My Lasagna search ends in my kitchen

Is it possible to be possessive about cheese? To covet cheese? What about knives? Tell me it is normal. I guard my best cheeses for the very best recipes, the foolproof ones, the ones I know would work. I then made this Lasagna. Cheese well spent. A short while back, but for quite a long time I was going crazy. Reading that sentence makes me think I really am. I really was going nuts. You know that famous saying “Order Lasagna and you’ll know what the restaurant’s worth!” You didn’t? It is not a saying. But it could be. It should be. Just saying.Well, I ordered Lasagna everywhere I went but I didn’t get any. I got hybrid, indigenous versions that tasted like baked korma pasta which made me even more determined to have my lasagna. At “That Mad#$%  place” the lady told me that that was how they made Lasagna at their restaurant, it was their signature Lasagna and that was how they’ve been making it since they opened (opened when? 1930?). Tell me something – When you order oothappam at a restaurant wouldn’t you expect to eat that slightly thick pancake like thing made with slightly sour dosa batter topped with onions, green chillies maybe, maybe a sprinkling of milagai podi, the oothappam we’ve always known? Would you take a toasted idli topped with onions if it is their signature oothappam, if that is what they call oothappam, if that is how they’ve been making it since they’ve opened? Would you take idlis dunked in kara kuzhambu as somebody’s signature sambar idli? Imagine my horror, my disappointment, my misery. Time to take things into my own hands. The best way to make lasagna I’ve learnt is to ready the components the previous day. First the Bolognese sauce – It is a cinch to make if you give it the time, if you can wait, if you can resist slurping it all up. It needs to cook slow and long and scents your kitchen. It is quite heady, divine really. With the Bolognese in the fridge, I slept a little more confident that the Lasagna would turn out well. I made the béchamel sauce, grated up the cheese and cooked the pasta sheets. I cleared the entire dining table to lay out my Lasagana cast – Bolognese sauce, very slightly warmed with a ladle, cooked pasta sheets carefully spaced out...

Easy Homemade Milk Bread – Hokkaido | Tangzhong way

I see the dough has risen beautifully and I call out to Yuvi to show him. He waits for me to finish gushing. He politely peers in when I show him the bowl. He then says ‘Yes, yes. Nice’ and runs off to where he left off with his hot wheels race. He has been there, seen that – well risen dough gives me a high, perfectly separate perfectly cooked grains of rice makes me smile all day, flaky pastry makes me sing, well balanced curry soothes me, burnt vegetables make me swear, dinner parties leave me sleepless and anxious until they’re over, dry cake makes me yell and failed biryani breaks my soul. He gets me, my son. He plays it well. I recently switched over to instant dry yeast and it has cut down my insanity by 50%, almost. Before instant dry yeast, I used the little pellet type dry yeast that I had to first proof and it rarely ever did. I’d stir in more sugar, peer real close, swear, peek in again, yell at anyone around, search frantically for another packet, ask Jagan to run to the Nilgiris for some “bloody working yeast” and generally act like an ass. Not anymore. Thanks instant dry yeast! When I spotted the instant dry yeast pack on Amma Naana’s shelves for the first time, a happy peppy montage of beautiful golden crusted bread, pillowy soft bakery style buns, pizza crusts, rolls and baguettes ran through my mind like the dream sequence in movies. I wanted to try an easy, foolproof basic bread recipe because of said insanity. So I looked to my blogging marathon friends who are baking up a storm the whole of this month. I was spoilt for choice but I finally chose this Hokkaido milk bread from Priya’s blog – “I camp in my kitchen”. I have to tell you, it really is a foolproof recipe and really simple to make. The bread turned out great with a gorgeous soft crumb and lovely golden crust. I’ll be making this bread many more times. I might add more sugar the next time as we like our milk bread a little on the sweeter side. I wouldn’t change anything else. This is a great first bread recipe to try for madcaps and for normal people too. Give it a go.   Prep Time: 20 minsBaking Time: 1 hourRising...

Easiest Parmesan Biscuits

5 signs I am getting older, acting older I gravitate to the easiest recipes (like these amazing Parmesan biscuits), the quickest recipes, the one pot ones, the pressure cooker ones. The baklavas, the opera cakes, adhirasams remain on the to-try list. I stop opening forwarded messages. I have no respectable profile pictures to update. I lose faith in the ‘like’ system and I have absolutely zero interest in selfies. A cookbook and amrutanjan (pain balm) are always under my pillow. I haven’t read a book without ingredient lists and cooking techniques in ages. I start telling myself that cakes ought to look like cakes and not so life like. I catch myself thinking – Instead of a barbie cake, why not a simple rosette cake and an actual barbie? Instead of a whiskey bottle cake, why not an undecorated rustic tiramisu loaded with rum? All this may have something to do with the fact that I am as good at cake decorating as at making small talk (no good) and gaping at the unbelievably stunning cakes on Home Baker’s guild and reality finally checking in. I order hot coffee at coffee shops and never cold coffee anymore. Invariably I have a headache too. I need a hot coffee and preferably an aspirin as well. When my friends suggest going out for New Year’s eve I say “None of these loud new year bashes. Somewhere quiet, away from the crowd and preferably early evening so that I can get back home for dinner”. I’ve got more than 5 here. I must be getting older than I think. But these Parmesan biscuits are easier than you think. These Parmesan biscuits just melt in the mouth and it is hard to believe they’re so easy.  They’re perfect as a snack or as party nibbles. What made them easier than the original recipe was that I forgot the eggs that had to be added. Another sign there. I made eggless Parmesan biscuits thanks to my absent mindedness. They were harder to cut out into proper shapes as you can see. I made rustic roundish biscuits by pinching a marble sized ball of dough and then simple flattening it out with my hands and pressing down with the back of a fork for some pattern.  I loved the biscuits. Hasini loved them. Yuvi loved them. My dad loved them. 4 of us agreed on it....

A couple of birthdays, a colossal cake pop failure and a fantastic Black forest cake

Aadi madness is past (thank god!) and a couple of birthdays too. It was my birthday a week ago (thank Facebook! for the birthday reminders) and Yuvi’s the next day and like a good new-age momma I planned his cake, birthday favors for his class-mates and a small party at home. As if Yuvi would have minded giving his class-mates an alpenliebe instead. He couldn’t care less. In fact he was pissed off he had to go to school on his birthday. He wasn’t thrilled that he’d be sharing sweets with his friends and that they’d sing “Happy Birthday” for him. Turns out he was right after all – they did not sing “Happy Birthday” for him. I could not believe this! And his teacher had dropped a favour bag inside Yuvi’s bag too! Staying at home would have been a much nicer treat and he would have appreciated the break. I need to listen more to my 3 year old. My birthday is no longer my birthday. It is the day before my son’s birthday and every year I spend my birthday elbow deep in flour and butter trying to make a decent birthday cake for Yuvi. This time around I planned a black forest cake for him and thankfully it turned out absolutely fabulous.I picked the recipefrom sailusfood.  Black forest cake is easier than you might think but it has multiple components and it takes time but it works well. Baking the cake is the easiest part. Bake and chill the cakes while you go about readying the rest. Use good quality tinned cherries. This is absolutely crucial. Prepare the cherry syrup and ready the cherries. Whip the cream and grate up some chocolate and you’re ready to assemble the master piece. Tropolite whipping cream worked perfect. Add in sugar and vanilla to the whipping cream and freeze the entire whipping cream set-up along with bowl and beaters for the fastest results. The bigger story of the day was the colossal cake pop failure and second time in a row for me. I had planned to make cake pops for Yuvi’s classmates. I planned well in advance, made two loaves of banana bread and froze them. I then processed them in my food processor, mixed in the frosting and shaped them into balls. I even measured out each cake ball to make sure they were all uniformly sized....

Happy Birthday Jagan! Here’s the chocolate cake you missed

Red beet Chocolate cake with a silky chocolate frosting In Facebook fashion, I am wishing Jagan (my husband) a very, very happy birthday on my blog much to everybody’s “teeth gritting” and “eye-rolling”. I know. To my defence, he’s not sitting next to me and I haven’t asked him to share this post on FB and ‘like’ it. He’s far away in US of A and will miss out my yearly birthday-gift goof up – he is always amused, worried or perplexed by my gifts but never pleased with them. I once sent him for a surprise Spa Treatment on his birthday and he counts it among his most awkward, embarrassing moments to date. I have a knack with these birthday gifts. He’ll also miss my home-made birthday cake which I have a feeling he’s quite happy about. He’ll miss his birthday special menu at home – Dosai, Dosai and Dosai. And he’ll most definitely miss Hasini and Yuvi’s birthday song. I hope being featured on my million-readership blog makes him feel special. And somebody please go tell him to read this post. He doesn’t read my blog (can you believe that!) that often. I didn’t make this absolutely spectacular chocolate cake today. Are you mad? Today is Monday, day 1 of another work week after a crazy weekend and I just about managed to pack a lazy mom’s laziest lunch option of jam sandwiches and banganapalli mangoes for Hasini’s lunch. I made this cake a week back (another blogger thing I forgot to mention in my “Top things bloggers do” post, we’re preemptive). This chocolate cake is the best chocolate cake I’ve made so far and one of the best I’ve eaten. It is moist, just sweet enough and with the lovely creamy chocolate frosting, it is absolutely decadent. The secret ingredient in this absolutely gorgeous chocolate cake that makes it so moist and delicious is red beets/beetroot in it. No typos there. The cake has cooked, pureed beetroot in it. The cake and the frosting are both from Maida Heatter’s cake book.  I cannot tell you how hard it was for me to put the beetroot in this cake. Everytime I readied the beetroots, boxed them and put them in the fridge so that I could pull out and do the rest later (I rarely ever do the full thing – prepping, baking cake, frosting in one shot),...

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

There is almost never a dearth of blackening bananas on our dining table. Just like there’s never good news when it’s appraisal time. Ok that’s the worst analogy ever but couldn’t contain my “Outsourced under-paid Indian employee” anguish. It’s that time of the year when you hear the words “Ownership”, ”Visibility”, ”Initiative” bouncing around your office corridors and you know that soon you’ll get what is widely called a “hike” which you won’t notice unless you look really hard and with which you can’t even settle your tea-kadai account. This time he might just give me a ten rupee note from his pocket as my hike. You can never say. I am not looking forward to it. I’ll take a slightly lesser paid samayal-kari (cook) job if there is one. Let me know if you know one (but not on linkedIn, I may not even get the 10 rupee). Back to the bananas. There are at-least a couple of them in various stages of over-ripeness and nobody at home even bothers to toss them into the bin, usually. But remember I am notoriously unlucky with things like these. The one day that I look up a banana recipe, mentally check all the ingredients and come home dreaming of baking some banana goodness, I find that somebody has suddenly become over-responsible and has thrown away my precious over-ripe bananas. I cannot go to the potti-kadai and ask for over-ripe bananas. Already word is out that I am a crazy nut who asks for funny sounding ingredients (try asking for Badam Pisin with a straight face; I can’t). The point behind all this is you need really ripe bananas to make good banana bread. The rest is trivial. This whole wheat banana looks more like a plum cake because of the dark brown sugar in it. It smells heavenly when it bakes and is remarkably soft and light for a whole wheat bread. I was hasty and did not let it cool fully before shoving it in the fridge. The resultant condensation I think makes it look a bit denser that it originally was. The original recipe in Maida Heatter’s book also had walnuts in it. I skipped it as my kids don’t dig nuts. But if you have walnuts, chop them and fold them in at the last moment before popping the pan into the oven. Bananas and walnuts are classic...

Mocha Brownie

En ponnu pass aayitaa! En ponnu pass aayitaa! Hasini’s exam results came out yesterday and she has been promoted to UKG. Cookie boxes have worked. No, of course not. Bad joke. Hasini scored an “O” (outstanding) in Art thanks to her GlobalArt classes and “A” (Very good) in Numbers and English and average in “Story telling”. Not surprising. Hasini has a hard time finishing a story. She starts a story and then weaves in all the episodes of Chotta Bheem into them, gets confused, starts over again, rehashes the storyline and continues and doesn’t know how to end it. A bit like her mother. No, I didn’t make this brownie to celebrate her results. I’ve promised her a Chotta Bheem cake sometime soon. I made these mocha brownies last week because our fridge was devoid of anything sweet, not even my son’s lollipops and I felt downright depressed. Without a sweet to finish a meal, it didn’t feel like a meal at all. We happened to have ice cream at Ibaco the previous week and the teeny weeny brownies served as toppings at Ibaco had me craving a nice fudgy brownie. I realized I hadn’t made brownies in ages and brownies are the simplest treats to bake. They are just the thing to end a meal. These brownies are fabulous. They’re fudgy and coffee-chocolaty divine. I cut them into smallish squares and snucked 3 of them into my lunch box for my lunch-time dessert. They were yummy. I made these during the busy AM, managed to mix it up and shove it inside in the oven just before my kids woke up. By the time they were bathed and ready, the brownie was done too. It’s really that simple and quick. I like coffee flavoured anything and I am reckless, so I just emptied the last of my coffee jar into the batter without measuring it. I reckon it must have been 1-1/2 to 2 tbsp. You can omit the coffee entirely if you want to make a chocolate brownie and that would taste just as fabulous. Prep time: 10 minsBaking time: 30 minsMakes: 20 squares Ingredients All purpose flour/Maida – 1/2 cupUnsweetened cocoa powder – 1/3 cupBaking powder – ¼ tspButter – ½ cup meltedGranulated sugar – 1 cupEggs – 2Vanilla – 1 tspSalt – ¼ tspInstant coffee granules – 1-1/2 to 2 tbsp Method 1.      Preheat oven to 180...

Cookie box – Choco-chip cookies & Eggless Shortbread cookies | Thank you gift for teachers

Yesterday was Hasini’s last day at school. No, she is not off to college. She has finished L.K.G and would be starting U.K.G in June this year. As a token of thanks we gifted her teachers these cookie boxes – choco-chip cookies, shortbread and tea bags in neat little Tupperware boxes topped with bows and a thank you note. I bunked office (stepped out I mean) for a couple of hours, jumped 3 red signals (not technically but almost), ran into a bike, again almost (don’t you wish I actually did instead of almost) and still arrived late at her school. But Hasini was too happy to mind – “Paravale ma, paravale ma” she said when I said I was sorry I was late. She was mighty pleased to hand over the cookie boxes herself. I made those bows myself (I am not very crafty but I like to think so. I am quite proud of these.) and downloaded the thank you note printable from the internet. I wanted to throw in a nice old-fashioned fountain pen along with the cookie-tea goodie box but then changed my mind later on. I didn’t have time to go get one and also I wasn’t sure everybody’d appreciate a fountain pen. I love them and I think they’re the best things to write with. I made the cookies in the morning. It wasn’t my plan and I am no super-mom. I am anything but that. I wanted to make the cookies the previous evening and have everything ready the night before but I was suddenly called for joint-family duty and I could not (am not allowed to) refuse. I made those bows while we travelled 2 hours (the bows take only a few minutes, mind you) to a wedding reception on the outskirts touching all the major traffic hotspots on the way. We were so late – we were just in time to stop the hosts from leaving. Anyways, we arrived home quite late that night and I overslept and woke up late. And that happens every-day, even the days I am not on joint-family duty. So it is just me. Anyways, these cookie boxes would make great party favours for small birthday parties, Navarathiri/Golu functions or as thank you gifts for teachers. I am mildly obsessed with party favours and I start planning for any party with the party favors. The recipe...

Dutch Apple Pie | Eggless Apple Pie

This long pending Dutch Apple pie is January month’s baking partner challenge which I actually did make in January but could not post until now. I braved my conjunctivitis and made this during my sick leave so that I could post it at least before the month end but I just couldn’t get everything together. I am always in such a hurry working in shifts – either the morning rush-hour before work or after-work before bedtime hustle that I got greedy when I finally had sick leave. I wanted to make as much as I could of the time I had and so I made Dutch Apple Pie. The pie turned out great and Jagan really liked it a lot. What I really liked about this pie was the crust – it was buttery, flaky and just sweet enough and all this without any eggs. The apple filling I thought was a tad too sweet, so add sugar in small increments and taste as you go along. I love apple pie with vanilla ice cream – Sparky’s in Egmore used to serve this combination for a dessert and I loved it. Sparky’s is not there anymore. I served apple pie sans the ice cream because there’s a much-resented ice-cream ban at home (my kids’ colds just don’t seem to go away and until then there’d be no ice-cream). But do try this along with vanilla ice cream and you’ll know what I am talking about.Yuvi has a nice red checked shirt that’s just perfect for strawberry, apple kind of food photos – you must have seen the red and white patterned cloth atop jam jars on pinterest. As luck would have it, Yuvi was wearing it that day and I asked him for his shirt for just a few minutes so that I could photograph the apple pie against the classic red pattern. I tried to be stern with him, pleaded with him, pretended to cry and even offered him a lollypop. The little guy wouldn’t budge. He started his ear-blasting whistling-crying instead. So I ran off and made do with Jagan’s somewhat similar patterned shirt instead. That’s what you see here. Prep time: 30 mins Baking time: 75 mins – 90 mins Makes: 7-10 slices Ingredients – Pie Crust Cold Butter – 175 gm cut into cubes Flour – 2 cups Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup Salt – a...

Pumpkin Bread with Honey brown butter glaze

It’s Halloween month and aptly the baking partners challenge this month is Pumpkin ginger bread. This was the first time in my short baking partners’ history that I felt confident about the challenge. This pumpkin bread is a dense, spiced pumpkin loaf that is loaded with pumpkin. I boiled and pureed yellow pumpkin to use them in this loaf. The honey brown butter glaze was just plain awesome. The original recipe called for maple syrup but I substituted honey for the maple syrup. I had a good mind to make another batch of the glaze to dip my loaf in before every bite. I loved it. I am going to be making this glaze many more times. It’s Halloween month and aptly the baking challenge this month is Pumpkin ginger bread. This was the first time in my short baking partners’ history that I felt confident about the challenge. This pumpkin bread is a dense, spiced pumpkin loaf that is loaded with pumpkin. I boiled and pureed yellow pumpkin to use them in this loaf. The honey brown butter glaze was just plain awesome. The original recipe called for maple syrup but I substituted honey for the maple syrup. I had a good mind to make another batch of the glaze to dip my loaf in before every bite. I loved it. I am going to be making this glaze many more times. I baked my loaf in a dark non-stick loaf pan and I found that the top browned faster than I expected, much before the insides were baked. And as it happens during such times, I couldn’t find a piece of foil to cover the pan to lessen the browning. So use a light coloured pan if you don’t want yours to brown too fast. The ginger adds beautiful flavour and spice to this bread. It tasted great warm out of the oven. A scoop of ice-cream alongside a slice of this spiced pumpkin ginger bread would make a hearty dessert. Prep time: 20 minsBaking time: 1hr 10 minsMakes – 15 slices Ingredients Butter – 12 tbsp meltedFlour – 2-1/2 cupsBaking powder – 2 tspGround ginger – 2 tspSalt – 1 tspGranulated sugar – 1 cupBrown sugar – 1 cupPumpkin puree – 1-3/4 cupsEggs – 3 large For the Glaze Honey – ¼ cupVanilla – ½ tspButter – 2 tspIcing sugar – 1/3 cupCream – 1 tbspSalt –...

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