December 20, 2011

Kerala Plum Cake | Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe

Kerala Plum Cake or Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe - Christmas in Kerala is what memories are made of. I haven't come back in 6 years so this year is extra special. Except for once or twice when I was a kid, Amma hasn't made fruit cake at home from scratch because every year we are inundated with cakes from friends celebrating Christmas.

Kerala Plum Cake | Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe

This year's first cake is from Omana Paul, a popular caterer and good friend of ours. Their plum cake is very popular and they make thousands at this time of the year. Amma had the recipe so I wanted to share it in time for Christmas. I have also shared an eggless fruit cake recipe if that's what you are after. This tutti frutti cake is perfect for those who don't really like plum cakes or raisins. I have a few of those in my family too but tutti frutti, they love!

Also check out a list of easy Christmas cakes and cookies.

This recipe doesn't need you to soak the dry fruits in advance and it's alcohol-free so you can make it instantly just before you need it.

Kerala Plum Cake | Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe

Kerala Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe
Makes one 6" cake
Recipe adapted from Omana Paul

1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup chopped cashew nuts
1/4 cup black raisins
1/2 cup mixed dry fruits (dates, cherries, orange peels)
1 + .5 cups white sugar
2/3 cup butter, at room temperature
3 eggs
1 clove + 1 cardamom pod + small piece of cinnamon + a pinch nutmeg (pound together to powder)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
A pinch of salt


1. Christmas fruit cake requires you to caramelize sugar. Don't be like me and worry about it, it's really not that hard, you just need to be careful while doing it. In a pan on medium heat, melt 1/2 cup sugar slowly. It will first melt and then turn into a dark brown goop. Keep stirring and let it turn a deep dark caramel colour. Don't let it burn. Turn off heat and add about 1/4 cup water. The sugar will harden. Turn the heat back on and slowly heat the mixture until the sugar crystals dissolve. This will take around 10 mins. Let this cool and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 350F / 180C.

2. Add 3 tbsp flour to the dry fruits and nuts and dredge completely to coat it. This is so that they don't sink to the bottom of the batter while baking. Set aside.

3. Mix the remaining flour and baking powder, spices, and salt until well combined.

4. Beat the butter and 1 cup sugar until fluffy - about 10 mins by hand, 3-4 mins with an electric beater. Add vanilla and mix until combined. Next, add 1 egg and beat. Then add a bit of the flour mixture and fold. Likewise, alternate between the eggs and flour mixture until they are used up.

5. Add the cooled caramel and dredged fruits and gently fold in. Pour batter into a greased cake pan and smooth the top.

6. Bake for 50-55 mins until the top turns a dark brown and when a skewer inserted into the cake comes out with dry crumbs. You can start checking from 45 mins but usually in our oven, it takes up to 55 mins. The top will look like it's overdone but don't worry, make sure the inside is also completely cooked.

7. Dust with icing sugar when the cake is completely. cooled (you can also hide any cracks on top with this ;)

Kerala Plum Cake | Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe


1. The amount of fruits and types of it is entirely up to you. I'd recommend to use orange peels if you can because it enhances the flavour a lot.

2. We are not huge fans of raisins in Christmas cake, so we adjust the quantity of that. You can do the same.

3. If you plan to ice the cake, reduce sugar by 1/3 cup. This cake is sweet enough on it's own.

4. I haven't made this cake myself, all observations and notes are from amma and her memory. If you try this, please let me know :)

5. Omana Paul has another type of Christmas Cake which they call the rich dark plum cake. That cake is sticky, almost black, very rich, and quite alcoholic. If I can get my hands on that, and the recipe, will post soon!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

December 14, 2011

Bengali Fish Fry | Mach Bhaja Recipe

It's no secret that Malayalis and Bengalis love fish! There are several varieties of fish recipes from both Kerala and Bengal so it's always best to get cracking from the basics.

The basic Kerala fish fry recipe uses ginger and garlic (we also add shallots and curry leaves at home) in addition to the basics like chilly powder and turmeric.

The basic Bengali fish fry, however, is even simpler. It's essentially a 5-ingredient recipe.

Bengali Fish Fry Recipe | Macch Bhaja Recipe

This was made my a friend when we visited their place for dinner. She had marinated the fish in advance but it all came together in less than 10 minutes.

Easy Bengali Fish Fry Recipe
Serves 3-4

6 (steak) pieces of king fish or hilsa, cleaned
2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
2 tbsp lime juice


1. Mix the cleaned fish pieces with the rest of the ingredients and let marinate for 4 hours.

2. Heat a pan and add about 1/2 cup oil. Shallow fry the fish in medium-low heat until both sides are charred but not completely fried up. Be gentle when turning the fish over.

Bengali Fish Fry Recipe | Macch Bhaja Recipe


- This fish fry recipe can be used as a base for you to add on to. You can add more masala powders, pepper powder, ginger garlic paste, etc.

- Serve with dal and steamed rice for a simple meal. It won't be too spicy or heavy.

- Serve with freshly sliced onions and lemon. Yum!

December 12, 2011

Orange Fruit Cake with Toffee Sauce

Although I do agree that fruit cakes must be baked and had at Christmas time, they are not my favourite kind. So I try to work around that by making fruit cakes but with only one fruit. That counts, right?

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce

This cake recipe started off somewhere else entirely and ended up as an orange cake. SJ and I were discussing a book she recommended (more on that in a later post) and she sent me the recipe for a lemon loaf cake that she said I must try.

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce

Now, as a general rule, which I only sometimes break, I don't like lemon-based desserts. Here's an exception. I love lemon or lime and the flavour but not so much in sweet things. So I decided substituting orange in a lemon cake recipe can't be all bad.

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce

The batter is extremely fragrant and if you decide to spice it up, even better. Use fresh orange zest, none of that dried stuff please!

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce

The cake bakes up nice and spongy and doesn't rise too much so don't panic. I decided to do away with the lemon glaze recipe that comes with the lemon loaf cake and use the toffee sauce that goes so well with the sticky date cake (another great cake for the Christmas season!) that I have now baked countless times.

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce

The cake calls for vegetable oil and usually I am wary of using oil in cakes (I have tried a few with mixed results) but I needn't have worried at all. It worked like a charm.

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce

One-Bowl Orange Fruit Cake with Toffee Sauce
Makes one large 8" cake
Adapted very loosely from Piece of Cake

1.5 cups regular flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 C vegetable oil
2 tsp fresh orange zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

How I Made It:

1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

2. Add eggs, sour cream, oil, orange zest and vanilla to the flour mixture. Using an electric blender on med-low speed, beat for 1 min, until blended. Scrap sides and bottom, beat on med. speed for 1 min. If beating by hand, do it briskly in one direction for about 3-4 mins until well blended and you can't see traces of flour sticking out.

3. Spread batter in greased cake pan or loaf pan.

4. Bake at 350F / 180C for 50-55min. Let cool in the pan for 10mins.

5. Poke holes all over warm cake with a fork and pour the toffee sauce over it. Cool completely before cutting and serving.

Store leftover cake in the refrigerate and bring to room temperature or microwave in low heat for 1 min before serving.

Toffee Sauce Recipe
Makes 1 cup and a bit more

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 t salt
1/2 cup cream (I use whipping cream)
6 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
1tsp vanilla extract

How to:

In a pan, combine sugar, cream, salt and butter. Bring to a boil whisking continuously. Reduce heat and simmer whisking for 2mins till sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Let it cool for 5mins or till slightly thickened. Pour over cake while still warm.

This sauce can be refrigerated for up to a week and used on any dessert or ice cream of choice. It's delicious and gets it's consistency back by microwaving on low heat or leaving out for 10 mins at room temperature.

One-Bowl Orange Cake with Toffee Sauce


- To make this orange cake a christmas cake, add 1 tsp cinnamon powder and 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder to the above recipe. You can also try adding 1/2 tsp fresh garam masala to make it spicier.

- When measuring flour, use the scoop and sweep method - ie - scoop flour loosely into the measuring cup and when full, sweep the excess off the top.

- This is a one-bowl cake and is very easy to put together so there's no need for creaming of butter and sugar or sifting of dry ingredients. Using an electric mixer makes the mixing process more uniform so I would recommend that.

December 10, 2011

Curd Rice Recipe | Thayir Sadam | South Indian Curd Rice

Curd rice needs no introduction to a South Indian. Or maybe any Indian. The most striking thing about being married to a Tamil Brahmin is the addition of curd rice to my daily diet. TH cannot do without at least a spoonful of curd rice at the end of each meal, if we are having rice and curry. He is not very particular about rasam and is fine if I make only one kozhambu and two side dishes but curd is not subject to compromises, ever!

So I always have a good amount of curd in the fridge and proceed to make the next bowl if the current one is depleting. This is extra-advantageous after a long day at work and neither of us feel up to cooking or going out for dinner.

I don't find just curd and rice with pickles a justifiable meal because I feel it doesn't have even nutrition, comforting as it is. So I have a 'fortified' version adding as much vegetables as can be eaten raw. I also make this Iyengar-style curd rice or Daddojanam and Bagala Bath quite often so do check that recipe out too. Quick tip - here are detailed notes on how to make curd at home.

Curd Rice Recipe | Thayir Sadam | South Indian Curd Rice

Here's my method of preparing curd rice that I stick to more or less each time we have only curd rice for dinner.

Curd Rice | Thayir Sadam Recipe
Serves: 2
Preparation time: 15 mins

4 cups cooked rice
1 cup thick curd / plain yogurt
Half cup or so water
1 grated carrot
1/4 cup grated cucumber
1/2 tsp grated ginger
A bunch of fresh coriander leaves, chopped fine
A pinch of salt
For tempering:
2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp urad dal / ulutham paruppu
A pinch of hing / asafoetida / perungaayam
2 red chillies, torn into small pieces

How to make Curd Rice (Thayir Sadam):

1. Mash the rice with a potato masher. Add the curd and water and mix well.
2. To this, add the chopped coriander and grated vegetables and mix well.
3. Heat oil in a pan and add the ingredients for tempering. When the mustard seeds pop, remove from fire and add to the rice. Mix well with salt.

If the consistency is too thick, add some more water / curd. If you keep this for long, the rice will absorb the water and make it thick, so adjust accordingly.

Curd Rice Recipe | Thayir Sadam | South Indian Curd Rice

Isn't this so much nicer and prettier than normal boring curd rice? ;) Serve with your favourite pickle like no-oil lime pickle or sweet mango pickle.

December 9, 2011

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

Although our new office is now very close to Marina Bay Sands, I haven't gone that side in the evening. So when Sohail suggested we head there for a team dinner, I agreed. I had heard good things about Punjab Grill, managed by Jiggs Kalra, especially some recent awards they won in India.

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

The tandoor dishes in Punjab Grill was supposedly top notch. It's a fine dining place, so obviously a bit on the expensive side, so reserve for special occasions. Sohail, Armin, and I were definitely headed there for a special occasion :)

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

We each ordered Shikanjvi, which is a Punjabi Specialty - flavoured lemonade with salt, sugar, black salt, and a dash of cumin seeds. It was a bit too strong for me and it's a large drink.
Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

For starters we got paneer tikka...

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

... and chicken tikka.

The paneer was extremely soft and fresh but was mostly bland. I was quite disappointed since this was one of their specialties. However, the chicken tikka more than made up for it. It's easily one of the best chicken tikkas I have had, both in India and in Singapore. It's a signature dish so they add the regular spices in the marinade and their own special touch. Whatever that is, it worked.

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

While we were waiting for the main course, we got complimentary amuse bouche - aloo tikki. It was nice. Nothing to write home about but nice to munch on as we waited.

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

Main course was aloo paratha, butter nan, dal makhani, and butter chicken (murgh makhani).

The aloo paratha was too thick and not made of atta, but maida. Doesn't get a thumbs up from me.

Nan was good, but not special.

I am not a huge fan of dal makhani but as far as dal makahnis go, this one was in the top 5%. Creamy, cooked perfectly, and good.

The butter chicken, ah, now the butter chicken is delicious. Must-try!

You would think that we would be quite full at this stage but no, we ordered dessert, especially since I saw the lichi ki tehri in the menu which is my favourite dessert from Sahib Sindh Sultan (btw, management of Sahib Sindh Sultan, you are most welcome to open up a restaurant in Singapore. You have my full blessings!).

Yeah, so lichi ki tehri and rasmalai was ordered.

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

The rasmalai was a bigger portion than I expected. It was spongy and everything, but the surrounding milk syrup was too watery. I wish they had thickened it up a bit more. The sweetness level was just right though and probably this was for the best because our meal itself had been pretty heavy.

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

The lichi ki tehri was sweeter but can't really be compared to the awesomeness they serve in Sahib Sindh Sultan. It was still very good, especially if you haven't tasted the "real deal" in SSS.

One other highlight of the meal was the final paan shot that they served, again, complimentary. It is liquid paan in a shot glass and it's delicious! A great way to round off the meal.

Punjab Grill at Marina Bay Sands - Restaurant Review

Overall, the meal was good, the ambience was great, and the company and conversation - superb. A good dinner out was had and 300 SGD paid for the three of us.

Yep, I told you. Not the cheapest place, but worth it if you order the right things. Don't forget that chicken tikka and butter chicken.

They also have a power lunch menu at Punjab Grill which looks very decent for SGD 40. Hoping to try that out with TH soon.

Punjan Grill
B1-01A, Galleria Level, 
The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands

Ph: +65 6688 7395

**excuse the noisy quality of pics. All taken in pretty dim light (remember, fancy restaurant!) with my Nexus S while trying to look sophisticated.  

December 7, 2011

Snowball Cookies | Eggless Snowball Cookies | Christmas Cookies Recipe

Snowball Cookies | Christmas Cookies Recipe

Anns Bakery in Kottayam will always remind me of their cashew snowball cookies which I used to eat by the packet when I was a kid. They were not cheap (nothing from Anns is cheap) but when we buy them at home, I would gobble them up. Snowball cookies form a delicious part of my childhood memories.

Snowball Cookies | Christmas Cookies Recipe

I knew I would bake them one day and I knew it would be when I was feeling particularly homesick, and that's exactly what happened. I was compiling this list of Christmas Recipes from Kerala and felt like I had to have some cookies - and they had to be snowball cookies!

I used pecans, one of my favourites, in the cookies. You can substitute with walnuts (I am not a fan of them) or cashew nuts. Anns uses cashew nuts so for more "authentic snowball cookies", try this recipe with cashew nuts, lightly roasted. And yes, these are eggless too, perfect for Christmas!

December 5, 2011

Drumstick Leaves Rasam Recipe - Easy South Indian Rasam Recipes

I don't know very many recipes with Drumstick Leaves beyond the usual poriyal and thoran and I had a couple of fistful of drumstick leaves left over after making muringayila thoran.

drumstick leaves rasam | muringayila rasam recipe

I stored them in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 days and then decided to just give up trying too hard and throw them into a rasam. It was delicious! If you love rasam recipes, here are my favourites from this site - instant tomato rasam, pepper rasam, and Mysore rasam.

drumstick leaves rasam | muringayila rasam recipe
Fresh Drumstick Leaves

Drumstick Leaves Rasam Recipe
Serves 4

1.5 cups of drumstick leaves, picked and cleaned
A lemon-sized tamarind ball soaked in 2 cups water, juice extracted, and pulp discarded
1 tomato, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic
1/8 tsp of turmeric powder
2 - 3 tbsp of rasam powder
3 tbsp of cookied and mashed toor dal (optional)
Salt to taste
For tempering:
2 tsp ghee or oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp powdered jeera / cumin seeds
A generous pinch of asafoetida / hing

How I Made It:

1. Place the tamarind water, rasam powder, drumstick leaves, tomato, turmeric, peeled garlic cloves slightly crushed, and salt in a pan. Bring to boil and simmer until the leaves are cooked (don't taste raw) and the tomatoes and garlic are soft.

2. Add the cooked dal, if using, and bring to boil again. Remove from fire.

3. Heat a small tadka / tempering pan with the ghee or oil and add the rest of the ingredients for tempering. When the mustard seeds start popping, dunk the entire contents of the pan into the rasam. Mix well,

Enjoy hot with steamed rice. I am sure drumstick leaves sambar will also taste great. Maybe next time!

December 3, 2011

DMBLGiT Nov 2011 - The Winners

This has been a short short month for me. I had to go on a couple of short yet intensive work trips and an assortment of social events and a holiday party that has left me drained and dreading my hair iron. I am sorry for the delay in posting the results of the November 2011 DMBLGiT photo contest. The judges did a great job and for the most part we were pretty consistent in our scoring. So much so that a couple of categories actually tied up and I had to do a quick round 2 to make the final decision.

Enough of my yada-yada. Here are the winners!

Overall Winners

First place: Soma of eCurry with her Strawberry Basil Ice-Cream. She is way ahead of everyone else in terms of her scores and also scored high for originality.

Second place: Chang Pick Yin of PickYin's Place with her Chicken with Rice and Mushrooms

Third place: there's a tie!

Pamela of Unodedos with her Cherry Tomato, Mozzarella, and Zucchini Pie

and Vidya of Kurry Leaves with her Prawns and Drumstick Curry

We also picked one winner from each of the individual categories used for judging - Edibility, Originality, and Aesthetics. The winners in this category are chosen outside of the overall winners above. 

Winner of Edibility Category

Jasenka of Sweet Corner with her Pumpkin Cheesecake

Winner of Originality Category

Claude-Olivier of 1001 Recettes with her image titled "Autumn is coming..."

Winner of Aesthetics Category

Karen of Citrus and Candy with her Vietnamese Chicken Salad

If you want to take a peek at all the entries, here's the Picasa Gallery. Huge thanks to the judges once again, and also to Andrew for giving me the opportunity to host DMBLGiT this month. It was fun and totally worth all the spreadsheet and excel-crunching I had to do! If you are interesting in being a host of a future edition of DMBLGiT, find details here on how to go about it. 

DMBLGiT December 2011 Edition will be hosted by Arundhuti of My Saffron Kitchen

December 1, 2011

My Favourite Measuring Spoons - Endurance Measuring Spoons

When you get started on baking, one of the first things you need to buy is a good set of measuring spoons and cups. I used the basic set of 5 from Ikea before I came across these.

Best Cheap Measuring Spoons

Now, it may not look like much but these are amazing! The biggest advantage is their smart design. Since the spoon heads are elongated, they get easily into even the narrowest spice bottles and baking powder tins. Before I got this, I realised I was tapping my baking powder into the measuring spoon and spilling some in the process, not to mention measuring somewhat inaccurately. These are steel so using and cleaning is a breeze too. They are also quite heavy and sturdy so I am guessing they will last forever.
Best Cheap Measuring Spoons
sorry for the wrong watermark on this pic! oops :D
Measuring spoons are definitely among the top 10 things you should buy when you just start baking. Here's a handy post I did for beginner bakers who are just getting started with baking. I have listed a few items that you should go and get first to get started on baking the most basic cakes and cookies.

If you are a beginner baker and have any question on how to get started baking (especially in India), do leave a comment and I will try my best to help.

I bought these Endurance Measuring Spoons from but Amazon seems to have them too.

Note: Not a paid post. Just sharing a kitchen tool I really like!