coffee cake with coffee swiss meringue buttercream for dads

Today being Father's day, I had planned to post this coffee high cake in honour of the two fathers in my life- T and my dad who both have a thing for coffee, and so I am assuming most other dads do too.

My Dad drinks his cuppa several times a day and  although he is one of the most easy going people ever, he is very specific about the way his coffee should be made. Even today I don't seem to make it just the way he likes it -it has to be just hot enough, with just the right amount of milk and topped with the exact  tiny amount of froth.. It's much easier to make macarons than Dad's cup of coffee!
T is thankfully not as particular but likes his espresso straight up- no milk no sugar- full strength.

I was thinking about a special Father's Day message to begin this coffee cake post with and was chopping some onions to make a  quick brunch, with my little toddler/tiny kitchen helper running around looking through my cabinets for his "lello" crayon to put the finishing touches on his hand drawn card for T, when it happened to me...

If you watch Top Chef or any of those cooking shows ( as I do obsessively) everytime someone is chopping onions invariably they will cut their finger. It happens so often it's almost predictable. Kitchen accidents are very very common, and yes the kitchen, even a stress free kitchen like the one at home is a dangerous place. I don't mean to scare you but I was reminded of the fact today, perhaps so that I can be more careful and aware!

As I was chopping the onion, the peel slipped and I cut my finger. It was not very deep or anything, but there was some blood and since there are lots of nerve endings on the fingertips- quite some pain. Being the wuss that I am, I got lightheaded was sure I was going to faint, and could see that my little kitchen helper was getting worried. Thankfully just then T walked into the kitchen and in my half-faint I immediately knew it was all ok, and so did the little one who joyfully jumped into his arms.  And that's what fathers do- they make you feel like everything will be ok.
(I did not faint, the feeling passed in about half an hour- apparently its just adrenalin rushing and my finger is fine, just a little sore and bandaged. )

Happy Father's Day to T, the little one's hero, to my own wonderful daddy who has always been there for me through my childhood and terrible, terrible door slamming teens ( I cringe) all these years and to all fathers everywhere! Today seems just as good a day as any, to say thank you for all that you do and for having been there for us.

easy and quick cashew chicken stir fry and a trip to china town

Cashew Chicken Stir Fry
Photo for "Less is More" Photography Exercise 
When we were kids, on Sunday after breakfast mom's kitchen was closed, and that was one day in the week she usually didn't cook. Sundays meant church, grocery shopping or trips to the zoo or the park, all of us watching the Mahabharata or Tipu Sultan on Door Darshan ( ah! those days before cable!) and the highlight being when dad would take us to our favourite neighbourhood eat out. Most often these were small hole in the wall kinds of places which I have learnt have some of the best food! Annapurna for crispy Dosas, the Shawarma stand at a nearby park, Moti Mahal for their yum butter chicken or to Golden Dragon, our neighbourhood Chinese restaurant where the food was in no way authentic to China but modified and spiced up to suit local tastes which is why I will only call it Asian inspired or Indo-Chinese.

Now that we live in the San Francisco Bay Area,  I have the opportunity to taste and discover many kinds of cuisines and sample unusual dishes and ingredients - from fresh tofu straight from the bamboo molds to funky fermented things. But even today when I crave Chinese food what I usually mean is the familiar, Indo-Chinese dishes like sweet and sour pork,  chilly chicken, gobi manchurian etc. that I grew up eating.

So when I recently wandered around the colourful and bustling San Francisco China Town where I guess I will taste the most authentic versions of Chinese Cuisine without actually taking a flight to China, I found the food ( apart from the dim sums which I LOVE) to be bland to my taste buds accustomed to the heavy dose of garlic and ginger and assaulted with spices. Although I am beginning to appreciate more subtleties and nuances in flavour, more often I like my flavours really bold!

China Town SF

Visiting China Town:
Walk! It's impossible to find parking here. Plus it's great to wander around and soak in the ambiance and especially interesting to visit during parades and festivals- though ofcourse would be much more crowded then.
My little one loved the stone lions outside the Chinese Benevolent Association building.
For knick knacks and props : The Far East Flea Market 
and The Wok Shop for cast iron woks and other kitchen utensils
Keep an eye out for street art by the UK artist Banksy 

I love going to China Town to pick up unusual ingredients and inexpensive little props for the blog. It's good to carry cash as some stores don't take cards.
It's also great fun to walk through the busy market and see weird things like dried sea urchin that I someday hope to find a way to use in my cooking! There are also lots of familiar things too, like this dried shrimp that made my Mallu mouth water.

Market- China Town

China Town has very unique bakeries with impossibly fluffy sponge cakes and filled steamed cakes, and these cute shaped breads, that I spotted while I was traipsing down the busy markets, camera in one hand and my delicious bubble tea in the other. That was a good day!

Market- China Town

When I got back home I was craving some of the kind of spicy Asian inspired stir frys that for me ( An Indian in the US)  is quintessential Chinese food. I am very curious to hear suggestions for authentic and unique Chinese food I should try next time in China Town.

I usually make stir frys in my cast iron skillet to give the chicken a nice sear and a better alternative to deep frying. Garlic powder gives it that restaurant type taste, though I often add a lot of fresh garlic as well, being a household of garlic lovers! I toss in what ever vegetables I have on hand- broccoli, mushroom, peas, even a bag of frozen mixed veggies. That day it was bell peppers and onions and a handful of cashews for crunch!  It may not be authentic, but it sure tastes good!

Cashew Chicken Stir Fry