Before Cooking was a Spectator Sports…

There is nothing easier than finding a dependable recipe these days, however obscure the cuisine. Our trusted friend Google is there to wade through millions of web pages and bring up whatever we ask for. And if you are lucky, you will even find a video of someone preparing the same dish.
But so was not the case, just two or three short decades ago. So what about a time when you are new to a place and are expected to feed your family with whatever you could carry with you from thousands of miles away? And as that cannot last for long, you are compelled to use locally available food stuff. But you know next to nothing about the local stuff, nor is there anyone to consult.
That was the case of the women who emigrated from Europe to the America, the new continent, in the 17th and 18th centuries. Very often, they had to depend on cookery books carried over from the homeland. Even the first English cook books published in America were reprints of the British ones, with hardly any modifications. But as can be expected, these books failed to deal with the special needs of the American housewife.
It is under these circumstances that Amelia Simmons published her cook book, ‘The First American Cookbook’ in 1796, the first to be authored by an American. The book recorded for the first time changes that had occurred in cooking as well as in other spheres of life as it unfolded in America. The American housewife had to deal with ingredients that were unknown to her British counterparts and we can see that this fact was a major influence in the writing of this book.
The First American Cookbook had other claims to fame apart from being the first one on the market… it was the first cookbook to document a novel method of leavening the dough. So far, the required lightness in baked items was achieved by beating in air with eggs. And sometimes bakers had to resort to yeast even for cakes. Pearlash, the refined form of potash, was commonly used in America around this time in gingerbread and cookie dough. And Amelia Simmons includes four recipes using pearlash in her cookbook. And detailed discussions in a London magazine in 1799, about the merits of pearlash in cooking, indicates that this was still a novelty in Britain.
It is noteworthy that Amelia Simmons uses a number of words that are purely American. ‘Molasses’ instead of ‘treacle’, ‘shortning’ in place of the British ‘shortening’, ‘slapjack’ for a cake fried on a griddle, and are examples. These words were in circulation in America, but were recognized by dictionaries much later.
Also, the book uses, for the first time, words borrowed from Dutch. Indeed, I was really surprised to know that our common words like ‘cookie’ and ‘slaw’ had their origin in the Dutch language!
And, Amelia Simmons was the first one to set down a recipe for what we call a traditional Pumpkin Pie today, and I’m eternally grateful to her for that! I’m sure someone else would have stepped up with a recipe for a Pumpkin Pie, if she hadn’t, but it is nice to have that recipe in the first cookbook authored by an American!
In addition to recipes for numerous dishes, the book also contains direction on how to select and prepare ingredients. There is a whole lot of insights into the contemporary life that can be gained from this book. And some of the usages of language might strike us as archaic, but considering the time it was written, it is relevant to a surprising degree even today.
The full title of the book is, ‘American Cookery or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and all Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake, adapted to This Country and All Grades of Life’. The book is published as a facsimile copy of the original and can be purchased online.



Spritz Butter Cookies

Desastre, Katastrofe, Sakuna, Inhlekelele… In how many languages can I say the word ‘disaster’? However many, it won’t be enough to express my sense of frustration… I had this vision of beautiful smooth soft thin buttery morsels decorated with multicoloured crystals of sugar lying on a black plate next to a cup of coffee… And what it all turned out… it’s not that long a story, and let me start at the beginning.


Though I had got a spritz cookie maker as a present, a while back, it is only last week that I decided to try it out. So on a warm Sunday afternoon, I gathered together the ingredients for a classic butter cookie recipe.


Two batches… one orange flavoured and one chocolate. That was my plan. And I would use two different disks for each batch.


I could already see them sitting on a plate, the light coloured with the dark, studded with multi-coloured sugar crystals.


For the first batch – orange flavoured – I selected a simple five petaled flower pattern. Mixed the dough to a nice pliable consistency, filled the cookie maker. Set the oven to pre-heat. Took out the cookie sheet and placed a fitting piece of parchment on it. And started pressing the cookies. Alas… the cookies totally refused to co-operate!

Instead of staying on the cookie sheet and forming a nice shape, the pressed cookie rose with the cookie maker! Every time I pressed it down, the dough came out dutifully, but the cookie refused to stay down… to the point that I had a lump of cookie dough at the end of the cookie maker and a few bits on the cookie sheet! I was aghast! I, who has mastered pinwheels and Florentines and macaroons… failing miserably with some basic pressed cookies!
Setting lamentations aside, I turned my attention to salvaging the situation. After pressing each cookie, I carefully cut it off with a sharp knife. Okay, now I can see the flower shape and there are cookies on the cookie sheet.


The first batch came out of the oven… and to my great relief, they tasted good.


And in a rustic way, the cookies looked good too. A pinch of sugar crystals while they are still hot on the rack, made them actually look pretty smart.


Somehow, with the workaround, I was able to finish making the cookies, though it took a bit of time. Of course, I had to abandon the idea of the second batch of chocolate flavoured ones. No sense in lengthening the misery, right?


After all the cookies were done and photographed and distributed to friends (along with the story, of course!), I still was wondering what went wrong. And I went back to the directions that came with the cookie maker. The instructions were to use an ungreased cookie sheet. And it struck me right away… no wonder the cookies were not staying down on the sheet! They were supposed to stick to the sheet and here I was pressing the cookies on parchment that nothing sticks to! That was one moment when I felt the need for some facility to kick oneself… 🙂



Spritz Butter Cookies
Recipe type: Cookies
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1½ cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons cream or milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange essence
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350º fahrenheit.
  2. Sieve together flour, baking powder and salt.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
  4. Add the egg and beat thoroughly.
  5. Add the cream (or milk), vanilla extract and orange essence.
  6. Add the orange zest and combine well.
  7. Add the flour to the mix, in batches, and mix well, gently. The dough should be pliable but not too loose. Do not chill the dough.
  8. Insert the pattern disk you want to use in the cookie maker and tighten the bottom.
  9. Fill the cookie maker with the dough and attach the top.
  10. Place the bottom of the cookie maker on an UNGREASED cookie sheet, and press down to shape the cookie.
  11. Lift up and repeat the process. The cookies can be placed at a distance of one and a half inches.
  12. Bake till the edges of the cookies turn light brown. This will take 10 to 12 minutes.
  13. Place the cookies on a cooling rack and sprinkle the center of each cookie with coloured sugar crystals.
  14. Store in airtight containers when completely cool.

Moulded Green Chicken Salad

Has it ever happened to you that you decide you need to make some changes to your life style and buy stuff to support that decision? And a while later, end up with stuff you wonder what to do with? That is exactly what happened to me with the cans of chicken breast. I decided that I needed to eat more protein and a big pack of them. Soon, very soon I would have to admit, I got fed up with that plan. After all, how much chicken salad or stir fried chicken can you eat? I needed something new to try for that last one can of chicken, before it even got anywhere near the sell-by date.


That is when idea struck. I had always liked the look of the moulded salads. Moulded as in ‘prepared in a mould’… not attacked by that green-black stuff that grows on the walls of abandoned houses. What better time to attempt that looking-good-don’t-know-how-it-tastes dish with a can of chicken that I don’t care much about! So two stones, one bird… two birds, one stone… whatever… here I was making a cool moulded chicken salad on a hot summer day.


Of all the pictures I had seen of moulded chicken salads, the ones I like best were green ones. Don’t know why. Maybe because the words ‘green’ and ‘chicken’ are irrevocably associated in my mind. When we were kids, one of our neighbours used to keep chickens. And my little bro used to spot one of the chickens and call it green chicken! At that point, I had no idea that the kid is colour blind! Fortunately, he is in a field of work where there is not much danger of confusing red with green; as a CEO, all the green he cares about doesn’t come in red at all! 🙂


And a pale green very well represents the idea of cool too. Problem right there… I’m totally against using artificial colours for food. What ingredient will give me a pretty green? Spinach, what else! So I blended a few spinach leaves with water and sieved the liquid through a muslin cloth. Tada… instant natural green colouring!


With that problem solved, it was easy to zero in on the rest of the ingredients. Of course, celery… what is a chicken salad without celery? And scallions for that extra shade of green… pickled jalapenos to add a bit of spice. A few artichoke hearts, from a jar, for a hint of tanginess. And as I didn’t want to go too strong on the chicken, a few boiled eggs to add body. A bit of mayo to give it creaminess and gelatine to keep it all together. It’s all done!


Once you have finalized the ingredient list, it’s quite simple… Just prepare the base by mixing the gelatine with the juice and mayo. And add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly, but gently.


Pour the mix into a mould and keep in the refrigerator, covered with cling wrap, at least for three hours. And there you go… slice and serve with toasted baguette slices. A perfect Sunday lunch!


I have to say… this dish turned as a total surprise! It had that cool look and a taste to match. Very refreshing and extremely tasty!





Moulded Green Chicken Salad
Recipe type: Salad
  • 12 oz canned chicken breast
  • 4 eggs
  • 4 celery ribs
  • 1 bunch (at least 4 in a bunch) scallions
  • 4 artichoke hearts, pickled in oil
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapenos
  • ½ cup fresh spinach leaves
  • ¾ cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 3 ¼ oz envelopes unflavoured gelatine
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Boil the eggs till firm, around three minutes. Peel and chop them into bite size pieces and keep aside.
  2. Chop the celery ribs into small pieces.
  3. Thinly slice the artichoke hearts.
  4. Mince the jalapenos roughly.
  5. Blend the spinach leaves with one cups of water. When thoroughly ground, sieve the liquid through a fine meshed sieve overlaid with a muslin cloth. Add enough water to make up to two cups of green juice.
  6. Sprinkle the gelatine over the green juice. Let stay unstirred for five minutes.
  7. Beat the gelatine into the green juice till well mixed and no grains of gelatine remain.
  8. Add the mayonnaise to the green juice and mix well.
  9. Add the remaining ingredients one by one, to the green mix and stir gently after each addition.
  10. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as required.
  11. Mix well and pour into a five cup mould.
  12. Cover the mould with cling wrap.
  13. Place in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
  14. When it time to serve, unmould the salad by placing the mould in warm water up to to the brim.
  15. Place a plate on top of the mould and turn upside down. The salad will slide onto the plate.
  16. Serve with toasted baguette slices. Perfect for lunch on a hot summer day!

Taste of Times Square

Taste of Times Square is an annual food and music festival held, of course in Times Square, at the beginning of summer. Around 50 restaurants serving food from all over the world, put up stalls along two blocks of 46th Street between Broadway and 9th Avenue. Held by the Times Square Alliance, this year marks the 20th Taste of times Square event.


Times Square area is home to 300+ restaurants, 30 new ones opening just within the last year. The best part of it is that whatever kind of food you are looking for to fit whatever budget, you will find it here. If Restaurant Row, 46th St between 8th and 9th Avenues, is the place to go for restaurants run by celebrity chefs, along Broadway you will find food carts peddling their specialities for as little as five dollars! In short, you can have a satisfying meal in Times square regardless of your tastes or the heft of your wallet!


This year, 42 restaurants participated in the event. Tickets are sold ahead of the event and at a number of ticket booths at the event itself. Each ticket costs a dollar, and you pay anywhere from one to four tickets for each item. The name Taste of Times Square is meaningful in that one gets to taste a lot of stuff.


A wide variety of cuisines were represented among the stalls. And of course, some of them were more popular than others, evidenced by the long lines of prospective customers. There were lots of stuff to drink as well. However, alcoholic drinks are not sold at the event.


The stalls vie with each other in the stall decorations, even though the space is pretty much limited. From craved watermelons to skulls, the decorations were eye catching.


Restaurant stalls owned by chefs with name recognition, also display books, CDs, and other merchandise. As many of the stalls are right in front of their restaurants, you can go in and buy the merchandise if you are so inclined.


And bands and individual players entertained the crowds with different types of music. People stopped and listened, munching their food.


Most impressive was the Cross Roads drum circle, with participating drums from all over the world. Anyone interested could go and take a seat and pick up the drums. There were many young children who seemed rather skilled. It was hard to tell who were more enthusiastic… the drum master or the participants!


As the salt mines I work at is located right in the middle of Times Square, my friend and I made it a point to be present before the opening time of 5 pm. That gave us a chance to reconnoitre the stalls and decide on what we wanted to try before the crowds descended. And it was a wise decision too. The place was like an ocean of humanity in no time!


We tried jambalaya, empanadas, bread pudding, kobe sliders, layered chocolate cake (remembered from last year’s event), quesadillas, and flans. Believe me, there were a few more items I wanted to try, but this was all I could do. And though there were many salad options going – a roasted beet salad and a chick pea salad really looked interesting – but on this occasion I totally decided to look away from them.


By the time we had our fill and were leaving, the crowds were still arriving. We were talking how it rained and poured during last year’s event. This year, it was sunny and bright with the temp in mid-eighties. How is it going to be next year? Who knows… but Times Square, it’s a date!



An All-time Favourite Bread Pudding

White chocolate, berries, bananas… What is not to like? Each of them lovely on their own. So what if you put them all together? That is what is happening with this wonderful bread pudding, that I had mentioned a while ago. This was to take to a party that I went to, with some of my friends. The party was indeed great, and I wish I could say the bread pudding was the highlight of the party, but alas… that was the crawfish imported from New Orleans. Of course, the pudding was appreciated very much, and I do think the praise was genuine! 🙂
Actually, this is one dish that I have made for many an occasion and some among my friends are all time fans of it.
The berries that you use for this pudding can be any dried berries, like cranberries or blue berries. Or even dried cherries. In the cooking process, they absorb the liquids and swell up to become twice their original size. And the bananas are cooked with butter and brown sugar before being added to the mix so that their flavour really spreads through the whole pudding.
A variation that you can try with the bananas is to add some dark rum to the butter-brown sugar-bananas mix and flambé it, before adding the whole thing into the pudding mix. It adds that extra oomph to the dish. Though the alcohol will be totally evaporated through the flambéing, it is better not to use the rum if children are going to partake of the pudding.
A key factor to the success of this pudding is allowing the bread pieces to thoroughly soak in the liquids. Leaving the mix aside for a minimum of 30 minutes, an hour if possible, will make the texture silky and smooth.
As this was planned for a party, I prepared this pudding in a disposable aluminium foil baking pan. These pans with lids are a blessing when you need to carry stuff around.
Of course, I had also made two little ones in ramekins for taste testing. It is not advisable to take anything to anyone before testing it yourself. Believe me, I’m saying this based on some pretty painful experience… from days long gone by. 😉
And the best part of making this pudding? Boy, your home will be filled with the sweet fragrance of freshly baked bananas and chocolates for a long time! This is one time I would not light candles to eliminate food smells… it is that great!




An All-time Favourite Bread Pudding
Recipe type: Dessert
  • 6 cups bread cubes
  • 6 oz white chocolate chips
  • 3 bananas
  • 1 cup dried berries (cranberries, blue berries or cherries)
  • 6 tbsp butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter a 9 x13 inch baking pan.
  3. Cut the bread slices into ½ inch cubes.
  4. Slice the bananas into thin pieces.
  5. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and 1 cup brown sugar (leaving ¼ cup sugar aside).
  6. Add the cream and milk to the eggs and beat well.
  7. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and mix thoroughly.
  8. Slowly add the berries, chocolate chips and bread cubes and stir together.
  9. In a heated pan, add the butter, banana slices and the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar.
  10. Stir and cook till the banana slices start losing their firm shape.
  11. Stir into the pudding mix.
  12. Pour the mix into the buttered baking pan.
  13. Place in the center of the pre-heated oven and bake for 45 minutes.
  14. Insert a skewer in the center of the pudding and if it comes out clean, take the pudding out of the oven. If raw batter is sticking to the skewer, bake for another 10 minutes and check again.
  15. Check the bread pudding cool on a rack for 10 minutes before cutting into squares for serving.

Potato Salad – the Taste of Summer!

Finally… summer is officially here! Today is Memorial Day… the starting of beach days and spaghetti tops and sangrias and salads! A season embodied by that Nat King Cole song I love… ‘Those lazy crazy hazy days of summer… of soda and pretzels and beer…’. And of course disagree with the last line, ‘You wish that summer will always be here…’ I’m sure no one would give summer a second thought if it was always here! Okay, okay, I digress, that is topic for another post. 🙂

So talking about summers and salads, what would you consider the most basic salad? For me, it is potato salad. I can never get tired of it, especially as it can be prepared in many many variations. In fact, I’m sure each person will have their own favourite version of it.

Generally, I do not like mayo in my salads as it feels a bit heavy. So for potato salads, I prefer a mix of sour cream and lime juice. And a spot of melted butter to give it a bit more creaminess. Of course, the butter can be totally omitted without any noticeable impact, and most often I do so.

As a rule, I use red potatoes for making a salad. Even though the potatoes are peeled, I like to leave one or two unpeeled so that you get a glimpse of the red skin here and there. Looks pretty!

And I do have a secret ingredient which gives the potato salad a very nice tingly bite… celery seeds! Just a pinch is sufficient to give the salad that added taste of freshness. And of course, if you want to give it some additional kick, you can always go with finely minced pickled jalapenos!

Potato salad looks very pretty served on lettuce leaves. My favourite for this purpose is iceberg lettuce. The leaves sure add a delicious crunch to the salad. And don’t forget that lemony sangria to complete the lovely summer feeling!




Potato Salad – the Taste of Summer!
  • 8 red potatoes
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp butter, optional
  • 1 tsp dill weed
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp celery seeds
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1 orange and 1 yellow bell peppers
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Peel 6 of the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into ½ inch cubes, two of them with skin on.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water, till done. Drain and keep aside.
  3. Thinly slice the spring onions, white and green parts,
  4. Finely chop the celery.
  5. Cut the bell peppers into very small cubes.
  6. Mix together the boiled potato pieces, spring onions, lime juice, butter (if using), dill, sugar and celery seeds. Cover and keep aside till time to serve.
  7. To serve, add the celery, bell peppers and sour cream to the potato mixture and mix well.
  8. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Ready to serve!

Mediterranean Summer Bread Pudding

This Sunday, I have a party to go to. And I’m planning to make a bread pudding with lots of lovely stuff – white chocolate, bananas, cranberries – in it to take along. But then, that is only on Sunday… and people have to eat till then, right? I was not in a mood to go food shopping in the middle of the week. Looking in the refrigerator, I realised I had bits of different cheeses that I needed to use up. But how? And remember, I had bread pudding on my brain… voila, the end result is this Mediterranean summer bread pudding!


Why Mediterranean summer? One thing I wanted in the dish was baby spinach… always have it on hand. So we have assorted cheeses and spinach. What goes with that? Of course, olives and lemon! The combination reminds you of a lovely Mediterranean summer, doesn’t it? 🙂


This dish would shine with feta cheese as stated in the recipe, but I used an assortment of cheeses, the leftovers from earlier recipes… a bit of gouda, bit of mozzarella, and even a bit of brie. And of course some pecorino on the top. It tasted so yummy!


Once I arrived at the theme, the rest was easy. Add the standard spices that go with the cuisine… allspice, cumin, red chilli flakes, and oregano.


You can make this with white bread as well, but of course, whole wheat bread is always better*. Whichever bread, make sure that it gets ample time to soak up the juices, before you pop it into the oven.


Finally, I like to grease the baking pan with butter. If you prefer, you can use olive oil for this purpose.

* Hey, doesn’t that sound like a slogan? “Whole Wheat Bread is Always Good!”






Mediterranean Summer Bread Pudding
Cuisine: Mediterranean
  • 6 large slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 cup baby spinach, tightly packed
  • 5 artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
  • 12 black olives
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp allspice powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp shredded pecorino cheese
  • Unsalted butter to grease the pan
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degree fahrenheit and butter a 9 inch baking pan.
  2. Cut the crusts off the bread slices and cut them into ½ inch cubes.
  3. Cut the baby spinach finely.
  4. Slice the artichoke hearts thinly.
  5. Slice the black olives into thin circles.
  6. In a large pan, mix together the bread cubes, spinach, artichoke hearts and olives. Make sure that the vegetables are not wet so that the bread doesn’t get soggy.
  7. Transfer the bread and vegetable mix to the buttered baking pan and spread evenly.
  8. Spread the crumbled cheese evenly over the bread mix.
  9. Beat the eggs well with the milk. Add olive oil, lemon zest and juice, allspice and cumin powders, red chilli flakes, and oregano. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  10. Pour this mixture over the bread and cheese.
  11. Keep aside for 30 minutes to allow the bread cubes to soak in the liquid.
  12. After 30 minutes, gently press down the contents of the pan and sprinkle the top with the pecorino cheese.
  13. Loosely cover the pan with aluminium foil and place in the heated oven.
  14. Bake for 30 minutes. Then, remove the foil and continue baking uncovered for another 10 minutes or till the cheese starts to get brown spots.
  15. Slice and serve with a tomato salad on the side. A semi-dry white wine goes well with this Mediterranean summer bread pudding.


Zucchini Carrot Bread for Breakfast

Recently, I have started going to zumba classes. I mean, how could I not join? The classes are being held in the ground floor party hall of Condoville. That means that I can walk down as-is, literally. And it is being held after work hours. And all my friends are going… Enough reasons, right? And it is very enjoyable, indeed. The trainer An-hel has been in the fitness business for 20+ years and really knows what he is talking about. So when he suggested that I enhance my almost non-existent breakfast to make it a bit more substantial, I considered it an idea worth trying. And so far, it has been going good.


So these days, I’m looking at healthy breakfast options. Not the routine stuff, but something a bit more attractive… which doesn’t take a lot of time in the morning. Going through my recipe files, I came across this breakfast bread… slightly on the sweet side, and choke full of veggies. Seemed like the perfect solution, and when done, the zucchini carrot bread turned out to be exactly that.


This is a basic recipe for a simple cake, made interesting by the addition of grated zucchini and carrots. And flavoured with spices and yes, orange zest, which is my favourite! The good thing about this recipe is that it is very flexible. You can add as much of the veggies as you like to the mix. That is what I did. Added twice the quantity of vegetables when I prepared it. Only, it will add to the denseness of the bread. But for breakfast, I really do like that.


In the recipe, I have provided the standard measurements. If you really want your zucchini carrot bread light and airy, go with those measurements. On the other hand, if you want to make it into a healthy option, don’t be afraid to increase the quantity of the vegetables.


Another flexible part, is the sugar. You can use the quantity provided in the recipe and you will have a fairly sweet bread. But I prefer my breakfast foods just with a touch of sweetness. So I halved the sugar. And believe me, it turned out perfect for breakfast.


And the orange zest… that is exactly what gives this bread that morning quality, that jolt of freshness that gets you ready to face whatever the day brings along. So don’t be stingy with that, I would say.


And finally, I used a flat shallow pan as I did not want too thick slices. The zucchini carrot bread can be baked in a deeper pan if you would prefer thicker slices.



Zucchini Carrot Bread for Breakfast
Recipe type: Breakfast
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¾ cup grated zucchini
  • ¾ cup grated carrots
  • 1 ½ tbsp orange zest
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together the dry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  3. Beat the eggs and sugar together.
  4. Add the oil to the mix and beat well.
  5. Using a flexible spatula, blend in the grated zucchini and carrots, and the zest.
  6. Add the flour in batches and mix together. Do not overmix.
  7. Fold in the chopped nuts, if using.
  8. Transfer the batter to a buttered pan and bake. Baking time will vary depending on the depth of the pan. When a skewer inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean and dry, the zucchini carrot bread is done.
  9. Enjoy with a good cup of coffee!

Rice Crispy Treats

While I was clearing my kitchen store cupboard I found a bag of marshmallows long forgotten. So I kept them aside and waited for my girls to come back from university for the holidays to make some rice crispy treats. I just wanted to bring back those fun filled days when we used to make these sorts of snacks quite often.  My younger daughter was the one who insisted that I should go and get the recipe for rice crispy treats from a “big book” when she was in Year 2. They were learning “how to write instructions” as part of their literacy curriculum and she wanted me to make them for her right away.


According to Wikipedia, Rice Krispies Treats were invented in 1927 in the USA by Malitta Jensen and Mildred Day at the Kellogg company home economics department.


Rice Crispy Treats are a sweet snack made from rice cereals, melted butter and marshmallows. There are many variations to this treat – like replacing marshmallows with caramel or adding condensed milk to the mixture or adding chocolate chips, nuts etc. This is a snack equally liked by both children and adults and is so simple that even a novice can make

Care should be taken not to burn your palms when the mixture is being packed into the prepared tin. A silicone spatula can be used to do that.


Rice Crispy Treats
  • 40 grams Butter +1 tbsp to prepare the tin
  • 150 grams Marshmallows
  • 2 cups Crispy Rice Cereal
  1. Butter a 9 inch square baking tin.
  2. Heat the butter till it just melts in a thick bottomed pan.
  3. Stir in the marshmallows and heat till it’s melted.
  4. Remove from heat and add rice cereal and mix well.
  5. Transfer into the buttered pan and pack well using a spatula.
  6. Leave it to cool and cut into squares.

Blackened Tilapia – a page from a Creole Cookbook

Originating in Louisiana, the Creole style of cooking combines the European cooking methodologies with the local American ingredients. Though it has influences of Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian cuisines, the major inspiration comes from the French. The blend of classical European cooking styles with new ingredients found in the New World gave rise to a very rich and flavourful cuisine.


Also, as it is centered around the bayou region of Louisiana, Creole cooking has a strong focus on fish and shell fish, which makes it even more attractive.

The first Creole cookbook in English was La Cuisine Creole, published in 1885, which is available from Amazon in printed and Kindle editions. In addition to recipes, the books provides information on the background and development of the cuisine as well.


Jambalaya, Gumbo, Etouffee, Bananas Foster… the signature dishes of the region are many. And just the memories of them are enough to induce drooling.

With its flavour combinations that lean towards the spicy, it was love at first taste for me!

And watching Emeril Lagasse on Food Network TV made it easy to kick it up a notch too! In fact, his ‘Louisiana Real and Rustic’ is my go-to reference for Creole cooking. Though the other day, when I wanted to make blackened tilapia, I did not have to refer to any book; I have made it so many times!
Blackened fish, is a quintessential Creole dish, very easy to do, usually made with catfish. But you can attempt it with any firm white fleshed fish. This time, I made it with tilapia fillets.


The key part of the dish is the spice rub – a combination of onion powder, garlic powder, paprika and other herbs.


I have tried different spice combinations, but the one that worked to perfection for me has an wee bit of clove powder in it which adds a bit of extra flavour. (See recipe below.)


You need to let the fish sit for at least 30 minutes, up to an hour, after applying the rub. And totally against the traditional method, where the fish is fried at high heat, I baked it on an aluminium foil lined baking sheet.


It couldn’t have been better! Flaky, spicy, moist fish, done in 15 minutes!



Blackened Tilapia – a page from a Creole Cookbook
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tilapia fillets
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  1. Mix together thoroughly well all the spices and dried herbs, with the salt. You can vary the proportion of paprika and red chilli powder to adjust the heat to your preference.
  2. Wash and dry the tilapia fillets.
  3. Apply the spice rub on both sides of the tilapia fillets and keep aside for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
  5. Line a baking sheet with foil. Brush the foil with a teaspoon of olive oil.
  6. Lay the fillets on a foil, without overlapping.
  7. Place on the middle rack of the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  8. Gently test with a fork. If the fish begins to flake, it is done.
  9. Serve with brown rice and vegetables.