What lies beneath the profile photo? (or Yet another heart cake !!! )

In the past few weeks after I included my photo in the profile page, I received a couple of mails from the readers of this blog, asking me if I drew that one out my self. No, I did not, but that cake was made by me last year as a part of “The heart cake tradition” series. T “stylized” the photo using Photoshop, and for those of you who very kindly expressed interest in seeing the original, here it is….
Thank you folks….

Details of the cake

Flowers and leaves are hand piped using royal icing (stamens are store bought- food safe, Wilton product )

T's favorite fruit cake , covered with fondant, decorated with piped butter cream lace work and fondant beads. Finishing touches using luster dust.


Pan Grilled Naan

Naan with Haryalli chicken

There are certain advantages for preparing naan at home, the main one being the fact that you will never feel over optimistic about it, as a result of which you are never too disappointed about the outcome. The following is a chronicle of a series of “naan making” related events took place in my kitchen over a period of approximately 3 years. I started off by baking naans on a cookie sheet (yes, inside an oven), and though it tasted all right, the texture was not entirely fascinating. Use of a pizza stone instead of the sheet, resulted in an almost Pita bread like situation (I liked it though!!!). Throwing a couple of ice cubes into the oven floor before keeping the naans in, and keeping the flattened dough over an ovenproof wire rack instead of a baking sheet, both substantially improved the texture of the naan. Inspired by a recipe for making this bread on an outdoor grill I decided to give it a try on my very indoor, stovetop, grill pan and this post is all about that experiment. You do get some grill marks on one side of the naan, but the other side unevenly puffs up, and you can add and control the brown spots on the top by selectively dabbing with some ghee, and turning it over for a short while. Nowadays I am making naan this way and I am eagerly looking around for other well working non-tandoor protocols. There are some known and proven methods which I have not tried so far. You can use this pan grilling method for your preferred recipe or follow the one posted here. Ease, convenience and a near naan like texture and taste for the end product are the advantages.

Tanuja's award winning, harialli chicken is a fabulous combination for this naan, we all just loved it , thank you Tanuja.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon yeast (Dry)

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons ghee or melted butter

2 tablespoons yoghurt

2/3 cup water

1 tbsp Sesame seeds

Mix water with the yeast and sugar until the yeast is dissolves. Sift flour and salt together into a bowl and add the yeast mixture, half of the ghee and the yogurt. Mix to forma soft dough, then knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, cover and let stand in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough doubles in size. Punch down the dough and knead for 5 minutes. Divide dough into lemon sized balls

Flatten the dough using a rolling pin, or by hand (I prefer the second method, for the very rustic look it provides). Top with sesame seeds or any other topping of your choice. Brush grill pan with oil, wipe it with a piece of clothe. Bring it to medium heat, and keep the flattened dough over it, wait till it unevenly puffs up (3-4 min).Brush some melted butter or ghee on 5 or 6 random spots. . Turn it over, cook for 2-3 more minutes, or till the spots are browned enough. Quickly transfer it to a clean kitchen towel and keep it wrapped. Serve hot brushed with ghee or melted butter.
Naan recipes from fellow bloggers- here, here and here

MEME -Ten things I miss of my mother's cooking

Photo taken in International Rose Test Garden - Portland

Nabeela and Vineela tagged me for my first ever MEME, thank you friends.

Whatever my mother cooked, she served it with a generous topping of good cheer and humor sense. That attitude is perhaps what I miss the most about my mother’s cooking. No pretense, always welcoming suggestions, ever ready to learn a new trick or two in the kitchen. She cherishes an inherent propensity for trying out diverse recipes, not quite taken aback whenever a recipe fails, and always keeps her chin up looking for the next big adventure. Although she cooks and I eat all kinds of foods, I love and miss her vegetarian preparations the most. So here is my top 10 for today….

1) Aviyal, Erissery, Kootucurry,Olan, Ingi curry and everything she prepares for Onam.

2) Pickles of all sorts, and chammantipodi

3) Fish pollichathu ( Traditional Alappuzha style preparation)

4) Pathiri and Ullippal

5) Appam and Vegetable stew

6) All payasams

7) Thair Vada & Rasa vada

8) Banana Puttu

9) All kinds of evening snacks

10) Idli, Sambar, coconut chutney combination

I am passing this on to NAV, NILA, COOKING THEORY and YUM

Spicy Meat Puffs

Almost twenty or so years ago vegetable /meat puffs made a very dramatic entry into the bakeries in Kerala. Upscale Cochin based bake houses did welcome these impressive snack years before that, but in the above mentioned period, a silent culinary gale of change swiftly passed through many a number of small town and village bakeries spreading the word about this new tasty bite. As a child I was thoroughly impressed by this flaky, layered savory snack, and was a bit confused about that special trick those bakers applied to make the dough fine and flaky. In that pre-puff pastry awareness era, the only working concept I managed to develop for the building of this amazing pastry was a wee bit queer!!! My nearly nascent brain absolutely imagined and almost believed that, these fine layers are nothing but ultra thin chapatis, and liberally distributed this idea among all my friends. Luckily all of us grew up and I hope everyone found out the truth in their own way. This spicy sibling of a savory turnover is simple to make especially when you are using store bought puff pastry sheets. The following is a very basic recipe for regular meat puffs, the ones which made this snack immensely popular.
Read LG’s interesting “Growing up- puffs” story and egg puffs recipe here
Puff pastry sheets 2
Minced meat (chicken or beef) 2 cups
Finely chopped onions ¾ cup
Ginger-finely chopped 1 ½ tsp
Garlic-Finely chopped 1 ½ tsp
Green chilies (cut into rounds) 1/4 tsp
Green chilly skin (deseeded & chopped) 1 tsp
Curry leaves, coarsely chopped 1 ½ tbsp
Turmeric ¼ tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Garam masala 1 tsp
Finely crushed Fennel seeds ¼ tsp
Egg ( beaten ) 1
Oil 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Thaw pastry sheets, unfold and spread on a flat surface, gently run a rolling pin over to repair any cracks or imperfections on the surface. Heat oil, sauté onions, ginger, garlic, green chilies, chopped chilly skin, curry leaves, adding in that order till the onions are slightly browned. Add turmeric, coriander powder, garam masala, fennel seeds, and sauté for a minute. Add the meat and mix well, keep it covered and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove the lid, increase the heat, and cook till the mixture is dry (2-3 min). Cut pastry sheets into squares, brush the sides with beaten egg. Keep some filling in the middle and turn one side over to the other covering the filling. Press the sides to seal, and brush the top with beaten eggs. Bake at 350 degree F for 20 minutes or till it is golden brown.
Pearls and Pink Roses

Quite often, life gives you a cup of coffee when you earnestly long for a sip of orange juice. Then eventually you realize that, it was coffee that you ultimately needed, and happily go on enjoying it. Occasionally you are blessed with these tiny little happenings, which surprise you by being in just the way you want it to be. For me one such happy event, materialized when a good friend of us, asked me to make a cake for a bridal shower she was hosting. She wanted it as a miniature wedding cake, covered with fondant, and pale pink was suggested as an underlying color theme. I was amazed to realize that finally this indeed is upon me. A two-tiered fondant covered cake and pale pink flowers, too much joy for a single day!!! I make cakes mainly as gifts to my friends and for sharing in parties, and no daring soul ever asked me to make a wedding cake or a similar multi tiered construction. I love pale pink (‘PALE’ is the word!!!) sprays of all kinds of flowers. Altogether this indeed was my glass of orange juice and topping it all, my friend so graciously left the design to my imagination. A spray of pink roses and off white pearls seemed like a natural choice to complement a delicate, pleasant and friendly bride-to-be. This was a white chocolate cake filled with raspberry liquor laced butter cream, two layers in each tier, covered with rolled fondant. Roses, pearls, and the satin ribbon like band are all handmade out of fondant. Believe me, this tiny little cake has got one long and four short dowel rods inside for stabilization. Now I realize that those huge fancy multi layered stacked wedding cakes that we see in pictures might require lumber derived from a decent size of forest to support the structure. Making of this cake altogether was a pleasant experience, nothing went irreparably wrong. I made the roses couple of days ahead, so decorating this cake was a lot easier. T, patiently rolled out many a number of pearls, and we are now blessed with a decent stock of it, which hopefully I will be using for my next –Orange Juice – project.

Here is a well working white chocolate cake recipe I used this time.

White chocolate cake

¾ cup white chocolate

4 1/2 large egg whites

1 cup milk (or water)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

3 cups flour

1 cup plus 3 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp + 11/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt

9 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat over to 3500F. Melt chocolate in the microwave or using a double boiler. Beat egg whites with vanilla and 3 tbsp sugar till soft peaks form. In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed to blend. Add butter, mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened, add milk or water and increase speed to medium. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Scrape sides of the bowl and gradually add egg mixture in 3 batches, beating 20 seconds after each addition. Fold in melted chocolate and mix well. Pour batter into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans. Bake 25 to 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Recipe Courtesy- FOOD TV

Detailed instruction on constructing a stacked cake is available here, along with other interesting information about fondant cakes


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