Quand à Paris-1

When in Paris or Quand à Paris in french. Early June, the husband and me flew to the City of Love, hearts heavy with desire to bring to life the titillating words that I had absorbed from a plethora of books , to bask in the romance of a French summer and  attempt to satiate my ravenous longing for sugar in its many avatars. A week’s worth of vacation to make up for a decade’s worth of dreams. I attempt to share and narrate the magic that this darling city sprinkled on us, I hope you love it as much as we did.

Day 1

-Apprehension has captivated me in the flight and no, it is not aviophobia. After devouring and gobbling books about this enchanting city the past few years, the desire isn’t only to navigate and strut down those winding, cobbled streets. It’s more than that. I’m inclined to fit in, ramble in french, splash on that red lipstick, strap on those stilettos and feel at home.

-The taxi ride from the airport to our Air Bnb appartement in Rue Humblot begins uneventfully. However, many zinc rooftop sightings and a handful of traffic violations later, we caught a fleeting glimpse of the Iron Lady, La Tour Eiffel, a glorious manifestation of my dreams, standing tall, proud and bewitchingly beautiful. What follows however, isn’t so pretty. I bawl like a baby, face buried in the husband’s old backpack while he quietly caresses me, fully in the know of these disobedient but happy tears. After I regain composure, I wonder if Parisian cabs are more equipped to handle emotional outbursts, the likes of the above, presuming the likelihood of their frequency!

-The appartement is quaint, tiny, possessing a tinier kitchen. I assume the owner to be an equestrian or an enthusiast . The walls proudly display paintings of horses. The remaining walls are stacked with books and other collectibles. A large window opens to a busy street, the Paris metro chugging frequently. Fingers crossed, I take a quick peek into the minuscule kitchen, smiling as I spot the baking oven.
I attempt to chat with the owners in french, unsure if months of classes will payoff. But, thanks to my teacher and the homework I so religiously abided by, the language flows without interruptions. Admittedly, the words are simple, the sentences are short and blemished grammatically but the components are glued correctly much like the compartments of a train. I’m now overcome by a rush of optimism, enthused to immerse myself in this verbal dance of words, en francais.

-The first stop: The street is enlivened by a Sunday farmer’s market spilling with colours and fresh smells. Chaos, cacophony and conversations reign along with nature’s bounty.Under a tarpaulin sheet, crimson hued cherries, miniature radishes shaded in fuchsia, delicate strawberries, plump peaches, grande et petit tomatoes are organised in mounds and crates. A sight for sore eyes, a plethora of inspiration for a food lover. I request the grocer to bag some fruits; a Galette is brewing in my mind.

-We promenade to the Champs Elysees; the walk is très long. Fortunately, not one minute under the blazing sun is tiring or boring, it is instead, unraveling mysteries and satiating the imaginative mind, one cobbled street at a time. Of course, I bid goodbye to my heels and I rely on my very dependable, flat, ballerina shoes.
The Pont Alexandre Bridge spanning the Siene is studded with ornate nymphs, cherubs and the quintessential Parisian lamps. Woody Allen has magnificently captured it in the final scene of Midnight in Paris, where Owen Wilson and Carla Bruni walk under the rain and I had always wondered if reality channels the same charm. Turns out , it does and more, even if at this moment, the earth is parched beneath the afternoon sun.

-The Champs Elysees is car-free since it is a Sunday mais  siezed by throngs of people. The pavements house quaint patio-style restaurants, all flaunting red and cream woven chairs. We silently navigate through them all because I’m miserably sugar starved and nothing will appease this monster like French dessert. Lo and behold, shimmering in the sunshine is a soft green facade with gold gilded intricacies. C’est Laduree! Macarons, a passionfruit-chocolate bar and a raspberry-litchi-rose cream concoction are devoured with an intense fervor and a silent exchange of smiles between the husband and me. We are after all, at a temple, a temple where peity is reserved for macarons & its kin.

– Jardin des Tuleries near Place de la Concorde is peppered genrously with tall, boxed trees. Under the canopies of these trees are cafes enticing one with the luxuries of shade and respite from the sweltering heat. Glasses clink, plates clatter, wines flow.  A little girl glowers at her mother’s cigarette, clearly unmasking her distaste towards smoking, a couple transforms menu cards into makeshift fans and we take pinched sips of iced drinks After traipsing around the city for 15 kms, we concur that sipping on iced drinks isn’t doing the needful. Fortunately, nestled within the jardin is a pond and at its hem are lawn chairs with low hanging backs. An hour later I realise, a nap did do the needful.

Carousel at Jardin des Tuleries

-We head back to the apartment meaning for it to be a quick stop only to discover that all water for the entire building has been shut off. A phone call with our owner informs us that a leak in the basement has resulted in the above and it being a Sunday, the plumbers aren’t showing up anytime soon.
But, one never sulks in Paris; her magic is too entrancing. One instead, scours for grocery stores and lugs back 10 litres of water in bottles to make do for the next 24 hours simultaneously hoping the universe is transmitting telepathic pleas to the plumbers. One smiles and forgivingly succumbs to the magnetic attraction because,  C’est Paris! Oui?

-We are strolling by the greens in the confines of La Tour Eiffel, when delicious wafts engage our senses, shaking us off from our nonchalant walk. In a little concession stand, a man is making crepes. We stand in line and gaze at the sight like little children; he pours loose batter on a hot griddle and quickly using a spreader transforms it into delicate pancakes, then slathers them with generous spoonfuls of confiture de fraises. Dinner looks good.

-The evening light is gently masked by deeper hues. Dusk is working its way in signalling a time for the stars to shine and more importantly for the golden lights of the Eiffel Tower to shimmer by the Siene. And shimmer she does as if swarmed by a million fireflies. The city is crackling with magic and unfurling the sweetest dreams, trapping us into her cadences and we are not ones to be repelled. We let her sweep us…..We’re in Paris.

Tomato Jam Tart

The husband and me are drawn intensely to late night shopping trips at the grocery. Not that we don’t enjoy a quiet summer night with a movie and pinched sips of of Merlot but, only after a stroll along the hallowed aisles of the supermarket from where we lug back back fresh and vibrant fruits and vegetables. There is something to be said about enjoying a few silents moments with food in the dead of the night, even while procuring them. One such night, we bagged large boxes of cherry tomatoes and I spent the walk home pondering their fate. Delicate & sweet, I realised that these would never withstand my procrastination. I quickly perused through my treasured recipe book, selecting amma’s Tomato Jam to seal their destiny.
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This tomato jam was the piéce de rèsistance during many childhood dinners. Tomato being a fruit is sweet on its own but when paired with jaggery , it effortlessly transforms into a comforting dessert-like accompaniment. Syrupy, luscious and delicious. When mundane vegetable curries failed to impress us lot, amma tempted us with this crimson concoction which we scooped up with ghee-smeared rotis.
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The first time I conjured this jam by myself was an experience I won’t forget. Luscious tomatoes bubbled as the jaggery melted into an amber syrup. They splashed & sploshed as I peered & registered every slight nuance. I apologize for the dramatization but this not-so- subtle sound was verily, music to my ears(very Hygge-ligt, might I add). After many phone calls to amma & a string of pictures later, a thick, glossy jam ensued.
The child in me still scoops them up with chapatis. But, the adult-me is forever concocting fancy ways to present this humble jam. Perhaps spoon it over vanilla icecream, or drench thick slices of sourdough toast, the syrupy juices from the tomato dribbling into a mess.
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This time, I’ve submitted to yet another fabrication of my overthinking mind by pouring this tomato jam into the confines of a buttery tart. 
The Tomato Jam Tart is a beautiful entwining of sweet tomatoes, cardamom and a flaky pate brisee. A warm slice by itself will do the needful but it is advisable to let some cold icecream melt on the side, possibly allow it to dance around with that deep crimson tomato syrup.
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While the tomatoes invariably steal the show here, there’s another silent ingredient contributing much flavour i.e. Jaggery.  Jaggery is an unrefined sugar, dark golden in colour and makes a large presence in Indian homes. Yes, it provides much sweetness to a variety of desserts and jams but if you’ve been a friend of this blog, you know that Madhwa Cuisine utilizes this ingredient extensively in most spicy and savory dishes as well. And, the tomato jam relies on the magic of jaggery as well for its distinctiveness.
The tomatoes I’ve employed are cherry tomatoes but this jam works perfectly well with any variety of tomatoes. You can even play around with the jaggery and sugar proportions depending on your sweet needs. The jam is not required to be hard set, its syrupy nature is what has enticed me always. I do hope you like this one!


RECIPE FOR TOMATO JAM TART
MAKES AN 8 INCH TART
INGREDIENTS
For the Tomato Jam
3 1/4th cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Jaggery
1/4 tsp Cardamom Powder

For the Crust/Pate Brisee
1 1/4th cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
113gms or 1 stick of cold Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup + 1 tsp Ice cold water
Others:
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp of the tomato jam syrup

METHOD
To make the Tomato Jam:(It can be made the previous day)
-In a medium sized thick bottomed pan, add the cherry tomatoes, sugar and jaggery. Mix them together and let them come together over medium heat. Cook for around 35 minutes, stirring every few minutes just to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
-Once done, the tomatoes will darken in colour , the jam will come to a bubble and gain a thicker consistency.
-Remove from heat and mix the cardamom powder. Let the jam cool completely.

To make the Crust and the Tart
-In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients: Flour, salt and sugar
-Chop the cold unsalted butter into cubes and add into the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, break the butter down until the entire mixture resembles a coarse meal. It is alright if there are some larger chunks of butter.
-To this add the ice cold water, little by little and mix only until the the dough comes together and there are no dry bits left. Do not overmix.
-Gather into a ball and wrap with a plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or upto a day.
-Once chilled, let the dough soften at room temperature just until pliable. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a circle of about 12 inches. Turn dough one-eighth of a turn with every roll to make sure that the dough doesn’t stick to the counter.
-Gently place dough on the greased(brushed with a little butter) tart pan and fit it in, making sure that it is well-fitted at the lower edge as well. Trim the excess dough carefully using your fingers.
-With the remaining dough,roll into a an oblong shape and cut into strips(I used a pasta cutter to do this) and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
-Place this cookie sheet and the prepared tart pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up.
-Remove and add the jam, using a spatula to spread it uniformly around the tart.
-Place the strips in a criss-cross pattern whilst also taking care that they are well attached to the edges of the crust.
-Make a mixture of maple syrup, milk and the tomato jam syrup, brush generously on the pastry strips. Place the tart pan on the parchment lined cookie sheet.
-Bake at 400F for 15 min. Then reduce the temperature to 375F and bake for 40 minutes, or until the pate brisee is golden and the jam is bubbling. During the bake, another coat of the syrup may be applied on the strips.
-Enjoy warm

Layered Eggless Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

We are all privy to the seduction of chocolate, its luscious character, those euphoric endorphin highs. Rose on the other hand draws one to drown in floral submission while cardamom and cinnamon allure one with their warming properties.
And Vanilla? Vanilla is like a snuggle in the cold of winter, it is like the softest breeze in the blaze of summer, it is brimming with comfort and all things pretty; perhaps lacking the flamboyance of the aforementioned flavors but attracting with an effortless, elegant simplicity. A quote by Meik Wiking from ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ comes to mind
“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” Vanilla is like that. It’s an uncomplicated happiness and a delicious one at that!
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I remember the days when Oatmeal breakfasts became a common occurrence at home and my grandmother whipped up bowls of it in no time before we scurried off to school. This was circa 1991 when topping oatmeal with a delicate sprinklings of chia seeds, hemp seeds, berries and other fancy foods was a far fetched dream. She however always added a touch of vanilla which was admittedly her way of gilding the lily. It was fragrant, sweet and special. To this day, on those rare mornings when I make oatmeal, you will always find a hint of vanilla swirled into the porridge.
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In my blog, you will find a myriad flavours of cake: Chocolate, pumpkin, chai spice, rose and there’s even a matcha one brewing in the drafts. Although many of these recipes borrow the magic of vanilla it remains to be an enhancer and not to be one of the dominant flavors. When a fellow food blogger, Praneetha of Culinary Peace kindly requested me for a vanilla cake recipe, it dawned on me that there isn’t one here. Now, we can’t have that, can we?
43681349341_9d9eb5164f_o42778363185_4d2e6f2f35_oSo here it is,  an eggfree and fluffy Vanilla Cake, slathered with a Vanilla Buttercream and adorned with fresh fruits. I chanced upon the sweetest Champagne Grapes and White Currants at Kensington Market and couldn’t resist employing them here.  But, since it is summer, berries and mangoes would be a great option as well. There are directions for assembly included as well:) Hope you like this one.

RECIPE FOR VANILLA CAKE (EGGFREE)
This recipe makes a 2 layered 6″ Round Cake

INGREDIENTS
For the cake
1.5 cups Self raising flour + 1 tbsp + extra to flour the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4th tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tbsp + 1tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp oil
4 tbsp hot water
For the Simple Syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Vanilla Buttercream(hand mixer or stand mixer is necessary for this)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
5 tsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4th cups Icing Sugar
Others
Fresh fruits for topping(optional)

METHOD
For the cake
-Preheat the oven to 350F. 
-Grease the cake pans(I used Springform pans) entirely with butter, then line the base with a 6″ round parchment paper. Dust the sides of the pan with flour.
-In a small cup, mix milk with 1tsp of white vinegar. Keep aside
-In a medium sized bowl, whisk the dry ingredients: Self Raising Flour, Salt, Sugar and Baking Soda. Keep aside
-In another bowl mix together Oil, Vanilla Extract and 1 tbsp of White Vinegar. To this add the buttermilk(the milk with the vinegar) and mix.
-In portions, add the wet ingredient mix to the dry and gently mix the batter making sure that there are no lumps.
-Add the hot water and fold it in. 
-Divide the batter equally between the two pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Once done, after 3 minutes, run a knife through the sides of the pan and remove the cake. Place on a parchment lined rack/board to cool completely.
-Next make the simple syrup by placing all the ingredients in a small pot. Place on medium heat and let the sugar dissolve. Remove from heat as soon as you spot a light simmer. Allow to cool.
-To make the buttercream, place the softened butter and vanilla extract in the bowl of your stand mixer OR a large bowl if you’re using a hand mixer. On medium speed, whisk until the butter is creamy. Then add the milk, whisk again. Add the sugar in 3 portions. Whisk until it is incorporated into the butter each time. Beat for 3-4 minutes once the last portion of sugar is added. It is now ready to use.

TO ASSEMBLE
-First,using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of the cake with the simple syrup.
NOTE: Use the syrup sparingly, it is only used to keep the cake moist. The excess can be stored and used to sweeten teas etc.)
-Then place the cake board on your cake stand (or turntable).
-Place the first layer of the cake on the cake board with a little bit of buttercream so that the cake stays in place while you work on it.
-Place a good amount of buttercream on top and spread evenly. Now, place the second layer of cake on it. The flat side of the cake should face top.
-Next add buttercream in excess on the top of the second layer and using an offset spatula spread it all around the top of the cake and push it down to the sides. Using the same spatula, gently slather the sides of the cake with the buttercream(adding more if necessary) until the cake is completely masked.(if the buttercream is resisting the spreading, add a few drops of milk to thin it down)/
-Top with fresh fruits

Okra/Bendekai Majjige PaLadya

Summer is at its peak, the afternoon light is flooding our apartment and we have been coveting the usual suspects: drippy icecreams with oodles of dulce de leche and peanuts, churned milkshakes and cold pressed juices. However, those are reserved for yearnings of the sweet tooth. We are appeasing our savory tooth as well and there are some unusual suspects that make their presence rather frequently during the warm weather. I’m referring to yogurt -laden dishes and drinks that are significant fragments of everyday cooking in a South Indian home. Like mustard-tempered Buttermilk spiced with cumin, black salt and mint, a drink so strong, it manages to resist the most sweltering of days. Of course, there are the Raitas. A class of foods that are as satiating on their own as they are when coupled with a spicy rice dish.  I personally favor ones that contain chilled curd and swarming with grated cucumber or perhaps sauteed spinach or ever blistered tomatoes sprinkled with just a hint of chilli. And we mustn’t forget the HuLinuch,  a curd and cream of rice based soup that is ideal for a summer dinner. It’s light and soothing demeanor makes it a favourite at home. Finally, we come to the Majjige Paladya or HuLi.
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In Kannada, Majjige refers to buttermilk or curd and huLi or paladya refers to a spiced gravy. The gravy is coconut based which is then blended with Sour Curd and simmered with a vegetable of choice. White pumpkin, cucumber, spinach are commonly used in this South Indian dish and so is BENDEKAI (or Okra) which as you know implores for attention in today’s recipe. This dish is a common occurrence during weddings and other occasions where they are traditionally served up on large banana leaves.
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I have had and continue to have a delicious affair with okra/lady’s finger. When they are stir fried with crispy lentils(Chana dal) and perhaps some thinly sliced onions, they jazz up a simple Rasam rice meal. When they are swimming in a tomato & cream based gravy, they make for the perfect marriage with chapatis. However, what truly has me weak in the knees is when tender benDekai are stuffed with a masala chickpea flour(kaDlehittu/besan) and then shallow fried with onions and tomatoes. The recipe comes from my grandmother and I shamelessly admit  to the fact that it is a dangerous prospect for the husband when I make these because I’m a ruthless snacker when I cook these and half the pan is gone by the time the meal lands on the table!
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That said, these green vegetables become further more delicious when chopped, gently pan-fried and poured into the Maggige huLi. Their mild flavour entwines wonderfully with the sour curd and fresh coconut. Pour this gravy over hot rice with a spoonful of ghee and one forgets all impending worries for the day. Add some Papad and fried chilles to the equation and heaven will have come down to earth for just a few morsel-moments.
We get to the recipe now, hope you try it and like it!

RECIPE FOR BENDEKAI MAGGIGE PALADYA

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
2-2.5 cups of Okra/Lady’s finger or Bendekai- Washed, wiped dry, chopped into 1″ pieces
1.5 tbsp of Oil(I use sunflower)
1/2cup + 2 tbsp thick sour/regular curd(not hung curd) whisked with 1 cup of water
2.5 tbsp Chana Dal, soaked for 30 min
3/4 cup  fresh, grated coconut
1 tsp Cumin seeds/jeera
1.5 tbsp Coriander seeds/Dhaniya
1″ slice fresh ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
1/4 cup of chopped coriander

For the tempering-
1tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
a handful of curry leaves(washed and dried)

3 -4 dried chillies (kindly see notes)
A pinch of hing or Asafoetida

METHOD
-In a large pan, add the oil and once it is heated, add the chopped benDekai/okra.
-Season with salt and let it cook. Resist the temptation to stir fry it too much as the okra can become very slimy.
-Remove from heat once softened. Keep aside.
-To make the gravy, in a blender or food processor, add fresh grated coconut, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, ginger, chana dal and turmeric. Grind along with 1/2-3/4 cup of water until a coarse paste is achieved. 
-Add this blended mixture to medium sized pot along with 1 cup of water on medium low heat and bring to a simmer. Stir continuously to ensure that the mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan
-When the mixture comes to a slight boil, add the curd mixture, coriander, salt and the Okra. Keep an eye, stir often and when you spot a boil, remove from heat. Too much time on the heat can cause the yogurt to curdle, hence it is important to not let it boil completely.

-To make the tempering, in a small pan/taDka pan, add the oil. Once the oil heats up, add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the BaLaka chillies and fry them until they are darkened, then add a pinch of hing and finally the curry leaves.
-Pour the tempering into the majjige huLi.
-Serve hot over rice and some ghee.

Notes:
-Sour curd is generally preferred for this dish but if not posssible, regular curd works just fine.
-The Chillies I have used for tempering are called BaLaka chilies and are yogurt based dried chillies. Their flavours pairs incredibly well with the Majjige huLi. You can use regular dried chillies as well but it can be much spicier than these.

Summer Romance: Mango Curd Tart

Meals are always sweeter in the summer. Oui?  Many summers ago, my uncle would bring crates of farm-grown unripened Raspuri mangoes ensuing my room being transformed into a safe-place for their ripening. Days later, the mangoes metamorphosed into soft fruits, fit to perk up lazy holidays. Amma(my mother) gathered more than a few every evening to conjure up ShreekarNe, a golden puree of mangoes with a touch of milk, a smattering of cardamom and a sprinkle of saffron. Pooris or rotis were mandatorily involved. Flaky, ghee laden rotis or puffed pooris were torn into, then dunked unhingedly into a bowl of ShreekarNe and just like that, a  simple dinner experience turned a tad sweeter, a tad celebratory. Like I said, meals are always sweeter in the summer.

In my books, a ShreekarNe remains to be the very best way to devour mangoes. Of course, carelessly chomping on them thereby concocting a sticky, happy mess qualifies as sane too. There’s something to be said about devouring them with no abandon; their sweet syrup trickling down; their juicy pulp satiating sweet desires on a dull, lazy, sunshine deluged afternoon. It culminates in a summer romance like no other.
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That said, I’m also on a perpetual quest to bake with them whilst not losing their soul to excessive sugar; to capture that essence and ineffable joy and pour it all into a decadent cake or a cheesecake or perhaps a luscious, chilled kulfi speckled with saffron threads . Toronto lacks Bangalore’s pulpy Raspuri mangoes but answers with plumper and just as juicy Altaufo mangoes. Fortunately, they are stacked up tall in the China Market and needless to say, the shop is religiously paid a visit over weekends.
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A couple of summers ago, driven by a spot of enthusiasm and adventure, I made a rich mango custard and piped them into elaichi cupcakes resulting in a gooey goodness with every bite. Earlier this year, when the mangoes first started to make an appearance, I entwined their flavour with a touch of vanilla into a simple Bundt cake, then doused it with a sweet mango syrup. Today, I present to you a silky, sweet Mango Curd Tart.
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This Mango Curd Tart screams of mangoes but additionally screams of summer too. A graham cracker crust cradles a smooth and rich vegan mango puree, which after refrigeration transpires into a cold, velvety dessert with the most delicate crunch. It comes together very quickly and is a no-bake as well. Admittedly, I was tempted to infuse it with other flavors; perhaps some basil or a sprinkle of cardamom but I restrained myself in order for the mangoes to dominate the dessert. The colors of this dessert are akin to those of sunshine and it satiates the most delicious summer dreams. Hope you like it as much as we did:)

RECIPE FOR NO BAKE MANGO CURD TART
Makes 1 9 inch Tart

INGREDIENTS
For the Crust
220 grams of Graham Crackers
110 grams of melted butter

For the Filling
1.5 cups Mango Puree( To make this, I took the pulp from 2 mangoes, blended it until smooth and then strained it into a medium saucepan)
1/2 cup water
7 tbsp Corn Starch
1 cup almond milk
1 cup granulated sugar

Others
Fresh fruits to decorate

Method
For the Graham Cracker Crust
-In a food processor, powder the graham crackers till they are fine. Mix them with the melted butter until you achieve a wet sand like consistency.
-Transfer this to the greased tart pan and press on the base and the sides with the help of a flat bottomed cup, to ensure that the crust is uniformly layered on the pan.
-Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

For the Vegan Mango Curd
-In a large saucepan or pot, add the mango puree(see ingredients) and water. Mix and place on medium heat. Let it simmer and reduce for a few minutes(3-4 minutes).
-While it is simmering, in a bowl, mix together the almond milk and cornstarch making sure there are no lumps.
-To the simmering mango puree,  add the sugar and stir. Let the sugar dissolve completely.
Once the sugar has dissolved completely, add the almond milk-cornstarch mixture and whisk continuously with a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula. It is important to whisk continuously because otherwise there will be lumps. Do this for 4-5 minutes or until the mango curd thickens. Immediately take it away from the heat and transfer to the chilled graham cracker crust. Smooth top if necessary and chill overnight.
It is ready to be sliced and enjoyed the next morning.

SanDige HuLi/Steamed Lentil Sambar

My grandmother’s sister lovingly referred to as Shanta Ajji lived in the west coast of the US during the later part of her life. During our brief sojourn in New Jersey, I remember indulging in long conversations with her over the phone when she would discuss her week’s activities but, more significantly, I remember her keen interest in my love for cooking; patiently educating a novice with the intricacies of authentic South Indian recipes (mostly involving the Madhwa Cuisine) and breaking down the complexities that haunted my ignorant mind. My culinary knowledge those days hardly amounted to anything but I possessed an enthusiasm and fervor(fortunately I still do) that prompted the above mentioned phonecalls where we tackled a gamut of recipes.
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The next summer, we road tripped along the West Coast, allowing ourselves to be awed by the brilliant grandeur of Las Vegas, the opulent mansions of Beverly Hills and the magnanimity of the Grand Canyon. It also entailed a short halt at San Jose to visit Shanta Ajji when she affectionately handed to me a copy of a cookbook written by her. The book is brimming with details of food that she laboriously & lovingly prepared for her family. She is sadly no more, however and unstintingly, this tome occupies a cherished place in my heart and the kitchen. The recipe I share with you today is hers, has been adapted from her cookbook and has managed to spice up mundane weekdays in the most delicious and soul-satisfying ways.
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Sandige HuLi is essentially a sambar or a stew that has swimming in its rich, coconut-laden gravy, little spheres made of lentils. In Kannada, these steamed spheres are referred to as ‘Sandige’ and the gravy itself is referred to as the ‘huLi’. The Madhwa dish garners a celebrity status of sorts and it lies in the fact that it is traditionally conjured up on the day before a wedding takes place(a ceremony called the Devarasamaradhane) and is served as per custom on a banana leaf coupled with hot rice and ghee. Together with the flavours emanating from the leaf, they create a gastronomical experience that is nothing short of divine.
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Let’s move on to the recipe without further ado. Do try it and let me know how you like it.

RECIPE FOR SANDIGE HULI
Serves 4
Special equipment- An Idli cooker

INGREDIENTS

For the Sandige or the Lentil Spheres
1 cup Toor Dal/Dried Pigeon peas(flat, yellow coloured lentils)
1 tsp fresh, grated Ginger
4 Green Chillies(feel free to reduce the quantity if you think it is too spicy)
1/2 cup Cilantro/Coriander leaves, roughly chopped
A pinch of Hing or Asafoetida
1/4 cup fresh, grated coconut
Salt to taste
For the HuLi
1 tsp Oil
1 tsp Urad dal
1 tsp Chana Dal
1.5 tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera Seeds
8-9 Byadgi MeNsinkai(Dry and wrinkled red chillies, please see Note)
1 Green Chili
1/2 cup Cilantro/Coriander leaves
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
2 tbsp Toor Dal/Dried Pigeon peas(flat, yellow coloured lentils)
3 tsp Coriander Seeds/Dhaniya seeds
1/2 cup fresh, grated coconut
3/4-1 tsp thick tamarind paste
1 tsp Jaggery
Salt to taste
Water
For the tempering
1 tbsp sunflower/vegetable oil
1.5 tsp Mustard Seeds
A handful of Curry leaves
3 dried red chillies
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida

METHOD
To make the SanDige or Lentil Spheres, soak 1 cup of the toor dal for 3 hours atleast and drain the water.
-Keep aside 2 tablespoons of the soaked lentils and transfer the remaining into a blender/food processor along with the other ingredients:ginger, green chillies, cilantro, coconut and salt. Grind to a coarse paste using a tablespoon or two of water only if necessary.
-Make spheres from this coarsely grounded mixture, measuring the size of a lime. It can be shaped into spheres or elongated into an oval.
-Meanwhile get your Idli Cooker ready. Add enough water to the cooker, so that it doesn’t touch the idli stand and let it come to a boil. Grease the idli cavities with oil and place the sanDige in the cavities. Cover with the lid and steam for around 12 minutes.
-Once done, carefully remove from the cooker and let them cool.
-To make the huLi, in a small pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil. To this add, urad dal, chana dal, byadgi chillies , a pinch of hing and cumin seeds. Fry them for a few minutes on low heat until the lentils turn golden brown. Once done, transfer to a plate and cool completely.
-Add the cooled mixture to a blender/food processor along with 1 Green Chili, Cilantro,
the 2 tbsp of soaked toor dal, Coriander Seeds/Dhaniya seeds and fresh, grated coconut. Blend into a smooth paste, adding approximately half a cup of water as well.
-Now, take a large, deep bottomed vessel and to this, add the paste along with 2 cups of water. Also add salt, tamarind paste and jaggery. Mix it all together and allow to come to a boil. Put off the stove and add the sanDige.
-For the tempering, add the oil in a small pan(tadka pan) and heat it. Once heated, add the mustard seeds, they wil splutter immediately. To this add the washed and dried curry leaves and dry red chillies. Fry till they’re crispy, around 20 seconds, and add to the sambar.
-Serve hot with rice and ghee.

Notes:
-Byadgi MeNsinkai is a long, dry red chilli that has a wrinkled appearance. They are not too spicy but feel free to alter the quantities as per your needs. The smoother dry red chilles, called as Guntoor can be very spicy so try to procure the Byadgi variety itself.
-The SanDige or steamed lentil spheres can be eaten as a snack as well, perhaps with a side of ghee and coconut chutney
-The dish tastes even better the next day(provided it is refrigerated) since the sanDige’s would have absorbed all the spices from the sambar.

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with Matcha Frosting

Imagine a morning when sweet, intoxicating wafts of cinnamon pervade your home, perhaps a pot of coffee brewing on the side, an instrumental rendition of La vie en rose gliding through the air and a flood of sunshine complete with floating specks of fairy dust. The magic I share with you today may not guarantee the full picture I’ve painted but promises to fulfill at least a portion of it, one that is most delicious. These are Sourdough Cinnamon Buns slathered with an earthy Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting. Before we head to the recipe, allow me share a little backstory.
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Little did I know that yeast, water, flour and salt can conjure magic; harmonize to create beautiful joys together. Bread and all its fluffier and denser cousins have been making their presence in my hardworking oven for a while now.The journey began a year and a half ago and the entailed learning has me bewitched in its charm. Baking bread lets me satiate the mad desire to bake; it tells me to revere & revel in the little things: watch that dough majestically rise, inhale evanescent aromas and listen in silence as the knife through a crackling crust; it indulges the insomniac in me and well, it brings the husband many smiles. More importantly, it slows me down.
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In the midst of this delicious journey, I stumbled upon a whole other dimension of bread that had forever piqued my curiosity: Sourdough. After umpteen patient trials, tear jerking failures and finally squeal worthy successes, I can safely say that nothing has challenged and enamored me more than the process of baking and finally slicing into a boule of sourdough bread.

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The ‘mother’ aka the sourdough starter

I’m only gracing the surface here but in technical terms sourdough bread is essentially bread that arises from naturally occurring yeast and bacteria as opposed to ones where we employ commercially occurring yeast products. While the latter works just fine, the benefits of sourdough are plenty including several that are health related since increased proofing times lead to better digestion of grains. The taste takes on a variation too and these breads possess a slight sour taste which again depends from starter to starter. However, the main ingredient this bread calls for is patience since the ‘mother’ aka the sourdough starter takes a couple of weeks to come to life and the bread itself takes anywhere between 12-24 hours to conjure. But, mind you, once she does(the starter),she won’t leave you unless you want her to. If you want to explore my journey in sourdough and other breads alike, please to stop by my page on Instagram, La Vie Of A Baker . I hope you will enjoy exploring through crumbs and crusts.
A fun side note, I have named my sourdough starter, Khaleesi and yes, it is inspired y Game of Thrones!
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Before I go any further, I have to mention that this recipe requires one to have a 100% hydration sourdough starter. (I hope to share the recipe for that too sometime in the near future). I would also like to recommend certain books that only helped introduce me to sourdough but also gave me an experience very similar to a private class. Sarah Owen’s ‘Sourdough’ is one such. The other one is Emilie Raffa’s, ‘Artisan Sourdough Made Simple’. Both these books assist in creating the Sourdough Starter and breads employing the starter.
Now, the recipe. Like I mentioned earlier, these buns will ensure a beautiful morning owing to the presence of cinnamon in the filling. The bread itself is soft and fluffy, perfect to tear away whilst indulging in pinched sips of coffee or tea. To jazz them up further, I paired them with a decadent Matcha Cream Cheese Frosting. The aromatic, sweet flavours of Matcha take these humble breakfast quintessentials to a whole new level but the frosting’s creamy nature shouldn’t be ignored either. Hope you like this one!

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE SOURDOUGH CINNAMON BUNS WITH A MATCHA FROSTING
Please note: This recipe requires 100% hydration sourdough starter

Makes 9 cinnamon rolls
Equipment needed- Food Scale
Stand Mixer
INGREDIENTS
For the Dough
100 gms active Sourdough Starter
160 gms Whole Milk
42 gms unsalted butter
1 tsp egg replacer plus 2tbsp water( I used Pane Riso, please see notes)
24 gms Sugar
300 gms Unbleached All purpose flour
3 gms sea salt
Oil for coating
For the Filling
1 cup light brown sugar
1.5 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature

METHOD
-First we prepare the sweet dough and this is best to make at night since it can rise overnight and be ready in the morning.
-Warm the milk and butter in a pan until butter has completely melted. Cool slightly.
-In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachement, add the sourdough starter along with the egg replacer and water. Whisk at low speed to ensure that it is mixed. Add the warm milk and butter mixture. Then add the flour and salt and mix just until the dough comes together and no dry bits are lift, approximately 1 minute.Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
-After the dough has rested, change to a hook attachment and continue to knead at medium speed for about 6 to 8 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
-Take another bowl, and grease it with a little olive oil and place the dough in it. Let it rise at room temperature for 8-10 hours.(the recommended room temperature is around 70F).
-Next morning, once it has doubled in size, carefully tip the dough onto a lightly oiled counter and let it rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the filling.
-In a bowl, mix together light brown sugar, cinnamon and salt and keep aside.
-On a large cookie sheet with edges, place a sheet of parchment.
-After the dough has rested, using a rolling pin, stretch the dough to a rectangle measuring 22inches x 16inches, taking care that the longer side is facing you.
-Spread the 4 tbsp of butter on the rectangle using an offset spatula ensuring that the about 1 inch of the border are not touched. Sprinkle the filling and spread evenly
-Next roll the rectangle into a cylinder, slowly and gently, making sure that it is taut. The tighter you roll, the more layers you’ll have.
-Place this log gently on the cookie sheet, cover with a damp cloth and refrigerate for 30 minutes.(If the weather gets a little warm, I also cover the cookie sheet completely in plastic wrap and freeze additionally for 5-7 minutes).
-Remove the chilled dough and cut off the edges .Then cut into 2 inch cylinders.
-Place these in a 3×3 fashion on the same cookie sheet and cover lightly with plastic wrap for 1-1.5 hours until the rolls are puffy.(Alternatively, they can be baked in a square or round cake pan).
-Meanwhile preheat your oven to 425F. Brush the rolls with some melted butter
and bake the cinnamon rolls for 25-30 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown.
-When they are getting baked, the frosting can be made. In a bowl, add the cream cheese and butter and beat with a hand mixer until fluffy. Add the icing sugar and incorporate it into the butter and cream cheese by whisking it for a few minutes. Then add the sour cream and matcha and mix again. Cover and refrigerate until use.
-Spread the matcha cream cheese frosting on the warm cinnamon rolls and enjoy!

Notes:
The egg replacer that I used(Pane Riso) demands 1tsp of it plus 2 tbsp of water. But, this can vary from brand to brand. Please see the directions on the product that you choose to use.