Monday, 5 December 2011

Carrot Cinnamon and Chocolate Cupcakes

I have to admit that till a month ago, I was among the large majority (or is it minority?) of people who scrunch their noses at the thought of a carrot cake. I mean really? A vegetable cake? Now that sounded something really bizarre, perhaps a treat on rabbit farms, perhaps a valiant attempt by a die-hard food nutritionist to make something sweet?  But that was until a month ago, when a friend of mine "enlightened" me that no, carrot cake does NOT smell like salad, no, carrot cake is NOT orange and yes, carrot cake CAN BE finger-licking delicious.

Hence this humble effort to tackle the mighty carrot cake. I was still a bit apprehensive of diving head-long into a carrot cake which had heavy potential of turning out into a fiasco (considering it is me), so I tamed the carroty flavor with chocolate and cinnamon. 

If you could overlook the unapologetic and unpoetic alliteration, the Carrot Cinnamon and Chocolate Cupcakes (maybe I should have named this post "The Penta-C) were delightful. They came out of the oven super-soft and moist and are adapted from here to make with wholemeal wheat flour and Oh yes, they are eggless too.

(makes 6)
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used Champion Wholemeal Wheat flour)
1 cup sugar (I used white granulated sugar)
1/2 cup melted butter (if using unsalted butter, add 1/4 teaspoon salt)
1 cup grated carrot
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder 
2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

(explained in detail for dummies, since i myself am one)
  • Preheat the oven to 180 °C (350 °F).
  • Blend the wholemeal flour with sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon powder.
  • Add the vinegar, vanilla essence and grated carrots and mix thoroughly. 
  • Add butter, followed by milk and stir well with a wooden spatula, ensuring that there are no lumps. The batter will be somewhat thick and not really pour-able, due to the grated carrot in it. This is perfect! Yes, it is okay to lick a bit of it now ;).
  • Place the cupcake liners in a muffin mold. To be extra cautious you may want to grease around the edges of the molds so that it is easy to pry the cake off once it has expanded on the top
  • These cup cakes rise reasonably, so fill the molds only to 3/4th their capacity with a spoon.
  • Bake at 180 °C (350 °F) for approximately 30 minutes, till a toothpick comes off clean.
  • Once out of the oven, let it cool COMPLETELY. I was quiet impatient so I placed the entire mold in the fridge after 5-10 minutes at room temperature
  • Once cool, the cupcakes come off the mold pretty easily.
  • Its now time to dig in!
cinnamon cake

and so it is for me :). I am off to dig in some more!!

 This sinfully delightful Carrot Cinammon and Chocolate Cake is off to zesty palette's Sinful Delight event

and Tickling Palates Baked Goodies.

And extending the alliteration, carrot cinnamon and chocolate cupcakes as Christmas treat to and hosted by whatkatebaked

and sweet new zealand hosted by Bron Marshall
and and and Kavi's Jingle All The Way

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Avocado Guacamole

As if Sunday evenings themselves are not depressing enough, its raining today... again! A wet sticky climax to a wet sticky week spent swatting flies, watching movies, eating popcorn and motivating ourselves (quiet unsuccessfully) to complete our chores. As with most Sunday evening, this one too ends with the now frustrating realization that MOTIVATING and WEEKEND simply do not maintain pace, because by the time "motivating" finally happens, the "weekend" is as good as gone.

Imagine I have been harping about the oh-so-green avocado all Friday, reminding you how the 50 (or was it more like 20?) nutrients along with heaps of vitamins, antacids and blah blah is so much better than the popcorn you are munching on. Come Saturday, I am all the more convincing, what with my best efforts to describe the bright green buttery flesh that can moisturize even the driest of deserts with its freshness. By Sunday afternoon, I am at my very best, rendering tempting (and 10 fold economic) versions of Avocado Guacamole, yes that smooth buttery melt-in-the-mouth guacamole offered in  Mexican joints, $2 per mouthful. And now that I finally  have your attention and you do want to try something with the Avocados- if only to shut me up- you realize that its late Sunday evening, not the perfect time to be all worked up about Avocados, but perhaps something simpler? See what I mean? That's the kind of depressing gloom Sunday evenings bring.

But then, whichever moron implied that avocado guacamole isn't simple (not me I hope)!

Ingredients for Avocado Guacamole
makes about 300 g
2 Ripe Avocados
3-4 green chillies, (we prefer our guacamole very hot, but you can adjust as per your taste)
1/4 cup mint leaves
2 teaspoon vinegar
1/3 cup sour cream or thick yoghurt
1-2 Jalapeno pepper (optional); pickled jalapeno can also be used
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
salt and pepper

Method to make Avocado guacamole in 2 simple steps

  • Peel the avocados and remove the flesh in a blender. The best way to do this is slice the avocados in two halves and scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Make sure you peel out the flesh from right under the skin. This part is the greenest. 
  • Add the remaining ingredients and blend the mixture in a blender till it is smooth and creamy  and your own blend of creamy delicious guacamole is ready.
  • Taste it. Add some lime juice if required

We just love using this guacamole as a dip for fries and rice cracker, as a topping on our pizza and with enchildas. Mmmmm, am off to dip in it!

This brilliant green guacamole is now adding colour to Simply sensational Food's Red and Green Christmas event

Saturday, 26 November 2011

How To Make Cocktail Umbrellas

I am pretty sure that I am not the only person who collected Cocktail Umbrellas for their dolls or to jazz up sorbets, ice creams and obviously cocktails.
cocktail umbrella for eggless strawberry ice cream

Here are some simple steps to make cocktail umbrellas at home. You don't need really fancy (read expensive?) paper for these. I've even made some from crockery brochures!

Things you need to make Cocktail Umbrellas:
Bamboo skewers

How to make Cocktail Umbrellas in 3 easy steps:
1) cut a small circle of paper, about 6 cm in diameter, and make a cut along any one radius

2) Overlap the edges of paper along the radius and stick to make a cone

3)  Put some glue on the pointed edge of the skewer and pass it through the paper cone.

Prepare your own bunch today :)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ohh Strawberry!

Summer is finally here in Auckland…. and how?
Think honey dipped lemonades on golden beaches lined by the sprawling blue sea
Think candy colored sorbets in hammocks on lazy afternoons…
Think strawberries, and strawberries, and Oh! so strawberryful strawberries..

Even the mere thought of them teases the insides of my mouth with their tangy citrusy flavor and makes my tongue frolic and rollick (okay I made up that word, but you know what I mean) in their sweet flowing freshness. So when I saw fresh strawberries sitting prettily in my local farmers market after a long winter-- which makes me realize at this point that this is surely heading down  an…er.. well, an awkward path… considering that the strawberry season is still far away for many,  I am extremely (sincerely) sorry for making all the strawberry-starved northern hemisphere drool over sweet citrusy strawberry flesh dotted by pleasant surprise of gritty seeds that make the strawberry experience so gloriou- there I go again, but as I was saying, yes I am sincerely apologetic for making you drooool, perhaps you could bookmark this to read later (sheepishly)?

 But for those who are frolicking and rollicking in strawberries like me, I shall complete my strawberry tirade. So when I saw fresh strawberries sitting prettily in my local farmers market, I bought them by the pound. Now, I love my chunky strawberry smoothie to the core, I love my glass of refreshing strawberry juice after a grinding day at work, I love strawberry slices floating in my cereal every morning and of course I love nibbling strawberries straight off the bowl, but this weekend for some unknown reason, I absolutely HAD to try David Lebovitz's this Strawberry Ice Cream recipe. Although, on second thoughts, having an ice-cream feasible freezer that does not look like an igloo every other day should have been a compelling reason enough.

I have to confess, however, that I did tweak the recipe a bit even though David has pointed out the obvious fact that "If you change the ingredients in a recipe, the results will vary". The Original Recipe is for Vegan Ice Cream using rice milk but since I wanted my ice cream creamier, I used Anchor Pure Cream instead. I have also replaced the honey with equal quantity of Select Raspberry Jam. Thankfully both the changes caused results to vary for good :).

450-500 g fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoon strawberry/raspberry jam
1 1/2 cup (375 ml) Pure Cream milk
2 teaspoon Tigroff Vodka (optional)

Slice the strawberries and toss them with the sugar and jam. Allow the strawberries to sit in the sugary juice for one hour to macerate them.
Puree the strawberries to the desired consistency with the milk and liquor (you might not want to liquidize the strawberries completely). Optionally the puree can also be strained to remove seeds, but I definitely think chunky strawberry Ice Cream is way better. The strawberry puree was already quite sour to taste, so I did not add any lemon juice. You can add a teaspoon of Vanilla essence if you fancy.

Freezing the ice cream:
Freezing ice cream requires a lot of patience (not the only thing I am very poor in), so after pouring the strawberry puree in a plastic bowl and placing it in the freezer (with a small prayer) at 3:30 in afternoon, I tried to kill time by making these cute cocktail umbrellas. At 4:30 my little neighbor was at the door to ask if the Ice Cream was ready, but apart from substantially thickening and forming a skating ring along the circumference, it hadn’t made much progress. We stirred it well with a spatula and back it went in the freezer. 'Dessert at 8' could NOT be strawberry Ice Cream! Below the frozen top layer there was only cream with nothing Icy about it. I whipped the Ice and Cream together again and back it went into the freezer. 

Midnight cravings were rewarded with absolutely delicious strawberry Ice Cream !

Refreshing Strawberry Ice Cream has been submitted to Sweet New Zealand for the November Round up being hosted by

 This Eggless strawberry Ice cream has also been sent to Bookmarked Recipes event for November, hosted by Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes, and founded by Ruth's Kitchen Experiments

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Spicy Stuffed Okra

One of my fondest childhood memories is plucking tender pods of Okra, just when the heads are still slightly rosy and the Okra themselves, a brilliant shade of brilliant shade of green. I warily remember insisting on "helping" to slice the Okra pods and stuffing them with spices ground earlier in the day, while watching old re-runs of "Bewitched" and "I Dream of Jeanie".

Needless to say Okra was, and has, always been one of my favorite vegetables,  and also the only "green vegetable" I ate without a fuss as a child. Even today, each time my mother wants her first-born to be in good spirits, she makes sure there is some Okra on the Table.

Spicy Stuffed Okra (Bharwa Bhindi)

masala spices bhendi fry
For the stuffing, I mixed
2 tea spoons  roasted coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
a pinch of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin and fennel seeds, each
2-3 cloves, 2-3 peeled cardamom pods
an inch long piece of cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger and garlic paste
A few green chillies finely chopped
A handful of ground nuts (optionally cashew nuts can also be used )

and 1 tea spoon salt in a mortar and ground it to a fine paste. A few gritty pieces of the nuts are Okay (that is how they should be), but I make sure that all the spices are perfectly blended and ground.

Meanwhile, approximately 700 grams of Okra is washed well and the heads and pointed ends are discarded. The Okra is sliced length wise and filled with the spicy stuffing before chopping it into bite sized pieces.

spicy masala bhindi or stuffed okra recipe

To cook the okra, one tablespoon oil is heated in a pan and to it a pinch of asafoetida 1 a few mustard and cumin seeds are added. Once the seeds begin to crackle and splutter, finely chopped onion (one small onion should be sufficient) is added to it and sauteed for one minute. the stuffed okra is then added to the pan and covered and cooked for a few minutes. I do not like stirring my okra too frequently, especially in the beginning because the sticky mucilage tends to spread on agitation. Once done, the okra is not very chewy and easy to cut with a spoon. The aroma is heavenly....

Spicy Stuffed Okra's aroma is now emanating from Lisa's Celebration Of Indian Food and Gayathri's celebration of nostalgic memories in Walk through the memory lane

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sweet Beginings with Eggless Chocolate Brownies

Apart from bearing testimony to the day when I finally overcame my laziness and "finalllyy" started Killer On The Plate, this post marks two other beginnings, both of which are sweet as...
We finallyyy (that's the last one I promise) moved into a larger, prettier house in the South of Auckland, just a day before Deepavali, the Indian festival of lights. The festival itself called for sweet celebrations, and the new house warranted further excuses for Double Dessert!

These Eggless Chocolate Brownies with Boysenberry Ice Cream served both the occasions perfectly. They were a super-hit Halloween Treat on the following day, marking the beginning of a beautiful new friendship, one that I will cherish forever..... Read On..

eggless chocolate walnut brownies with ice cream

Probably the best thing about these Brownies is that no fancy ingredients are required and everything that goes in them (All Purpose Flour, Cocoa powder- even grated chocolate will do, baking powder, castor sugar, butter, milk and vanilla essence) are usually always around in my kitchen, which leaves the whole premediated decide-your-menu-before-grocery-shopping-thingy out, something I must confess I am not very good at. And even better: within an hour the scrumptious hog-a-licious brownies are ready!

To make the brownie batter, I first threw in a big blob of unsalted butter (150 grams) and 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder in a microwave safe bowl (we couldn't resist the temptation and threw in some chunks of Cadbury's Almonds Chocolate Bar as well) and warmed it till the butter and chocolate had melted to what looked like a yummy chocolate smoothie (delicious already:D). At about this time I also started preheating my oven to 200 °C.

This delicious looking (and tasting- yes I couldn't resist licking some) chocolate smoothie was blended and beaten with 1 and 1/4 cup castor sugar and a dash of Vanilla essence. 1 and 1/4 cup All Purpose Flour + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder was also added and mixed well. At this point some chopped nuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts) can also be added. The resulting mixture is rather thick and dry, so milk is blended in to till the cake batter reaches a pourable, but not runny, consistency (about 3/4 cup).

The brownie batter was then poured in an 8 inch square baking dish that had been greased with butter and dusted evenly with All Purpose Flour and baked at 180 °C till "done".

The brownies get "done" when they have risen to almost twice the height and a toothpick comes clean through them. I would suggest that it is worth investing the time to FIND a toothpick for this and NOT USE A KNIFE instead (who in their right mind does that? No prizes for guessing) unless one fancies some badly scarred why-so-serious brownies.

Once the brownies are out of the oven, let them cool completely ( the patience required for this is killing, I agree) before turning the baking dish over and pushing the cake out on a wire rack. Cut it into small squares with a sharp knife and drizzle chocolate Sauce (we used Hershey's) over them. The warm brownies are gooey, soft, but firm and just delectable whether alone or with Ice cream (which happily masked the knife scars).

We stored the left over brownies in the refrigerator over-night. They had become hard and had to be microwaved for a couple of minutes to make them soft and spongy again (hubby dear reckons they were even better the next day).

Sam, my little neighbour (dressed as a corpse), loved these goodies and has become my "best friend" ever since. She's been warding off other little "phantoms" away from our house, occasionally presenting her own sweets to them in our stead. She has also rewarded us with a lovely card. I think this Halloween she has tricked my heart. :).

Eggless Chocolate Brownies with Boysenberry Ice Cream are on the way to:
Love Lock with Sweets