I baked a chocolate-date cake for two adorable little girls last week. Charming chocolate and demure dates, energizing and detoxifying at the same time, they just seem to belong together. It was a moist, dense cake and the girls liked its comforting taste.
Chocolate Date Cake
(for 12 generous servings)
2 cups, all purpose flour (unbleached)
1 cup, semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup, fresh dates, pitted and chopped, soaked in a cup of warm milk for 30 minutes
1 cup, pecan pieces (or walnut pieces)
1 1/4 cups, cane sugar
2 eggs or 1 ripe banana, mashed, about a cup
1/2 cup, ghee or peanut oil
1/2 cup, fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon each – baking powder and baking soda
1 teaspoon – vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Generously apply ghee or oil to a cake or bread pan.
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs or ripe banana, sugar, vanilla extract, orange juice and ghee or oil into smooth mixture. Then add and fold in the flour, chocolate chips, dates plus the milk they soaked in, pecans, baking powder and baking soda. Pour the batter into cake pan.
3. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until the cake is firm and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then invert on to a wire rack or plate to cool completely before serving.
Chocolate-Date Mini Cakes
It is easy to adopt vegetables of foren places to the tried and tested, centuries-old culinary traditions of India. Gently simmered in dal or steam-sauteed in subjis, surrounded by complimentary spice seasoning, Indian recipes highlight vegetables’ inherently good nature without suffocating them with artificial flavors. Example is the following recipe. Here, in this Marathi based, rural popular Zunka recipe, zucchini is quickly stir-fried and seasoned with nutritious besan flour to a vibrant and crisp-cooked end result. I remember an old Bharat saying – “select your ingredients as if they were your future daughter-in-law”. Here it definitely applies and it’s jai ho to zunka when zucchini does not well up with loads of tears at the touch of heat. Yellow is the best for that reason and that’s why I planted yellow zucchini. But if you make it with green, pick young and firm-fleshed green zucchinis for this recipe.
(for two meals)
2, young and fresh yellow zucchini
1 red onion or shallot
1/4 cup besan flour
2 garlic cloves
2 dried, red chillies
1 tablespoon, grated dried coconut
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
For tadka: from masala dabba, a pinch each cumin and mustard seeds, few curry leaves and a tablespoon of peanut oil
1: Cut yellow zucchinis to bite-sized pieces. (For young zucchini, skin tend to be thin, so don’t peel the skin.) Finely chop onion to small pieces.
Take besan, garlic, dried red chilli and coconut in a mixer or mortar. Add a pinch of salt and grind the ingredients to fine mix.
Now the prep work is done and on with cooking.
2: Place a cast iron skillet on stove-top. Add and heat oil. When oil is hot, add curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds and toast to fragrance for couple of seconds. Add onion and saute to soft. Add zucchini pieces and stir-fry over medium high heat for about five minutes until almost cooked but still crisp.
3: Sprinkle the besan mix, salt and turmeric. Turn up the heat slightly and saute for about two minutes. Scoop into a bowl and serve the zucchini zunka warm with chapati or sorghum roti.
Zucchini Zunka ~ for Meal Yesterday
When culinary comfort is needed, it has become a habit to go into the kitchen to make parathas. Parathas magically transform dull looking meal options into a centerpiece meal, perfect for weekday eating but also special enough for that potluck party. Simply combine wheat flour with a favorite ingredient, rollout and cook, you have created something rich and tasty. For today, it was luxurious avocado and ultra-soulful fresh methi, gently kneaded into durum wheat flour and made into soft and satisfying parathas.
(for 8 medium-sized parathas)
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ripe avocado cut, seed removed and ripe flesh smoothly mashed
1 cup, finely chopped fresh methi leaves and tender stems
In a bowl, sieve wheat flour with salt. Add avocado and methi. Mix well and gently knead. Add couple of teaspoons of water if necessary to make firm dough. Keep covered for at least 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal sized pieces and shape them into smooth rounds. On a wooden board or on a clean countertop, take a paratha dough piece, dust with flour and roll into 6″ diameter circle with a rolling pin.
Place a tava or griddle on stove-top and heat. When the tava is hot, place the paratha and cook on medium-heat to golden brown on both sides.
Serve hot with some curry or yogurt or pickle.
Avocado Methi Paratha with Methi Chole ~ For Meal Yesterday
Spring is in the air and fresh berries are making an appearance in grocery stores. I bought a box of fresh strawberries yesterday and with some of those berries I baked a strawberry cake for the weekend. It is a substantial cake with a simple recipe. The surprise ingredient is oats and they make the cake more moist and gooey than crumbly. I also added mashed banana (to make it egg-free) and pecans for some extra sweetness and crunch.
2 cups, all-purpose flour (unbleached)
1/4 cup, oats (old fashioned, Quaker brand)
1 and 1/2 cups, sugar
1 teaspoon, salt
1 teaspoon, baking powder
1/2 teaspoon, baking soda
1 ripe banana, mashed with a tablespoon of lime juice
1/2 cup, plain yogurt
1/2 cup, peanut oil
1 cup, cut strawberries
1 cup, coarsely chopped pecans
In a big bowl, take flour and oats. Add sugar, salt, baking powder and soda. Mix well.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the mashed banana, yogurt and oil. Mix well until thoroughly incorporated. Add the strawberries and pecans. Gently combine.
Lightly oil a deep 7- inch round cake pan. Spoon the mixture into the pan and smooth the surface.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake the cake for about 45 minutes until firm to the touch or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool for 30 minutes. Serve and enjoy.
A Slice of Strawberry-Oats Cake to Welcome the Sweet Spring Season
A real treat for those who like the sweet, peppery taste of red bell peppers – these pepper parathas are fine on their own, but with curry, dal or raita makes a very satisfying farm-style meal.
Pepper Parathas with Red Bell Peppers
(for 10 to 12 parathas)
3 cups chapati flour (whole wheat flour from India)
2 fresh and firm red bell peppers
1 tablespoon kasuri methi
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
Bell Peppers: Wash thoroughly and in a plate or a big bowl, grate the bell peppers with a grater. Start from the bottom and when you reach the top most, discard it. Some seeds join the fun and keep them for extra ruchi.
Paratha Dough: In a big bowl, take the chapati flour. Add kasuri methi, cumin and salt. Mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the grated and juicy bell pepper. Combine into the flour with your fingertips, then gradually knead in enough water or yogurt to make soft dough. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for atleast 30 minutes.
Pepper Paratha: Divide the dough into equal sized pieces and shape each piece into a round. On a lightly flour-sprinkled counter, roll out each round into a 5 to 6 inch circle. Keep the rounds that you are not working on covered, to prevent them from drying out. Heat a cast-iron pan. Place the paratha and cook, turning and moving gently with a spatula until golden each side. Brush ghee or peanut oil, if you like, during cooking.
Remove the pepper parathas from the skillet and serve immediately with curry, dal, kurma or raita for a good meal.
Pepper Parathas with Dal Makhani for a Dhaba style Meal Today
Snow Day in Houston
We never thought snow would follow us to Houston. We really thought we left snow back in Pittsburgh and in Seattle. But we were wrong. Like a dear dream of deep sleep, though it took some time, it found us here in Houston. We had beautiful snow scenery last Friday and early Saturday mornings. Thick white snow covered homes, lawns and neighborhood roads on Friday, cold crisp sunny morning on Saturday. It seemed like the weather followed us to bring all the beautiful memories from yester-years.
That rare occasion called for a culinary celebration. A cold quiet weekend needed something that would warm and spice up the time. That is why we made Nippattu: a popular snack of Andhra and south India that is crunchy and moderately hot.
Nippattu (Pappu Chekka)
(makes about 20 to 25 palm-sized Nippattu)
2 cups, rice flour (Biyyam Pindi)
1/4 cup, besan flour (Sanaga Pindi)
1/4 cup, finely chopped fresh curry leaves
2 tablespoons each- rehydrated chana dal & roasted peanuts
1 tablespoon, coarsely ground green chilli
1 tablespoon, ghee
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon each- cumin, ajwan and sesame seeds
Take the flours into a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Work the softened ghee into the mix and add just enough water to make a firm dough.
Tear out small portion of dough and place it on a wax paper. Flatten it a bit and using your fingers, spread out the nippattu in a circle until it is about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Nippattu come in all sizes and shapes, so don’t worry about the perfect shape.
Heat oil in a pan, suitable to deep-frying. Add the nippattu gently into hot oil and deep fry to pale gold. Remove to paper-covered tray. Make all the Nippattu this way.
Cool and store. Nippattu stay fresh upto a month or more when stored in a airtight container. They make best tea, coffee and movie time snack.
Nippattu with Tea ~ A Savory Snack on a Snow Day
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.
It is unusually cold here in Houston for the past one week. As soon as the cool weather sets in, it’s only natural to crave something garama garam. Isn’t it? So, I made some cabbage pakodas this evening with the shredded cabbage I saved from last week’s 5c=A+ equation. Preparation of pakodas was easy compared to the procrastination I went through since morning. Diving into deep-frying is still a difficult process, requires deep thought and doesn’t always happen on demand at my home. After some in depth dawdling:), the decision was made for a happy heart. Garama garam cabbage pakodas and cardamom tea on this cool fall evening.
Shredded Cabbage In Besan Flour
(for about 25 medium-sized pakodas)
2 cups of shredded cabbage (coleslaw mix from grocery also works)
2 cups besan (chickpea flour)
1/4 cup rice flour
1/4 teaspoon ajwan (vaamu) (helps with the digestion)
1/2 teaspoon each – salt and red chilli powder
A pinch of baking soda
3/4 cup water
Peanut oil for deep-frying
Take the besan, rice flour, salt, chilli powder, ajwan and baking soda into a bowl. Mix well. Add the shredded cabbage and gently toss to cover the cabbage with besan flour mix. Slowly add water, mixing as you go, to make a batter of thick consistency.
Pour about 2 cups of peanut oil in a large frying pan and set the pan over high heat. When the oil is frying hot, pick up a handful of cabbage mixture from the bowl and gently drop the batter into oil in small portions. Fill the pan until there is no more space. Fry the pakodas, turning frequently until they are reddish brown and crisp, for about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place the pakodas on a paper towel covered tray to drain. Make the pakodas till the batter is finished.
Serve the cabbage pakodas hot with some tea or coffee for a tasty snack, or with some savory chutney as a part of a meal. They are best when eaten as soon as they are made.
Cabbage Pakodas to Warm up a Autumn Evening
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.
We were invited to a baby shower party last weekend. The blessed friend is a long time reader of Mahanandi recipes. For a present, instead of another plastic thing, I wanted to gift something nourishing for the twins-expecting mother. After giving it a thought for sometime, I came up with an idea. Carrots, coconut and pecans brought in. Carrots and coconut grated, pecans chopped. Baby bananas substituted eggs and to make it truly a party treat, I experimented by adding some condensed milk to the whole-wheat batter.
The effort was a sweet success…some great looking carrot–coconut mini cakes came out of the oven. I didn’t have the heart to spoil their healthy glow with cheesy coverup. I took them to the party, as they are without the phony makeup, hoping they would receive with “I like you very much, just as you are.”
Carrot and Coconut ~ Grated to Greet the Cake Batter
(the batter makes about 24 mini cakes)
Coconut: Break a fresh coconut. Grate the coconut. – 2 cups.
Carrots: Peel the skin and grate the carrots.- 2 cups.
Pecans: Finely chop pecans. – 1 cup.
Bananas: 2 baby or 1 big, ripe one. Mash the bananas to smooth – 1 cup.
Oil: I added peanut oil – 1/2 cup
Condensed milk: 1 cup
Milk : 2 to 3 cups
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or cake flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
Take the dry ingredients listed above in a big bowl. Mix well. Add the wet ingredients – grated carrot, coconut, chopped pecans, mashed banana, condensed milk, milk and oil. Combine thoroughly until well mixed. If the batter looks dry and crumbly, add more milk or water in a slow, steady stream, folding continuously. Consistency of the batter has to be more on the wet side and easily spreadable.
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Generously apply ghee or oil to cake pans. Keep them ready on baking trays.
Transfer the batter to the cake pans and fill them upto ¾ths. Place them in oven and bake until the top is light golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, for about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the cakes to cool completely and then unmold.
Enjoy the tasty carrot coconut cake, just as they are.
Carrot Coconut Cake Batter
Carrot Coconut Mini Cakes ~ Fresh Out of Oven
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari.
Strawberry-Pecan Mini Cake
I am fond of eating fruits straight, and I prefer no-cook fruit preparations like Soopa. I do not want to subject them to cooking. However, this easy dessert which takes only about ten minutes to prepare for baking is so delicious and liked by everyone who tasted, that I am more than willing to donate a pint of berries to it. Light and just sugary enough to satisfy that craving tooth, these strawberry mini cakes are good any time of the day. With this sweet sayonara to week long strawberry saga, I wish you all a wonderful weekend.
Strawberry Mini Cakes
(makes 12 mini cakes)
3 cups all-purpose flour
11/2 cups turbinado sugar (or sugar of any kind)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup juice from oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups cut strawberries
2 cups finely chopped pecans
In a large mixing bowl, sift and stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.
In a small bowl, break and add 2 eggs. (I removed the yellows, my preference. Keep yellows if you like) Also add milk, oil, orange juice and vanilla. Beat the mixture lightly and add this mixture to flour mixture. Before the flour and liquid ingredients are fully combined, fold in the strawberries and pecans, stirring gently.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Apply ghee/butter or oil to mini cake pans. Fill about two thirds full with the batter.
Bake the cakes for about 45 minutes or until tops are golden and when a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Serve the mini cakes at room temperature.
© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari
Fresh Out of Oven, Strawberry Mini Cakes ~ for the Weekend
Friends. We know what they will bring to the table. Joy, substance or seriousness. Like we need shadruchulu, they each meet a need. When it comes to vegetable friends, I know exactly what will potlakaaya bring to the table. A beatific bajji. Traditional Andhra food, prepared during festival celebratory meals, potlakaaya bajjis make a great snack item. With a tad of unique potlakaaya sweetness and aroma, they make tasty bajjis. Give it a try when you find this vegetable on your trip to Indian grocery.
Potlakaaya ………………….Potlakaaya Rounds for Bajjis
The recipe is for 12-inch long potlakaaya. Makes about 30 bajjis.
Potlakaaya – 12-inch length
Besan (gram flour) – 1-cup
Rice flour – quarter cup
Red chilli powder and salt – half teaspoon each
Baking Soda – a pinch
Peanut or Sunflower oil for deep-frying – about two to three cups
Prepare Potlakaaya: Pick a firm and fresh looking potlakaaya for bajjis. Wash the potlakaaya. Cut and remove the ends. With a sharp knife, cut the body into rounds about quarter inch thick like shown in the photo above.
Prepare Besan Batter: In a vessel, take about a cup of besan. Add quarter cup of rice flour, a pinch of baking soda and half teaspoon each – salt and red chilli powder. Mix thoroughly. Make a well in the flour. Add quarter to half cup of water. Using a whisk or hand, adding water if required, make a thin and smooth batter free of lumps.
Prepare bajjis: Heat about three cups of oil in a deep skillet. When oil becomes hot, dip the potlakaaya rounds into besan batter. Drop them gently into hot oil one after another. Deep fry to crisp.
Enjoy this traditional Andhra snack hot. Great on its own or with rice and daal/sambar/curd combinations.
A Portrait of Potlakaaya Bajji ~ for Ugadi