Mango Saffron Cake

I wanted to bake a special cake today to celebrate the birthday of a close friend undergoing treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and glaucoma. As there was a ripe mango in the fridge, I decided on a mango cake. Thinking of the spice that I could mix with mango in a cake, I decided to try saffron as I had recently tried out kesari in my muffin loaf and had also enjoyed the Cornish saffron bread that I had baked a couple of months back. Therefore, while both my exotic muffin loaf and this mango saffron cake look outwardly similar, the taste is different.
DSC01231 Of course, on this special day, I wish to feature a very special singer – K.S.Chitra whose birthday coincidentally happens to be today as well. One of my favourite singers, Chitra has won six Indian national awards during her 35 years of playback singing as well as was awarded the Padma Shri in 2005. She has had extensive training in Carnatic music.

As I had already shared her first award-winning movie song in the post featuring music composer Ilayarajaa, I will share a beautiful song clip from her devotional song album, Krishnapriya (2005).

The second clip is a lullaby she sang for the Craft (Center for research in assisted reproduction and fetal therapy) hospital and research center. The center shares this song for downloading from their website with the message, “For our emotionally stressed women and men we hereby give a small gift- A Lullaby of hope that will go straight to your hearts- soothe you and transcend you virtually to the wonderful world of parenthood.” Chitra lost her eight-year old daughter in 2011 and resumed her singing with this track.

The last song clip is her award-winning movie song from Cheran’s movie Autograph (2004) featuring actress Sneha and the Comaganin Raaga Priya orchestra. The music was composed by Bharadwaj and performed by the special blind orchestra while the lyrics was written by P.Vijay (who also won an award that year) and sung by Chitra. The clip I chose to share here has roughly translated subtitles (courtesy of YouTube user Antony Rajabala).

Hope you enjoyed today’s music by one of my favourite singers and the lovely cake!

Mango Saffron Cake

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • All-purpose flour – 1 cup
  • Roasted semolina – ½ cup
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Baking soda – ½ tsp
  • Salt, pinch
  • Vegetable oil margarine – 100g
  • Sugar – 6 tbsp (can add more, as per your taste)
  • Milk (non-fat or vegan substitute) – ½ cup
  • Saffron threads – ¼ tsp
  • Vanilla essence – ½ tsp
  • Mango – 1, chopped
  • Cashew nuts and raisins, to sprinkle


  1. Heat the milk with the saffron. Once bubbles start to form, remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  2. Sift the flour together with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the roasted semolina to the dry ingredients bowl and keep aside.
  3. Chop up the mango and add the vanilla essence to the chopped mangoes in a separate bowl. Let the fruits soak in the essence.
  4. Whisk the margarine and sugar together until creamy.
  5. Stir in the saffron milk and continue whisking.
  6. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients bowl, continuously stirring.
  7. Fold in the chopped mangoes and transfer to lightly greased baking pan.
  8. Sprinkle chopped cashew nuts and raisins.
  9. Bake the cake at 170⁰C for around 30 mins. The time will vary depending on the oven.
  10. Let the cake cool off before slicing and serving with a hot cup of Sri Lankan tea. Enjoy!

Exotic Muffin Loaf

Ever since I baked my first batch of muffins last month, I have been in a muffin phase. Some of the favourites at home so far has been Joanne’s strawberry buttermilk (I used buttermilk instead of yoghurt) and Rhonda’s apricot almond muffins. It is rambuttan and mangosteen season here in Sri Lanka now and there were a few of the fruits leftover at home when I decided to try baking some muffins with them. As I had used up the entire pack of muffin cups and did not want to wait till I bought a fresh set, I simply decided to use a regular pan and make a muffin loaf. So, today, I am sharing at the Fiesta Friday my adaptation of Rhonda’s strawberry oatmeal muffins with some exotic (at least where muffins are concerned) ingredients. I am also taking this over to Saucy Saturdays #51, hosted by The Flavor Bender, La Petit Chef, Mid-Life Croissant, Take Two Tapas.
Today’s featured musician is Shankar Mahadevan. A musician that I admire, Shankar Mahadevan was midway in his software engineering career before deciding to change careers and focus on his passion for music. Trained in Carnatic and Hindustani music, he released his first solo album Breathless (1998). The album includes a song called Breathless, sung without a break in the lyrics from start to finish, which was very popular on Sri Lankan television. The hugely popular album opened up many opportunities for Shankar Mahadevan. Eventually, he started the online Indian classical music academy – Shankar Mahadevan Academy in 2010.

Shankar Mahadevan is the vocalist of ‘Remember Shakti.’ For those who haven’t heard of this group, they are a five member lovely fusion group initially started as ‘Shakti’ by John McLaughlin and tabla maestro Zakir Hussain in the 70s. The group was revived in the late 90s with some new members – U.Srinivas (one of my favourite musicians), V.Selvaganesh (son of Grammy award-winning musician V.Vinayakram – one of the original members of Shakti) and Shankar Mahadevan, replacing three of the original members. My first clip for today is therefore an excerpt from a Remember Shakti concert: a beautiful fusion performance of the classical piece ‘Giriraja Sudha,’ composed by 18th century musician  – Tyagarajar – considered one of the most influential Carnatic composers.

Shankar Mahadevan is also part of the successful trio, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, who became popular in the Hindi movie music composing field in the late 90s. The second music clip for today is from Aamir Khan’s beautiful directorial debut movie Taare Zameen Par (translation: Like stars on earth, 2007) with music composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and sung by Shankar Mahadevan. This touching song won Shankar Mahadevan a national award.

He was introduced to the Tamil cinema playback singing platform by A.R.Rahman in 1997. The last clip is a lovely, upbeat folk tune composed by A.R.Rahman for the movie Mudhalvan (1999), starring Arjun and Manisha Koirala, and sung by Shankar Mahadevan and Kavita Krishnamurthy.

Hope you enjoyed Shankar Mahadevan’s music as much as I did! Happy July 4th to all my American blogging friends!


Exotic Muffins

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • Flour – ½ cup
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt – 1/3 tsp
  • Oats – ½ to 2/3 cup
  • Brown sugar – 4 tbsp
  • Cinnamon powder – pinch
  • Milk – ½ cup
  • Vegetable oil – 1/3 cup
  • Vanilla essence – ½ tsp
  • Rambuttan – 4, chopped (can add more, I just used what I had in hand)
  • Mangosteen – 1 or 2, chopped (can add more)
  • Cashew nuts – a handful, chopped
  • Raisins – a little for sprinkling
  • Kesari powder – pinch (optional)


  1. Pre-heat oven to 190⁰C.
  2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Add the instant oats and sugar to the flour bowl and keep aside.
  3. Chop up the rambuttan and mangosteen. Add a pinch of kesari powder to the fruits in a separate bowl. Add the chopped cashewnuts and raisins to the fruit bowl.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, oil and vanilla essence.
  5. Add the milk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix it just enough to ensure that none of the flour mix is left dry. Almost all the muffin recipes that I have seen stress the point that one should be swift over this mixing and not be concerned over lumps in the batter.
  6. Fold in the fruit and nut mixture.
  7. Transfer the muffin batter to the muffin tray or a normal baking pan. Bake for around 20 mins – the time will vary depending on your oven.

Sweet Yoghurt Rice

It is nice to have something sweet to welcome the weekend. So, today’s recipe is sweet yoghurt rice, a very easy and yummy dish to make. It has been a long time since I participated in one of Angie’s Fiesta Fridays so I am sharing this post in Fiesta Friday #15.

Sweet curd rice

Today’s featured music is of a special percussion group called Elephant Foot.

The first piece that I am sharing here, Rainforest, is what caught my attention some years ago. Since then, I have kept my ears open for more of their music. So far, they have released three albums.

The second is from their most recent album – Elephant Foot.

Enjoy the drum beats of Elephant Foot/ Hikkaduwa drummers as you tuck into this delicious treat!

Sweet Yoghurt Rice

Time taken: 25 mins

Serves 3

Yoghurt riceIngredients:

  • White raw rice or Basmathi rice – 1 cup
  • Yoghurt – ½ cup
  • Raisins – 2 tsp
  • Nuts (any) – 2 tsp
  • Banana – ½ or 1, sliced
  • Honey or coconut treacle, as required


  1. Boil the rice and let it cool.
  2. Whisk the yoghurt well to make it creamy. Fold in the raisins and chopped nuts.
  3. Little by little, add the rice to the creamy mix.
  4. Chill for at least 5 mins.
  5. Serve with banana slices and drizzled with honey or coconut treacle.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Spicy Curd Rice

The rice dish for today is a tasty spicy, curd rice.

Spicy curd riceWhile not a fan of hip hop, I felt like featuring three musicians who are primarily considered hip hop artists though several of their songs cross over to other genres.

The first is Iraj Weeraratne. His songs like  J town story, Gemak Deela caught my ears and eye over the years. In more recent years, he seems to be more engaged in composing or singing in Indian movies and multi-country collaborative song productions. The song that I am sharing here is from his debut album a decade ago – ‘J town Story’ with Krishan featuring Yawuwanan and Infaas.

The second featured musician is Ranidu Lankage. A R&B and hip hop musician and an economics graduate of Yale university, his first solo album released a decade ago was a huge success. Here, I am sharing the song that made him famous – Ahankara Nagare (the remix version with Iraj). While I haven’t listened to many other songs of his, I did like a recent song that he dedicated to all mothers – Amma mathakai nam.

The third featured musician of the day is Ashanthi de Alwis. She has released four music albums and featured in several songs of Bathiya and Santhush (I shared a recent production of the popular music duo in last week’s post). The song of Ashanthi’s shared here is an upbeat, catchy song ‘Papare’ featuring Krishan.

Spicy Curd Rice

Time taken: 30 persons

Serves 3

Curd RiceIngredients:

  • Rice – 1 cup
  • Curd – ½ cup
  • Crushed chillies – 1 tsp (optional)
  • Chickpeas – 1 tbsp, fried
  • Dried red chillies – 2, chopped (adjust according to taste)
  • Onion – ½ , chopped
  • Fenugreek – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
  • Sesame/ Gingelly oil – 1 tbsp


  1. Lightly fry the chopped onion, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and chopped dried chillies in a tablespoon of sesame oil.
  2. Add the crushed chillies and fried chickpeas to the pan.
  3. Next, add the yoghurt and mix well before adding the boiled rice.
  4. Stir well before removing from heat and serve immediately.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.


Today’s dish is Kanji or rice porridge, a favourite of my father.


The featured musician today is Pradeep Ratnayake. Given that one of my favourite musicians is Ravi Shankar, it follows that I also appreciate the music of the two best contemporary sitar players in Sri Lanka – Pradeep Ratnayake and Sarangan Sriranganathan (whom I featured in yesterday’s post). Pradeep Ratnayake’s sitar training started at the age of five and he eventually chose a degree in sitar at Santiniketan over a degree in mathematics. Among other concert performances, he initiated his Pradeepanjalee concerts in 1997 which has become an annual concert performed usually at a different location around the world.

The first piece of Pradeep Ratnayake shared here is an original composition titled ‘Kuweni Concerto for sitar, cello and orchestra: Movement 1.’

The second piece is Wine-coloured moon (Melbourne version) with Joe Chindamo (piano), Alston Joachim (bass) and Daniel Farrugio (drums).

Enjoy the instrumental music clips while trying out the rice porridge (Kanji).


Time taken: 20 mins

Serves 2


  • Red raw rice – 2 tbsp
  • Milk (Coconut or non-fat)  – 1 cup
  • Water – 1 cup
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper – ¼ tsp (optional)
  • Garlic – 2 or 3 cloves, chopped (optional)
  • Sugar – 1 tsp (optional)


  1. Cook 2 tbsp of red raw rice in 1 cup of water for about 10 – 15 mins.
  2. Once the water dries up, add the milk to the cooked rice along with a pinch of salt. The optional ingredients such as pepper and garlic can be added now, if required. Cook for about 5 mins.
  3. Transfer to the serving bowls. Add a dash of sugar, if you like. Serve warm.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.


Happy Thai Pongal! இனிய தைப்பொங்கல் நல்வாழ்த்துகள்!

Tomorrow is Pongal for Tamils around the world. Pongal is a celebration that occurs annually on the first day of the month of ‘Thai’ (Tamil month equivalent to January) and is a harvest festival, traditionally meant to honour the sun. It is also the name of the key rice dish that is made to celebrate most Tamil festivals, but particularly its namesake festival.

I shared a simple recipe of the home-cooking version of Pongal in this post last August. Today, I also wanted to share some of the photos from one of our Pongal celebrations with the families in our apartment building a couple of years back as it is more of a community festival where people get together in the temple or courtyard, or as in this case – the car parking area. I was going to post this tomorrow on the festival day but as one of my friends has sent me a recipe of one of the snacks she makes for Pongal, I decided to post her recipe tomorrow. So, here’s the photo-story of Pongal making.

The kolam (designs made of rice flour paste) is first drawn. Within its boundaries, the traditional Tamil welcome is set up facing north, with the kuthuvillaku/lamps and the coconut with mango leaves placed in the kudam/pot

The kolam (designs made of rice flour paste) is first drawn. Within its boundaries, the traditional Tamil welcome is set up facing north, with the kuthuvillaku/lamps and the coconut with mango leaves placed in the kudam/pot

Water for Pongal

Setting up the Pongal pot facing the rising sun in the east

Milk boiling for pongal

Milk (usually dairy milk but at home, my mother uses coconut milk) is added to the water in the pot


Everyone waits for the milk to boil over – this symbolically means prosperity for all for the coming year (‘Ponguthal’ means boiling over and is the word that festival name and dish derived its name from)

Adding rice to the pot

The rice is then added to the pot – a handful at a time by some of the elders, women and men, present.


After the rice is cooked, jaggery, nuts, raisins are added to the pot and stirred well. Finally, the pongal is ready to be blessed and served.

While Thai Pongal is an important Tamil festival for Tamils living around the world, it is celebrated differently in different countries. In Sri Lanka, Pongal is mostly celebrated as described above whereas in India, it is a three-day festival with a day dedicated for cows. A harvest day festival around this day is also celebrated across India and Nepal but called different names (Makara Sankranti, Lohri, Uttarayana, Magh Bihu etc.) in different regions and has different rituals.

Wish you a Happy Pongal!

Vaalai Poo Curry

Today’s recipe is the banana flower curry/ vaalai poo curry.

Vaalai Poo Curry/ Banana Flower Curry

Time taken: 30 mins

Serves 4

Vaalai Poo CurryIngredients:

  • Vaalai poo/ banana flower – 1 cup, chopped
  • Tomato – 1 large, chopped
  • Capsicum – 1, chopped
  • Onion – ½ cup, chopped
  • Fenugreek seeds – 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
  • Oil – 1 tbsp
  • Coconut milk or non-fat milk – ½ cup
  • Curry powder – 1 tsp
  • Salt, to taste


  1. Clean and chop up the banana flower and add a little salt to it. Keep aside.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and chopped onion for a couple of mins.
  3. Add the chopped vaalai poo and chopped capsisum. Cover and fry for about 10 mins on low heat.
  4. Uncover the pan and add the chopped tomato, coconut milk and curry powder. Add some salt, to taste.
  5. Cook for about 5 mins until the curry has a nice gravy, before removing pan from stove.
  6. Serve with rice.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Raisins and Walnut cookies

Since there were still some fresh walnuts left at home, my mother decided to bake some of her heart healthy cookies. So, here’s the recipe for her raisins and walnut cookies.

Raisins and Walnuts cookies

Time taken: 35 mins

Makes 22

Walnut cookiesIngredients:

  • Multi-purpose flour – 1 ¼ cups
  • Oats – ½ cup
  • Raisins – 1 tbsp
  • Walnuts – 1 tbsp, chopped
  • Vegetable margarine – ¾ cup
  • Sugar – 2 tbsp
  • Milk or Water – ¼ cup
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp
  • Vanilla essence – 1 tsp


  1. Heat the margarine and sugar in a saucepan over low heat and melt the margarine.
  2. Add ¼ cup of milk or water to the sauce pan and stir well.
  3. Remove from stove and cool.
  4. Add 1 tsp baking powder to the flour and oats. Mix.
  5. Add the flour and oats mix, vanilla essence, raisins and chopped walnuts to the slightly cooled melted margarine sauce. Mix well to ensure that the mixture comes together as cookie dough. Add a little more flour, if the batter is still slightly watery.
  6. Divide the dough into 22 balls and flatten slightly before placing on baking tray.
  7. Bake at 220⁰C/428⁰F for 20 mins.
  8. Cool before serving.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Brinjal and Green Peas Curry

The second recipe for today is a simple and delicious curry that my mother sometimes makes.

This weekend, I will be posting guest blogger posts on a couple of non-vegetarian specialties from the central and southern provinces of Sri Lanka.

Brinjal and Green Peas Curry

Time taken: 15 – 20 mins

Serves 2

Brinjal and green peas curry


  • Brinjal – 1
  • Chilli – 1
  • Onion – ½
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Green peas – ½ cup
  • Coconut milk or non-fat milk – 1 cup
  • Salt, to taste
  • Lime juice – 1 tsp + slice (for garnish)


  1. Chop up the brinjal, onion and chilli into small pieces.
  2. In a saucepan, add all the ingredients and cook on medium heat for about 15 to 20 mins until the curry comes together.
  3. Remove from heat and mix a tsp of lime juice in the curry.
  4. Garnish with a slice of lime and serve with some rice.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.

Chocolate chip and cashew nut cookies

Given that lots of people in my family have diabetes, my mother has taken to making her own sugar-free cookies or cookies with minimum sugar. Today’s recipe is her recipe for chocolate chip and cashew nut cookies.

Chocolate chip and cashew nut cookies

Time taken: 35 – 40 mins

Makes 12

Chocolate cookiesIngredients:

  • Oats – ½ cup
  • Wheat flour – 1 cup
  • Margarine – ½ cup
  • Milk – ½ cup (dairy or coconut milk)
  • Cashew nuts – ¼ cup, roasted and chopped
  • Chocolate chips – ¼ cup
  • Brown sugar – ¼ cup
  • Baking powder – ½ tsp
  • Baking soda – 1 tsp


  1. Whisk the brown sugar and margarine till it is creamy and smooth.
  2. Add the oats to the creamed sugar and margarine and mix.
  3. Sift the wheat flour together with the baking powder and soda and add to the cookie mix.
  4. Add the milk gradually, kneading the cookie mix into a slightly batter-like dough, not too firm and easy to mold into little balls.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped cashew nuts.
  6. Divide the dough into little balls and leave them on the baking tray, for about 5 – 10 mins, before putting them in the oven.
  7. Bake the cookies for about 15 – 20 mins at 220⁰C/ 428⁰F.
  8. Remove the baking tray from oven when the cookies are golden brown and let them cool before serving.

Recipe source: Raji Thillainathan.