Orange scented Olive Oil Cake

I don’t own too many cookbooks, all thanks to the power of the internet. But one book i do own is Nick Malgieri’s ‘The Modern Baker’. It’s a great book for anyone who wants to start baking. All through my childhood, I’ve seen my mother bake cakes and cookies with a passion that i was scared to embrace baking myself. Why? Because of a fear i would get it all wrong. Like someone once said, ‘Baking has a science to it’ unlike cooking where you can add a little here and reduce a little there to save a dish.

This cake was an experiment to overcome that ‘fear of baking’ and it is just my first small baby step.

What’s beautiful about this cake is that instead of butter, it uses Olive Oil which gives it a density. The cake has a texture to it, along with the heady flavour of Orange zest which comes together beautifully.

Here’s the recepie:

Ingrediants

3 large Naval Oranges

3 large eggs

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups pure Olive Oil

1 1/2 cups Milk

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp Baking powder

1/2 Baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

Also need: Two cake moulds, greased with oil/butter.

Method

Set the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F (180C)

Zest the three oranges and place in a large mixing bowl. The remaining oranges can be used to garnish while serving the cake.

Add eggs to the orange zest and whisk.

Add 1 cup of sugar and whisk for a minute till the mixture lightens.

Continue whisking and add in oil, followed by the milk.

Mix the remaining 1 1/2 cup sugar with the remaining dry ingrediants – flor, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Slowly add the dry ingrediants mix to the egg mix in three seperate additions, whisk smooth after each addition of the dry mixture.

Divide the batter into pre greased two cake moulds.

Bake the cake for about 50 – 55 minutes.

My fool proof check to see if cakes are well baked is called ‘the tooth pick test’. Insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake, if it comes clean with no cake sticking to the tooth pick, your cake is ready.

Allow the cake to cook for 5 minutes in a cooling rack.

Serve this cake with a few slices of oranges and vanilla ice cream.

Food traditions

It was a relaxed school day evening, I was a 9 years old, nursing a hunger after rigorous play-time with friends  in the neighborhood. I usually would ask my maid Lakshmi to fix me a snack, but that day I asked her to teach me to cook. So, we chopped up some tomatoes and onions, threw in some spices and seasoning and had a quick side dish to go with roti.

Food has always been a central activity with my family; and the act of preparing, almost sacred. Food was what got the family together. We never were the type to play board games or gather around for a movie; we washed, cut, sautéed, marinated and cooked wholesome good food. During the summer, my uncles, aunts and cousins would gather at my grandparent’s place in the Malabar region of  Kerala. It was a large house with a huge backyard, surrounded by trees, and this allowed an urban kid like me to run amok amongst the trees, the livestock and the vast natural spaces. As I grew older, the running was replaced by a pulp fiction in hand and music blaring on my headphones. Through all the years my grandparents lived in that house, there always was this one tradition of the family coming together to cook a large meal.

Sardines

The menu for the big meal would take shape during the previous day’s dinner;where, over fat grained boiled rice, crispy fried spicy beef and flavorful fish curry the adults planned on what to cook. As little brats, we would sometimes throw in our contribution for a chicken curry and dessert.

The next day, the preparations would begin post a breakfast of appam -stew and hot milky tea. The ladies of the house would pile up vegetables in large bamboo trays and carry them to a table in the backyard. They would sit and precariously slice juicy red tomatoes, fragrant ginger, heady garlic and red onions. As conversation ensued, the vegetables would be sliced to perfection in length and size. The menfolk would lay out large wooden tables, washed clean and knead dough for Kerala porotta. Meanwhile, my grandmother would oversee the work in progress and prepare milk paayasam to wash down the heady meal.

Appam

The meat would be marinated, and the onions fried transparent to give way to a succulent juicy chicken curry, slow cooked in thick coconut milk. As kids, the porotta was always entertainment value for a meal. The soft bread being almost pastry in its layers, makes a threaded heap when torn into bits.

After the bread was made, the meat cooked and dessert cooled, we kids would lay out the table and carry trays of air filled- crispy papads, home-made pickles, dried fried bitter gourd, salted fried chillies and other small accompaniments to the meal. We would all sit around the table and tuck into the wholesome food in a humid Kerala summer with plenty of conversation and laughter.

Mediterranean platter

 

Being in a foreign country far away from the home and the Hills of Malabar, today I was reminiscing about the old days and food traditions of my family with my better half over, my version of a Mediterranean platter – Whole Wheat Pita Bread, Hummus, Greek Yogurt and some healthy vegetables.

 

Breakfast Blues

Blueberries and Oatmeal

Have you had your breakfast today?

I’m a staunch believer in having the first meal of the day. Even when I’m short of time and running to get to work, i slap some peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat toast and munch it along with the city’s traffic fumes.

So why is breakfast important? After an 8 hour nightcap, your body needs ‘fuel’ to run for the rest of the day. Plus, your first meal, sets the pace for your other meals during the day and your eating pattern too. People who eat breakfast regularly are better at maintaining a steady weight too. Having breakfast also raises your metabolic rate and improves concentration throughout the day.

The benefits are numerable, so have that first bite and get on with your day.

Days with Lakshmi

When I first got my camera, I was most excited about taking a series of photos to form an essay. The format of a photo essay is a great way to tell a story; with word and picture.

Here, I’m sharing with you one of my first photos; it’s a very personal essay of sorts. These photos are of Lakshmi, who has lived with me since the day I was born. She cared for me while both my parents were busy working their 9-5 jobs.

An energy warehouse, Lakshmi wakes up at 4:30 am every single day to finish most of the household chores. Sunday’s are reserved for a long walk to church and some dressing up.

Her tiny hands can accomplish almost anything, from saving up money in the bank to cooking a full course meal. She also loves the colour red.

She loves to collect synthetic saree’s, especially the bright coloured ones. She pairs her sari with complimenting coloured bangles. Her constant worry, tailors not stitching her saree blouses to fit.

She sometimes goes on vacation to visit her only brother in a village in Karnataka, India.  She returns home with stories and  bags overflowing with home-made sweets and snacks.

Large hearted and childlike, I’ve known her all my life. She holds my house together with her enthusiastic spirit.

Goodness in a jar

I’m a recent tomato convert, all thanks to Sahar‘s tomato and cheese sandwiches which saved me during a very hungry work day. She slowly proceeded to treat me to more tomato cooked goodness in the form of pasta arrabiata, eggs and tomatoes and much more. I then  worked my way to loving a Bloody May to eventually turned a full-fledged tomato aficionado. These days I’m practically moody, if there are no tomatoes in the fridge.

I’m also more lenient towards dried tomatoes in general, because of its succulent sweet and tangy flavour. Since sun-dried tomatoes require time and patience I scrounged all over the internet for ‘Oven dried tomatoes’. For the version I tried, I kept the spices used basic – salt and garlic pods, so that the tomatoes can be flexible when included in any type of cuisine. The kitchen also smells divine when these fruits are in the oven. Yes, the tomato is a fruit and not a vegetable.

Making this requires a good part of your day, so start early and keep busy.

Oven Dried Tomatoes

*Clean and wash tomatoes and cut them into very thick slices. If you cut them thin, there are more chances of them burning easily. Depending on the size of the tomato, slice them into two-three slices.

* Arrange on a tray and sprinkle some salt and allow the water to drain for about 30 minutes or so.

* Preheat oven to 200F and line tray with baking paper with some olive oil spread on

* Arrange tomato pieces on a tray and bake till the juices have dried and the fruits have shriveled.

*Flip them over a few times and depending on the size of the tomato. It usually takes about 4-6 hours for them to be fully dry.

* Cool the now raisin like tomatoes and store them in a sterilized jar with Olive oil.

* You can add these tomatoes in pastas, salads, sandwiches and much more.

Open Sandwiches with prosciutto and Gouda

I used these tomatoes to make an open sandwich with prosciutto ham and Gouda cheese.

Chilli

The photo above is one of my favorite pictures. This was taken in Kerala, India in the backyard of my grandmother’s garden. The chilli in the photo is locally called Khandari Molagu.  It’s the tiny cousin of the commercially available chilli, and is three times more spicy. The ripe red chillies are pecked on and often consumed by birds. Sometimes, the word ‘Khandari’ is also used as a nickname on a smart mouthed and mischievous person. While growing up, my firecracker of a best friend was called that.

I’ve never leaned much onto the spicy side, since i have such a huge sugar tooth to tend to. More recently my trainer told me to cut down on salt and add pepper or any kind of spice to my food. After some serious research online, i discovered that spice is a metabolism booster. And, if you are aiming to lose weight, the best thing to do is slowly include spice in your food.

I bought a packet of the dried red chilli, at an Asian store close by. It is similar to the ‘Khandari’ variety. Now a days, I throw in a few chillies in salads, soups, mains and pretty much everything.

So, have you got your chilli yet?