Monday, November 25, 2013

The Saga of the Banana Cake

I love banana cakes. And to a great extent the husband's aunt (she's no more, and I am uncomfortable using any euphemism for her) takes away the credit for introducing me to this lovely dessert.

I was served with the yummiest of them on my first visit to her place as a new bride. She knew that I was a foodie with an extra pair of sweet fangs. So after dinner, she set out a dish with a few slices of a banana cake that she picked up from a neighbourhood store. One bite and I had fallen for the cake -and the aunt. What ensued was a gastronomic connection. Every visit of hers was an event to look forward to. She would get her famous spicy chicken Hakka noodles, her sardines cooked in coconut sauce and the banana cake. Every visit of mine saw me coming back with the cakes. After her untimely death, the banana cakes too stopped. And in all those years not even once did I ask her where she got the cakes from.

It's been two years. I still don't know where to buy those cakes from. But I can definitely bake one, thanks to a wonderful recipe that I found on Nigella's page. This is a tried and tasted recipe and I hereby proclaim that it is a toothsome one.

  • 5 oz butter
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ cup milk
  • 2 bananas (mashed)


  1. Preheat oven 180c.
  2. Melt butter, add sugar, eggs, vanilla essence & mix well.
  3. Sift flour, baking powder & baking soda on top of melted ingredients in the pot. Mix carefully then slowly add: milk & mashed bananas.
  4. Pour into well greased and lined 20cm ring tin and bake at 180 C for 30-40 mins (check after 30 so it doesn't go for too long and dry out).
So just barge into the kitchen, take out those dark skinned overripe bananas, mash them, blend it with flour and sugar and turn them to a delicious, moist working woman's cake. 

Another banana cake story here
An eggless banana cake for you here
Interesting history of the luscious banana

I did it!

'Tis that time of the year when you look back at all those months, days and hours that passed by. You peek into your bucket list, eager to tick off a few items, feeling elated that at last you were able to achieve what you set out for.
I have a rather lengthy list of 'to-do-before-I-die' still waiting to see the light of the day. But sad I am not. And there's no need to panic either, because a bucket list has a life and mind of its own. Just when you think you've done it all, it throws a new item at you. And you grab it tight, keep it stuck to your memory till you reach out for a place to note it down. So I have come out with this brilliant idea - why not a 'leap list' instead! Apparently, a leap list is more challenging as it comes with a time frame. So you have stuff to do before you take some kind of a leap in your life, like marriage or pregnancy or turning thirty or forty or fifty. Now does that mean that if you kick the bucket before you fulfil your leap list, your leap list automatically qualifies to be in the category of a bucket list? Confusing.
Never mind. I am glad that I was able to tick off a few things off my list.

1. Bake yummy cupcakes, right from scratch
2. Bake a cheesecake
3. Learn to play a musical instrument
4. Travel to Ladakh
5. Attend a photography workshop

I know, these were not Herculean tasks, but they were challenging for me. And I am ecstatic. Time to move on the next ones. My list please...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Food indulgences in Kerala

Boatman's Sardine Curry
Brown rice thali at Travancore Palace, Chertala
Fresh toddy
Coconut Chutney
Steamed rice, moru curry and sardines in fresh coconut, a staple in Kerala
Houseboat cuisine

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Long time ago, some time in the late nineties, my then-boyfriend-now-husband would make these official trips to a place called Pondicherry, an erstwhile French colony in the southern part of India. Every time he came back feeling rejuvenated and blissful. And every time he spoke of the French avenues, the churches, temples and the virgin beaches, I would turn green with envy. To put me at ease there were these beautiful promises that would appear out of nowhere. And all of them, all the time sounded the same, "I'll take you there once. We must go there together".

Now let's stop this right here. I don't want to risk anything by washing my dirty linen in public. But I think I am allowed to wash a little corner of the dirty linen. I am tempted to do so. The end of the story is that the promises were never kept and the trips never happened. So for me, Pondy ( as we know the place) was this distant dream which was not showing any signs of being fulfilled. Till one day, a French guy came into the picture. Yes, it took a guy from France to show me a former French colony in my own country. This was his first trip to India and he didn't want to miss this lovely city. Wait! Was this my chance too? Yes, it was. And I grabbed it.

I was FINALLY going to see Pondy!

It was not a lavish trip. We just had 48 hours, which included reaching Pondy from Chennai airport. En route we spent some time in Mahabalipuram, which is around 99 kms away from Pondy. A must do if you are around that place. I couldn't click any pictures there as I had forgotten to charge my camera...clumsy, ain't it? Well, Trouchky had his camera. So here are two pictures from the historic town of Mahabalipuram.

We wandered around amidst the megalithic and monolithic structures for around three hours and then hopped back into the taxi, tired and sweaty wanting to reach Pondy as soon as possible. Waiting there for us was a spacious room at the Anantha Heritage.

After resting for some time, we decided to step out. Pondy is all about lanes and quarters. And the hotel had provided us with a map, lest we lose our way and reach someplace else. So here we were, finding our way through the busy Nehru Market, dodging cycle-rickshaws and bikes, once in a while brushing against the customers who had thronged the place, while more kept coming. Finally we reached Baker's Street, a concept-store on Bussy Street that can take care of your hunger pangs. You can also buy some homemade preserves and chocolates from here for people back home.

Now, with the rumbling in the stomach all pacified, we decided to call it an afternoon. A short nap was awaiting. The Goddess of Sleep was beckoning. And the hot sun was not doing much to persuade us to stay out. But come evening, and we stepped out again. This time it was much better. The proximity to the sea ensured a good breeze as we kept discovering lane after lane in the French quarter and finally resting at the seafront promenade.

The next day's itinerary was already in place, thanks to Doorways Pondicherry. For a city that's all about avenues, temples and churches what could be better than enjoying them sitting in a cycle-rickshaw. The ride covers all that one needs to see in the quaint setting of Pondy and it's done at a smooth pace. One gets to see the French, Tamil and Muslim quarters of Pondy whilst enjoying the gates and doors and yellow walls that present a delightful treat to the eye.

We deliberately did not add Auroville to our 'places to see' list. From whatever little I had heard and read about Auroville, I realized that it would be foolish on my part to cover all of these when we were facing a time crunch. But nevertheless, that distant dream of visiting Pondy did materialize and I am glad that I got to see the city with huge archaic doors and yellow and white walls of Franco Tamil villas with the effervescent bougainvillea vines elegantly draping them.

This definitely was my first time in Pondy, rest assured, it won't be the last.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

On discovering Brillat-Savarin

For the last few days I have been trying all possible ways to stay away from the stove and I so wish there was a scullery somewhere far away. Just so that I didn't get to set my eyes on the naked stove staring at me like a hapless victim while i did the cleaning of the cutlery and the take away containers.

I swear, this is not the real me. The usual me loves cooking.

But hey, don't people change? Of course they do. I didn't feel like boiling, I didn't feel like baking, I didn't feel like sauteing, I didn't feel like roasting, I didn't feel like mixing, I didn't feel like seasoning...

I have been excusing myself from the kitchen giving the most obscure reasons anybody would come out with. But this year is going to see a change. The recipes in the books stacked away in my kitchen library will see the light of the day. They will come to life. And all thanks to Jean Anthelme Brillat Savarin.

Say who?

Never mind.

I hadn't heard of him for the longest of time in my life. Considering my love for wine and cheese I should have been one of his ardent followers. No, he doesn't have a twitter handle :) He bade farewell to the world much much before my ancestors were born and is probably now sipping a glass of wine with the Greek god Dionysus. But yes, I am glad that I heard of him. And at this critical point of my life where I have to depend on all kinds of motivation to push myself into the kitchen, it is his funny quotes thats doing the trick.

"The discovery of a new dish confers more happiness on humanity, than the discovery of a new star."

"Cooking is one of the oldest arts and one that has rendered us the most important service in civic life."

Oh, you haven't heard these quotes?

Never mind. 

Ever heard of Savarin cheese? Yeah? 
Same chap :)

When I think of how I discovered this brilliant gastronome and his work I start to believe in things like destiny and karma. It so happened that I was at the supermarket around Christmas, in pursuit of ingredients that would go into the making of a plum cake. And this was two years back. The hunt was on for a cake mould, when a soft voice asked me if I was from Bombay. I turned back to see a very pleasant looking lady with an urge to know something. I replied in the affirmative and she looked relieved. But the relief wasn't going to stay long as the next question was a perplexing one for me that threw a string of quests back at her..

"Can you tell me of a place from where I can pick up a savoring mould?"
"Sorry, I didn't get that. What mould?"
"A savouring mould!"
My mind started wondering while my eyes wandered. Is she referring to some kind of fungi that is edible and tasty? Is she looking for a peculiar variety of mushroom? Should I feign knowledgeable or tell her upfront that this was never-heard-of term for me? I chose the latter, telling her that I didn't know what it was. 
"It's a baking mould", she said.
"Ohhhh, a baking mould!?!"

I already knew that the first thing on my to-do list, after reaching home, was to put Google to work. And I did. And as usual Google threw a question back at me. Here it is:

So, it wasn't savouring, but Savarin mould and it was named after Brillat-Savarin (not that if she'd pronounced it right, i would've got it). 
The same  chap who was famous for the famous maxim:
"Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are".

I am not going to write too much about him as the internet already has a lot of information.  But, someday I would love to own a copy of 'Physiologie du goût (The Physiology of Taste)'.

 P.S. Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are. I am Pasta, sometimes Pizza :)

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

I am back!

"Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger." - Bible

I haven't been penning down my thoughts for the longest of time now. Excuses aren't plenty either. Nothing but pure indolence. Have been a sloth in the past few months. That's what happens when you are a pampered mother, a pampered daughter-in-law and a pampered wife. And continuously staying from writing has developed a serious case of writer's block. I am trying to come out of it. The only respite is that I am not liable for the multitude of readers who don't throng my blog for more stuff. Hence I can afford to shirk writing. 

But now I am back and have decided to put things in order. There has been a fair amount of travelling in the past few months and before my brain decides to do away with the true collection of events, I need to put it down somewhere.

On a seriously light note, it had been one heck of a year. Couldn't ask for more.

And before I rest on that chair in front of my laptop there are things to be taken care of. I can see the Christmas tree waiting to wage a war for making it stand on the deck way after working time. It's the 4th already and I am yet to get the jingbang down, the whole Christmas paraphernalia.

The ghost in my wardrobe is pushing clothes outside. No, no, no. Don't get me wrong. There aren't too many clothes in the house. The shelves aren't enough, actually. So I have to take care of all that's lying outside waiting to know what it looks like inside of a wardrobe.

And then there are those brown cartons. They look full, in fact they look like they have been filled beyond capacity. I don't know where these things came from. It is a little hard to believe that my house actually stored the things in those cartons before the paint job.

Honestly, I am comfortable living in mess. But the rest of family disagrees. And majority always wins. And majority also stays away from undoing the mess. That has to be taken care of by this poor, humble soul. And this soul has to enjoy the process of cleaning. 

For starters...where's the camera!?!