Monthly Archives: June 2008

Indira’s Favorite Date Muffins

This afternoon, the school mums group had organized a little gouter (as the afternoon snack is called) in the primary school canteen.

This is an annual end-of-the-school-year event, at which the children in the various classes gift the collective presents from their families to their teachers.

It is the mums who usually provide the snacks and drinks and I took along Indira’s favorite after-school snack, which is date muffins.

When she was much younger, she assumed that any brown colored food was chocolate.  I was happy to exploit this misconception, and routinely made cakes and muffins with dates instead of chocolate.

This is not to say that she has been spared a fondness for chocolate. But she does love dates too, in any form, which I consider an adequate reward for my efforts.

At the gouter today, too, I was glad to see that the muffins were well-liked.

This is my recipe –

Date Muffins (or “muff-uns”, as Noor calls them)

(makes around 16)

1 and a 1/2 cups of finely chopped soft dates

3/4 cup of very hot water (just boiled)

1 tsp baking soda

2 eggs

1/4 cup (a 160 ml cup) unsalted butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 and 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 and 3/4 cup refined or wholewheat flour (I use the latter when baking for the girls, but you may want to use white flour. The difference in taste is not very significant, to my mind, and hence I stick with wholewheat flour since that packs more nutrition)

1tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Mix the first 3 ingredients and leave to cool. Next, mix the last 3 ingredients in a bowl and keep aside.

Beat the eggs till they are frothy, then add melted butter and sugar, and beat again till these 3 things are well-blended.

Once the date mixture has cooled, add it to the eggs-butter-sugar mixture and mix a couple of times to blend. Now add the flour mixture, and mix everything together so the flour is well-blended.

While you mix everything together as described above, remember to switch your oven on, so as to pre-heat it for 5-8 minutes, to 180°C.

Fill the muffin moulds 1/2 to 3/4 full, and bake for 20-25 minutes.

These muffins are extra nice with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream on the side, if you really want to make this in to a fancy dessert or really indulge the kids.



Filed under Breakfast Ideas, Cakes and Muffins, Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks

Nuts about Peanuts- Peanut Raita

For the dinner at our place last night for some family friends, one of the things I made is the raita that is our family favorite.

The magic ingredient that goes in to it is peanuts, which along with yoghurt would probably top the family’s “my best things to eat” list.

Peanuts’ “koot” – (peanuts ground into even-sized little bits rather than a powdery texture) is a store cupboard staple in my kitchen, since it is everyone’s favorite snack. It is one of those things – along with orange juice,ketchup, yoghurt, and a particular brand of spreading cheese – that I try not to run out of, since that would be the kind of household crisis to provoke much discontent.

The koot goes in to many things I make- salads, vegetable side dishes- obviously all on that favorite foods list. It is best made by crushing peanuts (roasted,skinless,unsalted) in a chopper or a coffee grinder.

The raita goes rather well with pulavs and puris, IMO. This the one thing of which the girls invariably ask for a second helping.

Here’s how I make it.

Peanuts Raita

(enough for 4 people)

Peanuts koot – 6 tbsp(or more, if you like)

Yoghurt – 400 gms

Salt – to taste

Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder – to taste

Cumin powder – 1 to 1 and1/2 tsp

(you could use any other chilli powder; I use this one because none of us like “hot” spicy flavors)

Chopped Green Coriander – 1 tbsp

Smooth the yoghurt in a bowl, with a spoon or a fork, after adding the spices and the coriander. Add the peanuts, and mix everything again. Chill for an hour, if you like, before serving.


Filed under Raitas

A Taste of Provence- Vegetable Soup with Pistou

This morning, I was standing in front of the refrigerator, wondering which vegetable to “sort” for the day.

(Note – “Sort” does not mean “to sort out”. It means “to take out”. This is how living in France for 9 years has ruined my English, without making my French fluent. For some years now, I have found myself often thinking in a  melange of the two languages. Oh well…)

I wanted to cook dinner during the morning, since later this afternoon I had to go first to Noor’s playschool for the end of year “spectacle” (I can no longer instantly recall the equivalent word in English ), then to Indira’s to help at one of the games’ booths, part of their end of the year show. And I knew that there would be almost instant demands for dinner on getting back home at around 7pm.

I also wanted to achieve two other objectives – cook something simple, since I wanted to spend some part of the morning cooking ahead for a dinner at our place tomorrow evening, to which we have invited 3 families.

And I wanted to make sure the girls got a good portion of vegetables tonight, since I know from past experience that at these school fetes (hey !! that’s the word, isn’t it !) what they typically enjoy eating is barbecued/grilled sausages,cake, and les frites(french fries).

Luckily I saw that I had everything I needed for my variation of  a very flavorful provencal vegetable soup called soupe au pistou, so this is what I made today.

The pistou (available bottled though the fresh paste – made by crushing fresh basil,olive oil, and garlic- is better) is optional, though of course this paste is what the soup derives its name from. My daughters certainly prefer it with a little pistou or pesto -the Italian version of pistou, this paste has pine nuts and parmesan cheese added to the other ingredients – stirred in.

But either way it is full of flavor, light, and wholesome.

Vegetable Soup with Pistou

(Enough for 6-8 adults)

Two leeks, tough portions chopped off

I medium sized courgette(you can substitute green beans,chopped in to half inch pieces, for courgette)

2 small turnips

4-5 tbsp of olive oil

4 carrots

4 tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic

100 gms of vermicelli or any other small wholewheat pasta shape(optional)

1. Remove the tough outer layers of the leeks, and then chop them fine.

2. Peel and chop the carrots in to thin half moons

3. Peel and dice the turnip.

4. Was the courgette thoroughly and dice it without peeling it. This adds to the color of the soup plus I tend to think this keeps more of the nutrition in.

5. Chop the tomotoes into chunks that are neither too large nor too small.

6. Warm the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then sweat the leeks and the garlic on a low heat, taking care not to let either brown at all. After 5 minutes, add the carrots and the turnip, and cook together with the leeks and garlic mixture for about 15 minutes (keep the pan covered so that the vegetables soften in the steam) making sure to stir regularly so that the vegetables don’t burn. If you are using beans instead of curgette, you should add those with the carrots and turnips.

Next,add the courgette and cook everything together again for 5-10 minutes, till the courgette starts to soften. In the meanwhile, boil  approx 1 litre of water in the kettle.

Now add the tomatoes, cook everything in the pan together for 5 minutes, season with salt and black pepper, add the boiled water, put the lid on again, and leave the whole mixture to cook till the vegetables are as soft as you’d like them – 30 minutes to 1 hour. if you want to add pasta to this soup,  add it 10-15 minutes before you are ready to take the soup off the heat, so that it is cooked by the time the soup is done.

This soup develops more flavor if it’s left to sit, after it’s been cooked. That’s another reason I like to cook it ahead.

When everyone is ready to eat, serve some pistou or pesto on the side. Just 1/2 a teaspoon-add more if you like – really adds to this soup’s appeal for a lot of people – and indeed this is the classical way it is eaten in Provence. But I personally enjoy this soup without either paste added to it, since the soup already has a wonderful, delicate taste of it’s own, due to all the vegetables.

Leave a comment

Filed under Easy One Pot Cooking, Quick Meal Ideas, Soups

Muesli with Yoghurt

Now that summer is here, I am feasting on fruit yoghurt, especially the awesome mango flavor that Danone introduced a couple of years ago.

It is easy to make a simple but filling breakfast out of it, too, by mixing it with muesli.

The girls still prefer crunchy cereals to muesli, but I am hoping that this will bring them around.

What I do is that 20 to 30 minutes before I want to eat, I put 2-3 tbsp of muesli in a bowl, mix in the contents of a 125 gm pot of fruit yogurt , and then leave the mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes.

It’s a breakfast that always puts a smile in my stomach 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Breakfast Ideas


I remember one time, when I went back home for Diwali after I had started working. My brother was going to come too, and my mother started to make shakkarparas as a welcome treat, since this was always  one of his favorite meetha snacks. When she got to the part where the fried paras have to be turned in the gradually-crystallizing sugar syrup(this can be quite tiring), she let out a sigh of exhaustion and said – “there is no one else I will do this for anymore, except Bittu”.

I understood what she meant only when I made shakkarparas all by myself for the first time 3 years ago, for the “Cuisine du Monde” day at Indira’s kindergarten.

It sure is hard work, but well worth the trouble when you see little faces tentatively munching first a small half of one para to try what it tastes like, then coming back for a handful.

Here’s my mother’s recipe for this delicious treat.

500 gms of refined flour

220-250 gms of oil

300-400 gms of milk

500 gms of sugar

Add a pich of salt to the flour and then gradually mix in the oil.

Now make a stiff dough using 300-400 gms of lukewarm milk.

Divide the dough into 4-5 equal-sized balls and roll out each to a thickness of 1/4 cm.

Cut the sheets you thus obtain into little squares (no bigger than 3cm by 3cm or they could break when you are turning them in the syrup, in the next step) and fry these until they turn a light brown, in medium-hot oil.

While you fry the paras, dissolve the sugar in one cup (200ml measure) of water in a large pan (like a wok) and heat till a 2-strand syrup is formed or till you start to see a slight deposit of sugar forming on the side of the pan.

Now add the fried squares to this syrup and toss them gently in the syrup over a moderately hot setting until the syrup has completely dried up. At this point, the squares will be well-coated with an almost powdery deposit of crystallized sugar.

Make sure to stir the shakkarparas from time to time to keep them from sticking to each other, while the syrup dries.

Guaranteed to please young and old alike !!

Leave a comment

Filed under Picnic Food, Starters and Snacks

The Beginning – Diwali,2007

That seems like a good place to begin this blog.

As I did when Indira was in her last year of kindergarten,  last Diwali too I decided that I would send some Indian sweets to the girls’ schools. I hoped to introduce the festival to their friends and teachers, and to encourage the girls to share the excitement at home -over the puja, the fire crackers, and the annual potluck with all our Indian friends – with their friends in school. They are so crazy about Christmas, I guess I want them to be equally enthused about Diwali as well.

So I made some shakkarparas, and some gajar ka halwa, for the teachers and children of Indira’s class and for those in Noor’s playschool.

I was quite overwhelmed by the delighted response from both places. Both the shakkarparas and the halwa were big successes in both schools; Indira’s teacher got all the kids in class to make a thank you card for me that I’ll cherish forever.

And the real icing on the cake that day? I found, when I went to pick up Indira that day, that her teacher had in fact bought a book about Diwali , with lovely pictures, on her last trip to England and was planning to tell the class about the festival in any case !!

The picture here is of the rangoli done outside the door of our apartment by our friend Sumitha. While I watched in admiration as Sumitha made the pattern on the floor with rice flour so effortlessly, I was also amused by the utterly fascinated look on Indira’s face as she watched Sumitha at work. That made all the organization for the potluck worthwhile.

1 Comment

Filed under LE FUTTED BALLON-life with the girls