst quencher - watermelons! One can find these striped kind or the smaller dark green variety without stripes which is sweeter. Whatever kind, watermelon is best when eaten chilled.

One of the vegetable stalls at the market. This vendor catches up with the news in the morning paper before his business perks up.

You may be mistaken, thinking this is ginger. That's fresh turmeric roots. Tender turmeric roots make great Indian style pickle while the dried root becomes turmeric powder or haldi.

That's red pumpkin (lal doodhi/ mathan) being cleaned to remove the seeds and the "cobwebby" centre. Such little acts of consideration make the average home cook's life easier when it comes to preparing vegetables for cooking.
The lady is the photograph is using a tradition "knife-cum-coconut scraper" (for want of a better word) to do this. One needs practice to cut vegetables on this implement and I remember my grandmother, who rarely used a knife, chopping vegetables on this in half the time I could with a knife! In my home, this is called an "aruvamanai" and it is made of a wooden base which can be sat on comfortably. One end of the base has a piece of iron fashioned such that the top edge is sharp like a knife and the end od the metal blade is flattened with a "toothy" edge which is perfect for scraping coconuts.

And don't you love those bangles on that lady's wrists?

Okra so fresh that it feels crisp when you break it! And pumpkin blossoms too. I have never cooked with them but I know they can made inti a stirfry with coconut and green chillies and they can be batter fried too. Next visit to the market and I'm buying some before they're gone.

There are plenty of sweet potatoes too these days. I have always seen the pink coloured ones and am seeing these white ones (well they're dirty and need cleaning) for the first time. Need to make some oven fries soon.

A view of some of the stalls from a distance. I don't how anyone (at least, us food obsessed types) can be anything but happy at the freshness and colour that comes with a visual feast like this. I'm not particularly fond of shopping but I do enjoy going to my market, though I prefer not to dwell on the mundane tasks like lugging home the bags bulging with purchases or having to sort and put them away!
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April 8, 2011

Figolli (Maltese Almond Filled & Decorated Biscuits) – An Eggless Version

If you are looking for the traditional Maltese Easter pastry then you are probably at the wrong place, but I have it on authority that I’ve done a decent job considering that 3 weeks I didn’t even know what Figolli were! I know very little about Malta beyond where it is situated on the world map and a bit that I have learnt about from books, magazines and various television programmes. I know even less about Maltese cuisine so these Figolli I’ve made probably aren’t very authentic though I have gone with the spirit of this Maltese Easter pastry while giving it my own twists.

I almost didn’t make these almond filled and decorated biscuits (call them cookies if you want to) which would have been a pity considering how good they are. Nanette, who blogs at Gourmet Worrier has roots in Malta and lives in Australia. She thought of creating and celebrating a World Figolli Day to keep the tradition of making Figolli, and put out an announcement to this effect on Facebook.
I vaguely remember seeing something about it, but it wasn’t until Meeta brought it to my notice, that I paid it any attention. Now I’m all for doing whatever we can to preserve as much of tradition, culture and cuisine so we can pass them on to our children, and it is equally nice to discover new ones too.

Some pictures I saw of decorated pastries, Nanette’s post on making Figolli with her children last year and a few other links got me interested. I figured one couldn’t go very wrong with decorated buttery almond filled biscuits. Figolli are not very difficult to make, and I agree with Nanette that if you can work with flour, butter, eggs, sugar and almonds, you can make them too. I even left the eggs out!

Searching the net for information on this Maltese confection was rather like looking for the proverbial “needle in the haystack”. What I gathered was that Easter in Malta is incomplete without the very popular Figolli (singular – Figolla) and other typical Easter confections like Kwarezimal (Lent sweet cakes), Sfineg (Deep Fried Pastry Puffs) and Hobz ta’ l-Appostli (Bread οf Apostles).

Figolli are large and flat baked pastry biscuits that are cut out into shapes, sandwiched with an almond filling and then decorated with chocolate and/ or icing and small easter eggs. I believe that traditional shapes for Figolli were shapes like fish, lambs, Easter baskets, figures of a man and woman, etc., though other shapes like hearts, fish, butterflies, mermaids and bunnies are quite popular nowadays.

Traditionally Figolli were meant as Easter gifts for children after the Lenten period, but I’m sure a lot of adults must have also indulged themselves. It is thought that the name “Figolla” comes from a corruption of the Sicilian or Italian word “figura” or “figurella” which means figure.

In the olden days, it seems children would get up early on Easter morning in a procession beating drums in celebration, and I understand processions are still a part of the Easter celebrations. Even though Figolli are made a little ahead of Easter they are not eaten until Easter Sunday. It is still a tradition in many Maltese households for children to get their Figolli blessed by the local Parish priest after Easter morning mass.

I took a look at the few Figolli recipes on the net and this one from LadyLunchalot (interesting name for a blog!) appealed to me. I have tried to keep to the spirit and as close to the Figolli recipe as possible but decided to put my own twists to it.

The first thing I did was make my Figolli eggless, so the biscuit pastry, the filling and the icing are all made without egg. Figolli can be covered/ decorated with chocolate as well and I absolutely adore chocolate but for once, I thought I would dispense with the chocolate decorations.
My “chocolate tooth” however, refused to be beaten into submission and kicked in so I couldn’t resist adding a few semi-sweet chocolate chips while putting in the filling in each Figolla. After all, chocolate does pair wonderfully with orange since I was using the orange blossom water/ extract that Finla had sent me some time back.

We don’t celebrate Easter so no Easter eggs at home and they are yet to put an appearance in the shops. So I left out the Easter eggs on my Figolli though I did decorate a few with halved chocolate covered wafer balls and Cadbury Gems ((Indian equivalent of Smarties/ M&Ms), to keep with tradition.

I stuck to round and heart shaped Figolli as those were the only 2 cutters I had of the size I wanted (3" wide). Pointy shapes like stars , unless they are large, take more effort to fill, seal and decorate. Traditionally, Figolli are made as large biscuits, but I thought smaller single serve biscuits would be easier to distribute.
And when it came to decorating them, I sort of let my imagination go so you will find all sorts of non-Maltese influences including my favourite “mehendi/ henna” style patterns on them.
Figolli (Maltese Almond Filled & Decorated Biscuits) – An Eggless Version

(Adapted from Lady Lunchalot)


For the biscuit pastry:

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

100g butter, cold

Grated rind of 1 lemon

1/4 cup cold milk

For the almond filling:

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/8 cup cold milk

Grated rind of I lemon

1 tsp orange flower water (or 1/2 tsp orange extract)

1 1/2 cups almond meal*

1/3 to 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

For decorating:

*Almond meal is not available here, so I made my own. I store almonds in the freezer and find they’re easier to powder when processed straight from the freezer. Run 1 cup whole almonds with 4 tbsps granulated sugar (in two batches) till powdered fine. My almond powder had very small pieces and wasn’t very fine, which I thought was alright since this was to be used as filling.


First, make the biscuit pastry. Put the sugar, flour and baking powder into a large bowl and whisk a couple of times to mix well. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and rub into the flour till it resembles breadcrumbs. Add the grated lemon rind and about 3/4 of the milk and lightly knead into a dough. Do not over handle the dough. Add as much of the remaining milk as necessary to bring the dough together. It might feel a little sticky.

Shape the dough into a smooth ball, then flatten into a disc and wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least an hour (or overnight if you choose).

Now make the almond filling. Mix all the ingredients, except the chocolate chips, till well blended. You can refrigerate this filling overnight, in an airtight container.

Now make the figolli. I made smaller figolli using 3” cookie cutters.

If your biscuit pastry has been refrigerated overnight, it will be hard so let it soften at room temperature till it can be rolled out comfortably. Dust your work surface with flour, and roll the pastry out to 1/4” thickness. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters, cutting two same shapes for each figolla (sandwiched biscuit).

Place some almond filling and spread it about 1/4", on each shape leaving space at the edges for sealing. Don’t put in too much filling or your figolli will bulge and make it difficult to decorate. It’s also easier to use shapes that are smooth rather than pointy, from the point of filling and sealing the shapes.

Moisten the free edge with water (or milk) and place the matching pastry shape over the filling and lightly press/ pinch the edges together to seal. Place on an ungreased baking tray. Bake the figolli at 180C (350F) for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Let them cool completely on a rack. Then decorate with chocolate or icing as preferred. I used my Eggless Royal Icing to flood and ice my Figolli as well as Cadbury’s Gems (Indian equivalent of Smarties/ M&Ms) and chocolate covered wafer balls as decorations.

This recipe gave me 10 Figolli (about 3” across).


We love these biscuits and they would make perfect gifts for family and friends even when its not Easter! They're shortbread-like and the citrusy flavour in the almond filling is lovely. Since my eggless icing is made with lemon juice, the tang of that also worked well with these biscuits. They are on the sweet side, but the suagr can be adjusted to suit one's taste.

The best part is that you can actually make these biscuits at one go or over a couple of days. I made the biscuit dough and the almond filling on one day and baked them the next day. I di the icing/ decorating the third day.
And despite using milk to make my filling, I found these biscuts kept in airtight containers for about 5 days without refrigeration even in the hot and humid tropical climate I live in.

The World Figolli Day celebrations are open from the 18th to the 23rd of April, 2011, so if you think this is your cup of tea, do join us and the fun.

May I also once again mention the auction to raise money for the Japanese Red Cross? Japan has just suffered one more earthquake and every little bit we can do would make a difference. The bidding is open till the 10th of April, 2011 and I'm hoping you will join us in our humble efforts. Thank you.
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