Madeira Cake is known as Tea Cake in Chennai and is available in all bakeries. Madeira cake is very popular here and was always served in any of my cousins’ family events. January is when we get very good quality oranges, which is why I decided to make my own version of Madeira cake. I studied several recipes but found them flawed in many ways, but they all had one thing in common: the surface was cracked; that is the characteristic feature of this cake. I standardised the recipe using proportions which would give good results (smooth texture, rise well, not greasy), and I arrived at a very tasty cake with a very reliable method.
When I walked into a food store a week ago, I saw these beautiful limes, and when I saw the price my mouth fell open because lime, which sold for Rs. 400 a kilo in October, was only Rs. 60 a kilo. I immediately selected bright yellow ones without any blemish and decided to try this lime pickle. My mother-in-law had collected recipes from all those who visited her, but she hadn’t tried out any of those. I found this curious lime pickle recipe which boiled the limes instead of the traditional method of soaking them in brine for a couple of weeks (like this Sweet and Sour Lime Pickle I had posted earlier). I had to standardise this recipe as amounts of spices and sugar were not mentioned. Even the use of green chillies was marked in the margin. To my, and my family’s, delight it tasted absolutely divine 🙂
When people think of combining vegetables and dhal in Tamil cooking, they primarily think of Aviyal. There is another dish, Saalna that is a complete contrast to aviyal both in the type of vegetables and spices used. Saalna does not use strong flavoured vegetables like drumsticks and cluster beans. It also uses cloves and cinnamon, instead of cumin and garlic like aviyal. It may not be as famous as aviyal, but is no less delicious. It is an ideal dish to celebrate the harvest and can be served with Venn Pongal.
The coolest month of the year for Tamilians is January, and we are very happy to get the freshest of vegetables during this period. This concept of combining prawns with vegetables is new to my family because we made only two prawn dishes – Fry and Moli. My friend Jacintha, who is a Burmese repatriate, gave me this recipe though she said it isn’t a Burmese recipe but just a family favourite. I have used the same ingredients and quantities she gave, but have made the procedure simpler and easier. I serve it with Naan, Peas Pulav, and Mushroom and Capsicum Pulav.
Christmas is the season when everyone eats heartily irrespective of their religion, especially rich frosted cakes. By the time the New Year approaches their digestive discomfort makes them regret some of their menu. This Ginger Loaf Cake allows them to enjoy the season of cakes and relieve their distress 🙂 I came across this recipe in Cakes and Cake Decorating and All-Colour Cookbook – the same recipe with the same photograph! Self-raising flour is not easily available here, and what is available here is very bitter, so I have substituted it with maida and baking powder. I don’t like the taste of ginger powder and have used fresh ginger extract instead.
The Madras Curry Powder was developed in Tamil Nadu in the kitchens were food was cooked to suit the palate of the British during their Raj. It is quite different from the ‘garam masala’, the North Indian curry powder, which is mentioned in most so-called Indian recipes. Although the Madras Curry Powder has many spices in common with garam masala, it is also has fenugreek seeds, turmeric and, may be, curry leaves, which are typical constituents of Tamil cooking. This powder, though very popular in Britain, is available in very few shops in Tamil Nadu and has never been part of Tamil cooking, which has its own extensive range of curry powders. May be it is too mild for our palate :), and I doubt if people even knew about it since it was made specially for the British. I myself stumbled across it only a decade ago in an exclusive spice shop, which caters a lot to foreigners. Nevertheless, I find it a very versatile curry powder which can be used for both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
50 years ago I received a baking oven as a wedding gift. From then on I’ve been making a rich and large fruit cake for every Christmas, while of course complaining about the labour 🙂 Rum was available freely in liquor stores and I always used rum in my cakes. I had to stop making this fruit cake once the government ordered privately run liquor stores to shut. Now that the government is running sophisticated liquor stores in the fanciest of shopping malls, I was finally able to procure rum again and revive this family Christmas tradition 🙂