Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The food bucket list for 2015

Happy new year all!!!!!!!! It's that time of the year, for new enthusiasm, new renewals of old resolutions, new lists, goals, and in all this energy I couldn't help but think of a recipe list. That's how I've come with my Food bucket list for 2015, with a list twist. One, it's a list of to do's for this year and 2 , it's a list of things I'm going to try making not exactly eating at some place. Well I am going to eat them eventually, after I've made them and yes every successfully completed recipe will be up on the blog.

So I looked through my recipe books, which by the way have totally overflowed from my little kitchen shelf to my book shelf to my bed side table to my study table.  Every recipe book has been decorated with bright post it's for "must try recipes" and when I got down to making my list, it continued to over a 100. Geez, I wanted to keep this real, a number I could actually accomplish, given how time flies with all the other zillion things I need to and plan to do with my time.

I decided to take on some godzilla recipes, the ones that I have been staying away from, for thier accompanying anxiety and  some simple recipes, mostly bakes that I've been meaning to try for so long and just have not made the time for or shunned for something more fancy.

So this list contains recipes I plan to try out this year and the ones that go well will be up here on the blog, for you'll to try.

Let's have a look at the list shall we .

1. Baked Alaska (this has been on my mind for a couple of years now. It'll make a spectacular dessert)
2. Bibique ( my favourite take away from Goa, one of my favourites, along with the wine and sausages)
3. Angel food cake ( 12 egg whites!!!!)
4. The perfect pound cake
5. Roasted leg of Lamb, not going to let it bake overnight though. Need a simpler recipe.
6. Creme Brulee , though I have tried this before I've yet to get anywhere close to mastering it.
7. Baklava, (need to find that filo pastry)
8. Summer pudding, sweet and simple
9. Bitter orange Ice cream ,for those summery days.
10. Snickerdoodles (How can I not try something that sounds so adorable )
11. Croissants
12. Om Ali, a very delicious Egyptian pudding
13.Boston Cream pie
14.Pineapple, carrot and apple cake (yes, all in one, I already love it)
15. Mango Ice cream
16.Puff pastry, I'm on the lookout for a cheat's recipe.
17. Christmas Pudding
18. Gingerbread house, Plenty of time to research and get it ready in time for Christmas!!!!

Now now , let this list not fool you. Though I hope to keep at it, ummm I don know, ,, , also this doesn't mean you won't see any other posts on the blog. I got plenty of other recipes lined up .

Do you have a " must try recipe list" . I'd love to hear about it. Email me : ronamarlene@gmail.com

Also, if you try recipes posted here, don't forget to email me pictures, I'd love to know how they turned out.

Again, Happy new year !!!! Here's to new dreams, hopes and aspirations. Cheers!!!!!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Chicken Roast with Vegetables

Compliments of the season y'all. .  Tis the season to be jolly and boy am I . I know I'm a bit late in posting this roast recipe in time for Christmas, buuuuuut, you could make it for that New Year dinner. 

Between all the Christmas merriment, to dos, Mangalorean weddings, feasting on delicious food from my mother's kitchen , it's been a real challenge to sit down and write this post. So I'm going to make this quick. 

So as promised, this is my cheat's recipe for chicken roast. While I skip the usual filling, I still go ahead with the  vegetables which gives this dish, a good balance of ingredients and also adds such colour!!!!!

While you can make the marinade and let the chicken marinate even overnight in the fridge, I got to admit, there are times, I have rubbed the marinade on the chicken and put it straight into the oven and still managed to have a very delicious roast on the table. 

The 2 most important things for a roast, as I have learnt is good seasoning and cooking at the right temperature. Good seasoning means a good rub of salt and pepper. I once made a very fancy marinade with what seemed like a 100 herbs but then was forgetful on the salt and ended up with a very tasteless chicken roast and boy was that disappointing. Cooking at the right temperature will ensure the meat stays tender and juicy and also gets you a good crispy skin. 

To start with, clean a full chicken with skin. yes with skin. Roast chicken is made with skin, don't fight it. Use a chicken that's between 1 - 1.5 kgs. Once the chicken is clean, pat it dry with a kitchen towel. Set it aside and get going on your marinade. For the marinade I mix every dried herb I find in my kitchen and bring it all together with some salt and olive oil. Rub the marinade on the chicken, try not missing a spot. Put in a ziplock and let it sit in your fridge overnight, if you have the time, or let it sit for atleast 30 mins before you bake it. Another thing I do is marinate it when I bring the chicken home from the market, and put it straight into the fridge. So I don't need to worry defrosting the chicken to marinate it the day I need to cook it. 

When you're ready to bake the chicken, make sure you let the chicken come to room temperature before tossing it into the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C and put the chicken to bake and let it bake, half an hour for every half kilo of chicken. So, 90 mins for a 1.5 kg chicken. After the first 30 mins bring the temperature to 150 C. Baste the chicken regularly with the juices that gather.

While the chicken is cooking, you can get the vegetables ready. I use cauliflower, carrots bell peppers, baby corn and peas. You can also use broccoli, potato, mushrooms.  Roughly chop all the vegetables and toss them in butter and salt. That's it; vegetable done. 

The chicken is done, when, clear juices run from the chicken, if you run a knife through the thighs. Also, when it's cooked , the leg will break from the chicken when you gently twist it. 

Put the cooked chicken on a platter, gather the juices from the pan and mix with some cornflour to make a little gravy. Serve with some mustard or mayonnaise mixed with mustard.

Chicken Roast :

Chicken : 1 full chicken , 1 to 1.5 kgs

For the marinade :
Salt and pepper for seasoning.
Mixed dried herbs : 1 tsp
Garlic powder : 1 tsp
Onion powder 1 tsp
Olive oil 2 tbsp

Assorted vegetables : Cauliflower, Carrots, bell peppers, peas, baby corn.
2 tbsp butter
Salt to taste

1 tsp cornflour

1. Clean the chicken and pat it dry. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade and rub it on the chicken. Let the chicken marinate for  at least 30 mins if not overnight.

2. Preheat the oven to 200 C and bring the chicken to room temperature. Let i bake in the oven at 200 C for the first 30 mins, then at 150 till done.

3. Heat the butter in a pan and toss all the vegetables, roughly chopped till they turn colour.

4. When the chicken is done, remove the chicken and put in a dish. Gather the juices from the pan. Mix cornflour in a little water and add it to the juices from the pan and heat it till it thickens.

5. Serve the chicken with the vegetables, mayonnaise and gravy.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Date and Beer Cake

Christmas recipes continue. If you read my earlier post, I did promise a cheat's version for a Christmas cake. And at Christmas time, I keep my promises and I'm posting the recipe today. This is a treasure of a recipe, again,  found through Pinterest. I was skeptical about making it the first time, considering it used beer, I wondered if the froth really was going to help the cake bake, but with a little nudge I decided to try anyway. This recipe is super simple, turns out great and having tried it more than a couple of times, I can tell it's fool proof. I call this my cheat's version of a christmas cake, because it bakes to a lovely dark brown and also the dates make it really moist. If you haven't soaked any dry fruits, go ahead and make this cake with just the dates and nuts, but if you have, I suggest you add a scoopful of the dry fruits with the dates to this cake and you're going to get real close to tasting a Christmas fruit cake, and yes with only half the trouble.

Also this recipe makes quite a large cake, a 10 inch round cake to be precise. If you don't have that large a cake tin, use 2 smaller cake tins and adjust the baking time accordingly.

I have modified the original recipe, skipping the cinnamon powder and replacing the walnuts with casehwnuts, simply because I didn't have either of these ingredients at home. And by now you'd have figured out my rule, if it isn't there, do without it and it works almost every time. I have also modified the quantities of the ingredients a bit. However, I did stick to using Carlsberg beer like the original recipe.

To make the cake, do the usual process first. Prepare your baking tin, greasing it with butter and dusting it with flour. Then sift the flour, baking soda and salt. Chop the dates, though not necessarily fine, chop it small, so you don't run the risk of the dates sinking to the bottom of the cake.
Chop the cashew nuts as well ,toss them together and coat them with about a tbsp of the flour mixture, again, this is to prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom if the pan when you bake.

Back to usual cake making process, beat the butter, and sugar till creamy. This recipe uses brown sugar. It's available in most supermarkets and of course Nilgiris is pretty well stocked usually. Then go in the eggs, one at a time.

The recipe uses 2 cups of beer, which you alternatively fold into the batter with the flour mixture. Finally go in the dates and nuts and the cake bakes for about 1 hr 10 mins. If you're using 2 smaller cake tins, it should take a bit lesser.

And there 70 mins later you have your cheat's Christmas cake ready and you didn't even have to line the tin with baking paper, or soak your fruits for weeks. Give this recipe a try and I can promise you, that you are going to love it and keep coming back to it. Happy Christmas time folks, and there'll be a couple more Christmas recipes soon.

Date and Beer Cake 

Makes 1, 10 inch round cake

Ingredients :

300 gms plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 tsp baking soda
125 gms dates, finely chopped
50 gms cashewnuts chopped
200 gms butter
225 gms brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups of beer

1. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease a 10 inch round cake tin and dust with flour
2. Chop the dates and cashewnuts.
3. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt. Use 2 tbsp of this mixture to coat the dates and nuts. Keep aside.
4. Beat the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time.
5. Fold in the flour mixture with the beer alternatively, starting and ending with flour.
6. Fold in the dates and cashewnuts.
7. Pour batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in a preheated oven for about 1 hr 10 minutes , till a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Friday, 28 November 2014


Some more Christmas goodness. . . Kulkuls are such a big part of the whole Christmas season in Mangalore. It's one of my favourite Christmas time things to do. Kind of on the "must do" list. So , thought I'd put up some traditional Kuswar recipes and  Kulkuls , also known as kidyo are one of the easiet things to make. This kulkuls recipe is very simple and failproof. What makes it most fun is getting the whole family together, to roll them out. This way, you won't take light years to use up the dough and also kids totally love making these. I know I did, when I was younger, wait a minute , I still do.

I've adjusted the recipe to use just about 1/2 a kilo of flour. My grandma I'm told used no less than 4 kilos!!!!! Phew.... I wanted to start off with a smaller batch and then maybe double it for a batch over the weekend. If you're making it alone, 1/2 a kilo is quite a bit, but absolutely doable.

Like a lot of the recipes on this blog, this one too is a cheat's version. Yes, I do this cheating business a lot. After having looked at my mum's recipe I made two very important changes. For starters, I use readymade coconut milk, this one to be precise, so there , your work has already been halved, and two, I don't make the sugar syrup, I use icing sugar instead , and this is so much easier. Here's what I do, once the kulkuls are fried and drained of all their oil, I toss them in a bowl of icing sugar. This way, no sticky icky business of making/using sugar syrup and also the kulkuls don't become too sweet. Over the years, I have developed a taste for eating these plain,  you can also have these without any of that sugar coating business. 

So here's how we make it. Mix the flour and the sugar , a pinch of salt, that's basically the base of our dough. 

A tip my mum gave me was to use warm oil, that'll make the kulkuls crisp. So warm the oil, to a rather hot temperature and add to the dough. Mix with a wooden spoon as you do. The mixture is going to resemble bread crumbs. Wooden spoon coz, it's going to be difficult touching that hot oil with your hands. Add the coconut milk and using your hands, knead into a dough, that is sorta smooth and pliable, just not sticky.  Use less of more the coconut milk, as you go with kneading the dough.

You can rest the dough for about 10 mins before you start rolling out the kulkuls. Cover the dough with a cloth, so it doesn't dry out. To make the kulkuls, start with small portions of the dough, again, cover the rest with a cloth.  Take a small  piece of dough and roll into a little ball.Using your fingers, flatten it out into a rectangle on the back of a greased fork, (it should be quite thin), press the dough into the indents of the fork, and then roll it away from you, into a little worm, and that's a kulkul right there. Press them a bit with the fork at the edges to seal them, so they don't open up while you fry them.

See, isn't this fun. Make kulkuls with at least half your dough, before you start frying them, specially if you're making them alone. You could also roll and fry them in batches.
To fry the kulkuls , heat up the oil in a wok. Bring the oil to a medium hot temperature and not smoking. To test if the oil is at the right temperature, drop a small piece of dough in the oil. If it bubbles and rises to the surface, the oil's at the right temperature. 

Fry the kulkuls in batches to a medium brown colour, not dark brown. Remember they continue to cook a few seconds after you take them out of the oil, so don't leave them in the oil till they look well done. Using a slotted spoon, take the kulkuls out and leave them to drain on kitchen towels or paper . If you plan to sugar coat them, literally, toss them in the icing sugar and then transfer to a bowl. And with that comes one tick on that kuswar list

Here's the recipe for Easy to make Kulkuls


1/2 kilo flour
A pinch of salt
6 tbsps powdered sugar
4 tbsp oil
250 ml (aprox) readymade coconut milk
400 ml oil for deep frying
200 gms icing sugar for coating the kulkuls

1. In a vessel, mix the flour, salt and powdered sugar.
2. Heat 4 tbsps of oil . Add to the flour mixture, using a wooden spoon to blend it into the flour.
3. Add the coconut milk and knead the mixture into a dough.
4. Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rest for 10 mins.
5. Take a small piece of dough, roll into a ball, and flatten it out on the back of a greased fork.
6. Roll into a kulkul. Roll out all of the dough into kulkuls in batches.
7. Heat the oil and deep fry the kulkuls to a medium brown.
8. Using a slotted spoon, take them out and let them rest on paper towels, before you toss them in the icing sugar.

If you are new to making Kuswar, or trying Kuswar on your own for the first time, there couldn't be a simpler goodie to start with. Trust me. . Would I lead you astray?

Happy Christmas time everyone. 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Christmas Cocktails

About a month to go for Christmas!!!!!!!! Yayyyyyyyy!!!!!!! I'm in love with the sight of my home at night. My Christmas tree in the balcony, Christmas lights all over the house, Christmas decor's up and this year I made us some kinda Advent Calendar. For the 24 days before Christmas, I put down 24 Christmas activities for us , one for each day and I can't wait for Dec to get here. I'm sooooooooooo excited.

Today, I decided to put up a couple of cocktail recipes, well Christmas cocktail recipes, perfect for those Christmas parties. Last year I tried some pina coladas. Apart from the fact that I loaded them with alcohol ( which my guests didn't mind at all), they turned out a big hit at our Christmas party. So that's the first one I'm going to put up here. Also, I'm putting up a recipe for "blizzard", a cocktail made with bourbon whiskey. I've rarely had a cocktail with whiskey, so decided to try this recipe I found. And then the last one here is Christmas Mojito, it's a mojito with a splash of cranberry that makes it perfectly Christmasy. I'm putting recipes with measurements enough to make one, just double them or more to make many, and feel free to lessen or increase the quantities of any of the ingredients, to taste the way you like them.

So let's start with the Pina Colada. This has always been my favourite, it's just that great combination of pineapple and coconut that makes it very very yummmmm. I researched a lot of recipes before I finally decided to come up with one of my own, and it adds a very special ingredient, I can't call it a secret ingredient, coz it's no longer going to be a secret. That talked about ingredient IS . . . . A. . . . Wait for it. . .  . . . . scoop of vanilla ice cream . Yyyuupppp.. . . . . It's ice cream, it's got to taste good. Adding ice cream, makes the drink creamier and adds a great flavour to the drink. You cab definitely skip it if you think it's gonna be too heavy or something but if we're doing it my way it's got to have ice cream.

Pina coladas are very easy to make and require just about 5 ingredients; White Rum, pineapple, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and in my version ice cream. You can go ahead without the ice cream as well. I have tweaked the recipe a bit, so it's a bit different from the usual pina colada recipe, but this works great for me. Also remember, this recipe uses coconut cream and not coconut milk. Canned coconut cream is available in a lot of stores and it much thicker and creamier than coconut milk.

Here we go :

Pina coladas

Makes 1

2 Pineapple slices, cut into bits
50 ml White rum
30 ml Coconut Cream.
70 ml Pineapple Juice
3 tbsp of Vanilla Ice cream

Method :

1.  Place all ingredients in a blender and blend till smooth.
2. Pour in a tall glass and garnish with a slice of pineapple.

Moving on to the BLIZZARD. . . . This one uses Cranberry and Bourbon whiskey, such a classy combination. It's got a lovely  shade pink champagne. So prewwtty!!!!!!!!

Honestly, I'm not a big fan of Cranberry juice, and I thought this drink would be too sweet . . . . . .  But the whiskey totally balances it out. I used Bourbon whiskey that I had lying around, but if I didnt, maybe I try it using any other whiskey. Though all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon, making this cocktail with any whiskey should taste just as fine.

My verdict for this cocktail : It's classy, stylish and very christmasy.


Makes 1

60 ml Bourbon
30 ml Cranberry juice
1 tbsp Lime juice
2 tbsp simple syrup
Slice of Lime
Handful of Ice

1. Put the ice in a glass
2. Put the lime juice, bourbon, syrup and cranberry juice in  a cocktail shaker and mix well.
3. Pour over the ice. 
4. Serve with a slice of lime

And now the Christmas Mojitos.  Making any drink Christmasy is that bottle of Cranberry juice. So this recipe is not very different from the usual recipe for a mojito, but with the addition of cranberry juice, I'm not sure how much classic mojito lovers will like this, considering it's a bit sweeter but I found it refreshing and yes the pink made it pretty......

Christmas Mojitos

Makes 1

Handful of mint leaves
50 ml white rum
60 ml soda
1 tsp lime juice
30 ml cranberry juice

1. Place the lime juice and mint leaves in your serving glass and mix them together , mashing the mint with the back of a spoon
2. Add the ice, rum and cranberry juice 
3. Top it up with soda.

 So there we go. . 3 easy peasy Christmas Cocktails. Cheers!!!!!!!!!!!!! Watch this space for some more christmasy recipes.......... 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Apple Wine

Ok ladies and gentlemen................... raise your glasses.............. Cheeeeeerrrrrrrsssssss!!!!!!! It's time to make some vino......... Wine is christmasy, very very christmasy..... it is MERRY Christmas after all. . Come on....... what about that song, Christmas time, mistletoe and wine........... la la la , ,  I love that one by the way............

In my very Christmasy "spirit" I have decided to share my very treasured recipe for Apple wine. Just the sound of it makes it so treasured. Don't you think so. I love trying out wines and over the years I have realized that wine making is pretty simple; you can make it with almost any fruit, the process and recipe is sorta similar. You need to follow a few guidelines while making wine. These are like universal wine making rules for homemade wines. Follow them honestly and your wine ain't gonna be sour.

1. Stir your wine, regularly, for the days, mentioned in the recipe.

2. Wait, is this microphone on????? LISTEN TO ME!!!! I"m only gonna say this once " ALWAYS USE A DRY SPOON TO STIR YOUR WINE" LIKE ALWAYS,  ALWAYS. There's no 2 ways about this. Here's the thing; you're going to ferment the wine, and once it starts fermenting, no fresh water can be mixed with it. So when you're stirring your wine everyday, make sure you're using a dry spoon. Also make sure, this spoon is used only for stirring wine. You don't wanna use a spoon that you just used to stir your curry or something. Here's what I do, I use a long wooden spoon, stir my wine, rinse the spoon and let it sit in a cup next to my wine jar. It gets dry by the time I need to use it again and I just follow the process every time.

3. So yes, you'll be fermenting the wine, Make sure, you're using a good quality yeast. You can tell if the yeast if active, but stirring in a little warm water. If it bubbles up in about 10 mins, that yeast is good to use. Don't go ahead with it, if it doesn't.

4. Use clean, dry bottles to store your wine, once strained. Here's a mistake we could end up with. I did, a couple of times. After faithfully using a dry spoon to stir my wine everyday, I finally strained it into a bottle that still had a bit of moisture left in it after it had been washed. So, inspite of my wine, tasting perfect on day 1, it turned sour over the next few days ......... Boo hoo, but lesson learnt. So, these days, I wash the bottles on the day I start making my wine and then let them dry upside down and upright in the sun for a couple of days. This way, I'm not scrambling to get them ready and dry in a hurry on the day my wine is ready.

And those are the golden rules for wine making. Don't worry too much about getting the measurements perfect, 1 kg sugar or 1.1 kg sugar, is only gonna make it a bit sweeter or lesser. What really matters, is using a good quality yeast and using that DRY SPOON. TRUST ME!!!!!!!!

So here we go.
First get your wine jar ready. I picked up mine in shivajinagar,Bangalore, a couple of years ago, at Adams, a very popular crockery store around here. You should find them in any good , traditonal crockery store. Not gonna see these babies at home center or some place like that.

Once your jar is washed and dry, measure your ingredients and put them in the jar in any order. It really doesn't matter. Clean and chop the apples roughly before tossing them in. Measure out the water and from that, take about 200 ml of water and bring it to a slightly warm temperature, not boiling though and add the yeast. Let it sit for about 10 mins, and watch it, ensuring that it bubbles and is good to use. Once you have all your ingredients in the jar, stir it well and put the lid on. Cover it with a cloth, fastened with a rubber band.

Put a reminder in the place that you're bound to see without fail every morning. Let it say "STIR WINE".  I generally put my reminder on the fridge. Stir the wine everyday with a dry spoon (See notes above) for 18 days. When the wine is done, strain it and bottle it. To strain it, I put it over a large strainer, covered with a clean, fine, dry cloth. Again, make sure, the vessel and bottles you're using  are clean and dry. Also use glass bottles, I personally, don't like the idea of storing it in plastic bottles.

When you first strain the wine, it's going to look a bit cloudy and thick , coz,  its's still got a lot of sediments in it, like you see in the first picture. So let it stand for a couple of weeks and then strain it again, it will be clear and also have a much better colour. The more you let it stand, the nicer colour you're going to get. This wine turns to a lovely golden colour. If you get started this weekend, you are going to have lovely homemade apple wine ready, right in time for Christmas. CHEERS!!!!!!

Apple wine 

Makes around 3 bottles

Ingredients :

1 kg apples
2 litres water
1 kg sugar
300 gms raisins
1 piece cinnamon
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 litres water

1. Measure 2 litres water,put it in the jar, reserving about 200 ml water.
2. Warm the reserved water and add the yeast. Stir and let it stand for about 10 minutes.
3. Wash the apples, roughly chop them.  Put them in the jar.
4. Add the rasins , sugar and cinnamon to the jar.
5. When the yeast bubbles in the water, add all of it to the jar
6. Stir well and cover the jar.
7. Keep covered to ferment for 18 days, stirring the wine once everyday, using a dry spoon.
8. On the 18th day, strain the wine and bottle it.
9. Let it stand for about 10 days, strain and bottle again..

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Christmas Cake

Let's get started with the Christmas Specials..... Shall we?. I'm getting this party started with my recipe for traditional Christmas Cake. Everyone needs a good Christmas Cake recipe and this recipe is easy and simple, and the best part,is that it makes one 8 inch cake. Not everyone wants to bake 20 Christmas cakes huh.

This recipe makes that lovely traditional cake that you get at bakeries, or if you remember what traditional wedding cake taste like. It uses the method of making caramel with white sugar and don't be put off by this slightly extra effort to make this cake. I've posted step by step instructions with photographs and really, don't let this caramel process intimidate you. Keep calm and bake on. Trust me, it's hardly an epic effort. 

You'll need a cup of soaked dry fruit for this recipe. Check this post for details on that. The rest of the ingredients apart from the caramel are the usual, flour, butter, eggs, vanilla essence. You can also add a couple of teaspoons of caraway seeds like I did
They do look a bit like cumin seeds and are often also sprinkled on breads and rolls .

I assume the method of using caramel in making this cake is as a substitute for brown sugar. There are tonnes of recipes for fruit cake with brown sugar, but I figured we needed one like this that uses ordinary granulated sugar, knowing that brown sugar isn't easily available everywhere. 

To make the cake, you need to first start on the caramel. In a thick bottomed pan, heat the sugar adding just a tablespoon of water. It might look like it isn't enough for the sugar to melt, but as the sugar heats up, it'll melt easily. You could add a bit more water if you're unsure, and this will only increase the time for the sugar to caramelize. 

Leave the sugar to melt on a low heat and resist the urge to stir it with a spoon, instead slowly swirl the pan to make sure the sugar is melting equally. As the sugar is melting, heat the water in a separate vessel, it needs to come to the boil , and you need to add it to the sugar, once it has caramelized.

As the sugar melts, it'll turn colour, from white to a golden  brown and then to a dark brown.

As it turns to a dark brown, it might smoke a bit, don't hit the panic button, this is completely ok. The colour of the caramel decides the colour of the cake, so don't be afraid to let it turn to a really dark brown. Don't worry about it making the cake taste bitter either, it wont, unless you let it burn. Remember, just keep it on a low flame. 

 Caramelized sugar is very hot to touch, so don't try dipping your finger in it to taste, you'll end up with a burn. Make sure you don't have little kids running around when you're making this caramel sauce. When the sugar has turned to a really dark brown, take it off the stove and hold it above your kitchen sink, and remember to have your oven mitts on, sorta extra precaution. Now add the boiling water, and I must warn you, the water will make the mixture bubble furiously, so stand back. Give it a few seconds and it'll mellow down and you can gently swirl the pan to let the sauce blend. And there, you have your caramel sauce READY!!!!!!!! It should look something like this.

 You need to make the sauce first, because you can add it to the batter only when it has cooled down. So start with making the caramel sauce and as it cools down, start making the cake batter. 

         Now, getting on to the cake. First, line the bottom and sides of your baking tin. Like this

This is important, not only to stop your cake from sticking to the sides, but also since the cake takes a while to bake, you don't want the sides to over bake and get too hard. 

Once you've lined your tin, sieve the flour , baking powder and spice powder, keeping aside 2 tbsps of flour for the fruits. For the spice mix you can use a mix of nutmeg , clove and cinnamon powder, which you will easily find in grocery stores. Check nilgiris, I've often bought these there.

Then, the usual, beat the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one by one, and then the essence. Fold in the flour. The last thing you need to do is toss in the fruits. Taking 1 cup of mixed fruits, toss them in the  reserved flour. Coating the fruits this way, will prevent the fruits from sinking to the bottom of the pan. 

The batter for this cake is also slightly thick, again helping the fruits stay in place.

Place the cake in a preheated oven and this should take about an hour to bake at 170 degrees, that is , till a skewer inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Once your cake has cooled down, poke tiny holes in it, using a toothpick and pour some rum over it. AND one more thing, let the cake sit for a few days, the flavours develop and the cake tastes better if you let it sit for a few days. Don't worry if the top of the cake is a bit hard, it'll soften over a couple of days. Once it has cooled, and you've poured the rum , wrap it in cling film and keep it on the counter for at least a week and you can also let it sit for longer, weeks if you like. This way, you can make all  your Christmas cakes well in advance and wont have to run around like a headless chicken, baking cakes a day before Christmas.

Then again, if you just can't wait to have it right away,  dig in, you'll still taste a wonderful cake. and you can always make another one again. 

Christmas Cake
Makes 1 8'inch round cake

Ingredients :

For the caramel

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water

For the cake 

1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 tsp  ground cinnamon, 
1/4 tsp nutmeg powder
1/4 tsp  cloves powder
1 tsp baking powder
85 gms cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar 
2 eggs
1 cup dry fruits 
2 tsp of caraway seeds 

 Rum 4 tbsps, to pour over the cake


For the Caramel

1. Put the sugar in a thick bottomed pan and heat it on low flame. Add a tbsp of water to help the sugar melt.

2. Swirl the pan gently as the sugar melts,  do not stir. ( Read detailed instructions above) 

3. When the sugar turns a dark brown, take it off the stove and add the boiling water.

4. Swirl the pan gently, to let it mix. Keep the caramel aside to cool down.

For the Cake

1. Preheat the oven to a 170 C. Line the base and sides of an 8 inch round cake tin with butter paper.
2. Keep 2 tbsp of the flour aside. Sieve the rest of the flour, baking powder with the clove, cinnamon and nutmeg powder into a bowl.
3.Cream the butter and sugar till fluffy
4. Add the eggs, one at a time
5. Pour in the cooled caramel and vanilla extract. Mix well.
6. Fold in the flour spice mixture and mix till the flour is completely incorporated
7. Strain the soaked dry fruits and mix with the reserved flour. Toss in the caraway seeds as well.
8. Add  it to the batter and gently mix 
9. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for about 50 mins to 1 hour till a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean 
10.  Once cake has cooled, poke the top with a tooth pick and pour the rum 
11. Wrap in cling film and let the cake sit for a week or two to let the flavours develop.