Bisi bele bhath or Hot vegetable and lentil rice

Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.

The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise

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Mysore pak (Indian chickpea fudge) for my Madras ajji

WordPress tells me that it is my 100th post. I never thought I’d get here when I started writing on a cold winter’s night in December 2011. I also wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the constant support and encouragement of my partner (now husband). To all others who have been with me from the time canwehavesomerasam started, I am eternally grateful. You keep my spirits up, encourage me and make me want to share my kitchen experiments with you. I hope you continue to do so and that I don’t disappoint you.

As this is a landmark post, I’d like to dedicate this post to my paternal grandma, Madras ajji who passed away a year ago. “Ajji” is the Kannada word for grandma and Madras, or Chennai as it is known as today, was where she lived most of her life. Despite being a diabetic for as long as I can remember, she still had a super-soft spot for sweets/pudding. The picture of her smiling in front of a large chocolate cake, on her 80th birthday, is one I will always have in my head when I think of her. While Mysore pak may not have been her favourite dessert, it definitely ranked highly on her list and hence, the dedication.

What is Mysore pak ? Well it is essentially Indian fudge made with just 3 ingredients – chickpea flour (or besan), sugar (white, refined, caster sugar) and ghee (clarified butter). As you can see, none of these ingredients are meant to be healthy. The word “paka” pronounced as you would “parka” means a sticky syrup usually made from sugar or jaggery/palm sugar. Mysore was the capital of Karnataka for nearly six centuries until the end of the British rule in 1947. Legend has it that Mysore pak was invented in the royal kitchens of the Mysore palace and the royalty enjoyed it so much that they got the cook to set up a stall outside the palace so it could be shared with the common people. Today, it is one of the most popular desserts in the state and features on many a wedding, birthday, and anniversary feast.

Note: Don’t be fooled by the simple ingredients – Mysore pak is one of the hardest desserts to get right and timing is everything. I hope to demonstrate it to you with my good and not-so-good versions.

Good version of Mysore pak

Good version of Mysore pak : Soft and literally melts in the mouth

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Chocolate orange marble cake with orange curd icing

I promised I’d share this recipe a little while ago on my Orange and lemon curd blog but hadn’t gotten around it until today. I’ve been hanging onto this little bit of paper onto which I scribbled the ingredients for the cake and was overjoyed when I found it today on one of my cleaning missions. I thought I’d better write it up before I lose the bit of paper again.

My partner loves Chocolate-orange together in any form of dessert. So for his birthday, I decided I’d make a chocolate orange cake. Since I didn’t want to mess up on the day, I thought I’d give it a trial run first. The trial run was extremely successful both at home and in the office (yes, I am on a secret mission to fatten my colleagues – shhh….). I didn’t however make it for his birthday as he decided he wanted something different. I will write about the actual birthday cake at a later date.

With most recipes, my first port of call is the interwebs. There are hundreds of recipes for chocolate orange cakes and hundreds more for marbled cake. I looked up so many of them but nothing seemed to match the image I had in my head. Nothing, until this Pumpkin Marbled cake by Sabine from Berry Lovely.

I am not keen on food colouring so I really liked Sabine’s use of pumpkin in this recipe. Unfortunately, the only pumpkins I could buy here were really huge and it isn’t a popular vegetable in the house. So, I decided to use carrots to impart the orange colour to my marbled cake.  Here is my take on Sabine’s take on a recipe from Sunset Magazine.

Chocolatey-orangey and very edible!

Chocolatey-orangey and very edible!

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Chocolate orange mousse or Jaffa mousse

I haven’t posted recently and that’s because the English summer FINALLY made an appearance, if only for a week. So rather than my usual pose on the sofa with the laptop on my lap, I chose to spend it outside. I went for rambles (walks) with my partner and his parents, had lunch in the sun and sat in a park and read my book – all to soak in some sunshine and warmth. It was just lovely.

But today, predictably, the English clouds have set in and it’s windy and the right weather to start whinging all over again.As a result, I’m back inside, with my laptop for company. I also think, it is about time I wrote another blog. I promised I’d give you the recipe for chocolate orange souffle last time and here it is.

Chocolate orange is a flavour combination I’ve come to love. Here in England, you get a “Jaffa cakes” and mini jaffas which are choc-orange covered biscuits/little sponge biscuits. My partner loves them and I will occasionally have an indulgent bite or two. I have posted an easy choc-orange souffle recipe before and this one is mousse version of these lovely flavours. I saw a recipe for Chocolate orange Pots in the book “New Bistro” by Fran Warde (http://www.amazon.co.uk/New-Bistro-Fran-Warde/dp/1845333306). At the same time, I saw another book with a recipe for chocolate mousse. I thought to combine the two recipes to make Chocolate orange mousse.

Chocolate orange mousse in teacups

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Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

THIS IS NOT (FULLY) MY OWN RECIPE !!!

Source: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/

I love baklava and its close relatives. Baklava is Turkish in origin and refers to a very particular kind of pastry – diamond shaped, layered with honey and pistachios/cashews. It’s close relatives refer to anything from finger shaped pastry, bird’s nest shaped pastry, semolina cakes etc. While it is Turkish in origin (or so says Wikipedia), you will find it regularly at Greek, Lebanese and Moroccan restaurants so I suspect it is more a regional dish than a country-specific one.  Some of the flavours I associate with these sweets are rose water, orange-blossom water, sugar/honey (lots of it) and cinnamon. These flavours are what inspired this experiment of mine.

Enough about baklava and more about the scrolls – I was chatting with a friend on Google Talk when I saw him chomping on some cinnamon scrolls that his wife had made for him. It reminded me of “Cinnabon” in American and their stonkingly sweet buns full of sugar and cinnamon. I thought that I could give them a try and actually control how sugary I make them and then thought of making them with rosewater and nuts, like a baklava.

So I went searching for a recipe and found the pioneer woman’s recipe. Ree’s words about the impact this dish would have on its consumer was so very inspirational that I set off on my own journey to conquer the hearts of all I know.Boy, was I disappointed. The rolls were too crispy, too crunchy and not at all like I’d been imagining them all day. I couldn’t really taste much of the cinnamon which was also disappointing.

I don’t think it is the recipe that was at fault – just some of the things I did that I shouldn’t have. Hope I can pass on some tips that will mean that your scrolls are a lot fluffier and tastier than mine turned out. I baked these in March this year and it has taken me this long to gather the courage to write about them. Learn from my mistakes and tell me if you make a fluffy baklava-inspired cinnamon scroll!

Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

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Kulich or Russian Easter sweet bread

THIS RECIPE IS NOT MY OWN !!

The long Easter weekend was a very busy one in my kitchen and I made this on Easter Monday as the grand finale dish. I found it on a blog that I follow that has some very interesting Russian recipes. The bread was more like a cake and was amazing as it came out of the oven.  We ate it all up in the week to follow so I’d say it was as success.

Source: http://russianmomcooks.com/2012/03/30/russian-friday-kulich/

Notes:

1. It is a very nice recipe but be warned that it takes a while to make. I started at 9 in the morning and the cake was ready at 3:30pm.

2. There are 3 stages of rising so don’t rush it – it is worth the wait.

3. “Poolish” is the French name for a fermentation starter.

 

Changes:

1. I halved the recipe to get one standard loaf tin worth of cake.

2.  I used only 1/2 the recommended sugar in the recipe.

3. I didn’t have rum so used brandy instead.

4. I used sultanas and slivered almonds which went quite nicely in the cake.

5. I didn’t use any icing as neither my partner nor I care much for it.

 

Tips and Avoiding mishaps:

1. To make the batter rise on a cold English day, I used my old trick of keeping the oven at 50 degrees while mixing the ingredients and then turning it off just before placing the bowl in it. Worked like a charm (Pictures 9, 20 and 23).

2. The batter rises a LOT as I learnt the hard way (Picture 23). So do use a deep dish if you can. If not, build a strong baking paper and silver foil fortress in your baking dish before pouring the batter in it.

3. I found all the raisins settle in the bottom layer of the cake (Picture 27 – it is upside down so the raisins are on top). There were 2 reasons for this

(a) I forgot to add the raisins to the batter before pouring it into my loaf tin so don’t do that

(b) I’ve always dusted raisins/fruit in flour before mixing it into batter which I again forgot as I was following the recipe religiously.

So toss the fruit in half a cup of flour before adding them to the batter and this will make sure they are evenly spread through the cake/bread.

4. I put half a cup of brandy into the fruit and this made for a very boozy cake so don’t go overboard.

5. The cake got a bit dry after the first couple of days so store it in a really airtight container if you can.

Kulich – Russian sweet bread
1. Heat milk and water until luke warm 2. Sprinkle dry, active yeast on top of the milk 3. Frothed up yeast after 20 minutes 4. Add a cup of flour to a large bowl 5&6. Soak sultanas and slivered almonds in brandy/rum 7 & 8. Add the yeast to the flour and mix well to make a thick batter 9. Let the poolish/starter rise for an hour in a warm place 10. Melt 125gms of butter 11. Separate 3 eggs into small bowls 12 & 13. Beat eggs yolks and ½ cup of sugar until thick and creamy 14. Make sure the butter has melted completely 15. Beat the egg whites to a stiff peak 16. Add the remaining flour and egg yolk mix to the poolish and combine 17. Add the melted butter and combine 18 & 19. Finally incorporate the egg whites into the batter using a metal spoon 20. Let the batter rise in a warm place for 1.5 hrs 21 & 22. Mix in the sultanas/almonds and pour into a loaf tin lined really high with non-stick paper 23. The batter is allowed to rise again for an hour and the paper fortress fails to hold 24. Silver-foil reinforced loaf tin 25. Cake after baking for 45 minutes 26 & 27. Remove cake from loaf tin, peel off the baking paper and eat while warm.

Blueberry and raspberry scones

THIS RECIPE IS ADAPTED FROM BBC FOOD !!

Last week, I acquired a bottle of red gooseberry jam from a colleague at work. I’d never seen/heard of or tasted red gooseberry before. Growing up in India, I’d seen and bitten into green gooseberries with my childhood friends. These berries called “Nelli-kai” in Kannada would make us all screw our faces into a knot as the sourness stung the backs of our mouths. However, mum would turn them into a wonderfully spicy Indian pickle with chilli and mustard and fenugreek and that’s the only form I’d eaten and liked it in. I thought it was time to give this other kind of gooseberry a try.

Scones – ready to eat

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