My Nine Year Old’s Superfast Rava Uttapam (Savory Semolina Pancakes)

Dear Cousins,

Yesterday was Sunday and my baby ( he will be mad at me for calling him that he is after all nine!) son, Riz Rishi made us breakfast…all on his own!

How terribly proud I felt as I hovered around like a clucking mother hen, while my boy shooed me away. He chopped onions and tomatoes on his own, even mixed the batter and adjusting the seasoning like a pro. It was so immensely satisfying to watch those small fingers wield the knife, as he told me how to chop tomatoes the best way…and how he loved to eat tortillas better than omelettes.  Tell me did we ever know the difference till a few years back! As I clicked away at him cooking, he even had the time to pose and smile…nothing harrowed about Mr. Suave.

Uttapam by my lil 9 yr old!

Uttapam by my lil 9 yr old!

He made us the fluffiest, tastiest Uttapam’s that we have ever eaten. and I am not saying that because I am the Proudest Mama in the world!

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Choco-Vanilla Tall Boy (Checkered Cake Loaf) with Caramel Floss and Toffee

Dear Cousins!

How are the two of you? I have been a bit busy lately, and you know what was I doing? Cooking!! hehhehee…it was Niloy’s b’day on 25th and it was the first time I was with him on his b’day.  Therefore I wanted it to be very very special which including breaking my limits!! I must confess, that even though I love cooking and am patient with everything related to food (normally I have attention-deficit-disorder with every other thing), when it comes to Icing a cake I never had the courage.  I always thought it to be an arduous task and thought it would require like maybe 10 hours!! But Didi, with your encouragement and support I finally managed to do a cake (of which I am very very proud now) with icing. I called it a Tall Boy because its looks like one! Do you know what is a tall boy? I didn’t…but when I came to Melbourne and was looking for furniture for our flat, I came across this term.  It is basically a tall chest of drawers…but I liked the I named my cake after it.









For a 25x8x10 cm Cake:

1 Chocolate Cake with walnuts (26x18cm)

1 Vanilla Cake with walnuts (26x18cm)

100 gms chopped Walnuts

100 gms Strawberry Jam+2 tbsp Icing Sugar+2 tbsp Butter

For Chocolate Ganache

200 gms Dark Cooking Chocolate slab broken to small pieces

250 ml Thickened Cream (or Pure Cream)

3-4 tbsp Icing Sugar

For Caramel Floss and Toffee

100 gms Sugar

1 Tbsp water


Take the two cakes and level them by cutting with a sharp knife so that they fit with each other.  Take the jam, sugar and butter in a bowl and beat with a fork till blended well into a smooth paste. Apply on the top of one cake a sandwich with the other.  Then cut lengthwise into two halves.  On the top of one section apply the jam mix and stack the other half on this one in a way that it is in the order of vanilla chocolate vanilla chocolate.  Then cut into two halves again along the length and place side by side …you have now two parts of four slices with alternate chocolate and vanilla slices (please refer to the picture slideshow below). Again apply jam mix on one part and stack it over the other half.  Remember that it should be chocolate slice on a vanilla slice and vice versa. Cut the rounded edges to have straight sides all around. When you make the whole thing stand on a cake board, it should look like a checkered brick. (I wrapped a chopping board with aluminium foil and placed the cake on it.  In an absence of a cake board, one has to make such arrangements!!)

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For icing, place the pieces of chocolate in a microwave proof bowl, add the cream and heat for 2 mins.  Alternatively, you can heat the cream in a double-boiler and pour over the chocolate. Then slowly and gently (to avoid air bubble) start mixing the two till the chocolate has melted.    Add the icing sugar and let is cool down. I used a large knife to do the icing and layered the whole 3 times to get a smooth surface.  Finally with a stiff tea-coaster I evened the whole thing (another example of the phrase, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’)!! I took the chopped walnut and did a skirting of the cake with it….as in stuck the walnuts on the bottom sides of the cake. I sprinkled the rest on the top of the cake.

Then I made the caramel floss and toffee using the recipe in the Fig and Caramel Icecream.  Then pour the caramel on foil in various shapes for toffee. For the floss, keep pulling the spoon up and down on the foil occasionally using the finger to pull. Be careful as it would be pretty hot! (refer to the slideshow above).

With spoon and fingers keep pulling threads to make the floss

Place the Toffee and Floss on the top of the cake and keep in refrigerator for 4-5 hours. It was awesome you know in looks and taste…it took me 4 hours to finish the whole thing, but the moment I sliced it, there was this look of awe and love in Niloy’s eyes….every bit of my effort was worth it then! Try this..I had read about this recipe some 4-5 years back but never had the heart to make it…but now that I have done it, I feel, “Oh! I can do anything!” 😀

Love and hugs, Rinki

Lots of rain and Solo (Tortoise) our new family member

Dear Rinki and Ramit,

These past days its been raining so much, every afternoon like a clockwork event the clouds roll in, it turns grey and the skies open up. And you know what that means, running around disconnecting all our electrical gadgetry because before we can count to three the drum-rolls begin and lightning strikes. It wouldn’t be a lie if were I to say, before coming here to Santiniketan I never knew what the real deal in lightning was. From my studio upstairs, one can see the bolts falling all around. It is scary and yet so fascinating,  nature is beautiful and ruthless at the same time. The rain has effectively made prisoners of us and you can imagine how it must be trying to keep a hyperactive nine-year-old inside the house when all he wants to do is go out and play in the mud and rain. Before you both jump on my throat, I do have a a valid reason for not letting him do that, there has been an epidemic of sorts of viral fever. I have had to devise up all sorts of activities.

You know your nephew is an out and out animal lover, how many stray dogs, cats, birds even fledglings have found their way into our home is difficult to remember. So it won’t come as a surprise to hear that one of his monsoon projects has been collecting caterpillars and then feeding them and taking care of them till they magically turn into butterflies. I acted very adult but to tell the truth I felt every bit the child when the first butterfly hatched…it was just an amazing moment.

And we have a new family member. A turtle! And yes Riz and his papa found it in our garden. What can I say other than bring it on! It has been duly named SOLO, because it was alone without its mama. Now Solo Sahu is a proud member of our family, he lives in a glass bowl on our dining table ( Rinki forget the yucks…will ask you in about ten years time)  and is fed fresh earthworms from the kitchen garden…talk about gourmet food!

Sending you pictures so that you can remember to ask Rizi when you talk next….

Write soon, especially you Ramit, haven’t heard from you in quite a while….

Love you both


A Chocolate Chess Board Cake with Sugar Clay Chess Men

Dearest Cousins…

What do you know, the sun has just decided to show face.. I think I may not speak with it though, how could it forget us for so long…oh wait it’s saying something..what..oh… hmm…It says its been taking lessons from a certain Ramit Mitra! If the person in question is reading this then they might think of showing face as well, its no fun being two cousins out of three…can you imagine a tricycle running on two would be a bicycle then wouldn’t it! Enough chastisement now to business…

Well you are both aware that every year I try to make a surprise birthday cake for your nephew, keeping his current passions in mind…last time he was obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter…I distinctly remember him telling me in all seriousness to call him Harry Sparrow, you know Harry as in Potter and Sparrow from Jack Sparrow! Hilarious but I had to keep a serious face and nod sagely.. so last birthday it had been the Black Pearl Cake with the treasure chest overflowing with jewels. This year he is obsessed with chess, playing it with his Papa, or on the computer or our mobile phones all the time. A friend of ours has lent him Bobby Fischer’s book on chess and he is learning the moves. So this time I wanted to do a chess board cake.

Chocolate Chessboard Cake with Sugar Chess Men


Initially I had thought about just making the board and using real chess men to decorate it. But you know me, I can never pass up a food challenge…and the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to make the pawns as well. In the end I did, after lots of trouble and heartache and jitters and turned out spectacularly well even if I do say so myself…do I hear clarion calls and trumpets..Thank you all..he he! On a serious note, it was a success in the sense that I had to make everything yourself. There are no short cuts available here, nothing ready made that you can buy at the shops. But I also made so many mistakes and had to keep patience and work with them, modifying or sometimes starting again from scratch.  It was a labour of Love but the best reward was the surprised sparkle in Riz’s eyes when he saw it and the hug he gave me said it all.

For the Dark Chocolate Cake for the chess board ( See previous post on Sinful Dark Chocolate Cake). You will needed to bake Four nos., 8 inch cakes for the chess board, and another extra cake for the Box. Let all cakes cool. Overnight is good, refrigeration of the cake even better for icing. You cannot ice a hot cake. Your icing will melt into a oily mess.

To display the cakes, cover a large wooden board with foil or silver paper . To make the chess board, cut a brown paper square of 12 inch which will serve as template. Using the template,cut cake to size and assemble. You will be left with extra pieces of cake. Reserve these for any emergency. Ice the main cake with Chocolate butter cream icing. You will also need to make the box and the lid cake. Just cut two rectangular pieces of cake. Scoop out a bit from the one that will be the box and position the lid on top. Ice with Strawberry Butter cream icing. (For all Icing refer to Black Pearl Ship Cake recipe).


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Sugar Modelling Clay for the Chess Men

Before I go on to describe this recipe, let me clarify that this was the first time I made this. I scoured the internet for a recipe whose ingredients would be available here. But unfortunately most fondant recipes ask for edible glycerine or marshmallows or corn syrup…none of which are available here. So I had to experiment a bit. The results were incredible for my first try, but there was a lot of heartache involved. I started two days in advance so that I had the time to modify…and boy did I need it. At one point my husband said that he was loosing patience just watching me! The weather too played havoc, height of monsoon and eighty percent humidity doesn’t bode well for any kind of sugar does it! But It was like a thorn in my side I had to get it done, I just had to. So you will have to bear with me if I say that the recipe is far from perfect. I would love for you to make it and tell me how to modify it or make it better.

Ingredients (White Sugar Clay)

Icing Sugar ( Sieved)              500 gm

Margarine                                  1 tablespoon + a little extra for kneading

Gelatine                                       2 tablespoon


Soak the gelatine in a spoon of warm water. On a double boiler melt the margarine, add the gelatine and stir . It should mix quite easily.Take  the bowl off the heat and start adding the icing sugar. This will take some patience and a lot of faith! The mix will be sticky and show no sign of  coming together, just keep adding the icing sugar. It will start coming away from the bowl. Dust your work surface with a little icing sugar, turn out the sugar clay and start kneading, adding more sugar till it becomes a nice pliable dough. It will happen, when, I cant predict.  If  it sticks too much to your fingers use some margarine sparingly to oil your fingers. Once the sugar clay is done, it should look nice and silken. It may be a little soft because you have been working on it. The sugar clay must be wrapped in cling film/plastic bags and then in a piece of cloth before putting it in a air tight box. Only then store it in the fridge. It can be stored in the fridge for days. When you wish to work with it, take it out of the fridge, break off the amount you need. Rest keep covered in cling and cloth. Contact with air will dry it out. Sprinkle your work surface with corn flour. Then knead the clay till it becomes pliable again. Always keep icing sugar with you. at this stage, if your clay is too soft adding sugar will firm it up. If it is too dry, dip your finger in margarine and knead. It was a trial and error method for me but it works! You can roll out the clay with a rolling pin, continuously dusting your work surface and the rolling pin with cornflour.

White squares for the chess board cake :I made only the white squares, as the chocolate icing on the cake will serve as the black squares. For a 12 inch  base cake, I needed  32 white sugar clay squares of approximately 1 and1/2  inches each. I rolled out the sugar clay as thinly as possible, then using my sons plastic ruler I marked out and cut the squares. Keep a large tray dusted with cornflour ready at hand, and arrange the squares on this as they are done. They will dry out nicely overnight. DO NOT REFRIGERATE.

For White Chess Men using real chess men as inspiration I modeled out the pawns. But I took a short cut! I could not imagine making 64 pieces, so I looked in the Bobby Fisher book and found a move  which showed the check-mate move with minimum number of pawns!! I made a few extra to strew around the board. I used bottle caps to cut out the base, used the rear end of brushes to give texture and design. The chess men too were left out in the open to dry which nicely did. For Brown Chess Men the same sugar dough was used. I kneaded in a little brown powder food colour into the white sugar clay. But there must have been some reaction, as this never dried, instead kept melting. Over three days I re-did them numerous times, every time adding more sugar. Finally they did stand. But they did not dry. But hey, they sang for their supper and that’s all I asked of them!  To Assemble the cake on your iced chocolate cake , assemble the white squares to make it look like a chess board. On the box cake, using a piping bag/icing nozzle pipe the details and the name. Arrange the chess men on the board and some outside and one or two in the box.

In spite of all the work, it is well worth all the effort and trouble. Riz wanted to play chess on it and didn’t want to cut it….I think when I sat back at night with my aching feet up on the sofa and looked back, I felt I would have done it again in a heartbeat…provided it was just once a year : ) I wish you to try these recipes, and tweak them along the way. Especially the colored sugar work. If you feel the whole thing can be made easier, just let me know…always love an easy way out ; )

Take care

Waiting to hear from you ASAP