Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Welcome Spring!

The past five months have been brutally cold, keeping us holed up indoors. But, tomorrow would change everything. It's the first day of Spring! Here on, we'd be able to step out and smell the fresh air and the pretty flowers and wake up to the cheerful sounds of the birds! At last we could shed the winter coats and the thermals and the hats and the mittens. Ah, life will be sweet! The girls suggested that we make flower-shaped cookies to celebrate. So we spent the evening baking and even decided we wouldn't touch a single cookie till the next day! (Little girl SS was an exception.....she was not going to give up a fresh cookie for all this spring nonsense !) That night we went to bed wishing it would be morning soon! (Not something we'd wish on a normal weekday!).

The next morning I'm woken up by Big Girl RM's loud shriek. I rushed over to the girls' room to check what was wrong, when I saw her standing by the window with a look of disappointment. "Its the first day of spring and its snowing, mommy! I think Mother Nature's gone cuckoo! " I looked out to see that everything was covered with a good dose of powdering and we were in for more. What happened to the sun and the birds and the flowers and all? The great expectations we had for this day! And now I'm left with the task of convincing a little girl who had decided she was going to wear a sweater and tights to school today to put put her winter garb back on.

A sudden flash of enlightenment! A few of those delicious flower cookies with her morning cup of milk should do the trick. It did! I guess RM's happy now that Mother Nature went cuckoo, she got her early morning overdose of sugar!

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Strawberry jam

Sift all the dry ingredients together.

Cream the butter and sugar together till light.

Add the eggs and the vanilla extract and mix till combined.

Slowly add the dry ingredients and knead into a soft dough. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Pre-heat the oven to 35o F.

Roll out the chilled dough to 1/4" thickness. Cut out cookies using cookie cutters. I used Linzer cookie cutters. If you dont have Linzer cookie cutters, use any flower-shaped cookie cutter. Use a small round cutter to take out centers of the flowers of half the total number of flowers. These are the top cookies.

Bake for 10 minutes. The cookies should just begin to turn brown around the edges.

Cool the cookies completely.

To assemble:
Take a whole flower cookie. Spoon some jam in the center. Make sure not to put too much as it may overflow. Now place a flower cookie with the center cut out (top cookies) on top of the jam and slightly push it in so that some of the jam comes through the center hole.

Make any day a Spring day!


Monday, March 16, 2009

Boarding school and Prawn Pickles

Sis and me studied in a boarding school, a convent up in the hills. We had three holidays a year when we could go home and when we came back we were not allowed to bring any food stuff (we called it 'grub') except bottled jam, ketchup and milk flavours. The nuns were very strict about this and the night before school reopened all bags and baggages were checked and all the illegal grub found would be confiscated. All those years I broke this rule and used to take to school banana chips and a bottle of Prawn Pickle that my mom made. Mom was party to this, probably because she thought it helped me deal with my home-sickness. (She packed me four large bottles when I left home after getting married :) !!! )

Well I never got caught even once, because as soon as I reached school my buddies would be there asking if I had come with the 'pot of gold' and soon it would be whisked away to secret places and hidden safely. I remember it being hidden inside the grandfather clock also once. Sometimes I'd even thought my buddies loved my mom's prawn pickle more than me...;)!!! Finally all the grub would come out of hiding on the first saturday after we reached school. Either in the orchard or in a corner of the playground we used to have banana chips with prawn pickle. The party would have lasted less than five minutes...and then again the long wait till the end of the next term and holidays.
So this is for all my school buddies who would do anything for their 'pot of gold'....

Prawn Pickle

1. Prawns - 300 g. (shelled, deveined and cleaned)
2. Vinegar - 1 tsp.
3. Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp.
- Cook the prawns in little water, salt, vinegar and turmeric powder and keep aside.
4. Ginger - 3 dsp.
5. Garlic - 3 dsp.
6. Fenugreek - 1 dsp.
7. Mustard - 1 dsp.
8. Cummin seeds - 3/4 dsp.
9. vinegar - 1&1/2 cups.
- Soak the above in vinegar for about 3-4 hours. Grind to a paste. Add more vinegar (not water) if required for grinding.
10. Gingelly oil - 3/4 cup.
11. Turmeric Powder - 1 tsp.
12. Chilly Powder - 2 dsp.
13. Curry Leaves - 2 sprigs
14. sugar - 1 tsp.
15. Salt - to taste.

- Heat the oil, fry the prawns till brown. Drain and keep aside. In the same oil put the curry leaves and the ground masala and fry till the oil floats. Add 1/2 cup of prawn stock and salt. When it boils add the fried prawns and simmer till oil comes on top. Remove from fire and add sugar. Adjust salt & vinegar according to taste. When cold, store in a clean dry jar.

For all those of you who haven't had a banana chip-prawn pickle sandwich, trust me you'll be left asking for more...!!!


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Beauties on the Red Carpet - Chocolate Whirls

With "Slumdog Millionaire" being nominated for every possible category, I must say that this year Oscar fever was running high at our place. Our big girl, RM, who loves anything Indian, couldn't be more excited especially after tragic outcomes for our Desis in American Idol and Superstars of Dance this year. L'il girl SS just had to hear "Jai Ho" and she would come charging down, 'Mommy, that's "Sumdog Minnaire!" '. We, too, were psyched at Rahman being nominated.

So, what do Chocolate Whirls have to do with all this? Well, I had this recipe from my mom's old recipe collection in mind for some time and decided to make it the weekend snack. After all the kneading and rolling and deep frying, and happy with the outcome, I thought it could be blogworthy. Soon, we were getting our Chocolate Whirls to pose for a picture and big girl RM goes "Mommy, they look like they're walking the red carpet!" (Whoa! She sure did learn a few technical terms around the Oscars!!!) So, to everyone who is still deciding which of the beauties on the red carpet were hot, or not, we have our winner - Chocolate Whirls!
A special wish also to one lady who definitely deserves the red carpet -Happy Birthday Amma! (After all we didnt turn out so bad, did we???!!!)

Flour - 1 1/2 cups
Powdered sugar - 3 tbsp
Salt - a pinch
Butter - 2 tbsp, cut in pieces
Milk - 2 tbsp
Mix the above ingredients together to get a crumbly mixture. I suggest you add the milk a little at a time to prevent the mixture from becoming too wet. Divide the mixture into 2 parts. Knead one part well, adding water if needed to make a stiff dough.
To the second half of the mixture add:
Cocoa - 2 tbsp
Knead it well, adding water if needed to make a stiff dough. Now we have plain dough and chocolate dough. Roll out each dough separately into 2 large squares.
Mix together:
Cornflour - 4 tbsp
Butter - 2 tbsp, melted.
Spread a thin layer of the above mixture on the plain dough square. Place the chocolate dough square over it. Roll the whole thing in jelly roll style from one end to the other. This makes one log of dough with alternating plain and chocolate layers. Cut the log into about 1/2" thick slices. Roll out each slice to flatten a little.
Deep fry in vegetable oil. Drain on paper towels. Dredge in Confectioner's sugar.