Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mango Sandesh

Now I have real live proof that I am a Bengali.

No I knew previously as well. You know, after a lifetime so far of speaking, reading, writing and understanding Bengali, preferring a Mayabono Biharini to Jumme ki Raat, the Gollum-like wait for Durga Pujo, resolutely calling it Pujo and not Puja, the pathar jhol and murgir jhol and not mutton/chicken curry, the exasperated eyeroll at everyone who mimics Bengali accent as every word having "o", the dhakais, the Tagore-worship for good reason, the aloo-sheddho-bhaat, chholar dal, luchi, shaak, mocha, echor and chhenchki, the million ways to cook ilish, rui, pabda, puti, chingri, tangra, parshe, I'm pretty sure that I am as hard-core a Bengali as any other.

But there was one thing. One elusive thing. And that was, making a Bengali sweet. A roshogolla, lengcha, payesh, kanchagolla, and what not. Oh, and the sandesh.

Sandesh is an all-encompassing term for a dry (as in not dripping sugar syrup), but soft or hard sweet made of fine cottage cheese, in different shapes and sizes. It can be stuffed. It can also be flavoured with anything and everything. Pineapple, chocolate, the rounded brown flavour of nolen gur (date palm jaggery), cardamom, kesar, strawberry, orange, etc. And the king of summers, mango.

Which I made.


So without further ado, let me tell you how I attempted to replicate what the moira (halwai) of yore had done. It is not at all difficult, but it takes time, and it is absolutely worth it. 

Aam Sandesh
Recipe from Neha Mathur

You need:
  • 1.5 litres of milk. You can use full cream m,ilk.
  • 2 tbsp Lemon juice. You can sub this with vinegar, but you might need more.
  • 6-8 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp milk powder
  • A pinch of cardamom powder, optional
  • 1-1.5 tea cups of mango puree. I used 2 medium mangoes. You can also use canned pulp.
  • Sliced almonds/ pistachios
  • Silver foil for garnish, totally optional.
  • Oil for greasing

The How:
  • Put the milk in a heavy bottom saucepan. Let it come to a boil.
  • When it boils, add the lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce heat, give it a stir and let simmer for 2-3 minutes more till the whey runs clear.
  • Strain the cheese in a colander or cheese cloth or strainer.
  • Wash it with drinking water once to get rid of the lemony smell.
  • Let it drain for about 45 minutes. By this time, enough water will have drained to make it easy to handle, but it won't have dried out completely.


  • Now take the cheese in a large bowl or plate. Mash with the heel of the hands till it is absolutely smooth no matter how much time it takes. If you're not confident, break up the mass of cheese into smaller chunks and process in the food processor till smooth. By smooth I mean smooth not touch, not liquid. This part is of utmost importance. My cheese was still a little grainy.

  • Add the sugar and mash it in.
  • Turn out the cheese on a non-stick pan or a heavy bottomed saucepan. Don't turn on the heat. Add the mango puree and milk powder (and cardamom powder if using). Mix it well. It should look like this.

  • Turn on the heat to medium-high to high, and cook. Constantly stir, so that the bottom doesn't burn. At this point, if you see some larger particles of the cheese, use your ladle/karchi to mash it. The aim here is to dry it out, but leave some moisture in. The original recipe took about 12 minutes, for me it took close to 20. Go by eye-feel. It should look like this when it is ready to be taken off the heat.

  • Let it cool for about 7-8 minutes in room temperature, till you can touch it and handle it. Do not allow to completely cool, as this will make it difficult to handle.
  • Now take a mould (there are sandesh moulds available), or like I did, the bottom of a fancy looking pudding bowl. Grease it lightly.
  • Take a heaped 1/2 tbsp of the mixture, and press it into the mould. The amount you take depends on how large/deep your mould is.
  • Press gently with your hand so it takes the shape.

  • Take it out gently. If it breaks, no worries, just lump it together and press into the mould again.
  • Or if you don't have a mould, just form it into balls.
  • Press the sliced nuts on top if you want to.
  • Arrange on a plate, and let it cool in the fridge for a while before jumping in.

And that's it. Delicious, soft, all-natural sandesh you can wow your family and friends with, packed with juicy mango flavour. Mind-numbingly amazing when cold!

Till the next time!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eggless Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars

Today's story, is of a dessert that will blow your socks off.

Today's story, is about buttery yet crispy, cold, creamy, summery, tangy yet sweet goodness.

Today's story is about calories, and how sometimes, it's totally okay to forget your diet.

Today's story, is about my Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars.


Between wishing for a summer vacation from work and my commitment to make something, anything every weekend, I chanced upon a recipe I've bookmarked ages ago. Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares, by the awe-inspiring Pioneer Woman, who I believe is my soul sister (she just doesn't know it yet). A killing heatwave in Delhi gave me my chance to make this beautiful dessert. I edited it a bit though.

Imagine a cold, creamy, citrus-hinted condensed milk filling, that oozes, but is also set in place, sandwiched between a layer of almost granola-like cookie base, and a layer of loose buttery cookie crumbs on top. 


And imagine if you could see it layer on layer as you make it. That's right, this time, I did not use my aluminum baking pans, but a Borosil square baking dish. Simple reason why. In this particular recipe, I don't need to cook anything, I simply need to heat it till it sets and melds. An aluminum pan would have heated very fast, and the sides of the layered dessert could possibly burn. A borosilicate dish helps here, because it heats gently, enough to set the layers together, but not enough the burn the edges. Plus, the layers looks gorgeous!

Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars
(Makes about 16 squares)
You Need:
  • 250 gms of Marie biscuits/ digestive biscuits/ Ginger biscuits
  • about 100 gms of salted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar, powdered/ castor
  • Rolled oats (optional)
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • one can of Milkmaid
  • A few drop of vanilla/ butterscotch flavouring (optional)
  • juice of 3 whole lemons
  • Lemon zest, about 1 tsp
  • Oil, for greasing

The How:
  • Put the cookies in a food processor and process till mostly fine, but has a few small chunks left. Alternately, chuck the cookies in a ziploc bag and go at it while a rolling pin till a similar consistency.
  • Mix the oats in, if you're using it. Put 1 pinch of salt in. Put in the sugar.
  • Chuck the softened butter in and rub it in till it resembles wet sand. Set aside.
  • Very lightly grease a mixing bowl. Dunk the entire contents of a Milkmaid can into it. I greased it so the Milkmaid will be easy to pour out.
  • Add the lemon juice, vanilla/ butterscotch flavouring, zest and salt.
  • Mix well till completely combined.
  • At this point you are totally allowed to taste a spoonful (or three).
  • Preheat the oven to 180 celsius.
  • Grease a large square or rectangular Borosil dish, preferably with handles.
  • Now chuck half the biscuit mixture in the pan. Press down with fingers till it's an even crust.


  • Dump the Milkmaid mixture in it. Spread lightly with a spoon so that it's even, and reaches all the edges and corners.


  • Take a look at the side of the dish and whoop in glee!
  • Now take the rest of the cookie mix, and gently sprinkle over the two layers. Be careful and ensure even coverage because you can't press this layer down.

  • Now bake, at 180 celsius for about 10 minutes. This helps in setting it.
  • Once done, take out, and let cool completely.
  • Once completely cooled, cut into squares, but don't take it out just yet.
  • Put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Now take the squares out gently. Some parts of the crust will remain and some of the topping will fall off, but that's the fun of this dessert!

And that's it!

Enjoy the summers!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Malted Dark Chocolate Chunk Eggless Cookies

In life you'll find yourself faced with exams and tests. Of the literal kind, and of the metaphorical kind. Some you'll fail, some you'll pass, and some you'll kick the butt of, and some that will kick your butt.Among that, every person faces one test in his or her life, that forever changes him or her. Everyone faces one test, one rite of passage, so to say, that will prove your worthiness to no one, but you.

In that spirit, the test of a good baker is a chocolate chip cookie.

There are so many of those. Thick, thin, fudgy, cakey, crisp, crunchy, chewy, studded with chocolate bits, some melted, some not so much so. But a baker is truly worth the sugar s/he uses, if s/he can make a dynamite chocolate chip cookie.

Which I did! This was my masterpiece, till date. Thin, crisp yet chewy, studded with dark chocolate chunks with a surprise ingredient, that elevates your cookie to another level, and you can never come back down.  And I used oil instead of butter, which made made them expand into crispness! Presenting, my first original recipe, Malted Dark Chocolate Chunk Eggless Cookies!



Malted Dark Chocolate Chunk Eggless Cookies
(makes a zillion)
You need:

  • 11 tbsp All-Purpose Flour
  • 5 tbsp oats flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Horlicks (original flavour) (SURPRISE!!)
  • 10 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 10 tbsp oil
  • One large bar of dark chocolate, chopped
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • A splash of butterscotch essence if you have on hand (optional)
  • 4 tbsp yoghurt

The How:

  • Sift together the salt, Horlicks, baking soda, oats flour and APF.
  • Mix the sugar, yoghurt, vanilla, butterscotch, and oil till well mixed. You don't need a mixer, a fork will do just as well.
  • Add the dry mix into the wet mix slowly, mixing well to avoid any lumps.
  • Dump in the chocolate. Mix well.
  • The dough will be a bit sticky but labour on.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 celsius.
  • Lightly grease a baking tray ( or as I use, the bottom of a cake pan)
  • Take 1 tsp scoops and place about 2 inches apart. The scoops should not be too big or too close, otherwise it won't have any space to spread and will end up becoming thick. Basically don't do what I did in the picture below.

  • Bake for about 10-12 mins at 180 ceslius until you see the edges becomes brown.
  • Turn out on to a rack to cool. Beware though, they might feel soft in the middle when you take it out, and almost foldable when you put it on the rack. They should crisp up in no time/
  • Try a warm one, pass out in sheer bliss, then put the rest in the oven to cook when you come to.
  • Store in an airtight jar, and enjoy with cold milk!
That's actually it. It's ridiculously easy. And the malt flavour and the caramelly taste of the Horlicks makes it sticky and chewy all at the same time, almost like toffee.



Enjoy, and let me know how it went, and how long the batch lasted!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

No-Bake Mango Yoghurt Pannacotta with Mango Gelee and Butter Cookie Crumb

A very sweaty hello to one and all, and welcome to my 50th post!

That's right. Summer is here, which brings us pain and sunburns.

Lucky for us, summer also gets us watermelons and green almonds, litchis and jackfruits. And what is that fruit? Yellow, juicy, sweet with varieties from almost all corners of India? Oh yes that's right, Mangoes!! This season, R was so kind as to get a whole basket of Alphonsos from Mumbai. Oh they were good. So good. So so good. Find memories of mangoes you know. Back in Pune, when R and I were grad-school students, not so well off, we used to go to Pune city to while away time. In the summer months, we got one single but massive Totapari mango, which the seller kindly sliced into wedges, that, unless you pull it out, remains in shape. That was delicious, juices dripping down our arms as we roamed around Pune. Not as much because of the taste, as much as the memories.

This time, that thing in my brain raised her head. "Make something out of the remaining mangoes", "make something delicious!" she said. And I had to agree. What, you don't think it's a "she"?

And boy am I glad I did. Presenting, the quintessential summer dessert, a simple No-Bake Mango Yoghurt Pannacotta with Mango Gelee and Butter Cookie Crumb. It shows two layers of mango, with the mouthfeel of traditional pannacotta, but with the lightness of yoghurt being used in place of heavy cream. Cool and jiggly, it takes time, not to cook, but to set. Have it cold, straight out of the fridge.It has a surprise layer of Butter cookies at the bottom of the glass, to give a little texture and contrasts of taste. You can easily omit this.



No-Bake Mango Yoghurt Pannacotta with Mango Gelee and Butter Cookie Crumb
Adapted from Baker in Disguise

You need:
For the pannacotta
  • 1 1/3 cups of yoghurt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sugar (depends on how sweet the mangoes are)
  • 1 chopped smallish mango. 
  • 5 tsp unflavoured gelatin powder, or chinagrass/ agar agar if you're vegetarian. Please do check the conversion for 5 tsp gelatin.
  • 1/2 cup of water.
  • A pack of butter cookies (optional)
The How
  • Bash the powder the cookies, distribute equally in your ramekins or glasses.
  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let it rest for a few minutes.
  • Puree the sugar, yoghurt and mango
  • Gently, very gently heat this mixture and bring to a boil. Be careful that it does not split.
  • To this mix, add the gelatin and water and mix. You may need the heat up the gelatin water for about 10-15 sec in the microwave, if it becomes lumpy.
  • Spoon it into the glasses, and chuck into the fridge for minimum 4 hours, overnight if need be.
  • Once this has set, make the mango gelee. That's because just in case the pannacotta hasn't set when you add the gelee, it'll mix, and that'll be a sad, tearful mess.

For the Gelee
  • Another 1 chopped and pureed smallish mango
  • 3 tbsp sugar. Adjust this according to the sweetness of your mangoes.
  • 1 1/4 tsp unflavoured gelatin powder
  • 1/4 cup cold water
The How:
  • Sprinkle the gelatin on the water and let rest.
  • Blend the sugar and mango, to bring to a liquid, not lumpy texture.
  • Gently heat this mixture to a boil and add the gelatin water. Similar to the pannacotta, heat it for 10 sec if need be.
  • Mix well, and layer on top of the completely set pannacotta.
  • Let it set for another 2-3 hours in the fridge.
And that's it!



Till the next time!!

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Few of my Favourite Things

Today, this post does not have any food, or recipe, any review on it.
As it goes, it has fewer words than I normally write as well.
What it does have, is a few of my favourite things.
What it does have, a peek into who I am.
I am..
A girl who loves to eat.
A girl who loves to write.
A girl who loves Loki, the God of mischief. Yes Loki, in the end I will always kneel :)
A girl who loves herself some ghar ka khana
A girl, who loves nothing more than a bottle of Nutella, feet up, and Supernatural/FRIENDS/Masterchef/Top Chef on the TV.
A girl whose life revolves around MS Excel, and is darn good at it.
A girl who LOVES to bake for her friends and family.
A girl who is extremely excited about starting a new life with her best friend and her soulmate.
A girl who will go to the end of the world for her Ma and Baba.
A girl who will win any Harry Potter trivia knowledge in her sleep.
A girl who has found a baby sister in her soon-to-be sister-in-law.
A girl who loves taking photos, because you never know what may happen tomorrow.
A girl whose grandmother is her sister, her friend, her sous chef, her teacher, her student and her life.
A girl who's madly in love with Jensen Ackles. Google him, you won't regret it. Thank me later.
A girl who watches Andaz Apna Apna every time on TV, and now knows the lines by heart.
A girl whose best-friend-turned-soulmate-turned-fiance is her Andaz Apna Apna partner.
 A girl who thinks Red Mango froyo is REALLY expensive.
A girl who will fight to death for women's rights and gay rights.
A girl who loves everything to do with chocolate.
A girl whose best-friend-turned-soulmate-turned-fiance is the joy and pride of her life.
A girl who will lick the screen when Avengers is on Star Movies, because Chris Hemworth and Chris Evans are really that hot.
A girl who has found her best friends on Indiblogeshwaris.
A girl who has her phone on charging the whole day because she can't stop browsing Pinterest.
A girl who remembers that time when her Baba picked her up and flew her on his arms.
A girl who tries to eat healthy, kinda succeeds but binges on a pizza once in a while.
A girl who, if she does not tell her Ma every little detail of her day, feels physically ill.
A girl who has a wicked collection of rings (and shoes and bags). #SorryNotSorry.
A girl who will forever be her Ma and Baba's little baby, because that is what I really am.
A girl who'll forever be the granddaughter who learnt baking from her Grandmother, because that is what I really am.
A girl who is always reminded by a mad boy, how lucky he is to have her, because that's how lucky I really am.
I am Aishwarya, the geeky girl who bakes, eats, reads, watches TV, pins, loves and is loved.

And I'm so proud of me.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

Petite Fekkas: Eggless Moroccan Fennel Cookies

Everyone has a phobia. For some, it's cockroaches, for some it's heights, and for some it's small spaces. Mine is cookies.

Not eating them. Oh you silly! I can finish a whole sleeve of Milano cookies in one sitting, no biggie. Making them. I simply cannot make cookies. My chocolate chip cookies came out as weird blond pucks. My thumbprint cookies were not bad, just..weird. Even the Fates are against me. The one time I bought a cookie sheet, I ended up not measuring the inside of my oven because I am amazingly bright. Predictably, it didn't fit. I know use the detachable bottom of my standard cake pan or my usual rectangle cake pan. So basically, I can't do it.

Except this time.


I made Fekkas as my weekend project. Tiny buttery eggless Moroccan cookies, studded with toasted fennel seeds. The perfect size to eat by the fistfuls. You can make it regular-sized cookies as well, but this puts the "fun" in "fun-sized". Addictive, unbelievably delicious and goes incredibly with tea.



Seriously you guys, you need to try this out. It's super easy, uses stuff you have on hand in Indian kitchens easily. It's very easily customizable. You can use jeera, ajwain, or sesame seeds in place of fennel. It takes a little bit of time, yes. But at the end of it, you'll have a jar's worth of crisp aromatic cookies that you'll finish in three sittings, two if you're doing it well!

Petite Eggless Fekkas: Eggless Moroccan Fennel Cookies
Adapted from Gayathri's Cookspot

You need:
  • Caster sugar: 1/2 cup
  • Softened salted butter: 1/4 cup
  • Any neutral oil (sunflower, rice bran): 1/4 cup
  • Vanilla essence: 1 tsp
  • Yoghurt: 1/2 cup
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp
  • Salt: 1/8 tsp
  • Maida or APF: 2 1/4 cup
  • Fennel seeds (or ajwain, jeera or sesame seeds): 1 1/2 tbsp (more if you are doing the ajwain version. Source suggests 2 tbsp, but with fennel or jeera, it becomes a little difficult to knead)


The How:
  • Mix together the yoghurt, butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
  • Add the flour and fennel/ajwain/jeera/sesame and knead to form a soft dough. It will be a bit oily, but don't worry.
  • Divide the dough into 12 equal parts.
  • Roll it on a clean surface (do not flour it) with your hands to form ropes (don't worry if they're unequal in length, width, shape or evenness). The ropes will look like weird alien fingers, but don't worry.


  • Chuck it in the fridge for about 20 minutes to firm up a little bit.
  • Take it out, and arrange them neatly. Cut them into small squares.


  • Forget that you had to preheat your oven at 200 celsius. Rush and do it.
  • By the time it preheats, line or very lightly grease a baking tray (or as I do, the detachable bottom of a baking pan, or a baking pan itself). Lay out the cookie dough side by side. You don't need to space it out, these don't expand at all, so you can cram the tray. Like I did. I left a little space between them in the first batch as you can see below, but later batches (there are so many squares and such little oven space!) I crammed it.


  • I baked at 200 celsius for about 20 minutes, but you need to keep a track, because the source recommends 4-5 minutes. Mine were completely raw at 5 minutes, and you know your oven best.
  • Take out the batch, empty on to a plate to cool, chuck another batch in the oven, lose patience, try one and fly to heaven.

I made a huge batch, which was finished in one evening alone, because you can't keep your hands off them.
Here's an empty bottle of olives filled with it. This was the last I saw, because the next evening, this wasn't there. Mystery, I know right?



That's it! Try it, and trust me when I say it, it's easy-peasy and simply mouth-watering. Let me know how it goes!

Till the next time!


Saturday, January 4, 2014

Paranda @ Vivanta by Taj, Surajkund: A Review

Happy New Year Foodie-peeps!

This year, I'm really thankful for my life. The fact that I'm alive. The fact that I'm loved. The fact that I'm surrounded by my loved ones, in flesh and in spirit. The fact that by the end of this year, I begin a whole another phase of life, something in the making for a few years now. The fact, that I have food to put on the table.

And of course, the fact that sometimes, I have food put on the table in front of me, and I stuff my face and review it!

This time, it was the turn of Paranda, at Vivanta by Taj, Surajkund. This was previously Dhaba, when Vivanta was Claridges, both Surajkund as well Aurangzeb Road. Remember when I reviewed Dhaba? Now all I see lately is dhaba cuisine everywhere. Everywhere. Hotels, smaller restaurants and of course, dhabas. what I wouldn't give for REAL dhaba food, the smell of the highway dirt lingering! In one sentence, Paranda does a fairly good job; it's delicious North-Indian food, but just misses the cut for dhaba food.

At Paranda, we started with a shot glass of chaach, sensitively tempered with jeera, mustard, coriander and curry leaves. This was absolute bliss! We chased that down with our amuse-bouche, a golguppa, sitting atop a shot glass of meetha pudina paani. Cool and khatta-meetha, this did a fantastic job of whetting our raging appetites.


Our soup course was Magan Murgh Shorba. This had the texture of a sweet corn soup, generous on the pieces of chicken. And a few strand of saffron floating about. It was really delicious, because that's all we asked for on a cold evening. I just felt though, the saffron was a bit misplaced. In the sense, it stood out with its own flavour, and did not tie in with the taste of the soup.


We followed that up with the appetizers course, which was EASILY the star of our entire meal. Teh vegetarians were served a Punjabi Paneer Tikka (tasty, but a bit under-seasoned), a Bhuttey-Matar di Seekh (nice, quite nice) and Bhune Broccoli Aur Kale Chane ki Kebab (under-seasoned, but not bad at all). The Non-vegetarians (that would be me) were served Methi Machchi Tikka, Murgh Sunheri Shahi Tikka and a Bhutta Malai Jhinga. The fish tikka was tender, and really very well seasoned and pretty darned tasty. The chicken tikka was slightly tough, but oh so flavourful. But the prawn kabab, one single tiger prawn butterflied and slightly charred around the edges: explosion of flavours on my tongue. Soft enough to cut with a table knife yet crunchy enough, spicy and a subtle lemony flavour: this was the highlight of our entire meal.


The main course, like many others, though well done, failed to whip up magic. There was an array of breads like pudina paratha, lachcha paratha and the like. For the gravies, there was a Chooza Khas Makhni, indistinguishable from a butter chicken, Bhatti Aloo Shimla Mirch, Dry Fry Matar Mushroom (there needs to be more magic and imagination in the vegetarian department), Palak Kofta Makhani wala (flavourful, but the gravy failed to permeate the kofta, leaving it dry and tasteless). The Sood de Dhabey di Daal was, however, smooth and tasted of butter, even though it wasn't much more than a regular kaali daal. Something the parathas could totally wipe up. And the last one, Mutton Tariwala, was a delightful mutton preparation. The gravy was intensely flvourful yet light and the mutton was fall-off-the-bone tender. It went fabulously well with the breads and God knows, I was smiling ear-to-ear after that one.

From L-R: Bhatti Aloo Shimla Mirch, Chooza Khas Makhni, Mutton Tariwala, Palak Kofta Makhni Wala, Dry Fry Matar Mushroom and assorted breads

The desserts were a let-down though. We had a Malai Chamcham, Gulab Jamun and Anjeer ki Kulfi, topped with Falooda. Honestly, Malai Chamcham is something I'll find at a CR Park sweet shop, not a restaurant at Vivanta, even though the theme is earthy. The Anjeer ki Kulfi was quite tasty, though studded with ice crystals, and hence not churned well enough. By the time the Gulab Jamun reached us, we couldn't take another sweet bite.


One simple line to sum up Paranda: Has so much potential, has some very delicious food, and some very well-read and courteous staff, but has to get out of the shadow of the restaurant whose premises it presides on, and needs more imagination in the vegetarian and desserts department. But yes, an evening very well spent!

Till the next time!

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