The past several weeks have led me to the, perhaps unsurprising, conclusion that in large part, being a student is not conducive to being creative in the kitchen. It’s not so much the lack of time (I like nothing more than a relaxing bake after a long day’s work…crazy, perhaps), it’s more the lack of a decent larder, of all those ingredients that just happen to be lying around in the cupboards at home – the vanilla extract, the chocolate chips, walnuts, the packs of butter that the fridge is never without, the random array of spices etc. Last night I got a little too excited when I returned to the flat and saw that there were four fairly brown bananas just sitting there in the fruitbowl, as, in my book, this means there is no other option but to make banana bread. I got up this morning relatively early (relative in student-terms of course), again a little too excited about a morning bake before uni, and started to get all the ingredients together on the counter. Last of all, I opened the fridge to reach for the eggs……NO EGGS. ARGH. There’s four sticks of celery, a cabbage, half a butternut squash, some brie but NO EGGS. Maybe this isn’t a reflection of being a penniless student with insufficient funds to stock her cupboards with wondrously delicious ingredients, but just indicative of me being a bit of a lazy bugger incapable of even stocking the staples? Needless to say, I did not venture out to get eggs. I’ll get them later.

Mild rant over. I went home last weekend and as per usual, i baked. Creature of habit. My friend suggested carrot cake – which was kind of apt, with its autumnal look to it. It has never been one of those things I’ve baked growing up – in addition to coffee cake, its the cake I’ve always associated with tea-rooms – quaint and quintessentially english – to be served with a hot cup of english breakfast on a cold and blustery sunday afternoon after a long country walk. It is one of my favourites though – the subtle sweet and cinnamony taste coupled with the incredibly more-ish cream-cheese icing. Yum yum yum. This recipe came straight out of the Hummingbird Bakery book – not a book that I rave about, I find its recipes overly-indulgent, I prefer a more simple approach to baking. But, having said that, this was delicious. A little too dense/rock-like (it would have doubled up as a great weapon), but I think that was due to me a) using small country farm eggs and b) not using any bicarbonate of soda….However, it was still DELICIOUS..

Recipe: 

Cake:

300g soft light brown sugar
3 eggs
300ml sunflower oil
300g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
300g carrots (grated)
100g shelled walnuts chopped

Cream cheese icing:

600g icing sugar, sifted
100g unsalted butter (at room temp)
250g cream cheese, cold

– Preheat the oven to 170ºC (325ºF)
– Mix together the sugar, eggs and oil until all combined
– Gradually add the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt and vanilla extract.
– Stir in the walnuts and grated carrots until they are evenly distributed
– Pour the mixture into the two pre prepared tins and bake in the oven 170ºC for 20-25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting Method:

– Beat the icing sugar and butter together
– Add the cream cheese and beat until completely incorporated.
– Put in the fridge/freezer for a little bit to cool/harden (makes it more spreadable and less runny….although as you can see from the photos, ours never really hardened up)

Assembling cake:

– Allow cakes to cool on cooling-rack
– When cool enough, spread half of icing over bottom half of cake
– Place second half ontop and spread remaining icing over the top of the cake.
– Sprinkle with whatever you fancy – cinnamon, walnuts…

EAT (although not too much – it’ll make you sick….)

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Anand’s masala chai

May 20, 2011

‘I could close my eyes and do this’ were Anand’s words as he, in the midst of his morning slumber, assembled the ingredients needed for his family’s masala chai.

Masala chai is enjoyed by millions of people around the world, yet how many of you could actually make a proper cup at home? In northern parts of India, in particular, it is a staple, sold by street vendors, offered to guests on entering a home and served at upscale hotels. It is not something to be gulped down in a hurry, but savored – we find the milky sweet and aromatic tea to be something of a comfort.

A common misconception is that a good masala chai can be found throughout India. However, upon moving to Tamil Nadu we were shocked to discover that this was not the case. Luckily, our friend Anand has been kind enough to make us the odd cup or two, and has also shared his family’s recipe to go along with it.


Makes one cup

Small chunk of ginger (change according to taste)
1-2 cardamon seeds (apparently there are 12 in a pod…)
1/2 cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1-2 cloves (change according to taste)
1 1/2 tsp of white sugar
1 heaped dessert spoon of black loose leaf tea (Anand suggests Lipton Yellow Label)
3/4 Cup water
1/4 Cup milk

– Grind spices in pestle and mortar and place in pan (if pestle and mortar not available, just place spices in whole)
– Add loose leaf tea and sugar
– Add water and heat on stove until it reaches boiling point
– Take off the heat, add milk
– Place back on the heat and simmer for a few minutes
– Turn off the heat and strain into the cup

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