Monday, March 29, 2010

Steakhouse Blues

Well, I didn’t really suffer from them years ago when I gave up eating non vegetarian food. I would attribute it to the fact that I was, in any case, a rather sporadic meat eater. Never having developed a liking for seafood and eating meat only on occasion made me virtually a vegetarian before I actually turned into one (except for eggs). The only non veg dish I missed was the Goan Roast Beef that my aunt used to cook and the Pepper Steak at Fountain Sizzlers in Mumbai.

Of late, I was wondering if we vegetarians could get a close enough substitute to the original pepper steak that would be as tasty as the real McCoy. I found this recipe by The Chubby Vegetarian which I then adapted based on the ingredients that I could find here locally. The original recipe calls for Portobello mushrooms, but these are something I wasn’t able to locate anywhere in Mumbai (surprisingly!). I made do with the Porcini variety, which also gives a nice, meaty texture when cooked.

Mushroom Steak
(serves two)


Porcini mushrooms – 1 jar (prepare them as per instructions)

For the Marinade

Roasted tomatoes – 1 no
Garlic – 4 cloves (peeled and roughly mashed)
Onion – 1 no
Olive oil – ½ cup
Juice of 1 lemon
Ajwain – ½ tsp
Cracked pepper – to taste
Salt – to taste

For the Sauce

Garlic – 3 cloves (peeled and roughly mashed)
Onion – 1 no (chopped fine)
Flour – 2 tbsp
Butter – 2 tbsp
Olive oil – 1 tsp
Vegetable stock – 1 cup
Cracked pepper – to taste
Salt – to taste


1. Combine all the ingredients for the marinade, except the olive oil, and blend until smooth
2. Gradually drizzle in the oil and continue to blend till completely mixed in
3. Coat the prepared mushrooms with this marinade, cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours
4. Melt the butter and oil till it stops bubbling
5. Add the flour and stir constantly till browned
6. Add onion and garlic and cook till translucent
7. Add pepper & stock and allow to thicken to the required consistency
8. Grill the marinated mushrooms
9. Assemble on a serving plate with the sauce spooned on top
10. Sprinkle a dash of cracked pepper

I chose to serve my faux steak with a side of mashed potatoes and caramelized onions. I am sending this experiment to Blog Bites #2 – The Copycat Edition being hosted at One Hot Stove.

My tips:

1. If you don’t have any stock on hand, you could dissolve a Maggi cube in one cup of water. The salt content in the cube is rather high, so be careful while seasoning. You may not need to add any more salt

2. The Porcini mushrooms I used are available at the Godrej Nature’s Basket outlets. Anyone knowing where I could get Portobello mushrooms in Mumbai, do let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eating Pretty

Good eating, I’m sure you will agree, is a lot more than just good taste. It involves all the five senses. In fact, the more the number of senses a dish engages, the higher is the enjoyment level the eater experiences. No rocket science there :-) The crackle, splutter and hiss you hear when ingredients are being cooked; the aroma and fragrance you smell when a dish comes together; the widening of the eyes when you see the final product; the texture of the food you feel as you consume it; and of course finally the taste that you slurp, smack and savour … all of which contribute to the ultimate eating experience!!

I am constantly amazed and quite overawed by the talent exhibited by food bloggers the world over who keep updating their blogs with beautifully illustrated posts. If what is seen is as drool-worthy, then I can only imagine what these delicious looking concoctions must taste like! What is even more remarkable about these bloggers is that they are not necessarily “blogging pros” who make a career out of blogging, but are people with demanding jobs and other responsibilities. Yet, they find the time to update their blogs regularly with highest quality standards – both in their writing as well as their photos. This, to my mind, speaks volumes about their passion, commitment and creativity, not to mention their generosity of spirit when it comes to sharing recipes, tips and techniques. Hats off to all of them.

My baby steps into this world of prettying up food presentation were crocheting this set of placemats. These go to our friend D, as a belated birthday present. Both D and her sister J are amazing cooks. A and I have enjoyed many a lip-smacking meal at their table, which I hope my little offering will grace the next time we are invited over :-)

The yarn I used for these placemats is what is called “Purse Thread” here in Mumbai stores.

Chain 70
Row 1: DC in second chain from hook and all across. Ch 3. Turn.
Row 2: Skip 1 DC, DC in each of next 3 spaces, DC in skipped DC sp. Rep across.
Repeat rows 1&2 till your work reaches desired length. Fasten off.

I finished off the placemats with matching lace edgings that I purchased separately and got my tailor to sew across.

As a final round-up to this post, here is just a small sampling of some of the wonderfully talented bloggers who I would like to raise a toast to. Cheers! More power to you as you continue to inspire fledglings like me.

Stirring up Sweetness

We celebrated Gudi Padva this week. One of the many fond memories I have of my childhood is that of festivals being celebrated. One didn’t really care about whether or not you belonged to a particular community or practiced a certain religion, those special days were all enjoyed with equal gusto.

It saddens me now that somewhere in the daily grind of life, this spirit of celebration has somehow lost its meaning. A festival that comes by is welcomed more for the holiday it brings than for what it actually signifies :-( The camaraderie of family & friends getting together, the joy of donning new clothes, the pleasure of exchanging gaily wrapped presents and of course, the gleeful devouring of all those lip-smacking goodies ….. sigh…where have they all gone?

A common tradition in most Indian households, on any festive occasion, is to make a special sweet or dessert. Now that is something, I have resolved to keep alive, if nothing else!

My father-in-law loves Firni. So that is what I chose to make this Gudi Padva. This is a classic North Indian specialty very similar to rice pudding. While it uses a few ingredients and is pretty simple to put together, the process of continuously stirring the milk is a tad laborious. In fact, A and I were wondering as to why is Firni so called? And we laughingly concluded that it probably comes from the Hindi (or is it Urdu?) word “Firna” which means “to go round in circles”. That said, a special occasion rightfully deserves a little more effort … and the end result is so worth it. Cold and creamy, it made for the perfect after lunch dessert that sweltering afternoon.

(makes 6 servings)


Milk - 1 litre
Sugar - 6-7 tablespoons
Raw rice - 3 tablespoons
Salt - 2 pinches
Cardamom - 10 pods, peeled
Unsalted Pistachios - to garnish


1. Pour the milk into a wide, preferably non-stick pan
2. Bring to a boil without letting the milk spill over
3. Quickly turn heat to medium - the milk should simmer as vigorously as possible without boiling over - and cook, stirring now and then, for about 15-20 mins or until the milk has reduced to 750 ml (1 1/4 pints)
4. In the mean time, while the milk is coming to a boil, grind the rice and cardamom finely
5. Sprinkle the ground rice slowly into the pan, stirring as you go
6. Add the sugar and salt as well
7. Stir now and then cooking for 7-8 mins or until the pudding has thickened to a creamy consistency, turning the heat down a bit towards the end.
8. Turn off heat and set aside to cool
9. When the pudding has cooled to lukewarm, ladle into individual serving cups
10. Sprinkle the top with finely slivered pistachios
11. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until cold and set

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hello Uncle Sam(osa)

One of the most popular desi snacks that I’m sure every Indian must have eaten at some time or the other is the ubiquitous samosa. From lending its name to a tie knot to satiating hunger pangs in a quick bite, this yummy delicacy is a study in versatility. I say this because there is no end to the fillings you can experiment with. The classic versions include peas and potatoes in the vegetarian option and a spicy minced meat concoction in the non-vegetarian one. Here is a detailed description of this delightful treat.

My friend K had been to Goa recently cos’ she’s getting a Portuguese citizenship on account of her ancestry. Lucky her, now she can travel to Europe on a whim without going through the pain of applying for a visa! But, I digress. While there, she got back for A and me, a bunch of mushroom samosas from Café Central in Panjim. They were absolutely divine and inspired me to try my own version of the same. Given A’s undying love for cheese, I divided the filling in half and made a mushroom-cheese adaptation as well.

Mushroom Samosas

(makes 15 pieces)


Mushrooms – 1 pkt (about 200 gms)

Onion – 2 nos

Ginger Garlic paste – 2 heaped tsp

Green chillies – 2 or 3 nos

Turmeric pd – ½ tsp

Red chilli pd – 1 tsp

Coriander Cumin pd – 2 tsp

Asafetida – a pinch

Salt – to taste

Coriander leaves – a handful

Samosa covering strips – 15 nos


  1. Wash and clean the mushrooms well. Mince into tiny itty-bitty pieces
  2. Chop onions and green chillies very finely.
  3. Heat oil and sprinkle asafetida
  4. Add ginger-garlic paste and green chillies. Stir around a bit
  5. Mix in chopped onions and continue to cook till soft
  6. Add dry masala powders and salt. Mix well
  7. Finally add in mushrooms and salt
  8. Cover and cook on low fire till mushrooms are done
  9. Sprinkle coriander leaves and keep aside to cool
  10. Take a strip of the samosa covering.
  11. Fold in a triangle and fill in some of the stuffing.
  12. Seal edges with water.
  13. Heat oil in a deep pan and fry the samosas till golden and crisp
  14. Drain on absorbent paper and serve hot.

I served these at a little do we had with friends over the weekend. They were absolutely melt-in-the-mouth and were walloped within seconds.

The samosas can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer. You need to thaw them by keeping them out at room temperature for about 4 hours.

The samosa covering strips are easily available at most grocery stores.