Tag Archives: birthday

On how important it is to be selfish and a healthy grilled chicken, quinoa, mango and wilted kale salad

23 May

Just yesterday I was invited to a colleague’s birthday lunch. It was great to catch up with my colleagues ( 8 women and 1 guy) and to say that the lunch was hearty, would be an understatement. In between the talk turned towards what the birthday girl was going to do in the evening. I was told that she had her celebratory birthday breakfast with her fiance, lunch with her favourite acquaintances and friends from work (that would be us) and evening would be devoted to another grand meal with her family of sisters and parents. To me that sounded absolutely perfect. A day planned around food!! What a perfect birthday indeed!

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The topic from there on turned towards how important it is to make sure that one enjoy’s her/his birthday to the  fullest. Birthday is one day where everybody is entitled to having  their wishes granted and being the center of attention. I nodded my head to all of it except to the one about being the center of attention. My modest and fiercely grounded upbringing and related conditioning refused to accept any claim that suggested being the center of attention was a good thing. It’s because being the center of attention was akin to being selfish and being selfish meant being a bad person. No way was I going to be a ‘bad person’. And if that meant, shunning attention and allowing the limelight to fall on someone else, so be it.

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One of colleagues, a young Bahraini girl – 20 something old, known for her love of celebrating her birthdays spoke up. I listened to her in rapt attention. She talked about how she put a countdown on her iPhone counting down days, hours, minutes and seconds to her birthday. Everyday she took pains to remind her family and friends about her up coming birthday, giving everybody enough time to plan something special for her. After all, family and friends were supposed to do something memorable on her birthday as they were in her life for a purpose which was to see her happy. She described with stars in her eyes about how excited she felt every year when it is her birthday month. Each year she saved up enough money to buy herself the gift of her choice. This year too, she had already bought herself, her own ‘surprise gift’!!!!!

GCQ5To me, all of it sounded preposterous. Attaching so much value to one day is equal to setting yourself up for disappointment. Yet I listened to her in fascination. She rambled on about her love for gadgets and precious stones, clothes and branded shoes and her father’s credit card. In my head, I was judging her against my will as someone who was so self – absorbed. I couldn’t ever be like her and  concluded  how different individuals we were. Suddenly the shine in her eyes, the unbridled happiness on her face drove me to think beyond the obvious. While I was this 30 -something, unexcited professional; she was this 2o – something, full of hope professional at the other of the table. What was so different that our worlds couldn’t meet? Why was I so resentful of her happiness which was self-generated and did not depend on anything external? Materialistic it might be, yet it was genuine.Truth be told, I envied her sitting on the other end of the table. I wanted to be enthusiastic like her about my own birthday, about my life and everything around me. I wanted to make each day count until it was my big day. I wanted  to celebrate. Growing up has cost me. It has taken away from me my enthusiasm for self – created small joys.

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No wonder I felt trapped between my contempt for her selfishness and my readiness to trade places with her and her attitude towards life.  What was that exact point in life where I lost my uncontainable curiosity and enthusiasm for life? Sitting there among all the chatter and immensely enjoying my chocolate lava cake, I tried to trace back the path in vain. The change had happened so slowly and in many ways, irreversibly. To watch this girl revel in her selfishness, was the takeaway for me that afternoon over good food and other interesting conversation. As women, after we get married and have children and  how soon we forget that we need to be selfish. The word feels abusive because as wives, mothers and hence caretakers, it has no business being around in our dictionary. But with that don’t we also forget to find joy from within us. Our children, our families become our sources of joy. Ofcourse they are. It is not debatable. But isn’t it important to find our own joy. Our self-generated joys such as gifting ourselves what we think we deserve or spending time doing things we love. For most of us, what we deserve is decided by what our family or children think we deserve.

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Just sit back and think hard. What do you really enjoy? Let that not include (for once) your child’s smile, his/her achievements, your spouse’s appreciation or your boss’s dependency on you for work. What do you as a person enjoy doing/thinking/creating? Make a list and take a positive step towards achieving it. I did my list which I define as my sources of self- generated joys. One of them is developing healthy and tasty recipes. The Salad pictures that you see interspersed along with all this ‘selfish’ monologue is my own creation.  I enjoyed creating it and executing it. Well to tell you the truth, I didn’t bother sharing this salad with any one else. I enjoyed it for lunch and felt good about it. May be I am being necessarily rebellious but this concept of finding my own joy for my own selfish reasons has taken root in my mind. The recipe is so simple that it shouldn’t take more than half hour to bring it all together.

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I would recommend that you use a sweet dressing for this salad as it complements the flavours of the tart mango, the delicious dullness of the wilted kale and the hearty goodness of the pepper crusted grilled chicken. The quinoa provides the much need foundation to hold all the flavours and gives it roundness of a complete meal.

Hope you enjoy this and spend some time contemplating selfishly about what makes you smile and your heart jump with joy.

In other news, my blog has been rated as one of the TOP 10 Blogs cooking blogs in India. Woohoo!! I am thrilled to bits. Check out the post here

Also, this is my 250th post on this blog. It is such a huge milestone for me personally because I cannot begin to explain how difficult it was at times to keep going – developing, creating content, taking pictures of food and presenting it in an interesting format each week. I am relentless about my blogs because perhaps because this is MY space and I am stubborn about not allowing it to wither away!

With this note, wish you all a happy weekend! Be creative.

Mimi turned 4…. ( A pirate princess party for my princess)

19 Oct

…. a month ago.

My little baby is grown up now. It is delightful and scary at the same time. Sounds cliched. I have heard every parent say this – Oh they grow up so fast and we with them. But as parents, we are such emotional creatures and it is easy to spot us if you find someone:

1. Tearing up in a movie hall anytime there is a emotional scene involving a parent and their child
2. Always ending every conversation with some detail about their children
3. Scanning the internet for kids toys, costumes, clothes, books, shoes etc
4. Vacillating between moods of extreme happiness ( while flitting through kids pictures on the phone) to extreme anxiety (on receiving a phone call from school reporting the kids behavior)
5. Appearing to be burnt out and sleep deprived yet smiling at the end of the day when it is time to go home to their child

What I describe above is the journey of being a parent ( sometimes all of it in a single day). But birthday party planning is something else. The madness starts a month before and continues till the child curls up and sleeps- tired and with a smile on her face dreaming about the wonderful birthday party. That is the sign of success and makes all the effort well worth it.
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Each year, I try to do something different keeping up with whatever is Mimi’s favourite. She enjoys the ‘Jake and the Neverland pirates’ and ‘Sophia the first’ shows on Disney junior and informed me that the theme of her party had to be either pirates or the princess. I wondered if it was possible to have them both and that is how the Pirate and Princess themed party idea was born.

I couldn’t have done it without my husband’s help and all the creative ideas from Namit. Starting from the pirate -princess themed invites to the cake to the decorations and the games – was planned, dropped, re-planned, dropped and planned again several times before finalizing on the details.
We urged the invitees to come dressed up as pirates or princesses and we supported them with more pirate/princess props. Even the adults were sporting enough to wear the props and pose for photographs.
The decorations ( entirely Namit’s idea and effort) were mostly pirate-y but balloons were mix of pirate and princess colours of black, white and pink.

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For the cake, we ordered a two -tiered chocolate buttercream cake with pirate -princess them. The cake was delicious and all the guests had several helpings.

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We had the caterers come in and serve tasty Indian food with desserts.
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We couldn’t go through with all the planned games because the party started later than planned. But all in all the kids had a good time playing in the play area outside the party hall. They all left the party tired, happy and with return gifts ( that Mimi had a huge problem distributing and wanted all of them for herself)

thats me (left) and a guest

thats me (left) and a guest

Pirates and princesses

Pirates and princesses

Party games ( The birthday girl)

Party games ( The birthday girl)

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For me the highlights of the party would be:(by now you should know I am a big list maker)
1. Mimi wore a dress (yoo hoo). Considering how she abhors dresses and all things girly, it was a big win for me. She even wore a head band with butterflies and such.
2. The 2 tiered chocolate cake- Mimi’s eyes lit up when she saw the cake in the morning. She quickly changed her mind about wearing pants and decided to wear a dress that matched the cake. All pink and girly, she looked like a star.
3. I baked a gluten free and diary free cake for a guest’s child who was intolerant. It came out wonderfully which wasn’t surprising as it was a Nigella recipe. Unfortunately I don’t have pictures and can’t do a post on it for the moment. What this means is, I will have to make it again to post it on the blog. ( I hear a big shout out from Gayathri for this)
4. My get up inspired by Penelope cruz from the Pirates of the Carribean movie. It was so much fun wearing the eye patch and the pirate hat!

I am sure the party was as fun for the adults as it was for all the children. All party pictures courtesy – Namit Bhatia

For a parent, their child’s birthday is the most important date on a calender. We strive to make it memorable for us more than our children (because they are too young to remember except when they would see pictures in the future). We do this for us, for our satisfaction and somewhere to allay some fears of how time is just bounding past us. I see my baby girl turn into someone new when I spot she doesn’t have chubby cheeks anymore, that her features are more prominent and that she is becoming her own person giving her point of view about everything ( sometimes it shocks me when I realize every moment she is learning something new and spinning her own thoughts around it).
This pirate princess party was for me and my joy+sadness of seeing my child move into another glorious year.

Mimi’s 3rd Birthday with Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

6 Oct

One of my friends mentioned on my Facebook, against one of Mimi’s photographs – Tempus Fugit ( Latin for Time Flees/Flies) and it stayed with me for the longest time. Is there no way to capture it all and bottle it up or have moving photos like that in Harry Potter books? No videos can ever do justice to the essence of the moment. It can never capture the way my baby smells ( at each age; in months, at 1, at 2 and now at 3 years of age, she smells differently), the way she pronounces Mamma and how it has changed to a more definitive and more confident, Mamma now that she has made that transition from being a baby to a toddler. She has very strong preferences about the colour and the kind of clothes she wants to wear and the sort of food she eats and the activities that she wants to do. She can recognize most of the fruits, vegetables, colours, things, people’s names, shapes, animals, birds, numbers until 30, all the alphabets and talks in whole sentences. When did this change come about? It is most extraordinary when I see her perform with such poise and confidence her rhymes with her own set of actions to go with it. She is growing up way too quickly. I feel helpless and happy at the same time watching her grow up so quickly and into this fiercely independent individual. Birthdays are such powerful reminders of how time is just slipping by without warning. I want to hold on to each moment, want to savour it by being in it, revelling and participating in it. But countless such brilliant moments just pass by without recognition and sometimes even without awareness.

Her 3rd birthday was an eddy of emotions like that

It was unfortunate that on her 3rd birthday she was very sick; down with a severe throat infection and high temperature. Medicines kept her spirits up but not mine. I complained that it wasn’t fair that she should be sick on her special day. All my plans of making a cake and sharing it with her schoolmates were thwarted by this disease that seems to afflict my child ever so often. Sweet and considerate friends came over to make her feel special with gifts in tow. She blew a solo candle on a banana chocolate chip muffin that I had on hand. She was beaming from all the attention she got and the songs that were sung for her. She did her happy dance.

She got better a few days after that and we quickly planned a party to thank all our friends who made Mimi’s day by either visiting or calling to shower her with their blessings. A birthday party, that was simple and uncomplicated as Mimi’s own concept of what birthdays are. When I asked her what she thought about her birthday, she said, ” Cake, blow candles, sing birthday song for Mimi”

Such a simple philosophy and so much I learn from her each day about keeping things simple.

Mimi loves chocolate and a chocolate cake is just what she wanted. So Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake was just right for this simple occasion. I was inspired to try this cake from Thanh’s blog. Nigella’s bakes are fool proof and so uncomplicated. Quite like Mimi’s philosophy. Nigella’s old fashioned Chocolate cake was just right for the mood. Simple, homely and delicious. The sour cream addition to the cake the frosting lent a special flavour. It is a special cake and you can take my word for it. In the recent past, I have collected some real good chocolate cake recipes and this one’s an addition to that best- chocolate- cake- ever list.

All photos courtesy : Namit Bhatia

I changed the recipe a little by doubling the quantity of baking powder and baking soda and have incorporated that change in the recipe card in the post. Instinctively it felt that the original quantities of the baking powder and soda might not be enough to hold the cake up. I was glad that I made those changes in the quantities as the cakes turned out beautifully fluffy and moist too. The chocolate flavour was rich inspite of the fact that the recipe used only cocoa powder. I strongly feel that it was the sour cream, that did the trick.

My daughter and her friends enjoyed their cake slices and more so enjoyed picking out the M&Ms off their slices. The other guests ( my friends) enjoyed it too. Both the cakes were gone soon. Disappeared! with only the crumbs to show as evidence. It is with a lot of trepidation that I embark of baking special day cakes as most of the times, the pressure gets to me and my whole effort is wasted. The cake almost never turns out to my satisfaction. But this one did. Nigella promised that it would and it did. That is why I love her and turn to her for special occasion bakes.

It was such a joy to see all the children in Mimi’s party waiting for the cake cutting ceremony. Waiting with bated breath as the candles were being lit and as the glow of the candles reached their eyes,  the cake was the center of their universe. There was a race to blow all the candles in a single breath and once the candles were blown out the eager eyes trailed the path of the knife that sliced the cake laced with their favourite M&Ms. M&Ms were devoured first and then the cake with all the sumptuous attention it deserved. Happy children made everybody smile and the atmosphere was set for the rest of the luncheon. From then on it was more giggles and laughter, conversation and chatter. It was beautiful party indeed.

 

 

 

A Birthday Wish for the Special People in my life (with some Carrot Cake)

30 Jul

The longest time off my blog yet and I wasn’t even vacationing or sick! Life’s in a limbo and I feel no immediate need to wake up from my stupor. I have been doing a lot of things in the background inviting people over, baking splendid bakes, preparing a lavish spread of grills and desserts, reading and watching Olympics (off late).

I still feel I am not completely in my element yet, as far as blogging is concerned. But I really wanted to do this post for one of my closest friends and Harry Potter. It is their birthday tomorrow and I had to wish them well with a cake. A carrot cake to be precise.

About Sandhya, she’s one of the sweetest souls one can ever hope to meet in life. Once you have met her, you have no choice but to keep her for life. It has been almost 10 years now that we finished our MBA together and I do not recall a time when we haven’t been in touch. Even if there was a gap in our communication, it never felt so, because we could continue from where we left off last.

Here’s wishing you, Sandhya, my beautiful friend – A VERY HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Now to wish my all time favourite book character – Harry Potter ( and JKR). Happy Birthday… You rock my world.

This Carrot cake is to let you know how much I love you both. I wish for Harry Potter to come back but then I know it may not be the same again. I am excited about the new novel that JKR is writing which is meant for Adults. It would be interesting to see what sort of characters she has up her sleeve this time

And dear, dear, dear Sandhya, let us skype more often and I hope you buy a blackberry soon, so that we can bb each other all the time.

As for this carrot recipe, I found it while I was browsing through the internet for some easy to put together vegetable ( read zucchini, beetroot, carrot) cakes. I found this on the Joy of Baking website and I knew it was a winner right away because it used PINEAPPLES. Sometimes you know that special ingredient would be just the thing that makes a cake extra special. My favourite sort of special ingredients are cinnamon, cardamom, almond essence and the new addition to the list would be Pineapples. This cake asks for no butter and the sugar is something I always add lesser than what is asked for in the recipe. The sweetness from the pineapple shines through intensely from the carrot cake which is perfectly balanced by the nutty flavour of the olive oil.

Joy of Baking has never let me down and their recipes are spot on. This cake is very easy to put together – literally a child’s play. If your child is 3 or older, it could be a weekend baking project.

I hope this special birthday post acts as a good luck charm and helps break this no-blogging phase that I am going through. Until the next post which is about an ooey-gooey stunner of a chocolate cake – Another birthday special, I bid adieu!

All photos courtesy: Namit Bhatia

 

 

 

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Frosting ( Birthday Post-1)

5 May

It was my birthday a few days ago and it was wonderful. I can go ahead and claim that it was the best birthday that I would have had in a decade. Unexpected and infinitely fun, this birthday goes down in my birthday history books of records at the very top until ofcourse another more fantabulous one comes along.

Birthdays and me, don’t really have a thing going as long as I remember. I was never the one to look forward to one, more so after I crossed the “30” milestone. Its been a week now that my birthday’s gone, but the good taste and feeling still remains, lingering in the air somewhere. I catch a whiff of it sometime and you can see me smiling for no reason at all. It was that wonderful. You may also know that I enjoy doing a lot of analysis. I have to know why something was good, or bad, or why it happened or what was the best way of going about it etc.

There are few straightforward reasons as to why this birthday was so much more amazing than the other ones:

1. The biggest reason is my parents are in town. How can a birthday be anything less than wonderful when your parents are with you. They lavished all their attention and love on me (for a change) otherwise everybody has eyes and ears only for Mimi.

2. My husband promised to bake a cake for me ( rest of the story follows later in the post)

3.  My daughter, Mimi can say Happy Birthday to you now and can sing it even better

4. I got plenty of gifts which include a much sought after cake stand, a gold ring, shopping vouchers, flowers, delicious home baked  chocolate cakes, a lovely bag and dinner at one of the best restaurants in town. It cannot get any better than this. I profusely thank my husband, Amit, my parents, my friends Namit, Anamika, Ashish, Gayathri and Pooja for making it so memorable.

5. I think the most deciding of all factors was that I was expecting nothing. Zilch.

A few days before my birthday I noticed that people at work brought cakes to office on their birthdays, so I thought that I should join in on that trend and push some of my bakes on my co workers. I turned to one of my least used baking books – Nigella Lawson’s ” How to be a Domestic Goddess” and flipped open to the Chocolate Cherry cupcake recipe. What caught my eye was the morello cherry jam that was used so generously in the recipe. I love the taste of Morello  cherry Jam and instantly knew that it was going to be a great recipe to try. But I didn’t fancy the chocolate ganache frosting and starting thinking of other ideas for frosting the chocolate cherry cupcakes.

Do you see the lovely photo of the cupcakes and the one with has the recipe written in it? Its the work of my friend Namit. He comes up with the most glorious ideas that help make my blog look a whole lot better. All these photographs were shot by him since I had no time to take pictures and was sure that there was no post coming out of this one. But he made sure that not a single bake was missed. Hearty thanks to you Namit.

Now to my story where my hubby promised me that he would bake a cake for my birthday. Well, he must have had a few sleepless nights after he made this promise to me during a rush of emotions. I was quietly enjoying  him getting anxious and uneasy as my birthday approached. For everybody’s information, he can’t cook AT ALL. He can make his tea and instant noodles and his culinary expertise ends there. Finally on the day before my birthday he came home with an envelope and handed it over to me. On opening the envelope I saw shopping vouchers. He apologized about not being able to make a cake for me and instead pleaded me to make do with these shopping vouchers. I stared hard at him for sometime while my brain did some quick analysis and soon came to the conclusion that these shopping vouchers would definitely make a better gift considering the latest collection that I had an eye on at Zara and Mango. I quickly accepted his gift with a lot of gusto! When I think back I realized he bribed me and I accepted it without a thought. That is what 7 years of marriage does to you, I suppose.

Shopping vouchers Vs Hubby baked cake —> Shopping vouchers win hands down!!

Look at the cake stand. Lovely isn’t it?

The cupcakes came out moreish and were appreciated all round. My co workers came back for second or third helpings and I was sold out by the end of the day. I think that is a good indicator to how wonderful these were. You could distinctly taste the fabulous flavour of Morello cherry jam which made it so enchanting. The white chocolate frosting idea was completely mine. I used Lindt white chocolate with sour cream and icing sugar to create a confectionery sort of sweet icing. I wished I had a piping bag, it would have made the frosting even more appealing. The crumb of the cupcake was soft and cake like. I would highly recommend making these on special occasions and guarantee that they would be a huge hit. In case you have some kirsch then it is even better since the flavour of kirsch provides a well rounded smooth cherry flavour.

I have another post lined up which will entail the Party details. Cheers until then!

Being Prepared With a No- Bake White Chocolate, Cinnamon Infused Orange Cheese Cake

23 Mar

Quite a title!

But it was only fair to include every ingredient that made this cheesecake so special. It was my friend, Namit’s birthday a few days ago. He is practically family after 2 years of our friendship. On his birthday, I invited him to come home and have dinner of dum aloo, boondi raita  and parathas with us. Knowing Namit, who likes everything to be very simple; no fanfare, no loud celebrations for him. I have also realized that he likes subtle flavours so I thought cheesecake may fit the bill perfectly.

Making this no- bake version of  a cheesecake is what I prefer when I am short of time but want to impress too. I referred plenty of cheesecake recipes and couldn’t put my finger on any one of them so I combined two or three of them and came up with an amalgamated version. It was really exciting to put it altogether, praying fervently that it should set and not fall apart when I try to loosen the springform pan around the sides.

This Cheese cake is special because it has the deep, satisfying flavours of the cinnamon infused oranges that take it to the next level. The fresh golden orange slices bubble and sizzle in a sugary syrup with cinnamon to bring out the exotic in them. The flavours are subtle but vibrant in parts. That makes this cake a class apart. Whenever I have someone coming home for dinner etc, I like to prepare a bit in advance so that I don’t feel harried in the end. Bits and pieces add up in the end to make a spectacular event.

All this talk about preparation makes me recall my experience on the first day at work. As I had mentioned in my previous post about having joined work, I felt underwhelmed by my lack of confidence on the first day at work. I felt my nerves giving away every time I had to pick up the phone to talk to people. I stressed and prayed for the day to end quickly. It wasn’t the most memorable experience. The same evening I had my writers’ circle meeting to attend. I met my dear friend Pooja, ( also a member of the writers’ circle) after work and we took off to attend the meeting. By some divine design, the session was about how to feel confident and excel at public speaking. Mr. Mohamed Isa – A distinguished Toastmasters speaker and a speaking coach gave us a wonderful insight into how one can excel in their personal and professional life by being able to speak confidently.

It was so apt for me and I thanked my stars as the session was most useful. He shared his ideas through plenty of funny anecdotes from his life that had his audience in splits. He emphasized on BEING PREPARED and GAUGING THE AUDIENCE for an effective and confident performance. All my life, I have never underestimated the importance of being prepared.  Be it exams or some presentation at work, I have always prepared well. His session only reiterated what I had known all along. It was time to get the focus back and take things in my control at work. I made mental notes for the next day and surprisingly enough I was able to sail through the day. Hopefully, I should be able to build up on this confidence to be able to tackle anything that is thrown my way at work.

 So I made this cheese cake a day in advance so that in case it flops for any reason, I would have enough time to put together another cake for the d-day. But preparing well ensured I put in sufficient time and energy into it – which basically meant, I was able to give it my best shot. I put this cheesecake in the refrigerator to set overnight and set it did. I arranged the golden slices on top of the cake and inhaled the divine concoction. It was stimulating to say the least.

Recipe for White Chocolate and Cinnamon Infused Orange Cheesecake

Ingredients

For the infused orange slices

Oranges – 4, large

water -2 cups

sugar – 300 gms

cinnamon stick – 1

For the Cheesecake Crust

Digestive biscuits – 180 gm

butter – 75  gm, melted

For the cheese cake

White Chocolate – 400 gm

Cream cheese – 300 gm

Double Cream – 200 ml

Preparation

1. Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin to fine crumbs and add the melted butter and mix well. Tip the mix into a 20 cm lined, loose bottomed cake tin/springform cake tin. Smooth the top of the crumb+butter mix with a spoon and put it in the fridge to set for 30 minutes.

2. Peel and slice or keep the peel on like I did for the oranges and place them in a bowl. Use 3 oranges for this. The last orange has to be grated and the zest kept in a separate bowl.

3. In a saucepan, bring the sugar-water and cinnamon to a boil until slightly thick and syrupy. Pour the syrup over the sliced oranges and the zest (half and half  or to cover both of them completely in their separate bowls) and cover for 30 minutes. You can do this in the morning and keep aside. The flavours will get more time to infuse and the scent of orange and cinnamon will give you a heady feeling. That’s a fantastic feeling to have, trust me.

4. Melt the white chocolate in a microwave and then allow it to cool slightly.

5. Beat the cream cheese and double cream until soft and thick., then stir in the white chocolate. To this add the cinnamon-sugar syrup infused orange zest and mix well. Don’t allow too much of the sugar syrup to fall into the mixture. We have to keep the mixture dense for it to set.

6. Pour this batter on the biscuit base and push it into the fridge to set overnight.

7. Once ready to serve, layer the orange slices on the cheesecake in concentric circles.

The birthday cake was enjoyed by all of us but soon we realized that even a thin slice of this cheesecake goes a long way. It was filling, flavourful and beautiful to look at. So I took Mr. Mohamed Isa’s words to heart – preparing well in advance  by making cheesecake ahead of when it was needed and gauging my audience who was none other than Namit. The birthday boy definitely seemed very happy.

A Birthday celebrated with Rice Pudding, Kerala Style

29 Apr

It is that time of the year, when post 30, you fervently pray that people should forget your birthday. I turn 31 today. It is a bitter-sweet feeling. I am not overly excited neither am I under-playing it when friends and family call me to wish me a beautiful birthday. I have  never been excited about birthdays. Frankly, I think they are slightly over rated. I rather enjoy festivals and other important days such as my daughter’s birthday or my husband’s even than my own birthday. Do not know why but my birthday seems like  just another day to me.

I LOVE TO PLAN for others’ birthdays, anniversaries, last day in office and similar events. But when it comes to my own, I hate to do any planning for myself and I also do not expect anybody to plan either because it wouldn’t be as great as the way I do. Totally narcissistic. But I have high standards, what to do? 🙂

Post 30, cakes can make you feel, if not a little depressed, then definitely uncomfortable. How many candles are you going to light up there? 30 odd candles and then there is no space to put the knife through! So naturally, I did not order for a cake on this birthday. In fact, it is all-Kerala strike and hence there wasn’t even a question of ordering one or going out for dinner too. All celebrations are confined to my mum’s home. My mum being the lovely mum that she always is, went through the trouble of making a rice pudding. This is no ordinary rice pudding since I have had all versions possible ( north Indian, south Indian, west, and east too). She promised me that it wouldn’t be anything like I would have had before.

So while she sweated it out (literally) in the Kitchen I made myself comfy with a book. Around lunch time she asked me to come over to taste the divine concoction. It had an enchanting aroma and I guessed it was because of the rice being cooked in coconut milk ( traditionally it is milk that is used to make rice pudding). I quickly grabbed a bowl and dug in. Simply fabulous and like she said, it wasn’t like any other rice pudding. It had a melt in the mouth kind of texture with fried coconut pieces far and in between. It was simply perfect. The sweetness was because of all the goodness of jaggery and the stunning aroma was because of the coconut milk and cardamom.

It is anybody’s guess how many bowls I would have devoured. Who needs a cake when you have the yummiest pudding made by mum?

The bananas that you see in the background (photograph above) are organic bananas from my uncle’s farm. 

This modest seeming pudding is an explosion of flavour and in my opinion, a grand substitute for a birthday cake:-)

The Recipe for Rice Pudding in Coconut Milk and Jaggery

Ingredients

1 cup of rice (basmati rice- you need to break it up a bit by grinding for a bit in the mixer grinder. Need to be careful that they don’t become too fine else will be mesh and almost dissolve into the pudding)

5-7 cups of coconut milk ( either squeezed from freshly grated coconuts, like my mum did or use the ready-made varieties available in the market)

Jaggery(grated)-2 to 2 1/2 cups depending on how sweet you would like it

Coconut pieces – a handful ( optional)

1-2 tsp of cardamom powder

1/2 tsp of ginger powder ( optional)

Preparation

Wash the rice thoroughly and throw it into a mixer grinder or blender to break it into smaller bits. .

In a huge vessel/pan, pour 2 cups of coconut milk and the broken rice and cook it in medium heat.

Traditionally, this recipe would require 2 coconuts which are grated and fresh coconut milk is squeezed out which is called the first milk. This would be thick and dense. Then a sprinkle of water on the same grated coconut to squeeze out some more, which is called second milk. finally, pour a little extra water on the grated coconut lump and squeeze out maximum that you can, which is called the third milk. The rice needs to be cooked in the third milk to start with. As and when the rice cooks, second and first milk are added after the addition of jaggery.  This is the foolproof way of ensuring the authenticity of the pudding. Only after I learnt from her the actual method of making this pudding, did I realize how much effort she had put it.

So for anyone ( like me ) who uses ready-made coconut milk right off the tin, this process would be way simpler. For ease of understanding, I have divided the 6-7 cups of coconut milk into approximately 3 lots. The first lot, like I mentioned above would be approximately 2 cups to cook the rice first.

To this,  now add grated jaggery. It is a joy to see it melt uniformly into the whiteness of the rest of the ingredients. This is when the pudding attains the chocolate like colour.

Time to add the next lot of coconut milk which would be 2 cups and let the pudding simmer. A beautiful aroma would waft through the kitchen as the coconut milk cooks the rice.

Finally, when the pudding seems to near completion added fried coconut pieces ( fry them in ghee/clarified butter for enhanced taste) and add the last lot of coconut milk to maintain the consistency.

You can keep simmering the pudding on low fire till you get the consistency that you prefer.

Top this with cardamom powder and dry ginger powder and mix thoroughly before taking it off the fire.

Let it sit for sometime and give time for the flavours to blend in. I loved mine chilled but you can have it hot and steaming.

So that is how I celebrated my birthday. My personal trainer is not going to be happy at all. I guess he might give me a break since it is my birthday. No birthday is complete without the round-up of presents.

I have to thank my mum first for gifting me a beautiful Tissot watch which I will treasure for life. It is an exquisite looking thing.

My dearest hubby, Amit- thank you for all the lovely books you got delivered home.  You are  a darling to have sent me splendid baking and culinary books and  a parenting book by Amy Chua called ” Battle hymn of the tiger mother”. For a laid back mum like me it is like a slap on the face kind of book. I love it!

My fantastic friend, Namit, cared enough to send me the book that I was so excited to buy but never got around doing so. He bought me ” Baking from my home to yours” by Dori Greenspan. It was such a  pleasant surprise. Thank you Namit

My darling friend Gayathri surprised the day lights out of me, by dedicating a birthday post. It is such a lovely gesture that it would very difficult for me to express how much it means to me. Thank you Gayathri.

Throughout the day, I recieved phone calls from school and college friends. I was touched that even after so many years, they remembered my birthday. Especially because, I haven’t let FB update it on my profile:-)

I was warmly wished by lovely twitter friends and lots of wonderful people on facebook.

Thank you all for making it so perfect. Though I am not the biggest fan of celebrating my birthday, what I excitedly count is the number of blessings that I get each year from these lovely set of people. Thank you all.

Last but not the least, my daughter gave me two meaningful pecks on my cheek and a big hug 🙂

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