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.

Glass Noodles and Chicken in Coconut Milk

Remember that  Episode of F.R.I.E.N.D.S where Joey kept saying Noodle Soup while trying out for a TV Commercial?

This recipe is just that!

And it all started by buying a packet of Glass Noodles at ALDI. Which procrastinated in the kitchen storage shelf for a week. I was mostly aiming at making these Cellophane Noodles with a broth like consistency combined with South Asian Flavours.

It is a slightly tedious recipe and might require a good hour.

This was the result of a Sunday kitchen experiment.

Ingredients 

125 grams Glass Noodles

400 grams of Chicken breast pieces

1 Onions

250 grams Mushrooms

A bunch of spring onions

4 cloves of Garlic

10 pods of Dried Birds eye chilli

Salt to taste

700 ml water

Sesame Oil

Soya Sauce

Coconut Milk

Method

Slice the onions, spring onions, garlic and mushrooms

Marinate the chicken pieces in a table-spoon of Soya Sauce, salt and Dried Chilli.

Heat a pan with Sesame oil and sauté the onions and garlic till transparent and soft. Ensure they don’t brown.

Clear the pan and remove the onions and keep aside.

Take turns to sauté the spring onions, mushrooms and chicken.

The flavours of each vegetable and the chicken are brought out separately with sautéing it individually.

Heat a medium size cooking saucepan and transfer the sautéed chicken. Chicken on cooking releases water and mixes with the soya marinate and chillies.

Add 500ml water and transfer the previously sautéed onions, garlic, mushrooms and spring onions. Depending on your preference, season with salt and another tablespoon of soya.

Lower the flame and close the pot and allow all the ingredients to cook for a good ten minutes.

Add glass noodles to the chicken vegetable broth. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes.

Add  150 ml of coconut milk.

Cook for another 5 minutes, if it is too thick add a little water to thin the gravy.

What you get is a beautiful cooked blend of the vegetables, chicken with the soya sauce, coconut milk and an after taste of the chilli. The coconut milk sedate the spice, preparing you for the next bite.

An experiment that turned out good, this to me was beauty in every bite.

Radish Roulette

You either love it or hate it. And mostly, I’ve come across more people hating Radish than loving it. If there was Radish curry or Thoran  at home, you would know immediately, much before it being promptly pushed away at dinner table. As a salad, it was a bit much  on the palette, unless when doused  with a generous splash of lime to bring down the sharp taste.

The little pink bulb Radish available in Germany are quite something else. Apart from being a less sharper version of its Indian cousin it is also a pretty looking bunch.

It was the day of the Germany vs Italy Euro 2012 semi final match. Tresa and myself on a whim decided to make the game fun by making a good Mediterranean platter. While in the supermarket Tresa picked a bunch of radish and tossed it into the cart. I was curious if it was any good. On reaching home, she plucked a single radish, washed it and asked me to try. I imagined I’d be a Wasabi dragon breathing ghastly fumes. But, I was pleasantly surprised by how yummy it was.

I bought a bunch too when i went shopping. And here’s what I did:-

I sliced them thin

Added sliced onions

Mixed in a good dash of Olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a generous dose of lime.

Also added some chopped up mint leaves to take the flavour a notch higher.

This could be eaten as a salad, but I took it a step further and added fish to the mix.

Yes,fish. Before you nod your head disapprovingly and reach for your Altoids, you would be surprised with how interesting the combination was.

I added the radish mix on a baking tray.

Arranged thinly sliced lemon over the mix for more of a tangy punch and placed marinated salmon fillets marinated with lime juice, salt, splash of Olive Oil and Rosemary.

Pre-heated the oven and put the tray after fully covering the radish, fish mix with foil and baked it for about 20 minutes.

What you get is a nice blend of radish, mint and softly wilted onions. The delicate salmon and the lemon make it just right!

It’s a pretty dish too with the radish melting it’s colour into a light sauce.

Salmon and roast peppers

When I started this blog, I hoped it would be different. With different I also assumed continuous, which requires much dedication. For me dedication is an art, of anything. The constant trying and perusing, the pushing of boundaries.

Well I’m back, it has been a few months and this is another try. In hope that it would not be another abandonment.

I’ve started to love peppers. I find them to be a versatile and patient vegetable. They’re such a burst of colour and hold up for a while too. A weekend ago I attempted a Mediterranean entrée, oven roasted peppers drenched in olive oil and garlic. I used red peppers and was pleasantly surprised by the sweetness it exuded with the baking.

This time around, I used the trio – yellow, green and red and threw in some onions for a pleasant surprise.

Here’s what I did:-

Sliced the peppers and onions thin. Spread them over a baking tray and drizzled some garlic infused olive oil and sea salt.

Pre-heat oven for ten minutes for 300C.

Put the tray in the oven and reduce your temperature to 200C.

If you don’t like them burning while baking like I do, then just ruffle them a bit after fifteen minutes of baking and pop it back in the oven for another fifteen minutes. I gave it another extra ten, because I wanted them wilted and soft.

In the meanwhile i rolled up store-bought smoked salmon.

Try adding a little less sea salt to the peppers as the salmon has enough salt to substitute.

It’s a quick dish, it’s healthy and really delicious. Makes for a good entrée when you are short of time, and a meal itself if you are on a diet.

 

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.