I am happy to report that my reputation as a glutton does earn me some benefits. One of my dearest friends thinks of me whenever she encounters food. She was in a bookstore one day and spotted this book for easy breakfast and brunch recipes and gifted me a copy!
It was established that I would invite her over for brunch and make a few recipes from the book for her! Except, 'easy' breakfast doesn't really do it for me. So I took a recipe that caught my fancy, and added a whole lot of my touches to it.
And so was born the pillowy, soft, fluffy cauliflower potato pancake. This recipe contains no flour, and depends entirely on potato and eggs for its structure.
Recipe Source: Adapted from Easy Breakfast Recipes
Servings: Makes 20 mini-pancakes

Potatoes (small): 4
Cauliflower: 1
Scallions: 2
Green Chilli Peppers: 2
Sour cream: 3/4 Cup
Eggs: 5, divided
Salt: To taste
Boil and peel potatoes, boil the stemmed cauliflower for about five minutes till softened. Cut potatoes into roughly one inch pieces or mash them nicely, so it will be easy to run in the blender/food processor. Chop the scallions and green chillis (you could substitute jalapenos for these too).
Throw the potatoes, cauliflower, scallions and chillis into the food processor and run for a couple of minutes, till it becomes a smooth batter.
My food processor was broken and I had to use my blender, and I was quite grumpy that morning.
Anyway, throw the stuff into your semi-dysfunctional blender and run till you get a smooth batter. Then add in the egg yolks and sour cream, run again for about 30 seconds to a minute.
Pour into a clean container, add salt to taste and set aside.
Now, take a nice clean shiny large bowl for the egg whites. Conventional wisdom demands using a chilled metal bowl, but I am an idiot so I always end up using my white plastic ones. Don't be an idiot like me, although it really does go fine for me. My egg whites turn out stiff as an Englishman's upper lip.
Beat eggs at medium speed till they are frothy, then beat for another 4-5 minutes until stiff peaks form. At this point, I added about half a teaspoon of salt and beat it for another 10 seconds.
Now, heat a non-stick pan, spray some oil or pat some butter on it. Scoop a couple of tablespoons of the batter onto the pan.
Wait until holes appear on the surface of the pancake, and then turn over and cook for 2-3 minutes. If you're pan is nice and hot you shouldn't have much trouble flipping these over. I made tiny pancakes so it was easy for me! If you're one of those fancy ones, you could use pancake rings too, they'll be nice and thick that way because the batter won't get a chance to spread.
I served it with some coriander chutney and this amazing Indian sauce. You can try it with a dollop of sour cream too.
I know these don't look like much, but they're the softest, melt-in-the-mouth pancakes I've ever tried. And the flavour is delicate and delicious.
It was late summer and I knew figs had to be involved. And this time, it was figs and lavender. I am such a huge fan of fruit and herb.
 And you know what else is nice about this cake? No beating, no whipping, just mix the ingredients.

Sometimes a girl needs to leave her mixers alone.

To be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about this cake because I wasn't sure brown sugar, figs and lavender would all go very well together, but I was pleasantly surprised. Also there's almond flour in the cake, so it has a nice nuttiness to it. It's not really your light, fluffy airy cake. It's dense, rich and comforting. My friend ate the cake leftovers for dinner the next day. True story.

Recipe Source: My own creation
Servings: 8


The topping

Black mission figs: 10 (fresh), stemmed and sliced into halves
Dark brown sugar: 1/2 Cup, firmly packed
Salted Butter: 5 Tbsp
Lavender: 1/4 Tsp

The cake

All purpose flour: 3/4 cup
Almond flour: 1/4 cup
White Sugar: 3/4 cup
Unsalted butter: 1/2 cup, melted
Eggs: 2
Sour Cream: 1/2 cup
Salt: 1/4 Tsp
Baking Powder: 1/2 Tsp
Lavender: 1/4 Tsp
Melt the salted butter and dark brown sugar in a saucepan till you smell that caramel, the mixture will bubble and this whole thing should take 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat.
Pour the caramel on the bottom of an 8 inch baking pan, and arrange the fig slices on the caramel. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp lavender on this arrangement.
Pretty, no?
The cake is super easy.

Mix all dry ingredients. All-purpose flour, almond flour, sugar, lavender, baking powder and salt.

Mix all wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Melted butter, beaten eggs and sour cream.

Mix everything. Mix mix.

Pour batter onto the pan, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. I would recommend checking every few minutes after 20 minutes.
Serve the cake warm, or at room temperature. It is a wonderful world of the salted brown sugar caramel, fresh fruit and lavender.
Summer is almost over, and soon it will be time to put my ice cream maker away! But because I love surprises, (and tomatoes), here's a recipe for a savoury tomato sorbet. I served it as an amuse bouche for a brunch I hosted recently for some friends. I didn't tell them what it was, and it totally looks like strawberry sorbet and because it is so cold, you really can't smell the garlic or cilantro. Heh heh, surprised they were.
It's light, refreshing, easy to make and packs a punch of flavour. And it's bright pink. And you're going to love it.
Les ingredients:
Tomatoes: 3, roughly chopped
Cilantro: 6-8 stalks
Garlic: 2-3 cloves
Jalapeno: 1
Vodka: 4 Tbsp
Red food colouring: 2-3 drops (optional)
Salt: To taste
Let's Begin. Chop the tomatoes, chop the garlic, chop the jalapeno. Chop chop chop.
Dump into a food processor or mixer/blender. Blend until it is fairly homogenous. Taste, and add salt and food colouring at this point. Run the food processor again until nicely blended. Add vodka to the mixture. Blend one last time for a few seconds.
Why vodka, you ask? Let me preempt your question. It's not because I consume vodka at brunch. Sorbets have very little fat content, so the addition of a little bit of alcohol helps lower the freezing temperature. In other words, the sorbet won't feel like a piece of rock.

Run the mixture in the ice cream maker and freeze for a couple of hours. Take the mixture out, and run once more before you serve.
I served it on a bed of Greek yogurt. The thick, creamy yogurt is a nice contrast to the flavour and texture of the sorbet. Although I meant it as an amuse bouche, everyone asked for second helpings! I consider that a success.
Almost three years ago, I moved to New York City. I left my warm tropical surroundings and stepped into the grey cold. I think I am as much in awe of the city now as I was when I was new to it. But much as I liked the city, I missed my family and friends. Luckily for me, I moved in shortly with two of the most fun, lovely people I know in this world.

For two short years, we joked, we laughed and we sang. In short, my life was several notches nicer because they were in it. Then one of us moved back to India. It was much sadness.

But this post is not about them. It is about something even better :)

My room mate who moved to India recently visited us, and it was like old times again. Among other things, she remembered this white penne dish I used to cook back then, and asked me if I could recreate it for one of our communal dinners. Hmm. I had no idea what the recipe was. But I created something anyway. It was penne. It was white. It was delicious.

And this is how it goes:

Preparation Time: 30-40 minutes
Serves: 6


Penne: 1 lb.
Salt: 4 Tsp

Cream Sauce

Cherry Tomatoes: 10-12
Garlic: 3 Cloves
Butter: 1/2 stick or 4 Tbsp
Milk/Light Cream: 1.5 Cups
Basil: 10-15 leaves
Paprika: 1 Tsp
Italian Seasoning: 2 Tsp
Salt: To taste
Mozzarella: A few slivers
Lemon Juice: To taste

To start with, take a large pan, and fill it with enough water to submerge the penne. Add salt and stir the water to dissolve as you turn up the heat to medium. Now add pasta and cook 11-13 minutes until al dente. Here's the trick to cooking delicious pasta. Ready?

Always add salt to the water when boiling the pasta. The water should be saltier than you like it. This way, when the pasta cooks, it absorbs some of the salt and the finished dish flavours are enhanced so much. Try it.
Let's move on to the sauce while the pasta is cooking.

Melt butter on pan, then add the slivered cloves of garlic. When it smells like heaven, go ahead and add the cream/milk. When the milk begins to bubble a bit, add the cherry tomatoes and the chopped basil and other herbs/seasoning. Add a little bit of salt. Because the penne is salted already, you really won't much.
When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain the water. Pour the prepared herby creamy delicious sauce to it, and stir on low heat for just a couple minutes. Squeeze a wee bit of lemon into it, garnish with basil and mozzarella, serve with warm garlic bread.
Mmm. Follow it up with some ice wine with friends. There aren't many better days in life.
So for some reason, most kids growing up in India don't like eggplant at all. Eggplant, aubergine, baingan. Who knows why?

I for one, absolutely loved it as a child and even now. My ma makes this south indian curried eggplant gravy that makes me salivate every time I think about it. But that's a dish for another day, when I get the recipe from her.

Today, it's going to be eggplant in a spicy gravy. With tomatoes. I love tomatoes. I like to put tomatoes in everything. It's my secret ingredient. Except, er, not so secret.

So, here we go!

Spicy eggplant tomato gravy

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Serves 2-3

Big Eggplant: 1/2
Tomatoes: 1 Big or 2 Small
Ginger: 1 inch stem
Garlic: 2-3 cloves
Curry Powder: 3 Tsp
Cumin Seeds: 1 Tsp
Mustard Seeds: 1Tsp
Oil: 3 Tbsp
Salt: To taste
Coriander Leaves and Lemon Juice to garnish.

Chop up half a big eggplant into half inch cubes. Finely chop up some ginger and garlic.
Pour the oil (vegetable of canola) into a heated pan. Sprinkle that cumin in there, and the mustard seeds too. Now stand back, and wait for the mustard seeds to pop.
(pop! pop!)

Okay, now throw the ginger and garlic in it too. In fact, you can even add a small chopped red onion to the dish. Just toss this around for a couple of minutes, and add the curry powder and turmeric.

Doesn't this smell wonderful!
Now's the time. Add the eggplant and toss it around to nicely coat it with the spices. Add salt to taste. I usually keep sprinkling the dish with a little salt every now and then, I hardly ever keep track. I probably should, given I'm writing a recipe blog and all.

Add half a glass of water, and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

Use those 5 minutes to chop up that tomatoes. Did I tell you I love tomatoes?

I might have.
Cover with a lid and cook for 20-25 minutes on medium heat. Squeeze some lemon juice and garnish with some coriander. Serve, and enjoy with some rice and lentils (and those recipes will follow!)
Ladies and Gentlemen, please allow me to present to you the wonder that is the Tres Leches Cake. More specifically, the wonder that is this tres leches cake (taken from the Pioneer Woman). Since the egg whites are beaten separately until stiff and added to the batter, the cake has this wonderful airy porous quality that allows it to absorb more of those three milks. Mmmm...

Ingredients - makes 10-16 portions (depending on, err, how fast you eat them)

The Cake

All purpose flour: 1 Cup
Baking powder: 1-1/2 Tsp
Salt: 1/4 Tsp
Eggs: 5 (Divided into yolks and whites)
Sugar: 1 Cup (Divided into 3/4 and 1/4 Cup)
Milk: 1/2 Cup
Vanilla: 1 Tsp

The 3 Milks

Evaporated Milk: 1 Can
Condensed Milk: 1 Can
Milk: 1/4 Cup

(I never end up using the entire mixture, by the way so feel free to make 3/4 of the above quantity)

The equipment

A 9x13 inch baking pan
Hand/Stand mixer
Baking spray
Can opener
Mixing bowls, spatula

Part I - The Batter

Combine the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt. I gather you are supposed to sift the flour but I am lazy and I couldn't be bothered. Don't be like me.

Whisk the egg yolks and 3/4 cup sugar together till fluffy and pale yellow. Don't cheat, make sure it is pale yellow. Now, add the milk and vanilla, whisk on low till just combined.

Now, pour the egg yolk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix gently
Part II - The egg whites

Beat the egg whites on on high till soft peaks are formed, and then add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and continue to beat till stiff peaks. At this point, the egg whites look nice and white and creamy, and the mixer leaves plenty of ridges in the whites.
Now, carefully, gently fold the eggwhite mixture into the cake batter. Be careful not to lose too many of those air bubbles!

Pour the final cake batter onto the well sprayed pan, and bake for 35-45 minutes at 350 degrees. I check every few minutes after 30 minutes and wait for the toothpick to come out clean.

Place on a wire rack until completely cooled.
Part III - Tres Leches

Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk. Mix well and pour over the cake till  the liquid pools around the edges. Leave this alone for about half an hour for all the milk to get absorbed into the cake.
You can even do a nice whipped cream icing over this like Ree does. Me, I'm impatient and ate the whole thing as soon as it was done. That's why I don't have any finished pictures, sorry.

Okay, so you don't know a thing about me. A good place to start would be: I love butter. And sugar. And most of all, salted butter caramel. No better way to start this blog, in my opinion.

The stars of the show:

Heavy Cream: 1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp, or 10 Tbsp, if you happen to be interested in that kind of math
Salted Butter: 6 Tbsp
Sugar: 1 Cup
Salt: 1/2 Tsp (optional)

So simple.
Before you start with the sugar, do this for me. Wear full sleeves or gloves even, if you feel that apprehensive. Make sure you have a deep, heavy pan. And lastly, pour the heavy cream into a bowl and warm it up so it's ready to pour into the caramel when the moment arrives.

I know I didn't need to post this photo but there's something about pouring liquids that makes me want to capture it in a picture.
Now, empty the sugar cup into the nice heavy pan. In about 3-4 minutes, it should start turning into copper coloured liquid. If the layer of sugar is thin,it will brown around the edges, and if it is thick, it will start browning at the bottom and it may not be visible to you immediately. Lightly stir occasionally so you're able to spot the browning.

If you stir too much, the sugar may clump together. Don't worry too much about it, it is a classic mark of an amateur. Just try to break it up and dissolve the clumps. No one told you making caramel was going to be easy. 
Now, to make good caramel you don't really need a thermometer. When the sugar has melted and you start to smell a nice, brown caramel, which has an ever-so-faint burnt aroma, take the pan off the heat and drop in the butter. The mixture will bubble like mad and if you're unlucky, even splatter around a bit. Be brave, and stir continuously.

Next, pour in the warm cream and keep stirring. My caramel did sieze up, but stir and stir like there is no tomorrow, and it will get nicely incorporated into the cream. If some clumps still remain, you'll just have to strain out them out at the end.

Whip up with some heavy cream and butter to make caramel buttercream. Stir some into your favourite hot chocolate. Lick it right off the spoon straight from the jar.

Or if you're one of those with self restraint, store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.