Eggless Welsh Cakes

The first Easter following our move to England happened to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. This only meant one thing to us – extra holidays! So we set off on a camping trip to Wales where we encountered these yummy things called Welsh cakes. We also encountered some other interesting things like the guy who was into dressing up like Elvis and going to gatherings with other “Elvises” but that’s a story for another day.

What are “Welsh cakes” ? Really, they are a pancake more than a cake – made with flour, raisins/sultanas, spices such as cinnamon, butter,eggs and sugar. There isn’t really any baking time involved as you cook them on the stove in a fry pan. They are a lovely accompaniment to tea and go with any sort of fruit jam/preserve.

Do give it a go as it is incredibly easy to make and takes barely any time to put together. In addition, you can make it gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and sugar-free if you’d like.

The inside of a Welsh cake

The inside of a Welsh cake

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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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Donna Hay’s Ricotta, amaretti and plum cheesecake

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m hoping that with this particular post, I can skimp on my usual blah blah and let the pictures do the talking.

It was a dear friend’s brithday last week and I thought I’d bake a cake for her as a birthday present. My friend absolutely loves cheesecake and I’d been looking for an opportunity to crack out Donna Hay’s issue 68 which has a whole section on cheesecakes. For those who don’t know Donna Hay, she is an amazing Australian food stylist and one can spend hours drooling and making interesting noises (as my husband pointed out) over her magazine. The best part is that her recipes just work – no need to change anything! Check her website out for some awesome recipes at http://donnahay.com.au/

Without further ado, I present to you the incredibly good-looking and delicious  – Ricotta and amaretti cheesecake with a topping of plums baked in a syrup infused with vanilla and cinnamon.

Ricotta, amaretti cheesecake with plums

Ricotta, amaretti cheesecake with plums

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Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi and inspired dinner

I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,

1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark

3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.

Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.

To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it 🙂 An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !

My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !

Menu for board games night

Menu for board games night

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Sanjeev Kapoor’s Navratan Korma or Nine-gem korma

As the name indicates, this recipe is from my North Indian food guru – Sanjeev Kapoor. It features in his book “How to Cook Indian”. This book is different from most of my cookbooks in that there are no pictures. It is nearly 600 pages of recipes – joy!

Before I give you the recipe for this korma, a little bit of background and history. “Navratan” is an amalgam of the words “Nav” meaning nine and “ratan” meaning gems or precious stones. My first introduction to this term was when we studied Indian history in school and we learnt about Mughal (Muslim) rulers. The Muslim rulers brought amazing architecture to India such as the Taj Mahal , art and of course, some of the richest and decadent food that India is still known for. The most famous of the Mughal rulers was Akbar the Great (grandfather of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal). Despite being illeterate,  Akbar liked to be surrounded by intelligent and talented people. He appointed 9 such people who were also his advisers and friends and he called them “Navratan” or his nine gems.

This dish is named Navratan korma as it contains 9 different, pretty components. The gravy itself is pale so as to allow  “9 gems” to stand out. I have given you the original recipe which serves 4. The pictures show you almost 3 times the quantity as I made this dish for a dinner party with nearly 40 people. This wasn’t the only dish at the party so the quantity was just right. In fact, I managed to keep a bowl of it at home which served us for lunch the next day.

Hope you like it as much as we did ! Also, check out my mum’s South Indian vegetable kurma. Can you tell the difference ?

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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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Everyone needs a bit of Herman

THIS RECIPE IS NOT MY OWN!!!

Have just been through the Jubilee Weekend here in England, I have come to realise that there is something else other than soccer that the English are crazy about. The craze for growing and making Herman doesn’t quite compare to the Jubilee Celebrations but there are enough starters around England being passed from friend to friend. Go Herman!

It was a sleepy Sunday evening when friends of ours dropped in to give me a box of Herman and instructions as to what to do. All this might sound a bit kinky but I promise you it was the starter for a harmless sourdough cake. The instructions had a website  and Herman the German friendship cake seemed quite a fun thing to do, it was right up my alley and so I got started right away. as can the recipe for the basic apple and cinnamon cake and several other cake recipes.

 

Source:  http://www.hermanthegermanfriendshipcake.com/

 

Changes:

The first Herman I made was a double-Herman and took it into work. My team has nearly 80 members and Herman sure got devoured. The changes I made to the recipe are as follows.

1. I used two portions of sourdough to bake it and baked in a large lasagne dish.

2. I used gluten-free flour instead of standard flour as one of my colleagues is gluten-intolerant. If using gluten-free flour in England, I recommend the Doves Farm brand and make sure you add an extra half cup of milk to make the cake more moist.

3. I didn’t melt butter and sugar and pour it over the top – given my silly oven, I thought it would guarantee a burnt top if I did so.

4. However, I did make a simple crumble topping using 1 and 1/2 cups of gluten-free flour, 100 gms cold butter and 3/4 cup of Demerera (coffee) sugar. To make the crumble, rub the butter into the flour with your fingers using a pinching action. The crumble is ready when the flour and butter resemble breadcrumbs. At this stage, add the sugar and mix it in.

5. I used 3 large Bramley apples instead of 4 and left the skins on for extra nutrition.

6. I used 2 teaspoons of cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of nutmeg instead of cinnamon alone.

7. I cooked the double-Herman for 1 hour at 180ºC . The cake was rising like a volcano in the centre but still wobbly. At this point, I covered the cake with crumble and baked it for another hour. The crumble and cake were perfectly cooked by then.

8. I made a single Herman more recently and I really think one of us should take it into work lest we eat it all.

 

Tips:

1. The 45 minutes at 170-180º does not work if you have a dinky oven like I do. I placed the baking dish on one of the lower shelves of the oven and cooked it for nearly 2 hours. As the website says, if you find the top going a bit brown, cover it with silver foil and put it back in the oven.

2. If you don’t want your apples and raisins/sultanas to sink to the bottom, toss them in flour before adding them to the batter. The flour soaks up the moisture making the fruit lighter and more evenly distributed throughout the cake. Use the same trick for bits of chocolate or nuts.

3. If you are vegan, then use egg-substitute and leave the crumble out or use margarine instead of butter to make the crumble topping.

4. If you are really allergic to gluten, make Herman using gluten-free flour. My double-Herman was 1/7th gluten and 6/7th gluten-free flour.

 

Pictures:

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