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.


Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

“You’re expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.” ― Ernest Hemingway.




This is the season of melancholy. The warm deep colors, the rain, the dark evenings. Yet it is the last burst of beauty that nature offers before it gets frozen. I live in a part of the world where rain is in plenty, during fall. It just makes the melancholy grow in a sweet delicious stab doesn’t it?

I hold my melancholy close to my heart. It really is my best friend. It makes me question things (sometimes way too much). Melancholy is the stuff of the most beautiful songs, the most amazing art and the most heart wrenching poems. Melancholy is a good thing. And, it makes autumn that much more beautiful.

Spiced Apple Cake

This cake is drenched in Autumn. It’s color, its taste, and the feeling it invokes as you eat it. This is no traditional dutch apple tart. I wanted to capture the fragrance of autumn, and this cake does just that.

Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

adapted from Delia Smith’s “Cakes”

225 grams self raising flour
4-5 apples (I used Elstar), around 550 grams
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ginger powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg powder
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
75 grams butter (softened)
175 grams light brown sugar
grated zest of one large orange
1 tbsp lemon extract
3 tbsps milk
icing sugar (for decoration)

to prepare
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Sift the flour, baking powder and the spices into a large bowl. Chop the apples into small slices and . Place in a bowl and toss with one tablespoon of the sieved flour mixture.

Add the eggs, butter, milk and sugar to the rest of the flour. Using a hand whisk, combine for about 1 minute, until its a creamy consistency. Next fold in the orange zest, lemon extract and sliced apple.

Spoon the mixture into a prepared cake tin that has been buttered and floured. Level off with the back of a spoon. Bake in the center of the oven for about 50 minutes, or until the cake feels springy in the center when lightly pressed. Cool in tin for tin minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack. Lightly dust with some icing sugar before serving, with a cup of hot steaming tea.



Hazelnut Cake with Chocolate Rum Buttercream

hazelnut cake

so I’m officially obsessed with this hazelnut chocolate combination. Here’s how this story went:

A few months ago while cycling to school, the trees were as green as green could be. And they were all laden with this hairy green fruit like thing. We didn’t pay much attention, just enjoying the beauty of the green hue. A few weeks later and the hairy fruits were generously strewn all over the same streets. But only now they were brown. A week or two further and they had been flattened by all the cars that rode over them. But, we still didn’t show much interest in discovering what they were. Just a little bit of a, ‘what could those possibly be?’, from Charlize.

One day Charlize said to me she saw a mother and a daughter picking the strange fruit off of the streets quite vigorously. Our curiosity was heightening but we funnily enough still didn’t get off our bikes to investigate further. We can be so damn lazy sometimes!

A few days later when picking up from school, I saw Charlize from a distance, running towards me, yelling super excitedly. I couldn’t understand a word of what she was saying. The closer she got, I could vaguely tell that she had some creepy things in her hands. I was about to screech with fear at what she could possibly be bringing to show me when she let them fall at my feet. And out fell the hazelnuts too.

Could that be?? Is that how hazelnuts are born? That beautiful amazing nut hidden in that very creepy shell? And, then began our careful picking of the this beautiful nut. We spent many days picking out the perfect one. And had so much fun squealing about the fact that they were free! “Mama, do you know how much these cost at the grocery store? These are free!!!!!”

It really is my hero for the week. My butterfly. And this cake a labor of love.

hazelnut cake

hazelnut cake

hazelnut cake

hazelnut cake

adapted from here

285 grams hazelnuts
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp instant coffee powder
1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
6 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon rum (I used coconut infused rum)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

for the chocolate rum buttercream
340 grams unsalted butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsps agave nectar or maple syrup
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsps rum extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup powdered hazelnuts (from above)


to prepare
Preheat oven to 175°C/350°F.

Grease and flour the bottoms of two (or one as in my case) 9-inch round layer cake pans with removable bottoms.

Finely chop the hazelnuts in a food processor. Set aside 1/2 cup of the hazelnuts for frosting (there should be around 3 cups left). Mix and sift flour, coffee powder, and cocoa; add 3 cups of powdered hazelnuts; mix thoroughly.

In a medium bowl, beat egg yolks with an electric mixer; add 1/2 cup of the sugar gradually and keep beating until very thick and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in the lemon zest, rum, and vanilla.

In a separate large bowl, beat egg whites until frothy; add remaining sugar slowly while beating. Beat until soft peaks form. Fold in the egg yolk mixture to the beaten egg whites. Sprinkle a quarter of the dry ingredients over egg whites and gently fold until batter is partially blended. Repeat with second and third portions of the dry ingredients. Spoon last portion over batter and gently fold until just blended. Do not over-mix.

Gently spoon equal amount of batter into each cake pan, spreading to edges of pan. Bake 25 minutes or until top springs back when touched with fingertip. cool; remove from pans.

For the buttercream, whip the butter until soft and smooth.  On low speed (of a hand mixer), add the powdered sugar, mixing until fully incorporated, and then add the agave nectar (or maple syrup), cocoa powder, vanilla extract, rum extract and salt.  Mix in most of the powdered hazelnuts, reserving only a handful for the decoration. Taste for sweetness and add more powdered sugar if necessary.

Spread the buttercream between the layers, and on top.  Sprinkle with the remaining hazelnuts and eat away!


Red Yellow Beetroot Salad with Radish, Beetroot & Brocolli Sprouts

Beetroot Salad

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
― Albert Camus

Fall with all its colors and the hearty food it brings, to me is the king of all the seasons. It fills your heart with romance, doesn’t it? Its like all the streets with all the fallen leaves have been set on fire, in your heart and for your eyes.

We get only red beetroot in India so when I saw these at my grocery store, my heart skipped a beat. To the eye, beetroot is not the most beautiful looking vegetable on the outside, but oh it is a stunner when you cut it open. The color, the form… gorgeous. And when I cut open these beauties, the sight was just stunning. And they tasted ever so sweet.

There really is nothing to this salad but it is so incredibly healthy. You’ll feel good about yourself when you’re done eating. If you still feel somewhat hungry, you can always set some on a piece of french bread. Pour yourself a chilled glass of white and I guarantee you will be in heaven!

Beetroot Salad

Beetroot Salad

Beetroot Salad

Beetroot Salad

Beetroot Salad

will feed 3 people

6 medium size beetroot (red, yellow, whatever you like)
handful of radish, beetroot, broccoli sprouts (you can also use alfa alfa, bean, mung bean or any other sort sprouts you like)
2 tbsps olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

to prepare
Preheat oven to 200°C/395°F.

Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Wash and dry the beetroot and place on the parchment paper. Splash with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. (I liked mine with a little bite but if you like your beetroot soft then do for another 10-15 minutes more).

Allow to cool and then peel the skin off and slice into circle.

Place on a large plate. Place a handful of the sprouts all over the beetroot and splash with balsamic vinegar. Eat immediately and with joy!!!


Indian Pumpkin Soup with A Spicy Coconut Chutney

Indian Pumpkin Soup

I recently visited India again.

Now since I moved out of India some 15 years ago, I am pretty much used to being asked where I am from on almost a daily basis. On most days you will find me indulgent but sometimes seriously it gets a bit tiresome when people continuously cannot place you! It’s enough to put someone in an identity crisis… :)

Or I could look at it proudly as hey-look-at-me-I’m-truly-a-world-citizen-because-you-have-no-idea-where-I-could-be-from, sort of thing! I could yes but I usually don’t. I usually find it extremely funny. Now I am from India. But I have been called Nepalese, Brazilian, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, Moroccan, Russian (???), someone even thought I was Chinese! So, anyone but Indian. Ha!

But on this trip it was especially hilarious when in one evening this happened:

I am on my way back to Holland and at the airport getting ready to get on my long flight back. So while I wait for the Indian gentleman at the immigration counter, he slowly looks at me and asks me something in English. I reply in Hindi assuming of course that he speaks the national language. He does, but is shocked that I do! Huh? My name in the passport cannot get any more Indian, so I look at him puzzled and ask why he is surprised. He says, “you look like a foreigner and for a foreigner speak very good Hindi.” Is it me or is does he still not understand where I am from. I mean I understand someone may be confused with the way you look but c’mon the name in the passport??? I just laugh nervously and move along.

Cut to; standing in line for people trying to get into the airplane and I get talking to an American lady, who politely (but with no less shock in her voice) comments on how good my English is! Oh hahaha.

Oh but wait it gets so much better.

I finally get to my seat. I just hate this part the most. Trying to find my bearings and anxiously waiting for who I am going to spend the next 8 hours of my life with. However, this time I don’t have to wait to see who but am greeted by an older couple who were clearly Dutch. Their towering height said it all. Now the lady had greeted me in French but I thought, ah she’s just being chic! Oh but no the lady proceeded to go into a French conversation with who seemed to be clearly me. I was not sure whether to laugh out loud or politely interrupt. I decided to wait it out. When the lady looked at me in what looked like a confused expression of “why are you not replying back?”, I did so immediately by telling her in English, “Uh I don’t speak French”. What ensues defies logic. The lady replies back in English asking me (yes asking me, as if it is not enough that I just said I don’t speak French, therefore probably am not French!)… “You’re not French??? You look very French!”. Now I was very flattered and smiled generously and replied in Dutch saying I was not French at all but actually Indian. At which she commented on how great my Dutch was! OMG!

I must look like someone who should be mute! Hahahaha. It clearly made my day though and put me in a very good mood.

Now the pumpkin is a vegetable I have been similarly wrong in judging. I refused to eat it as a kid because of the way it looked and perhaps tasted. I don’t know because I never tasted it. I only recently tried my mothers pumpkin recipe and well I was blown away but still remained skeptical to its other uses. It was the Pumpkin Frappuccino last post. And this time its a scrumptious soup. It’s a vegetable that continues to surprise and I love that.

Lots of spices with a fresh tangy spicy coconut chutney. I am proud to say I was licking the pans till they needed no washing!

Like any soup this is also great to make ahead in time and freeze so you can enjoy it as a quick meal because it is quite wholesome all on its own…

Indian Pumpkin Soup

Indian Pumpkin Soup

Indian Pumpkin Soup

for the coconut chutney
1/2 cup fresh coconut (with the brown hard skin removed)
3-4 fresh green chilies (or according to taste)
15 grams roasted peanuts
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsps plain yoghurt
pinch of salt

to prepare
Dry roast the peanuts on medium fire for a few minutes. Grind all the ingredients. Do not over process. It should still be a little chunky.

for the soup
1 kilo orange pumpkin (cut roughly into cubes, you can remove the skin later like I did)
2 tsps coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp nigella seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2-3 fresh green chilies (or according to how spicy you like it)
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
1 large onion, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
750 ml water or vegetable stock
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp milk

to prepare
Preheat the oven to 220°C/430°F.

Place the coriander, cumin and mustard and nigella seeds in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Then grind in a mortar and pestle. Transfer the spice mixture to a small bowl and add about half the olive oil and mix well. Place the chopped pumpkin in a roasting pan, toss thoroughly with the spice mixture. Roast for 30 minutes or until soft and golden. Let cool and then remove the skin. Be careful not to throw away the wonderful spices with the skin!

Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, and stir over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for another 5 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the roast pumpkin, stock or water and tamarind paste. Bring to the boil and cover. Let simmer gently for around 20 minutes. Blend the soup with a hand mixer or in a food processor until smooth. Return to the saucepan, season to taste, and return to a simmer and stir in the milk.  Pour into bowls and serve with a big spoonful of the coconut chutney.


Pumpkin Frappuccino

Pumpkin Frappucino

Summer has been good. And at least in Holland it hasn’t left yet. And we are so glad about that. But, fall is my favorite season. The turning of the leaves as they fall from their branches in a sort of swan song. It’s beautiful. And sad at the same time. The old making way for the new. And there is of course so much beauty in sadness. That’s the melancholic in me talking…

I turn on my computer and all I see is pumpkins. So, I think I’m going to do just pumpkins the next couple of posts. I used to hate pumpkin as a kid. I mean I didn’t even taste it I don’t think and decided that I disliked the way it looked. Now in India our pumpkins are green on the outside, so need I say more?

I wanted to do something different this post with the pumpkin rather than make the muffins or bread (trust me I intend to), but this post I wanted a drink. A surprise-me-with-something kind of thing. I mean pumpkin in a drink. Yuck!

So, with that in mind, I started my plunge into the Pumpkin Frappuccino.

Oh yes I was surprised. Delightfully so. You hear so much about the Starbucks Pumpkin Pie Frappuccino. I assure you, you can make it right at home.

Do. Please.

Pumpkin Frappucino

Pumpkin Frappucino

Pumpkin Frappucino

makes 2

1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/3 cup coffee (cold)
3 tbsps pumpkin puree
2-3 tbsps honey (or maple syrup, agave etc)
1/8 tsp cloves (crushed)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 cup crushed ice
whipped cream

to prepare
Blend all the above ingredients, except for the whipped cream, for 2-3 minutes till frothy. (You could freeze this mixture and then blend again).

Pour into a tall glass and swirl the whipped cream on top and sprinkle with some extra cinnamon. Serve immediately!

You can substitute the spices mentioned with 1/2 a tsp of pumpkin spice


Chocolate Kahlua Hazelnut Cake + BOXOFSPICE Turns Two

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cake

First off, two things. This has been a month filled with chocolate and I’m not even such a into-chocolate kind of girl. Don’t get me wrong, I do love it occasionaly but you will not find me stuffing my face with it at any given opportunity. So, where was I? Yes, this has been a chocolate filled month. What with the Chocolate Chip Cookies and then the Chocolate Cupcakes, Charlize’s Chocolate Cake and now this! It has been fun but I think I might be chocolated (is that even a word!) out. :)

Second, after I had made this cake and slapped on the Boxofspice turns two label, I realised with horror (being somewhat dramatic here) that last year at precisely this time (September that is) I had made a Chocolate Hazelnut Cake as well! Now this could mean that either I haven’t changed at all (not such a good thing) or am ridiculously predictable (also not a good thing) or… subconconsciously associate my anniversaries with chocolate and hazelnuts! And then I suddenly thought, heck, anything and everything chocolate is always a good thing. Right? And, if the cake is stunning and very very different from the one a year ago, what am I panicking or complaining about? Therefore, nothing. My penchant for drama I suppose takes over, A LOT.

This was also the last of the baking in the saga of the birthday that was Charlize’s… And, I enjoyed it so very much. She just loves it that nothing she offers her friends is store bought. And she just showers me with compliments. Now isn’t that what we all live for?

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Kahlua Cake

This cake is originally made by the beautiful blog Bakers Royale.

140 grams dark chocolate
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 buttermilk
3/4 cup coffee, cooled slightly
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1/2 cup Kahlúa
3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped roughly

to prepare
Heat oven to 350 degrees and line the bottom an 8-inch cake pan. For the two layers I had to do this twice but if you have 2 pans then go ahead and do them all at once!

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and set aside. Let cool slightly.

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl; set aside. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, coffee, Kahlúa and vanilla; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer (like I do) beat the butter, sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at time until fully incorporated. Turn mixer speed down to low, in 3 alternating batches beat in the dry ingredients and the wet mixture, scraping down the side down the bowl as needed. Fold in chocolate.

Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out free of wet batter.  Let the cake cool in pan for 20 minutes. Remove and transfer cake to a wire rack. Using a wooden skewer, poke holes in the cakes and brush Kahlua generously all over cakes.

In a double boiler, melt the chocolate and set aside. Let cool slightly.

Transfer the chocolate to a bowl and with a hand mixer and on medium speed beat in Kahlúa and heavy cream. Turn mixer speed to high and add butter in two tablespoons at a time and beat until the frosting is thick and creamy.

putting together
Transfer chocolate one cake layer to a serving platter or cake stand spread buttercream on top. Place second layer on top and spread frosting on top and sides of cake. Put the cake in the refrigerator after finishing with the spreading. You want the frosting to harden just a little bit. I let mine sit inside for about an hour.
Take handfulls of the chopped hazelnuts and press into the sides of the cake.