Chocolate General

The Perfect Pick-Me-Upper on a Cold, Wet, Awful Fall Evening

I am not much of a coffee drinker. I barely ever drink coffee actually, although I do like a tisane or a flavoured green tea every once in a while. However, because I find myself having to spend long hours at my desk in front of this computer, painstakingly writing, footnoting and editing my thesis, over the past week, I’ve resorted to coffee. The problem though, is that it tastes awful. Coffee smells absolutely heavenly, which is why I use it in baking (my espresso buttercream icing is a case in point) and chocolate-making, I even just sniff coffee-bean jars sometimes, but I am not a fan of its taste. I know, I know, all you coffee lovers out there might object on the ground that I might not be buying the right beans, or grinding them fresh etc., But, dear readers, I’ve never, absolutely never, liked the taste of coffee. No matter how it was made and no matter what beans were used, the taste of coffee never appealed to me.

Therefore, today, I decided to try complimenting my cup of coffee with flavours that I do like. I brewed myself a cup (I used a milk frother and steamed milk by the how, so my coffee would turn out more foamy) and then added 3 dollops of my velvety hot chocolate fudge (go here for the recipe) and one and half teaspoons of Frangelico liqueur.

I have to say, it turned out pretty darned good, for a homemade cup of coffee made by a complete amateur! It was a perfect hazelnutty, chocolatey accompaniment to copyright law on this cold, wet, depressing evening.

Chocolatey hazelnut coffee on a grey day.

I did of course top the coffee off with a generous helping of whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

 Hazelnut and chocolate coffee whipped cream and a sprinkling of cocoa powder.

Now I am all perked up and energetic. Also, I feel strangely warm and fuzzy, it must be the booze 😛

Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Miriyala Pappu-Charu/Rasam (Low-Fat Peppery Lentil Soup)

Summer is clearly over, and as climate-change enthusiast Ed Stark has been known to say, ‘winter is coming’ (if you don’t get this reference, google ‘Game of Thrones’). In fact, I prefer the cold winter to these months of pre-winter anticipation otherwise known as fall; at least in the winter there is the hope of snow. And so, I woke up this morning feeling a bit peevish. It was a little chilly and I really didn’t want to leave the warm-coziness of my wonderful duvet.

Unfortunately, get up I had to, because a thesis does not write itself. I motivated myself with the prospect of a cup of rich Italian hot chocolate (the kind that is so viscous it takes about 10 minutes to empty a cup of it even when you are holding the cup completely upside down). But as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, a new craving hit me: I wanted some spicy, garlicy steaming hot charu! Charu or Rasam, a famous South Indian creation, is best described in English as a spicy soup. One can make it with or without lentils, and various types of souring agents can be used in it, including tamarind and lemon juice. What I was craving was a particular type of charu that is a quite common in Andhra Pradesh: ‘Miriyala (pepper) Charu’. So I set about grinding some fresh spices and cooking up some hot (in every sense of the word) charu for lunch.

It turned out pretty well, and now I feel cheery, warm and ready to get to editing word-documents (otherwise known as thesis-writing) 🙂

Recipe for peppery low fat South-Indian lentil-soup

If you’d like to try making some, here’s what you will need:


1/2 cup toor/tuvar dal (split pigeon peas) (for more on these lentils see this wikipedia entry)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 large tomato, cubed

1 lime sized piece of dried tamarind soaked in a cup of water or 1.5 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp brown sugar

10 curry leaves

Salt to taste

For Charu powder:

1 tsp toor dal

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp coriander seeds

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 dried red chillies

5-6 menthulu (fenugreek seeds)

For Popu/tadka/baghar:

1- 2 tbsp ghee (for more on ghee and my recipe, go here) or oil

4-6 cloves of garlic

2 twigs/sticks of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida

1 tsp mustard seeds

4 dried red chillies

For garnish:

A handful of fresh cilantro or coriander leaves


The first step involves cooking the lentils (toor dal). If you have a pressure cooker cook the lentils in it; it’ll only take about 10 minutes. Otherwise, cook the lentils in a pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of turmeric, until the lentils are completed cooked and soft.

Next, in a large pot bring 2 cups of water and the tomato, turmeric, tamarind (use only the water if you’re using dried tamarind), salt, curry leaves and sugar to boil.

While waiting for these ingredients to begin boiling, prepare the charu powder. Place all the ingredients for the powder in a dry grinder or blender and grind them to a coarse powder. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but this will require a little patience.

Once the ingredients in the pot are boiling, add the cooked lentils and charu powder, stir, cook for a few minutes, and then turn off the heat.

Now for the last step! In a small pot heat the ghee or oil and add the mustard seeds. As the seeds begin to splutter add the remaining popu/tadka/baghar ingredients. Fry until the chillies darken and the spices are fragrant. As soon as you think the spices are ready, pour the ghee and spices into the bigger pot (with the other ingredients) and immediately cover the pot with a lid. Your charu is ready! I must warn you though, this is a very spicy concoction.

You can eat it like soup:

Peppery low fat Indian lentil-soup

Drink it like a warm fall/winter drink:

Recipe for low-fat peppery lentil soup

Or eat it with hot rice and a peppery papad!

Baking Cooking Food General Recipes

Refried Beans Remixed Part II

Sometime ago, I wrote about how relatively easy it is to make refried beans. Now that I’ve figured out a recipe for beans that works for me (and by that I mean that it is a wholly vegetarian recipe and it’s super-spicy) I’ve been making refried beans a lot lately. My favourite ways to eat beans include: beans on top of rice, beans inside burritos and quesadillas, and even just beans on more beans with lots of cheese on top 🙂 And then of course, there is the refried bean pizza 🙂

My latest bean-related experiment involves mixing two iconic foods from Mexican and French cuisine respectively: refried beans and crepes. Here’s how it turned out:

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

If you want to try it out, here’s what you will need:

For the Filling:

One serving of re-fried beans, go here for my recipe.

Freshly grated aged cheddar, to taste

Chunks of mozzarella, to taste

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

For the crepes:

1 cup all-purpose flour (leveled)

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

1 1/2 cups whole milk

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


I started by making the crepes. I just threw all the ingredients for the crepes (in no particular order) into a food processor (you call also use a blender/mixie) and whizzed them all together until I got a smooth mixture. The batter will be pretty thin, quite unlike pancake batter.

Now for making the crepes. I heated a skillet, melted a little butter on it and poured a ladle of batter on it. Then, I swirled the batter about to make a thin layer completely covering the entire skillet. I cooked the underside of the crêpe for about 3 minutes. Using a rubber spatula I loosened the edges of the crepes and then flipped the crêpe over and cooked the other side for about 2 minutes. Then I placed the crêpe on a plate, covered it with plastic wrap and repeated the crepe-making process until I’d used up all the batter. (You can also store the batter in the fridge for a day or two if you prefer.)

Now I was ready to stuff the crepes with their filling! (You can stuff and bake a couple at first and store the rest of the crepes in the fridge. Since they’re all wrapped up in plastic, they will stay fresh.)

But first, I had to pre-heat the oven, which I did to 350 F. While the oven heats up, start filling the crepes with refried beans and cheese and lining them up on a baking tray. To keep the crêpe nicely wrapped and beans snug inside, I used a toothpick.

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

Once the oven is warmed up, place the crepes in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or so. Monitor them and reduce the temperature, or take them out sooner if they look like they are browning too much. You just want them to be a nice golden colour with the edges starting to crisp up.

Once they are ready, take them out of the oven, sprinkle with cumin and cayenne pepper and enjoy!

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

If you don’t want to spend the time decorating the crêpe with cayenne pepper and cumin polka-dots like I did, you can just lightly dust the crêpe with the spices:

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese

They made for a perfect snack while working on my dissertation.

Baked crepes with refried beans and cheese