Sponge cake (with eggs)

Never did I celebrate a birthday till date without cutting a cake. My first birthday in US was a wonderful yummy chocolate cake from Stop & Shop. The very thought of all the thick chocolate on it makes me feel hungry even right now. Childhood was different… birthdays meant grand parties at home with all the school and neighbourhood friends.. balloons and birthday caps and home-made cakes. The house felt like a bakery shop then, smelling wonderful. My mom would start making cake in the old style oven, then cut it into various shapes.. sometimes it was a big mickey mouse or maybe just a round plain one. Then she would fill it up with cream and icing.. and after all the artistic touches, finally some gems and then use the icing nozzle to write my or my brother’s name on it. As I grew up, I started helping her too… the icing and artistic shapes were gone but the normal sponge cake remained. My best memories would be mixing the cake batter… I loved to scoop out some of the batter to lick.. it was yummy! Though everybody would make faces stating that it was not cooked and it’s not good for my stomach, but I just loved it. Me, my mom and bro would wait till midnight while dad slept till the cake was baked completely… and I still remember a night when we actually cut the cake at  midnight.

Those were the glorious old childhood days. These days it is so much easy to order a cake. but I do miss all the fun. As I started getting comfortable in the kitchen and with the oven, I decided to attempt to bake a cake. Again a quick call to mommy and it did not sound too difficult as well. So we got a baking tray and hurray within an hour or two I could smell the similar whiff of bakery in my house too… It was so nostalgic… thanks mommy…!

This is something that me and my husband love. Nothing better than this healthy home made sponge cake. Though we do get readymade cake mixture at the stores here, we both love the authentic way. Here it is for you all to give a shot!

Ingredients:

  • Eggs – 6
  • All purpose flour (Maida) – 3 cups
  • Sugar – 3 cups
  • White oil – 3 cups
  • Baking Powder – 3 tsp
  • Vanilla essence – 2tsp (adding too much might lead to a bitter taste)
  • Cherries or dry nuts – as per preference
  • Milk – 1/4th cup
  • Oven (I use the conventional oven available in US kitchen, so you may want to check the temperature for the kind of oven you possess.)

Method:

  • Add baking powder to the Maida and keep it aside.
  • In a bowl break all the eggs and beat it well till bubbles start appearing. Use a hand blender if available.
  • Gradually add the sugar in turns and keep whisking the mixture well.
  • Add the Maida and baking powder gradually in turns and keep beating so that there are no lumps.
  • Add oil, milk and vanilla in turns and blend it well.
  • Add dry nuts if you want to and mix it to the batter and garnish a few at the top.
  • Lightly grease the baking pan with cooking oil and sprinkle some flour on it so that the cake does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
  • Pour the batter into the pan, it would be 2 inches deep.
  • Preheat the oven and then bake the mixture at 350 F for 40-45 minutes. Check the readiness of the cake by poking it with a fork or toothpick. The cake is ready if it comes out clean (Since ovens vary, you can bake it for a couple of minutes more or less).
  • Remove the pan from the oven and let it cool for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Once it had cooled off use a knife gently on the edges of the cake to unmould it from the tray and flip it on to a fresh plate or tray.

Important Note:

  • A cake with 3 eggs can be baked easily on a 9 inch by 9 inch baking tray, that is what I generally use. However I am mentioning the measurements for 6 eggs which will need a larger baking tray.
  • You may use color as well as per preference though it is optional. You can also use coco powder to get a chocolate color. I sometimes keep half the batter as it is and in the other half add 1-1.5 tsp coco powder (adding too much might lead to a bitter taste) and then put the batter in 2 layers in the baking tray. This gives me a bicolored or a choco-vanilla cake. You can experiment with colors, but always remember that using coco powder might lead to the cake getting burnt at the bottom so the layer with coco powder should always be on the top.
  • The batter should be well beaten, only then will you get the perfect (unbelievably soft) sponge cake. I usually beat it with my hand but you may use a blender if available.

Do not forget to inhale the scent of the cake while it is baking. Trust me its heavenly!

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Biryani

My mom does not love cooking but she cooks well and there are some special items that she cooks just awesome. Biryani is one of them. She makes it in her own way which is not too spicy or heavy for stomach. I initially thought it is a cumbersome process but well … its worth the effort. And definitely a treat to your taste buds.

So this one is an inheritance from my mom… Chicken biriyani – my mom’s way!

Ingredients:

  • Basmati Rice – 1 cup
  • Chicken pieces – 500 gms
  • Onions, sliced – 3-4 medium
  • Mustard Oil – 3 tbsp (For chicken preparation, though optional and you may also use white oil)
  • White Oil (For rice preparation) – 1 tbsp
  • Ginger Paste – 1 tbsp
  • Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
  • Whole peppercorns – 4-6
  • Whole nutmeg (Jaifal) – 1
  • Mace (Javitri) – 2
  • Bay leaves – 2
  • Coriander powder – 1tsp
  • Red chilli powder – 1tsp or to taste
  • Whole garam masala / spices
    • Green cardamom – 3-4
    • Black cardamom – 3-4
    • Cinnamon sticks – 2 one inch sticks
    • Cloves – 6

For convenience you can also use readymade biriyani masala (available in Asian/Indian stores if staying abprad) instead of the above mentioned spices and it would work out almost fine. Recommended – Shan / MDH biriyani masala.

Method:

  • Heat mustard oil in wok.
  • Fry the onions till brown and then take it out from oil.
  • Grind the whole garam masala along with the fried onions to a paste.
  • To the oil left in wok add whole bay leaves and chicken pieces and fry them.
  • Add the half of the ground masala and onion paste, ginger garlic paste, coriander powder, red chilli powder and broken mace and nutmeg.
  • Cook on medium heat till the chicken softens and is almost done, in case it dries up sprinkle few drops of water.
  • Keep aside the chicken for later use.
  • In a pressure cooker add white oil (Do not use mustard oil for this).
  • When the oil is heated add the remaining ground masala and salt to taste.
  • Add rice and just the double amount of water.
  • Do not cook the rice completely, rather let it cook 3/4th the way.
  • In a flat bottomed vessel 9keeping it on low heat) add rice and chicken in layers. Put a part of the rice in a layer, then add the chicken pieces over it as the second layer, add rice to the 3rd layer and so on depending on the quantity.
  • Sprinkle kewra oil (for essence) and 2-3 drops of orange color. You can omit this step too.
  • Let it simmer for 10 to 15 minutes so that the rice gets cooked completely in the steam.
  • Check on the doneness of the rice. Do not mix this with a ladle or spoon, rather cover the vessel and shake it hard. This way the rice and chicken gets mixed without messing it up.
  • Serve it hot.

Note –

  • Do not use tomatoes or turmeric powder for this recipe.
  • You can also use yogurt /curd to marinate the chicken before cooking.
  • You can use mutton instead of chicken to prepare mutton biryani.

Moong Dal Halwa

I remember the winter holidays in my school.  Almost more than a week of chilling cold weather and basking in the pleasant sunshine while the next door aunty (we had so many aunties nearby…) would visit us with a bowl of something… someday it would be dhokla.. some day paneer. It was during one of these visits that I first came across this sweet dish – Moong dal ka halwa. I have a sweet tooth and just loved this. Till I was in school (at Rihand Nagar, UP – a small NTPC township) I often got chance to taste this dish, thanks to the aunties around, though my mom never made it. However for a long time I had just forgotten about it.

It was one of the snowing days in Connecticut that reminded me of it. And there I was on a ISD call to my mom to get hold of that recipe from any of those aunties. I knew an internet search could give me that but I trusted my childhood taste buds more than anything. So… thanks to “Totle auny” I ended up making this dessert. And it was awesome… though full of calories but I chose to ignore that thought…

Ingredients:

  • Split (Yellow) Moong dal – 1 cup
  • Water – 2 cups
  • Sugar – 1 cup or to taste
  • Oil / Clarified Butter/Ghee – 2 tbsp
  • Khoya – 1/2 cup (if you don’t have you can exclude it)
  • Milk – 2 cups
  • Cashewnuts and Raisins – for garnishing

Method

  • Roast the Moong Dal lightly and then let it cool and grind it to a powder.
  • Soak the powdered dal in 2 cups of water for a few hours, better if overnight.
  • You can also soak the dal in water overnight and grind it to a paste.
  • Heat ghee, oil or butter in a thick bottomed pan and fry the paste on medium to low heat till it changes color to a golden brown.
  • Add sugar, milk and khoya to the paste and stir in continuously.
  • Keep stirring till the  mixture thickens to the desired consistency.
  • Garnish with the dry nuts and raisins.
Text Box: •	Split (Yellow) Moong dal 		- 1 cup •	Water					- 2 cups •	Sugar 					- 1 cup or to taste •	Oil / Clarified Butter/Ghee 		- 2 tbsp •	Khoya 					- 1/2 cup (if you don’t have you can ignore it too)  •	Milk 					- 2 cups •	Cashewnuts and raisins 		- for garnishing