Enjoy Winter Nights the Italian Way

Mmmmmmm…!!!

I just had a cup of the BEST hot chocolate this planet has to offer.

I’m still drooling. Forgive me.

*shakes head to get out of dreamworld* This is the bestest hot chocolate I’ve come across in my whole life! Steaming hot, almost as thick as pudding, great with or without marshmallows/whipped cream: I’ve finally discovered the true taste of Love. One sip –> Addiction!

Sadly, I drunk it as soon as I poured it into the cup, and so, I’m left with a burnt tongue and no pictures. But, this is just proof of how fantastic this Italian delight is! I must say, Italians are geniuses ^_^

Without boring you guys any further, here goes this MARVELLOUS recipe:

Ingredients (for one cup):

4 tablespoons roughly chopped chocolate (I used Hershey’s milk chocolate chips but a bittersweet chocolate like Cadbury Bournville would definitely be much better)

3/4 cup milk

1 tsp cornflour

1/2 tbsp sugar (if using milk chocolate chips but use 1 if using bittersweet chocolate)

a pinch of salt

Method:

Heat the chocolate along with a tablespoon of the milk in a saucepan, until the chocolate has just melted. Keep stirring with a silicon/rubber/wooden spoon/spatula throughout the cooking process. Slowly, pour in the remaining milk. Add the sugar. After the sugar has dissolved, quickly add the cornflour and keep stirring so no lumps form. Now keep cooking (and stirring) over low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and pour into a cup. You may drink it immediately, and get your tongue burnt 😉 Or, you may wait a minute or so, but then, a thick coating forms on the surface, so you have to stir it before drinking. Needless to say, you’ll enjoy it! 😀

I’d love to hear about your first experience with this so please…comment below! 🙂

Microwavable Treats

All around everybody’s like: “Microwaves are HARMFUL!” “The radiations can cause cancer!” “Don’t use a microwave…EVER!!!” and yada yada yada… *yawn*

But who cares when you can be assured that a microwave would enable you to whip up some really scrumpilicious, chocolaty treats in a couple minutes just when you’re craving for a no-energy-wasting-midnight-snack? And the best part: it’s single serve! 😀

Mini Chocolate Cake

  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp good quality cocoa powder (try Hershey’s)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar (if you don’t have it at home, grind normal granulated sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla essence
  • To garnish: Nuts, Bananas, Chocolate chips, Multicoloured sprinkles, Vanilla/Chocolate/Cookies and Cream ice-cream, Chocolate syrup, Mini marshmallows etc.

In a small bowl, combine together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and sugar. Add in the egg, milk, oil and vanilla essence and stir well so no lumps remain. Lightly oil (or spray) a cappuccino cup and pour in the cake batter. Microwave on high for two minutes.

This cake tastes great, but tends to have a little dry, slightly rubbery texture, so serve it with chocolate syrup, ice-cream or fruit.

Gooey Chocolate Brownie

  • 6 tbsp (sweetened) hot chocolate mix (I used Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate)
  • 4 tbsp all-purpose flour or maida
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3 tbsp water
  • Milk, if batter seems too thick
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla essence
  • Chocolate chips

In a cappuccino mug, mix the flour and drinking chocolate mix. Add the oil, water and essence and mix it well using a fork or spoon. If batter seems thick and hard to stir, add in a little, just a little milk. Fold in the chocolate chips. Microwave on high first for 60 seconds. If not done, microwave for 10 10 seconds more until the sides are cooked and center is molten. Now, you have an option: either wait a couple of minutes for it cool down, or dump a heaped spoonful in your mouth as soon as you take it out of the microwave, and get your tongue burnt like I did.

Chocolate Chip Cookie

  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 egg yolk
  • Just a little less than 1/4 cup all-purpose flour or maida
  • Chocolate chips
  • Chopped nuts, if you want

In a cappuccino cup, stir together the melted butter, sugars, vanilla and salt. Add in the yolk and mix well. Add the flour and mix again. Fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Microwave for 40-50 seconds (in any case, less than a minute). It will have a soft center and golden brown edges. Serve immediately.

It’s Iftar Time!

Almost 1/3 of Ramadan has passed by. There’s very little time left till a joyous Eid. But to make this Eid really joyful for all of us, we need to work hard to attain it. Working hard here, obviously, does include fasting from Fajr to Maghrib, but it also means abstaining from lies, mockery, physical and verbal abuse, and all other forms of sins. Leaving food and drink alone is not enough. Our fasts should be accompanied by intense devotional activity-Ibaadah.

Sahih Bukhari :: Book# 31 :: Hadith# 127

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)”

God is so merciful on us that after every fast, we have a good Iftar waiting for us on our dining tables. In this condition, we must be thankful to Him for all the countless blessings He has bestowed on us, His subjects, His people. And what will make our lives even better is charity. As a follower of Islam specially and a human being generally, it is duty on the well-to-do Muslims among us to donate generously to the poor and the needy, so they can have a Sehr and an Iftar, and clean, presentable clothes to wear on Eid, along with the other necessities of life; they should not suffer like this:

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Here are some ‘typical’ Iftar recipes which are a favourite at my home. They make ample servings for eating at home and sharing with our neighbours, relatives, friends and most importantly, those people of our society who really do need our help and support.

PAKORAS

For the batter:

  • Very approximately 1/2 pao or 125 g of besan (gram or chickpea flour)
  • Just a little less than 1 tsp salt
  • Just a little less than 1 tsp red chili powder
  • Approximately 1/4 tsp baking soda (meetha soda, khanay ka soda whatever)
  • 3-4 pinches each of cumin seeds (zeera) and coriander seeds (sabut dhaniya)
  • Water, as required

(I’m really really sorry for all the approximate measurements. My mother makes this and like all desi mums, she uses approximation and not measurements. This was the best I could do to convert her approximations into measurements.)

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a dry bowl. Add water, little at a time, and mix with fingers until the desired consistency is reached. It should not be as runny as cake batter and definitely not as thick as dough. The consistency should be such that you can scoop up some with your fingers and it does not fall too much but it should still be more liquid than solid. (It’s kind of hard to explain so I’ll upload a picture tomorrow.)

Types of Pakoras:

  • Aaloo (Potato) pakoras

For this much batter, you’ll need around 3 medium to large potatoes. Wash and peel off their skins and cut thin round slices (I sometimes find it easier to use a vegetable peeler to cut very thin slices). I soak them for 15-30 minutes in water, though I do not think it is a very necessary step.

  • Palak (Spinach) pakoras

Remove a few spinach leaves from their stems and wash thoroughly.

  • Sabzi (vegetable) pakoras

You can add pretty much any kind of vegetable to this. My mother adds thinly sliced onions and green chilies, coriander leaves. You could also add grated cabbage, carrots and chopped green onions.

  • Onion pakoras (Desi version of onion rings 😛 )

Cut 1/4 inch slices of medium to large sized onion(s). Separate the individual rings.

Depending upon the type of pakora you’re making, dump the potato slices, spinach leaves, onion rings or vegetables into the batter. Mix with hands so that everything is covered with the batter. Deep fry the potato slices, spinach leaves and onion rings individually. For the vegetable pakoras, scoop up some of the batter and drop it in form of small balls in the oil and then deep fry. When the pakoras are equally golden-brown, remove and place on a newspaper or paper towel to absorb excess oil.

ONION RINGS (the ‘angreji’ version)

  • 1 large onion
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (maida) (Do NOT use besan or gram flour)
  • 1 tsp baking POWDER (this is not exactly a ‘pakora’ as I initially thought so, so don’t add soda)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • Bread crumbs
  • Oil, as needed for deep frying.

Peel and cut the onion into 1/4 inch slices and separate the individual rings. Mix together flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Coat each ring with the flour mixture and set aside. Add the milk and egg into the flour mix and whisk using a fork or wire whisk. In a different plate or tray, spread the breadcrumbs. Dip each onion ring into the batter and let the excess batter drip. Then coat the ring with the breadcrumbs and set aside. Do this until all the rings have been coated. Now, deep fry the rings until golden-brown and place on a paper towel or newspaper to absorb excess oil. Sprinkle salt and pepper if you want and serve.

Couldn't get a better picture..sorry :/

Couldn’t get a better picture..sorry :/

Egg/Spring Rolls

*This recipe makes around 50 rolls.

  • 1/2 kg (approx. 1 pound) Chicken or minced beef
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

I used chicken because of my non-beef/mutton/fish/other seafood brother, though I wanted to use minced beef. You’ll need boiled, shredded chicken. If using minced beef, skip the boiling and shredding step. Marinate the shredded chicken/minced beef with all the other ingredients. Leave for some time.

  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced (or you could just save time and use garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 head of cabbage, shredded
  • 3 carrots, shredded
  • Corn, as much as you want
  • Boiled (with salt) spaghetti or chinese egg noodles (I didn’t measure this, sorry)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp olive/sesame oil
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a wok on high flame. Add the cooking oil and swirl to coat it completely. Add the marinated beef/chicken and stir fry for 2-3 mins (until the beef is done). Push the meat to one side and add the vegetables (cabbage, carrots, garlic, ginger, corn) on the other side. Stir fry until the vegetables have softened. Add the soy sauce, salt, sugar, olive oil and black pepper and mix well. Now throw in the spaghetti and mix everything together. Stir fry for another minute or so. Spread the whole mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a paper towel to blot the filling to get rid of extra juices.

Make the rolls using the wrappers but use only 1 heaped tablespoon of filling per roll. Seal the rolls with layi (flour mixed with cold water to make a paste). Deep fry the rolls in a wok and serve warm, accompanied by ketchup, and chutneys made of coriander leaves or tamarind and dates. I’ll try to upload the recipes for the chutneys as well.

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Please try out these recipes and be sure to tell me if you liked them in the comments.

Have a blessed, Ibaadah-filled Ramadan and don’t forget the poor!

Chocolate Biscuit Cake

Sinful. Delicious. –> The two words that come to my mind when I think of this beauty…

Chocolate Biscuit Cake was what Prince William had on his special day. Yup, he has goooood choice!!! It is what I had never tasted until a few minutes before now. It is what I took to a family dinner yesterday (but never got a chance to taste it :/ ). It is what intrigued me so much that I made it again.

I dunno why but this tastes so much like a magnified Twix bar, and Twix is my all-time favourite chocolate, so I loved this. I guess it was kind of caramel-ish because of the condensed milk.

I first came across this cake on wikihow and then kept googling for recipes until I found a suitable one on edible ireland. I did change the recipe a little according to our taste and here’s the result:

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Although many recipes call for golden syrup to be used, but I chose the condensed milk version because I had condensed milk but not golden syrup at home, and also, because on Edible Ireland, it says that using condensed milk makes it easier to cut the cake. So here goes this MARVELLOUS recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 150 g roughly chopped Milk Chocolate (I used 1 1/2 100g bars of Dairy Milk)
  • 150 g roughly chopped Dark Chocolate (I used Cadbury Bournville. The second time, however, I didn’t have enough Bournville so I added Hershey’s milk chocolate chips because they’re still too dark for me to eat normally)
  • 1/2 cup (100g) diced butter/margarine (Blue Band, of course)
  • 1 tin (400 g) condensed milk (Comelle, my favourite)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp espresso powder* (Nescafe)
  • as many Digestive Biscuits and/or Tea Biscuits (I used Marie biscuits) as you want

*The espresso powder is purely optional, but doesn’t everyone love the taste of coffee+chocolate???!!!

Method:

Melt the chocolates and butter/margarine in a heatproof bowl, either in the microwave, or in a double boiler (the  better option).
Remove from heat and stir in the salt and espresso powder with the help of a rubber/silicon spatula.
Pour in the condensed milk and stir well.
Add the digestive and tea biscuits, broken into 3-5 pieces each. Stir until each and every piece is covered in the chocolate mixture.
Pour this concoction in a lined loaf or springform cake pan. The loaf pan should be lined with plastic wrap (clingfilm). I lined the base of the springform with aluminium foil and plastic wrap on top of that, and lightly oiled the sides.
Refrigerate for at least 3-5 hours (preferably overnight). If you reside in Pakistan, do place it in the freezer overnight.
If you want, you can spread some chocolate, or white/vanilla buttercream frosting on it, but it’s very rich as it is.

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ENJOY!

Floating Islands

I made this totally amazing dish for Eid this year (Technically, by the Islamic lunar calendar, it was last year.) And well, I loved it. My mother didn’t. But I did receive compliments from a few other people as well. Although, I do suspect most of them were just to keep me happy. So I want you all to try it and give me some REAL feedback. Please. 🙂

Floating Islands are basically poached meringues floating on a pool of liquid. In most recipes, the liquid has the thin consistency of milk (somewhat like it), but in this recipe, it’s more custard-ish.

So here goes:

Ingredients:
500 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs, separated
A pinch of salt
70 grams caster sugar
100 ml cream
Caramel syrup, to serve

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You are gonna need at least (The recipe called for even less. But it began finishing so I added more and it turned out perfect.) 500 ml of milk (I used normal, full-fat, pasteurized milk that comes in the box, like the Tetra-Pak packaging.) Add 1 tsp of vanilla essence and heat the mixture on a stove for at least 3-4 minutes. Keep aside.

Whisk the whites of 3 eggs (like MAD) until fully frothy (you know what it looks like). Now add a pinch of salt and approximately, half (or a little less) of 70 grams of caster sugar. Whisk like mad again.

Now for the tough part! Put the milk on the stove again at low heat. Using a rounded tablespoon, spoon 3-4 balls of the egg white mixture onto the milk, gently. Cook for around a minute. Turn over using a silicon/plastic spatula (rubber is too flexible for easy handling and metal destroys everything). Cook for around a minute more. You’ll know when it’s done, because the colour changes slightly and it becomes ‘solid’ (You’ll understand when you see it.) Take the meringues out on a paper towel to dry. Repeat until all the egg whites have been used up.

Strain the milk.

Beat the yolks of the three eggs and the remaining sugar.

Simmer the milk and the sugar-yolk mixture. STIR CONSTANTLY AND DO NOT LEAVE FOR EVEN A FEW SECONDS. That is the only mistake I made, and I ended up with a very lumpy custard. It almost totally destroyed the look. *sniff* 😥 But it made no difference to the taste, thank God!

Remove it from a heat after sometime (4-5 minutes). Let it cool until it’s totally at room temperature. Add 100 ml of cream and mix well.

Pour the custardish liquid out into the glass serving bowl. Put the meringues on the top. Pour caramel syrup on the top (Just heat 150 grams of sugar+100 ml of water until very very light golden, and pour immediately). Serve, Enjoy! Oh…and give me honest feedback please 😛

 

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Experimenting with Cupcakes

So…I was looking up many different videos on Youtube, as well as blog posts on decorating cupcakes, and I found a million ways to do so. I was specially inspired by the “Easy Little Pandas” on Bakerella’s website.

However, when I finally sat down to make them, I found it to be one of the most difficult tasks in the world!

The icing was melting before I could get over the average human reaction time of 0.4 seconds! I overfilled the first batch in ignorance, and the fifth batch in frustration. (Oh God! When will this batter finish?) Really, I am a novice baker!

Still, I managed to make them into something…

Betty Crocker's Super Moist Cupcakes Chocolate Crunch (3 in 1) mix

So I started off with one of my favourite cake mixes…

…Added the required ingredients and gave it a good beating.

 

Greased and lined a mini cupcake tray and poured in the batter (yes, I overfilled it).

 

Then I baked each batch for 8-9 minutes, until I had gotten myself 51 cupcakes.

Here are my ideas on decorating:

 

I spread the Vanilla Frosting that came with the mix on a few, and Betty Crocker’s Rich and Creamy Chocolate Frosting on the remaining. I also left some as it is, because I am one of those very few people who enjoy cake without the frosting.

 

Chocolate Sprinkles on some and Chocolate Crunch (again, with the mix) on others…

Pink and white sprinkles with the chocolate frosting on most of them..
LOL at the two miserable, would-be pandas in the corner 😛

 

And my favourites: Chocolate icing piped with a star-shaped tip, with a red cherry ball in the center ❤