Lassi

Lassi – Divine drink for summer

Lassi, widely used in the Indian subcontinent during the hot summer months, is the most refreshing, smooth yoghurt drink you can think of. I must say that your summer joy is not complete, if you have not sipped a glass of Lassi!

Even if you are tempted, do not gulp down the whole glass in one go! Just sip slowly and experience the real bliss of this silky smooth drink that instantly cools you down and refreshes you to the core.

Getting the proportions right is the key to achieve the right consistency of this amazing drink. When added too much water, for example, the silky smooth texture vanishes. If you do not add ice cubes into the blender jar, the churning will not give the right chill. It should all come together in the right proportions to have the most delightful Lassi in your glass!

Plain or Greek style, any yogurt will do, but to taste the right Lassi, you must opt for thick, full-fat yoghurt or curd. Even though you add some water, once churned in the blender, it will come out smooth and silky. And, remember to drop the froth left in the blender on the top of the drink before serving!

There are other delicious versions of Lassi and I will publish how to make strawberry lassi and mango lassi recipes soon.

Ingredients needed:

Full fat plain or Greek-style yoghurt or plain curd1 cup
White sugar 2 1/2 tbsp
Coldwater1/4 cup
Ice cubes3

Let’s churn it:

  • In a blender jar drop all the ingredients together
  • Blitz on high speed for 1-2 mins. Do not exceed this time to keep the frothy texture
  • Serve immediately with froth on top of the glass
  • Delicious

Therapeutic Tea – A very special tea for reviving tired bones

What would cheer you up after a long and tiring day?  A cup of tea of course!  A ‘cuppa’, as the British refer to it with such fondness, is indeed a form of therapy.

My favourite PG Tips!

Well, what I am presenting here is not the traditional British ‘cuppa’ but more related to the Indian style of brewing tea. This is a sweet, milky version of tea with a subtle blend of spices; cloves, cinnamon and cardamoms that could be the ultimate choice as a comforting beverage to revive your tired bones, rather a therapy to relax you mentally and physically.

While sipping this tea, you will enjoy the unmistakable aroma of spices and adding a slice or two of ginger into the pan will offer the warmth you desire most.

I use PG Tips tea bags to make this tea as they have been my favourite for the past 20 years. I was very pleased to hear the wonderful news that PG Tips have made their tea bags biodegradable to support the environment. Hats off to their very timely, environmental friendly move.😊

So, let’s try this wonderful cup of tea with a couple of tea biscuits and feel the real magic!

For two teas you will need :

PG Tips teabags2
Fresh milk2 cups
Water1 cup
A stick of cinnamon
Cardamom pods2 crushed
A few slices of ginger
Brown sugar4 tsp (2tsp for each cup)

Let’s brew it :

  • Pour the cup of water into a pan and boil
  • Drop the tea bags, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves and ginger slices
  • Boil for several minutes until the tea is brewed properly
  • Add the two cups of milk
  • Add sugar
  • Boil until milk comes up to the brim of the pan
  • Immediately, lower the flame and let it brew for about 3-5 mins
  • Strain directly into cups and serve with tea biscuits
  • Enjoy!
Mackerel in tomato sauce salad

Summer salads – Seven cool salad recipes for weight loss

Greek Salad
Basic French dressing

Kick start summer with a delightful range of salads

Tossing a few ingredients together, you can make many varieties of beautiful, crunchy, healthy, and versatile summer salads within minutes.  You can toss seasonal vegetables together with some chunks of avocado, pomegranates, or apples and combine them all with a delicious salad dressing to make culinary heaven in a bowl!

You might prefer a lighter version of a salad for lunch and a more satisfying and sustainable choice for dinner. By adding some roast chicken, steak, tinned sardines – or salmon – or boiled eggs into your salad bowl, you will instantly turn it into a full, healthy meal.

it’s just a matter of being creative to make your own version of a glorious salad, according to your mood of the day! The natural vibrant colours of seasonal vegetables and fruits will invariably please your eyes before it stimulates the tastebuds. If you are struggling to lose a few pounds in order to look great this summer, these salads will definitely come to your rescue. Check your weight after 5 days, eating only salads for supper; you will dance out of joy with an amazing crash of several extra kilos!

So, good luck with your delightful salad-making!

Home-made salad dressings

The salad dressings used here are my own creations. I never buy various salad dressings available on supermarket shelves because they can never live up to the standard of my homemade dressings, which are made with simple and healthy ingredients. In short, you know what goes into your dressing! I believe you will get inspired by these recipes and eventually, make delicious salad dressings with your own signature on them!

The basic ingredients are runny honey, apple cider, and lemon juice which are common in all varieties as they provide the necessary substance to bring the best out of greens and veggies while making the digestive process efficient and easier. Most importantly, always remember to serve any salad, appealing to the eyes, by keeping the natural colours intact.

Tips:

  • You can prepare the veggies in advance to save time: Cut and slice the veggies and greens and put them all into a glass bowl and cover with a cling film. Store in the fridge until mealtime.
  • Always opt for seasonal produce which has the freshness and flavours intact
  • Remember to add the salad dressing just before serving the salad to avoid a watery mess at the bottom of the bowl
  • Most importantly, serve any salad with the natural colours of greens and veggies intact.
  • Always add a few drops of lemon juice into the dressing. Lemon juice helps in absorbing the iron in spinach and red meat efficiently

The choice of what you can add to any salad to make it sustainable, healthy, and more satisfying is unlimited. Some of my favourite choices are listed down here;

  • Sliced boiled eggs
  • Baked or pan-fried chicken breast
  • Steak
  • A cup of boiled chickpeas
  • A cup of black beans or mixed beans in brine
  • Raw spinach and boiled beans
  • Boiled macaroni
  • Mackerel fillets in tomat sauce
  • Croutons – Cubes of bread toasted on the pan or baked in the oven with a dash of butter

How to make croutons

Croutons

Tossing a handful of croutons on any salad could instantly turn it into a full meal. Salads are devoid of Carbohydrates and usually very light and low in calories. However, if you need to add a bit of carb and make it a filling meal, just by adding croutons, you will be able to achieve your desire.

You will need:

  • A few wholemeal or white bread slices
  • A knob of butter

Let’s make it

  • Heat a pan and add the butter. Let it melt
  • Cut the bread slices into squares
  • Drop on the melted butter
  • Keep tossing and turning until both sides are nicely browned and crispy
  • Leave on the pan itself for cooling – This will make it crispier
  • Now, toss on your salad just before serving it
  • Delicious!

1) Greek Salad

Ingredients needed:

Iceberg Lettuce 2 cups
Tomatoes – riped and juicy 1/2 cup
Cucumber 1/2
Red Onions 1/2
Olives Pitted (black and green) a handful
Feta cheese a handful
For the basic dressing  
Apple cider vinegar  3 tbsp
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Salt n black pepper powder A few pinches
Honey  1 tbsp
Dried oregano (optional) 2 tsp
Lemon juice 1tsp
Ingredients for Greek Salad

Let’s make;

Prepare the veggies

  • Shred Lettuce thinly
  • Slice tomatoes
  • Cut the cucumber into thin slices
  • Slice red onions thinly
  • Toss all into a large bowl
  • Drop a handful of black or green olives on top
  • Cover and keep until you make the salad dressing

Make the salad dressing

Basic salad dressing
  • Add Salt and pepper powder, apple cider vinegar, honey into a small bowl
  • Squeeze the lemon juice in
  • Pour olive oil gradually while whisking rapidly
  • Adjust the taste
  • Done!

Toss the salad with the dressing

  • Pour the salad dressing into the bowl of veggies and give a good toss using tongs
  • Drop cubed feta cheese on the top
  • Sprinkle Oregano
  • Your beautiful Greek-style salad is ready!
  • Serve immediately!

2) Spinach and boiled egg salad with wholemeal croutons with French salad dressing

Spinach and boiled egg salad

Let’s toss it:

  • Cut the boiled eggs thinly
  • Make the croutons: Heat a pan, drop a 1/2tsp of butter. Cube two slices of thick wholemeal bread slices and toss into the pan. Toss until well roasted. Keep aside
  • Wash baby spinach and drain water
  • Slice lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and red onions
  • Now into a large glass bowl, add raw spinach leaves, lettuce, cucumber, red onions and tomatoes
  • Toss some olives.
  • Drop the wholemeal croutons and boiled egg slices
  • Keep aside

Make the French salad dressing:

  • Into a small bowl add apple cider vinegar, runny honey, Dijon mustard cream, salt and pepper and give a good mix
  • Pour extra-virgin olive oil while whisking rapidly
  • Sqeeze a few drops of lemon
  • Adjust the taste
  • Your salad dressing is ready!

Now, pour onto the salad and give a good toss. Serve immediately!

3) Chicken breast and veggie salad with Thai sweet chilli sauce dressing

Salad with pan-fried chicken breast

Prepare the chicken breasts:

  • Make a few cuts on the chicken breasts
  • Mix salt, pepper powder, and a dash of soy sauce together and rub on the the chicken breasts. Keep covered for 20 mins
  • Add a dash of olive oil into a non-stick pan and pan-fry the chicken until properly done.
  • Slice into thin stripes
  • Keep aside

Make the Thai sweet chilli sauce dressing:

  • In a small bowl, add apple cider vinegar, a dash of lemon juice, a tiny bit of salt and pepper powder, and a generous amount of Thai sweet chilli sauce. Mix all together using a fork
  • Now add extra-virgin olive oil while whisking rapidly
  • Done!

Pour the salad dressing on top and serve immediately!

4) Green salad with mackerel in tomato sauce

Ingredients: Mackerel fillets in tomato sauce, Thai sweet chilli sauce, apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper powder and croutons
Green salad with mackerel fillets

Let’s toss it together:

  • Slice cucumber, red onions, tomatoes, and lettuce
  • Wash baby spinach and drain water
  • Add them all into a large glass bowl
  • Toss some croutons and olives
  • On top, drop the whole tin of mackerel fillets with its sauce
  • Drop some croutons
  • Keep aside

Make the Thai sweet chilli sauce dressing:

  • In a small bowl, add Apple cider vinegar, a dash of lemon juice, a tiny bit of salt and pepper powder, and a generous amount of Thai sweet chilli sauce. Mix all together using a fork
  • Now add extra-virgin olive oil while whisking rapidly
  • Done!

Pour over the salad and mix gently with tongs.

Serve immediately!

5) Steak salad with yoghurt dressing

Prepare the steak:

  • Slice steak and rub a dash of salt, pepper powder, mustard cream and soy sauce. Keep aside for 1/2 hr
  • Heat 1tbsp of olive oil and fry both sides until there are no pink bits and they are properly cooked through
  • Cover and keep aside

Make the salad dressing:

  • Add a dollp of yoghurt into a bowl and add salt and pepper propotionately
  • Add apple cider vinegar, runny honey and whisk with olive oil
  • Check the taste
  • Keep aside

Assemble everything together:

  • Slice veggies; cucumber, red onions, raddish, lettuce, spinach leaves, tomatoes and carrots
  • Drop all into a deep glass bowl
  • Add in the steak
  • Pour in the salad dressing
  • Give a good mix just before serving
  • Delicous!

6) Macaroni salad with creamy yoghurt and mayo dressing

Boil the macaroni and make the salad dressing:

  • Boil half a pan of water, add in a bit of oil and salt
  • Drop a two handfulls of macaroni shells and boil until soft
  • Keep aside

Salad dressing

  • Add a generous dollop of Greek style yoghurt or plain yoghurt into a bowl and add salt and pepper propotionately
  • Add apple cider vinegar, runny honey in and whisk vigorously with olive oil
  • Add in a dollop of mayo and mix thoroughly
  • Check the taste and keep aside

Assemble everything together:

  • Slice veggies; cucumber, red onions, lettuce, baby spinach leaves, tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers in all colours
  • Drop all into a large salad bowl
  • Drop the boiled macaroni
  • Pour in the salad dressing
  • Give a good mix just before serving
  • Delicous!

7) Green salad with croutons and Greek Feta cheese

Let’s make the salad dressing:

  • Add honey, lemon juice, sweet chilli sauce and apple cider vinegar into a small bowl
  • Add a tiny bit of salt and black pepper powder
  • Give a good mix
  • Now while gradually pouring extra-virgin olive oil, whisk vigorously
  • Adjust the taste

Let’s get on with the salad:

  • Slice tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber and red onions and add all into a wide salad bowl
  • Drop raw baby spinach
  • Toss some black olives in
  • Drop some Greek Feta cheese on top
  • Pour the salad dressing
  • Toss a handful of croutons
  • Done!
  • Serve immediately!

Oven Temperature Conversion

gas mark temperature conversion chart

Since the temperature dial of an oven has not become completely universal yet, it is often a challenge to get an idea of it, when people talk about in terms of the gas mark, Celsius or Fahrenheit. In order to deal with this seemingly-trivial issue, I am going to give provide you with a programme to do the conversion easily. In addition, you can even download the image in .pdf form for further reference, especially when you are not online. You can download the above image free of charge by clicking on the button below:

Download

Convert Oven Temperatures

Temperature Converting Programme

Housewives, occasionally, have to deal with trivial tasks like converting the
temperatures from one scale to another – Celsius to Fahrenheit or vice versa. The following programme helps you do it in a split second, without compelling you to go through cumbersome mathematical calculations.

You just have to type in the temperature to be converted in the relevant box; the answer automatically appears in the other. Isn’t that cool?

Type in the temperature inside a box:

degrees Celsius

  equals
degrees Fahrenheit

Mint tea

Mint tea – for digestion and restful sleep

mint tea

Mint has been long known as an excellent herbal remedy for numerous health issues: easing queasy stomachs, calming stress and anxiety, and promoting restful sleep.

Peppermint tea has all the magical properties to ease an upset stomach, calming the digestive tract and alleviating indigestion, gas, and cramps. The best news is that making a peppermint tea is so easy; you just need to add boiling water to mint leaves and wait for 5mins and sip it slowly to feel the difference!

 Its rapid reaction in soothing the stomach in the event of food indigestion or inflammation is amazing!  After a heavy meal at night, drinking a cup of mint tea will give you instant relief in stomach and undisturbed sleep.

Mint tea

  • Take 5 fresh mint leaves on your hand and clap with the other hand to bruise them a bit and drop into a tall glass or a mug
  • Add boiling water and cover with a lid. Keep for 5mins for it to brew. The water will turn pale yellowish-green!
  • Sip slowly!

For a sweeter version

  • Leave for 8-10min or until the water is cool enough and add a teaspoon of honey and stir well. This is because honey should never be added when water is hot.
  • Sip slowly and feel the difference!
mint

Roasted curry powder recipe

cuyyr powder

There is no better way to spice up your dishes than adding your home-made curry powder to your cooking; on one hand, you know for sure what goes in it; on the other hand, it will measurably enhance the taste, appearance and aroma of the dishes that you love to make.

Once, experienced the obvious difference, you will never go for the ready-made packets in stores. The good news is that it will only take about half-an-hour for the whole process of making it and you only have to be careful not to let the spices burn up while roasting them in the pan.

You need the following whole spices : 

Coriander whole2 cups
Cumin whole1 & 1/2 cups
Cloves1 tbsp
Cardamoms1 tbsp
Dried red chili whole6
Black pepper whole1 tsp
Cinnamon quills4 broken into small pieces
Raw rice1 tbsp
Curry leaves and Pandan leavesA handful each

Let’s make it;

  • Heat up a wide pan on medium flame and add coriander; slowly, dry roast while constantly running a wooden spoon through.  When the colour changes into darkest brown, immediately empty it to a foil sheet.
  • Now add the cumin seeds and roast until its colour also changed into darkest brown.  Empty it to the same sheet on top of coriander and let them cool down.
  • Finally, add the rest of the spices and roast them, while tossing and turning them continuously.  Add them to coriander and cumin.  Now that the spices are roasted, let’s grind them up.

Set your grinder to full speed (A coffee grinder is perfect for the job)

  • Add a handful of roasted spices and grind until smooth, empty on to a sheet of paper and then slowly fill into an airtight spice container
  • Continue this process, taking short intervals, as over-heating could damage your grinder
  • Tightly close and store away your spice container until needed

Cake Baking tips, Equipment, and Techniques

cupcake cases

The whole process of baking a beautiful cake is indeed a therapy! From measuring ingredients to stick the batter in the oven, the whole process requires your undivided attention and of course, Love!

Never bake cakes when you are under stress or in the middle of a hundred chores as something can always go wrong, making you utterly disappointing. It could be very discouraging. Hence, chose a free time that you will not get distracted until the cake it safely out of the oven!

I have mentioned here, crucial tips and techniques of baking a flawless cake and I am sure they will be helpful.

If anyone is interested in baking this might be the first cake to get right. Once, you master this basic pound cake, baking all other fancy cakes will become a “piece of cake”

Recipe for the simple pound cake:

pound Cake – delicious buttery flavour sponge

1) Use the right equipment:

  • To cream up the cake batter, use an electric hand mixer for best results.  My choice is the Kenwood brand which has 2 or 3-speed options and a very durable motor. I have been using mine for the past 20 years without any worries!
  • Make sure you beat the batter, clockwise with an electric hand mixer in order to get the right consistency.  Mixing will take about 3 – 5 mins at high speed. You need to beat continuously until the yellow colour of the batter turns into pale white. Beating more than 5 minutes can cause the cake to collapse or not rise properly while baking. So, you need to pay attention to stop beating the batter as soon as the right colour and the fluffy consistency is achieved

2)Measure ingredients accurately:

  • For a perfect cake, all ingredients should be measured with 100% accuracy as specified in the recipe.  The best equipment to facilitate this particular need is a digital scale rather than a normal kitchen scale
Digital Scale – for accurate measurements

3)Use the best ingredients :  

  • It’s very important to use the best brands for your cakes to achieve delightful results. Hence, never compromise on the essential ingredients needed for a cake.  All ingredients should be kept at room temperature, before making the cake batter

Eggs:  

Make sure you use Class A medium eggs that are kept at room temperature.  Take the eggs out of the fridge 1/2 hour early or if you are in a hurry, drop them in a bowl filled with lukewarm water for 10 mins. 

Margarine:

stork

I personally do not prefer using butter, as the cake goes stiff after a few hours in cold climates.  Before using, however, you need to soften up the butter, which gives you an extra task to attend to.  There are very good spreads available in supermarkets, specially made for baking purposes, which are naturally creamy and stay creamy in the fridge too. Because margarine is less dense than butter, it helps in rising cakes quickly and contributes to a lighter and spongier texture.

I use Stork, especially for cakes tub, which has never let me down; it rather helped me bake such glorious cakes.

Tip:

Remember to keep the tub of margarine or butter under room temperature before using it. In case you forget this, just a 50-sec turn in the microwave will soften it.

Flour:

Opt for the best self-raising flour for cakes, unless suggested otherwise in the recipe. Sift the flour and baking powder together,  holding the sieve, well above the cake batter.  This will allow the air to escape from the flour, giving a very light, soft texture to your cake.

 Make sure you use a wooden spoon to co-ordinate flour and batter together, never the electric hand mixer.  Lightly, fold flour bringing from the sides and dropping to the middle, and going around gently until all comes together as a soft and fluffy batter.

Sugar:

Caster sugar is ideal for cakes as it dissolves quickly when mixed in the batter. The mixing time will take up to 2-4 mins for caster sugar.  However, you can use granulated sugar, which gives the same results.  The only difference is that you have to extend the mixing time up to 4-5 mins, up until the sugar granules break down and dissolves. The best way to use granulated sugar is to grind it before adding it to the batter

Baking powder:

  • Baking powder is a key ingredient,  as it helps the cakes to rise.  Use a good brand and never use too much.  Excessive baking powder will make the cake taste bitter, leave a sunken cake and a wrinkled surface.
  • Also, remember to keep the container always closed air-tight. If the cake does not rise, check the quality or the expiry date of your baking powder

4)Choose the right Baking tray:

Choose the right size for your cake is very important. If you have a large tray, you can divide it by using a thick strip of cardboard to fit for a smaller quantity of batter.  Always, line up the trays with baking paper/parchment paper so that the cake will not burn from the sides and could easily be lifted out. Remember, never to fill the trays to the brim as the cake doubles its volume while rising. Always leave enough space from the top for the cake to rise freely.

As for cupcakes, use cupcake trays to place the cupcake cases filled with batter so that they do not spill out and stay intact while baking.  Silicon cupcake cases are great for handling and they could be re-used after a quick wash with warm water.

Lining the tray: Use parchment paper to line up the tray.  Do not worry if you have run out of parchment paper; you can use white blank sheet paper, cut into the shape of the tray and brush butter all over,  dust the surfaces with flour and shake off the excess.  

5) Taste enhancers:  

Vanilla essence:

Use a good brand of natural vanilla essence.

Lemon juice:

Dropping just a few drops of lemon juice into your cake batter will instantly quash the raw eggy smell and bring a very pleasant aroma as well as enhancing the taste in a great deal.

Salt:  

Most of the modern recipes do not include salt in theirs.  Yet, salt used as a vital ingredient for baking since Victorian times.  Just a pinch or two salts will help to incorporate the flavors beautifully and heightening the taste. Hence, do not forget “salt”

6) Oven:

Which ovens are best for cakes? Gas or Electric?

Gas ovens are usually the preferred oven for baking since it often requires the oven to preheat and to provide moist air. Electric ovens can dry out the moisture in cakes to some extend. To solve this problem, you can dip the tray with the cake batter in a larger tray filled with water and bake your cake.

Pre-heat the oven

Set the oven to 180C, 15 mins before you place the cake in.  Usually, the middle shelf of the oven is the best place to bake your cake. However, to be on the safe side, baking on the bottom shelf is advisable as the possibility of the cake burning out is very less.

Stay in tune with your oven

It’s very important to be in tune with your oven. This is a very simple tip to test your oven if it is newly bought or you are new to it.

Make the usual simple batter for pound cake with;

  • 150g Caster sugar
  • 150g Margarine
  • 250g Self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 pinches of salt and 3 drops of lemon
  • 2tbsp of milk

Make the batter

  • Beat margarine and sugar together until creamy
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat after every addition a couple of rounds
  • Add in milk, salt, and lemon
  • Sift the flour on to the batter and combine with a wooden spoon until all comes together as a smooth batter
  • Your batter is ready to use now

Tip: Divide the batter into two trays. Place one tray on the middle shelf of the oven and bake. Take the cake out and leave it to cool.

Then, the other tray must go on the bottom shelf and bake. Check which one is baked best and how much time is taken. This way, you know exactly on which shelf to bake your cake.

  • Do not open the door of the oven in the first 10 mins of baking as it will drop the cake in the middle
  • Shut the oven door very slowly after placing the cake in the oven. If the oven door is bang shut the air in the oven suddenly gets disturbed and it will cause the cake to drop from the middle
  • Baking time varies according to the setups in ovens or depending on the cake. The normal baking time is 15 – 25 mins
  • Do not forget to alert you with a timer

5) While baking:  

  • Place the tray with the batter in the oven and close the door gently. Never bang it.
  • Remember to set the timer but do not forget to peek a few times
  • Never open the oven door during the first 10mins
  • Wooden skewers: Stab a thin wooden skewer in the middle of the cake after 15 mins of baking time.  If the skewer comes clean, your cake is ready! If the skewer is soggy with the batter stuck to it, shut the door gently and bake for further 5 – 8 mins.
  • If the cake is browning from the top but soggy in the middle, cover the top with a sheet of foil or baking paper and bake for further 5-8mins
  • take the cake out of the oven and leave to cool in the tray itself for 10mins
  • Then, gently lift and drop the tray on the kitchen top to loosen the edges of the cake. Take the cake out and leave it to cool on a wire rack
  • Cooling:  Leave the cake in the tray for 10 mins to cool off. Slowly pull from the sides of the parchment paper and take the cake gently out and leave to rest on a cooling rack
  • Your cake is ready to serve

6) Serving

  • You can serve the cake straight after cooling, all fresh and with that, “melt in the mouth” effect!
  • If you are planning to frost the cake with buttercream, it is advisable to place it in the fridge for better handling
  • Place the cake in an air-tight container for keeping the moisture intact

Cutting the cake:  Dip the knife in hot water, wipe clean before cutting the cake to prevent it from crumbling

Serve the cake  : Store the left overs in an air tight container.  When serving next day, microwave the cake pieces on a plate just for 5 seconds and serve beautillyfully warm. You can easily fool everyone believing that the cake came straight out of the oven!

Continue reading “Cake Baking tips, Equipment, and Techniques”