Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Of Food And Friends

A couple of Sundays ago, A and I had a few friends over for a small do at our place. The guest list was an eclectic mix of people from varied walks of life. There was D, who works for a human rights organization and her husband E, who runs one of the oldest and most popular bakeries in Mumbai city. D and E are expecting their first baby real soon, and are quite expectedly counting the days till the wee one makes its grand entry. Then, there was B and her husband R, both in the field of journalism; she as a features writer for a travel publication and he as a graphic designer for a leading newspaper. And, rounding off our guest list were two lovely ladies, RS and S; the former a theatre enthusiast and patron of the arts, and the latter, visiting from Germany and currently occupied with a project studying contemporary writing on Mumbai. This short but diverse guest list certainly made for an interesting evening, replete with stimulating conversation and enjoyable banter.

The menu was a joint effort by A and me with him doing the salad and entrée and moi, the starter, soup and dessert. Here’s what we dished up that night:

Appetizer : Roasted Bell Pepper Dip with Chips
Soup : Cauliflower and Carrot Soup
Salad : Tossed Corn Salad
Entrée : Fusilli in Cheese Sauce, Mushrooms in Coconut Gravy and Pasta with Zucchini tossed in Italian Herbs
Dessert : Chocolate Mousse

The recipe I’m sharing in this post is the one I used for Chocolate Mousse. Inspired by Baking Bites, it makes short work of what seems an elaborate effort :)

Chocolate Mousse
(serves eight)


Water – 1 cup (boiling)
Gelatin – 2 ½ tsp (powdered)
Cocoa powder – 2 ½ tbsp
Eggs – 5 nos (separated and at room temperature)
Sugar – ½ cup
Chocolate flakes for garnish


1. Combine water and gelatin in a small bowl and whisk till the gelatin has completely dissolved
2. Whisk in cocoa powder and set aside to cool
3. Place the egg whites in a bowl and beat briskly till soft peaks appear
4. Add sugar gradually, working with 1-2 tbsp at a time, while you beat the egg whites
5. Once the egg whites and sugar are well mixed, beat in the egg yolks one at a time
6. Slowly pour in the gelatin mixture and mix until uniform in colour and well combined
7. Evenly distribute the mousse into individual serving cups and refrigerate until set
8. Grate chocolate over the top of each mousse before serving

An earlier post had talked about my recipe for the dip. I pretty much followed this recipe to the T for the soup, except that I pureed the mixture in a blender for a smooth consistency. The rest of the meal, I need to prevail upon A to write out the recipes for me. Hopefully, my blog will play host to a guest columnist real soon :)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Amazing Grace ...

She was full of it. My beloved aunt, Valerine who passed away last week embodied the grace and patience that we come to cherish only to realize that the person is no more in our midst. Aunty Vallie as she was fondly called by all those who knew her, came to Mumbai from Mangalore in 1948. She lived with her neighbour from Mangalore who had come to the big city a few years earlier, and helped her bring up her 6 children. When she got a job and settled a bit, she sent for her younger sister (my mom) and her mother. The three ladies stayed together in a rented place in Mumbai, till my mom met my Dad and they got married in 1967. From then on, they were all a family. My sister and I came along, and with both parents working, Aunty was the one who brought us up.

My sister and I are doubly blessed to have had two mothers. It is difficult to put into words the memories that we are left with. But when I think of Aunty, the images that dance across my mind’s eye include:

· Her ready smile
· Going to school, holding Aunty’s hand
· Her endless patience in teaching me spellings – I still remember stumbling over the spelling of “pieces” and aunty patiently spelling it out to me at least 50 times
· A whiz at math – she always won prizes in school for top marks – she unraveled the mysteries of profit and loss so simply for me
· The fresh snacks she got for us in school during break time, along with a cool flask filled with her refreshingly delicious sweet lime juice (till date, this remains my all time favourite fruit juice)
· The amazing curries she created and dished up
· The goodies that she made at Christmas
· Her exquisite embroidery and crochet creations – she could just look at a design and figure out the pattern of stitches used
· Her penchant for cleanliness – she would painstakingly wipe off furniture surfaces free of dust
· The caring eye she kept on the building kids whose parents were also working
· She might not have had kids of her own, but her generous heart embraced all the children in our building as her own – and their emails cry to us with their loss as much as our own
· Her stoicism and courage in bearing the pain and suffering that came her way, without a murmur. Only when the pain got unbearable, did she allow a silent tear to slip by
· The grace and peace that she conveyed at the time of that final goodbye

Aunty Vallie … pillar of strength … epitome of a giving spirit … you will be fondly remembered … always and forever

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cauliflower Calling

My feelings about cauliflower are rather ambivalent. On the one hand, I think it is a very versatile veggie that lends itself marvelously to both Continental as well as Indian preparations, not to forget the ubiquitous Gobi Manchurian that you will find at virtually every Indian Chinese restaurant worth its MSG. On the other hand, I also find it quite a challenge to retain its delicate flavour and yet mask its strong (though not unpleasant) smell. Tough call indeed! This recipe that I’m sharing here calls for parboiling the cauliflower beforehand and mixing it into the final dish at the very end.

Kadai Cauliflower
(serves 6)


Cauliflower – 350 gms
Onions – 2 nos (finely chopped)
Ginger garlic paste – 2 heaped tbsp
Tomato – 1 no (finely chopped)
Red chilli – 1 no
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Mustard seeds – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Hing – 2 pinches
Salt – to taste
Oil – 2 tbsp
Finely chopped coriander – for garnish

Mix to a thick paste (using water)
Turmeric pd – ¼ tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Red chilli pd – 1 tsp
Dhania jeera pd – 1 tsp
Sambhar pd– 1 tsp

1. Cut cauliflower into medium sized florets
2. Sprinkle a little salt and turmeric and boil cauliflower till semi cooked
3. Drain and keep aside. Retain water to adjust consistency of gravy
4. Heat oil, add mustard and jeera seeds
5. When they splutter, add hing and curry leaves
6. Add ginger garlic paste and fry for 2-3 mins
7. Put in onions & red chilli and continue to cook till the raw smell disappears
8. Add the masala powder paste and cook till well mixed
9. Finally add tomatoes and salt
10. Add more water, if necessary, to get a thick gravy
11. Add cauliflower and cook till done
12. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Toast To Toffee

I have been meaning, for a long while, to write a piece on what a disaster my attempt at making sweets during Diwali turned out to be. While I will still leave that saga for another day, today’s post features condensed milk as the key ingredient. The reason for this is that I had bought a tin in the hope of making some kind of a barfi * (I don’t even remember which one now) for the festive season. Yesterday, while I was browsing in the fridge, I came across this tin and decided to use it up making milk toffee. This recipe is one of the most common ones to grace the platter of sweets in the vast majority of Indian Catholic homes at Christmas. I remember my mom making these toffees by the dozen and them being wolfed down by the kids in our apartment building. Of course, hers were much prettier to look at as they were moulded into these cute shapes that made them eye candy :) in addition to being a delicious treat!

* The Indian equivalent of fudge

P.S. The title for this piece was inspired by A, who added a touch of whimsy to the picture with the Bailey’s Irish Cream. Maybe the next time around, I’ll try flavouring these sweets with this delightful liqueur.

Condensed Milk Toffee
(makes 25 – 30 pieces)


Butter – 7 tbsp
Sugar – 15 tbsp
Condensed Milk – 1 tin


1. Heat the butter and sugar together on a low flame and stir till melted and well mixed.
2. Pour in the condensed milk and cook on a slow fire, stirring occasionally.
3. Cook till the mixture turns light brown and begins to leave the sides of the pan.
4. Turn onto a greased tray, and mark into squares.
5. Cool till it reaches room temperature and then cut into squares.
6. Store in the refrigerator, wrapped in foil.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Free Wheeling

When I started blogging in January this year, my new year’s resolution was that I will be a serious blogger who regularly posts experiences – both successes and otherwise. I also set myself a lofty standard of 10 posts a month, which sadly, I have not managed to achieve in any month so far. In fact, this month I have come precariously close to having not a single piece posted … ohmigod … that is so not done!!! But in my own defense, I must say that March has been an absolutely crazy month, work wise … loads of meetings and a packed travel schedule. So, now that I have just one day to go, this is my last chance get that post in before March marches away from me.

The other day, when A and I were browsing in a bookstore I wandered over to my favourite section (no prizes for guessing this one) – the Food & Drinks shelves and came across this book by Nita Mehta called Tasty Snacks. One of the recipes that caught my eye was for Bread Pinwheels – reason being – this is something that I make once this a while, but I call them bread rolls. The recipe for the filling is my own version, and this can vary depending on the imagination and creativity of the cook. The method of flattening the bread slices is the same that I use, but I loved Nita’s way of presenting the ultimate result – they looked so deliciously attractive. So here they are

Potato Bread Pinwheels
(makes 06 pieces)


Potatoes – 1 no
Onions – 1 no
Garlic – 2 cloves
Green chilli – 1 no
Lemon juice – 2 tsp
Tomato ketchup – 1 tbsp
Coriander (aka cilantro) – a few sprigs
Bread – 4 slices
All purpose flour – 2 tbsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – for deep frying


1. Boil, peel and mash potato
2. Chop onions, chilli and garlic finely
3. Heat 1 tbsp oil and sauté onions, chilli and garlic till onions are tender
4. Add mashed potato, tomato ketchup and cook for 2-3 minutes
5. Check salt, add lemon juice and sprinkle coriander leaves
6. Keep the mixture aside for cooling
7. Make a thin paste using flour and water
8. Cut off the sides of the bread slices
9. Flatten the slices using a rolling pin, applying pressure so that the slices are stretched thin
10. Take 2 of the bread slices and lay them together letting them overlap by ¼ inch, to get a single long slice. Use a little of the flour paste to seal the joint
11. Spread the potato mixture evenly on the bread slice
12. Roll carefully from end to end, sealing with the flour paste
13. Refrigerate till required
14. Just before serving, heat oil and deep fry the rolls till golden and done
15. Cut each roll into 3 pieces and serve with sauce / chutney

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Time For Lent(ils)

Come February – March, and it’s time for Catholics the world over (the devout ones, that is) to give up something that they hold dear during the period of Lent. Well, when it comes to this party hearty community, that loves its meat and the occasional tipple (um, ok, let’s say the swigging can get a little frequent), one of the most common “sacrifices” that gets made is to give up eating non vegetarian food during these 40 days. This means the meat (and in some cases even the fish) on the table gets substituted with Lentils.

In keeping with the spirit of Lent, I am posting here a simple yet tasty recipe for
Masoor (aka black whole lentils / Egyptian lentils), given by my friend and colleague, D. D belongs to that amazing breed of Mumbai women, which braves the long commute in packed local trains to get to work every morning, puts up with a demanding boss and then endures the same trying journey back home to supervise kids’ homework, cook dinner and handle a dozen other household chores with one hand tied behind their back!. Thanks D. I salute you and your ilk. Thinking of your hectic evenings makes mine seem like a cakewalk

Masoor In Gravy
(serves 6)


Masoor (black lentils) – ¼ kg
Onions – 2 nos (finely chopped)
Garlic – 6-7 cloves (peeled and roughly mashed)
Ginger – a small piece (peeled and roughly mashed)
Tomato – 1 no (chopped into big pieces)
Potato – 1 no (chopped into medium sized chunks)
Turmeric pd – ½ tsp
Garam masala – 1 tsp
Red chilli pd – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – 2 tbsp
Water – 3 glasses
Finely chopped coriander – for garnish

Grind to a thick paste (using water)
Fresh grated coconut – 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves – a handful
Green chilli – 1 no


1. Soak masoor overnight
2. Zap the potato in the microwave till semi cooked
3. Heat oil, add ginger & garlic and fry till lightly browned
4. Add onions & potato and sauté till soft and tender
5. Add all dry masalas and sauté till the mixture turns reddish gold
6. Now put in the masoor and 2 glasses of water
7. Once the masoor comes to a boil, add the ground paste
8. Stir and let it cook a little
9. Whisk the remaining glass of water in the blender to clean up the masala paste that maybe stuck to the sides
10. Add to the masoor along with the tomato and salt
11. Cook till done (approx another 10 minutes)
12. Garnish with finely chopped coriander leaves

Friday, February 15, 2008

Love Rocks

in more ways than one!! This week was particularly trying for me. Juggling a packed work schedule crammed with meetings and deadlines, Valentines’ Day glimmered like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to surprise my husband, A with something really special. So I thought of making something rather than buying a gift off the shelf. And what could be better than a gaily wrapped package of home made chocolates … the food of the gods! Having decided what to make, then came the trickier part - how to make it. I always thought that making chocolates was a rather complicated affair (and I was very nearly proved right).

A hurried net search, amidst budget workings and annual planning sessions, yielded a seemingly simple recipe for chocolate truffles. I must say that Nupur’s blog is an absolute treasure trove of deliciously simple sounding recipes beautifully illustrated with the most amazing photographs. Her tea tinged truffles looked easy enough for a novice like me to brave an attempt. So finally on Sunday evening, while A was away at an arts festival, I rolled up my sleeves and got down to serious business. Hacking the cooking chocolate slabs into chips was one tough job, let me tell you (I still have the blisters to prove it). Next came the flavouring – I chose coffee. So far, so good. And then, was the clincher – carefully measuring the cream in just the right proportion. And here is where I messed up! Converting weights and measures has never been my strong suit and the ratio of chocolate : cream that I used went dismally wrong. After that it was downhill all the way! The chocolate simply refused to harden enough to set and get moulded into shapes. As the days rolled by, I used to rush home every night and make a beeline for the refrigerator to check if the chocolate had set. And every night was a study in disappointment :(

Finally, my colleague E suggested that I use the good ol’ double boiler method to melt chocolate and said that it should not take more than 10 minutes to set. Oh joy! That sounded too good to be true (given the fact that it was already 13th Feb by then and I just had that one night to work on my surprise). I dashed home early that evening and followed E’s melting instructions to the T. I then added my own touches by mixing in rice crispies and cashew bits to make a fresh batch of chocolate rocks. And lo and behold, after around 20 minutes in the deep freeze, they moulded beautifully. Arranging them in a decorative gift box and presenting it to A that night … well all I can say is that Love certainly Rocks!

Chocolate Cashew Rocks
(makes 16 pieces)


Cooking chocolate (milk) – 160 gms
Cashew pieces – 50 gms
Rice crispies – 3-4 tsp


1. Chop chocolate into fine pieces and place in a heavy heat proof bowl
2. Chop cashews into small bits
3. Pour about 2-3 inches of water in a pot and place over heat till the water boils
4. Take off from fire and hold the chocolate bowl over the hot water pot
5. Whisk briskly till the chocolate is fully melted
6. Stir in the cashew pieces and rice crispies
7. Leave the chocolate mixture in the freezer till set (approx 20 mins)
8. Take spoonfuls of the set chocolate mixture and mould into desired shapes
9. Store the chocolate rocks in the refrigerator wrapped in foil to preserve the shape

My tips:

1. While whisking the chocolate, take the bowl down from the hot water pot periodically to avoid overheating and / or possible burning

2. Be careful not to let the condensation from the hot water touch the bottom of the chocolate bowl, else the chocolate will
seize and not set properly

3. You can also melt the chocolate in the microwave. Do so in short bursts of 5-8 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval

4. You may choose to add in any other chopped nuts / dried fruits of your choice to make chocolate rocks in a variety of flavours

5. You may also choose to use a medley of chocolate chips in varying proportion – milk, semi sweet, bitter – depending on the degree of sweetness you enjoy

6. For those of you living in Mumbai, check out Arif’s at Crawford Market for their range of cooking chocolate. Arif’s is your quintessential one-stop shop for anything to do with chocolate making and baking stuff at very reasonable prices. The Morde brand of cooking chocolate is the most popular. Make sure you buy the pure chocolate slabs, and not the compound

Psssst – I still have the earlier chocolate mess languishing in my freezer. Any thoughts on how to salvage it would be much appreciated

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Simply Oatstanding!

I must confess that among the bites I like for breakfast, oatmeal ranks at an all time low along with cornflakes and other cereals. During our childhood, I remember them being reserved for those days when mom did not have the time or inclination in her rushed morning to put together a cooked breakfast. Every mouthful was washed down with a swallow of coffee and the last couple of spoons went a-begging in the bowl. But this time, when I went to mom’s place for a brief spell, there was the dreaded oatmeal making an appearance after an eon. And suddenly, I was looking at it with different eyes. Somehow the look, the aroma and the texture seemed tempting enough to reach for it and savour the taste. What was different? I can’t say exactly. Maybe as I said earlier, I was eating it after ages. Maybe I no longer associated it with the early morning rush to get to school. Maybe I just appreciated mom’s cooking all the more, now that I know how tough it can be conjure up new dishes constantly. Well whatever the reason, this bowl of hearty porridge with its stick-to-the-ribs quality, made it the ideal breakfast on that wintry morning.

(makes 1 bowl)


Quick cooking oats – ¼ cup
Milk – enough to soak the oats (more if you like it really wet)
Brown sugar – 2 tsp
Chopped banana – 3 tsp
Honey – to drizzle


1. In a saucepan, combine the oatmeal with milk and 1 tsp sugar
2. Place over heat and boil till oatmeal is done
3. Sprinkle with chopped banana and remaining brown sugar
4. Drizzle honey on top
5. Enjoy!

There are many other topping options that you can play around with – chopped nuts, fruits of your choice, crushed wafer biscuits, and anything else that catches your fancy and tickles your creative buds

Monday, February 11, 2008

Cs Ease

Here’s an easy stir fry that can be put together in a jiffy, using 2 basic veggies – Carrots and Capsicum. I happened to read a recipe on www.bawarchi.com that featured a Carrot and Potato Pepper Fry. Thanks to Usha Sriram, the lady whose recipe I modified to suit what I had on hand in my vegetable crisper and spice rack

Capsicum n Carrot Easy Stir Fry
(serves 4)


Capsicum – 2 nos
Carrots – 2 nos
Onions – 1 no
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Hing – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
Red chilli pd – 1 tsp
Turmeric pd – ½ tsp
Dhania Jeera pd – 1 tsp
Sambhar pd – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Oil – 1 ½ tbsp


1. Dice capsicum and carrots into fine cubes of uniform size
2. Chop onions and garlic finely
3. Heat oil, add mustard seeds
4. When they begin to crackle, add curry leaves and hing
5. Stir around to mix, and immediately put in the garlic, followed closely by onions

6. Add the rest of the dry masala powders and salt.
7. Sprinkle a little water and cook till onions are soft. Be careful to add only a sprinkling of water, just enough to make sure the onions do not stick to the bottom of the pan
8. Add carrots and capsicum and cook till the veggies are done
9. Goes well with daal – rice / phulk

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shorba De

Loosely translated from Hindi, the title of this piece means “Give me some soup, please”. Actually, it is more of a demand than a request. And those who are familiar with Indian writers will recognize the play of words on the name, Shobha De often referred to as India’s answer to Jackie Collins. Shorba is the Indian term for soup, often made with lentils which are simmered, to which a tempering is added. Here I am sharing another of my “firsts” – an adapted version of the traditional shorba. The title is a whimsical reflection of what I hope will be a constant clamour for more of this flavourful broth

Tomato Shorba
(serves 4)


Tomatoes – 2 nos (pick firm, medium sized ones)
Onions – 1 no
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Curry leaves – 1sprig
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Hing – a pinch
Red chilli – 1 (small)
Red chill pd – 1 tsp
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Oil – 1 ½ tbsp
Salt & Pepper – to season
Coriander – to garnish


1. Blanch the tomatoes till tender. Retain water
2. Cool, peel off skin and mash coarsely
3. Chop onion and garlic finely
4. Heat 1 tbsp oil and sauté onion and garlic till soft
5. Add chilli and turmeric powders and cook for another 1-2 mins
6. Add tomatoes, water from blanching and cook till well blended
7. Liquidize in a blender till smooth
8. Heat ½ tbsp oil, splutter mustard seeds, add hing, red chilli and curry leaves
9. Stir and pour in tomato mixture
10. Bring to a boil, adding more water if necessary to obtain the required consistency
11. Discard the red chilli. Season with salt and pepper
12. Serve piping hot, garnished with a sprig of coriander

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Simple Simon

Last night, I was in the mood for whipping up something real quick and simple. And what better vegetable to bank on, other than the humble potato!! I’m sure every cook worth his / her salt has made French Fries at some time or the other. Here is my version of this simple accompaniment. The tanginess of chaat masala and the aromatic flavor of coriander make for a lip-smacking combination

French Fries
(serves 4)


Potatoes – 4 nos (large sized)
Salt – to taste
Chaat masala – for sprinkling
Coriander leaves – for tossing Method

1. Cut potatoes into long, thin strips
2. Soak in a bowlful of ice cubes for about an hour (Mom’s tip - this aids in quicker frying and gives a crisper outcome. It also keeps the colour of the potatoes and they don’t turn brown while frying)
3. Drain the water and toss the potatoes in salt
4. Keep for a couple of minutes. The salt will make the potatoes leave some more water. Toss out this water as well
5. Heat oil in a deep pan
6. Fry the potato strips in batches till done
7. Sprinkle chaat masala and finely chopped coriander leaves
8. Serve hot

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Start Smart

The first time we entertained, I decided to try my hand at something a little fancy to serve as a starter. The fact that our guests were friends who would be game enough to act as guinea pigs for my experiment, bolstered my confidence a great deal. I must confess here though, that I hit upon this idea for a starter quite by chance. Racking my brains for an appetizer that was simple to make, and yet had a touch of the exotic, I came up with a list of veggies that I thought would fit the bill. Topping the chart was mushroom, followed by zucchini coming a close second. Well, deciding between the two proved to be no contest, becos mushroom is my hubby dearest’s all time favourite. The plus point of this recipe is that the mushrooms can be prepared in advance and fried just before serving. Biting into the outer crunchiness of the mushrooms to discover the softness of the potatoes inside…. yumm!

Stuffed Mushroom Caps
(makes 10-12 pieces)


Mushrooms – 10-12 nos (select ones that have slightly larger caps)
Potatoes – 2 nos
Onions – 1 no
Garlic – 3-4 cloves
Green chilli – 1 no
Lemon juice – 2 tsp
Coriander (aka cilantro) – a few sprigs
Salt – to taste
Breadcrumbs – for coating
All purpose flour – for batter
Oil – for deep frying


1. Slice off the stems of mushrooms, scoop out the inside of the caps to make a nice hollow
2. Chop up the stems finely
3. Boil, peel and mash potatoes
4. Chop onions, chill and garlic finely
5. Heat 1 tbsp oil and sauté onions, chilli and garlic till onions are tender
6. Add mushroom stems and potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes
7. Check salt, add lemon juices and sprinkle coriander
8. Cool the mixture and stuff into hollowed mushroom caps carefully using a spoon
9. Make a thin batter using flour and water
10. Dip the mushrooms into the batter and coat with breadcrumbs
11. Refrigerate till required
12. Just before serving, heat oil and deep fry mushrooms till golden and done
13. Stick decorative toothpicks into the fried mushroom and serve with sauce / chutney

My tips :

1. Methinks the array of stuffing options that one can choose to play around with is endless – cheese, paneer, mixed veggies, scrambled egg … it’s all a matter of letting your imagination run wild

2. A platter of mushrooms with assorted fillings can become a delightful starter – have your friends play a guessing game to identify what your stuffings are all about

3. Instead of mushrooms, I have also tried Bread Rolls using the same mashed potato filling. The batter / coating routine can be skipped in this variation. To get bread rolls that are crisp and crunchy, roll the bread slices with a rolling pin till they are stretched thin. Then stuff ‘em with any filling of your choice, seal the edges with water and fry till golden. Rolling them like this, makes for less oil absorption and quicker frying. With bread rolls, you can also opt for shallow frying. This wonderful tip came to me from my sister, P who is the biggest contributor to my culinary experiments (next to our mom, who is an amazing cook). P, my staunch ally and rescuer of cooking disasters, countless times over, your tips and recipes will be a staple feature of my blognicles (blog chronicles …. howzzat for coining a new term :)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Sweet Nothing

The reason I chose to title this piece thus is because when it comes to this dessert, there is literally “nothing” to it. A delightful medley of rava, sugar and water with a sprinkling of nuts and saffron strands, every mouthful is sheer ambrosia. My early attempts saw this dish turning out flat, till my mom tasted it and figured out one vital missing ingredient – a pinch of salt. That’s it. Mom also gave me a surefire simple way of remembering the precise proportions in which the ingredients are to be used. That’s the trick folks – get the measurements right, and you’re home free.

This recipe is one of the most common desserts made in Indian homes and what I would whole heartedly recommend for someone planning a full course, home-cooked meal for the very first time (the voice of experience speaketh!)

(serves four)


Rava (aka semolina) – 1 cup
Sugar – 1 cup
Water – 2 ½ glasses
Saffron – a few strands (soaked in 1 tbsp water)
Cardamom – 3-4 pods (peeled and crushed fine)
Salt – a pinch
Chopped nuts, raisins – a few
Ghee – 2 tbsp


1. Heat ghee and fry rava till the raw smell disappears and it starts browning
2. Keep stirring continuously
3. Simultaneously, on another burner, heat water till it boils
4. Slowly, add the hot water to the rava, stirring all the time. Be careful not to scald yourself here
5. Add sugar, dry fruits, cardamom powder and salt
6. Stir for a bit
7. Add saffron strands and cook till it reaches the required consistency
8. Serve warm

My tips :

1. To remember the proportion of key ingredients, just keep this rule in mind – rava and sugar are to be used in equal measure. Water is to be measured as half plus double of the amount of rava / sugar used. For eg. if you are using one cup of rava, the amount of sugar will also be one cup, and water needed will be 2 ½ glasses (half of 1 = ½, double of 1 = 2)

2. Cooling the dish to room temperature will give it a wonderful, grainy texture. Warm slightly just before serving

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Dip In Thyme

One of the easiest ideas for a starter is to do a Chip-n-Dip thingy. The first time I tried this dip was when my father-in-law had invited a whole gang of his friends for dinner. It turned out a tad too spicy and after the first taste, nobody touched it :( Disappointing, but nevertheless it made me try different variations that would make it taste as good but without the “smoke-coming-out-of-the-ears” pungency. The next time around when we had guests, I used just one teeny weeny red chilli (instead of the three I had used earlier) and added a sprinkle of roasted ajwain seeds. I also rummaged in the kitchen cupboard to see what else could be used to enhance the flavour and chanced upon a jar of thyme. A dash of this delightful herb made all the difference. So here it is … tried and tested

Roasted Capsicum Dip with Ajwain and Thyme
(makes one bowl)


Capsicum (aka green pepper – 1 no
Onion – 1 no
Tomato – 1 no
Garlic – 4-5 cloves
Red Chilli – 1 (small)
Curry leaves – 1 sprig
Ajwain – 1 tsp
Crushed Thyme – 2 pinches
Salt – to taste
Coriander – for garnishing


1. Stick a fork in the crown of the capsicum and roast evenly over an open flame.
2. Hold the fork under running cold water and using a sharp knife, scrape off the outer black skin. Chop into bits
3. Chop onion and garlic and sauté in 1 tbsp of oil along with the curry leaves
4. Simultaneously, blanch the tomato in 1 cup of water
5. Peel off the outer skin and chop roughly. Retain the tomato stock
6. Add tomato and capsicum to the onion mixture
7. Dry roast the ajwain and red chilli till you get a fragrant aroma. Add to the cooking mixture
8. Turn off the heat and blend all the ingredients to a paste like consistency.
9. Use the tomato stock to dilute if necessary
10. Sprinkle crushed thyme
11. Adjust salt according to taste and garnish with a sprig of coriander (cilantro)
12. Serve in a pretty bowl surrounded by chips / salted crackers

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Soup Opera

“Simple is not always easy”… something I had read and paid heed to. But when it comes to this recipe for Green Pea Soup, this adage goes right out of the window. Ingredients that are readily available at hand (for most people, unless you are a descendant of Mother Hubbard) and a cooking time that goes like "whoooosh" puts this formula right up there in my “easy-breezy” list

Green Pea Soup
(Serves 4)


Green Peas - 1 cup
Onions - 2 (medium sized)
Garlic - 5-6 big cloves
Green Chilli - 1 (small)
Oil - 1 tbsp
Salt & Pepper - to season


1. Boil peas in water till done. Retain the stock. Alternatively, you could stick the peas in the micro and cook till soft and done
2. Chop onions, garlic and green chilli
3. Heat oil and sauté garlic and green chilli
4. Add onions and cook till soft
5. Put in cooked green peas and stock and bring to a boil
6. Puree this mixture in a blender till liquidized
7. Boil once again. At this stage, you will need to adjust the consistency by adding more water if required.
8. Season with salt and pepper
9. Voila …. a hearty bowlful to warm those cozy winter evenings

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where Do I Begin...

This was the question that haunted me when I first began my experiments of the culinary variety. Before I got married in 2006, my forays into the kitchen were limited to the odd omelette here or a stray snack there. But after getting hitched, my attempts at cooking have expanded to include dishes that can actually be eaten as part of main courses at lunch or dinner. Here is one of the first veggie dishes that I put my own stamp onto

Tondli Potato Fry


Tondli - ¼ kg
Potatoes - ¼ kg
Onions - 2 nos
Mustard seeds - 2 tsp
Hing - a few pinches
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Red chilli pd - 1 tsp
Turmeric pd - ½ tsp
Dhania Jeera pd - 1 tsp
Sambhar pd - 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil - 3 tbsp


1. Slice tondlis and potatoes lengthwise like you would for French fries
2. Soak potatoes in water to which a few ice cubes have been added (this aids in quicker frying and gives a crisper outcome)
3. Slice onions lengthwise
4. Toss tondlis in a bit of the dry masala powders
5. Heat oil in a non stick pan and sauté tondlis till semi cooked. Keep aside
6. Drain potatoes and toss in salt and turmeric powder
7. Saute potatoes in the remaining oil till soft and done. Keep aside
8. Heat the pan and splutter mustard seeds and hing
9. Add curry leaves and onions immediately (if the hing gets overcooked, it gives a bitter taste to the rest of the dish… so be careful here folks)
10. Add the rest of the dry masala powders and salt.
11. Sprinkle a little water and cook till onions are soft
12. Add potatoes and tondlis and cook till tondlis are fully done
13. Enjoy with rotis / phulkas