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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Layered chocolate and cherry wine cake : My most decadent cake yet

I have made this cake twice – once as a wedding present for a dear friend and once for my huband’s birthday – both in 2013, both decadent as anything and both having gone down an absolute treat with their respective recepients.

Weddings and wedding presents – always a tricky one for me. There are those people that tell me what they want and make my life easy. And then there are others who I care about, but I have no clue as to how my miniscule contribution could make a difference to there generally well set up lives. It is in the latter situation that I usually opt for cooking (usually baking) something for them so that they can remember the taste of it (and perhaps its maker) for many years to come.

I’m not a huge chocolate eater myself but I knew my friend was and I know my husband definitely is. It is his weakness and I often joke that he’d be easily kidnapped if someone dangled dark chocolate on a stick in front of his eyes. So, for me, this cake was a challenge on many levels – coming up with the right texture, appearance and taste for the occasion were very important. So I set about surfing the internet for inspiration and ideas and came across this lovely recipe by Lindsay & Taylor and I decided to give it my own twist.

Hope you like it and will give it a go.

Manasa

Triple-layer chocolate cherry cake with dinosaur

Triple-layer chocolate cherry cake with dinosaur

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Tiramisu alle fragole or Tiramisu with strawberries

I have been on holiday for a whole week as a re-energiser before starting my new job. Thus, I’ve spent most of the week doing what I like best – cooking. Earlier in the week, I cooked a festive South Indian meal for some friends of ours which is still being consumed 4 days on and last night, we hosted an Italian-food themed board games night with some other friends. While I had most of the menu sorted, I was umm-ing and ah-ing on the “dolce” or dessert course.

Given my enormous free time this week, I browsing through the travel section in the local library and I chanced upon a book called “Sweet Honey, Bitter Lemons : Travels in Sicily on a Vespa” by Matthew Fort. This book’s contents are pretty much as the title claims – It contains several mouth-watering (and sometimes weird) Sicilian recipes, while giving the reader a feel for Sicilian people, life and customs as the writer explores this island on his Vespa scooter.

The one thing that really irks me about this book is the unecessary overuse of flowery language to describe things that can be done equally well with more accessible vocabulary. Despite that, I’m persisting with the book and it was in one of its pages that I came across a lovely recipe for strawberry tiramisu.

I have posted two previous tiramisu recipes – one regular and one with raspberries. However, back in the day, I didn’t actually have any pictures of this delicious Italian treat.

Inspired by this verbose but informative book, and my Italian-themed games night, I present to you – Tiramisu alle fragole with pictures.

It was so good that my guests were fighting over it !

 

Tiramisu with strawberries - Just hanging onto the edge of the bowl...

Tiramisu with strawberries – Just hanging onto the edge of the bowl…

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Semlor or awesome cardamom-spiced, almond paste and cream filled Scandanavian Lent buns

Semlor (singular : semla) is the Swedish name for these delectable little (OK my version was little) buns. I first saw them on a friend’s Fascebook page more than two years ago. Her Scandanavian partner had produced these around Easter time and from her pictures, they looked delicious. I remember reading at the time that the buns were full of cardamom and that’s all I needed to know. Buns with cardamom, almond and cream sounded like something that would be right up my alley.

All my semlor-related knowledge came from Wikipedia and from this page which is also the source of my recipe (s). Traditionally, these buns are meant to be eaten on Mardi-gras or Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday – the day before the start of Lent. Apparently, in Sweden there are long queues at bakeries that specialise in making and selling semlor on Shrove Tuesday. Having made semlor once, I reckon they should be an all-year bun, not just Mardi-gras buns. Just make sure you don’t eat them like the old Swedish King Adolf Fredrik did. Fable says that he died after eating 14 servings of semla in hot milk.

With this post, I have provided links to the recipes I used and have demonstrated the methdolofy in pictures. Hope you find it useful and give it a try!

 

Whole cardamom pods in the background. In the foreground, from left to right (1) half-open pod (2) peels (3) seeds (4) ground cardamom

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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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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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Chilli Paneer/Paneer Manchurian or Spicy Saucy Indian Cottage Cheese

Any food with soy sauce, vinegar, chilli sauce, ginger and garlic is considered “Chinese” food in India. This combination of ingredients has given rise to a whole genre of food in the Indian subcontinent called “Indo-Chinese” food. Needless to say, the People’s Republic of China have never heard of most of the things that fall into the “Indo-Chinese” category of food. So, what I’m trying to say is that it is a made up style of  “Chinese” food in India much like the made up “Indian” food here in England  except for the teeny-tiny fact that the former is actually quite tasty (pa dam pum tshhhh!).

While Indo-Chinese food is a pretend food, it is very very popular in streets and restaurants all over India. In Bangalore, where I grew up, it is not unusual to see a guy vending these yummy delights out of the back of a covered auto-rickshaw or tuk-tuk. He usually has an array of finely chopped vegetables all neatly arranged in boxes and a huge wok on a portable stove in which he cooks them. Funnily enough, they tend to be exclusively vegetarian, with only the most adventurous ones treading into the fungus world by sporting mushrooms alongside the array of vegetables. (Note: Some orthodox Hindu members of my mum’s extended family will not eat mushrooms as they think its neither a vegetable nor an animal so best to stay away from it.)

Coming back to the main story, these street vendors and several established restaurants have the following popular Indo-chinese dishes on their menu – Gobi Manchurian (cauliflower from Manchuria clearly), Paneer Manchurian (cottage cheese instead of cauliflower), Vegetable Manchurian, Babycorn manchurian, Vegetable friend rice, Vegetable fried noodles and so on. My fondest memories of Indo-Chinese food are from the months of the monsoon rains in Bangalore. Family friends of ours would pick up some of these saucy, spicy delights and bring them over to our house to share. We’d spend the evening in the warm indoors getting even warmer with every little bite of spicy, “Chinese” vegetable.

Paneer is one of the very few cheeses made in India. It a fresh cheese and is the Indian form of cottage cheese. The main difference is that paneer is drained to remove much of its moisture content and  is compacted into a hard block that can be cut into cubes and added into various curries.

Chilli paneer is an Indo-Chinese dish and I use the name interchangeably with Paneer Machurian. It is cubes of paneer sauteed (or fried) in oil and then tossed in a stirfry made with soy, vinegar, tomato sauce, ginger, garlic, chillies, capsicum (green peppers) and onions. It can be enjoyed on its own as an evening snack with your favourite pint or shot of spirits. Alternatively, it can be consumed with any form of flat bread. If you add water to it to make it more liquid-y, it can even be eaten with rice.

Here is my take on Chilli Paneer/Dry Paneer Manchurian. Remember – the spicier, the better. Hope you like it!

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Chilli paneer served with soft tortilla

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