Diwali Sparkles: Chana Dal Burfi (Split Chickpeas Fudge)

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Diwali… the most shiny, sparkly, blingy of all Indian festivals :D

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The festival that loosens the purse-strings of most people across the country…It is one of the most important, if not the most important festival of Hindus and the whole country gears up to celebrate it over five wonderful days.

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Days filled with rituals, the most wonderful food, the prettiest new clothes and jewellery, decorations, fireworks, and of course lights and lanterns. It is the festival of lights, after all.

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The whole country gets dressed up like a bride… a shimmering Indian bride, naturally… :D

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There is a lot of mythology surrounding Diwali, about what it commemorates and what the significance of this lovely, boisterous festival is. My favorite legend is about the return of Rama to his kingdom of Ayodhya.

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The legend of Rama has all the ingredients of a modern pot-boiler or a Greek tragedy: a cruel step-mother, loyalty, a damsel in distress, a brave king, an evil demon, an epic battle with a happy ending (that turns not so happy soon…but that’s another story).

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Diwali or Deepavali literally means a row of lights. The row of little oil lamps that the citizens of Ayodhya lit, to illuminate the path for their beloved king, Rama, who was returning home, on a moonless night, after 14 years in exile…

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Preparations for Diwali begin about a month in advance in many households. Housewives make prodigious amounts of fabulous sweets and savory snacks to be distributed among family, neighbors and friends during Diwali.

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Now that sort of hard work is not for me, nor do I have the time for it but I do like to keep traditions alive by making at least one sweet and one savory ‘snack’ for Diwali each year. In the past I have made Chivda, Besan Rava Laddoo, Kaju Katli, and Gujiyas.

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This year, I start off Diwali with this gorgeous, melt-in-your-mouth sweet, made with humble split chick peas, called Chana Dal in Hindi. A fudgy, nutty piece of heaven, that is mildly sweet, full of protein and delicately laced with cardamom.

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I am bringing these beauties along to Angie’s Friday Fiesta co-hosted by lovely ladies Hilda and Julianna. I suspect there are going to be other Diwali revelers at the party and I hope we set off some fireworks. Do join us, won’t you :D

Here’s the recipe.

Chana Dal Burfi (Split Chickpeas Fudge)

  • Servings: 16-20 pieces
  • Time: 3 hours including soaking time
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Ingredients:

100 grams Chana Dal (Split Chickpeas)
1/2 cup Desiccated Coconut
1/2 cup Ghee
450 ml Milk
1/2 teaspoon Cardamom Powder
2 tablespoons chopped Pistachios
10 Almonds, chopped
500 ml Water
75 grams Sweetened Condensed Milk (increase if you like more sweetness)

Directions:

Soak the chana dal in the water and keep aside for 2-3 hours.
Strain off the water & cook the dal in 300 ml of milk till soft. Keep aside to cool.
Grind the dal to a coarse paste along with the milk it was cooked in.
Heat ghee in a saucepan, add the dal paste and fry stirring continuously till the mixture is light brown.
Add the Condensed Milk and blend into the mixture.
Then add the remaining milk and cook till the mixture leaves the sides of the pan.
Add the desiccated coconut, almonds, pistachios and cardamom powder and mix well.
Remove from heat and spread onto a greased tray.
Cool and slice into desired shape.

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Free Range Feast: Cuban Roast Chicken

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I don’t cook very often with whole birds. Christmas maybe (remember last year’s Roast Duck) or one or two other special occasions during the year. Otherwise drumsticks are my go-to cuts for curries and boneless chicken breasts are what I use for appetizers.

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But two weeks ago, I went to our local supermarket on Friday evening and they had these gourmet, free-range whole chickens on sale and I couldn’t resist.

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Cooking with whole birds scares me a bit. It seems simple enough, but different part of the bird cook at different rates and that is always a challenge.

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This time I took the easy way out and used a meat thermometer :) The chicken was perfectly juicy and cooked with the right amount of color on its skin.

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I wanted to use mild seasoning for the chicken this time in order to savor the flavor of that wonderful free-range chicken.

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I made a Cuban-style Mojo marinade with citrus fruits, garlic, cilantro and cumin. And a little dash of soy sauce for the color.

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I roasted it over a bed of onion rings, which cooked in the chicken juices and made the most wonderful accompaniment to this perfect, indulgent Sunday roast.

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Tangy, juicy, crispy skinned chicken. Simple yet heavenly. Doesn’t the glorious color on that chicken make you happy? No? Must just be me then :)

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I served it with a simple salad of baby spinach tossed with tomatoes, onion and lemon juice.

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Comfort food at its best, don’t you think :D And it turned out to be quite easy in the end; makes me wonder why I don’t make it more often…

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Here’s the recipe:

Cuban Roast Chicken

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 2 hours 45 minutes
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Ingredients:

1 small Chicken, about 2 kg
1 Orange, zest and juice
1 large Lime, zest and juice
8 Garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dark Soya Sauce
2 teaspoons Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds, toasted
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 large Onion, cut into thick rings

Directions:

Make the marinade: Zest orange and lime and set aside.
Add juice from lime and orange (should be at least a ½ cup total) and garlic to a blender.
Add oil, salt, pepper, soya sauce and cumin. Blend well.
Rinse and truss chicken and place in large Ziploc bag, with the marinade, turning to coat all the nooks and crannies.
Let sit at room temp for one hour, turning occasionally. (Or marinate up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).
In a large roasting pan, place the onion “rings in a single layer.
Remove chicken from marinade and set it aside on a plate or on parchment paper.
Pour all remaining marinade into the roasting pan.
Nestle the trussed chicken breast side down in the pan.
Place on the lower rack of a 220 C oven for 20 minutes.
Turn chicken over, reduce heat to 200 C, and continue to roast until inner thigh reaches 74 C, about 35-45 minutes more.
Let rest 10 minutes before carving.
Serve with the drippings and a green salad.

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Black Eyed, Please: Punjabi Lobia Masala

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Brrr… it’s getting chilly, grey and rainy here. No doubt about it any more, autumn has us firmly in its grasp. The infamous Scandinavian wind is acting up too, creating little tornadoes of rustling, multi-hued leaves…

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And what do you do in cold weather when you are a spice fanatic like me? Make steaming pots of warming, tongue-tickling curries, of course!

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While I absolutely adore meat curries, I also feel that vegetarian curries with their wonderful variety, lusciousness and health benefits do not get their due appreciation.

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Today’s post, for instance, is about a simple and easy curry from the North Indian state of Punjab, the state where Naan, Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka and Butter Chicken come from :)

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Punjab also has a fabulous variety of vegetarian food. Remember this divine Dal Makhani? This particular curry is made with Black-eyed peas, called Lobia in north India.

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The cooked black-eyed peas have a soft buttery texture that melds so well with the spiced tomato gravy. It is literally one of those melt-in-your mouth dishes that is ridiculously flavorful and doesn’t take hours to out together.

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You do need to soak the black-eyed peas overnight and pressure cook them (or you can buy cooked beans!) So a bit of planning is needed. I just soak the beans in the morning before I leave for work and they are all nice and plump when I get home.

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Oh, and this lip-smacking curry pairs equally well with rice and flat-breads. Perfect for quick weeknight dinners. And did I mention all the health benefits that black-eyed peas provide: high fiber, high protein, potassium, iron…

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I am taking an aromatic bowl full of this gorgeous curry over to Angie’s Friday Fiesta. It is being co-hosted by two amazing and inspirational bloggers today, Julianna @Foodie On Board and Hilda @Along The Grapevine. Do check out their amazing blogs and join me for the party!

Here’s the recipe.

Punjabi Lobia Masala (Black-eyed Peas Curry)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 minutes (plus soaking time)
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Ingredients:

1 cup Black-eyed Peas
1 inch piece Ginger, finely chopped
5 Garlic flakes, finely chopped
1 large Red Onion, chopped
2 medium Tomatoes, chopped
1 Bay leaf
2 Cloves
½ inch piece Cinnamon
1 Green Cardamom
2 teaspoons Coriander powder
½ teaspoon Cumin seeds
½ teaspoon Turmeric powder
½ teaspoon Red Chilli powder
2 tablespoons Oil
½ cup chopped Cilantro
Salt to taste

Directions:

Soak the black-eyed peas overnight or 4-5 hours with 3 cups water. Add more water if the peas seem to have absorbed all the water after a couple of hours.
Add the soaked peas to a pressure cooker along with the bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamom and 1/ teaspoon salt. Add 2 cups water and cook the peas for 4-5 whistles.
Once the pressure is released, check that the peas are cooked. They should mash easily when pressed between your fingers. Keep aside.
In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add the cumin seeds.
When they sizzle, add the onions.
Fry the onions till they become transparent.
Now add the chopped ginger and garlic. Fry till the raw smell of the ginger and garlic disappears.
Now add the powdered spices and saute for a minute.
Add the chopped tomatoes and half teaspoon salt and stir fry the mixture till the tomatoes become soft and the entire tomato-onion mixture starts to leave the sides of the pan.
Make sure to fry the mix on a low flame, stirring continuously.
Now add the cooked peas and mix well. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Check seasoning and add more salt if needed.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with rotis or rice.

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The Upper Crust: Ricotta-stuffed Herbed Focaccia

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I used to pass by a bakery every morning walking to work from my old apartment (yes, walking to work! Sounds like a luxury, doesn’t it? Only in Copenhagen!)

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The smell of freshly baked bread would be wafting through the air and I would barely contain myself from going in and buying a couple of bøller (buns) every morning.

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Is there anything more comforting than the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven? It gives me warm, fuzzy feelings every time. You know the kind that you get when you are indoors in front of a roaring fire during a snowstorm :)

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A lot of my blogger buddies are avid bread-bakers; not me though. I have only tamed the yeast beast a couple of times like for Angie’s Friday Fiesta Challenge, when I made some delicious garlic and herb Naan.

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Since then, the beast has been ignored, forgotten, in favour of quick fix meals, partly due to my crazy schedule these days and partly because I am too impatient for the whole raising and proofing process that baking good bread involves.

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And then, the lovely Margherita comes along with this fantastic bread: Focaccia stuffed with ricotta. Isn’t it gorgeous? It is one of those breads that put all others to shame…

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I like to think of it as an overachiever among breads. The bread that goes that extra mile…I mean, start with the crust studded with tomatoes. Isn’t it pretty! I think Margy’s crust looks a lot better than mine; I need some more practice baking it evenly.

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And then, the clincher, there is ricotta in there… stuffed right into the bread! Talk about a complete meal! I can imagine making a picnic out of this bread and a crisp chardonnay. It is just wonderful and won’t it be a lovely centrepiece for a cosy brunch with friends :)

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I loved using these Danish ‘cocktail’ tomatoes, but you could even use slices of regular tomatoes. The herbs I used were dried Oregano, Thyme and Rosemary with some Garlic and Chilli flakes for zing. You could use your favorites.

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This focaccia is accompanying me to this week’s Friday Fiesta co-hosted by Selma and Elaine today along with Angie. I hope I will see you there mingling with all the awesome party-goers :D

Here is the recipe (minimally adapted from La Petite Casserole)

Ricotta-stuffed Focaccia

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: Approx. 4 hours, including proofing time
  • Print

Ingredients:

250 grams All-purpose Flour
12 grams fresh Yeast
175 ml Water
3 tablespoons Olive oil + 1-2 tablespoons for greasing and garnishing
½ teaspoon Sugar
1 pinch of Sea Salt
200 grams Ricotta
10-12 Cherry Tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon Mixed Herbs of choice (Oregano, Rosemary, Thyme, Dill)
1 large clove of Garlic, finely chopped
1 pinch of Red Chilli flakes (optional)

Directions:

Dissolve the yeast in the water and mix it with sugar.
In a bowl put the flour, make a hole, pour the water with dissolved yeast and then the oil.
Mix well until you obtain a homogeneous dough.
Let the dough rest for about 2 hours.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces and roll them out on a floured surface.
Grease a baking dish with oil (or butter) and place one piece of dough in the dish
Spread the ricotta over the dough and sprinkle the chopped garlic.
Cover with the other piece of dough.
Oil the surface, decorate it with halved cherry tomatoes, herbs, sea salt (and red chilli flakes if using).
Let the focaccia stand for 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven at 200°C and bake the focaccia for about 30-35 minutes
Let it cool down a bit and enjoy!

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Hosting Friday Fiesta: Murgh Kofta Curry

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It’s Friday!!! It is grey, it is gloomy and there is not a spot of sunshine, but I will take it anyway :D

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And this is a very special Friday too… I am co-hosting Friday Fiesta today!! Hooray, hooray, hooray… What is Friday Fiesta, you ask?

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Why, it’s only THE MOST FUN VIRTUAL WEEKLY PARTY EVER!!! If I was better at poetry, I would insert a rhyme or two here, but I’m not gonna torture you with that today :D

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The hostess with the most-est Angie, The Novice Gardener (ha! she is anything but!!) has made this virtual potluck into a warm, inviting soiree, which explodes with fabulous flavors and clever creations each week.

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And the party goers are nice and friendly, they don’t bite, promise! If you are new to blogging or even looking to make wonderful, encouraging, supportive friends, come and join us at this week’s fiesta.

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And guess what? Prudy is gonna be my co-host today!! Do you know Prudy? Well you should! Take a look at her awesome blog and try not to drool all over the keyboard :D

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Head on over to Angie’s now! What are you waiting for? Oh right, what am I bringing along today? Can’t come empty-handed to the fab fiesta, can I?

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I am bringing something that to me celebrates the best part about blogging. Collaborating and learning from other bloggers :) A few weeks ago, Anjana (another awesome Friday Fiesta buddy) posted her droolicious Chicken Meatball Curry. I finally managed to pull my eyes away from the screen and stopped salivating, but I knew I had to make this gorgeous curry soon!

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Imagine soft, succulent, flavorful little meatballs in a fragrant, lightly spiced, velvety tomato gravy… The meatballs themselves make fabulous appetizers (don’t ask how I know!).

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I ended up making it two times in one week, with a few teensy changes. It really was THAT GOOD!! The first time I made it was for my friends, an Italian and a Swede, who had come to dinner. The Italian in particular sweats at the slightest amount of heat, but he quite enjoyed this wonderful, mellow curry.

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The second time was for my husband’s birthday feast. You know, the one where we ended the meal with this luscious White Chocolate Mousse :D

Well, here’s the recipe for this fabulous Curry. See you at Angie’s soon!

Murgh Kofta Curry

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: Approx. 1.5 hours
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the chicken meatballs or kofta:
400 grams minced Chicken
1 Egg
1/2 of a small Onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Ginger and Garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves, you can also use Cilantro leaves instead)
1 teaspoon Garam Masala powder
1 teaspoon Salt
1 large Potato boiled and grated
Oil – for brushing

For the curry:
3 tablespoons Oil
Whole spices – 1 inch cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 2 cardamom pods, 1 dried bay leaf
1 large Onion, ground to a paste
1 tablespoon Ginger and Garlic paste
400 ml Tomato Passata (you can also use pureed tomatoes instead,, I just love the color and smoothness passata imparts)
A small bunch Cilantro, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Red chili powder
2 teaspoons Coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon Garam masala powder
1/4 cup Yogurt, lightly whipped
2 cups Water
Salt – as per taste

Directions:

Kofta:
In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients for kofta and mix well. Cover and let it sit in the refrigerator while you pre-heat the oven.
Pre-heat the oven to 400 F / 200 C and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly brush the foil with oil.
Make small balls with the kofta mixture and place on the baking sheet.
You should get 20-25 balls, depending on how you roll them.
Make them slightly flattened at the top so that they cook evenly in the oven.
Brush the tops of each meatball lightly with oil.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or till done.
Remove and cool the kofta balls while you prepare the sauce/curry.
The meatballs can be prepared one or two days in advance and refrigerated.
Alternately, the kofta can be deep-fried in hot oil.

Kofta curry:
In a large, wide pan, heat the oil. Add the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and coarsely ground cloves and cardamom.
When they sputter and turn aromatic, add the onions and saute till they turn golden brown.
Now add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell is gone.
Add the masala powders and saute on a low flame for a minute, taking care they don’t burn.
Add the passata. Cook till the mixture is thickened and the oil starts to separate at the sides.
Now add some cilantro leaves (reserving a few for the final garnish) and mix well.
Turn the heat all the way down and slowly stream in the yogurt, stirring all the while. (If you do this on high heat, the yogurt may curdle.)
Add water and slowly bring to a boil on medium heat. Cook this gravy for 5-10 minutes or till it is thickened and season with salt.
Add the prepared kofta balls and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot with rice or rotis.

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Celebrate Fall’s Bounty: Applesauce Oatmeal Bundt Cake with Caramel Drizzle and Brazil Nuts

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I love this little jingle that the munchkin and I sing these days:

All the leaves are falling down,
Orange, yellow, red and brown
Falling softly as they do,
Over me and over you…

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The leaves sure are changing color and it is getting a bit chilly (3 degrees this morning!!). The weather is a bit all over the place. A sunny warm day followed by a totally cloudy one!

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Perfect opportunity to post this recipe with photos I took on a bright sunny day about 2 weeks ago. It’s a cake made with my homemade Applesauce and Oatmeal.

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It is quite a delicious cake and yet it is light and bread-like enough to have for breakfast. The oatmeal gives it a sturdy (but not dry), nutty texture, which I really enjoyed.

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To make it just a little naughty, I topped it with a caramel drizzle made with condensed milk.

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And a final touch: toasted Brazil Nuts… The spices in the cake also make it a wonderful treat for cool weather.

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Totally delicious and while my husband was away, the munchkin and I did enjoy quite a few slices of this cake for breakfast :) Healthy, filling yet scrumptuous!

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This cake can stay for about a week at room temperature if stored in an air-tight container, and it still remains quite moist. So it’s perfect to make on a weekend and enjoy all week long.

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Here’s the recipe.

Applesauce Oatmeal Bundt Cake with Caramel Drizzle and Brazil Nuts

  • Servings: 12
  • Time: Approx. 2 hours
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the Cake:
2 1/2 cups All purpose Flour
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground Allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
1 cup Brown Sugar
3 large Eggs
2/3 cup Butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup Honey
1 cup Applesauce
2 cups rolled Oatmeal

For the Topping:
200 ml Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
1 tablespoon Butter
10-12 Brazil Nuts, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 180 C. Lightly grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg.
In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and eggs until well-combined. Whisk in melted butter and honey until smooth.
Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the applesauce.
Add remaining flour mixture, along with the oatmeal, and stir just until no streaks of dry ingredients remain.
Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 55-60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow cake to rest in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

When the cake has cooled, make the topping.
Lightly toast the chopped Brazil nuts and keep aside.
In a medium saucepan, combine condensed milk and brown sugar.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, whisking frequently.
Reduce heat, and simmer for 8 minutes, whisking frequently.
Remove from heat and whisk in the butter.
Drizzle over the cooled cake.
Top with the toasted Brazil nuts.

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Sweets for My Sweet: White Chocolate Mousse

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So last Saturday was the husband’s birthday. He was however sunning himself (that’s at least how I see it!) in Bombay, far away from us…

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He came back home on Sunday after 2 weeks in India and to celebrate the end of my period of single parenthood, I decided to welcome him back with a bit of a feast :)

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A lip-smacking curry with the usual accompaniments: peas pulao, raita and roti, and then the pièce de résistance… this heavenly, completely decadent White Chocolate Mousse.

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He is crazy about white chocolate, so I wanted this to be a real surprise. I made it the day before and it was chilling in the fridge.

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I added a bunch of different toppings: freeze-dried raspberries, chopped pistachios…

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Coffee-flavored, coffee-bean shaped chocolate chips, cherries in syrup…

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I told the munchkin it was a secret surprise for Dada and that she shouldn’t mention it. But of course, as soon as we sit down for lunch, she gets all excited and blurts out, ‘Dada, we made mousse for your birthdayyyy!!!’

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When my husband opened the refrigerator and saw the mousse, his face lit up like a little kid’s on Christmas morning :)

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And he ate it making mmmmm… sounds, slowly savoring each spoonful and said it was the best dessert ever!

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So, if you are a white chocolate lover, you can’t not make this mousse. It is the most ridiculously creamy, light, luscious mousse you will ever eat. It tastes like white chocolate and whipped cream had a baby, a very delicious, gorgeous baby.

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And I am bringing this baby to this week’s Friday Fiesta, where awesome co-hosts Selma and Elaine are joining Angie today. It should fit right in with the fabulous things that everyone brings to this rocking party :) See you there!

Here’s the recipe.

White Chocolate Mousse

  • Servings: 6
  • Time: 30 minutes + chilling time
  • Print

Ingredients:

1-1/2 tablespoons Water
1 teaspoon unflavored Gelatin
4 large Egg Yolks
¼ cup Sugar
A pinch of Salt
2 tablespoons plus 1-1/4 cups Heavy Cream, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted Butter, room temperature
200 grams White Chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons confectioner’s Sugar

Directions:

Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle over the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to stand until it’s softened, about 5 minutes.
In a heavy bottomed saucepan, combine the egg yolks, sugar and salt with 2 tablespoons of the heavy cream (set the remaining 1-1/4 cups aside to use later).
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens (taking care not to let it boil), about 5 minutes.
Remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the gelatin and butter.
Allow to cool to room temperature.
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate in 30 seconds intervals.
Stir and microwave for 30 seconds more. Stir. Repeat as needed, being careful to not burn the chocolate, until almost all the chocolate is melted. The residual heat will melt the remaining bits. You can also melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
Let the chocolate cool slightly.
In a medium bowl with a hand-held mixer, beat the remaining cream with the confectioner’s sugar until medium-stiff peaks form.
Fold in the custard and the melted chocolate until incorporated.
Cover and chill for several hours.
Serve cold, by itself, or topped with raspberries or other accompaniments suggested in this post.

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