New-york style Cherry Cheesecake

New-york style Cherry Cheesecake

baked-cherry-cheesecake

There is a lovely nip in the air and what better time to sit and enjoy a piece of indulgent cheesecake with freshly brewed coffee?! Top it with some fresh fruit of the season – cherries, strawberries or even chopped kiwi. This combination of a tart fruit, creamy cheese cake and a crumbly, buttery crust is very fulfilling.

See notes below for more information about cheesecakes.

For the crust and the cheesecake 

What you will need :

  • 160 gram digestive biscuits
  • 40 grams melted butter (I use Amul)
  • 400 grams cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest/ lemon zest
  • 175 grams castor sugar
  • 55 grams dairy cream (I use Amul 20% fat)
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to proceed :

  1. Powder the digestive biscuits in a mixture. Then add the melted butter and mix the crumble with your fingers to form a smooth dough like consistency.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 160C.
  3. Take a springform pan with detachable base and spread the crumb mixture on the pan at the bottom. Bake it for 10 minutes till firm.
  4. Take it out of the oven and let it completely cool.

baked-cheesecake-prep

  1. Meanwhile make the cheesecake filling. Beat the cream cheese well with a whisk or a hand-held blender and add the lemon juice and zest.
  2. Then add the castor sugar, cream, salt and vanilla essence. Beat well to combine all of it together.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and mixing well before each addition. Pour this mixture into the cooled crust and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 40-45 minutes.
  4. The best way to check if a cream cheese is done is if it is jiggly in the centre. If yes, bake it for another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven once done and let it cool down before frosting.

baking-a-cheesecake

Cream Cheese Frosting :

  • 125 grams cream cheese
  • 50 grams Amul butter. at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon orange/lemon zest
  • 300 grams icing sugar

How to proceed:

  1. Whisk the cream cheese. Add butter and zest.
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar, one cup at a time.
  3. Whisk well.

frosting-a-cheesecake

Decorate :

  • Spread the frosting on top of the cheesecake once it cools and adorn it with drained glazed cherries.

cheesecake-piece

Notes :

  • You can skip this frosting and just line the top with cherries or some jam. I prefer a softer, mushier frosting hence I poured it over the cheesecake. If you want a firm frosting, refrigerate it for 2 hours before frosting on top of the cake.
  • Different brands of cream cheese are available in the market. Philadelphia and D’lecta are two brands I have most commonly seen. The Philadelphia cream cheese is costly (650 for 225 grams), but D’lecta cream cheese is also very good and costs Rs. 650-700 for 800 grams. In Mumbai it is available in Arife and a lot of stores having a cold storage facility.
  • Cheesecakes tend to crack at the top after baking. To prevent this they are baked in a water bath. But to keep things simple, I have avoided a water bath and topped the baked cheesecake with a cream cheese frosting and some cherries.
  • Cheesecakes are dense and continue to bake even when removed from the oven due to the latent heat. So to avoid over-baking it should be slightly moist at the centre when you stop baking.
  • After removing cake from the oven, loosen the sides with a spatula or a knife. It allows it to cool without breaking.

Cherry Cream Cheese Pound cake

Cherry Cream Cheese Pound cake!

 

Cream Cheese pound cake with cherries

Everything about this cake sounds dreamy. It is an indulgent affair and not for the whole-wheat-carrot-cake type of a day.

Pound Cakes are heavy. With so many eggs in them they can be filling. But so delicious and creamy. And add some cream cheese in the mix, you have a delectable buttery, cheesy cake. The mild tartness of the cherries goes very well with the cake and makes it very flavourful.

Cherries are in season right now, and I must have used about 40-50 un-pitted cherries on top of the cake I love how that looks. My little baby boy Arjun helped me make the decoration and gave me one cherry at a time while I placed it on the cake. Loved doing that.

This cake serves 8, has to be sliced thinly while serving. Perhaps with a cup of coffee, like the French.

Cherry Pound cake

Cherry Cream Cheese Pound Cake

What you will need:

  • 3 cups maida – all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 220 gram cream cheese, I use D’lecta
  • 2 and 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 large eggs

Cream Cheese Chocolate Frosting

  • 125 gram cream cheese, cold
  • 50 gram Amul butter
  • 300 grams icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • Fresh cherries for decoration

What to do :

  1. For the cake, sift the all purpose flour + baking powder + baking soda and keep it aside.
  2. In another bowl, whisk room temperature butter and cream cheese together, add vanilla extract.
  3. Now add granulated sugar and whisk.
  4. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking till it gets fully incorporated.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
  6. Line two 8 inch pans with a parchment paper at the bottom and butter and flour the sides.
  7. Pour the prepared batter in the pans and bake in a pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the pan and let the cakes cool completely before frosting.
  9. To make the frosting, take all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk till it comes together to form a smooth frosting.
  10. Place one cake on a plate or a wooden board, frost it lightly and then place the second cake on top. Again frost the sides lightly, scraping of any excess frosting.
  11. Put about 1/4 cup of frosting on top of the cake and spread evenly.
  12. Put the cake int he fridge for 10 minutes so that the frosting sets a bit before placing the cherries on top.

Cherry pound cake slice

Notes :

  • If you live in a hot humid place, it is better to keep the cake in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature for half hour before serving.
  • The mild cocoa flavour in the frosting helps balance the cheesy frosting.
  • The pound cake recipe is taken from Joy of Baking

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Madelines!

Oh these lovely, buttery shell shaped little cakes. Crisp on the outside and soft like sponge cake on the inside. And that adorable little bump. It makes it a pretty little unique cake.

It was our 4th or 5th class in Le Cordon Bleu and the chef demonstrated this French traditional cake from the Lorraine region in France. I was astonished. That shell shaped structure looked gorgeous. And then the bump on the other side revealing the soft part inside. The edges – browned and crisp are a delight to bite into.

Madelines with honey

Madeleines are the perfect accompaniment to the evening cup of tea or coffee. They taste best when served warm fresh out of the oven. The crispness of the crust starts to lessen as it gets stored, but biting into a fresh madeleine is a real pleasure.

The only special equipment you will need is a Scallop shell pan. I purchased mine in E.Dehillerin in Paris, but it is easily available at Amazon.in or your local bakeware shop.

The traditional version calls for browning butter and then using it. But there is a very fine line between brown butter and burnt butter. So to avoid that, we simply melt butter with orange zest and that gives it the citrusy flavour. If you wish to get the nuttiness of browned butter, brown it in a pan for a couple of minutes, let it cool down and then use it.

This recipe is based on the one we learnt at school and I have further added orange zest and honey to it.

Madelines in shell pan

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Makes 10 Madelines

What you will need :

  • 100 gram all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 70 gram butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 65 grams castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What to do :

  1. Sift flour and baking powder to avoid any lumps.
  2. Melt butter in a pan or in microwave with the orange zest.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and add sugar. Whisk till it becomes pale and creamy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and then add butter and orange zest mixture. Fold it in with a spatula.
  6. Now transfer it to a disposable piping bag without any nozzle and refrigerate it for atleast 3 hours. You can even refrigerate it overnight.
  7. Before baking, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Brush the shell pan with some melted  butter and drizzle some flour on it.
  8. Pipe molds of batter on the pan and let it bake for 10-11 minutes till it is browned not he edges and cooked in the centre. The centre should spring back when touched.

IMG_3640

 

Notes :

  1. It is essential to refrigerate the dough so that the flour hydrates and it forms that quintessential bump when baked.
  2. This can also be used as a basic recipe and honey and orange zest can be substituted with any other flavouring.

madelines with a bump

Cheers!

Rutvika

Vegetable Manchurian with Garlic gravy

The Indian Chinese is our favourite go-to when the body craves for some salty, err, tasty treats. When we pass by the Chinees stalls on the road and the China Garden hotel (I am sure every city has several by the same name), the aroma makes me want to linger. And stare at the man behind the stall making his manchurian swirl in his wok or tossing the fried rice up in the air, to expertly catch it at the right moment as it lands back in his wok. And those red dragons painted on the stalls. Oh, I want to go to one right now.

Vegetable manchurian

Never mind. We love to make the Vegetable Manchurian in the thick garlicky gravy at home. It is without the drama of the banian-clad man on a chinese stall, but tastes excellent. I also add a pinch of ajinomoto in the dough and gravy, we love that umami taste. But you can totally skip it. My husband believes it is safe and naturally occurring in many a foodstuff like mushrooms etc., and I take his word on that.

Generally veg manchurian goes well with any rice or noodles. Last Sunday we ate it with some boiled pasta, sautéed in butter and some herbed red sauce. It was a good lunch!

Vegetable Manchurian with Gravy

Manchurin gravy noodles

What you will need :

For the Manchurian balls :

  • 3/4 cup cabbage, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower, washed and chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 4 tablespoon maida
  • 2 tablespoon corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or more as per taste
  • a pinch of ajinomoto (totally optional, but I love the taste)
  • a little water, if required for kneading
  • Oil for frying

For the gravy :

  • 7-8 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 2 teaspoon oil
  • 2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon freshly crushed pepper powder
  • 3 tablespoon tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon corn flour mixed in 1 and 1/4 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • a pinch of Himalayan chilli for flavor
  • a pinch of ajinomoto (totally optional, but I love the taste)

Spring onion greens for decoration.

What to do :

  1. Keep all the vegetables washed and chopped, ready to use in a large bowl. To it add all the ingredients as mentioned in Manchurian balls, except the water.
  2. Knead it all together to form balls. I needed about 1 tablespoon of water. It should be a sticky dough which can be roughly rolled into balls.
  3. In a large kadhai, heat some oil and fry these Manchurian balls on low heat. Drain on kitchen paper and let them cool.
  4. To make the gravy, in a thick bottomed vessel, heat some oil. Fry the garlic and add the onions. Cook till translucent.
  5. Then add rest of the ingredients mentioned in the gravy and let it simmer on low heat for 5-7 minutes. The sauce will begun to thicken.
  6. Once fairly thick, take the sauce off the heat and add the fried manchurian balls.
  7. Sever hot with some fried rice or noodles.
  8. I made some pasta noodles (cooked as per instructions on the packet) and topped it with some herbed red sauce. Recipe here.

Noodles with marinara

Notes :

  1. You can also use beans and your choice of vegetables, but keep the proportion same.
  2. Ajinomoto is entirely optional, skip it if you don’t like. But I am sure your Chinese guy uses it. So once in a while it is okay to use.
  3. If the manchurian balls are coming apart in the oil, knead it well with a little more water and always cook on low flame so that the vegetables get cooked till the centre.

Manchrian with noodles

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

*******       *******       *******

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

Mango Cupcakes and what would it have been had I failed.

I have never failed an exam in my life.

Does that mean I am super brilliant? Heck no. That just means I haven’t taken up enough challenges in my life. It means that I have stayed in my comfort zone , doing things I have been sure about. I had even registered for some exams, and chickened out at the last-minute thinking I am not prepared, I am sure gonna fail. Hence there was no exam which I took and failed. But there is a major flaw in this system. It restricts my view of the world. Though not blatantly, but in my head it makes me think “Oh, I am quite cool”. And there goes that.

When I gave my Chartered Accountant (Indian CPA) exam, luckily for me, I cleared it all in the first attempt. But what if I had not? Would I have had the guts and the patience to take it again? or would I have chosen another career path? Would I have excelled far better at something else or become a sloppy worker, just going through the day? There is no way to know.

In school whenever anyone asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always answered heroic professions like a criminal lawyer, a journalist etc. And apparently, I answered with such conviction that even now when I meet someone from school, they are shocked to realize I did not pursue law or journalism. How and when accounting profession came in my life is kinda fuzzy in my head. I just registered for the first exam because I think everybody in my college was doing so, and cleared that exam, the next and the next and here I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am mighty proud of my profession and the security a valued degree provides me. But as I said, it put me in a comfort zone I am reluctant to get out of. But sometimes, I get a strong urge in my heart to do something extremely challenging. Something which I have an equal chance of failing at. Something which will make me sit up and be scared about. Something which brings out the edge in me.

My brother is currently taking entrance exams to get into the MBA colleges. In one exam he scored 99 percentile, which means he is better than 99% of the population taking the exam. You would think that life is set right? No. The day and age where we live, the college admissions are closing at a whooping 99.4 percentile. How can you beat that? It is so fucking crazy, that I feel I am luckier having passed all that and be here. So there is no room to complain, but there is this feeling of insufficiency in my heart. It feels I can do much better, I need some push. To do more.

But I also feel there was a time and stage in life to do all that. Now I am 28, married for 3 years and wishing to take personal life to the “next stage”. Yeah, yeah I know that shouldn’t change anything, considering how liberal and encouraging my husband and in-laws are. But it does. That does not mean it is lost on me. May be I will do something which will (pleasantly) surprise the hell out of me. But for now, I wonder “what would I have done had I failed in the CA exam?”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : Do you ever wonder what you would have done, had you failed in one of life’s important stages and how different life would have been? Do write in the comments section, I would love to read.


Mango Cupcakes with Mango frosting:

Mangoes are back! Summer in India gets extremely hot, but it brings the luscious oh so sweet mangoes and hence I am not complaining. The color, the fragrance, and then the eclectic taste. Last year I made the no-bake mango cheesecake, and this year the vibrant super soft mango cupcakes.

Mango cupcakes

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup ripe mango puree (about 2 mangoes pureed)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

For the frosting:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp softened butter (not melted)
  • 2-3 tbsp mango puree

What to do :

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 170C. Line muffin pans with paper.
  2. Beat butter till it is pale in color and then add the sugar. Beat till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and fully incorporate.
  4. In a separate bowl, take flour and baking powder. mix it well together, to prevent biting into a chunk of baking powder.
  5. Fold the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.
  6. Add the mango puree, grated ginger and milk. Continue whisking till it is fully homogeneous.
  7. Pour it into a pan and bake for 20 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. To make the frosting, mix together icing sugar, butter and mango puree. Add more icing sugar if you want stiffer frosting and more mango puree if a smoother frosting.
  9. Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes and eat. 🙂

mango cupcake platter

Notes :

  • The cupcakes stay well at room temperature in air-tight container for upto 4 days. If keeping in the refrigerator, slightly heat in the microwave before eating.
  • You can skip the ginger, but it brings out the mango flavor beautifully.
  • Canned mango puree can also be used to make the cupcakes.

Drool worthy mango cupcake

Baked chicken blankets and a letter to the soon-to-be-born. Not related those two.

My best friend and my favorite cousin are going to have a baby in just a couple of months. I am incredibly fond of both these women but work and distance separates me from meeting them as often as I would have liked. It limits the opportunities that I have to tell their soon-to-be-born kids of how kick-ass their moms are. And how this is the one and only time when they can see their mom at the workplace, in meetings, experiencing the daily conundrum of life, be a part of everything that’s going on and still be aloof.

I want to tell those little ones (I am not sure what I should call them, the doctor also doesn’t refer to them as babies till they are born, so I will be calling them little ones), that –

“Mommy is incredibly proud to host you for 9 months as a part of her and this is the time when you will be undividedly hers, and she yours. Of course, later on you will be a priority too, don’t grumble in there, your mommy can feel it. But while you are cocooned inside, have a fun time. Your mom is eating different foods. I am sure you must be playing a guessing game of ‘what-mom-ate’ based on the tastes and smells you get. Yes you are right, there are a lot of different tastes, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, but momma is protecting you from the bitter taste, and she always will.

Little one, I have known your mom since she was a very young. She is sweet yet determined, organised yet crazy and loving yet stern. I wish to tell you these things because at times you may find she is talking mildly in a soft voice and sometimes as if she is commanding an army. Dont worry little one, it is just the situation that demands your mom to act that way. But in her heart she is always the soft girl.

It is still a few months before you arrive and yet all arrangements for you have been made. That doesn’t mean you should hurry up, oh darling, take your own time in there. Because you will be spending the next 100 years on this land, but just the nine months inside. So fully utilize this time, get in a lot of nutrition (mommy is really eating for two) and become a big fat baby while you come out. Recognize your mom’s scent, hear the way her stomach grumbles when she is hungry, feel the tremble of her shiver when she sees a scary thing and notice her goosebumps when she reads something emotional. She is your shield little one, and yet she will let a few things seep in so that you are not utterly shocked once you come out.

You dont know the concept of gravity yet, but when you do, you will be able to appreciate how your mom held you up in her stomach, and how her back must have hurt. Of course the version you are seeing of her is the slower one currently, because she has to protect you. Oh but let me tell you, she is one fire-brand. You haven’t seen her kick a football so hard that it goes out of the field or watched her get into a train full of people, where it seems not another person can get in. You haven’t seen her hop on a bike and zoom off with your dad or brave the snow and dashingly go off to buy groceries. And you will see how once you are 2 years old and running around, she can run behind you but way faster than you. She can toss you in the air and swoop you up, and you will feel as if you are flying. She will tickle the hell out of you and laugh so hard, that you will think this is the best moment in life.

She will do a lot of things for you little one, but you are doing good too. Your kicks reassure her, your swelling size makes her confident. Uncomfortable, but confident. Your movement makes her feel alive inside and the nudge of your toe lets her know you are eager and connecting. She can feel your heartbeat and that is what keeps her going.

Love you little one, more than you can ever know. ”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country


Stuffed chicken blankets

This one is again from that very old book “The Good-housekeeping” picked up from a flea market in Mumbai. I am in love with that book. Such delicious things with the simplest illustrations.

Chicken with skewers

This is a simple way to bake chicken and it tastes great with the peanut stuffing. Dont miss out on the sauce, which is so full of flavor.

Serves : 2

What you will need :

  • 400 gm (4-5) chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • paprika, salt to taste
  • 3/4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the stuffing :

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves mashed
  • 3 tbsp salted peanuts, crushed
  • chopped parsley/coriander/mint/basil
  • salt and pepper

Stuffing the chicken

What to do :

  1. Wash the chicken breasts and flatten them with a rolling-pin. You can put it in a ziplock bag and hit it couple of times with a rolling-pin to flatten or tenderize it.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  3. Make the stuffing. In a pan, melt butter, add garlic and saute onions till translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients namely peanuts, some salt and generous amount of pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add chopped herbs. Take it off the heat and reserve.
  4. Take one (or two) flattened chicken breast and fill it int he centre with the stuffing. Wrap the sides over the stuffing and insert a skewer or toothpick through the chicken breast to make it stay wrapped.
  5. Lightly grease a baking pan and place the stuffed breasts seam down in the pan.
  6. Make a mixture with the 1 tbsp butter, paprika, and little salt.
  7. Brush the chicken breasts with this mixture. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes till tender, occasionally basting it with the butter mixture and the juices let out by the chicken while baking.
  8. Once baked, take the fat from the baking pan into a saucepan. Heat gently and stir in chicken stock, plain flour and milk. Cook for a couple of minutes till the sauce thickens.
  9. To serve, remove the toothpicks/skewers and serve on a warm plate. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with chopped herbs.

Chicken with sauce

Note :

  1. Chicken stock and butter all have salt. So be careful while adding additional salt.
  2. You can stuff the chicken with whatever you like, just let it not be too mushy. the peanuts here provide a nice crunch, and can be replaced with any other nuts.

Mushroom Turnovers and Oh yes, my trying-to-arrange marriage tales

I have known my husband for the last 12 years. But the first 9 years don’t really count. We took a class together in school, but that was it. We chose different paths, went to different colleges and he was then studying and working in the USA for six years, before he came back and we met.

And in those intervening years a lot happened. I dated a few guys, he must have dated some girls (although he doesn’t talk about it. yet.) , but yes, we were on different paths of life.

And then I cleared my CA exam, was 22 and deemed fit to get married by my parents and other folks around me. Or at least start looking for “suitable guys” so that something “clicks” sooner or later. My attempts at finding a suitable boyfriend to eventually get married to had failed miserably for several reasons. So, naturally my matrimonial ad was placed in some of the arranged marriage groups and related newsletters. I don’t know what it said, but clearly my mom had done a good job at marketing me well, because the whole ritual of meeting guys and their parents and that whole shit started soon enough.

For those of you who are uninitiated about the arranged marriage process in India, let me sum it up for you. Typically, the responsibility of finding a partner for the girl and the guy lies with the family. So as a community activity, people suggest befitting proposals and the families meet, the would-be bride and groom meet too, may be for an hour or so and that’s it. In more advanced cities, the girl and guy meet may be one or two times and boom, a perfect heavenly match is made. Or so they claim.

My mom, the super efficient woman that she is, started working on this project. She made lists, went through matrimonial websites, magazines and generally spread the word around that they are looking for their daughter. She even went ahead and made a fake facebook and orkut (which was very popular then) account and would re-search about the guys before she asked me to have a look at them. Oh man, it was like one organized military operation. And as a result, over a span of two years, my mom and dad evaluated about 200 proposals, spoke to at-least 80 of them and as a fitting climax, I met around 15 of those ‘boys’.

It was hilarious to say the least. I had very little belief in this system of finding a husband, and it just sounded bizarre that I would randomly go and stay with a guy who I have met twice, or say thrice. My savior in this whole situation was my brother, because we would laugh off the whole thing. That kept my sanity intact.

Nevertheless, I had some interesting interactions. Once we went to a guys house, and the whole living room was painted bright red, the chairs, upholstery, carpet, wall hanging, everything right upto the ceiling fan was bright red. Felt like a psychedelic cocaine-induced view of things. On another time, I met a guy alone, in a coffee shop, and in a weird “phoren” accent he started regaling his tales of how many women he had seduced and laid. Urgh. I fled.

We had also met the then Mumbai municipal commissioner’s son, who was as thin as a stick insect. We got to see the palatial home of that bureaucrat, but the guy rejected me for the reason that I had spectacles. He and his father were sent to jail later on when they were convicted in a housing scam. I thanked some celestial power for that most awesome rejection of my life.

One guy, a friend of my friend, was so overwhelmed and out-of-breath the whole time, that he spilled the coffee, accidentally touched my hand and relegated at the shock and finally walked out and forgot to pay the bill. When I politely told him that I don;t think us can work, he e-stalked me for a whole six months after which my friend had to step in and stop it.

I could go on with these tales, but I think it is sufficient for now. My poor mom was getting traumatized by the end of two years, and I was also on the verge of saying yes to a not-that-great-but-okayish guy, which is when my classmate and my future husband rescued me from all of this hoopla. And hence started our love story, our families met, and we got married. 🙂

And P.S: I have known some amazing people having an arranged marriage and it beautifully works for them. So I am not at all against this concept. Just FYI.

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Mushroom Turnovers or Stuffed Mushroom Pies

I got this recipe from a dog-eared book ‘ The Good-Housekeeping’. It’s a very old book I picked up at a flea market, and I don’t think it is in print anymore. But the recipes and illustrations there are excellent.

Mushroom turnovers

What you will need:

  • 120 gm cream cheese , I use Philadelphia
  • 50 gm butter
  • 75 gm all-purpose flour
  • 20 gm cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 100 gm button mushrooms, washed and chopped
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt
  • salt
  • Dried herbs like basil, oregano, thyme

What to do:

  1. To make the dough for the covering, take cream cheese, butter and flour in a bowl and mix well, with an electric beater or knead with hand. Once the dough comes together, (it will still be a sticky dough), place it in an oiled bowl and cover it with a plastic sarine wrap or a damp cloth and refrigerate for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile, make the mushroom filling. Melt butter in a skillet/pan. Saute the onions till they become translucent.
  3. Add the mushrooms and cook them for a while till tender and till the water has evaporated away.
  4. Add salt, dried herbs and mix well.
  5. Blend flour and yoghurt together and add it to the mushrooms. Cook for a minute and then take it off heat. Let it cool.
  6. On a generously floured surface, take the dough, cut it into half and refrigerate one half. Roll the other half into a disk, while being careful to not let it stick to the counter-top or the rolling pin. Be very generous with the flouring.
  7. With a bowl or some other circular object, cut the dough disks into 4-5 inch circles.
  8. Carefully place the circles on a baking mat on a baking tray. Spoon in a tbsp of the mushroom mixture.
  9. Line the edges o the dough disk with the egg wash (or some melted butter) and lift it up from one side, align with the other side and press down to seal.
  10. Brush the tops with egg wash, so it gets a beautiful color while baking.
  11. Refrigerate the turnovers till it is just about time to serve and then bake in a pre-heated oven at 230°C for 12 minutes or so, till the turnovers are golden brown from the bottom.
  12. Repeat with the other dough disk and bake.
  13. Serve these buttery , flaky turnovers with some mint chutney or ketchup.

Turnovers in making

Notes :

  1. The original recipe used sour cream, but I easily replaced it with yoghurt.
  2. These turnovers are basically egg-less with some egg wash. You can replace the egg wash with butter and still get the same effect.
  3. The cream-cheese and butter dough is excellent and you can use any type of savory thick filling inside.
  4. These turnovers are best eaten on the same day. They become soggy the next day. But can be refrigerated for 2-3 days before baking and then baked just before serving.

Turnovers with coffee

Rutvika Charegaonkar

Festive Funfetti Cake Pops

I have never been skinny. Neither am I fat. But I am fatter than I was before I got married and I am skinnier than sometime in the future. And although I prefer a skinnier me, I am always fatter than the skinnier myself. And sometimes between all of this skinny fatty business I am just me.

I cringe when the first thing people , or specially women, say to each other is “You look slim/ you look fat.” And if you are meeting someone after a long time, then I don’t think anybody can see anything except how marginally thinner or marginally fatter you have become. I hate it to the point that I assume it was never remarked and move on with a smile. I have done some amazing things and some not so good ones from the last time that I saw you, and I am sure you have too. Lets talk about that. Lets talk about the world, politics, kids, baking, cooking projects, books, music, anything but the thin/fat small talk.

Now I am not a supporter of carrying extra baggage on your belly, thighs and other places. It comes with a whole lot of other problems and we definitely don’t want that. We want to be fit and energetic. Exercise, eat right, and feel good. We always endeavor to get at least 3-4 hours of exercise every week. Be it walking, yoga, playing badminton, going on a hike or other stuff. And I love to discuss the nuances of a good game or an excellent brisk walk. But that’s about it.

A few weeks back I read an article on the internet about a little girl’s distress when she hears her mom being called fat all the time, when in her opinion she is the most beautiful woman. From her mother’s descriptions, she derives the meaning of the word fat to be ugly and unattractive. And it shatters her belief, because moms never lie.

My mom had gained some weight after her second pregnancy, but thankfully for me I never saw her unnecessarily fret over it. She is beautiful, very energetic and her hugs would envelop us with all the warmth ever possible. And I would keep my head on her lap and sleep, and what a comforting feeling that was is. I can’t imagine hugging a skinny mom, I need to feel her when she holds me close, I need her to “bear-hug” me.

I still have to go a long way in life. There will be pregnancy(ies), weight gain, weight loss (which hardly happens), kids, running around them, then they growing up and leaving home and us growing old. And my body and its shape and size will be altered over the course of time, like never before. But I sincerely hope, that in all this roller-coaster of life, I look at the bigger things (pun intended) always. 🙂

Yours truly,

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.s : Of course, in my mind I am always thinking of losing those 5 kgs so that I can fit into that little back dress I got 3 years back. Oh, women!

On that skinny dipping note, hers a small little black dessert. Full of sprinkles and a pop-it-in-your-mouth demeanor.

standing cake pops

It is single-handedly capable of fulfilling your chocolate craving and festive enough to pull you out of the winter blues. If you have any. In Mumbai, we are thrilled at the temperatures dripping to 21°C!

single funfetti pop

Funfetti Chocolate Cake pops:

I adapted the chocolate cake recipe from Brown Eyed Baker Black Forest Cake. Makes about 50-60 cake pops.

What you will need :

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup cocoa powder
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp rose/ vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 6-8 tbsp of cream for binding the cake pops
  • Chocolate or candy melt for the frosting
  • Sprinkles/ Funfetti to decorate

What to do :

  1. Preheat the oven 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.
  2. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Divide batter between the two prepared pans.
  3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until thin knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely.
  4. Once completely cooled, crumble the cake completely with your hands or with a knife.
  5. Add the cream to the crumbled cake and mix well. Almost as if kneading for a few minutes.
  6. Scoop out small portions and roll them in your palm to make a round ball.
  7. Insert a toothpick or a lollypop stick in one end and refrigerate for at least half an hour so that it chills completely.
  8. Melt chocolate pieces or candy melt in a heatproof bowl in microwave or over double boiler.
  9. Gently, holding the toothpick or lollipop stick, roll the cake pop in the chocolate, tap it a few times on the bowl and sprinkle sugar sprinkles on it.
  10. Chill the ready decorated cake pops on a silicone baking mat or an oiled parchment paper for half hour.
  11. Your stunning cake pops are ready to serve.

Tips :

  1. Slightly underbake the cake, we want it to be soft and not crisp. Cut off the edges if they have become crusty.
  2. The sugar crystals/ funfetti have to be sprinkled on the cake pops when the chocolate is still liquid and not hardened, so that it can stick well.
  3. You can used any sweet flavored butter/ ganache/ frosting in place of cream for binding the cake pops. Add a spoonful at a time to achieve the right rollable consistency without making it too sticky.

cake pops on a shell

Rutvika Charegaonkar

 

Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Truffles

A very close friend of mine is getting married next month. A talented pretty young girl, I have no doubt that she will look amazing on her wedding day. A couple of days back she emailed me her wedding card with note that said :

“It gives me great pleasure to invite you to be a part of a momentous occasion in my life, my WEDDING!!”.

I loved the cheer and the excitement in that note. But instantly I wanted to tell her that the wedding is just a beginning. There are much bigger and way more important things that will happen after the wedding day. In fact, in the big fat Indian weddings, the bride and groom rarely have to do anything in the planning of the wedding. Of course, the bride has to shop, look pretty and generally enjoy all the excitement. But once the “wedding” is over, then starts life, a new and slightly scary life. Especially if you are living with your parents-in-law, like I do and my friend will be doing.

When I say scary, I don’t imply any dramatic monster-in-law kind of situations, but there are several big and small changes which happen to your daily life, that it feels overwhelming. And as a matter of fact, the bride is the only one changing her house and moving in with the new family, in a new home. It can be strenuous, yes, but I think it fades out in comparison to being married to the guy you love. I am no expert in this, but having been married for the last two and a half years, I would like to tell my dear friend three very important things which I always remembered:

  • Treat your parents-in-law just like you would treat your own parents, even more carefully, because it will take time to build a relationship. They will be anxious in the same way that you are, as you are new and unknown to them as much as they are to you. Always believe that they are trying their best to get you settled in the family, and the things that they do, or don’t do are in an effort to make things easier for you. And if you have to assume certain things, always assume the positive.
  • Your spouse is the most important person in your life. It might sound very old-school, but it is essential for growth. Growth of you personally and growth and sustenance of the relationship. When you believe that your husband is the best and deserves the best, and you act accordingly, trust me, it works miracles. I don’t remember if I had this philosophy in the beginning or that I picked it up from my husband, but its like a golden rule. Both of you treat each other as the best, most important people in the world, and see how you do end up as the best people, individually and as a team.
  • And lastly never talk harshly to anyone. This applies in all walks of life, but when you are young, and newly married and whole world feels like it is at your feet, be careful. Be gentle, and accommodating. Everyone around you will be making an opinion of you in the first few months after getting married, and that is the best time to make everyone like you. And you do want that. Life gets easier when your new family is fond of you. It’s as simple as that.

Having said those things, it was easier for me, because my mom and dad in law and my husband’s whole family are amazing people. Very warm and loving, they made my transition into the new family quite easy. And I am ever thankful to them.

Dear reader, do you remember a particular story which happened when you got married? Or your guiding principles which make you the amazing person that you are? Do share in the comments section, I would love to know it.

each truffle

In the meanwhile, last week, I finally decided to use the delicious hazelnuts sitting in my cupboard since a month and turn them into these chocolate and hazelnut truffles. It is a perfect bite-sized no-bake dessert, which is egg-free and gluten-free. And it has the classic chocolate and hazelnut combination. Need I say more?!

Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline truffles

making praline

What you will need :

For the praline –

  • ½ cup hazelnuts, shelled & skinned
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

For the Ganache –

  • 1¾ cup milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ½ – 1 cup Crushed or Ground Roasted Hazelnuts for coating

What to do :

  1. Dry-roast the hazelnuts on a non-stick baking tray at 180°C for 10 minutes, or in a pan at low heat, continuously stirring till they get slightly brown and aromatic.
  2. Let the hazelnuts cool completely on a baking sheet or a pan.
  3. Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
  4. Turn the heat up and bring to the boil (do not stir), brushing down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.
  5. Boil until the mixture turns amber in color, and add the toasted hazelnuts to it. Pour it on a baking sheet and let it cool.
  6. Break the praline mixture into pieces and grind in a mixture until desired texture, either fine or rough.
  7. For the ganache, finely chop the milk chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl.
  8. Heat cream in a saucepan until just about to boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir gently until smooth and melted.
  9. Allow to cool slightly, about 10 minutes and then stir in the hazelnut praline.
  10. Leave to cool and set overnight or for a few hours in the fridge. Bring to room temperature to use.
  11. Forming the truffles : Using a teaspoon, scoop round balls of ganache. Roll them between the palms of your hands to round them off. Finish off by rolling the truffle in the crushed roasted hazelnuts.
  12. Place on small muffin paper molds and you are set.

truffles

Notes :

  1. However tempting it is, do not use chocolate chips for the ganache. Chocolate chips are specifically designed to not melt and are unsuitable for melting for the ganache. Chop regular milk chocolate slab into small pieces and use them.
  2. I always use a mixture of low-fat Amul fresh cream (80%) and heavy cream (20%) for the ganache, It works well and is relatively less calorific.
  3. I roasted the hazelnuts on a pan, and they are more browned in some areas, which is fine. I like the crispness which comes with it.

plate of truffles