Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Red Velvet Shake

New Year Shake
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
                                                            Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
                                                            The year is going, let him go;
                                                            Ring out the false, ring in the true.
                                                            ~Alfred, Lord Tennyson, 1850

With one of my my favourite shakes at hand- Red Velvet- I'm awaiting the dawn of a new year.  2013 has been an eventful one and I look forward to welcoming 2014.  Let's drink to the New Year 2014.

It’s like a new Sunrise- of Hope, of Prosperity, of Happiness
It’s like a new Beginning- of Thoughts, of Words, of Actions
It’s like a new Day- of Energy, of Strength, of Ideas

It’s like a bunch of whole new things- of Prayers, of Friends, and of Love.

Ending 2013 on a positive note.  To All Of Us.  Cheers.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Impressive Christmas Chicken

Christmas Chicken
I have had a blast this Christmas, cooking all my favourite foods and trying out new recipes.  There's a real satisfaction in churning out fantastic food and I have experienced it very often.  There's nothing I like better than to see people enjoying the food I cooked.  It makes everything worthwhile and here is another simple recipe for the home cook.  Make your Christmas special with this unique blend of coconut milk, lemon grass, chilli powder and other aromatic ingredients.  This is one Christmas Chicken everyone will love.

The Recipe:

1 chicken, whole without skin, wash and drain completely.  Around 1 to 1.2 kg should do.

1 cup coconut milk; 1/2 tsp tamarind paste; 5 kaffir lime leaves and 2 stalks of lemon grass, slit and bruised

For The Marinade: 1 1/4 tsp chilli powder; 1 stalk lemon grass, use only the white part.  If you cannot get lemon grass use about 1 tsp lemon zest; 5 candle nuts; 1 inch piece ginger; 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled; 1/2 tsp turmeric powder and 1 large onion, sliced; salt to taste; 3 tbsp oil for frying or grilling.
Blend to a thick paste and keep aside.

Marinade the whole chicken in half the marinade overnight in the refrigerator.  Next day, heat a large non stick wok large enough to hold the chicken.  Add oil and lower flame.  Brown the chicken all over, taking care to keep it whole.  Add the remaining paste, coconut milk, tamarind paste, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves.  Gently stir to mix well.  Cover and cook till chicken is tender.  Garnish with spring onions and serve hot with Fragrant Christmas Rice.

NB:  You can use almonds instead of candlenuts if desired.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Rice

Fragrant Ginger Lime and Pineapple Rice
This is another of my quick recipes, especially suitable for festive occasions and family get togethers when a large number of people congregate to have fun and good home cooked food.  The fragrance of the ingredients used during the cooking process will make your mouth water and  your nostrils twitch and  you'll find guests making a beeline for a second and third helping.

The Recipe:

2 cups basmathi rice; 1 inch piece ginger, minced ; 1 inch piece galangal (fragrant ginger), crushed roughly; 5 kaffir lime leaves; 1/2 cup pineapple cut into bite sized pieces; 1 large onion, sliced fine; 3 tbsp olive oil; salt to taste and a few kaffir lime leaves for garnishing; 4 cups hot water.

Heat a non stick pan and add the olive oil.  When hot fry the onions till golden brown.  Lower flame to medium and add the two gingers and stir fry till a wonderful aroma fills the kitchen.  Add rice and pineapple and stir till all the grains are coated.  Transfer to rice cooker, add salt to taste, 5 kaffir lime leaves and 4 cups of hot water and cook till done.  Serve with Tamarind Chicken and Poinsettia Salad.

May the Joy Of Christmas Abide In Your House Throughout The New Year.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Pie

 Effortless Christmas Pie
I have been having a blast this season baking and cooking to my hearts content.  I have tried out new recipes and baked a variety of cakes to give away to friends and also sent a couple to Bangalore in my daughter's suitcase.  And another went to Germany with a friend's niece.  Some time ago I came across this pie recipe which which seemed very easy.  Somehow I have never had the confidence to make pies.  This recipe instructed the reader to just throw everything in a blender and dump it into a dish and bake it.  That's about all I did  (except that I played around with the ingredients)and the result- a golden yellow, astonishing concoction with the bottom like a pudding, the centre like a cake in texture and a crusty, chewy  top.  The fragrance made my house smell like Christmas and when I scraped the dish, I wish I had made more of this Effortless Christmas Pie.

The Recipe:

1/4 cup flour; 2 large eggs; 2 tsp vanilla essence; 1/2 cup coconut milk powder; 1/2 cup desiccated coconut; 1/4 cup almond meal; 60 gm salted butter at room temperature; 1/2 cup caster sugar; 1 cup low fat milk; 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg.

Blend all the above ingredients together except the nutmeg till well mixed.  The mixture will be a pouring consistency.  Pour into greased and floured pyrex dish.  Sprinkle the grated nutmeg on top and bake in pre heated oven at 180 degrees centigrade for exactly 45 minutes.  Skewer inserted in centre should come out clean.  Serve piping hot with icecream or custard.  It's also scrumptious on its own.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Salad

Poinsettia Christmas Salad
Salads are a great addition to any party and particularly at Christmas when there's so much to eat and a variety of culinary specialities.  Christmas Poinsettia Salad makes a lovely centre piece, an ice breaker and is so simple that a beginner could do it with ease.

The Recipe:

For The Poinsettia:  2 large salad tomatoes, the reddest you can find; a few corn kernels.

For The Salad:   1 green apple, cubed; 1/2 cup fresh pine apple, cubed; 1 medium carrot, skinned and grated; 1/2 a medium cucumber, washed and sliced wafer thin with the skin on; 1/2 cup curds (yoghurt); 2 tbsp spicy fruit chutney or any chutney in your kitchen or salad dressing of your choice; salt to taste; a sprig of kaffir lime leaves; 3 kaffir lime leaves, cut very fine (roll each leaf and then cut).

To Make The Poinsettia:  Cut each tomato into equal halves, then quarter each half and cut each quarter into two.  You should have sixteen nearly equal sized wedges, 8 for each layer.  With a sharp knife, remove the soft flesh and seeds and retain for use in the salad.  Next take a scissors and cut each wedge midway into two.  Repeat with all the pieces.  Keep aside for assembling later.

For The Salad:  Mix all the ingredients except the sprig of lime leaves together.  Taste for seasoning.  Take a pretty plate and place the sprig of lime leaves on it.  Arrange the salad on top of it and now assemble the Poinsettia carefully, eight pieces per layer in a flower shape, skin side up.  Repeat with a second layer on top of the first.  Place the corn kernels in the centre.  Your Poinsettia Christmas Salad is now ready.  Make sure it is admired adequately before it is eaten.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Christmas Apricot Coconut Cake

Unusual Apricot Coconut 
I am always on the prowl for any recipe that includes Apricots.  This year I came across an unusual combination of Apricot and Coconut.  Since I've never tried this before, I decided to experiment and the result was a melt in the mouth Unusual Christmas Apricot Coconut Cake.  Just the thing for party time and with a glass of Apricot Liqueur.

The Recipe:

250 gms butter; 2 cups brown sugar; 3 cups self raising flour; 5 large eggs; 2 cups chopped, dried apricots; 1 cup desiccated coconut; 1/2 cup Apricot liqueur; 2 tsp vanilla essence; 1 dsp desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top.

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl.  Cream with wooden spoon till glossy.  Pour into two  greased  and lined 9 inch square pans or into cup cake cases (I made a large cake and some cup cakes too) and bake at 175 degrees Centigrade for 45 minutes or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.  Cool and sprinkle desiccated coconut on top just before serving.  Spend the evening nibbling this Unusual Apricot Coconut Cake and sipping home made Apricot Liqueur.  

Friday, December 20, 2013

Marbled Christmas Brownies

Double Chocolate Marbled Brownies
 Over the years, brownies have become a part and parcel of the Christmas Menu in our house.  Rich Chocolate decadence is an absolute must for any lover of chocolate.  Bake it in a large pan or just pour them into mini moulds and serve them at your Christmas party or simply give away to friends.

The Recipe:

100 gms maida; ½ tsp. baking powder; 30 gms cocoa powder; 112.5 gms. margarine or butter; 140 gms. powdered sugar;2 large eggs; 1/2 tsp. vanilla essence; 37.5 gms. chopped nuts(either walnut, cashew, almond or groundnut).

For the Icing:  110 gms. icing sugar,sifted;, 30 gms. soft butter; milk to mix; vanilla or peppermint essence.

Topping:  60 gms cooking or milk chocolate(either white or brown or a combination of both).

Decoration:  Marzipan Christmas Tree.  For Recipe go to

Take a small ball of marzipan, add a few drops green colouring, roll out and with a cookie cutter cut out a tree shape.  Keep aside till needed.

 Grease and line the base of a 20 cm / 8 inch pan with baking paper, so that the paper extends over two sides.
Sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa onto a baking sheet.  Set aside.  Cream sugar and margarine till light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and the vanilla essence.  If the mixture starts to curdle, stir in a little of the flour mixture.  Fold in the remaining flour and the nuts.  Pour the mixture into prepared pan and bake in preheated oven 175C for about 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.  Allow to cool.  Make the icing by combining all the ingredients to a spreading consistency.  Spread over cooled cake.  When set, melt the white chocolate in a bowl over gently simmering water.  Drizzle over icing.  Follow with brown.  Take a toothpick and gently run it through the melted chocolate.  Leave to set.  Takes about 15 minutes.  Place the marzipan tree in the centre and get ready to celebrate.

Or pour the prepared mixture into mini foil cases and bake for 15 minutes in a preheated oven at 175 Centigrade.  Cool and follow same procedure for the icing.  Very enticing and absolutely irresistible.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Wholemeal Rich Plum Cake

Rich Plum Cake
Plum Cake at Christmas brings back fond memories of carol singing, a house full of guests and us children meticulously picking the plums out, one by one from the Nilgiris  Rich Plum Cake gifted to my Dad every Christmas by friends and colleagues.  That Plum Cake was oh so delicious and I can still smell it mixed with the aroma of tangerines, spices, kal kals, rose cookies and other treats my Mum would conjure up for us every Christmas.  This year, I made it for an elderly friend and saved a few pieces for the two of us. This takes me back in time and to the fun we had decades ago.

The Recipe:

2 cups wholemeal flour; 3 cups mixed (black and golden raisins) plums; 1 cup almond meal; 1 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1/4 cup ginger juice- smash a one inch piece of ginger, add 1/2 cup water and boil till reduced to 1/4 cup; 4 large eggs; 1 cup brown sugar; 250 gms salted butter; 2 tsp vanilla essence; 1 tsp mixed spice powder (I used cloves, cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon in equal quantities).

Sieve the flour, spice powder, baking powder and baking soda together three times.  Keep aside in a large bowl.  Add the almond meal and the plums and mix well till all the plums are coated evenly.  This will help to distribute the plums throughout the cake and prevent them from sinking to the bottom.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Add the eggs, one by one and mix well.  Then add the vanilla essence and give the mixture a whirl.  Gently fold in the flour, almond meal  and plum mixture spoon by spoon until everything is used up.  Pour in the cooled ginger juice and mix really well.  The batter should be of a dropping consistency.  Pour into 2 x 9 inch greased and lined  square cake pans and bake in a preheated oven at 175 Centigrade for 40 minutes or until skewer inserted in pan comes out clean.  Cool, slice and serve with red wine.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Macaroons

Coconut Lime Leaf Macaroons
And of course Christmas in my house won't be Christmas without my favourite sweet of the season -Macaroons.  I always make a different type every year and this year I decided to use coconut which is so beloved by my adopted country Malaysia.  I wanted to give it a twist, so when I was in Bangalore bought some copra and and brought it back with me to Malaysia.  And then a bulb went off in my head when I was in the wet market looking at all the green leafy stuff for sale.  I spotted some kaffir lime leaves and bought a few, chopped them fine and added them to the Macaroon mixture.  The taste was really good, so I've made them again to share with my numerous friends.

The Recipe:

1 1/2 cups copra, cut into tiny pieces; 500 gms sugar; 18 cardamoms, seeds only; white of 1 large egg, you may need to use more or less and a squish of lemon juice; 5 lime leaves, cut really, really fine.

Blend the sugar and cardamom till very fine.  Place in a large bowl.  Add the copra, lime leaves and the lemon juice and mix well with a wooden spoon.  Add the egg a little by little until the  mixture clumps in the middle.  Discard the rest of the egg white.  It should be neither too wet or too dry.  Make into marble size balls and place 2 inches apart on baking tray.  Bake at 160 Centigrade in preheated oven for 10 - 12 minutes until they puff out and change shape.  Cool thoroughly and store in an air tight container.  These delectable morsels make great gifts and you can pop them into your mouth any time you want a sweet fix.  Too good for words.
NB:  You can use any lime leaves for the flavour.  Kaffir lime leaves are used in a lot of Malaysian Recipes which is why I opted for it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wholemeal Christmas Cake

Sugarless Wholemeal Christmas Cake 
This is a Christmas Cake with a difference.  Many older people prefer not to eat sugary treats, so I experimented a few times before coming up with this recipe.  I tested it with various people and got a very good feedback.  So here is my recipe for a Sugarless Wholemeal Christmas Cake for those who wish to make it for loved ones this year.

The Recipe:

2 cups wholemeal flour; 3 2/3 cups mixed, dried, sugarless fruits like papaya, pineapple, grated ginger, raisins,orange/lemon zest and so on (use your imagination and mix and match the quantities); 150 gms almond meal; 1 tsp baking powder; 1/2 tsp baking soda; 1/2 tsp mixed spice; 1 tsp cinnamon; 2 tbsp dark cocoa for the colour; 4 large eggs; 250 gms butter; 2 tsp vanilla essence and 6 tbsp fresh grapefruit juice.

9 inch circular baking pan x 2; stencil of Christmas  figures like stars, angels, doves etc; pink sugar or icing sugar

Preheat oven at 180 Centigrade and keep hot.  Place all the ingredients together in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until glazed.  Pour into well greased circular 9 inch pans and bake 40 minutes or until  skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.  Cool thoroughly.  Next day un mould cake onto a board, right side up.  Place stencil in the centre of the cake and press firmly down.  Sprinkle the pink sugar all over.  Gently lift up the stencil and admire your exquisite design.  Photograph for posterity before you gift it to an appreciative friend.  Your house will smell like a spice garden and each time you open the container, you will be tempted to take a bite.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Exotic Christmas Liqueur

Home Made Hazelnut Liqueur
I never thought that that making liqueurs at home would be so much of fun.  It's the perfect gift for Christmas and other occasions and the best part is the surprise on the recipient's face and then their delight on tasting it.  I've made coffee, cocoa, pineapple, orange, apricot, ginger, strawberry and other liqueurs over the years.  This year I'm venturing where angels fear to tread.  We tasted some Exotic Hazelnut Liqueur at a friend's house which utterly delighted me.  All you have to do is buy the ingredients and follow the four basic steps involved- infuse, filter, sweeten and mellow.  The longer you age it, the better it is.  And let me tell you, this is one fantastic gift. 

 The Recipe:

2 cups hazelnuts; 1 1/2 cups vodka; 1/4 cup caster sugar; 1/4 cup water; 1 vanilla bean or 2tsp vanilla essence.  Use a good quality one.

Place the hazelnuts and vodka in a glass jar and infuse  for two to  four weeks.  The longer the better.  Store in a cool, dark place.  

After infusing, mix water and sugar and heat  till the sugar is dissolved.  Cool and add to the hazelnut mixture.  Steep for another three days.  Split the vanilla bean in half and add to the mixture and rest for five days.  Taste often and when the desired flavour is achieved strain, bottle and enjoy.  Use the hazelnuts for cakes and toppings and ice cream and anything you fancy.  Start the Christmas Season with a little bit of gusto and fun.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Indian Christmas Pudding

Princess Pudding Recipe From Jayanthi Pichamuthu

Christmas is the time for celebrating the birth of a baby boy 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.  It is a time for bonding with family and friends, exchanging gifts, goodwill and fellowship with all.  As always in India any and every festival is an occasion for pound parties, pot luck, get togethers, carol singing and enjoying food together.  Every household will be in a flutter planning for various events and using the choicest of ingredients.  We make vast quantities of goodies like fruit cake, kal kals, ladoos, diamond cuts, macaroons, chakkulis, mixture, savoury nuts and what not to be distributed to family, friends and neighbours.  Dinners are spectacular with every expert cook serving the best.  This is a phenomenal recipe that I got from my niece.  It is so simple, yet extravagant and the best part is that it can be made effortlessly in vast quantities for the perfect Christmas get together.  Surpass yourself with this unexpected Indian Christmas Pudding.

The Recipe:

1 1/2 litres full cream milk; 6 slices white bread, crusts removed- blend into fine breadcrumbs; 250 ml tin of condensed milk or to taste ;  100 ml thick cream; 1/2 cup almond meal; a few drops rose essence- optional.

Boil milk on medium flame till thick.  This takes about 10 minutes.  Lower flame and add the bread and condensed milk, stirring constantly..  When it is thickened enough (about 5 minutes) stir in the almonds gently and ensure there are no lumps.  Finally stir in the cream and the essence.  Remove from flame and cool.  Refrigerate overnight.  Serve chilled garnished with (or without) raisins, nuts or anything you fancy.  This is a rich and creamy dessert that you can serve as thick or as thin as you like.

NB:  I used low fat milk. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Date For Christmas

Sweet Treat
Am starting off the Christmas Season with A Sweet Treat- Stuffed Dates - something so simple that even a child could make it. My Mum told me that her mother used to make this for them at Christmas time every year, the only difference being that the almonds were stuffed with dates dipped in ghee.  Dates featured heavily on their menu as boat loads of dates would come in from the Gulf to Coondapoor as it was called half a century ago.  And the traditional gift to all was a big packet of dates with some oranges thrown in. 
This is an appealing and attractive addition to any Christmas Party.

The Recipe:                                                                                                                                        
 50 dates; 50 almonds  
With a sharp knife, make a slit horizontally down the centre of each date.  Remove the seed and replace with an almond.  Repeat until all the dates are stuffed with almonds.  Serve as a Sweet Treat for Christmas or during any party.