Feng li su (pineapple cake) is a classic Taiwanese dessert inexplicably intertwined with their culture. They follow a tradition of wishing their nears & dears good fortune by gifting a box of feng li su, especially during their New Year. My husband’s colleagues in Taiwan never missed bringing us a box of feng li su during their visits here. When I first saw these cute little cakes I was of the impression that they can be baked only by a skilful professional, and I did not believe that I could bake them in my kitchen as these gorgeous delicacies pampered our palates with the burst of milky flavour & crumbly texture.
Hummus, an ancient Arabic appetizer, took the western world by storm a few decades ago and is also available in stores across India. Traditional hummus is nothing but the creamy blend of chickpeas & sesame seeds. Now there are different flavors of hummus available in the market to satisfy the ever growing demands of consumers across the world. Nevertheless, it is hard to find the hummus with local flavors, and I have tried spicy hummus with the burst of flavors that suit our palates.
Basil seeds (sabja seeds) are one of the most sought-after summer ingredients in Asia. According to Indian Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), basil seeds are useful to lower the heat of our body. So it is a good idea to add basil seeds into our diet during summer to keep us cool & hydrated. This summer I have baked a loaf of egg-free banana bread using soaked basil seeds as a substitute for the egg.
Jerusalem is one of my favorite cookbooks for the traditional middle east recipes written by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. You may download the e-book here. I find several vegetarian recipes that we, Indians, could very well try without demur since most of the ingredients are readily available here. Helbeh is one such recipe that caught my attention as it is an exceptional semolina cake prepared with fenugreek seeds and almonds.
Although Thai cuisine boasts a wide range of meatless preparations, we could find every vegetable salad, soup, or curry tinged with fish sauce/ oyster sauce/ dried shrimps/ shrimp paste. People declaring themselves as vegetarians in Thailand are actually pescatarians, they don’t take any meat, but they don’t mind taking seafood. So vegetarians/ vegans may order food from live counters (or roadside vendors) rather than dining at buffets, as they can make sure to avoid using seafood as flavor enhancers while preparing vegetarian dishes. I am a fiend for Thai curries especially, green curry for the pleasant green color, creamy sauce, and the delightful aroma of Thai herbs & spices.
Women of all virtues are regarded as goddesses in our society even today, we could find men treating his worldly-wise mother as Sarasawathi, the goddess of wisdom & knowledge, his caring wife as Durga Devi, the goddess of strength & protection, and his lively daughter as Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity. Our prime minister, a devotee of goddess Durga, inducted a righteous woman into his cabinet of ministers as the national defence minister. We could also find several references in our ancient literature that stress the need for the respect of women in unequivocal terms.
Despite the fact that peanuts can cause ama (indigestion), my father, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, encouraged us to snack on peanuts even at a young age mainly for 3 reasons: Peanuts are the only legumes that grow underground hence the rich sources of micro-nutrients than any other legumes; they are beneficial to vegetarians for being the greatest sources of plant-based protein; it is possible to rid of ama while taking peanuts. Raw peanuts and roasted peanuts cause ama but not the steamed peanuts, so we can avoid taking raw peanuts altogether. Instead, we can take roasted peanuts along with jaggery, some spices, or herbs that aid in getting rid of ama. Here I have prepared a peanut butter using jaggery and added it into my mug cake.
Earlier elders in our family were of the opinion that baking cakes is a painstakingly strenuous procedure, and hence nobody in my family dared to bake cakes at home. We usually devour the cakes bought from the renowned bakery in our locality. During Christmas we had opportunities to relish home baked cakes like dark brown fruit cake, pale yellow semolina cake, etc. shared by our friends & neighbors. Those days home-baked cakes were so special for people like us as it was rare to find such soft scrumptious old-fashioned Christmas cakes even in the city’s premier bakery. Later we all bought the oven and bake spongy cakes at home even with local flavors. Here I have baked an eggless fig upside down cake using whole wheat flour & foxtail millet flour.
Generally, we prefer to take moist spongy homebaked cakes drizzled with honey, fruit juice, or chocolate syrup than the ones with buttery sugary frosting sold in the bakery or restaurants. When we bake a cake at home we have the liberty to use healthy ingredients. We could replace plain flour (maida) with whole wheat flour, butter with vegetable oil, sugar with other guilt-free sweeteners, etc. Besides we can add fresh fruits, nuts & seeds to tease our palate. Now I have baked a spongy cornmeal cake with delicious jackfruit glaze using cornmeal & whole wheat flour.
Truffles are French candies made using cocoa, nuts & dry fruits and chocolate truffles are nutty balls coated with chocolate ganache. Since all the ingredients in here are rich sources of vitamins, minerals & anti-oxidants, these candies are not only delicious but also nutritious treats. These chocolate truffles act like protein-rich energy balls and can be packed as a mid-morning snack for school-going children. Here I have shared a recipe for ginger and fig truffles that can be prepared easily so that we can gift them to our loved ones on any special occasion.
It was quite captivating to see an array of flavorful creamy curries in green, red, orange & yellow colors when we dined at a restaurant in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. Hence I brought back Thai herbs & spices used for making those curries and prepared vegetable curries. I was extremely delighted that I could manage to bring out the similar flavor, texture and also the perfect color. But now I have prepared an yellow curry with Indian flavor using the locally available ingredients.
When I noticed a bottle of left-over Nutella kept unused for some days, I badly wanted to use it up in one shot and hence I decided to bake an eggless Nutella cake. Although the idea of combining chocolate & banana together is not liked by some, it worked wonders for me, and I was extremely delighted with the outcome of luscious cake with moist texture & tender crumbs.
Panna Cotta is a creamy Italian dessert similar to custard generally prepared by cooking sweetened flavored cream, set with gelatin, and served with fruit coulis, caramel sauce, or chocolate sauce. Now I have prepared a vegan panna cotta by replacing cream with coconut milk, gelatin with agar agar, and prepared the fruit coulis using locally grown jackfruit bulbs.
Being a vegetarian I like to use walnuts as much as possible as these are quite a few of plant based sources of omega-3 fatty acid. It has always been challenging to prepare a recipe using these slightly bitter nuts, now I have baked an eggless walnut Bundt cake using banana & toasted walnuts as they compliment each other, sweet bananas suppress the bitterness of walnuts and also they both add a delicious flavor & texture to the cake.
This is our family’s favorite chocolate cake for being dark, chocolaty, spongy, and most importantly guilt-free. I have used whole wheat flour instead of plain flour (maida), vegetable oil in place of butter, and also used home-made yogurt (curd). I have also used chocolate ganache for frosting and garnished with chopped pista & edible rose petals.