Grandpa. Its been 19 years since you are gone. And chocolate Iced terrine for the summers.

Summers always make me miss my grandfather. My mother’s father. The smell of heat scorched earth or some sweet smelling flowers transports me back to that time when we were little and we used to spend the vacations with him. He was a jolly man, in love with music, good food and in turn – in love with life. He passed away at the age of 60 due to blood cancer. Too early. But then, I think even 100 would have been too early for him.

I was 10 and my cousin AJ was 9 when grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. But in those few years I have so many memories of him. He was a big man, with a bigger stomach and an even bigger appetite for delicious street food. We would take a train and go into the city to just to eat bhel from a famous bhelpuri-wala or go to another part of the city to eat some garma garam fafda jalebi. Or simply load ourselves with a few watermelons, go up on the terrace and dig into them while leaving red watermelony stains on our clothes. He also had a bank of chocolates. A glass jar, which held chocolates and candies of various colors and sizes. Each day Aj and I would get to put our hand in the jar and pull out one chocolate. Of course, whenever we bought some candies or were gifted some, they went straight into the jar. How I miss those colourful crinkly candies in the jar and also standing in front of grandpa and waiting to put my hand in that jar.

Ajji Ajoba and kids

Grandpa had a huge collection of audio cassettes. And a notebook where he painstakingly indexed all the songs in his meticulous handwriting. He was like a living jukebox. Anyone could request a song and it would get played within minutes. And it was a time of the tape recorder where the cassette had to be rewinded or forwarded to find your song.When I got an ipod for mom from my first stipend, I ached for grandpa. He would have so loved this little thing which stored hundreds of songs, pre-indexed and could be played at a click. One of my favourite songs from that time is “Mere paas aao mere doston ek kissa sunno“. Kissa – stories. Life was all about stories then. Other people’s stories to help us build our own.

Grandpa believed in a funny concept. That there is less oxygen in a room which is full of people. So whenever everyone was gathered around the dining table and Aj and I ofcourse wanted to get in all the gossip, he would ask us to leave the room and go to an airier room. Or go out in the garden and play. We hated that and would find ways to stick around the adults and listen to who said what. But he was persistent. Many times he would come with us in the garden, just to ensure that we got more “oxygen”. Or perhaps he was simply shying away from my stubborn grand-mom with her defiant thoughts. That man cried at movies while we kids giggled at seeing a grown up man cry. But how essential it is to be able to cry. Now I know. And it came easily to him.

So you can see he was quite an emotional man. I love my grandmom and he did too. But sometimes I feel she was much stronger and practical than him. Just after he turned 60, my grandma went away to stay and work in an old-age home. They say, that broke my old man’s heart. And soon he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in six months. This week it will be 19 years since he passed away. And I miss him more than I ever did. When I listen to a song he used to play or when I eat bhelpuri or simply when the scorched earth smells of itself when it rains.

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Chocolate Iced terrineTriple Chocolate Iced Terrine

What you will need :

White Chocolate Layer –

  • 50 gm white chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 150 ml whipping cream
  • 20 gm sugar
  • 20 ml water

Milk Chocolate Layer –

  • 50 gm milk chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 150 ml whipping cream
  • 20 gm sugar
  • 20 ml water

Dark Chocolate layer –

  • 150 ml whipping cream
  • 60 gm dark chocolate

Layers of iced terrine

What to do :

  1. Firstly chop white chocolate and melt it over double boiler or in a microwave.
  2. Bloom or sprinkle geltain over the 1 tablespoon water and leave it aside fro 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk cream and refrigerate.
  4. Place sugar and water in a saucepan and swirl over low heat till sugar dissolves.
  5. Bring it to a boil, take it off heat and add gelatin.
  6. Pour into melted chocolate and whisk quickly. Carefully fold in the cream with a rubber spatula.
  7. Pour it into a terrine pan or I used a loaf pan. Smooth the surface with a spatula and put it in the freezer.
  8. Repeat the same procedure with milk chocolate and pour it over the white layer of terrine in the pan.
  9. For the dark chocolate mousse, chop dark chocolate and melt it over a double boiler.
  10. Whisk cream till firm and fold in the melted dark chocolate.
  11. Pour this dark mousse over the milk chocolate layer and smoothen the top.
  12. Put it in the freezer for atleast 3 hours for it to set.
  13. Cut slices and serve or dip the loaf in hot water and upturn it over a plate.

One layer of iced terrineNotes :

  1. You can replace the gelatin with double amount of agar-agar and follow the same procedure.
  2. I used Amul whipping cream. There was no problem in setting it because of the gelatin.

Iced terrine collage

Those three months and Kiwi Cupcakes with frosting

Last year around this time, I got pregnant. Which means that we were busy doing the hoo-hoos and haa-haas, very enthusiastically. Since then there hasn’t been much hoo or haa, but that’s a different story. (Now I seriously wish that no kids are reading this and neither is my mom or mom-in-law.) But anyway, it is an understatement to say that life has turned upside down since last April.

A few days back I found a letter I had written to myself. Last year this time. I often write letters to myself. Kind of a diary entry, but it works as if I am looking at the issue from a third party point of view. There, in that letter, I was telling myself to take it easy. It had been three months since we were trying to get pregnant and each time I got my periods, I would be immensely depressed. It felt as if I was killing the babies each month. I know how incorrect that statement is. I know. I know. But somewhere it just felt very bad. I would frantically chart my menstrual cycle in various apps and find out the “fertile” days. And coerce my husband into having sex as a rule on those days. Not that he minded it, but I had turned into an obsessive compulsive sexter, for those days of the month. For the first 10 days of the month, I would read up on all websites advising ‘how to get pregnant’ , and then later on obsess over ‘are you pregnant’ type webpages. I would dread each day as my periods got closer and any sign on PMS would make me cry. It was a very taxing time, let me tell ya.

My mom would keep telling me that it takes time, be patient. My husband would say, our bodies are not machines, have faith, it will happen soon. But I felt very low. And it is such a situation that couldnt even be discussed with anyone outside your innermost circle. At that time. To top it, my best-friend, my closest cousin and my sister-in-law : all were pregnant! Not me. Just not me.

I laugh at the insanity of the situation now, it feels stupid to look back at that version of myself, but I still shudder when I remember how I thought the worst was going to happen to us. And I had reached that conclusion in just three little months.

Later, when we registered with the gynaecologist’s hospital for delivery, the nurse excitedly told me that in India, December January is the busiest period in the hospital as it is the best “season” to have a baby. Most couples plan it that way, to have a baby in winter. And I thought to myself – “How the hell do they do that?”. How do they know when they will get pregnant? That answer still eludes me.

But anyway. Now I am hoping that when planning for the second child, I wont be so paranoid. Or I just might be. Because I will soon reach the big 3-0 in a year and half. Sigh.

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And I still don’t bake that often, my little one keeps me on my toes all the time. But these gorgeous kiwis in the market and eventually in the fruit basket made me want to bake. Urgently. And what could be faster than cupcakes?

Kiwi cupcake closeup

Kiwi Cupcakes with Kiwi buttercream frosting

What you will need :

For the cupcakes –

  • 1/3 cup mashed kiwi – about 2 kiwis
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg whites

For kiwi buttercream –

  • 1 kiwi, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C and line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake paper liners.
  2. Remove the skin of the kiwis and mash it with a fork to make 1/3 cup mashed kiwi. Add milk and vanilla to the mashed kiwi and keep aside.
  3. Sift together flour and baking powder .
  4. In another bowl, cream butter and all the sugar till light.
  5. Add the egg and egg white to butter and incorporate well.
  6. Now alternately add flour mixture and kiwi mixture to the cream butter and eggs. Start and end with dry ingredients i.e flour.
  7. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean and the tops are golden.
  8. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely before frosting.
  9. To make the buttercream, cream butter till its light. Add 3-4 tablespoon of mashed kiwi, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Ensure that the mixture is creamy and not watery).
  10. Add vanilla and icing sugar and mix well.
  11. Taste and add some more kiwi or icing sugar as per taste. But add kiwi cautiously or the mixture will get watery.
  12. Decorate the cupcakes with buttercream frosting and half a slice of kiwi.

Kiwi cupcake platter

Australian Lamingtons and Separation Anxiety

I am not sure how much three-month old babies understand, but like all moms, I think my baby is super smart. Yeah, let me tell you why I think so:

  1. After my first day of work, baby boy protested my absence by crying. Yes, crying in my hands and then stopping once in the arms of his grandmother. And he continued to look at me and cry in a complaining tone ‘How did you leave me and go? How am I supposed to know when you will come back?!” And so on. It continued for five minutes (which is very long when a baby is crying), and then I scooped him up, held him close and whispered in his ears till he calmed down. Luckily for me, he soon forgot all about it and started giving his toothless smiles.

  2. Next day : He knows that I am all dressed up and will go to office after feeding him. So while he is nursing, he tightly clutches my kurta with his little fingers, and starts wailing as soon as I position him for burping. My otherwise cooperative boy, is throwing tantrums now. I start feeding him again and he just wants to suckle, while not hungry. To stop me from going to work. I go, nevertheless, but with a delay.

  3. Everyday now, once I dress up and get ready to go to work and then when I start nursing him, he cries. He may have associated my deodorant smell to me going to office. It feels surreal, but that’s the only nursing time when he is crying. It does break my heart and I took a leave one day, but he will have to get used to it. So the next day, I braced myself and went to work.

He is a man of discipline, my little boy. Exactly at 9.30 at night, he gets cranky. Only till the time that we take him to his bedroom. Then I start the daily nightly ritual of some massage, changing his clothes etc and he enjoys it. But he has to be taken to the bedroom at 9.30 or else he cries as if I haven’t fed him in ages. He has a set routine and detects any change in it. And detests it. I won’t be surprised if he soon starts making baby to-do lists in little planners with a tiny pen. (How incredibly proud that would make me of him, don’t even ask.)

No, but seriously, baby boy Ar. has definitely noticed that I disappear for most part of the day. He may not know what to make of it, and so he gets cranky. Even when he is extremely fond of his ajji. And my mom thinks he has also lost some weight. But you know she is an advocate of “baby-needs-mom-a-lot-and-then-some-more” and so she may be over-reacting. But baby boy is crankier than before. I admit that.

Strangely, when I was growing up, I was convinced that I would be a stay at home mum for at least first 5 years when my kid(s) is small. I have no idea what that notion was based on, but as time flew by and I actually got married and had a kid, the need to work and have a life beyond home and the baby has become immense. I am sure Ar. will soon get used to it, we will find our new normal, but for now, we have some separation anxiety.

Sometimes when my mom and mom-in-law say that he is very fond of his mother, I think they are saying it to make me feel better. Or perhaps to encourage me to form a closer bond between me and the baby. But may be what they are saying is true. And he does recognise and prefer his mother over the others. It’s a double-edged sword though. How guilty it makes me feel to goto the market or even to go for an exercise walk after already being out of the house most day for work. But certain things need to be done. This is life.

But one thing is for sure. When I am at home, I am at the mercy of his smiles, gurgles and coos.

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For a long time I wanted to make these Australian finger cakes called Lamingtons. They are basically cubes of yellow cake dipped in chocolate frosting and coated with coconut. When I saw this recipe of HomeBakersGuild, I knew I had to make them. I am very fond of fresh coconut and hence used fresh coconut to coat my lamingtons. It made the cake very soft and juicy, if I may say so. And the pastel color looks super cute.

Lamingtons 2

Pastel Lamingtons

What you will need :

For the simple cake :

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour / maida
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

For white chocolate icing and decoration:

  • 170 gm white chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • few drops of food color
  • 3 grated fresh coconut

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20 cm cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder and keep it ready.
  3. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy with a hand blender.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate.
  5. Add milk and vanilla extract and blend well.
  6. Now fold in the flour and baking powder mixture, one cup at a time.
  7. Pour in prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Let it cool, then trim off the browned edges and cut the cake into squares.
  9. Make the chocolate icing by heating chopped chocolate, butter, milk in  saucepan till they melt.
  10. Take it off the heat and icing sugar.
  11. Add food color as desired.
  12. Roll the cake cubes in the chocolate, one at a time and then in desiccated coconut. Sprinkle with some strawberry jam for decoration.

Notes :

  • The browned part of the cake tastes extremely delicious, eat it up straight away.
  • The icing can get a bit sticky while rolling the cake. You can even hold it with a fork and pour the icing over it.
  • If you roll it in dry desiccated coconut , the cubes will be drier and easier to handle. But I prefer the crunch of fresh coconut.

Lamingtons