Thursday, 31 August 2017

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Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Easy Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I baked this beautiful Pineapple Upside Down Cake for our get together party before leaving sweet home Alabama. Features some amateur caramel work as well.

Photo courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji
Recipe courtesy: Vicky

“Good Food is all the sweeter when shared with Good Friends”

Today I bring to you, one of my favorite cake recipes – Pineapple Upside Down cake. I got the recipe of this classic cake from my best friend Vicky. I have baked this cake quite a few times and I must say, this is an absolute crowd pleaser. Easy to prepare too as this recipe uses a ready made cake mix. 

I know you must be feeling tempted to bake the cake right away and why not? This cake looks so appetizing with the caramelized fruit layer on top and a spongy soft yellow cake on the bottom. Vicky taught me a great trick to use the heavy syrup of the pineapples while baking the cake and believe me it not only incorporates the fruity flavor in every bite but also prevents it from drying out. Now this cake may look very difficult but I have been lucky to learn a simple way to prepare this traditional cake. So, to prepare an upside down cake, I first melt butter and sugar in the baking pan itself. While that is happening I start making the batter which literally takes 2-3 minutes if you are using a stand mixer. The next step is to arrange the pineapple slices and cherries on the caramel layer and pour the batter on top of it and you are all set! Yes! It’s all done! Now we leave the cake to bake and wait.

Once you take out the cake from the oven be very careful and patient with it. Remember we baked the cake upside down so we have to flip it over. Do not skip any step at this point otherwise this beautiful and buttery cake will break apart. Follow the instructions and you will be rewarded. 

Bake this delicious cake this weekend and share it with your friends. 

Photo taken at Vicky and Calvin’s home. Features the Pineapple Upside Down Cake.


  • Pillsbury Yellow Cake Mix - 1 box
  • Brown Sugar – 1 cup, packed 
  • Butter – ¼ cup, unsalted (Vicky’s recipe asks for ½ cup)
  • Pineapple slices in heavy syrup – 1 can (20 Oz), drained, juice reserved
  • Maraschino Cherries – 1 Jar (10 Oz), without stems, drained
  • Vegetable Oil and Eggs - as mentioned on the cake mix box (my box asked for ½ cup Oil and 3 Eggs with 1 cup of water)

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. I used a rectangular Pyrex pan for the bake. The dimensions will be given on the cake mix packet. We will be making a single layer cake.
  • Cut the butter into 3-4 cubes and put it in the baking pan. 
  • Slide the pan in the oven so that the butter starts melting.
  • Free up your counter space and keep the mittens handy.
  • Once the butter melts, take out the pan and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the butter.
  • Slide the pan in the oven again for a minute, this will help to caramelize the sugar.
  • Take out the pan and arrange the pineapple slices on the sugar layer and do this carefully, remember the baking pan is still hot!
  • Place a cherry in the center of each pineapple slice. You may cut the remaining pineapple slices into smaller pieces and fill the remaining spaces with pineapple and cherries. Press them gently on the sugar.
  • My cake mix asked for 1 cup of water. I had the pineapple syrup drained from the can and it was a little less than a cup. So, I added enough water to the reserved pineapple juice to measure one whole cup and added it to the cake mix.
  • I made the cake batter as directed on the box (make sure you are reading the procedure and ingredients given on the cake mix packet).
  • I then poured the batter over the pineapple and cherries and smoothed it using a spatula.
  • Bake for the time given on the cake mix box. Depending on the shape and size of the baking pan you are using, it may take longer or shorter time to bake completely (mine took about 40 -45 minutes). Use a toothpick or a skewer to test if the cake is done properly. Insert it in the center of the cake and if it comes out clean then switch off the oven and take it out. 
  • Let it sit for 10 minutes then run a knife around the side of the pan to loosen the cake. 
  • Place a heatproof serving plate upside down on the baking pan.
  • Carefully flip the plate and the pan over and don’t forget to wear the mittens. The Pineapple layer should be on the top now.
  • Leave the pan over the cake for another 10 minutes so that the brown sugar topping can drizzle over the cake.
  • Remove the baking pan and do this carefully. 
  • Cool for 30 minutes and serve.
  • If refrigerating, cover it loosely.

  • You can use cake pans of any size or shape - round, rectangular or square. Make sure to keep an eye on the baking time as it will change with the size and shape of the baking pan.
  • Once the given baking time is over, use a toothpick or a skewer to test if the cake is done. Sometimes the center will be undercooked but the top and the sides of the cake will start turning brown. I recommend using a piece of aluminum foil to cover the top of the cake. Scrunch the foil and make a dome shaped tent with it. Then slide it carefully over the cake so that it covers the top and sides of the cake. Continue baking. 
  • This cake is not cooled on cooling rack.
  • Last time I ran out of brown sugar (for the caramelizing part) and I used white sugar instead, turned out great.

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Friday, 14 April 2017

Kasuri Methi Paratha (Fried Flatbread with dried Fenugreek Leaves)

Photo courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji
Recipe courtesy: Mamma (Sumita Moitra)

Kasuri Methi Parathas are an absolute treat with any simple curry. I love them with the Alu Tamatar Sabji (Curried Potatoes with Tomatoes). I learnt this Paratha from my mom during my recent India trip and have been making them ever since. These Parathas are also handy when you want to serve something special in a short time. Unlike the fresh Methi (Fenugreek) leaves which we have to wash properly before adding them in the dough, Kasuri Methi are pre washed and dried leaves and can be added directly in the food. My mom adds some ghee (clarified butter) in the flour which not only helps to make them crisp but also brings that authentic Indian taste in them.

  • Whole Wheat Flour - 1 cup
  • All Purpose Flour – 1 cup + ½ cup for rolling the Parathas
  • Salt – about ½ teaspoon
  • Kasuri Methi – 3 tablespoons
  • Ghee – 2 tablespoons 
  • Lukewarm Water – about 1 cup
  • Oil – ½ cup (for frying the Parathas)

Directions for kneading the dough:
  • Let’s Prep - Wash your hands, you will be using them a lot. If using stand mixer, attach the bowl and hook and connect it.
  • In a bowl, sift the Whole Wheat Flour, All Purpose Flour and Salt. Mix using your fingers or run the mixer on the lowest speed until its well blended.
  • Now add the Ghee and Kasuri Methi in the flour. Mix the Ghee with your fingers until you get a sandy texture or a few minutes on the mixer should mix it well.
  • Now start adding water, a little at a time, and knead into a dough. You may need a few extra tablespoons of water if the dough feels tough. It should be soft and slightly sticky. Keep kneading it for another minute. If you are using stand mixer, start the mixer on lowest speed and slowly start adding half a cup of water in the flour. I give it time to knead and form the dough. If the sides are sticking with the bowl too much I switch off the mixer and clean the sides using a spatula. I keep it running until the dough begins to come together adding 1-2 tablespoons of water at a time.
  • At this stage it will look dry, normally for 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of water should be sufficient so make sure not to add too much water at this stage. Keep running the mixer.
  • Now sometimes the dough turns out a bit stickier, I usually add a little flour and keep kneading it until its smooth and almost non sticky.
  • When the dough feels smooth, remove the hook and cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. Let it rest for 15 minutes.

Directions to prepare the Paratha:
  • Once the dough has rested, re-knead the dough for a few seconds. Then divide the dough into two equal parts. Roll each part into a log like a thick breadstick. Divide both the logs into 8 equal pieces. 
  • Now these 8 pieces will make 8 Parathas. Take a piece of dough between your palms and roll it into a ball. Press the ball between your palms lightly to flatten it a little like a disc. Put all the other balls of dough back in the bowl and cover it. This will prevent the dough from drying out.
  • Now let’s make the Paratha, dip that disc of dough lightly into the All Purpose Flour. This will give it a smoother texture. Place the disc on the rolling board and start rolling it into a 4-inch round. 
  • I usually spread a little flour whenever the dough starts to stick on the board and roll it into a round shape with even thickness on all sides. 
  • Now let’s fry the Paratha. Heat a big Skillet over medium heat. Transfer the rolled out Paratha to the pan and do this carefully. Lift the Paratha with both hands and place it on the skillet. If it folds while placing, carefully straighten it using a spatula. 
  • Let it cook until you see bubbles forming. Flip the Paratha over using a spatula. 
  • Use a brush to apply Oil on the Paratha and let it cook for about a minute. You will see more bubbles forming. If you see a few reddish brown spots beginning to form, it’s ready.
  • Flip the Paratha and apply oil on this side as well and flip it again. This time, press onto the Paratha with your spatula on different places for 5-10 seconds. This will help it puff up.
  • Flip the Paratha back over and press the other side with your spatula for a few seconds.
  • Turn the heat down to medium low.
  • Transfer the cooked Paratha on a plate lined with paper towel.
  • Serve the Paratha hot with Alu Tamatar Sabji.

  • If at any time the Skillet gets too hot, turn the heat to medium low and continue cooking. If it is taking too long to cook, then the skillet is probably on a lower heat than required. If the reddish brown spots are forming within a couple of seconds after you place the Paratha on the skillet, then it is too hot.
  • For a new cook, rolling and frying the Paratha at the same time can be overwhelming and you may want to lower the heat. Remember if the Paratha stays on the skillet for too long then its moisture will get all dried up and it will loose its softness so if you need time to roll the Parathas make sure to turn the heat to low and then again to medium once you have placed the rolled out Paratha on the skillet.
  • Switch on the vent/ exhaust so that the cooking fumes are drawn out.
  • Do not add a lot of water all at once in the flour. Adding a little water at a time helps to control the dough more efficiently.
  • Keep the Ghee at room temperature or melt it a bit in the microwave before adding it in the dough.
  • When kneading with your hands, make sure to wash and dry them. I always wear an apron with a short sleeved top to protect the flour from sticking on my clothes. Also, it is advisable to remove the rings.
  • If the dough turns out sticky, continue to knead it so that it gets smooth. If you are having too much trouble, lightly dust your hands with flour and sprinkle some over the dough as well and continue kneading.

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Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Alu Tamatar Sabji (Curried Potatoes with Tomatoes)

Photo courtesy: Dr. Debarshi Chatterji
Recipe courtesy: Mamma (Sumita Moitra)

As soon as you board a train in India, you will be amazed with the different varieties of food choices given by the vendors at every station. Now that food may not be the most hygienic or healthy but it sure gives you a glance of the local cuisine of the area you are travelling through. I haven’t been able to travel to a lot of different Indian cities but the few places I have been with my parents and sister were so much fun! I still remember all the varieties of food we used to eat during our train journey. As soon as the train would start, my mom would open boxes and packets of munching foods and sweets and we would eat and chat and relax. Food is an important part of vacation and my mom always used to make sure that we have plenty of food with us. However, that never stopped my dad from buying the local food from the platform vendors. So, whenever the train would enter a platform, he would get off and start buying things like bottled water, magazines, chips and local food and snacks and the one thing he would always buy was Puri Sabji.

Now let’s talk about all the yummy platform foods. I think the most common North Indian platform snacks are Samosa, Bread Pakoras and Chow Mein. Meals usually have Rice with Rajma (Red Kidney Beans curry), Chole (Chick Pea curry) or Dal (Lentils) and of course crispy Puri (deep fried puffed bread) with Alu Tamatar Ki Sabji which is of course the most delicious meals of all times. You may be thinking that Puri Sabji seems like a simple meal option but believe me, it tastes absolutely divine. The curry will have the tanginess of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the potatoes with a hint of green chilies. Pair it with a hot crispy Puri and you got yourself an absolute treat. Since nowadays I don’t get the chance to enjoy this ready made, I prepare this at home for our weekend brunch or even during the fasting days (Navratri or Poojo).

This Sabji goes very well with Puris, Parathas and even Rotis but I think it goes best with Kasuri Methi Parathas (Fried breads with dried Fenugreek Leaves). I got the recipe from my mom a few months back during my India trip and it’s perfect with this Sabji. Try it this weekend.


  • Potato - 2 large sized russet potatoes, cut into medium sized cubes
  • Tomato - 2, medium, cut into small pieces
  • Green Chilli – 1-2, slit in half lengthwise or Red Chili Powder - ½ teaspoon
  • Panch Fhoron – ½ teaspoon
  • Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoon
  • Salt – ½ teaspoon
  • Oil – about 2-3 tablespoons

  • Heat a wok on medium- high heat.
  • Add Oil in it.
  • Pat dry the Potatoes.
  • After a couple of seconds, add the Panch Fhoron and Green Chilli in it.  
  • When the spices start sputtering, add the Potatoes. 
  • Fry till the Potatoes are reddish brown in color.
  • Add the Tomato, Turmeric powder and Salt (along with the Red Chili Powder) in it and mix well.
  • When the Tomatoes start melting, turn down the heat to medium low and add about 1-2 cups of water in it. Mix well.
  • Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes so that the Potatoes are well cooked. 
  • Press a piece of Potato with the spatula and if it breaks the Sabji is ready. 
  • Serve with Roti, Puri or Paratha.

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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Bread Dipping Oil with Parmesan and Herbs

A few months back we went to a new restaurant in Montgomery – Bonefish Grill. There they served us a welcome plate with their signature artisan bread and a dipping oil. That combination of a warm crusty bread and fragrant herbed dipping oil was so exciting that I started looking for a dipping oil recipe. I finally found this amazing herb and cheese dipping oil and I baked a beautiful French baguette to serve with it. I served them as a date night appetizer and Debarshi loved it.

As you can see, I have used all dried herbs for making this dip and this is because dried herbs don’t wilt so even after soaking them in the oil for a couple of hours they look the same. The oil tastes heavenly after absorbing all the flavor and fragrance from the herbs plus the Parmesan cheese gives it a creamier taste.

So, next time whenever you are preparing a special meal or maybe planning a small party, try serving some warm crusty bread or baguette with this delicious dip.

  • Olive Oil – ½ Cup 
  • Dried Basil – ¾ Teaspoon 
  • Dried Parsley - ¾ Teaspoon 
  • Garlic Powder – ½ Teaspoon 
  • Dried Thyme – ¼ Teaspoon 
  • Dried Oregano – ¼ Teaspoon 
  • Ground Black Pepper – ¼ Teaspoon 
  • Dried Crushed Rosemary – 1/8 Teaspoon 
  • Salt - 1/8 Teaspoon
  • Crushed Red Pepper – about 1 teaspoon (or to taste)
  • White Vinegar - 1 Teaspoon 
  • Parmesan Cheese – 2 tablespoons, grated

  • Do you have a dipping bowl? If yes, yay! If no, use any small bowl.
  • Add all the dry ingredients in it (Basil, Parsley, Garlic Powder, Thyme, Oregano, Ground Black Pepper, Dried Crushed Rosemary, Salt, Crushed Red Pepper and Grated Parmesan Cheese).
  • Use a spoon to mix everything together. Add the White Vinegar and the Olive Oil in it and stir to mix everything.
  • Let the dry herbs and the cheese soak in the olive oil for about half an hour. 
  • Serve it with a crusty French baguette.

  • To measure the dry herbs, I simply take a little less than 1 teaspoon to make ¾ teaspoon. I have found that a little more or less wont make a huge difference in the taste.
  • The first time I prepared this dip, I had some crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese packets from the leftover pizza takeout and I used them so if you have any dried herbs or cheese in your pantry feel free to use them (of course if you can’t remember when you bought the food with which they came with, it will be better to throw them out.)
  • The original recipe said to add some lemon juice but the acidity factor varies from lemon to lemon and hence I prefer to use white vinegar to create that acidic flavor).
  • The original recipe also said to add minced garlic but fresh garlic can have a strong aroma which can overcome the entire flavor of the oil and hence I used the garlic powder (not to be confused with garlic salt).
  • I added more crushed red pepper because we like hot flavors but you can decrease the amount to 1/8 teaspoon).
  • Serve the dip in a beautiful dipping bowl to draw everyone’s attention towards it.
  • Let the herbs soak in the olive oil for about 2 hours for the enriched flavor that would give the oil ample time to absorb all the flavors from the herbs and the cheese will dissolve properly.
  • Do not refrigerate as it will solidify the oil.
  • Use extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).