Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Speghetti alla Norma | pasta with an eggplant sauce

Spaghetti alla norma is a quick pasta meal that uses eggplants to make a quick sauce for the pasta. One can use any pasta or even boiled pearl barley or buckwheat to make this dish and it will always be as tasty. The sauce has a rich creaminess due to eggplants and tomatoes and a rich bouquet of herbs if you use them fresh.

Pasta can be a great way to eat a lot of vegetables in a meal if you wish. I am not kidding. I cook pasta with almost any kind of  vegetables but the classic Italian combinations are oft repeated recipes in my kitchen. This one with Eggplants and tomatoes is a Sicilian classic and works well with Indian palate as well. Don't we all like our squishy Eggplant mash, the Baingan ka bharta in it's various avatars? Just dress it up with some basil, Oregano and some cheese of your choice and see how it becomes the new Eggplant favorite of yours'.

If you like pasta and want to make something healthy once in a while, experiment with adding more vegetables, some meat or just soy nuggets as I do sometimes. Use pasta in minimal amounts and add some protein and loads of vegetables, it will be a nice filling meal that doesn't cause an insulin spike if you are concerned about that. Some 50-60 gm pasta per serving and around 300 gm or even more vegetable I use for myself. When using eggplants and tomatoes, you would not feel like a lot of vegetables as they sauce up very well to give you a creamy consistency.

(2 servings)

about 100 gm spaghetti or other pasta ( I use whole wheat pasta)
2 medium sized eggplants weighing about 400 gm
3-4 tomatoes weighing about 400 gm
1 tbsp of finely chopped garlic
1 tsp of chilly flakes or red chilly powder of your choice
1 tbsp of Olive oil
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
a handful of fresh basil (or dry) more the merrier
a few springs of fresh Oregano


Boil the spaghetti in a big pot of boiling salted water. As per instructions on the pack, or till al dante. Whole wheat pasta takes quite a long time to cook so it will be better to start boiling the pasta before you dig out for the vegetables in your fridge.

Normally the eggplants are cut in cubes, salted and rested, and then they are deep fried and drained on a kitchen tissue. Added in the pasta when everything is done. I do a quick pasta and skip the deep frying part.

Blanch the tomatoes a bit in boiling water and peel off the skin. Then chop them into small cubes. Keep aside.

Wash and chop the eggplants in bite sized cubes. They would get smaller and squishier when cooked.

Heat the Olive oil in a wide pan and tip in the finely chopped garlic in it. Let the garlic fry and turn pink and then add the cubed eggplants. Add salt to taste and toss to cook. Once the edges start getting pinkish brown, add the chopped tomatoes, red chilly flakes and chopped stem part of the basil leaves. A good handful of basil at this step will taste great.

This is the time to add the extra virgin olive oil too. Or you can add it while stir frying the eggplants as it quickens the process.

Cover and cook till the vegetables become squishy and saucy. Add the oregano springs and mix well. Adjust seasoning.

Check if the spaghetti is cooked by this time, it normally does. Strain the spaghetti and add to the cooked sauce and mix well.

Serve immediately with grated cheese on top. It can be Parmesan, Cheddar or a processed cheese of your choice.

Garnish with the remaining Basil and Oregano springs and serve hot.

Warm comforting meals are not that difficult to assemble.

If you just keep some chopped garlic in an airtight container, everything else would come together in just 20-25 minutes. Would be earlier if you are not using whole wheat pasta. That takes time to cook.

I have tried this recipe of  pasta all norma with boiled pearl barley as well and that tastes great warm or cold. Could be a nice lunch box option for those need it.

Do you like eggplants too?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Can we use an app to track our food and health goals?

Yes we can.

Normally I would make a mental note of everything necessary and would let my brain work for me. It definitely does the job for all of us neatly cataloging every little snippet into the folds of memory. Gets recalled at wrong moments sometimes.While having a comforting simple tasty meal in you home there must have been many times you were reminded of an exotic meal on a holiday and the yummy food in the plate would have gone insipid. Wrong timing of memory recall...

And then you forget the name of a fancy equipment you are out to buy at a shop and end up giving lucid description of what you want. Just missing the name. A note on your phone could have saved you.

There is an app called Evernote for iPhones and Android phones, that enables you to do just that. And in a very organised way.

Android was an alien word for me till recently and apps sounded like alien gear waiting to kill me. Yes, I am serious. And when Karan Bhujbal invited all of us at Blogger's Table for an event with Evernote, I was stumped at the idea and said this is not something I would ever be interested. This old woman who is scared of all technology of the software kind. The fellow blogger friends were all very enthusiastic and I decided to join in. In the mean time I got a new Android phone (Samsung Galaxy Note) sent to me by Masterchef Australia and Star world team as an appreciation gesture for writing this article for them. And an Android app was not that scary after that.

We were all invited to Dum Affairs for an informal lunch with Mr. Troy Malone, General Manager, Asia Pacific, Evernote Corporation to showcase 'How the Evernote food app can be used to remember the food and meals you love'.

I remember laughing out loud at this description of the event as well. I mean do I need an app to remember what food I love? No way.

I realised later, there is more to Evernote than just this food app, which is free for all and you can jump in to join. Even this free food app by Evernote makes you capable to click hand written recipes and catalogue in an appropriate folder. Think about all the hand written journals, you can click a picture of every page, catalogue and later enlarge the picture and refer to when required.Or a picture of a new kind of food you would want to remember how it looks and make notes about it taste right then and catalogue in another file. Or take a picture of a nice presentation or plating and type in a description so it can be used for motivation later and you would remember whom to give credit when you decide to replicate something.

Like I would definitely try to replicate this Three cheese stuffed Guchhi (Kashmiri Morels) cooked in a nut based gravy. Something you would like o try at Dum Affairs.

There will always be a few things you would click for posterity, a not added to the picture would feel like our parents used to do on those black and white pictures neatly scrap booked with appropriate notes.

Evernote would be an electronic scrapbook

Troy explained how exiting it is to be able to record your child's' first walk, her first words or the first Rhyme she recites. Without those bulky handycams that is. The Android phones are such good at taking pictures and recording sounds, they must be used to it's full caliber. Evernote also enables you to record and catalogue snippets of interest.

I asked troy why a head of an Elephant is the logo of Evernote. I was thinking of an India connection but he said it denotes the extraordinary memory that an Elephant has.. Evernote is the same memory in your gadget, available at your fingertip. Your phone can be like this head of an Elephant.

I am a convert thanks to Sid Khullar who insisted I should join this meet :-)

Deeba Rajpal , Parul Shirazi, Rekha Kakkar, Sushmita Sarkar, Rituparna Mukerji, Prerna Malik and Ruchira Philip Hoon were the other blogger friends who attended this meet.

The food at Dum Affairs was fairly good. The Galawati kabab in the kabab paltter was quite nice. Zard Gilafi Murgh was ordinary.

I liked the Awadhi Haleem very much. Delicate flavors just like Awadhi cuisine does, the fresh condiments as a topping mke it quite delectable. Chef Vikas Mudgal personally added the garnish over this serving of Haleem on our individual plates and I stopped eating for a while to click this picture.

What I would recommend at Dum Affairs is this Haleem, the three cheese stuffed Guchhi if you are in awe of the Kashmiri Morels and the Galawati kabab if you can't go to Lucknow to have better.

Desserts were great too and I really missed taking a picture of that Jaggery and Fennel Firni with added notes .Something I would like to replicate and give credit to Chef Vikas Mudgal.  
Missed using Evernote on this :-)

I am definitely going to use this app to click pictures of the interesting things when I go for invited reviews or visit other places like a foodies heaven Lucknow or a street foodies' city Banaras with my husband and decide to share it on the blog. Take pictures and add notes to it so half of my story is ready while I am experiencing it. Nothing would be better than that.

I was thinking how Evernote can be used for health conscious people like me as well.
And for my clients too. If you wish to keep a track of what food groups you are advised to eat and what to avoid, you can make a document of that and add to your notes to refer whenever you need. I feel it's important as I have experienced that many of my clients forget every time they have to eat out and keep asking almost the same questions. I understand every one doesn't have an in depth knowledge of the ingredients and recipes, so if one makes a document about say Thai cuisine and what all is allowed if one is at a Thai restaurant, Evernote can make your choices easy and clever.

Same stands true for workout regimes. If you want to work out on different body parts every day, just catalogue shoulder workouts suitable for you and in another folder abdominal muscles , arms and lower body in another and so on. No one wants repetitive boring routine so a variety of options available at your fingertip might well be useful. And if you felt discomfort while dong a particular exercise, you can add a note to the page that would remind you not to repeat the same.

Organising your life will be much more easy with it. I told you I am a convert.

Note that Evernote food is a free app.

Other features of Evernote enable you to do much more, see how this establishment organise their work.

Get organised with an added memory, working from your phone ...

A red cabbage salad with Peaches and nuts...

Salads are my favorite part of meal if they are made well. They actually become a meal in such a case. But they become a compensation for some white bread on the plate sometimes too. The husband wanted some pav bread with Tuna in mayo and my salad serving got bigger. Now that he also loves such salads I am not complaining.

Red cabbage with pickled red onions and sweet and tart Peaches made a yummy combination for a raw salad. I like some nuts thrown in for texture and taste both. So the toasted Sunflower seeds and toasted chopped Almonds were added to maximise the textural delight a salad brings to me.


Finely sliced slivers of Red cabbage 2 cups
finely sliced onions 1 cup
thinly sliced Peaches 2 nos.
Sunflower seeds 2 tbsp
Almond slices 2 tbsp

salt and pepper to taste
mustard powder 1/4 tsp
Lime juice 1 tbsp
white synthetic vinegar 2 tsp
sugar 1 tsp or a bit more
Extra virgin Olive oil 2 tsp


Lightly toast the Sunflower seeds and Almond slices separately in a pan and keep aside to cool.

Mix all the dressing ingredients and whisk well.

Dunk in all the onion slices and let it rest for about 5 minutes.

In the meanwhile you can cut the Red cabbage and the Peaches. Mix them all after 5 minutes of soaking the onions and toss well.

Sprinkle with the toasted nuts and mix well.

Serve immediately. This salad keeps well for 3-4 hours and can be a nice lunch box salad or an overnight refrigerated salad if you wish.

Use leftovers for stuffing of sandwiches. Or make this salad for sandwich fillings if you wish.

We had it for a Sunday brunch at home with some Tuna in Mayo slathered between Pav bun halves and some boiled eggs on the side. A meal to keep you going strong the whole day.

How else can you assemble a Sunday brunch within 30 minutes? Faster moving hands do it even early.

Such meals have become our comfort foods.

All the favorites on a single platter :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Roasted masala Cashew nuts in Microwave...

Roasted masala cashew nuts in microwave is an easy and quick recipe.

Since roasted masala cashew is a popular Indian snack with tea or evening drinks and we all love it for the spicy tangy masala coating and nicely roasted cashew goodness, I though the recipe needs to be shared however simple it seems.

Roasted masala Cashew nuts in Microwave

I had served the quick roasted masala cashews to someone who came unannounced, made instantly while the milky adrak wali chai was boiling on the gas stove and she was so intrigued she demanded a recipe on the blog.

Normally Cashews don't last in my pantry as the husband gnaws on them all the time till they are finished. And we don't go grocery shopping that often. For the same reason I always make them instantly just the amount to serve the occasion. Otherwise he would just fill him up with this and skip the next meal saying he is not hungry. That is natural.

This quick recipe of masala roasted cashew nuts comes handy to me. I had tried it first with almonds probably as this method of roasting nuts was in the recipe book that I got along with my Microwave some 11 years ago. Have been roasting Peanuts, Almonds and Cashew nuts the same way since then. The blog gets to have it very late. But better late than never...

The microwave recipe for masala roasted cashew nuts is simple and takes about 5 minutes for 2-4 snack servings.

Caution : Roasting 100 gm cashews at a time is better as they tend to get burnt when you roast a large batch in microwave. Use a ceramic, Pyrex or Borosil bowl for the purpose.

Roasted masala Cashew nuts in Microwave
To make the masala roasted cashew nuts just rinse the nuts quickly with water, cashew nuts in this case, drain them and place them in a Ceramic or Pyrex glass bowl. 

Sprinkle Chaat masala, salt n pepper and some red chilly powder if you are like me. Red chilly powder gets strong reactions from people so I ask for preference if I am making it for someone.

Adding Amchoor powder will be good if you are not using Chaat masala, or go ahead and add some if you like it tart and tangy. Homemade amchoor powder will be great if you have.

Everything to taste, to balance the flavors as you go, taste to get assured. The total amount of this masala mix will be generous as some of it will stick to the bowl too. 

Which you would later scrape and lick I know :-)

Once everything is mixed, the wet surface of Cashew nuts helps to adhere the spice mix and also ensures even roasting when done in a Microwave. So don't skip washing the nuts.

Microwave on high for a minute, rest for 30 seconds, stir the nuts and Microwave once again for a minute. Repeat stirring and Microwaving 3-4 times till you see some of the Cashews turning golden brown.

You are done. let it cool and serve right away. leftovers should be stored in airtight containers.

Roasted masala Cashew nuts in Microwave

Take care not to roast large quantities of nuts at a time in Microwave as it burns a few of the nuts very quickly if heat distribution is not efficient in an overcrowded bowl. A cup at a time will be good enough. You can repeat the process if making for a crowd anyways.

I just munched on them with a cup of tea right on on my work desk and was reminded of posting it while I was working on another article that requires detailed work.

It was a refreshing break. Would be one for you too :-)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tea with Anamika Singh : when a master Tea-Taster pours tea for you and educates you about tea blends and more...

Adding to what we all know in this age of global knowledge and lifestyle disorders, how teas are beneficial for health, how they are processed to give maximum benefits.

 I was invited to a Tea and food pairing event hosted by Sewara Hospitality, Anandini Himalaya Tea and Chef at Large. Anandini Himalaya Tea is Anamika's own brand and she has introduced a few exotic Tea blends. A lovely smile with some refreshing tea to talk about, that sums up this passionate tea connoisseur.

It was a thrilling experience as I love my teas and keep experimenting myself with different blends. So this concept is fairly new in our country to pair different teas with food through the different courses. I am so glad Anamika has introduced this to us. My own teas through the day are mostly stand alone teas and I have never thought of having a warm or iced cup of tea with my meals. Now may be the picture will be more greener. Anamika will be glad to know that the husband is contemplating renouncing the adrak waali chai in favor of the more orthodox teas. I am glad as we already stock about 6-8 types of teas in our pantry all the time.

This event was held at The Lodi, the garden restaurant which is a property of Sewara Hospitality, somewhere you would love to be in any season. We reached a little late and were greeted by Camera flashes, some wonderful smiles and with this lovely Rosy Iced tea as we settled down.

 This welcome drink was an Iced tea . Green tea, Rose petals and Mint.

Very refreshing Rose flavor, Mint is perceived as a subtle middle note which is very tough to achieve in my opinion. Mint is so easy to get overpowering and yet this tea gives you just a hint of mint. Green tea plays a gracious host to these two aromatic herbs in this tea. It was lovely. I had two of these.

Anamika introduced us to the different teas, the orthodox tea and the CTC and how they are harvested and processed till they reach our cuppa. A warm cozy ambiance and everything you love to talk about. Anamika is so passionate about her teas that she would evoke the dormant tea lover in you within minutes.

 The next tea came with the aperitif , a Green tea, Chamomile and Rose hip concoction with Asparagus Tips with Parmesan and Mustard emulsion and a Romanian toast.

The non vegetarian aperitif was grilled sole with butter and Parmesan with a spring of Dill. This single spring of Dill was such a delight to pop in with the last bite I tell you.

Chamomile is one of my favorite teas. And this one served in a shot glass had a very potent Chamomile taste ending with a tangy Rose hip whiff. A lovely combination to start with. This tea blended so well with the Parmesan and mustard emulsion that I kept licking the cheese sauce and sipping the tea alternately. Almost opposite flavors complementing and enhancing each other so well.

The grilled Sole was delicately flavored with butter and Parmesan and this sole spring of Dill felt like a blast on the palate. Yum.

Anamika pouring some more of this tea for us. I must have had three shots of this one. The delicate flavors of fish get accentuated by this Chamomile and Rose hip tea. Even a palate spoiled by sharp Indian spices will be able to appreciate this fish and tea together. Wonderful.

Main course came with a Green tea, Rhododendron and Himalayan Tulsi blend. Served in a white cup and saucer. Deep golden color, a sweet and sour flavor of Rhododendron with subtle Tulsi. Served with Pickled Mozarella with fresh tomatoes with an in house pesto(no lemon, no vinegar) and a Gruyere Spinach and sun dried Tomato Quiche.

Here is the yummy Quiche with cheese and sun dried and some fresh Tomatoes. A subtle sharpness of cheese and tomatoes, earthy Spinach and this aromatic Chamomile and Himalayan Tulsi-green Tea. Accentuating each other so well. I realised the tea can enhance the taste of the delicately flavored food you are eating and you might like not be a slave of the spices for a change.

The mild flavors of fresh ingredients are to be enjoyed in  it's full glory and the tea helps in it. Something I learnt in this event. No wonder having a Tea instead of a Wine can be as enjoyable.

Next was a Summer flush tea with Rose petals and Lemon balm. I was not able to get the tea as having so many aromatic teas one after the other for more than an hour had exhausted my olfactory nerves. It happens as the senses of smell can get saturated and cannot detect a new smell anymore. Anamika understood and ordered a glass of water for me. And viola, I could have the top note of lemon balm very clearly. Magic.

Slightly higher on the Tannin, this tea is heavier so to speak. The strength of the tea as we generally know about the Tannin content.

There was this Falafel, Hummus and Pita bread with this tea. I liked the Hummus quite a lot as it was rich with Tahini the way I love it. Pita and Falafel didn't do anything for this Lemon Balm and rose petals infused green tea. On the other hand there was a non vegetarian option of Coriander Lamb kabab with a yogurt and Mint dip (if I remember correctly). The tea suited really well with the light spicy Lamb kabab. It was not spicy up to the Indian traditional level and that helped in enjoying the tea and the kababs both together.

You would wonder why a tea should be paired with a meal as we already have an option of many other drinks for the purpose. I would say if you have been having a Coke, a Beer or a cocktail with your meals think twice about it and switch to a healthier option. Even Wine drinkers who want a non alcoholic option can rely on Green tea as it contains as good Polyphenols (Flavonoids or antioxidants) as Wine. Tea is as healthy as it can get.

All teas come from the same plant called Camelia sinensis, Green tea, Oolong and Black tea namely, all of them are different in the way they are processed and in the composition of Catechin polyphenols and the Tannins they have. Green tea is considered healthier because of the Catechin polyphenols, particularly Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a powerful antioxidant and hunts for free radicals, cancer sells and Thrombosis in the body. 

Green tea retains all of it's EGCG just because the tea leaves are processed minimally to make green tea leaves, just a light steaming and drying. The green tea leaves are not oxidised in the process and preserve the polyphenols. While the Oolong and Black tea requires a slow fermentation to get the strength and tannins in the cuppa. Oolong requires semi oxidation and falls between the Green and Black tea regarding health benefits.

In a 1997 study, researchers from the University of Kansas determined that EGCG is twice as powerful as Resveratrol, which may explain why the rate of heart disease among Japanese men is quite low, even though approximately seventy-five percent are smokers. Text quoted from this site.

No wonder the Chinese have known about the benefits of green tea for more than 4000 years. I feel bad about the fact that the British introduced tea in India just because they saw a cultivation possibility here but introduced the cheapest variety of tea to the Indian populace. I remember my grandmother telling us the stories of how hot milky tea was brought on streets with a loudspeaker announcing that this wonderful hot milky tea was great for you. Distributing the Chai for free in the initial days.They literally made the common Indian addicted to the milky Chai and kept exporting the superior teas all over the world.

Now that the Tea cultivation is in Indian hands and more and more Indians are becoming aware of the benefits of green tea, it is a good time to take it forward as a drink to accompany your meals. It will be great for prevention of all the lifestyle diseases we are all prone to.

University of Purdue researchers recently concluded that a compound in green tea inhibits the growth of cancer cells. There is also research indicating that drinking green tea lowers total cholesterol levels, as well as improving the ratio of good (HDL) cholesterol to bad (LDL) cholesterol. Study quoted from this site.

Being a strong anti oxidant Green tea is a great daily drink, but just be careful not to go overboard with it. It is a great diuretic and can make your water intake nullified, more if you count the cups of tea as your quota of water intake for the day. Secondly, it has some caffeine too, which is very low compared to Coffee but it depends on how tolerant you are to caffeine and how much Calcium is available to you through dietary habits. Caffeine is known to leach calcium from the skeletal system if you consuming too much caffeine on a daily basis. Although it is very difficult to go overboard with caffeine if you are drinking green tea. 

Back to the lovely evening we spent talking more about the teas...

The dessert arrived in the form of a generous wedge of cheesecake. Vanilla cheesecake. And the tea was First flush tea with Lavender and lemon grass. Served in a slim shot glass.

How can you go wrong with this soothing healing combination. You would love to have this tea after a dinner till you sleep. I mean I can have a whole potful of this tea till I fall asleep.

The lightly sweetened cheesecake, exactly the way I like my desserts was the best thing to sum up this lovely evening. Soothing Lavender and slightly tangy Lemon grass which comes across as the first note in this tea is great.

I must thank Sid Khullar and Anamika Singh for inviting me to this wonderful evening and Sushmita Sarkar and Rekha Kakkar for making a lovely company in a garden restaurant. Anamika Singh can be contacted personally if you want to know more or get her exotic tea blends.
Here is her mail id anandinihimalayatea@gmail.com .

I hope the information about tea, particularly green tea is helpful for some of my readers. If you are a tea lover, you would like to store your tea leaves in an opaque glass or metal container, to avoid oxidation and away from humidity to protect the tea from contamination of fungus etc. I would do another post on how to make the perfect cup of green tea for yourself..

 Would love to hear from you all.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Whole wheat Spaghetti from leonardo : my way of eating healthy...

I have always felt wary of trying a new brand of whole wheat spaghetti as the few times I did it earlier were very mediocre experiences. It is difficult to get hold of a good quality whole wheat pasta whose packaging doesn't look ancient. I know there are very few people who buy whole what pasta and the packs keep getting stale on the shelves. I hope this brand I tried this time is stocked well at all stores around me.This one is Leonardo whole wheat pasta. Posting some whole grain recipes is my bit to make the people aware about the goodness of it and how they can be made as tasty as you want.

So this pasta was actually a lunch in a hurry. I used whatever vegetables I had in my fridge, most of them the hardy ones which stay fresh inside even when the skin gets almost black. Yes, it was a big stick of Lotus stem and a large Carrot. Some fresh Basil from the garden saved the grace for freshness in fact as I love my meals fresh and green.

It's very convenient to boil pasta or even rice on one side and toss up a few vegetables in a pan on he other side so both can be mixed up as they get cooked by the same time. What I would do is, keep a big pot of water to boil, add some salt to it and tip in some pasta to cook. Then some quick chopping and stir frying, mixing everything up and I am done.

I had a container of mixed vegetables in home made tomato concasse' in the freezer and used that to make the pasta a bit saucy. This mix had some finely chopped cabbage, beans, carrots and lots of tomato concasse', Garlic and Oregano infused. You can always go for a bottled pasta sauce or make one yourself and freeze for such occasions.

 (for one large meal serving, some leftover is expected if you are not as hungry as I was that day)
whole wheat spaghetti 60-80 gm
soaked, squeezed and drained soy nuggets 1.5 cups
sliced Lotus stem 1 cup
diced Carrots 1 cup
mixed vegetables cooked in tomato concasse' as I used 1 cup
(or just tomato concasse 1 cup)
Garlic 1 tsp finely chopped
dry Oregano a pinch or to taste
salt n pepper or chilly flakes to taste ( I use according to my mood)
Olive oil 1 tbsp


Fill water in a deep pan and add salt. Start heating and add the spaghetti so it cooks on the side while you work with your vegetables.

Chop everything as desired and keep aside. You can add other available vegetables, just think about the textures you would like.

Heat the Olive oil in a pan and tip in the garlic first. Quickly add the sliced Lotus stem and toss to coat and get cooked a little. A slight glaze is all you are looking for. Add the diced Carrots and toss to cook some more. Cook to the texture you like. Lotus stem takes about 5 minutes of total cooking time to get cooked to a meaty texture.

Add the soy chunks . I normally put them in a bowl of water and microwave them so they get cooked while they soak. Takes 3-4 minutes in the MW and then rinse, squeeze and rinse again. Add them at an appropriate time if they are not cooked already. You can always add some Bacon or cold cuts to add protein to this meal.

Next is to add the tomato concasse', I used the mixed vegetables in tomato sauce. Toss and stir everything up. Add the torn Basil and the dry or fresh Oregano. Mix well.

The spaghetti should be boiled by now. Drain and mix with the vegetable mixture.

Serve with chopped black Olives on top. These ones are from Leonardo as well.

It was a lovely meal, the kind I toss up in a fun way and eating is just the next step with my food related entertainment. I call it therapy.

Do you agree food becomes an entertainment for us most of the times? And if we can include some cooking in our routine it becomes a completely enjoyable experience.

Even if the meal is not spread out on a huge wide table. A pretty plate all by yourself, for yourself :-)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Whole wheat, Olive oil, eggless cake with Peaches or Nectarines..

Egg less cakes were never an option for me as I would always think why eating cakes when one can't eat eggs. You can judge I am not much of a cake eater. Or any desserts for that matter.  I always thought here is no point experimenting with an egg less cake if you don't have to avoid eggs for some reason.Adding eggs to cakes makes it more nutritious and more lighter on the Glycemic load scale. Suits me.

It's not that I never baked an egg less cake before. There have been guests of the pure vegetarian types who have wanted a cake from me and I have obliged with an egg less variety but there was always some fruit in the batter as baking a Banana bread/cake or an Apple sauce cake was the easiest option with my limited experience of egg less baking. Of course I used to add either buttermilk or whey in combination with baking soda to get the cake more fluffy but there would always be a slight excuse that it is an egg less cake so the sponge is not that good. The taste has always been good as fruits and nuts never fail.

This cake was a breakthrough in a way that it was as fluffy as a white flour cake made with eggs. The reason for egg less option was that it was to be made for my sister and brother who visited me yesterday and my sister was avoiding eggs for the holy month of Shrawan. I decided to go with Olive oil and homemade yogurt this time. And whole wheat for obvious reasons. I have stopped stocking white flour at home now.

You can see that this cake is baked almost like a pie. A very thin layered cake so it bakes evenly. That is the main reason that allows the air bubbles to blow up without being weighed down by the batter as is the case in a taller cake.

A wide baking pan, the cake batter spread out thinly in a layer just about 1 cm thick, fruit slices laid on top and baked to perfection. That is all about this awesome cake. Of course the ingredients do play a role in it's texture and taste, the thinness is the key. The cake is just about 2 cm in thickness.

The baking tin I used is 29 cm by 25 cm, I measured it for you. So choose the right baking tray for this recipe as the thinness makes this cake special.

1 cup packed* plus 2 tbsp whole wheat flour (Atta)
1 cup homemade yogurt (3% fat)
1/2 cup Olive oil (I used Leonardo Olive oil)
1/2 cup sugar (lesser would be better if you like mildly sweet cakes like me)
1 tbsp homemade pineapple jam**
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp Pineapple essence
1/3 cup of chopped Almonds
3 large Peaches or Nectarines

*the cup gets packed when you scoop out flour, loosely packed when you top up the cup with flour.
** if you don't have a homemade Pineapple jam, just take one thin slice of Pineapple, puree it and cook it with 2 tbsp sugar till thick, just takes about 3 minutes in the microwave for this quantity. Don't worry if it is a bit runnier than a jam. You can also use one Peach for this purpose. I had some Pineapple jam and added it to give a depth in fruit flavor.


Mix the whole wheat flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together. Keep aside.

Line the baking tray with a greased butter paper sheet and keep aside.

Halve the Peaches, remove the stone and slice the halves thinly and keep aside.

Switch on and pre heat the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, add the Olive oil, yogurt and sugar and whip till smooth. No need to emulsify it completely. A quick whisking just to make everything smooth and sugar almost dissolved.
Remember to reserve a tablespoon of sugar for sprinkling on top of the cake.

Tip in the flour mix and whisk again to make a thick batter. Just a minute of whisking is enough. Do it quickly as the soda bi carb (baking soda) looses it's fizz if you whisk the batter too long.

Add the Pineapple essence, Pineapple jam/preserve/Peach puree and the chopped almonds and mix well again.

Pour the batter in the lined baking tray. The batter is thick and doesn't spread on it's own. More so because it has to cover a wider area. Use a knife or a sweeping stroke of your palm to spread the batter across the tray. I told you it makes a thin, about a cm layer of batter in a baking tray. Fill in the corners well.

Arrange the Peach slices on top. Sprinkle the reserve sugar over the slices as it helps glazing them while they cook.

Slide the baking tray inside the oven and bake the cake at 200 C for 25 minutes. Check after 20 minutes as each oven behaves differently and you wouldn't want your peach slices browned.

In this cake the peach slices were arranged touching each other but as the batter fluffed up during baking and Peach slice shrunk due to dehydration, they spaced out naturally. So take care to arrange them closely to begin with. The spaces between the peach slices have become pinkish brown.

Let the cake cool down. Lift up the butter paper holding one end , tilting the tray a bit and the cake would slide out easily over you kitchen platform.

Cut the cake in squares and serve as required. You would like to slide a flat knife blade under each square of cake to lift them up.

This cake would not keep well for long as there is sliced fruit on top that has not been much dehydrated. Consume within three days maximum if it lasts that long in your family. Mine was distributed.

The inclusion of Pineapple in the batter is a very good idea as it gives a rich fruity depth to the cake. The homemade yogurt makes ita little tart along with the natural tartness of the Pineapple and the Indian peaches I used. That was another great thing with this cake. And that helped with the aeration too in combination with baking soda.

The Peach slices make a beautiful topping and no one would miss a glaze or an icing over this cake. You might like to serve or with a dollop of cream for a plated dessert.

Do not skip adding Almonds or some other nuts in the cake as it gives a nice texture to it. Of course the taste gets richer, the Glycemic load lighter and you get a healthy cake to eat. Thinner, smaller serving size. 

What more would you want from a healthy cake?