Cute, adorable kitty videos like this need to be illegal! They’re like heroin, except anyone can access them easily at home, on their computers, iphones, television sets..they’re everywhere!! The next thing you know, one is hooked, unable to do any work, and desperately snuggling a pillow and biting it. All this whilst hoping desperately that some day, such cute kitties will belong to one.
Photos of kitties like this are also part of the problem:
I want a kitty so badly. 😦 Unfortunately, I don’t have one. I am just a doting Auntie to my friends’ kitties, cuddling them, giving them presents, taking pictures of them and showing said pictures to strangers. 🙂
I woke up this morning, ok I lied, I woke up this afternoon with a craving. I really wanted to eat some Rajma Chaval. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dish, it’s a staple all over India. Although, it’s primarily a North-Indian dish, I know plenty of South-Indians who love the stuff. It’s sort of like a dal (what some of you non-Indians call lentil curry) made with red kidney beans. Rajma refers to these beans and chaval (or chawal) simply means rice.
This is a very simple dish, it’s comfort food really. If you’d like to try this recipe out, here goes:
1 cup dried kidney beans (see below for how to prepare these beans, you need to prepare them at least 7 hours before you start cooking)
1 tablespoon Ghee (Indian clarified butter) or oil (you can find ghee in an Indian store; if you’d like to make it at home, here is my recipe)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 teaspoon grated ginger
1-2 teaspoon crushed garlic
2-4 Indian green chillies (I used dried red ones because I couldn’t find green ones in my neighborhood store)
2-4 Bay leaves
1 pinch of Heengh (asafetida)
1 large onion or two small onions, finely diced. (red or white)
2 small tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, pureed or finely chopped (choose depending on whether you like small chunks of tomatoes in the rajma, some do, some don’t)
1-2 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/4 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
Lots of butter 🙂
Some cream (optional)
Coriander as garnish
Note: For some of the ingredients I haven’t listed a precise quantity because it’s really up to you how spicy you want to make the dish. You might also like one spice better than another one, so you pick and choose how much you want to add within the range I specified (you can of course add even more than the upper-limit of my range, but then I can’t speak to how the dish will turn out, since I’ve never tried it that way).
Also, I am using Canadian vegetables. Onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger etc taste different in different countries and regions; they also come in varying sizes. You’re going to have to experiment a little and you may find that you have to tinker with the measures I have recommended.
Preparing the beans: Soak the Rajma in plenty of water (at least tree times as much water as beans) overnight or for at least 7 hours. This soaking is important; if you don’t soak the beans, they won’t be soft enough and the final product won’t taste as good. There are allegedly short cuts to this, but I personally don’t believe they can produce the same results.
The next step is to cook the beans. Here’s a little tip, don’t use the water the beans were soaking in, to cook them. This water contains ‘oligosaccharides’ released from the beans, and they cause.. eerm.. well..eerm flatulence! If you don’t follow my advice, there is always this yoga pose:
(Image by The Holistic Care Yoga Wiki. The above image is CC licensed, for more information go here.)
So anyway, back to the recipe. With fresh water, pressure cook the beans until the cooker whistles about 4 times. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can simply boil them, it’ll just take longer. If you’re cooking them in a pot with water, the beans will be done when you can take one out and squish it between your fingers. I suppose you could use canned beans instead of going through all this trouble, but I am somehow not a big fan of things in cans. I feel, and obviously this is subjective, that beans from a can don’t taste as good as beans that have been soaked and cooked.
We’ll start with one tbsp of ghee/oil in a deep, preferably thick-bottomed sauce pan that comes with a lid. Lay aside the following spices:
Let the ghee/oil get got, then add 1 tsp of cumin seeds. The heat should be on high at this point. Wait for the seeds to begin splutter. Now add the bay leaves, cloves chillies and heengh.
When the red chillies change colour add the onions. Saute them until the become soft and brownish (as seen in the photograph below). Then add the chopped tomatoes (or puree). Next, add the red chili, turmeric, coriander, and cumin powders.
Stir well, put a lid on the pot and let the mixture cook on low to medium heat for about 5-10 minutes.
In the meantime take a few tablespoons of the cooked beans in a separate bowl and mash the beans up a bit. Once the tomato-onion-spice mixture has cooked for a while and the raw tomato smell has gone, add the cooked beans along with the mashed beans to the mixture. Then add as much butter as you think you can get away with (without feeling guilty) and stir well. Place the lid back on the pot and let the mixture cook on low for about 20-40 minutes.
The Rajma is ready! You can serve it on top of hot steaming rice, add a bit of cream (if you like) and then garnish with coriander leaves.
As I said before, this isn’t a fancy dish at all- it’s a simple recipe that reminds me of home.
I don’t want to sound like a pompous ass or anything. Really, I don’t.
You’re wondering why I am leading with this. You’ll know in a second.
So here goes: I’ve been to Switzerland more times than I can remember, lived in Germany and traveled around in Austria, France and Italy. And of course, I’ve eaten tonnes of chocolate in all these places. They are all known for making delicious chocolate, and I’ve had some exquisite chocolate in most of them. However, if you asked me where I’ve had the best chocolate truffles in the world, I’d have to say, and I promise that I am not doing this for shock value, the mid-west. Yes, you read that correctly, in the mid-west, of America. And no, I don’t mean Chicago. No, I mean non-urban, super-polite, sickeningly nice, mid-west America.
Where in the mid-west? Well, unfortunately, the place which sells these delicious truffles is sort of inconveniently located. It’s on the way from Ann Arbor to Chicago. It’s this little place called “The Chocolate Garden”. Here are the store’s contact details:
2691 Friday Road
Coloma, MI 49038-9712,
To be fair, there are a few things wrong with the place. First, the name is awful because it’s utterly unimaginative. Second, the store itself isn’t particularly nicely done up or anything. Third, the truffles aren’t cheap- at least they’re not cheap if you’re a poor grad student. They’re about 3$ a piece. But, they are GOOD!
One upside is that the store is by a vineyard. We arrived there around sunset the second time we stopped there, and it’s was a beautiful sight.
I should have prefaced this review with something, so as not to be misleading you. So let me qualify the statement now. It’s perfectly possible that I am building this up precisely because I found these truffles in an unassuming store in the unassuming mid-west. Maybe the story, the whole process of finding it off the highway, wandering in with low expectations and then having my mind-blown (quite metaphorically of course), made the truffles more flavourful to my tongue. I love stories you see. More than anything in the world, quite possibly even as much as I love chocolate (if you’re thinking I contradicted myself here, I did no such thing you little nit-picker, you! Chocolate is not of this world, it is divine. As for cats, they’re ueber intelligent alien-super-beings). And it wouldn’t be quite as delightful a story if I’d found these truffles in a store in Geneva, or somewhere in Belgium. So, maybe they aren’t, objectively speaking, if one can ever be objective about such things, the best truffles I’ve had. But they were darned good, and if you’re driving by, you should stop by.
As much as I love chocolate, I love nutty flavours- not more, not less, just exactly the same amount. Now, while generally the hazelnut has been my nut of choice (although walnuts are lovely too and well peanuts are as unexotic as they are delicious) I think I have a new favourite- the brazil-nut.
In one sense my brazil-nut love-affair began a long time ago. The body shop has these rich, creamy body-butters and my favourite has always been their brazil-nut body butter. It’s absolutely delectable. Anyway, although I loved this body-butter, I’d never really eaten a brazil-nut before, or baked/cooked with these nuts. Then, one lovely summer weekend, my awesome father came to visit. It was wonderful to spend time with him and we walked and talked together, all over the city. As always, he wanted to get me something special as a parting present as it were, and we settled upon a food processor. This is now my favourite toy. It’s amazing and it makes life SO much easier. I shall rant about said toy in another post though, this post is about brazil-nuts.
Anyway, the first thing I decided to make with my processor was home-made nutella. And this project turned out quite well indeed. So well in fact, that the next day, I was out of butter. This time I decided to be adventurous. “This body-butter smells delicious”, I said to myself, “if I like these lotions and potions because they are inspired by food that I love, does it not follow that I would love the food that inspired my most treasured skin-concoction of all??!!”
So I went to the store and bought 100 g of Brazil-nuts. This is what they looked like:
I used only 100g because I wasn’t sure how the experiment would turn out. Here is an account of how things turned out:
Other ingredients I used:
About a cup of icing sugar (it’s important to use icing sugar and not any other kind because you don’t want discrete crystals of it in your butter. You want the butter to have a smooth texture)
1/2 to 3/4 tsp vanilla essence
A pinch of salt
1 tsp or so of peanut oil
About 100 g of good quality dark chocolate
I began by toasting the brazil-nuts in the oven at 375 farenheit (that’s 180 celsius) for about 10 minutes, tossing the nuts once during this time. I let them cool, and then placed them in a tea-towel and rubbed them against each other until their skins came off. (This process is a little boring and repetitive, so I recommend watching some television or chatting with a friend while you do this.)
Once their skins were mostly off, I put the nuts in the processor and then just let it run for a while. You don’t need to add any butter or oil at all at this stage. Just let the processor do it’s thing. If you’re wondering which blade you should use, check the processor manual- it should tell you what blade/setting works for nut-butters. The nuts will first be crushed, then they’ll be ground to a fine paste and finally you will find them turning to butter. While the nuts are being processed place the chocolate in a bowl and melt it in the microwave. Be sure to do this on a low setting as you don’t want to burn the chocolate. Ideally, you should melt the chocolate in a double boiler to avoid this, but I find that if I am careful, I can do it in the microwave. Once the nuts are smooth, creamy and buttery in texture, stop the processor.
Add the salt, peanut oil, vanilla essence, half the melted chocolate and a few tablespoons of sugar to the butter. Run the processor. Stop and taste-test. if you feel it needs more chocolate or sugar, add some more and process again. Repeat the taste-test and sugar-chocolate adjustments, if necessary. I think it’s best not to follow a recipe in this regard, but to just wing it. As I said in an earlier post about my “universal dark chocolate icing“, each of us has very particular preferences, so why not try and make something perfectly suited to one’s own palate?
Once you’ve played around with the sugar-chocolate balance and found the perfect equilibrium between the two, and made sure everything has been evenly and smoothly mixed together, stop the processor. The butter will look and smell and delicious as you pour it into a jar or tupperware. Here’s proof of how amazing it looks at least:
“I should have made more!”, I lamented to myself. I really should have. And so should you! Double the recipe!
The texture is slightly thin, so if you’d like it thicker so you can spread it on bread etc., put it in the fridge. (I eat nutella with a tablespoon, not bread, so I don’t understand the other half of the population that eat’s it WITH things (unless it’s ice cream they eat it with, THAT I understand).) It’ll look like this once you put it in the fridge.
Ok, not exactly like this. Quite obviously, I got to this with a tablespoon FIRST and THEN realized I should have photographed it. Anyway, you get the idea about the butter’s texture.
All in all, this was deliciousness itself. It tastes absolutely incredible, way better than any nut-butter I’ve tried before.
I am clearly a tea-party goddess! (I mean that in an entirely flip way, being even somewhat snarky about the title of Nigella Lawson’s cookbook (How to be a Domestic Goddess). I am not in fact in the least bit interested in being a goddess and am perfectly aware of the various implications and connotations attached to the use of the word “goddess” especially in a domestic setting. Phew. I just wanted to put that out there, as some of you don’t know me that well, or well, know me at all. Anyway, back to what I was saying..) I had some friends over for tea today, and they seemed to like the nutella cake I talked about in an earlier post quite a bit. In fact, my tea party was such a hit that they stayed until midnight. That is odd for a tea-party, especially considering the fact that I didn’t even serve wine or any other alchocol. So really it must have been the scintillating conversations we had, or my cake 🙂
I just thought I’d let you know that the cake was well-recieved, so, all you goddesses and gods out there who were planning on trying it out, you really should!
After making the Gianduja cake earlier today (see earlier post) I sat down to figure out what sort of icing would work with the cake. As I said in my earlier post, I used a recipe from Nigella lawson’s book, “How to be a Domestic Goddess” for the cake. However, I didn’t really like the sound of the dark chocolate ganache she recommended for the cake. It didn’t sound bad or anything, I mean how can “dark chocolate ganache” be bad, but it didn’t sound perfect to me (I have particular preferences. For instance, I always prefer buttercream frosting to cream-based frosting). Also, I didn’t have enough cream at home. So I decided to wing it, as it were. And this is what I came up with.
What you need:
Mortar and pestle (if you want to add toasted ground hazelnuts on top of the icing)
Spatula or knife to spread icing
A double boiler or a small bowl and a microwave
A food processor or stand-alone mixer OR 1 large bowl and a hand-held mixer or whisk.
100 g bar of good quality dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
A few tablespoons of the heaviest cream you can find (in Canada you’ll have to settle for whipping cream which is about 38% I believe)
1/2 tsp vanilla essense
About a cup of icing sugar
1 1/3 stick of unsalted butter
Two handfuls of hazelnuts
There is a reason these measurements are so imprecise. I just sort of experimented. They say that cooking is an art-form because you can adjust ingredients and spices to taste, whereas baking is science. This is generally true I think, but frosting is a little more on the art side of the scale than baking a cake is. What I mean is you can have an adjustable frosting recipe. I find most frosting to be too sweet and creamy- I would prefer it to be more buttery and chocolately. I also like to put a lot of frosting on my cake 🙂 This is why I have listed approximate measures here.
Preparing the chocolate: Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave.
Preparing the hazelnuts: Toast the hazelnuts in the oven at 375 farenheit (that’s 180 celsius) for about 10 minutes, tossing the nuts once during this time. Let them cool and then place them in a tea-towel and rub them against each other until they lose their skins. Then place them in a mortar and pestle and coarsely grind them. I suggested a mortar and pestle rather than a dry-grinder because this way you can make sure you break up all the nuts without reducing most of the nuts to a powder.
I began by putting about 3/4 cup of icing sugar into my food processor. I then processed it to get rid of any lumps. Next, I added the butter to this and processed it again, until it was a smooth, creamy mix. If you don’t have a processor just put the sugar and butter in a large bowl and use an egg-beater ( or whisk).
I tasted it at this point and felt it wasn’t sweet enough, so I added a little sugar and then a little more and a little more- until it was just right. I think each person’s desired level of sweetness differs, so this is a great way to make the icing just right for you! At this point, I added the vanilla essence and two tablespoons of heavy cream and gave the whole mixture a nice whirl in the processor. I made sure that the mixture was creamy and light at this point.
The next step was to add the chocolate. I spooned about 3/4 of the chocolate into the processor and processed it.
Upon tasting the icing it I found it needed more chocolate, so I added some more melted chocolate. I also added one more tablespoon of cream to the mix and gave the whole thing a few more whirls until everything was nicely mixed up and I had a smooth, creamy chocolatey frosting.
In the mean time, the Gianduja cake had been cooling on the dining table. I poured the icing at the centre of the cake and then spread it over the cake.
You can get angled spatulas that are great for spreading icing – since I didn’t have one, I used this:
Periodically, I rinsed off the extra icing on the knife in warm water and shook off the extra water. This made it easier to spread the icing.
I finally managed to spread the icing somewhat evenly over the cake. It didn’t matter that much if it wasn’t perfectly even because I was going to top it off with nuts. Finally, I sprinkled the toasted, crushed hazelnuts all over the cake.
And the end result was this:
Which my friends will be enjoying tomorrow when I have them over for tea! I already sneaked a piece though, and it was absolutely YUMMY! I recommend this recipe to anyone who likes chocolate and nuts and doesn’t like their desserts overly sweet.
I cannot stress this enough though, this icing tastes best when it’s warm. So reheat a cake slice in the microwave before you serve it.
I hope this post finds you well and happy! This blog is about my life. This means I will be writing primarily about chocolate, baking, cooking, good books I’ve just read, great/good restaurants about town, wonderful places I travel to and cats. In fact, I’ll probably write a lot about cats and chocolate.
I hope more than just 3 people end up reading this blog- those five being, my parents and my best friends- you know who you are ;). More importantly, I hope whoever does read this blog, enjoys it.
Ever since I returned from India last week I have been feeling sickish intermittently. I woke up this morning feeling more drained than usual, so in an effort to cheer myself up I decided to bake.
I walked over to the neighborhood Public Library, which, by the way, happens to be 2 minutes away from my apartment, and checked out Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess”. I browsed through the book and when I came upon her recipe for “Torta Alla Gianduja”, well I was quite excited to say the least. You see, I have loved Nutella for most of my adult life with an unhealthy, even disturbing fervour and devotion. (I would have loved it as a child, but I grew up in India at a time when “foreign products” were difficult to come by. My parents brought me chocolate from all over the world because they traveled quite a bit, but for some reason they never did buy me nutella. Even peanut butter I only chanced upon when my American cousins brought a jar with them on their visit to India. (Needless to say I was smitten, but that ramble is for another blog-post.))
Back to the recipe, the Nutella cake seemed fairly simple to make- so I decided to give it a try. I modified the recipe a bit, and the icing I used (the recipe for which can be found in my next post) was quite different from the one Nigella recommended. You can find her original recipe here:
What follows is a blow-by-blow account of how the experiment went, complete with amateur pictures taken with my iPhone.
What you will need:
A 23 cm spring-form pan, two large bowls, two smaller bowls, a hand-held or stand-alone mixer or a whisk, a food-processor or mortar and pestle, and a tea towel.
6 free range eggs (I insist on free-range after seeing some horrific videos of how chicks and hens are treated in “egg factories”.
A pinch of salt
1 stick of salted butter (the recipe calls for unsalted butter, but I like a little bit more salt in my chocolate recipes than most, I find it balances the flavour well. In addition, salted butter is cheaper at the super-market by mine (for some mysterious reason). Therefore, I decided to use salted butter.)
1 375g jar of Nutella
1 Tbsp Jamaican Rum (the recipe calls for Frangelico, but my neighborhood LCBO (for my non-Ontario friends, this is the only store that sells alcohol in Ontario, apart from the beer store and a few random wine stores that sell only Canadian wine) (it’s weird I know!) didn’t have any.)
100 g Hazelnuts
100g Lindt dark chocolate ( with at least 70 % cocoa solids)
To begin with, I made sure to lay all the ingredients out on my dining table. When you’re baking, unless the recipe otherwise specifies, it is best to use all ingredients at room temperature. Next, I turned on the oven and preheated it to 375 degrees farenheit (that’s 180 celsius).
Preparing the hazelnuts: I toasted the nuts in the oven at 375 farenheit for about 10 minutes, tossing them once or twice in-between. Next, I let them cool a bit and then placed them in a tea-towel. Then I rubbed the nuts against the towel until their skins peeled off. Then, I put the nuts in a food processor (you could also use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle) and processed them till fine.
Preparing the chocolate: I melted the chocolate over a double boiler (you can use a microwave, but be careful not to burn the chocolate then).
I was now ready to begin! What follows are step-by-step instructions to re-create the delish cake I made today! Enjoy!
The first step of the baking process involved separating the whites and yolks of 6 eggs. (Make sure to put the whites in a large bowl). Some people think separating the egg white and yolk and beating them separately is a waste of time. But it isn’t if your recipe does not call for baking powder/soda. Your cake will not rise properly if you don’t beat the whites properly in that cake.
After separating the whites and yolks, add the pinch of salt to the whites and then beat them until they are ‘stiff but not dry”. What this means is that you want to be able to make the foamy whites rise to a peak with your finger. Another way to test this is to take a clean dry egg and try to float it on top of the egg-white foam. If it sinks you’re not done. If it floats completely you’ve overdone it. If it sinks just a quarter of an inch- well you’re egg-whites are perfect then! Make sure the bowl and the whisk you use are perfectly clean- i.e. they are free from oil and water.
Next, beat the Nutella and butter together, until they are well-mixed and creamy. Then add the rum. Beat. Next add egg yolks. Beat. Finally beat in the ground hazelnuts.
Then, fold in the dark chocolate. Next, add a dollop of the egg-white-foam and beat it in. Finally, slowly and gently fold in the rest of the foam. This is important- don’t be rough at this stage- because we want to preserve the airy-ness and lightness of the foam. Here is a video that shows you how to do it:
When you’re done folding the foam in, pour the batter in a greased and floured 23 inch springform pan.
Slide the pan into the oven and set the timer for 40 minutes. I would go and check on it towards the tail-end of this period. The cake is done when it starts separating from the sides of the tin. You can do the tooth-pick test to confirm (insert a toothpick gently in and see if it is clean when you pull it out).
When it’s done, take it out and cool it on a cooling rack. I don’t have one so I made a makeshift one:
And when it’s cooled remove the sides of the pan:
Now the cake is ready! I am off to go make some chocolate ganache to ice it with now. Yay! You can find the recipe for the icing in the next post. Also, a little tip- if you’re going to store the cake for a while, make sure to heat it up quickly in the microwave when you take it out of the fridge. Just heat for 20-30 seconds on low- both the cake and the icing taste waaay nicer that way.
Oh and by the way, since the cake is flour-less it’s gluten-free!