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Hello Weekend and Time Enough for Berries

Hello Weekend and Time Enough for Berries

I have slowly been making headway into the fruits I had frozen from last year market season. As I type, I only have half a bag left! I cooked the first batch into a compote to top on Pavlova here and several breakfasts of crunchy granola. I love the textural balance of the crunch from the granola, melting yogurt, yielding into the fleshy softness of the fruit compote. That was the same allure that this combination of meringue crunch, strained thick yogurt laced with honey and cardamom topped with generous dollops of compote had for me. 

This pavlova - It is simple, delicious and yet decadent in a especially frivolous way! Perfect for a weekend when the weather is not quite warm but surely past the grasp of cold.... Like today.

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Celebration Chocolate Cake
Sometimes life... gets in the way....runs away from you... makes you forget the little moments that need to be paused and enjoyed... has its own agenda... is never certain... makes you run in circles figuring out why...makes you wallow in the tactical and forget the big picture...

Last weekend, I got a notice from Google to renew my domain. My website, my little space of joy, my creation. I had forgotten it was born four years ago about a couple of months back. Much has happened in the last few months. My life has changed a lot. But, that was no reason to forget.

This morning, my landlord passed away. He was 72. A lovely person who always had a smile for me. I saw him last week. He was working. His heart failed, they told me. He was a good person and a good house owner. He was fair and friendly. His son and friend run the shop downstairs. We were talking last week about his plans to renovate the building. His father owned it, until today. It was sudden and unexpected.

I didn't know him well, but well enough, to make me pause.

Cake landscape
It is indeed easy to get caught in the little curve balls that life throws at you, submerge in self-pity and forget all the amazing things that are in life. Forget to be grateful for what is and celebrate what should be.

So, today I am going to celebrate, because I am grateful..

... That I have people in my life I can trust

... That there are those who love me for who I am and nothing more

... That I can live in New York, one of the best cities in the world

... That I am strong, smart and capable of sustaining myself

... That I can make people smile

... That I have inherited an incredible talent to let people I care about know I do, because they are special

... That I know who I am and what I want (for the most part) and will not and need not compromise

... That I have the freedom to make choices, unshackled by conventions or opinions

... That I have self-respect

... That I am loved. Period!

So, I choose to celebrate all that and more.

This cake was originally in remembrance of the belated birthday of this blog. But, it truly is my gift to myself. Because, I am proud of who I am, and, today, I celebrate the strong woman and soft feminine in me!

And, because, I am worth it! :)

Cake slice

Double Chocolate Cake and Peanut Butter Meringue Frosting
For the Cake:
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 cup spelt flour
1 cup raw sugar
1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa powder
2 tsp bread soda or baking soda
pinch of salt
6 T butter
3 oz bitter sweet (70%) chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup hot brewed coffee
1 egg + 1 yolk

For the Frosting:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
2 T light cream
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup + 2 T caster sugar or super fine sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F(180 C) and prepare 2 six inch cake pans.

In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Melt butter and pour over the chocolate and mix until the chocolate is melted. Once cooled, whisk the eggs into this mixture. Add wet ingredients to the flour mixture and then add the coffee.

Pour into greased pans and bake in the middle rack in the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

While the cakes are cooling, whip together the cream cheese, cream, peanut butter and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Set aside. Whip the whites until stiff and slowly incorporate 2 tablespoons of sugar until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold a third of the meringue into the peanut butter mixture to loosen it. Add the loosened mixture in to the remaining mixture and fold until just incorporated. Do not over mix.

Refrigerate the frosting until the cakes are completely cooled down. Arrange one cake on the stand and spread half the frosting on it. Gently place the second cake over and spread the remaining frosting on top. Dust lightly with cocoa powder.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Chocolate Pavlova with Chestnut cream1

Ok! I confess, we don't really celebrate this day.

Not because we have some moral issue against the callous commercialism enveloping this day or the fact that everything around you is cloyingly pink or I-am-a-HOT-vampire-I-want-to-draw-your-blood red or because it's too cute and teens-y for a 30 something couple whose anniversary only just went past.

No... It's just that we are lazy!

And yes, all of that above.


I have no problem with dedicating a day to the one you love. In the age of calendars and smart phones, such Block-the-Date ideas are perhaps the needed thing. With all that constant reminders, if you really don't get the point or forget the date, I mean, you really need to make a neuro appointment, stat!

But, I do rebel against the idea of having everything being boxed into that rather stereo typed heart... everything from chocolate truffles filled with overly sweet strawberry juice to cards that overflow with mushyness to the same shaped diamonds!!

C Pavlova-collage

All I really want, is to just say..

I love you.

I thank you for being in my life.

So, dear reader of my blog. That is all I want to say to you!

C Pavlova side

Happy Valentine's Day to you and your loved ones!

Continue for the recipe

Chocolate Pavlova with Chestnut Creme, Raspberries and Clementines

Chocolate Pavlova with Chestnut creamFor the Pavlova
3 large Egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 T Dutch cocoa
1 generous T chopped bitter chocolate
135 g sugar

For the Chestnut Creme
3/4 cup chestnut puree (recipe below)
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar

1/2 pint raspberries
2-3 clementines
3 T bitter chocolate shavings

For the Chestnut Puree
15 roasted or boiled chestnuts, shelled and peeled
3 T butter, room temperature
3 T powdered sugar
3 T cream

Preheat the oven to 300F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Process all the chestnut puree ingredients except the cream to all smooth a puree as possible. With the processor on, slowly drizzle in the cream to a fine puree that is almost spreadable. Set aside until ready to use. This can be made a couple of days ahead and refrigerated. Then, bring back to room temperature before using.

Whip the egg whites until frothy and doubled in volume. Slowly, stream in the sugar and continue whipping until the mixture is glossy and holds stiff peaks. Do not over whip. Sift in the cocoa powder and gently fold in. You can either completely mix it or let it streak as I did.

Divide the meringue into two rough circles of about 6 inches each. You can choose to smooth the top or leave it with rustic peaks. Bake for about an hour or hour and fifteen until the edges harden and start to crack. Remove and cool on rack for an hour.

While the pavlova is cooling, whip the cream to stiff peaks and fold in the powdered sugar. Fold a third of the whipped cream into the chestnut puree to loosen it. Add the puree to remaining whipped cream and fold gently to incorporate.

To assemble, spread half the chestnut creme mixture on one pavlova. Arrange half the berries and clementine slices on it. Sprinkle half the chocolate shavings. Top with the second pavlova, remaining creme, fruits and chocolate.

You can serve immediately but I recommend letting it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving to allow the pavlova to get the flavor of the creme and them all to work their magic together.....

Daring Kitchen Disaster with a piping hot mug of Humili-tea :)

Gluten free yeast cake1

Let me tell you a tale...

Once upon a time, not-so-long ago, there lived a young girl, willful and feminist. She spent her days carefree while taking care to stay away from the Kitchen. When her mother suggested that she pick up basic cooking (note: not culinary!) skills, she stuck her nose up, nonchalantly tossed her head and walked away....

Then came a time in her life, when she lived alone growing alarmingly atheist about food and struggling to turn to tangible the agonizingly nostalgic slivers of memory of mom's delicious cooking. And, then, she had to do the unthinkable... Pick up the ladle and spoon and get with it..

Over time, the past prejudices became mere amusing anecdotes and she prided herself on being a rather good, nay, awesome home chef. She came to think of the kitchen as her domain, holding to price any small change her rather accomodative husband unwittingly made. She insisted that no feat was beyond her and Ha! everything can be made perfect in the first attempt.

On any day, she could spin a mouthwatering meal out of the humblest of ingredients. Whenever she saw something new in the food magazines, she tossed her head nonchalantly, walked tall and steady into the kitchen, did a bit of this and that and came out bearing a lovely tray of hot food, beautifully styled, perfectly photographed and then served it cold!

Lunch - Antipasti

Then.... one day, it came crashing down. The bubble, the lofty self-perception and along with it an era of hegemonic self indulgence.... Ah! Karma exists, indeed!

Yes, dear readers... that arrogant, young (!!!) girl is/was/am me :) And my judgement day came today while attempting my Daring Bakers Challenge. And, what a hard fall it was.. Fortunately, I was rooted sufficiently to the ground, to take the failure in stride and laugh about it and learn something along the way.

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

What happened you ask? Well... It started with me running out of regular all purpose flour. Cocky, as I was, I decided I would just go gluten free and use rice and buckwheat flour. I mean, how difficult can it be, right? Wrong!

Top view - yeast cake

First, that little thing called gluten plays a rather significant role in dough becoming elastic. So my gluten free mixture just never came together into a tacky dough. It looked like a tart crust, smooth but crumbly. Nevertheless, I left it to rise, hoping, things would fix themselves along the way. Wrong again!

The dough never rose! So, after about 2 hours of patience and prayer, I decided to get on with it and just enjoy the experiment, however it turns out. :). So, I pressed the dough into a square pan, spread my meringue over, sprinkle a generous amount of dry fruits preserved in brandy, topped with another layer or the questionable dough and baked it. To finish, I spread some more meringue and baked until golden brown.

And, well, needless to say, it was disaster... LOL

The cake itself was abysmally dry and had a weird texture and taste. I have a sneaking suspicion that rice flour was the culprit on the taste. The yeast never worked with these flours. There was not even a minuscule rise. I honestly do not know how the gluten free bakers do it! I always thought they were resourceful and cool. Now, I have a new found respect for her, her and her!!

Gluten free Yeast cake with Meringue filling & brandied fruits

Nevertheless, I am happy I tried it out, even though my inner good self was snickering away at my right sized ego. LOL.. Now I'll just go get myself Shauna's book and let the learning begin.. :)

Meanwhile, you guys should head over to Daring Kitchen, to see how many people got it right, with or without gluten! :)

But, before you leave, I beseech you to help the Japanese Red Cross by participating in the International Food Bloggers Auction for Japan...

IFBAfJ Logo2 copy

Citrus Frivolous: Orange Pannacotta, Lemon and Poppyseed Semolina Cake and Citrus Sauce - Daring Bakers

Citrus Pannacotta with Semolina Cake and Citrus Syrup
The Citrus Pannacotta was featured Gourmet Live!

I almost did not make this DB challenge. As usual, I pushed it to the eleventh hour, which, normally is manageable. But, this time, the elements were not working with me. The sudden and drastic turn in the weather, last week, left me holding my head in my hands, willing the shooting pain to go muss someone else's life.

Sigh.. yes, Sinus trouble. After 28 years of free breathing and cooperative nasal passages, I seem to be caught in the throes of a mutiny! I am caught powerless and unable to stem the seige. What is worse, it has the most inconvenient timing! All of last week was a wash out of throbbing temples and ineffective medication :(.

Citrus and Poppyseed Semolina cake Collage

So, come Saturday, the 26th, I was still unsure of what the day would bring. To make matters worse, my downstairs neighbor, far too young, was hitting the highs on his stereo and alcohol. At 4 am, I was woken up by my heart thumping irresistibly to the beats of the music reverberating from beneath.

After a frustrating half hour of trying to turn a deaf ear, I woke the poor hub to go do the manly thing and get the guy to see sense. Well.. it's hard to drive sense into a stoned out mind!:-O We spent a good amount of time buzzing the guy's door to no response. We guessed he had passed out and had to go back and make the best of it. So the music went on, and eventually, my poor tired body won over my heart's light footed-ness.

Nevertheless, when I woke up, my sinus was still an issue. Mr. FSK showed me a grandma's technique for nasal wash and it was somewhat effective, atleast for a while. I decided to make the most of my, what was likely to be a, fleeting luxury of painless lucidity. Searching for inspiration, I reached out to my short stack of cookbooks and came across a recipe by Chef Richard Leach that had me captivated.

Citrus Pannacotta 1

It helped that it was a pannacotta dish, just perfect for this challenge. But, what made it interesting was that it was a beautiful and well thought out plated dessert.. one with multiple components like those whipped out by the best pastry chefs. So, I decided to tweak and adapt it, to make it more approachable.

My mind set to the task, I decided to ignore the pangs up North and plowed through it. OK! it was not so bad. The recipe does have multiple components but they are not so time consuming to put together. It does need a bit of planning but is quite worth it.

The warm sponge like cake soaking in the hot citrus syrup forms the perfect counterpoint to the crispy meringue and cold pannacotta. Chef Leach had accompanied a similar dessert with a fruit sorbet and I do think it would have made a great addition to the dessert, making the hot and cold play even more compelling.


So, let me present my Citrus Frivolous: Orange Pannacotta, Lemon and Poppyseed Semolina Cake and Citrus Sauce.

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Citrus Pannacotta

2 cups half and half
2 tsp powdered gelatin
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1/2 grapefruit
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 T lemon grass stalks

Bring 1-1/5 cups of half and half and all other ingredients other than the gelatin to a boil. Remove from heat and steep for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, bloom the gelatin in the remaining milk.

Strain out the lemon grass and most of the zest and add the hot milk to the bloomed gelatin and whisk vigorously to dissolve the gelatin completely. Divide into the pannacotta molds and refrigerate for atleast 3 hours. When ready, run a sharp knife around the edges to release the pannacotta from the mold.

Lemon and Poppyseed Semolina Cake

Citrus and Poppyseed Semolina cake 1

1/2 cup apricot flour
1/2 cup fine semolina
1 T poppy seeds (black preferred. I used white because I did not have any black ones)
scant 1/2 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
60 g egg whites
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 T baking powder (heaped)

Mix all the ingredients except the butter into a smooth batter. Add the butter and mix just until incorporated. Divide the batter into cup cake molds, filling upto 3/4 level of each mold. Bake at 300 F for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Remove and cool on rack for a few minutes before releasing from the molds.

Citrus Meringue

80 g egg whites
80 g sugared apricot meal (grind 1/2 cup of apricots with 1/4 cup granulated sugar very finely. Reserve the rest for the cake or another use)
2 T cup sugar
zest of 1 grapefruit

Whip the whites to stiff peaks. Slowly add the sugar and continue until the mixture becomes glossy and holds stiff peaks. Mix the zest into the almond meal and gently fold it into the meringue just until incorporated. Transfer to a piping bag with a small round tip and pipe out 2.5 inch disks of about 3 mm thickness on to a silpat. If you have a stencil, it works best.

Bake at 260 F for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Cool and carefully peel off the disks. Store in an airtight container.

Citrus Sauce

juice of 1 pink grapefruit
2 oranges juiced
2 T sugar (or to taste
1 small stick cinnamon
1 T butter
1/4 cup water

Bring everything to a boil and keep it rolling for 45 seconds. Remove from heat. Make this just before serving.

To Assemble:

Place a semolina cake at the base of a shallow soup bowl. Place a meringue disk over the cake and top with the pannacotta. Pour the citrus sauce until it comes up to 1/4 the height of the cake. Serve with slices of orange or grape fruit, mint and a fruit sorbet (optional).

Citrus Pannacotta with Semolina Cake top view

Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK