Cilantro Pesto

A couple of months back, I made the regular basil pesto, and fell in love with the concept. Fresh, fragrant basil, garlic, pepper and cheese. Whats not to like in it?!

But sadly, basil is not regularly available in our vegetable market and I had to always place an order with our vegetable vendor. He would then source it for me in a couple of days. Only on demand, on paying an advance. So pesto would never be a “I crave it and I want it!” type of thing.

So while browsing and learning online (there is a term called as ‘Internet Education’; did you know it? ), I had a smashing discovery of the Cilantro Pesto.  Replacing the basil with cilantro, and changing few other measures. Of course, it had a very different taste than the minty basil, but the cheese and garlic brought out a very peppy flavor of the cilantro leaves.

And this pesto is so versatile. We used it as a spread on sandwiches , sautéed sliced mushrooms in it and even rolled it in a salami and roasted it. Yum!

CIlantro pesto

Cilantro Pesto Recipe

Ingredients :

  • 1 and 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, mildly toasted and crushed
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice/ white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp grated cheese
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated black pepper
  • Salt

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Tres Leches Cake (Three Milk cake)

Chocolate has always been my favorite when it comes to cakes, but one in a while, there comes a cake which takes you totally by surprise. Its that time when you have to put down everything you are doing and concentrate on the cake. Grab it by spoonfuls and let the flavors create havoc on your taste-buds. That’s exactly what happens when you put a spoonful of juicy, milky piece of tres-leches cake in your mouth. You don’t want to let it go.

This tres leches cake is basically a sponge cake and it means a cake with three types of milk in Spanish. Whole milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk. Even four, if you use some heavy cream or whip up some cream to make the icing. Oh the goodness of milk. Very healthy too, mind you 😉

When we were at our cousins house in US, we got this cake from a departmental store. 3 pieces amongst the four of us. 3 big pieces. 4 spoons. Gone in 2 minutes. We were so hooked on to it, that for a long time we contemplated driving back there and getting another batch of the sweet milky cake. With a cherry on top.

Nevertheless, the very next day one of our friends claimed to know a baker, who used to make tres leches cake regularly in their bakery in Downtown Chicago. I immediately called her up and took this god-damn-fantastic recipe from her. Even without the milk topping, this one is classic ultra sponge cake.

The type and varieties of milk available in US is slightly different from the ones that we get here, so I had to make a few changes to the recipe. Their stores sell evaporated milk in cans just like we get condensed milk here. But Indians have been making sweets out of evaporated milk for ages, and it can easily be made at home.

It is better to make this cake at least 4-5 hours in advance so that the milks has time to settle down. By nature, the cake turns out quite sweet, but you can very easily alter the condensed milk quantity and substitute it with evaporated milk to make it less sweet (see note).

A very soft, juicy (juicy? yeah!) cake with many air bubbles. That is what gives the cake a light texture even after being soaked in three kinds of milk.

Tres leches cake

Tres Leches Cake (Three Milk Cake) recipe

Serves : 10-12 people Time : 40 mins + 35 mins baking time

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Choco Walnut Fudge cake

It was my mom’s birthday last Thursday and a long time back she had told me that she would like the Chocolaty Chocolate Cake on her birthday. So I knew I had to make something full of chocolate! And that had to be done on a weekday early in the morning before going to office.

These days I keep a diary in my bag and carry it everywhere to note down recipes. Because somewhere I see something I like and then when I try to find it back, I can’t! It becomes very irritating. Sometime back I had noted down this chocolate walnut cake recipe. It looked so good, oozing with chocolate to the core.

And dear god, it was one of the best cakes I had ever eaten. The baked goodness of molten chocolate and toasted walnuts. And hardly any flour. Just as much to hold all of it together. Since all the chocolate in here is from real chocolate chunks and no cocoa powder it has an intense flavor, more like a fudge baked in a cake.

And it is unbelievably quick. No sifting. Just mix together the flour and baking powder and melt the butter and chocolate chunks . Whisk the eggs and combine all of it together! Bake. It’s that simple. Plus it can also be doubled or halved easily. Go on, try it..

Choc walnut cake

Choco Walnut Fudge cake

Serves 8. Preparation time: 20 mins  Baking time : 30 mins

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have been on a cookie researching and making mania for a couple of days. I’ve looked at so many cookies and their recipes in the last few weeks, that I can see round , colorful, chocolate filled, dark brown, white, chunky and M&M (Gems) filled cookies in my dreams. House of cookies, bed of cookies and did I even see my husband covered with cookies?  Maybe. 😉

There are different types of making cookies. The primary methods being :

* Drop cookies (runny batter dropped on a baking sheet and baked) like chocolate truffle cookies

* Filled cookies (cookie batter stuffed with a filling and baked ) – on my to-do list.

* Molded cookies (slightly frozen dough molded into balls) – like these chewy chocolate chip cookies

* Rolled ones (Rolled flat sheets of stiffer dough  cut with a cookie cutter) Shrewsbury biscuits

All these types are just variations created by altering the moisture and fat content. Different making methods yield into different textured cookies. Crisp, buttery, chewy, fudgey, soft, puffy, flat, thin or those bulky monster cookies. Personally, I like the chewy ones  a lot more than the rest. One bite into a fudgey cookie and there comes a melt-in-your-mouth burst of flavor.

C3 cookie

As kids, my brother and I used to go to a Subway or a Cafe Coffee Day just to get a cookie, slightly warmed in the microwave and eat it as fast as possible, or the other one might get a bigger share. We would’ve easily had 2 cookies, but then whats the fun if you don’t have to fight over a cookie with your sibling!

The batter for these chocolate chip cookies is thicker and holds together well. It is refrigerated overnight and then rolled into taller cylindrical shapes, so that while getting baked in the oven, they form nice puffy cookies.

Now if you are wondering how the chocolate chips on top don’t melt away, it is the magic of cold dough. The cookies get baked beautifully and still leave chunky chocolate chips on top to bite into.

The extra brown sugar in this recipe, increases the moist-factor and the chewiness in the cookies. The white sugar is required too, to induce slight spreading. The cornflour makes the cookies super thick, so though it is just 1.5 teaspoons, don’t miss out on it.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from : Sally’s Baking Addiction

Yield : 20-22 cookies Time : 50 minutes + overnight dough freezing

Ingredients :

  • 2 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornflour
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted ( I use Amul butter, which is slightly salted)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk, preferably at room temperature.
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips + some more for top
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter.

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Finger Millet (Ragi) eggless cookies

IMG_2073

When my mom and brother were diagnosed with dengue fever, many were suggesting an array of foods as a magical, instant cure. One of them was finger millet or ragi. Rich in calcium and anti-oxidants, this one’s quite a winner and all its variants are gluten-free.

High in carbs and low in fat, ragi is excellent for weight loss too, or so they claim. This one goes out to all my friends who are gluten intolerant, and are craving for a delicious mouthful of cookies.

After baking a batch, I took a few to my office. Our beloved 70 something year old support staff Mr. B was unable to believe that these ‘biscuits’ were made of ragi, the substance they use for making bhakri in their village. Bhakri is a type of flat bread, and a staple to be eaten with vegetables in many parts of southern and western India. He hesitantly put one in his mouth, and then again confirmed with me (5 times!) that it was really the same bhakri flour! Convinced (after taking some for his wife), he is now going to get me a sack full of ragi grains straight from his farm. Cant wait to get my hands on farm fresh ragi to try out several things.

I baked these cookies in a muffin pan with muffin liners to get that even same shape and texture. You can even bake them on cookie sheets or on silicone mats. (See note)

Yield : 20-22 medium size cookies

You will require :

  • 2 cups finger millet (ragi) flour
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder

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Bow-tie pasta in herbed red sauce

Well, I am a year older now.  27, to be precise. I had a good day with family , friends, good food and wine. And yes, a marathon run of  The Game of Thrones.

Strictly speaking, it was a great day. Did exactly what I felt like doing. But the problem is I didn’t feel like doing too much. It felt like this one was a birthday-in-limbo , in a transitional phase of life. I don’t know what it is leading up to. But you know there are certain times when you think something is changing, deep inside you? It was that kind of day.Well, only time will tell whats in store! 🙂

Never-mind, there was still a midnight cake by friends, an awesome gift by my husband and a delicious sweet made by my mom. A poppy-seed (khas-khas) delicacy. Till date, she has without fail made it on ALL my birthdays. The making is a long 4 hour process. Tedious, but its all worth it. I soon plan to learn how to make it and will put it up here.

For dinner we had made bow-tie pasta in an indulgent red wine sauce. Paired with some baked nachos with a mushroom-onion gravy and of course a few drinks.

Bow tie pasta

The red sauce simmers for 30 minutes after adding wine, and by the time it is done, the alcohol cooks off and you are left with a robust sauce.

You will need :

  • 4 cups uncooked bow-tie pasta
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano, or to taste
  • 1 tbsp dried basil, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup red wine

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Crunchy Nutty Energy bars

Energy bars

Energy packed granola bars. Healthy and homemade.

Last 2 weeks have been really hectic. Coming back after a vacation, there were atleast 50 items (I am not kidding!) on my to-do list. And in addition to that my mom and younger brother were simultaneously diagnosed with dengue fever and admitted to hospital for a week. That meant several trips and constant juggling between the hospital, home and office. Thankfully all were in 2 km radius and with some excellent help from my mom-in-law we managed the show.

It was a tough time, especially when mom – the glue that holds everything together, the peace and sanctity of our lives, is unwell. Normally I would complain to her when I am stressed out and thus feel better, but how do I complain to her when she is herself not well?!  Anyway, all of that is behind us now, and everyone is back to being healthy. (Touch the wooden desk. Tak tak.)

Now about the energy bars. Oat-y, almondy, delicious energy bars.

My mom-&-dad-in-law just went on high altitude trek called the Great lakes of Kashmir. Being on the trek for a total ten days, they needed a high protein long lasting snack. At age 56 and 61, they are very health conscious and fit. Both swear by an oats breakfast and everything natural.

The granola bars or cereal bars are gaining increasing popularity, especially since there is no or very little sugar in them. Honey and dates add a eclectic sweet taste to it, and the sweetness can be easily varied depending on taste. These energy bars were a mixture of things readily available in my kitchen. Based on a simple formula for achieving the crunchy yet held-together consistency, the ingredients can be happily changed and twisted.

Adapted from Brown eyed baker

Yield : 10-12 4inch bars Time : 40 mins

You will need :

  • 2 cups ready-to-eat oats
  • 1 cup chopped almonds
  • 1 cup mixture of raisins + chopped dried figs + chopped apricots
  • 1 cup pureéd dates
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/3 to 3/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract

Energy bar sideways

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