The deeply religious mood surrounding the pious festival of Maha Shivaratree has alreading set in. As from next Monday, hundreds of devotees will converge towards the sacred lake to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Preparations start well ahead to cater for free food distribution to all pilgrims especially to those who undertake the journey on foot carrying kanwars – light bamboos structures decorated with coloured paper, mirrors, statuettes and pictures of deities.

And as it is the fasting period for us Hindus, I have to delve into my baking repertoire of eggless cakes. One of my favourite cakes to bake during this lepok carem/fasting period is the light fruit cake from TasteGoblet. Packed with spices, dried fruit and citrus zest, it keeps moist and fresh for many days in a foil lined cake tin. The texture lies somewhere between a fluffy butter cake and a dense, rich mud cake but to gauge the accuracy of my description, you must make at least one attempt to try it out in your own kitchen.

FRUIT & SPICE CAKE

Ingredients:

1 tbs chunky marmalade

225 g plain wholemeal flour

1 tbs baking powder

110 g dark brown sugar

100 g butter, softened

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1 orange

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground clove

1/8 tsp grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground ginger

100 g dried mixed fruit

150 ml full fat milk

1 tsp cider or white wine vinegar

1 tbs demerara sugar, for topping

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 350F/ 180C. Grease a 7” round tin or a 450g/1lb loaf tin and line the base.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and sugar.

  • Rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
  • Add zests, spices and dried fruit. Stir well, then add the milk, a little at a time, followed by the vinegar.

  • Stir until ingredients are evenly distributed. Finally stir in marmalade to get a dropping consistency.
  • Spread the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and sprinkle the top evenly with demerara sugar.

  • Bake for 60 to 75 mins until cake has shrunk slightly from the sides of the pan.
  • Leave to cool in tin for 10mins before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

These cute checkerboard cookies are taken from Nadine Jeanne’s Petits Fours, a precious little book lent to me by my dear friend Kalyanee. Sablées are my favourite kind of cookie after the classic chocolate chip homemade kind because of their irresistible melt-in-the-mouth texture. And they earn bonus points in my book because they require only 3 basic ingredients and are egg-free!

CHECKERBOARD COOKIES

Ingredients:

100 g butter, softened

70g icing sugar

150 g all purpose flour

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

3 tsp cocoa powder

Method:

  • Cream butter and icing sugar togetehr until soft and fluffy. Sift flour over mixture and fold in with a wodden spoon.
  • Divide dough into 2 equal parts, flavour one part with vanilla essence and add cocoa to the other one.

  • Knead each portion to incorporate the different flavours evenly. Wrap the portions separately in cling film.
  • Freeze for 15 minutes then remove from fridge. Divide each portion into 2 halves, and roll each into a log.

  • Align one vanilla flavoured log against a cocoa flavoured one. Place the over 2 logs on top, inverting the flavours.
  • Press lightly to make them adhere and return to fridge for another 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 150 oC meanwhile.

  • Cut the log into 6mm slices and place on a baking sheet leaving enough space to allow them to expand while baking.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and leave to cool on the baking sheet itself. Makes 15.

Pious Shivaratree to all!

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