Monday, September 30, 2013

Apple and Feta Whole Wheat Crackers. And all about SmartEats

A couple of days before we were leaving a box of goodies arrived at home in Delhi. This box from SmartEats meant that I had I needed to photograph, eat and give my feedback rather quickly. And while I did eat and give my feedback, I wasn't able to photograph the box.

So my uber talented friend Passionate About Baking, lent me a hand and gave me her photographs, because after all she'd got the same box too.

Ok, ok so I'm rambling. Let's start at the beginning shall we? SmartEats is a company that is making 100 per cent natural snacks which are made with whole grains, so that they are high in fiber and micro nutrients. In other words, a box of healthy goodness.

Starting what they call a "Healthy Eating movement", SmartEats wants to ensure that we have an option to eat something healthy and delicious. Their main idea is to have a monthly membership where a new box with five new snacks will be delivered to your doorstep. Baked, roasted, full of fruits and nuts, there's a lot in store for you if you become a member.

Oh and do you know my other uber talented friend Sangeeta Khanna? She's the recipe scientist  for Smart Eats and she's made quite a few of these delicious snacks.

In my box, which was called the first box, I got five snacks  - crackers, cookies, dehydrated fruit, roasted mix and roasted nuts. I loved how neatly it was all packed and couldn't help but grab and open everything and eat. I've broken my experience down into taste, packaging, look and my take

1. Honey Chilli Nuts

Taste: Crisp, spicy and sweet. This nut mix was perfect and I couldn't stop popping them
Look: The sizes of the almonds were very even, which made them look very pretty
Packaging: Was perfect
My Take: These were quite perfect, and I'm really looking forward to a fresh new flavour

2. Parsley Pepper Crackers

Taste: Crisp, cheese and herby.
Look: The crackers weren't evenly cut, but that was a good thing. Since it made it feel more home-made and less factory-made.
Packaging: These crackers should have come vacuum-packed. They retain the crispness longer and would also not be subject to breakage
My Take: While I really liked how they tasted, I thought they were too thick. These paired beautifully with a bit of marmalade and cheese though

3. Very Berry Strawberry

Taste: Sweet and chewy. Taste of the fruit came out beautifully
Look: Perfect
Packaging: Was perfect for the fruit
My Take: I was a bit surprised to see liquid glucose as a part of the ingredients, but I suppose with dehydrated fruit you do need a flavour enhancer. I did think letting the strawberries remain slightly tart might have helped with the health angle.

4. Oatmeal Chewy Cookies

Taste: Chewy, not sweet and too doughy
Look: Like home-made cookies
Packaging: These cookies should have definitely been vacuum-packed. Because by the time they got to me they were soggy. While a replacement was sent, I still felt that it's essential to keep air out if it
My Take: Least-favourite of the lot for me and you know I love me a cookie. The weren't sweet, they felt too oaty and the mouthfeel was rather undercooked. The almonds made for a wonderful addition but this is something that needs a bit of rework.

5. Lean bean mix

Taste: Spicy, crispy and quite a party in the mouth
Look: Perfect, with bits of baked beans
Packaging: While I have no complaints about the mix being soggy, I do wish this was vacuum-packed as well.
My Take: This was a lovely mix, but I found it a little too spicy for my taste. I mixed with with a bit of plain puffed rice, which balanced the flavours and then I made a bhel with the same concoction which didn't need any additional spices.

All in all, I'd like to give this box 3.5 on 5. I think with a few twists and changes, it'll get its five star rating. And you can order your box from here.

But having eaten all these healthy snacks, I felt it was time for me to make a go at baking something that could be eaten relatively guilt-free especially when that 6 pm hunger pangs take over.

So the other day from the farmer's market, I bought some artisanal feta. While it was a great cheese, it was unfortunately not salty enough for me. I was wondering what to do with it, when inspiration struck, I'd bake some crackers.

These crackers are quite unlike crackers that you've eaten. These are double-baked, almost biscotti like crackers that use only the fat off the cheese. One tip though, you must let the dough rest and then bake it for a loooong time on low temperature.

Apple and Feta Whole wheat crackers
Makes 60 small crackers

3 cups grated apple
1 cup feta
1 cup almonds slivered
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp paprika


1. In a bowl mix together the whole wheat, sugar, salt and paprika
2. In a bigger bowl mix together the apple and feta and slowly add the almonds
3. Add the wholewheat mix in one go, mix well, resisting the urge to need. The dough will be very wet, so you might need a bit more flour, but resist that urge too
4. Let this dough rest for atleast 2 hours in the fridge or overnight.
5. Divide and shape into logs and bake for 40 minutes at 160 degrees.
6. Take out and let it cool, slice thinly and bake for a further 30 minutes at 150 degrees or until dehydrated and crisp.
7. Store in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chocolate Pudding Pie Shots

I love love lurrrrve this recipe. It is my go to recipe. It's also my fall back. And the best part is that it hardly takes any time to make (chilling it is another matter.) But make. Forget. Assemble. Eat.

I've made this twice over since I've moved. For high-tea last week and then for dessert last night. So you can just about imagine how much I love this pud.

The thing is there's something quite fantastic about making pudding from scratch. You can see how the milky mixture thickens, changes colours and tastes so sublime that you want to lick the entire bowl.

The great thing about this pudding is that it is so versatile that you can play with it as much as you like. Like bananas? Make it into this Chocolate Banana Pudding. Like nutella? stir in a couple of teaspoons of the hazelnut spread into one part of the pudding and layer it. Peanut butter? Coconut? Orange? Really just about anything works with this pud.

But here's what I really think of the pudding:
1. Use good quality chocolate. Like really good. I used Ghiradelli Semi Sweet.
2. If you're using milk chocolate, do add a heaped tablespoon of Cocoa powder
3. If you want to go eggless, just up the cornflour and omit the yolk
4. Be patient. Let it simmer and thicken on low flame. It takes less than 10 minutes to thicken.
5. If you see lumps, strain. I've never had lumps, cause I'm patient.
6. Don't omit the whipped cream, it really adds a dimension to the pud pie

You can make this as a whole pie, but the pie shots are so much more fun to eat, and also good for portion control no?

'Nuf said. Time for the recipe

Chocolate Pudding Pie Shots
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection: Pie & Tart

Makes 10 Pie Shots
Or 1 8 –inch pie


For the crust:
8 Oreo biscuits crushed

For the filling:

1 ¼ cup whole milk
80 grams semi sweet chocolate
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup plus two tblsp sugar
1 tblsp cocoa powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ tblsp cornstarch
¾ tsp vanilla extract

For the Topping:
½ cup heavy cream
1 tblsp icing sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
A couple of crushed biscuits to garnish

1. In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the milk and chocolate. Whisk them occasionally until the chocolate is melted.
2. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and sugar, whisking them until pale yellow. Add cornstarch, salt and vanilla.
3.Slowly pour the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, whisking them well.
4. Return the mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat until it thickens and begins to bubble slowly, about 7 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and stir the mixture until it’s smooth, about 1 minute.
5.  Cover it with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface, and refrigerate it for 2 hours.

For the Topping: Using an electric mixer fitted with a whisk (whip) attachment, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla on medium-high until stiff peaks form.

1. Use a spoon to press down the crushed biscuits into shot glasses.
2. Spoon in chocolate pudding into each glass carefully.
3.Spoon the whipped cream onto the pud,  being careful not to disturb the chocolate pudding underneath.
4. Decorate with crushed chocolate cookies
5. Refrigerate the pie until ready to serve, but let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pinterest Picks: Wraps and Rolls

One of the first meals that I ate in Islamabad was a Grilled Chicken Wrap. Granted it was in Nando's alright, but it just felt like the right thing to eat here. The chicken was super succulent and I loved how well the hummus and the garlic chilli sauce worked.

Ever since that, I've eaten quite a few rolls around town. There was a lovely crispy chicken roll with mayo and mustard, a seekh roll with lots of onions and mint and coriander chutney, and a roll with mexican beans and salsa - a burrito- but not quite.

Which is why for this month's Pinterest Picks, I'm going to be featuring some of the funnest wraps and rolls that can give a new meaning to lunch. Or dessert. Or anytime in between.

Oh and are you following me on Pinterest yet?

1. Soft Taco Wraps

2. Thai Chicken Satay Wrap

3. Cucumber Avocado Summer Roll

4.  Baked Taquito Rolls

5.  Eggplant Wrap

6.  Prawn and Coconut Wraps

7.  Egg wraps

8. Cream cheese and fruit wraps

9.  Nutella wrap

10. Cinnamon cream rolls

Monday, September 16, 2013

Meyer Lemon and Poppy Seed Pound Cake. And visiting the Farmer's Market at Kuch Khaas

One of the most exciting things about moving to a new place is discovering all that it holds for you. New places to eat, new places to shop at and new places to go to. Discovering a whole new city is super fun, especially for someone like me who loves stumbling upon the good things in life.

I was told about Kuch Khaas on the plane. We travelled with Beena Sarwar, who was so generous about sharing information about Pakistan. And everything I learnt about the place, I seemed to like it more. Within in the week, I checked it out on Facebook, and then promptly forgot about it while getting the house sorted and then finally at the end of August I went back on to check what treats September had for us.

And I was gutted. I'd missed the Farmer's Market that was held that very day. But the good news was that it was on every Saturday! So the next Saturday, armed with my camera, I left for the market, with well, almost zero expectations.

This was not your ordinary subzi mandi, this was almost Portobello Road -esque, albeit a lot smaller. There was organic milk, fresh cheeses, bottled preserves, hand-made pasta, honey, bread right out of the oven, organic eggs, fish, vegetables and basil, oh so much basil.

I was thrilled. I was in my own candy store of fresh produce, and while not a lot of it was organic, plenty of the food around was natural. Two things I couldn't resist buying were the meyer lemons and the thai birds eye chilli. Oh and the quark ofcourse. 

I sat down to take in all the sights and sounds. It was just such a lovely feeling stumbling into something familiar yet so different. 

And I couldn't help myself, I had to go back again. This week, I bought beautiful ricotta and artisanal feta and plenty of lemongrass. Oh and a reprise on the milk. 

Back to the produce. The quark was really quite fabulous and I was in half a mind of making a cheesecake but instead I ended up making a roasted peach and honey and quark layered pudding. 

But the Farmer's Market deserved a recipe, so I decided to focus on the Meyer lemons, which needed a few days to turn yellow and they smelt so gorgeous that I knew something had to be done about them.

I'd bought a whole bunch of poppy seeds at the local grocers, and oddly the black poppy seeds which are available all over the world, weren't available so I settled for the white ones. Not like they make any difference to the taste. 

I roasted the poppy seeds so that their natural nuttiness come through beautiful and zested the lemons and rubbed them into the sugar. 

I made four mini loaves, because I find the sizes a lot easier to give away and deal with, but you can do ahead and make a large loaf. 

The Meyer lemons were super tart, yet had a surprisingly refreshing flavour, which made the cake taste quite different from the cakes I've made back at home. Oh and the fragrance. To-die-for.

I still have two huge lemons leftover and I can't wait to make something fun with it, but in the meanwhile, come and visit me in Isloo? No, ok just make this cake then.

Meyer Lemon and Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Adapted from Sweet Pea's Kitchen

100 grams unsalted butter
3/4 cup cake flour 
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/2  cup plus two tablespoon granulated sugar 
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest plus 2 teaspoons juice from 2 medium lemons
2 large eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the Lemon Syrup:
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
For the Lemon Glaze:
1 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease bottom and sides  loaf pans; dust with flour, tapping out excess.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, toss 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture and poppy seeds together, set aside.
  4. In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave butter, covered with plastic wrap, at full power until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk melted butter thoroughly to reincorporate any separated milk solids.
  5. In a bowl mix sugar and zest until combined, let it sit for a bit. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla; and beat well. Drizzle the butter in gently.  Sift flour mixture over eggs in three steps, whisking gently after each addition until just combined. Fold poppy seed mixture into batter after flour is incorporated.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees and continue to bake until deep golden brown and skewer inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn onto wire rack.
  7. While the loaf is cooling, make the lemon syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir together the lemon juice and sugar until the sugar is completely dissolved. Once dissolved, continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Remove from the heat; set aside.
  8. Use a toothpick to poke holes in the tops and sides of the warm loaf. Brush the top and sides of the loaf with the lemon syrup. Let the syrup soak into the cake and brush again. Let the cake cool completely.
  9. To make the lemon glaze, in a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 2-3 tablespoons of the lemon juice. The mixture should be thick but pourable. Add up to another tablespoon of lemon juice if the mixture is too stiff. Pour the lemon glaze over the top of each loaf and let it drip down the sides. Let the lemon glaze harden, about 15 minutes, before serving.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mini Banana Bundt Cake with Caramel Sauce

So I've moved. Not to another blog, but to another country. The irony isn't lost on me, because I am just across the border from India, it's truly a case of so near yet so far.

It's been almost a month since I moved to Islamabad - I've felt happy, sad, homesick, kitchensick, bored, helpless and most of all lonely. Moving from a place where I was so busy that I had no time for myself to a place where I have to find ways to keep myself entertained (which includes stalking the whole world on Facebook), I've more or less mastered the art of doing nothing.

But with the painting in the house all done and over with and the moving boxes arrived, I have slowly started to set up my kitchen. Which is a good thing, because I have something to do, I was really missing pottering around the kitchen.

The good thing about my new (old!!!) kitchen is that I have a gas-oven, or as my friend NC pointed out the other day - an aga. So everytime I want to bake something, I have to fire up the oven (finally know where that phrase comes from). 

To be honest, I'm quite scared to fire up the oven. Firstly I am terrible around matchsticks, it takes me five tries to even light one, secondly what if it blows up on my face. So I've found a surefire quick solution to that. - I ask the husband to fire up the oven.

But that said, I think I've finally found my groove with the aga. So one of the first things I baked in it was a banana bread, only because I had a whole bunch of over ripe bananas staring at me from across the counter.

These bundt cakes came to me on another such day when them ripe bananas were giving me the stink eye. I was in the mood for some dark caramel and the fact that I had a spot of cream sitting pretty in the fridge also sped the process a bit.

Because they are so itty-bitty, they took barely 10 - 12 minutes of baking, which was great, because by the time I made the caramel sauce, they were cooled and ready to be drizzled.

I won't lie, I adapted the mini bundts from my favourite Nigella Lawson recipe and added a bit of my imagination to it, The result? A lovely moist cake made richer by a fool-proof caramel sauce.

Mini Banana Bundt Cake with Caramel Sauce


For the cake
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3 tblsp water
  • 2/3 cup wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 5 tblsps melted butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • egg
  • 4 small very ripe bananas (mashed)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder




4. INCORPORATE THE RAISINS AND whisk well ensuring that all the ingredients have merged well. 
5. pour into buttered and floured mini bundt tins and bake for 10 minutes on 160 degree centigrade in a pre-heated oven.
6. Meanwhile make the sauce by caramelising sugar over low heat till it starts to smoke. Keep an eye on it since you dont want it to burn but ensuring it looks dark amber. this will take about 7 minutes, almost 10.
7. Once the sugar has caramelised, turn off the heat and add the butter and cream, note that your caramel sauce will bubble, but be patient and be safe.
8. Whisk well and voila your caramel sauce is ready. 
9. Pour over the banana bundts and enjoy your day.