Darkness can be illuminating. My moonless side embraces my guilty pleasures, without making me feel, well, guilty. It tells me that I am of this earth, desirous of the decadent, dark, delicious and some would even say dangerous indulgences. Occasionally, I dive into a trashy, tempestuous romance with an inky-haired pirate hero on its cover. And I confess that Don Draper’s stylish good looks motivated me to start watching Mad Men; and he may be a rake but I couldn’t care less; just look at him!
Foodwise, I’m more of a sinner, partial to rich, red-blooded wines, liqueur-filled chocolate truffles that slowly melt on my tongue, fatty patties, butter, bacon, cheese… (the list is long). In fact, despite missing a sweet tooth, there’s nothing like a slice of dense, moist chocolate cake with a cup of coffee to make me close my eyes and curl my toes with pleasure. So, I’m always trying new avatars of chocolate cake.
This particular double chocolate cheesecake has no crust, is velvetty-soft in texture with an intense personality – darkly handsome and chocolatey at its soul with just a hint of coffee. And because there is no crust, it eats lighter although heavy with flavour. Not so guilty after all!
There’s no way you can escape Kama’s (the Hindu God of love) arrows wreathed in mango-blossoms. Stories of his hapless, lovestruck victims, which include gods, goddesses, emperors and subjects alike litter the pages of Hindu mythology and literature. He chose his weapon wisely. The mango’s power of seduction is legendary. To us Hindus, it is a deliciously apt metaphor for knowledge, beauty, bountiful blessings, sexuality and fertility. We festoon our doorways with fragrant mango leaves as symbols of auspicious welcome on festival days and to welcome new brides. The smell of mango flowers announces spring and the luscious fruit makes hot and dusty Indian summers bearable, even welcome. Continue reading →
Coffee does better when there’s chocolate involved. Their chemistry heightens conversation, cocoons us in the moment within which, the world becomes a playground of possibilities. Adventures, dalliances, inventions, alliances, partnerships and other life connections are forged, and memories are born which we continue to savour long after. Even everyday cuppas are so deeply etched into our routine that the day seems amiss if we deviate from our coffe habit. Sitting at the table with steaming mugs, sharing my day with my family is a pleasure that’s simple yet sublime.
But even sublimity does better with chocolate, and chocolate croons when showered by citrus kisses. Still in the mood to celebrate winter citrus, I thought of making our evening coffee special with a batch of dense, chocolate brownies kissed by fresh, juice-plumped oranges. The recipe is inspired by a recipe for eggless chocolate brownies from http://www.foodfor7stagesoflife.com; but I gave it a healthy twist ( a die-hard habit that sometimes turns recipes into inedible lab experiments). But let me assure you that this one works!
Love is a four-letter word. And like life, soul, fate or luck, it sits light on the tongue but can be heavy on the heart. Somewhat like whipped cream. Love and patisserie are all fluffy pastry and clouds of cream till you get greedy and gulp down more than your share. And in no time the floating pillows of cirrus are transformed into load-bearing cumulonimbus and your stomach feels denser than the monsoon sky.
Now, I’m a fan of both love and patisserie and their soul-satisfying sweet intensity. There are days when I like nothing better than to snuggle in the cosy comforts of l’amour and cheesecake and nest under their weighty warmth. But there are also many days when I’m beckoned by the sky like a helium balloon, eager to sail through space untethered. In fact, as I grow older, I want both love and dessert with a lighter touch. Yes, I still need my dose of sugar in more ways than one but I want it to fuel me rather than weigh me down. Isn’t there a cliché about freeing love so that it comes back? And as a food-obsessed person, I’ll go a step further and say that to be able to keep enjoying desserts without feeling like a pregnant pachyderm at the end, I prefer them sweet but slim. That way, I can have my cake, eat it too and every now and then free fall into that triple chocolate cake and ice cream sundae.
So I’m always looking for featherweight desserts that make no compromises on deliciousness. But I stay true to using wholesome ingredients and stay miles away from chemical-rich, ‘low-fat’ substitutes. This means that I use eggs instead of egg substitute and whole milk rather than weird tasting low fat milk. And I eat fat, it’s delicious ( imagine bacon sans fat!), only I eat it in smaller quantities. That way I don’t miss it. I cook with a healthy dose of common sense rather than follow fads. Continue reading →
It’s been a week of indulgence and I admit that I did little to resist. The food, the wine, the conversations….I gave myself fully to it all (I don’t know any other way). I even started this week with some succulent Brazilian barbecue washed down with deliciously potent Caipirinhas at a dear friend’s poolside. My contribution to this meal was a simple Chocolate Marbled Cheesecake. I’m no cheesecake expert so understandably, I was a teensy bit nervous (although my no-bake cheesecakes generally turn out fine), but this recipe which I found on joyofbaking.com didn’t let me down despite my tweaks. The biggest appeal of this recipe is that it uses a mix of ricotta and cream cheese, which cuts down some of the fat right away yet gives you an equally velvety and a lighter cheesecake. Continue reading →
Birthdays and bitter-sweet memories….one doesn’t exist without the other; a package deal if you like. Some birthdays are keenly awaited – milestones marked by big celebrations with family, friends and in some cases the entire village. Others sneak up on you as you go about your daily business, making you stop albeit briefly, to raise a toast and tick off another year on the calendar. And then there are birthdays that remind some of us that from now on every birthday will be a bonus. But in between, are many forgettable birthdays that ironically, we remember because of failed plans, or because we spent them alone, because a special someone forgot or any number of forgettable reasons ;-D! Continue reading →
Every time I have a dinner party I rummage through my recipe collection with grandiose plans of making decadent, rich and completely over-the-top desserts – rich cheesecakes, trifles topped with Himalayan mounds of whipped cream, syrupy gulab jamuns….the list is endless. But each time, I chicken out as my mental calorie counter kachinnnnggs crazily and poof! all thought of sweet gluttony vanish faster than I can say “Cake!”
The this is, that at the end of a party-sized meal, many people barely peck at dessert, which makes my two boys very happy since they can pig out on it for the next three days. Also over the last three or four years, my conscience has become rather health conscious, and I invariably succumb to its silent whispers and go for desserts with a narrower waistline. But all is not lost because in the quest to find lighter desserts that are heavy on deliciousness I have discovered, adapted and tweaked a collection of recipes that are keepers for many a dinner soiree. Continue reading →
Wooing our sweet but finicky landlady was the motive behind baking these quick cookies. Just back from a long holiday, I was taking my time settling back into the daily routine, when our nice but neat-nick landlady decided to drop in since she was passing through town. Despite being a fellow neat-nick, I found myself experiencing an anxiety attack. After a few deep breaths and talking to myself to calm down, I decided that I had to impress her with something extra other than the excellent maintenance of her house (yes, I’ll shamelessly take the credit for that). After all, she was going to see the place for the first time in eight months since we moved in.
I was short on time and decided to bake these fruit and oat cookies since they were super quick to rustle up and didn’t require too many utensils that would prolong washing-up time. The recipe is also very flexible – my cookies have dried cranberries, mixed peels and glacé cherries, but you could add raisins, chopped pistachios, pecans, candied fruits…pretty much whatever you have at home. The cookies bake in 5-7 minutes so I had thirty ready in a snap. And did I mention that they’re not dripping with butter and have a healthy dose of oats which make them perfect as an after-school snack with a glass of milk for your kids. Continue reading →
I know this doesn’t look like a cupcake all gloriously puffed and pretty but it is…a cupcake with lots of fruit and the crunch of walnuts. So it’s actually a fruitcake masquerading as a cupcake but it’s moist and so light; almost like a cloud of fruit (not dense and heavy like many fruitcakes can be). It also has very little flour which is there only to give the fruit some structure and hold it together. I guess you could call it healthy because the butter too is restrained. So all in all I would say that it’s a great cupcake to make if you’re longing for something sweet without the generous dollops of calories. I made these for my son’s class and so was very conscious of their goodness quotient while choosing a cupcake. The recipe makes a dozen in a jiffy without me even breaking a sweat. Definitely a keeper. Continue reading →
Well into Friday evening, was assailed by an intense craving for something sweet but didn’t want to spend too much time making an elaborate dessert. A quick flip through my recipe collection revealed this warm and crunchy pear crisp with a twist, and what a happy coincidence that I had a kilo of fresh blushing pears just bought the day before. Chopping the pear is the only real effort , the rest is easy. And don’t bother peeling the fruit, the peel adds bite and is healthy too. Stopped peeling apples for my crumbles ages ago and friends love it because it noticeably boosts the flavour factor.
This is a pear and ginger crisp calls for dried ginger but I also added some chopped candied ginger for extra depth. You could leave it out and it would still be a great, warm dessert for a cold winter night. Continue reading →