Soak your dried fruits for the X’mas cake!

It’s Christmas (X’mas) season and one of the traditions along with singing Christmas carol, putting up the Christmas tree, lighting up the house, baking gingerbread cookies or making gingerbread houses….. is baking the Christmas cake/fruit cake. …(more about the cake below).Dried fruits soaked

My fondest memory of X’mas is decorating  the tree and house with ornaments and lights. My mom would bake atleast 3-4 huge X’mas cakes… one or two for us and guests that visit on X’mas day, one that she divides among the non-christian neighbour friends and then one to give to the church –  Women who were good at baking were asked to get cakes, which were cut into slices and distributed to all the Church attendees when they exited the church after the midnight X’mas mass (even today cake is given). As kids, we would keep going in and out of the church so that we could try different versions of cake….and every year, me and my brothers would conclude that my mother’s cake was the best. Soft, moist, right amount of fruits….amazing!!!

Come November, all the Christian women especially at churches, are talking about X’mas cakes – how many are they going to bake, when will they soak the fruits, and of course exchange of recipes is a must!!

This is the 1st time I’m going to bake a X’mas cake and I hope it turns half as good as what my mother makes. Also, I hope to carry this tradition each n every year so that my children can look back in time and say exactly what we siblings feel about my mom’s cake…. perfect!!! But the problem is my mom hasn’t baked in years because she says our home is an empty nest with the kids away and now when 2 of her kids (we are 3 siblings)are nearby, her health isn’t in her favor of standing and baking for long….infact, even the smell of melting butter isn’t good for her.

Traditionally, Christmas cake is made using dried fruits that’s been soaked in alcohol for months or even upto a year. The cake is baked couple of weeks ahead of X’mas, afterwhich, you “feed” the cake with the same alcohol that was used for soaking. Feeding the cake ensures the cake taste much better as they age or mature. It is done by making small holes on the top of the cake with a cocktail stick or small skewer, then spoon over a few teaspoons of brandy. This is done only once a week and should not exceed more than 3-4 times in total. Else, the cake will be tooo moist and will crumble.

But nowadays due to lack of time people do it slightly differently.  One way is to soak the fruits months in advance and then bake it only a week ahead of X’mas. Feed the cake once, wrap it in clingwrap/kitchen towel that’s been brushed with alcohol, cover it in 2 layers of foil, keep it in an airtight tin and store in a dark place.They say the taste is not affected much because the fruits were soaked for months. But yea, it won’t be that moist and soft. The other way is to soak the fruits overnight, but then in that case, the cake is baked atleast a month, ideally 6 weeks ahead. The cake is then fed with alcohol once a week, wrapped in clingwrap/kitchen towel that’s been brushed with alcohol, covered in 2 layers of foil and kept in an airtight tin and stored in a dark place. Every week the cake is fed, the clingwrap/towel is brushed with more alcohol and wrapped.

Personally, I’d go for option 2 because that method ensures the whole cake matures well, the fruits absorb the alcohol pretty much and the cake is nice and soft.

Anyway, if you haven’t soaked your fruits, it’s still not late. Soak it today, so that the fruits get atleast 2 weeks for it to absorb all the alcohol. Mine have been soaking in since 2 weeks already because I soaked it in the 3rd week of November. Delayed post I know, but with 2 kids it was really difficult for me to post this sooner.

Here’s what you need to bake 2 fruit cakes that’s filled with nuts and dried fruits with barely enough cake batter to hold it all together. 🙂 As always you can halve the recipe if you want just one fully loaded cake or want two not so loaded cake.

Dried fruits

Ingredients for Soaking of fruits – I don’t exactly have a break down per se

  1. Dried Fruits – 1 kg i.e about 6 cups
    • Black Raisins/Sultanas – 250 grams (I used Nectaflor brand and cut the raisins into halves/quarters depending on its size)
    • Cashewnuts – 200 grams (chopped into small pieces)
    • Dried Mixed Fruits – 375 grams (1 Whitworths box that contains sultanas, raisins, currants, Orange and Lemon Candied peel – and again cut these into smaller pieces)
    • Watermelon and Orange Cubes -200 grams (Aptsienne brand – the red and orange fruit cubes that’s normally put in ordinary fruit cakes)
    • Dried plums – 8-10 plums, chopped (not shown in the pic as it was added later on)
  2. Brandy/Rum/Whiskey – 700 ml bottle i.e. 3 cups (half of the quantity of fruits)

Method

Do this atleast 2 weeks in advance for better results.

  • chop up all your dried fruits, if they are not that small.
  • Pour the brandy or other preferred choice of alcohol into it. Mix.
  • Transfer to a container with a tight lid and keep it in dark place.
  • Shake the contents atleast every alternate day till you’re ready to bake the cake.

Dried fruits soaked1

General notes

  • the quantity mentioned is for baking 2 cakes loaded with lots of fruits.
  • If the fruits are big pieces, it’s ideal to chop them into smaller pieces….this increases the amount of fruits in your batter and when you eat the cake it tastes better when you bite into small pieces than one big raisin.
  • You could increase or decrease the quantity of dried fruits
  • You could even add other types of dried fruits like dried peaches, apricots, prunes, pecan nuts, almonds, walnuts…..

Notes on Soaking the fruits

  • Soak the fruits in alcohol (preferably brandy) atleast 2 weeks in advance.
  • Mix or stir the fruits in the alcohol atleast once in 2 days.
  • Within a day of soaking the fruits you’ll notice the alcohol doesn’t cover the fruits completely now. That’s because the fruits have absorbed the alcohol and there’s no need to add more. Just keep mixing it occasionally so that the uncovered fruits don’t dry up.
  • See that the jar you use for soaking the fruits is free of any water and has a tight lid.
  • Store it in the Kitchen cupboard where there’s no direct sunlight.

The cake recipe will be uploaded sooon 🙂

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Traditional keralite Parippu Payasam to celebrate 2nd anniversary of Blogging

It’s our 2nd anniversary!!

It’s been 2 years since I’ve started this blog or rather another food blog was added to this huge pool of lovely food blogs.  When I started I didn’t know if I could sustain this even for a month. All I thought was a portal for me to save all my tried and tested recipes. But it’s all your lovely comments and feedback and the knowing that there’s someone atleast reading my blog, that makes me carry it forward.  Initially my blog was called Purpletreat and then within months I changed it to Reneesrecipe for some reasons. Anyway, what’s in a name right?? I know it wasn’t much of a big deal for many of you because you followed me right here. And I thankyou for that.

So formally let me once again, thank all of you who have visited my blog (be it even once!), requested for recipes, tried many of them out, left constructive comments and feedback…… all of which encouraged me and continues to do so to keep this blog going on.

The journey so far has been just great, as I got to learn about so many cuisines, make some good blogger friends and of course it’s helped me experiment and bring new dishes to the dinner table.  We’re a happy family especially at meal times. I’m happy that I’m able to introduce new foods to my kindergartner and he eats better because he doesn’t get tired of the same old stuff…and my husband though he loves the experimentations, is upset because of his weight gain and waistline increase.  🙂

So to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, I thought of the most traditional keralite dessert – Parippu Payasam or moong dal kheer. This is made using jaggery and one of the main desserts served for Onam and other occasions like weddings and birthday parties in Kerala. At my father’s place, it’s made in a big vessel called Urali and not on gas top but by making a wood-fire. A fire would be started and 3 big bricks will be put around it and then this big urali is placed on top of the bricks and the whole mixture will be stirred continuously by the women of the house using a brass spoon called chattakam. The more the mixture is stirred, the tastier and darker color payasam you’ll get. We as kids would keep circling around that area, with our mouths watering and losing our patience waiting for it to be ready. We would have it piping hot, then have it while it’s at room temperature and then even when it’s really chilled…straight from the refrigerator. Anyway hot or cold is your personal preference….but I guarantee you, you’ll ask for more!!! Off to the recipe.

PARIPPU PAYASAM (Moong Dal Payasam)

Ingredients

  • Cheru payar/Moong Dal/ Green gram lentils – 1 cup (about 200 grams)
  • Melted jaggery – 350 grams ( you could add more if needed)
  • Sago pearl -1/3 cup
  • Ghee – 3 tablespoon (for jaggery n dal mix and 1 tablespoon to roast nuts, coconut pieces and raisins)
  • Cardamom powder – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Water – 2 1/2 cups
  • Thin coconut milk (moonaam paal) – 3 cups
  • Medium thick coconut milk (randaam paal) – 3 cups
  • Thick coconut milk (onnaam paal)-  1 cup
  • Cashewnuts – 1/2 cup
  • Raisins – handful (I add quite a bit cos my kid likes them)
  • Coconut bits – handful

Method

  1. Soak the sago pearls in 1/2 cup hot water for 15 mins. Then bring to a boil and cook till it becomes translucent….about 15 mins. Keep aside.
  2. Meanwhile dry roast the dal in a dry kadai (no oil) till light brown, stirring constantly. Remove from fire and wash. Cook this dal in a pressure cooker with 2 cups of warm water for 5-6 whistles. Mash them well with the back of your spoon. Transfer this mixture to a non -stick kadai / urli / heavy – bottomed vessel.
  3. In another pan, melt jaggery in ½ cup of water. Strain the syrup through a muslin cloth….done to remove impurities if any.
  4. Add the jaggery syrup into the dal in the urli and boil for a minute, mixing everything together. Add 2 tablespoon ghee to this & mix well.
  5. Now add the thin coconut milk to the mix and when it starts boiling, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 30 – 40 minutes. When it thickens quite a bit, add medium thick coconut milk and cook it for 5-10 minutes. When this mixture thickens slightly, add the thick coconut milk. Stir well for 5 minutes on low flame. Do not bring to boil again. Remove from gas and pour into a serving bowl.
  6. Heat ghee in a pan and fry the coconut bits till brown, cashewnuts also till brown and raisins till they puff up (Please do this separately because they all have a different browning point). Pour the ghee with the nuts and raisins over the payasam in the bowl.
  7. Sprinkle some cardamom powder and mix well.
  8. Parippu payasam is ready now. Serve hot or chill in the fridge and serve cold.

Note:

  1. The payasam keeps well in the fridge for even a week.
  2. Coconut milk : If unable to obtain fresh coconut milk, mix 4-5 tablespoon instant coconut milk powder to 1 cup lukewarm water for thick coconut milk. For medium thick, use 2-3 tablespoon coconut milk powder in 1 cup lukewarm water. And for thin milk, use 1-2 tablespoon coconut milk powder in 1 cup lukewarm water..

Enjoy!!!

Posted in Desserts and Sweets, Recipes, South Indian Dishes, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Yes I’m back :0) It was a long break from cooking and there was a  joyful reason to that. We welcomed with lots of love amidst us our 2nd child in the month of June…a beautiful baby boy, whom we named Marc (yea, we’ve gone all French this time). Marc was one of Jesus’ disciples and also one of the 4 gospel books in the Bible is Mark.

He’s now 3 months old and the elder one has started school again so that gives me some time to do basic cooking. I’m not too hopeful on doing full-fledged cooking or making dishes that require a lot of time and effort. So when cooking itself is a doubt, I can’t even think about photography. But I promise you even if the frequency of posts will decline for a bit, each recipe that’s posted will still be as delicious as the previous ones. Infact, I’m thinking of using this time to post all my pending recipes lying in the drafts.

Today I’ve brought for you a very healthy cookie recipe that’s got all the good stuff – banana, chocolate, butter, flour, sugar and eggs. When you make something that has all this, it can never taste bad!!! Ya I know they’re not the perfect round but like I always say, there’s perfection in imperfection.  It’s perfect for kids who don’t eat bananas and also a perfect tummy filling snack for kids to take to school. The good thing about these cookies is that they can be made anytime of the year as bananas are always available. But remember you’ll need to use really ripe bananas that’s turned brown with age….cos this will  yield moist cookies with lots of banana flavor!  So plan ahead by buying bananas 2-3 days before you want to bake or else freeze the ripe bananas so that you can make it whenever you feel like.  The Joy of baking site gives a tip on how to freeze ripe bananas – ” place very ripe bananas in a plastic bag either whole or you can peel and mash them (in food processor), stir in 1 teaspoon lemon juice for each banana, and then freeze in an airtight container or bag. They will keep about six months in the freezer.”
This recipe has been slightly adapted from here.

BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Yields – 16-20 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • very ripe bananas, mashed well
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Butter or line 2 baking sheets.

Sieve together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat together butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla.

With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the flour mixture into the wet mixture.  (The important thing is not to over mix the batter. You do not want it smooth. Over mixing the batter will yield tough cookies).

Mix in the banana and chocolate chips until just combined.

Drop by the tablespoons onto the baking sheet, spacing dough an inch apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Remove to cooling racks.

Enjoy!!

Posted in Baked Goodies, Cookies and Biscuits, Snacks | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Palak Gosht – Aromatic Lamb curry with Spinach

This post has been lying in my drafts since months…yep, since September!! The main reason was because the pics were taken in a hurry and in artificial light… it didn’t turn out even half as what I expected. The husband had already lost out on his patience cos we were late for dinner, and so I didn’t even get a chance to see what I clicked until the dish was completely wiped clean. I kept this amazing recipe on hold, thinking I’ll post it as soon as I got pictures that did it some justice. Hardly I knew what was in store for me the next few months, then. Now forget taking pictures, I haven’t made meat itself in a long time. 😦

So here I’m posting this recipe, with a promise good pictures will follow soon.  Now about this dish.

Palak Gosht is a wonderfully aromatic curry especially for those who love both lamb and spinach. And when these two come together in one dish, it’s marriage made in heaven (my husband’s words!)

This is a wonderfully fragrant curry, which is cooked slowly to allow the lamb to tenderise and the sauce to thicken nicely. It’s a dish that improves with being made ahead, adding the spinach after reheating the lamb and sauce.

palak-gosht3

Straight off to the recipe:

PALAK GOSHT

Ingredients

  • Lamb – 750 grams ( I chose a leg piece and got it cut into small pieces)
  • Spinach – 2 bunches
  • Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Green cardamoms – 3
  • Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
  • Cloves 2-3
  • Black peppercorns – 3-4 slightly crushed
  • Green chillies – 3-4 slit length wise
  • Onions – 5, chopped
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tablespoon
  • Tomato – 1, chopped
  • Red chilli powder – 1 tablespoon
  • Turmeric powder – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Garam Masala – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Coriander powder – 2 teaspoons
  • Yoghurt – 1/2 cup
  • Potatoes – 1, cubed and partially boiled (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil

Method

Cut and discard the thick stems of the spinach and wash the leaves real well. Boil the leaves in salted water along with a pinch of turmeric, for about 2-3 minutes. Drain well and blend these leaves along with green chillies in a blender to make a paste.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a thick-bottomed pan or you could even use a pressure cooker. Add cumin seeds, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon and crushed pepper corns. Saute till cumin seeds turn brown

Now, add the chopped onions and cook translucent. Add ginger-garlic paste and chopped tomatoes. Saute again till the tomatoes are mushy.

Next add the spice powders – red chilli powder, coriander powder, tumeric and garam masala. Saute again.

At this stage, add the lamb pieces to the onion masala mixture and let the juices get all seared by cooking it on high flame for about 3-4 minutes. Add water, salt and once it boils, lower the flame and cook covered for about an hour or till the meat’s all tender. If you’re using a pressure cooker, let it cook for 3 whistles on high flame, then reduce it to low and let it cook for another 15 minutes.

Once the meat is tender and cooked, add the potatoes (if using) and spinach paste and cook again for another couple of minutes. Add salt and water accordingly.

Turn off the flame, and add thick yoghurt to it. If you don’t mind the calories, you could even add cream or coconut milk.

Garnish with some fresh cream before serving.

Enjoy!

Posted in Mutton / Lamb Recipes, North Indian Dishes, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

Ethakka Appam / Pazham Pori / Banana fritters/ Ripe Plantain fritters

Ethakka Appam is what we call these golden beauties. At my inlaws place they call it Pazham Pori and in English it’s either Ripe plantain fritters or banana fritters. Whatever name they go by, these are yet another Keralite delicacy that is a regular in most households.  It is simple to make, a real tasty snack and totally loved by all especially with a hot cup of tea/coffee.

The bananas used to make these fritters are called as ethakka or ethapazham in our area and as nenthram pazham in some other parts of Kerala. These are the same bananas when raw, that’s used to make banana chips. When I tried to explain to some of my friends/neighbours as to the type of banana they need to use, they were not able to understand. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any ethakka/ripe plantain with me at that time to show them. So, here I’ve taken a picture of the plantains to help you guys pick up the right bananas from the store.

Making these fritters are really easy and quick as long as you’ve the ripe plantains ready in hand. You just need to slice them into finger length pieces, dip them in sweetened flour and fry them in coconut oil. And fall in love with them :).

ETHAKKA APPAM / PAZHAM PORI / BANANA FRITTERS

Ingredients

  • Ethakka / Nenthram pazham – 3 (the riper and blacker the skin, the better)
  • All Purpose Flour (maida) – 1 cup
  • Sugar – 4 tablespoons (to be adjusted acc. to the sweetness of plantain)
  • Baking soda – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Salt – 1/2 teaspoon
  • Tumeric Powder – a pinch (optional)
  • Cardamom powder – 1/2 teaspoon (optional)
  • Water – 1 cup (add accordingly)
  • Oil

Method

Peel off the skin and cut the plantains by half. Each half, should then be sliced into 3 long thin slices. . The thinner, the tastier and crispier. :). So if you have 3 plantains, you should be having 18 slices. Keep aside

In a mixing bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, tumeric powder, cardamom powder. Slowly add enough water to make a medium thick batter with no lumps.

Heat oil in a frying pan on medium flame.

once hot, dip the sliced plantains in the batter thoroughly and slowly place them into the hot oil.

Fry the bananas till they are golden brown and crisp on either sides and drain on paper towels.

Serve hot with tea or coffee.

NOTE

  1. The version I make is the simple one. You could add cumin seeds or even a little sesame seeds. I’m not a fan of cumin, so I avoid it.
  2. You could omit the tumeric powder altogether. i just add them to bring about the rich yellow color.
  3. Some recipes ask for rice flour, but that’s only added to make the fritters more crispy. Over here, we’ve added baking soda and that makes it crispy enough, I guarantee!
  4. The more ripe your plantains are, the lesser amount of sugar you need.
  5. Normally, these are deep-fried fritters, but I just add a little more oil than you need for shallow frying and fry it in a frying pan rather than a wok/kadai.
  6. The amount of water is approx. Add just enough so that it forms a thick paste and when the plantain slices are dipped in it, the batter stays on rather than dripping off.

Enjoy!!

Cheers!!!

Posted in Snacks, South Indian Dishes, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Be back sooon!!

A warm hello to all my readers.

Let me start of with a big apology b’cos I’ve been missing for over 4 months without any prior notice. All I can say is that there was and is a really good reason for that and will surely let you all know sooon.

I don’t know when I will post my next recipe but I assure you all I’ll be back as soon as I get back into my normal life of experimental cooking, photography and blogging. Meanwhile I hope you keep trying my previous recipes and that they turn out really delicious.

Please keep showering me with the love and appreciation like you have been in the past. Thankyou so much.

Happy cooking!

Renee

Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments

100 Yummy Diwali recipes – Ebook by Indus Ladies

The e-book featuring 100 delicious diwali recipes have been published by Indus Ladies and is now ready for download. You can click here to have a look at these recipes and try them out.

I’m happy to announce my Coconut Chocolate Macaroons has been selected as one of the 100…it’s the 86th recipe and on page 175.

Also, I know we are past Diwali and that I’m late in posting this, but as we all agree it’s always the right time to make or indulge in sweets/desserts. So what are you waiting for??  The e-book is in pdf format and is absolutely free. Download and get cooking! 🙂

Enjoy!!

Posted in Renee | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments