Spiced Banana Raisin Loaf


There was a time I used to make banana bread regularly then one day it all stopped. Some 15 years back a loaf of banana bread lovingly baked was tucked away in a steel container and shoved on top shelf of the kitchen due to sheer malice. I was visiting my mother for a few days so baked the bread and left the next day. Some six month later while spring cleaning I found a container that won’t open. The container was heavy so I was curious about what lay inside. With great difficulty I managed to pop the lid away and there it was, a rotten banana bread with fungus that could be a perfect sample for a science student. It broke my heart and never baked the bread again.

I did make a banana nut bread in a mug. You can get the recipe Here.

Since a few days mom had been craving for it and I was just not getting into the mood. I usually do not bake breads now so the pantry was empty. No baking powder or baking soda. I was too lethargic to go buy or even order. The bananas were getting overripe and yesterday I gave in to the temptation.

The whole wheat bread that I usually made had jaggery instead of sugar but here I powdered and used the regular sugar.  Brown sugar or jaggery is the best to use in banana bread. The rich flavor is amazing. Do use that if you have it.   1/4 cup is good for this recipe. If using jaggery or Muscovedo sugar then use 1 cup.

It was an experiment of sort as I had not baked without baking powder or baking soda before so I began to search for options on the internet. Yeast, sour dough were out so I was about to give up when Alice’s blog link popped up. I was happy someone had bothered to bake a bread without the two ingredients that are considered important and adapted her recipe to suit my needs. Thank you Alice. I knew it would be dense but cooked so there wasn’t much to worry.

Surprisingly, the bread turned out to be good. Moist, sweet, spiced and dense. Something between a cake and a bread. I decided to call it a loaf. 🙂 Everyone who had it thought that the texture resembled the Bishop Bread we get from ITC Maurya. Well, that was a very satisfying compliment. That bread is out of the world.

It needed some adjustment of temperature etc.

Do give it a try :

Ingredients :

Bananas – 3 medium or 2 large , over ripe ones

Whole wheat flour – 11/2 Cup (16 tbsp)

Butter – 1/2 Cup ( softened) ( I used a salted butter but if you use unsalted then add 1/4 tsp of salt) or 1/2 Cup – Vegetable oil

Spice powder – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg

Powdered Sugar – 1 Cup ( depends on the sweetness of  the bananas)

Eggs – 2 (well beaten)

Raisins –  1/2 Cup (Plumped in water)

Walnuts – A handful ( toasted / optional)

Buttermilk – 2 tbsp

Steps : 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 175 degrees C.  Grease and dust a 8×3 or 9×5 inch loaf tin. I used an 8 inch one.

Peel and mash overripe bananas in a large mixing bowl. Don’t make a smooth paste. Clumpy is good for a nice texture. Bananas with blackening skin or brown skin with deep brown spots are good. Make sure they are not fermenting. Do not get tempted to add more bananas just because you want to finish them. It will result in a dense under cooked center.

Gently fold in the softened butter /Oil, sugar and spice powder to the mashed bananas. Using oil is a good idea as it helps the bread retain the moisture. Next one will be with oil.

I add the beaten eggs just before putting the bread into the oven. If your oven and loaf tin are ready then beat the eggs very well in a bowl. Get in as much air as you can. This will make the bread light. Remember we aren’t using anything to help it rise. Add the beaten eggs to the banana sugar mixture and mix well with a spatula.  Don’t use any hand mixer for the recipe.

Now, make a well in the center of the whole wheat flour and slowly fold in the banana mixture wit ha spatula. It would be lumpy but that is great. Just mix everything nicely so that there are no flour streaks. Add 2 tbsp of buttermilk or sour cream. The batter is usually very thick so this help in making it smooth and nice. Gives a nice flavor and texture too.

Fold it the plumped raisins and toasted crushed walnuts if using. Dry raisins burn easily so it is good to plump them a little. You can toss some of the nut raisin mixture on the top also.

Pour the batter in the loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes or til toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Temperature may vary from oven to oven and I found my bread gets browned from top quickly if I place on top slot. I have two slots so I placed it in the lower one after it was 3/4 done. You can use aluminium foil to cover it to prevent extra browning. I didn’t so my crust browned more.

Another thing is to place some water in the drip tray under the wire rack. The steam makes the bread softer. I did it earlier, not for this one.

Keep checking after 45 minutes and if it needs more cooking from the center just give it 10-15 more minutes.

Once done, turn off the oven and let it stay there for 10 minutes. Remove on wire rack after that and cool.

Wrap it up in cling wrap when warm or cut it and use as desired. I usually slice it and keep in a tupperware box on the table.

Some people add vanilla essence or extract or chocolate in the bread but I personally do not like to mask the taste of spices and the rich banana flavor. You can add to your liking.

Do let me know how this loaf tasted if you make it. It is unlike the usual banana bread as I said. more like a fruit cake. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gatte Ki Sabzi| Chickpea Dumpling Curry


I love this delicious gatte ki sabzi from Rajasthan. I have another recipe of the Punjabi version on my blog but this is absolute delight when eaten with hot fresh phulkas smeared with ghee or of course the bajra roti which is traditionally served with this curry. Ghee is healthy and you should use it.  The gattas I made for this recipe are thinner and spicier than the Punjabi ones.

Gatta is chickpea flour dumpling that is steamed or boiled till they float up and become light. One can spice them up or keep them plain. They are so tempting and hard to resist that you may keep munching on them while making the curry and realize that there is more curry than the gattas.

Make some extra dumplings always.  You can use these  gattas or dumplings with other veggies also but this is a basic recipe.

Ingredients : 

For Gatta : 

Besan / Chickpea flour – 1 Cup

Home cultured curd / Yogurt – 1/4 Cup

Fennel seeds powder – 3/4 tsp

Ajwain – 3/4 tsp

Salt – to taste

Ghee – 2 tbsp

Chili powder – to taste

Pinch of hing powder

2 pinches of coarsely ground fresh black pepper corns

For the Curry : 

Ginger and Garlic – 1 tsp each ( grated)

Onion – 1 medium size, chopped fine

Green chilies – 2, slit or chopped

Whole red chilies – 1-2

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Ghee – 2 tbsp

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Coriander powder – 1 tbs

Besan or  Chickpea flour – 2 tbs

Fresh coriander leaves – chopped – 2 tbsp

Method :

For Gatta :

Mix the dry ingredients listen under gatta except the ghee and curd.

Pour ghee evenly and rub it in the mixture. Slowly add beaten curd one spoon at a time to make a firm dough.

Divide the dough in equal parts and roll it in your palms to make a cylindrical shape.  You can make it as thin or thick but I have noticed that the thicker ones don’t cook well from the center when boiled.

Making perfect gatta is a bit tricky at times but you’ll get used to it.

Now take a deep large pan and boil enough water. Once the water boils slowly dunk the gatta in it. You can go about doing some other stuff while they cook in the boiling water. It takes a lot of time. Keep checking in between and the moment gatttas rise up and start floating take them out in a plate to cook. Throw away the water.

Once they cool, cut them into 1 inch long pieces.

Now  to make the curry :

Blend the yogurt and add the powdered masalas and salt in it. Remember that you had added salt in the gattas too. Mix well. Roast the besan and allow it t cool. Now, make a paste with  2 tbsp of buttermilk and add to the curd. DO NOT add more than 1-2 tbs of besan or it will become kadhi. You can omit besan too. I use it just to make sure that the curd doesn’t curdle.

Heat a wok or a kadhayi and put ghee in it.  when the ghee melts, add hing and cumin seeds. When they crackle , add red and green chili, stir and add ginger and garlic. Saute and add the onions. Let the onions brown a little then turn off the gas. Add the curd mixture and give it a nice stir.

Put tit back on flame and keep stirring on low medium heat till the ghee separates from the masala.

Slowly add warm water to make a curry till you get desired consistency. The gravy will thicken once you add gattas so keep that it mind.

Adjust salt and spices to your liking at this point.

Let the curry boil for sometime and then dip in the gatta pieces.

Let it cook for about 5-10 minutes and then garnish it with fresh coriander leaves.

Eat it hot with bajra roti or phulka smeared with ghee. It makes for one hell of a satiating meal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Spiced Pear Jam (Without Pectin)


 

Stone fruits are my first love and I have them in abundance during the season but the pip fruits, pears, apples are a different story all together. There are many varieties of pears that have hit the market this season including the sweet nashpaati, crisp nakq and gritty, sweet and juicy babugosha. i’m absolutely enjoying myself biting into the fresh ripe fleshy fruits but sometimes a few of them turn out a little bland in taste and that is when the exotic ideas of caramelized pears, stews, poached pears in red wine, jams, jellies, tarts, upside down cakes or a humble Indian spiced chutney come to mind. Do check out my other recipes for jams and jellies.

Pears are rich in dietary fibers among other things. The star of this recipe are the intense flavors of spices and the tang from lemon. As the pears were not very sweet this one has a mild sweetness of the fruit but those with robust flavors are mind blowing when used in preserves. I usually pick up the juiciest and sweetest lot.

The cinnamon and clove give it a classic flavor and the sugar gives it the desired thickness. I guess this is the time to bring Autumn into your kitchen. 🙂

Pear an Peach jams do not set like other jams if there is no additional pectin. They require a little bit more cooking time to get the right consistency.

Ingredients : 

2 Cups – Chopped, peeled Pears

4 Cups – Sugar ( depends on the sweetness of the fruit)

4-5 – Cloves / 1/2 tsp of  freshly ground clove powder

1/4 inch Cinnamon stick  / 1/2 tsp Freshly ground Cinnamon

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Steps: 

Add all the ingredients in a heavy bottom saucepan and boil them on low heat for an hour or so or until thick. As the mixture begins to thicken you will need to stir more frequently. Once the bubbles begin to appear stop stirring and let the foam come up. Turn the gas off and skim off any foam that may have come on the top. Put it back on stove on low heat.

Once the jam thickens to the desired consistency and the mixture looks glossy and shiny turn off the gas.  If the jam coats the back of the spoon and the bottom of the pan it is done. The color will darken too. Conduct a spoon or sheet test – take some jam in a frozen spoon or chilled  steel plate and slightly tilt it , if the jam stays at one place it is done. If it flows then you need to cook a bit more. Always cook jams on low heat.

You may keep the jam a bit chunky or mash the fruit with a masher while it is cooking to get a smoother jam.

You can add a 1″ piece of grated ginger if you like the taste. I do it sometime. It perks up the taste of the jam.

Let the jam come to room temperature then spoon it in clean glass jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space while filling the bottles.

Slather this golden sweetness lavishly on the bread and enjoy wit ha hot mug of coffee.

Tip – Add a little red wine to the jam if you don’t mind things getting a little tipsy.   🙂

Mango Phirni With Mango Roses | Indian Mango Rice Pudding With Mango Roses


Mangoes are in season and there is nothing more satiating than this dessert. Fragrant rice in full cream milk with flavor of ripe mangoes is delicately delicious and looks fantastic with the mango roses. This was my first attempt in making the roses and the mangoes were so juicy and ripe that it didn’t work the way I wanted but then it was fun and lip smacking.  I also discovered an easier way of getting those roses right which I will share later along with some other fruit and vegetable flowers.

The secret to a good phirni is the coarsely ground rise that has a semolina like texture. Traditionally it is served in mitti ka kasora or a small earthenware bowl. I didn’t have those so used a clay pot to chill the phirni then served in glass bowls. Nuts, saffron, silver leaf are used traditionally as a garnish but with the gorgeous mango flavour and roses on top I did not use anything extra. Creamy and grainy, this is a perfect dessert after a lavish meal.

Ingredients : 

  • Mango puree – 1 cup
  • Raw Basmati Rice – 31/2 tbs ( Soaked)
  • Mangoes – 1-2 ( For the roses)
  • Condensed Milk ( Milkmaid ) – 3/4 Cup ( adjust according to the sweetness of mangoes)
  • Full Fat Milk – 4 Cups
  • Saffron Threads – 5-6 ( Soaked in warm milk)
  • Almonds – 6-7 soaked / skinned / ground to a paste
  • Nuts / Raisins – for garnish ( as desired)
  • Green cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp

 

Steps : 

  1. Soak rice in water for 30 minutes at least.
  2. Rinse and blend in the food processor with a little milk or water to make a smooth yet coarse paste. The rice should not become powdery.
  3. Heat the milk in heavy bottom pan and bring in to boil. Keep stirring and reduce it for about 15 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and almond pastes, stirring continuously on low heat. Make sure no lumps are formed.
  5. Add saffron and keep simmering on low heat till the rawness of ricer goes away.
  6. Add condensed milk and stir till it thickens to pudding like consistency. Turn off the gas. Add cardamom powder.
  7. Let the mixture cool on the counter and then st
  8. ir in the fresh mango puree. Mix it to get a smooth texture.
  9. Add the desired nuts and pour into the earthen pot or any serving pot you are using. Let it chill in the fridge so it sets properly.
  10. Meanwhile make mango roses and cool them. Before serving arrange the roses as desired and serve chilled.

  1. To make mango roses : Peel a hard yet ripe mango and cut the two side slices. Remove an inch from the sides and slice thinly. Arrange it the thin slices to form the petals and place it on the chilled phirni.

 

My Tip:
Keep the sugar level mild in phirni for excellent taste. You can layer white phirni and mango phirni alternately in individual glasses or serve in individual earthen bowls too. If serving individually you can add chopped mango pieces or simply drizzle finely chopped pistachios and almond shavings.
You can layer the phirni in individual glasses. For that take out a portion of phirni before adding the mango pulp and chill. Once the mango phirni is ready, spoon some mango puree in chilled glasses and layer the two phirni alternately. Garnish with chopped mango pieces or nuts.

 

 

 

The House Of Oracles | Chandini Santosh


Very few books are cathartic, even fewer leave you listless yet fulfilled in a strange way. Chandini Santosh’s The House of Oracles opened some blocks in me. Tears came effortlessly as I finished the book today. They came because a catharsis was much needed. The sky poured endlessly outside my window. I do not know how to review a book so just jotting down what flowed from my heart. This is the second book revolving around an ancestral house that has touched me so deeply. Both the books are by women writers and extremely compelling reads.

Some incidents from past can haunt you for the lifetime, emerging when least expected. Chandini has so beautifully woven that in the theme of the story. Throughout the novel the thought pulsates underneath the current happenings seeking release and atonement in some form or the other.

The heart wrenching narrative tugs at you to keep reading but I had to pause because the characters drew me in at different levels not letting go. The story is set in North Malabar region  and I urge you to do some reading about the ‘Oracles of Malabar’, an incredibly vibrant tradition that is slowly vanishing now, before proceeding to read. The House of Oracles is not just a voyage down the memory lane exploring the rich history, rituals, customs, it is also a journey within. A search for inner happiness, an effort to engage with oneself at levels one wants to push aside. Every one of us has to go through the myriads of  emotions, struggle and pave our path through the pressures and demands society as well as life inflicts on us and that is why perhaps the line between fiction and reality blurs as one reads through the pages.

Although the strong female characterization is the strength of the novel it is the portrayal of the male characters that grew on me. The vulnerability of human emotions is so deftly crafted that it is impossible to disconnect. Each character, even the short lived Vishnu, gets permanently etched in the mind.

The women on the other hand have this inner strength that surfaces quietly at times and at others more vociferously. Even in the midst of chaos that surrounds their lives there is resilience and dignity.

Chandini is a poet and painter par excellence and from the opening lines the four hundred year old house of oracles, the outhouse, the graves, the trees and the forty steps leading down begin to emerge before the reader like a painting. A painting alive with the aroma of the Parijata flowers floating down like tiny, wispy dreams or the moon dragging over the tulsi plant in the atrium, the stream swollen with rain, the daunting shadow of the seven layered stone lamp eternally etched on the walls, the grape-eyed monkey looking beseechingly from the tamarind tree, the lake simmering like a silver coin tossed into the night.. the imagery takes your breath away. One feels compelled to get under the skin of the characters and follow them around the House of Oracles and at times one almost becomes the house itself. There is no other way than to give in.

It is the phrases like, “Forgiving is a limbless genie. It has to be carried in rounded palms or the open hollows of the grieving mind” and “Everyone has to find their own key to the treasure; everyone’s treasure is different” that make you cling to the book till the last word.

Weaved intricately between family traditions, human tragedies, ancient customs is the inevitable social transformation, caste struggle, anomalies of land grab, the ways of the neo-rich and the uncomfortable transition from traditional to modern.

This intense, fast paced narrative will not let you down at any level. The cover design is based on a charcoal sketch by the author and is the portal to a world of storytelling that’s hard to come by these days.

I highly recommend Chandini’s debut novel to everyone. Go pick up your copy here – The House Of Oracles

Monsoon and Collection Of Chaos


Monsoon is at the threshold and already the rain has generously filled the empty pockets of my city. In the midst of the chaos rain brings one can spot carts and carts of mangoes, lychees, jamuns, peaches, phalsa, musk melons, water melons and other summer fruits. The gorgeous Amaltas or Laburnum, dressed in yellow, is hard to miss.
The parakeets are here and so is the familiar smell of earth, grass and flowers.
 I am thinking of wood roasted bhutta from the hills and hot jalebis filled with the sweet nectar of life. Usually a coffee person, I love  the adrakewali masala chai at this time espcially when it is infused wit hthe earthy aroma of the mitti ka kulhad.
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As I edit the second book of poems good news is still floating in from various parts of the globe with readers sending me their feedback and writing reviews for Collection Of Chaos.  I have come a long way since this book happened in 2014 and some very exciting news is coming soon that I will share soon. Here is my author page on Leaky Boot Press Website. Check out the other titles too.
Kabir Malik is a young poet, photographer, wanderer. This is what he says,
If you are fond of Urdu / Hindi poetry then you must listen to Tauseef Ahmed’s poems. He is brilliant and knows how to touch the pulse of the listeners. Many of his poems are on his FB timeline. Do explore. I gifted him the book some months back and here is what he says,
I must have mentioned the wanderer travel blogger BNomadic in some previous blog post. Travel enthusiasts Must checkout his blog. It is one the best I have come across till now.  He bought the book and wrote a review sometime back. He says,
Rebecca Behar is French Poet and writer and has been following my work since sometime. It was a pleasant surprise to find a short note from her on amazon.
The book recently traveled to Melbourne, Australia. Poet / Writer Jaymz Hawkes found me on FB and read some of my work there. I got a note from him saying he had ordered the book and here is his review. It took almost a month for the book to reach him. The waiting is always the part of the journey.
Thank you each one of you for the encouragement and support. There is nothing more humbling for a writer than her learning being appreciated. So much has changed in last two years and especially in last few months but that we will talk about in a different post soon.
Among all this euphoria I got bitten by Instagram bug. So, you can chitchat with me there too. I need to do write- edit- read – repeat but most of all I need some discipline in life especially as a writer. Soon… 🙂
Did I mention that my elder son got engaged in April? It was a beautiful Gurudwara ardas ceremony and the girl is one of a kind. Who knows where the time goes 🙂
It is a beautiful feeling to watch your children walk on their life path with such serenity and poise.
Motherhood has made me a better person and I always stress on this point, “Let your children be. You can’t teach a sapling how to grow; you can only give it all it needs, sit back and watch.” In doing so you are not just making them good citizens but most importantly better human beings; and in the end, that is all that matters.
I will be back soon with some poems and other writing news. Till then remember to connect with me and leave your views in the comment section of my posts.
Leaving you with someone I absolutely love and admire –  Every Word Has A Body And Soul