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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vegan Lemon Almond Cake

Around this time of year I get calls from friends with lemon trees to announce that the lemons are ready and up for grabs. And most of the times I do accept this generous offer and get few off their hands (or tree). I use it by making lemon pickle, lemon curd, basic salad dressing and of course in staples like lemon rice. Few months ago I had these awesome vegan lemon almond cupcakes in cafe and immediately decided to ask for the recipe. I was hopeful to get a nice recipe from the chef but as of now I have not received any response. I waited for few days and then started searching for 'the' recipe as I wanted to make use of these amazingly flavorful Meyer Lemons I had sitting in my fruit basket. I love lemon flavored everything and wanted to try these lemon cupcakes. After searching furiously for few days, I came across this plain vanilla almond cupcakes recipe and I thought this is something I can easily modify to get what I want. And with my limited knowledge of baking, I had to make some SOS calls to confirm the substitutes I was planning to use. And to my surprise I was on right track! We had called few friends over for coffee and wanted to offer these along with it. I measured the ingredients carefully and started mixing up the batter in food processor. While I was doing that got a phone call from a friend of mine who got in touch with me after long time. I was mixing things in the food processor while happily chatting over the phone. After adding the flour realized that my batter was very thin and I got upset. Immediately I opened my laptop and checked the recipe again and it did say that the batter will be bit watery and its okay! Ahhh! sigh of relief! But then on a second thought I decided to add 1/4th cup of flour to the batter. All mixed in together and poured in the lined mini muffin pan! And realized that one minor detail I had forgotten! The recipe was for normal sized muffins and not for mini. So I decided to dump the remaining batter in a loaf pan and see if works out. And it turned out great too. As the remaining batter was a very small quantity I had to bake about the same time as the mini-muffins. By the time this drama was over, my friends had already arrived. With all these events, I had not even got time to cleanup my counter top which I did in few minutes and started chatting with them. While we were having coffee I very reluctantly offered them these cuties I baked. I did not even get a chance to do the taste test before offering. And the whole dozen was gone in matter of few minutes with oooh and aaahs, asking me for the recipe! Even though I added generous amount of lemon zest which gave enough flavor but was not as much as the cupcakes I had in the cafe. I think they might have used more zest or used lemon extract. I am not sure as I have yet to receive recipe from them.Then next time I decided to make it in a 8x8 inch pan. And as expected it came out great. Now after reading all my stories you must be wondering about the recipe so here it is -

Adapted from this recipe
2 tbsp lemon juice + soy milk = 1 cup milk
1.25 cup Flour
1/3 cup almond meal
3/4 tsp Baking Powder
3/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Sugar
1/3 cup Oil
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
3 tbsp Lemon Zest

Lemon Almond Cake

Procedure -
Preheat oven at 375F. Grease and flour a baking pan.
Mix lemon juice and soy milk and set aside for few minutes to curdle.
Mix almond meal, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and keep it aside.
Add oil, sugar and lemon zest and vanilla extract to a food processor bowl and mix for few minutes.
Add curdled milk in three batches mixing it for a minute after each batch.
Add mixed dry ingredients at once and mix it well for couple of minutes.
Pour it in a greased pan and bake for 20 minutes or until the toothpick inserted comes out clean.
I poured some lemon glaze on top just to add some more lemon flavor.

Tips -
  1. I always use whole wheat pastry flour to for baking. It gives very rustic flavor to the cakes. But I suppose you can use APF for this to get the delicate flavor
  2. I made my own almond meal by grinding 1/3 cup almonds.
  3. I am sure lemon extract and amaretto will give nice flavor to this but I did not have any.
  4. I love flavor and aroma of Meyer Lemons and used these in this recipe too.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Bhadang

Life was simple back in the days when I was growing up. Homemade chivada, bhadang, laddus were the only available after school snacks. Mom would make it fresh regularly even with her busy schedule. Potato chips, cakes, pastries was something we would get occasionally (read once a year). There was this churmurewala who sold fresh churmure(puffed rice) from canvas bag lined with 4-5 layers of plastic to keep them crispy. Mummy would buy churmure from him regularly.

Once in a while we would go to this small place where they made churmure using traditional method. The stove or the oven where they make chirmure is about 2-3 feet wide, about 2-4 feet deep, depending on amount of production. It constantly burns various types of wood, remains of a rice, jowar plants or even coal sometimes. They would put a large iron kadhai, usually half filled with fine sand, on that constantly burning heat. Like every production line, here things will be lined up to optimize use of fuel and time. To make churmure, the thick variety of rice is soaked in salt water for at least 7-8 hours. Then removed and air dried just enough for them to be damp. One person will add about a kilo or so this damp rice in heating sand in kadhai and another will constantly stirring the contents. When almost all the rice is turned into churmure they are removed using a large metal strainer which will get almost every piece of churmure out while leaving the sand in kadhai. The process is repeated until that rice batch is done. Then  churmure sifted again to remove remaining sand and stored in a plastic lined bori. various types of poha, roasted chana(phutane), lahya(popped jowar), popcorn are made in the same way. Its not easy to be around high heat all the time nor is healthy for the people who work in these 'factories'. I hope things have changed for good as I have not visited it in past 10-15 years.

So lets see how to make bhadang using these freshly made chirmure -


Bhadang

5 cups fresh Churmure
1/2 cup dry roasted peanuts
6-7 curry leaves
2 cloves of garlic
2-3 green chilies (or per taste)
Salt per taste
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of asafoetida

Preparation - 
Spread churmure in a large plate lined with paper towel. Microwave for 20-30 seconds in two batches.
Finely chop green chilies. Crush garlic and coarsely chop.
Heat oil in a heavy bottom vessel. Add mustard and cumin seeds. Add curry leaves when the seeds start to splutter.
Add chopped chilies and garlic. Saute on medium heat. Add roasted peanuts and saute till it becomes golden brown.
Add salt, turmeric and asafoetida and mix well.
Now remove vessle from heat and add churmure and mix it well. Make sure churmure are coated with spiced oil. Now start heating the kadhai on low to medium heat. Stir constantly.
Adjust seasoning and remove from heat. Make sure you keep on stirring it even after removing from heat. Let it cool down completely before storing in airtight container.

Tips -

  1. If you get fresh churmure like my mom, there is no need to microwave it. But the store bought churmure are not really crisp at times and microwaving it makes a difference. 
  2. My mom makes this with red chili powder instead of green chilies. 
  3. Some people add powdered daale(puffed chana dal) to bhadang. And some people add metkut. If you decide to add metkut do not add green chilies, add red chili powder instead. 
  4. You can use same recipe to make bhadang out of Rice Crispies Cereal.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rotini With Vegan Alfredo

Well sort of....

We had gone to Macaroni Grill for dinner one day and my husband was debating between Pasta Milano and Capellini Pomodoro. After about 5 minutes of going back and forth he finally ordered the Pasta Milano but without meat. As it had alfredo sauce, I couldn't even take a bite. But then and there I had decided that I will veganize it as I loved the ingredients mentioned in the description. In my next trip to Trader Joe's I got vegan cheese and sun dried tomatoes. I do not care about mushrooms much so did not bother. Weeks passed by without giving me chance to cook anything that needed me to pay attention to details or the measurements. Last weekend was so busy that I did not even get to do the preparation for the week. Today was comparatively less busy to think about something other than work and daily routine. I came home on time but only to notice empty fridge! And immediately remembered about the ingredients I had bought for pasta. I took everything out on the counter and my husband asked me why am I cooking such a elaborate meal. According to him, I cook more elaborate meals when I am very hungry. I, of course, disagree! He challenged me to finish cooking in 20-25 minutes and photographs in next 5 and we get to eat. Who can say no to that kind of challenge?And guess what? Everything was ready and plated in exactly 20 minutes!

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