Balsamic Mushroom Pasta and the end of my maternity leave

This week is the last week of my maternity leave and I will soon resume work. It is difficult to believe that it’s been 3 months since I gave birth , since the first time my baby boy tightly held my little finger till his fingertips looked white. He still does that, but now he wants to firmly hold on to my index finger. And he looks directly into my eyes, follows me as I move from one side to the other while doing my chores and sometimes I just move to check his ability to follow me. He has also graduated from ‘newborn’ clothes to ‘3-6 months’ set of tee shirts and onesies. And my little boy now generously showers everyone with that toothless gummy smile.

I talk to him a lot. I tell him how momma needs to go to office now, but his ajji will take care of him. He coos as if he understands, but makes me promise him that I will cuddle and hug him as soon as I come home. I promise, he animatedly waves his hands and I pick him up. He is my son, we have a connection and he knows momma will be happier when she works.

As for me, it’s been four months since I am at home. Initially bed rest for a month and then these three months. Now that my baby has a set routine, it gives me time to think of things beyond him. I have to restart from the basic things. I have nothing to wear, pregnancy has made me an L from an M and I need to go shopping. My hair is in a frizzy mess, good foot wear is non existent and my sense of traffic has gone for a toss. I ride my two wheeler at the speed of 20, because after being home-borne for 4 months, even 20 kmph seems very fast. I gotta get back on track before I can resume work.

It’s strange the ways in which motherhood can change you. It has made me paranoid. I worry over his every sneeze, try to monitor his next milestone and insist on placing his blanket exactly at the same place every night.  Moreover I am constantly worried that something might happen to me when the baby is so fully dependent on me. Every fast approaching vehicle feels as if it will bump into me and give a bloody fracture. And so I need to start working. I need to start spending some amount of time away from baby worries otherwise it would make me go crazy.

My baby is exclusively breastfed and I plan to continue that for another 3 months. Office is close by so I can drop in for his feeding times and perhaps also express milk for alternate feedings. It’s a good thing, I will be on my toes. And anyway work expands to fill the time available. So I guess I will be able to do justice at my workplace too.

This baby boy and hence we as parents are lucky. He has one set of grandparents living with him (or we living with them) and another set of grandparents just 5 minutes away. And all four of them dote on him and are indulgent babysitters. It makes it so much easier for me to go out, knowing that he is in very good hands. In fact it becomes my responsibility to be very efficient at work and at home since I have a strong support system.

But right now when I look at him having a conversation with his beloved ceiling fan,  I wonder if I will constantly miss him while at work.

May be. But I need to slightly detach to attach better.

Xoxo,

Loving mama

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For the last few days, I have been baking and cooking a lot. Experimenting with new flavors and textures. And one such byproduct is this Balsamic Mushroom Pasta. I like my pasta little well cooked so that it melts in the mouth with the creamy balsamic glaze. Without much ado, presenting a simple pasta dish which can be whipped up in half an hour.

Mushroom pasta

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta

What you will need :

  • 2 cups mushroom, washed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup penne, cooked al dente for 10 to 12 minutes or as per instructions on the packet
  • 1 cup water in which the pasta was boiled
  • 3-4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar / balsamic glaze
  • 2 cubes or 40 gms Cheedar cheese cubes, grated
  • dried oregano, basil or other herbs as per taste

Pasta in a pot

What to do :

  1. In a big pot, melt butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and let them cook on medium heat till soft.
  2. Then add the chopped or crushed garlic and stir.
  3. Ad the cream and salt and mix well on low heat.
  4. Then add the pasta to this. Mix well.
  5. Add water and milk to the pan and cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat so that the sauce gets creamier and coats the pasta well.
  6. Then add the balsamic glaze, stir well. Add the grated cheese, dried herbs and stir well.
  7. Serve when hot with some red chillies or paprika.

Pasta in a pot and bowls

Strawberry Cream cheese Tart

For three years from the age of 20, I had a rigorous internship or articleship as we called in our Chartered accountancy course, based in my hometown Mumbai. It gave me several opportunities of travel all over India for audit including 2 months in Delhi each year. All of us interns, roughly in the same age group, we used to love it. It meant being away from home at client sponsored fancy hotels and visiting local tourist spots on the weekends. And at that age, partly because of ignorance and partly because of the courage youth provides, I was fearless, unabashed.

Once in Delhi, about 5 years back, in the midst of a very hectic working schedule, we interns needed a break. And all we could do was go for a late night movie post work. Of course our seniors were not happy with the idea, but nevertheless we went for the movie. 11pm to 2 am, in the freezing cold of January. Nothing happened, we were safely back in the hotel and it was just a movie night out.

We were thrilled at how we ignored what the seniors said and went for the movie, came back unscathed. But in hindsight it seems we were so stupid.

I remembered that night after watching the documentary India’s Daughter. That girl was gang raped in Delhi at 8.30 pm in a moving bus. And we were so foolish back then that the three of us walked backed from the movie theatre at goddamn 2 am. Was luck on our side? Yes. That must be the reason we returned safely.

I thought that the documentary was well made and it deserved to be seen, however shameful it makes us feel. A lot has been said and written about it and I have nothing more to add. But it makes me introspect my daily life and those of my friends, sisters and nieces. In this day and age, we women are not safe and it is prudent to be wise and act accordingly.

When I saw all the angst and long discussions about the rape incidents in India, it made me more worried about the short term. In the long term as further awareness gets created, we can hope to reduce such incidences, but for now, what else do we do but be careful? In principle I agree with liberal ideas of I will do what I want, but in reality it is not practical.

Somewhere it makes me sad that my subconscious has accepted the dangers because it means I have less energy or zeal to fight the negative elements. But pragmatism sets in as you grow older and now I want my young sister-in-law staying away from home to be safe. Even if it means she has to curtail her activities. I want my cousin to be conservatively dressed and not attract unwanted attention. At the same time time it makes me genuinely sad that I don’t have the guts to tell them ” Do as you wish, don’t be afraid of nothing in the world”, because the world is not so simple. Life is not in black and white.

In Paris when I used to come back home late from school, I used to get scared while walking back from the metro station, because there used to be a couple of drunkards on the streets and metro station. I once asked my host Danielle, if it was safe, and she replied; “Well just dont be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

That’s what it is. Wherever in the world, take care and dont be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a little caution never hurts.

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And while the last of strawberries of the season are still in the market, I made this Strawberry Cream-cheese Tart from my blogger friend Saee’s Youtube stream MyJhola. It is a delightful dessert made effortlessly and the video on Youtube explains it very efficiently. I slightly tweaked the recipe to make it a tad bit sweeter and used chopped strawberries for that brilliant red color.

Strawberry tart

Strawberry Creamcheese Tart

What you will need :

  • 12-15 Digestive biscuits
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 225 gms or 8oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoon strawberry jam
  • 2 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 10-12 strawberries, cleaned and cut into slices

What to do :

  1. Crumble the digestive biscuits and mix it with the butter. Pulse in the mixer a couple of times till there are no crumbs.
  2. Lightly butter a 8 inch springfoam pan and spread this mixture on the pan and press gently with your fingers. Refrigerate for half hour till it sets.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese and add the strawberry jam and icing sugar.
  4. In another bowl, whip the cream to form soft peaks.
  5. Now carefully fold it into the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Take out the biscuit base and fill it with this cheese and cream mixture.
  7. Spread with a layer of sliced strawberries.
  8. Let it set in the fridge for half hour. Serve cold with some mint leaves.

Strawberry cream tart

A bundle of joy – my baby boy

Hello! From a newly minted mom. In the last two months that I had disappeared from the blog, I went off and delivered a baby. A baby boy, my bundle of joy. After a dramatic water breaking in the morning followed by day long labor, he was here. A part of me for so long, now pulled out into this world.

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Since then, have I changed? Yes. Overnight? Almost. Irreversibly? I guess so.

I had no idea that a tiny little human being will bring a storm into my life and for the next 35 days, every minute I will be doing absolutely nothing but nurturing him (and it still continues). I had heard about it, read countless mommy blogs, but you only realise the intensity of it, when it actually happens to you.

Thankfully I had a normal delivery, and within a day I felt fine. Sure my body still felt as if I was hit by a truck but I was comfortable and mentally I had gone into this overdrive mode where nothing else but the baby mattered, as I am sure happens with most moms.

Earlier when I used to imagine that precise moment when the baby is born and handed over to me, I always saw myself crying. Because of the enormity of the situation. But when it actually happened, I realised that at that point of time, labor was more overpowering and when the baby eventually came out, I only felt relief. I heard a loud baby cry, the doctor said it is a healthy baby boy and then immediately they placed the baby on my chest. I was supremely terrified that this tiny little being would fall off. And I clutched him tight. My little baby boy. I knew him. Since the last 9 months. In my womb. And now here he was. Beautiful and perfect. When Akshay, (my husband and my baby’s father) came in, I felt a surge of pride. At the living being we had created together. Baby boy had an exact tiny replica of his fathers nose. It was incredible.

Later on, when the baby suckled at my breast for the first time, I finally let down a tear. We had made it till here and we will do it till the end of our lives. Akshay and I had a new team member and we were a new family now.

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And then the histrionics began. Since that day I have found a deep reservoir of patience within myself. This little baby, we named him Arjun, does not know anything about the world. He was and is so solely dependent on me that it was humbling and yet empowering. Nothing else in life yet had made me feel so powerful till date. I had given birth and now I was giving him life.

I know I am using a lot of superlatives , but these extreme words are barely able to give justice to the surge of emotions, so bear with me.

After being discharged from the hospital , we came to my mom’s house, as is the tradition. And since then, we are here for 6 weeks, where my mom helps me take care of the baby, and she takes care of me. I couldn’t have managed these initial days without her constant support and unending hands-on baby management.

This month has been emotionally exhausting, for the lack of better words. First the realisation of the huge responsibility and secondly because my baby refused to breast feed initially. He would cry inconsolably, hold his breath and then we had to feed him expressed/ pumped milk and sometimes formula milk. And that broke my heart. I had one job, that was to feed him, and I was unable to do it. Incapable. And I did not know why that was happening.
Every time he refused to breastfeed I would cry. And cry. My mom and mom-in-law , husband , friends and a dear aunt tried to convince me that it is fine and it will gradually get better. The demand supply situation of milk takes time to adjust. It helped but just for sometime. I felt miserable.

Then after four weeks of agonising over it, suddenly one fine day baby boy decided it was time to make momma feel good. And like a switch he moved on to hundred percent breastfeeding and now we are happy campers.

It still takes enormous patience, I have to be available and ready 24 hours and sit nursing him for an hour at a time, without moving from my chair. And that with just about 4-5 hours sleep each day since he was born. But I feel satisfied. The natural endorphins released by my body seem to be working and I feel a high each time he nurses well and coos satisfactorily. And smiles. Not necessarily at me, but he smiles nonetheless.

We are slowly getting adjusted to each other. Him and me. While he is discovering something new everyday, so am I. We will guide each other, me telling him about this big, beautiful world and he teaching me how to be a mom. :)

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And meanwhile, for my little baby’s first month birthday, I made a simple eggless chocolate pudding. In a microwave. It has just 4-5 ingredients and comes together in 15 minutes. A very quick fix to your chocolate cravings.

Eggless Microwave Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate pudding1

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoon corn flour
  • 2 cups milk

What to do :

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, mix caster sugar, cocoa powder and corn flour. Mix well with a whisk to break any lumps.
  2. Add milk to the above dry ingredients and let it dissolve in the milk.
  3. Microwave the mixture for 3 minutes. Then take it out and stir well. Again microwave in bursts of 1 minute, stirring in intervals till the mixture thickens. It will take about 6-7 minutes in the microwave. Alternately, you can thicken the mixture on a stove-top, while constantly stirring.
  4. Pour the pudding in cups or ramekins, cover with a plastic wrap and let it cool for an hour in the refrigerator.
  5. Garnish with chocolate curls or whipped cream before serving.

Chocolate pudding

Black Forest Cake and Bed (Ar)rested!

Two months back at the bake sale, one of my friends was narrating her pregnancy experiences to me. She’d been told to take bed rest from her 8th month onwards. I listened politely, but stuff like this never happens to me. Right? Right?

And exactly 10 days later, my baby was in a hurry to come out too and I was put on total bed rest for 6 long weeks, at the least. There you go. I was thinking to myself “How did this happen to me? TO ME??”

My pregnancy was relatively easy till then and I had just bought some lovely maternity dresses and wanted to wear them and go out with my adoring husband, while lapping up all the attention. And there I was, stuck to the bed. Albeit I knew it was for a fixed time, and the alternate was a preterm baby and all complications, still, the first 3-4 days were the worst. It was as if a full speed car got stuck in the middle of a highway. Stopped. Midway.

But then, acceptance slowly seeped in. It became less difficult with each passing day. I got time to read. To pause when reading and to think. About the book or an article and about what it said. For the last several years I had been reading, but never pausing. Never taking it in. Gobbling it up, and filing it away in the reserves of the brain. Now was the time to ruminate.

To look out of the window on crisp winter mornings. To look and to stare. Think about the swaying leaves, and notice how that purple-rumped sunbird came for honey on the same flower, everyday at the same time. To listen to the various sounds omnipresent in the air. The vehicle horns, the chug-chug of a long distance train, a bus coming to a halt, children laughing, furniture being moved in the adjacent apartment, two birds chirping on the potted plant outside, a distant dog barking, first loudly and then fading away. May be it was chasing a car. Just like my mind was chasing a thought, first in a single solid story, connecting to something else, and then something next while the first stream of thought vanished.

It also gave me time to think about parenting. Analyze people around me and their parenting styles. Pick up different situations from people’s lives and imagine what I would have done in that scenario. Is it wise to read a lot of parenting books and go by the milestones prescribed? Or go by my gut, intuition and be a parent accordingly. One thing I decided for sure is that the first six months, the baby should be fully connected to me. I will have the exclusive right to feed the baby. Even after I resume work 3 months post delivery, I will hop back home as my office is close-by. I owe it to my baby to give it a healthy start. And come on, it’s a kickass feeling to be the sole provider for the baby. My best friend just accomplished this feat, so I know it is tough, but doable.

Sometimes it is essential to slow down. To take a break and let your mind wander. Let your body recuperate. Let the baby making take centre-stage while work and baking and blogging takes a back seat. I took this 6 week break for the first time since I ever remember. And may be bed rest is meant for those of us who won’t voluntarily slow down. Slow down. Pause. And get back to activity like never before. I am sure this was the calm before the storm. Before a screaming baby comes into this world and captures our attention. All of our attention.

I cant wait :)

Rutvika

P.S : From yesterday my bed rest has been relaxed and I can flutter around waiting for the baby to show up.

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And while baking has been suspended for the last few weeks, I had a black forest cake ready to be shared. I tweaked the original recipe and substituted it with a favourite dark chocolate cake and whipped cream and cherries on top. The whipped cream absorbs the depth of the dark chocolate and there is a medley of flavors in your mouth with some cherries. Its beautiful! And fancy, great for a celebration.

Black forest cake

Black forest Cake

What you will need :

  • 180 gm dark chocolate cut into pieces
  • 200 gm butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 75 ml milk
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, I use Tropolite
  • 4 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can of maraschino cherries
  • Chocolate shaving for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Gease two 8 inch baking pans, and line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Mix lemon juice and milk and keep it aside.
  3. Mix instant coffee in water and let it dissolve.
  4. Melt butter and chopped chocolate in pan and remove from heat once it is melted. Keep aside to let it cool.
  5. Whisk the dry ingredients together, namely all purpose flour + Cocoa powder + baking soda + baking powder + corn flour.
  6. Then add granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix well.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and add milk and lemon mixture. Then add chocolate mixture and mix till thoroughly combined.
  8. Fold in the dry ingredients and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.
  10. Meanwhile, whip the cold cream till it forms soft peaks. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract whip till it forms stiff peaks.
  11. Chop 3/4th of the maraschino cherries and reserve 1/4 cherries for decoration.
  12. For assembly of the cake, take one cake layer and spread it generously with the whipped cream on all sides. Spread it with a layer of chopped cherries. Then place the second cake layer on top. Cover it with the remaining whipped cream.
  13. Spread chocolate shavings on the cake and all sides and decorate with cream and whole cherries on top.
  14. Black forest cake is ready!

Note :

  1. You can use the cherry juice from the can as imbibing syrup to moisten the cake.
  2. This chocolate cake recipe can also be used with other buttercream icing.

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Songs that stay and a Cheddar Cheese bread

Yesterday someone sent me an audio clip with snippets of best Bollywood songs from the 1950s-60s. More than two decades before I was born. But those songs are very close to my heart, I have heard each one of them at least a hundred times, silently playing on the radio or the cassette player in the background, while our routine life went on in the foreground. They are so ingrained in my memory, that now when I listen to them I can see parts of my life in my mind as if a movie was playing.

Like those summer afternoons at my uncle and aunts place, where the radio would be constantly humming in the background. While we would all sit for lunch, my uncle would be whistling the tune, seated in his signature white banian or a vest and he would draw our attention to the different beats in the song with his myriad hand gestures. All of us kids wished at least on some days he would change the radio station to something “new and flashy”, but perhaps that old radio knew only those old songs. And now, because of some family issues, I haven’t spoken to my uncle in over two years. But yesterday those medley of songs burst open a locked chapter in my head and and I painfully longed to be in that place, just one more time. I wanted to pick up the phone and call him, there is nothing in the world that cant be set right by talking about it and my heart knew that this is no exception.

But my cautious brain did not let me make the call. Not now. Not when you are 33 weeks pregnant and can’t afford to be depressed. Not now when you are on bed-rest to avoid premature delivery, and you have all the time in the world to think and obsess over little memories tugging at your heart.

Not now. I let it pass.

But songs have that power on us. They become a representative of different eras in life. A particularly trashy song, which was very famous back in early 90s reminds me of the great times I had with my mom and dad, in our small apartment, where most of the time the three of us would be huddled in one room. Singing and dancing to that song, life felt good. Now when I look at the video, I cringe, That’s besides the point.

Or, the first song any guy sung for me was Roxette- She’s Got the Look. I had never heard that song before. But we were 18, and my boyfriend was participating in a college fest with his little band, and thats when he sung this song for me. I realised I was concentrating so hard on the lyrics, lest I miss something or some clue, and totally I ignored the wonderful melody. And I couldn’t show that I had never heard of the song, so I came home and played it on youtube a dozen times before going to college the next day. And yes, that song stuck in my head. Even now, if I am feeling low, I listen to that upbeat number, being 18 and have someone sing songs for you, was pretty darn good.

Needless to say, it was followed by Roxette’s very own – Must have been love… But it’s over now ; but thats for another story.

And then one the songs closest to my heart is “Hey there Delilah” by Plain White Ts. it was just 2-3 months after my wedding, and my husband was going on a long official tour. And he sung and recorded this one on my phone, I could listen to it whenever I wanted to, and boy, I heard that minute long clip, million times a day.

“Don’t you worry about the distance
I’m right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice, it’s my disguise
I’m by your side” :)

And as I have said before, I have a constant jukebox and a running list in my head of songs I want to sing to my little baby. I may not have a very melodious voice or a lot of times I cant keep a track of the pitch I started singing in, but that doesn’t stop me singing .

Because as Ella Fitzgerald used to say, “The only thing better than singing is more singing”

Cheers!

Rutvika

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And this post marks my 100th post on this blog. Its been a hundred recipes, a hundred stories and a huge part of my life. May be I should commemorate with a song :)

And with this, I have a special Cheesy bread with toasted sesame seeds. Let me tell you, this is one indulgent bread. About 30% in the baked bread is pure cheese, which gets sets into a beautiful marbled pattern in the bread. Eat it freshly with some salad and you are set for the day!

Cheddar Cheese Bread with toasted Sesame Seeds

Cheddar cheese bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible. Makes two 9*5 inch loaves

What you will need :

  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 cups warm water (not hot)
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast.
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 to 6 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups Cheddar cheese (I used processed Britannia cheese)

Bread making process

What to do :

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Shaking the pan often, cook until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve in another bowl to cool completely.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.Stir to dissolve and let it stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, till foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine remaining 1 and 1/2 cup warm water + oil + salt + sesame seeds + eggs + 2 cups all purpose flour + yeast mixture. Whisk hard until it forms a smooth mixture.
  4. Then add half of the shredded cheese and the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a shaggy dough is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary to mix the dough.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and silky, about 4-5 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking.
  6. Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  7. Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough into a lightly floured work surface. Grease two 9*5 inch loaf tins or one loaf tin and one 9 inch cake tin.
  8. Pat the dough into a thick 12 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, fold the dough around the cheese and knead gently a few times to distribute the cheese throughout the dough. This will produce marbled effect.
  9. Cover the dough with a tea towel or a plastic wrap to prevent drying and let rest for 5-10 minutes to relax the dough.
  10. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and shape it into a loaf or a desired pattern in the cake tin. Place the loaf seam side down in the pans.
  11. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it rise for 45 minutes until doubled.
  12. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 190C. Using a sharp knife, make small incisions on the dough.
  13. Bake for 40-45 minutes till the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with your finger.
  14. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool immediately before slicing.
  15. Enjoy your freshly made bread!

Fancy shaped cheddar cheese bread

Persimmon Eggless No-bake cheesecake

Pregnancy Blues

Last Sunday, husband and I were sitting in Kala Ghoda Cafe, having their most delicious rösti and hot chocolate, when a group of girls and boys occupied the adjacent table. They were perhaps 3-4 years younger than us, but in an entirely different zone of life. They were chatting, laughing, constantly getting up to take selfies and creating a hullabaloo in the tiny little cafe. While I was clumsily sitting with my 30 week pregnant belly and thinking out aloud ‘We will never be this wild and free again’. The husband heard it and was alarmed at why was I suddenly feeling this feeling of being trapped. I saw the worried look on his face and assured him how I am fine, and I so want the baby and how it is the correct thing to do and the next stage of life and so on.

Just a day back, at our pregnancy and lamaze class, Fit for Birth, the counsellor had advised us to be on a lookout for pregnancy and postpartum blues. Although I have never been capable of having the dramatized versions of “blues”, I knew I was in that zone.

Now my subconscious knows how badly I want this baby and the two-three months that it took us to get pregnant, I would cry like a baby when I got my periods. But still, now it feels like I have been pregnant forever. It is awesome, let me tell you, this whole thing of making a baby inside me, it makes me feel almost God-like. I am making kidneys, brain, lungs, heart, arms, legs, eyes; you name it, I am making it. So that part is amazing. But it is taking a toll on my senses.

There is a constant feeling of tiredness, fatigue, acidity, it feels as if my body is burning at times and uninterrupted sound sleep at night hasn’t been granted in a long long time. When I look in the mirror I can see a lumpy body, lack-lustre hair, mildly puffy eyes and pimpled cheeks. We haven’t been able to get out of the city in the last 3-4 months and it looks difficult for at least another 5-6 months.I long for that Pineapple daiquiri with strong white rum, and a puff of the clove cigarette Gudang Garam I love and indulge myself in once every two months or so.

Strangely, most of my dresses still fit me, with a stretch over the belly, but it makes me wonder what kind of clothes did I wear pre-pregnancy? (Mental note : I need to re-look at my dressing style once back in shape). And thankfully all my medical stats are on track, so I can manage to do most of my daily stuff uninterrupted, albeit with less energy. But the sheer willpower required to get out of bed every morning, make breakfast, get dressed, go to work, attend pregnancy exercise classes in the evening and stay awake till at least 9.30 pm is exhausting. I long to be me, the one with a zillion times more enthusiasm than now.

When my best friend was pregnant and in her last trimester a couple of months back, I remember her telling me how she too was bored. At that time, I thought, ‘Oh, how could you be bored of this miracle?’. But I hear ye now, and I know exactly how it feels.

On the other hand, or may be on the same lines, I am desperate to see my baby now. I want to hold him/ her in my arms, look at that little face and see how it’s little hands hold on to my finger. But yeah, no sooner than full term. I was born about 6 weeks premature, and my momma had a rough six months nursing me to health. So I better wait and carry the baby in my womb to meetings and movies, and not eject it prematurely.

Perhaps once my mom-in-law is back from the US in 15 days, I would feel relief. Relief from the responsibility of running the house, freedom from worrying if the maid will show up, not being in charge of shopping for groceries and having someone experienced to talk to in the middle of the night if the baby is aggressively kicking.

Well, till then, its time to enjoy the different shades of blue.

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Meanwhile these gorgeous beauties are in the market. Hachiya Persimmons or Amar-phal, they are exotically delicious once fully ripe, but cut them a day earlier and you will be shocked at their astringence.

persimmons

This fruit can be beautifully pureed. Just unplug the green head, cut it into four pieces and puree it in a mixer. Thats it. With the skin.

Opening a persimmon

I made a no-bake low calorie cheesecake with these beauties and it looked gorgeous!

A slice of cheesecake

No-bake Persimmon cheesecake

What you will need :

  • 3 ripe Persimmons (2+1)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 250 gms paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 300 gms hung curd (about 650-700 gms curd)
  • 200 gms Digestive biscuits
  • 60 gms butter (Amul)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 5 tsp Gelatin (4 + 1)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water (1 + 1/2)

First layer of cheesecake

What to do :

  1. Hang 700 gms curd so that the water drains. Roughly it will reduce to half the volume.Take 300 gm of such hung curd.
  2. Break digestive biscuits into a crumbly powder . Soften the butter and mix it with the crumbs to form an even paste. Then cover the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with it and press down really hard. Refrigerate for an hour till it sets.
  3. Combine the grated hung curd and grated paneer. Add powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix well to remove all clumps. Set aside.
  4. Puree 2 ripe persimmons.
  5. Add 4 tsp gelatin in 1 cup water and keep aside. This process is called blooming.
  6. Prepare a double boiler. Essentially a large utensil to boil water and a smaller utensil which can be placed within. Heat the gelatin-water mix in this double broiler. Do not let it boil. Boiling destroys the thickening capacity of gelatin.
  7. Heat the persimmon puree in a separate bowl. Then add the heated gelatin with the persimmon pure, and take it off heat.
  8. Lightly mix the persimmon and gelatin mixture with the hung curd and paneer mixture, till fully incorporated.
  9. Take out the chilled biscuit pan and pour the cheesecake mix on it. Press evenly and again chill for sometime.To make the persimmon glaze :
    1. Make a puree with 1 persimmon. Put on gentle heat.
    2. Bloom 1 tsp gelatin in ½ cup water and heat over double broiler as earlier.
    3. Add to persimmon puree. Mix well.
    4. Pour over the chilled cheesecake.

    Chill the cheesecake again for an hour, un-mould and serve!

Side view of Persimmon cheesecake

Notes :

  • This is not a very sweet dessert. But the mild tartness of the fruit goes very well with the hung curd and paneer to produce a delicate light dessert.
  • You can add some cinnamon and honey to with the paneer and hung curd to give it a spicy autumn feeling.

Chocolate Mousse Tart and a Diwali gone by

Keeping with the tradition

Diwali has come and gone. It was a test of sorts for me. For the first time in 28 years, my beliefs about tradition and rituals were put to test. Not that I am overtly religious or particularly detached, but I guess it’s somewhere in between. I have been through phases of wanting to do all things festive or sometimes pretending normal life when everyone around was celebrating some sort of festival or the other. But till date, the onus of “celebration” was never on me.

But this time it was. With mom-in-law in the USA, and me at 28 weeks pregnant, I did not have much hope from myself for Diwali. I assumed it would be perfunctory Diwali, with all traditions and get-togethers put on hold till my mom-in-law comes back. But somewhere a week before Diwali, my brain kicked into action mode. The house was cleaned, lights and a lantern were put up, a few diyas were painted, Diwali faraal (snacks) were made, ALL the traditions were followed to the T, numerous get-togethers were done and a perfectly festive Diwali was had. Of course, with the husband and father-in-law participating with equal fervour.

I have always believed that the woman of the house lays down most rules in-house and the atmosphere largely depends on her mood and involvement. Till I got married, my mom was the one setting the tempo during all festivals and she never failed in her part. Weeks before Diwali, she would buy us new clothes, get the house cleaned, make snacks and be prepared for the festivities to begin. And each year, on the first day of abhyangasnaan, we would all wake up very early, mom would massage us with oil, we would take a shower with ubtan, wear new crisp clothes and get ready to light firecrackers while dad would do a small pooja and all of us would then feast on deep-fried, sugary snacks. And every one of the Diwali days, there would be meeting friends and relatives and our house would be filled with chatter and laughter throughout. Mom was the anchor and we moored around her.

In my late teenage years I feigned indifference. Showed how westernised and busy I had become. How I had no time for these little rituals and it was all only for parents and little kids. In short, how I was above it all. But come the actual days of Diwali and I would be oh-so-glad that mom had not taken me seriously and we were still celebrating with gusto.

Then once I got married, the beacon to set the mood was on my mom-in-law. She did everything that was required without ever being the strict mother-in-law and asking me to do this and that.  And three years passed before I realised it is so much work to get all things arranged to enable celebration. Hundreds of minute details had to be looked into which I had always taken for granted. This was our fourth Diwali after marriage and I had no clue about a lot of things. I had no idea how Laxmi-poojan was done, no idea which silverware was required on which day and where it was kept, heck I had no idea who all had to be traditionally given gifts for Diwali. I was nervous.

But we managed. Unknowingly my brain had taken it up as a challenge to organise everything as she would have. Out of 4 Diwali days, we had family functions, small or big, on ALL the four days. I got gifts for all of the husband’s cousins as bhau-beej, asked my mom-in-law and got everything ready for the laxmi-pooja, lit oil-lamps or diyas each evening and fed everyone with delicious home cooked food every time. Of course we had some goof-ups. I was unaware that we had run out of haldi-kumkum in the house and at the last-minute I had to make everyone wait and get it from the neighbours. And all of this when the baby in my womb was incessantly kicking, perhaps enjoying the hustle or getting overtly stimulated by increased movement of its home!

Next year in Diwali, the baby would be here. I may not be able to be this involved along with the demands of an infant. But this year I realised that I deeply cherish these values and traditions which make us, us. And hence, I know that I would make the effort to be the festive organised mom which my mom and mom-in-law have been. For ourselves and for the kid.

Cheers :)

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : Our approach and topics are different, but read this piece on haathitime for a different take on the topic.

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And a couple of weeks back, our pastry chef from Le Cordon Bleu, Olivier Mahut was here in India and we had an awesome alumni get-together and two chef demonstrations. I had invited a couple of baker friends and the entire audience had a great time with the very sweet chef. He demonstrated ‘Tarte A La Mousse Au Chocolat’ or Chocolate Mousse Tart, which I recreated at home and presenting here for you. The quick mousse recipe especially is a delight and comes together in precisely 5 minutes.

Cocoa dacquoise

Chocolate Mousse Tart

What you will need :

Dacquoise

  • 120 gm ground almonds
  • 55gm powdered sugar
  • 20 gm unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 150 gm egg whites
  • 125 gm caster sugar

Chocolate Crunch

Dark Chocolate Quick Mousse

  • 150 gm dark chocolate
  • 300 ml whipping cream

Banana and Apple Filling

  • 50 gm cut bananas/ 50 gm cut apples
  • 50 gm caster sugar
  • 50 gm butter

Dasiy Dacquoise

What to do :

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place two 20cm * 2cm high ring mould on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  2. To make the dacquoise, combine all the dry ingredients – ground almonds, powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  3. In another clean bowl, whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks with a whisk or an electric beater. Then gradually add the sugar while whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Be careful to not let the mixture deflate.
  5. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 20 mm tip and pipe a daisy flower shape into the ungreased ring mold. Lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  6. Bake the dacquoise in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and refrigerate. Use a small knife to remove ring mold from the dacquoise. It will get released, then carefully separate the ring mold.
  7. To make the chocolate crunch, melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave. Whisk in intervals so that there are no lumps. Then add the praline and mix it to a smooth mixture with a spatula.
  8. To make the chocolate mousse, melt the dark chocolate over double boiler or in a microwave. Meanwhile, whisk the cold whipping cream to soft peaks.
  9. Once the chocolate is melted, whisk in the cold whipping cream. Over a bowl of cold ice water, further whisk the chocolate and whipped cream mixture till it considerably cools down and turns to a light mousse. Refrigerate for 10 minutes before using.
  10. To make the filling, take the cut bananas or apples and the butter and sugar in a saucepan and let it simmer till the fruits soften and the mixture thickens. Let it cool completely before using.
  11. For the assembly, take the dacquoise on a plate or a cardboard platter. Spread the praline chocolate crunch over the dacquoise in the centre. Spread it with a layer of the fruit filling. take the chocolate mousse in pastry bag with 12 mm tip and pipe drops of mousse on the dacquoise along the edges.
  12. Serve chilled.

Mousse au chocolate

Notes :

  • I always use Amul butter in all baking which is slightly salted. If you are using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the fruit filling.
  • For whipping cream, I used Amul dairy based whipping cream. But frankly, it does not hold up shape very well in the hot and humid climate of Mumbai as well as the non-dairy based Tropolite does.

Chocolate mousse