Full Circle

The rattling woke up Rimmi. She had just begun to drift off to sleep, something that didn’t happen too often on the several times she was inside a metal tube, several thousand miles off the ground. “…the captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign…” a sweet voice intoned, doing nothing to settle the wave of panic that was beginning to rise up in Rimmi. Panic brought out the unlikely philosopher in her.  To combat fear, she reflected, one must go through it, not around it.

She clenched her palms, and leaned forward without taking off her fur-lined sleeping mask. Beads of sweat were forming on her forehead. Air turbulence was her undoing. Her poise and image, carefully cultivated over years of hard work and dedication, left no chink in her persona. If someone took a picture of me sweating and trembling at a little air turbulence, the press will have a field day, she though wryly.

She felt a light touch on her arm. “Maam, can I offer you some sparkling lime water?” she took off her sleeping mask and looked at the friendly, sympathetic face of the stewardess. “Yes please”, she said gratefully, took the proffered glass and gulped it down. “Some mints, if you need them” the girl smiled gently, placed a few mints on Rimmi’s side-table, and walked away to her seat. Rimmi smiled, and inhaled, feeling instantly lighter. Certainly cabin crew was not allowed to walk around during turbulence, were they? She took another sip of the lime soda. Oh, this was just what she needed. A light sprinkling of chaat masala would have been perfection.

A couple of hours later, the flight landed in Paris. Rimmi smiled and waved at the stewardess as she disembarked, unnecessarily putting on her Prada sunglasses,  there was no sunlight in the vestibule that connected the plane to the airport.


Delphine smiled back at the beautiful Indian woman with the cascading hair, and voluptuous body. She had been the first passenger to exit Business Class. Delphine’s crew-member, Hasina, nudged her and whispered, “How amazing was that, huh? Rimmi Chopra smiled at you!”. Then, seeing Delphine’s questioning face, she said, “The Bollywood star? Come on, you must know her!”. Delphine just shrugged, she had no interest in film stars, or films, be it Hollywood or Bollywood.

Her shift done, she took the airline-provided staff cab back to her rental studio off the Rue de Garonne, a centrally located, if somewhat shifty neighborhood.  The cab zipped off as she stepped onto the flight of stairs leading to her apartment building. A million thoughts ran through her head as she fumbled for her keys. Her son would be asleep, it was nearly 10 pm now, and he had school in the morning. She had called to check on her elderly neighbor was gracious enough to watch her son when she was flying. Saying a silent thanks for Madame Pepin, she suddenly recalled her son telling her about a school project of his. Something about making a science project… an experiment with carbon dioxide, was it? She struggled to remember, her frustration increasing as she scrambled around for her keys in her tote.

Just then, she noticed a movement in the street. A man wearing a hoodie, his face barely visible in the shadows, was walking briskly towards her. She stiffened and tightened her grip on the bag. The man was nearly at the foot of the stairs, when someone on the street screamed “Hey!” , he cursed reflexively and quickly darted away into an alley, sprinting away. Delphine, frozen at the top of the stairs, looked into the street, a young couple was on the street , looking at her in concern. “Are you okay m’aam?” asked the young man.  “Oui, yes, merci, thank you” Delphine smiled, extremely relieved. The couple waved at her and walked on.

Was the hoodie-wearing stranger a wannabe bag-snatcher, or just a chap out on a night walk? Delphine would never know. Right then, her fingers tapped the keys in the bag, and she let herself in quickly, and exhaled slowly. She had been holding her breath without realizing it.  Bien sûr! she thought, it was a science project on hydrogen sulphide and it wasn’t due for a week. Phew!

Allison and Chris held their hands a little tighter, turning back to make sure the petite, pretty lady with the blond curls had entered her apartment building. Paris had been an eye-opener so far. Alisson and Chris had met in the plumbing and hardware fittings store in Delaware where they both worked as sales assistants. Now newly-weds with just a week into their marriage, they were looking forward to some good-old fairy-tale romance.  Although the romance was certainly there, especially at times like when they took that moon-dappled river-cruise down the Siene, the beautiful candle-light dinner outside the bistro on the cobbled  streets of Montmarte, the street performers that burst into an impromptu serenade everywhere they went, and certainly after downing a champage bottle, in their hotel room, under the covers, there was no want of romance.

But, the city was so jaded! The subways were filthy, hordes of tourists with crying babies swarmed the Louvre, and the Eiffel tower with its blinking lights……oh the Eiffel Tower that Alisson dreamt of kissing Chris under, was merely an eyesore of a giant metal –mesh in the daytime and a gaudy, blinking unsightly sight at night.

And now, they had witnessed what may have been a snatch-and-run, had Chris not yelled out in the street. Disappointed, they returned to their hotel.

The next day, after a morning of visiting museums, and snacking on yet another banana and Nutella crepe, Allison and Chris happened to take a wrong turn and instead of reaching the Notre-Dame Cathedral, they landed up on a winding cobble-stone lane that led them to a little garden. A little patch of tranquility in an otherwise lively city. A stream gently gushed under a wooden bridge pathway. “Can we please take a selfie here,  I love this place. I promise, it won’t go on Facebook Chris!” Alisson knew how Chris rolled his eyes whenever she ‘checked in’ to a new restaurant or uploaded photos of their vacation.

No matter how much Chris stretched his arm (“You have the longer arm Chris, so you be our selfie stick ok?”), or how many angles they tried, their photos were just not cutting it for Alisson. She noticed a man sitting on a bench a short distance away. He seemed very quiet and withdrawn, as if he was happy in solitude. She thought to ask him to take a picture of them, but then quickly dropped the idea.

As if on cue, the man himself bounded up to them, his mouth opening in a shy smile, “Mad-um, sir, I can take a picture for you, ok?”. Alisson, pleased and thankful, showed the man quickly how to touch the circle on the screen, and how to please, if he didn’t mind, make sure the picture was in focus.

Happy to oblige, the man took a few different shots, from various angles, which made Alisson very, very happy, and Chris, relieved. They thanked their spontaneous photographer who waved and went back to his bench. Chris looked at his GPS. “Damn, the Cathedral was right on the turn”, he said and he led the way back to the winding cobble-stone path.


Refat looked at the retreating backs of the couple. Americans, he thought. So cheerful and chatty. Refat had seen all kinds of tourists in his many years in Paris. Refat was reminded of his days as a cab driver, when it seemed that every other passenger in his cab was a honeymooning couple. That made him think wistfully of his wife back in Dhaka, and his shoulders drooped involuntarily.

He walked to the 7-series Beamer that he had parked outside the garden. The jardin des sens was the only place in Paris where he could find some peaceful, quiet time where he could just relax after completing logging a 24-hour shift. If his routine was exhausting, Refat showed no sign of it. From his early days, when he entered France on forged documents vias Italy, to the present day, Rehat had worked his way from being a migrant to becoming a naturalized French citizen.

He donned his cap, part of his uniform and got into the driver’s seat, after a quick check to make sure his shoes and uniform were spotless. He drove off towards the agency to drop off the car and to get briefed on his next assignment. At the agency, his supervisor told me about the event management company that had hired them for the next few days. “…an international film festival, with VVIP passengers…” said  monsieur Claude, puffing away at his potent Cuban cigar. “…pick up Client R from the Theatre de la Ville, there will be a lot of press which you must ignore….” He said, handing over a document with the client’s details.

Refat looked at the papers and gulped.

“Rimmi Chopra!!” Refat thought, his mouth dry. This was not just any star, this was his daughter’s beloved ‘RC’, whose 5-Taka posters covered every conceivable inch of her room. The one whose movies she would sometimes skip school to watch. Refat would then hear his wife lamenting for a whole minute during their weekly international call. “Jaan, can we not waste our money talking about this please..” he would then berate her. Refat snapped out of his reverie, and wondered if it was appropriate to ask the star for her autograph after his assignment. The agency had a strict code of conduct for its chauffeurs, and small talk with VIP passengers was forbidden.

Later that night, outside the Theatre de la Ville, Refat, parked in the designated VIP parking area, received a call from Client R’s personal manager. Be ready to pick us up in two minutes she said.  He stamped out his cigarette and drove the Beamer towards the red carpet in the entryway. He swiftly stepped out and held the door open. The photographers were almost breaching the velvet rope, jostling for space. A reporter wearing a tuxedo was speaking into the mic, giving a live report “Rimmi Chopra’s foray into French film seems to be a resounding success…”

Flashbulbs popped and a buzz went through the crowd as a stunning figure sashayed down the red carpet. Refat was at the ready with the passenger door open wide. Rimmi Chopra stopped for a few words at the mic, and then her manager quickly ushered her into the Beamer. Refat swiftly got into the driver’s seat and weaved the car through the throng of press, onto the road.

Refat tried to glance into the mirror. ‘RC’ was positively beaming. Her eyes were moist and she looked ecstatic. Her manager was effusively gushing about the film in English, Refat was trying to overhear but could only catch a couple of words. “…Cannes is in the bag, …maybe an Oscar nomination …” he heard.

A few minutes later, he pulled up at the Hotel George V, Four Seasons. Smoothly he opened the door, and the magnificent creature in the passenger seat elegantly let herself out. “Today was my brightest night” she said, a little dreamily, looking into the distance, to no one in particular. Refat touched the tip of his hat and made to leave. She smiled at him, reached into her clutch and pulled out a wad of Euros. “That’s for you” she said, with a slight smile “My Bebo always said, acts of kindness linger long after you are done sharing…there you go, I’m a philosopher again” she laughed at her own joke. Then without waiting for a response, she took off, her heels clinking on the marble stairs.

Refat looked at the notes in his hand, stunned. He was going to Dhaka this winter after all.



Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Salted Caramel Frosting

This cake is part of a series of Christmas baking for 2014. Or at least that’s my excuse for my self-imposed baking spree in the month of December! Every year end, I surprise myself by my intense need to bake … and eat the spoils without any guilt. The most ‘magical’ time of the year is also the time most weight-gain of the year. For me, from the time we were kids, Christmas has been mostly spent in the kitchen, cakes, home-made wine, savory snacks bottled away to feed impromptu guests, lunches dinners.. it goes on. No wonder then, that food is my first and strongest association to Christmas.

Salted caramel has been on my to-make list for a very long time. Oh and it makes for a great edible gift (after bottling it in an air tight glass jar). Salted caramel goes really well with this spiced pumpkin cake. This is my second time with this spiced pumpkin cake, and truth be told, there is really no need for a frosting because the cake itself is one that hits all kind of comfort notes. But if you like to dress it up a bit and go from comfort to decadence, then this is the cake for you.

(This recipe makes two 6 inch cakes)

1 ¼ cup (approx. 200gms) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup butter at room temperature
2 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup (approx. 200gms) pumpkin puree (you can make pumpkin puree by roasting peeled pumpkin pieces in the oven for 45 min at 170 C, and then smashing them with a fork)

Preheat oven to 170C. Prepare two 6 inch baking pans by buttering them and dusting with flour.
In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and the ground spices. Keep aside. In a separate bowl, cream together sugars and butter. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat. Add buttermilk and pumpkin puree and mix till well combined.

Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and bake at 170C for 40 -45 min or till a skewer comes out clean. Turn out the cakes onto a baking rack and let cool for around 1 hour.

Salted Caramel Sauce

I used this fool-proof recipe from purplefoodie.com

Butter-cream Frosting
1/3 cup softened butter
1 cup icing sugar
2 tablespoons caramel sauce

Beat the butter until creamy, for 2 minutes using a stand or hand held mixer. Add the powdered sugar slowly, and beat for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add caramel sauce a little at a time and beat till frosting is the right consistency for spreading (approx. total beating time of 5-6 minutes).

Level the cakes with a serrated bread knife. Spread butter-cream over one layer of cake. Top it with caramel sauce. Repeat with second cake and spread butter-cream on the sides as well. Drizzle caramel sauce on the top. It will have a lovely mirror glaze and will drip slightly.

Blog 2

Cherry pie

Summer days in Switzerland can be very unpredictable. One day you’re sweating buckets and next, you’re pulling out sweaters from storage. What’s consistent though is the produce this time of year. Gorgeous summer berries top my list of summer favorites (that and splash fountains). We have started buying a kilo of cherries each time we make a supermarket trip. So of course, this cherry pie had to happen. It helps if you have ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry on hand. This pie is a breeze to make, even if there’s a baby running around eating stuff off the floor and you are unable to concentrate on cooking for more than five seconds at a stretch. Just sayin’


Cherry Pie:

Pitted cherries 300 grams
Sugar 3/4 cup
All purpose flour 2 teaspoons
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Ready-made shortcrust pastry (2 sheets)

For the filling, mix the cherries with the sugar, flour and juice and lemon zest and keep aside for 10 minutes. Line a deep pie dish with baking paper and place one pastry sheet inside.
Fill it with the filling, and cover with the second pastry sheet.
Make grooves (in any shape you want) on the second sheet and place over the filling.
Press the two pastry crusts together.
Bake at 200C for 30 minutes, till the crust is golden brown.

Happy New Year – Checkerboard Cake with Chocolate Frosting

We here at Headquarters (and by that I mean me) would like to wish you a very happy New year !! Are you sticking to your New Year resolutions? Or are you eating leftover new year cake for dinner despite resolving to eat healthy in the new year (yes, me again)? To be fair to myself, I am sticking to at least the one resolution – update the blog regularly.


Aside from the eating, drinking with friends at home, and putting on some NY-eve worthy make-up, ours was a very sedate new year celebration. I wish we could blame the baby for the fact that there was no loud music or raucous dancing in the house, but truth is we just felt like taking it easy and putting our feet up when the clock struck 12. Perhaps its the result of crossing over into the 30’s, but whatever the reason, an easy and relaxed night felt just right.

We actually enjoyed waking up on the 1st more than counting down to midnight – the hubby got us breakfast from Adyar Ananda Bhavan – what better way to begin the year than with a breakfast of piping hot masala dosas and khara bhaat on a cold Bangalore morning?

But enough of the simple pleasures of life. This cake, made for NY eve, is anything but simple. Its uses a technique that’s clever and is designed to make it stand out, and the ganache and piping ain’t shabby too. I came across the checkerboard technique in Rias blog here for the first time, and was really keen to try it out. Although it looks daunting, it really isn’t – you can follow this simple guide to create a checkerboard effect and it only takes ~10 additional minutes.


(On a side note, doesn’t the colorful banner look cute? Pinterest is flooded with ideas such as these, and if you are not on Pinterest yet, you should soon)

Checkerboard Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Prepare the cake:
Follow the recipe for sponge cake here, with the following modifications:

  • Omit the cherries
  • Keep a mixing bowl, 2 tsp cocoa powder and 1 tsp red food coloring ready
  • Once the batter is ready, divide the batter into two equal parts (work quickly here, since the baking soda in the batter is already at work)
  • Mix one part batter with the cocoa powder and red food color in the mixing bowl
  • Pour each part of batter separately into 2 9” round prepped cake tins and bake at 170  C for 30 mins
  • Take out the cakes and cool on a wire rack. Each cake should be of equal height, trim the excess as necessary

Creating the checkerboard pattern:
Follow the guide I made below:


Chocolate Frosting:
Semi sweet chocolate 300  grams
Cream (at least 25% fat) 1/2 cup
Butter 1 cup
Powdered sugar 1.5 cup
Cocoa powder ¼ cup

  • Break the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl
  • Heat the cream and just when it starts to boil, transfer to the bowl and mix with chocolate till a smooth sauce like consistency is attained. This is a slightly runny ganache
  • In another bowl, using a hand mixer at medium speed, cream the butter till fluffy
  • Add the sugar and cocoa powder to this and cream till well combined to attain a cocoa buttercream
  • Mix the buttercream with the chocolate ganache and combine

Sugar Syrup:
Sugar ½ cup
Cinnamon 1 stick
Orange peel (optional)

Cook the sugar, cinnamon and orange peel in 1 cup water till the water reduces and a thick syrup is formed (Around 10 mins). Keep aside to cool.


  • Using a pastry brush, brush the sugar syrup over the 2 prepared cake layers. Wait for 5 minutes till the syrup is absorbed. Stack the layers on top of each other.
  • Using a palette knife or a spatula, spread the chocolate frosting over the cake, reserving some to pipe a pattern on the top. If the frosting becomes too soft at any point, pop it in the freezer to harden.
  •  Pop the cake in the fridge till a few minutes before serving

    My Notes:

  • The initial idea was to make a chocolate ganache, for the cake, but I used Amul cream which is light at 25% fat and the ganache didn’t hold. On adding the buttercream frosting to this runny ganache, the consistency was very each to work with for spreading and piping
  • To define the layers of cake better, the runny ganache can be spread  over each cake layer right after the sugar syrup is soaked by the sponge

About a pie

Its been a while since I last posted here, a year almost, a year in which several life events took precedence and I just became too lazy to blog. But in an effort to get my mojo running, I’m going to TRY and update this space regularly (I did say the same last year around this time – so long for new year resolutions ha!). Being on maternity leave has given me some time to get cooking again. Most of the early part of this year was spent either throwing up or being nauseous at the sight or smell of food ..bleh! So I’m going to TRY get the ball rolling again with a few share-worthy recipes many of which saw the light of day thanks to aforementioned maternity leave and the overlapping holiday season.

In the run up to Christmas this year, I was keen to try baking puff pastry – in Bangalore – and I guess many parts of India, puff pastry is not readily available commercially. Frozen puff pastry sheets are a rarity and I tried looking it up in several stores without luck. Lucked out finally with  All Saints Bakery (Ashok Nagar) which supplies fresh puff pastry, but it needs to be ordered by the kilo on request, at least 24 hours in advance, and is priced at a very reasonable 170 Rs/kilo. Also, bear in mind that their puff pastry is made with vegetable-shortening and is not butter based. So this may be better suited to savory dishes with flavoring rather than desserts that would be best made with butter based puff pastry.

chicken pie

With several ideas in mind, I decided to go for a pot pie that was niggling in the back of my mind for some time. The result that you see in the pictures here, was not pretty, but although it may look like a lab experiment gone wrong, this is buy far the tastiest baked savory dish that has emerged from my kitchen. And yes I am prone to making exaggerated, magnanimous declarations when it comes to food, and yet I’ll stand by what I say (no really it was that good, go ask my husband).
And yes another resolution to TRY to stick to this year – take better pictures!


Chicken Pot Pie
(serves 6 portions)
For the Pie:
Bechemel sauce (see below)
Chicken with bones (boneless chicken is typical of pies, but compromises on flavor) ½ kg
Carrots 2, chopped into chunks
Leek 1, chopped into chunks
Parsley and celery 1 handful each
Paprika powder 2 tsp
1 egg, beaten
1 egg white, beaten
For the Béchamel* Sauce
Bechemel is just a fancy word for white sauce
Butter 2 tsp
Garlic 3-5 cloves, chopped
All-purpose flour (maida) 2 tsp
Milk ½ cup (add cream for a richer sauce)
Prepare the béchamel sauce:
In a pan, fry butter on low heat and add garlic
Add flour, while maintaining low heat (high heat will cause flour to brown and lumps in the sauce)
Add milk and stir till lumps are removed and a thick sauce is formed
Season with salt, pepper and sugar as per taste
Prepare the pie:
In a cast iron skillet (or any stove-to-oven saucepan), brown the garlic and onions in some butter
Add chicken and carrots and cook for 5 minutes
Add leeks, celery and parsley, pepper, paprika and cook for 10 minutes (you can also add assorted dried herbs for flavor)
Turn off the heat and add the béchamel sauce
Add the egg and stir the mixture till well combined
Roll out the puff pastry sheet to a circle slightly more than the size of your skillet/saucepan
Turn it out on top of the skillet/saucepan and press down the excess trim over the edge of the skillet/saucepan, crimp the edge with the tines of a fork to make it look fancy (I didn’t!)
Beat the egg white with a tsp of water to create an egg wash and use a pastry brush to coat the surface of the pastry with the egg wash
Pop the skillet/saucepan into a preheated oven and bake at 180C for 15 minutes or till the pastry puffs and turns golden brown

Boozy Cherry and Chocolate cake

Wishing all of you who stopped by to read this space a very happy and joyful new year! Here’s hoping that you make some wonderful food (and other) memories in 2013. In all aspects, 2012 has been a very eventful year for me, we took mini-vacations to some beautiful cities, I came back to Bangalore, found an apartment and lived on my own for five months (living alone is no fun I assure you), was lucky enough to have some good opportunities at the workplace. But the best part was the fag end of the year when the hubby came back to Bangalore and we both let out a collective sigh of relief. No more living out of suitcases and traveling back and forth from Bangalore to Rotterdam.

The last couple of weeks have been a complete roller coaster. I would be putting it mildly to say that we feasted and cooked and ate till we had enough. We met up with friends, spent some fun time with family and felt very blessed at the end of the year.

In the midst of all this celebration, here in India, we had an eye-opening moment when a rape case shook people up to the core and forced the government to take action. The press has been lapping up the story of this heinous gang-rape and reams and reams of newsprint have been devoted to the rape victim and the public outcry. It took a sordid act of monstrosity and the indomitable spirit of the victim who fought back to her last breath for people to wake up. Perhaps with the present spotlight on rape cases, people’s attitudes and a derogatory mind-set may take a change for the better, or at least I hope so.

In the wake of the events of last week, several people toned down their New Year and festive celebrations. I decided instead to dedicate our celebrations to the spirit of the victim and many like her and to the sheer force that propelled students and common people to take to the streets and protest.

We had several friends over for lunch and dinner and vice versa, in the week following Christmas. Much before the Christmas week, I was mulling over the idea of baking a traditional plum cake, or a Christmas pudding, but then I am not a big fan of fruit-filled cake, and prefer layered cakes with frosting, or a dense mousse or a cheesecake. The only fruit cake I like is my mom’s carrot and date cake that she bakes every year on Christmas and Easter.

So as somewhat of a compromise for not baking a fruit cake, I made this rum-soaked cherry sponge layered with chocolate cream. I call it my Boozy Cherry and Chocolate cake.

Booxy cherry and chocolate cake

At a post-Christmas lunch, my friend brought along her flour-less Swiss roll, which was unbelievably melt-in-your-mouth-light and delicious to the last crumb. I am going to make it my mission to get this recipe and replicate this someday.  Here’s a peek:

Bindiyas Sponge Cake

Boozy Cherry and Chocolate cake:

(adapted from “Baking from my home to yours”
2 cups (minus 2 teaspoons) of flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 cup icing sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped cherries

Rum soaking syrup:
3 teaspoons white rum
2 star anise
100 ml fruit juice
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate Cream:
2 cups milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons cornflour
1/4 teaspoon salt
180 gms dark chocolate
2.5 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces (room temperature)

1/2 cup of halved and pitted cherries


  • Butter and flour two 9″ cake round pans. Heat the oven and 170 C.
  • Sift the dry ingredients together.
  • With a hand mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugar and beat for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute each after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Add the chopped cherries into the batter.
  • Add in the dry ingredients, mix with a spatula and scrape down the side of the bowl.
  • Divide the batter into two 9″ pans.
  • Bake for 30 minutes or till a thin knife comes out clean.
  • Transfer to a wire rack and let the cakes cool.

Soaking syrup:

  • Heat the juice, sugar and rum in a saucepan.
  • Add the star anise and keep heating till the mixture thickens.
  • Take off the heat and let it cool.

Chocolate Cream:

  • Boil the milk.
  • In a heavy-bottomed pan, whisk the yolks with sugar, cornflour and salt until the mixture is blended.
  • Drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk and add the remainder slowly in a steady stream. Put the pan over medium heat and whisk constantly. Bring the mixture to a boil. Stir for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it stand.
  • Whisk in the melted chocolate, then the pieces of butter, till fully incorporated and smooth and silky.
  • Cover the cream with a plastic cling film and refrigerate until chilled.

Assemble the cake:

Boozy Cherry and Chocolate cake 2

Slice the 9″ cakes in half horizontally preferable using a tight wire, since a knife may cause jagged edges when the cake is sliced. On the surface of each slice (4 slices) brush the soaking syrup using a pastry brush. Once all the syrup is used up, cover each slice with the chocolate cream. Using a spatula, evenly spread the cream on each slice. Place each slice on top of each other. Top the final layer with the halved cherries.

Caramelized Onion and Chicken Quiche

A comic-convection and a little girl’s 6-month birthday. My friend’s little baby completed a whole half year last month, and while the parents had a little family celebration, I decided to bake a little marble loaf because, you know what’s a milestone like this without some cake to go with it?

The same weekend, my sister and her friend talked me into attending Comic-con which was held in Bangalore for the first time last month. So, the latent practical baker in me woke up and thought, I could use the oven to bake both a savory something for lunch at the same time as a loaf cake. Yea-ah ! two birds, one stone and all that.

So that’s how, on a Sunday morning, my kitchen counter saw chaos never seen before. On one burner (I have a 2-burner stove) was chocolate melting in  a double boiler, next to that was a mixing bowl, and on the other burner was my (precious!) cast iron pan with onions caramelizing, next to which was a tart pan with pie dough that was just not coming together.

So anyway, after around 2 hours of mayhem, 1/2 hour of which went into making and re-making the pie dough, I finally completed my prep and cooked up two really good – even if I say so myself- sweet and savory treats.

The cake, which was a banana-chocolate marble loaf, was really good, and I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe (the number of times I mention her name on the blog, I should be getting paid for the publicity, which of course, she doesn’t need, but anyway).

But for a change, here’s my own (!) recipe for a caramelized onion and chicken quiche which was, despite the time it took to make (damn you pie dough), really really good.

Oh and I should add, the baking two dishes in one oven just did not work out, I use a 28l OTG and this fact just skipped my mind when I decided to bake a 9″ pie and a 8″X4.5″ loaf. Also, in retrospect, the flavors would have mixed and no one really wants to eat a loaf cake that smells of caramelized onion, right?

Caramelized onion and Chicken Quiche:

Pie Dough
Sourced from here

  • Prepare pie dough and bake for around 20 minutes, while you prepare the filling.

Caramelized onion and chicken filling:
Red onions (peeled, large) 3
Chicken breast boneless 2 pieces or 250 gms
Eggs 2
All-purpose flour 2 tsp
Butter 1 tsp
Milk 2-3 tsp
Cream 1/2 cup (I use Amul, 23% fat)
Garlic 2 cloves, minced
Assorted vegetables: Diced carrots, baby corn and peppers
Assorted herbs: Rosemary + Oregano +thyme
Red chilli flakes
Pepper 1 tsp
Salt to taste

  • Slice the onions and add to a pan with 2 tsp hot vegetable oil. Add a tsp salt and keep stirring, for around 20 minutes, till the onions turn golden brown. It is important that you stir till the onions caramelize. Keep aside
  • In the same pan, saute the assorted vegetables and add pepper and assorted herbs to season. Add the chicken and cook till chicken is almost done, for around 5 minutes. Do not overcook, since this needs to bake as well. Keep aside.
  • In another pan, prepare a basic white sauce by stirring 2 tsp all-purpose flour on a low heat. Add garlic and butter and stir, till a paste is formed. Ensure heat is low.
  • Add the milk while stirring continuously, and then add cream. A thick paste will form.
  • Beat the two eggs and add to this mixture
  • To this, add pepper and the sauteed vegetables and chicken. Add salt to taste. Keep aside.
  • Pour this into  the prepared pie dish and return pie dish to oven.
  • Bake at 150C for 40 minutes, till the crust is nice and golden.

Pomegranate Mousse-topped Chocolate Brownie

Fudgey-sticky-moist-rich-dense……its the devil itself.

That’s what this dessert is all about, a layer of crumbly biscuit topped with a dense chocolate brownie, topped with thick pomegranate mousse with a hint of tang, and finally, glazed with strawberry preserve.

There are days when desire strikes and a plain-Jane cake will just not do it for you. That’s when I started dreaming up a dessert so ridiculously sinful that I wouldn’t hesitate to break into my stash of chocolate that I lugged all the way from Belgium. So I trawled the net, yet again, and took much inspiration from here.

The initial plan was to create a cheesecake that would sit atop a chocolate brownie on a biscuit base. But  then, a lack of cream-cheese at several supermarkets forced me to improvise with a pomegranate that was peeking out of my fruit basket. It was with some trepidation that I made this, because I was not sure how the flavors would tie together.

But then… Hallelujah!

Pomegranate Mousse-topped Chocolate Brownie

Biscuit Base:
Graham crackers or digestive biscuits ~10 (I used Marie Gold)
Unsalted butter at room temperature 3tsps
Vanilla essence 1/2 teaspoon

Good quality semi-sweet chocolate with at least 60% cocoa content (I used 70% cocoa) 300 gms
Cocoa powder 2tsps
Unsalted butter at room temperature 150 gms
Flour 100 gms
Confectioners sugar 200 gms
Eggs 2
Heavy cream 1/2 cup (I used Milky Mist)
Salt a pinch

Pomegranate Mousse:
Juice of 1 pomegranate
Eggs 3
Heavy cream 3/4 cup
Sugar 200 gms
Vanilla essence 1/2 tsp
Lemon juice 1 tsp

Good quality strawberry preserve (or any preserve/jam of your choice) 1/2 cup

Make the biscuit base:
Process the digestive biscuits/graham crackers in a food processor till fine. Mix in the butter with your fingers and add the vanilla essence. Combine and press this mixture into the base of a 9″ sprin-form pan.

Put this into an oven set at 180 C to bake for 10 minutes while you prepare the brownie.

Make the chocolate brownie:
In a mixing bowl, sieve together the dry ingredients, including flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
On a double boiler, melt the chocolate.
While it is melting, beat together butter, vanilla essence, eggs and cream using a hand mixer.
Add the dry mix to this bowl, and beat again till batter is smooth.
Add in the chocolate and beat again one final time.

Take the cake pan out of the oven and pour in the brownie batter. return to oven to bake for 20 minutes while you prepare the mousse.

Make the mousse:
Reduce the pomegranate juice by heating it in an open saucepan for around 5 minutes. Keep aside to cool
Beat the eggs, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla essence and cream using a hand mixer.
Add the reduced juice and beat one final time.

Take out the cake pan from the oven, checking to see if it is set. Wrap an aluminum foil around the base of the cake pan so that the runny mousse batter doesn’t seep through. Pour the mousse mixture over the brownie and return to oven. Bake for around 20 minutes, till the mousse sets.

To glaze the cake, process the preserve till smooth. Spread this over the mousse layer.

Reserve your inhibitions for another day, for now its time for you to get you some of that sinful goodness.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting




I’ve read and re-read my copy of Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking” a 100-odd times, but can’t get enough. The other day, I took out a sheaf of colored post-its and began marking each page that I liked. You can well imagine the number of post-its that were all over the book at the end of this futile exercise.

At some point, I decided quite randomly, to bake some chocolate cupcakes. And why not? Dainty treats don’t get better than this. Be it chocolate or lemon-poppy or any flavor, these little single-serve treats are guaranteed to cheer you up. You can go crazy with a little cake in hand, with  limitless options for toppings and frosting.

Dorie’s recipe calls for a chocolate glaze, but I had some chunky peanut butter at hand and a jar of Speculoos spread that I have been snacking on and dipping into more times than I intended. Thus, a Speculoos and PB frosting was born.


Chocolate Cupcakes
(Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking- From my Home to Yours”)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Peanut Butter – Speculoos Frosting

3/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/2 cup Speculoos spread
1 teaspoon confectioners sugar

Making the cupcakes:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 180 degrees C. Fit the 12 molds of a muffin tin with paper muffin cups. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer or a hand mixer and a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until soft and creamy.

Add the sugar and beat for two minutes, until it is blended into the butter.

Add the egg, then the yolk, beating for 1 minute between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Beat in the vanilla, then reduce the mixer speed to low and add half the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear.

Scrape down the bowl and add the buttermilk, mixing until incorporated, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.

Scrape down the bowl, add the melted chocolate, and mix it in by hand with a rubber spatula. Divide the batter evenly into the prepared molds. Bake for 22 – 25 minutes, or until the tops of the cakes are springy and a tester inserted in the centers comes out clean.

Transfer the muffin pan to a cooling rack and allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes before un-moulding them. Cool to room temperature before glazing.

Making the frosting:

With a hand mixer beat the PB, Speculoos spread and sugar at medium speed, until soft and creamy.


  • PB pairs really well with chocolate and the Speculoos improved the taste of the PB by adding some sweetness and added flavor. If Speculoos is omitted, add some powdered sugar to the PB before beating it.
  • In addition to frosting the cupcake, you can also fill up the center of the cupcake with the frosting. Using a paring knife, scoop out a hole in the cupcake, and fill up with frosting, pop the scooped up cake bit and top up the cupcake with more frosting.

    Doesn’t that little cupcake look gorgeous in brown?


Home-made Paneer

Whats better than a lazy Sunday lunch? A lazy Sunday lunch with friends peppered with long gossip sessions. And the ideal end to a lazy Sunday lunch? How about some thick mango milkshake… milkshake so thick, you need to spoon it out of the glass.

Speaking of which, I’m loving the mango season so much right now. I’m having fun just cutting up ripe mangoes and messily eating them up. Mangoes so yummy, that I really don’t want to play around much with them. Just cut, eat and enjoy. Or, if your friends graciously get you some mango ice-cream, throw a chopped mango into a blender with some scoops of mango ice-cream, let it churn, and then its slurp, slurp all the way.

But the point of this post was write about some gorgeous home-made paneer that we had for the aforementioned lunch, before I got sidetracked and began rhapsodizing about mangoes.

There is really nothing like freshly made paneer. I’v tried the store bought versions – I usually pick up Milky Mist, Amul frozen paneer or fresh paneer sold at select supermarkets. But only do that if you are hard pressed for time, becasue nothing comes close to the home-made version. Its worth taking out the half hour of cooking and additional half hour of resting time.

(To make 400 gms)

1.5 litre milk (use full-fat or whole milk, the more fat content, the richer the paneer)
1 teaspoon vinegar or juice of 1 whole lime

  • Start by bringing the milk to a boil. Just when it begins boiling, turn down the heat to medium and add the vinegar or lime juice. Continue heating for another 5 minutes or till the curdled milk solids completely separate from the whey
  • Turn off the heat and let it rest for another 5 minutes
  • Drain the contents of the pan into a fine muslin cloth spread over a sieve, placed over a colander for the whey to collect
  • Let the whey drain away and press the solids to drain excess whey
  • After 15 minutes, transfer the muslin cloth with the solids into a square shaped container. At this stage, you can either place a heavy weight over the muslin, to create a packed paneer, or leave it as is, to create more loosely packed paneer. I prefer the latter
  • After 15 – 30 minutes, retrieve the set paneer and cut into cubes

Use the prepared paneer to cook up your favorite paneer dishes, such as I did with this recipe for Paneer Butter Masala, to which I added peas for a more colorful dish.
Believe you me, make this once and you will never go back to store-bought paneer again. Only if you are hard pressed for time, promise?