Sizzling Orange upside-down cake

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Currently, all my after-office hours are filled with research on Paris. As on date, it is exactly 3 weeks before I leave for Le Cordon Bleu. For a long time I thought its easy, I am going there for just a month. Or that it is a very touristy place, geared for tourists like me. So it wont be difficult.

But as the date gets closer, I am getting worried-er. Firstly, it will be quite cold in late November and December. Akshay has studied in Rochester, New York where the winter temperature dips to -10°C. So he is comfortable with the cold. But I am really a Mumbai girl, and my comfort zone is restricted to 22°C to 27°C. Outside this range, it is either too cold or too hot.

Secondly, although I love to eat fish and chicken sometimes, I am a vegetarian at heart. And I need meat-less options for everyday meals. The first time that we were in Europe, I came back with a substantial vitamin deficiency. I have to be careful that it does not happen again. While browsing the web,  I found an excellent book of compilation of restaurants serving vegetarian food in Paris. It is by Rashmi Uday Singh and is called ” A Vegetarian in Paris” . I intend to make best use of it. Of course I will report back on some of the restaurants that I visit and like or dislike.

Third and most important fact (or stupid really, if you think in any other way) is that I will miss Akshay (my husband) tremendously. Since the last 3 years since we started dating and then got married, I haven’t stayed away from him for so long. It has been the longest “happiest-stretch” of my life, and we are a perfect team. No idea how to function alone without his comfort and guidance. Yeah yeah, I did survive well for first 24 years of life without him. But that was before I met him, before I knew what it was to have a wonderful partner like him. And the worst part is, it is going to be his birthday in December when I would be in Paris. Duh uh!

Well, cest la vie, this is life. But apart from these little things, I am superly excited. All the Paris research like the Movies to watch, Places to visit, Books to read   is yielding good results and I am quite hooked on to it. Feel free to browse through it and recommend some more exciting movies, places and books.

Meanwhile, last on Sunday, we made this bloody orange cake for Akshay’s uncle’s birthday. I actually got these exotic looking oranges to make marmalade, but then I stumbled upon this Blood Orange upside down cake from Not Quite Nigella, and dear god, I had to make it.

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The original recipe called for 200 gms of almond flour which I thought was too much, so I reduced it to 100 gms. But the nutty almond-y flavor is delicious and goes very well with the citrusy orange depth of the cake.

And the handsome oranges. A burst of color and flavor!

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Oranges sliced thinly with the covering

The almond meal is very easy to make, after blanching almonds overnight. And even if you forget to soak them the previous night, you can get them ready in 20 mins, with a trick. Read on..

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Blanched almonds and simmered oranges

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Oranges lined on to the pan.

Sizzling Orange upside-down cake recipe

What you will need :

  • 3 blood oranges (the ones which have orange color skin), thinly sliced
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 200 gm butter (I always use slightly salted Amul butter)
  • 200 gms powdered sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 gm / 1 cup almond powder / almond meal (See the footnote for recipe)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt

What to do :

  1. In a saucepan, place the water and sugar on low heat till the sugar is melted. Turn the heat to high and let it come to a boil.
  2. Then add the orange slices and simmer it for 20-25 mins on medium heat, till the orange skin becomes tender and slightly translucent.
  3. Remove the slices with a slotted spoon and let them cool. Boil the syrup further till it becomes thicker.
  4. Grease and line a 8 or 9 inch cake tin with parchment paper. Brush the parchment paper with some of the syrup so that the orange slices stick to it. Place the slices on the parchment paper and over to the sides. Cut some into half to fit over the sides of the pan. Reserve the syrup to brush over cake once baked.
  5. With an electric blender, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy and add the eggs, one at a time. Stir in almond meal, flour and yogurt and mix until just combined (do not overwork).
  6. Pre-heat oven to 160°C.
  7. Spoon it into the prepared tin making sure not to dislodge the orange slices.
  8. Bake for 60 minutes @ 160°C until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Let it cool, then upturn it. Gently remove the parchment paper off the cake. Glaze the cake with the reserved sugar syrup. Serve into triangular wedges.

To make almond meal

  1. Take about 5% more almonds than the required quantity of almond meal. Say if you want 100 gms of almond meal, take about 105 gms of almonds.
  2. Soak them overnight in water and in the morning, peel off the skin. Let the almonds dry thoroughly before grinding. In a mixer, pulse the almonds till it forms a coarse powder. Do not over grind as it would then turn into almond butter.
  3. Or, if you want to make it instantly, blanch almonds by boiling them for about a minute or two, uncovered. Use your hand by and rub the skin off . Completely dry the almonds before using, as the water will make it into butter.
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Covered from top to bottom with blood oranges

Notes :

  1. Almond meal if extra, has to be stored in the fridge, or it turns rancid.
  2. The orange skin when simmered in sugar syrup become beautifully moist and tender. But if you dont like the skin, shave the oranges slightly so as to leave on only a thin layer of skin.

This cake is moist and nutty and wholesome. Before you realise you will be going for another piece.

Orange cake2In a quick glance:

Orange cake collage

With my dad in Dharavi and Oreo cheesecake

About ten years back, my dad, a cop with the Mumbai police department, was in-charge of Dharavi police station. Every night, or every morning (if it was a night duty), he would come home distressed and in a generally foul mood. Dharavi does that to you. Back in those days,  when the Hindu-Muslim communal tension was very high in that area, he would be constantly on the edge, on or off duty. He recalls an incident when two “warring” communities, killed a guy in a gang war like situation, and they told the police that they would sort it out themselves. The police need not intervene! These so-called ‘bhais’ or hooligans were always ready to take law in their own hands.

Fast forward ten years, and on last Sunday he went to Dharavi with his daughter. In his entire police career of 25 odd years, I had not seen any of his police stations. When at home, he is a milder and warmer person. But in essence, he is quite a strict fellow. His voice turns hoarse, brisk and commanding when talking to his fellow comrades. I love to see that part of him. Love to see the power which he commands, even now after retiring from the department. So when I said that I want to visit Dharavi with Akshay’s aunt Sonali (a terrific writer), he was taken aback. Or may be not. He forever knew that I have this keeda in me, and that someday his little daughter is going to do such ‘outrageous’ things like visiting places he kept us far away from. Nevertheless, he agreed to come with us. (There was no way he was going to let us go alone.)

Dharavi, is entirely different now than the glorified slumdog kind of place. It is so much better than what we have seen in the movies. I can go on and on about Dharavi, but in the next post.

For now, I was seeing my dad in a different light. A Dharavi fixer (Dharavi resident who takes you on a tour for a fee), Mr. Peter accompanied us on the three-hour walk. We shopped insanely at the Kumbhar wada (potters corner), walked down the narrow alleys, watched Lijjat papad making women, and chatted along all the way. He was telling us anecdotes and incidents which had happened when he was there and was marveled at the changes that had occurred in the last ten years. It was Dussehra, and everyone was dressed pretty and doing pooja of their tools of work. We would stop and talk to the residents, click photos, and be a part of their lives for a few moments. Some of them even invited us in their home to be a part of their pooja and to take blessings. It was a very heart-warming experience.

Now if you know my dad, you know he is quite a no-nonsense person. For the entire time I kept thinking, now he is going to ask me to stop talking to random people, or stop taking their pictures. He is going to get disturbed with the fact that his daughter is in such an infamous part of the city and, would ask us to turn around and head back home. Strangely, none of that happened. He enjoyed every minute of it. And once or twice I even saw him looking proudly at me. (Yay!)

It was a beautiful day, and a walk that I will cherish for a long time to come. Do you have some favourite days with your dad? Do write in, I would love to read.

In the meanwhile, I made this Oreo Cheesecake for my best friend’s brother. It looked beautiful. Black and White. With just one 8oz pack of cream cheese, it is frugal and still very delicious. I used Philadelphia cream cheese which I stock up on my monthly trip to Crawford market.

Oreo crust cheesecake

What you will need :

  • 28 Oreo cookies, ground to a powder in a mixer
  • 3 tbsp regular butter
  • 1 pack / 225 gms  / 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 70 gms powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg
  • 70 gms fresh  cream
  • 2-3 Oreo cookies, chopped up

What to do :

  1. Line an 8 inch pan with parchment paper, both base and the sides. This step is very crucial as the cheesecake cannot be inverted and has to be pulled out of the pan and parchment removed. If you have a springform pan, feel free to use it.
  2. Mix together the ground oreo cookies and melted butter and press it into the pan. Smoothen it out with your fingers and press it tightly in.
  3. Whisk together the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl until smooth.
  4. Then add the egg, followed by fresh cream until it forms a smooth mixture.Add the vanilla extract/ essence.
  5. Pour this mixture over the crust in the cake pan. Top with a few more Oreo cookies.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven at 160°C in a water bath for 35-45 minutes. The centre should still be a little jiggly. The water keeps the heat in the oven gentle.
  7. Once cooled, refrigerate the cake for at least 3-4 hours before slicing up. It tastes much better when cool.

Look out for:

  1. It is somewhat tricky to unmold the cheesecake from the springform pan or from the parchment paper. Be careful while doing so, and do it only after chilling it for an hour.
  2. For the waterbath, fill a bigger vessel (which fits in your oven) with hot water and place the cheesecake filled pan in the water filled vessel. The water should come upto about half inch of cheesecake pan. This prevents the cheesecake from crumbling and getting dry.

p.s : The cheesecake slipped from my hand while unmolding, and this is what happened : Smudged.I remolded it and gave it to my friend. Got reports that it tasted awesome. Now don’t fret, sometimes such accidents happen. 🙂

Oreo cheesecake

Rose Misti Doi or Sweetened Curd

The last whole week was quite a frenzy, and I was utterly unable to post. I was preoccupied with so many things, that the transition from unrelated short sentences in my head to coherent, meaningful paragraphs was just not happening.

It feels strange, but just a few weeks back, my mom and brother were down with dengue, and this time around my mom-in-law (Mom-IL) and dad-in-law (Dad-IL) were down with typhoid and pneumonia respectively. I had only heard of these things before, and in a matter of three months, I am dealing with all of it, in my own house. With not one, but two people to be looked after suddenly.

My Mom-IL and Dad-IL are super-independent and I realized that even after 2 and half years of my marriage, I knew so little about their daily habits and routines. For instance :

  1. Dad-IL likes to have masala tea atleast 15 times a day, and just a super hot quarter cup each time. And he complains if you give him any more than a quarter cup.
  2. Mom-IL liked to have something sweet everyday. It is odd, because on normal days, both of them swear away from sweets, and only ‘taste’ it when I make some new dessert.

It was not an easy task keeping those two almost hyper-active individuals home-bound, but being a daughter in law here, I could not be over-assertive.  My secret weapon was my husband, their son. I would immediately call him up in office and ask him to call them to persuade them from doing something, viz. gardening on the third day after being detected with pneumonia. Yeah.

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I also realized certain things about myself in this week. I found my brain was working like clock. It would automatically wake me up at 2 hour intervals at night to check on their temperature. I found that when left on my own, I do kitchen-work exactly like my mom. I line up used cups on the wash-basin just like she does, heck, I even cut onions the same way she does. I teased her for being so particular, but now I am doing the same things!

It was a hectic week, no doubt, but interspersed with so many realizations, it was quite a ride. And both of them are quite fine now.

Sweetened curd SnD

Meanwhile, last week I had made this Misti-Doi or Sweetened Curd. I remember a few years back, when I was in Kolkatta for audit, I had this misti–doi in the earthen pots and it was so good, that I ‘smuggled’ a big pot of that curd on the flight back home. It was thick, full of flavor and very creamy.

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The real method is to boil and simmer and reduce milk and then add sugar, and some curd as a starter and let it rest. But I substituted it with condensed milk, making it a very easy and quick dessert, which can even be made on a large scale for house parties. It is baked to get a thick creamy texture, but it can also be kept to set overnight in a warm environment.

Misti-Doi or Sweetened Curd recipe :

What you will need:

Plain Yogurt : 2 cups / 500 gm / 17.6 Oz
Sweetened Condensed Milk – 1/2 can or 200 gm or 7 Oz  or as per taste
Sweetened Rose Syrup (preferably with rose petals in it) – 5-6 tbsp

What to do:

  1. Take a cheese cloth, or a soft cotton cloth, pour the yogurt into it, tie the cloth loosely and hang the yogurt along with the cloth on the kitchen faucet / tap for 15 to 20 minutes or till most of the whey ( yogurt-water) has been drained.
  2. Take the yogurt out from the cloth, put it in a big bowl and add the sweetened condensed milk and the rose syrup. Mix all the ingredients nicely by using a spoon and check the sweetness. Pour the mixture into a oven proof dish. ( cup / bowl / pan )
  3. Preheat the oven to 220°F or 100°C. Bake the yogurt for 30 minutes on the middle rack.
  4. Check it if the top of the yogurt has set, and turn off oven. Cover the yogurt with foil and let it sit there in the oven for another 4-5 hrs or overnight.
  5. Then take it out and put it in the refrigerator for couple of hours.
  6. Serve chilled, garnish with rose petals.

The next time, I am going to let it set in earth pots, for a very rustic Kolkatta feeling.

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Roasted Eggplant Dip aka Baba Ghanoush

Alongwith the Open faced pies with Arabic dressing made and posted last time, I thought of making it a whole meal with Eggplant dip and pickled vegetables on side. I have been smitten by the strong Moroccan flavors for a while. There is no mistaking the sumac in the pies, and similarly, the robust eggplant flavor delicious mingles with tahini and coriander in this dip.

Several years back, the first time we went to a Moroccan restaurant called Bisto Grill in Mumbai, we had the ‘Baba Ghanoush’ . The name sounded exotic, the price was steep, and hence we expected something ridiculously fancy to show up on our table. But all that was served was a salad made of roasted eggplant with some sautéed onions. Totally bland and flavorless. Duh! So much for expecting an Aladdin come out from his lamp carrying a sizzling smokey Baba Ghanoush! It was disappointing and I wished I could make it at home.

That was back then, when I literally didn’t know how to cook anything. Ofcourse, priority list was different then. I had to first study well and clear my Chartered Accountancy exams. Several days on end, I wouldn’t ever enter the kitchen. Even if I did, all I had to do was chop onions, or wash coriander and similar stuff. Only help mom whenever she particularly “asked” me to.

But now, I can . And I did. My brother still calls it a fashionable version of Baingan-ka-bharta (a popular dish in Maharashtrian and Northern cuisine), but I beg to differ and call it a fancy Baba Ghanoush. Now picture this setting :

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And some of this :

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And then this :

Baba Ghanoush Continue reading