Ali loves chocolate. Even dark chocolate. It’s what he asks for when it comes to ordering ice cream or cupcakes. Then almost overnight he started picking Vanilla. Vanilla everything. One day when he wanted me to bake cake, I agreed knowing I had some Vanilla Swiss Meringue frosting in the freezer. But then he asked, …
I’m on the fence when it comes to coffee in desserts. Tiramisu is probably the only dessert on this planet I would pass on. I wouldn’t mind a scoop of Coffee Gelato or a couple of squares of Mocha Fudge. Given how the world is right now, a lot of us will be observing Eid very differently. When Ramadan began, I was a bit hopeful about seeing family on Eid. I was thinking of having them over for a traditional breakfast that is made on my husband’s side of the family. I wanted to make something sweet that could accompany the spread. A cake would be too much, a Payasam would have to be made the night before and even though summer has arrived, it would be too early for a cold dessert. I started looking through a few of my recipe books and felt that Cake Bars was the answer. Since we would all be having caffeine in the morning after a whole month, I felt that Espresso would be just the right flavor to end a heavy meal. I love texture in desserts and rummaged in my quarantine dictated pantry to see what was easily replaceable. I had almonds in all forms: raw, powdered and even flakes. A little testing later, I was hopeful to bake these on Eid morning. I’ve come to terms that this Eid will pass by without meeting the extended family. Baking has helped me with the uncertainty of our times and I will still be baking these Espresso & Almond Bars to lift my spirits.
Nishana is one of the many wonderful people I have met after being married. Our husbands are technically uncle and nephew in relation but only a few years apart in age. We all spoke together on a conference call after our engagement when she was expecting their first child. I visited her home in Kerala after she had her baby and then they visited us in Abu Dhabi when they were flying back to United Kingdom. That was the beginning of innumerable number of hours spent on the telephone. A decade later, we have shared recipes, travel lists, pregnancy and labor stories’, and countless laughs. The number of times we have met in person can actually be counted on one hand. Ever since we’ve both had children, the number of chats have lessened too. Yet, our conversations, filled with warmth and quite laughter, flow effortlessly even when we haven’t spoken for months. When we do talk, it always ends with inviting each other to holiday at their part of the world. We did so late last year and that is when she made this incredible Chicken Fry.
When my son was born, one of the things that I waited till he was a bit older was to be in the kitchen together. I was not really allowed to help with cooking growing up. The occasional baking I was allowed were done completely independently and would almost come out of the oven completely burnt. When we first moved back to Dubai from Abu Dhabi, our home had an open kitchen plan. He would take onions and sit on the floor removing their skins. I would give him little cups of water and he could spend an hour pouring it back and forth. Around the time of weaning, he would bring his kitchen toys, set it on the floor and tell me what he was doing. I was thrilled when I felt he was ready to help me with a simple recipe. That day we made oatmeal cookies. I have a picture of helping himself to remnants of the batter on the spatula he was holding. That was the beginning of us cooking together and it has been wonderfully messy yet fulfilling. This year started with us making these mini Pizzas.
I fall into the category of Malayalees that would be thrilled at the sight of steaming hot Vellappam for breakfast. Or dinner. Mind you, they’re best eaten if they’re made by mom so they are magically replenished and you can tuck into them leisurely. With tiny variations in ingredients according to the region, the batter is essentially rice and coconut ground together and allowed to ferment overnight. Its lacy edges and pillowy soft centers are characteristic features of these hoppers that are popular in the south of India and Sri Lanka. It is made in an Appam Chatty which is pretty similar to a wok. Ladlefuls of batter are poured into the heated pan and then swirled by the handles to spread where it rests against the sides to crisp and brown. The residual batter trickles to the centre where it is would be cooked through from the steam of the covered pan. One of the food resolutions I made for the new year is to tackle my list of food fears. This list has recipes that I have tried myself and they have fallen flat in either flavor or because of my imperfect technique. I have re-read these recipes and the thought of failing again and discarding the failed product puts me off. And sitting right on top of this list was Vellappam.
Ramadan is undoubtedly, the busiest time on my blog. I have been lying low throughout the year but closer to Ramadan, I feel obliged to shoot and share recipes for my table and yours. I almost always start planning with dessert for the day of Eid and then work my way backwards. This year I made a Pistachio Milk cake for an Iftar I hosted for my cousins and was inundated with requests to share the recipe. There were a few ideas that didn’t make it beyond the testing stage on the blog and I felt I had to make it up for it with more dessert. Given that we’ve been blessed with the season of mangoes coinciding with the month of fasting, it made perfect sense to try my hand at making a refreshingly light milk cake that would make for a sweet (and cool!) ending after generous servings of celabratory Biriyani.
In a household where at least one fried dish is expected for Iftar, you’re constantly looking for new options. Kerala has plenty of fried food options and Cutlets and Samosas stuffed and filled with meat are a staple on most tables. My home is no different and we have some form of fried dish almost every day for my husband. It’s mostly boiled egg, spicy Potato masala or thinly sliced onions dipped in Gram flour batter and fried till gold and crisp. These options are rotated throughout the week and he’s content with the options. On the other hand, I still look out for new recipes that are a bit different from the usual Malayali fanfare. Last year, I was introduced to these Mozzarella stuffed Potato Croquettes. I added one little tweak and it’s now one of my go-to recipes when entertaining family members for Iftar.
Today has been a whole year since Vellima left this world. Truth be told, we didn’t share a close bond. She came to live with us in Dubai 15 years ago right after I turned 15. She had a very strong personality and was a stickler for routines. The word clockwork could have been coined just for her. She always spoke her mind and was not one to sugar coat her words. And today when I think of her, I admire her. And for someone I haven’t seen preparing meals, a few of her recipes have a firm place in my list of favorites. Today I am sharing her recipe for Chemeen Vada.
I finally have a skillet recipe on my blog! Having bought it close to two years ago, I always thought I’d be sharking a cookie or a cake recipe first. But since I am way beyond fashionably late to the skillet party, I have a chicken pie recipe for you. I’ve been holding off sharing this recipe waiting for the weather to be pie perfect. Last year, this time it was pouring heavily. I would know because it caused quite some damage to my (only proper) Curry Leaf Plant. This last week has been pretty warm for Dubai winter. But not too warm to bake a pie.