A few months ago, I got a huge can of Alphonso mango puree, with thoughts of savouring it with vanilla ice-cream. Turned out to be a great idea, as the combo was totally divine. However, there is only so much of it you can have, and I was left with half a (huge) can of mango puree.

So I decided to use it in a cake. The first type of cooking I ever did (way back in my early teens) was baking, and for a long time, that was the only cooking I ever attempted. Of late, however, I don’t do it nearly as much, partly because it can be time-consuming, and partly because I don’t want to end up gorging on cake!

Getting back to the point, this was how I ended up sweltering on a very hot morning over cake batter, using a recipe that I kind of improvised along the way. I love orange/lemon and poppy seed cake, so I decided to try out a mango and poppy seed cake.

The cake didn’t rise as much as I’d have liked, and the texture of it was very moist and soft, almost pudding-y… some may like it that way, and others not. Taste-wise, though, it was really yummy!

Mango tango

The recipe:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (sieved)

1 tspn baking soda

2/3 cups butter

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 tspn lemon zest (chopped finely)

1 cup mango puree

1/4 cup poppy seeds

1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius.

2. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well.

3. Blend in the flour and baking soda into the mixture.

4. Fold in buttermilk, lemon zest, mango puree, and poppy seeds.

5. Pour batter into a greased cake pan, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes (or until done).

Every crumb counts

I’ve been dying to try this recipe ever since I read it on Veggie Chick‘s blog (she got it from the marvellous Mark Bittman). Honestly, it seemed too suspiciously easy: just pasta, breadcrumbs, garlic, and dried chillies, tossed in olive oil and butter.

But sometimes, it’s the simple things that are the most delectable. This pasta dish was an instant hit at my house, and is something I can imagine myself making again and again, especially when I’m running short on ingredients.

Simply delightful

Here’s Veggie Chick’s recipe:

Pasta (I used spaghetti)

Two cups breadcrumbs (not too fine)

About six dried chillies, roughly broken up

Six cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 tbsp butter

olive oil

salt and pepper

Cook pasta till al dente. Toss with a generous amount of oilve oil and set aside. Heat butter in saucepan and saute the garlic until fragrant. Add breadcrumbs and chillies, and saute until the crumbs are golden. Season with salt and pepper. Just before removing from the fire, add the spaghetti and toss till it’s well coated with the breadcrumb mixture. Remove, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and serve.

Soup’s up

A while ago, I tried making my own soup for the very first time, for the cooking column I contribute to in The Star. I love all kinds of soup, but have always been rather wary of making them. This simple recipe, however, convinced me how easy it is to make soup from scratch.

A slurping good time!

Capsicum Soup

(makes 2 servings)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups stock (vegetable or chicken)
1 small onion, chopped
4 large capsicum (preferably red, orange or yellow), seeded and diced
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp paprika
freshly-ground black pepper
sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions and saute until they are tender. Add capsicum, potato, salt and paprika, and saute for a few minutes. Reduce heat, cover and let the vegetables simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally. The capsicum should be really tender by then. Puree the cooked vegetables in a blender until smooth.

Next, bring the stock to a simmer in a saucepan. Add in the pureed vegetables and stir until it’s all mixed in. To serve, top with freshly-ground black pepper and a dollop of sour cream. This soup can be served hot or cold.

The toast of Bombay

(I must apologise in advance for not having my own pictures in this post. Suffice to say, I couldn’t find my camera, I was starving, and Ugly Betty was about to begin… and so the picture-taking was sacrificed.)

I came home yesterday with grand plans of whipping up a fritata for dinner, only to discover that my fridge was disappointingly bare (market day is today, unfortunately). And by the time I had finished rummaging around, I had precious little time before my TV shows started, so something quick and easy was needed.

And so I came up with Bombay toast, the spicy variation of the French toast. Totally easy, and totally delicious too! I managed to find a picture online (thanks, The Budding Cook!) that comes pretty close to what mine looked like:

The spicy cousin

To make: Beat 2 eggs with half a cup of milk, one small onion (chopped) and one large green chilli (deseeded and chopped). Add salt, pepper and about 2 teaspoons of chilli powder (I used cayenne pepper this time; paprika is good too), and mix well.

Cut four slices of bread in half. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. Dip the bread into the egg mixture (make sure both sides of the bread are coated) and place on the pan. Let the bread cook evenly on both sides until it’s golden brown. Serve immediately.

The accidental spaghetti

So today I discovered that I had accidentally frozen a carton of cottage cheese (don’t ask how). I thawed it out and found that it was still edible. The solids and liquid in it had separated though, so I strained it and ended up with what resembled ricotta cheese.

I vaguely remembered having a tomato sauce and ricotta pasta dish once (don’t ask me where). So in a fit of inspiration, I recreated what I recalled of it, using the strained cottage cheese in place of ricotta. I must say, it turned out quite yummy!

The happy accident

To make, saute chopped garlic and onions in olive oil. Throw in any vegetables (or meat) you want and saute till everything is cooked – I just used mushrooms. Stir in tomato puree and flavour with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and oregano (you can actually use any herbs you want). Remove the sauce from the heat, and toss it with cooked spaghetti and drained cottage cheese. Serve immediately.

Chocolate cheat

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at making chocolate truffles. Rich and decadent, they’re the ultimate chocolate indulgence.

All the recipes I found, however, involved boiling cream and butter, and then pouring the mixture over chocolate pieces – making a ganache, basically. Now, this is something I’d really like to try…. someday. But not today. Today, I just wanted to make what I call Cheater’s Truffles.

I can’t remember where I found this recipe, but I’ve had it saved in my computer forever. It’s really, really simple, and no stovetop cooking involved. And you’re still rewarded with sinful chocolate truffles to feast on. Really, it almost seems like a trap…

Get your chocolate fix

The recipe:

175g of good quality chocolate (dark, milk or white)

50g softened butter

100g digestive biscuits

50g sieved icing sugar

Cocoa powder

Crush the digestive biscuits. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Add the butter, sugar and biscuits to the chocolate, mix well, and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Take about a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball, finishing it off by rolling it in cocoa powder.

You can also mix in different flavourings or liquers to this mixture.

What to do with watermelon?

One of the best things about the Internet is how it lets us indulge in our slightest whim with just one click… A couple of weeks ago I saw a watermelon and feta salad on the menu of a restaurant. I didn’t get to try it then, but the idea was completely intriguing. I mean, I love watermelon, and if I haven’t mentioned already, I LOVE feta cheese. And since I had to finish off the last of the feta I bought a few days ago, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try the salad out.

I Googled it, and one of the very first results was a version by Nigella Lawson (her recipe for watermelon, feta and black olive salad). I didn’t have black olives, so I used green ones. The recipe was easy enough to make, and tasted divine! Best of all, I didn’t have to fork out an exorbitant amount for it!

A bowlful of colours

A bit of mint

What do you do when you have a bunch of mint leaves that will probably not make it through the night? Well, if you live in a house of chocoholics like I do, the answer is pretty clear: you make a dark chocolate and mint pudding.

The pudding is basically derived from the dark chocolate and peanut butter pudding recipe I experimented with recently, and I’ve never actually tried using fresh mint leaves to flavour a dessert before. While the mint taste was rather subtle, this was probably because of the amount of mint I used more than anything else. With this recipe, the pudding starts off with a rich, chocolatey taste and finishes with a light, minty aftertaste. So for a stronger mint flavour, I’d try using more leaves.

Needless to say, the puddings didn’t make it through the night.

Glassful of heaven

To make the pudding:

6 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp cornflour

2 tbsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder

Pinch of salt

2 cups full-cream milk

100g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped

1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves

Whipped cream

Boil 1 tbsp sugar and mint leaves with a quarter cup of water until the water is light green and smells minty. Strain out mint leaves and set liquid aside.

Combine the rest of the sugar, cornflour, cocoa powder and salt in a saucepan. Whisk in the milk, and bring to a boil over medium heat while whisking continuously. Add in the mint liquid and go on whisking till the mixture thickens. Add in the chocolate and continue whisking until the mixture thickens again. Turn off heat and let the mixture cool for five minutes. Spoon the pudding into glasses and chill uncovered for at least 2 hours. To serve, top with whipped cream and mint leaves.

Throw it all in…

Don’t you love dishes where you can just throw in any stuff you have lying around? It really gives me the feeling of being wildly creative – like a TV chef who’s flitting around the kitchen grabbing random handfuls of this or that (cheap thrills, I know).

Anyhow, one such dish is the frittata, a kind of Italian omelette that is as easy to make as it is to eat. I decided to make one yesterday to finish off some ingredients I’ve had lying around for a while. So my frittata had garlic, onion, capsicum, tomatoes and feta cheese. But really, you can put in practically any veggies, meat, cheese or even leftover pasta into a frittata.

Get loaded!

The egg batter is eggs (about 1-and-a-half for every person), a few tbsps of milk, salt and pepper; I also added in some cayenne pepper. Saute any fillings you want in a frying pan with some olive oil until they’re cooked – the frittata is supposed to be fairly thick, so go wild with your fillings!

Pour in the egg batter and allow to set, making sure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the bottom of the frittata is solid, cover the frying pan and let it cook over low heat till the top is set. It should look kinda like a quiche without a crust. Allow to cool and serve in triangular sizes, like a pizza.

Perfect for the lunchbox

This is perfect to keep in the fridge and eat over a couple of days too!

Don’t you love saying, “Fattoush”?

I opened my fridge yesterday to discover a pita bread tucked away inside, the lone remnant of a packet I bought a couple of weeks ago. Sniffed and prodded it before deciding it was still fit for consumption, but probably not as a sandwich. What to do, what to do…

I Googled “what to do with old pita bread” on a whim, and voila! a whole string of recipes for fattoush came up. Fattoush is basically a Middle Eastern salad that mixes toasted or fried pita bread with veggies and a tangy dressing.

At first, I was a little reluctant because I didn’t have sumac, a pretty central spice to fattoush (and many other Middle Eastern dishes too). But then I remembered reading somewhere that vinegar and paprika can be a pretty decent substitute, so I decided to give that a go.

I must say it turned out pretty well, and all those yummy colours looked great!

You eat with your eyes too!


For the salad, I used different coloured capsicum, cherry tomatoes and some mixed lettuce. The dressing consists of 4 tbsp olive oil, the juice of 1 lemon, 2 cloves of garlic (crushed and chopped), half a bunch of chopped mint leaves, 1 tbsp vinegar and paprika to taste. Right before serving, I added the pita bread that I had toasted until crunchy and broken into pieces, and some sliced feta cheese.