Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 6, Tuesday February 5, 2008


Dearest Diary,
Are you familiar with the phrase "coffee mornings"? Well, for me growing up in the seventies, as far as I can recall, my mom would maybe, once a month have her coffee mornings normally on a week day.

And on that particular day, she made sure that her husband and her children were out of her hair, at least till lunch time. I even remember the frenzy of activity the night before the “morning”.

Her long discussion with the house-keeper about the menu, flowers from the garden being arranged added to the whole glamour of what was to happen. I would hang on to all her words and store them in my memory box, thinking when it would be my turn to be ... MOM.

And once, by default I was home during one of her coffee mornings and it was such a treat to see the party unfolding right before my eyes. Around eleven the gentle clicking of their high heels told me that my aunties were arriving in their pastel chiffons, ivory pearls, hair wrapped in jasmine stands and smelling of French perfume. Then from afar I heard their tinkling laughter and the clink of bone China to know that they were having such a great time.

For those two hours they seemed like movie stars, not our regular moms. Basically it was their time to catch up with each others lives.

Now-a-days with more and more women joining the work force, coffee mornings have become obsolete. "Lunches" now seem to be the new thing or late night coffee sessions seem to be more popular. But, you know me diary....since I have been thinking about this yester years coffee mornings, I have started to plan one. So, I am going to jot down a few recipes appropriate for such a do with my trusty help and finally get my wish to be...MOM.
So have a good day, the Sam Q way.

Giant roasted-peanut cookies
(Ideal for sharing over a mug of coffee or steaming hot chocolate topped with cream)

Makes 10 biscuits
For cookies:
100g/4 oz unsalted butter, softened
100g/4 oz caster sugar
210g/7½ oz self-raising flour
100g/4 oz white chocolate, chopped
50g/2 oz roasted salted peanuts, chopped
For the icing:
150g/5 oz icing sugar
2 tbsp cream

Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and creamy. Mix in the flour, chocolate and peanuts and then form into a large sausage shape. Roll in cling film and chill well.
Preheat the oven to 1500C, 3000F, Gas 2.

Lay a sheet of baking parchment on a baking tray. Remove the mix from the cling film and cut into ten ¼ cm slices. Arrange the biscuits on the parchment and bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes until slightly risen and light brown, taking care not to overcook them. Take out and allow to cool before removing from the parchment. Leave to cool completely.

Mix all the icing ingredients together, spread on to the cool biscuits and leave to set.

Prawn Toasts
Makes 24, Preparation time: 35 mins.
Cooking time: 20 mins
The prawn mixture can be prepared several hours ahead; deep-fry toasts just before serving

24 small (600g) uncooked prawns
1 slice bread
100g prawns
2 tsp soy sauce
1 green onion (green shallot), chopped finely
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
2 small fresh red chillies, seeded & chopped finely
6 slices white bread, extra
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
oil, for deep-frying
sauce, for serving (optional)

Shell and de-vein uncooked prawns, leaving tails intact. Cut length ways along backs of prawns, without cutting all the way through. Flatten slightly.

Process single slice of bread into breadcrumbs. Add royal red prawns and soy sauce; process until smooth.
Add onion, ginger and chilli.

Remove and discard crusts from the extra bread; cut each slice into quarters. Spread 1 teaspoon of the prawn paste onto each piece of bread; top each with a prawn. Sprinkle with sesame seeds; press on firmly.

Heat oil in a large wok or frying pan; deep-fry prawn toasts, in batches, in hot oil until browned lightly and cooked through. Drain on absorbent paper.
Serve immediately, with sauce, if desired.

Orangy Carrot Cupcakes
85g butter, softened
85g caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten
85g flour
½ tsp baking powder
zest of 1 medium orange
1 medium carrot, finely grated
50g raisins

Heat oven to 180ºC and line a 12-hole cup cake tin with paper cases. If you grease the tin, no need for the paper cases. Beat together butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and orange zest to a smooth mix, then stir in the carrot and raisins. Divide the batter between the 12 holes. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch.

Jacket potatoes with tuna and cheese
These can be made ahead of time and chilled until needed- simply reheat for 20-25 minutes
(Serves 4)

4 baking potatoes, washed and pricked with a fork
25g/1 oz unsalted butter
100g/4 oz Cheddar cheese, grated
1x185g can tuna in spring water, drained and flaked
salt and freshly ground black pepper
cherry tomatoes, halved, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220ºC, 425ºF, Gas 7.
Place the potatoes on a baking tray and bake in the oven for about 1 hour until tender.
Cut the potatoes in half lengthways and use a spoon to scoop the flesh into a bowl. Reserve the skins.

Mash the potato flesh with the butter and half of the cheese and tuna, then mix well and season.

Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, packing it well into each. Place on a baking tray, then scatter over the remaining cheese. Return to the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until the filling is piping hot and the tops are golden.

Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Special thanks to Coffee World for helping us with the photoshoot.

I'm loving it
It is no secret now that I love coffee. The aroma gives me a high, which I cannot describe in words. 'Delightful' and 'heady' comes to mind. But like wine and cheese, cigars and whiskey, coffee needs a compliment. And I think I have found the prefect compliment to a great mug of java. Rich fruit cake!

Dark, sweet, redolent with soaked fruits and nuts, aromatic with spices, laced with good rum. And to boot, I have located the perfect place to get it. New Market is not exactly a secret in Calcutta. At one time, the largest market in Asia, it still holds a lot of character and charm, even in the day and age of glass and steel malls. And in one of the by lanes of New Market is the great institution, Nahoum's. A humble bakery with humble looks. Big, spacious floor, glass showcase filled with appetizing goodies of all shapes and sizes. Pastries, patties, muffins…you name it, they have it. But the real treasure is behind the counters, in innocuous butter paper wrappings- the rich fruitcake.

I think they call it the rich plum cake, as well. And it is a delicacy. Made especially during the festive season of Christmas. Oh, you should see the crowd lining up to get one of these! The trick is to go around mid afternoon, when the crowd is a little slack and the man behind the counter has a little more time in his hand and may even give you a smile. I do not even have to tell him what I want. He just reaches for the treasure, puts it in a cardboard box and off I go. This is a usual Friday ritual. To make sure that weekend mornings are taken care of.

Come Saturday morning, I expectantly waddle to the dining space and look at the white packet sitting on the dining table, waiting to be unwrapped. Coffee started, I proceed to do that. And then, the moment of bliss. Moist, dark slice of rich fruitcake. Smelling sweet with cinnamon and nutmeg. Full of plump raisins and faux cherries and slivered nuts. A sip of coffee. Followed by a bite of the cake. Life could be better but who's complaining?


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