Oliebollen / Dutch Donuts with Saffron and Cardamom

oliebollen I dutch donuts

I was watching television the other day and happened on a show on the Dutch donuts. Now a few years ago I might have laughed at the silliness of it all. But not today. For one food is a cause of joy for me. It has saved me in this strange (but wonderful) foreign land.

All over the country, at this time of the year, oliebollen stands will pop up at every nook and cranny. It is a tradition and a wonderful one and if you have ever been to Holland you will know of it. The show was about judging the quality of the oliebollen sold at these hundreds of stands in Holland. And they took it all so seriously!

It is so important to have that purpose in life, let it be making the best donut if it may. To find that joy in eating one even if you can’t make one. For so long I was in that stride to make some sort of career but after coming here to Holland I was suddenly at crossroads without a choice. Suddenly that purpose or at least the illusion of it was taken away.

I have long sought the meaning of life. Could it be that I am missing life itself as I strive to understand it? My dearest friend warned me of that today. As a woman having grown up in a society that fundamentally sets all sorts of morals only on women, I have also striven to break free of sets of rules that make no sense to me. Yet, I somehow seem to also fall back on them. The constant battle between my heart and mind.

My quest for the meaning of life and my place in it.

As my very favorite author Albert Camus says, “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Till today my happiness has comprised of all those tiny principles I have built up over time and stored so preciously and shielded my heart with. I don’t think I can just shed them away. I don’t even want to. But could it really be as my best friend pointed out that I’m looking at it all wrong? If it really does end one day, is it really smart to let principles win over me?

In my strive for a perfect scenario constructed by me, I have missed not only making but also eating that perfect donut. Lets change that today…

dutch donuts

Some people believe that the oliebollen are the predecessors to the present day donuts. That Dutch settlers left the recipe behind in America and over time it got morphed to what the traditional donut looks like today. I like to believe that story! It has so much romance in it. :)

I of course needed to make it a little Indian. So, I added some saffron and some cardamom to them. They came out delicious!

dutch donuts

makes 20-25 donuts

500 grams all purpose flour
125 grams raisins
1/4 tsp saffron
seeds from 4 cardamom pods, crushed
500 ml buttermilk
14 grams active dry yeast
3 tbsps sugar
1 tsp salt
1 egg
1 liter oil, for deep frying

to prepare
In a bowl, soak the raisins in hot water for 15 minutes.

In the meanwhile carefully warm the buttermilk in a non stick pan, till lukewarm. In a small bowl take a tablespoon of the buttermilk and soak the saffron and cardamom for a few minutes.

In a separate bowl mix the yeast and the sugar. Pour the warm buttermilk over and mix.

Sieve the saffron infused buttermilk into the yeast mix.

Sieve the flour over (yet another) bowl. Make a hole in the center of the flour and add the egg and the yeast mix. Add the salt as well. Mix with a wooden ladle, till it all comes together.

Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rise for an hour.

Heat the oil (on high) in a big pan or wok till it reaches about 180°C. I didn’t use a thermometer but just tested it by dropping a bit of the donut mix. If it sizzles and rises it is ready. Then lower the heat to medium. This way it will keep a steady temperature and not get too hot.

Form a rough ball with a serving spoon and drop into the oil. The dough with puff up and roll around in the oil. A few minutes on each side are plenty. Make sure they are nice and golden brown.

Once done let dry on some paper towels and serve with lots of powdered sugar!



Bitter Almond Cookie Cake soaked in Amaretto and Chocolate

bitter almond cake

So, I’m trying to explore the many wonderful Dutch treats on show at this time of the year. Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) just came and went and my lazy bum just wasn’t ready with a good looking + delicious dessert. Now you get these amazing moist bitter almond cookies here. You could buy them at your store if you can find them. If you can’t… all the more cooler! Because we are going to make them today. And then, we’re going to soak them in amaretto, generously! And then, we’re going to drench them in chocolate!

Salivating yet? Running over to Holland? I would, because this cake is that good… So good that my baby girl couldn’t stop eating it! I mean what better compliment right? Especially from someone as brutally honest as a kid that age. I mean I believe her when she says it tastes sooooo good! I believe her because this past weekend she looked at me suddenly and said, “mama your body looks like you are 20 but your face…” I’m bracing myself with what might come next. “What about my face, excuse me?” I ask. “Well, your face looks like you are 30.” Now as delusional as I might be about myself (:)) and as young as I feel, when a 40+ girl hears she looks like 30, I think she should take it!!!! And that stuff about my body looking like 20…oh yes, I’m floating on cloud nine today with cake in hand, which is weighing me down a bit because its a heavy cake. What with all the soaking and the drenching! :)

Its a perfect cake for Christmas too because of its wonderful textures and its beautiful flavors, the bitter, the sweet and the ever so slight boozy-ness of it.

bitter almond cookies

bitter almond cookies

bitter almond cookies
225 grams skinned almonds
225 grams confectioners sugar
3 egg whites
1 1/2 tbsps bitter almond extract

to prepare
Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.

Grind the almonds with the sugar and the egg white until nice and smooth.  Add the almond extract.

Spoon the batter into a piping bag with plain nozzle. Pipe out in dollops a lined baked tray. Press the peak to flatten with a wet finger.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely.

Easy peasy!

bitter almond cookie cake

bitter almond cookie cake

bitter almond cookie cake

bitter almond cookie cake

250 grams bitter almond cookies, broken into pieces (recipe see above)
175 ml amaretto
250 grams self rising flour
200 grams dark chocolate (I used 70%)
250 grams butter at room temperature
200 grams light brown sugar
5 eggs

to prepare
Preheat oven to 175°C/345°F. Prepare a bundt baking form with butter and flour and set aside.

Place the bitter almond cookies in a bowl and pour the amaretto and let soak for 10 minutes.

Break the chocolate roughly and grind it in a kitchen machine. Add the amaretto soaked cookies and process till mixed, around 10-15 seconds.

In a separate bowl whip the sugar with the butter till it is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, making sure to mix well before adding the next egg.

Sieve the self rising flour over the egg, butter and sugar mixture and fold in lightly. Next pour in the bitter almond-chocolate mix in and fold in quickly.

Pour the prepared cake mix into the bundt form and place in the middle of the oven. Bake for an hour. The first 30 minutes place silver foil on top of the baking form. Remove foil and bake further for another 30 minutes or till a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out dry.

Let the cake cool in the form for 10 minutes before inverting on a cake stand or plate. Let the cake cool for another hour or so. Dust with some powdered sugar and serve.




Pepernoten / Pumpkin Spice Cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

I am sitting behind my computer, staring at the keyboard wondering what to write for hours. My baby girl helped me out as she mixed and kneaded and baked while I wrote. My only contribution to this post are the pictures. :)

This post is about giving thanks and being grateful for being alive and well. It is also about giving thought to who we are. Especially today.

Life is hard and I have been sad about it for days. I’m not depressed, but I am hugely sad. And, when I am like this, I freeze. Not as in I-can’t-get-out-of-bed kind of freezing, but it is that dark-cloud-hanging-over-head-and everything-around-you-in-slow-motion sort of freeze.

In school, in India, we are all taught the story of Lord Buddha and how Siddhartha became Buddha. The story is of how a prince one day looked at all the misery around him and wondered why it was all happening. Why do we live and why do we die? Why some have a lot and most don’t. I know to question your existence is normal and certainly something to expect in your 40’s, but, I have questioned my place in the world even as a teenager and it never stopped.

We know it all stops one day, that empty feeling when someone dies when you had just been talking to them the day before. The feeling of loss and also of celebrating someone’s life. The knowledge that you will never see the person ever again. How does the world keep spinning when one energy source stops?

As Albert Camus says, “Likewise and during every day of an un-illustrious life, time carries us. But a moment always comes when we have to carry it. We live on the future: “tomorrow,” “later on,” “when you have made your way,” “you will understand when you are old enough.” Such irrelevancies are wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end. He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd.”

To understand the concept of a ‘future’ and a ‘tomorrow’ that we know has an end is a mind-messing concept. Like trying to understand how big the space is, in which we float. We are all taught and brought up with the implications of a future and a tomorrow. Everything is relevant because of it.

For Camus the biggest revolt is in living life to the fullest. THAT is denying death its satisfaction. “A man devoid of hope and conscious of being so has ceased to belong to the future.” And therefore can only belong to the present. We often hear about ‘living in the present as that is the only moment that exists’, but how many of us really understand it or give it thought?

pumpkin spice cookies

Pepernoten/gingerbread/pumpkin spice cookies, whatever you may call them are true Dutch treats. It is that time of the year when Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolaas) comes bearing gifts and as a sign that he has been to your house, leaves these beautifully small spicy cookies behind.

pumpkin spice cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

pumpkin spice cookies

250 grams self rising flour
3 tbsps pumpkin spice
200 grams maple syrup
100 grams cold butter, cut into cubes
pinch of salt

to prepare
Mix the flour and pumpkin spice. Next add the syrup and the cold butter into the flour mix.

Knead till the dough comes together nicely into a ball. The dough will be a little sticky. Cover in plastic wrap and keep int he refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 340°F/170°C.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut into 4 pieces. Roll each piece out into a long string of about .5 inch.

Cut the dough string into pieces of about .5 inch thick. Roll each piece into a ball and place on a baking tray lined with a baking sheet. Press ever so lightly down on each ball.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let the cookies cool down completely before storing.


This is a fabulous activity to do with your tiny tots over this festive season.




Rosemary Roasted Chaat Masala Chickpea Salad with Pomegranate

chaat masala chickpeas

Chaat, is I think one of the most popular street foods in North India. And, it is spicy as hell. Like tears running down  your cheek sort of spicy and there is nothing like any food you might have eaten. You will see scores of people lining up outside chaat shops waiting to inflict that sort of spicy pain on themselves!

It is also responsible for what is called “Delhi Belly”. If you go to a suspect shop for your chaat, you can go down with a nasty stomach if the ingredients (like yoghurt and the water) aren’t of sound quality. Even with this fear, you will rarely have anyone say no to chaat. It is that good. Now chaat is almost never made at home. It is strictly what you would eat ‘out’. It isn’t more difficult than the scores of Indian recipes but I guess it is one of those foods you like to eat when you go out and are out and about in the streets and happen to desire something spicy. Now the reason chaat is called chaat is because it is a mixture of spices. Lots of tangy stuff.

Chole or chickpeas in India are made very differently from how I have them in this recipe. But I guess that’s the fun of creating. Chickpeas in India are always made the mushy way way, here they are crunchy. I have also toned down the heat in this recipe and you really can adjust still further to suit your palate. This is a fresh dish and its very healthy. You can make it ahead in time and take it to lunch or you can add it as a healthy side dish for dinner. Whichever way, it is simple, delicious and is beautiful to look at.

chaat masala chickpeas

chaat masala chickpeas

chaat masala chickpeas

chaat masala chickpeas

chaat masala chickpeas

chaat masala chickpeas

chaat masala
1 tsp roasted coriander seeds
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp roasted cumin seeds
1 tsp dried mango powder
7-8 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black salt

to prepare
Grind all ingredients together in a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

roasted chickpeas
3 cups chickpeas (from a can)
2 tbsps chaat masala (see recipe above)
2 tbsps fresh rosemary leaves
2 tbsps olive oil

to prepare
Preheat oven to 400°F/205°C.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.

Gently wash the chickpeas and layout on a kitchen towel to dry. Make sure to pat all excess water off. While you do this you will notice the skin coming off. I like to take the skin off but you can leave it on if you like. It is a lot of work to take them off!

After you have dried them put them on the baking tray and roast for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile mix the chaat masala, olive oil and rosemary leaves.

Take out the chickpeas after ten minutes and rub the masala mixture on them and put back in the oven to roast for another 15-20 minutes or till the chickpeas have nicely browned.

rosemary roasted chaat masala chickpea salad with pomegranate
arils of 1/2 pomegranate
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves (roughly chopped)
1 red onion sliced in half moons
1 tsp chaat masala
2-3 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

to put salad together
In a deep bowl, toss the cilantro leaves, roasted chickpeas, red onion, green chilies, lime juice, chaat masala and salt and pepper. Sprinkle the pomegranate leaves at the very end.

This salad can be eaten warm or cold.




Persimmon Lassi with Turmeric and Cardamom

Persimmon Lassi

Lassi is a popular drink in India, especially in the summer. Yoghurt or dahi occupies a big part in Indian food. You will almost always find it at every meal. It is used to calm your mouth down because of all the spices and chilies. It serves as the balance to hot spicy food and also to cool you down on a super hot day. It is always served cold and is never boring.

Lassi is no different actually. It is made from yoghurt and is used for the same purpose as yoghurt at meal times. There is nothing like a chilled glass of this yoghurt drink on a sweltering hot day. Traditional lassi is pretty simple and is made with just yoghurt and water with some spices, like cumin, mint, salt.

We grew up drinking the stuff and it really was our version of a smoothie.

We don’t have persimmons in India. And today was my first time tasting one. I wondered if it might be good in a lassi. I can safely say it did not disappoint. The fruit tastes amazing! I added some turmeric in this lassi too because turmeric does not have a strong flavor by itself and in India is used for its color and for its many medicinal qualities.

Persimmon Lassi

Persimmon Lassi

Persimmon Lassi

Persimmon Lassi

Persimmon Lassi

Persimmon Lassi

Makes 2

1 persimmon
1/2 cup full fat yoghurt
3/4 cup cold water
3-4 cardamom pods
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tbsps honey (or according to taste)
pinch of cinnamon
ice cubes

to prepare
Peel and remove the flesh of the persimmon. Roughly crush the cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle.

Add all ingredients (except cinnamon and ice) in a blender and blend till smooth. If you need more sweet add more honey.

Pour in glasses filled with ice cubes. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and serve immediately.


Stamppot Bombay Burger

Stamppot Bombay Burger

I have lived in Holland for some ten years and have never quite warmed up to the food. Might have to do with me being mostly vegetarian. If two cultures could be as different as could be in food, it would be Holland and India. Dutch food is all about heartiness and simplicity and Indian all about layers and layers of complex flavors put together.

Now I was always taught never to turn my nose on food, but those that know me well know how finicky I am. Oh yes, I’m not fun to take out to dinner. I do try and respect every kind of eater though.

Having said that…

I have never quite understood why the Dutch Stamppot is so bland. Now it doesn’t get much heartier than this. It is potatoes, mashed, with vegetables that are also mashed with a big chunk of meat. Now this is a poor mans meal in Holland compared to dal (lentils) and roti (Indian bread) in India. But that’s where the comparison ends. Even as they are the simplest and cheapest meals in both countries, the Dutch stamppot is about convenience and the Indian one is about convenience AND flavor. I’m trying not to be judgmental but I guess I can’t help myself. Why wouldn’t you add some spices to this simple dish? Well, I’m going to try just that today and merge with one of the most popular street foods in Bombay called Vada (burger/patty) Pav (bread) or Bombay Burger. It is food on the go. Stamppot is not, but it is simple. It is after all mashed veggies. So, I’m going to be very Indian and add layers… Now I made the buns myself too and they came out delicious! I will be uploading the recipe another time. I think this one is quite extensive by itself… So let’s begin!


bombay burger

Indian Dutch Burger

Indian Dutch Burger

Indian Dutch Burger

Indian Dutch Burger

tamarind chutney
100 grams tamarind
40 grams jaggery
1 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/2 black salt
1 tsp dried ginger powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder
1 1/4 cups of water

to prepare
In a pan, add the water and tamarind and bring to a boil. Lower heat and stir so both ingredients are well combined. Around 5 minutes. Strain through a sieve and put back in the pan and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring back to the flame and cook on low heat for around 10 minutes or until the jaggery (a kind of sugar) has completely melted. Let the chutney be a little thin as it will thicken on cooling. You can add a tablespoon of water at a time if not thin enough. Set aside to cool.

coconut garlic chutney
2 tbsp crushed garlic
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
2 tsp red chili powder
salt to taste

to prepare
Combine all the ingredients in a mixer and blend to a coarse powder.

cilantro mint chutney
2 cups cilantro
2 tbsps mint leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp lime juice
3 fresh green chilies (or to taste)
1 tbsp water
1 tsp sugar
salt to taste

to prepare
Combine all the ingredients in a mixer and blend to a coarse powder.

stamppot bombay burger
500 grams potatoes, boiled and mashed
4 cups packed chopped kale leaves
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tbsp garlic paste
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asafoetida
6-7 curry leaves (I used dried)
1 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 fresh green chilies, chopped
1/4 tsp garam masala
handful cilantro, chopped
salt to taste
6 soft brioche buns

to prepare
Pound the green chilies, ginger and garlic using a mortar and pestle. Heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they start to crackle, add the asafoetida and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds. Add the ginger garlic mixture and saute again for 2-3 minutes. Add first the kale and cook till the kale reduces in volume, around 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes and all dry spices, except garam masala and mix well. Fry for 10 minutes till the potato mixture starts turning a lovely golden brown. Add the garam masala, lemon juice and the chopped cilantro. Mix and take off fire. Let cool.

After it has cooled, divide in to 6 portions and form into balls.

gram flour batter
3/4 cup gram flour
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder
pinch of baking soda
1 tsp oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water

to prepare
Mix all ingredients in a bowl well. Be careful there are no lumps. Batter should be the consistency of pancake batter.

to put burger together
oil for deep frying
red onion slices

Heat oil in a wok.

Drop each potato kale ball into the batter and coat well on all sides. Place in the hot oil and fry each side around a minute or till they are nicely browned. Set aside on a paper towel to soak any excess oil.
Slit each bun in half and smear tamarind chutney on one side and the cilantro mint chutney and coconut garlic chutney on the other side.

Flatten the burger on to the bun and place slices of red onion. Cover with second half of bun.

Enjoy with a glass of nimbu pani (lemonade) or hot cup of chai.


Roasted Cumin Black Quinoa Pilaf with Cauliflower Steak and Cilantro Pomegranate Pesto

Black quinoa pulao

Pilaf or pulao, as it is called in India, has always been my favorite. For two reasons, one it is super fast and two, it is so delicious! If you are Indian you know what I mean when I say cooking Indian takes hours! If you love the preparation of the meal as much as cooking it, like me, you do love Indian. But, sometimes you just don’t want to cook or have run out of ideas, right?

Pulao was always mama’s go to meal when she didn’t feel like cooking or was just low on ideas. Pulao is so versatile. It can be made with just about anything from meat to vegetables to lentils, spices and even nuts if you want to make it rich in flavor. It really is the most informal meal put together with whatever leftover groceries you may have in your refrigerator. Isn’t that great?

My favorite pulao was made with just cumin and green peas. That’s it. Ready in 15 minutes. And, I used to eat it with tons of ketchup (yeah you heard me!) and Indian achaar. It is one meal I just cannot stop at, with even two helpings… That’s how delicious it is.

This pulao is vastly different because I tried it with black quinoa. But, no less delicious.

Black quinoa pulao

Black quinoa pulao

Black quinoa pulao

for the cauliflower steak
1 large head cauliflower
2 tbsps olive oil, divided
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
3-4 cloves garlic pulp
1 tsp cumin
2 tsps whole coriander seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp nigella seeds
2 tsps chili powder
1 tsp kasturi methi (dried fenugreek leaves, available easily at an Indian store)
1 tsp turmeric
3-4 fresh green chilies, chopped (or according to taste)
Handful of cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper

to prepare
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F.

Remove the leaves and trim the stem end of the cauliflower, leaving the core intact. Using a large knife, cut the cauliflower from top to base into 1 inch thick “steaks.” Season each steak with salt and pepper on both sides. (Reserve loose florets for another use.)

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Sear the cauliflower steaks, about 2 minutes on each side. Gently transfer the steaks to a baking sheet lined with baking paper.

In a pan dry roast the spices for around 2-3 minutes till you get a distinct fragrance. Grind roughly.

Mix the spices with the remaining olive oil. Rub this mixture onto the seared steaks, well. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes. Half way through flip the steaks. They should look nice and browned when they come out. The fragrance will be insane!

cilantro pomegranate pesto
2 cups cilantro
2-3 cloves garlic
seeds of half a pomegranate
20 grams walnuts
40 grams old cheese ( I used Old Amsterdam, but you can use any old ripened cheese, Parmesan works really well too)
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

to prepare
In a food processor or with a hand held mixer, process all ingredients till smooth.

for the pilaf/pulao
1 cup black quinoa
1 tbsp cumin (lightly roasted)
1/2 tbsp oil
1 3/4 cup water
juice of half a lemon

to prepare
Rinse the quinoa well.

In a pan, heat the oil and add the roasted cumin. Once they start to sputter, add the rinsed quinoa. Fry for around 3-4 minutes. Add the water and cook on medium heat till water evaporates. This will take around 20 minutes. Fluff and set aside. Just before serving mix in the lemon juice.

to put together
In a deep dish scoop the quinoa pilaf and place one of the steaks on top. Place some chopped cilantro on top and eat with the cilantro pesto.