March 21, 2012

Zebra cake

It was my kid sister's birthday, and a perfect reason for me to try out the wild and funky zebra cake that was all over Pinterest. I read many recipes like here and here, and even sat through a couple of youtube videos. Wishing my lil sis a super duper birthday again, here is my take on the zebra cake. 
Serves: 8-10 persons
Preparation time: 20-25 minutes
Cook time: 35-40 minutes
Slice of Zebra cake
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
3 tsp Dark Cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
11/3 cup milk (I used 1%)+ 1 tbsp
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch spring form cake pan with a circle of parchment paper. Grease/ spray the bottom and sides of the pan with oil/ butter and flour.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, vanilla, vegetable oil.  In a medium bowl, sieve the dry ingredients. Pour into wet ingredients and whisk to combine.  
  • Divide the batter into two equal parts in two separate bowls. Set aside one of the bowls.
  • Sift cocoa powder into the other batter and blend until incorporated. If the batter gets thicker, add about tbsp of milk to get runnier consistency.
Pour batter alternately to form concentric circles
  • Slowly pour 1/3 cup of vanilla batter into the center of the pan and let it spread slightly on its own. Now pour 1/3 cup dark chocolate batter in the center of the vanilla. Notice that the chocolate batter pushes the vanilla batter out, and then gradually spreads creating lovely concentric circles of batter. Repeat this procedure till all batter is poured into the pan.
Just before getting baked
  • Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake is done and a toothpick inserted to the center of the cake comes out clean. I left mine in the oven for a couple minutes longer, so it had a gaping crack on the top :(
  • Let the cake cool in the pan for 15-20 minutes. Gently flip the cake and peel the parchment paper.  Flip back onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.
Fresh out of the oven
P.S. While I usually prefer baking from scratch, box mixes are a great way to experiment. Any white or yellow cake mix would work along with 3 tbsp of dark cocoa and 1/4 tsp salt.

Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston

March 20, 2012

Chinese 'Biryani'

After 3 week nights of pasta dinner, my foodie husband wanted to eat something 'nice', which usually means either Chinese fried rice or chicken biryani. Chinese prevailed. I was not in the mood to cut vegetables and make fried rice from scratch. So I decided to use frozen mix vegetables. After a lot of improvising, the outcome was what my husband called 'Chinese Chicken Biryani'. Here it goes.

Serves: 2-3 persons
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15-20 minutes
1 cup rice (I used Sona Masoori)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables(thawed)
1 chicken breast (cleaned and cut in 1 inch strips).*
1 egg**
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp white vinegar
1-2 tsp Sriracha sauce or any hot sauce
2 tsp vegetarian Hoisin sauce (or any tangy-sweet sauce)
1 tbsp Toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup Onions (finely chopped)
2 tbsp Garlic (minced)
1 bunch spring onions (only the greens, chopped)
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp pepper

  • Cook rice till almost done, and strain. Let it cool.
  • Marinade - In a medium bowl, mix egg, vinegar, soy sauce, hot sauce, Chinese all spice powder and salt. Add the chicken strips and gently toss. Let the chicken marinate for 30 mins.
  • In a wok, heat sesame oil to medium high. Add chopped onions and fry for a minute or two. Add garlic, thawed mix vegetables. Add salt and pepper. Fry till vegetables are soft (about 4-5 minutes)
  • Add marinated chicken, and continue to stir fry till chicken is done. 
  • Add rice and hoisin sauce. Fry for 2-4 minutes.
  • Garnish with spring onions and serve. 
Chinese Chicken 'Biryani'
*   Chicken can be substituted by Tofu or Paneer
** Egg is optional if making a vegetarian version.
PS. Was not sure if this recipe would make it to the blog, so did not click pictures of each stage. :( I hope the description is clear enough.

Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston

March 18, 2012

'Doi Potol' aka 'Dahi Parwal'

Potol or parwal was never a childhood favorite but since last few years the scarcity of this particular veggie in this part of the world makes me crave for it ! Changes in life keep surprising me :)

Here is a simple Bengali recipe I inherited from my in-laws family for potol or parwal cooked with yoghurt.

Serves: 3 to 5
Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins

Peeled and sliced parwal
  • Parwal / Potol/ Pointed gourd ( 1 lb) - longitudinally and  alternately peeled  and sliced in halves
  • Oil for deep frying - I mixed mustard oil and olive oil (You can use any oil)
  • Whole cumin seeds (1 tsp)
  • Green chillies 
  • Bay leaves (2-3)
  • Cumin powder (1tsp)
  • Coriander powder (1 tsp)
  • Turmeric (1/2 tsp)
  • Yoghurt (1 cup) - Well beaten
  • Ginger paste (1 tsp)
  • Sugar and salt to taste
  • Garam Masala 1 tsp
  • Ghee (1/2 tsp) : Optional 

Fried parwal
Yoghurt Gravy
  • Cut parwal longitudinally after alternately peeling ( it gets very soft  with complete peeling) .
  • Fry well and drain off excess oil . 
  • Separately fry whole cumin, bay leaves and a green chilli .
  • Make a paste of coriander, turmeric and cumin and add it.
  • Then add ginger paste and yoghurt.
  • Now add fried parwal and rest of the chillies.
  • Add sugar and salt .
  •  Cook well in low flame.
  •  Before turning off flame add ghee and garam masala .
  • Doi Potol
You can also substitute parwal with veggies of your choice like baigan / eggplant.
Enjoy !

Ajanta from Amherst

March 17, 2012

A Quick meal : Quinoa with veggies Indian style

We all have days when we are really tired, looking at the empty refrigerator with no leftovers, not knowing what to cook for our immediate meal but yet restrain from ordering pizza or chinese takeaway to avoid their consequences. On one such day, I digged out quinoa from our pantry and cooked a one course dinner by adding some vegetable cooked the Indian way.  It was a quite easy, quick and tasty meal for two!
Serves: 2- 3 persons
Preparation time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20-25 mins mins

1 cup quinoa
1 tsp margarine (Butter of course is a tastier choice)
Canola Oil   (Any oil should be good)
1 Onion sliced longitudinally
1 red pepper sliced longitudinally
Ginger paste (1 tsp)
Garlic paste (1 tsp)
Pre-cut mixed veggies (Carrot, beans, green peas)
Tomato puree (2 tbsp)
Cumin powder (1/2 tsp)
Coriander powder (1/2 tsp)
Turmeric powder (1/2 tsp)
Chilli powder (1/2 tsp); you can use green chillies instead
Salt to taste


                                       Different Stages of Quinoa Meal
  • Cook quinoa separately - Boil 1 cup of water with margarine and pinch of salt and add quinoa. Simmer for 2 mins. Remove from heat and keep covered.
  • In a non stick pan heat oil and fry onion and red peppers for 3 minutes.
  • Add ginger -garlic and fry for 2 minutes
  • Add tomato and saute well and then add veggies.
  • Add cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli powder.
  • Add sugar and salt to taste.
  • Simmer for 10 mins or veggies are cooked.
  • Add quinoa with cooked veggies.
  • Garnish with cilantro.
Enjoy your 'fatafat' meal :)
Final Meal : Quinoa with mixed veggies
Substitute quinoa with rice or couscous according to taste and availability.

Ajanta from Amherst

March 15, 2012

Ghau Bajra na Thepla - Wheat Millet flatbread

Methi Thepla is a quintessential Gujarati flatbread made with spices and fenugreek leaves. It is a staple in all Gujarati households, and can be eaten during any meal. The methi can be substituted with minced garlic, grated milk gourd (lauki/doodhi) or even zucchini. I can eat Methi Thepla at anytime of the day, with yogurt or sweet mango pickle or even tea :)
Last week, I picked up some wonderfully fresh methi /fenugreek leaves and instantly wanted to make some methi thepla. I knew I was running low on whole wheat flour, and soon realised it was not enough to make the thepla. So I added some Bajra/ millet flour instead to make Ghau- Bajra na Thepla.
Here goes the recipe.

Serves: 4-6 persons
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
1 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bajra/ millet flour
2 cups fenugreek leaves (removed from stems, washed and dried)
1 tbsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 cup yogurt (room temperature) plus some water (sort of buttermilk consistency)
1/2 cup+ 2 tbsp vegetable/ sunflower/ canola cooking oil for frying.

Thepla dough ball
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix the flours, turmeric powder, chilli powber, salt, sesame seeds together. Add 2 tbsp cooking oil and bit of the yogurt at a time, mixing to blend them together and form a lose dough.
  • When the ingredients have all come together, add the fenugreek leaves and knead into medium-soft, smooth dough.  Set dough aside for 20-30 minutes to rest.
  • Divide the dough into small 1 inch ball sized portions.
  • Roll into 5-6 inch diameter thin diskettes. Use flour to help rolling, if the dough sticks to the rolling board.
Golden brown Thepla
  • Heat a griddle on high and fry the theplas one at a time. Place one rolled diskette on the griddle. Flip when tiny bubbles rise on the top surface. As soon as the first flip is done, baste a little bit of the cooking oil and spread well over the surface. Flip again in 30 seconds and baste. The Thepla is done when both sides are crispy and golden brown. 

  • Serve with chilled yogurt and Chhunda(Sweet mango pickle) or your favorite pickle or chutney
Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston
Ghau Bajra Thepla with yogurt and pickle

Red Velvet Cake

Some of us do not need any reason to celebrate … It comes way too naturally ;) This time, however, it was a very special one as we were spending Ronny’s (Hetal’s better half)  milestone birthday in Amherst! A celebration together in our favorite town after a long time… It also happened to be another close friend’s birthday. Needless to say, we pounced upon the opportunity to bake a cake. Hetal’s cousin had baked a red velvet cake for her daughter’s first birthday and of course it was exactly what we were looking for - ‘Tried, tested and tasted to be the best of its kind'!  We followed the recipe almost entirely, except that we added more cocoa powder. It made the red colour darker, almost a shade of maroon. 

Vegetable oil for the pans
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder (We added 4-5 tsps.)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows
Crushed pecans, for garnish              

Cake batter poured into greased pans

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil and flour 3 (9 by 1 1/2-inch round) cake pans.  We used a disposable pan set. Its easier to assemble the when all three pans are of the exact same size.          
  • In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder). In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
  • Gradually blend the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.
  • Divide the cake batter evenly among the prepared cake pans. We used a cup measure to help measure evenly.
  • Place the pans in the preheated oven evenly spaced apart. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through the cooking, until the cake pulls away from the side of the pans, and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 30 minutes. The time we took was exactly 30 minutes, though it may vary with ovens.
Baked cake layers
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and run a knife around the edges to loosen them from the sides of the pans. One at a time, invert the cakes onto a plate and then re-invert them onto a cooling rack, rounded-sides up. Let cool completely.

  • Frost the cake. Place 1 layer, rounded-side down. Using a palette knife or offset spatula spread some of the cream cheese frosting over the top of the cake. (Spread enough frosting to make a 1/4 to 1/2-inch layer.) Carefully set another layer on top, rounded-side down, and repeat. Top with the remaining layer and cover the entire cake with the remaining frosting.

Assembling the cake
  • Sprinkle the top and/or sides with the pecans. We didn't dry roast the pecans, but would like to do so in the future.
  • Completely frosted cake

Pecans on the frosting
Cream Cheese Frosting
1 pound cream cheese, softened
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (We used lesser sugar - about 2 cups)
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Mix the cream cheese,sugar and butter with a mixer on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  • Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally). Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.
  • Yield: Enough to frost a 3 layer (9-inch) cake.
  • Refrigerate frosted cake for 2 hours.
Bon apetit!
Hetal & Ajanta - both from Amherst :)

Red Velvet Cake
Layers of red velvety goodness :)

March 10, 2012

Khushi's Eggless Chocolate Cake

You never know where and how you find a good recipe. In this case, my niece Khushi wrote this eggless chocolate cake recipe for me on her notebook paper with pencil many many years ago - she was barely 6-7 years old at that time. I'm pretty sure she has long forgotten about it, but I still have that little piece of paper. Here it goes.

Bake time: 20-25 minutes
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6-8 persons

Maida/ All purpose flour - 1 1/2 cup
Sugar (powdered) - 1 cup 
Cocoa - 2 tbsp
Butter (softened) - 6 tbsp
Baking Soda - 1 tsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Plain yogurt - 1/2 cup (or 2 eggs)
Milk - 3/4 cup


  • Preheat oven at 375 F. Grease and flour a 9" pan or a tube pan.
  • Sift all dried ingredients together.
  • Mix the wet ingredients first, and add the dried ones gradually, till smooth batter.  
  • Pour in a greased and floured pan.
  • Bake at 375F in a preheated oven for 20 - 25 mins, till toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Let it cool completely before icing/ consuming. 
Tips - I added a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of instant coffee. Once cooled, I drizzled a bit of coke/ pepsi on the cake, to keep it moist for longer. Its optional though.

Khushi's Eggless Chocolate Cake
Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston

March 9, 2012

Sabu daaney ki khichdi- sago khichdi

Trips back home are very hectic, but I get to learn so many new recipes or techniques from Mom, MIL and other relatives. Sabu dana or sago khichdi is one such recipe. I tried it several times, but somehow did'nt get the right consistency or texture. During this trip, I made it a point to keenly observe how my Mom made it. Here it goes.

Serves -3-4 persons
Preparation time: 3-4 hours of soaking
Cook time- 20-25 minutes.

Sabudana khichdi

1 cup sabudana (sago/ tapioca)
1 tsp ginger (finely chopped)
2 Green Chillies (finely chopped)
1/2 cup raw peanuts (roasted and coarsely crushed)
2-3 potatoes (boiled, peeled & cubed)
2 tsp Oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 tsp Sugar 
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice (optional)

Coriander leaves for garnish

Directions :
  • Wash sabudana carefully in running water. According to my mom, it should wash it atleast 8 times. (Not sure if it works, but why question experience). Soak sabudana in warm water for atleast 3-4 hours. This is an important step. Soak in just enough water to cover the sabudana.Too much water might lead to a mush of starch.
  • Take a dry pan and dry roast the peanuts on medium low for about 5-6 minutes. This slow roasting enhances the flavour of the peanuts. Once cooled, coarsely crush the peanuts in a grinder. 
  • Heat the oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and bay leaf.
  • Add potatoes and fry till the potatoes are slightly browned.
  • Add the soaked sabudana and gently toss with the potatoes.
  • Add green chillies, ginger, salt, sugar and pepper. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat or till the sabudana is cooked. Sabudan turns translucent when cooked. Sprinkle a little water if needed to facilitate the cooking. 
  • Mix the crushed peanuts and sprinkle lemon juice over it. 
  • Garnish with coriander leaves
  • Serve hot with some plain yogurt. It is a perfect snack or a light meal on a rainy day :)

Bon Apetit!

Hetal from Houston