Eggless Coconut Drizzle Cake

Eggless Coconut Drizzle Cake

After a blissful late honeymoon in Phuket, Thailand, life in chilly England resumes. But thankfully I brought a few exotic Thai goodies back in my suitcase. Mango wafers, longan toffees, Thai honey and this gorgeous flaked coconut crowning my loaf cake.

Packed with coconut flavour, this eggless cake can be baked in a loaf tin or round cake tin. It’s great sandwiched with raspberry jam and buttercream but today, I wanted an exotic cake that reminded me of the mouth-watering flavours of Thailand. If you have a large loaf tin (25cm in length), this will make one loaf. If not, two smaller tins will be perfect.

Greek yoghurt is the perfect way to ensure this cake stays fluffy and rich inside and of course, there’s not a speck of butter in sight. Why use butter when coconut oil has so much more to give?

Cold-pressed coconut oil makes a wonderful loaf cake as it helps it retain its shape as well as keeping the cake fluffy and perfect inside as the coconut oil cools. It’s also packed with sublime coconut flavour. A touch of vanilla extract will help bring this out.

I always make it at least a day ahead of serving. When it comes out of the baking tin, wrap the cake in cling film and leave to cool like this. It will keep the cake lovely and moist. 

When toasting your coconut, keep an eye on it. It will scorch in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful.

The icing is just a simple mix of icing sugar, coconut extract, vanilla extract and a few drops of water added just until you have a thick ‘drizzleable’ consistency. Is that a word? It is now.

I love this with a cup of hot, milky masala coffee.

Eggless Coconut Drizzle Cake

Eggless Coconut Drizzle Cake 
Serves 10

For the dry ingredients:

400g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cornflour
100g desiccated coconut

For the wet ingredients:

200g coconut oil
350g caster sugar
200g Greek yoghurt
250ml coconut milk
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1 tsp coconut extract

For the icing:

200g icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp coconut extract
20-30ml water or enough to make a thick icing

20g coconut flakes, toasted in the oven, to decorate

Method

1. Grease and line a 25cm x 8cm oblong loaf tin. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C

2. Combine all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat together the coconut oil and sugar for 5 minutes.

4. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and beat until well combined.

5. Gradually add in the dry ingredients, and beat until fully combines – no more than a minute.

6. Pour into the line baking tin and bake in the middle rack of the oven for 60 minutes or until a skewer poked through the middle comes out clean.

7. It’s important not to open the oven for the first 40 minutes of baking.

8. Remove from the oven, run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it and turn out onto a wire rack. Wrap the cake in cling film and allow to cool completely.

9. To make the icing, beat together all the ingredients and drizzle over the top of the cooled cake. Scatter over the toasted coconut flakes and allow the icing to set at room temperature for an hour or so.

Eggless Coconut Drizzle Cake

Enjoy with masala coffee on a chilly afternoon.

Love Sanjana




Potato and Pea Coconut Milk Curry

Potato and Pea Coconut Milk Curry

One of my favourite quick dinners growing up was pea and potato curry.  It’s a simple staple in every Gujarati home and perfect with just rice and/or Homemade Chapattis – Gujarati Rotli depending on how hungry you are. Not forgetting the obligatory dollop of natural yoghurt, which brings any dinner together. My brother wouldn’t even touch his dinner unless there was a pot of yoghurt on the table. He still doesn’t.

This was one of those after-school meals that, when scooped up with garam garam rotli would give you the same feelings as you get when you cuddle your mum, curl up in your cosy bed and hear your favourite song all at the same time. For me, it’s always been the epitome of comfort food.

It can be done with just tomato sauce and whole cumin seeds but I’ve injected a little more richness and flavor into the sauce with a touch of coconut milk and some sesame seeds.  I love the flavour combination of sesame seeds and potatoes.

Silky soft potatoes simmered in turmeric water until tender, sweet petits pois that just burst in your mouth, and a rich and spicy coconut milk sauce. I top this with crispy spring onions. To make these, I sliced six spring onions into long, super-thin strips lengthways, dusted them with a teaspoon of cornflour and fried in really hot oil until crispy and golden.

Even though this is a slight upgrade on the comfort food of my childhood, all the basic elements are the same. You can’t beat the heavenly combo of peas and potatoes. But I’m a Yorkshire lass at heart, so I would say that.

Potato and Pea Coconut Milk Curry (3)

Potato and Pea Coconut Milk Curry
Serves 6

Ingredients

6 medium potatoes, peeled and diced in 2cm cubes
½ tsp turmeric
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp ground cumin seeds
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp garam masala
2 red chillies, chopped finely
1 tsp salt
½ tsp chai masala
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
1 tsp ground fennel seeds
½ tsp ground cardamom seeds
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
350g frozen peas
Fried spring onions, toasted sesame seeds and fresh coriander to garnish

Method

1. Parboil the potatoes in a pan of hot water with ½ tsp of turmeric. This will give them a lovely yellow colour. When they’re almost fully cooked but not all the way, drain ad set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the chopped tomatoes, cumin, coriander, garam masala, chai masala and salt.

3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. Wait for them to pop, and then add the sesame seeds, garlic, chillies and tomato paste.

4. Next, add the chopped tomato mixture and bring to the boil. Cook on a medium heat with the lid on for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the coconut milk and whisk. Next, add the potatoes and stir to combine. Simmer with the lid on for another 10 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the peas, ground fennel seeds and ground cardamom seeds.

6. Bring to the boil again and cook with the lid on for a further 5-8 minutes.

7. Serve with rice and hot Homemade Chapattis – Gujarati Rotli.

I love how simple ingredients come together so perfectly in this dish but if you want to jazz it up, try adding steamed cauliflower and broccoli, or roasted aubergines and peppers. Play with the flavor combinations and see which ingredients take you back to your childhood. 

Potato and Pea Coconut Milk Curry (2)

Btw. This is 100% vegan.

Love Sanjana 




Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls

Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls

This is not just any old wrap. This is a flavoursome, satisfying chapatti wrap filled with rich paneer, tangy lemon and mouth-watering spices. Seriously, M&S would be proud. These kati rolls are simple, filling and perfect for lunch or dinner. You can stuff them with anything you like, from scrambled paneer to Bombay potatoes.

Traditional kati rolls come from Kolkata where they are essentially a kebab wrapped in paratha. Just like sandwiches and wraps you’ll find all over the world, from gyros to banh mi, kati rolls are a street food favourite because they lend themselves to eating on-the-go – a must in any bustling city.

Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls (2)

My take on kati rolls combines my passion for paneer bhurji (North Indian-style spiced, scrambled paneer) and hot chapattis. I figured if I was going to fill something with pure paneer and vegetables, I’d better use a chapatti rather than ghee-filled paratha. If you’re not bothered about the extra calories, I’d recommend you go the whole hog and wrap your bhurji in hot, buttery paratha. There’s nothing quite like it.

One of my favourite places to eat in London is at Payal Saha’s The Kati Roll Company which opened after the first store in New York City's eclectic Greenwich Village was such a success. If you’ve never been to the London shop, here’s the lowdown; it’s a tiny little café-style restaurant with no more than eight tables. The walls are plastered with vintage Bollywood posters and they play filmi hits you’re more likely to bop away to at a family wedding rather than the UK’s busiest shopping hotspot. My point is that I love the Achaari Paneer Kati Rolls here – it is where the inspiration for my Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls came from. 

If you’re up for it, try making your own Homemade Paneer. It will make a huge difference to the final texture of the paneer. However, if you’re short of time, just use shop bought – all you need to do is mash it up with a fork.

I love to cook my Paneer Bhurji in butter – it adds a delicious richness to the juicy paneer and vegetables. A squeeze of lemon juice at the end plumps up the paneer and provides the perfectly-balanced tang you’re looking for in any good paneer dish.

Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls (4)

Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls
(Makes 8 rolls)

450g paneer, crumbled
50g butter
1 large red onion, diced finely
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp freshly-grated ginger
2 hot red chillies, chopped finely
½  green pepper, diced finely
Handful shredded red cabbage
Handful petits pois or peas
3 spring onions, sliced at an angle
½ tsp amchur powder
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp salt
Juice of half a lemon
Fresh coriander, to garnish

8 chapattis or paratha
Salad leaves, to serve

Method

1. Melt the butter in a large pan and add the cumin seeds. Allow to sizzle a little bit, and then add the chopped red onions and red cabbage. Cook on a medium heat, stirring frequently until soft.

2. Next, add the ginger, chillies, pepper, petits pois, amchur powder, garam masala, turmeric powder and salt. Allow to cook for 5 minutes on a low heat.

3. Finish by adding the paneer and lemon juice. Cook this on a medium heat for around 5 minutes, stirring often. Don’t let this become too dry – you want the paneer to stay juicy for your kati rolls.

4. Garnish with fresh coriander and spring onions.

5. You can either serve the bhurji like a curry with hot chapattis or naan or you can make perfectly-portable kati rolls.

6. To make kati rolls, take a hot chapatti or paratha and put some filling inside. You can also add some fresh salad and chutney at this stage (I love Sriracha and green coriander chutney in these). Roll them up tightly and wrap with greaseproof paper.

Serve hot with cold lassi, beer or a steaming cuppa chai. 

Paneer Bhurji Kati Rolls (3)

Love Sanjana




Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh with Pistachio Ice Cream

Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh Pistachio Ice Cream

Seeroh is one of those desserts that brings out the greedy little kid in me. Sweet semolina tossed with spices and so buttery it melts as soon as it hits your tongue. Flippin’ gorgeous. And before you ask, it’s nothing like ‘school dinner’ semolina. Not even close.

Years ago we’d make special trips to the mandir (temple) during Navratri and Diwali to pray for the year ahead, see family and have an amazing, spiritual evening. Of course, I was there for all of these reasons, plus for the reason that there would be prashad – sweets like Seeroh offered to the gods that evening. After putting my hands together in prayer, I’d open them up and wait patiently for my Seeroh.

I believe glace cherries have three purposes in life; to garnish cocktails, top cherry bakewells and stud this delicious addictive treat. If you really don’t like them, replace with candied lemon or orange pieces. They’ll add an incredible texture to contrast the soft texture of this dessert.

Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh Pistachio Ice Cream (3)

I love experimenting with different flavour combinations with this recipe. The basic Seeroh is so simple that’s it’s easy to get carried away with different flavourings. One of my favourites is this saffron and lemon version. The other is my mum’s orange and cardamom version. I could eat it all…. day… long.

There are two ways you can serve this dish; The first is to set and cool this in a square thali so you can cut it into pieces, and the second is to serve it loose as a hot pudding. Top with a scoop of ice cream and be blown away by the insane contrast of hot and cold.

You should always store Seeroh in the fridge because it can spoil quickly at room temperature. This should keep well for 2-4 days – whether it will last that long is another story.

Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh Pistachio Ice Cream (2)

Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh with Pistachio Ice Cream
Serves 8-10

Ingredients

700ml hot milk
140ml hot water
100g sugar
50g golden syrup

140g salted butter
260g coarse semolina
Zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons – I love those beautiful Amalfi lemons
A large pinch of saffron
2 tbsp glace cherries, halved

Homemade or shop-bought pistachio ice cream, to serve (I’ll give you my recipe in another post)
Slivered almonds and pistachios to decorate
Icing sugar to dust, optional

Method

1. Heat the butter in a large non-stick pan and add the semolina. Sauté on a low/medium heat for around 3 minutes or until golden and toasted.

2. Slowly add the hot milk and water, whisking all the time. The mixture should thicken as you whisk. Add the sugar and syrup.

3. Cook on a medium heat for around 15 minutes or until a buttery sheen becomes visible on the top and sides of the mixture. Keep stirring all the time and cook for as long as it takes for the mixture to become glossy.

4. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest, saffron and glace cherries. Combine.

5. Serve hot with a big scoop of pistachio ice cream.

That’s it. Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa, Gujarati Mohanthal and Hot Saffron and Lemon Seeroh with Pistachio Ice Cream. Three Diwali desserts to keep you sweet all year long.

Happy Diwali!

Love Sanjana




Gujarati Mohanthal

Mohanthal

Okay, round two. Not only is this our second Diwali sweet of the week – it’s also my second time making this Gujarati favourite for my blog. Mohanthal  (pronounced: moHanTHaal) are squares of mace-laced butter fudge made with chickpea flour. A staple in homes during festivals, these sweet pieces of fudge are studded with crunchy pieces of chickpea flour ‘crumble’ or ‘dhrabo’.

Mohanthal can be served in two ways: In pieces like the kind here, or loose as a lava-like liquid gold you scoop up with a spoon and nothing more. There’s a time and a place for both. Pieces of Mohanthal are perfect for gifting to friends and family during Diwali. The loose kind is more of a hot dessert served after a traditional Gujarati meal. My favourite way to have it is right after a meal of Aakhu Shaak (whole vegetables stuffed with peanut masala), daal, rice, rotli and sambharo (stir-fried cabbage and carrots with mustard seeds). Heaven.

Shop-bought Mohanthal will often be brown in colour but I like my mine to be bright orange – the dish is after all, named after Lord Krishna. Orange is said to be his favourite colour so there’s no better colour than this for my Mohan’s thali.

Mohanthal (3)

Everything I know about making Mohanthal, my mum taught me. She teaches with a wonderful fervour that’s so infectious, I become immersed like rasmalai in a pool of sweet milk. That’s the only way I can describe it. Having her as a mentor means I’ve never been afraid of trying anything new and this Mohanthal is no different.

Handling burning hot sugar syrup, scorching ghee and flour isn’t easy but confidence, a steady hand and heaps of patience is key. Like a beautiful cake, you can’t rush Mohanthal so take some time out and master this classic Gujarati sweet. With this recipe, I promise you’ll never buy shop-bought Mohanthal again. Especially at Diwali.

Classic Gujarati Mohanthal
Makes 20-24 pieces

Ingredients 

For the Dhrabo (this is the bit that ensures your Mohanthal has those essential crunchy pieces):

320g gram flour/chickpea flour
1 tbsp melted ghee
2 tbsp milk

For the Mohanthal:

250ml  melted ghee
90g  milk powder
1 tsp cardamom powder
2 tbsp slivered almonds 
2 tbsp slivered pistachios 
A pinch of saffron
1 tsp mace powder (javantri)
A pinch of orange food colour (optional)

For the Sugar Syrup:

400g sugar
250ml water

Method

1. To make the dhrabo place the gram flour in a bowl and add 1 tbsp melted ghee and 2 tbsp milk. Rub the mixture in between your fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs. Allow this to sit for 30 minutes.

2. Sieve the dhrabo mixture through a medium-holed colander rubbing any large pieces between your fingers and pushing it through the sieve. Be patient. Set aside.

3. In a pan, add the ingredients for the sugar syrup and simmer until it is of a one-string consistency (this is the ‘soft-ball’ stage if you have a candy thermometer). Keep this hot but do not let it go past the soft ball stage.

4. In a large, wide, no-stick pan add one cup of ghee and the dhrabo mixture you have passed through a sieve. Cook this on a medium heat until it becomes a golden almond colour. Keep stirring. Remove from the heat and allow this to cool until it is just warm. Add the cardamom powder, saffron, milk powder and mace powder. Don’t be impatient – let this cool properly or your mixture will seize up and become hard and crumbly as the mixture will become too hot.

5. Pour the hot syrup over the cooled flour mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Add some orange food colouring if you wish.

6. Pour the mixture into a greased thali or wide dish with sides. Sprinkle with almonds and pistachios.

7. Allow this to set for 24 hours at room temperature.

8. Cut into pieces.

9. Making liquid Mohanthal? At step 5, add an extra 250ml water after you’ve mixed in the syrup and colour and serve hot with vanilla ice cream and sprinkled with almonds and pistachios.

One more Diwali sweet treat coming up tomorrow. 

Love Sanjana




Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa

Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa (2)

I used to love going into Indian sweet shops as a little nipper, especially around Diwali. Wide-eyed and full of wonder, the shop keepers would see me peering through their glass cases at the majestic displays of endless halwa, burfi, penda, jalebi, kaju katli, mohanthal gulab jambu, rasmalai and everything in between. I very quickly became an expert at getting free samples.

My dad would always ask me what I’d like in my special box of sweets. I’d think long and hard about which ones would make the cut – it was a very important decision. To this day, he still buys me my own box of sweets and even if I’m not there to choose them, he somehow always picks my favourites.

Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa

The one that always stood out was the Bombay Halwa. It’s one of the only sweet that comes in lots of different colours – and they’re SO bright. Rows of translucent pink, yellow, green and orange jellies studded with jewel-like pistachios and cashews. They were bright and beautiful and I was a magpie, attracted to anything colourful.

For me, it was always the pink ones. As an avid fan of C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, it reminded me of the White Witch’s wicked Turkish delights that were conjured up to encourage Edmund’s betrayal. Of course, the only things I betrayed were my poor teeth. It was so worth it.

I learnt much later that Bombay Halwa is really easy to make. The jelly-like texture is achieved by mixing cornflour and sugar syrup – very much like making Turkish delight. Next, you slowly add ghee until it’s glossy and thick. And that’s pretty much it. So simple but make sure your arm muscles are ready. There’s loads of stirring involved.

You can make pretty much any flavour or colour you like. I love rose and pistachio but saffron and cashew and simple lemon and cardamom are also great.

Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa (4)

Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa
Makes 18-20 pieces

Ingredients
160g cornflour
140ml water

400g sugar
250ml water

4 tbsp rose syrup
100g ghee, melted
50g roasted pistachios, lightly broken
½ tsp cardamom seeds, ground

Method

1. Grease a 6×8 rectangular tin with ghee.

2. First, mix together the cornflour and 140ml cold water.

3. In a large pan (I use a wok with a large handle), add the sugar and 250ml water. Bring to the boil and wait for all the sugar to melt.

4. Once all the sugar has melted, in a slow and steady stream, add the cornflour mixture, stirring all the time. Keep the mixure boiling all the time and keep stirring. It will thicken and look a lot like wallpaper paste.

5. When you’ve added all the cornflour mixture, add the rose syrup.

6. Next, start adding the ghee – slowly at first. Keep stirring to ensure there are no lumps. Then add the rest of the ghee and incorporate. Cook again, mixing all the time until thick, glossy and translucent.

7. Mix in the cardamom and pistachios.

8. Pour the mixture into the greased pan, decorate with crushed pistachios and allow to set at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight.

9. Cut into pieces as big as you can fit in your mouth.

Pistachio and Rose Bombay Halwa (3)

I have two more of my favourite Diwali sweets coming your way this week. Keep an eye out.

Love Sanjana




Darkest-Ever Vegan Chocolate Cake with Biscoff and Chai-Spiced Buttercream

Darkest Ever Vegan Chocolate Cake with Biscoff and Chai-Spiced Buttercream

I remember being six years old and fascinated by cake. Today, I’m 26 and still obsessed with it. I once had a tragic experience with Death by Chocolate Cake. I begged and begged for it until my parents gave in, probably knowing I’d regret it the next day. Needless to say, it did exactly what it said on the box. I didn’t look at another cake for a very long time.

These days, I prefer my cakes with far less sugar… but still packing heaps of chocolate.

There’s nothing better than the marriage between intense chocolate sponge and subtle chai spices. This four-layer cake stays super moist because the sponge is soaked with a little bit of dark rum. If you don’t want to use rum, you can use a bit of gingerbread syrup (like the kind you add to coffee) or just leave it out. As the layers are thin, the buttercream will do a great job of keeping it moist.

Darkest Ever Vegan Chocolate Cake with Biscoff and Chai-Spiced Buttercream 3

For a rich chocolate kick, two teaspoons of good-quality instant coffee works a treat. The slight bitter notes make the chocolate flavour big, punchy and powerful.

If you’ve never tried Biscoff… Well, where the hell have you been?! Essentially, it is crushed Speculoos (spiced) biscuits made into a creamy spread the consistency of Nutella. Spread it on toast, pancakes and use it to make the buttercrean for this cake. Btw, it’s 100% vegan – magic!

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Biscoff and Chai-Spiced Buttercream 2

I’ve spent many years trying to perfect the vegan sponge and the only one I can say I’m truly proud of and can always depend on is this chocolate cake. The use of white vinegar, oil and cocoa powder creates an even lift and remains moist without the use of eggs.

With hundreds of books on French pâtisserie – my favourite subject after savoury vegetarian cooking, I’ve committed so many hours trying to replicate the classics without using eggs, butter, milk and cream. Sometimes it’s with great success… but usually it ends in disaster. My vegan/eggless pastry chef life is sort of a work in progress I don’t like to talk about too often – and with good reason. 

Darkest Ever Vegan Chocolate Cake with Biscoff and Chai-Spiced Buttercream
Serves 10-12

Ingredients for the sponge:

450g plain flour
100g good-quality cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
300g caster sugar
100ml vegetable or sunflower oil
500ml cold water
2 tsp instant coffee
2 tsp white vinegar
2 tbsp dark rum to soak the sponges (optional)

Ingredients for the buttercream:

250g soy margarine
300g crunchy Biscoff spread
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tsp chai spice

Popcorn, toasted hazelnuts and Carnation Caramel (onit if vegan) to decorate

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Grease and line a 8-inch wide X 3-inch deep cake tin.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

3. In a separate bowl or a stand mixer, whisk together the sugar, oil, water, coffee and vinegar until fully combined, about 5 minutes.

4. Gently fold in a third of the dry ingredients. Don’t worry if there are a few lumps. Next, fold in the remaining two thirds of the dry ingredients. Beat with a whisk until very few lumps remain, about 1 minute. Do not over mix it.

5. Pour the cake mix into the cake tin and bang the bottom of the tin on a work surface to ensure any bubbles come to the surface. This will ensure an even rise.

6. Bake the cake in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean. It’s important you don’t open the oven for the first 40 minutes of cooking.

7. Once baked, remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

8. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the cake and carefully turn out onto a wire rack. Allow to cool fully, preferably overnight. Cover loosely.

9. To make the buttercream, beat the vegan margarine until light, pale and fluffy. Next, beat in the Biscoff, chai spices and icing sugar. Beat again until super fluffy. About 10 minutes.

10. To assemble to cake, remove the baking paper from under the cake and using a cake wire, cut the sponge into four even layers. At this point you can soak each sponge with dark rum, if using.

11. Place your first sponge on a cake plate and using an ice cream scoop, take four level scoops of your buttercream. Spread evenly and top with your next sponge. Repeat for all of the sponges and finally, top the cake with the remaining buttercream.

12. Scatter over the popcorn and caramel if using. If you don’t want to use caramel, you can used melted dark chocolate.

13. Cut into slices and serve with a cuppa chai. 

Vegan Chocolate Cake with Biscoff and Chai-Spiced Buttercream 4

Who knows, maybe one day I’ll have enough dough to bag a place at Le Cordon Bleu. In Paris. Learning how to make perfect madeleines, tarts, gâteau, and croissants

Dreamy.

Love Sanjana




Homemade Chapattis – Gujarati Rotli

Chapatti Recipe

The smell that floods a home when the first chapatti goes on the cast-iron hotplate surrounds me with comfort and joy I cannot even explain. It’s my most favourite smell in the whole world because it represents my childhood, my family and every moment (both happy and sad) in our home.

Gujarati chapattis (rotli) are the glue that sticks everything Indian families eat together… or should I say the bread the scoops up all of our daals and curries. They’re an everyday staple and without them, a weeknight meal would be incomplete. I’ve known men who won’t touch their dinner unless there are hot, freshly-made rotlis on the table.

Softer and smaller than your average Punjabi or Pakistani Roti (the kind you’d get in most restaurants), these Gujarati Rotli have oil in the dough and are cooked on a super-hot cast-iron tawa/lodhi, leaving them delicious and toasty. I don’t cook them on an open flame because they’re so soft, they’d just break. They still puff up like hot air balloons as they cook on the lodhi.

They are something I was utterly fascinated by as a child. The first thing I ever ‘cooked’ were raggedy, uneven rotlis using my mini rotli-making set my masi bought me when I was five. I’d peer over our cooker wide-eyed at the hot air balloon show my mum told me was happening. The suspense that built up as they rose from flatbreads to footballs was inexplicably exciting for a little girl obsessed with eating.

Homemade Chapattis (3)

I would roll out the same piece of dough over and over again and by the end of it, my poor dad would have to eat the splat-shaped biscuit thing I had presented him with such pride. He’d tell me it was delicious that and I was getting better and better.

Thanks Dad.

There’s a certain routine to making rotli you wouldn’t dare mess with. Ask any Gujarati cook; once their rotli routine is set in its ways, you’d be a fool to question it. Everything from the patlo (board), to the velan (thin Indian rolling pin) and the tavitho (steel utensil used to flip the rotli), to the number of times the rotli is actually flipped, a Gujarati’s rotli routine is sacred.

Homemade Chapattis

Gujaratis talk for hours about how making rotli at someone else’s house is literally the worst. “They never rise, the thickness of the velan is all wrong and the lodhi never gets hot enough”, etc, etc, etc. Of course, when it’s you having to explain your flat-as-a-pancake rotlis, all these excuses are valid.

Everyone has their preferences on whether or not they add butter. I do because life is better with butter. One of my favourite ways of eating rotli is straight off the lodhi, slathered with garlic butter and rolled into a cigar. This is what my Nanabapu would do for my mum when she was little and something she then did for our family too.

Yes, Garlic and Coriander is great, Jalebi Paratha are delicious and Masala Poori are an amazing treat but rotli are the staple food we were reared on. They’re quite literally the bread and butter of Gujarati cuisine. Try them.

Homemade Chapattis

Homemade Chapattis – Gujarati Rotli

Ingredients

500g chapatti flour, plus more for rolling
80ml sunflower oil
300ml boiling water, or enough to make a soft dough

Method

1. Add the flour to a large bowl and make a well in the middle.

2. Pour the oil into the well and top up with the boiling water.

3. Use a spoon to mix the dough until it’s cool enough to handle. Use your hands to bring the dough together. Knead for 5 minutes until smooth and soft.

4. Make small ping pong ball-sized pieces with the dough. Keep some flour on a plate for rolling.

Homemade Chapattis (2)

5. Get another plate lined with kitchen paper and keep your butter handy.

6. Place the cast iron hot plate or a frying pan on a medium heat. Leave it for 5 minutes.

7. Get your rolling board and rolling pin ready. Keep a wet sponge under the board so it doesn’t move.

8. To start rolling, take a piece of dough and roll it between your palms, flattening it slightly. Dip each side in flour.

Homemade Chapattis (11)

Homemade Chapattis (5)

9. Roll it once up and down with the rolling pin and then take a pinch of flour. Place it in the middle of the dough and then use your index fingers and thumb to pinch it closed, starting from the outer edges. This step isn’t something everyone traditionally does but is what my mum taught me for soft rotli that rise.

10. Next, flatten the dough using your palm and again, dip each side in flour. Now, begin rolling the dough in a circular motion, teasing the dough to move around with your rolling. If you can’t do this, pick the rotli up with one hand and move it around yourself. The aim is to create a perfectly round, even surface and a flatbread that’s around 2mm in thickness and 6-7-inches in diameter.

Homemade Chapattis

11. Place the rotli on the cast iron hotplate and cook until little bubbles appear on the surface – around 10 seconds. Flip it.

12. Cook it on the second side until small, even brown spots appear all over the bottom of the rotli – around 30 seconds. Flip it.

Homemade Chapattis (9)

13. Now, this is the rising side. Don’t worry if your rotlis don’t rise the first few times you try it. It comes with practice. They’ll still taste delicious. Cook until darker, less evenly-spread patches appear on the bottom. Around 15-20 seconds. Flip it and place it this side up on your kitchen paper-lined plate. Butter it.

14. Repeat this process for all of your rotli until you have a beautiful, buttery stack.

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 4

Serve hot with your favourite curry, daal, sambhar, chutney or pickle. I love them with this Melt-in-the-Mouth Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry.

It’s not imperative they rise – they will still taste great! Most importantly, keep practising. It’s so worth it.

Love Sanjana




Melt-in-the-Mouth Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 5

I live and breathe Gujarati food. Simple vegetarian dishes we’d eat every night when I was young are what have inspired my love of cooking today. Oroh was one of those dishes mum would cook as a midweek dinner after our evening swim at our local leisure centre. Oroh is simply a name for smoky aubergine cooked with garlic, onions, tomatoes and chillies. If you’re a fan of North Indian food, you’ll probably know it as Baingan Bharta – the Punjabi version. Oroh is the Gujarati name for it and here’s how we cook it at home.

It’s really easy to be afraid of overdoing it with this dish. You might think it’s mad to add as much garlic as my recipe calls for but please do stick with it. The burnt aubergine needs flavours that can stand up to it so that the result is smoky, spicy, punchy and tangy.

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 3

I learnt to cook this when I was 12 years old and it blew my mind. I thought it was insane to cook aubergines on an open flame until they’re practically incinerated on the outside. It went against everything I thought to be true about Indian food. However, the very beauty of it was that while the outside burns to a crisp, the inside is cooked until butter-soft and smoky. Perfection.

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 1

Before you start, make some holes through the aubergines – otherwise there will be explosions and they won’t be fun to clean up. I also recommend you line your gas cooker with aluminium foil. That way once you’re done, you can just lift it off and throw it away. Nobody wants to be scrubbing their cooker for hours.

I’ve added spinach to this but to make classic Gujarti Oroh, you can simply leave it out. I like the combination of leafy green spinach and melt-in-the-mouth aubergine.

Serve with hot, buttery Gujarati Chapattis. The recipe for those will be posted up next.

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 4

Melt-in-the-Mouth Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry – Bhaji ne Ringra Oroh
Serves 4

Ingredients

3 large aubergines
2 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp asafoetida (optional)
1 large onion, diced finely
8 large cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 green chillies, chopped finely
390g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
250g baby leaf spinach
Fresh coriander and lemon wedges, to serve

Method

1. Make around 10 holes in each aubergine and place one on each burner of your gas cooker. Turn the flame on high and cook the aubergines for 8 minutes. Don’t touch or move them during this time. Trust me.

Burnt Aubergine and Spinach Curry 2

Once 8 minutes have passed, use tongs to turn them over and cook the other sides for 8 minutes, again not moving them. Steam will escape from the holes you’ve made. It’s important not to leave the kitchen during this time! Open a window too. Once totally burnt on the outside, use tongs to place each aubergine onto a plate and set aside to cool.

2. In a large pan, heat the oil and add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Cook for a minute and then add the onions. Allow to cook on a medium heat until golden, about 10 minutes. Add in the garlic and chillies and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

3. Tip in the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the spinach and freshly-chopped coriander. Cook for around 15 minutes, stirring frequently until the sauce is thick and the oil begins to separate from the tomatoes slightly.

4. Whilst the sauce is cooking, check the aubergines have cooled enough to handle. Split each aubergine lengthways and scrape out the soft inside. It’s okay if some burnt skin comes away with it but try to remove the large pieces. Chop it all up roughly and add to the tomato sauce along with the spinach. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring all the time until the spinach has wilted and any excess water has evaporated.

5. Serve sprinkled with fresh coriander and lemon wedges.

Love Sanjana

The most amazing Indian vegetarian dish you'll make again and again. 20,000 have already pinned it!

The most amazing Indian vegetarian dish you’ll make again and again. 20,000 have already pinned it!




Saffron Rice Pudding with Banana Brûlée

Saffron Rice Pudding with Brulee Bananas (2)

I’ve been rushing around like a mad woman on too many jalebis this month. Developing recipes (which I’ll show you later), catching up with friends I haven’t seen since our wedding and generally thinking about what to blog about next.

Sifting through my mum’s handwritten recipes, clippings and annotations on pudding recipes, I once again became a tubby eight year old. Making Indian sweets like white chocolate penda, butterfly burfi (milk fudge with almond ‘butterfly wings’ like the buns we used to make at school) with mum was what made me so passionate about playing with food. She fuelled my curiosity for learning about how flavours really work and our shared enthusiasm for putting an Indian spin on everything. It is something I try to practice every single day. 

We’d always make enough to feed the five thousand so quite often, the puddings would be taken to our temple for prashad – food which has been offered to the gods. Once it has been ‘blessed’ the food can be shared. 

Unashamedly, this was my favourite bit. 

Sampling the prashad brought to the temple by all the different families was something new and adventurous for me. One family would always bring kheer – an Indian rice pudding. It was packed with saffron, cardamom and nuts. Plus, in my eight year-old mind it had to be good… It’d been blessed by GOD! I. Was. Hooked. 

The next time there was an event at the temple, I was there faster than a buttered bullet.

Saffron Rice Pudding with Brulee Bananas (3)

Anyone who knows me will be aware of my infatuation with Raymond Blanc. Every time I see him create a French classic on my TV screen, I melt. A simple recipe prepared with hunger and respect for ingredients is something that inspires me to my very bones. So when I saw him make his mother’s recipe for Riz au Lait, I had to try it. He suggested serving it warm, or cold with a brûlée top. Bloody brilliant. 

Of course, I had to put my own spin on it so taking my inspiration from childhood experiments and that ‘holy rice pudding at the temple’, I created this Saffron Rice Pudding with Banana Brûlée. I hope you like it as much as a fat kid loves kheer.

Saffron Rice Pudding with Brulee Bananas


Saffron Rice Pudding with Banana Brûlée
Adapted from Raymond Blanc’s Riz au Lait
Serves 6-8

Ingredients
1.2L semi-skimmed milk
500ml double cream
½ tsp saffron
150g rice
100g caster sugar
4 bananas
Extra caster sugar for caramelising the pudding tops

Method

1. Pour the milk and cream in a large pan, then add the sugar, rice and saffron. Bring to the boil and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 40 minutes. The rice should be pretty much cooked all the way through. Don’t worry that there’s lots of extra liquid – it will all come together.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 190C

3. Next, take individual ramekins placed on a tray or one large ovenproof dish and ladle in the rice pudding. Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until nicely browned on top. If it gets too brown, cover with some foil. Remove from the oven.

4. Slice the bananas and top the rice pudding. Sprinkle over a liberal amount of sugar and place under a hot grill until dark and the colour of burnt caramel. If you have a blowtorch you can use that. I do have one but it’s new and if I’m honest, I’m a bit scared of it.

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before serving because burnt tongues are nobody’s favourite. 

Love Sanjana




Mombasa Kachri Bateta

Mombasa Kachri Bateta

I’ve always strived to be a great cook like my grandfathers. My parents tell me their Gujarati and East African classics like Mombasa-Style Daal Kachori, Jalebi Paratha, gathia were inspiring. Their tips and tricks are recalled in the conversations of our extended family with a joy that I cannot even describe. I wish they’d have been here long enough for me to watch them at work.

Someone who had the pleasure of spending many hours in the kitchen with my Bapuji (paternal grandfather) was my wonderful aunt in Mombasa, Kenya. She’s an incredibly-talented cook with an edible garden I could only dream of. Packed with mangoes, coconuts, bananas, tree tomatoes and herbs, she’s an expert at cooking everything from Gujarati classics, to East African staples. When I visited their family home last year, I was treated to it all and my word was it dreamy.

One of the dishes she cooked up was this Mombasa Kachri Bateta – a light potato stew with sour green mangoes, topped with coconut fresh from the garden and fried cassava crisps. The coconut is a kind of dry chutney rammed with flavour from grated green mango, chilli, turmeric, salt and sugar. That’s it. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again – the simplicity with which East African food is cooked blows my mind and my taste buds. It’s unbelievable how a few simple ingredients put together in a clever way makes everything Taste. So. Damn. Good.

Grated raw green mango is EVERYTHING to this dish. It adds a gentle, fruity sourness lemons just can’t deliver. If you can’t get raw green mango, try adding lime but I seriously would encourage you to hunt the mangoes down. Ensure they’re super hard and very green and keep the skin on when you grate it, because life’s too short.

The toppers for Kachri Bateta are endless – from fried cassava or potato crisps, to thick gathia, jinni sev, fresh coriander, sliced chillies and of course, the dry mango chutney. Gathia and jinni sev are fried chickpea flour nibbles – think Bombay Mix but better. You can buy them in most big supermarkets.

This dish is so easy and a delicious taste of Mombasa. The only difficult part is waiting for the potatoes to cook in the sour, spicy mango and tomato broth.

Mombasa Kachri Bateta (2)

Mombasa Kachri Bateta
Serves 4

Ingredients

For the potato stew:
750g potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tbsp crushed garlic
75g raw mango, grated
2 tbsp oil
3 tbsp concentrated tomato paste
2 tsp salt
½ tsp red chilli powder
1.5L water

For the coconut chutney:
100g fresh coconut, grated
100g raw green mango, grated
½ tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp turmeric
1 small chilli, chopped

To serve:
Cassava crisps or potato crisps
Gathia or jinni sev
Chopped coriander
Sliced chillies

Method

1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the garlic and tomato paste and cook for a minute or two, stirring all the time.

2. Next, add the mango, potatoes, salt, chilli powder and water. Allow to cook on a medium heat for around 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked and the water has reduced by half. The starch in the potatoes will thicken it perfectly.

3. To make the chutney, mix all the ingredients together. Cover and keep in the fridge. This is best served cold on top of the stew.

4. Serve the stew in bowls, topped with the coconut chutney, crisps, gathia, sev, coriander and chillies.

Love Sanjana




Eggless Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake

Eggless Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake

As I set up a cocoa-dusted tile under the skylight in our attic room, ready for a rich, chocolatey banana loaf, cream and hazelnuts, it struck me how much writing this blog has become ingrained within my very bones. From developing recipes, to jotting down measures on the butter-splattered pages of my notebook, and the photography and digital journey I love so much, the process of maintaining it has helped me achieve focus in almost every aspect of life.

So you can imagine how much taking a six-month blog break for wedding planning bothered me.

Eggless Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake (2)

Of course the only way to make things right is with Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake. When it’s baking in the oven, the entire house smells like the Sunday afternoons of my childhood when mum and I would be experimenting with flavours and egg replacements. This recipe uses sweetened condensed milk which slightly caramelises in the oven, filling the entire house with the smell of how Banoffee Pie tastes. As for the egg replacer, the bananas, cornflour, baking powder, cocoa and vinegar work in such a way that the cake rises and holds its shape like a trooper.

A problem I often encounter with loaf cakes is that the longer baking time makes for a drier texture. I recently read in a wonderful book on French pâtisserie, À la Mère de Famille (the renowned Parisian confiserie) that if you wrap the cakes in cling film whilst they’re still warm from the oven, they remain moist both outside and in. Try it.

Baking Nutella right into this cake means there’s no need for drizzles or icings – it really is sweet enough. Simply dusted with cocoa powder, it’s perfect with a cup of tea or served slightly warm with a generous splash of ice-cold single cream.

Eggless Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake (3)

Eggless Banana and Nutella Hazelnut Cake
Makes 2 loaves

Ingredients

2 medium bananas
1 x 397g tin sweetened condensed milk
220g Nutella
220g extra-fine cake flour (you can use plain flour if you can’t get this)
15g good-quality cocoa powder (not drinking chocolate)
20g coarsely-ground hazelnuts, toasted
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cornflour

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and line two 1lb loaf tins (16 x 11 x 7cm H. (6¼" x 4¼" x 2¾"). I used this one from Lakeland.

2. Place the bananas in a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.

3. In a stand mixer or large bowl, add the condensed milk, banana puree, Nutella, melted butter and white vinegar. Whisk until completely smooth and combined.

4. In a separate bowl, sift the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and cornflour.

5. Add the cake flour to the wet mixture in three stages, whisking until smooth each time. Be careful not to overwork the batter or your cake will be heavier than it should be. Finally, fold in the toasted hazelnuts.

6. Divide the batter between the greased and lined loaf tins and smooth out the tops. Bake in the over for 45-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remember not to open your oven door during cooking – this will deflate your cakes and make them sink in the middle.

7. When the cakes are fully baked, run a sharp knife around the edge of the tin to loosen it. Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack and after 20 minutes, wrap each cake in cling film and allow to cool completely this way. As these are naked, non-glazed cakes, this will ensure the loaves remain moist.

8. To serve, dust lightly with cocoa powder. My favourite way to eat this is with a cup of chai or with a generous splash of pouring cream straight on top.

Love Sanjana