Mai Tai

The Kitchn, which is among my favorite food blogs has an excellent feature each week by Dana Velde known as Weekend Meditation. This week she explains why she’s been writing this feature for 5 years now:

“Cooking for ourselves and our loved ones is a very practical matter. It simply must be done…But when I sit down to write the Weekend Meditation post, I’m thinking about something a little different than the mechanical side of cooking….   I think about the internal aspects that we engage when we cook and prep and clean up, and what are their emotional, psychological, and spiritual expressions. What sustains us to return to the kitchen, over and over again? My hope is to encourage us to see cooking not just as a daily chore but also as a place to discover more about ourselves, to open our senses, to express our love and connection…. The kitchen is a place that we can open up and let in the beauty and lushness that is present in life. There’s so much there to smell and taste and feel.”

This perfectly captures my feelings when I came back to the States from India this month. Though I’m going to miss the smells and taste of different varieties of mangoes and savory street food, I feel equally excited to be cooking again with basil, berries, avocados and meyer lemons. To celebrate these tastes and smells of summer that I missed out in the first half of my summer in India, I decided that mai tai was a perfect drink to go with some evening relaxation. Though there are wide disagreements about the kind of sweeteners and/or juices that should go in this drink, I decided to go with the following recipe and did not regret it at all. Perfect summer cooler.

Mai Tai


Recipe courtesy AllRecipes

  • 1.5 fluid ounce rum
  • 1.5 fluid ounce coconut-flavored rum
  • 1 teaspoon grenadine syrup
  • 3 fluid ounces pineapple juice
  • 2 fluid ounces orange juice
  • 1 cup ice cubes

In a cocktail mixer full of ice, combine the spiced rum, coconut rum, grenadine, pineapple juice and orange juice. Shake vigorously and strain into glass full of ice.

What are you favorite summer coolers ?


Bananas Foster Bread Pudding with Vanilla Rum Sauce

What happens when you combine bananas, rum, raisins, toasted pecans and custard? A decadent dessert that is perfect for the holiday season. One of the best bread puddings that I’ve ever had was at Bonton Cafe in New Orleans, which was served with a whiskey sauce. However, that whiskey sauce was way too strong for me, so this recipe, with its mild rum sauce is perfect for those of us who don’t like a particularly strong whiskey or bourbon taste in our desserts.

This recipe gives around 12-14 servings, so feel free to cut it in half. However, you’re gonna regret it the minute it gets over, so I would suggest making this large a batch. The rum sauce can be made up to 2 days in advance, and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Just warm it up and drizzle on the bread pudding to serve!


Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, March 1995

Banana Bread Pudding:

  • 2/3 cup raisins or currants
  • 4 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 6 bananas, peeled, halved crosswise and then lengthwise
  • 10 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups whipping cream
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extracts
  • 2 large baguettes, dried, with crusts off, cut into cubes
  • 1 cup chopped toasted pecans

Rum Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 tablespoons dark rum



  • Combine raisins and 4 tablespoons rum in a small bowl. Let stand 20 minutes.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add bananas and 4 tablespoons sugar and cook until bananas are tender, about 2 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

    Cooking the bananas until they get tender

    Cooking the bananas until they get tender

  • In a different bowl, combine whipping cream, eggs, vanilla extract and remaining 1/2 cup rum and 6 tablespoons sugar and whisk to blend.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 17 x 11-inch loaf pan. Arrange 1/3 of bread strips cubes in bottom of prepared pan. Make sure the bread cubes are packed tightly. Arrange 6 banana pieces atop bread. Sprinkle with half of raisins and half of pecans. Arrange 1/3 of bread cibes atop bananas. Pour half of egg mixture over. Arrange remaining banana pieces atop bread. Sprinkle with remaining raisins and pecans. Arrange remaining bread cubes atop bananas. Pour remaining egg mixture over. Press gently on top layer to compact. Let stand 15 minutes.

    Topping the first layer of bread cubes with the cooked bananas, rum-soaked raisins and chopped toasted pecans

    Topping the first layer of bread cubes with the cooked bananas, rum-soaked raisins and chopped toasted pecans

  • Bake bread pudding until puffed and golden and knife inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly.
  • Cut bread pudding into slices. Arrange on plates; drizzle with warm Rum Sauce and serve.

RUM SAUCE (Makes about 2 cups):

  • Melt butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cream, sugar and salt. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

    Making the rum sauce, waiting until the sauce starts to bubble

    Making the rum sauce, waiting until the sauce starts to bubble

  • Remove from heat. Stir in rum. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, stirring constantly.)  

    Mixing in the rum after taking the sauce off the heat

    Mixing in the rum after taking the sauce off the heat

Drizzle a tablespoon (or more, if you like!) of warm rum sauce on a serving of bread pudding. Hope you guys had a lovely Christmas and have a great rest of the holiday season as well 🙂
Ready to be served!

Ready to be served!

Cajun Food Heaven: New Orleans

Founded in 1718 by the French Mississippi Company, New Orleans and its food clearly still has French influences infused with the Southern style. A walk down the French Quarter and neighboring areas is enough to take one on a Cajun cuisine journey – its hallmarks being heavy one-pot dishes, local seafood and the use of spices such as parsley, dried cayenne pepper and cajun seasoning. Though Cajun and Creole are often used inter-changeably, Creole food is a more refined version of Cajun food, and was developed specifically in New Orleans. For the readers who are more interested, here’s a simple elaboration .

For those who are not familiar, some classic dishes in this style of cuisine are gumbo, jambalaya, muffalettas, po boys and so forth. The classic gumbo is made with chicken and andouille sausage, though traditionally it was made it using okra or lady finger, which was brought to the region from Western Africa.

Here’s a run-down on some of the best places I ate at in New Orleans:

Cafe Du Monde

800 Decatur St, New Orleans, LA 70116 (also at other locations throughout the city)

Established in 1862, this French coffee market’s most famous items are beignets and cafe au lait. Though I was unimpressed with the latter, the beignets were to die for. They’re basically hollow deep friend dough dipped in powdered sugar. Situated right next to the Mississippi River, it makes for a great afternoon snack that you can take with you and go relax next to the River or in the park outside the St. Louis Cathedral. For those who tend to get a sweet craving after a night-out, it’s not too far from the famed Bourbon Street either.

Cafe Du Monde’s famed beignets

Mother’s Restaurant

401 Poydras Street

Founded in 1938, this establishment is run in  cafeteria-style – one walks in, orders at the counter, struggles to find an empty table in a rather dingy hall. However, the quality is amazing enough to make one forget about the lack of ambience. To get maximum variety, we got a combination platter –  my favorite was their jambalaya cooked with chicken and ham, in a really rich sauce with rice. The rice and beans and the buttered potatoes, also on the platter, were also delicious. The real surprise were the cabbages – I normally dislike cabbages, but these were stir-fried with a bunch of spices and butter and tasted amazing. We also got the gumbo (again, great). I wasn’t a big fan of the crawfish etoufee, but that’s because the smell of crawfish is too strong for me to handle; it’s gravy on the other hand was great. The dessert was my favorite part of all that they had to offer and we definitely picked a winner there – the bread pudding with rum sauce. Extremely textured, with dried raisins and cranberries, this is the best bread pudding I’ve ever had and is a must-have for anyone who goes there.

Pros: fast service, excellent food. Margaritas that you can carry out at $4/glass.

Cons: ambience not great, hard to find a table during lunch and dinner hours.

The combination platter at Mother’s – lettuce, mashed buttered potatoes, jambalaya and red beans and rice.

Bon Ton Cafe

401 Magazine Street, New Orleans

Established in 1953, this is the perfect spot for a slightly fancy dinner, especially for those who don’t want to blow up a few hundred dollars at some restaurants in the Hilton or nearby hotels. It can be hard to find a table during dinner, so it’s best to make a reservation. The red-and-white tableclothes, wrought iron furniture, wooden walls and dim lighting give it  a cosy, intimate ambience. While waiting for our table, we went over to the bar, where I tried their famed signature drink – the Rum Ramsay. Unfortunately, the bartender didn’t give me much clue as to what else was in the drink besides rum, saying that it was a family secret that had been passed down from generation to generation – so secret that the concoction is already prepared and chilled so that we can’t see what all goes into its creation! I absolutely loved the drink, it had a kick to it and definitely left a spicy after-taste.

Their turtle soup is supposed to be really famous (we didn’t order that), though I’ve heard the turtle soup at Commander’s Palace is supposed to be the best in the city. Since I was all meated-out by the time we went here (it was my last meal in the city), I asked if they could do anything vegetarian. I was just trying out my luck since it’s essentially a seafood restaurants but it turns out that they do vegetarian dishes as well, they’re just not listed on the menu. The vegetarian jambalaya was absolutely deliciously – rich and creamy, with broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, brussel sprouts and onions. We also ordered the crabmeat au gratin – think mac n cheese, except with crabmeat and much richer. It was delicious, and for those who feel they are not up to an entire dish that is so heavy, they also do a half-n-half of the crab meat au gratin and the crab imperial. The sides were less impressive – not much to write home about there.

For dessert, we ordered the bread pudding with whiskey sauce. Luckily, I asked for the whisky sauce on the side because it was way too strong for me and essentially looked like whiskey mixed with melted butter. The bread pudding was good in itself, though the texture was way different from what I’ve had before – it was a lot more condensed and heavy. I have to admit though, I prefer the bread pudding at Mother’s to the one here.

The crab au gratin in all it’s richness!

Bon Ton’s Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce

Pros: attentive service – will try and cater to your needs as much as possible

Cons: woeful beer selection, heavy on your wallet

Johnny’s Po-Boys

511 Saint Louis Street, French Quarter (Note: Open only till 4:30 pm, so don’t wait till dinner to grab a bite)

Inspired by a Food Network episode, I had to go here. With lines extending till the street during lunch hours, this place specializes in muffalettas and po-boys. Po-boys are essentially like sandwiches on French bread, though this French bread is the lightest bread you’ll ever eat. As a filling, they use chicken parmesan/fried oysters/fried catfish/crabmeat/crawfish/sausages etc with a bit of lettuce, tomato and mayo. Sounds pretty simple, right? How did something so simple get so popular?

“In 1929, the Streetcar Union, Division 194 went on strike. The strike went on for several months, and the striking workers had very little money to survive. Two brothers, Benny and Clovis Martin, former streetcar operators before opening their “Martin’s Bros. Restaurant”, decided to help their friends on the picket line. They fed their friends sandwiches made of one pound loaves of French Bread cut into three and filled them with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and mayo. These sandwiches were fed to the men free of charge. As the men came into the restaurant, they would say “Here comes another ‘poor boy’ man”. And so, the po-boy became a part of New Orleans cuisine.”

– From the website of Johnny’s Po-Boys

 Muffalettas, on the other hand, are influenced by Sicilian immigrants in the late 19th century. Served on an entire 10-12 inch loaf of Italian bread, it is filled with mozzarella, salami, ham and then topped with an olive relish containing  olives,  celery, garlic, cocktail onions, capers, oregano, parsley, olive oil. Be warned – trying to have an entire muffaletta is like taking on a man vs. food challenge. The half a muffaletta pictured below was a huge meal in itself.


Pros: The lightest bread ever, which really brings out the flavors of the chicken/meet/seafood. They also have an entire dessert section upstairs (though you probably won’t be hungry for any dessert after their huge portions)

Cons: essentially a single kind of item served, hard to find a table (best to go upstairs to find a spot on the balcony)

These include some of the many great things that I had to eat while I was in the city. My next aim is to try and cook some of them. Have you ever cooked any Cajun dishes? What recipes did you use?

Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

I’ve tried to make bread pudding before and it didn’t turn out great. I’ve finally learned from the mistakes made and here’s the best recipe that I’ve come up with so far. To be fair, it’s a concoction of a couple of different recipes. Here are the mistakes that I made and that you need to keep in mind:

  • This recipes requires dry bread. Cutting up fresh bread and immediately using that means that it’ll absorb most of the custard, totally ruining the consistency. This time the bread was cut up, and left outside for about a 1 and a 1/2 days so that it was nice and dry, but obviously not dry and brittle. You just need it dry enough so that it isn’t moist enough to absorb liquid.
  • Some recipes require you to add nutmeg to the rum sauce. That was a total no-no for me, totally ruins the taste according to me.

Ingredients – Bread Pudding

4-5 cups of a day/day and a half old French bread with the crust removed (I also used cinnamon bread since I didn’t have enough French bread)

1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons melted butter

1/2 cup seedless raisins

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Rum Sauce

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

3 tablespoons Rum (though I might have used slightly less while making the sauce since you need to use it according to whether you want a strong sauce or not. Using slightly less Rum made the perfect sauce according to me)

Leaving the bread out to dry

Making the Rum Sauce


1. Cut the crust off the bread and chop into small cubes and leave it for a day so that it loses some moisture. Place in a 9 x 9 baking dish.

2. Sprinkle cinnamon over bread. Add raisins and melted butter. Toss this all together.

3. Toast lightly in 350F oven. Just remove when it starts turning a color of light brown.

4. For the custard: Blend a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Pour over the toasted bread, toss it all together and bake for 45 minutes at 350F until solid.

For the Rum Sauce:

1. Cream butter and sugar. Remember, never put butter in a microwave to melt it. You need to leave it out at room temperature for a few hours and then it becomes really easy to cream it. You can mix the two using a fork easily.

2. Add vanilla to the above and stir in the eggs. Then add the rum.

3. Heat the above mixture over low heat for above 5 minutes and keep stirring it.

Pour the rum sauce warm over the bread pudding after it has baked and cooled.

The final product!