Category Archives: Bangladesh

Homemade Dulce de Leche

What is dulce de leche, you ask? There was a time in my life when I too knew not the meaning of the words. Darker and sadder times. Dulce de leche, dear reader, is tinned caramel. And it is, quite simply, wonderful. Lick-it-right-off-a-spoon-delicious.

One of the big problems with baking in Dhaka is the lack of good quality ingredients. I have to process my own flour and sugar (to read how, scroll to the end of this post), searched in vain for hazelnuts and pecans (if anyone knows where I can find any, please share!) and the icing sugar here seems to leave a strange clingy aftertaste to the roof of my mouth. Sadness.

One thing, however, which is readily available here in Dhaka – is sweetened condensed milk. And sweetened condensed milk is the one, single ingredient that you need to make your own dulce de leche. YES. That’s all. I’ll give you a moment to blink in disbelief at your screen.

Read on. Make it. Lick it off a spoon.

Homemade Dulce de Leche

Ingredients:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk – you need a can that you would open with a can-opener and not one with a ring pull.

Sweetened Condensed Milk

1. Peel off the outer packaging/labels of the can until it is naked. Don’t do anything else to the can, you leave it unopened.

2. Place the can in a large saucepan. Cover with water.

3. Boil for 3 hours. Be sure to top up the water every now and then to ensure that the can is fully covered with water at ALL TIMES*.

4. After 3 hours, take out the can and leave it to cool.

5. Open the can. Gasp in amazement. 

Success!

*If the can is not covered, there is a risk it will explode. Please repress that thrill-seeker in you, and make sure that you keep topping up the water. Make dulce de leche responsibly.

My favourite things to do with dulce de leche (aside from licking it straight off a spoon): Use it to fill and top cupcakes, as a brownie topping or swirl globs of it into your brownie batter before baking, to sandwich together biscuits and whoopie pies, eat it still warm with sticky toffee pudding. The possibilities are infinite!

Chocolate Cupcakes topped with Dulce de Leche

Chocolate Cupcakes topped with Dulce de Leche

Banoffee Cupcakes filled with Dulce De Leche, plus extra piped over the top

Banoffee Cupcakes filled with Dulce De Leche, plus extra piped over the top

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Orange and Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake

After a few weeks of indecisive flitting between hot and cold, the weather in Dhaka has taken a turn to the sultry. Back to fans and humidity-enlarged hair. Alongside the sultry heat is a somewhat (read: very) tumultuous feel in the air. Dhaka is not a happy city right now. As to the causes of unhappiness – voicing public opinions seems to be a health hazard these days, so I’ll stick to the neutral subject of cake. Everyone likes cake, let’s all be happy for a moment. Sit down with a cup of tea and a slice of scrumptious sponge cake. Scroll down for the recipe below if my blogging banter is boring you (I won’t be offended, it’s for the cake – I understand).

Enough said.

Hartal season is in full swing, and we are currently in the middle of a three day spate. With my Bar Council Viva Voce Examination around the corner, this is the perfect opportunity for me to utilise this time off work and revise. Today, I had all the intentions of buckling down and losing myself in all the intricacies of criminal and civil procedure (hah!). I sat down with my revision guide and was greeted with the enlightening words of encouragement in its introduction: “Destiny favours the brave. So do not be afraid of the oral test, however don’t show over-smartness before the Viva Board.” Got it. Brave, smart-but-not-too-smart.

But then…my 6-year-old cousin came to visit, with a gift for me. A grand total of three whole strawberries and the expectation that I must bake something wonderful because “stowbewies are my favourite”. As she gingerly transferred the strawberries from her small palms into my own and then looked up at me with an expression that said please-turn-this-into-cake, I realised that my hartal-turned-revision day was inevitably going to turn into a cake day instead.

Enjoy.

Orange and Strawberry Victoria Sponge Cake

I adapted this recipe from Mary Berry, changing the flavour of the sponge slightly to give it an orange kick that I think teams up quite wonderfully with the strawberries.

Slice of Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

225g unsalted butter, at room temperature

225g caster sugar*

4 large eggs, at room temperature

Grated zest of one orange or 1 teaspoon good quality orange extract

225g self-raising flour**

2 teaspoons baking powder

A pinch of salt

To finish:

Double cream, whipped

Strawberry jam

Three fresh strawberries, lovingly given

Icing sugar

1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4, grease and line two round 8-inch cake tins.

2. Cream together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs and orange zest (or extract) to mixture and beat until well combined.

4. Add flour, baking powder and salt to the mixture and gently fold in until incorporated.

5. Divide mixture between prepared tins and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, until the cakes are golden and the tops bounce back when lightly pressed.

6. Once cakes have cooled, sandwich together with whipped cream and strawberry jam. Decorate with fresh strawberries and sifted icing sugar.

Every day is a cake day

*I have not yet been able to find caster sugar in Dhaka. I make my own by processing granulated sugar until I am happy with the fine-ness of it!

**Self-raising flour is also quite hard to come by. It is ridiculously easy to make your own though: 1 teaspoon of baking powder to 200g plain flour. Whisk together, then sift together. I usually make a whole lot in one go for ease of use later on! It should be noted, the composition of American self-raising flour is slightly different, with the addition of salt too – see Smitten Kitchen entry on how to make it here.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shubho Shadhinota Dibosh – Happy Independence Day

Bangladesh celebrates its 39th year of independence today.

‘…ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’. – John F Kennedy

What can I do for my country? Well, I’m not quite sure yet – but what I do know is this: I am full of optimism. I am hopeful, I have ambition and I have blurry but well-intentioned dreams to make the world a better place.

Cynics, I give you a moment to grab your paper bags.

But seriously, I mean it. Perhaps age and experience will harden me, who knows? But now, right now – I have that crazy feeling that anything is possible. That maybe I’ll look  back at this blog post in 10 years and think – hey, I’ve done some pretty amazing things.

For now, time to go do some revision. After that, who knows?  The world is my oyster and cake is my friend. A pretty unstoppable combo if you ask me.

Shubho Shadhinota Dibosh!

Tagged , , , ,

Learning to read

The words on the page, they’re troubling me. My eyes catch on familiar characters, recognisable groupings – but the page is an overwhelming, overflowing pattern of black print.

I start from the beginning, which would appear logical. My gaze makes the slow, hesitant journey across the page. Words begin to form, the sentence strings together, the story comes to life –

– and then I trip.

The unfamiliar word sends me spiralling back into the black print of confusion. Where was I? What was I reading? What does this mean? How do I –

The frustration kicks in.  The self defeat, the feeling of stupidity. Inadequacies and insecurities, my dear old friends, come to rest on the page before me.

I am learning how to read. Re-learning rather, refreshing, reminding. While my spoken Bengali is fluent, my reading skills are more than a little rusty. My parents taught me the basics as a child, I never took the initiative to further my expertise in the matter. Many years on, I attempt to rectify my childish blunder. A friend lent me a book – Humayun Ahmed’s ‘Himu Rimande‘, and I’m currently making my way through it.

I am finding each page a little bit easier as I get through, words become more familiar, the reading becomes more comfortable albeit still incredibly slow.

Anyway, as I was reading today and my continual stumbles lessened somewhat, I remembered a poem I read back during my GCSEs – it was one that always stuck in my head, because it fit my feelings on the subject of my mother tongue rather perfectly.

Search for My Tongue

Sujata Bhatt


You ask me what I mean
by saying I have lost my tongue.
I ask you, what would you do
if you had two tongues in your mouth,
and lost the first one, the mother tongue,
and could not really know the other,
the foreign tongue.
You could not use them both together
even if you thought that way.
And if you lived in a place you had to
speak a foreign tongue,
your mother tongue would rot,
rot and die in your mouth
until you had to spit it out.
I thought I spit it out
but overnight while I dream,

(munay hutoo kay aakhee jeebh aakhee bhasha)

(may thoonky nakhi chay)
(parantoo rattray svupnama mari bhasha pachi aavay chay)

(foolnee jaim mari bhasha nmari jeebh)

(modhama kheelay chay)

(fullnee jaim mari bhasha mari jeebh)

(modhama pakay chay)

it grows back, a stump of a shoot
grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins,
it ties the other tongue in knots,
the bud opens, the bud opens in my mouth,
it pushes the other tongue aside.
Everytime I think I’ve forgotten,
I think I’ve lost the mother tongue,
it blossoms out of my mouth.

Tagged , , , , , ,