This is simple!’ – My favorite thought when I find recipes that require only a few ingredients yet deliver superlative flavors.

Spaghetti, Garlic, Olive oil – the three key constituents of Spaghetti aglio e olio which translates to Spaghetti with Garlic and oil in Italian.

Olive oil: Heat a quarter cup of olive oil in a shallow pan large enough to hold the pasta. The label on the bottle will tell you if the oil is meant for cooking/roasting or to be drizzled over salads or to be marinated in. Choose the right one. The link below describes the differences.

Garlic: Use large garlic cloves, about 8 of them. Chop them length wise into slivers. Add them to the hot oil and let them turn golden before you toss in the spaghetti. At this point add in red pepper flakes or fresh;y ground pepper. Add salt.

Spaghetti: Always cook pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions to get the bite (al dente). I like to wash the cooked pasta under cold water to stop it from clumping together. For this recipe you need to reserve about a cup of ‘pasta water’ to add to the garlic oil infusion to make the sauce.

Add the pasta water to the garlic oil and let it simmer and reduce to half. Toss in pasta and let it cook for a couple of minutes more so that it can absorb in the sauce. Once off the heat, sprinkle freshly grated Parmesan and toss well. Adjust the salt.



Recipe Source: Ina Garten (Food Network)



Life has taught me well

red tree

Hello there, I am back !

There is a lot that has happened in my life over the past few years.

But then, I know of loved ones and acquaintances who have had kids during this time  (some have had kid one AND kid two), some have switched jobs for fatter pay cheques, there are others who have found their soulmates and have begun to nest.

I suddenly feel like I am driving in the slow lane or maybe its that that I am driving slow. In any case,  I am glad I have the steering wheel in my control.

I have progressed too. From being a kind hearted and naïve twenty something to a kinder, generous and patient thirty something. I have become more passionate about what I love, and more determined., more soul searching and more tolerant. I have started measuring progress using my personalized tape measure.

As I write this, I am looking outside a window – not the one from my parents’  house in Nagpur, but from the one in my room in a beautiful apartment in Ames, Iowa. Outside, there is a hint of an upcoming harsh weather. Winter is brutal here, they say. But so far this quaint town has treated me really well.

This post is actually meant to serve as a ‘primer’ – to push me to start writing again. I have always loved to write and this place would be any writer’s dream – calm and peaceful where I live, with a flavor of hustle bustle closer to the University.

I am going to make the most of my stay here. Life has taught me well.








Black forest cake


Black Forest cake

Adapted from Joy of baking


For the chocolate genoise:

  • 3 tbsp hot melted butter (I used salted butter)
  • ¼ tsp salt (I omitted it)
  • 1/2 cup (60g) cake flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened or Dutch process cocoa ( I used Hershey’s special dark cocoa)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

For the whipped cream frosting:

  • 2 1/2 cup whipping cream (I used Tropolite which is a soy based dairy free whipping cream)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Sugar syrup for soaking the cake:

  • 1/2 cup grain sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • few drops lime juice

For filling and garnishing

  • Half of a 15 oz can of dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup
  • Chocolate shavings


For the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
  • Butter a 9 inch (23 cm) round cake pan and line the bottom of pan with parchment paper.
  • In a bowl, sift the flour, salt (if using) and cocoa powder.
  • In a heatproof bowl whisk the eggs with the sugar. Place over a saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, heat until lukewarm (about 5 minutes).
  • Remove from heat and with the help of a hand mixer beat on high speed until the mixture is thick (about 5 minutes) (try to make a figure of 8 with the batter. The batter will fall in a ribbon like manner and the figure of 8 should stay on the surface and not disappear immediately. That’s when you know its done!)
  • Beat in the vanilla extract. Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or whisk. Sift and fold in another third, and then fold in the rest. Take 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the melted butter (to lighten it). Then gently fold it into the egg batter. Pour into your pan, smoothing the top.
  • Bake for about 20 -25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (cake starts to shrink from sides of pan). Cool on a metal rack before removing from pan.

For the whipped cream frosting

In your mixing bowl place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar and stir to combine. Cover and chill the bowl and wire whisk in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, then beat the mixture just until stiff peaks form.

For the sugar syrup:

Add half a cup of grain sugar in 1 cup of a saucepan. Heat till the sugar melts and the water begins to simmer. Add a few drops of lemon juice to get a clear solution

Chocolate shavings:

Grate your favorite bar of dark chocolate ( 50-70% cocoa).

Assembling the cake:

Using a sharp knife, cut the genoise, horizontally, into two layers. Alternately use the Lorraine Pascal method (as demonstrated on Masterchef Australia ) of using a thread (!) to split cake into layers. My sister did it a great job with it! Turn over the top layer of the cake (top of cake becomes bottom) and place on your serving plate. Brush the cake layer with 1/2 of the sugar syrup. Take 1 cup of whipped cream and spread on the moistened genoise.  Place the cherries evenly over the cream. Brush the cut-side of second genoise layer with remaning syrup. Place cut-side down on top of the cherries, gently pressing to compact. Reserve one cup (240 ml) of whipped cream. First crumb coat the cake with the some cream. Place the cake in the fridge for about half an hour.Now spread the rest of the cream on the top and sides with a palette knife. Place reserved cream in a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip and pipe rosettes on top of cake. Cover and refrigerate the cake for several hours (or overnight) before serving. Decorate with cherries and shaved chocolate.


Cheese and parsely scones

If I were a British newly-wed and had to impress my in-laws with my culinary skills , I would make these cheddar cheese and parsley scones without a flinch of an eyebrow. Or maybe some lightly sweetened plain scones with a generous smattering of whipped cream and fresh berries from the garden would surely get me in their good books right away. Thats how I feel about scones ; a great deal of confidence resting on the fact that these have to be one of the easiest and quickest things to bake. Now, I’m not sure whether this very Indian scenario of the bride’s first impression can be extrapolated to the British way of life, I am pretty sure of my inability of early morning cookery prowess to attempt making something which involves more than a couple of steps. These according to me will win a lot of hearts, British or not.

Scones just grew on me. What I have realized from my previous attempt at making scones and also while I made them this time is that they are an equivalent of the quintessential Indian Pohe (a breakfast dish made of beaten flattened rice). I know that  sounds ridiculous – owing to the fact that they are made with ingredients that are poles apart – but yes, when it comes to the attributes of both of them as a breakfast option you would see the similarities. Just like a steamy hot plate of Pohe, these are quick and easy to make and require just a handful of ingredients. They also double up as a tea time snack and can be made ahead.

Scones are a form of quick bread that originated in Scotland. You would be bewildered at the number of scone recipes you would find over the internet since they can be made both the savory and the sweet way. This recipe for scones is from a baking class I attended  and so it wouldn’t be right to post the recipe on this blog. The recipe originally had chives as the herb ingredient (apparently cheddar cheese and chives make the perfect flavor couple), but due to its unavailabity we used dried parsley instead. You can experiment with the cheese and herbs here, but be careful of the salt content, as it varies with the kind of cheese you are using and butter (unsalted or salted). The rich buttery texture, the light savory flavor due to the cheddar and a dash of mustard and the fresh earthy aroma of parsely make it the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea.

Scones are highly versatile when it comes to the ingredients but the technique for making them remains the same.  The butter which goes into the flour should be cold and cut into cubes for easy mixing. If you are using your hand to make the dough, rub the cold butter into the flour till the flour appears like coarse bread crumbs. Whatever liquid your recipe requires, be it milk or cream, make sure it is straight from the fridge. Gently turn the dry and the liquid ingredients in the bowl till they come together in a single mass. Knead it just a few times till it forms a cohesive mass. Do not over knead ! Flatten it into a rough disc and cling wrap it and store it in the refrigerator for atleast half an hour before you roll them out. Roll the dough  into a disc with a thickness of about 2 cm and cut them with a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Here are links to some scone recipes from blogs I love


Welcome November!

November, you are going to be a month of mixed emotions. But you are welcome with open arms !

For November is…


National Blog Posting Month 2012

I hope to write well…

I wish to be punctual…

I know I will be alright…


What’s baking?

From left to right

Vanilla cupcakes with buttercream frosting. I simply cannot get over these cupcakes. I made these right away after I took a cupcake class.. Result : Super!

French Toast. Rather my version of Burg’s french toast from the Memoir A homemade life by Molly Wizenberg. Molly is a Seattle based blogger and this is her father’s or as she fondly calls him, Burg’s recipe. I adore her writing. Head over to her blog Orangette to know how awesome she is!

Grissini or Italian for breadsticks. The recipe is from my baking guru, Baking Illustrated. You wont need to buy them from your baker once you know you can make them at home.

Oreo cream cheese truffles. You can’t go wrong with oreo and cream cheese put together. Visit The brown eyed baker to get the recipe.

Tiramisu cake. I made this for a friend’s birthday. Recipe from Dorie Greenspan’s BFMHTY. If you are a teetotaler and its your birthday, this party cake is the perfect excuse to get some alcohol in your system.

Eggless chocolate almond brownies. Who said brownies cannot be made without eggs? I made them twice and will be making them the third time for a neighbor who loved them so much that she asked me to teach her how to make them.

Double Chocolate cookies: These are originally Giant Double chocolate cookies from here.  These are gooey, fudgy chocolate cookies and if you happen to be a milk-hater, for a bite into these, you would readily glug down a glass full of milk. I am serious!

Potato cheese buns. Oh man! These are the perfect snack for a fun afternoon with friends.

Stuffed crust pizza. I guarantee you a clean pizza dish. You just cant discard the crusts filled with you favorite melting bubbling cheese.

Cheese and Parsley Scones: My current crush !

Burger buns. I was so excited to make these but had a tough time as the dough was way to soft to be rounded into buns. It literally spread all over the baking tray. Eventually I got fairly good albeit slightly flattened burger buns. I am currently eyeing another promising recipe for the same.

Calzone: Pizza folded differently but equally good. The filling had refried beans, corn, spinach, mozzarella and cheddar cheese and homemade pizza sauce.


Baked conchiglie rigate with cottage cheese – spinach stuffing

After a brief hiatus from Italian food I am back and beaming with an exponentially increased love for pasta. And what can be better than homemade pasta! No, I don’t make pasta from scratch. This is the kind of stuff my sister does : from scratch and eggless. That she doesn’t chronicle her kitchen experiments on a public forum say a blog and post pictures from weird angles make her any less of an amazing cook. Thanks to her, we celebrated a marathon ” Chaat festival” last month. (Think dahi samosas, Mumbai ragda patties and the like). Thank you dearest sis for the wonderful time last month.. We miss you !

If you love pasta,  there’s probably a kindergarten going child inside you.  You probably are the kind of person who gets attracted to a dish more for the colours and shapes of the ingredients besides just the “mature’ flavors and aromas. I unleash the infant in me everytime we order pasta while eating out (and also when I order desserts, but thats  another story). So when I came across this recipe for stuffed pasta in the BBC Good Food India March 2012 issue, I was excited because I hadn’t known this shape of pasta before. The recipe was for stuffed pasta shells or conchiglie rigate — rigate refers to the grooves on the pasta which helps to better able to bind the sauce to it. This recipe called for a zucchini – ricotta stuffing, and even though I had zucchini in my crisper drawer I turned a blind eye to it and  decided to recreate the same spinach-cheese filling from my favorite dish.

The resulting dish was a hit! The only thing I would do differently the next time is to layer the pasta shells over white sauce instead of the tomato sauce. I felt that the tartness of the tomatoes kind of overpowered the subtle flavor of spinach. If you like the flavor pairing, there’s nothing like it ! Its a great dish to entertain your gang of close friends.

Baked Conchiglie rigate with cottage cheese-spinach filling
Barely adapted from : BBC Good Food India Magazine : March’12 issue


For the sauce:

  • Olive oil – 2 tbsp
  • Tomatoes: chopped, 6
  • Garlic: 3-4 cloves, crushed
  • Basil leaves- 5-6

For the pasts and filling:

  • Conchiglie pasta- I used 60 shells for 3 servings
  • Spinach- 1 cup chopped
  • Cottage or ricotta cheese – 200 g (I used homemade cottage cheese)
  • Garlic: 2-3 cloves, crushed
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp
  • Salt- to taste
  • Pepper- 1/2 teaspoon
  • Mixed italian herbs: 1/2 tsp
  • Pizza cheese- 1/2 cup crated


  • Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add the crushed garlic, cook for a minute and add chopped tomatoes. Simmer the tomatoes till they soften. With the help of a spatula mash the tomatoes and let the sauce thicken. Remove from flame and stir in 5-6 torn basil leaves.
  • Cook the pasta according to manufacturer’s instructions on the packet. ( Mine said 8 minutes ). Since this pasta has to be baked further, undercooking it is a good idea. I cooked the pasta for 6 minutes.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute. Now add the finely chopped spinach. Cook till the spinach reduces and appears shriveled. Now grate your cottage cheese block into it. Cook for a minute more. Add the pepper and salt to taste. Finally stir in more than half of the shredded pizza cheese and mix.
  • Heat the oven to 190° C . Now in a baking dish,  spoon in the tomato basil sauce. Fill the pasta shells with the ricotta-spinach stuffing. Arrange them in the dish in neat rows. Sprinkle over with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes till the cheese is bubbling and golden brown.
  • Serve hot with toasted bread slices topped with garlic infused butter.

To make garlic infused butter (for 6 slices of bread) : Melt 3 tbsp of butter. Add in finely chopped garlic (6-7 cloves) and let the garlic pieces infuse into the butter over low heat. Now spoon the mixture uniformly over the surface of brown sandwich bread slices. Sprinkle oregano or Italian herbs. Toast or grill the bread slices in the oven, till they brown.


My weekend loot !

The monsoons are not exactly a great time to venture out on foot in Mumbai. I maybe wrong in saying so but it might be because of my inexperience with ‘walking for errands’. In Nagpur, I had my precious two-wheeler to take me wherever I wanted to go, even if it was just a few meters away. But here, it is different. Public transport rules as the distances are longer. Better still if you travel by your own car and even better if you have a driver who willingly drives you where ever you want to go. I thank my lucky stars for that !

Yesterday, or perhaps the day before the monsoons finally reached Mumbai. Unlike  every weekend which is usually spent walking aimlessly in a mall, this weekend we decided to head to Bandra. It was a bright morning and the sky was scattered with wisps of grey clouds casually hanging out, probably plotting a heavy downpour for the later part of the day.  Since it was late for breakfast, we decided to skip it and instead of entering Suzette Creperie & cafe , we settled to fill our stomachs with Punjabi khaana at Papa Pancho ka dhaba. A menu check on a mobile app later revealed that we had missed out on some superb buckwheat crepes made the traditional Brittany way. There’s always a next time and next time I really hope is the coming weekend.

Getting a parking space in Bandra especially on a Sunday is not an easy task. We were quite fortunate to find one and everything we wanted to explore was just walking distance from there. Since grocery shopping is my first love (shopping for clothes comes a close second, normal right?), the first place I decided to check out was the Pali hill Farmer’s market. As I was getting ready to dive into the sea of veggies, the sun decided to take its day off and down came the rains. It wasn’t a heavy downpour but the pothole filled sludgy water made it difficult to walk and it was no fun playing ‘dodge water’ with the cars either. We passed from stall to stall eyeing the fresh greens and regretting buying our grocery at the mall the day before. We had to stop eventually when the roof of a stall attempted to soak us in its own reservoir of rain water.

My next destination was Sante’s , a delicatessen located just a few meters away from the market on the same road. This is where for the first time ever in Mumbai, I found Valrhona.  My happiness was short-lived when I checked the price label (!) But this place is surely a haven for cheese enthusiasts. I didn’t get too adventures and stuck to my regular cheese buys : 100 g blocks of Mozzarella and Parmigiano reggiano. As we were about to make an exit, I spotted a plastic jar filled with vanilla beans. Now is the time to make your own vanilla extract, I thought to myself and bought a few beans priced at 60 Rs per bean.  Some quick math (done by my husband, obviously) revealed that it was time to chuck the fake and pricey bottles of vanilla essence and replace them with natural vanillin. Sante’s also carries a big freezer full of frozen fruits : strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, red currants and many more. Since I had already bought cans of fruits soaked in syrup ( I know Fresh fruits > Frozen fruits >Canned fruits !) I wistfully let the freezer door shut. Barring a couple of rookie mistakes I was pretty satisfied with my loot !

My next stop was going to be Arife’s la moulde, a store selling baking supplies but being a Sunday it was closed.

Too bad I didn’t carry my camera on my way but here is a picture of my weekend purchase. I love the bright green cheese wrappers !

We did end the day watching a movie at a mall though 😀


Green tea and great advice

This space has been quiet for the past couple of weeks. But I have tiptoed here during this time, cleaning up drafts, choosing pictures for posts, reading my previous posts while getting embarrassed at the typos and the grammar. Alas! Even after all this I haven’t managed to eek out a single post from my drafts folder. My experiments in the kitchen have continued though and so have my endless trips to the grocery store. After what seems like ages I made a pizza which I’m slightly uncomfortable naming (the name according to me is a misnomer which I would like to clarify in a future post).

I also made brownies for the first time ( I have made brownies before , to be more specific cheesecake brownies but I dare not show my pictures of a ‘cracked cheesecake top’  to the seasoned cheesecake brownie bakers.) What if Dorie Greenspan herself looks at them and mutters under her breath ” Tsk…tsk..Is this what she really got from my book ?” I never ever want her to say that. But these brownies that I baked last week are truly a piece of art and kudos to the food blogger, photographer and recipe developer who comes up with such amazing eggless dessert recipes every time. With her permission I would be posting the brownie recipe or else linking a post to her website. Either ways you will for sure have a go-to eggless brownie recipe in your recipe box.

I also churned butter. Ha ! I do it every fortnight! (Do I hear an applause?). While our mothers’ generation will laugh it off as a silly misconception of superiority, I take great pride in thinking so. Fewer and fewer people are following what I like to call ‘The milk tradition’ day by day. Due to a ready availability of yogurt, butter and other milk products in the market one may find it redundant to follow this tradition. From a half a litre pack of full cream milk everyday, to a generous reserve of white butter and a crucial little pot of clarified butter, I like it all homemade. And I would also like to tell you about it.  And to all of you who have gone steps ahead of me and make their own cheese at home, drop in a mail and say “Hi”. I’ll follow you like a puppy.

People often ask me what I do all day, since they assume that being jobless, childless (as of now) and cooking and cleaning just for two means lots and lots of free time. This question puts me in a spot because I know the answer would be gibberish to most of them. Sometimes it makes me want to run back to my ex-workplace. Perhaps, I will never ever be able to perfectly answer that question.But that’s okay. This space is where I can give you the perfect answer: I read. A lot. I read food blogs, travelogues, ingredient information, blogger and chef profiles, cookbooks. I devour it all. I hope one day I’m able to come up with an impressive list of the best blogs and books in the world of gastronomy. If you have one, do let me know.

Too much talk isn’t it?  Dont mind the delirium. I have been under the weather for the past couple of days and my head is spinning with too many ideas. And honestly for once I hope this pushes me out of my blogging lethargy. With a cup of green tea in my hand, holding my snotty breath, I’d like to advice myself…’Write what you want, more importantly what means most to you, do not lurk, do not hesitate, do not photoshop. Just go with it !’


Measuring cups and spoons

I bought this set of plastic measuring cups a couple of weeks back. I already owned one but I needed another because when it comes to washing and rewashing bakeware, I am already running miles away. I literally have to drag myself to the sink to wash a cup or two when I have to measure out a solid ingredient after a liquid greasy ingredient like butter. And dont even get me started on how I feel about drying them after all the washing!

So when I spotted this set at Homestop, Inorbit Vashi, I instantly knew I had to buy it. This is a 19 piece set with 10 cup measures and 9 spoon measures. What I love about this set is that it has a variety of odd cup measures besides the standard sizes. The cup measures range from 1/8 cup to 2 cups with a number of really useful measures in between.  So this set is a blessing for those who regularly double or half a recipe and also for all the lazy cuckoos like me. I absolutely adore the smallest spoon measures:  dash (1/8 tsp) pinch (1/16 tsp) and smidgen (1/32 teaspoon) , though I haven’t actually used them yet 🙂 .  S-M-I-D-G-E-N..I think I just love saying smidgen :D. I used this set for a recipe I had previously tested and I did not find any discrepancy in the results and the cup measures seem to be accurate.

I detest using plastic when baking, so much so that I’m not even comfortable using microwave safe plastic containers. So this goes without saying that I wont be really happy using this set for hot liquids .The box carrying them nowhere mentions that they are microwave safe either. But the attractive colours and the variety of cup measures kind of makes it up for me.  Until I buy a glass liquid measuring cup, a bunch of stainless steel measuring cups and a kitchen scale, this impulsive purchase of mine is here to stay.

Make : Progressive international

For reviews about this product visit this page.

Disclaimer : This is NOT a paid review. All the content above is for informational purposes only. The owner of this blog makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information on this site or found by following any link on this site.