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Amita Nene's Yummy Expressions

Amita Nene's Yummy Expressions

Mango Indulgence Cake!
Hey Guys!!! How have you been???? It’s been a long time we interacted and I missed you all soooooo much…. Hope you all missed me as much J J
I love Mangoes; actually my entire family is a Mango loving family. Come summer and we all look forward to our daily dose of this sweet, juicy, delicious and by far the yummiest fruit ever. 
Simply cut it into slices and enjoy the juicy chunks of pure pleasure as you dig your teeth into them
Or, make it into aamras and savour it with hot puris
How about digging into a generous helping of mango pulp topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream?
Even thinking about it is pure divine!!! Isn’t it?
These are my most loved ways of enjoying mangoes all through the summer…. and I try to sustain some of the mango magic even after the summer is long gone. I am sure each of you too has your own very special rituals for enjoying this fruit. 
People around the world with their love for the fruit and their obsession with wanting to create something phenomenal with them, have conceived some truly amazing sweet (and at times savoury too!) culinary wonders using mangoes as the core ingredient.  Juices, ice creams, smoothies, milk shakes, sauces, gravies, cakes, pastries, sorbets and the list can just go on and on…..
And here we are talking only about the sweet ripe mangoes. Raw mangoes too, with their flavourful gusto and mouth-watering tangy taste have their own fan following and it’s a totally different stimulating experience.
Every summer, I stock up my refrigerator with my year’s stock of Mango Pulp, so that I can continue to pamper myself all year round.
In an endeavour to extend my passion for Mango in to my passion for culinary experimentation, I discovered for myself a unique indulgence this time!!
And I call it The Mango Indulgence Cake …
To get going, all you need is…..
For the cake,
200g Condensed Milk (1/2 tin)
2 ½ cups flour
½ cup melted butter
½ tsp baking soda
¾ tsp baking powder
½ cup mango puree
½ cup powdered sugar
Fresh mango pieces and mint sprigs for garnish

For the topping,
½ cup mango puree
2 tbsp Milk powder
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 tbsp fresh cream

Mix and sieve together, the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Pre heat the oven at 180-190 degrees Celsius for about 12 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, beat the condensed milk, mango puree and butter to a creamy consistency. Add the flour mixture little at a time and mix well to form a thick smooth paste. Sieve sugar and add it little at a time to the cake mix. I didn’t use the whole portion of the sugar; I didn’t want my cake to be quite sweet, as there would be a topping coming in later.
Pour the mix in a baking mould that has been greased and dusted lightly with flour.
Bake for about 15-20minutes. Try the tooth pick or knife insertion test to check if the cake is done all the way inside. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely.
For the topping, whip all the ingredients together to a make a thick smooth blend.
Spread the mousse liberally all over the cake allowing it to flow smoothly and evenly. Freeze for about 15-20 minutes. Garnish with a few mint sprigs and cut into thin slices for serving. If it’s the season, you can add your signature to the dish by embellishing the dessert plate with fresh cut mango pieces.
I like my topping to be a pouring consistency as I love to allow the mousse to flow all over the cake and around by itself. However, if you want it to come across more like a thick mousse, use whipped cream in place of fresh cream and increase the amount of milk powder in your mousse a little at a time as you whip till you reach the desired consistency.  Now you can coat the cake evenly with the mousse and freeze for 30 min to set.
The richness of the fruit and the delicacy of the bake together make this preparation into an elegant and classy substitute to a scone or a muffin.
 It actually made a perfect accompaniment at the’ end of summer’ high tea that I hosted for a few friends who were visiting. 
That’s for now folks! Keep watching this space for many more exciting experiences to come!


Pizza Toast - My version of the delectable tapas….. the Toastizzaz!

My visit to Barcelona last year was more than a holiday to a new destination, it was an endeavour to rediscover self by connecting with the unknown and getting acquainted with the unfamiliar.
And my tryst with its culinary delights continues to inspire my cooking every now and then.   The famous Spanish tapas had caught my fancy like nothing else, and I had found the bite sized appetizers that go so distinctively with the drinks to be quite intriguing, given the huge variety one gets to see in their preparations: the textures, the tastes and the flavours.
Tapas are bite sized appetizers or snacks that are best had in between meals, typically with a refreshing drink of Sangria. Tapas could be something as simple as pickled olives & nuts and crisps or elaborated like croquettas and the sumptuous salads or it can be something gourmet like battered fish with seaweed or a sardine with cheese on melon or Smoked pepper prawns.
You have these vibrant Tapas bars all over the city and it is an absolute delight to go bar hopping to enjoy glasses of wine and get your picks from the most delectable arrays of tapas. 
And ever since I encountered these yummy petite titbits of delicacies, I don’t leave a single opportunity to make my own versions of this culinary wonder.
I bring you today, tapas that are inspired by the most loved Italian food around the world… the pizza! 
I call my tapas …The Toastizzaz!
To get going, we need….
For the toastizza -
10-15 slices of Whole Wheat bread
2-3 cups Long fine slices of veggies (bell peppers/onions/ baby corn)
1 tbsp olive oil
10-15 black olives, sliced
Salt for seasoning
200g Mozzarella Cheese, grated
½ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano

For the Arrabbiata sauce -
6-7 medium sized Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped Onion
2 tsp finely chopped Garlic
2 tbsp Olive oil
5-6 leaves of fresh Basil
½ tsp dried Oregano
Salt for seasoning
½ tsp red chilli flakes (if you would like your sauce hot, increase the measure to 1- 1.5 tsp)
2 tbsp tomato ketchup

We start with marinating the veggies.
Take a large bowl, add olive oil, basil, oregano and salt and whisk well. Toss all the veggies and olives in, mix well and leave for 30 minutes to marinate.
For the sauce, heat the olive oil and add the chopped garlic and onion. Once the garlic and onion is brown, add the finely chopped tomatoes and keep stirring till the tomatoes are cooked tender and the mixture has a pulpy mashed look. Add basil, oregano, salt and chilli flakes and mix well. Add tomato ketchup and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Allow to cool. The Arrabbiata sauce is ready.
Pre heat the oven at 175 deg Celsius. Drizzle little bit of olive oil on the bread slices and toast them in the oven for about 3-4 minutes. On the toasted slice, apply a coating of the sauce; top it liberally with your choice of marinated veggies. Finish it with a layer of mozzarella. Back to the oven for about 6-8 minutes till the mozzarella is melted and shows a hint of golden brown. Your Toastizzaz are ready!
While making your Arrabbiata sauce, you may want to use your onions grated and tomato puree in place of the chopped tomatoes if you like a super smooth consistency to your sauce. However, I personally prefer to use onions and tomatoes chopped, because I find the semi mashed texture of the final sauce very alluring and in each spoonful of the sauce your taste buds can actually discover the essence of every individual ingredient.
As I share my pizza - inspired tapas with you, my mind has already worked on another inspired version of tapas – one that’s inspired by the quintessential Indian street food… droooool…. droool!
And while I get busy planning out the next signature tapas, I am sure all of you, my amazing readers already have their minds racing with plentiful ideas to concoct your own creative tapas.
Here’s to Happy hours! And a toast to all the upcoming high teas, cocktail parties and fellowship events that you plan to host!
See you all soon… Adios!!!


The Mango Trifle Pudding
The scorching sun has ensured that afternoons be best spent indoors and school vacations have ensured that every parent is kept totally occupied dropping off and picking up kids from a myriad of holiday activities…. Swimming, badminton, personality development, science buzz, cricket, chess, art n craft, kids’ yoga and the works! Give us a break!! …..Say…. both parents and the kids!!
So while kids take their break with play dates, slumber parties, ice cream outings and goodies and treats, I decide to take a break too...
No, there’s no way I can do a day trip in this ‘roast-worthy’ weather. So, what’s the best way to spend a hot summer afternoon indoors and have a ball of a time?
No guesses here! Just get your best gal pals together and plan for a lazy afternoon with nonstop chatter, juicy gossip and an array of some of the world’s most yummy creations! 

And that’s exactly what we did! And when you have about 14-15 lovely ladies come together, any quiet afternoon can be transformed into the most vivacious and spirited potluck luncheon party.
By now, my friends had been following my blogs and were especially intrigued by some of the dessert recipes that I had experimented with. And thus, with a clear expectation that I should present to the party a new yummilicious creation to satisfy the sweet tooth of the gang of girls, the idea of having a potluck luncheon was born.
A potluck it was and it brought out the best of culinary expertise of all my lovely friends.  That afternoon, in addition to the inimitable company, the most lively chatters and the best of wardrobe, we were presented with the most delectable assortment of salads and dips, starters and soups, gravies and rice, breads and bakes; and last but certainly not the least… dessert.
There were no two thoughts in my mind, when I opted to create a dessert that would be truly and completely the flavour of the season.
My dessert had to surely look, feel, smell, and taste…..in short…. Just scream MANGOES!
Since I needed to serve something chilled on this hot afternoon, I squared in on Mango Trifle…. The easy to prepare, no fuss, no mess; totally melt in mouth pudding!
The Mango Trifle Pudding….. The perfect finale to a mesmerising culinary fiesta. 
To make a decent serving of the pudding for 15 people with a repeat helping for about half of them, you would need…
For the pudding
2 pounds of plain Sponge cake
4-5 cups of Fresh cut cubes of ripe Alphonso Mangoes
400g of Fresh Cream whipped with 1 cup of powdered sugar
For the Mango syrup
1 cup of Fresh cut cubes of ripe Alphonso Mangoes
6 cups of water
6 cups of sugar
To get the syrup going, add the water, sugar and mango cubes to a large saucepan and heat on slow flame only till the sugar is completely dissolved. Allow to cool completely. The syrup should be free flowing consistency. The syrup
thickens a little as it cools, so make sure you do not overheat, otherwise the syrup will become too thick to soak the cake well.
For the Trifle pudding, take a large flat bottom container and cover it with about half inch high slices of sponge cake. Pour enough syrup to lightly soak the cake layer and top it with a thin layer of fresh mango cubes. Repeat this till you are half way up the container. At this point in addition to the layer of mango cubes add a layer of about half of the thick whipped cream. Repeat the cake, syrup, mango cubes till you reach about 1inch down from the rim of the container. The last layer here should be syrup soaked cake. Cover this layer entirely with all the remaining whipped cream. Top it fully with mango cubes.
Freeze for about 40-45 minutes.
Rich, creamy, soft, moist and luscious Mango Trifle pudding is ready to be served.
Mango being the fruit of the season, mine was a Mango Trifle Pudding…. You can whip up an equally yummy version of your own using the likes of strawberry or kiwi or peaches or lychees!
So have you thought of what your own signature version is going to be like? Express your creative self and go surprise your loved ones with some Yummy Expressions!
I will see you soon with more……


The Cookie Donut Cake…


Its holidays!!! Exams are over and I am sure many of you have planned some chilling out at cool destinations to get reprieve from the scorching sun. It’s almost summer time - it going to be hot hot hot outside and so, we have plans to do some cool cool cool stuff inside! Exams done and kids are livening up the home; life is suddenly full of some really amazing things –bicycle rides, slumber parties, popsicles, homemade ice creams, lazy breakfasts, movie outings, eat outs with friends and……. Some ‘out of the box’ culinary experiments.....
And this one here is for the kids and by the kids!
My kids were eagerly waiting for the pre-summer break; they wanted to try their hands at creating some awesome dishes themselves. They now feel all grown up and want to try out many things that grown- ups do. They could work 

on this one independently and they totally rocked it.  Their creation was a totally gorge worthy, absolutely delicious and unbelievably yummy “Cookie Donut Cake”.
To get going with your Cookie Donut Cake, you need is just…..
One 125g pack of Chocolate chips cookies
One 125g pack of plain glucose biscuits
1 to 1 ½ cup milk
1 teaspoon of Baking soda or a 5g sachet of plain ENO
Preheat the oven for 10 minutes at 160 degrees Celsius.
Put all the cookies and biscuits in a grinder and make into a powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add milk in small quantities while stirring to make a thick paste. If your little one is the chef here, you will need to oversee the quantity of milk being poured into the mixture and adjust the quantity to make sure the paste doesn’t become too thin.
Add the baking soda or ENO and blend well. Transfer the mixture to a donut shaped baking tin. You may want to lightly grease the bottom and sides of the tin with unsalted butter.
Bake for about 15-20 min. Do the fork/ knife dip test. Once the knife comes out clean your cake is done.
Turn it upside down on a flat plate and allow it to cool. Decorate the cake as you like!

Rediscover yourself with your very own COOKIE CAKE with some ingenious toppings and sprinkles.  
And don’t forget me to invite for a piece of your Yummy Expressions…..









Dulce de Espana – Crème Catalana
Barcelona as I came across, is a dreamy, romantic and mesmerising city, an inimitable potpourri of the world’s most amazing architectural wonders subtly intertwined with the countless alluring cafes around every corner where I would indulge myself into some totally delectable tapas, paella and some unbelievably delicious sea food preparations; and a shopping haven with exclusive and brand stores displaying some really chic and elegant collections that one can fall in love with at first sight. 
Generally in Barcelona, I found that people dressed up with a lot of taste and sophistication. I visited Spain when the weather was still cold, and I soaked my eyes in the elegance and appeal that the winter couture of men and women around us exuberated as we moved around in the heart of the city’s shopping places. So in addition to my unforgettable Spanish Cuisine rendezvous, the haute couture shopping pursuits there, can very much be added to the list of reasons why I fell in love with Barcelona. 
Actually, I was able to draw an analogy between the style quotient of Barcelona and their passion for culinary sophistication.  There’s the same panache, passion and essence in the couture and cuisine. 
Simple yet sophisticated;
familiar yet mysterious;
blended and yet very distinct……..
 And I found this to be especially true when I learned the preparation Crème Catalana - a dessert very local, unassuming yet full of rich flavors, elegance and taste.
While learning this delicacy from my trainer chef was an enriching experience; back home, when I recreated this dessert for friends and family, it was like euphoria all over again.
This time around, I could safely mirror the recipe that the chef had taught me……and it surprises me how simple ingredients come together to make a delicious and impeccable dessert.
So, to get going with my Crème Catalana, all I needed was –
1 litre of full milk
Rind of one large lemon
1 cinnamon stick about 2 inches
6 egg yolks
200g sugar
40g or 2 tablespoons of Corn flour
Boil the milk with the lemon rind and cinnamon stick in it to fully infuse flavours. Remove from heat and remove the rind and cinnamon stick and allow it to cool a bit.
Meanwhile, beat egg yolks and sugar till it stiffens. Add this to the infused milk and ensure it blends well. Once it has blended, cook the mixture on a low flame stirring continuously.
Dissolve the corn flour in 4 tablespoons of milk and stir it into the mixture and continue to cook till the milk thickens. We need to keep stirring all this while.
At this point, remove from the heat and pour the mixture into serving bowls and keep in the refrigerator to set for about an hour.
Once set, garnish with caramelised sugar nougats and serve.
Now watch with joy and a sense of gratification as you see your loved ones relish your Yummy creation.
My trainer had made us use traditional terracotta bowls for setting the dessert for giving the complete local touch and taste. Though back home, I had to make do with cut glass dessert bowls due to the absence of terracotta bowls in my collection of cutlery and tableware.
Another very important point I have to make here, use of the caramelised nougats as garnish was a stand-in, my brainchild totally. There in my class, I had sprinkled sugar granules on the set dessert and caramelised it with a blowtorch and allowed the sugar to harden before serving. Back home, no blow torch! So creative juices had to flow and look for substitute. That’s how the nougats happened.
The next time I make Crème Catalana, I am first going to make a trip to the potters’ market and gift myself a set of terracotta bowls. And yes! I am also going to get hold of a blow torch from somewhere if I don’t buy one in the meanwhile.
A couple of pictures here are of the Cuisine class I took to give my readers a sneak peek into El Dulce de Espana and rest are of my very own version of Crème Catalana.
So when are you trying out your version? Let your creative juices flow and let the world get acquainted to many more Yummy Expressions….
See you guys soon with much more!


Spanish Paella

This time of the year has brought back lovely memories from last year, when I toured Spain with my BFFs (Best Female Friends!) It was the “ME” time for each of us and also our “US” time. And we connected with one another on a very special level all over again to celebrate 25 years of our friendship.
Each moment we spent together is still fresh in each of our memories and that week and half will remain close to our hearts forever. Amongst all those ‘out of the box’ activities that we treated ourselves to, some of them are very dear to my heart.
The lazy bicycle tour through the quaint cobbled lanes of Barcelona admiring the most amazing architectural wonders of Gaudi, the relaxing evening at a tiny café serving unbelievably drool worthy tapas and the most refreshing Sangria and an enjoyable afternoon spent at the Spanish Cuisine class with a melange of co-students from across the world.
My first time cooking with quail eggs, clams, mussels, octopus, squids et al !! Back home, my non-vegetarian culinary skills as well as appetite had never gone beyond chicken and prawns, and this experience cooking and tasting was absolutely fascinating…
So, with Paella de Marisco or the authentic seafood Paella my taste buds had their first tryst with mussels n squids and yes!!.... after some initial inhibition, even the octopus!
Back home however, friends and family are surely not so adventurous and hence, when some subtle and many not so subtle mandates for serving a Spanish meal were directed at me, I had to quickly think of a way to make a slightly conservative version of the delightful Paella de Marisco.
So out went the clams and octopus and the likes, and chicken took its place. Fish broth out, chicken stock in. I also knocked out the artichokes and asparagus and substituted our very own Indian veggies.  Traditional Paella also uses chorizo sausages, I completely did away with them.
And voila… I had customised the ingredients for the Indian palate..
For the Chicken and Veggies Paella for 6-8 people, we need..
500gm boneless chicken chunks
400g of assorted veggies (I used broccoli, zucchini, babycorn, green, red and yellow peppers)
2 tomatoes grated
1 onion diced
6 tablespoons Olive oil
8-10 threads of saffron
5 cups of chicken stock
2 cups of Risotto Rice or any Non fragrant long grain rice
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and paprika to taste
To start with, shallow fry chicken chunks in 2 tablespoons oil till brown and par cooked and keep aside.
Take 4 tablespoons of hot water and soak the saffron threads.
In a wide flat pan or vessel, heat rest of the oil, add onion, garlic, paprika, salt and tomatoes. Stir fry till the mixture gets dry. Add the rice and stir fry for few minutes. Stir in heated Chicken stock and the wine along with the saffron water and threads.  Add the chicken and veggies at this juncture and simmer uncovered on low flame, till the rice is cooked al dente. The wine evaporates in the boiling process, leaving the essence which is so very characteristic to Paella.
If you are serving Paella to children and don’t want to use the wine, it can be substituted with the juice of half a lemon.
If you want a veggie version, substitute the chicken with white beans and French beans; and the chicken stock with veggie stock.
Having served Paella and more, to lots of family and friends…..even firangi friends over the last one year; I can safely say I have got accustomed to having my Spanish culinary skills complimented.  I am so glad that Paella can be customised to suit ones palate in amazingly different ways and yet its virtue retained.
Go try out your very own version of Paella, I am sure it will be as pleasurable an endeavour for you as it has been for me.
Adios Amigos! La Vida Buena!



Pan grilled Chicken with Mozzarella stuffed Bread


Sometimes, it is tough to decide your menu for the evening, especially when the guests expected include kids. 
And this time around, we had friends over from Dubai with three lovely children all in the same age group as my own. So it was an evening to look forward to for the kids too.
But there I was in a dilemma on what to put up on the gourmet list for the kids! Knowing how fussy my kids can get where non familiar food items are concerned, this day I had jitters having to face three little critics, Indians by birth, who had lived in the Gulf all their lives and would, thus, have mixed up fusion palate.
Since, it is no rocket science that all kids around the world generally love the McD’s and KFC’s fare, I made up my mind to stick to something that has the spirit of these junkies but at the same time had a soul that would keep the healthy quotients all in place.
Oh! I also had to keep in mind that my Grill Oven was in repair, having conked off couple days back.
A quick dig into the fridge and the pantry; and I got busy making the kids one yummy recipe that they were sure to relish! Thus I began my culinary ride to a Pan Grilled Chicken with Mozzarella stuffed bread.
To get going, you require –
For the Grilled chicken,
500 gms boneless chicken breast
4 tablespoons Olive Oil
½ tsp oregano (fresh or dried)
½ tsp basil (fresh or dried)
2 tablespoons Soya sauce
1 tsp White Sesame seeds
1 tablespoon finely chopped Cilantro (Coriander can be used too)
1 tsp garlic paste
½ cup of refined flour
¼ cup bread crumbs
Salt as per taste

For the Stuffed Bread
1 long French bread
1 cm thick slices of mozzarella cheese

For marinade, add in a large bowl, half of the oil, the oregano, basil, garlic paste, sesame, soya sauce and cilantro and mix well. Clean and cut the chicken into blocks and prick them all over using a fork. Now roll the chicken pieces in the marinade to ensure they are coated from all the side.  Cover and leave to marinate for about 2 hours.
Heat the remaining oil in a flat bottom pan. Roll the chicken pieces one by one first in to the flour and then in to the bread crumbs. Place the coated chicken into the pan. Once the chicken is done from one side, flip it.
Prick a tooth pick through the centre of the pieces to check if the chicken is done. Remove from the pan and keep the chicken on an absorbent towel to soak the oil.
Meanwhile, cut the French bread into rectangular blocks of about 1.5 inches. Slit each of the blocks in the middle and stuff one slice of the mozzarella cheese in each.
Now in the same pan, where you still have a bit of the mixture of olive oil and the chicken jus, place the stuffed breads and pan fry from both the sides.
The chicken with the stuffed mozzarella bread is best served with a sweet chilli sauce.
The bread and its oozing mozzarella cooked on the flavour infused oil and juices is an exceptional accessory to the chicken dish as I came to realise when I tasted my own creation later that evening!
It is a great sense of accomplishment when your guests love what you serve them. Made me feel so good, I treated myself to an extra helping of the dessert of the evening!!!
More on that coming soon! Keep watching this space…………………..
Cu guys soon with some Yummy Expressions!

Strawberry Cheesecake
Hey guys! Can’t believe we are already done with half a month in the New Year. The memories of the ringing in the New Year are so fresh and vivid in my mind, that I feel it was just yesterday.
This year we celebrated the New Year week in Mahabaleshwar. Sort of a family reunion with about 20 of us, ages ranging between 7 years to 70 years. Just couldn’t believe that such a vast age would not deter us from being together, doing things together and having a ball of a time.
The chilling winter breeze brushing the skin and a walk in the clouds at sunrise left us enthralled. Then, there was hiking and biking, there was horse riding, boating, jungle trails, village fair et al. And of course many visits to the local market to buy jams n jellies n squashes and fudges. I managed to lay my hands on some really big and juicy strawberries when we visited some local strawberry farms, right on the day we started back from our memorable getaway.
So there I was back home, with 2 kilogram of the yummiest and sweetest strawberries! Absolutely drool worthy.
Some of those yummies were devoured and savoured every single bite for their divine juiciness, while others got topped with whipped cream and were polished off in no time.
Another small lot of them made their way to being a part of an absolutely yummy sinful dessert that I used them in…...The quick home-made strawberry cheese cake!! It tasted as delicious as it looked and it was an absolute pleasure to dig in.

So, to get the strawberry cheesecake going, you would need the following.
7-8 marie biscuits, finely crushed
2 tablespoons white butter (without salt)
About 200 gm of fresh cream
6-8 teaspoons of powdered sugar
Juice of one small lemon
10-12 big fresh strawberries cut into halves
4 teaspoon Strawberry Syrup
To begin with, Boil 150 gm of the fresh cream in a saucepan and add the lemon juice. When the water starts separating from the cream a bit, while the cream is still soft, remove it from heat and put the separated cream into a muslin cloth. Squeeze out excess water and transfer the cream cheese to a bowl, add the balance 50 gm fresh cream and sugar and whisk it till it becomes smooth and homogenous. Now add half a spoon of strawberry syrup and mix well.
Take a flat bottom dish – round or square, line the base evenly with the biscuit crumbs. Melt the butter and spread it evenly over the biscuit lining ensuring the entire based is soaked in the butter.
Refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes till the base is set. Then add the strawberry cream cheese mixture on the top and spread evenly. Spread the remaining strawberry syrup on the top. Refrigerate for 4-5 hours.
Remove from the fridge and cover the entire cheesecake with the oodles of fresh strawberry halves. Cut the cheesecake into equal pieces and serve chilled.
With every bite melting in the mouth, you can look forward to one heavenly and scrumptious dessert for your loved ones.
And with my entire stock of strawberries was gone in no time, I am looking forward to another holiday in Mahabaleshwar till the strawberry season lasts.
Go ahead, try it out and give it your signature. Happy experimenting! Let your Yummy expressions flow! I will see you again soon. Chao.

Chocolate Chips Oatmeal Cookies




My kids have stopped believing in Santa about 4 years now, but they still pretend play that they do believe in one, in order to make it an occasion to get gifts!! For couple of years, I actually did play along and bought them gifts. But finally called it a day a year back, much to their dismay! Imagine they will complete 13 this month!


Tough one isn’t it? Managing a pair of kids who offer me a unique combination of experiences with their childlike persuasions and demands on one hand and a bagful of attitude and airs that scream ‘teenage’ on the other!!


All I know now is that in my closet, I have a box full of hand-painted greeting cards, an elf doll, few thank you notes, Pokemon stickers and many other trinkets that were kept under pillows for Santa over the years, and had to secretly make their way into my closet. And in return “Santa” did leave gifts for them all the time.

This time around Santa or no Santa, kids wanted to make most of the brief Christmas break, so just before starting school tomorrow, we have baked some yummy cookies together.
My role of course was limited to that of a Recipe provider and the kitchen mess cleaner after the delicious cookies were ready.
Mission Cookie was thus embarked upon with a clear target…. Choco Chip Oatmeal Cookies!!!
To make a batch of 16 Large sized delicious Choco Chip Oatmeal Cookies, we used,
2 cups Instant cooking Oats
1 ½ cups of Whole wheat flour
½ cup Chocolate chips
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup white unsalted
½ cup of coarsely pounded nuts of your choice (I used Almonds & Walnuts)
1 teaspoon Vanilla essence
1 egg
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
¼ teaspoon Salt
Pre-heat the oven at 180 deg C.
In a large mixing bowl, blend butter and sugar till it is mixed well. Add Vanilla essence and egg. Beat till the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the oats, flour, soda, salt, choco chips and the nuts.
Knead well together into soft dough. Make equal 16 portions of the dough. Roll and flatten each portion with your hands and place them on a baking plate. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.
My baking plate could accommodate 8 portions at a time so I had to make 2 batches. I like to bake big cookies, if you prefer smaller cookies; you can make smaller portions suited to your liking.
Keep checking on the cookies to ensure they are browning evenly. Baking time may vary depending on the oven, so to check if your cookies are done, tap gently on the centre of the cookie with the tip of a knife. If the tip goes in, you need to keep baking. If it doesn’t, your batch is almost ready, just bake for another minute or so before you remove from the oven.
Place the cookies on a plate to cool before storing them in an air tight jar.
In about an hour and fifteen minutes, we had 16 most amazingly yummy and nice big cookies ready. One cookie could well be one mini meal!
By the time I have stored them away in a jar, there were only 14 cookies left!  As we have started our year on a Yummy note…. I know we are going to have many more culinary excursions all through the year.
Hope you all have a Yummy, delicious and healthy year ahead. Here’s wishing you guys and all your loved ones a Very Happy New Year!
And we will be in touch all through this year with loads and loads of YUMMY EXPRESSIONS!
Ciao!



Layered Panna Cotta with Mango and Coconut Cream…..


It was my dad’s 71st birthday last week. A very active person, he continues with his career, fitness regime and social life as actively. Even on his birthday, he was going to be out in the first half doing client visits, and major part of the second half in a social event. So my sister’s family n mine were left with only the fag end of the day to plan a celebration.  So we decided to assemble late in the evening at my place as kids wanted to plan some surprise for Grand-dad with candles and stuff!
Since dad and mom were coming over after a gala dinner at the social event, I planned to dish out some dessert. I had to make one was light on the tummy and hopefully the girdle as well and still would melt in the mouth!
Looking for something that can be served in a double shot helping, I settled for making the very Italian Panna Cotta.
Panna Cotta, literally means ‘Cooked Cream’ in Italian. It’s an easy to make dessert which uses Fresh Cream as its core ingredient.  Traditionally, Panna Cotta uses egg as its ingredient and is baked at low temperatures. However, the no-bake eggless version is now quite popular and a small amount of gelatin is blended in this version, to give it the soft setting just to hold it all together. This works perfect if the dessert is being served in glasses.  However, if it is being set in a mould to be unmoulded into a dish before serving, a dash of additional gelatin would be of help.
I squared in on making a Layered Panna Cotta with Mango and Coconut cream to be served as a double shot helping.
To get going I needed the following to serve about 8-10 persons,
2 cups of Fresh Cream
2 cups of Alphonso Mango puree (not in season, I used a tin)
2 cups of thick coconut milk (Many brands are available in 200ml cartons, however I prefer the creaminess of Dabur Hommade for this)
4 tbsp of Gelatin
5-6 tbsp Sugar (can vary depending on the sweetness of the puree and also the sweetness preferred for the final dessert)
2 drops vanilla essence
Take the mango puree and coconut milk in two separate mixing bowls.
Heat the cream in a non-stick pan, add vanilla essence and sugar and mix well till sugar has blended in well. Cool it a little, and then add half of the mixture to the mango puree and the balance half to the coconut milk. Stir well both the mixtures well till it is fully blended and smooth in texture.
Take 1/4 cup of hot water in a bowl, add half the gelation and keep stirring till completely dissolved. Slowly add half the gelation water to the coconut cream stirring briskly so that it blends perfectly. Add a quarter inch layer of the coconut Cream mix in the serving glasses and refrigerate it for about 40-60 min or till loosely set.
Take the remaining gelatin and mix with ¼ cup hot water till dissolved and blend in well into the mango puree. Remove the glasses from the fridge and lightly spoon in a quarter inch of the mango mix taking care not to break the coconut milk layer. Refrigerate again till loosely set. You can repeat the process depending on the number of layers you plan to make.
Once the final layer has set, your layered Panna Cotta is ready to serve. Drool…. Drool…. Drool!
It looks as delectable as it tastes yummy. And the smooth creaminess just melts in the mouth. Served a double shot portion and it was not heavy on the tummy too. Plus, the yummy expressions on faces of everyone who dig into my dessert was like the proverbial ‘cherry’ on the Panna Cotta!
You can make ‘n’ number of versions of Panna Cotta by adding crushes, sauces, fresh fruit and nuts as blended into the mix or as a topping, to give it your signature.
I plan to try out a mint flavoured version sometime soon…. Very excited…
A simple vanilla version topped with Chocolate fudge and chips or with Blueberry sauce just tastes out of this world and can make your guests keep wanting more… Try it…
And keep creating…. So long!


Firni The Indian Rice Pudding




This year I am pursuing a PG in Child and Family Counselling and last whole month was full of high voltage action! It was festive time and then it was also time for course work completion, there was journal writing and there was preparation for the term end exam, practical sessions and viva voce! I just got done with the exams today and I am as thrilled today as I used to be during my school days! And trust me; it’s even more fun to relive your student life again after so many years!


This Diwali vacation was thus power packed with my new found student status, my love for making the Diwali faraal and bringing out my fineries.


So, in addition to floral decorations, diyas, rangolis, lanterns, fireworks, designer outfits, jewellery, et al; this Diwali also was all about homemade farals, fusion dishes and elaborate meals.


Homemade chaklis, methi mathris, shankarpales, ladoos, chivda and kadbolis adorned my kitchen shelves as they jostled for space with my experimentals  - chinese flavoured mathris and oregano infused sev. While my family savoured the traditional Diwali snacks, they welcomed my crazy fusion creations too with lot of excitement and polished it off to my greatest delight.


As we hosted few lunches and dinners too during the festival time, I had to work on an elaborate menu each time. Focussing on getting unique flavors and textures to each of the dishes, I was having a great time for myself experimenting with the available ingredients in my pantry to dish out some culinary delights.


On one such occasion, I went on a Nawabi cuisine trip. My idea was to do a traditional Phirni to go with it. However, I ended up spending so much time creating my Zaffrani Paneer Tikka gravy and rest of the menu to compliment it, that I had no time left to get my Phirni done!
What a bummer! Don’t tell me I would have to rush to the neighbourhood Mithai shop and grab some readymade Gulab Jamuns! NO!!!
A bit disappointed I gave a cursory look around my pantry, and made one last attempt to de-panic my mind and think. Then I saw something…… half hidden behind a carton of Soya chunks, and it brought back a smile on my face!
Traditionally a Phirni preparation would involve slow cooking of pounded soaked Basmati rice in boiled full cream milk infused with saffron and cardamom; blended with condensed milk, cream and a coarse powder of pistachios, almonds and cashews.
As I pulled out the carton of Amul Basundi - My little Diwali secret, from the pantry, I had a mental to do list ready for getting my Phirni ready in the next 30 minutes.
All I needed was –
1 litre carton of Amul Basundi
¾ cup of Basmati Rice (coarsely pounded)
Everest Milk Masala
Cardamom Powder & Few strands of Saffron

Pressure cook the Basmati Rice for 3 whistles. Allow to cool down. Roughly mash the rice.
Meanwhile, pour the Basundi in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Add the mashed rice, cardamom powder, saffron and 1 teaspoon of Everest Milk masala keep stirring till the rice and basundi blend well, reaching a creamy consistency.
Pour in a serving bowl and allow it to cool. Once cooled a bit, refrigerate till the time of serving. Garnish with the Milk masala powder before serving.
Voila!  Phirni is ready.
When my guests went gaga over the Phirni, I had this contented smile on my face the whole time. After all, it was my little secret!


 Fruity Creamy Pastry


Some years back, I remember that the Independence Day weekend was a long weekend that time and on Friday night itself, before I knew it I was coaxed by my 8-year olds, to give an affirmative answer for an impromptu Pyjama Party.

So by 8pm, some 7 odd kids had arrived all set with pyjamas and tooth brushes in their backpacks.

Kids and I spent all afternoon and better part of the evening planning and preparing for the party games that they would play with their friends that night. The dinner menu was, on popular demand, to be outsourced from their favourite pizza haunt.

So we decided to dish out something at home for dessert. It was their party, so kids wanted to make the dessert. A quick dash to the neighbourhood convenience store and we were all set to get the dessert ready.

We called it the Fruity Creamy Pastry.

To get our Fruity Creamy Pastry going, we got ourselves some easy to find ingredients –

One 2-pound vanilla sponge cake (round shaped one is better)

200g Fresh cream

2-4 tablespoons of powdered sugar

A small tin of canned mixed fruit (if you have the time, its best to use fresh cut fruit like papaya, pineapple, pear, apples and cherry soaked in sugar syrup)

1-2 drops of vanilla essence

Some candies or tit-bits for decoration

To start with, we need to get the fresh cream, powdered sugar and vanilla essence mixed together and whipped with the electrical mixie to medium stiffness.
Cut the cake horizontally into 4 discs. Place the lower most disc on a flat plate or a large container with a flat base. Drizzle with a little fruity syrup just to maintain the moistness of the pastry as it needs to be refrigerated. Cover the disc with a thin layer of whipped cream. Place the fruit pieces on this cream layer. Take the next cake disc and apply a thin layer of whipped cream on the lower side and press the creamed side lightly onto the fruit layer aligning with the lower disc. Again drizzle fruity syrup and repeat till the fourth disc has been firmly placed on the top. Spread evenly all the remaining whipped cream on the top. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes.
Finish with decorating the icing layer with colorful sugar candies/ chocolate chips/ candied cherries/ tutty fruity/ gems/ fresh cut seasonal fruit/ thick puree of strawberry or blueberry. Refrigerate again for 20 minutes. Cut the set pastry into 8 portions and serve.
While we were at the recipe, after whipping the cream and slicing the cake, my role became that of a supervisor only and kids took over. All the layering including the garnish was by them, their own version.
And how they beamed when their friends raved about the Yummy creation! And so very proud when it got polished off!
A sure shot good way to spend quality time with your kids and let their creative juices flow! You never know what ‘out of the box’ creative ideas they come up with when they make their own version.
So go ahead…. Make the most of their holiday and give your boys and girls another occasion to unleash their creativity ….. Be prepared to be surprised and indulge!



Zucchini & Asparagus Rice
There is this premium food store which was a hop and skip from my office and one of my favorites at that. I was a regular there and picked up almost all my grocery needs from there. So just before my last day at work a week back, I made a quick trip to the store during lunch to take a last dig at picking up some of the things that I have so grown used to. Last dig, because I would no longer be visiting there often. It is a nice and long 75-80 minutes drive from my home.
So while I stocked up my regular breads and pastas and pestos and salad bags, I also picked up some fresh zucchini and asparagus. You don’t get these very easily around the place I live, so it was more like an impulse buy.
Back home, I wanted to use both these and dish out some quick yummy food. I squared down on making two dishes - a Pasta Farfalle with Basil Pesto and a Zucchini & Asparagus Rice.
I will take you guys through the pasta preparation some other time, today let’s quickly check out the Zucchini & Asparagus Rice… its quick, nutritious and of course… yummy!!

So we start with 1 fresh zucchini sliced and halved and about 5 spears of asparagus trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces.

We also need,

½ tablespoon of home made clear butter
1 mid-sized onion, chopped
½ teaspoon each of dried spices - oregano, basil & thyme
½ teaspoon of finely chopped garlic
¼ teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
2 cups of water
1 cup long grain rice, washed thoroughly.
In a cooking pan, melt butter and add chopped onion and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes till brown and then add the zucchini and asparagus. Saute again for about 5-6 minutes till the veggies are bit tender.
Add the dried spices, pepper and salt. Mix well so that the veggies are fully covered with the seasoning. Add the uncooked rice and stir fry for about 2 minutes and then add the water. Stir well and cook covered on medium flame for about 10-15 minutes or till the rice is tender.
It’s ready to serve! Enjoy while it’s hot.




Coffee Cream Pudding


I celebrated my birthday two months back, all my super enthu friends made this one, a very berry merry extra special for me.
From phone calls at 12am, surprise cake cutting at 5.30am followed by a surprise breakfast party, a relaxed set lunch at a fancy Italian restaurant, flower baskets and cakes got home delivered, a lively family dinner at my favorite haunt and finally cutting a chocolate cake at night; I was on cloud nine having enjoyed all the pampering.
I have this lovely bunch of friends who celebrated my birthday in a most ‘out of the box’ way. I will leave the details for some other time and get straight to the most exciting part of this blog. So along with a number of very peculiar birthday gifts that I got from them, these guys presented me with fresh baked CUP CAKES, number equaling the milestone I reached. JJ
At the end of all celebrations, I was still left with a dozen odd cupcakes. And that was what I would have wanted! Awesome!!! I decided to do the next best thing….
A Coffee and Cream dessert!!
To make yourself a Coffee & Cream dessert, you would of course need…. CUP Cakes!
You also would be using…
4 cups of coffee decoction (2 -3 tsps of instant coffee powder and 2 tsps of sugar dissolved in 4 cups of hot water & cooled)
Vanilla custard of pouring consistency using 500ml milk, with 2 tsp coffee powder blended in
200g Fresh whipped cream with castor sugar OR for those in a hurry, just get a pack of Instant Whipped cream. You will get awesome whipped cream ready in about 6 minutes.
Sweetened cocoa powder for dusting
Some sprinkles for decoration
This dessert is best made directly in serve sized bowls. Once cupcake per bowl.
Starting with cutting the cupcake horizontally in to three layers, set the bottom piece in the serving bowl. Soak it with the coffee decoction till it is fully moist. Pour a layer of the custard mixture. Repeat with middle and top layer of the cake followed by the custard mix. Set in the freezer for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile get the fresh/ instant whipped cream ready. Take the bowls from the freezer, and add a final layer of whipped cream. Lightly dust the cocoa powder on the top. Cocoa and coffee together leaves this yummy lingering taste in the mouth.
Freeze again for about 15 minutes. And your Coffee & Cream dessert is ready to serve…. Happy binging!


Mango Twist Dessert

The other day Shaina sent me a message on WhatsApp. She was having family over for dinner and she wanted me to give her some quick fix yummy of a dessert.
She was sure she wanted something that uses Mango icecream. So there we were, with the Mango season gone, but Mango flavour still being the favourite amongst ice cream lovers.
Serving mango delicacies with a twist can really tickle the taste buds and leave a lingering taste on your tongue long after polishing the bowl off its contents!
So we met up to discuss recipes over a lunch at our favourite haunt.
 I suggested she use a combination of vanilla cake base with tinned mango pulp and a dollop of fresh Alphonso ice-cream and finish it with a topping with a twist. Had it been the mango season, the obvious choice of topping would have been fresh cut juicy mango pieces. But in this month of July, she had to be more innovative to get a topping to add that twist. I suggested a swirl of fresh whipped cream in case she couldn’t think of something zanier.  But being my friend after all, “normal is boring” is her motto too J .
So here is what she got, to serve 6 people, a Mango Twist dessert. You start with half a pound of vanilla sponge cake cut into thin slabs and positioned at the bottom of each dessert bowl.
Then, we also need,
3 cups of Alphonso mango pulp (fresh pureed or tin)
12 scoops of Alphonso Mango ice-cream or Homemade Low fat Mango Fro – Yo (Frozen Yogurt made from double toned milk for the health conscious  J )
1 cup Fresh cream mildly sweetened
And for the topping – fresh whipped cream or strawberry flavoured jelly set and cut into cubes.
Pour half cup mango pulp into each bowl to cover the entire cake base. Allow the cake to soak the pulp for 10 minutes and then leave in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to set.
Out of the refrigerator, drizzle sweetened fresh cream on the set mango cake before you add two scoops of mango ice-cream or the Fro-Yo.
Top it with a swirl of whipped cream and a cherry. Or you can add chunks of strawberry jelly as Shaina did.  She tells me it turned out to be a hit with her guests.
I am going to try my hand this week at giving this dessert its signature by trying out some novel ingredients along with the Fro-Yo.
Do you want to try something innovative with this one too? Let’s try make this preparation healthier and more happening.  Try out your version and write back to me with your yummy expressions!!
Happy innovating!
Will meet you again soon with more creative cuisine…
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Pudding
Its 4pm, I am at work and hubby dear calls to check with me if it is ok to have guests for dinner tonight. It’s his counterpart from across the world in town for the evening and hence there is no scope to check for a reschedule.
So I rush through the rest of my day, scramble through the store to pick few instant soup pouches, some basic ingredients for a quick fix pasta with chicken and veggies, salad veggies and for dessert of course.
My pasta is going to take me about 30 minutes, the soup about 15 minutes and salad another 15 minutes. Considering that I have little over an hour to get my meal ready, I must do a dessert that gets done real fast and can be served soon after preparing it.
And then I thought of the bread pudding my mom used to make with dates and walnuts and serve with 20 minutes of my demand. I modified it to suit the palate of the guests we were expecting and dished out a yummy variation of our good old bread pudding. 
So here we go with a quick fix dessert that is healthy, delicious and ready in a jiffy….
So if we are making the pudding for 3-4 people who would eat a decent helping, we need about 10 slices of whole wheat bread that is 2-3 days stale. Crumb the bread coarsely and line half of it at the bottom of a microwave flat bottom dish.
We also need…
3-4 eggs 

500ml toned milk

1 cup sugar

Few drops of vanilla essence

8-10 Fresh strawberries or 2 banana  sliced

2-3 tbsp of Caramel sauce

Handful of chocolate chips and nougat

Beat the eggs stiff and fold in the milk and vanilla essence. Pour half the mixture on the bread lined in the dish soaking all the bread. Add a layer of the sliced fruits and top it with rest of the crumbed bread covering the entire dish. Pour the remaining mixture on to this. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and nougat on the top and microwave on high for about 4 minutes. Insert a knife in the middle of the pudding, if it comes out clean, the pudding is done. Else, microwave for 30 seconds at a time checking continuously if it’s done.

Once ready, allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Cut into squares and serve topped with caramel sauce.


Seasonal fruits like mango also can be used as a filling and then the pudding can be topped with mango sauce and fresh pomegranate seeds.

If strawberries are used as filling we can also use strawberry sauce and whipped cream as a topping.







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