Monday, January 30, 2012

Strawberry Fresh Cream Cake

There's not much to say except that we celebrated our 11th anniversary with this delicious Strawberry fresh cream cake over the weekend. This is a very simple cake which can be made in a jiffy , but tastes rich and exotic. Strawberries can be substituted with pineapple or any fruit of your choice.

For the Sponge Cake:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs (at room temperature)
1tsp Vanilla essence

For the cream:
250ml Fresh cream
2 tblsp powdered sugar
1 tsp Vanilla essence

For sugar syrup to soak the sponge
1tblsp lemon juice 
4tblsp warm water
2tblsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 350C.
Prepare two 8inch  round cake pans. Line the base and the sides with parchment paper.
Beat the eggs  and sugar over simmering water for about 6-7 minutes.
Take the vessel out of water, let it cool for a minute add the essence and then beat again for 2 -3 mins till pale and creamy
Now slowly add the flour with a soon and mix gently with a spatula. Do not over mix.
Mix just until the flour is incorporated.
Pour the batter in the prepared tins and bake for 25-30 mins.

Cake test - The tooth pick inserted in the center should come out clean. The edges of the cake will pull away from the pan at this stage.
Cool the cake completely  on a wire rack .

Prepare the cream.
Chill the bowl and the beater in the refrigerator for about an hour. 
Add the cream and powdered sugar in the chilled bowl and beat for 6-8 mins in medium speed , till the cream becomes thick and clotted. 
Take care as overbeating may result in grainy or curdled cream

To Assemble:
Chop the strawberry to tiny pieces
Cool the cake completly before Decorating.
Mix the lemon juice and water in a small bowl.
Place one layer of the cake in the decorating plate
Brush the top of the cake with this syrup or you can go ahead and sprinkle it.
Add the cream on the cake , level it and add the chopped strawberries on top. 
Place the next layer of the cake and gently press down. 
Now again apply the sugar syrup and then the cream.
Gently level the cream over the top and the sides of the cake. 
Pipe desired pattern over the sides and the bottom of the cake.

Chill the cake for atleast an hour before serving.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes

I baked these cupcakes two months back and has been lying in my drafts since then. These cupcakes turned out so soft and moist that my four year old just adored them as much as we did. 

Here you go for the recipe.

11/3 cup all purpose flour
1 cup hot boiling water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
2 tsps vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C

Mix in the cocoa powder and the boiling water in a seperate bowl. Let it cool to room temperature
Stir the dry ingredients in a bowl (flour, baking powder)
Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl till frothy and creamy.
Add in the eggs one by one and beat till thick and pale.
Add the vanilla essence and beat till completely mixed.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Now add the dry ingredients little by little and mix well.
Gently fold in the cocoa mixture and mix till incorporated.
Fill in each muffin cups about 3/4th full. Bake for 15 -18 mins. 

Linking these cute cupcakes to Srivalli's "Chocolate Mela" .

Monday, January 23, 2012

Broccoli Clear Soup with Whole Black Peppers

While the folks in the northwest took the brunt of the severe snowstorm  we got our stash this past weekend, the first of the season. It settled down for about 3 - 4 inches, quite low for this time of the year was what I heard. Anyways here's another super healthy soup to keep you all warm through this winter weather.
 I learned this recipe from the Chef Jacob's morning cooking show in the TV. My MIL who does'nt know how to cook broccoli and was always wondering how to cook it according to our taste , now makes this soup regularly at home. The whole peppers are the star ingredients in this recipe rather than broccoli as it gives the otherwise bland vegetable a spicy makeover. I have used carrots in this recipe to make it more interesting for my son but its optional, it adds a nice color to the soup though.

2 cups broccoli cut into florets.
1 cup of diced Carrots(optional) 
2 tsp whole pepper
3 tsp whole jeera
4 large cloves of garlic sliced thin
1 medium onion sliced thin

In a sauce pan, add about a tsp of olive oil.
Add the whole pepper and jeera. When the jeera splutters add the garlic and onion.
Saute fora minute and add the broccoli florets and carrots, saute for 2 mins. Now add the required  amount of water and salt close with a lid. 
Allow it to boil for 15 mins in medium heat. Take care not to over cook the broccoli .
Serve hot with dash of  crushed pepper.

Don't keep aside the whole peppers in the soup, thats what brings out the flavors in this soup. Try to take it along with the broccoli and you will not regret it.

Always cook the Broccoli to a correct consistency, a little but on the crunchy side. Otherwise the taste becomes very bland. So make note of the time, when you make the soup for the first time. I cook it for for about 15 - 20 mins on low heat.

I bet this soup makes you hungry after 20mins. Make a perfect appetizer.

You can also use the same recipe to make a cauliflower and carrot clear soup too.

Linking this to Priya's Healthy diet - Warm Soups Event. Have Fun.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Carrot Celery Soup

Though I make a variety of soup's during winter I just realized that I have never posted one in my Blog.
Onions and celery forms the base for many of the soup recipes, but here is a simple and comforting soup that uses this basic veggies, just right for the cold winter evenings.
Also stay tuned for some more of these soup recipes throughout this month.

Carrot Celery Soup

2 medium carrots peeled and chopped.
1 medium onion chopped
2 large celery stalk chopped
2 cloves of garlic
salt and coarse pepper powder as needed.

Add about a tblsp of olive oil in a sauce pan.
Saute the garlic and onions till translucent (do not brown)
Now add the chopped garlic and celery, give it a stir.
Add  some salt to taste and  2 cups of water. Close with a lid and simmer for about 30 mins.

Let it sit for about 15 mins and then blend it using a hand held blender or transfer it a blender.
Add coarsely ground pepper before serving. Coarse pepper gives a better taste and flavor than powdered pepper.

Sending this soup to Priya's own event 'Healthy Diet - Warm Soups

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pongal Kuz(l)hambhu/ Lentil Stew With Mixed Vegetables

Traditionally during Pongal festival two types of pongal are made as offering to the Sun God. One is the ever famous 'Sarkarai pongal' and the other one is the plain and simple 'Pal Pongal' - rice cooked in simmering milk. 
This Pongal kuzhambhu is made to be served as a side dish to the delicious 'Pal Pongal'. Its  basically made with lentils and all the seasonal and locally available vegetables like pumpkin, sweet potato, drumstick, green mochai, avarakkai, brinjal , vazhaikai (green plantain ) etc., It looks more like a sambhar but the consistency is more thick  and taste is quite different.
I make this kuzhambhu every year, but this time made it a couple of days earlier to post it in the blog.

Recipe for 'Pal Pongal'

Soak 1 cup of raw rice for ½ hour. Boil 2 cups of water and 2 cups of full cream milk in a cooking vessel. When it starts simmering, add the rice to it and cook on a medium flame until the rice is almost cooked. Add 1 cup of shredded coconut and a little salt. Mix well and cook until it is done. 

Recipe for 'Pongal Kuzhambhu'

Lentils-1/2 cup
Tamarind- a small orange size
Chopped tomatoes-1 cup
Avaraikkai- a handful [cut into halves]
Red pumpkin- a handful [cut into 1” pieces]
Sweet potato- 2 handfuls [cut into cubes]
Brinjal- 1 handful [cut into medium pieces]
Raw banana-1 [cut into cubes]
Green mochaikkai-1 cup
Turmeric powder-1sp
Chilli powder-1tbsp
Coriander powder-2 tbsp
Shredded coconut- 1/2 cup
Curry leaves- a handful
Chopped coriander leaves-a handful

To make the powder:
Boiled rice- 2 tblsp
Raw rice-1 tbsp
Peppercorns-1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Fennel seeds-1 tsp

Cook the lentils in a cooker. 
Soak the tamarind in warm water and then extract the juice after ½ hour. 
Dry roast the boiled rice, raw rice, cumin seeds, peppercorns and fennel seeds to a nice brown colour and powder them finely. 
Add the chopped tomatoes, avaraikkai, red pumpkin pieces, sweet potatoes pieces, brinjal pieces, raw banana cubes and the mochaikkai in a cooking vessel and add enough water to cover it. Cook them with enough salt the turmeric powder. 
When the vegetables are half done, add the tamarind juice, the chilli powder and the coriander powder or use equal proportion of sambhar powder.
After cooking them for some minutes add the dhal and again cook for a few minutes.
 Now add the powder, the coriander leaves , curry leaves and the shredded coconut. 
Cook under low heat for 5 minutes.
 Let it sit atleast 30 mins before serving, for the flavors to mature. 

Serve with pal pongal or hot steaming rice

 I have mentioned the ideal vegetables traditionally used in the recipe, but except the pumpkin the choice is all yours.
The original recipe does not call for seasoning(so its a fat free recipe too), but I did some tempering with mustard to give an extra flavour

Wish you all a very Happy Pongal !

Monday, January 09, 2012

Family Favorites: Vadai Pota Mor Kuzhambhu / Buttermilk Curry with Urad Dhal Vadai

Everyone have their own way of making mor kuzhambhu. My Mom makes it  just plain, without adding any veggies to it. Some make it with veggies like okra, pumpkin etc., But my MIL's method is totally different. While my mother opts to make mor kuzhambhu  when she  ran out of veggies or has excessive sour curd, my MIL makes excess curd just to make this one.This is the most popular kuzhambhu in my in-laws place. My MIL makes this with great patience and utmost care.
 The vadai's are not made in the traditional shape but just dropped in oil like bonda's. Serve this curry with white rice and any spicy side dish(dry).

For Vadai:
1/2 cup Urad dhal soaked for atleast 4 hours
1/2 inch Ginger
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp jeera
1/2 tsp salt
oil for frying
For Kuzhambhu/Gravy
3 cups buttermilk
1tblsp thoor dhal
2 tblsp rice
1/2 tsp pepper corns
1/2 tsp jeera seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1tsp chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
for tempering
1tsp mustard seeds
1tsp jeera
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tblsp chopped ginger
few curry leaves
Soak the urad dhal for 2 hours and grind to a smooth paste along with ginger, pepper, jeera and salt. Keep aside.
Soak the raw rice in water for about 30 mins.
Dry roast the toor dhal in a pan until fragrant.
Grind the toor dhal, soaked rice, pepper and jeera to a fine paste.
Mix the ground paste to the buttermilk. To this add salt, turmeric powder, chill powder and coriander powder. Mix well with a whisk.
In a sauce pan add a tsp of oil .When the oil is hot add mustard ,jeera seeds, when it pops add chopped ginger, onion, and curry leaves. Fry till translucent. 
Add the buttermilk mixture and reduce the flame.
Just when the gravy foams up (like we do for rasam) and ready to boil switch off the stove and mix well.

Heat up the oil  in a kadai. Gently drop small balls of the dough in the oil. Fry in medium flame till golden brown. Once done, drop them in a bowl of water, squeeze and then drop the vadai in the gravy.
Repeat for the remaining dough.
Allow the kuzhambhu to rest for atleast 30 mins for the vadai to get soaked well.
  • Take care not to over boil the gravy, there is a high chance of curdling.
  • You can also dilute 1 cup thick yoghurt with 2 cups of water to make this gravy.
  • The vadai should be fried in low to medium flame and should be slightly brown, so that it can soak up the gravy.
  • Dipping the fried vadai's in water is a must as it removes excess oil and also makes the vadai's soft.
  • If the Buttermilk is not sour enough, add 1 cup chopped tomatoes along with onion and fry well.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

China Grass / Agar Agar Pudding with Pineapple and almonds

Here is a simple and easy to make to dessert to kick start your New Year.  The one thing I like the most about this dessert is that you can make it ahead of time and refrigerate. Kids will love to have their portions in individual moulds. China grass is a vegetarian friendly version of gelatin. It is obtained from see weeds, available in the form of strands or as powder. I used the strands in both the recipes. More about china grass here

 I make this dessert two ways one using condensed milk and the other one using Almond meal(powder). Both have different flavour although the method is the same.

I am sharing both the recipes here. This is a very versatile recipe and easily adaptable to your taste.You can add Pistachios and cardomom instead of almond or Mangoes instead of pineapple. 

Agar Agar pudding with Almonds.

3 cups of whole milk
1/4 cup ground almond
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp of cardomom
1 tsp almond essence/vanilla essencce
2tsp agar agar powder / 10gms of strands
some slivered almonds for garnishing.

Add the china grass in a seperate bowl and cover it with hot water. Let it rest for 15 mins or until it is completly dissolved.
Boil 3 cups of milk in a sauce pan.
Now add the dissolved china grass, sugar  and the almond meal to the boiling milk. Lower the heat and boil for 10mins.
Add the essence and simmer for another 2 mins.
Strain the contents to another bowl and  pour the mixture to preferred moulds(individual or large).
Sprinkle slivered almonds on top.
Let it sit in the counter for about 20 mins or until it comes to room temperature and then refrigerate the bowls for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.

China Grass/ Agar Agar Pudding with Pineapple

3 cups milk
1 can (14oz condensed milk)
4 - 5 tblsp Sugar
2tsp Agar Agar powder/ 10gms of Agar Agar strands
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1 tin chopped pineapple
sliced almonds for garnishing

Soak the strands /powder in 1/2 cup of hot water for about 15 mins or until it dissolves completely.
Bring the milk to a roaring boil. Reduce the heat and add the sugar, china grass stands along with soaked water and keep stiring and simmer for another 10-15 mins.
Now add the condensed milk and the essence, stir for another 5 mins on low heat.
Switch off the stove and strain the milk mixture to another large bowl.

Drain the liquid out from the pineapple tin. Add the chopped pineapple pieces to the base of the moulds and then pour the liquid mixture over the pineapple. 
Garnish with sliced up almonds. Let it rest till it comes to room temperature and then refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours or overnight.

  • If using China grass powder go ahead and add it directly to the boiling milk, but it is a must to soak the strands if using those.
  • Some brands do not dissolve completely in the hot water. So always strain the mixture before pouring into the moulds.
  • Adjust the sugar content as per your taste.

Wish you all a very Happy New Year :)

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