Bengali

Shahi Gulab Bagh /Edible Rose Garden

8:09 AM

Two of my favorite activities, other than work are craft and cooking and if there’s something that combines these two, I got to try that almost immediately.  Its only yesterday Hubby brought this month’s issue of Sananda (Bengali women’s magazine from the famous ABP group) this time they are featuring different types of Pithe (some homemade sweets). Before that I was planning to make something sweet for JFI: Saffron and finally decided on Chhanar payes but after seeing the picture of these Shahi Gulab Bagh I had to make them. My hands almost itched to knead the dough, carve the roses and to see the final outcome. Sometimes foods could look so lovely, and the best part is it tastes equally good. It’s like our Chhanar Jilipi (Jalebi with cottage cheese) or Gulab Jamun. Hubby is very excited to see these and could not believe I made them. He so eagerly wants to taste some but cannot bring himself to eat these beauties :-)


This recipe does not call for many ingredients and you can make it any time you want. I simply loved making them…who would not? You get to create such pretty things and get to eat them too. You just need to be patient as these are very delicate and requires careful handling. Guess these would make a great kid’s party item where your baby would be proud and happy to present such exquisite item to their buddies. I really wanted my Son to enjoy these delicate roses but he is too young for that. So have decided to present them to him on his 5th birthday (…did I forgot to mention that am a dreamer!!!)

With this dish the Recipe Marathon and the year comes to an end. This Year is very memorable as God has blessed us with our baby and made us complete as a family. As for the Recipe Marathon, I enjoyed every bit of the challenge and being true to the rules, made brand new things in my kitchen. Here I end the year 2009 with a sweet note and my dreamer self tonight will make many a resolution to break them on the month end itself.
Shahi Gulab Bagh
Ingredients:
For the dough
Flour: 1 cup
Oil for shortening: 11/2 tsp
Khoya: 2/3 cup; (I used some karapaker sandesh; A bengali sweet)
Milk: 1/3 cup
Saffron: little
Oil: for deep frying.

For the syrup
Sugar: 1 cup
Water: 11/3 cup
Saffron: little

Method:
Microwave the milk for 30 seconds. Add a pinch of saffron, mix and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Grate the khoya finely mix with flour. Add the shortening mix.

Use the milk to knead this into a firm and soft dough. (Add milk very little at a time as the khoya will leave a lot of moisture when comes to contact with milk.) cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.

In the meantime prepare the sugar syrup by boiling the ingredients on low heat for 6-7 minutes.

Keep it warm.
To make the rose, pinch little dough and with your finger tips flatten in a shape of rose petal (heart shape). Make 6-7 petals at a time. Twist and add them one by one to create rose. If needed consult this tutorial. Use water to stick one petal to the other.Make all the roses and keep them covered.


Now heat oil for deep frying. Once the oil is hot switch off the gas.

Put the roses one at a time and fry them till light brown. It takes few seconds to cook so be very careful. The heat of the oil is very important. If very hot the roses will burn on outside with uncooked inside.

Keep the fried roses on an absorbing paper.

Dip them in sugar syrup for a minute before serving.

If you don’t have the patience for crafting the roses just make small balls, deep fry and soak them in syrup. The taste will be same.

Sending this to JFI: Saffron at Chef in You. started by Indira.


WISH YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY AND PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR 2010!


Tags:
pithe, pitha, Bengali sweets, Bangladeshi pitha, golap pithe, gulab sweet, gulab jamun, rose sweet, rose syrup sweet, Poush parbon, pousher pithe, gokul pithe, Bengali dessert, edible rose, rose shaped pithe, rose shape pitha, golap pithe, Indian Dessert, excuisite dessert, flower sweet, flower pithe, roses that you can eat, Dessert rose, rosy sweets, Bengali dessert, Bangali pithe, 

Bengali

Khosa Charchari/ A Dry Dish with Vegetable Peels

9:39 AM


My Dida(maternal Grandmother) was a very Decent and well mannered lady and was an excellent cook.  She was very modern yet practical,. When I was leaving for my higher studies, against my Parent’s wish she advised me to find a man I like. I can very well remember she told Maa ‘Let her live her own life, I have full faith on this girl. She will never let us down”. In a middle class Bengali household that’s not something you will hear every day but she was way ahead of her time. She had a very distressing childhood as she lost her father before birth. Her mother whom we lovingly called Pachama lived with her brothers and brought them up on whatever meager means she had. Dida got this sense of pride from her and later many a time she remembered those days with twinkling eyes. At that time neither their fund nor the society in a village permitted higher education of a girl child. Dida couldn’t attend school for long and was married at a very young age. My Dadu or Maternal Grandfather was an officer with The Forest Dept and at that early period of his career he was mostly posted to jungles. Dida and her three children had to tag along wherever he went. During this time she started to experiment with food more for necessity than of passion. In a jungle a decent shop selling normal grocery and vegetables was a distant dream and so was a refrigerator. She later told us it was only once in a month when Dadu travelled to Sadar (big city) and brought all household items. For fruits and vegetables they had to depend upon the local tribes who sometime brought wild varieties of potatoes, greens or berries. The thing that was abundant was meat of any kind. So Dida started experimenting with whatever items she had to feed her family a round meal.

When I grew up sometimes I got amazed with the variety of food she could cook with equal perfection. Be it fish fry, roast, cakes, jams n pickles, wadi, soups or normal Bengali everyday meal just one touch of her would have incorporated a wow factor to it. Still today my Paternal Aunts fondly recollect the amazing taste of her normal pumpkin curry. But the striking factor was her knowledge and use of ingredients. She cooked with bamboo shoots (now a days because of the globalization this is common to us), soft white inner skin of tender coconut or wild oranges and came up with innovative yet amazingly tasty dishes like onion kheer (which my Hubby always wants me to try), daber Dalna (young Coconut in gravy) or kamla tak (sour fish dish with wild oranges). Often she came up with surprising pairing of ingredients which we would not think of normally. Once when we reached Mamabari (maternal uncle’s house) at a very late afternoon they already had their lunch and she wasn’t having much vegetable at her kitchen to feed five of us. So she went to the garden, brought some very tender ridge gourds and cooked with raw jackfruit. I still drool at the taste of the curry. I believe the kumro posto’r chutney was also her invention but am not sure as she never talked about it. She never wasted anything. She dry roasted pumpkin, jack fruit or watermelon seeds for us kids to munch on between meals. Apart from her culinary skills she was well known of her friendly nature and carried herself stunningly. Not much educated but she mingled with very educated colleagues of Dadu with ease. She loved sarees and her trunk was like a treasure trove for us. I attended all my exams wearing her sarees and considered her to be my lucky charm. My Maa and Masimoni (maternal aunt) is carrying her skills and ….in a good way. Ma who is extremely busy with her work still finds time to cook our favorite dishes, sits when we eat and insist on a second helping. She always remembers to make pithe on Poush Sankranti or payes on our birthdays. Believe this is the way traditions are kept alive and runs from one generation to the next.

I was very fond of Dida but never had time to discuss recipes with her. I owe her everything, be it this quality of cooking and feeding with love or whatever cooking ideas or skills I have today. Whenever I try out a new dish I think of her fondly. The way she sat on the kitchen verandah, checked the spices, scolded the maid for not cutting the fish properly and cooked in her clay oven, it’s her who inspires me and shows me way as my guardian angel.

This dish that I tried today was her specialty but none of us knew what spices she used. Maa or Masimoni never cooked this but they always remembered how Dida threw in this and that and made this mouth watering dry curry. This was a common dish in villages where poor villagers mostly widows cooked even the peels to add another side dish for the rice. This is a normal everyday dish and is best eaten with steamed rice.

This time I am giving approaximate measurement as I had stored peels for 3-4 days and then made this dish. Also I peeled the vegetable skins thicker than normal to add more taste.

Khosha Charchari
Ingredients:
Pumpkin peel: finely chopped; ½ cup
Bottle gourd Peel: finely chopped; ½ cup
Potato skin: ½ cup
Eggplant: 2” piece, thinly sliced
Potato: 1 very small
Onion: 1 small; sliced
Mustard and poppy seeds paste (2:1): 11/2 tbsp
Dry red chillies: 2 pieces
Panchforon: ½ tsp
Prawn or lentil wadi: 3-4 pieces
Mustard Oil: 11/2 tbsp
Salt
turmeric

Method:
Chop the vegetable as finely as possible. Wash and drain the water.

If using prawn fry it for a minute with salt and turmeric and blend with mustard, poppy seeds and 1 dry chilli. Otherwise fry the wadis and keep aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and temper with Panchforon and dry red chilli. When it’s lightly brown and aromatic add the sliced onion. Fry for a couple of minutes then tip in the veggies with salt and turmeric.

Mix and cover. Let it cook on low till all the juices dries up and veggies lose the crunch.

Add the spice paste and stir fry on low until it’s soft. Add the wadis in this stage if using. Sprinkle some water in between if it becomes too dry or stick to bottom.

When the veggies are soft and spice coats evenly add ½ tbsp reserved oil and again give it a good stir for a minute.

Serve hot on a bed of steamed rice.

Bengali

Moglai Parota : The Marathon Reaches Streets of Calcutta on Day 5

11:35 AM


There are certain choices that don’t change with time. Similarly there are some taste, some aroma which becomes very familiar and to which you like to go back to for comfort. Then there is food that becomes synonymous to some events, some memories or some good times.  Remember this post where I talked about Poush mela or the winter fair of Santiniketan? Food wise I connect this fair to garam jilipi (hot Jalebi) and Mughlai Paratha or Indian flat bread stuffed with spicy egg.  This is a pan-fried dish and comes with spicy potato curry, Sauce and Salad. This is another famous and favorite Calcutta street delicacy.

As kids parents never allowed us to feast on this dish, as they were not sure of what oil they used but were very sure that these were cooked with dust and grime from the fair ground as a spice without any choice. Later when we grew up we had many a addas or chat sessions over this spicy paratha. Till date I need to devour it at least once during the fair. Still Maa is annoyed with this choice but now she knows how I love it. I have asked a lot of people of what are the spices that they stuff the egg with…didn’t get any specific reply. Couple of years back I spent one whole afternoon just watching the guys rolling, stuffing and frying the parathas but still am clueless of the spice mix.

Today as my tomatoes are not yet completely dry and which makes my tomato paratha a distant dream (forget that yesterday Indo has come up with a great recipe of sun dried tomato paratha. Go check it here) so here is another paratha stuffed with spicy egg mix and served with hot potato curry, salad and sauce. Though totally experimental and recreated completely guided by a taste but it turned out really really REALLY well. It smelled exactly the same and taste wise it’s very close to that. Guess another afternoon at the fair restaurant will make it perfect. But am happy to bring it home and so is my mother. Not so fried food lover Hubby even is happy with the outcome. :-)As for the potato curry I added a handful of homegrown methi (fenugreek) leaves and used one of shortcut recipe. It proved to be a great accompaniment for this spicy paratha. The Paratha tastes great in itself or with little tomato sauce also. Guess it would make good lunch box option too.

A great thanks to Nupur for thinking of this event where we finally are trying something we always wanted. She is doing an incredible job of updating the recipe marathon everyday on her space.

Mughlai Paratha (makes 3)

Ingredients:
For the Paratha dough:
Whole wheat flour: 1 cup
Flour: 1 cup
Vegetable oil for shortening: 21/2 tsp
salt

for stuffing:
onion: 1 big; Chopped
garlic: 2-3 cloves; chopped
Ginger: 11/2 “ pc; smashed
Eggs: 3
Milk: 2 tbsp
Green chillies: 1; chopped
Coriander leaves: handful; chopped
Dry roasted peanuts: 1/3 cup
oil for frying: approx 2 tsp for each paratha
Salt

Method:
Mix the dough ingredients together. With water knead to get a soft but dry dough. Make 3 balls and lightly coat them with oil. Keep covered.

Heat a tsp of oil and fry the chopped onion, garlic, ginger, green chillies with salt. Once its pink add the choppes coriander leaves and switch of the heat.

Once cool add the eggs and milk and beat to mix. crush the peanuts to small pieces and keep aside.

Now comes the tricky part. Roll the flour ball as thin as possible. I used the back of a bog thali/plate, as my rolling board was small for this. I also kept one small foil covered paper board in the center and rolled the ball over it. This helps to transfer the prepared paratha to the pan.

Put 1/3 of the egg mix in the center and spread with a spatula. Sprinkle some crushed peanuts on top and then very carefully bring the sides in to form an envelop. Once done it would be rectangle in shape.

Heat oil in a pan and carefully put the stuffed paratha on it. Fry on low till golden brown on both sides.

For the potato curry:
Potatoes: 2 medium; Peel and cut in big chunks
Tomato: 1 medium
Methi leaves: handful; Chopped
Onion: 1 large
Garlic: 2-3 fat cloves
Dry red chillies: 3 pieces; I like it hot
Coriander seeds: 1 tsp
Oil: 2 tsp
Salt
Turmeric
For salad
Onion
Cucumber
Tomato sauce

Method: curry
Blend all the spices in a blender.

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and fry this spice mix till oil separates at the side.

Add the chopped tomato and salt. Fry for a couple of minutes.

Tip in the potatoes and methi leaves. Give it a good stir and let it cook for some more minutes.

Add 11/2 cups of water, check the seasoning and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
Later if required dry the juice a little.

Serve the Parota with this potato curry, chopped cucumber, onion salad and tomato ketchup.
Am sending this to Sudeshna and RV's Food for seven stages of life: Tiffin box.

Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Spicy chocolaty Oat Crinkled Cookies

11:35 AM




Yesterday I was blog hopping a little, mostly the spaces of the recipe marathon contestant’s. the common thought among all are apart from being a great challenge this also gives a chance to try out those bookmarked recipes that we longed for ages to bring to our kitchens. But in my case things are a bit different, I don’t have many bookmarked recipes, please don't get me wrong, am not ignorant but if I like any recipe I have to try as soon as possible. I bookmark a lot of dishes, try them and let the blog owner know how they turned. Like Sharmila’s Fulkopi bhaja, Indo’s Indian style fried rice (tried last weekend and forgot to mention this to Indo), Sushma’s Vegtarian lollipop, Ushnishda’s Fulkopi’r dum etc.

Today I planned to make Parathas with homemade sundried tomatoes but from yesterday its raining here so the half dried tomatoes are resting in the fridge and awaiting their great sunny time. so checked the bookmarked folder and got only one food related link.

Last year one of Hubby’s collegue went to London and brought us a pack of sugar coated cookies. At that time I wasn’t allowed to eat a lot of sweets so he allowed me only one and devoured most of them (still he claims he does not like sweets). I simply loved those dark brown coloured cookies, as it was not overtly sweet and was full of flavor…just how I like it. Eating only one did not help me to trace other ingredients. Recently when Sunita posted this spicy oat cookies I found it very similar. I wanted to make a batch then and there (I was having a cookie baking addiction at that point) but couldn’t do so as I was’nt having nutmeg then. So what else I tried them today. I made a lot of changes.

I added eggs
Neither do I have black molasses nor dark brown sugar so substituted with my light brown sugar caramel.
Used both flour (maida) and whole wheat flour (atta).
Dry roasted the oats to get a more nutty flavour
Changed the measurement a little bit
Instead of rolling the baked cookies in castor sugar I rolled the dough and then baked them. They came out with a nice crinkled cover.
Finally I wasn’t happy with the final colour of the batter. I wanted them darker so added a 2 tbsp melted dark chocolate.


So my brand new experiment is here today. Please don’t go by the look they are downrightly delicious. It’s crunchy, full of flavors, spicy and poses a melting in the mouth texture. Once you take the first bite you will get a sweet taste of the castor sugar and then the spice hits with lovely aroma…heavenly. Just try them to know.

Spicy, Chocolaty Oat Crinkled Cookies


Ingredients:
Flour (Maida): 1 cup
Whole wheat flour (atta): ½ cup
Oats: ½ cup; I used Quaker’s oat.
Light Brown sugar: 1/2 cup
Brown sugar caramel: 1/3 cup. For the preparation please see here
Baking Powder: 2 tsp
Pinch of soda bi carb
Egg: 1
Butter/ vegetable oil: 2/3 cup
Melted dark chocolate: 2 tbsp
Cinnamon powder: ½ tsp
Clove powder: ¼ tsp
All spice powder: 1/4 tsp
Ginger powder: ¼ tsp
Pinch of Nutmeg powder
Pinch of red chilli powder
Castor sugar: to roll the cookies


Method: dry roast the oats till it gives off a nutty aroma. Keep aside.

beat the sugar and oil till sugar dissolves. Pour the caramel and melted chocolate, mix. Put the egg and beat till creamy.

Sieve both types of flour, baking powder and soda. Mix in the oats and the spice powder.

Add this to the wet mixture and mix thoroughly.

Preheat the oven at 160 C and cover a baking tray with lightly oiled silver foil.

Scoop some mixture, roll in brown sugar and place them on the tray.

These cookies expand like anything so keep a lot of space between them.
Bake for 15-16 minutes or till the sides are crisp. It will be soft to touch when baked. Just let it cool and they will harden in no time.

Once completely cool store them in airtight container.


Enjoy!
Am sending these spicy cookies to WYF: tea time snacks at simple Indian cooking: an easy cooking blog.

Lovely Lentil

Dal Makhani- For Day 3

8:01 AM


Yesterday we slept late and while hitting bed both of us decided ‘jakhan chokh khulbe takhon sakal” which loosely mean to start the day whenever we wake up. But ‘man poses and God disposes’. Early morning we got a call from one of our very loving relative who lives in the city. He wanted to come and meet the baby. We love this person’s company and happily invited him for Dinner, but the problem was what to cook. After all the festive parties, get togethers and late nights I was feeling very tired. So wanted to make something easy, quick and tasty. (It’s another matter that these are the most important attribute of any recipe that I look for these days.) This relative of ours loves Dal Makhani, which also is an absolute favourite of mine. Whenever am in restaurants I order this creamy dal with tandoori rotis.  But never tried my hand in cooking this as I was not sure which kind of lentil they use for it.

Dal makhani literally mean different types of lentils mingled together in one creamy dish. This is a Punjabi preparation and is also known as Maa di dal. Where Maa is whole urad lentil in Punjabi, but some of us love to call it mother’s dal or dal cooked by Maa. This is kind of a very comforting food eaten with hot roti or naan.  Recently when I was home one of my cousins, who is a hotel management graduate came in my rescue and shared this recipe. Following which last month I brought home a pack of whole urad for the first time. So the first issue was sorted. The second one was I wanted to make it healthy without compromising the flafour, consistency and most importantly the taste. The restaurant variety that my cousin shared is laden with butter and cream but I wanted to cut on that. So I decided to use homemade yogurt and milk.

The dish came out really well just what I wanted, creamy and mildly flavoured.  Like always I asked Hubby to check for the seasoning. He tried a spoonful but dint say anything, then brought a bowl and filled it with more dal and said a single word ‘wonderful!’ For me it says all, but you need to try this recipe to bring that restaurant taste home.

Here is how I made my Dal Makhani

Ingredients:
Whole urad lentil: 1 cup
Red kidney beans: ¼ cup
Onion: 2 medium; finely chopped
Ginger paste: 11/2 tsp
Garlic paste: 2 tsp
Tomato: 1 medium
Curd: 1/3 cup, I used homemade curd as it’s not very sour.
Milk: ½ cup
Vegetable oil: 3 tbsp
Ghee: 1 tbsp
Chili powder: 1 tsp or more according to your taste
Whole clove, cinnamon and cardamom: 2-3 pieces
Garam masala powder: 1 tsp
Salt to taste
And water as required

Method:
Wash and soak the lentils separately as they take different time to get soft. I soaked them almost for 8 hours.

Wash the lentils again and first pressure cook the red kidney beans with salt and ½ tsp of garam masala powder for 3 whistles. Then add the urad and cook for another 2 whistles. Keep aside.

Beat the curd till creamy and keep aside.

Heat oil and ghee and temper it with the whole spices. When it gives off the aroma add in the chopped onion. Fry on low heat till lightly brown.

Stir in ginger-garlic paste, salt and red chilli powder. Again cook on low till oil separates at sides.

Tip in chopped tomato and cook on low. When the whole spice mix starts to leave the sides of the pan add the curd and mix well. Once everything is combined transfer this to the pressure cooker with the boiled lentils. Add the milk, check the seasoning.

Let it pressure cook for another 10 minutes or till the lentils are very soft and creamy.

Open the lead sprinkle a pinch of garam masala powder and serve hot with Roti, Naan or Paratha. 

we had ours with lachha paratha.

Bengali

Chalkumro Pata Die Chingri Macher Bati Tarkari/ Steamed Prawns with White Pumpkin Leaves

10:02 AM


For the last few days the newspapers and news channels are showing the heavy snowfall in US.  Even some of you in blogosphere have talked about it and put pictures of your snow covered neighboring areas.  I understand it makes life difficult but they look so lovely. The white snow covered trees, houses and roads, the sparkling and blinking sunlight on it, the frozen lakes, the brightly dressed people on road…oh I love winter, isn’t it very romantic? Then coming home to a cozy and comfortable corner, sitting by the fireplace with a book in your hand, sharing warm food with your near and dear ones, getting in bed and curling up under the blanket…this thought only makes me thank God for giving us so many moments to cherish.

This reminds me of thanking God for having friends and relatives around and being loved by them. Recently 3-4 months ago when I went to my Maternal Uncle’s (mama) place I realized it again. Though I consider them as my second family and we are very close but after marriage I hardly got any time to go there. Work and short break kept us away. Mostly mama came to Calcutta to meet us. This time when I reached with the baby so many people whom I know from my childhood came to meet us. They recalled so many things from my childhood days and now also know everything of our well beings. I was there for only a couple of days and could not attend all the lunch or dinner invitation we got. So they prepared food and sent them during meal time. .During such a day I tasted this amazingly tasty prawn dish. One of my distant relative got to know that am slowly trying to eat non veg and have started on prawns so they made this easy yet aromatic bati tarkari.

Bati tarkari in general is a way of cooking where all the ingredients are mixed and cooked either on steam or on stove top. It’s very easy and requires minimal work. I planned on doing this for a long time but something or the other always kept me away. What better time than to do it now when we were quite tired and craved something tasty, light and quick. Also don’t know why my backyard veggie patch is wilting. The small place contains 3 big and medium sized mango trees. Before the birth of the baby I sowed broad beans and white pumpkin there.  Till now they were very healthy and were giving me lots of produce. But from last week don’t know what happened both of these plants are drying. This morning I cut a big branch of the white pumpkin plant and made bati tarkari with its leaves and danta chachori with the branches.  

It’s a very easy recipe and vegetarians can make paneer bati tarkari following the same recipe.

We simply loved this dish. The greens and the raw mustard oil gave it a beautiful flavor. The prawns were cooked to perfection and the coconut gave it a nice sweet all-rounder taste.

Chalkumro pata die chingri macher bati tarkari (for 2)

Ingredients:
Prawns: 200 gms (10-11 pieces)
White pumpkin leaves: take the soft ones 8-9 pieces
Coconut: 1/3 cup
Mustard seeds: 11/2 tsp
Onion: 1 small
Mustard oil: 11/2 tbsp
Green chillies: 2 pieces or more as per your heat quotient
Salt
Turmeric

Method:
Clean and wash the prawns. Sprinkle some turmeric, salt and lightly fry them for a minute. Keep aside. you can also cook it without frying but hubby loves it that way.

Wash the leaves and dip in hot water for a minute and chop them coarsely.
In a blender make paste of coconut, mustard seeds and 1 green chilli.
Very finely chop the onion.

Chop the other green chilli and mix the shrimps, spice paste, salt, turmeric and oil.

Now the cooking could be done either by steaming method or on stove top.

Method 1: steaming
Take a stainless steel tiffin box and rub little oil at the rim. This will help to open the box with less effort.

Pour the mix and steam on low for 15 minutes or till the prawns are cooked.

Method 2: on stove top
Pour everything in a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai and cover tightly. Cook on low till the prawns are cooked. This method will make the preparation as the prawns would be cooked in its own juice. Steaming will result in a very juicy and more aromatic consistency.

Serve warm with steaming hot rice.

It reminded us of home and in this festive season it provided us the warmth that we lacked staying away from home. 

For a long time I wanted to sundry tomatoes.Yesterday I have put 3 medium tomatoes for sun drying. lets see how it turns out, planning to make something with them for this recipe marathon :-).

Have a great Sunday!!!

Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Christmas Rich Fruit and Nut Cake

1:08 PM

First of all a Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!

Christmas for me is spending time with my family, sharing gifts and having good food and good cakes. The smell of freshly baked cake emanates a different kind of warmth in the chilly season.


when we were kids My Maa or Dida used to make Vanilla flavoured cakes in pressure cooker for Christmas. Then Maa started her business and winter being the best season for exhibitions she used to be away from family.on one such year the day before christmas me and my younger brother were watching TV while we got the baking smell from our neighbour. He told if Maa were here she also would have baked cake for us.That touched my heart, once he was asleep I called my aunt for the recipe, baked my first cake and put it on the dining table for him to see, first thing in the morning... that was when I was 16 and till date every christmas I remember that surprised happy face of my kid brother.   


He likes plain vanilla cake with nuts…no chocolate, no fruit or no cream for him. That makes my work easy. This year I already have sent him his share of cakes, cookies and most importantly a good gift.

Every year a month before Christmas every big confectioner and hotels observe the cake mixing ceremony where tons of dried and candies fruits and nuts are mixed with wine and rum and left for a long time to make the dry fruits soak the taste and flavours of the spirit. I always wanted to make such a cake full of flavours, rich fruit and nuts and moist with wine and rum…so finally this year wanted to give it a go and last month finally asked Hubby to bring some red wine and rum. Soaked 6 cups of chopped nut and fruits and poured in two large glass bottles. got this idea of adding caramel to the cake from Sailu. I made brown sugar caramel and am happy that I did as it gave the cake a nice brown colour and very earthy smell. Baked the cake yesterday with ground spices and orange peels. It takes a long time to bake but I wished it had taken more time as the aroma that it spread during baking is heavenly. And most amazingly it came out with a perfect flat top. Even my not so sweet loving Hubby came in to check this sweet little cake. The recipe is little long but once you make your fruit cake you would not like to eat anything else.

I am also part of Nupur's 7 Day recipe marathon Challenge starting from toady. She has managed to make 40 new dishes for the last 6 weeks and we are joining her for the last sprint. Guests just left now and am posting after puting the baby and his father to sleep. yawn. The list of runners is here and Nupur is givin an update everyday on her blog.

Here is how I made my Christmas Rich fruit and nut cake
Ingredients:
For the caramel:
1 cup brown sugar
11/3 cup water

For the wine and rum soaked fruits and nuts
Chop any nut and fruit of your choice. I used cashew, almond, apricot, figs, tutti frutti, black currant, raisins, candied pineapple and cherries.

Red wine and rum to soak these. If you don’t like to add alcohols then use orange juice to soak these.  The more time you allow soaking the better the flavor. If you don’t have time to keep them long then just lightly boil the fruits and nuts in orange juice or any alcohol of your choice. They would be juicy and flavorful.



For the cake:
Flour: 3 cups and 3 tbsp to roll the soaked fruits
Brown Sugar: 1 cup
Butter: ½ cup
Vegetable oil: ½ cup
Baking powder: 2 teaspoon
Eggs: 4
Orange: 1 big
For the spice powder:
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Pinch of cardamom powder
Pinch of clove powder
Pinch of all spice

Method: put the water to boil.

At the same time take a cup of brown sugar in a separate heavy bottom pan. On low heat let it dissolve. Stir with a chopstick or a skewer. 


Once the sugar complete dissolves add the water and stir vigorously so that it does not stick to bottom. Do these very carefully as water might splash.  


Once everything is mixed let it simmer and thicken for 5-6 minutes and then let it cool.

Sieve flour and baking powder together. Mix in the dry spices and keep aside.

Grate the skin of the orange carefully so that the white skin(pith) does not mix. Peel and take the flesh in a mixer jar with the sugar and blend till the sugar dissolves.

Beat in the butter and oil. Mix in the eggs one by one and beating in between. The mixture should be creamy and smooth.

Add the orange and sugar puree and again mix.

Fold in the dry ingredients in 4-5 batches and mix till you get a velvety consistency.

Toss 2 cups of soaked dry fruits in 3 tbsp flour and mix it in the cake batter.
Heat the oven at 150 C.

Line a baking tin with 3-4 layers of paper and pour the batter. Put the tin on a baking tray. Cover the tin with an aluminum foil and bake for 50 minutes.

After this turn the oven down to 120 C and bake again for 30-40 minutes or till done without the cover. This will give the cake a nice brown colour at top.

Check after 20 minutes and run the toothpick taste to see if it’s done. It might take more e time as well. Just check in between.

Once done take it out and cool completely before peeling the papers.

Punch with a skewer and soak it with more rum n wine mix. Let it sit for at least 12 hours to mature.

Decorate and serve your Christmas cake.

What I learned in the process are:
  1. If you want to bake your cake without soaking the nuts for long, just boil the fruits and nuts in orange juice, dry spices and alcohol of your choice (optional)
  2. Line the sides of the cake with 3-4 layers of paper. As this cake takes a long time to be baked it might burn at the sides.
  3. To get an even top cut papers longer than the sides of your pan (height). Lightly grease the papers with oil.
  4. Using brown sugar and brown sugar caramel actually gives it a nice brown colour and a beautiful earthy aroma.
  5. Always use fresh spices.


I got this lovely award from Malar. It holds a special place as its the first one for me in the Bogosphere. Thanks Malar!


Am sending this cake to the following events:


Cakes and cookies at Sara's Corner.


Food for 7 stages of life: Desserts and Ice creams at Rv's http://sourashtrakitchen.blogspot.com and http://bengalicuisine.net/


Show me your cake at Divya's lovely space.


Its time to Jingle again at asankhana.blogspot.com. 

Cakes cookies n savory goodies

Eggless Flavoured Custard Cookies

6:48 AM

Its raining cookies at our place and I cant agree with Sharmila more that Cookie baking is addictive...yes it indeed is. For the last few days am just baking batches and batches of different types of cookies. The best part is I never did that before.... A big thanks to Sunita whose recipe was a spot on Hit and I made by first successful batch this year, ever since then every evening its happening in different colours, flavours and shapes.

Though we don’t celebrate Christmas but love the festive feelings and the aroma of freshly baked cakes. A Christian family lives here in my neighborhood. They already have got the decorations on. From our bedroom window we can watch the colourfull fairy lights twinkling in the dark and emanating a cozy, warm, festive and holiday feeling. Baby H looks at these red green yellow lights with awe.

Back home, its also festive time for all in Santiniketan. It’s that time of the year, when the annual fair and festival Poush Mela takes place. This fair is observed to celebrate the acceptance of Bramho Dharma (a religion) by Maharshi DevendraNath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore. At the crack of dawn of 7th Poush (22nd or 23rd December) we wake up to the tune of Sahnai and join the Vaitalik group (morning prayer) in white clothes. The group walks around the whole Ashrama area (hermitage) singing Tagore’s songs. The fair is then inaugurated in the morning at Chatimtala with prayer meetings and Rabindra sangeet. Then all head to the fair ground where numerous different types of shops coming all over from India exhibit and sell their products.  Their is a separate food court where food loving Bengalis have their feast. But the main attraction is the live performance by the folk singers mainly Baul fakirs and tribal sports by local Santhals. On the second day of the fair, homage is paid to all dead persons of the Ashrama by offering Hobishanno, which is a meal prepared in one pot for the family members who lost their near ones. The third day is the day of Christmas and in evening the whole Brahma Mandir or famously known as the glass Mandir is decorated with candles and students sing songs and offer prayers to Jesus Christ. The whole fair and all the functions associated with it, have an old world, back to your roots charm. It’s a true reflection of our heritage.

As kid I loved each and every part of the fair and the festivities without understanding anything. What attracted me most were the shops and the firework show on the second day. After school I used to sneak in to check the preparation at the fair ground and to bring home some hot jalebis. As I grew old I was taken in the groups to design alpona (design made on a base with colours), or to recite from Veda at the morning function. Then when I grew more I started understanding the meaning of Tagore's songs and the philosophies behind those functions. Now as a mother I want my son to know his culture and connect to his roots through these festivals.

I have asked my brother to send me some photos of this fair and will upload them soon. In between if you are interested to know more about Santiniketan go here. It’s the official site of Visva Bharati University.

Now back to the cookies. This recipe was lying in my recipe diary for god knows how long. Finally got this courage to give it a try. It’s very easy, just like 1,2,3...with an outcome of superbly crumbly, melt in the mouth cookies. I experimented a lot and came up with four flavors vanilla, strawberry, Green tea and that obvious one chocolate. I also discovered that Custard powders are nothing but normal corn flour with added flavour and colour. Here is how I made it

Eggless Flavoured Custard Cookies

Vanilla Cookies
Ingredients:
Flour (Maida): 2 cups
Custard powder (vanilla flavour): 1/2 cup
Oil: 1/2 cup
Powdered sugar: 2/3 cup
Baking Powder: 3/4 tspoon
Soda bi carb: 1/3 tspoon
Warm milk: 2 Tbspoon
Vanilla essence: 1/2 tspoon
tutti frutti: for decoration

Method: sieve flour, custard powder, baking powder and soda.

Cream the sugar, vanilla essence, milk and oil very well.

Tip in the dry ingredients and mix gently to have soft dough. Chill for 10 minutes.

Line a baking tray with silver foil and preheat the oven at 175 degree C.

With slight damp hands make small balls and flatten a little bit in your palm. Arrange them on the tray little apart from one another. Place some tutti frutti or nuts of your choice in the middle and press gently.

Place the tray in the middle rack and bake for 10-12 minutes. You will find them a little soft to touch when warm.

Cool them completely and the store them in an airtight container.

Strawberry flavoured Custard Cookies

For this I used the same recipe as above. But instead of custard powder I used same amount of corn flour. You can use strawberry flavored custard powder for this. Also replace milk with same amount of strawberry preserve or freshly crushed strawberries.
Don’t use the vanilla essence in this as it could suppress that delicate smell of strawberry.
Green Tea N Custard Cookies

For this I used the same recipe but ground the content of a green tea bag and mixed it with a pinch of green colour to make it look nice. 

Chocolate N Custard Cookies
Just add 5 tablespoon of melted dark chocolate and a spoonful of coco powder instead of milk. 

These cookies head straight to Sara's corner for her Cakes n Cookies event


Check out this space as I have joined Nupur's 7 day recipe marathon starting from 25th December'09. We are going to try some brand new recipes for that week.

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