Monday, May 13, 2013

Recipe : Sfouf (जेव्हा Lebanese लोक रवयाचा केक करतात तेव्हा त्याला Sfouf म्हणतात!)

The way I hit upon this recipe is a bit weird. I was actually looking for the recipe of an extra smooth hummus (Which i have never been able to make to perfection you know!). Then once you hit upon those Mediterranean foods, you see so many things!!!
I saw "sfouf" and I thought the name was so interesting!
Then I looked up ingreients: Semolina or rava, wow!!
Then i read further, and it had no egg!!!!! (That means no beating ;) )

Then I searched more for Sfouf  and I found hundreds of recipes there. Then I remember I had preserved one Femina Cookbook issue from 2010 which my sister in law had gifted me. I vaguely remembered having seen a Lebanese dessert in that.And Viola! Sfouf it was.

Actually as per people on the Internet, this is a tea time accompaniment. I would also prefer it tea time, though nothing hurts if you serve this as dessert!

I decided to stick with the Femina recipe. But it had one catch. The chef, Manu Chandra had used weights and mililiters for measurement!

So I used some of my own conversions. I would suggest you go by weight if you do have a scale. Also, he has given measures for 400g suji/rawa/semolina. This really makes a LOT of cake. You would wish to half the measures


Semolina/Rawa/Suji   400g  (3 3/4 cup)
All purpose Flour/Maida   200g  ( 1 1/2 cup)
Turmeric Powder  1/2 tsp
Baking Powder  1 tsp

Butter 200 ml
Caster Sugar  250g ( 1 1/4 cup) ***
Milk   300 ml
Water  100 ml *
Rose Water  1tsp

Sesame seeds   2 tablespoon**
Slivered almonds  100g  (1cup)

* Most of the recipes that I looked up used some amount of water. Also, I remembered by mom using a little bit of water while making suji ka halwa (शिरा) even though she used milk. I think it is needed so that rawa cooks well.

** Sesame seeds is an addition I made from my readings on the internet. Chef Manu Chandra's recipe did not have this

*** The cake became less sweet for my personal taste. I would probably use 1 1/2 cup sugar the next time. Also, granulated sugar works well too.


Ensure  that the butter is at room temperature
1. Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Grease a 13x9 pan. I used butter. One can use ghee also or like few websites mentioned, one can use tahini!

2. Combine the semolina, flour, turmeric and baking powder well.

3. In another bowl combine the butter, sugar, milk, water and rosewater. Stir to make a paste

4. Pour into the pan. Sprinkle sesame seeds and almonds on the top

5. Bake for 30 min. Cool and serve.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Recipe : Whole wheat bread

Taking my baking experiments furthur, i decided to try the humble loaf bread. Simple, plain bread. I always suspected that bread available at stores had fair amount of refined flour though they also had whole wheat flour. Digging up the internet for many whole wheat bread recipes revealed the same thing. Then I thought of venturing all by myself, with a little help from the internet!
The starting point was our plain old chapati atta. The kind I get milled if I happen to be in Pune, or if I happen to buy readymade, i buy Aashirwad or pillsbury You can also use the multigrain atta.
So what i wished to try was the atta mixture we use for chapati, plus the yeast! And that is exactly what I tried!

A note on yeast. There are so many brands of yeast available, and different types too. So far with my limited baking, i have bought sachets of instant yeast. This is different from active dry yeast. I have put the procedure of the yeast I use. I suggest while adapting this recipe to your needs, read the instructions the yeast maker gives for proportions plus use your own judgement.
For the measurement, I prefer to go by the cup and spoon, and I have found that they are decently reliable. Many times I use the cup we typically get with the rice cooker. The spoon is the usual tea spoon.

The crumb of this whole wheat bread is coarse, as probably is expected of a non-refined flour. DO not expect this one to be ultra soft like the market bought one.


4 cup   Atta or whole wheat flour
4 teaspoon   Instant yeast
2 teaspoon    salt (or to taste)
8 teaspoon    oil (usual oil that we use for daily cooking)
 plus little extra for greasing
1 to 2 cups of luke warm water
3 teaspoon honey/sugar


1. Mix the flour, salt and yeast  well. Add the honey/sugar and mix well. Form a well in the center of the flour mixture
2. Heat about 2 cup of water. The water should be only slightly warm. Add the oil and 1 cup water in the well formed inside the flour.
3. Mix well, and add the water as needed to form a ball of dough, the same consistency as chapati dough. The amount of water needed may vary according to the wheat flour.

4. Now comes the laborious part! Start kneading the dough slowly and with pressure of the base of your palm. You may use a greased surface or a floured surface as per your convenience. I generally apply oil either on my kitchen platform and knead on the kitchen platform or if the vessel is large, on the inside of the vessel, and knead in the vessel itself. At least 10-15 minutes of kneading is needed, and as one of the fool bloggers describes it -> till your shoulders fall! But.....if you have a food processor with a blade to knead dough, you can use that, and all is so smooth! If you have anything similiar to this or this, then your job is done! So you need to knead the dough till it looks smooth.
5. Then apply oil to the inside of a vessel in which you plan to keep it for rising. Place the ball of dough and cover with a plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Keep the dough for about 60-90 min or till it doubles. The rising time depends on the climate. Here Jakarta, every place is a warm place throughout the year, unless you are in an AC room. In your city, you may want to search for a warm place and keep it to rise.

6. After it has risen for about an hour or more, punch air out and knead again for 10 min. This time around no need to use the food processor :) Arms are enough!.
7. Grease the bread pan, shape the dough to fit the bottom of the bread pan and cover with a plastic wrap/kitchen towel to rise again.
8. After about 30-40 min, start the oven and preheat to 220 deg centigrade. Preheat for about 10 min. Use top and bottom coils. In the meanwhile, the flour should have risen again
9. Remove the shrink wrap and prepare the dough to go into the oven. I generally make a small lin depression vertically in the center. If you so wish, you can add some sesame seeds, or any other topping of your choice...poppy seeds, oats, sunflower seeds etc.
10. According to a tip on a website, i added quarter cup of water in the bottom tray of the oven. Now this whole thing is ready to go inside the oven!
11. After 10 min of preheating at 220 deg, place the tray at the center of the oven and reduce the temperature to 190 deg centigrade. Bake for 40 min or till the upper crust is a nice golden brown colour, and a stick inserted comes out dry.
Note regarding ovens : According to the size and capacity of your oven, you may need to fine tune your baking time.
12. Turn off the oven, and let the bread pan stay in the oven for about 10 min. Remove the pan and keep on the cooling rack for about 10-15 min. 
13. Remove the bread from the pan and keep to cool on the cooling rack.
14. After the bread is cool enough, you can slice it and enjoy!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Raw Banana and brinjal curry in coconut milk


Raw bananas (ash plantains)  - 2 medium (about 6 inches in length)
Brinjals, purple, long slender ones - 2 medium size.
(you may wish to replace these with 5 smaller ones)
ginger - 1/2 inch
garlic - 2-3 big cloves or 4-5 small cloves
shallots - about 5
green chillies  - 2-3 or according to taste
black peppercorns - 1 teaspoon
cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
curry leaves - 1 twig or two
turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
thick coconut cream - 3-4 tablespoon
oil - 2 tablespoon

oil for frying
salt to taste

1. Keep  oil in a pan and place on a gas stove (for frying). You may also choose to shallow fry, it will take a longer to get the crispiness, and less oil may mean less taste

2. Peel and cut the banana in 1/4 inch size pieces, and immediately put to fry. If left open, banana tends to turn black. Fry the bananas on a very low flame until crispy. This is a bit tme consuming and needs to be done patiently. If fried on a high flame, bananas will become soft immediately after frying.

3. Take the bananas out of the frying pan and place in a plate. Cut the brinjals in 1/4 inch pieces and fry till crispy on a low flame. The brinjals will not be as crisp as bananas

4. Grind the ginger and garlic to a paste. Grind the pepper and cumin seeds coarsely. Finely chop the shallots.

5. Place oil in a pan, add ginger and garlic paste. Fry till aromatic

6. Then add the shallots and fry till golden brown

7. Add curry leaver, pepper, cumin, turmeric, 1/2 cup water and salt to taste. Cover the pan. Keep the heat medium

8. After the water boils, add the fried bananas and cover the pan again. Let boil till bananas cook to tender. Add more water if needed. Add brinjals and let them cook too. Keep the pan covered.

9. Add the coconut cream and mix. You may adjust the amount of water and coconut cream to your own liking. If you are using freshly extracted coconut milk (as against packaged coconut cream) use lesser water in the initial stages.

10. Turn the flame off after the coconut cream is added. You may wish to add a teaspoon of lime juice too.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Musings of "1 year old" housewife

Life had been a big chain of new experiences and changes last full year. I was so busy doing things that there was hardly any time to think. The six months after I quit were difficult ones, a family member struggled with cancer, finally giving in to the disease. The loss left us numb for a while, but the decision to move to a foreign land was seemed good as it would definitely help healing.

Life in the new land was full of excitement, surprises, learning. It was as if there was a system reset! I got to define my needs, wants, and got to set all the priorities in life right. Thinking about my life as a professional did happen, though occasionally. But frankly, I was enjoying the new responsibilities just too much to give a serious thought about it. I definitely was not missing being a professional.

It was only since few days ago, i started realising that maybe, somewhere I was missing life as a professional. I did miss the technical part a bit, but more I missed was the pressure, the team work to achieve the goals and the sense of satisfaction one got after the goal was achieved after putting up a race against time. In the job, the pressures seemed nasty, I often felt as if I would probably enjoy work more without the pressures. Now the feeling is different :)

I still do not know if I would go back to the professional life as an ASIC/VLSI engineer. The options are wide open, even the industry I want to be in! I could turn to food and catering, or textile trading or photography, or HR consultancy or travel or the good old technology. I know there is space everywhere, there is scope to earn money everywhere, but the tough task is to figure out what my true beckoning is. I feel empowered looking at the endless options I have, but at the same time overwhelmed with the difficulty in making decisions.

Assuming that i eventually do get back to some professional life, most likely technology, do I repent having taken this "break"? Absolutely not :). I think there has been a lot of value addition in me. There are a lot of things in life that need to be done, but I never got time to learn them properly. For example, your child needs your time, your advice and your skill to deal with his/her emotional highs and lows. I remember when I was a full time professional , i used to really struggle in such situations, not knowing how to react and not having enough time to give thought to this matter, or experiment with possibilities. In the past year, I have definitely got a better idea of how to handle my son. Earlier, the thought of cooking dinner for guests would really leave me feeling so unprepared and incapable, somewhere deep inside. Now I do not fear it :)
I think this past year has served a great way of sharpening the knife on the personal front, and that would help a lot in professional life too, as it would leave me more relaxed about things back home. (All this of course with the hope and expectations that all other things go normal:) )

I would like to end this post with a request to all experienced professionals out there to put in their views about getting back to the mainstream profession after a sabbatical. Do you think people come back better? Or what i have here is just an illusion? If you have happened to take any sabbatical in the past, what are the pitfalls to coming back in the mainstream profession according to you, and what can one do to avoid/overcome them? There are some major decisions i have to eventually make, and maybe a share of your mind could help pick the right way :)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Eggless chocolate cake (dairy free)

For an eggless cake with butter, check here. 

My friend Smriti first sent me this dairy and egg free cake recipe. It is mighty useful to kids who are allergic to dairy and/or eggs. I have included few variations ahead, where one is fine with milk but only wants an eggless version.

All purpose flour (maida)      1 2/3 cups
Brown sugar                         1/2 cup
granulated sugar                    1/2 cup
(you may use 1 cup of granulated sugar too)
cocoa                                    1/4 cup
Baking soda                           1 teaspoon
salt                                        1/2 teaspoon
vegetable oil                          1/3 cup
water                                     1 cup
vinegar                                  1 teaspoon
vanilla essence                       1/2 teaspoon

Heat oven to 350deg F or 180deg Celsius. Mix flour, brown sugar, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt with fork. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour into greased and dusted pan. Bake 35-40 min or till toothpick comes out clean

The cake may seem a bit dry if it is to be eaten without icing. So I tried a few variations. These are useful for people who are fine with dairy.
Variation 1
Instead of 1 cup water, you may use 1 cup milk
Variation 2
Add 2/3 cups milk powder to the list of ingredients

Eggless chocolate cake (with butter)

For a dairy free eggless cake, see here
Lot of friends asking for recipe. So i decided it's time I write a blogpost :)

(The following are portions for a 9 inch dia round baking tin. I usually use half the proportions for 6-7 inch tin
A cup is 200ml volume
All purpose flour (maida)                2.5 cup
cocoa                                             1/2 cup
sugar                                              1.5 cup
butter (unsalted)                              1 cup
milk                                                1 cup
baking powder                               2.5 teaspoon
baking soda                                    1/2 teaspoon
honey                                             2 teaspoon
vanilla essence                               1.5 teaspoon

If you wish to make a plain cake, replace the cocoa powder with flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon more of vanilla essence. If you wish to make any other flavour, say mango, you may have to adjust the portions of milk and sugar to accommodate for the sweetness and water content of the mango juice.

Remove the butter from the fridge about 2-3 hours before you start preparing the cake. The butter should be at room temperature
Mix the flour, baking powder and cocoa and sieve thrice. Set aside.
Prepare the baking tin . Grease and dust the tin.

Slightly heat the milk to make it lukewarm. Add the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla essence. mix well. Let the sugar dissolve. Usually takes about 5-10 min

Turn the oven on to preheat at 170deg celcius
Mix the sieved flour mixture spoon by spoon in the milk mixture. Ensure no lumps are formed. If the oven is preheated by now, add soda to the mixture, mix thoroughly and fast, pour the mixture in the baking tin and place in the oven. Both coils should be on. Bake for 35 min or till inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Alternately, one can cook this cake in a pressure cooker/perssure pan too. The pressure pan/cooker must have a plate at the base to help distribute heat evenly. It is commonly available for all standard cookers. While using pressure cooker, it is best not to use the cooker lid, and instead cover it a stainless steel plate. If lid needs to be used, use without gasket and weight, but best use another plate.
Preheat the cooker for 10 min, and place the tin (or any steel/tin/aluminum circular tin). The only thing need to keep in mind that the height of the cake cooked in the cooker can be only about an inch and a half (batter height only 1/3 to 3/4 inch), so portions and vessels need to be adjusted accordingly .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Parenting challenge : Difficult extended family

The intent of this post is not to rant. I write this because I have observed that teaching children the values you intend to teach  is truly challenging in closely knit families. Do share your experiences/comments if you feel it helps a healthy discussion

We have, what i would say a closely knit extended family. That means technically, we are not joint family, we do not tay in the same house; but every festival, birthday, special occasion is spent together. The scene where i am trying to prevent my child from doing a certain thing, and close relatives intervening to state the otherwise can be quite common during family get togethers.

For example, during a meal, my son has had good amount of sweets and fried items, and i tell him that he must now have some rice. I would have a bunch of people who would say to me right there, "oh comeon, let him eat what he wants to". I need not tell how a 5 year old can start reacting to instructions after that. This is of course just an illustrative example, and i am sure many of you would have experienced similiar situations. Please note that i am totally okay with certain concessions when visiting distant relatives, friends or people who are certainly not our "home". But with people whom we call "home", visits are frequent, and such incidences give children very different messages. At such times i have a feeling that my extended family members are on the other side of a tug-of-war rope!

I try to find my own ways out of this. One of the ways i have tried, and which has worked at least to some extent, is that i put down the rules for my son's behaviour before we leave our house. Then i remind him what he has promised me. It does not work always, but at times it does.

Fortunately there are few relatives who would co-operate raising kids, like if i tell my son to ask something with a "please" they would repeat the same thing, albeit in a softer manner.

I would definitely like to see comments on whether you have faced this issue, and your way to tackle it.