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Working with spices and sweets

The Baltimore Sun

The Spice Bible

Essential Information and More Than 250 Recipes Using Spices, Spice Mixes and Spice Pastes

Mantra: The Rules of Indulgence

By Jehangir Mehta with Christopher Kelly

Ecco / 2008 / $34.95

I was surprised to read a medical disclaimer in the front of this ambrosial sweets cookbook: "The information contained in this book should by no means be considered a substitute for the advice of a qualified medical professional."

But in drawing on the ayurveda science of his Indian-Persian heritage, New York chef Jehangir Mehta still promotes the holistic health of body, mind and spirit, encouraging readers to indulge in the inventive desserts he illuminates in sections on fragrant flowers, tropical fruit and pungent herbs and spices.

Many of those choice ingredients must be ordered in advance from Asian or Middle Eastern specialty shops: palmyra (palm fruit), licorice powder, shiso leaves, basil seeds.

Making Mehta's baked confections seemed the more modest task. I had the ingredients for Prune Muffins on hand, substituting Greek yogurt for the sour cream. The spongy, butter-rich muffins were the perfect vehicle for the dried fruit.

Mantra's numerous sorbets and cooling cocktails would be refreshing choices for summer.

Prune Muffins

Makes 20 mini muffins

1/2 cup sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 medium egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of kosher salt

1/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup sliced, pitted prunes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 20 mini-muffin cups with oil.

Place the sugar and butter in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat on high speed with a paddle attachment until the butter is fluffy and light, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla paste and mix for 1 minute.

Add the flour, baking soda, salt and sour cream. Mix for 20 seconds more. Add the prunes. Mix for 10 seconds. Remove the bowl and paddle and use a spatula to mix batter thoroughly. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups until each is 3/4 full.

Bake the muffins for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow them to cool before serving.

From "Mantra: The Rules of Indulgence"

Per muffin: 109 calories, 1 gram protein, 8 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 9 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams fiber, 29 milligrams cholesterol, 75 milligrams sodium

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