Sunday, January 30, 2011

Brunch my way, through the day! Yay!

Brunch is one of the two things I love so much, I'd marry it. It makes me say lame, happy things. Refer to the title.

Languid Sundays are best started over Brunch. Tapas-style, bits of this and that, are spread out on the table. People jostle around, trying to get the last masala-vadai or croque-monsieur. As I've mentioned before, brunch is something I missed terribly during my internship.

This Sunday, to make up for all those working Sundays, I decided to create a holiday. Brunch Day. Imaginative name, I know. All day long, I eat nothing but brunch. Brunch for breakfast, brunch for lunch, brunch for dinner.

It roughly follows this pattern. Mini-pancakes-three-ways for breakfast. The first batch I made with chocolate chips in it, drizzled with chocolate sauce.

The second one had toasted nuts and served with lashings of honey and a pat of butter.

The last one, I made a strawberry-coulis to serve on the side.

The pancakes are Delicious-ness personified. I could eat a whole stack of them (and I would have, if I didn't have the large-Indian-family eating each one just as soon as I flipped it). It's like you're caught in limbo when you have a steaming hot pancake, fresh off the griddle, sizzling around in honey-butter. You have to try it to believe it.

And then you meet your skinny *beep* of a cousin. She can wear tank tops. People offer her food out of pity. And suddenly, you wake up from your pancake-induced coma. Take one look at your oversized pajamas. Thank your brother for eating the last two pancakes (so he is useful. Who'd have thought?)

Lunch suddenly gets way less ambitious. Fruit-and-low-fat yoghurt get thrown into the mixie with a handful of granola. Blitz. Bliiiitttzz. Ice cubes on top. Smoothie! If you have no annoying Barbie-like relatives, sneak in a tablespoon of honey and some nuts.

Since you've been so virtuous (the pancakes were in the dream, remember?), you can afford to be a little indulgent at dinner. So I treated myself to my version of Tortilla de Patatas. A little throwback to the tapas I was referring to.

Incidentally, when will Time Travel actually become reality? Because I would totally do this day over again.

If you're the blah-ish, normal types, whose whole day doesn't revolve around what you're eating for lunch, you can still try any one of the recipes and impress people with it. I'll be posting them over the course of the next two days. I just had to gloat today. Please don't hate me.

Oh. And the other thing I love so much, I'd marry it? It could be chocolate. Keep guessing, though! 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Buttering up with Banana Bread.

I abhor wastage. I don't know if it's because I've seen malnutrition/impoverishment on a day to day basis, or because my mum would make me eat the leftovers from the lunch box when I got back home. (Ma, if it didn't taste good at noon, it won't at 4. Really.)

Oh, I also have a really annoying, holier-than-thou friend who keeps saying things like "Rabia, don't say ugh for food/eat up my lunch or I'll tell my mum that you hate her cooking". Manipulative Jiminy Cricket.

 It's one of the things that get ingrained, like it or not.

Rewind to a few years back. There were a bunch of bananas (organic), going all overripe and spotty. A literal bunch. Eureka. I discovered banana bread! (Not discovered-discovered. Just discovered of its prior existence).
Wrap up bananas in newspaper and stow them away for a bit.
This helps ripen them faster, especially if there's one already overripe
banana in the bunch!

Now, I pick up bananas that are more black than yellow. I've developed techniques for ripening them fast, because I can't wait for bananas to almost-spoil each time I want this bread. It's that good. Throw in some dates (which we have kilos of, in the refrigerator, given to us by relatives who undertook the Hajj pilgrimage this year), and you have beyond-good banana bread.

The name is a misnomer; this isn't bread. This is dessert. If you want a low-cal, whole-wheat and applesauce version of this recipe, nag me for it. This is the bread you bake when you want someone to like you. Or at least to show off, generally.

I made this twice in the same week. Doubled the recipe each time. The first was for a very special couple's birthdays (their birthdays are two days apart). And the second was for my parents' anniversary. Just so you know the demographic you can bake this for, and that you did need dedication, because it gets a bit tedious.

Midnight baking is fun, there aren't too many people stressing you out. But it's also tiresome and you end up doing everything yourself. Luckily, late-night television is semi-decent on weekdays.
This is-this is-this is-THIS IS. E News!
 I need a life. Agreed.

The awesome base recipe. I've doubled it and made modifications because I like to go all out and bake a proper batch!
The prep work is tough! Yell for help.

Banana-Date Loaf:


(You could halve this and still have one loaf or 12 muffins)

2 cups mashed, ripe bananas
2 tsps lemon juice
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (maida)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsps baking powder
2 tsp ground cardamom or cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pitted dates, diced
1 cup toasted almonds, chopped

1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature.
1 cup demerera sugar (or light brown sugar)
1 cup yogurt (Nestle Dahi would be fantastic)
4 eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla essence


1)Prep the bananas. Start with 4 medium-ish bananas. Chop them and mash them with a fork or a hand-mixer. See if you have two cups. If not, add on!

2)Grind the white and brown sugar SEPARATELY in the mixie, until they resemble coarse sand.

3)In a large bowl, mix thoroughly the flour, baking powder, baking soda, white sugar, cardamom and salt.
Toss the dates and nuts into the flour mix, separating with your fingers if they are clumped together so that each individual pieces gets coated with the flour.

Toast the almonds either on a pan or in the oven for a couple of minutes.
Chop them coarsely.

Chop the dates into 2 cm dice. If they're very dry, soak in a few tbsps
of boiling water for 5 minutes, and drain.

4)In a medium bowl, beat together the semi-cooled butter and the brown sugar until well-combined. Beat in the eggs, mashed bananas, yoghurt and vanilla.

5)Make a well in the flour mix. Fold in the wet batter gently into the flour (do NOT beat it in vigorously), until it is just combined.

6)Preheat the oven  to 220 degrees celsius or 375 degrees Farenheit. Grease a loaf tin or muffin cups.

7) Fill up to half of a greased loaf tin. Decorate with bits of almonds and dates.

Give the slices-of-banana "decoration" I've attempted a miss. Not a great idea. A sprinkling of brown sugar over them should brulee them a wee bit, though.

Or try this crumble topping: 2 tbsp of brown sugar+1 tbsp flour+1 tbsp oats+1 tbsp butter+cinnomon/cardamom. Sprinkle it on 15 minutes after the baking starts.

Con no. 5 of midnight baking: You have to do the dishes all by yourself.

8)Bake for 35-40 minutes. Dent the top, it should spring back a little. Toothpick test isn't of much use here, because it has to be a little moist. Remove from the oven and let it cool for ten minutes.

Turn it upside down, and there you have it!


Slice and serve when hot. Or wait until it's completely cool. Wrap it in foil, tie a ribbon and attach a note saying it should be sliced and heated in the oven/toaster/griddle until it's warm. 

Incidentally, this is healthy! Relatively, at least. It's got bananas (tryptophan, fibre, potassium), dates (iron!), almonds (omega 3 fatty acids)!

Psst. Forget the butter. It'll be our little secret. I won't tell if you won't. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eat. Eat. Love.

"Weekdays la weekend-ukku wait pannu vome."

That's just a lame line from the comedy track of an equally lame movie. Tamil movies are rampant with guys-with-no-jobs or whatever. But seriously, who doesn't count the hours until it's Friday/Saturday? Mostly to catch up on The Simpsons. Or if you feel like losing money the good way (eating, duh/d'oh), here are the places I emptied my wallet at, recently.

I would like to warn you though. Vegetarians, all of it is... not vegetarian.

And my meat-eating friends, all of it is chicken.

1) Bombay Sheek House:

Saturday night. You've just watched a movie/play/concert. It's 8:30 PM. And you've landed up on Greams Road. The popcorn didn't fill you up enough to last through dinner. Maybe you're lucky enough to have an extended curfew, and even luckier to have a couple of hours to kill, driving down to the beach. Make a pitstop at Fruit Shop. Get yourself a drink (Lime Mint Cooler/Fruit Cocktail Regular/Jughead's Special are the ones I order, depending on how generous I feel that day).

My vegetarian friends could arm themselves with a frankie/vada pav from Tibbs. Highly doubt they've stuck around after the warning, though.

A metre or so away, inside the Fruit Shop parking lot, is an incredible little kebab joint which had been unnamed until recently. Now it's called Bombay Sheek House (or was it Corner?). Not a very creative name, I know. But this place is not about creating miniscule portions of fancy food. More about serving amazingly cooked, amazingly spiced, tender old-fashioned kebabs in a jiffy.

This wasn't even on the menu. We asked for chicken tikka, in a roomali roti. I almost couldn't finish it, it was that filling. And I did finish it, because it was that good! Cost hardly 70 bucks.

2)If you decide to drive down to the beach straight, I know you'll go to Pupil. Duh, again. We're talking about Besant Nagar beach, right? (Marina after seven is just plain dangerous). Next to Pupil, there's another multi-cuisine-ish shack now, where we ordered a plate of Haryali Chicken Tikka.

It was expensive. And good, but the expense of it is what I remember more. Around eight little pieces cost about 130 bucks. Which sounds reasonable, I guess. Not at a little shack, but in a non-descript, yellow-lit room with cutlery. Still. You have the beach as part of the bargain.

3)And the last two chicken dishes are from Sparkys. They won't be good, taken away or eaten in the car. This is the kind of thing that takes approximately two hours to finish. See for yourself. Sunday lunch, maybe?

The promised photo of the Breaded Chicken Wrap! With a side of wedges (I've raved enough about those!) and a honey-mustard and buffalo sauce. Comes up to Rs.160 or so, plus tax, which is justifiable on a Sunday (no?). However, if it's a celebratory lunch of some sort, go ahead and order the...

The Grilled Chicken American meal. Two chicken breasts, spiced with a cajun rub consisting of cayenne pepper, garlic powder and the like. Grilled to perfection. Served with sauteed veggies (squash, zucchini, local produce), potato wedges, gravy AND a salad. All amounting to Rs. 210. Proper paisa vasool, if you ask me.

I also dined and lunched recently at two of the very best places at Madras (one south-Indian and the other Greek/Cypriot-any guesses?), so look out for those reviews!

And on a less happy note, I've given up on those pants. Don't even ask. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

12 ways to make a sandwich. And a tuna melt. 13.

Weekends have no rules. Sleep/don't sleep. Work/preferably don't. Eat like skinny jeans don't exist. And then comes Monday, like a strict school-teacher, all uppity and annoying. Meals have to be on the go. Or they have to be made and consumed within the span of minutes. Enter the panini press!

I've raved enough about mine, so I'll spare you this time. Except to say that you need to go buy one if you don't have it already. Stat.

Spy around the house for ingredients. Put them all in a bowl, season to taste. Place between two slices of bread. Toast it in the panini press. Finis. If you are running out of ideas, read on!

Since people keep asking me why I have 13 in the blog-address, I'd like to clarify: apart from it being a number I love, it's simply because I didn't get the original address I wanted. And to pay homage to the number, I'm going to give you thirteen simple ways you can make a sandwich.

1)Peanut butter+mashed banana in white bread-grilled-drizzled with honey.

2)Slices of boiled egg, sprinkled with pepper and salt in wholegrain bread. Grilled, drizzled with extravirgin olive oil.

3)Mediterranean sandwich.

4)Grate paneer. Grate equal amounts of cucumber (Drained completely). Add chopped garlic, pepper, salt. Serve on bread toasted with olive oil.

5)A plain omelette, mint chutney and a slice of Amul cheese between two pieces of Modern bread! If you're up to it, mash up some boiled potatoes with chilli powder and salt. Courtesy: Balaji Sandwich stall.
For more authenticity, put this in a triangle-sandwich machine, and eat some "timepass cucumber" while it cooks.


7)Sliced apples, raisins and crunchy peanut butter, a sprinkle of cinnamon in wholewheat bread. Grill it, or lunch-box it.

8)Mash a couple of garlic cloves into some mayo, spread it on a slice of bread and toast it with chilli flakes and oregano. Garlic bread!

9)Mint chutney, slices of tomato, onion, cucumber and boiled potato, with a tiny sprinkling of chaat masala. Wrap it in a piece of newspaper. Decorate with little blobs of ketchup.

10)Defrost a burger patty. Grill it/pan-fry it. Place between slices of thick white bread, spread with mayo, mustard and chopped jalapenos.

11)Pizza-sandwich: Pizza sauce, cheese, herbs and similar toppings spread on flatbread (pita/roti) and baked. If it's for a non-gourmet 6-year-old, you can just put ketchup and a slice of cheese on bread and bake it for 10 minutes.

12)Spread Nutella on white bread. Slice a banana and arrange it on the nutella'd bread. Cover it with another slice of white bread. Grill, and serve. You know what I'd do though? Screw the sandwich, and just eat plain Nutella by the spoonful. Mmmmmm!!!!

13)Tuna Melts (or not):
(Serves two. Or not).


4 slices wholewheat bread
1/3 cup of flaked tuna (from a tin)
1 cup chopped cabbage (can be substituted with iceberg lettuce)
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
6 black olives, pitted and sliced
Pepper and salt, to taste.
1 slice of American/Amul Cheese (optional)


1)Preheat the panini press.

2)Chop up the cabbage into fine dice. If you're using lettuce, the pieces can be bigger.

3)I used tuna in sunflower oil. Yes, the image of the smiling fish is off-putting.

 Try to drain the oil off the tuna, especially if you're using mayonnaise and cheese. Tuna in brine, and tuna in olive oil are brilliant, as well.

4) In one bowl, mix the tuna, cabbage/lettuce, olives, mayonnaise and mustard. Add pepper and salt to taste.

5)Stuff the filling between two slices of bread. Add cheese, if using. Grill it on the panini press until golden brown.

I dipped mine in KFC's Hot 'N' Chilly Sauce. Pick up packets of mustard and ketchup at those chain-restaurants. Trust me, the amount you pay should override any guilt. It's also convenient; drop in a couple into your tiffin box.

And if there is anything you should be guilty about, it's eating at KFC. Perceive it anyway you want.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Zaad's favourite Cook-ay baals!

I must be mad. Which 23-year-old makes cookie dough for dessert? Heavenly little bits of butter, brown sugar and chocolate chips and not much else, but still.

And why the heck did I not think of this before??

I've a confession to make. I eat batter ALL the time. Salmonella typhimurium is not a joke; apart from food poisoning, it can also lead to osteomyelitis (bone infection) and other systemic illness. If I chose to be scared of a tiny bacterium, though, it's a terrible way to live. Put your pinkie in, and have a little bite. You won't die. Especially if you've grown up in India.

(Note: This is NOT me speaking as a doctor! My medical advice would be to not eat any thing with eggs in it if it hasn't been heated to atleast 160 degrees Celsius.)

This is just me, speaking as the girl who makes raw cookie dough for dessert. Who'll do it again.

My excuse? I did it for the kids. They clamour around for brownie batter and cookie dough, but I have to shoo them away because the consequences would be disastrous. This recipe has NO EGG in it. And it's still freaking awesome. How is that possible?

I think they enjoyed them. My brother, who is dangerously close to 30, had no qualms about eating it, with the stick and all. He even snuck out at two in the night and stole one. The kids? See for yourself.

Zaad's third "cook-ay ball" of the day! He's mad 'cause I wouldn't let him
eat and made him pose a 100 times.

Chocolate chip cookie dough balls:


1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (maida)
1/2 cup brown sugar(demerara)
1/3 cup fine granulated white sugar
3/4 tsp salt (important!)
1/2 tsp baking soda (sounds weird, but don't skip!)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup thick yoghurt (or just buy a cup of vanilla flavoured yoghurt)
2 tbsp peanut butter (I added more! If you don't have peanut butter,sub with more curd)
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup chocolate chips/chunks
1 cup bittersweet chocolate for dipping.


1)Blitz the sugars in the mixie so they're still slightly crunchy, but not big fat granules.

2)Beat the sugars and butter (at room temperature!) using a hand-mixer until it looks like this.

 It should take about 3 minutes at medium speed. It'll take longer with a wooden spoon, but man, you can afford to expend some calories if you're making this.

3)Add in the yoghurt, peanut butter (if using) and vanilla essence and beat for a minute more.

4)In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Add to the butter mix, and beat for a minute.

5)Add the chocolate chips and walnuts and incorporate it into the batter with a spatula.

I found this the most difficult step of all.

I used a 250 gram bar of home-made Coorg chocolate for the chips and dipping sauce altogether (If I had bought Bournville, I'd be broke.) It took a lifetime to break it into chunks. Plus it kept mysteriously disappearing into my mouth.

And the walnuts. My hair turned half-grey by the time I could scoop the nuts out. I did not sign up for this. Next time, I'm buying the unshelled ones, expensive or not.

6)Line a freezer-proof tray with butter paper (no need to grease). Scoop out with the help of two spoons and make little dough balls. Put an ice-scream stick or toothpick into each one. Keep the tray in the freezer for atleast 3 hours, but preferably overnight.

7)Chop up roughly 150 g of chocolate. Microwave it in a microwave-safe, dry bowl for 3 minutes (stir at 1 minute intervals.) If you have loads of time, double-boil and melt the chocolate.

8)Dip each ball in the melted chocolate.

Or do what Sumi did.

It's a butter-knife, so don't yell. Anyway, it's under adult (me) supervision.

On a completely unrelated note, I put a few tablespoons of milk into this bowl,
 microwaved it and made hot chocolate.
9)Return it to the freezer until it hardens. If you're planning to store it for longer, line a tupperware box with butter paper and store the cookie balls.

Source: You're aptly named , Joy.

Find out how long they keep and let me know. They stayed in my house for 1 day, 14 hours, 23 minutes roughly. And I got atleast 25 balls out of the dough.

If you don't make this atleast once, YOU must be mad.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Kettle Corn. Everthing except the name makes sense.

A keeps calling my kettle corn "caramel popcorn". We've been hoodwinked into thinking the plastic container of half-hearted popcorn that retails at Escape/Sathyam for Rs.85/Rs.65 (respectively) under the name of Caramel popcorn is actually the original thing.

It isn't.

It's pretty good (pricey, maybe, but still good), but the quality keeps going downhill (Which is a rarity for Sathyam, because it's one of the places that just keeps getting better and better).

There's this fantastic recipe I have for caramel popcorn. Excuse me for a minute whilst I fantasize about it. Each popped kernel gets coated with a hot, salty caramel, all stuck to each other and crispy at the same time. Mmm. Golden, luscious caramel.

 It's addictive, and I'm talking narcotics/benzodiazepines addictive. So I don't make it often. I don't like my clothes leaving patterns on me, which they do as they get tighter. However. Life has its crests and troughs, though, and I ride them with caramel corn. Watch this space, that recipe will be up soon.

Back to my Kettle Corn.

It's what I make when I can't afford caramel corn (both financially and BodyMassIndex-wise). It takes roughly 7-10 minutes to rustle up. It's perfect 6:30-in-the-evening food. It's got that gorgeously mild sweetness with a hint (is-there-or-isn't-there?) of salt.

I'm in love with it, the sweet-salt thing. Don't think KrackJack. Think french fries, eaten between gulps of thick chocolate milkshake. Sigh. I wish I could go back to the time when a calorie was the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of water by one degree celsius or whatever. It was a simpler time.

Without further ado, I give you....

Kettle corn:


Corn kernels, unpopped: 1/2 cup
Vegetable oil :1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons (I used half of it)
Sugar (I used fine granulated): 3 tablespoons
Salt: 1/2 tsp, or to taste.


1)Take a dry, clean pressure cooker and place it on a med-high flame. Heat the oil. Once you can intelligently guess that it is warm, carefully(key word) add the corn kernels.

Standard amount of oil one adds.

The amount of oil I used, and it was passably decent, nonetheless.

Corn kernels are extremely cheap, and available at any grocery. They keep for a while too, You cannot use Act-II. No flavour can be used. I thought Golden Sizzle could be substituted. Definitely a mistake that goes into my personal Hall of Shame. Masala-kettle corn will never catch on. And next time, I'll spend the three seconds it takes to read the Ingredients on the back of the pouch.

2)Coat the kernels with oil and then sprinkle sugar evenly over the top. Swish it about, with a firm grip on the handle of the pressure cooker. Do not use a spoon to mix, because the hot sugar will crystallize in the manner of boiled sweets.

3)Close the pressure cooker tightly with a lid. (Do not put the "weight" on, because steam needs to escape).

4)As it keeps popping, keep tossing the kernels with the lid closed, so that the bottom does not get burnt.

5)When the popping slows down (Don't wait until it stops completely), open up the pressure cooker. If you feel 90% is done, STOP. Otherwise, close the lid again and continue for a little bit.

6)Empty the corn into a big bowl. It'll be hot, and not crisp. As it cools, it'll get less sticky. Break the stuck bits with a spoon. 

7)Sprinkle salt in a manner that ensures that all the corn gets coated. Taste it; if you feel it needs more, knock yourself out.

Source: adapted from (hardly) Joy the Baker.

Best eaten with a friend while you get ready for an evening out. You might want to delay slicking on lipgloss until at least half the bowl is over. Cautionary tale.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From Odds-and-Ends to Mock-Fancy in Twenty minutes.

How do I know it's 6: 30 in the evening? Because that's when I experience actual hunger. Not the false pains (OBG talk) that are very specific for mint chocolate-chip ice-cream or shawarma-pickles.
Solid hunger pangs, which I try to tide over with a slice of wholewheat toast+peanut butter(Crunchy, of course) or a bowl of cereal because dinner-is-served! happens only after nine at my household.

At six last evening, I went foraging into the store cupboard (I won't call it pantry because it isn't fancy enough, currently) and dug out a nice big bag of arborio rice that had been sitting pretty for quite a while. Not if I had a say.
Arborio rice is a short-grained, glutinous rice that goes into risottos, paella and rice puddings.
It's quite hard to get access to, but the recipe I'm posting below will accept regular white rice leftover from the afternoon quite well.
Arroz=Rice. And I thought it was the brand name!

Next, I opened the refrigerator; half-used bell peppers, half a packet of Cream of Chicken soup and Feta cheese left over from the pasta I made the other day, all crying to be used.
Ooh. I have to use up the Feta by next month. Burgers, maybe?
I went straight to Allrecipes, and did an Ingredient Search. After reading approximately 15 recipes, I made stuffed peppers

This one got mixed reviews from the people who tried it: needs spice; excellent; needs cheese; why didn't you make more?; yummy-licious! Easy to guess who said what if you know my family.
If you want something healthy, easy to make, can sub-in for dinner, I suggest you give it a try!

Stuffed Tricoloured Peppers.


3 whole bell-peppers (I used red, yellow, green)
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
3 cups soup or stock (I used chicken)
1 cup sliced onion
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
3 tbsps olive oil
3 tsps mixed dried herbs (I used basil, parsley and oregano)
1 tsp salt, more as needed
Pepper, as needed
1 cup Feta cheese (or a mix of Feta-Parmesan or Feta-Mozzarella)


1)Preheat the oven to 240 degrees Celcius. Line a baking tray with foil; grease it with olive oil, lightly.

2)Prep the peppers. Cut them into two, vertically. Deseed, destalk, and place cut side down on the baking tray. Drizzle over with 1 tbsp olive oil.
I didn't grease the peppers/tray to save a few paltry calories. Yeah.
Mistake no: 1. Please use atleast a little.

3) Place the tray into the oven, and let it stay there for 25 minutes, until the peppers get slightly blistered.

Pick off the burnt bits, but they HAVE to be blistered to this point!
4)While that happens, bring the soup or stock to a furious boil. Pour in the rice, set the flame on Sim, and let it simmer away, covered, for 20 minutes.

Do not keep mixing your rice around, because that will break down the rice to puddingy consistency. At the end of 20 minutes, try a few grains and see if it's done. It shouldn't be al dente, but still have its shape.
Keep checking to see if the rice at the bottom isn't burnt or sticking too much to it. If you feel it needs more water, because it's still undercooked, confidently add.

If you're using left over rice, just simmer it for two minutes with very little water and a stock cube. It gets gloopy really fast, so, careful there!

3)In a big pan, heat the olive oil. Toss in the onion and garlic and let them turn golden. Next, add the diced tomato and give it a good toss around.

4)Add the salt, pepper (even, jalapenos/chilli to tide over the lack of spice that was the main complaint) and the dried herbs. Spoon in the rice, mix it through. Take it off the heat, and add in the feta cheese.

5)Spoon the mix into the pepper halves. Sprinkle with some more cheese (mozzerella or a plain old Amul slice) if necessary. I skipped this step for everyone except my sister(she loves her Amul cheese); because it defeats the purpose of a healthy dish. And cheese can be like ketchup. It masks the taste of the peppers and the rice.

6)Return to the oven for another 5 minutes at 220 degrees celcius. Take it out, make it pretty, and serve!

You can make it your own by adding in sauteed mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, whatever and adjusting the seasoning/oil accordingly. Eat this, and feel the rush of Vitamin C and other antioxidants clearing up your skin and unclogging your arteries (as long as you tone down the cheese).

Mmm. Only this time, for a much-needed change, you can have a self-satisfied, smug smirk on your face.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sachertorte. Also known as Brownies With Strawberries and a chocolate glaze.

 My refrigerator has the most random things stocked in the side shelves. Things like kimchi, thai red curry paste, marmalade and their less-used ilk jostle for space and manage to stay hidden for a good six months before I'm aware of their existence.

And then I panic about how to use it up, because if there is one thing I cannot stand, it's wasting food.

These strawberry preserves were gifted to us by a Korean friend of Dad's.

It caught my eye when I was searching for vanilla essence. We were visiting my 11-year-old cousin later that evening, and I knew for a fact that she wouldn't let me in without a pan of something-with-chocolate-in-it.

I decided to keep it pretty basic; brownies could never go wrong. The last time, when I had made Spiced carrot cake for the under-15s in the family, I had choice words hurled at me. Not making that mistake again.

Perusing through Hershey's exhausting list of recipes, I came across a recipe for Sachertorte squares. The last time I had Sachertorte had been roughly 15 years back, at Paris. I remember loving the intensity of the cake, but have never ordered such an old-fashioned cake again, instead ordering doughnuts and truffles.

I substituted the apricot preserves in the original recipes with the strawberry ones we had (I called my cousin up to confirm if she'd go for that flavour combination). If you have a bottle of preserves you picked up at Auroville or received as part of a gift pack, try this recipe.

Sacher torte.

Adapted from the Hershey's website.


For the cake:

1 cup unsalted butter

2/3 cup cocoa powder (please use Cadbury)

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/4 tsp baking powder

1-2/3 cup powdered sugar (I measured after powdering)

3 eggs

1-1/4 cup all-purpose flour (maida)

1/4 tsp salt (do not skip!)

For the filling:

1/2 cup of strawberry preserves

For the Satiny Glaze:

2 tbsps unsalted butter

3 tbsps cocoa powder

2 tbsps milk

Powdered sugar (or preferably, icing sugar), sieved -> up to 1 cup;

1/2 tsp vanilla essence.


For the cake:

1)Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius. Spread foil or butter paper on the bottom and sides of the pan(I used a 13 x 13 inches pan). Grease if using foil. Delay this step if you're a slow worker. Ten minutes of preheating is enough.

2)Melt butter on low heat until half of it melts. Take it off the flame, and immediately stir in the sugar and cocoa. Beat on low speed for about 3 minutes.

3)Let it cool to room temperature. Add in the eggs, one at a time, completely beating in after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.

4)In a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Add into the wet batter, beating until blended to this consistency.


Usually, I would never, ever beat any batter with flour in it with a hand-mixer. It is the worst thing to do, as the gluten in the flour gets overworked, and you'd end up with delicious cake-flavoured bread. Recipes from Hershey's are crazy that way, though. The consistency and steps are bewildering, but always produce a respectable cake.

5)Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Slide it into the middle of the oven. Next, work on the filling and glaze.

I took out 2 minutes too early, but gooey-ness is a good
thing, right?

6)20-25 minutes later, check on the cake. Pull it out, and try making a dent into the centre of the cake. It should slightly spring back, like a sponge. Let it cool for ten minutes, under the fan. Tip it out into a big serving plate, and carefully remove the foil. Cool completely.

7) Cut the cake into 16 pieces. Slice each piece horizontally. Melt the preserves in the microwave. Put in a spoonful and sandwich the two halves together.

Caution: Boiling hot sugar gives second-degree burns.
It hurts. Adult supervision, next time, I think.

8)Repeat for all the remaining squares. It's tedious, so ask for all the help you can get. Use a butter knife to spread the tops with the Satiny Glaze. Sprinkle cut almonds or sliced strawberries over the top.

For the Satiny Glaze:

Melt butter in a small pan for a minute or so. Stir in the cocoa and milk until it becomes a smooth mix. Add in vanilla. Keep whisking in sugar with a fork, two teaspoons at a time, and keep tasting the mix. Add in a few drops of hot milk, if it gets too dry.

The original recipe called for a whole cup of powdered sugar, but I found even half a cup plenty. Plus, my glaze was sort of crunchy, almost, because I was too tired to sieve the sugar. Icing sugar should tide over this problem.

The not-so-satiny glaze.

The final product!

I stacked them all into a pretty yellow box, but the glaze dripped off and made an almighty mess. A little refrigeration would have shocked them into submission.

The precocious chocolate-monster that I call my cousin grabbed the box off me and had a bite. I waited for a response. Thank you, they're OK, they're good, they're bad. Something.

Wordlessly, she hid the rest of them in a cul-de-sac of the refrigerator. I was slightly upset at the lack of enthusiasm. Until my aunt called next day to complain that nobody found the cake box until that morning, and all of it had been demolished.

That really was, the satiny glaze on the sachertorte. (Happy, Spica?)