June 22, 2012

Dark Chocolate & Blackberry Cake

It was a lovely, still cool saturday morning when I baked a dark chocolate cake to bring to a potluck at a friend's place. I paired it with blackberries -both preserved and fresh. It turned out to be a moist chocolate cake with a hint of blackberry. Everyone at the potluck loved it - even those who dont dig chocolate cakes. I was delighted, to say the least. Here it goes.

Serves: 10-12
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Bake time -35 minutes

3/4 cup dark cocoa (I used dutch processed)
2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
3 large cage-free eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing pans
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp instant coffee
1 cup blackberry preserve or jam
1 cup fresh blackberries for topping/ decoration

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans and line with parchment paper. Avoid using pans with removable bottoms, since the batter is very thin - it might leak into the oven. Set aside. 
  • Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the buttermilk, eggs, oil, and vanilla and whisk to combine. If you dont have buttermilk, you can substitute it with 1 tsp vinegar added to a cup of skimmed milk and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then proceed with the recipe. 
  • Stir instant coffee into the boiling water and whisk this into the batter until incorporated. The batter will be thin, so gently pour the batter into prepared pans.
  • Bake 30 to 35 minutes in the middle rack of the oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment. Cool completely. Leave the cake at room temperature for an hour if you wish to frost it with ganache immediately.
Blackberry preserve spread
NOTE: You can make this cake the day before serving, sandwich it with blackberry preserve, and keep it covered in the fridge.

Chocolate Ganache
1 cup heavy cream
10 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped fine or chocolate chips.
Blackberry preserve sandwiched between two layers
  • Set a heat proof bowl over a pot of boiling water (It works like a double boiler). Add chocolate chunks/chips to the bowl. 
  • As the chocolate begins to melt, whisk in the cream until well incorporated. Stir gently - avoid beating the mixture for a bubble free glossy finish. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes to thicken to a spreadable consistency. Alternatively, refrigerate it for 10-15 minutes to hasten the thickening process.
  • Place one cake layer on plate/ cake stand. My cakes had risen a lot, and I had to trim off the top so  I could stack them evenly. In hind sight - I think I should have trimmed them further.
  • Spread 1 cup blackberry preserve. Sandwich the other cake layer on top. 
  • Ice the cake using a metal spatula. If the ganache is still thin, you can gently drizzle it to cover the cake. If you have baked ahead - allow the cake to come to room temperature before icing with the ganache.
  • Ready to go
  • Garnish with blackberries and serve. I garnished it once we reached our friend's place, and were ready to eat dessert.
Note- This cake can be made using any jam or preserve of your choice. Garnish with the same fruit. Raspberries or strawberries would add a splash of color as well. :)

This recipe is based on Serena Bass' Cheating Chocolate Cake

Dark Chocolate Blackberry Cake
Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston

June 16, 2012

Israeli Couscous with vegetables

Israeli Couscous with vegetables
Some families have a routine set for dinner each week night. Monday- Dosa; Tuesday- leftover Dosa/ Uttapam; Wednesday- Tadka roti....Such a routine definitely makes for a simpler life- there are no 'whats for dinner tonight?' calls going back and forth. I guess it would also make for one easy trip to the grocery store. 
Being the foodies that we are, the husband & I just cannot predict on Sunday what we would want to eat for dinner on Thursday!! Often, we just know that we dont want to eat. On one such evening, we knew we didn't want to eat the leftover 'dal-roti-veggie/chicken', so I made this Israeli Couscous. Inspired by a Bobby Flay salad recipe -  It is delicious, healthy and wholesome. Here it goes.

  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Serves: 4 persons

  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt 
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 green zucchini, sliced on a bias
  • 1 chicken breast (optional)
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves (I used yellow ones)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, cut lengthwise (Any color- I used yellow)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 10-12 leaves of fresh mint, julienned
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 cups vegetable stock/ water, heated


  • In a small bowl, whisk the dijon mustard, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt & pepper and 2 tbsp olive oil.
  • Pour the marinade in two separate bowls- Marinate zucchini and peppers in one bowl for 30 minutes. In another bowl, marinate the chicken for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat grill while the vegetables/ chicken marinate. Grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Optional - Grill the chicken, until done. Gently pull the chicken apart, into small bite sized pieces.
Cooked toasted Israeli Couscous
  • Toast the Israeli couscous in a dry skillet, until the couscous is golden brown in colour. Cover the couscous with the vegetable stock/ water and bring to a boil, cook until pearls look transparent, and are almost done. 
Saute yellow cherry tomatoes and diced onion
  • In a medium skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add diced onions, tomatoes and pinch of salt. Saute for a couple of minutes. Add the couscous, dried cranberries, grilled veggies and/ chicken.
  • Gently transfer into a serving bowl, add the mint & parsley and toss. Serve at room temperature. 
Israeli Couscous with cranberries and grilled veggies
Notes: Israeli Couscous can be easily substituted with couscous or any short pasta. Vegetables can be altered according to seasons as well. This is an easily customizable dish. :)

Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston

June 14, 2012

Eggs in Rich Moghlai Sauce

I found this recipe in a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook which I had recently borrowed from our town library. Very rarely do I have all the ingredients at home ; this time I did, so customizing was not required ... and the outcome ?!?!  A recipe totally worth sharing with all of you! Here it goes...

Serves: 4 people
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 mins

Lengthwise cut eggs
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/2-3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil  (or groundnut oil)
1 medium sized onion finely chopped
1 tbsp ground ginger
2 tsp tomato puree
1 cup chicken stock
180 ml single cream 
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
5-7 hard boiled eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise in half
Freshly ground black pepper
  • Mix the cayenne, cumin, garam masala, coriander, lemon juice, salt and some black pepper with 1 tbsp of water to make a smooth paste and set aside.
  •  Heat oil in frying pan and set it over a medium high heat.When hot add the onion and stir fry until it turns brown at the edges. Add the ginger and stir for 10-15 seconds.
  • Add pre-made paste and stir for a minute.
  • Stir in tomato puree, chicken stock, cream  and fresh coriander and bring to simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 2-3 minutes.
  • Lay the egg halves in the sauce in a single layer and spoon the sauce over the top. Cover and simmer for another 2-3 minutes.
  • Serve with any Indian bread or rice.

Eggs in Moghlai Gravy

You can always try this recipe by replacing eggs with paneer or chicken.

Enjoy !! 

Ajanta from Amherst

June 10, 2012

Coffee & Walnut Ring

I like a little something sweet on my dining table almost all the time... It does not need to be fancy. A coffee cake made with readily available ingredients comes handy when I have such sweet craving. This goes equally well with morning coffee or evening tea or even with your late night ice-cream :)
Coffee-Walnut Ring

Serves: 10 people
Prep Time: 10 mins
Baking Time: 40 - 45 minutes

  • Oil/ Melted butter
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar ; I use 1 cup when I do not add maple syrup on top
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tsp instant coffee ; I use Nescafe ( original recipe calls for 1 tsp coffee extract )
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • Walnut halves to decorate
  • Preheat the oven to 325 F. Grease a 6 1/4-cup tube or a 9 inch square pan, preferably nonstick.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and add the butter, sugar, eggs and coffee powder / extract. Beat well until the mixture is smooth, then stir in chopped walnuts.
  • Spoon the mixture in the prepared pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until risen, firm and golden brown.
  • Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out carefully onto a wire rack. While the cake is still warm, spoon over half the maple syrup . To serve, top with walnut halves and drizzle with the remaining maple syrup.
When served with Vanilla Ice-cream ... Bliss !

 Enjoy your cake !

Ajanta from Amherst

Keri no Ras - Aamras

I love all things mango. Unending supply and variety of mangoes makes summer my favourite season. I even went to India one time in the middle of summer, so that I could eat the king of fruits to my heart's fill (Yes, I'm that crazy!). My latest trip to the Indian grocery resulted in an impulsive purchase of TWO boxes of mangoes. Result? The apartment was filled with faintly sweet fragrance as they slowly ripened. 

Everyday I would check each piece to determine which ones were ripe enough to eat and/ or refrigerate. Soon enough, there were far too many ready to eat and no place in my refrigerator. So I made the staple meal for Gujarati households during the summer (read 'mango') season - 'Keri no Ras' to eat with poori. Its makes for a perfect lazy Sunday lunch for a mango loving soul. Oh dear Lord! The very thought of Ras-Poori makes my mouth water. Here it goes.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4-6 persons
3 ripe mangoes
1 cup skimmed milk, cold
2-4 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet the mangoes are)
1/2 tsp ground ginger powder

  • Peel and dice mangoes into 1" cubes. Extract as much pulp from the pits.

Golden ripe mango cubes
  • In a blender, blend mango cubes, milk and sugar into a thick pulp or 'aamras'.
  • Strain the 'aamras' in a fine wire strainer or cheese cloth to remove any mango fibres.
  • Pour in a bowl and stir in ginger powder. Refrigerate till ready to serve with poori or chapatis. It can even be served as a delicious summery dessert.
NOTE: Aamras can be easily frozen in a freezer safe container if you wish to relish the golden goodness all year through. I do it in small 2 serving sized containers, for easy thawing.
Keri no ras
Bon Apetit!
Hetal from Houston

June 5, 2012

Marwari Keri - Rajasthani Mango Pickle

As the scorching sun pierces through the wall of windows, I wonder how much Mom would have loved making all kinds of 'athaanu' or pickles in the abundant sunlight. In Kolkata, the high rises make direct, unobstructed sunlight a scarce commodity for those who live on the lower levels. Many a times in the summer months, Mom and us kids would take our pots of 'pickles in the making' to our wonderful neighbors' courtyard (Yes! They had courtyard right in the middle of South Kolkata!) and hope that the Rain Gods would stay at bay. Baa would constantly keep an eye out for dark rain bearing clouds. A tiny dark cloud spotted meant that we had to run to our neighbors', quickly gather all the pots and rush back!!!
'Marwari Keri' is a simple mango pickle Mom learned from a Marwari neighbor -hence the name. This is one of her signature pickles, and a family favourite. So much so that she has to send a jar of this pickle to my cousins in Nagpur every year. It takes a couple of days in sunlight - but is totally worth it. Here it goes.

1 raw Mango, diced into 1" pieces.
2 tsp Haldi/ turmeric powder
2-3 tsp salt
1 tsp Methi/ fenugreek seeds, roughly crushed.
1 tsp Variyari/ fennel seeds, roughly ground
1 tsp Mangrella/ nigella seeds
2 tbsp Mustard oil
1/2 tsp Hing/ Asafoetida powder
1 tsp red chilli powder

  • In a medium bowl, toss the mango pieces in 1 tsp turmeric and 2 tsp salt. All the pieces should be coated in the salt-turmeric mixture. Set it out the sun in a tray/ wide bowl for a day or two, depending on how much sunlight is available. Periodically remove any moisture that oozes out.
Mango tossed in salt and turmeric
  • Tempering: In a small skillet, heat 2 tbsp mustard oil. Add Hing, Methi Seeds and Mangrella seeds.  Add the dehydrated mango pieces and toss. 
Methi and Mangrella tempered mango
  • Spice it up: Add fennel seeds, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Toss again till all pieces are coated with the spices. Set it out in the sun again, for a day. Alternatively - allow the spiced mangoes to cool, and store it in a sterilised glass jar. 
Spiced up
  • Storage: It can be stored it in the refrigerator for months. For storage at room temperature, add enough mustard oil (~2-4 tbsp) that it covers the mango pieces. It keeps well, either way.
  • Enjoy with parathas, roti etc. 
Marwari Keri

Bon Appetit!
Hetal from Houston