Author Archives: Min

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

When we talk about birds, the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is one bird that has fascinated me ever since I first saw one at Murchison Falls National Park, many years ago. Since then, I have seen these beautiful birds a number of times on subsequent trips to Murchison and they always make me smile.

P1

P4

Hornbills are generally sedentary and live within a defended territory. The Abyssinian Ground Hornbill is a large turkey like bird that is normally found in the sub-Saharan African savannah, north of the equator. An adult bird can grow to around one metre tall and weighs about 4 kg. It has a large bill topped with a casque, a helmet like structure. Despite their wingspans these birds very rarely fly and are adapted to ground dwelling, hence the name Ground hornbill.  Abyssinian Ground Hornbills also have wattles (a fleshy pouch hanging from the throat, similar to a turkey or chicken). From these pouches, one can distinguish between a male and female bird as males have a bright red pouch hanging from their throats whilst those of females are blue. These birds  always seem to me like they are dressed up for a fancy party not only because of their dark , shiny feathers and brightly coloured pouches, but also their long eyelashes, which are actually modified feathers designed to protect their eyes from dirt and debris.

P5

I learnt many interesting things about these birds from a Uganda Wildlife Authority guide who had accompanied us on our game drive in Murchison Falls National Park. He told us that the Abyssinian ground hornbill mated for life, which is interesting but one hears that about a lot of birds. What was most fascinating (for me at least, not sure about the others with me!) was finding out about how these birds lay eggs and look after their young. In the case of a regular hornbill, the female lays eggs in the cavities of tree trunks or any other caves or crevices of a tree. The male hornbill then builds a cover over the cavity with mud and twigs and the female does not leave the nest until the eggs are hatched. Naturally, it is the duty of the male bird to bring food for his partner during this time. So if something were to happen to him while he was out fetching his bird wife food and he gets killed, the female will also die of starvation. But Abyssinian Ground Hornbills do this in a slightly different way. They do not seal their nests at all, and they are left open during incubation so the female can come out for preening and excretion. Not for anything else though, the male still has to bring food back to the nest.  Once the eggs are hatched, the female remains in the nest with the chicks for a week and then joins the male in finding food for the young. If there are two chicks the younger one is usually ignored or starved.  Chicks are ready to leave the nest after 3 months. These nests are normally permanent under favourable environmental conditions.

 

P2 AGH

P3 AGH
The Abyssinian ground hornbill is listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to its large population. So I don’t have to worry about them disappearing anytime soon. 🙂
~Min

20 Mar 2014

Crested Cranes – the crowned beauties of Uganda

When you plan to write about different birds at Kibimba, Bugiri district in Eastern Uganda, it’s quite appropriate to begin with Crested Cranes, the national bird of Uganda. It’s one of the most cherished birds in Uganda and features in the country’s flag and coat of arms.
At Kibimba we always get to see flocks of them in the fields as they prefer freshly ploughed fields to tall grass and plants. They also prefer wetter habitats near water bodies for nesting. Crested Cranes are a friendly, gentle and peace loving bird, which is pretty much true about the Ugandan people as well. 🙂

Crested Cranes (3)
The large flock of crested cranes moving slowly and gracefully along a field is a beautiful sight. You would think you could just walk up to them and touch them. But as you move towards them, they too will move at the same speed. So that even after following them for a long time, the distance between you and the flock will be exactly the same. Only if you make any threatening move or sound would they rise up and fly away. Clever birds indeed.

crested crane close up
The scientific name of the grey Crested Crane is Balearica Regulorum. Their body plumage is mainly grey and wings are predominantly white. Younger birds are greyer than adults. These cranes are tall, generally over 3 feet, standing on slender black legs. Their necks are almost as long as their legs. The black velvety forehead, yellowish golden crest and the bright red wattle make the crested crane an elegant bird. These three colours on their heads make Uganda’s national flag.

courtship
The crested cranes are a monogamous species; they have only one breeding partner through their entire life. The crested cranes are known for their spectacular dancing. Dancing is an integral part of their courtship. In East Africa the mating season is throughout the year, peaking during the rainy months. During their mating dance two cranes hop and jump gracefully with each other, with their wings partly spread. Then they open their wings and jump in the air. Also can see them running around each other during courtship. It’s quite obvious that traditional dances have adopted many movements from their dance.

flock closer

Crested cranes have a loud, booming two note call  except when they are calling their family; they use a guttural purr when calling to their chicks or mates.

Crested Cranes are omnivores . They feed on cereal heads, grains, new tips of grasses, insects, frogs, lizards etc. They stamp their feet hard on the ground when they walk across the ploughed fields. This flushes out the insects which they pick and eat quickly.
The crested cranes generally live up to 22 years in wild and 25 years or more in captivity.
Unlike other cranes, crested cranes are the only cranes that roost on trees as their hind toe is adapted for grasping. They are the earliest evolved species among cranes which is evident from the animal fossils of Eocene period (about 58 to 37 million years ago).

Enjoying a stroll with other cranes

Enjoying a stroll with other cranes

According to the International Crane Foundation, crested cranes are an endangered species and the population has declined 50 – 79 % for the past 45 years. They are most abundant in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

~Min

19 Feb 2014

Performance by Ndere Troupe – A visual treat indeed!

Dance has always been a passion for me. However, my first encounter with dance did not go well. 🙂 When I was just three years, I was put in a dance class run by my school as an after class activity. To my surprise I still have a vague memory of that class packed with 25–30 children of different age groups, trying to copy what the instructor was doing. I got so disillusioned after the first class that I adamantly refused to go to the class any more. Then at the age of eight I had the opportunity to join a professionally run dance school (apparently my parents recognised the interest I I have in dance) and from then onwards dance has always been a part of my life. Never miss a chance to perform or watch various dance genres.
Dance has always been an important part of celebrations, ceremony and entertainment. It’s difficult to say when dance has become a part of human culture. The Egyptian tomb paintings depicting dancing figures from 3300 BCE and 9000 year old Bhimbekta rock shelters paintings in India indicate the prevalence of dance even in prehistoric times. Dance figurines were a permanent feature of ancient temple architecture.
Dances are usually performed as a mode of expression, as part of healing rituals or as an offering to God. Dance forms are also used as a tool to communicate with people about social evils, prohibiting the progress of the society. Ballet, bharatnatyam, hip hop, rumba belly dance, calypso, gigue, lap dance… there are sooo many varieties of dance we enjoy today.
The entertaining performance of traditional Ugandan dance and music by Ndere Troupe is what initiated these thoughts on various dance forms. I’d watched traditional Ugandan dances many a time. But getting to enjoy the playing of musical instruments, singing and dancing in a serene ambience in the amphitheatre at the Ndere Centre was an entirely unique experience. To quote from Ndere Troupe’s website, “In Africa written words didn’t exist, thus Africa’s cultural history, literature, knowledge and wisdom were recorded and passed on to succeeding generations through the medium of performing arts music, dance, storytelling and poetry.”

 

dances of Uganda 1

The programme started with playing of various instruments and singing.

dances of Uganda3a

 

dances of Uganda2

Kiganda dance from Buganda was originally only to be performed by the people of Obutiko clan and only in the palace.

dances of Uganda5dance of Uganda6

Dance of Bunyoro tribe. Bunyoro tribe belongs to the Toro region in Western Uganda. This is a courtship dance. Men and women sit around a fire reciting poems. Then men start dancing in front of each girl and the luckiest one gets chosen.

dance of Uganda7

Banyankole are the people who belong to the Ankole tribe, one of the four traditional tribes of Uganda. They are from South Western Uganda. This region is also famous for the Ankole cows with their distinctive curved horns.

dance of Uganda8

Dancers of Alur tribe hail from north western Uganda. One of the main instruments they play is called an Adungu.

dance of Uganda10
These are the dancers of the Acholi tribe. They belong to the Luo Nilotic ethnic group from northern Uganda.

dance of Uganda11

The percussion ensemble from Burundi , another east African country, was quite amazing. They came in balancing the heavy log drums on their heads drumming and singing. These drums are made from the trunks of a tree which grows only in Burundi.

dances of Uganda9

Intore (the dance of heroes) is the most famous traditional dance form of Rwanda, another east African country.

collage
It was a visual treat indeed. This post will not be complete unless I mention the tasty Ugandan meal which we all enjoyed after the performance.

Min

10 Feb 2014

Orange Chiffon Cake

It’s still fresh in my memory… the white, airy and light cakes that my sister used to send me many years back. I did not know then (rather I didn’t bother to find out) that it was an angel cake. Later when I got hooked to baking, I always wanted to bake chiffon cakes and angel cakes. But couldn’t for want of a tube pan. Finally this Christmas Gaia brought me a 10 inch Wilton tube pan. Though I wanted to make a chiffon cake before she went back, couldn’t manage it as we were very busy with other plans.

firstslice

So I was waiting for a chance to use the pan. And when our wedding anniversary came around on the 2nd of Feb, it was the perfect occasion to make an orange chiffon cake. Moreover the fact that my husband neither likes iced cakes nor chocolate cakes is all the more reason to bake an orange chiffon cake.

ingredients

 

Chiffon cakes are very light and airy and made with lots of eggs, oil, sugar, flour and baking powder with any additional ingredient to flavour the cake like orange, lemon or chocolate, as per your preference. The use of oil instead of butter makes the cake really moist and keeps the cake soft even after a few days in the refrigerator. I used both freshly squeezed orange juice and orange zest to achieve the fresh orange flavour in the cake.

 

eggs

 

Chiffon cakes attain their fluffy texture through stiffly beaten egg whites folded into the cake batter just prior to baking. A few points to bear in mind whenever egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks… Separate the eggs into whites and yolks as soon as they are taken from the fridge. Beat them after they reach room temperature using a handheld electric beater. Start with slow speed and change to medium when it still in liquid form. Beat for 3-4 minutes to get soft peaks. Add superfine sugar, a little at a time, and beat till stiff peaks are formed. Add the beaten egg whites into the batter by the cutting and folding method in 3-4 batches.

 

cutandfold

 

If you don’t have superfine sugar at home just run regular sugar through the food processor for a couple of minutes before using in the recipe.

Once the batter is ready pour it into an ungreased tube pan. Ungreased pans are used in chiffon and angel cakes because the stiffly beaten egg whites need to cling to the pan to rise. Once the cake is done invert the pan and let it rest in that position for a minimum of 1 hour. If you allow it to cool without inverting the pan, the cake collapses resulting in a lumpy mass.

 

oc-cakedone

 

Once the cake is completely cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan to free the outer section off the cake. Then run the knife around the tube and the bottom as well to get the cake released from the pan. Now leave it on a wire rack for further cooling.

 

finalcake
~Min

divider-recipe

 

Ingredients

All Purpose Flour 248 grams
Salt 1/8 tea spoon
Baking Powder 1 tablespoon
Corn flour 42 grams
Vegetable Oil ½ cup
Superfine Sugar 300 grams
Eggs 7
Vanilla Essence 1 teaspoon
Orange Juice ¾ cup
Orange Zest 2 tablespoon

 Directions

Preheat the oven to 165 degree celsius.

Separate the eggs into yolks and whites and leave them aside to reach room temperature.

Sift all the dry ingredients except sugar together twice.

Mix 250 grams of superfine sugar with the sifted flour.

Beat the egg yolks with vanilla essence.

Make a well in the flour sugar mixture, and add the beaten egg yolks and other wet ingredients except egg whites.  Mix together.

Beat egg whites till soft peaks are formed, add the remaining 50 grams of sugar little by little and beat at medium speed till stiff peaks are formed.

Cut and fold the beaten egg whites in three or four batches into the batter.

Pour the batter into an ungreased tube pan and bake in a preheated oven for 45 – 50 minutes.

Invert the pan for one hour once it is removed from the oven.

Once it’s cold remove the cake from the pan.

Finally dust the cake with some icing sugar and serve with whipped cream or fruit couli.

 

Divider2-LR-4px

 

05 Feb 2014

Making it from Scratch – Candied Peels

candied peel 2

 

I always prefer using home-made ingredients in cooking, if possible, to buying them from shops. I can vouch for the quality of the spice mixes I make for various dishes. Now coming to our subject “candied peel” which literally means making candy out of peels.

 

candied Peel 1

 

Candied peels can be made using peels of citrus fruits like lemon, orange, grapefruit etc. Candied peels are generally used in cakes, puddings and can enhance a cocktail as well. You can also munch on them whenever you feel like.

The first time I tried to make candied peel was when I needed some for a cake and I was in a location where I couldn’t get out and buy some. I used oranges and it was a success. Since then, I have never bought candied peels. It’s a good way of making use of the peels as well. The general principle of the process is to boil the peels in strong sugar syrup and then dry off any moisture left.

 

candied peel 3

 

Make sure firm oranges are selected for this, otherwise peeling the skin off the fruit becomes messy. Use a sharp tipped knife to core the skin into segments and then peel off. Remove the pith as much as possible to reduce the bitterness. Cut them into ½ cm strips before boiling in water.

 

candied peel 4

 

The bitterness is further removed by boiling the peels in water before candying. Boiling the peel not only makes it soft and porous (to absorb more sugar) but also removes any pesticide residue.

 

candied peel 5

 

Sugar syrup made for this purpose is a sugar to water ratio of 2:1. Once the peel strips are boiled and removed from the syrup and left to dry on a wire rack, the remaining sugar syrup can be used for making cocktails or to moisten cakes before icing them.

 

candied peel 6

 

My candied peels were dried overnight and ready to use the next day.

~Min

divider-recipe

Ingredients

Orange Peel – 2 oranges

Granulated sugar – 2 cups

Water – 1 cup

Granulated sugar – ¼ cup

Directions

  1. Peel the skin off oranges, remove the pith and cut into ½ cm strips.
  2. Add this to a pan of water and heat till the water is boiled. Drain.
  3. Repeat step 2 once more.
  4. Add the drained orange peels into pan with one cup of water and add sugar. Heat the mixture till it starts boiling.
  5. Once boiled reduce heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove the peels using a slotted spoon into a bowl, sprinkle sugar and spread them on a wire rack to dry completely.

 

recipe-divider

29 Jan 2014

Birds Galore!

Kibimba is a unique location in Uganda for its fantastic bird life.

 

Birds Galore @ Kibimba Rice Farm……

The national bird of Uganda.

The national bird of Uganda

I‘ve been visiting and spending a considerable amount of time at various times of the year at a rice farm in Eastern Uganda. To be more precise this fully mechanised rice farm is in Kibimba and covers an area that is 13 kilometres long and 3.5 kilometres wide. I’ve been a visitor of this farm since the year 2000 and I have always enjoyed all aspects of farm life especially the drives along the fields and the morning walks. Walks in the evenings are far less enjoyable unless you set out early enough as the insects that appear after sunset are a real menace.

Yellow Billed Storks

Yellow Billed Storks

During our morning walks and drives along the fields I come across many birds (especially water birds) and these are constantly identified by my companions. I always try to identify these birds by name, but to my dismay I am never very successful. This Christmas, when I was taking a guest around the fields I was appalled that I couldn’t name even an egret or an ibis correctly. The only ones I could name were whistling ducks!

Birds galore composite

Then the realisation dawned on me that it’s high time I take some interest  in the birdlife of Kibimba. Kibimba has the IBA (Important Bird Area) status and it’s a unique location for its birdlife.

Great White Egrets in the company of Storks

Great White Egrets in the company of Storks

So I decided to look up the birds I see regularly when I go for my walks in the early mornings and find out a little bit more about them. The discussions with the staff of Kibimba Rice Farm and Collins Book of Birds were my source. This exercise also helped me in identifying many birds this time when we were at Murchison Falls National Park.

Grey Herons

Grey Herons

So watch this space to know about birdlife at Kibimba.

                                                                                                                                                            ~Min

 

24 Jan 2014

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Ugandan Pineapples are the best….

This time when I put my baker’s hat on, pineapple upside down cake – the glistening, sticky sweet top of pineapple slices on top of a simple white cake, came into my vision. This sweet top lifts the simple white cake up a notch.

PUDC 1

 

In the US, pineapple upside down cakes became popular in the 1920s when canned pineapples were easily available for reasonable prices while fresh ones were difficult to find  and if they were available, they were very expensive. The widespread availability of canned pineapples owes to Jim Dole of Hawaiian Pineapple Company who canned a major chunk of pineapples available. Traditionally pineapple upside down cakes were made in cast iron skillets on top of the stove.

 

PUDC 2

 

When you bake a pineapple upside down cake in Kampala, it’s criminal to use canned pineapple since pineapples grow in plenty in Uganda and are currently in season. Not only the quantity but the quality  is also topnotch. The pineapples are sweet, succulent and big. The skin/crust of Ugandan pineapples are hard and hence has a longer shelf life. Read what Ms. Salima Njeri, a Kenyan trader says about Ugandan pineapples. 

 

PUDC 3

 

As I was little apprehensive about using  fresh slices of pineapple instead of canned as it can make the batter watery. So I tried my hand at canning the pineapple slices which I did the day before baking.Peace, my house help helped me in peeling and slicing the pineapple. If you are not skilled at peeling whole pineapple, I suggest cutting it into rings after cutting the crown and stem off. And then cut the skin off holding each slice . The core can then be removed using a cookie cutter or any sharp cylinder of right size.

Sugar syrup is made using sugar and water in a ratio of 1:2 as these pineapples are really sweet and will be used up in a day. If the slices have to be kept for long use a syrup of 1:1 ratio.

 

PUDC 4

 

For any upside down cake the fruit and brownsugar are placed on the bottom of the pan before batter is poured in. But here caramelised sugar is used instead of brown sugar. Oil and yoghurt are used instead of butter in my cake recipe.

 

PUDC 5

 

In pineapple upside down cakes a glazed cherry each is placed in the middle of each slice where the core of the pineapple was. Since there were no cherries in stock in my pantry I’ve decided to bake mine without it as cherries wouldn’t add on in any way to the taste of the cake. But later once the cake was turned upside down,I realised that it was not very appealing to look at.

 

PUDC 6

 

Voila! here’s the final product. Red Plum jam came to my rescue.

Min

divider-recipe

Ingredients

For Canning ( read Cooking J ) the fresh pineapple slices

Sugar – 1 cup

Water – 2

Orange peel – 1-2 pieces (optional)

For the base

Granulated sugar – ¼ cup

Water -1 tablespoon

Pineapple rings – 6

For the cake

All purpose flour – 2 cups

Baking powder – 1 ¼ teaspoons

Baking soda – ½ teaspoon

Granulated sugar – 1 ¼ cup ( can change it according to the sweetness    – of the sugar available)

Vegetable oil – 2/3 cup

Yoghurt  – 1 ¼ cup

Eggs (large) – 2

Vanilla essence – 1 teaspoon

Syrup from the cooked pineapple – ¼ cup

Cooked pineapple (minced) – ½ cup

Method

  • Skin the pineapple, cut into 1 cm thick slices and remove the centre core.
  • Heat sugar and water ( add orange skin as well if it’s used ) together till it starts simmering.
  • Transfer the prepared slices into the syrup and keep it in a waterbath and cook for 45 minutes with a lid on.
  • Remove from the waterbath and cool. Cooking of the pineapples can be done in advance.
  • Prepare a 10 inch / 25 cm tin by buttering the base and the sides. But flour only the sides.
  • Heat the sugar for the base till it caramelises.
  • Add 1 tablespoon warm water and heat it again to get pourable consistency without any solid bits.
  • Pour into the prepared tin and spread it on the base of the tin by tilting it.
  • Arrange the pineapple slices in a circular manner with one in the middle.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and baking soda together twice.
  • Beat sugar, oil and yoghurt together till till creamy and mixed well.
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat well.
  • Now add one third sifted flour, mix well.
  • Add half of the syrup, followed by half of the remaining flour. Beat till the flour is just mixed.
  • Add the remaining syrup and flour and mix again.
  • Once all the flour is incorporated mix the batter well for 4 minutes using a wooden spoon. If an electric hand mixer is used, attach the whipping attachment and beat for 3 minutes in medium speed.
  • Transfer the batter to the prepared tin and bake for 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

 recipe-divider

20 Jan 2014

My Pawpaw Man

Pawpawman1

Fruits and Vegetables here in Kampala, Uganda, really excite me. They are so fresh and good and come straight from the farms. I do prefer to shop at the vegetable market in Nakassero mainly frequented by expats. However, it is a bit of a pain going to Nakassero market unless one is chauffeured around as getting hold of a parking space in that area is as difficult as getting hold of an ostrich egg.

Pawpawman2

On my visits to Nakassero market I always came across a man who sits on the floor by the corner of a shop with a small heap of pawpaws/ papayas in front of him, calling out to customers. To his disappointment my response was always negative as the smell of papaya was one of the few things I couldn’t stand. Every time I go to the market he’ll be there trying to sell pawpaws to me. Then finally one day I was so amazed to see how determined and good he was in his marketing skills, I budged. Marketing managers take note, there are a few lessons you can learn from him.

He was so happy to sell a huge pawpaw to me that he gave me another one as a ‘bonus’. 🙂 (Bonus in Ugandan parlance is a giveaway, a free gift!)

Pawpawman3

Once I got home I tried a few pieces of the pawpaw on the insistence of my house help, Rose. Though I can’t say I became an ardent fan of the pawpaw, I don’t mind some but not to the extent of using a papaya face pack. I’m happy that I’m a convert when you consider the health benefits of Papaya. Thank you, my Pawpaw Man… “Weebale Ssebo!”

~Min

13 Jan 2014

Boneless Chinese Chilli Chicken

Oh, I just noticed that the name of the dish has a very good alliteration. Though it’s named Chinese Chilli Chicken aka CCC, I’m not very sure how ‘’chinesey”it is. I can assure you that soya sauce and rice wine vinegar are used in my recipe which is an integral part of Chinese cuisine. Since Chinese food is a family favourite, anything on those lines will always be appreciated.

P1

I can’t pinpoint where I got this recipe from, but I can assure that this is evolved from eating Chilli Chicken of varied colour and taste from different quarters. I remember a dish named Chicken/Fish with vegetables which I’ve had from Taj Residency many years back.  Any resemblance to that is pure coincidence. 🙂

P2

This CCC has no heavy sauces, colour or red chilli. Nor does it have any aji-no-moto.

p3

The subtle flavour of this dish makes it a very good accompaniment to vegetable fried rice or noodles.

Final

Enjoy, or as they say in Chinese, Xiǎngshòu!

 ~Min

 divider-recipe

Ingredients

Boneless chicken pieces, cut into 1 ½ cm cubes 250 grams
Onions, cut into 1 cm cubes 1 cup
Green peppers, cut into 1 cm cubes 1 cup
Garlic, sliced lengthwise 3 cloves
Ginger, cut into juliennes 2 cm long piece
Green chillies, slit lengthwise 4
Green/ spring onions, chopped 2 tablespoons
Black pepper powder 1-2 tablespoon or according to taste
Light soya sauce 2 tablespoon
Dark soya sauce 1 tablespoon
Rice wine vinegar 1 teaspoon
Chicken stock (stock cube can be used) 1 cup
Corn flour 2 tablespoon
Water ¼ cup
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil as required

To marinate the chicken pieces

Garlic paste 1 tablespoon
Ginger paste 1 tablespoon
Light soya sauce 2 tablespoon
Corn flour 1 tablespoon
Black pepper powder 1 teaspoon

Directions

  • Marinate the chicken pieces with the ingredients mentioned above for a minimum of half an hour.
  • Heat a thick bottomed wok or a frying pan.
  • Once the pan is hot, shallow fry the marinated chicken pieces till tender in some oil and remove from the pan. If breast pieces are used this will take 4-5 minutes, thigh pieces will take 8-9 minutes.
  • Add another table spoon of oil to the same pan and sauté the sliced ginger, garlic and green chillies till garlic becomes light brown. This frying should be done under low heat as the garlic slices get burnt very quickly.
  • Add the sliced onions and sauté. When it becomes transluscent add green peppers followed by the fried chicken pieces. Fry for a couple of minutes under high heat.
  • Now add the two sauces, rice wine vinegar, salt and pepper powder. Care should be taken when salt is added as the soya sauces used already have salt in them. Stir fry for a minute or so.
  • Add the stock, stir and let it simmer for 5 minutes with a lid on.
  • Mix the corn flour with water and add that mixture to the simmering stock in the pan and stir in quickly.
  • Remove the pan from fire and add chopped green/ spring onions.

divider-recipe-end

08 Jan 2014

Season’s Greetings with a Fruit Cake

cake

As the season demands, I’m all set to make a fruit cake. Fruit cakes are quite rich with lots of dried fruits and nuts. Unfortunately fruit cakes are looked upon with disdain.  So here I’m trying to uplift the image of our poor fruit cake with some changes in ingredients and how it’s made.

Boozing the fruits

Boozing the fruits

The tradition of “boozing” the fruits started only a week before. In my cake the fruits & nuts are limited to dark and light raisins, candied peel, dates and cashew nuts as I’m not very keen on using umpteen ingredients.( read no green and red thingies ) I used dark rum; brandy can also be used, as it’s always available at home.

caramel-syrup

The Christmas fruit cakes are characterised by their dark colour and dense texture and the aroma of the spices added. Cinnamon is my favourite among them. The dark colour is attained by using caramel syrup which can be made at home.

cashew-spices

As I prefer a lighter texture for the cake I always separate the egg yolks and whites and add the beaten egg whites at the final stages of mixing the batter. A sprinkling of a couple of tablespoons of rum when the cake is still hot keeps it moist.

fruitcake-steps

Happy Baking!!!

~Min

recipe-divider

Soaking the fruits

Raisins (both light and dark together) 150 grams
Dates 150 grams
Candied Peel (orange) 50 grams
Dark Rum/ Brandy ½ cup

 

Deseed the dates and mince all the above ingredients. Add rum to the minced fruits and shake them every day. Soaking of fruits can be done a week ahead of baking.

 

Caramel Syrup

Granulated sugar ¼ cup
Warm water ½ cup

 

Heat the sugar in a dry pan till it caramelises. Care should be taken not to burn it, otherwise the caramel syrup will become bitter. Once the sugar attains that dark colour slowly pour the warm water and heat it again till all the solid particles get dissolved, if there are any. Keep it aside to cool. Caramel syrup can be made ahead of time.

 

Spice Powder

Cloves 2
Cardamom 2
Cinnamon powder ½ teaspoon
Sugar 1 teaspoon

 

Powder the whole spices with sugar and mix with the cinnamon powder.

 

Ingredients for the Batter

Flour 250 grams / 2 cups
Baking powder 1 ½ teaspoons
Baking soda ½ teaspoons
Unsalted butter (at room temperature) 175 grams / 1 cup
Sugar 200 grams/ 1 cup
Eggs (separated into yolks and whites) 4
Vanilla essence 2 teaspoons
Rum / Brandy 4 tablespoons
Cashew nuts (powdered coarsely) ½ cup

 

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degree Celsius / 350 degree Fahrenheit.
  • Butter and flour a 10 inch round, 3 inch deep cake tin.
  • Sift the flour with baking powder and baking soda twice.
  • Cream the butter till creamy.
  • Powder the sugar and mix with the creamed butter. A handheld electric mixer or a whisk will do the job.
  • Once the butter and sugar are blended, egg yolks can be added one at a time and beat well.
  • Add vanilla essence, spice powder and caramel syrup at this point and whisk again.
  • Add the sifted flour mixture in 3 batches and whisk in between to get a uniform mixture without any lumps. If the consistency of the batter is too thick 2 tablespoons of rum can be added in between.
  • Add the soaked fruits, powdered cashew nuts and 2 tablespoons of rum (if it’s not added already) to the batter and mix well.
  • Now beat the egg whites to soft peaks and fold into the cake mixture.
  • Transfer the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for 45 – 50 minutes or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Once the cake is out of the oven let it cool on a wire rack. After 5 minutes sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of rum over the cake and let it cool completely.
  • Now loosen the sides of the cake from the pan and invert onto a plate.

recipe-divider

 

 

03 Jan 2014