At the Stuffed Buns workshop


Four kinds of buns, 4 kinds of fillings.

Who'd want to buy a stuffed bun from a bakery again?

Ham pizza spirals

Chicken and cabbage buns

Tuna rolls

Chocolate caterpillars

On the menu of Part 2 of the stuffed bun workshop- cheese and herb buns, chicken curry rolls, sausage twists and apple strips.

Sausage twists

Sage and sun dried tomato focaccia


Sage is a herb that has both mystical and magical qualities. It was cultivated by the ancient Greeks and Romans, used to preserve meat and to treat snakebites and ulcers. Sprigs of dried sage were burnt in their temples to impart wisdom to the priests, or so it was believed. Sage, along with lavender, was also the earliest room fresheners. Considering many people lived in the same houses along with their animals, this would have been a necessity.

Sage has a strong sweet flavour and is an excellent addition to pork or chicken, also as a stuffing ingredient.


I found a packet of fresh sage on a recent visit to Amma Nana. The leaves were quite small, indicating that the flavour would be quite intense. Some of the leaves went into a chicken I was roasting. Some of the remaining leaves were chopped up and sprinkled over a focaccia, along with sun dried tomatoes, olives and onions.
That was quite a heady combination. And a perfect match with the roasted chicken.

Some "sage" advice - soak the sun dried tomatoes in warm water. It will be easier to chop finely.

Sage and sun dried tomato focaccia

275 gm flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
About 150 ml water

1 onion, cut in wedges
2 tablespoons sliced olives
3 sage leaves, chopped fine
4 sun dried tomato pieces, soak in warm water, pat dry and chop finely
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
100 gm blue cheese, crumbled
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Sift flour onto a worktop, mix in salt and sugar.
Make a well, pour in lukewarm water, olive oil and sprinkle yeast over the top.
Combine till a rough dough is formed, the dough should be a little sticky.
Knead well, using the base of your palm. Stretch the dough, roll it back, do a quarter turn and stretch it out again.
As you work the dough, it will tighten up and become soft and springy.
Knead for about 10 minutes, then place in a greased bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave in a warm place till it doubles in size,  about 40-60 minutes.
Punch down the dough to expel all the air bubbles, place it on a flour dusted worktop and cover with the bowl for about 10 minutes.
Press the dough with fingertips into a disc, then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 9"x 13" rectangle.
Grease a baking pan of the same dimension, fit the dough into it and gently pull to fit the corners.
Leave to rise for 15 minutes, then make indentations on the dough with the tip of a finger.
Scatter onion, olive slices, chopped sage, sun dried tomato and both cheeses.
Leave to prove for another 20 minutes, then bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes or till golden.
Remove from the oven, leave to cool for about 10 minutes.
Transfer to a wire rack.
Slice and serve hot.

Stuffed Buns- a workshop


Stuffed buns are wonderful as packed lunch, picnic food, party food or even something to nibble on when you're feeling peckish.

On day 1 of a 2 day workshop on stuffed buns, you get to learn to make pizza spirals, tuna rolls, chicken and cabbage buns and chocolate caterpillars.

In the meantime, roll up your sleeves and get ready to wrap some dough.

At the Stuffed Vegetarian Buns workshop


For quite awhile, the only sound one could hear was the thumping of dough on the counter top. Then, there were jokes about kneading bread dough being the best way to de-stress. Wow, the group had some really serious issues in their lives, or maybe, they were just very good at kneading. Some of the softest buns were made in my kitchen last Saturday.

Four hours of hard work resulted in these buns-

Cheese and herb buns

Apple peek a boos
Vegetable pizza spirals
Mushroom buns

All vegetarian. And no eggs were used in the making of these buns.

Pretty pink strawberry cheesecake


Me, I love strawberries. Whenever I see those little plastic punnets with strawberries, I spend so much time examining them  and finally make a selection. I bring them home and when I pop one into my mouth, the love fizzles away, and is replaced by a feeling of disgust at their tartness. Most of the time, that is. Sometimes, they taste just meh.  My sister, who lives in the UK, has a wild strawberry plant growing in a corner of her garden. Not more than an inch in length, those fruits were the prettiest and sweetest strawberries I have ever seen. Or tasted.

In Chennai, strawberries are still available in stores but to get a single box of unblemished berries is impossible. So when I found boxes of frozen strawberries at a store, I couldn't resist buying. I tasted one, though they were from Chile, they were tart!! Whatever did I expect??

The boxes sat in my freezer for a couple of weeks and then finally, a couple of days ago, I got around to making a cheesecake.

As cheesecakes go, this one is very simple to make. The usual ingredients for a cheesecake- biscuits and butter, cream cheese, sugar, gelatin and whipped cream. And 2 boxes of strawberries. Why 2 you may ask. Because I wanted a glazed topping. Nowadays, anything that has to be photographed and put in the blog better look pretty.

After making the usual biscuit crust, pat it into an 8" tin with a removable base. Leave to chill in the freezer.
Mix the strawberries with sugar, warm it, then keep aside for the sugar to draw out the juices. Strain the juice and keep that aside, use a stick blender to coarsely process the strawberry pulp. Ensure the pulp is sweet enough. Sponge the gelatin and mix it into the warm pulp. When completely dissolved, keep aside to cool to room temperature.

Whip cream cheese till smooth, mix through the pulp. By some stroke of luck you manage to get really sweet strawberries, mix through a teaspoon of lime juice.  (If you use unsweetened cream, remember to whip your cream with sugar.) Gently fold through the whipped cream. Pour over the biscuit base and leave to set.

To make the pretty pink glaze, sponge a teaspoon of gelatin, mix through the reserved strawberry juice.
Pour it very gently over the set cheesecake, leave to set for another 2 hours.

Pretty pink strawberry cheesecake

Ingredients for the crust
130 gm biscuits (I used Marie)
70 gm unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sugar

Cheesecake mix
400 gm strawberries (same method of preparation whether they are fresh or frozen)
About 100 gms sugar (use more if the berries are very tart)
1 tablespoon gelatin, sponged
350 gm cream cheese at room temperature
200 gm sweetened whipped cream

Strawberry glaze
175 gm strained strawberry juice
1 teaspoon gelatin, sponged

Pulverise the biscuits into crumbs, mix with soft butter and sugar.
Press into the base of an 8" pan with a removable base.
Leave to chill in the freezer.

Thaw the berries if they are frozen, sprinkle sugar over them and place on a double boiler till very warm.
Keep aside so the juices get drawn out, strain and keep aside enough for the glaze.
Use a stick blender and coarsely process the berries. A few chunks here and there are fine.
If necessary, warm the strawberry pulp again, dissolve the gelatin in it, cool to room temperature.
Whip the cream cheese, fold through the strawberry.
Fold in the cream and when well combined, pour over the chilled crust.
Refrigerate for about 3-4 hours.

To make the glaze, warm the sponged gelatin over a double boiler.
When it has melted completely, stir into the strawberry juice.
Pour very gently over the cold cheesecake.
Leave to set for another 2 hours.

*If the strawberries are quite sweet, mix a teaspoon of lime juice into the puree.
*If the cheesecake mix needs a bit more sugar, add sifted icing sugar.

Butterscotch quick bread


Going through some old recipes the other day, I found one which was a lifeline on days when I had to bake and there were not enough eggs to make a regular butter cake. I've lost count of the number of times I've made this recipe and since it was a quick bread, it would get done in about 40 minutes.

The reaction between soda bicarbonate and yoghurt makes this loaf rise high and it results in a light textured bread. Or cake, if you prefer to call it so. I always add in some golden raisins, I guess you could substitute with chopped nuts instead.

The best thing about making a quick bread is that you mix the batter with a wooden spoon. Take care not to mix it too much.

Eat the slices plain or for a glorious breakfast, toast the slices lightly and eat it with a little peach preserve and cream cheese.

Butterscotch quick bread

250 gm flour
1 teaspoon soda bicarbonate
1/4 teaspoon salt
180 gm brown sugar

120 gm yoghurt
1 egg
120 ml milk

25 gm butter, melted
40 gm raisins

Sift flour, soda bicarbonate and salt into a bowl, stir in sugar.
In another bowl, beat the yoghurt till smooth, beat in the egg and then stir in the milk.
Pour the yoghurt-milk-egg mix into the flour mix, also add in the butter and mix till the ingredients are just combined.
Stir through the raisins and pour into a lined 8'x3" loaf pan.
Bake at 180°C for about 40-45 minutes and the skewer test shows that it is cooked through.
Cool for about 5 minutes them turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. 

Quick bite at Khaana Khazanna


Khaana Khazanna- the place is a brisk 15 minute walk from home, located right next to a vegetable shop. Open only in the evening, sometimes I'd stop by and pick up piping hot aloo parathas. A generous amount of stuffing encased in dough and cooked in very little oil. The lady at the stall would give a packet of watery curd, what she calls raita, but back home, we'd eat it with thick curd and mango pickle. One paratha was just right for one person.

The making of a phulka

The enterprising couple that runs this stall, Narendra and Archana, are a treat to watch. The stall itself is on an 8 foot by 4 foot platform. With ease of practice, Archana rolls out the dough, Narendra cooks it on the tava and their helper whips out a plate, lines it, places the paratha on it and hands it over to the customer with a cup of raita. Between serving customers who have come there to eat and packing take away orders, Archana tells me they had set up shop at the Besantnagar beach. It was a popular stall but eventually they had to close down. For the next 4 years, they were supplying packed lunches to corporates located on the Old Mahabalipuram Road. Nine months ago, they moved to the present location at Thiruvanmiyur.

Stuffed parathas on the tava

They have a kitchen nearby where they do all the preparatory work during  the day - fillings for the parathas, samosas, kachoris and the cutting and chopping necessary to set up shop in the evening. She makes her own  chaat and garam masalas. No ready made wheat flour for them- they buy the wheat and get it ground. The dough for the phulkas is also made ahead and brought to the stall in the evening.

We ordered a paneer paratha. Nothing like eating it hot off the tava. Soft and delicious.

Piping hot paratha

Next, there was a phulka with vegetable curry. It was devoured in a minute, the curry was mild flavoured, with diced potatoes, cauliflower, carrot and peas and thankfully not overcooked. Then we ordered a spicy samosa chaat. So glad we did, the samosa was crisp in places and soft where the tamarind chutney had soaked through. My non spice-eating son loved it so much that he ordered a second one!

Paneer paratha and yummy samosa chaat

In between orders for phulkas and vegetable curry and pau bhaji, I learnt that cooking is in Narendra's blood- his father and grandfather were great cooks who could add the perfect amount of masalas to a dish even when blindfolded! Archana has completed a 3 year diploma course in Food Production from SRM University. Her brother used to lend a hand in running the stall but now works in another line.

The menu
Yes, they do take party orders,  menus are customised according to the client's requirements.

Always a crowd in front of the stall

Rice kheer as there were no gulab jamuns

I thought the prices were very reasonable- our total bill for the evening was Rs. 95/-

We went to the Ibaco store next door for ice cream. For 2 ice creams with no toppings, the bill was 172/-

Nothing like a brisk 15 minute walk back home.

Stuffed Vegetarian Buns - a workshop


When my son was in school, he was very clear about what he would take from home for lunch- sandwiches or pizzas. It made things very easy for me as it was easy to assemble and no spillage worries.

Occasionally, I'd make him stuffed buns and these were his favourites. His classmates would ask him why he never ate "regular" food like rice. All the same, I had to pack an extra portion for them as his constant refrain was that if I didn't, they would help themselves to his lunch! Haven't most mothers heard this?

At a workshop on stuffed vegetarian buns, this is what is on the menu- vegetable pizza spirals, mushroom rolls, cheese and herb buns and apple peek-a-boos. Completely vegetarian and eggless.

On Sunday February 28th, 2016, 10.30am - 2.30pm.

Braised pork spare ribs


Spare ribs are full of flavour and very easy to cook. They can be roasted or grilled but my favourite way of cooking it is by braising it, or rather, by simmering it in its marinade.

The marinade itself is very simple- hoisin sauce that gives it colour and that oomph flavour, a splash of Chinese wine,  five spice powder, some garlic and a little brown sugar. No, it doesn't end up too sweet, perfect to have with a bowl of steamed rice and stir fried greens. Bliss!

The ribs were almost lean, even then, by the end of the cooking time, there was some fat to drain away.

Braised pork spare ribs    

1 kilo pork spare ribs, separated and cut into 3" lengths

4-5 cloves garlic, crushed fine
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon Chinese wine
About 3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder or 2 tablespoons chilli sauce

Spring onion lengths and sesame seeds to garnish

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.
Coat the ribs in the marinade and leave to season for about half an hour.
Place ribs in a pan, bring to the boil.
Reduce the flame to the lowest, cover the pan and cook for 45 minutes-1 hour, stirring the contents every 10 minutes or so.
By the end of the cooking time, the marinade should have thickened into a dark sauce.

Very simple to cook, finger lickin' good!

At the Quiche, Pies and Tarts workshop


Older cookbooks tell you that pastry should not be made on a hot day. Coincidence or foolhardiness, the quiche workshop was held on the first day of the dreaded kathri- the peak of summer. Nevertheless, the pastry we made was tender and flaky and we all did survive the heat of the day.

Lattice cherry pie, chicken and vegetable quiche

Fish and herb quiche

Luncheon quiche lorraine

For me, a slice of quiche is a perfect meal for summer.

The second part of this workshop will be held in June.

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