Monday, October 25, 2010

Easy Fruit Cake

Christmas is bobbing in and it's only a month two months away! the first image that pops in our mind when we picture our Christmas table is the fruit cake-with those generous amounts of delicious noble fruits steeped in the volatile liquor. i've been baking the traditional sherry-sozzled Christmas cake for the past two years and i wanted a change. i'm almost always giddy with my family responsibilities and personal career moves and i almost know that i'm biting more than i can chew. but i'm gonna chew for a while more. and i cannot sham on my fruit cake. and i suddenly remember variety is the spice of life. so i begin this daring move of fruit-cake-recipe-skewing and glide in with this easy yum yum fruit cake! my mum-in-law says the basic go-go for a fruit cake is a 2:1 ratio for the fruits:maida, i. e., 500 gm fruits for 250 gm maida and i decide to believe her!

maida-250 gm
sugar-200 gm (powdered)
butter-200 gm
vanilla essence-1/2 tsp
tonovin or grape essence-1/2 tsp
powdered nutmeg and cinnamon-1 tsp each
baking powder-11/2 tsp
soda bicarb-1 tsp

The dry fruits and wine proportion was totally a by-default decision based on the random availability of stuff. i fortunately fulfilled the required ratio.

currants-60 gm
cherries-50 gm
almonds and cashewnuts-100 gm (together)
dates-100 gm
orange peel-20 gm
fresh apple-1/2-1
homemade grape wine-11/4 cups

All the dry fruits were chopped fine and soaked together in one cup wine in a glass container for a week at room temperature. a day before i baked the apple was chopped fine and soaked in 1/4 cup wine and left outside.

Sift maida, baking powder and soda bicarb. beat the butter and sugar till soft. add the eggs one by one (i think i added two by two!!) and continue beating. mix in the flour till well-blended. add the essence and the soaked fruits and hand-mix nicely. place the batter in a cake tin and bake till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. cool, cut and hog away...

It's better to use a spring form pan with a removable bottom or oil your butter paper and place in the cake tin and bake. use rum or brandy if wine not available but reduce the quantity to half cup.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Eggless Plantain Muffins/Cake

Fantastic is the word for it and honestly this is no self-promotion. my gran too loved these muffins. it's much more appealing than the photographs!! sorry for those. i bake under a modicum of pressure which means i have my little girl pulling me from behind; i run to feed my alice; phone calls to attend; guests turning up. so i don't stand like anna olson in that beautiful joint of hers and bake like she shoots for the asian food channel. what i'm driving at is i made the batter quickly but then the interruptions started. and by the time i finished baking the muffins in the individual muffin moulds in my mum's oven it was dinner time! i had to click these sad-looking photos quickly before rushing to put aby to bed.

maida-11/2 cups
butter (softened)-1 cup
castor sugar-1 cup (or a little less than a cup)
ripe plantains (big)-2
walnuts or cashewnuts-1/2 cup
vanilla essence-1 tsp
baking powder-1 tsp
soda bicarb-1/2 tsp
salt-1/4 tsp
milk-3 tbsp
condensed milk (sweetened)-2-3 tbsp

Sieve the maida, baking powder, soda bicarb and salt. keep it aside. deseed the plantains and run them in the grinder to get a non-bumpy mass. crush the nuts using a mortar-pestle. beat the butter and castor sugar till soft. add the mass of plantain and beat again. dump the maida in moderate quantities and keep beating. add the milk, condensed milk, vanilla essence and crushed nuts and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or hand-mix it. pour in the muffin moulds or the cake tin and bake till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. enjoy with a hot cup of frothy coffee! my...i can have it right away!!! these muffins don't rise much.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Plantain-Beef Stew

The plantain fest is on in my home. we've been excited about the bunch of farm-fresh plantains we got and have been honestly trying various interesting recipes. my mum goes beserk in the kitchen when her son-in-law (my husband thomas) turns up for one or two days. she has to make every meal special. i guess it's a mum-in-law-son-in-law connection. i don't care about the equation as long as it's good. i focus on WHAT'S ON THE PLATTER! she got hold of the recipe below from her cookery guru and icon Lakshmi Nair. i like her too for the accuracy of her measurements and variety and originality. i suggest her books strongly to Kerala cooks.

beef-1/2 kg
raw plantain (yethakai)-3 peeled and cut in big pieces
green chilli-2 slit lengthwise
ginger-1 tbsp chopped fine
onion-2 diced
tomato-1 soaked in hot water, peeled and cut
pepper powder-11/2 tsp
coconut milk-2 cups

Pressure cook the beef, cut plantain, salt and one tsp pepper with two cups water. retain the stock. heat 11/2 tbsp oil in a pan and saute onion, ginger and chilli. add the tomato and fry it well. add the pressure cooked beef. to this add two cups coconut milk and keep it covered on medium flame and let it boil for ten mins. take it off the flame. spice it up with more pepper powder if required and garnish with curry leaves.

You can add diced veggies for nutrition but not potato to retain the taste of the original recipe. this is an excellent accompaniment to steam-baked rice flour cakes (oh well, puttu (in regional language) is simpler!; see photograph).

Courtesy: Lakshmi Nair

Friday, October 15, 2010

Plantain Balls

Plantains are a huge culinary asset for Keralites. our sunday breakfast, especially in Christian homes, is mostly steam-baked ripe plantains and poached eggs. we have our austere church-going and we save time by this quick breakfast package which is so nutritious and energy-giving. yeah, plantains are rich in carb and moms regularly insist on the ripe-uncooked-plantain-and-a-glass-of-milk combo. those banana fritters with a dash of cinnamon is our fave tea time snack. plantain balls are a derivative of the steamed plantain. we had three of them left over from our morning breakfast and i decided on this for my little girl to snack on.

This is from my mum-in-law's stack of recipes. she has the entire range of traditional Kerala recipes!

grated coconut-1/2 cup
sugar-2 tbsp
crushed cashewnuts-1-2 tbsp
cardamom powder to flavour
rice flour-a little
oil to fry

Deseed the steamed fruit and mash it nicely and evenly without any lumps. fry the coconut and sugar lightly in a pan in the ghee to cook the coconut. you can use fresh coconut also but the balls then have shorter shelf life. add this to the mashed plantain along with crushed cashew. flavour with cardamom powder. mix it well and make a reasonable-looking dough. roll into small balls and coat the balls with the flour. fry in oil and eat it hot with a huge mug of chai!

The plantain should not be over-ripe. or else the balls become gooey within. in case it happens toughen the batter with rice flour or maida. the fruit need not be completely steam-baked if you exclusively set out to make the balls. this avoids the probable stickiness of the dough.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Presto Chocolate Cake

I remember scarfing the biggest possible pieces of this cake as an adolescent when my mum used to bake it. i loved the richness of it and the chocolate-sticky crust (i still do). now that i've started baking this was my first chocolate cake recipe. it's the quickest i've come across and i love to have it cold.

cocoa powder-1/2 cup
butter-1/2 cup cut up
maida-2 cups
sourless curd-1/2 cup
vanilla essence-1 tsp
soda bicarb-3/4 tsp
powdered sugar-2 cups
lukewarm water-1/2 cup

Beat the eggs lightly with a fork. add all the ingredients in their order; mix well with your hands and bake till done. yes, you read right. it's just this much and believe me the cake will surpass you expectations. you don't have to mess your beater (personally i love hand-mixed batter). i never even followed the order but still it came out so good!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rich Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sauce

I crave, right now, a huge chunk of this delectable cake. but most of the times i bake it, it goes out to someone else OR once i lavish the sauce on it and watch the dribble trickling down i become calorie-conscious! sigh, strange is the female species. i've taken this from a local Christian magazine and of the handful of chocolate cake recipes i've tried my vote goes for this.

flour-11/2 cups
cocoa powder-1/2 cup
sugar-11/4 cups
soda bicarb-11/2 tsp
butter-185 gm
vanilla essence-1 tsp
cold milk-1 cup
synthetic vinegar-1 tbsp

Strain the flour along with the cocoa powder and soda bicarb and keep aside. powder the sugar and mix it with the flour combo. add the vinegar to the milk and let it stand. beat the eggs lightly and keep. melt the butter; cool it and add it to the flour-sugar mix along with half the milk. beat for two mins. add the eggs, remaining milk and vanilla essence and beat for another two mins. pour the batter into a nicely greased cake tin and bake till done.

The cake is really soft. so don't try and heap the entire batter into one cake tin. distribute it in two. it yields 900 gms.

The chocolate sauce recipe is already given in my Christmas menu spread. ideally use the ring cake pan so that the final effect is of an over-sized doughnut. jab the cake at different points with a slender stick (i use toothpick!) and let the sauce seep in. dribble the sauce when it is hot. slice a chunk and steal its richness before you turn calorie-conscious like me:)

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Variation

OK, it's safest to avoid experiments with cakes but i've started this nasty habit! i know thomas will gum it down as long as it tastes good. i tried this with my standard carrot cake recipe and won accolades.

grated carrot-11/2 cups
finely chopped pineapple-11/2 cups
cocoa powder-1 tbsp
instant coffee powder-1/2 tsp
nutmeg powder-11/2 tsp
cinnamon powder-11/2 tsp
and all the other ingredients mentioned below in the carrot cake recipe

I did not finely chop the pineapple. i ran it quickly in the chopper once. it's not the ideal thing to do as it becomes a sticky mass but nothing suffers.

You can add tutty fruity and cherries and use drinking chocolate powder instead of cocoa. it's voila again but consider the sweetness of the chocolate powder while adding the sugar. if you use drinking chocolate powder add 2-3 tbsp of it and reduce the sugar quantity to 21/4 cups.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Carrot Cake and Variations

I've baked this cake God knows how many times and i can still bake it and enjoy it like i have never had it before. my friends have tried other carrot cake recipes and by popular poll this is rated the best.

grated carrot-3 cups
maida-2 cups
sugar-2-21/2 cups powdered
refined oil-1-11/4 cups
baking powder-1 tsp
sodabicarb-1 tsp
salt-a pinch
cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves-1 tsp each ground
cocoa powder-2-3 tbsp (absolutely optional)

Sieve together the maida, baking powder, sodabicarb and salt two or three times. beat the eggs ligtly with a fork adding the sugar. using your hands mix all the ingredients well. pour into a cake tin and bake till done.

Yes, it's as simple as that. you don't have to take out your beater and believe me this cake can't be softer. it yields around 1 kg. slice it and refrigerate the third or fourth day on. it only tastes better when cold.

Use two cups sugar if you want it only mildly sweet. i found the two and a half cups sugar a nicer fit for the cake though i don't generally like anything too sweet. use only one cup oil if you like your cake dry (my mum in law likes it that way). i use 11/4 as i like it moist (daughter in law vs. mother in law!). if you find it difficult to cut put it in the fridge for a while and cut it cold. it's yuuummmmmmm...mmmoooooo.