Friday, March 23, 2007

Eggfree baking disaster

Oh well, I guess it had to happen. I've had too long a run of excellent baking results, so it stands to reason that the law of averages would kick in with a solid wallop. And it did. Boy, it sure did. And the recipe it chose to make an appearance with was one which I tried today from the Eggfree Baking book by Cintia Stammers - an apricot cake. I chose it because the recipe was simple. Really, really simple. In fact, so much so that I should really have listened to my inner voice which was jumping up and down and yelling "It's TOO simple! It's TOO simple!", in an effort to get me to notice that among other things, the ingredient list didnt include any flavouring for the batter at all whatsoever (other than sugar, which cant be classified as a flavour, can it?).

I guess after a point, simplicity becomes stupidity. Hands up, I was simply stupid.

Imagine a recipe that requires flour, sugar, baking powder and yogurt for the batter. Some chopped dried apricots to sprinkle on the basic batter. And a simple topping of flour, sugar, a bit of butter and a bit of cinnamon. That was it. The recipe didnt even call for the apricots to be mixed in the batter - which in its simplicity was really only a (slightly sweet) flour paste. I could have used it to make papier mache sculptures. If papier mache calls for flour paste, that is.

Anyway, the finished cake was a disaster. The cake part, which should have had the texture of a sponge cake, turned out opaque and like congealed glue. Those of you who were "craft-y" in your younger days might remember how Fevicol* used to get when it got dry. Exactly that colour and consistency. It tasted absolutely dire and the texture was like rubber. If I'd dropped the cake, it might just have bounced back and bopped me on the chin. It was like eating slightly sweet congealed Fevicol... although I cant personally testify to the flavour of Fevicol! The apricots tasted awful in the topping as well, and there was just no flavour to the whole sorry mess.

I'm in two minds whether or not to post photos (yes, I took photos. I think it's second nature now, to have my camera within easy reach when I'm in the kitchen). What do y'all think? Photos or not? :)

*Fevicol - an instant-drying adhesive sold in India

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bell pepper rice

This recipe is courtesy my mother. I followed her about while she made the rice, getting in her way, taking photographs and generally being of no particular use to her in the kitchen. It sure made a change to be a hindrance to someone else rather than to myself!

We (my mother, Pete, myself and my visiting cousin) were as hungry as bears because we had been out for hours, wandering up and down a small town called Ludlow, visiting the ruins of the castle that reigns supreme right in the town centre. By the time we got back, it was 3pm. My mother opted to make bell pepper rice as it was reasonably quick to make - while the rice was cooking, the vegetables were prepared and the masala ingredients roasted and powdered. Oh, the aroma in the kitchen while my mother did the cooking was indescribable... savoury and mouthwatering - pushed up a few notches no doubt because we were all so darn hungry!

By the way, the list of ingredients might look a bit daunting - especially for the masala powder - but really the procedure is quite simple.

This masala rice is a one-dish meal in itself... all you need is a raita and perhaps some crisp-crunchy accompaniment like potato chips or poppadums, if you are so inclined.

Recipe for:
Bell pepper rice


For the masala powder:

Dry roast:
1" piece cinnamon stick
1 cardamom
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
4 cloves

Roast in 1 tsp oil:
4 dry red chillies
1 tbsp chana dal
1/2 tbsp tuvar/toor dal
1 tbsp urad dal
2 tbsp coriander seeds
10-15 curry leaves

For the vegetable-rice mixture:

4 cups cooked basmati rice
2 green bell peppers, sliced or chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, sliced thin
1 potato, sliced into thin sticks and microwaved on high for 5 minutes
Salt to taste

For tempering:
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
large pinch asafoetida powder


1. Dry-roast the cinnamon stick, cardamom, fennel seeds and cloves for a minute or so, till they release their aroma. Remove to a cup and set aside to cool.

2. Pour 1 tsp oil in the pan next, and roast the red chillies for a few seconds.

Then add the three dals, the coriander seeds and the curry leaves.

Stir frequently over medium high heat till the dals are golden brown and the red chillies are shiny and dark.

Take off the heat and let cool. Grind the dry-roasted spices and the fried dals and chillies to a slightly grainy powder (a bit like sand), and reserve.

3. Now in a wide pan, heat the 2 tbsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and let them pop.

4. Add the sliced/chopped tomatoes and fry till they get mushy.

Then add the onions and fry till they turn soft and translucent.

5. Next, add the microwaved potatoes

and the bell peppers.

Fry the vegetables till the bell peppers are soft-crisp and the potatoes are done.

Add salt to taste and 4 tbsp of the masala powder.

6. Mix the masala powder with the vegetables.

Now add the cooked rice and gently mix with a large metal spoon till the masala vegetables are evenly distributed.

7. Taste for salt and add more masala powder if required, mixing it in. Once the rice is thoroughly warmed, turn off the heat.

8. Serve the bell pepper rice with any raita and poppadums or crisps.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Eggless carrot cake

I do believe I'm beginning to get rather fond of my eggless baking book! Another ridiculously easy cake that tastes wonderful - can you believe there's no beating or creaming or any such hard work involved? It's a one-step cake. Basically, get all the ingredients together, mix 'em and shove into the oven for about 40 minutes.

As is usually the case, I did make a few changes to the original recipe to make the cake more "Indian" tasting - with an added tip remembered from a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook. Basically, to substitute some of the butter with 2 tbsp ghee for that carrot halwa taste without having to suffer the smell of cooking carrots.

For certain my mother's enjoying my baking efforts. For all that she moans that she'll put on all the weight she lost in India (by being unwell), it doesnt stop her from "sampling" my eggless cakes. I'm going to try and make as many from the book as possible while she's here... and eventually see if I cant adapt other cake recipes to be egg-free. It's going to be a slow journey but who cares!

The next thing I'd like to try is a pressure cooker cake, suggested by Vijayalaxmi Hegde in a comment on my previous post. I know there are some Chinese-style pressure cooker cake recipes around, but those arent what I want to try just yet.

Anyway, for now here's how to make my spicy eggless carrot cake.

Recipe for:
Carrot cake


1 heaped cup AP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp soft butter (I used 2 tbsp ghee and 2 tbsp butter)
1-1/2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup caster sugar
3/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup chopped nuts - I used pistachios and pecans
1/4 cup sultanas
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
a large pinch of cardamom powder


1. Grease a 6" square pan. Preheat the oven to 180C(350F).

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda in a big bowl.

3. Add the ghee/butter


and sugar

and mix. The batter will be quite thick at this point.

4. Add the grated carrots, ginger, spices, nuts and sultanas.

5. Mix well. The moisture from the carrots should make the batter a little loose, but if it seems still too thick, add a little more yogurt and mix again.

6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a wet spatula or with your hand.

7. Bake at 180C for 40 minutes or till the cake tests done. Let the cake remain in the pan for 10 minutes.

8. Loosen the cake from the sides of the pan, if required, and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

9. Cut into squares or rectangles when cool. Store in an airtight tin.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Remove Plagiarism!

I didnt even know that anybody had used my lemon rice recipe and photos (and for all I know, other posts too) word for word, picture for picture, until a kind reader, Harsha, pointed it out to me and provided the link. I was actually surprised that they used my photos, because there are so many more that are way more worthy of plagiarism, as it were. (Sort of like, if you MUST steal, you pathetic creatures, at least make sure you steal from the BEST blogs! Talk about your second-rate copycats.)

Anyway, back to the main point. I dont even want payment, really... just an acknowledgement that the recipe/photo was taken from MY blog - a basic courtesy shown to someone who has taken the trouble to write out the recipe, make the dish, take and post the photos and publish on the blog.

And what I have said here is also on behalf of all the other fantastic food bloggers from whose blogs I get so much inspiration and pleasure... like Indira of Mahanandi, Saffron Hut, Vaishali of Happy Burp, oh so MANY more (all of whom are listed on my blog links!) The very least they deserve is acknowledgement, if their posts are used. So this is my little bit against plagiarism on the Net, whether it's by Yahoo or anyone else.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Eggless orange cake

This intensely orange cake is the first recipe that I tried from the eggless baking book by Cintia Stammers, published by the Bhaktivedanta Trust. The cake served two purposes - one, it was Pete's birthday cake, and two, it was a cake that my mother could eat, as she's a very strict vegetarian (unlike me - not so strict in that I'm happy to eat eggs and, much more rarely, the odd KFC takeout).

The recipe was simple and easy - TOO simple, I thought, so I tweaked a bit here and added a bit there to adapt it to something I felt was a little more festive. Mind you, I probably violated a couple of the Hare Krsna precepts with a addition of a little alcohol to the orange-sultana filling... but as long as nobody tells on me to Cintia Stammers, I should be safe enough. Perhaps, though, I should make it very clear that the Bhaktivedanta Trust did NOT recommend the addition of any alcohol whatsoever. It was entirely and only my doing.

Actually, if I'm to be honest, it was Pete's doing. (He did it, he did it! It was HIS fault! I'm innocent. Innocent, I tell you!)

The verdict on the cake was unanimous - Pete loved it, although he felt it was more a dessert cake than a snacky one because the filling tasted so rich and was so moist. He said it was spectacular with a cup of coffee - especially as he drinks his coffee without sugar.

My mother was happy with the cake, and so was I. Although I could manage only a small piece, every bite was loaded with deep flavours. A very auspicious start to my eggless baking attempts!

Recipe for:
Orange cake


1-1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp soda bicarb
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sunflower oil
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup yogurt
3/4 cup orange juice (I used fresh squeezed)
1 tsp orange zest

Orange-sultana filling:

1-1/4 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp orange zest
1/2 cup golden sultanas
2 tbsp orange juice (I used fresh squeezed)
2 tbsp apricot brandy
1 tsp vanilla extract
two pinches orange food colouring (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Lightly grease an 8" round baking pan.

2. In a bowl, sift together the flour, soda bicarb and baking powder.

3. In another bowl, cream together the oil, sugar and yogurt.

4. Add the juice, orange zest and flour; mix well and pour into the prepared pan.

5. Bake for about 35 minutes or till the cake tests done.

Let it remain in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire cooling rack.

6. When the cake is completely cool, split it in half horizontally (cant imagine why I had to specify that, but I have for some reason!)

7. To make the filling, put the sultanas, orange juice and apricot brandy in a small microwaveable bowl.

Cover with clingfilm, poke a hole in the top and microwave it for 2-1/2 minutes. Let cool, then puree the sultanas - whether smooth or coarsely(like I did) is entirely up to you.

8. Pour the pureed sultanas into a mixing bowl.

Add the orange food colouring (if using), the vanilla extract and orange zest and mix well.

9. Add the sifted icing sugar carefully and beat till the mixture is fairly thick. Add more icing sugar if required, to make it spreadable.

10. Spread the filling on one half of the cooled split cake

and top with the other half. Sift icing sugar thickly over the top. (I used vanila sugar that I blitzed in the grinder to make vanilla icing sugar).

Serve with a cup of strong coffee.