Baking | Ptasie_mleczko Cake or Birds Milk Cake … birthday cake and memories of Down Under

“Good food is very often, even most often, simple food.”
Anthony Bourdain

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake …my adaptation. With a name as intriguing as that, I quickly jotted it down as my Ukranian friend translated it out of her mothers cookbook in Sydney earlier this month. There is an eternal charm in handwritten recipes of times gone by, this recipe book is from the 1960’s. Neat, and well explained, the recipes all written In Ukrainian, talk to you, explaining each step. The measures are often in glasses from the Old Soviet Union, standardised at 200ml, a measure my sweet friend continues to use as her mother once did.

Ptasie Mleczko (Polish) is a soft chocolate-covered candy filled with soft meringue (or milk soufflé). In Russian it is called ptichye moloko (птичье молоко) and in Romanian lapte de pasăre. All these names literally mean “bird’s milk” or crop milk, a substance somewhat resembling milk, produced by certain birds to feed their young. However, this is not origin of the name; rather, ptasie mleczko is also a Polish idiom meaning “an unobtainable delicacy”. In Poland, Jan Wedel, owner of the E. Wedel Company, developed the first Ptasie mleczko in 1936. Wedel’s inspiration for the name of the confectionery came from his voyages to France, when he asked himself: “What could bring greater happiness to a man who already has everything?” Then he thought: “Maybe only bird milk.”

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake This must be one of the quickest birthday cakes I’ve ever made. And yet another very very delicious one. You can find my coffee take on it at the bottom as Ulyana decided to bake one for us the night before we were due to fly out. No pictures of the cake in Sydney as we were racing against time. I didn’t get too many pictures of the cake I baked here too as coming home after a vacation is always far too busy. It was however tasty as hell!!

Sydney 2015

Sydney 2015 Our trip Down Under was great fun! All trips there always are! Sydney has been one of our fave places to go when possible, and this was our fourth trip. Like every earlier trip, this too was packed and flew by like a heartbeat. This trip was short, just a week ‘long’, but we had a great time. With hosts as good as ours, the days went by driving from mountains to beaches, with great food and drinks thrown in. Mindless banter, endless shopping what with the daughter with us, too much food,  overindulgence … ad before we knew it, time to fly back.

Sydney 2015 We flew in comfortably, sleeping all the way on Cathay Pacific, with a short stopover in HKG. There too the daughter shopped till we dropped for 3 whole hours.Hong Kong Hurriedly dug into some delicious street food, raced back to the hotel, showered and hopped onto the Sydney flight. A long 9 hour flight, some great food, Aussie wines too, Pamela’s book kept me entertained and nostalgic as we landed there into a crisp 4C at 6am. We were really blessed to see great weather the few days we were there.

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015We’ve done most of the iconic must see places on the earlier trips covering The Rocks, Opera House, Botanical Gardens, Tiranga Zoo {to date one of my sons fave places}, Butterfly Park, Harbour Bridge, Harry’s original van at Wooloomooloo, the Blue Mountains … and so much more. Yet a visit to the Blue Mountains is a quintessential part of Sydney for us, and that’s where we headed pretty soon. It as a freezing COLD day but we managed to stop by some breathtaking spots, taking in the gift that only nature can offer. Knocks your breath A W A Y!

Blue Mountains, Sydney 2015 We went off piste, little walkways dot the Blue Mountains, each with a signboard telling you how long it takes to get to the destination, level of ease …and more! There’s loads to do. Did I mention stunning beaches? Yes those too!Maroubra Beach, Sydney 2015Beautiful beaches, birds, crabs, shells, nature, left over pizza from the Italian pizzeria from the night before, chilled beer though not as chilly as the cold winds, great company … couldn’t have asked for more.Maroubra Beach, Sydney 2015 Of course I shopped some too. It’s always good to know the ‘right’ people, who in turn know the right places…and a Sunday morning market later, I was back a happy camper. There was loads I could have gladly bought to ‘prop’ up the blog, but sense had to prevail. It was a struggle I tell you!Food Prop shopping, Sydney

Food prop shopping Sydney 2015No trip to Sydney for me is complete without a visit to Victoria’s Basement. Though short on time, we did a quick walk through, a near impossible task in itself given the treasure trove you can find under a roof! I shopped a wee bit more here and there, constantly thinking of how much I could stuff back into suitcases. You know! Oh the choices we have to make!

Sydney 2015With travel comes food, and most good memories are tied to taste! Knowing the right folk is great! It’s satiating to explore a country through it’s cuisine, and then comes the added bonus of exploring the flavours they brought from their native lands. So we were spoilt. Ukranian cusine filled our days alongside Aussie quintessential. Gourmet sausages on the barbeque that made the tastiest hotdogs, slow cooked {read dropping off the bone good} lamb-shanks with chickpeas and spinach, Caesar salad galore, smoked Polish sausages and cold cuts, Ukranian potato latkes with garlic and sour cream, artisan pizzas, more Aussie reds, red wine too, pancakes for breakfast with whipped cream and local preserves, cheese in every avatar to die, then more local artisanal unripened cheese as if that was not enough …Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake Sweet stuff too, though no pictures. Fresh cherry strudel, macadamia and caramel ice cream, divine coffee gelato, berry gelato too, and then of course this beautiful Birds Milk Cake flavoured with the organic lemon from the yard the night before we flew out. I dreamt of the cake as I slept on the flight back home. I knew I just had to make one soon, my pet flavours dancing in my head.

Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake That’s just what I did the next day for the son’s birthday. As we melted into a sizzling North Indian summer at 45C, desperately trying to hang on to memories of 12C, the crisp and beautiful Aussie winter we left behind, Ihit baking mode. This cake bridged the gap beautifully, and that is what good food & travel is all about. Makes you come full circle, flavours and memories sharing a plateful! What a delightful {and delicious} journey this food business is!

Recipe: Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake
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Summary: Ptasie_mleczko or Birds Milk Cake finds it’s roots possibly in the Old Soviet Union. A preparation for the light as air filling quite as intriguing as the name ‘birds milk’, it’s a moist and delicious cake that takes well to added flavours. Make ahead and chill for the flavours to mature. It tastes wonedrful as a fresh tray bake as originally intended to be too. Serves 8

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour {plus cooling and chilling}
Ingredients:

  • Cake
  • 130g butter
  • 200ml / 1 glass brown vanilla sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 200ml / 1 glass all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • Filling
  • 150g butter
  • 400ml / 2 glasses milk
  • 100ml/ 1/2 glass sugar
  • 3 tbsp semolina /suji
  • 2tbsp instant coffee
  • 1 tbsp Kahlua {optional}
  • Topping
  • 50g dark couverture chocolate
  • 100ml low fat cream
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • White chocolate shavings to garnish

Method:

  1. Cake
  2. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line 2 X 8″ round baking tins with parchment paper.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt. Reserve.
  4. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one by one, ten the vanilla extract.
  5. Slowly fold in the dry mix. Turn batter into tins and bake for approximately 30 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Cool in tins for 15-20 minutes then cool completely on rack.
  6. Filling
  7. Make this while the cake is baking {or a few hours before too}
  8. Place the sugar, semolina, coffee and milk in a heavy bottom pan. Stir over low heat until the mixture thickens. Leave to cool completely.
  9. When the cake is ready and cool, make the remaining filling.
  10. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the coffee semolina and Kahlua if using.
  11. Assemble
  12. Place one layer on serving platter and keep in place with an 8″ dessert ring. ladle over half the filling and top with second layer. Top with remaining filling, cover and refrigerate for a few hours {or overnight} for flavours to mature.
  13. Take the ring off gently, top with chocolate ganache {recipe follows} and white chocolate shavings.
  14. Chocolate Ganache
  15. Place ingredients in a heat proof bowl and microwave 1 minute at a time until the chocolate has almost melted. Stir until smooth and glossy. Cool to room temperature before use.

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Review | Coppre … Indian traditional copperware. Reviving old traditional skills, timeless designs

“There is no creation without tradition; the ‘new’ is an inflection on a preceding form; novelty is always a variation on the past.”
Carlos Fuentes

 Terracopper Jug, CoppreIt’s no secret that I love amassing kitchen collectibles, the incorrigible prop collector as it may be! It’s a passion I have stoked for years, even before the blog began, and I don’t see the passion diminishing. Glassware, ceramic, stoneware, metal ware all call my name, be it from India or overseas. It’s an obsession I try to tear myself away from, each piece has a story!

produce or props...anything newThe house now resembles a museum of sorts, with old kitchen collectibles dotting nearly every visible space, yet I march on greedily at times! Nothing seems to stop me, the better half still as accommodating and indulgent as ever. My favourite medium remains metal ware. So I was elated when the good folk from Coppre asked if they could send me something from their collection. Yes please I said, I would be honoured!

Coppre … inspired by creating beautiful things. Objects that are crafted by hand embody a unique identity. And convey a special sense of purpose. We look at objects from yesteryears and marvel at the craftsmanship. It never ceases to amaze us how every utilitarian object had an element of ornamentation. And vice versa. So many handcrafting traditions have ceased to be. There were game changers. The colonisers, the industries. And today, the dynamics of a market driven economy.

… the plan. To reinvigorate. And make old artisan traditions come alive. That’s what we love to do. To make beautiful things, that matter. Things that are owned, treasured, loved and then passed on. Things that make you feel good and do good. Because it gives us joy. And purpose.

Food props, food styling, food photograph,IndiayMy love for Indian metal ware dates back to my first little copper tumbler I bought from Vishwanath ki gali in Benaras, now Varanasi. It’s been decades since I’ve visited but the Coppre jug brought a flood of memories back.

Make a morning ritual of drinking copper-charged water with the Terracopper Jug. With a combination of handbeaten etches and plain surface, the jug reveals the innate sheen of copper. The silhouette is inspired by the simplicity of earthern water jugs. Terracopper Jug, Coppre

I used to religiously keep the little copper glass full of water every night and glug it down the copper-charged water first thing next morning. It was a ritual and held a deep connect with Benaras, where we spent most of our childhood summers. My daughter was there on a college trip last year; her sketches of Varanasi below captured some of my favourite memories….Varanasi, ink sketches, Meher Rajpal 2014…and that resonates with what Coppre has done. It’s brought alive an age old tradition, breathed new life into a dying art, and they’ve done it with class. It’s the craftsmanship they have resurrected, hammered metal now so popular in the West, is available here. The possibilities are immense. Copper is a beautiful metal, artistic, long lasting and has great medicinal properties.Indian copperware, CoppreTo reconstitute and revive is the Coppre promise. To breathe new life into our heritage. What a beautiful journey they’ve undertaken. It’s no small task but look at how brilliant the beginning is.  Because this is what they do best – design | craft | propagate. This will bring the spotlight back on our artisans, our craft, and our heritage. Do stop by and look at their range – everyday use, corporate gifting, wedding souveniers. It’s uplifting, it’s inspiring and it celebrates the revival of an almost lost art…

Terracopper Jug, Coppre… and they do it in style. Beautiful craftsmanship, stunning finish, great packaging, thoughtful bag of polish, cloth bags to protect, useful instructions, international shipping. What more can one want ask for ….

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Baking | Oats Nut Crispbread … delicious, light, addictive. Simple too #wholegrain #healthy

“I figure it’s a European thing to eat cheese and crackers before a meal – that’s my afternoon snack, or I do it before dinner.”
Andrew Luck

Oats Nut Crispbread Oats Nut Crispbread … some pleasures in life are simple. These are one of those. Nibble, nibble, nibble. This crispbread is just the right thing for healthy snacking. Also just right for the cheeseboard, with dips, fruit, crumbled over salad, layered into a savoury parfait … or then, the dough baked into bite sized canapes.

Oats Nut CrispbreadNeed I say more? It’s a recipe I developed for the Saffola Fit Foodie website, and it’s one I now make often. It’s amazing how versatile oats as an ingredients can be, and also how much you can push your boundaries if you think out of the box. This recipe is just a small beginning to get you going, to encourage you perhaps to get off the refined way of life. Oats Nuts Crispbread It’s not that I don’t used all purpose flour at all, but I’m happy to say it might be a mere 5% of my baking that sees it. The odd birthday cake, some in a pizza base, maybe in bread dough paired with wholewheat, yet it’s an achievement.

Oats Nuts Crispbread And one of the easiest ways to make the wholegrain transition is via crackers. They are easy, versatile, can be rolled into submission, heartlessly broken into shards or daintily cut into perfect shapes. They are also an absolute treat to eat. Grab some really nice cheese, a chilled glass of wine if you like, fresh fruit and dry, salad leaves, micro-greens, cold cuts, some good company {else a good book} … settle yourself in a heap and get nibbling!

Oats Nuts Crispbread For me these are good any time of the day, any day of the year. Of course I love putting them together more in winter when beet greens and rocket are flourishing. Yet summer is here, a dab of feta, some caramelised onions & garlic jam, balsamic mushrooms, olives, sun dried tomatoes …. you get the drift? Now all you need to do is to make these! You knead to roll!!

Recipe: Oats Nut Crispbread
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Summary: Delicious, light, addictive, versatile and simple to make, this Oats Nut Crispbread is very addictive and makes quite the perfect snack for a hungry nibble. If you are adventurous enough, you can even bake the dough into bite sized shells for canapes!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Ingredients:

  • 160 gm whole wheat flour
  • 115g oats {1 cup}
  • 40g walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 20g white sesame seeds
  • 20g black sesame seeds
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp /30 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • ¾ cup / 175 ml water {approx}

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Place the flour, oats, salt, garlic powder, baking powder and walnuts in bowl of food processor, and pulse for a few seconds to chop walnuts. Add seeds and oil. Pulse briefly to mix.
  3. Turn into a large bowl, add 1/2 a cup of water and knead into a smooth firm dough, adding more water as required.
  4. Knead for 2-3 minutes, and allow to rest, covered, on the counter for 15 minutes.
  5. Roll out on a lightly floured counter, and cut into desired shapes with a fluted pastry cutter, a pizza cutter or a knife
  6. Place on prepared baking sheets and bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly coloured and golden brown on the edges.
  7. Cool on racks. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.
    Serve with dips, on a cheese board etc.

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