Ginger and Fig cupcakes

A few weeks ago, we were stranded at Atlanta airport for 6 hours. The flight to New York kept on getting delayed by an hour at a time due to the rough stormy weather near NYC. We were angry and distraught because we had to cancel the visit to the Atlanta Bodies exhibition just to be able to reach for the flight on time. But anyway, the delay turned out to be a boon in disguise, as I got to browse through several amazing cookbooks by American authors, at a book-stand at the airport.

One such book which caught my fancy was Big Mama’s Old black pot . Very simple basic recipes for good old fashioned southern American country-side cooking. Splendid illustrations, folklore and short stories depict a way of life and give a background to that cuisine. Running into 150 pages, it is a treasure!

The book is divided into several parts, the ‘Sweets’ section appealed to me the most. And fresh, delicate ginger growing in our home-garden was calling out to me . I think it said something like this :

Put me in a cupcake, gently rubbed with cinnamon,

Slather in some figs and butter, and bake till I am done.

And that is exactly what I did. These fig cupcakes are generously spiced and religiously buttered. The crunch of figs and the warmth of cinnamon make them delightful. Topped with a little bit of chocolate whipped in fresh cream.

Ginger Spice cupcake (1 of 1)

Ginger and Fig Cupcakes recipe

Makes : 18 cupcakes

Ingredients :

  • 1 cup chopped dried figs
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk

Omit the salt if using salted butter.

Method :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 200°C/ 400°F.
  2. Keep the chopped dried figs in a heat proof bowl and pour 2 cups boiling water on them. Cover immediately and let it stand for 10 mins. The figs will soften. Drain the water and let the figs dry on a kitchen towel.
  3. Sift  flour and cinnamon powder and keep aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar for 3-4 mins till pale.
  5. Add the three eggs one at a time and beat well till fluffy.
  6. Add flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternately with milk.
  7. Finally fold in chopped figs.
  8. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and pour the batter in them, filling 3/4th of the mould.
  9. Bake at 200°C for 20 mins

Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack. Whisk some chocolate with fresh cream and put a dollop on the cupcakes, just before serving.

Ginger Spice cupcake2 (1 of 1)

Double layered instant coffee cake

“I like a cook who smiles out loud when he tastes his own work.
Let God worry about your modesty; I want to see your enthusiasm.”

That summed up Julia Child for me. She would regularly take “taste-breaks” while cooking and when a particular flavor hit the right chord, she would go YUM! and be delighted with herself. Ever since I saw ‘Julie and Julia‘ a couple of days back, I have been smitten by her. She started cooking when she got married at the age of 32 and went to  Le Cordon Bleu at 37. Went to a culinary school at 37! Isnt that awesome? Well I think so. Learning things always keeps you fresh. 🙂

And coffee. Coffee keeps you immensely fresh too. In fact, life begins after coffee every morning. Each day, Mr. Husband makes us South Indian style filter coffee, strong and frothy, before we get on with the days of our lives.

Now imagine a fluffy, soft cake. Drizzle a hot cup of coffee on it. Layer it with some coffee flavored whipped cream. How does it look? Like this ? Oh yeah!

Layered coffee cake (1 of 1)

Now cut a piece and put it straight in your mouth. Or lick the cream and nibble on the cake. Choice is yours.

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There. You are all set for the day. With 6 tablespoons coffee in that 9 inch round cake, every bite empowers you to rule the world. Go for it. 🙂

Layered Instant Coffee Cake Recipe

Inspired from Deeba Rajpal’s Coffee cake with ganache

For the cake

  • 4 large eggs
  • 200 gms powdered sugar
  • 3 tbsp instant coffee powder
  • 220 gm plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled

For Sugar syrup

  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder

Filling

  • 400 ml low fat cream
  • 50 gm sugar
  • 1 tbsp instant coffee powder

Method :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180° C/ 360°F. Grease and line a 9 inch baking tray with parchment paper and keep aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar over another bowl of hot water for 3-4 mins till it forms a thick mousse like consistency. Take it off the hot water bowl and continue to beat for another 3-4 minutes till the mixture completely cools down.
  3. Add coffee powder and beat for another 1 minute.
  4. Sift flour and baking powder together and then fold it in the egg and sugar mixture very gently. Be careful to not release the air bubbles generated while beating egg and sugar. This will ensure that your cake stays soft.
  5. Take one cup of this batter in another bowl and mix melted cooled butter in this. Gently fold it back into the rest of the batter.
  6. Pour it into the prepared pan and bake @ 180° C for 25-30 minutes.
  7. For the syrup, place all the ingredients in a pan and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Keep it aside.
  8. For the filling, whip – cream, icing sugar and coffee powder together, till medium stiff peaks appear. Set it to rest in the fridge for 10 minutes before spreading on the cake.

Assemble the cake :

  1. Once totally cool, remove the cake from the pan and peel off parchment paper.
  2. With a serrated long knife, cut the cake horizontally into half. Be careful while cutting and cut the edges before moving in to cut the centre.
  3. Keep both cake layers besides each other and drizzle the coffee sugar syrup on it, as evenly as possible.
  4. Spread a layer of the filling on each of the layers and then stack them up.
  5. Garnish with chocolate shards and a pinch of instant coffee powder on top. You can even go for some chopped fresh cherries on top.

Note : Mix in a pinch of salt in the cake batter if using unsalted butter.

This cake tastes delicious even after being in the fridge for 3-4 days. But I prefer it slightly warm. Heat for 20 seconds in the microwave before eating.

Bengali Chicken Tikka Biryani

For a long time I have been reading and hearing about the Daring Baker and Daring Cooks forums. And then a few weeks back I registered for it and got accepted. This is my first challenge for that forum, and I am pretty excited!

For those of you who don’t know Daring kitchens, here’s a little about them :

In November 2006, two bloggers Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, made pretzels using the same recipe and put it on their blogs. It was a big hit , and soon they were joined by a few more bloggers to make other delicious baked goods, using a common recipe. Soon this “little baking group” grew to a large number and thus the ‘Daring Bakers’ came into being.

Their journey continued and Daring cooks was formed as a way for thousands of enthusiastic home cooks to learn about delicacies in the world, right from the experts.

Their format is very simple. A cook and/or a blogger, hosts the challenge every month, giving a tried and tested recipe of a particular dish or a technique. Then all those who wish to participate have to make it and put it on their blog on the designated date. For the last two-three months, Indian cuisine has taken Daring Kitchen by a storm, and I’m lovin it!

Grace, one of our talented non-blogging Daring Kitchen members, was our Daring Cooks’ August hostess who shared with us some of her family’s tried and true Bengali Biryani recipes – all of them delicious and all of them prepared fresh from our own kitchens!

It also co-coincided with Ramzan and Eid, and Biryani is a favourite fast-ending meal for them. There are several regional variations of making Biryani, with lamb, chicken, fish and even vegetables. The most popular ones are Rasjasthani Biryani, the Punjabi specialty Tangdi Biryani, the Nalli Rogini Biryani of Lucknow, the Malabar Prawn Biryani of South India, Niyamat-e-arab-Biryani of Hyderabad and many more.

The current challenge was a Bengali Chicken Tikka Biryani. Delicate and flavorful. Chunks of chicken marinated for hours, half-cooked and then layers of chicken and rice steamed together, till all the flavors get equally distributed.

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Chicken marinated in a blend of spices and yoghurt, and then cooked

The process is somewhat time-consuming, and the list of ingredients is long. But worry not, because although it looks daunting, it is very easy. Everybody who eats it falls in love with the beautifully blended spice curry and the chicken-rice combination. And it makes great leftovers, can be frozen even for two months.

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Layers of chicken and rice, starting and ending with rice

So go ahead, make this exotic Biryani and bring the aromas of a Mughlai kitchen right into your home.

Bengali Chicken tikka Biryani

Chicken Tikka Biryani recipe

Ingredients :There are several common ingredients for the chicken marination and the final gravy. But I have shown it separately for simplicity while cooking.

For marinating chicken:

  • 1/2 kg boneless, skinless chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tandoori masala powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 3 tablespoon yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • few drops of food coloring (optional)
  • 4 cloves of garlic minced fine
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and minced fine.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

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Rosemary and Cheese crackers

I always thought cracker and khakhra are very closely related. Why, they can even be twins! Raised in different environments. The ingredients are similar, the dough making quite the same, only difference being the method of cooking it. Baking in an oven for a cracker and roasting on a stove top for the khakhra. Next time, I am going to make cheesy crackers on stove top. Will work well right? What do ya think?

The last week has been good! Got three lovely emails from friends appreciating the blog and the recipes, and also a few queries about some ingredients. Such emails and messages make my day. After several hours of sweating in the kitchen, photographing and then writing, such moments of *glory* liven it up 🙂

The weekend was equally gratifying. Spent the whole Saturday cooking and baking. Made baked potato baskets, Bengali biryani for the Daring Cooks challenge, mushroom and onion soup, and the humble Maharashtrian pithala bhakri for lunch. All of this and it left me no time to make any dessert. May be, I can bake a cake today. Pina-colada or layered coffee cake?? Umm.. I think both.

The monsoon in India will soon come to an end, and my husband has promised me that he will grow some herbs for me in the home garden. I am so looking forward to rosemary and basil and thyme to be freshly ‘harvested’ and used. But till then, the store-bought cold storage herbs will have to do.

Never mind, rosemary is still rosemary. The woody, slightly bitter and highly aromatic rosemary. Couple it up with cheese and pepper, and the flavor enhances anything it touches. Just like these crackers :

Rosemary and cheese crackers

Bake a big batch and treat everyone you know to some gourmet food. And earn lots of brownie points.

Rosemary and Cheese crackers

Loosely adapted from Katie Goodman’s Goodlifeeats

Yield : About 50-60 one-inch sized crackers

Ingredients :

  • 2 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp minced, fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 200 gms salted butter
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar cheese

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Garlic Butter

My favourite item on menu in Pizza Hut has always been the Garlic Bread. Buttery, garlicky toasted breads drizzled with chilli flakes or cheese. Sometimes, I preferred it more than a pizza.
As kids, we would always try to replicate the garlic bread at home, slathering bread with butter and chopped garlic, and then toasting them on a griddle. It would taste good, but the pieces of garlic would flip out of the bread. And we would be left with a mildly garlic flavored bread and burning bits of garlic.

This continued, until the time we found a super efficient formula for this easy garlic butter. Whisking the butter and adding finely chopped pieces of garlic, is all it takes to make this butter. Some dried parsley to balance the garlic flavor. In 5 minutes, you have a home made delicious spread. Slather it on bread and toast it, put a spoonful on a hot paratha or simply brush it on to a lavaash before eating. It can also be used to sauté vegetables in place of oil or regular butter.

Note : Add a pich of salt if using unsalted butter.

garlic butter

Garlic Butter recipe

Yield : 100 gms garlic butter

Ingredients :

  • 100 gm regular butter
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried, finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic (3-4 large cloves)

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