Isn’t it exciting when you’re trying a new recipe? One that’s fool-proof, that your friend makes often and you totally love and is simple to boot? So, this fried of mine makes this yummy caramel sauce that she uses as a sandwich spread for her son’s school snack box. Since cutting out white sugar from my food and all my baking altogether, I often look for ways to substitute it with unrefined counterparts. I make a caramel sort of thing with jaggery and coconut milk that turns out totally yummy. But it does taste a whole world different from the sugar-butter haven that we call caramel.
In a bid to make a more “authentic caramel” but one sans butter and white sugar, I took my friend’s recipe and went about making it with my usual wholesome substitutions – palm sugar in place of white sugar and unrefined coconut oil in place of the butter. I also had an order for a little 2 year-old’s birthday cake the next day – a vegan, whole wheat coconut, date and walnut cake – and I was hoping to top it with my friend-style caramel.
Now coconut oil is a tricky thing. It works wonderfully in baked goodies that call for butter – you use it right out of the refrigerator and it resembles the texture of butter somewhat. Of course, you get a coconutty smell, but that’s ok if the recipe has some coconut element to it already, like this cake did, or if you are a coconut lover like me. But what i did not bargain for, was the fact that butter is a major contributor to the flavour of a typical caramel. And the coconut oil I use is organic and unrefined, so the coconut smell is much more pronounced.
You can well guess how my caramel turned out! There was no way I could use this to top the cake. Thankfully, I had all the ingredients to make my usual vegan, wholesome jaggery “caramel” sauce, which is what i did. The palm sugar-coconut oil caramel that I made found its way into the cake batter in place of the palm sugar and unrefined sunflower oil i normally use. It was a good fit alongside the caramelly date, coconut flakes and nutty walnuts and the cake baked to perfection.
So, simple things rule! I’m no longer going to attempt a “wholesome” caramel substitute! I think my jaggery alternative works just fine 🙂
And to change tracks some, here’s a simple bitter-gourd curry – nothing out-of-the world about it. It had never struck me that I could pair bitter-gourd with onions and that it could taste so good! I always make bitter-gourd in a thick tomato and onion gravy (my mum makes it like that) as a side for rotis (Indian flatbread). My mother-in-law deep fries them with a gram flour crumble which works wonderfully well as a side for south-Indian rice-based dishes. But, the other day, she ended up stir-frying them with onions and red chilli powder for lack of vegetables at home when a plan to eat out was cancelled at the nth hour.
It helped that the bitter-gourd was quite tender and not-too-bitter and the sweetness of the onions and the heat of the red chilli powder were all perfectly balanced. Others at home had finished their lunch and I was halfway through my meal when it struck me I must take a picture. There was just a little left and I saved it up for the photo. Tell me how you like it!
Parkai-Vengaya Curry/ Karele ki Subzi/Bitter-Gourd & Onion stir-fry
Bitter gourd – 4 (medium)
Onion – 1 (big)
Oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Red chilli powder – ½-1 tsp (use as per your preference)
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Salt to taste
Wash bitter-gourd. Halve it along its length and deseed it. Chop it into thin slices. You’ll get thin semi-circles. Fine-chop the onion
Heat 1 tbsp oil and add mustard seeds
Once mustard splutters, add curry leaves and onions
Add chopped bitter-gourd when onion turns translucent
Sprinkle a little water and cover the pan. Let it cook on medium heat till the vegetable softens somewhat
Add salt, turmeric and red chilli powders. Mix well
Once vegetable seems coked through, add the rest of the oil and increase heat
Keep mixing with a spatula. Take off heat when the vegetable is crisp enough to your liking
Serve hot as a side to rice-based dishes