Sunday, July 14, 2013

Corn Snack ( with peanuts and sesame)- Vaghareli makai

I declare  Migraine Season open. The temps are mounting and stepping out feels like I am stepping into a furnace. Thank god for 24 hr stores, shopping after sundown will be a bit more bearable.
But on the sunny side.... there are mounds of luscious fruit, just waiting to be devoured, sitting comfortably with the air-conditioning humming in the background and books to read are compensation enough. 
What are your favorite summer time activities?

Summer also means a season to picnic (after sundown or on the days rain is predicted, for me). And picnic means food (like I need a reason! ) 

My friends and I planned a small picnic for the Fourth of July. There are plenty of parks and lakes around where I live and though it was crowded we found  a nice spot and opened our chairs and laid out a groundsheet and piled the food and water and juice there and enjoyed our evening.
The kids had fun splashing in the lake and playing Frisbee (and not quite catching it) and as the time for fireworks drew closer, we  sat down for our favorite activity, eating.
As with a picnic, we had a lot of snack-y food, sandwiches , Vada-paav, paneer pulav and I took along this corn snack. 
It is a breeze to make and great for picnic food. 

The recipe is adapted from Prashad by Kaushy Patel.  This book is a treasure. I am so glad and really, really lucky to have won it! 
A vegetarian cookbook featuring Gujarati cuisine as well as many popular North Indian curries. A wonderful selection of recipes in every section ( appetizer, mains, desserts etc) and with simple to follow instructions.  
Many recipes are vegan (or can be made vegan) and are also labelled, nut-free, wheat free or onion and garlic free etc. 
The book however has measurements in grams and those who are not used to the metric system may have to puzzle it out! 

2-3 Tbsp Oil (the author recommends Sunflower, but I used Canola)
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Asafetida
2 tins Corn Kernels ( I used one small packet of frozen corn- rinsed under tap water and microwaved for 1 minute- this is optional)
1/3 cup raw, unsalted Peanuts (coarsely chop)
1/2 tsp Salt
2 handfuls Fresh, finely chopped Cilantro
2 tsp. Sesame seeds
1 lemon quartered

Grind to a paste:
3 Green chilies ( less if you want mild taste or for children)
2 cloves Garlic
2 cm Ginger piece
Pinch Salt

Make the spice paste.

Heat oil in a wok / kadhai over medium high and add mustard seeds. After the seeds pop, add asafetida and corn. Combine well, raise the heat to high and stir fry for a minute.

Add turmeric and the masala paste and mix well to combine and cook for  30-40 seconds, add the peanuts, cilantro, salt and sesame seeds.  Reduce heat to medium and cook the mixture for  3-4 minutes, uncovered.

Remove from heat, check seasoning, add salt if needed. If not, cover and let it rest for 10-15 minutes to let flavors mingle.

Serve with a sprinkling of sev and keep a lemon wedge on the side.


I used roasted unsalted peanuts as I seldom have unroasted peanuts at home.

I skipped sev when I made this the first time and we liked it even without!

M wants me to try it without garlic the next time I make some. It will make a nice variation.

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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A basket (cake) of flowers!

Every August, my cousins and I would plan.. it was Aaji's (Grandmother) Birthday. 
I would go to my cousins home and my Grandmother lived just a few minutes walk from there.
We would buy a cake from Monginis and wait impatiently for midnight. 
10 minutes to midnight, we would start out and carefully carry the cake, gift and flowers and walk to her home, on the silent streets. 
As we entered the apartment owners community, we would start giggling and our eyes would twinkle with  anticipation at her surprise.  We would light the candle on the cake and stand outside the door.
At exactly midnight, we would ring the bell and wait breathlessly for her to open the door. And when she did, we would sing Happy Birthday To You.....  rather tunelessly as we were so high strung with excitement.
It was the happiest of times, we planned our midnight venture with great care and looked forward to it so much! Maybe Aaji knew or suspected our plan or later even waited for it, knowing that we would turn up, but the love and happiness in her eyes was a treat to behold. She always acted surprised and made her birthday memorable for us! 

We are all far apart now, my cousins and I and of course, these small surprises are history. 
But I am one lucky girl! I have friends ( and their parents) who are like minded! 

In April, K Auntie (whom I had not met before) and I put our heads together ( via telephone calls) and conspired to put together a surprise for her daughter and my friend Sonali's birthday. It was a hush hush plan and I got what Auntie wanted for Sonali, I had already planned on baking a cake. Though it was  rushed, the cake was delicious and we all enjoyed it.

Come June, Sonali and I put our heads together- this time to plan a surprise for Auntie (visiting Dallas), for her birthday. This time I  had ample notice and could plan carefully.

I made a 4 layer cake. I used box mix for the cake. The flavor was Orangesicle ( specially requested by Sonali). The frosting was my usual, heavy whipping cream and cream cheese
The flowers are all hand made-I made the flowers a day in advance so they would be dry and ready to place on the cake. I made them using Royal Icing (recipe follows)

I baked the cake as per the box instructions, in a 9 inch spring foam pan, which is very simple and fail proof.

Cool and level the cakes ( use a leveler or a sharp serrated knife)

Cut each cake in half, horizontally.

Brush the base cake top with a simple syrup of sugar and water.

Slather the top with a thick layer of frosting. you can also add some cut fruit, like strawberries, raspberries to the frosting ( I did not add fruit)

Carefully align and place the next layer on top, press down slightly.

Brush with sugar water syrup and top with a thick dollop of frosting.

Repeat with all 4 layers.

Spread a thin layer of the frosting all over and around the cake. This will seal in all the crumbs before you start decorating. Chill for 15-20 minutes before final decoration.

I used a Basket weave all around the cake

Here is a video demonstrating the weave. It needs a bit of practice. I used Wilton Star Tip (#21) for the weave)

4 Cups of  Powdered sugar / confectioners Sugar
3 Tbsp Meringue Powder
5-6 Tbsp Warm Water

Mix the confectioners sugar and Meringue powder.
Add water and beat all the ingredients together till the icing forms soft peaks ( about 6-8 minutes) in a stand mixer. It may take a bit longer with a hand held mixer.

I made apple blossoms (the tiny ones) and then went on to just using the 104 tip to make flowers that look like 'sadafuli' flowers  ( check the red flower on the extreme right) 
I used the round tip and the 104 tip to make Roses. 
The leaves are piped using the whipping and cream cheese frosting tinted with green and using the Wilton leaf tips.
The flowers are made using Wilton technique. 

Once the cake is assembled and you have done the basket weave, it it just a matter of placing the flowers artistically.

There is no end to the combinations that you can make with the flowers.

I chose to use the roses and the sadafuli type flowers on to and have the smaller blossoms cascading down the side of the cake.

I *must* mention one very important detail! My 5 year old was very keen to help me in making and decorating the cake. He stayed by my side all  the time and when I was weaving the basket around the cake he, very gently placed his small hand on my arm with a, "I want to help, Mumma"
At first, I admit, I was not very happy about this, specially as I was making this weave after ages and was unsure, but when I saw the expression of total sincerity on his little face and eyes aglow with excitement, I could not refuse and I am so glad I did not. 
The look of pure happiness on his face was so motivating, I would have willingly made another cake just to have him 'decorating' by my side, aching back be damned!
He also helped bring all the flowers (very carefully) from the table they were drying on, to help place on the cake. Take a look at the picture below, he has helped place a couple of roses, small and larger blossoms and not a flaw! I am so proud of my li'll man! 

The cake was a hit. The look on Auntie's face (as well as all the other guests) was my reward!

Without sounding a whiny wimp, I want to add, I wish my parents were here and I had made this cake for my Mom. She would have totally flipped! She always likes my decorations ( there is something to be said about a Mom's unconditional love, she flipped for all the initial cakes too, which as you can imagine were totally amateurish!)
My Dad has a very discerning eye and he too was all praise for my effort!  What more can a person want!
I wish.............

Wishing you all a Happy 4th. of July! Enjoy the long weekend with your loved ones and don't skip the sun block! 
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