Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pan de Higo/Spanish Fig Cake

In an attempt to eat well, I usually look for healthy alternatives at the supermarket when shopping for snacks. I almost always stop at the dry fruits section and buy dried figs, apricots and raisins. Some are consumed within a week whereas the others (like the figs) sit in my refrigerator for a while.

Last year I came across this fig cake at the supermarket. You could either buy the whole cake or individually wrapped slices. It was rich, mildly sweet, dark in color; it had a very intense flavor coming from the different spices and a very chewy texture from the figs. I don't recall that there was any flour in this cake.

So when I found this packet of figs in the fridge, I decided to give this fig cake a go. I found a number of recipes online but none appeared to be similar to the cake that I bought at the supermarket. Then I found the recipe for Pan de Higo - the Spanish Fig Cake. Ahhh! Just what I was looking for.

Pan de Higo has no flour, eggs or butter you don't even have to BAKE! Just pulse the figs in a food processor and add the spices and knead them together. The cake vanished in no time!

Pan de Higo - Spanish Fig Cake.

Recipe adapted from here


  • 1 pound dried figs
  • 1/2 cup almonds *
  • 2 tablespoons whole seasme seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoons whole anise seeds**
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 table spoon of honey
  • A pinch of cinnamon
  • Brandy as needed***


* Almond meal is a good substitute for the whole almonds. Toast about 5 ounces of almond meal on a dry skillet briefly and use in place of the whole almonds.

** I didn't have anise seeds with me so I substituted fennel powder instead. See the difference between the two here.

***I don't drink any alcohol, so never have it at home. I used apple juice instead of brandy. This must surely altered the taste of the cake but I still enjoyed every bit of the cake. Brandy is used not only for the flavor but also as a preservative in many cakes. You could also substitute White Wine.


Toast the almonds in a dry skillet and grind in a food processor or spice grinder. Pulse gently until roughly chopped, keeping the almonds from turning into a paste.

Using a food processor, mince the stemmed figs until a rough paste is formed.

Mix the figs with the ground toasted almonds, seasme seeds, anise seeds, ground cloves and ground cinnamon.

Add the honey and a few tablespoons of brandy/wine/apple juice to the figs mixture. Knead until a smooth and pliant ball is formed. The fig mixture will be crumbly but keep kneading until the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Add more brandy/wine/apple juice as needed.

Form the fig mixture into a loaf shape or use a muffin pan as a mold to form single fig cakes.

Look at the source here to see how the single serving fig cakes were made.

You can serve this as it is or with Manchego cheese. This is a good cake to make during the Holiday season.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Malabar Roasted Coriander Powder/Vartha Malli podi

In the front bowl is the roasted coriander powder (vartha malli podi ) and the bowl at the back is the store bought coriander powder. I've showcased the podi with my grandma's errnanam (her belt) that I inherited from her. She wore it on her traditional kachi kupayum, a traditional outfit.

The above photo is the route that Vasco Da Gama took on his voyage - photo taken in Lisbon.

Vasco da Gama
came from Lisbon to Calicut on May 21st 1498. And what did the men shout as they came ashore? "For Christ and spices!" But to their disappointment there were plenty of Christians living in the Malabar Coast. This was with the arrival of a Syrian contingent many centuries earlier. But Vasco Da Gama was right about the spice. Calicut is the world's greater pepper growing region (source - theepicentre.com).

For many generations our families have been living in Calicut. Spices are a vital part of our food and life. Without spice there are no dishes made. Since the time I got married, the one thing that I always bring along with me from Calicut is the vartha (roasted) malli (coriander) podi (powder). I remember my mother doing the same when she was living in Mumbai when we were little. The roasted coriander powder is a mix of many spices and not just coriander seeds roasted. Every time when I go to Calicut and tell my mom I need roasted coriander powder, the powder is given to me all neatly packed. Never for once have I asked her for the recipe until my last visit last summer. This was after I started blogging and started to note down dishes that were made at home that I would take along with me to savor it later. In my last visit when my mom handed me the powder, assuming that the roasted coriander powder is just what it says - coriander seeds roasted, I, out of curosity asked her - " ide verum malli varthu podichattu annu (This is just coriander seeds roasted and powdered - right? ) " My mom laughed. She then told me the whole recipe and I was amazed by the ingredients that go into the vartha (roasted) malli (coriander) podi (powder). Some of the ingredients that were used - I wouldn't in my wildest dream think of putting it in making the malli podi.

Vartha malli podi adds a lovely color to meat dishes. Just a few spoons of the podi gives the gravy the right amount of thickness, a lovely aroma and the spices are just right without making the dish too unbearably HOT. Without the varthu malli podi we find our meat to be very bland. Although, I don't have a whole lot of recipes in my blog that I have published using the roasted coriander powder, I do use it very often at home while making simple chicken or lamb or beef curries. And it is also because I thought that, what is the point in posting a recipe without posting the main ingredient? So finally, the time has arrived.

Also, the timing for posting this was right - or rather after reading the topic for this month's Monthly Mingle and Click, this was the only thing that came to my mind. Well, it was about time I posted this.

This has been passed on to me by mom and to my mom from her mom. This is one spice that I would carry with me if my house were on fire! This is to my Umma (mom) and my methamma (grand ma).

Vartha Malli Podi/Roasted Coriander Powder:

  • 1 kg Coriander seeds
  • 250g Turmeric (whole)
  • 250g Dry Red chilies
  • 10 g Cinnamon
  • 10 g Cloves
  • 10 g Cardamom
  • 5 g Nutmeg
  • 5 g Shahjeera
  • 5 g Javatiri
  • 2 tbsps Fenugreek
  • 3 tbsps Rice


Roast all the above ingredients one at a time till you get the aroma of the spice and starts to change its color. Grind to a powder.

You can store this in an air tight container for about 6 months or so.

Here are some of the recipes using the vartha malli podi - Chemeen Biryani, Erachi Pathiri, Kheema Masoor Dal Pulao, and here

To read more about the Spice trade go to this link here.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chatti Pathiri

We are back from 2 short trips. We all had a relaxing vacation, which we all needed so badly. Now coming back after almost 2 weeks of not being in the kitchen, I kind of feel lost in my own kitchen. Do you feel lost in your kitchen when you come back from vacation? It took me sometime to get used to what was there in the fridge or pantry and what wasn't. It is a strange feeling to feel lost in your own kitchen. Even cooking a dish that I must have made a million times can take a wee bit longer and I often forget an ingredient. Does that happen to you? Or should I blame this to - getting old you know, statement that we tend to make often.

In any case, let me start talking about the dish that I have been daunting to make for many years now. For one, I stay away from dishes that contain a whole lot of eggs. I tend to skip recipes that have more then 4 eggs in anything I have to bake or if something that is real drool worthy, I plan to make it when I have some guest over. That way I don't end up eating the dish by myself and everybody gets a share of the cholesterol laden dish he he! Secondly this dish has a lot of prep work, so I almost never have the time to make it. And the other reason is my son can't have a single bite, as he is highly allergic to almost all the ingredients in this dish. But I had to make it, as I craved for this dish way too long and was running out of excuses.

This is a sweet Malabar delicacy and this dish is also made in a different way and that is - with meat as a filling. I love this dish with the meat but my hubby is a fan of the sweet one. So this one is for him. Enjoy!

So here goes...

For the Pandam/Filling:
  • 3-4 eggs beaten
  • handful of cashews
  • handful of raisins
  • 4-5 tbsps of sugar ( +/- to your liking)
  • 3-4 cardamom pods, crushed, seeds removed and powdered
  • 1 tsp of oil/ghee
To Dip the otada:
  • 5-6 eggs beaten
  • 6-7 tbsps of sugar ( +/- to your liking)
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed, seeds removed and powdered
  • 1/2 cup of milk (optional)
For the Topping:
  • Handful of raisins and cashews
  • 1 tsp of white poppy seeds
For Assembling the dish.
  • 1 tbsp of oil
  • 1-2 tbsps of sugar
Ingredients to make Otada/Malabar crepe - refer to this. But do NOT assemble the otada (i.e. with the shallots in the recipe, just make the otada/crepe's and keep aside).


To make the Pandam/Filling

Beat the eggs with sugar and cardamom and set aside.
In a non stick pot, heat the oil add the cashews and raisins, until the cashews start to become light brown and the raisins plump up. Add the beaten eggs, sugar and cardamom mix. Keep stirring to make the consistency of scramble eggs. Keep this filling aside.

Make the Otada/Crepe like this. But make sure the otada that you make should be more or less the size of the pot that you are going to make the dish in.

In another bowl beat the eggs with all the ingredients for the dip and set aside.

Now to Assemble the dish.

Pour oil in a pot that you are ready to cook the dish in. Place one of the otada's/crepes on the oil. Put a little of the egg filling. Take another otada/crepe and dip it in the egg, sugar and milk mix that is kept aside for dipping the otada's/crepes. Sprinkle some sugar. Put some more of the filling followed by the dipped otada/crepe and sprinkle of sugar. Repeat this till you have consumed all the filling and otada/crepes, with the last layer being the crepe. Pour over any of the remaining egg, sugar and milk mix.
Sprinkle the top layer with the white poppy seeds, cashews, little sugar and raisins. Cover and let it cook the dish for 25 - 30 minutes on a low flame till a skewer inserted comes out clean. Let it cool.

Once it is cool enough to handle, remove the lid and place
a dinner plate over the pot and flip the pot upside down. The chatti pathiri will be bottom side up now, slide the chatti pathiri back on to the pot ( the top layer with the cashews, raisins and poppy seeds facing down). Cook the chatti pathiri for another 5-10 minutes on a low flame to get a beautiful golden brown color. Once cool take a serving plate and flip the chatti pathiri over, so that top layer with the cashews, raisins and poppy seeds are on top and serve warm.

This recipe is going to Joy from Fasting to Feasting from Kitchen flavors who is conducting the event.

Monday, July 27, 2009

White chocolate and strawberry mousse

Whenever I have people over for a meal, I almost always end up making chocolate-based desserts. Last week we had some friends over for lunch and I made this dessert using fresh summer berries with of course, some chocolate! I've been meaning to make this ever since I read the recipe in this magazine. To read the story on how I got the magazine click here. The dessert was delicious. The strawberry coulis with sliced strawberries along with creamy white chocolate and strawberry flavor melts in your mouth. Hmm! I want more!

  • 750g/1lb 10oz strawberries + extra
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 250g/9oz good quality white chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 1tbsp white chocolate liqueur (optional - I didn't use)
  • 12g sachet powdered gelatine
  • 450ml/16fl oz double cream
  • 25g/10z icing/confectioners sugar

Place half the strawberries in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Pass the pureed strawberries through a fine sieve into a bowl, then add the lemon juice*. Slice the rest of the fruit and add to the puree.

Place the chocolate & chocolate liqueur if using, in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, then leave for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until melted. Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatine over 50 ml water in a cup or small bowl and leave to soak for 5 minutes

Pour a quarter of the cream into a pan, add sugar, then warm gently. Add the soaked gelatine and stir for 5 minutes over a low heat until gelatine has dissolved- do not let the mixture boil.

Pour this cream mixture to the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Add three -quarters of the strawberry puree. Pour the remaining cream into a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually fold the whipped cream into the chocolate and strawberry mixture.

Divide the mixture between 4 serving glasses**, then leave to chill for at least 2 hrs or overnight. Chill the remaining strawberry puree, too.

Spoon the remaining strawberry puree on top of each mousse and serve.

Note: *My strawberries were a little tart so I added few tbsps of icing/confectioners sugar.
**I got more then 4 serving glasses as I served them in smaller glasses.

The first picture is going to Click of Jugalbandi for their monthly food photography event. The theme is bi-color this month.

Recipe from BBC GoodFood Magazine.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Upma, pronounced Oop-ma, is usually had for breakfast in southern India. Made from semolina flour, it is a hearty dish with great nutritional value. I make mine with sautéed onions, tomatoes and some veggies (typically peas and chopped carrots but you can add other vegetables like green or red peppers (capsicum), french beans and even tiny florets of broccoli. We usually have Upma for breakfast on weekends. I use coarse semolina flour, available at most Indian grocery stores in the US.

  • 1-2 tsps Oil
  • ¼ tsp Black Mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp Urad Dal/lentils (optional)
  • ¼ tsp Chana Dal/lentils (optional)
  • ¼ Onion chopped fine
  • 1" Ginger chopped or grated
  • 1/2 Medium size tomato
  • 2-4 Green Chili (more of less depending on your spice intake)
  • 1 Medium size Carrot quarted and chopped fine
  • ½ cup Peas
  • 1 ½ cups Coarse Semolina flour (roasted)
  • 2 cups Water
  • 1-2 tsps Ghee (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Few sprigs of Curry leaves
  • Few sprigs of Coriander chopped fine


Heat the oil in a pot, add the mustard seeds, when it pops add the 2 dals, if using. When the dal sizzles add the chopped onions and chilies and let it sauté till the onions turn translucent (few minutes), add the chopped ginger and a few seconds later add the tomatoes. Let the tomatoes sauté for a bit.

Now, add the chopped carrots and peas. Give it a few minutes, add the curry leaves and chopped coriander. Add the water and salt, cover and let the water boil. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, lower the flame and add the roasted* semolina flour, keep stirring mixing the flour continuously till all the flour has absorbed the water. Turn off the flame and add ghee, if using at this point cover and let sit for a few minutes. Serve hot with Indian pickle or the way I like it, with a dash of lemon juice.

* It is advisable to dry roast the semolina before you add it to the water. To dry roast the semolina, simply put the semolina in a pan and let it warm through without discoloring the semolina.


You could use other grains like quinoa or lapsi (cracked wheat) instead of semolina but you will need to cook them before adding it to the veggies.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Date and Honey Loaf

I'm back! Our family and friends who were visiting us have left and the house now feels empty and calm (except for the kids). We miss all the fun we had with people around the house. While my in-laws were staying with us, I didn't have to entertain the kids rather they were getting spoilt with all the attention they got from their grandparents and older cousins. Now I have to keep them entertained all the time.

The date and honey loaf was something I made a while ago and have been meaning to post this recipe. I don't do bread and have very little success when making bread. I think it’s the lack of my skills in using yeast that is the culprit. With yeast I find that the temperature of the water should be right and that is where I think I usually go wrong. However, after a lot of trial and error, I think I'm beginning to have some success with bread. I've learnt that the best way to determine the right temperature for the water is to stick your finger in it and be able to leave your finger in the water for a few seconds comfortably.

Yeast is a living organism and is in the air around us and comes from the fungus family. Yeast needs a supply of energy for its growth and sugar supplies this energy. To learn more about yeast in baking click here to see more in detail.

The bread was delicious. It was soft and springy, lightly sweet with the honey and dates. Lovely with a hot cup of tea or coffee.

  • Butter for greasing
  • 9 oz/250 g/1¾ cups strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2¾ oz/75 g/½ cup strong brown bread flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ oz/7g envelope active dry yeast
  • 7 fl oz/200 ml/scant 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2¾ oz/ 75 g/1½ cup dried dates. chopped
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds


Grease a 2 lb/900 g loaf pan with butter. Sift the white and brown flours into a large bowl and stir in the salt and yeast. Pour in the water, oil and honey and mix to form a dough.

Place the dough on a lightly floured counter and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth, then place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or so or until doubled in size.

Knead in the dates and sesame seeds. Shape the dough and place in the prepared pan. Cover and let stand in a warm place for additional 30 minutes, or until springy to the touch.

Bake the loaf in a preheated oven, 425ºF/220ºC for 30 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Serve cut into thick slices.

Recipe adapted from Perfect Baking

This recipe is going to Iamfoodblog for the weekly event of YeastSpotting.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


The above photo is going for Click - a food photography event hosted by Jugalbandi

I have been swamped these past few months, what with, I really don't know. Now June approaches and we will have visitors (family and friends) visiting one after the other the entire month.  So, I am sure with the kids, family and friends visiting and the weather getting warmer, there will be hardly anytime to blog. Even though the kitchen will be buzzing, I will have hardly any time to post any recipes or take photos.   

I have been planning to make these cookies for ages.  I last made it almost a decade ago and had altered the recipe as I don't like mixed peel or glace (candied) cherries.  I made this recipe from Essentials of Baking, irresistible home bakes, from breads to cakes, my first baking book. 

When I made these cookies today, I added more almonds and substituted cherries with sultanas.  I also added more butter and flour.   

  • 45g butter(I used a stick plus a little more)
  • 125 ml whipping cream
  • 125 g sugar
  • 125 g flaked almonds (I used 175g)
  • 55g orange or mixed peel, finely chopped(I didn't use any)
  • 45g glace/candied cherries chopped (I substituted sultanas)
  • 70g flour (I used 100g + a little more to hold the cookie in shape)
  • 225 g plain chocolate (I cheated and used chocolate spread)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil


Preheat oven to 350F/180C/Gas 4. Grease 2 baking sheets. (I always use Silpat.)

Melt butter, cream and sugar together and slowly bring to the boil.  Take off heat and stir in the almonds, orange or mixed peel, cherries and flour(in my case, almonds, sultanas and flour) until well blended.

Drop teaspoonfuls of batter, 1-2" apart on the prepared sheets and flatten with a spoon or fork.

Bake until cookies brown at the edges, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and correct the shape by quickly pushing in any thin uneven edges with a spoon.  Work fast as the cookies will harden as they cool.  If necessary, return to the oven for a few moments to soften it. Transfer it to a cooling rack.

Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler or microwave and add oil and stir to blend.  Or use a chocolate spread like I did (see note).

With a metal palette knife, spread the smooth underside of the cooled florentines with a thin coating of the melted chocolate.

When the chocolate is about to set, draw a serrated knife across the surface with a slight sawing motion to make wavy lines.  Store in an airtight container in a cool place.

Note: Since I used chocolate spread, my chocolate didn't set and I ended up liking my messy chocolatey hands after - I am not complaining though :-)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Raspberry Banana Upside down cake

I woke up this morning to pretty roses on my door step, a warm hug from my 2 beautiful kids and a bunch of gifts my 5 year old made in school. She made 2 beautiful cards, a bright colored jewelry box, nicely wrapped in pink tissue paper and before I could unwrap the tissue she was jumping around saying open it mama, open it. There was a bracelet in the box that she had made, orange, purple and candy cane striped beads. She described how she made it and was as thrilled as I was. I wore the bracelet all day.

To all the mothers out there, Happy Mother's day!

My neighbor invited us over for lunch and I decided to take dessert. I had no time to shop and my pantry was running low on chocolate. My plan for making something chocolatey wouldn't be possible. So plan B - I found 2 ripe bananas and a packet of frozen raspberries in the freezer. I used the raspberries for a layer in the cake and thought upside down cake would be perfect. This is how the cake was born, with things that were screaming in the fridge and freezer to use. The cake came out beautifully. The raspberries gave a lovely tartness and the banana added a lot of flavor to the cake. I served it with a sprinkle of icing/confectioners sugar.


1 stick butter(113gms)
100 gms sugar
2 eggs
150 gms self raising flour
2 over ripe bananas
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tbsp milk
1tbsp sugar
1tbsp confectioners/icing sugar(optional)
120z Frozen raspberries


Preheat the oven 350F. Butter a springform cake tin. Sprinkle and coat the tin with the confectioners/icing sugar. Top it with frozen raspberries and keep aside.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale in color. Add eggs one at a time beating well. Add the mashed banana's and vanilla extract. Beat it for a few more minutes and add the flour in batches. Add one table spoon of milk and beat for a few more minutes.

Pour the cake batter on top of the raspberries. Level the batter with the spatula and bake it for 45 minutes - an hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely before turning it on a platter. Serve with confectioners/icing sugar.

Note: The cake is more like a tart. If you prefer, you could double the amount of self raising flour, sugar and butter to get more of a cake. Also, the cake is quite tart from the raspberries. You could try substituting raspberries with other berries, like blueberries, blackberries or even cranberries.

Tip: To ease up on cleaning put the springform cake tin on a cookie sheet wrapped with aluminum foil while baking. The juices from the berries does leak out.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Asparagus, sundried tomato and olive loaf

This picture is going for Click hosted by Jugalbandi

My husband surprised me a few years ago and as I continue to enjoy it.  I often use the recipes in the "in season" section of the magazine.  This month, asparagus is in season and I happen to be a big fan.  

I love it as thoran/side dish, and in salads or just grilled and garnished with olive oil. Asparagus in bread seemed like a fantastic idea.  So I had to try this recipe as soon as I read it.  

The sundried tomatoes give a lovely tangy, chewy texture to the bread.  Although the recipe called to use Gruyere or Beaufort cheese, I didn't use it, just to cut down the calorie in take. The bread came out really well, and before I knew it, only the crumbs were left.  I did feel that the bread would have been even better with the cheese.  But then my waistline would have to pay the price. :-)

This is lovely with a hot cup of tea/coffee.  Enjoy!  

This recipe is also going to Priya's Easy N Tasty Recipes for AFAM - Olives

  • 100ml Olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 250g Asparagus(woody ends removed), each cut into 3 pieces
  • 200g Self raising flour
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 100 ml milk
  • handful of black pitted olives
  • 100g sundried tomatoes roughly chopped
  • 100g Gruyere or Beaufort, grated

Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5/350F. Oil a loaf tin. Cook the asparagus in salted water for 2 minutes, drain then cool quickly under cold running water. Pat dry. 

In a large bowl, mix the flour and thyme with the seasoning. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, milk and oil stirring all the time to draw the flour into the center. Beat for a minute or so to make a smooth batter. 

Reserve few asparagus tips and few olives.  Add the remaining asparagus, tomatoes, olives and two thirds of the cheese to the batter. Pour into the tin, and put the reserved asparagus and olives on top.  Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.  Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake feels firm to touch and is golden and crusty on top.  Cool for 5 minutes and turn out on a wire rack.
Adapted from BBC GoodFood Magazine