Carmela’s Lemon Loaf Cake | World Baking Day Challenge

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So I’m posting this a day late, but I guess baking enthusiasts will agree that every day should be celebrated as baking day! The concept is fun- you log on to the website http://www.worldbakingday.com, choose a recipe posted there based on the difficulty level, grab the badge and bake!

image courtesy | worldbakingday.com

image courtesy | worldbakingday.com

There it is- difficulty level 67- Carmela’s gorgeous lemon loaves. I recently bought some loaf pans, plus, I had plenty of lemons (desi nimbus) in my fridge- which is what made me choose this beautiful, fragrant lemon loaf cake. Those two reasons, plus the fact that ever since I saw Julia from MasterChef Australia S4 bake her lemon syrup loaf cake, I’ve wanted to try it. (Remember her? The Princess Of Pastry who barely smiled. I mean she did smile the odd smile, but it seemed so forced. I liked her desserts much more than her. I was always rooting for Andy!)

Anyway, snap back to reality after reminiscing  about MC Australia. I followed the recipe with a few minor tweaks, because I did not have access to some ingredients. (Substituting butter for margarine and desi nimbus for lemons.) And you know what? Even though most lemon cakes I have come across use Meyer lemons, our desi nimbus work pretty well- they are quite fragrant and manage to give off that floral undertone. Which got me thinking- if this cake could turn out so well using nimbus, imagine how amazing it would be with larger, juicier Meyer lemons!

The batter was a little runnier than I expected and I feared it would not bake properly, but I was wrong. This recipe calls for creaming the eggs, sugar and lemon zest; then adding in the dry ingredients followed by more wet ingredients- milk and melted butter.

Ready for the oven! (I love saying that.)

Ready for the oven! (I love saying that.)

While the cake is baking, you make a quick lemon syrup- just lemon juice and sugar slowly boiled on a low flame till it reaches syrupy consistency. Once cooled, poke some holes in your cake and drizzle over! Just make sure you use your skewer to poke all the way through, so that the syrup permeates evenly and well.

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Whether you have access to Meyer lemons or not, do try this cake. It’s simple enough and requires so few ingredients- in fact, I did not even need a trip to the grocery store.

CARMELA’S LEMON LOAF CAKE (Original recipe here.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 160 g castor sugar
  • 1 1/2 medium eggs (for the half, take one egg, whisk it in a cup and pour only half the whisked egg into your batter. A tip I learned from  Thanh!)
  • 175 g flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 125 ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 100 g butter, melted and cooled
  • Zest of 3 regular sized nimbus

For The Syrup:

  • 50 g castor sugar
  • Juice of 2 nimbus

METHOD

  • Preheat oven to 170 C
  • In a large bowl, cream the eggs, sugar and lemon zest.
  • Add the flour and baking powder and beat well.
  • Pour in the milk and vanilla extract and combine well.
  • Add the melted butter and beat a little more.
  • Once your batter has come together and there are no lumps, pour into your loaf tin and bake for 30-35 min at 170 C till the top becomes golden.

For The Syrup

Heat the castor sugar and lemon juice in a pan for 5-7  minutes on low heat until everything is dissolved and the mixture becomes a light syrup.

Assembly

Once the cake is ready, allow it to cool a little. Then pierce some holes on the surface and spoon the syrup over the cake.

This is a perfect tea-time cake, and would be great with a dollop of fresh cream or vanilla ice cream. I didn’t have any decorative lemon slices to garnish the cake with, so I dusted it with powdered sugar instead. It’s a no-fail decorating tool!

There is something quite comforting about a loaf cake- they can be so delicious, without being intimidating for the baker or the consumer. Plus, you can dress it up or down with whatever you like, making it one of those creations which fits at a  party or a picnic. Personally, I like having a slice of loaf cake first thing in the morning, still in my pajamas, with a cup of coffee.

Am I- gasp– turning into Nigella?

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Hope all you bakers out there had fun on World Baking Day. Here’s to more happy baking round-the-year!

Thrissur Chicken

I have been making a lot of sweet things lately. My husband likes sweets, but does not adore them and indulge like me, and he has been very patient all these days. But, I knew he was beginning to tire of cookie crumbs and stewed plums. (Yes, I did put that rhyme in there on purpose. On a different train of thought- I think cookie crumbs and stewed plums would actually work quite well together. Note to self- must make.) ANYWAY. I was getting a little bored of drizzling caramel sauce over everything, and I wanted something red, hot and spicy.

Chicken it would be. Once, when travelling with my family in Kerala, we stopped at a small highway eatery, where we came across a dish on the menu called Thrissur Chicken. (Thrissur is the name of a town in Kerala.) It was fried nuggets of chicken with lots of chilli powder and peanuts, served on a bed of fried curry leaves. It was a fiery red colour and very, very spicy. The spice rub had red chilli powder and coriander for sure, but I suspect the deep red colour came from a small dash of colouring.

I wanted to make a similar dish, but less spicy and a little sour, so I decided to use red chilli powder and lemon, and finish it off with fried curry leaves for extra flavor and crunch. I don’t know if there is actually a special kind of chicken dish in Thrissur named after the place, but I just took the name and made it my own.

This dish turned out great….sharp, spicy, and full of aroma. And the fried curry leaves added such great texture! That’s the thing about curry leaves…they do not get soggy as soon as they come into contact with air. So it remained crispy from mid-morning till 2pm, when we finally ate.

THRISSUR CHICKEN

INGREDIENTS

  • 300 grams chicken, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry ginger powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 3 large cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Coconut oil- 5 tablespoons for frying + 1 tablespoon for marination
  • Curry leaves- 20
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  • Place the chicken in a large bowl. Add the dry ginger powder+chilli powder+coriander powder+1 tablespoon of coconut oil+juice if 1 lime. Grate 3 cloves of garlic into the chicken. Mix everything together with your hands so that the chicken is evenly coated.
  • Allow the chicken to rest in your fridge for at least one hour.
  • Once the chicken has rested, heat the coconut oil in a wok. Once the oil is hot, add the curry leaves and swirl around for approx 30-60 seconds till they are crisp. Remove from oil, drain and keep aside in a separate bowl or plate.
  • Into the same wok, add the marinated chicken pieces and stir-fry till cooked and crispy. You can add some sugar or a little ketchup to caramelize, if you wish.

I’ll be honest…this is not the healthiest dish, since it is shallow-fried, but it tastes great. We ate this with steamed rice and dal, but it would go great with rotis too. It would even taste nice rolled up in a roti with a dollop of hung curd.

The Easiest Spinach Recipe: Spinach Raita

I have been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and in her book she talks about the importance of eating greens and why so many kids dislike spinach. Her theory is that when you overcook spinach, it turns almost black, and no child will want to eat a lump of black goo. Fair enough. Not many adults would either.

I am a lover of all things green and leady (and no, this does NOT include the green leafie that goes into ‘special’ brownies…I am a responsibe mother!) and I try and include something every day. The easiest recipe for spinach I have is a spinach raita or yogurt-based salad my mom makes. It is so easy, and is such a great accompaniment to roti and rice, and it works with all kinds of Indian cuisine.

All you need is a bunch of spinach, some yogurt and salt. THAT’S IT. You may also take the liberty of adding other green garnishes like mint and cilantro, but this raita tastes good as is.

BLANCHING SPINACH

I learned this from Rachel Allen’s Home Cooking, when she was making a spinach quiche. She said that when blanching spinach, only pour enough water to just about cover the spinach. Drowning it in water will rob the spinach of all it’s goodness, because the folic acid will seep out. So add water accordingly.

SPINACH RAITA

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch spinach, cleaned
  • 400 grams yogurt (one regular dabba of store-bought dahi)
  • Salt to taste
  • A few leaves of mint and cilantro, chopped

METHOD

  • Blanch the spinach in water for a few minutes
  • Drain water and wring excess water
  • Finely chop the spinach
  • In a bowl, mix yogurt, chopped spinach, mint and cilantro until evenly combined. Add salt to taste. That’s it!!

This would taste even better with sour cream and could double up as a dip with crackers. But unfortunately I haven’t been able to source sour cream in Mumbai so far. For a little variation, you could sprinkle some paprika on top and/or drizzle a little olive oil, if you would like to go Mediterranean-style.  Improvisation is what makes cooking fun! (I did this to try and make it look phancy. The operative word being tried.)