Savory Toast Toppings

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I really don’t think toast is given the credit it deserves. There are very few people who would include this humble breakfast item as one of their favorite foods, but let’s be honest – all of us crave for its crisp simplicity ever so often. The best thing about it, though, is its versatility. It can be paired with pretty much anything sweet, savory or spicy, serves as the perfect base for eggs and is pretty delicious even when heaped with something completely unconnected, like spaghetti.

Moreover, toast doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it can be spruced up with pretty much any ingredient you have lying around for a quirky appetizer or quick snack. Witness the following:

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So the other day, I decided to experiment with four humble slices of toast and I couldn’t have been happier. I played around with a bunch of savory and spicy ingredients and finally, these turned out to be my four favorite combinations. I’ve listed them below, but without specific quantities because frankly, that’s really up to you. In fact, you needn’t stop with the stuff that I’ve played around with – feel fry to go wild and top your toast with whatever the hell you want.

Savory Toast Toppings

Pear Made In Heaven

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An unorthodox, but determinedly delicious combination: crisp, juicy pear slices, coupled with soft, creamy chunks of brie, toasted pistachios and a smattering of pumpkin seed oil.

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The Olive Bar

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Not exactly an unheard of pairing, but delicious nonetheless: buttery hummus (homemade, to boot), smeared on crisp toast and then topped with chopped olives, jalapenos, red chilli flakes and dried figs for a subtle sweetness. The finishing touch? – a light drizzle of chilli garlic oil.

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Tuck Into Tomato

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Aren’t tomatoes and cheese the best? Toast layered with sliced tomatoes and pieces of smoked mozzarella goodness is actually a little better. A heap of capers and chopped parsley add a slight bite to this combination.

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Egg N’ Mushroom

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Toast is incomplete without egg. More specifically, a beautifully fried egg with a creamy yolk. And eggs, in turn, are incomplete without slices of mushroom that have been fried in nutty brown butter and sprinkled with minced garlic and a judicious teaspoon (or more?) of pepper.

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Papaya Tart with Thyme and Brown Sugar

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I’m not the biggest fan of papaya. In fact, the intense smell (and the fact that chopped papaya sometimes looks a tiny bit like raw flesh) puts me off it completely. But I do appreciate that it has a great texture and the other day, when I was hunting around for something to put in a tart, I started to wonder whether papaya would fit the bill.

I wanted to make a tart that was fruity but not too sweet – something that was simple and could be eaten at teatime, rather than a rich after-dinner dessert. Unfortunately, my house is not bursting with exotic fruits that are begging to be doused in honey and stuffed into tarts; in fact, after heading enthusiastically to the kitchen, all I found in the fruit bowl was a single papaya.

Very well then. Papaya it was. With clueless optimism, I told myself that papaya cut raw and papaya in a tart are two completely different things: which is how this tart was born.

I used a slightly modified version of this recipe for the tart crust, which I really loved because it did not involve rolling out the pastry and then flipping it into a pan (I’m pretty sure I would have been completely incapable of that). It uses melted butter, sugar and flour and produces a shell that’s rich and melt-in-your-mother buttery.

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For the filling, I simply chopped half a papaya and tossed it in melted butter, brown sugar and a bit of thyme. I also used a bit of marmalade to give a little depth to the dish. The whole thing came together pretty well. After 15 minutes of baking, the papaya lost the intense flavor that makes me hate it so much, but retained its juiciness and fruity texture. The brown sugar added a bit of caramelized crunch to it and the thyme actually combined well with the papaya, providing just a hint of sharpness to each bite.

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The end result: did I love it? If I’m going to be painfully honest, no. Even baked and drizzled with sugar and honey, I did not like the papaya flavor. On the other hand my mother, who wolfs down papayas like they’re buttered popcorn, couldn’t get enough of it – which goes to show, I suppose, that if you’re a papaya fan, you’re definitely a fan of this tart.

Papaya Tart with Thyme and Brown Sugar

Ingredients

6 tbsp + 2 tbsp melted butter

2 tbsp granulated sugar

1 cup flour

Pinch of salt

Half a papaya, diced

1 cup brown sugar

1 tbsp chopped thyme

2 tsp honey

2 tbsp marmalade

Method

For the tart shell, blend 6 tbsp of melted butter with the granulated sugar and pinch of salt. Once it’s combined, sift in the flour.

Knead the flour and butter until it just about holds together. The dough will be buttery and more pliable than your average pastry.

Coat a 6-inch pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and drop the dough into the center. With your hands, push down and spread it out so that it forms a shell over the pan. Then, take a fork and press down on it until it becomes thin. The dough should be buttery enough to hold together. Bake the shell for ten minutes at 180 C, until it turns a light golden brown.

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Meanwhile, put the chopped papaya in a large bowl and add 2 tbsp of melted butter, the brown sugar and chopped thyme. Toss it until the pieces of papaya are coated and keep aside.

Once the shell is golden brown and half-cooked, take it out and give it a few minutes to cool down. Then spread the marmalade across the base of the shell. Heap the papaya pieces over this – it’s okay if it looks like there’s too much papaya for the shell, since it will sink as it bakes.

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Bake the entire pie for another 15-20 minutes at 180 C. Once it’s done, the crust should be a deep golden and the sugar caramelized. Let it cool for about ten minutes before cutting out slices. The focus of the dish will be on the fruit, without the complication of a sugary filling or overly sweet crust – but with the added savor of the thyme.

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Cottage Cheese Cutlets

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My grandmother is crazily talented in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cutlets. She makes a sort of production out of them – there will be bowls of filling, eggs and bread crumbs spread out on the table, an assembly line of cutlets at various stages of development and at least two or three chutneys to go with them. Typically, she makes potato cutlets and there is nothing better in the world than sitting in a kitchen, smelling potato cutlets frying and burning your fingers because you try and eat them too soon.

So the other day, during a particular intense cutlet craving, I decided to try some out. I haven’t ever before because I’m still freaked out by the thought of hot oil (it splashes, people), but sometimes, cravings can’t be denied. Instead of pure potato, I tried a cottage cheese blend with some common spices and it was DELICIOUS: perfectly soft and chewy on the inside, deliciously crisp on the outside with the sharp punch of ginger, chilli and pepper. Needless to say, the whole batch was decimated in one sitting.

Ingredients

250 g cottage cheese

1 large potato, boiled

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp crushed red chilli

1 tbsp finely chopped ginger

1/2 cup finely chopped corianger

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

Method

Crumble the cottage cheese into a large bowl. Peel and grate the potato into this.

Add the salt, pepper, garam masala, red chilli, ginger and coriander to this and mash the whole thing up (I used my hands, because I’m a savage).

Scoop up a bit of this batter (it should be a little smaller than a golf ball) and flatten it between your palms so that it’s disc-shaped and around 3/4 of an inch thick.

Dip this raw cutlet into a bowl with the beaten egg and then in the breadcrumbs. It helps to pour the breadcrumbs onto a flat plate so you can really roll the cutlet in there and make sure’s it coated all over. More breadcrumbs = more crispiness. I like to shape and coat all the raw cutlets before the actual frying starts.

Once you have all of them ready, pour the oil into a wok and heat it up. In the meantime, line a platter with tissue – you’ll want to put your freshly-fried cutlets on to them to absorb any excess oil.

Once the oil is really hot, dip each cutlet into the wok with a slotted spoon. You can generally get away with frying them three at a time. Once you put them in, you’ll see the oil bubbling all around them and they’ll start to turn golden. You can take them out depending on your preference – a lighter shade of cutlet is generally not as crispy though, so I prefer to wait a few minutes (around 3) till it gets nicely browned.

When you’re taking out the cutlets, drain out the oil on the side of the wok and the put it onto the platter.

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These cutlets are probably best enjoyed with some sort of complicatedly spiced chutney but honestly, they taste just as good with mayonnaise and ketchup (and the occasional over-sized chilli pepper, hello hotness).

If you’re keeping them an extra day, you can also use them in sandwiches – just butter some bread, add a couple of cutlets, be generous with the ketchup and you’re good to go.

 

White Cake with Toasted Almonds

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This might be an acquired taste, but I really, really like messy cakes.

You know the kind I’m talking about: tall pillars of sugary, crumbly goodness, topped off with a mountain of roughly patched together frosting. They come apart beautifully when you dig a fork into them, and dissolve into light, airy deliciousness in your mouth.

Anyway, my sister’s birthday was a few days ago and I decided to make her a ‘messy’ cake. She likes classic flavors, so I opted for a white cake (minus egg yolks, with a little extra sugar). I used this recipe for the cake, with some minor changes: swapping three layers for two and sandwiching a layer of toasted almonds between them. This was topped with approximately a bowlful of buttercream frosting, which I colored a pale pink in keeping with the celebratory theme. The finishing touch? – white chocolate chips and some rainbow sprinkles (and some dark chocolate, if you feel like it).

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As most classic cakes go, this recipe was based on simple ingredients and death-like precision – which is not my forte. All things considered, though, I’m quite pleased with the result. I used a slightly modified version of this recipe for the cake and the end result was moist but still fluffy, with the flavor of vanilla stealing the show. It isn’t a very sweet cake, so you can get away with heaping on tons and tons of frosting, and the layer of almonds added a surprising crunch to each bite.

White Cake, Toasted Almonds and Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1 cup softened butter

1 cup milk

2 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp baking powder

5 egg whites

1 cup toasted almonds

1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Rainbow sprinkles

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Method

Stir the milk and vanilla together and set aside

Beat the butter and sugar together until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift together the baking powder and flour.

Combine the flour mixture and milk mixture into the butter and sugar, alternating between the two – I took two heaped tablespoons of the flour, blended it in and then poured in just enough of the milk mixture to combine it. The recipe calls for starting and ending this process with the flour mixture.

Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks and then combine it into the batter.

(I found that the resultant batter was a little thicker than normal, so I added another 2 tablespoons of milk to soften it)

Divide the batter into two 9-inch cake pans and bake at 170 C for exactly 18 minutes (trust me, this is the perfect time).

Buttercream Frosting

You can find the recipe here. I added two drops of red food coloring and beat it for about 30 seconds to get that pearly pink shade.

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Trim the cake around the sides so it’s even and straight-ish. When assembling, frost the bottom layer of cake and then sprinkle the toasted almonds on top. Add a dollop of frosting on top of the almonds, and then place the second cake layer above it – the frosting will automatically flatten out around the sides.

 

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Then, cover the entire freaking thing with as much frosting as you like – and as messy as you like it. Sprinkle the white chocolate chips and sprinkles over the cake.

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Penne with Vodka Sauce and Truffle Oil

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If I were asked to rank my top three favorite food ingredients, the list would be something like this:

1. Cheese

2. Truffles

3. More cheese

The funny thing is that, knowing my love for cheese, most of my friends are surprised that truffles are included in this list. But the truth is that I love the flavor of truffle; I’ve had fresh white Alba truffle only once (in Paris and yes, it was ridiculously expensive) and loved it. Since then, I’ve sadly come to accept the fact that my wallet won’t allow me to shave truffles on to every pasta, soup andburger I ever eat; largely, this is because I discovered truffle oil.

To be fair, truffle oil doesn’t capture the exact depth of flavor that a truffle has; but it comes damn close. Smoky woodiness? Check. Subtle nuttiness? Check. Intense, orgasmic flavor that I can literally pour into a spoon and slurp down neat? Check.

Most people prefer truffle oil on simple, light meals to allow the flavor to really shine. This works, yes; but I’ve also realized that I love a little drizzle of truffle-flavoured deliciousness on richer foods. A fried egg with a dash of truffle on the yolk and some chopped chives, for instance, is heaven. So is a creamy mushroom risotto that, when drizzled with truffle oil, takes on the texture and taste of the Food of the Gods.

I also like the combination of truffle and tomato, which is why I decided to cook up this penne dish this weekend. The vodka sauce has a sharp flavor from the combination of lots of garlic and two generous tablespoons of vodka. It’s filling, but isn’t very rich which makes it a good choice for a summery weekend meal. And the best part is that it’s the most no-nonsense dish ever; it literally requires flinging a bunch of things into a pot, covering it and then leaving the kitchen to give yourself a manicure.

Penna with Vodka Sauce and Truffle Oil

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Ingredients

1 pound of dried penne

4 tbsp olive oil/chilli garlic oil

4 large tomatoes

2 large onions

8 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp vodka

1 tbsp oregano

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tbsp crushed red chilli

Boil around 500 m of water with a small fistful of salt and put the penne into this. Lower the flame, cover it and let it cook. You can check every 5 minutes or so to judge how much longer it’ll take. When the pasta is cooked with a little bite to it, strain it and drizzle a tablespoon olive oil on it to keep the pieces from sticking together.

Dice the onions, tomato and garlic and grind them in a food processor with a pinch of salt and pepper till they form a pulp.

In a separate pan, heat two tablespoons of oil and then add the oregano to it. Once it becomes hot, add the tomato-onion-garlic pulp and a cup of water. Cover with a lid, make sure the flame is low and then go do your nails.

In about fifteen to twenty minutes, come down and check on the sauce. It should have become a bit more pulpy and much redder in colour, but the tomato will still have a slightly raw taste. Now, add the vodka, the crushed chilli and the dried thyme and if it’s a little to dry, a bit more water. Stir it for a minute, then cover and let it simmer. It should take another five minutes for the sauce to finish cooking – you’ll know when you taste it. The predominant flavors, other than the tomato, should be the garlic and the bite of vodka. Garnish with some crushed chilli and thyme.

When serving, spoon the sauce over the pasta, shave some cheese (parmesan and cheddar both work according to me, but I’m really not a cheese expert) on it and then drizzle a bit of truffle oil over the entire thing. Each bite will be a delicious cocktail of rich garlic and vodka with the soft saltiness of the cheese, and the smokiness of the truffle oil pulling everything together.

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Flatbread, Fried Egg and Spicy Garnish

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Here is the worst-kept secret in the world: Jamie Oliver is a boon to cooking novices across the globe. Not just because he’s handsome but because unlike most chefs, he is fully aware of the fact that the average person does not own a flambé torch or ice-cream machine, or understand what beurre noisette means. His recipes are simple, quick to make and more importantly, are the kind of thing you might actually make on a daily basis.

A couple of days back, I chanced upon this few-step recipe for flatbread on his site. It wasn’t until I realized there was no bread in my kitchen, though, that I actually thought I should make it (I was having an insane scrambled egg-and-toast craving). Once I’d actually kneaded the flour, I thought I might as well go to the whole hog by frying the eggs and adding a little fanciness in the form of garlic butter, herbs and chopped jalapenos.

Flatbread, Fried Egg and Spicy Garnish

Ingredients

175 g flour

175 g fresh curd

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp butter

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp crushed dried chilli/2 tsp red chilli flakes

3 eggs

2 tbsp chopped jalapeno

1 tbsp pickled green peppers

1 tsp chilli garlic oil

Pepper to taste

Method

Knead together the flour, curd, baking powder and salt. It will form a soft, silky dough. Keep aside for about 15 minutes, then knead again and divide it into three portions.

Roll out the portions into circles that are around 1 or 2 mm thick. Using the edge of a spatula or flat spoon, make six little indents on each piece (as shown in the picture). Blend the butter, garlic, oregano, thyme and red chilli flakes to make a spicy, tangy spread. Brush this spread onto each piece of flat bread before baking.

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I kept them in the oven at 170 C for about 15 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when they’re soft and chewable but with a dash of crispiness on the edges.

Fry the eggs in butter (separately) on low heat, so they are soft rather than thin and crispy. The yolks should still be runny.

Place a fried egg on each piece of flatbread and then sprinkle the chopped jalapeno and green peppers on top.

Finish with a sprinkle of pepper and a light drizzle of chilli garlic oil.

This should be eaten hot for it to be good; and trust me, it’s delicious. The combination of the soft flatbread, spicy garnishing and the creamy egg yolk makes for the perfect breakfast or brunch. I paired it with some garlic mayonnaise and a red chilli, which for me was just the right amount of spice to make the egg and flatbread interesting.

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Bread-and-Butter Pudding

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I’ll be honest: it is very difficult to impress someone with a bread-and-butter pudding.

This is probably not the case in restaurants, where gallons of booze and cartons of whipped cream are used to spruce up the dessert. But when made at home, it does not come out looking ‘fancy’. In fact, it looks like exactly what it is: chopped bread in custard.

None of this changes the very important fact that bread-and-butter pudding is delicious. I’ve eaten variations of it (with cream, with jelly, even the decidedly Indian shahi tukra) for years now, but my interest in the dish was piqued a few years ago by one of Vir Sanghvi’s Rude Food pieces on nursery desserts (for anyone who cares, I love pretty much all his pieces on food, though not so much the politically-inclined Counterpoint column). The basic premise of the article was that although bread-and-butter pudding is stolid and simple, it is delicious and lends itself very well to adaptations – which is exactly what I’ve tried doing with this version. I spruced up the dish with raisins, a generous sprinkling of cinnamon, an extra splash of vanilla and a slug of Advoccat egg liqueur, which gave the dish a creamy, alcoholic texture that really brought out the sweetness of the custard. Of course, any slightly alcoholic addition will lend some punch to this dish to the egg liqueur can be substituted with a brandy or any other drink of your choice.

In terms of time, it takes about ten minutes to mix and around fifteen minutes more to bake, which makes it ideal for a quick dessert. It might not be the right option to follow up a multi-course fancy dinner, but it’s perfect for a simple Sunday evening. It’s delicious while hot, but can also be cooled down in a refrigerator and eaten with a fruit preserve.

Bread-and-Butter Pudding

Ingredients

4 slices of bread

2 tbsp of lightly-salted butter

1/2 cup raisins

600 ml milk

50 g sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp cinnamon powder

3 tbsp Advoccat egg liqueur (or any alcoholic drink of your choice)

Method

Chop the bread into quarters, spread with butter and line the pieces at the bottom of a greased baking dish.

Sprinkle raisins and the egg liqueur over it.

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Beat together the eggs, milk and sugar and heat them in a pan till they’re combined. Add the vanilla.

Pour the egg custard over the bread, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake. Fifteen minutes at 160 C did it for me. After it’s done baking (the bread would have risen to the top and the custard would be lightly set) take it out and let it cool. Personally, I like to wolf down bread-and-butter pudding straight from the pan; but it can also be smeared with fruit conserve, doused in more alcohol or paired with chopped fruit.

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Hummingbird Cake

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Last month was my mother’s birthday and this year, my sister and I were determined to bake her a cake from scratch. So far, we’d stuck with boxed variations of her favorite-flavor-of-the-moment (mostly, something fruity). This was largely because the closest either of us had come to baking a cake included a Betty Crocker mix for blueberry cheesecake, which we still managed to screw up by adding too much water (things get confusing when they’re measured in ounces).

Post our more recent experiments in the kitchen, though, we were confident we could handle something extravagant and complicated: which is why, after browsing through hundreds of recipes, we zeroed in on a Hummingbird Cake. It included a combination of smashed fruits, nuts and raisins and promised to be sweet enough to top off the rather ambitious meal (seven dishes in total, if you must know) we had planned for the special day.

In retrospect, the cake might have had a lot of ingredients, but it wasn’t too complicated. We followed this recipe, with slight modifications – swapping canola oil for olive oil, adding more varieties of dried fruit and nuts as well as melted fudge – and simply beat the wet and dry ingredients separately, before combining them and baking it. Although Hummingbird Cakes are generally frosted with cream-cheese icing, we opted for a simpler buttercream version (there’s a limit to ambition), and it worked perfectly. The end result was sweet, fruity and nutty all at the same time, with a rich, buttery taste

We did have a bit of a crisis towards the end though. Since the cake has so much fruit, it’s moist even after baking and if you don’t wait for it to cool before flipping it (hello, impatience), it can get a bit crumbly – which is exactly what happened to me. We salvaged it by patching up the part that crumbled in with plenty of frosting and topping it with candied flowers (dipped in sugar syrup and allowed to cool so they wouldn’t wilt all over the cake).

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Hummingbird Cake

Ingredients

3 cups flour

2 cups fine sugar

1 tsp baking soda

2 cups olive oil

3 eggs

1 tin of pineapple, crushed

2 cups mashed bananas

1 cup chopped walnuts

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup of fudge, melted

Buttercream Icing

3 cups fine sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

Method

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Sift all the dry ingredients (the flour, sugar, baking soda) in a bowl and set aside.

Beat together the eggs and olive oil until the mixture becomes pale and frothy, and then mix the crushed pineapple, mashed banana and melted fudge into it. Fair warning: the end result will not be attractive.

Combine the wet and dry mixtures and beat till they form a consistent batter. Fold the almonds, walnuts and raisins into this.

Although the recipe called for baking two cakes and then layering them, I opted to simply bake a single 9-inch cake, which took about 30 minutes in the oven at 180 C to get done. This leaves the cake moist and rich in the centre, although if you want a drier version, you should probably leave it in for about five minutes more. Once it’s done, allow it to cool for about fifteen minutes before popping it out of the pan and icing it.

For the icing, cream together the butter and sugar till the butter turns whitish and then add the vanilla. Since the vanilla is dark, the frosting won’t be pure white – but the taste will more than make up for it. Keep in mind that the cake is pretty sweet (what with all the banana and pineapple) so if you’re catering to a bunch of people who don’t have a sweet tooth, you might want to be stingy with the frosting and cut smaller pieces.

 

Coffee Cake with Kahlua Icing

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Although I’d never say no to chocolate and red velvet cakes, give me a choice and I’d pick a generous slice of coffee-flavoured goodness any day. I’ve loved coffee cakes since as far back as I can remember; growing up, I thought they were the height of sophistication and my palate clearly hasn’t evolved much since I was six.

Trying to make a good coffee cake, however, proved to be harder than anticipated. My first attempt – I pulled out a sponge cake recipe from one of my mother’s cookbooks and added espresso to it – came out of the oven in a sloppy mess. The second time around, I found an old recipe for coffee cupcakes that she copied down from a cookbook years ago. It was made with almonds and I added a slug of Kahlua to it for some punch. I was apprehensive while it was in the oven but the stars, it seemed, lined up and the result was perfect: moist and rich, heavily flavored with coffee and slightly alcoholic. To make it a little richer, I topped it off with buttercream icing that had Kahlua and coffee in it.

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Coffee Cake

Ingredients

A shot of espresso

1 cup chopped almonds

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar

2 cups unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp Kahlua

Kahlua Icing (A modified version of this recipe)

3 cups fine sugar

1 cup unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tsps espresso

3 tsps Kahlua

Method

For the cake, simply sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a bowl and set aside.

Whip the butter and espresso together and then add the eggs, one at a time. The result will be a frothy, thick coffee-coloured syrup.

Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the coffee-egg-butter syrup, mixing well to make sure they’re combined.

I baked the cake at about 170C for 25 minutes in a 9-inch cake pan. If you’re using a smaller/bigger pan, adjust the time and stick a toothpick into it to make sure it’s done. If the toothpick comes out with raw batter on it, you’ll need to pop it in for a few more minutes.

For the icing, cream the butter and sugar together until the butter turns very soft and white. Then add the vanilla, espresso and Kahlua and whip it until it’s thick (but still a spreadable consistency) and creamy.

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Once the cake’s done, take it out of the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes before trying to ice it. It’s great to serve at teatime or as a dessert, since it’s rich enough to go well with a wine. Thanks to my aforementioned undeveloped palate, however, I paired it with a pint of beer and it was DELICIOUS.

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Roasted Carrot and Peppercorn Soup

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One of the first things that I cooked, about a year ago, was roasted carrot. Yes – at that time, the notion of sprinkling olive oil and seasoning on chopped carrots and then roasting them in an oven seemed the height of culinary capability. I’ll have to admit, though, that the end result was delicious: the carrots were soft on the inside, crispy on the outside and had soaked in the olive oil to perfection.

I love roasted vegetables on their own but over time, I’ve realized that incorporating them into soups, with a dash of butter or cream to add depth and richness, can create something even more magical. This recipe, for roasted carrot and pepper soup, is not only quick in the kitchen (I was out in fifteen minutes) but is also the perfect choice for a light dinner or as an appetizer.

The trick to getting a flavorful soup, I’ve realized, is seasoning the vegetables before roasting them. I make a sauce out of chilli garlic oil (crushed red chilli and cloves of garlic simmered in a quart of olive oil), pepper and various herbs, which I then toss the chopped vegetables in before baking them. Adding pepper gives the vegetables an extra punch that comes out wonderfully in the soup. After ten minutes in the oven, they’ve soaked up all the flavor in a way that no amount of sauteing or boiling can ever accomplish.

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Roasted Carrot and Peppercorn Soup

Ingredients

3 medium-sized carrots, washed and peeled

1 radish, washed and peeled

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons chilli garlic oil/regular olive oil

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp thyme

1 tsp red chilli flakes

1 tsp finely ground peppercorns

1 tbsp fresh cream

Method:

Dice the carrots, radish, onion and smashed garlic cloves and set aside.

Mix the seasonings (oregano, thyme, red chilli flakes and ground pepper cons) with the oil so they’re well combined. If you’re using regular olive oil, you could add a glove of smashed garlic for a more robust flavour.

Toss the vegetables in the oil and when well-coated, spread them on a tray and bake them for about 15 minutes. I set the oven at 160 C, but if you want the veggies to be done quicker, you could up the temperature.

Give the roasted vegetables a couple of minutes to cool down and then tip them into a food processor (along with the residual oil). Add the cream and a pinch of salt and grind it till it’s a smooth puree.

Heat a bit of olive oil in a pan and when it’s hot, add the puree along with a cup of water. If you want an extra creamy soup, you could add a teaspoon of milk as well. Keep the heat on low, and the soup will start to bubble in a few minutes. Wait till the extra water has evaporated and the soup has thickened before taking it off the heat.

This soup is lovely served hot with warm bread and butter. For hotter evenings, it can even be chilled in the refrigerator and served with a light salad.