Thursday, March 10, 2011

A simple Vanilla cake using Oil

How often have you seen a child straining at his/ her Mother's hand and demanding something .. anything? 
How often have you done that as a  child? I know I have. Almost every time I stepped  out of the house with my parents, something fancy (IMHO) and utterly useless ( in my parents opinion) would engage me, so much so , that I'd refuse to budge without claiming it as my own. I was around 3 or 4 years old then.
Shortly after our  home started bearing a very strong resemblance to a toy store, my parents took to warning me at the first sight of a demand rearing it's greedy head, " Asa vaglis tar police kaka dumm bhartil, oradtil  tula... chalel ka?" ( meaning: If you behave like this, that policeman will take you to task, do you want that?)

For some time, I was down ( but not out, oh no, no.... definitely not out! ). I would meekly walk on, after putting  my soul into my eyes and looking with undisguised longing at a toy and then very meaningfully at my Mother or Father. They remained unmoved and the 'police kaka' remained in his 'chowki' and peace in my parents hearts and minds and purses.

Until one day, I could no longer bear it, I saw one particular toy I wanted needed, it felt like my existence depended on it ( yeah, right!) Necessity like this makes heroes out of the meekest, and so when I began asking for the toy, my Mother simply pointed to the policeman sitting in his booth ( this booth was in  the apartment community we lived and  most of the time, the cops would sit idle), the policeman had nothing to do and so  looked at me  and wiggled his bushy eyebrows and  and said," aaann?" That was it, the last straw on the proverbial camel's back, I looked at my Mom and  then defiantly at the cop , and mustering all the courage a 3 or 4 year old could, told him , "aaaap"  and brought a trembling finger to my pursed lips, indicating that he put a lid on it.
The cop was shocked into silence and my Mother, thoroughly embarrassed and wanting a quick exit, bought me the toy and I beamed at the world with the trophy in my hand.

Now, why am I relating all this here? Because I occasionally adopt the age old technique of 'police kaka' with my son. He is yet to assert himself with one, but something  happened the other day. 
It was a beautiful day, cool crisp breeze , not really sunny, but not cloudy either, you know what I mean... in short a perfect day for a walk after the bad weather.Little S and I went out  for a small walk. The pattern is, I walk, he skips or jumps ahead of me, looking back every few steps just to make sure I am there and also sometimes seeking non-verbal reassurance that he is allowed to skip or run as long as he sticks to the side walk. 
On this particular afternoon, we were sauntering at our own pace and suddenly he stopped in his tracks and waited for me to catch up, there was a police car parked in front of one building. In a hushed tone he told me , "poos"(his word for police). His eyes wide, he glanced up at me, I smiled and affirmed that this was a 'poos car'. I looked at the car and at that precise moment I felt his tiny warm hand slip into mine. I clasped it lovingly and firmly and fell in step with him.  Reassured that  no one, not even a 'poos' can harm him when he is with Mommy, my little boy skipped , holding  onto my hand and a triumphant smile on his lips. 

Later, as he slept, I stole a kiss and decided to bake  him a cake, for his unconditional love and trust in me, for holding my hand and touching my heart .

Source: Kaboose
Makes Two 9-inch (23-cm) round layers or one 9- x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) rectangular cake.

  • 2 cups (500 mL) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups (625 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (250 mL) milk
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2-1/4 teaspoons (11 mL) baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla

Cooking Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line two 9-inch (23-cm) round cake pans or one 9x13-inch (23 x 33 cm) rectangular baking pan with parchment paper. Grease the paper and the sides of the pan well.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs together until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Add flour, milk, oil, baking powder, and vanilla and beat for another minute, just until the batter is smooth and creamy. Don't over beat. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan(s).
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick poked into the center of the layer comes out clean. (A single rectangular pan will take longer to bake than two round ones.) Loosen the sides of the cake from the pan with a thin knife, then turn out onto a rack and peel off the paper. Let cool completely before covering with frosting, if desired.
YUMMY CAKE! in Little S's words. 
This was the first time I had baked a cake with no butter, instead using oil. I was nervous, I am no baker, but this cake is really very simple and easy to make and very light and tasty. It is sweet, but not overly so, just the right amount of sugar. 
The only thing that did not stick to the recipe was the baking time indicated. My cake required about an hour, but this could be  my oven, so if you do try this, check the cake at the 30-40 minute mark.
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Monday, March 07, 2011

Kandi Podi aka Gun Powder!

Four cousins sat in a line with 'kelichi pana'  (Banana leaf used as plates) and chanted, "toop, mith, bhaat....... toop, mith, bhaat..." This was  standard behavior for us (cousins) when we met  at a family get together, we were a 'gang' of 4 and each spaced a year behind the other. It was natural that we stuck to one another, thru thick and thin and mischief. Our behavior patterns were also similar, we almost always got into trouble  at the same time and for similar reasons, resulting in punishments and timeouts. 
Our liking for food also seemed similar, for example, we went thru this 'tup (clarified butter), mith (salt), bhaat (rice)' stage for  a whole year, at every single family get together, we would sit in a line and chant the same thing, we totally ignored all other delicacies prepared and plowed our way thru mounds of soft, warm rice, drizzled generously with ghee (  toop/ clarified butter) and sprinkled with salt. 
Then came the metkut-bhaat stage, which to this day is my comfort food. When I was little , I would sit at the table near my father and wait till he mixed  rice with the spice powder, ghee (in his plate and then transfer it to mine, 'Baba mixing it in his plate' was the key, IMHO)  and savor every bite, ask for seconds and call it a meal.
For several years I was a confirmed metkut addict and knew only this one spice powder, that was until a certain guy came into my life and we tied the knot and he whisked me away to Bangalore.
He would praise (understatement) the food he ate and I would wonder how he liked eating out SO much ( I still do) , I mean, eating out once in a while is fun, but home food is home food, isn't it? Not quite! 
On my arrival in B'lore, M was very excited to take me around, the restaurants, that is. Now get this, the new bride that I was, I wanted to cook at home and show him my amateur culinary skills and he wanted  me to go to all his favorite haunts! Talk about clashing ideas at the beginning! 
But I gave in and we started our tour of Bhimas, Nandhini Palace, RR's, Madhuri, Gongura, a few among the hundreds of Andhra restaurants.
I had visited B'lore earlier and had a taste of my very first Andhra meal ( at Nagarjuna), but that was several years ago, while I remembered that the food was awesome, I did not particularly recollect eating Kandi podi, aka Gun Powder. And so, this time around, when we sat in one restaurant, and the server put a generous mound of rice and ladled ghee, yes, yes, ladled as far as I was concerned, M directed me to add the spice powder, 'gun powder' and dived into it with such an expression of happiness that I had no doubt, this *must* be dynamite! And it was. 
For me it was love at first bite, and the second and the third.. you get the general idea. We waddled out of the restaurant, replete and content. That was 5 years ago.

After I began blogging a world of recipes was opened up to me, I tried several things, liked so many things but somehow, M and I kept going back to our comfort food, metkut-bhaat and sometimes kandi podi- bhaat.  I have tried many versions and in my opinion, it is a flexible recipe, the star ingredient being Toor daal, don't mess with that. 

It was only after my parents tasted this spice powder and liked it as much as we do, that I thought of putting it on the blog

I googled several recipes and the final outcome, therefore was a mix, here are some of the sites I referred to.

The final ingredients I used are: 

10-15 Dry Red chilies ( use the mentioned quantity IF the chilies you have are mild- adjust as per your level of heat tolerance)
1 cup Toor dal ( regular, not the oily kind)
1 cup Dalia (Roasted Gram Dal)

Approx. 1 tbsp. Cumin / Jeera
3-4 garlic cloves
About 2 sprigs Curry leaves
1 tsp of Asafetida/ Hing

Heat a griddle on med- high,( the ingredients should be dry roasted) add Toor Daal, toss in the cumin seeds and reduce the heat to medium, roast until the toor daal is a couple of shades darker add the curry leaves and dry red chilies. Add in the garlic and asafetida and roasted gram daal/ Dalia.
DRY roast all these ingredients well. By now the spices should be very aromatic.
Take the griddle off the heat and transfer contents onto a plate to cool ( keeping the mix in the hot skillet will over roast the daal and spices and may burn them, if not over roasting may lead to a bitter taste)
Once the spice is cool, grind to a fine powder. 
Store in an airtight container.
To enjoy kandi podi, serve along with hot, steaming rice, drizzle with ghee, add salt as required , mix and eat. 
My Andhra friends tell me that they  serve thinly slices raw onion  along with this rice-ghee and gunpowder mix, I have personally never tried it, but if you do, let me know how you like it.

-You can substitute regular Chana daal instead of Roasted Gram Daal
- You can add red chili powder instead of whole dry red chilies, only add the powder when grinding the roasted mix
- You can add moong daal (yellow) as well, halve the roasted gram daal and include 1/2 cup moong daal.
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