Orange cake with Mascarpone Buttercream & Gulab Jamuns

2018 granted us a silent, wintery Deepavali. Not that we don’t enjoy the festive ruckus that goes hand in hand with an Indian festival but an unruffled celebration is one we welcome as well.

Come sundown, little tealights were sprinkled all about the house, serial lights swayed on the balcony railing and after devouring a traditional homemade feast, we huddled in the glowing light watching romcoms whilst playing ‘fetch’ with Elaichi, our Labrador puppy. But that wasn’t all. I also gave into one of my fancy whims to create a dessert that not only celebrates and caters to Indian festivities but also one that dons the attire of a western dessert. One that in every spoonful appeased every single one of our sweet-desiring taste buds. Allow me to present to you my Orange Cake with Gulab Jamuns and Mascarpone Buttercream.

Let’s talk about the components of this gateau. Firstly, this EGGLESS cake employs fresh orange juice for its flavouring and I chose Mandarins which are only lemon-sized but brightly hued and slightly sweeter than the larger oranges. As the batter bakes and rises in the oven, you will find that your kitchen is verily a garden brimming with orange trees.


Next, the sweet saffron syrup. The cake is made moist with a warm saffron syrup which is essentially your Gulab Jamun syrup. I have shared the recipe for the syrup below but if you’re using store-bought gulab jamuns , just go ahead and use the same syrup that the jamuns are soaked in after warming it up a little. Then, we have a creamy Mascarpone buttercream that is slathered before two fragrant sponges are layered together.


I’ll admit I spent quite a bit of time debating if I should have gulab jamuns sandwiched between the cake layers or just adorned on top but I finally opted for the latter only because I wanted the best of everything in one bite: a burst of orange followed by a creamy, vanilla mascarpone and finally, the utter decadence of deep fried khoya and paneer. Again if you want a layer of indulgent gulab jamuns in the middle it can only be a good idea :). Either way, make sure every forkful has all the delicious components so you can get a complete, soulful dessert experience.

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE ORANGE, MASCARPONE AND GULAB JAMUN CAKE
Makes one 6″ 2-layered cake- serves 6
INGREDIENTS
For the Orange Cake
1 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice(I used Mandarins)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp orange zest
For the Saffron Syrup
10 strands of saffron
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
For the Mascarpone Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese at room temperature
2 cup Icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp Vanilla extract
3-4 tsp heavy cream
For Assembly
Atleast 6 gulab jamuns

DIRECTION
-First we make the saffron syrup(see notes). In a thick bottomed pan, add the sugar and water along with the saffron. Place on medium heat and let the sugar dissolve, which may take around 405 min. Then boil for 14-15 minutes and the syrup is ready.
-For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. Grease cake pans with butter and place a round piece of parchment on the base. Dust the sides of the pan with flour.
-Zest the oranges and then squeeze fresh juice.
-In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, orange juice, canola oil and vanilla essence.
-Into the same bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: all purpose flour,baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix gently to combine with the wet mixture making sure there are no lumps.
– Finally fold in the orange zest and pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Once the cakes are out of the oven, let them cool for 5min, then transfer the them to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make a few holes on each cake with a toothpick and add 3 tbsp of syrup on each cake, 1 tablespoon at a time, using a pastry brush to gently spread it over the cake.
-Let the cakes cool completely.
-Meanwhile, make the Mascarpone Buttercream. (see notes)
You can either use a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the butter, mascarpone, 3 tsp heavy cream and vanilla and whisk on medium until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Then add the icing sugar and whisk again for 3-4 minutes until nice and creamy. Add more heavy cream and whisk only if the mixture looks crumbly. Keep aside.
To assemble, place the cake board on the 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.
-Pour 2-3 tbsp of syrup again(1 tbsp at a time)  and gently spread it on the cake with a pastry brush. Spread a generous quantity of the Mascarpone buttercream. At this point, I like to place the cake in the refrigerator for about 5-10min to allow the buttercream to firm up a bit.
-Then place the second layer of cake on it. (Alternatively, if you like, cut up a few gulab jamuns and place on the cake, top with buttercream and then the second layer of cake. 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. I chose to mask it only partially.
-Finally place the gulab jamuns on top, with fruits(optional) and drizzle more syrup.

Notes:
If the buttercream is too loose, thicken it by whisking in icing sugar. If it is too dry, add a few teaspoons of heavy cream to make it creamy.

Godi Tambittu/Wholewheat Ladoos

Deepavali may have come and gone by in a flash this year but that doesn’t mean the celebrations must cease. The winter breeze,  the gentle dance of the diya(traditional oil lamps) flames, the warm luminiscence emerging from the serial lights swinging in our balcony and the myriad avatars of sugar: I want to desperately hold on to these feelings. Lights must continue to shine bright and sweets must be devoured without restrain, Deepavali must continue. This festive season, I indulged in a fancy whim and created a ‘best of both worlds’ sort of dessert that I will share with you very soon. But today, allow me to share with you a traditional sweet treat that shines in simplicity and one that makes its presence in our kitchen every week. At the moment it is serving to treat post-festival blues, one ladoo at a time.


Many years ago, I first made this in my mother’s kitchen under her guidance. It was conjured as an offering to the Lord(Naivedyam), as part of our pooja(prayers). After the pooja, the ladoos vanished at the blink of an eye: we as a family are terribly impatient when it comes to desserts.
Now, the husband and me continue to make this in our kitchen every week and every Saturday at dawn, the air at home is fragrant with the aromas of jaggery, cardamom and gently roasted wheat flour. Even, Elaichi, our excited little puppy turns restless, yearning for a taste which he ensures he gets immediately after the offering.


These tambittus or ladoos are mildly sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with ghee and cardamom. It comes together oh so quickly, without any fuss. Also, they satiate those sudden sugar cravings and like I said post-festival/post-holiday blues. Perfect left plain but I sprinkled them with ground pistachios, dry coconut and rose petals to jazz them up just a tad. I really hope you try this one and like it as well.

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RECIPE FOR GODI TAMBITTU
Makes 13

INGREDIENTS
1 cup Wheat flour
2/3 cup grated jaggery
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
4 green cardamoms plus a pinch of sugar
2.5 tbsp Ghee plus more to roll the ladoos

METHOD
-Using a mortar and pestle, pound the cardamom seeds and the sugar to achieve a powder. Keep aside.
-In a thick bottomed kadai/wok, add 1 tbsp of ghee and allow to melt over medium heat.
To this, the whole wheat flour and saute continuously until there is a nice aroma. This should take 3-4 minutes.
-Meanwhile in small sauce pan add the jaggery and water. Place on medium heat, let the jaggery melt and come to simmer, remove from heat. We are looking for a thin syrup. Also, in another pan, heat the milk separately and let it come to boil.
-Once the wheat flour is roasted, add the jaggery syrup, milk, ground cardamom and mix well until a dough like consistency is formed. Make sure there are no lumps.
-Remove from heat. Apply some ghee to your hands and immediately(but carefully) roll  into ladoos .
(I used a measuring scale and each one was roughly 21 gms)
-Optional- can be sprinkled with pistachios, coconut and rose petals.
-Best served immediately but they are good for 2-3 days if stored in an air-tight container.

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

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.

Summer Dreams- Rose Water and Champagne Cake with Blood Orange Curd

Suddenly, I’m longing for the fragrance of floral notes, pining for those bewitching perfumes pervading bounteous gardens. Hankerings for hot chocolate and cinnamon laced apple tarts are long gone replaced entirely by a reverie of Spring and all the floral joy it so mercifully brings with it. They implore me to suffuse my desserts with a hint of that flower-laden aroma. Perhaps it is an attempt to cheat myself, into believing that the season of wind and frost has made its journey south, leaving us, Northerners, with warm, languid breezes, the murmers of lush trees and sweet scented hugs. The musing doesn’t end there. The truth is, I also yearn for a luminous summer afternoon, drenched under a burgeon of sunshine, canopies of shade drifting in and out, biting into succulent segments of oranges, a glass of Pinot Grigio in hand, the air chiming with carefree laughter.

Continue reading “Summer Dreams- Rose Water and Champagne Cake with Blood Orange Curd”

Let there be Dal: Gujarati Dal with Green Pea and Coconut Dumplings

Rewinding to languid Bangalore afternoons, when I was younger in a younger city. The sun washing the sand splashed grounds of college. Amid the frenzied flutter that the final years of college demanded, the one constant was my stainless steel lunch dabba. Plain toor dal, rice, salt, jaggery  and unmeasured quantities of ghee tied together into an epitome of comfort. Tovve anna in Kannada or Dal rice in English. On rare occasions, it would be spiked with raw chilles, coriander and perhaps a splatter of mustard and hing tadka. Those few minutes of lunch break dwindled before I knew it, mostly plagued by a string of worrisome thoughts about the remaining day. But devouring this meal was my present moment, my moment of unfettered, happy calm. I’m as drawn to the simplicity of this dish as I am to the  uncomplicated memories that follow in its trail. Long story short, I love tovve-anna and have never shied away from celebrating Dal and its many avatars.

Continue reading “Let there be Dal: Gujarati Dal with Green Pea and Coconut Dumplings”