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Amita Nene's Yummy Expressions

Amita Nene's Yummy Expressions

Veg Au Gratin

My love for continental food knows no bounds. Every multi cuisine buffet spread that I have engaged in will vouch for the magnetic chemistry between me and the Continental food counters.  The herb grilled chicken, the fish and chips, the steak, the crispy chicken, wedges, baked vegetables in Marinara sauce, broccoli and cheese bake, the potato leek soup, the puddings, the Blueberry Pie, the shortcakes and tarts – all beckon me indomitably to relish their alluring flavours and richness.
My passion for this cuisine (I call it passion, but some of my close friends are sure that it is a fixation!) goes a long way, so much so that on a particular long haul international flight with these friends of mine, I was unable to hide my disappointment when I was offered an Asian meal that was apparently booked on my ticket. I did not mind repressing my hunger till the entire aircraft was served and there finally was a continental meal that was still available for me.  Sounds crazy, isn’t it? But that’s me!!
A particular continental dish that I particularly cherish in my foodie mind space is the Vegetable Au Gratin. This preparation is the reason for my inimitable fondness of Continental cuisine.
Vegetable Au Gratin… the dish always creates an intriguing aura of sophistication around it due to its enigmatic name and its use of some classy ingredients so reminiscent of its European lineage.
A gratin is basically a topping of cheese and seasoned bread crumbs that is baked or broiled to a golden brown. It derives from the French word “Le Gratin” which implies “Upper crust”.
Veg Au Gratin works as a very versatile preparation; it can serve as a comforting one dish meal or it works equally well as the coveted main from a wider continental menu.
It typically comprises of layers of a wide variety of veggies intertwined with layers of a creamy white sauce that is finally topped with the Gratin.
Here’s my take on the Veg au Gratin….
To get going, you need…….
2 medium potatoes; boiled & mashed
7-8 spinach leaves
2 cups chopped, parboiled veggies (carrots/ baby corn/ French beans/ Mushrooms/ Cherry tomatoes/ Black Olives/ Bell peppers)
½ cup Bread crumbs
1 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
½ tsp Chilli flakes
1 tsp dried mixed herbs (Oregano, Basil, Rosemary, Thyme)
1 tsp ground black pepper
Salt to taste
For the white sauce…..
2 tbsp Unsalted butter (I use home churned white butter)
1 ½ cups milk
4 tbsp Refined wheat flour
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
To make the sauce, melt butter in a pan, sauté garlic paste, add flour and roast it on butter for 2-3 mins on low flame. Add milk little at a time stirring continuously so that there are no lumps. Add cheddar cheese once the mixture boils and keep stirring till it forms a smooth creamy pouring consistency. Adjust the milk you add to ensure correct consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, mix and allow it to cool.
Meanwhile, add some salt and chilli flakes to the mashed potatoes and spread them evenly across the surface of a square flat baking dish. Cover it with a bed of spinach leaves and top it with the veggies mixed with some salt, pepper and mixed herbs. Pour the white sauce to cover the veggies layer evenly. Next, add a layer of bread crumbs and finally top the dish with mozzarella.
Bake for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated at 175 degrees Celsius. Remove from oven once the crust is golden brown in colour.
Serve while hot with a slice of garlic bread.
For those who love a tangy twist to this dish, especially kids, add a dash of tomato ketchup on the top while serving.
If you like, you can substitute bread crumbs with a layer of flattened bread slices (soaked in water and then pressed to remove all water) drizzled with olive oil for the same crust effect.
Enjoy your meal and Yummy Expressions! See you soon with more….

Chicken & Tomato Pasta Salad

I love my daily dose of dal tadka and a subji so rich full of spices and aroma with warm rotis served straight from the griddle to the plate. This staple fare presents me with the satisfaction of having had a sumptuous gratifying meal.  My favourite health food writer and diet specialist totally endorses the health benefits that the staple Indian food provides - the right dose of carbs, proteins, essential fats as well as probiotics and antioxidants.
But who doesn’t love a change, especially if it is going to be healthy and yummy at the same time?! In my house, we all love trying out cuisines of the world; with a local touch of course. And I end up creating fusion versions of these global dishes when I experiment them at home, as I would tweak the ingredients either to suit the local palate or to the availability of fresh locally grown veggies.
Here is a localised fusion version of a pasta based salad… The Chicken & Tomato Pasta Salad…

To get going we need,
150g wheat pasta of your choice ( I have used Penne for my salad, but Fusilli or Farfalle works really well too)
Olive oil, as required
2 cups cut veggies of your choice (Carrot, bell peppers, black olives, mushroom, baby corn)
150g boneless chicken chunks of ½ inch size
3-4 medium sized Tomatoes, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped Onion
4 tsp finely chopped Garlic
½ cup fresh Basil leaves, chopped
½ tsp dried Oregano
½ tsp red chilli flakes
2 tbsp fresh cream
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
Salt for seasoning
Black pepper powder, for seasoning
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil and add half of the chopped garlic and onion. Saute well and add the chopped tomatoes, basil, oregano, salt and chilli flakes and keep stirring till the tomatoes are cooked thoroughly. The chunky tomato salad dressing is ready.
In 1 tbsp olive oil, stir fry the chicken chunks with salt and pepper on a low flame, do the toothpick test to check if they are cooked tender.
Cook the pasta as per instructions on the packet. Remove from heat; strain the water, run through cold water. Add 1 tsp olive oil to the pasta, toss well and keep aside.
In a wok, heat 2 tbsp olive oil, add finely chopped garlic and veggies and stir fry. Add the chunky tomato dressing, tomato ketchup, the fresh cream and mix well. Add the chicken chunks, pasta, salt and pepper to taste and toss it well.  Garnish with finely chopped fresh basil.
And you would have just put together a wholesome yummy finger-lickingly delicious meal.
It’s a versatile preparation that can be served as a mid-evening meal with a generous topping of shredded cheese or heaped in a bowl for a casual relaxed dinner with a piece of garlic toast and some red wine..
So, you guys enjoy a pasta meal… and I will see you soon with more… till then a presto amicos and loads of yummy expressions!!

Chilled Mint Pomegranita on a sizzling summer afternoon…..

Summer is the season of fluid creativity…. I say so, because it is during summer that everyone gets creative with fluids which culminate into some ingenious, inspired and inventive summer coolers and drinks. And even when resources and options are limited, one can see ingenuity at its best with people coming up with amazingly creative potions and home fermented brews!
Keep hydrated is the resolute Mantra to get through the scorching summer heat for one and all…… and then arrive, those refreshers that elevate our spirits along with maintaining our body salts and glucose levels and provide us with a relieving solace from the sweltering summer.
From the humble Nimbu Pani, the Neera, the Sugarcane juice and the Tender coconut water to an array of fluid replenishers in the form of fresh squeezed juices of summer fruits – watermelon, pomegranate, oranges and tangerines, grapes and black currant; to those more pulpy juice and milkshake options of mango, chikoo, papaya, guava, banana, strawberry; we love to satiate our body’s need for fluids with these alluring options.
While we do continue to make a staple out of these drinks, the pleasure we can derive from creating some amazing concoctions, mixing and matching the tastes, flavours and essences of the assortment of juices along with impeccable seasoning and extracts from some of the incredible therapeutic summer herbs, is simply enlivening. 
So this one summer afternoon, when my fruits and groceries order got delivered home, it was once again the time to experiment and create something cool, sassy and invigorating.  I was lucky to have some cool ingredients in stock now and after the much mandated disinfection of the supplies, the cooler fixing process began….
Mixing and matching the formulae of the classic margarita and the fresh lime soda, I treated the home gang with a Mint Pomegranita Cooler!!
To get going you need….
400 ml pomegranate juice
500 ml club soda
½ cup sugar syrup
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp mint leaves, crushed
Crushed ice
Mint sprigs for garnish
Pour the pomegranate juice in a jar and stir in the crushed mint leaves and keep in the refrigerator for an hour to infuse the flavour.
In a cocktail shaker, add 100ml of the mint infused pomegranate juice, 1 tsp sugar syrup, 2 tsp lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Shake thoroughly.
In the serving glass, add a tbsp of crushed ice. Strain and pour the contents of the shaker. Top up the glass with club soda and garnish with the mint sprig.
Your Mint Pomegranita Cooler is ready to chill with you.
This simple to create amazing mocktail will dazzle any party and for those who are ‘spiritual’ by nature, adding your favourite vodka or tequila shot to the shaker will take you on the path of enlightenment!!
You are welcome to show off your creative cooler/ mocktail/ cocktail at the next Video Call Party with your friends. 
But stay responsible, stay safe and I will see you soon with more Yummy Expressions!!

Tiramisu Mousse…. The Sweet side of staying put at home….

Last few weeks all of us are staying put at home, one can see people generating lot of positivity through creativity, prayers, acceptance, gratitude and humility. 

Some are spending their time worrying and sending us all sorts of ‘gyaan’ or ‘home remedies’, sharing pandemic statistics and doomsday kind of forwards;

Some are lightening up the air by tickling our funny bones with witty quips and clippings;

Some others are giving and taking online lessons on Yoga, meditation, personal grooming, refresher courses and discourses on building positivity;

While some others are totally binging on all the movies and TV shows that they can lay their hands on!

Some old photo albums are getting their dust puffed off in order to relate those good old times to the younger ones at home..

My social media groups are flush with pictures and videos of friends and folks engaged in lot of creative and artistic pursuits….

Men have been proudly posing with an onion or a carrot on a cutting board; home-stuck dads posting amazing revelations of time spent with their new found friends – their kids; proud moms showcasing lots of creative handiwork of their children; and I am seeing pictures that are a proof of quality time in beautiful terrace gardens that are getting tended to with more love and care, and some others are putting on display their renewed interest in fabric painting or embroidery and then there are some more who have been posting pics that ooze delish….

Well, for my family and me, the last category is our favourite, and this time, it was the kids who took over the kitchen scene and showcased some of their creative culinary ideas…. And one of the delectable outcomes I am going to share here today… something that swept me off my feet and made me a proud mum….The Tiramisu Mousse

To get going we need…..

3 tsp instant coffee

3/4 cup hot water

1 cup heavy whipping cream, refrigerated for at least 4 hours

1 cup powdered sugar

225 gm Mascarpone cheese

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

150gm plain vanilla sponge cake, cut into thin slices

1 tbsp of dark chocolate shavings or chocolate sprinkles for topping (optional)

Add the instant coffee to hot water and stir. Let cool for 5 minutes.

Beat heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Chill until you are ready to use.

Mix the Mascarpone cheese with powdered sugar with a hand mixer until smooth. Taste as you add sugar to check sweetness, if you don’t exactly fancy really sweet desserts, you may want to use lesser than a cup. Mix in vanilla extract and add the coffee decoction depending on how strong you want the coffee flavour to be. You can taste as you whip to ensure you get the exact flavour you like. Keep aside the remaining decoction for later use.

Fold whipped cream into the coffee – mascarpone mixture gently and blend with a hand mixer till thick, smooth and airy. The mousse is thus ready.

Soak the sponge cake slices in the remaining coffee decoction and place at the bottom of the dessert pan or the serving glass. In the dessert pan, add the tiramisu mousse on the cake layer and smoothen it out evenly. For the serving glass, press the soaked cake at the bottom and pipe in the mousse using a piping cone or a zip lock bag. Add a layer of light dusting of cocoa powder.

Continue layering the tiramisu and cocoa powder as per your need. The final layer would be of cocoa powder.

Top the final layer with chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

Your Tiramisu Mousse is ready!!  Refrigerate for minimum 2-3 hours and it is ready to serve.

Enjoy this amazing dessert at home with your family while you stay safe and cheerful!

In case you are not able to get hold of mascarpone in the current scheme of things, you can substitute with fresh home-made Greek yoghurt or with fresh soft home-made cottage cheese. These will give you yummy results as well!

Looking for more creative culinary avenues to spice up your summer? Keep watching this space….

Meanwhile stay calm and stay positive….  Love to you all…. And Yummy Expressions!

The Rich Dollops for the Cool Cravings……

Summer is round the corner…. With day temperatures already soaring to 35-36 degrees C; it’s time to get your glares and caps and sunscreens and sun guards out, to gear up for some real heat!

It’s all about keeping yourself cool and ‘keep your cool’ as well when it gets hot-hot-hot!!  So, are you already making a list of all the “cool” stuff that you want to do this summer? How about getting the temperatures soaring with your cool summer fashion and your summer special coolers – ice golas, ice teas, fresh juices, ice candies, slushes, frappes and the ever favourite ice-creams!

What I love the most about summer is all the cool treats that one can be dig into and the grand arrival of the Royal fruit of the season – The Mango!

Come summer and I can savour, devour, eat, drink, gulp, gobble, sleep and dream Mangoes. I also make tons of mango pulp that I stack away in containers in the chilled corners of my freezer, so that I can enjoy my most favourite fruit all year round, long after it has bid adieu for the year.

I still had this little jar of mango pulp left from last year, waiting for me to grab it and transform it into something heavenly delicious. So, as I am making space in my freezer for this year’s fresh stock of mango pulp, I pull this little thing out with a plan in mind to give myself a refresher in making summer’s most sought after cool treat.

No better surprise for my High tea guests who would love an out of the box cool fiesta instead of a routine tea-coffee-muffins-puffs afternoon.

In an afternoon full of iced teas, fresh fruit ‘on the rocks’ coolers, cold sandwiches, cold salads and smoothies, my little jar of mango pulp looked all set to make a show stopper!

Thus was created the low effort, no fuss and superfast Real Mango Ice-cream!

To get going, you need….

1 ½ cups Mango pulp

200-250gm Condensed Milk

200gm Fresh cream

3 tbsp Milk Powder

Chill the blending container in the fridge for 30 minutes.  You need to make sure all your ingredients are also refrigerated for few hours before you start blending your ice-cream.

In the chilled blending container, add the mango pulp, milk powder, condensed milk and fresh cream. Using an electric blender pulse beat the mixture at low speed till it thickens to just about pouring consistency.  Pour the mixture in a flat round container and freeze it for at least 8 hours till it is fully set.

Voila! Your perfectly soft, creamy, smooth and rich ice cream is ready!!  Your ‘no fuss’, no icy chunks, no synthetics version is a pure pleasure for the eyes and the taste buds in concert!

Gently scoop out dollops of your ice-cream and serve.

While blending, keep checking after every few blends for the right consistency. It should not take you more than 5-7 minutes to reach this stage. Don’t over beat the mixture of else the cream will separate making it into buttery chunks.

Everyone back home simply loves this ice-cream. With no thickening agents, synthetic ingredients or stabilisers, I indulge my friends and family with versions of this dessert right through the summer.

 There are so many creamy flavours one can do – Chocolate, Vanilla, Fresh Strawberry, Tender Coconut, Choco chips, Mocha; I plan to try making one using the kids’ health drink powder for flavour.… Wonder how it will turn out! Sure it should be good, right? I plan to try them all this summer… guess you are keen to do that toooooo!!

So wishing you a super chilled out summer with loads of frosty creamy chilled creations from your kitchen. Keep expressing yumminess with your super cool ingenuity…. S’long!

Adding flavour to creations…. Jalapeno pickle

Do you recollect having had that feeling of weariness as you may have sunk into the sofa late some evening? May be a marathon day with back to back meetings at work or a long afternoon entertaining an assortment of relatives over an intricate well spread out lunch menu…?

I have been in similar situations plenty and I am familiar with an ardent desire to become invisible for the rest of evening or a sincere hope that my comfy sofa engulfs me to relax inside its fluffy cushions to be released next morning fully rejuvenated, refreshed and ready to take on the brand new bright day!

Cut to reality, there would be a long mental to do list of the chores I need to finish and a dinner to be served before I can even think of hitting the sack! A quick one dish meal idea usually comes to rescue on such occasions, decreasing my work load to a large extent and at the same time ensuring happy faces and equally happy tummies by bed time.

And on this day, I chose to make one of the easiest one dish meals – a pan grilled tofu with a stir fry of fresh veggies and a fresh tomato sauce. I finished it with a toss of pickles that added an impeccable punch to the dish.

I have taken a liking to storing some pickled marinates in my fridge because nothing comes more handy in adding an oomph to many a gourmet meals and to a myriad of quick fix meals!

Pickled gherkins …. Olives…. Carrots shreds…. Marinated onion rings… pickled jalapenos… are my favourites though there are so many of them available, the list can go on and on….These and many more have been the secret to many a scrumptious pizza, pasta, sandwiches and salads that we would have relished in our much loved restaurants, cafes and bistros.

I used to get all these pickle jars of the shelf at my favourite store, and then I had a friend of mine share with me his recipe of pickling jalapenos…. And ever since, I always have handy in my fridge, a jar of some succulent homemade jalapeno pickle, in order to add that distinct hot and sweet zing to any cuisine.

Here’s how you can make a marinade pickle…

To get going, you need……

10-12 jalapenos, sliced into rings

2 large peeled cloves of garlic

1 large bay leaf

8-10 black peppercorns

1 cup white vinegar

3-4 tbsp honey

1-2 tbsp salt as per taste

1 mid-sized glass jar with an airtight lid (completely dry)

In a sauce pan, add 1 cup of water, 1 cup vinegar, salt, garlic cloves, bay leaf and peppercorns and heat it up to boiling point only. Add honey, mix well till dissolved. Now add the sliced jalapeno rings into the liquid and press down gently so that all the rings are soaked well.

Leave for about 10-15 minutes and you notice the colour of the jalapeno rings changes from bright green to a pale green.

Scoop out the rings and put them into the glass jar. Now slowly pour the hot pickling mixture along with the whole spices into the jar. Gently press the jalapenos down with a spoon, so that air pockets if any are released.

Leave uncovered till it cools down completely. Once at room temperature, put the airtight lid and store away in the refrigerator.

These will easily stay good for 6-7 months. And during this time, be assured that you are going to elevate your pizza, pasta, salads and more to a very fine food experience.

Have a good time pickling… and Yummy Expressions!

See you soon….

Fast Track Fried Rice
A relaxed Sunday and some "Indian" Chinese brunch is all I want!!
Imagine it is a lovely Sunday morning. Enjoying a steaming coffee with the Sunday papers and a rare soft breeze for company is like a blessing after two months of fire spitting scorches of the sun; I am watching from my balcony, the ever changing spatial vista of the sunbeams peeping from the clouds over the profiles of the high rise buildings on the far end. 
Today being one of those rare Sundays when the morning is not brimming with activities to send the kids to, or with a ‘to do’ list of weekend chores; no event invites, no visitors expected and no weekend ‘work from home’!!
I want to slow down just one day, enjoy my coffee, go for a lazy morning stroll, relish my scrambled eggs with toast, take a relaxed hot shower, cook and enjoy a simple yet special lunch and finally settle down for the afternoon in front of the idiot box to enjoy some of my all-time favourite flicks.
Sure sounds like a dream, right? Believe me, days like these come once in zillion years… no jokes!!!! And boy! Did I make the most of this awesome once a life time opportunity?!!
And to make this day extra special, I just served one of my favourite quick fix meals. A fast track Egg Fried Rice! One that is a treat for all those who love “Indian” Chinese food; that gets ready in 20 minutes and I love it more n more each time!
To get going, you would need…………
2 cups long grain rice
2-3 tbsp Olive Oil
4 eggs
Salt to taste
½ tsp Pepper
1 tsp garlic finely chopped
1 small onion finely chopped
1/2 tsp green chilli paste
2 cups finely chopped veggies (spring onion, carrot, capsicum, baby corn)
1 tbsp Soya Sauce
1 tbsp Chilly Vinegar
Cook the rice in 2.5-3 cups of water and 2 tsp of Olive oil. Keep a watch so that the rice is not over cooked or the grains do not stick together.
Beat the eggs well with salt and pepper. Make a fluffy omelette on olive oil, let it cool and then cut it into 1 inch strips. 
Heat the remaining olive oil; add garlic, onion and chilli paste and sauté well till onion is tender. Add the veggies and stir fry for 3-4 minutes. Add the rice and salt and stir fry for another 3 minutes. Add the omelette squares, soya sauce and vinegar, stir and mix well for about 1-2 minutes.
Your Egg fried rice is ready.
Get ready to see it getting savoured and devoured and polished off!
I have made this on several occasions, never goes wrong. Can be served by itself or sometimes I team it up with some yummy Manchurian gravy. It tastes great either way!!
Will share with you guys, my version of some lip-smacking Manchurian gravy in the coming days!
Meanwhile, weekend is round the corner so maybe you want to try your version?!!
Happy cooking and Yummy Expressions!!

Crunchy Baked Chicken Ranch Style… 
With the main festivities over, and few of Diwali holidays still to go, except for the time we visited the local science park, we pretty much spent these few days at home;  full of board games, painting and art, designing (anything across the broad spectrum of outfits to space crafts!), karaoke, gardening and a happening culinary expedition. 
The culinary session needed to be uncomplicated yet fascinating enough to hold the interest of the teen experimenters. The sessions that started last summer holidays with how to make tea and coffee and instant noodles in the microwave, we have come quite a way so far having dished out a variety of wonders in the kitchen ranging from ice creams, cola floats, fruit slushes to grill chicken sandwiches, egg muffins, olive n spinach pizza, cookies and brownies and wedges and a variety of other simple bakes and grills.
 One of the most rocking kitchen sessions yet has been the one just before the school resumed this month, when we dished out a super creative, easy and yet super yummy Baked Chicken Ranch Style.
So guys, here’s presenting you the Crunchy Baked Chicken Ranch style, which literally gets ready in minutes….
To get going you need,
2 Boneless Chicken breasts cut into large chunks
4 tbsp Ranch Salad Dressing
1 tbsp Mix Italian Seasoning powder
1 tsp garlic paste or garlic powder
100 gm Breakfast cornflakes; hand crushed

In a large mixing bowl, add the crushed cornflakes, the Italian seasoning and garlic powder and mix well. 
Pre-heat the oven at 200 degrees Celsius.  Grease a baking sheet with olive oil.
Take the ranch dressing in a deep serving plate. One by one, take the chicken chunks and dip into the ranch dressing to cover fully, roll into the cornflakes mixture to coat properly and place on the baking sheet.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes till the chicken is well done. Do a toothpick or fork test to check if the chicken is cooked.
Serve it with your favourite dip – a Salsa or a garlic mayo or a sour cream cheese dip.
This quick, ‘low on effort’ dish that tastes heavenly has been such a motivational high point in my kids’ culinary achievements so far. Their confidence levels in the kitchen went soaring when the results of this particular kitchen endeavour were sampled by the household and was found to be exceptionally delectable.
Actually this one here is such a versatile preparation that it can also spice up your dinner menu exponentially.  And it’s a great way to get through the “I am too bored to cook” day when you can serve this simple yet delightful and stylish dish alongside a quick soup and garlic bread.  Go ahead, relax for the day and yet appease your palates cowboy style!
And I will see you soon with more Yummy Expressions!

Impulse purchases + Sweet tooth = White Chocolate Truffles!!

When you impulse buy a big block of cooking chocolate with no specific idea of what you want to use it for and you realise you don’t have the time to make something elaborate out of it, what do you do? What on earth was I thinking when I picked it up???

Well, that’s the kind of conversation I was having with myself when my grocery cart had fallen prey to a big bar of white cooking chocolate that sneaked its way through the checkout counter and was now lying in front of me on the kitchen platform. With nothing on agenda whatsoever with respect to white chocolate, my thoughts floated around in the eternity of my mind space hoping to hit some brainwave that would help me understand the rationale behind and logic of impulse buying. But it happens to us all the time, when the visual display overpowers our rational thinking ability, some hidden passion around the subject matter triggers, our normal thinking ability ceases and we are overcome with a sudden strong urge of self-gratification. Thus happen to us, things like this large white chocolate bar on my kitchen platform!!
My super thrilled kids had loads of suggestions how to make best use of this ingredient. Buy ice-cream and top it up generously with chocolate shavings??  Grate the bar, melt and mould them into chocolate bonbons??? Or maybe

make them into some creamy melt-in-mouth chocolate truffles?? After a lot of animated discussion, we short listed chocolate truffles and making the truffles became the high point of our already charged up weekend!!

Let me take you through what we actually did….

To get going, you need…

About 250g White Chocolate Bar (finely sliced) or White Chocolate chips

½ cup fresh cream
1 tsp Vanilla essence
For the coating,
Candy sprinkles/ Cocoa powder/ Pistachio crumbs/ Rose petal crumbs/ etc.

Boil cream in a container using double boiler method whisking gently all the while. Once boiled, add the white chocolate slices or chips and keep stirring till the chocolate melts and blends perfectly with the cream. Add the vanilla essence and mix well.
Let it cool and thicken a bit. Mix well with a spatula once and refrigerate for about 2-3 hours with the contained covered in a plastic wrap.
Scoop out and shape into balls and roll them gently to get an even coat of the sprinkles of choice.  Voila!! Your chocolate truffles are ready!! Go ahead and dig into some absolutely creamy ‘melt in the mouth’ treats that are so very easy to make!
And don’t forget to store the rest of them in the refrigerator right away.
In Indian weather conditions, you may have to put the mixture back in the refrigerator midway through, if you feel the consistency has thinned due to heat. In that case refrigerate the balance mixture for another 30-40 minutes before resuming.
For me, the most exciting part of making and decorating the truffles is the abundant scope for novelty and imagination that be applied while creating them.  We can add flavours like strawberry or orange or mocha while melting the white chocolate or create random rainbow ripples using edible colours or fruity syrups during the refrigeration process. 
What can be more fascinating than unleash our creative expressions through colours and flavours to tickle our senses and appease our palate!! Keep innovating, keep creating and enjoy the bliss of gastronomic amazement and Yummy Expressions!

 Qutab – A humble dish that oozes incredible warmth 
My holiday in Baku, Azerbaijan last month was a one of its kind unwinding experience, the one that not just had a rejuvenating effect on me, but also helped me to contemplate in general. I don’t exactly know how to put the feeling across, but I guess I have come back with loads of positive energy - assertiveness, confidence and self-assurance. It is like a sense of realisation that all the good I need is within me, I just need the right perspective. I don’t know what to make of it all, but it sure feels good and I should figure it all out soon…
Situated on the Silk Route, Azerbaijan played a vital role in the development of the global transit network and in facilitation of trade activities. One can see an inimitable mix of cultures in this country as a result of centuries old influences of European, Asian and African culture, lifestyle, languages, cuisine, et al.  Indian Merchants of the 14th & 15th century traded spices, cashmere, fabrics, artefacts among other goods in the cities of Baku and Shamakhi. There is a very distinctive adaptation of words from Indian languages that can be seen in the Azerbaijani dialect. Museums here display an array of historical artefacts, objects, musical instruments and other material of Indian origin. At the Atesgah Fire Temple in Baku, one is delighted to see a finely preserved and tastefully displayed Nataraja Idol in one of its enclaves. And the feeling of delight quickly transforms into a moment of transcendence, as the continuous serene chants “Om Gan Ganapataye Namah” are heard playing in the background in another one.
The city of Baku is a heady concoction of historical aesthetics, natural beauty and a persona that oozes graciousness. It provides a unique mix of the new and the old. The very rustic, enchanting old city – The Icherisheher, with its delightful historic ensembles that have been meticulously restored and preserved, the cobblestone paved pathways, the beautiful dainty alleys, the quirky appeal of the pretty looking restaurants and cafes serving some really yummy local delicacies. And on the other side the new city of Baku with its remarkable all glass panelled high rises that are modern architectural feats of its kind – The Haider Aliyev Centre & Museum, The Flame Towers, The Carpet Museum, Crystal Hall are very few of the Engineering masterpieces that form the modern Baku city.
What I fell in love with in Baku was its amazing peculiar cuisine that again has emerged with its share of influences from Indian, Arabic and Persian menus. I ventured my palate into all the local food I could lay my hands on….
The melt in the mouth delicacy for the sweet tooth - Paxlava, the sumptuous lamb n chickpea soup – Piti, the yogurt based dill infused soup – Dovga, the list can go on and on, and I would take you through my Azeri food trail someday soon…
Today I am going to run you through a popular Azerbaijani classic dish – Qutab.  I got an opportunity to learn this very appetizing dish from one of the chefs at a local restaurant – Passage.  This place used to be a fresh market in the 1900s and was converted into a restaurant recently and it maintains its rustic touch and ambience that can take you to the earlier century.
Qutab is a thinly rolled flatbread in shape of a semi-circle, and is stuffed with various fillings like herbs & greens, onion & minced meat, pumpkin & pomegranate, cheese, etc. It is fried on a flat iron hot plate called Sadj and is quite analogous to our Indian Parathas. 
The one I was taught by Chef was the Quzu Qutab or the Minced Lamb Qutab.
To get going, we need…
2 cups refined flour
1 egg
1 cup hot water
300gms Minced lamb meat
1 onion, finely chopped
1tsp ground black Pepper
Salt to taste
Oil or Butter for frying
Sumac flakes (optional)
Sift the flour in a wide bowl. Add the egg, a pinch of salt and the hot water as needed to knead it into soft, elastic dough. Rest it covered for about 25-30 minutes.
In another bowl, thoroughly mix the minced meat with the chopped onion, salt and pepper.
Make ping-pong sized dough balls and roll each ball into super thin circles, dusting dry flour as required.  Spread some filling on one half of the circle and fold the other half on to it and seal the sides well.
Fry it on both sides with a light drizzle of oil or butter on a hot flat griddle till it becomes golden in colour.
Your Qutab is ready to serve.
Qutab is traditionally served sprinkled with Sumac flakes and a side dip made of thick yogurt, black sesame seeds, dill leaves, salt and pepper.
Sumac flakes are basically a dried spice made by crushing dried Sumac fruits.  (check this link for more information - ). I have seen Sumac flakes are available in India on Amazon site.
Some more exotic and delectable Azeri cuisine is in offing….. so gear up to wow your friends and family with some distinctive tasteful dishes in the months to come….
Till then, I wish you all a very Happy and Prosperous Diwali…….. Enjoy some happy times with the folks relishing the Qutabs along with your Diwali goodies!
Cu soon with many more Yummy Expressions!!

Baked Greens n Egg Casserole.....My power packed meal 
Time simply flew! My little babies completed a decade in this world last month. From being mommy’s cute little darlings, they have transformed into a handful pair of tweens filled to the brim with enthusiasm, action, emotions and restlessness. Kids grew up fast and the scope of creations in the kitchen evolved and widened to suit palates and nutritional needs.
Pre-teens or Preadolescence is a period of lot of internal conflict for children, I have come to realise. The want to go the extra mile to prove they are no longer little kids at the same time they are struggling to cope with the transition and fit into the image of a cool pre-teen. They are getting used to moving out of their precious Wonderlands to being more mature, sensible, practical and realistic. This is the time of realisations and temporary disillusionments… that their Idols are not actually super humans but mere mortals as anyone else; that Santa doesn’t actually visit you from the North Pole, but lives right here in this yours and is called Mom or Dad!
Though the “real show” begins only about three years from now, the pre-teens is already offering the perfect trailer to shape me up for coping in the throes of the most astonishing array of drama, emotions, hormones, mood swings, attitude, “enhanced” vocabulary, et al!! I sometimes alternate between being amazed and scandalized when I happen to overhear conversations of my 10-years olds.

Let’s come back to food talk. So while I look forward to watch my two amazing children grow through their lovely preadolescent years, let me share with you a Yummy Expression that happens to be on their favourite Sunday breakfast menu.

Here I have for you today the Greens and Egg Casserole, most perfect for breakfast or early evening meal, power packed with spinach, veggies and eggs.

To get going you need…..

8 eggs

8-10 fresh baby spinach leaves

2 cups chopped veggies (beans, carrot, tomatoes, mushroom, and broccoli)
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small potato, thinly sliced
1 tsp chopped garlic
4 cheese slices
1 tbsp Olive oil
1 tbsp fresh cream
½ tsp Oregano flakes
½ tsp chilli flakes
4-6 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

Beat eggs well seasoning with salt and pepper. Keep aside.
In a square glass baking dish, add ½ of the olive oil, place the potato slices on it. Sprinkle the chopped garlic, onion and oregano, and bake for 10 min in pre-heated oven at 150 degrees Celsius.
Remove from the oven; layer the veggies and chilli flakes followed by a bed of spinach leaves. Top it with fresh cream and bake again for 10 min.
Remove from the oven; make a layer of beaten egg and top it with cheese slices and the basil leaves. Bake for 10 min till the egg layer is fully baked.
Cut into squares and serve with salsa or tomato ketchup.
At home, we all love this preparation. It’s quite simple and involves very less efforts.
Go try your version of the casserole and express your culinary creativity!
Will see you again soon with more Yummy Expressions!! Keep creating and keep expressing! J

Basil Pesto – The Italian lifeline!

This year post monsoons I have a grand plan to create my own little kitchen garden, growing all those amazing cherry tomatoes and jalapenos and herbs shrubs!!!

I have always been fascinated with all the exotic herbs that can be experimented with in the kitchen.  The distinct flavour and aroma if they are added to the right dish in right proportion; it can take your preparation into a very unique inimitable culinary experience.

There’s Basil… my most loved and most used of the herbs…… what would my pasta and pizza sauces be like without it

Then there is Oregano…. My omelettes and dips would be incomplete without this one

Our very own favourite Mint…… Can’t imagine my chutneys without it… and sometimes adds zest to my salad dressing

Parsley…. Makes my carrot soup extra special…
The list can go on…. And the more I experiment with these herbs in my culinary adventures, the more I come to love them. It’s almost like I can’t do without my stock of basil and oregano in the fridge anymore!
Couple of posts ago, I shared with you the very full of flavour and full of taste Pizza sauce recipe. With basil as one of its core ingredient for giving it the true essence, this sauce has been taking my sandwiches, toasts, pizzas and pastas to a very distinctive level.
Yet another truly loved creation is the Basil Pesto….
With its unusual mix of textures, Basil Pesto, I guess is the undoubted winner in every Pasta lover’s home. It is a real treat to the taste buds to explore and relish each of its fine ingredients. 
And if you have a jar of homemade Basil Pesto stacked in your refrigerator, you are ever ready to create a yummy dish within few minutes of demand.
So let’s check out how to create your very own and very ‘easy to make’ Basil Pesto at home…
To get going you need,

2 cups Fresh chopped basil leaves
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pine nuts
3 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp coarsely pounded black pepper corns

Add the basil leaves and nuts in a chopper bowl. Pulse for 4-5 seconds at a time till the nuts and leaves have turned into a coarse mixture. Add garlic, pepper and cheese and continue to pulse till all ingredients are blended well. Now add olive oil, a little quantity at a time and pulse after each addition.
Your Basil Pesto is ready!!!!
It’s simple, easy and ready in minutes. It can make the most amazing pasta sauce, a delectable sandwich spread or an excellent dip for your cucumber/carrot/ radish sticks or your herbed chicken fingers.
I am waiting to try my hands at some of my own versions of Pesto… how about the tomato and almonds version? Or may be an olives pesto? Want to try zucchini with raw pumpkin seeds? Or may be a fresh herbs Pesto with cilantro and parsley?
Let the expressions flow… and let them help us go creative to dish out some yummy versions of pestos. Are you ready??
Keep watching this space for more!! Ta’da!

Pineapple Peanut Salad
My current endeavour is to let go of excess baggage from life…..
I am working on inculcating good eating habits, regular meal times and regular sleep times
I am reworking my exercise schedule to include comprehensive workouts through the week…. Gym, Cardio, Yoga and Deep Breathing, Dance
I overhauled my wardrobe and donated lot of stuff that I had not touched for few years and I ditched a lot of stuff that I had not touched for many years!!!
I have cleaned all my mailboxes and junked uncountable files and folders that languished on the hard drives for ages.
I am also going to reflect in order to let go of any grudges that I may have cradled over the years in my mind’s storage space.
I believe this exercise will release lot of cache memory for me to explore newer things in life! And I am looking forward to it!!
There is this one significant component in excess baggage that all of us are glad to let go but for many of us, it wouldn’t just leave……. It’s called Kilograms!  Over the years, this unit of measurement has made me realise that 

“power of compounding” is not limited to mutual fund SIPs!! The only difference is that your money grows if you regularly save and invest. Whereas in many cases, weight and resulting health issues grow if you DON’T regularly invest in a healthy lifestyle!

So keeping in mind the age old mantra: Eat healthy and stay fit; I created a simple mid-day salad snack mixing and matching ingredients, loaded with taste, fibre and a power dose of proteins and Vitamin C.

So here’s presenting you a yummy snack of Peanut and Pineapple Salad…..

To get going, you will need

3 cups of fresh pineapple cubes

1 cup shredded carrot

½ cup roasted salted peanuts

1 tbsp Pomegranate seeds

1 tbsp Olive oil

1 tbsp chopped cilantro

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp Honey

1 tbsp fresh squeezed juice of Mandarin orange
In a large salad mixing bowl, add pineapple, carrot, peanuts, pomegranate, olive oil and pepper. Mix well and add honey and orange juice. Toss the salad well and garnish with chopped cilantro. And your salad is ready to serve.
No need to add Salt, we are using salted peanuts.
It’s super yummy and very healthy! I have been experimenting and creating a variety of salads lately with unique combinations of ingredients….. a mix and match of Olives, mushroom, avocado, grilled chicken, hardboiled egg, a variety of fruits, fresh herbs, some drool worthy low fat dressings, smoked prawns, and the works. Will be bringing you many more yummy salad secrets in the days to come…
Are you tempted to try your version of a power packed salad snack and dig in? Yeah… do it!! And as you always do, don’t forget to tell me your yummy story J
Keep watching this space….. I am going to be back here real soon with more Yummy Expressions…. Ciao!!

Strawberry n Cream Tarts!!
It’s been some time now I have been experimenting with food and ingredients, and I have derived immense pleasure from sharing my experiences with you all.
All through the while, my reader base has gone up multi-fold and the love and support of all of you, my amazing friends and followers has helped me grow in person, in passion.
And I want to tell all of you guys how fantastic you are, and that your appreciation and encouragement is worth trillions for me.
The connection made with you guys with the help of this platform is unfathomable. Each time any of you connects with me to express your views, it could be anything – a comment, feedback, reactions, sharing experiences or just plain appreciation; each of your connects helps me feel enriched and complete.
The tiny bit of joy my writing may be giving you is a source of sheer delight and motivation for me.

Each time people write to me to say that they love my blog –the culinary experiences as well life experiences, both of which I write with lot of passion – it’s a moment of jubilation.

I feel elated, when someone writes in all excited, to tell me that they tried their version of some of my culinary experiments, with the pictures to vividly recount how yummy it turned out.

I raise a toast to each one of you, may you soak in glow of fulfilment for ever and may you continue to brighten my soul with your unwavering love and encouragement.

On this note, I bring you, a yummy quick fix treat for your sweet tooth, a Strawberry butter Cream n Fresh Fruit Tart that can be served as a delightful twist to the boring biscuits at your High tea party or as a titbit for all those kiddie parties you host for the little ones.

To get going, all you need is                                                                                       

For the Strawberry cream,

½ cup strawberry puree
4 tbsp icing sugar
1 ½ cup of white clear butter (should be very fresh without any tinge of sourness)
For the Fruit tart,
15-20 of any flat round biscuits (I used the small size Marie biscuits, even the digestive variety of biscuits make this treat as good)
Strawberry sauce or Strawberry Crush
½ cup cut fruits - Slices of strawberries, apple

Whip together the butter, icing sugar and strawberry puree to make a smooth fluffy mixture. Adjust the strawberry puree in this mixture as per your taste and sweetness. Your strawberry cream is ready. Refrigerate till use.
Place the biscuits on a plate; add couple of strawberry on top of it.
Fill up the icing syringe with the strawberry cream mixture. Squeeze a small dollop on top of the fruits pieces. Drizzle strawberry sauce on top of it and top it with colourful candy sprinkles.
This dish when ready is one absolute eye candy and it will most likely be the star attraction among the array of quick bites that you set on the party table. 
There is so much variety that can be experimented with if we want to try different versions of the tarts!
How about a slice of banana and chocolate fudge topped with crushed nuts?
Or maybe some fruit cube with a dollop of fresh whipped cream topped with pomegranate seeds??
Or would you try shreds of apple with strawberry jam and crunchy peanut butter topping??
Maybe poached guava or peaches n cream cheese with honey drizzle?
I surely want to try an exotic caramelised banana and butterscotch cream with a crushed nougat topping!
Oh the list is going to be endless as creativity knows no boundaries……
Are you all set to explore your creativity? Come join me on the creative culinary journey and let’s come up with some incredible ideas of a tart…
Let’s go!!!!!
As I sign off…….  I wish you all my lovely readers a life full of sparkle and happiness and loads of Yummy Expressions!!
See you soon…

Oreo Brownie with Ice cream
This time around, I am super thrilled and pleased that I got to spend the entire summer holidays with the kids; doing stuff for them and with them. Like many other things in the last 10 months that I tried my hands at for the first time, an entire 2 months’ vacation with the kids was a first timer too!  And I must confess here, that irrespective of the fun I had with them, the kids’ summer holidays have left me quite exhausted!!!
Last year same time, I was closing reviews and revisions and the works in my ‘all equipped’ office space. Extended hours and long commute was the name of the game. I was doing meetings and presentations and brainstorming sessions in the sophisticated conference rooms while sipping on the Costa machine coffee and munching on sandwiches.  Sounds stressful, right? Absolutely right! It was no doubt stressful given that all the other chores and activities were then squeezed into the measly amount of time that was left. Not to mention the twinge here and a prick there for not being able to give time to the family….
I have come to realise that managing two kids who are home the whole day for two months at a stretch is a huge, enormous and humongous task. And I am in complete awe of my mom who was managing the show for me in my absence….playing mentor, ‘fill in’ mom, friend and a play date, so smoothly that one would never realise there was real work involved..

I looked forward to the summer holidays this year. Kids and I did a lot of stuff together this time… board games, little chef parties, baking sessions, visit to the museum, visit to the parks, weekend getaways, slumber parties, ice cream outings and the works!  And when you host events for a bunch of pre-teens who are full of energy and a growing appetite for action as well as food, you have to be on your toes all the time, either creating activities for them to do, dishing out fun food at least 6 times a day and then finally, cleaning up the whole place. Because, tomorrow is another day and there’s going to be a new bunch of pre-teens who are going to ransack your place and you are expected to be a “batch production set up” with creative play ideas and creative food ideas. 

It was on one such occasion that my little girl came to me, hugged me and cajoled me into agreeing to her plan of a surprise ice-cream party for her friends. And when I came to agree to it, a fresh piece was information was tactfully delivered to me that the friends have already been invited and were promised a vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate brownie. The notice was less than an hour!!

A dash to the ice cream store and we had two buckets of Vanilla; but luck ran out as we could not get our hands on brownies in any of the few pastry stores around.  I finally picked up a couple of packs of Oreo biscuits to crush on top of the ice cream; and as we rushed back home I racked my brains if there was anything more I could do than just replace the brownie with crushed Oreos .

And as I pulled into the parking space, it suddenly dawned upon me!!

Taking inspiration from my own Cookie Cake (refer my blog post of 17th March 2019), I am now all set to quickly dish out some yummilicious Oreo Brownie!!

To get going, I need…..

200gm pack of Oreo Vanilla Crème Biscuits

1 cup of milk
1 tsp Baking soda
3 tbsp Sugar
1 tbsp crushed walnuts
Powder all the biscuits along with the crème in a dry grinder. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add sugar and then add milk in small quantities, mixing well so that we have a smooth creamy batter. Add the walnuts and baking soda and mix well.
Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased microwaveable mould and microwave on high for about 4-7 minutes depending on the capacity of the oven. After the first 4 minutes, insert a knife in the brownie cake, if it comes out clean, the brownie is ready. If not, continue to microwave for a minute at a time till knife comes out clean.
Let it cool for about 5-6 minutes and then invert into a dish.
While still warm, cut into suitable pieces or crumbles to be served with Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream!!
To serve, place the brownie at the bottom of the dessert bowl, add scoops of vanilla ice cream, then add some hot chocolate fudge or Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup. Voila… the dessert is ready to dig into!
You may even want to give a light drizzle of chocolate chips or nougat before you serve.
Simple, easy and ready in minutes! And absolutely delicious! And it tastes so authentic, no one is ever going to find out this little quick fix kitchen secret of mine….
In less than an hour, I was all set to throw an Ice cream party for some 10-12 little darlings who relished their hot chocolate brownie n’ Vanilla ice cream. Such a pretty picture to see their content faces after they were done with multiple helpings! And the glow of pride on my little girl’s face through the whole event made it all worth the hustle. It made her day and her euphoria…. made mine!
Try this super easy brownie with ice cream treat! And be all set to gather a few more fans along the way….
Will see you soon with more…………..  Cya!

Greens and Cheese Wrap

Circa : 2019, June 1st
Vacation’s over, school’s just about to start……. And while we get set for the new academic year with loads of excitement and anticipation, we don’t want to let go of the ultra-fun summer holidays.
Just as the vacation is about to end, we persuade mom to allow us that one last ‘friends over’.  Impressed by our marketing and persuasion skills, Mom agreesJ. Yipppppiieee!
Mom has to make phone calls to moms of 6 of our friends. As we overhear mom’s telecon with co-moms, we realise they all share the same sentiment…. finally school reopens next week and they get the much needed relief after two frenzy filled months. And yes, another topic that all moms can engage into an endless banter about is the fact that we don’t eat our veggies, keep inventing excuses to skip eating healthy nutritious food and look for every possible reason to lay our hands on some yummy and favourite food stuff – pizza (yumm), pastry (drooool), Chicken burger? (slurrrp)!! Man! This list can go on and on….
Let’s get things clear….Veggies are boring… it’s the absolute and established truth of this world…. Well at least in the world of kids! …. So give us a break please!!!

Well...... time we start changing this perception, sweeties!! And what could be a better occasion to begin this, than your own ‘friends over’.  I am going to have to dish out something so that the two of you as well as your friends eat your veggies and lick your fingers too!! J

Yes of course I am going to serve you and your friends the all-time favourite Mango freeze shake, but how about some yummy juicy wraps with oodles of cheese and some exotic veggies to go with it???? 

Cool! So it’s the Greens n Cheese Wraps that you all are going to love!

To get going with the wraps, you will need…..

400gm thoroughly cleaned and roughly chopped Broccoli florets

100gm zucchini, finely chopped

4-6 leaves of spinach, each cut into half

15-20 pickled black olives, sliced
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp Fresh chopped or dried oregano
1 tsp Fresh chopped or dried basil
1 tsp chilli flakes
5-6 Cheese slices
3 tbsp Tomato Ketchup or Salsa Sauce
6 tortillas (or Fresh whole wheat Rotis)
Olive Oil for sautéing
Salt as per taste

Heat olive oil in a non-stick pan, add chopped garlic, oregano, basil and chilli flakes and fry for about a minute. Add broccoli, zucchini, olives, spinach and salt. Sauté for about 7-8 minutes till the broccoli florets are medium tender. Add the ketchup or Salsa sauce, mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat.
Spread the tortilla or roti on a flat microwaveable dish. Cut the cheese slices into 1-2 cm strips and spread them across the surface of the tortilla. Microwave for about 10 sec or till the cheese is at melting point. Remove from microwave, position the broccoli-zucchini stuffing along the diameter line, fold about half an inch from the bottom and roll it to make a wrap.
Serve hot.
I was serving the kids, so I folded half an inch from the bottom as well as top before rolling and then I cut the wrap into half. Easy to hold and eat for kids. Also works in avoiding wastage in case tummies get full half way through a wrap!
These turned out absolutely yummy!! The kids enjoyed a hearty and exciting meal. And there wasn’t a single complaint about having to eat greens and veggies. Happy kids, happy parents!
Since the core target segment here, were kids, my wraps were liberal with cheese and low on the chilly quotient.
If serving adults, you may want to skip the cheese and spread hot n sweet chilli sauce or a low fat mayo on the tortilla. Adding finely sliced bell peppers to the stuffing will add a depth of flavour to it. And if you like a spicy kick, consider adding pickled jalapenos to the stir fry.
I am all set to go creative with my cuisine in order to give the veggies, a thrust upwards in the kids’ hierarchy of food preferences. Are you too???
Go creative…. And do wonders with veggies in your very own kitchen!
I will be back soon with more….till then… S’long!

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… 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!

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…

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.
Mini Brownie Muffins 

Indulging the sweet tooth…. Mini Brownie Muffins


I have a selective sweet tooth, if I may say. I mean I can’t really gorge in to the gulab jamuns and the amrakhand or the sandesh or the payasam or the bebinca and the baklava. Of course I like them all and don’t mind having a serving, but that’s where it typically would stop.


However, I cannot say the same for anything that is or contains chocolate!!


Be it a nice big bar of soft gooey chocolate, an alluring mug of Hot Chocolate, the fresh homemade smooth silky chocolate sauce drizzled on the cakes and ice creams, the chocolate ice creams themselves, the truffles, chocolate fudge,  the chocolate pastries, the ganache, the mousse…. The list is never ending.


To appease a chocolate craving, my trump card is the delectable and time tested warm Brownie Muffins that I make at home. I use whole wheat flour and home churned butter and buttermilk to keep the health quotient as much in place as possible.


Just one homemade warm brownie muffin helps best to keep me away from the more sinful, rich, high fat and full cream chocolate preparations and at the same time offers a lovely way to appease the taste buds….


The freshly churned white butter and buttermilk helps make the brownie extra soft too…. 


It’s easy and quick and super yummy and you must try making it today!!!!


To get going, we need….


2 cups Whole wheat flour

2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup water

1 cup butter

cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 eggs

½ cup sour buttermilk

1½ teaspoons vanilla




Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius.


In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. In a saucepan, add water, butter, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Remove from heat, allow it to cool and then add it to the flour mixture beating with an electric mixer until combined. Add the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat on high for 1-2 minutes.

Pour the batter into muffin moulds. Bake for about 25-30 minutes and after the first 15 minutes, start checking on the brownie every one minute by sticking a toothpick into the centre. When the toothpick comes out clean, remove the muffin from the oven immediately. Allow to cool.


Though generally brownies baked in baking moulds get perfectly done in about 25 minutes, if you are using smaller Muffin moulds your brownie gets done way faster. Smaller the mould, the faster the baking is done.


I used bite sized muffin moulds, so mine were done in less than 15 minutes.


Sometimes some portion of the brownie may look sticky and over moist giving an impression that it is not done. No worries however, as it will become firm during the cooling process.


If you are going to enjoy the brownie just by itself, cut into slices or chunks and dig in. You can indulge some more and drizzle some chocolate sauce.


If you plan to use it with vanilla ice-cream, cut into blocks or simply crumble it to the bottom of your serving bowl. Add 2 scoops of ice-cream and top it with crushed toasted nuts and chocolate sauce.

Refrigerate if you plan to use the brownies over the next few days. And don’t forget to microwave them for 10-12 seconds before you dig in. Nothing tastes more heavenly than a warm brownie… trust me!


You can even make the chocolate sauce at home, fresh and gooey, literally in minutes, and it would stay good in the refrigerator for over a week. And needless to say, it tastes just divine and a quick drizzle of the sauce can elevate not just a brownie but many of your desserts many notches higher….


I will share with you my recipe of the chocolate sauce too very soon…. Till then go ahead and live your chocolate dream and satiate the sweet tooth…


I will see you soon….with more Yummy Expressions!


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