Boozy Fruit Cake

I’ve been baking cakes for nearly over two decades now and though I’m a stickler for following recipes, I’ve started taking liberties and doing my own thing (within the pre-defined limits of a recipe of course). Last week’s boozy fruit cake came from a random mélange of recipes of fruit muffins and Christmas cake that I’ve been baking for several years. As always, a simple recipe that requires very little time and effort!

Ingredients:

1 cup refined flour (maida)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 tbsp orange marmalade
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup mixed candied peel, tutti frutti, dried cheeries & cranberries
3 tbsp Armagnac (or any other Brandy you prefer)


Method:

Beat the eggs and sugar in a large bowl, till the eggs form stiff white peaks. Slowly fold in the refined flour, oil, baking powder, vanilla essence and marmalade. Add 1 tbsp of Armagnac before pouring the mix into a greased and dusted cake tin. Bake at 180 for 35-40 minutes.

Once the cake has cooled down, drizzle the remaining Armagnac over the cake. Makes for an excellent accompaniment to the evening coffee. You can also serve it with whipped cream if you want to make it a dessert.

How Being A Social Media Ballerina Got Me A Pot Of Mustard!

Food Trucks are quite the rage in Bangalore since last year and you can eat a wide variety of stuff ranging from kababs to to pav bhaji to burgers to pancakes! My favourite of course is Le Casse-Croûte, a French food truck which launched in September 2015 and serves sandwiches (or croques as the French call them) with some delicious sides. When they launched at the Alliance Française, the serpentine queue made me balk and I had to wait several weeks before I finally caught them at their now regular stop at 6th main, Indiranagar. One croque, fries and a crème de la crème and I was hooked!

It goes without saying that I became a regular when they launched on Swiggy earlier this year – what could be better than getting a tasty croque with some fries, both still deliciously warm, delivered to your doorstep after a long, tiring class or in the middle of a brain-storming meeting with a startup?

A loyal customer and ardent supporter, you can imagine my distress when one evening Swiggy refused to deliver our favourite croques! I refused to give up though and got the husband on customer support with Swiggy, while I took to Twitter.

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15 minutes later, we had a solution and barely 45 minutes later, we were curled up in our armchairs munching with great content on Monsieur Martin and Monsieur Dupleix protecting our fries and the mustard sauce from our very greedy gourmand dog!

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Little did I know that my enthusiasm for Le Casse-Croûte would earn me a pot of their excellent mustard free! I woke up the next morning to this tweet from them :

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A few exchanges on Twitter and Whatsapp later, I found myself with an offer to choose between their home made tomato ketchup mustard or crème de la crème. It didn’t even take me a minute to choose – the Casse-Croûte mustard sauce is one of the best I’ve had outside France. In fact we love it so much, that we often order extra mustard not just for the fries, but also to use later as a dressing for salads or to whip up creamy mustard sauce for a chicken filet meal.

Since I seem to have a constant stock of the extra mustard (yes, we order from them EVERY week), I was a little tardy in picking up that free mustard, but I finally got it today – my first pot of mustard earned simply by being a loyal customer and ardent supporter of a brand on Twitter! Youpi! I can’t wait to try out some new mustard-y recipes over the next few weeks!

You can follow Le Casse-Croûte on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to know where they are parked – or of course, if you stay in or around Indiranagar, Swiggy zindabad!

For The Joy Of Cooking (And Eating)

Spinach bake with some chicken sautéed in honey, lemon and chilli flakesAs a child I was as dispassionate about food as one could be. I’m still not the “gourmand” in its connotation of a person who enjoys eating and often consumes copious amounts of food. But I have discovered that there is much pleasure to be gained from a good meal. My short stints away from home forced me to start cooking, but it was never anything interesting. That didn’t change much when I first moved out and set up home in Bangalore a few years ago. But over the years, as I started discovering the finer nuances of food, I started experimenting in the kitchen. A few inspiring meals at some marvellous restaurants led me to start looking up recipes and before long I’d taken on the title of Gourmand Geets.

Gourmand (noun / adjective): a connoisseur of good food, a gourmet

Chicken in Creamy Mustard SauceThe monotony of daily routine set me back from my culinary adventures for a while, but a recent visit from friends from France revived my passion for whipping up a good meal. Going to the market has become a pleasure once again as I ponder over the vegetables and fruits and pick my favourite salad ingredients…and I find myself looking forward to “cooking hour” every evening.

It’s been a glorious week of delicious delectable salads, and some of my favourite preparations: Baked Spinach in my own version of Bechamel (my definition of soul food on a rainy evening), Chicken Sautéed in Honey, Lemon and Chilli Flakes (so quick & such a hit every time I serve this!),  Sweet Potato Salad with a delightful Mango Chutney Vinagrette, Chicken in a Creamy Mustard Sauce or the (closer to home) Andhra Curry Leaf Chicken, inspired by the one at Windsor Pub. This time around, I’ve decided to start cataloguing my adventures in the kitchen.

Fellow gourmands can follow my culinary adventures on Instagram under #GourmandGeets.

Gourmand Geets: Tea Time

I grew up on a staple diet of Enid Blyton stories set in the English countryside. It’s hardly a surprise then that tea time has always felt incomplete to me at home. Not a great fan of chai and pakodas, I shifted to coffee very early because it was so much easier to reconcile myself to a coffee and biscuits break!

Tea time remained a dream to chase in England where I would be served cute little cucumber sandwiches, slices of home-made cake and cookies…and scones with cream and strawberry jam!

But then I went for a Christmas party and met Sriram (also known for his association with My Sunny Balcony) and discovered The Bakeaway, an initiative to bring back to our tables traditional cakes and English goodies (like scones!).

High-tea by The Bakeaway is a delightful spread with everything from my childhood fantasies of English tea: lovely little cucumber sandwiches, home made biscuits or cookies, some tea-time cake and scones!!! Delighted with our first experience, we placed an order again, this time as a treat for some friends. Needless to say, our high tea party was a great success (I must admit though that it was high tea with coffee) and our guests left licking their fingers not wanting to waste a single crumb of the fantastic Victoria Sponge Cake.

If you’re planning tea party or even a picnic, The Bakeaway’s tea package is ideal! Placing an order is pretty simple and they are very punctual with delivery. I can’t wait to try out some of their other goodies!

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P.S My fascination for English tea made me read Cobwebs and Cream Teas, a book which I highly recommend for all like-minded tea aficionados!
P.P.S I’m also a big fan of home-made brunch parties – I’m sure that The Bakeaway could help the lazy hosts drum up a delightful brunch! In the meanwhile, here are some ideas for a brunch party chez vous!

Gourmand Geets: Un Brunch Chez Moi

Who doesn’t enjoy a laid back Sunday brunch? It’s a lovely way to spend Sunday in the company of good food, drinks and alcohol AND it’s easier to organize. Plus it makes perfect sense for the OCD cleaner in me – so much easier to clean up after a brunch than a dinner that stretches into the next morning! So one lovely Bangalore weekend, we called up some friends and invited them home for brunch…and what fun we had. The menu simple, the alcohol light and breezy like the weather. And the company was perfect.

We started a little before noon with some close friends and a merry spread of slices of baguette with various toppings, banana muffins, prosciutto, apples & cheese. To quench our thirst, there was rosé sangria and beer of course!

BrunchSpreadFor the toppings, I used three simple recipes:

Egg Salad
4 boiled eggs
1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tbsp cheese spread
1 tsp mustard
1/2 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Cut the eggs into half and separate the yolks. Mix the yolks with the other ingredients. Cut the white into smaller pieces and mix into the yolk-mayo-cheese mix. Spread over baguette or toast. Don’t forget to crush some fresh pepper over the toasts before serving!

BrunchSpread2Tomato Saalan
2 tomatoes finely chopped
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 green capsicum finely chopped
Salt and pepper to toast
1 tsp olive oil

Lightly sauté the onions and garlic till soft and fragrant. Add the capsicum and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook on low heat till it dries up a little. Cool and serve on baguette or toast.

Baked Beans
1/2 cup baked beans
1/2 onion
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Coriander to garnish

Lightly sauté the onions and garlic till soft and fragrant. Add the baked beans and cook for 2 minutes. Add salt and pepper and cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and serve on baguette or toasts.

P.S Recipe for the muffins & lunch to come up in a few days!

Gourmand Geets : La Belle Vie

Located in Upper Coonoor, La Belle Vie housed in the 115 year old colonial hotel, 180° McIver, is a multi-cuisine restaurant that specializes in French cuisine. It was the board announcing its status as a “French Restaurant” that called my attention as our car made its way up towards Kotagiri Road.

La Belle Vie - viewWe went back the next day for lunch after a wonderful morning spent exploring the tea estates of Coonoor and making plans to come back for a do-nothing vacation in a tea estate. Exhausted and hungry after all the traipsing around in the mountains, we walked in looking for a hearty meal in a warm and cozy ambiance. We got a table in their lovely garden overlooking the valley and the main city and planted ourselves, a little away from the shade of the trees to soak in the winter sun.

The menu, a mix of Indian and “Continental” cuisine baffled me at first, for I had come seeking French cuisine. But I soon spotted the French section and we quickly ordered some French Onion Soup, followed by chicken for main course. The soup came immediately and was perfect with slow-cooked caramelized onions and served gratinéed with croutons and cheese on top. 🙂

I ordered Chicken Forestière cooked in a divine creamy sauce.  I don’t know if it was authentic, even though the restaurant is apparently run by a French couple (who we didn’t see so I can’t vouch for this fact), but it was one of the best dishes I’ve had in long time.

Chicken ForestièreMy friend had Chicken and Shallots in Balsamic Sauce – a lighter meal than mine, but just as appealing to our palates.

Chicken with Shallots in Balsamic Sauce

Though stuffed (the quantities are generous), we were tempted to have some dessert just to linger in the garden and soak up the beautiful views. We had to be sensible however and skip the rather interestingly spelt desserts! Maybe next time? 🙂

La Belle Vie - Dessert menu

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 (the service was a little slow, though we were probably impatient because of our ravenous state!)
Location: 180°McIver, Orange Grove Road, Coonoor

Would You Like Some Muffins With Your Tea?

MuffinTea1I’ve been fascinated with muffins and cupcakes for as far back as I can remember. Summer vacations, weekends and every free moment I had as a child were filled with Enid Blyton’s books so it’s a small surprise that my head was full of images of cold chicken salad, tomato sandwiches washed down with lemonade or ginger beer. For my sweet tooth, I had images of treacle pudding, jam tarts, fresh fruit cakes and scones of course. For some reason I always imagined the fruit cakes and scones to be the size and shape of muffins.

MuffinBibleWhen my mother bought me my first baking tray, I was almost disappointed to see that it was for a regular cake. It took me several years to finally buy a muffin tray – I actually bought a book of muffin recipes before I bought the tray! I finally made my first batch of muffins last weekend, over 15 years after I made my first cake.

Here are the recipes for the first two batches of muffins I’ve made. I have a feeling that I’m to make many more muffins, so feel free to drop by for tea one of these days!

Banana Cinnamon Honey Muffins (adapted from the original here)

¼ cup sugar
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 cup flour
1 tbsp honey
1 mashed banana
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup milk

Beat together the egg, sugar, honey and mashed banana. Pour in the oil mixing lightly. Gradually fold in the baking powder, baking soda, flour, salt and cinnamon powder. Add the vanilla essence and milk and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the greased muffin pan (make sure not to fill them to the top or else the muffins will spill over when they start cooking and rise) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180° C for 20 minutes.

Muffins

Spicy Fruit Muffins (adapted from a recipe I found in the Muffins Bible)

½ cup sugar
1 egg
1 grated apple
¾ cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp cinnamon powder (I love cinnamon so I increased the quantity from the original ½ tsp)
½ tsp mixed spice (or as I did ¼ tsp each of nutmeg, cardamom and clove powder)
¼ cup raisins / candied cherries (I used a mix of the both)
¼ cup vegetable oil (the original uses 50g butter)
2 tbsp water

Beat together the egg with sugar. Stir in the apple. Gradually add the flour, baking soda, baking powder and the spices. (sifted together before hand) The mix will probably resemble a dough by now. Pour in the oil, followed by the water and mix lightly.

Fold in the sultanas and candied cherries. Fill greased muffin pans – make sure not to fill them to the top or else the muffins will spill over when they start cooking and rise – and bake at 180° C for  around 20 minutes.

Muffin Trivia

  • Did you know that muffins date back to the 10th or 11th century Wales, but muffins as we know them today have their origin in America?
  • The word “muffin” comes from the French word “moufflet” meaning soft bread of the German word “muffe,” a kind of cake.