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 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