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