Watermelon Mint Ice – Granita

In the scorching summer all that the heart wants is ICE!! Imagine ice, dripping with a syrup of your favourite flavour (kala-khatta for me) – thats our entire childhood for most of us. If you’ve grown up in a tropical country like India, then your memories can’t be without stories of ice. Sneaking an ice tray from the freezer, eating it and being punished for it was a common thing. Although, the most enjoyable bit was dropping a few cubes down your sibling’s shirt and watching them wiggle all over the place. Aaaahhh… those joyous memories!

In the 80’s, the ice-cream experience was very different from the current times. The vendors would shave ice right in front of you, bind it together with their hands on a stick and drizzle your choice of syrup from the brightly coloured options displayed on their carts. That was a fresh, handmade and customised popsicle for each of us. It was fondly called chuski (Hindi word for sipping or slurping) or barf ka gola, which literally translates to a ball of ice. No ice-cream ever came close to that. However, we thought, in this summertime lets take a trip back to childhood. Interestingly, shaved ice is eaten in many countries in various forms. So, we’ve transformed our memories into a modern fusion recipe.

Here’s a recipe for a granita which find its roots in the very hot island of Sicily, Italy. Granitas are basically shavings of ice (big and small) and are eaten all over Sicily, although each town has its own version. Some have a smooth granita and the others, more coarse. Do it the way you like it best.

You literally need just 3 ingredients for this. A good sweet watermelon, lemons and sugar.

Cut it in pieces and try to remove the seeds. You can cut them in any shape. The size can vary. Go with whatever can fit in the jar of your blender. Cover and put it in the freezer for 4-5 hours.

In the picture above, you can see its just out of the freezer. It should be completely frozen.

Add lemon juice and mint leaves to the frozen watermelon.

Put it in the blender along with sugar and blend. If all of it doesn’t fit in one go, then do it in batches. Be quick so that it doesn’t turn into juice. We want to churn it while its still frozen.

You’ll get a sort of a slush. Transfer it straight away to an aluminium tin to freeze it. Make sure its not very shallow. Your slushy mixture should at least be 2 inches deep so that you can scoop and scrape it later. Although if you only have a flat tin, you can later scape it with a fork or knife.

Once frozen it will be slightly lighter in colour because of the ice crystals.

Scoop it out with an ice-cream scoop or a spoon. A granita is not as smooth as a sorbet. Its flaky and more icy, probably for a cooler experience during the scorching heat. Serve it quickly so that its still frozen.

This is a wonderful idea for a dessert at any time. The watermelon granita has a beautiful tartness because of the lemon juice and a refreshing fragrance from the mint leaves. All the ingredients are very easily available. Its just a refreshing new way of putting them together. You absolutely must try this while watermelon is still in season.

We’re sharing this wonderful recipe to make your summer fun. Let us know in the comments how yours turned out!

Recipe: Watermelon Mint Granita

Ingredients

½ watermelon, peeled and cubed
15-20 mint leaves
juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp sugar

Method

  1. Arrange the watermelon on an aluminium tray and cover. Freeze for 4-5 hours. You can also freeze the watermelon in a zip lock pouch.
  2. Add mint leaves lemon juice and sugar to the water watermelon. Put it in batches in a grinder or food processor and grind to a slushy frozen paste.
  3. Transfer the slush to an aluminium tin and freeze covered overnight.
  4. To serve scrape with a scooper or spoon or fork to create ice and serve immediately garnished with mint leaves.
  5. Adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the watermelon. Serve immediately as it starts melting very fast.

Banana Caramel Cake

Everybody loves banana & caramel and when they’re put together… BOOM!! Its an explosion of flavours enhancing one another. Here is a recipe of a banana cake and you don’t even have to go through the effort of making the caramel here. We’re just going to let the banana caramelise on its own. So here’s an easy-peasy recipe for a banana cake that can satiate any pangs – hunger or desire! This is another very versatile cake. Have it with a cup of coffee in the evening, afternoon tea-time, dessert after any meal or a breakfast. Pssst… we even tried a milkshake with this wondrous cake!!

You need very very basic baking ingredients for this. Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder and vanilla. The additional ingredients are banana (of-course) and we’ll use cinnamon as the spice or flavouring for it. It goes very well with some fruits, especially apples and bananas.

Begin with mashing your bananas with a fork. preheat your oven at 180 C.

Now for this particular cake we are not going to line our cake tin. We will caramelise the sugar and butter and create a sort of glaze. Eventually this is going to create the caramel banana toffee while its baking. Just let this mixture bubble a bit. Don’t stir it much or it won’t caramelise. We used brown sugar here for that dark brown caramelised colour. You can also use regular caster sugar.

If the caramel mixture does not blend well, don’t worry and don’t go on cooking it. Let it bubble for a minute and then spread it at the base of the cake tin. The magic will happen when its in the oven.

Put the caramelised sugar mixture at the base of the tin. So here we are NOT lining the tin for a change. Its getting grease with the sugar-butter mixture and then we place sliced bananas on top. If you like the look of banana split better you can just halve the banana lengthwise and place that. Although, that looks better when you’re making the cake in a loaf tin.

Now, cream your butter and sugar together. You can use a stand mixture, electric beater or a whisk. If you’re using a whisk you’ll have to do it for a much longer time till you get the fluffy and airy mixture. When creamed it turns lighter in colour due to the air that’s been incorporated.

Add eggs to the creamed butter and mix after each addition. Then add the vanilla essence, flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Mix well.

Spread the cake batter evenly and softly over the. Don’t be rough with it otherwise the banana pieces will get lifted.

Drop the batter evenly and then spread. repeat till the bananas are covered.

Try to seal the edges a bit so that the caramel doesn’t bubble out to the top. bake in the preheated oven at 180 degrees C.

And when your cake is golden brown test it with a skewer. First don’t go all the way down with your skewer, if it reached the caramel or banana it might come out wet. So, insert it in a way that it doesn’t touch the base. If that comes out clean, you can then check it all the way though.

Invert the cake on a big plate… and the beautifully luscious and glistening bananas will be revealed. The banana will naturally caramelise with the sugar and butter, and the thick liquid will seep slightly into the cake. So, in a way its sort of an in-built caramel with banana topping. All in one!!

The crumb of the cake will have a spec-y light brown look owing to the banana and cinnamon powder. in winters you can add winter spice mix (nutmeg, star anise etc) to add a warmer flavour and fragrance. However, for summers serve it with vanilla ice-cream. Whoever tasted it, had exactly the same reaction… mm-mmm-mmm!

Recipe: Banana Caramel Cake

Ingredients:

For Caramel:
40 gm brown sugar
40 gm butter

For Cake:
150 gm flour
125 gm butter, softened
125 gm castor sugar
 1 ½ tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
1 tsp cinnamon Powder
3 Bananas

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 7×7 inch square cake tin.
  2. Take the brown sugar and butter in a sauce pan and cook on low heat stirring occasionally to make a sticky caramel sauce. Pour this in the cake tin and keep aside.
  3. In a bowl sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon powder.
  4. In another bowl cream the  sugar and butter till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and keep beating.
  5. Mash 1 banana and add this to the batter along with vanilla extract and the flour mixture.
  6. Slice the 2 bananas and arrange them flat on the caramel layer in the cake tin.
  7. Pour the batter over the banana layer and bake for 40-45 minutes or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 10 mins then invert it upside down onto a plate.
  9. Serve warm with Ice cream or whipped cream.

Mumbai Chilli Cheese Pao

This is a very easy snack to curb your cavings any time of the day. Mumbai Chilli Cheese Pao is inspired by the many Parsi or Persian cafes in Mumbai and Pune. A lot of people also know them as Irani cafes. The persian recipe and flavours that exist in India today sort of travelled from the then Persia when a large chunk of the population migrated to India many many years back. We’re so thankful it happened because a new cuisine was born – which is served till this day in the Irani/Parsi cafes. Its really sad that they began shuttering their shops because people’s tastes and trends changed and these were replaced by global fast food chains and well known brand.

We are #vocalforlocal today then I think we really can save these gems of places – which exist nowhere else in the world because of their unique confluence of the Maharashtrian x Iranian x Persian culture & cuisine. So here’s an ode to these wonderful little spaces steeped in time and history – the irani cafes of Mumbai & Pune! Radhicka and I used to frequent these during the many years we spent in these two maharashtrian cities. We will list some of our favourites for you… but since no eateries are functional due to the global lockdown because of Covid-19, try this wonderful traditional parsi fusion recipe and please please go back to try the amazing food at one of these cafes once they open. You’ll know you’ve reached the right place when you see those classic tables toped with a red & white checkered tablecloth with a glass placed on top accompanied by shaky old vintage chairs and that mesmerising whiff of baking. Three cheers for the people who are still keeping them alive!

This is a very easy recipe, rather its a representation of the multiple ideas that can work with a basic fluffy pao bread. We’re using ingredients from the pantry and all of you are sure to have easy access to these. We’re using the pao/pav bread, tomatoes, capsicum, onion, garlic, chilli flakes and cheese.

Begin with fine chopping your veggies. Pound the garlic and chilli flakes together with a pestle and mortar.

Take butter in a pan. Add onions and sauté for 30 seconds. Then add the capsicum. You can also use yellow or red bell peppers if you like.

Once you sauté the capsicums too, then add the pounded garlic and chilli flake mixture. Pounding the chilli and garlic together, amplifies the flavour of both the ingredients. You can use chilli powder if you wish but the chilli flakes give it a nutty smoky flavour. Add the tomatoes and mix.

Season with salt. Smash some bits of the tomatoes to get a thick and semi-mashed mixture. Cook on high flame till the extra visible liquid has evaporated.

To make the pao/pav buns you can use our recipe by clicking here or ofcourse you can buy if in a rush. Let them be stuck together and prepare it in clusters. That way you get a bit of the pull-apart bread effect. Slice them horizontally and place them on the baking tray, cut side facing up. make sure to preheat your oven to 180 C at this time.

Make sure you put it on the tray you will be baking it on. Spread the veggie mixture. Then spread cheese evenly. You can use any cheese that you like or you have in your refrigerator.Then top it with chilli flakes.

They are ready to bake.

Put them in the preheated oven and bake for 10-12 minutes. You want the pao to be a bit crispy and the cheese to melt evenly.

Serve it warm, just out of the oven. garnish with some fresh coriander/cilantro. It works as the perfect herb for this, adding fragrance, flavour and colour to you baked chilli cheese paos.

Recipe: Parsi Cafe Chilli Cheese Pão

Ingredients

16 small Pav Buns
3 tbsp Butter
2 onions, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper/capsicum, finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 ½ tsp Chilli Flakes/red chilli powder
3 tomatoes, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 bowl cheese, grated
Coriander and chill flakes for garnish

Method

  1. Break the pav into 4 and slice each section into two to get 8 pieces. Arrange these on a baking tray cut side up.
  2. In a mortar take the garlic and chilli flakes. Crush into a paste using a pestle.
  3. In a pan on medium heat take butter and add onions. Mix well and add capsicum.
  4. Cook on high flame stirring constantly. Add the garlic paste along with the tomatoes and continue to cook.
  5. Add salt and cook mashing the mixture continuously till extra liquid dries up and you get a thick mash.
  6. Let it cool for a bit. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  7. Spread the vegetable mixture on the pav bun and sprinkle cheese generously over it. Sprinkle a little chilli flake if you wish and bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes or till pav is crisp and cheese has melted.
  8. Garnish with fresh coriander and savour with garam-garam cutting chai.

Mumbai Pav/ Portugese Pão – Soft Fluffy Dinner Rolls

These are really the softest buns you’ll possibly make at home or even eat. Buns and breads are eaten in different forms globally and in all cultures and cuisines. These are very versatile and can be used for multiple purposes. You can use it as a base for garlic breads, to sandwich a patty, make sliders, Mumbai-style vada pav, or just an accompaniment to your main course as a soft and fluffy dinner roll. The possibilities are endless! It tastes best just softly warmed and smothered with butter…. yumm!

You will need very basic pantry ingredients for this. We’re using flour, salt, sugar, butter, yeast and milk. The milk gives it a very soft texture and a creamy taste.

In a bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm milk. Once dissolved, add the butter to the liquid.

Take the flour and salt in a big bowl and add the liquid mixture to it. Mix it well with a spoon. You’ll get a very sticky mixture.

You will need a dough cutter or a flipper or a big spoon to help you handle the mixture. Sprinkle some flour and mix it with the help of the cutter and your hand. Lift and mix.

It will start becoming more manageable. Just be patient with it and continue to lift and push.

Just tackle it left and right and eventually you’ll get a dough thats come together like the above picture.

It should be very soft. That is the reason we do not want to add too much flour, because that makes it tougher. Less flour means a softer dough. Thus, try to use only as much flour as is really required to handle it.

Leave it in a warm place to rise for 30-60 minutes or until doubled.

Punch down the dough and make a round dough ball and cut with a knife or dough cutter into 16 equal parts. First divide into half and then quarter and then further into smaller parts.

Take each portion and roll it into a round ball. Try to tuck the seam underneath with your thumb. Place them in an 8 x 8-inch baking tray at equal distance from each other. Leave space for them to fluff. The tray should also have a high rim because the buns will expand and they be contained on sides so that they can rise up.

Cover with a damp cloth and let it rest in a warm place again for 40-60 minutes or till doubled. Halfway through the rising process preheat the oven at 200 C.

brush it with milk and put it in the oven to bake for 15-18 minutes.

They should be golden brown when you take them out.

Brush butter on them when they’re still warm. That will soften them further.

They’re ready to eat. Use them however you want. Make a slider, vada pav, dinner roll, sandwich, or Mumbai style chilli cheese pav.

That is how soft your buns will be. They are literally comprised of air and are light and fluffy. Just warm some and butter it and enjoy with breakfast. Stay tuned for our next recipe with these buns.

In Mumbai, if you ever just buy pav (btw its called ladi pav there), the traditional old bakeries will give it to you wrapped in newspaper. Well, the paper does in some ways keep it soft and moist. So you can put baking/parchment paper in an airtight box and store them. During summertime put them in the fridge.

Recipe: Soft Fluffy Pav Buns/Dinner Rolls

Ingredients

200 gm All Purpose Flour
200 ml milk
2 ¼ tsp dried yeast (7gm)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp castor sugar
20gm butter, melted

Method

  1. In a bowl take flour and salt. Mix it well.
  2. In another bowl dissolve the sugar and the yeast in warm milk, Add butter and mix well. Add this liquid mixture to flour mixture and mix.
  3. Tip this messy mixture on the counter and knead for 8-10 minutes. It will be very wet and messy but will start coming together the more you knead.
  4. Use as little extra flour as possible to just prevent it from sticking. Use a dough scraper to help lift dough without adding to much extra flour.
  5. Knead it with a lot of force till you achieve a soft and smooth dough.
  6. Place in a bowl, cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 30-60 mins or until double.
  7. Punch down the dough and on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in 16 equal balls.
  8. In a greased 8×8 inch square tin arrange the balls at equal distance
  9. Cover with a damp kitchen cloth and leave in a warm place for 40-60 minutes or until doubled.
  10. Half way through the doubling process preheat the oven to 200 C.
  11. Brush with milk and bake in the preheated oven on lower rack for 15-18 minutes. The buns will be dark golden brown when done.
  12. Brush with softened butter on top when the buns are just out of the oven.
  13. Leave to cool on a wire rack. Wrap in paper or with cling film to store in the refrigerator.

Herbed Bread Loaf

An ‘easy to bake’ bread with hidden flavours. Simply follow the recipe, bake your own herbed bread and slice it to admire the piece of art that you baked. Serve it with a topping, or simply toast and butter it… will taste good any way!

We have already taught you a regular whole wheat bread, now its time to up your game with bread-making. We make this exactly how we made our whole wheat bread earlier. The process remains same but we’re making a white loaf and putting a layer of basil pesto inside. You can refer to our recipes for basil pesto – Basil Pesto & Vegan Basil Pesto.

First we’ll make a regular bread dough. So, we need flour, water, milk butter, yeast and sugar.

Add the sugar to the flour and keep aside.

Dissolve the yeast in very warm water. It should not be hot or boiling but not lukewarm either. You should be able to put your finger in it and feel its hot but not want to take it out. It will turn smooth once the yeast has dissolved.

Add the butter and milk and let it dissolve in the warm mixture. You can also melt it beforehand and then add.

Knead the dough well. Let it rest in a warm place till almost doubled. Then punch it down. Thats the most fun part! You’ll see that it will have a web like formation. That is great. It suggests your yeast was well incorporated everywhere and is actively working.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle. Make depressions with your fingers and brush olive oil on it. Spread basil pesto on it. Leave the top part empty so the once we roll the bread can seal well. The oil may prevent it from holding its shape and the rolled loaf could split open.

You can see we’ve left the top part without oil or pesto, so that the loaf can seal well.

Put it seam side down on the baking tray. Make sure you put it on the tray you will eventually be baking it in. Meanwhile, preheat your oven. After proving, the bread will puff up and take its shape. Then it’s ready to bake. Bake it at 200˚ C / 400 degrees F.

Once baked, it will be a golden brown colour. Knock on the base of the bread and if you hear a hollow sound then its baked through. You can also check with a bread thermometer. But since most people don’t use one, knocking is the best alternate.

Slice it with a bread knife only when its completely cooled. Otherwise the bread will be sticky and crumbly.

It will already be very fragrant and flavourful because of the pesto. You can eat it just by itself or the best way is to toast it very lightly and spread a little olive oil or butter and eat it warm or toasted.

So, here’s a fresh herbed loaf that will surely brighten up your breakfast table and maybe even your day. You can make this to impress or simply enjoy a quite wholesome breakfast at home. For the pesto recipe click here.

You can make this healthy by using our wholewheat bread recipe and then continue the herbed loaf recipe process after first proofing.

Recipe: Herbed Loaf Bread

Ingredients:

4-5 tbsp basil pesto / vegan basil pesto
350 gm flour
2 ¼ tsp dried yeast
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
180 ml warm water
50 ml milk
1 tbsp butter

Method:

  1. In a bowl take half the flour. Add sugar and salt to it.
  2. In another bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water, add milk and butter. Add this liquid mixture to flour mixture and mix.
  3. Gradually add in more flour and knead for 8-10 mins to get a soft dough.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 30-60 mins or until double.
  5. Roll it into approx. an 8 x 11-inch rectangle. Keep the shorter end towards your side and spread the basil pesto evenly.
  6. Leave a ½ -inch border on 3 sides facing away from you. Start rolling from the side towards you. Roll it up tightly like a swiss roll or pinwheel.
  7. Seal the edges and the seam. Place it seam side down onto the baking tray, on which you will bake it later
  8. Cover and leave in a warm place for 30-60 mins or until double.
  9. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  10. After your bread has risen, make cuts on top of the bread and bake for 25-30 mins.

Ricotta Mango Parfait

This is a wonderful dessert made using fresh ricotta. Its summertime and mangoes are in the season. So, we thought of making a very simple dessert with very few ingredients. You’ll find almost everything at home. You won’t have to go grocery shopping and can make this quickly for a sudden dessert craving after lunch. It’s beautiful to serve even for a summer dinner party. Make it in individual glasses or bowls beforehand and its very easy to serve.

Firstly, you’ll need mangoes and the most important ingredient of this dessert is fresh ricotta. You can make it at home using our recipe for ricotta. You can also use a store-bought one. If you’re making it at home, you’ll just need milk and lemons. The third layer for this is made using crushed digestive biscuits of graham crackers whichever you can find and butter. We will be using some lemon zest and a little bit of fresh cream or condensed milk, whatever suits your liking.

In a bowl put the chopped mangoes and add some lemon zest and lemon juice to it and keep aside. In another bowl crush the biscuits with a rolling pin and add melted butter and mix. In the third bowl take the ricotta and whisk it well to soften it. Now add condensed milk to it and mix well. If you’re using cream instead of condensed milk, add that along with very little powdered sugar. the ricotta will turn into a thick sauce like in the picture above.

Take a shallow and wide glass, or wine or martini glass. You can also take the Mumbai-style cutting chai glass. Anything that has a characteristic shape and is transparent. Put the biscuit mixture at the base.

Now spoon some ricotta cream mixture on top. Be careful not to dirty the wall of the glass because the beauty of the dessert is in being able to see the layers. Thats the reason its called a parfait. In French, parfait means perfect. Later in the 1800’s, desserts that were beautifully layered with precision, came to be called parfait. That is exactly what this is and thus we called it Ricotta Mango Parfait. And ricotta being an Italian cheese traditionally, this is a beautiful fusion of a French-Italian dessert. The two countries do share a lot of common ingredients and food influences.

Then go the macerated mangoes on top of the ricotta cream. They’ll be soft and soaked by now.

Then the biscuit mixture again. The biscuit gives it the crusty flavour that a cheesecake has. Thus, you can actually make a cheesecake with the same method. The only difference will be, you don’t multi layer it. For the cheesecake take a loose-bottom tin or a springform tin. Put the biscuit mixture and press it down to form a crusty layer that doesn’t disintegrate on un-moulding. Put a high layer of the ricotta cream mixture. Chill for a bit. Then top with the mangoes and refrigerate till set. Un-mould and et voila!

Finally, top it with a generous amount of mangoes. Mangoes taste very good in this dessert, however, you can also make this with other fruits. You can use any citrus fruit or berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, peaches and cherries. Comment with more ideas and we’ll tell you if that would go well or not.

Now you can actually see the layers. mangoes add a beautiful yellow to it. Thats how the layers should be , so make sure to keep the glass neat and put the mixture for various layers in the centre, then spread to the side. That way you’ll avoid messing it up.

Now put the mint leaves to garnish. They will add a refreshing fragrance, taste and colour to your parfait. Instead of the clichéd garnish of one bunch in the centre, put smaller segments of mint leaves in 2-3 places. This is because its already high in the centre and you don’t want to add more height with your garnish in this case. You just want to add colour and character.You can also garnish with pistachios or dried blueberries or cranberries.

…and TA-DA! Your start dessert is ready. Chill it in the fridge to set the layers. It also tasted best chilled in the summers.

Recipe: Ricotta Mango Parfait

Ingredients

250 gm Fresh Ricotta
3 mangoes, Peeled and cut into cubes
150 gm digestive biscuits, crushed
50gm Amul Butter
4tbsp Amul Mithai Mate/ Condensed Milk or AmulFresh Cream
2 Lemons
Mint leaves for garnish

Method

  1. Zest 2 lemons over the cut mangoes. Then put the juice of 1 lemon in the mango . Mix well and keep aside.
  2. Crush the biscuits using a rolling pin. Melt the butter and mix it well with the crushed biscuits.
  3. Using a whisk just beat the ricotta a little. Mix the condensed milk with the ricotta to get a thick sauce.
  4. In a glass start by putting a little amount of the biscuit mix. Over that layer 2 spoons of the ricotta cream and then a layer of the lemony mango.
  5. Repeat with biscuit, ricotta cream and finishing with the mango.
  6. Garnish with mint leaves and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Enjoy chilled.
  7. If you want to make a pie or a cheesecake out of this you can spread the biscuit mixture in the pie dish or cheesecake mould. Then press the biscuit mixture firmly. Over that spread the ricotta cream and then finally the mangoes. Chill this in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours. If making a cheesecake make sure the ricotta cream is not very runny but a little thick.
  8. You can also do the above in a regular flat glass dish for a big party and let it set by chilling in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours.

English Tea Scones

This recipe is very close to us. Anything that is traditional or comes steeped in history, entices us to unimaginable extents. Scones is one such thing. They are said to have been originated in Scotland, England and Ireland. It’s not a surprise, given its huge consumption their. Even the Queen loves them! English afternoon tea can absolutely not take place without these. And its for a reason. If there is anything that accompanies tea very well… its scones. There’s even a term for a tea that just consists of these – Devon Cream Tea – scones, clotted cream and jam.

Scones are a perfect accompaniment to an afternoon tea or an English tea. In India, tea-time snacks are almost an obvious need for everyone. We know the feeling when you want to have something with a cup of tea or coffee and can’t decide what it is that you want. Should it be a piece of cake, a cookie out of your pantry cupboard, a toast with butter or maybe make a quick trip to your nearest bakery. This solves all of those dilemmas in one shot. Scones satisfy the craving of biscuit, cookie, bun and cake all at once because of its unique texture. It is soft, crisp, caky and biscuit-y. Somewhat like a shortcake but different. So it’s a midway to shortcrust pastry and cake.

The best part about scones is that they are so versatile, you can make them sweet, savoury or neutral and eat them with different combinations of, jams, jellies, fruit compote or cheese and herbs. The possibilities are endless! We’ll be happy to answer your questions, if any, regarding what would go with it or what accompaniments would work like magic. Feel free to ask.

Scones are made with very simple ingredients and there’s absolutely no need for electric beaters, stand mixers or any other kitchen gadgets. Your hands are just fine! This recipe is so easy to make, you can make it in time for your tea if you have a sudden craving or a guest coming over.

Measure all you ingredients and keep. Make sure your butter is chilled. Begin with the flour, salt, baking powder and butter in a big bowl.

Rub in the butter – this is a common term used in pastry making. This is especially done when making short crust pastry. You just need to take the cubes of butter, roll them in butter and break them., coat them again with flour and repeat. What we want is a crumbly mixture of butter and flour. This process ensures that the glutenous components in flour are cut short. So your end product will not be stretchy like bread but more biscuit-y. You can use a pastry cutter for this

If you don’t have one, don’t fret, use your hands. Inspite of having the cutter, we prefer using our hands. In fact that’s the most fun part. It is has a stress-busting effect and feels very therapeutic. You must try it.

Thats how you just squeeze and crush the butter. They will keep breaking into smaller bits as you go along. Mix the butter and flour mixture every once in a while. make sure your butter hasn’t completely melted. If it does, put it in the fridge for 5-10 mins. Continue the same process.

A great way to keep your butter cold without having to chill it midway through it – is to only use your fingers. You can see my palms are clean. The palm can transfer more heat and melt the butter easily.

This is when you stop. Your mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. You don’t need it to be even. This is fine.

Add the sugar to your flour mixture and keep aside.

Beat one egg and keep some aside for glazing later. In a bowl, mix the remaining egg, milk, lemon zest and vanilla.

Add the liquid to the flour mixture and bring together. You can use a spoon or your hands.

Once mixed, tip it onto your kitchen counter. You don’t really need to knead it. Just press it so that it comes together to form a soft dough.

Once its come together, roll it out 1-inch thick. Don’t make it thin. You can also just press it with your hand and spread

Use a cookie cutter, a ring mould or anything else in you kitchen that you can find for the purpose. Roughly 2 – 4 inch in diameter should do. If it sticks to your cutter, push it down gently. If it sticks too much then coat your cutter with flour and it will slide off.

Place them on a baking tray lined with baking/parchment/butter paper. The paper will ensure they come off easily after baking. Once you’ve cut out the scones, bring the remaining dough back together and cut again. Repeat till the dough is finished. If your baking tray or oven isn’t big enough then put the remaining dough in the fridge and bake later. At this stage you can brush with egg on top for that golden colour and glaze. If you do not want to glaze with egg, you can just brush some milk on top gently.

Put them in the preheated oven to bake. Once baked, they will rise and crack open from the centre. Thats great for a scone. You can just open it along that line to put cream and jam because a scone is never cut open with a knife. At least not by rule.

Traditionally, scones are served with clotted cream and jam. The Brits are so passionate about what they eat and how they eat it that there’s even a debate about how it tastes better – clotted cream first and jam on top or jam first and clotted cream on top. Can you believe it! Yes, we love it when people give so much importance to their food… those are the happier people.

So, we suggest you try both ways and take your pick. The best way to serve it, is the way YOU like it! If you don’t want to eat it with cream you can just put butter on a warm scone and top it with jam or jelly. It tastes divine… somewhat like a mini Victoria Sandwich.

Scones can also be made savoury or served with cheese. Its like a base, add anything to it. Sometimes sultanas or potatoes may also be added.

Recipe: English Tea Scones

Ingredients

200 gm All-purpose Flour
2½ tsp Baking Powder
1 egg, beaten (substitute for egg is given below in the tips)
50 gm unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
2 tbsp caster sugar
1/tsp salt, (skip if using salted butter)
50 ml Milk
½ tsp vanilla extract/essence
Zest of 1 lemon, optional
Butter, Clotted cream and jam to serve

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220° C. line a baking tray with parchment or baking paper.
  2. Keep 1 tbsp egg aside to use later for the egg wash.
  3. In a bowl sift flour and baking powder. Add the butter and rub fast with your fingers till it resembles bread crumbs. Add the sugar to this mixture.
  4. Add the remaining egg, milk, lemon zest and vanilla extract and bring it together lightly to form a soft dough.
  5. Roll out the dough 2cm / 1 inch thick
  6. Using a cookie cutter of diameter 1 ½ to 2 inches cut out the scones and place on the prepared baking tray.
  7. Take the reserved egg and brush it over the scones.
  8. Bake them for 14-16 mins or till golden brown.
  9. Remove and eat warm with butter, clotted cream and jam.

Tip: Eggless Version-instead of the egg add 30 ml or 2 tbsp of cream and 1 tbsp cornflour/cornstarch.

Moist Apple Cake

When life gives you apples… of course, you make apple cake!

Since apples are a common fruit and the most readily available to all of us at all times, we thought it would be a great idea to give you all the recipe of a perfect apple cake to survive the 20 20 lockdown. This is absolutely delicious and can be eaten in winter or summer… anytime! It can be made for a birthday cake for those of us who find it difficult to ice cakes or simply prefers fruit cakes, for children whose mothers are always finding a way to add fruits to their diets, for friends coming over for tea, or even as a dessert for a dinner party. We’ve literally tried it in all the scenarios and maybe more, and it has never failed. I’ve even impressed some business associates, and at another time, my in-law’s close friends with this cake. Thats the extent. So its a must MUST try for all of you.

You will need very basic baking ingredients for this. Flour, sugar, eggs, butter, milk and vanilla. Any apples will do for this cake. Although, the star ingredient of this cake is cinnamon. You will need a very small amount of it but the main aim of the cinnamon is to bring out the taste of apples. Which is the reason why they’re usually used together in most apple dishes. Its an age-old combination. For those of you who don’t like cinnamon, don’t worry, you can skip it completely, although it is a flavour worth trying.

To line the cake tin for this one, take a bigger piece of parchment/baking/butter paper. Grease the tin with butter or butter spray and tuck the paper into the tin in one piece. Usually we invert cakes, but this one we will lift out of the cake tin.

Peel, core and slice the apple thinly. Somewhat like the picture above. If its too thick then it wont cook through. Apples turn brown very quickly after cutting. So, either cut them just before you start making the cake or cut and put a very small amount of lemon juice and keep.

Begin with beating eggs and sugar in a bowl with an electric beater. You will notice as you beat more the yellow mixture will turn lighter in colour and fluffier. That is because of the air you have incorporated. You can also use a whisk but make sure to reach close to the lighter colour stage before you stop.

Add the milk, butter, vanilla, flour, cinnamon and baking powder. You’ll get a ribbon consistency batter.

Pour the batter into the cake tin. Now take the apples and arrange them on top.

While arranging just ensure that the apples are evenly distributed even if you choose to put them in any other pattern. We are placing them on top so that while baking when they sink in, they settle somewhere in the middle of the cake. If we add them to the batter, they will sink to the bottom. If you want them to remain on top after baking also, then slice your apples thinner so they wont be heavy and will stay on top. We personally, like them in the cake. So, its your preference… both work well.

Sprinkle some sugar and cinnamon powder on top. The further up you sprinkle it from, more evenly it will spread.

Bake in the preheated oven. Do not open your oven till the stipulated time given in your recipe as that would drop the temperature of the oven.

Check with a skewer and if it comes out clean then take it out of the oven. Be careful where you’re putting in the skewer. If you put it though a piece of apple it may come out wet. In that case check it again where you feel the cake is visible.Let the cake cool in the tin for 20 mins. Don’t invert. Lift the cake out with the help of the paper.

Pull the paper down from the sides very carefully and gently.

Now there are a few different ways to serve it. If you’re serving it for tea, just warm it (you can microwave it for 30 seconds) and serve it.

You can also dust it with icing sugar and serve. We mostly use the tea infuser for this purpose. It makes the job easier. You can also use a small tea strainer and tap it.

If you’re serving it as a dessert, add a scoop of vanilla ice-cream or a dollop of whipped cream. This tastes the best. It adds a beautiful texture and enhances the flavour of the cake. People love it when served with ice-cream.

You can go one step further and dust a bit of cinnamon powder on the ice cream. This is a divine combination for anybody who likes cinnamon.
Its heavenly!

Recipe: Moist Apple Cake

Ingredients:

125 gm flour
125 gm castor sugar
2 eggs
75 gm butter, melted
75 ml milk, room temperature
2 ¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence
1 ½ tsp cinnamon Powder
2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced extra sugar and cinnamon for dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line an 8 inch round cake tin. Just push and mould a large piece of parchment paper in the tin and trim the edges.
  2. In a bowl sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon powder.
  3. In another bowl cream the  sugar and eggs till light and fluffy.
  4. Add milk  and melted butter  to the batter along with vanilla extract and the flour mixture.
  5. Peel and slice apples and if you want you can coat the slices with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
  6. Pour the batter in the lined tin and arrange the apple slices on top of the batter. Sprinkle a little sugar and cinnamon powder over the apples.
  7.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or till a skewer inserted near the edge of the cake comes out clean. If you will put a skewer in the centre it will be moist as all the juices of the apple are in the centre.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it stand for 20 mins then holding the paper pull it out and place on a board.
  9. Sprinkle icing sugar on top and serve warm with Ice cream or whipped cream.

Ricotta Lemon Cake

A perfect dessert with a truly Italian touch… our favourite! We made ricotta, and then we thought what best we could use it for, and we came up with this. Its a beautiful cake with a slightly smooth and grainy texture at the same time. It is not fluffy like other cakes, but owing to the moist ricotta, this cake has a full-bodied texture and that oh-so-lemony freshness!

This is what you’ll need along with ricotta. To make fresh ricotta click here for the recipe.

To begin, line your cake tin like this. Put two strips in a cross. Then draw the base of the cake tin on a sheet of baking/parchment/butter paper. Cut it out and place it on top of the cross. You can use a springform pan (the cake tin with a loose bottom and a spring clasp at one side), it would be easy to remove the cake from. If you don’t have one of those, then go ahead and do the cross thing.

Take the butter and sugar in a big bowl and cream it for at least 5 minutes. You can use an electric beater, stand mixer or even a whisk. If using a whisk just beat it a bit longer. The mixture will turn lighter in colour, which means it has been aerated. Add the eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. This will ensure your batter is fluffy.

Now, to the egg, butter sugar mixture add the ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla essence. Mix well. Now add the flour and baking powder and beat lightly first to ensure the flour doesn’t fly away from the batter. The batter could look grainy but thats perfectly fine. Its due to the texture of ricotta.

Put it in a preheated oven. This is what your batter would look like. Don’t tap it to smoothen out the top. It will even out itself in the oven.

Once baked, it will look somewhat like this. If the colour differs a bit don’t worry. Each oven is different and it could look different due to that.

Don’t invert the cake. This cake has a short crumb and not a spongy crumb because of the cheese, so it will break if you handle it ungently. Lift it out with the help of the two cross strips. This is why we had put those, to aid in taking the cake out from the tin. After putting the cake on a plate, gently slide the strips out. This cake sinks on cooling, so don’t worry.

Dust some icing sugar on top and garnish with mint or flaked almonds or nuts.

Slice it when its cooled.

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm. You can also serve it with some fresh berries or a berry compote. This cake is crusty outside and soft and moist inside.

Recipe: Lemon Ricotta Cake

Ingredients:

250 gm Fresh Ricotta
150 gm All-purpose Flour
150 gm Caster Sugar
100 gm Butter, softened room temperature
2 Eggs, Room temperature
2 tsp Baking Powder
Zest of 2 Lemons
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp Vanilla Extract or Essence
Icing Sugar for Dusting

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line an 8-inch round cake tin with baking paper or parchment paper.
  2. In a bowl beat softened butter and sugar for 5 min. In another bowl sift together flour and baking powder.
  3. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Beat for 3-4 minutes to get a light fluffy batter.
  4. Add ricotta, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Beat for a minute. The mixture will look grainy which is fine.
  5. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed to prevent flour from flying.
  6. Pour the batter in the lined cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 mins or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool for 30 mins and then remove from the cake tin.
  8. Dust with Icing sugar and eat warm.

Fresh Ricotta

Ricotta is a fresh and soft Italian cheese… and truly delicious! It has a soft grain and light texture. Traditionally, ricotta was made with milk and whey left after making other cheeses. Thats how it got its name “ricotta” which literally translates to re-cooked. However, ricotta is now very sought after because of its slightly sweet taste and its ability to hold its consistency. Thus, its widely used in desserts and Italian cuisine. Its best use is to add it to the filling for lasagne, ravioli, cannelloni and conchiglie.

You literally need just two ingredients to make fresh ricotta at home. Milk and lemons, thats all!

You can use any milk for this, but the result could vary a bit. We have used regular whole milk. You can use skimmed milk too but you might end up with a lesser quantity of ricotta (which is fine). So, using whole or full fat milk would be better, but even others work well.

Put the milk to heat in a pan. We want hot milk but DO NOT BOIL THE MILK. Now, this is very important. You want to heat it only till you start seeing the bubbles on the edge of the pan. As soon as that happens, turn off the flame. Keep your lemon juice ready and after you have turned off the flame, add it to the milk. Stir very delicately to make sure its mixed.

Let it stand for 10-20 minutes and the soft cheese will start to curdle and separate from the whey. Whey is that thin watery liquid that separates from milk while making cheese or curd. If the milk has still not curdled, be patient. If it still doesn’t, add 1 tbsp lemon juice and it should curdle.

Be sure, not to stir it too much or too vigorously, otherwise you will turn it into cottage cheese. There is a very fine line between ricotta and cottage cheese!. On stirring too much, it will become firmer, and we’re looking for a soft cheese.

When you stir very gently, the cheese will start to show… almost as if emerging from the milk-whey liquid.

It will finally look something like this. Such a beauty!

Keep a pot ready with a big sieve on top. Place a cheesecloth or a muslin cloth on top of the sieve. Make sure there’s enough distance between the sieve and the base of the pot, so that when we leave it to strain, the cheese is not touching the strained liquid whey.

This is what it will look like. At this stage, leave it to drain the excess liquid. The draining time is directly proportional to the firmness of cheese. If you let it stand longer and let more liquid drain out then you will get a firmer ricotta. Alternately, if you don’t leave it for very long so that it retains some moisture, then you will get a softer cheese.

This really depends on the purpose of use.
Soft Ricotta: for, cakes, tarts, cannoli, puddings, mousse and other desserts
Firm Ricotta: for ravioli, cannelloni, conchiglie, lasagne, tortellini and the likes.
Ricotta doesn’t melt on baking and thats why its the first choice for the filling of stuffed pastas.

Its ready to use when cooled. You can store it in the refrigerator for upto a week.

Recipe: Fresh Ricotta

Ingredients

1 litre milk
2 lemons

Method

  1. Take milk in a sauce pan and heat it to just before it comes to a boil. You will start seeing a few bubbles on the edge of the pan.
  2. Meanwhile juice 2 lemons and keep aside.
  3. Line a soup strainer with muslin cloth or cheesecloth and place the strainer over a big pot.
  4. As soon as you see bubble on the edge of the milk turn off the flame and add the lemon juice. Stir it delicately to ensure the lemon juice is mixed well with the milk.
  5. Let it stand for 10-20 minutes. You will see that the soft cheese would curdle and separate leaving behind the whey.
  6. If the milk doesn’t not curdle completely just add an additional 1 tbsp of lemon Juice. Over stirring will make the cheese harder so stir less to get a soft cheese.
  7. Drain the cheese over the cheesecloth and let it stand from anywhere between 20-50 minutes. For a fresh and  light ricotta, drain it for a short time and for a more dense ricotta drain it for a longer period.
  8. This amount of milk will yield ricotta between 260-220gm depending on the amount of drainage time. Use fresh or store in the refrigerator for 6-8 days.