Twenty six

I celebrated my birthday last week. The big 26. Why the big hype for that? When you have an unwavering feeling of 18-going-on-19 sustained over so many years – and when you’re actually one and a half times the age in your head – I guess that’s kind of a big deal. I know something doesn’t quite add up with this situation we have here.

Birthday gifts and celebrations were always a big deal growing up. Although I spent a major chunk of my childhood in boarding school and my birthdays always fell during the school term, neatly wrapped presents, cards and generous wads of money (read : grandparents) always found me. It wouldn’t suffice if I said that this year was a step up from that..what my parents had planned was more like a giant leap – 70 people – mostly extended family that hadn’t met my husband and in-laws, and some friends. A party, it was! Got some pretty sweeet gifts too!

Although the smallest reason is all I need these days to start planning something delicious to eat, making my own birthday cake just didn’t seem right. But a mixed fruit gâteau the size of a 4-seater table? A glorious substitute indeed! The cake was rich and dense and at the same time succulently moist. So much so that when I cut into it and tried to take out a piece, it almost collapsed in my hand. On the moistness meter, that is always a good sign. And most importantly, it wasn’t cloyingly sweet like other shop-bought cakes that you find here. It was stunning as it was scrumptious, but I know I’ll never try my hand at re-creating it. Life is just too short.

The spice trail : SPICY STIR-FRIED PRAWNS

Chemmeen Ularthiyathu is the original name of this dish, but that’s the only hard part about this recipe; pronouncing it! I know I don’t have any Indian recipes on the blog – not yet anyway – so I thought it was high time I filled that void. This spicy prawn stir-fry made with coconut oil and spices is my new found love. Served simply with a bowl of rice, it’s the ultimate 15-minute dinner meal with a lot of heft.

Indian cuisine as we know it is very regional and believe it or not, there actually is more to it than chicken tikka masala, jalfrezi and naan bread! Kerala is a state in the south-west region of India and owing to its close proximity to the coastline, fish and seafood are in abundance and form an integral part of their diet plan. My early memories of this tropical paradise include its palm-fringed shorelines, winding backwaters and the consumption of copious amounts of said seafood.

For the uninitiated, Keralan cuisine is characterized by the use of coconuts.. chopped into slivers and tossed in gravies, grated and mixed into side dishes, blended into coconut milk and used to flavour and thicken curries, this hairy guy plays an indispensable role in the food scene on the Malabar coast. So it’s a no-brainer that there’s some form of that here in this dish. I’ve used coconut oil, a tad bit in the end. A little goes a long way with this stuff so use it sparingly and taste as you go.

I’ve had this recipe tucked away and ready to post for almost a month now, but I realized I didn’t have a picture of it from the last time I made it..perfect excuse (if ever I needed one) to cook it again! Continue reading

Bittersweet : COINTREAU-GLAZED ORANGE BUNDT CAKE

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Today, we’re talking oranges and orange-flavoured liqueurs (again). We seem to have a bit of an unplanned theme going on here! In my post about Orangecello earlier this year, I’d talked about using liqueurs to spruce up a cake or a pudding. Here’s a go at that from my end!

The Cointreau was, however, a bit of a wild-card entrant. I wasn’t sure if the pronounced boldness of the orange in the cake would complement the potent liqueur. I very hesitantly substituted the orange juice the recipe called for, with one small trickle at a time of Cointreau.. it just somehow worked itself out – the robustness of the base fully held up to this crystal-coated magic!

If you visit this blog on a regular basis you’ll know that I love citrus zest, and my experiments with using it in all things sweet and savoury have run amok. Ah, the flavour, colour, zinginess. A whole orange’s worth makes this cake all the more intense, which is perfectly grounded with the sweetness of the glaze. Are you ready to make your taste buds sing?

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Summer in February : VANILLA BEAN PANNA COTTA WITH PASSION FRUIT

Panna cotta at this time of the year? You want to be hearing about hearty, comforting desserts and warmth-inducing drink recipes. Unfortunately, Chennai as we know it has a completely different season shift – hot, hotter, hottest. We are at the moment slowly but steadily gliding from the ‘hot’ to the ‘hotter’ threshold, with the sun shining bright and the fans whirring out of control.

I can be very predictable when it comes to dessert choices. Fruity over chocolaty. Fruity over nutty..you get it. If you know me well, you’d know that I’d go with fruit or caramel desserts over chocolate any day of the week. My favourite ice-cream flavours are blackcurrant, strawberry and vanilla and I don’t think I’ve ever ordered chocolate ice-cream in my life! Although I claim not to be too much of a chocoholic, I do have a few favourites that I’d indulge in anytime though (read : molten lava cake – I have a great recipe too to share with you!)

This is a dessert you can whip up in under 30 minutes, and the fact that it has to chill in the refrigerator for more than 6 hours can only be a good thing – you get to make it well ahead of time and all that’s left to do is unmould and serve straight away! The addition of yogurt makes it incredibly luscious, and also very delicate. So, if you’re not sure about flipping it out onto a plate, set them in individual ramekins/glasses and scoop over some fruit on top. Small mason jars with a ribbon tied around the neck of the bottle look really pretty too.

The sourness of the passion fruit against the richness of the panna cotta is a perfect balance, and I’ve further upped the tartness quotient with a fresh spritz of lime. You could omit this step or add a generous splosh of Malibu instead. Follow your own adventure.

(After you strain out the panna cotta mixture, rinse the vanilla bean and dry it out in the sun or in a warm place for a few hours. Stick it in a bowl of castor sugar for an instant vanilla-sugar fix..perfect with a hot bowl of bread and milk). Continue reading