In a mango mood

Mango Mousse - My entry for Mahanandi’s JFI

Before apples, oranges, and formidable pineapples stepped into my life, there were mangoes!!!! Swinging along on a laden tree, tightly packed in a wooden crate, neatly sliced and piled on a plate, pickled and brined ,once upon a time, they were just everywhere around me . Although I hold no prejudice against any of the other respectable fruits mentioned, mangoes are forever my favorite fruits, not because of its taste, texture or color, but due to the enormous number of memory strings attached to that very tropical fruit. One mango memory in particular inspired me to prepare the dessert I made for JFI. On the backyard of my mother’s house in a quiet sunny seaside town of Cherthala (Kerala), stood a large, shady mango tree, on which, as kids, we used to have swings for Onam, and other celebrations. Come April- May, that blessed tree is all drooping down with a heavy load of mangoes, with the finest form and color. Instead of waiting under the tree to catch the ripe mangoes riding wind, or climbing up to pick a fruit or two, we just plainly ignored it. We looked up as if it is an impending doom, and countless jars of pickles of all sorts were made in our kitchen, in a desperate effort to check those mangoes from ripening. There was only one reason for this yearly humdrum exercise, and we all knew it. Those fruits were not at all sweet when ripe. There were always comparisons made with all the other “adorable” mango trees that we know in the neighborhood, which yield delightfully ripe “sugar packets” every year. My folks did not want to get rid of our tree either, so there were stories passed on to us about a certain “glorious past “of the tree and how it all sunk to soil with somebody casting an evil eye on it. Things went on like this for a couple of more years and then on one sultry summer after noon when I was 7 or 8 years old, my ever so improvising akkan (My cousin, my sis, the first ever homemade cake I tasted was skillfully baked by her hands), driven by an urge to make these ripe mangoes palatable, made her own version of Ambrosia, by mixing up three very common ingredients and created history. (At this point, I know that I am really exaggerating, but in my teeny little world back then, it was a big happening.) Well, she invented mango milk shake for us that day!! The recipe for that concoction was around for ever, but accidental reinvention is never suggested as a crime. The addition of milk and enough sugar to compensate the deficiency somehow turned this mango pulp into a very summery delight. Mango milk shake became our favorite summer after meal dessert for couple of more years, till we suddenly grew up and discovered bottled “Maaza Mango”, and tetra packed “Frooty”, and numerous irresistible intermixtures like Sharjah shake * . Time flew by, we do not have that mango tree anymore, I do not crave for even the most interesting milkshakes, but whenever I get into a mango mood, I somehow end up thinking about that lonely maverick of a mango tree, may be it was the swing or the milk shake or it is just what we call nostalgia, remembrance of the glorious summers that we had as kids, when simple everyday joys used to light up the universe

My entry for Mahanandi’s JFI is a simple Mango mousse, captures the taste of a mango shake, but with a different texture. As like any other mousse, this one is delicate, airy, can be made ahead, and yields to any mould, or scoop. Piped whipped cream, drizzled whole cream along with some mango puree ( as you see in the photo), sliced or grated mangoes, and any other delightful idea of yours, will all work fine for a decent presentation.

Mango Mousse

2 ripe mangoes
4 tbsp condensed milk
1 tbsp. orange juice (or honey)
¼ cup sugar (adjust to your desired sweetness)
3 large eggs
200 ml whipping cream

Puree mangoes with orange juice or honey, strain through a fine sieve. Use the whole puree, if you desire some texture to the mousse. Cream eggs and sugar together, cook on a double boiler, or under shallow heat with constant stirring, till it reaches a thick and creamy consistency. Remove from heat, stir in condensed milk, and let it cool for several minutes. Mix mango puree with egg cream and gently mix. Chill for 20 minutes. Whip half of the cream till stiff peaks form, and gently fold in to the chilled mixture. Chill for another 4-6 hrs, before serving with piped whipped cream, and fresh mango slices.

1 tsp of plain (peach flavored, works well too) gelatin can be added to firm up the mousse. Soak and melt gelatin in 3 tbsp of hot mango or orange juice, and add to the hot egg cream. Rest of the procedure stays just the same.
Cakes from the Days Past
Post #1 – Chocolate Strawberry Harvest Cake

I am humbled and inspired by all your most generous words of appreciation, especially for the cake. Although I am a serial weekend baker, we plan on a well-decorated cake only when we are having a special gathering or celebration, so that we could all share the sugar and fat between each other, and feel less guilty about the slice we gulp in.. So as we wait in joyful hope for the next gastronomical event, I am posting couple of cakes I did in the last one year. Here is post #1. This one was made in last year’s summer, topped with fresh strawberries we picked from a farm in scenic Sauvie Island near Portland. Freshly picked strawberries, as you know, look and taste rich. It is crisp, glossy and vibrant, bursting with color. It looks fabulously surreal, and you might even never want to touch, slice or eat it. Well, if I happen to use it on cakes, these are my favorite combinations.

1) Make a white or angel food cake, layer with whipped cream and berries

2) Go yellow- Make a yellowcake, layer with lemon curd and of course berries.

3) Nothing works better visually together, than chocolate and strawberries. The contrast is amazing. Red and green just flare up from mysterious shades of chocolate. Since we really want to accentuate the freshness of berries, I would rather go with a mild to medium flavor strength chocolate cake recipe. A mild German chocolate or a chiffon cake will be ideal. We will save the Devils food and Death by chocolate recipes for some other time. Instead of using a calorie loaded chocolate butter cream, I would go light in summertime with a smooth, creamy and airy chocolate mousse for filling the cake.

This chocolate cake has three fine layers and was filled and frosted with chocolate mousse. I wasn’t quite yearning to use a pastry bag that day, so the side panels were made by marbling dark and white chocolates. Strawberries are dipped, without any particular reason. The following recipe makes a cake with a very delectable chocolate flavor, with a delicate under taste of molasses coming from brown sugar.


Nonstick vegetable oil spray
2 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Dutch-processed)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
1/2 cup lukewarm water

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Whisk flour and next 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat brown sugar and butter in large bowl until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Beat in 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Divide batter among prepared pans (about 2 1/3 cups for each). Smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 22-30 minutes. Cool completely in pans on cooling racks. Invert cakes onto 9-inch-diameter cardboard rounds or tart pan bottoms. Peel off parchment.

Adapted from: Chocolate cake recipe, Bon Appétit , April 2003


2 cups chilled heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
Garnish: lightly sweetened whipped cream

Heat 3/4 cup cream in a 1-quart heavy saucepan until hot. Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a metal bowl until combined well, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking until combined. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until it registers 160°F on thermometer. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in a glass bowl in a microwave at 50 percent power 3 to 5 minutes), stirring frequently. Whisk custard into chocolate until smooth, and then cool.
Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Whisk one fourth of cream into chocolate custard to lighten, and then fold in remaining cream gently but thoroughly.
Chill the mousse covered, for at least 6 hours. Mousse can be chilled up to 1 day.

Source: Gourmet, December 2002.
Click here to read instructions for making chocolate cutouts.
My method for making panels is more or less the same, except that instead of using a cookie cutter, i used a ruler and a super sharp knife to score off, and then to cut panels of desired length and width.
Easter Lunch highlight #1 - French Floating Islands

Floating islands ( Île flottante) is a very delicate and easy to prepare French dessert. No baking involved, just poached meringue islands floating in a velvety, hassle free stirred custard sauce called Crème anglaise (English Cream- good old custard !!!!) . Drizzle caramel all over and your sweet note is ready for presentation. Custard can be made ahead and chilled, but meringue needs to stay outside to keep its shape. Though making and plating of this dessert is simple, there is still room for creativity. Poach spoonfuls of whipped whites to make freeform islands, or make elegant shapes using a pastry bag and icing tip. Either way it looks beautiful. If you are not quite a plain custard aficionado, flavor it with a liquor of your choice, or add a few drops of your favorite flavor extract.


Meringue islands
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup (200 grams) superfine granulated white sugar
In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment beat egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to beat the whites until it hold soft peaks. Add the sugar, a little at a time, and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Simmer 3 cups of water. Drop spoonfuls of meringue into the simmering water to make freeform islands. You could use pastry bag fitted with a wide opening tip to make more uniform shapes. Cook for 2-3 min, turning the islands once in between. Keep at room temperature till serving.

Creme Anglaise

2 cups of Fresh milk
4 egg yolks
½ cup of granulated sugar
Add sugar to milk, and boil with constant stirring. Whip egg yolks until they are light and frothy. Pour half of the boiling milk to the beaten yolks and stir vigorously. Fold the yolk mixture to the boiling milk. Cook the milk / yolk mixture stirring constantly across the bottom of the pan on a medium heat. Stop cooking when the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Quickly transfer the pan to a cold water bath to finish cooking. Strain, and refrigerate, stirring every twenty minutes for the first one hour.


Heat 3 tsp sugar mixed with 3 tsp water in a thick bottomed pan, Stir with a wooden spoon till the mixture thickens and acquires a golden brown color.


On a shallow dessert plate, spoon some Crème anglaise, and top with a meringue island. Spoon caramel over the meringue and serve decorated with fresh mint leaves and optionally, slivered almonds.

I used a custard recipe I had for a long long time, and since I have used 4 egg yolks for cream, decided to do the meringue with 4 whites. You could make this recipe richer, by substituting ½ cup milk with heavy cream. Vanilla bean is often added to Crème anglaise as a basic ingredient. This is one good recipe to show off your stock of fresh eggs and milk.
Have a Happy Easter
Enjoy a happy Easter everyone, have fun, go egg hunting, cook, bake, have great parties, above all enjoy the spirit of the season, it is spring, there is ( should be !!!) plenty of sunshine and cheer. As like on any other special day, we miss our family and friends back home, and since the climate has suddenly turned chilly and rainy, I dream of an abundance of sunshine, of glorious green paddy fields stretching beyond the horizon, of coconut trees lining a quite, winding road, Oh , I could almost cry. But here is our way out, a cure all nostalgia potion, etched in T’s Easter memories, my ultimate chicken turn on, very traditional, very special Kerala chicken roast . The recipe I used this time, is originally based on my mother in law’s, and I modified it a little bit and added two special ingredients suggested by yet another expert cook back home , in whose house we tasted the most exquisite chicken roast there is.

Considering the vast number of regional variants existing for this recipe, i am declaring in advance that this recipe might call for a totally different way of preparation than the one that you are used to. To sight an example, in the place where i grew up, we do not actually fry chicken pieces for making the roast. A "roast" back there is still a chicken curry with barely enough gravy to coat the pieces. I hold no grudge or perjudice to any other " the traditional " recipe there is !!!!! Have fun with the following recipe.
Chicken Breasts (Skinned, and cut into moderately sized pieces) – 2 pounds
Large red onions, thinly sliced – ½- 1 pound
Ginger, cut into fine long pieces – 2 tbsp,
Finely chopped or ground – 2 tsp
Garlic, cut lengthwise - 2 tsp,
Finely chopped or ground – 2 tsp
Green chillies, cut lengthwise - to your taste, and tolerance.
Curry leaves – ¼ cup
Crushed black pepper- ½ tsp
Coriander powder – 11/2 tbsp + ½ tsp
Chilly powder- 1 tbsp + ½ tsp
Cinnamon Crushed or powdered – ½ tsp
Fennel seeds 1 ½ tsp Clove – 6 nos.
Nutmeg- ¼ tsp
Cardamom – 4 pods
Tomatoes- 3 nos.( 2 cut lengthwise, 1 chopped)
Lemon- one half
Vinegar – 1 1/2 tsp
Mint leaves – 4-6 leaves ( not more !!!)
Ghee- 1 tsp (not more!!!!)
Oil (preferably coconut) – 6 tbsp
Sugar – A pinch or two.
Salt to taste
Grind all ingredients in green together, after reserving 2 pods of cardamom. (3 tbsp of garam masala can be used as a substitute). Wash chicken pieces thoroughly and pat dry using paper towels, add ½ tsp each of finely chopped ginger, garlic, ½ tsp each of Coriander, and chilly powders , 1 tsp of the ground spices or garam masala, ½ tsp salt, 1 chopped tomato, 1 crushed pod of cardamom, juice of ½ lemon,1 tsp of Vinegar, mix well, marinate for 20min-1hr. Cover and cook under medium heat for 10 minutes (Pressure cooking is ideal – wait for one whistle, release pressure and open). Take out the pieces, save pan juice for the final stage of preparation of this recipe. Heat 5 tbsp oil, shallow fry chicken pieces, till it gets a delicate brown color on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Heat 1 tbsp oil (add a little bit more according to requirement) fry 4 mint leaves first , add diced onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies, curry leaves, 1/4 tsp salt, sauté , till onions are golden brown. Add diced tomatoes and sauté till it is tender. Add 1 ½ tbsp of Coriander powder, 1 tsp of Chilly powder, ¼ tsp of black pepper powder, remaining 2 ½ tsp of spice power and sauté for a minute. Add the pan juices from the first step of preparation. Cook on high heat for a minute till the gravy starts to thicken, add ½ tsp vinegar, and drop in chicken pieces. Cook on high heat till the gravy completely coats chicken pieces. (2-3 min). At this point you can stir in some sautéed green peas, for garnishing. Add one crushed cardamom. Remove from heat; add a tsp of pure ghee. Add a pinch of sugar to adjust the taste, mix. Keep covered for at least 5 minutes, serve hot.
Traditional Kerala chicken roast recipes, call for marinating and deep frying chicken followed by brief cooking in thick spicy gravy. Pressure cooking followed by shallow frying, keeps the chicken tender and moist, and brings about the fine pan seared look, so typical of a Kerala chicken Roast. Please do not forget to fry the mint leaves first, before you start the sautéing exercise for the rest of the ingredients. Mint is a herb that begs for moderation in this recipe. Fried cashew nuts, raisins and almonds can be used for garnishing.

Basketfull of daisies and first recipe post

Sometime during the past month, I got an exciting offer for making a first birthday cake filled with daisies, bugs and butterflies. I was thoroughly excited with the first part of the proposition; always wanted somebody to ask me to make a first birthday cake. But just the mere prospect of making a cake filled with daisies somehow tightened me up. Even though these flowers are relatively easy to make, and look ethereal once made, they are very delicate and fragile, especially when piped out of buttercream. And that is how it all started; I went on a piping spree and made 100 flowers, in advance. I have the know how on stable icing butterflies, and bugs, so that part went on like a breeze. Baked a white cake, and frosted it with raspberry laced white chocolate icing. Even though some of the flowers did crumble when I tried to lift it, most of it, kept the form. T, did a good job of packing it, and off we went to the party. Everything went pretty well from there on. I am going to name this cake “Lexidaisy” in love for the little girl for whom it was made. She was so cute, and extremely patient to a bunch of strange people yelling out Happy Birthday to her.

Raspberry laced white chocolate buttercream

Solid vegetable shortening 1 cup
Confectioners Sugar 4 cups
Salt ¼ tsp
Whipping cream 4 oz
White chocolate 6 oz
Raspberry liquor 1 tbsp

Melt white chocolate in microwave or in a double boiler, add a teaspoon of shortening, beat and let it cool. Cream the remaining shortening until fluffy. Add sugar and continue creaming until well-blended, mix in the melted chocolate. Add salt, and whipping cream; blend on low speed until moistened. Add liquor, beat at high speed until icing is fluffy. You could very well substitute the liquor with raspberry flavoring or oil, by adding ¼ tsp and couple of drops respectively.
After thinking, pausing, and hesitating for a long while, i finally decided to talk what i feel about all that i cook, cakes i bake and decorate and occasionally about just what i feel. I have been bombarding my friends and family's inboxes with numerous self appreciation e-mails describing my culinary adventures, and now i am planning on not doing that anymore. Enough is enough, and before someone tells me that right out on my face , i am starting up my very own food blog. Food has always been one great passion and interest in my life, never forgot a meal well prepared, or the people who made it. Please feel free to come in and join us, as we (me and T) cook, bake and create memories.


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