31 March 2007


What's hot, sweet and bitter and absolutely delicious?

A wedge of bittersweet chocolate cake served with ginger sauce.

After that absolute frenzy of making up a batch of candied ginger, I was left with a large bottle of the cooking liquid. It was sweet, and had a lovely spicy-hot aftertaste. A couple of months ago, I'd had an interesting dessert at a restaurant here: dense, bitter chocolate cake served in ginger sauce. And this was the perfect time to replicate it.

But wait, there was a catch. Isn't there always? I had chocolate bars in plenty, very little cocoa, was almost out of flour and sugar, my weighing scale broke, and I didn't have a single recipe on hand that gave me the ingredients in volume. And it was snowing, and I was not one bit motivated to go to the supermarket. A thorough search through epicurious led me to this gem.

I did have to do some tweaking. Weights on the packaging on the butter and chocolate bars were in grams, and conversion was too much trouble. I decided that I was going to make my cake and eat it too, and took the plunge! And voila: easy, utterly uncomplicated, and fabulously delicious results.

This time, I had some ginger sauce ready-at-hand. Next time I want to find an uncomplicated way to make some without having to candy ginger first to get there!

Bittersweet Chocolate Cake

100 gms semisweet chocolate
100 gms bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee granules
100 grams unsalted butter
4 eggs (separated)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tbsp flour

Preheat oven to 170C and grease and dust 9" round pan.
Melt butter and chocolate over hot water. Add cocoa and coffee granules, and stir until smooth and lump-free.
Whisk yolks and sugar till very thick and pale yellow.
Mix in flour and chocolate mixture.
In another bowl, beat whites till stiff.
Fold into chocolate mixture.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.
Let cake cool. Serve warm with ginger sauce.

23 March 2007

Baingan ka Saalan

What's a good choice for a nice hot dish on a dreary winter's day when one is stuck indoors? Nayeem's patented biriyani, of course! What goes well with a simple biriyani?? Baingan ka saalan!

I love Vee's recipe for the saalan base. Simple, uncomplicated and absolutely acceptable as a side dish on festival/vratam days, because it totally leaves out onions and garlic.

Baingan-ka-khatta saalan
serves 4

1/2 kg baby eggplants (slit from base to crown)
1/4 cup peanuts (roasted)
1/4 cup coconut (slightly roasted till golden)
3 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp sesame seeds (slightly roasted till golden)
1 pinch hing
1/2 cup curd (whisked smooth)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp tamarind concentrate (or extract from 1 marble sized ball of tamarind)
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
5 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Heat oil, add hing and lightly saute the eggplants. Keep aside.
Make a fine paste of peanuts, coconut, ginger and sesame seeds.
Add paste to hot oil and fry till oil seperates.
Add turmeric, cumin, coriander powder to the curd and mix well.
Add curd mix and salt to the saalan and cook for 3 minutes.
Add eggplants, salt and cook covered covered for 5 minutes.
Add tamarind and garam masala.
Add water to adjust gravy to required consistency.
Simmer for 10 minutes or till eggplants are cooked through.
Serve hot.

Another quick fix with the same gravy:
Make gravy as above, and instead of eggplant, add a packet (1/2 kg) of frozen peas, and let it cook as above.
I've also tried this with soaked soya chunks. Not bad at all, I must say.

14 March 2007

Crystallized Ginger

What's a girl to do when it snows all the time, and it's kind of not so great an idea to venture outdoors with a 3 month old in tow?? That girl experiments in the kitchen. And comes up with some interesting outputs.

The problem with these outputs is that after a while, she tends to get very gassy due to lack of exercise, and the littlest one comes down with a bad case of colic. After consuming lots of ajwain, jeera and other not-so-tasty stuff boiled in water, she's desperate for a change.

That girl is yours truly and she's at her wits' end!

Stuff like crystallized or candied ginger isn't easy to find in these neck of the woods. After a few futile efforts, I thought I'm make a batch at home. What could go wrong after all???

Actually, to tell the truth, nothing went all that way off base, but I made this mistake of starting with way too much ginger, and that made the process way too time consuming. But the end result(s) were more than worth it.

Sweet on the first bite, and then the spicy tang hits you. This is the perfect way to end any bout of overindulgence.

Crystallized Ginger
makes 2 medium bottles

1/4 kg ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 kg sugar (divided)
400 ml water
1 cup sugar (for coating)

Bring ginger 1/4 kg sugar and 200 ml water to boil, stirring occasionally, till sugar dissolves.
Reduce flame to lowest setting, and cook for about an hour, till ginger starts to turn translucent.

Add remaining 1/4 kg sugar, and 200 ml water.
Continue to cook till all the ginger turns translucent (about 2 hours)

Using a slotted spoon, drain ginger slices and transfer to a baking sheet.
Toss with one cup sugar to coat.
Let cool overnight.
Store in clean, dry jars with tight fitting lid.

Reserve the liquid for use in flavoring sauces, or as a dessert sauce.

02 March 2007

In pursuit of happiness

What makes me happy?? Chocolate of course.

Whatever the question, chocolate is always the answer. And what's better on a cold winter day, than a warm succulent delicious chocolate brownie?? With a hint of cinnamon and nutmeg enhance the bittersweet flavor of chocolate.

To tell the truth, I made it for January's Sugar High Friday, but never managed to get around to posting it. I was in the mood for a warm chocolate dessert, but not cake. This recipe on epicurious.com beckoned, and it was a breeze. I tweaked the chocolate quantities in the mix, and the result was fabulous.

And the little gourmet loved it too. She refused to call it a brownie. She named it 'kozha kozha (very sticky/messy) brown cake'.

I've now added this to my collection of 'gifting recipes'... no-brainer edible gifts for all occasions.


1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
100 grams milk chocolate, chopped
100 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
130 grams unsalted butter, diced, room temperature
4 large eggs
50 grams sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup walnuts (toasted and chopped)

Preheat oven to 170°C.
Generously butter 9x11-inch baking pan and dust with flour.
Sift salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and flour.
Stir chocolate and butter in a bowl set over simmering water until melted and smooth. Turn off heat. Let chocolate stand over water.
Beat eggs and sugar in large bowl until mixture thickens and falls in soft ribbon when beaters are lifted. It should have tripled in volume.
Add vanilla. Add flour mix in 2 additions. Blend well after each.
Add chocolate to egg mixture, beating until just combined.
Stir in walnuts.
Pour batter into panand bake brownies until top is set and tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 35 minutes.
Cool completely.

100 grams bittersweet chocolate, chopped
80 grams milk chocolate, chopped
20 grams butter
2 tbsp whipping cream

Whisk all ingredients in small saucepan over medium-low heat until melted and smooth. Pour evenly over brownies in pan.

Chill brownies until ganache is set.
Cut into squares.

And then it's time to sit back and enjoy a warm brownie, with just that subtle tang of spice. Mmmm... bliss... That's what happiness is all about.