[philiptellis] I love food, and I like writing about food. Follow me as I follow my nose, seeking out gastronomic delicacies wherever I find myself

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Rich fruit Christmas Cake

Today's recipe is by my guest blogger Sneha, aka bluesmuse.

Hello everyone! Seasons Greetings to all.

Making Christmas sweets is a family tradition and Christmas Cake is a big part of it. Earlier in the week, Phil's dad, the very talented Chef Eric had prepared most of the goodies. Christmas cakeHe was helped at a few stages by his niece Sabrina and by me. This year Phil and I decided to make the Christmas Cake. You should know now that I've never made a fruit cake before, yea I've baked lots of cakes but, they were relatively simple chocolate or pineapple or brownies. Nevertheless, I was extremely excited to make the cake. Mainly because the fruits would be soaked in rum or sherry and after baking the various juices of the fruits and of the spices added, along with the alcohol feels like heaven in your mouth!

Ok before this gets too long, I'll start with the recipe.

This is the recipe for the Rich Fruit Christmas Cake. There is also an option for making the Economical Fruit Cake. The recipe for both remains the same, the only difference being, that the quantities of the fruits added in the Economical is roughly half of the one in the Rich Fruit cake.

Christmas Cake.


  • 225g/8oz seedless raisins
  • 225g/8oz currants
  • 225g/8oz sultanas
  • 100g/4oz chopped mixed peel (this is the tutty-fruity that is available in the market)
  • 50g/2oz almonds/ cashew nuts, ground or finely chopped
  • 50g/2oz glacĂ© cherries, quartered, washed and dried
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 225g/8oz butter
  • 175g/6oz light or dark soft brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • good pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons brandy, sherry or lemon juice. We used lemon juice.
  • 3-4 tablespoon brandy (optional)


Mixed fruits
  1. Mix together the dried fruits, peel, almonds or cashew nuts, cherries and lemon rind.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.
  3. Beat in the eggs one at a time following each with a tablespoon of flour.
  4. Sift the remaining flour with salt and spices and fold into the creamed mixture followed by brandy, sherry or lemon juice. Add the fruit mixture and combine well.
  5. Turn into a greased and lined 20 cm/8 inch round or 18 cm/7 inch square cake tin, level the top, then make a slight hollow in the centre. Careful not to make it too deep as this doesn't rise much and you might end up with a deflated cake
  6. Wrap several thicknesses of brown paper or newspaper round the outside of the tin and bake in a pre-heated oven for 3 1/2 - 3 3/4 hours or until skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. If the cake mixture does not fit into one container and you have to use two, do not keep in the oven for the specified time. Instead check after 2 1/2 hours and keep back only if required.
    Another way of knowing that your cake is done when, you can smell it.
  7. Cool in the tin, then turn out on to a wire rack. Store in a airtight container or wrapped in foil until required.
  8. If using extra brandy, pierce the cake all over with a fine skewer and drizzle 3-4 tablespoons brandy over it before storing. Instead of brandy, you can also use orange juice with rum. I suggest that you do this when the cake is considerably warm. If you wait till later then the cake might get too dry and crumbly.
Beat with flourIn fact, this is what happened with us. We thought that the cake mixture would not fit into one container. So, we put it in two different ones. But, we still kept it in the oven for the specified time. As a result it got overcooked. Next we decided to let it cool and then add the additional fruit juice and rum. This was another mistake because, first of all, our cake was overcooked and dry and, by cooling further we lost all chance of making it moist and juicy. By this time I was really upset, thinking that I had made a complete disaster of the Christmas cake.

Just then Chef Eric came to the rescue. He took the smaller cake which hadn't been cut and brushed on the juice and rum mixture. He then let it soak in and then put it in the microwave for 15 seconds with a break of 3-4 mins between each cycle. This heated up the cake and allowed the juices to soak in. After repeating this cycle 15-20 times, we had a perfect juicy yummy Christmas Cake!!!

The entire procedure was documented with pictures, so go see them.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mushroom stew

A couple of nights ago, I reached home after midnight, really hungry. Had a packet of mushrooms in the fridge - I keep them frozen to retain the moisture, and some kotmir (coriander) and pudina (mint) leaves. Decided to try some experimentation.

Now, the thing about mushrooms (button mushrooms), is that they have a lot of water in them, and they almost never require any additional liquid to cook in... well, it depends. If you use whole mushrooms, then it takes a while for the liquid to come out, if you use chopped mushrooms, the liquid comes out pretty quickly.

So, let's get started.


  • 1 cup button mushrooms cut into quarters
  • 1/2 bunch each of coriander and mint leaves, chopped up
  • Parmesan cheese or 1 slice of fat-free/low-fat cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper powder


  1. Put the mushrooms into a saucepan/wok on low flame, and stir for a bit till a little liquid comes out of them. You may want to add a little (very little) water just to keep the vessel from overheating.
  2. Add salt to the water, stir, and cover the dish once enough liquid is out.
  3. Leave covered for about a minute, then add pepper, and the coriander and mint leaves, and stir a bit till it's well mixed.
  4. Add the cheese and stir till completely melted.
  5. Cover the pan and leave to simmer for a minute or two, and then turn off the flame with the pan still covered (this is to stop the steam from escaping).
Uncover the dish when you're ready to eat. Serve in a bowl, and eat with fresh appams.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Indian Coffee House

The India Coffee House is a chain of coffee houses across India. I believe they started in Calcutta over a century ago and spread out from there.

This is a place that one can go to to get cheap coffee and snacks. As interns in Mumbai we used to frequent the place for lunch. In bangalore it's a good place for a bunch of friends to just hang out and chat. You get the bill even before your order arrives, but that's part of the charm of the place.

The uniform worn by the waiters hasn't changed ever, and the walls are sprinkled with old posters.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Chatpatta Chicken

This one's my own invention, prompted by one of Tahir's incessant cries of, "I'm still hungry". My kitchenI call it Chatpatta chicken because it tastes almost like Bhel Puri, and is ready in just about 10 minutes.

To start with, we don't actually cook any chicken, but use pre-cooked chicken sausages. Chicken salami works too. I also added in a bunch of mushrooms for fun.

Ingredients (serves 4):

  • 4 large chicken sausages (frankfurter sausages are good, but a little firmer)
  • half a packet of mushrooms, washed well
  • optionally, 100gms soya nuggets (cooked, but this will add some 20 minutes to preparation time).
  • half a cup of bhelpuri sauce (you can make this or buy it readymade)
Remember, for bhelpuri sauce, the taste is in the tamarind.


  1. chop up the sausages and mushrooms to a manageable size
  2. heat up a wok/kadai on a medium flame.
  3. Drop the mushrooms and chicken (and soya nuggets if you have them) in, stir around for a couple of seconds, and then add the sauce.
  4. Mix well, turn to low flame and cover the Wok.
  5. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Open the lid, mix around a bit more.
  7. Serve hot, eat with Appams.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Soya Nugget Biryani

This has been a long time coming. It's one of those dishes that one doesn't find in recipe books. It just happens when you're on a restricted diet, but still crave for good food.

I started with the basics for mutton biryani, but used soya nuggets instead of meat. The result was very tasty.


  • Basmati Rice
  • Soya Nuggets
How much of the above you need depends on how many people you're going to serve. The rest of my recipe will assume 3 cups of rice and 400gm soya nuggets.
  • 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp jeera (cumin) powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 5 tsp coriander powder
  • 4 ripe tomatoes diced
  • 1 or 2 onions cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (make your own for best effect)
  • 2 chopped up green chillies (optional, use if you want it spicy)
  • 1/2 cup of curd
  • 1 bunch coriander leaves, chopped up
  • 1 bunch mint leaves, chopped up
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • some raisins
  • some almonds
  • salt to taste


Now, you can do four things in parallel, but make sure that you're done with the nuggets and rice before you actually need each of these.
  1. Cook the rice till it's about three quarter ready. Cook it with the cinnamon and cardamom, some salt, and a sprinkling of mint, but no oil.
  2. Prepare the nuggets for cooking. This involves boiling them for 10 minutes, then squeezing out, rinsing in cold water and squeezing out again.
  3. boil the almonds to remove the skins and cut into slices.
  4. Start cooking the masalas. This is the elaborate step.

  1. Heat a pan till it is of suitable temperature for oil (ie, fling a drop of water at it and it should sizzle off immediately)
  2. pour the oil in, and heat it for a couple of seconds.
  3. Add the onions, and fry till light brown
  4. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for 2 minutes
  5. Add in the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and jeera powder and chillies. fry for about 30 seconds, and add in the salt.
  6. Add the diced tomatoes, and stir fry the whole thing for 3 minutes
I hope your soya nuggets are ready at this point, because you need them now.
  1. Add in the soya nuggets and mix well. It will start to get really dry, but don't panic. Let it simmer for a minute or so.
  2. Add in the curd, garam masala, chopped up coriander and chopped up mint (you may want to save a little mint and coriander for the raita).
  3. Mix well. The curd should make the whole thing watery again.
Ok, the biryani curry is ready, and I hope your rice is too, because this is where you need it.
  1. Take a baking dish, or a large vessel that can be sealed.
  2. Put a layer of rice at the bottom, then a layer of soya nuggets, then another layer of rice.
You can carry on like this as long as you have enough matter to layer, just make sure the top most layer is rice and sufficiently thick. I've found that adding a layer of boiled potatoes (with or without their jackets) also helps. You can deep fry the potatoes if you like it better that way, but do it in really really hot oil.
  1. Add the raisins and almonds on the top (you may want to stir fry them first, but I like to stay off frying as much as possible).
  2. seal the dish and pop it into the oven at a very high temperature (I used 250°) for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Now, I used a handi, and I sealed it with wheat dough. You know that it's done when your dough starts to burn. You can also eat the dough later. Kids love it :)

Break open the seal and smell your biryani.

Now for the raita. I normally make a simple tomato-cucumber raita with curd and salt. This time I decided to experiment a bit, and added a sprinkling of mint and coriander. The result was amazing, and my raita was a hit with all those who tried it. Just mix everything together in a bowl, and refrigerate.

Serve the biryani hot and raita cold.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Sweet and Sour Prawns

Had prawns. Had idea what. Had no idea how.

Decided that I wanted to make either sweet and sour prawns or garlic prawns, but didn't know how to make either. Called up dad. He gave me a rough recipe over the phone. All quantities were "to taste", so I decided to give it a try.


  • Prawns (200gms)
  • Tomato Ketchup (to taste)
  • Pineapple Juice (to taste)
  • Salt, Sugar, Chilli Powder, Ginger Garlic paste
  • Vinegar (optional, again, to taste)
  • Soya Sauce (1 tsp)
  • Corn flour/Maida (refined wheat flour)
  • Carrots, cauliflower, spring onions (quantity as you see fit)


  1. Chop up carrots into longish slices (diagonally is nice). Break onions into petals.
  2. Keep prawns ready (not frozen or cold, should be at room temperature)
  3. Mix tomato ketchup and Pineapple juice, adding to taste in a saucepan
  4. Heat on low flame
  5. Add salt, sugar, chilli powder and ginger-garlic paste
  6. Mix in some corn flour or maida to increase thickness. Stir continuously to avoid forming lumps. Keep stirring until it turns translucent.
  7. Add in vinegar if necessary for taste and soya sauce.
  8. Add in prawns
  9. Add in carrots
  10. Bring to a boil while stirring continuously. Boil for about 5-10 minutes depending on freshness of prawns.
  11. Simmer to get rid of excess liquid if necessary.
I made a few mistakes though. I used frozen prawns and they weren't completely defrosted when I put them in, so they didn't cook completely. The sauce however turned out well.

Other options:

Pre-boil the prawns, or deep fry them in a batter made out of maida/corn flour and bound with egg (you can use just the egg white if you don't want the yolk).

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Walking down Seppings Road, Bangalore

At about 3:45pm, Tahir and I went looking for lunch. The initial plan was to go down to MG Road and eat somewhere there, but as we walked down St. John's Church road, I noticed a road that neither of us had ever been down. Turned onto Seppings road and decided to enter the first eating place we found.

The first one was Tea Corner, and we got in there and had tea (Tahir says it was brown milk). 2 glasses for Rs.5.

Moved on from there, and came across a large temple. I'm unable to pronounce the name, or remember the spelling, but it started with M and ended with amma. We entered a south indian restaurant soon after and had two plates Idli Vada - Rs.16.

Went on a bit more and got into Tea house. Had 2 glasses tea and some biscuits for Rs.8.

At this point Tahir was too full to eat anymore, although I could have stopped for pani puri or something else.

After that just walked down, taking random turns, and ended up near commercial street, from where we knew our way to MG Road.