Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cloudy with a chance of meatballs......

Something really strange(almost spooky) happened. I cooked Spaghetti with meat balls and the weather turned from a clear sunny day to a cloudy one. It is starting to rain as I write this post. Looks like the weather God either read my mind or peeped into my kitchen. The boys are thrilled with the title of the post and it does seem apt given the turn of events, I mean the change of weather. Rains at this time of the year also means that Winter would stretch for at least another week or two. So more soups, stews in the weeks to follow.

I have been meaning to cook the 'Spaghetti meatballs' combo for a while now. The name has an exotic ring to it. In hindsight the dish is surprisingly simple. Most things in hindsight look simple, don't they?

I am not good with making cutlets, chops, tikkis and the likes. Have a mental block, I fear that they will come apart as I am frying them. Must be to do with some initial disastrous attempts though I cannot recall any such incident at the moment. Not being able to make them is such a shame given that my Mom made Fish and prawn cutlets quite regularly during my growing up years. When we had guests over she even dressed up each prawn cutlets with its little tail which helped enhance the visual appeal and made the cutlets look really appetizing. It is of course obvious that they tasted really good. Oohs! Aahs! and they would be over in a jiffy. Someday soon I hope I can achieve a similar feat. Till then I shall rely on my household help or just buy them off the shelf.

I bought some meatballs while picking up my weekly non-veg from a store close to home. And the first dish that I could think of was spaghetti with meat balls. My first attempt at making this dish and a recipe that I have intuitively put together. I have deliberately skipped the cheese.

Spaghetti with Meat Balls(Serves 4)

Tomato Puree: 1 cup(Add one or two fresh blanched and pureed tomatoes to packaged puree. Makes it convenient and gives the sauce the right color, body and taste)
Meat balls: 10/15( I used store bought ones but you could go through the process of spicing up chicken mince, making them into little balls and then deep frying them)
Oregano seasoning: 2 tsp
Green Coriander: 2/3 tbsp
Onion: 1 medium sized one, finely chopped
Vegetable stock: 2/3 tbsp(I used some leftover vegetable stew)
Garlic: 4/5 large pods, finely chopped
Olive oil: 1/2 tsp
Sugar: 1/2 tsp( to balance out the sour tomato taste)
Spaghetti: 100 grams


For the Spaghetti

Boil about 100 grams of spaghetti in plenty of water. Add some olive oil and salt to the water. Olive oil would prevent the spaghetti from sticking.

Strain and keep aside. Add 1 tsp of olive oil to the spaghetti and toss it well, that way it would not dry up.

Ideally boil the spaghetti when you start to simmer the meatballs in the sauce.

For the meatballs

Put a flat bottomed pan on the stove. Heat some olive oil in it.

Then saute the garlic followed by the onion.

Add the tomato puree, sugar, oregano seasoning, chopped coriander and cook for a few minutes. The puree will begin to thicken.

Add the vegetable stock. This would give the sauce a lovely texture and also add to the taste. As I was using some leftover vegetable stew I also mashed up a few boiled carrots into the sauce.

Next add the meat balls to the gravy. Cover and cook so that the meatball soak some of the gravy.

Putting it all together, Plating it as my older son would say

Place some spaghetti on the plate, shape it like a bird's nest. Pour the meat balls with the gravy into the hollow in the middle. Garnish with some fresh coriander and serve hot. Approximately three meat balls per serve.

Cut the meatballs into little pieces. Twirl the spaghetti around your fork, lift a little piece of the meat ball, pop into your mouth and feel the fusion of flavors/taste as you bite into them together.

Surprisingly easy if you are not starting from scratch. Ready puree and meatballs make it a quick fix. Perfect on a cold, wet, winter night.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Yeh Kau(r)n Chitrakaar hai....

Sometimes I find myself adding ingredients just to add more color to a dish. It invariably adds to the taste and flavor. Like sprigs of fresh mint to a fruit salad. Some red chillies to a raita garnish, the vibrant red contrasting with the creamy white texture. The subtle chilli tempering definitely enhances the flavors.

It is a lot of fun to keep adding different colored ingredients to a salad. Red, green and yellow bell peppers can make an ordinary tomato cucumber salad look exotic. I suspect they are primarily added to salads for the color. Cherry tomatoes, black grapes, green olives help create a similar impact. Toss in some Feta cheese or boiled eggs and the colors stand out even more strongly against the white backdrop.

And then of course there is the more difficult task of color coding an entire menu. Making sure that no two dishes look the same. This also serves as a screener to ensure all the dishes use separate base ingredients and taste different.

Pulaos like salads allow for a lot of color play. With corn methi pulao one did not have to try very hard to make the dish look visually appealing. White rice, yellow corn and green methi leaves together created a colorful platter. Depending on your personal palate preference you could tinker with the corn methi proportions. Some carrots and beans would definitely add more color but perhaps make it a little lower on differentiation. This is a quick pulao sans the usual fuss of endless peeling and chopping

Corn Methi Pulao

Basmati rice: 1 cup( when it comes to pulaos Basmati works best)
Peppercorns: 3
Cinnamon: 1/2 inch piece
Cloves: 2
Green cardamom: 2/3
Onion: 1/2 sliced
Methi/Fenugreek leaves: 1 cup chopped fine
Sweet corn kernels: 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder: 1/4tsp
Ghee/oil: 1 tbsp( I would suggest you stay with ghee, in combination with the whole spices imparts the pulao with a lovely flavor. In fact you could just served rice flavored with ghee and whole spices. Cook that in mutton stock and it turns into Yakhni)
Salt to taste


Soak the rice for about 30 minutes. This makes the pulao more ' khila khila'.

Heat the ghee in a pressure cooker, add the whole spices and onion slices. Fry for a few minutes.

Then add the methi leaves, corn kernel, turmeric powder and stir.

Add the rice, salt and mix well. Fry for a few minutes.

Finally add 2 cups( a little less than double the quantity of rice) of hot water. Hot water helps the pulao cook faster and prevents it from sticking. A little trick I learnt from a Tarla Dalal show.

Pressure cook for 1 whistle and let the cooker cool on its own.

Serve with some plain dahi and a green salad.

"Food that is beautiful to look at tastes better than food that isn't"

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

High on dope.....

Has this ever happened with you..a dish you had eaten a long long time ago but remember quite vividly even today?

Now this is different from the growing up comfort food that I had written about earlier, that is familiar, prepared and eaten regularly in homes and provides warmth each time.

Food that I am talking about here are usually the ones that bowled you over in the first were really taken in by either the taste or the flavor or possibly the whole concept. Maybe you never had the dish again.....but thought about it very fondly several times over the years....even long after other memories of the person who had prepared the dish or the place where you sampled it have started to fade. Got it now?

I remember many such dishes( I bet sis remembers these ones too), but you got to be a little patient here...being a foodie there are quite a few that I can talk about. Let me start with Kewra kheer...this is very common in Punjabi households but I do recall the first time I had eaten the kheer. As with most other kheers this was delicious but what stayed on was the Kewra seemed so unusual from the regular elaichi one. Then there was an egg curry which had been prepared by breaking eggs over an already ready, simmering gravy...egg curry in my household then( and even now) were either made with boiled eggs/boiled and lightly fried eggs or omelettes(this one I was told by Mom is an economical way to use eggs, three eggs sufficed for a family of five), sandwiches on my first flight...large triangles with a thick slice of cheese in between....sis and me had loved them and Dad got us a second one which we shamelessly devoured, Tutti Fruity icecream at Hotel Rebecca( this was the name of the lone restaurant in the town I grew up)....that memory made me order Tutti Fruity ice cream for many years after that......Rogan Josh...the highlight of our trip to Kashmir....our day ended with Naan and Rogan sounded and tasted way more exotic than it does today...then there was Roomali Roti and Kebabs from Pandara road during my first trip to Delhi. Visited the place recently, seemed completely transformed....a baked crab in shell dish prepared by a guest house chef in my little town(crab sourced locally too)...I just have to close my eyes.... can visualize this dish right in front of me and feel the taste in my mouth. Some food memories do stand the test of time.

I could just go on but will save the rest for another post. The dish in focus is " Khus Khus" halwa. I sampled it for the first time at my friend D's place. Being from the East I was familiar with the usage of khus khus in curries and dry subzis. But a Khus Khus halwa? I was sceptical but one mouthful and I was sold. Loved the taste and helped myself to a generous second helping despite the warning bells in my head. Last week I was in Pune and D invited me over for breakfast. She asked me if there was anything in particular that I would like to have. Here was my chance...after all I did think about her halwa quite often. I said " Could you please make me some of that khus khus halwa"? I quickly added " Don't bother if it is too much trouble", all along hoping that D would not agree to the latter. Halwa turned out to be just the way I remembered. Delicious, with the rich taste of khus khus and ghee. D even packed some for my husband and children.

Khus Khus Halwa(Serves 4)


Khus Khus(Poppy seeds): 100 grams

Ghee: 4 tbsps

Sugar: 3/4 tbsps

Milk: 3/4th cup

Dry Fruits: 4 tbsps( finely chopped)


Soak the khus khus overnight and grind to a paste with 2/3 tbsps of water. Should be a semi solid paste( approximately about a cup).

Next heat the ghee, cook the khus khus in the ghee till done. Then add the milk and sugar and cook for a while. It would start to resemble sooji halwa.

Add the chopped dry fruits and serve hot.


No, this does not require tons of khus khus.

No, this does not make you feel sleepy/dopey

D tells me that Maharashtrians eat this when they are fasting. To me this tastes more like " feasting" food. Sinfully delicious.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Sunday ho ya Monday, Roz khao Ande.......

Two consecutive egg posts and hence the title. Else if you are on the wrong side of 30 you can have eggs just about once a week(Sunday ke Sunday) or so the Doctors say.

The title of this post has been suggested by my older one. I need to balance things out at home. After all he too would hopefully read the food diaries and all mentions about him are bound to "thrill". When it is to do with food, I am an optimist.

Another post about the ubiquitous sandwich . Remember it is one of my favorite food things. Typically for sandwiches almost anything can work as a good stuffing from last night's leftover curry to mutton cutlets.

But if it is an egg sandwich it had preferably be with boiled eggs. As Vir Sanghvi says, "For an egg sandwich to take a character of its own you need to use boiled eggs". Going by today's response(carried in my lunch box) I would agree with him. Sanghvi goes on to say that the boiled egg was rediscovered during the recession of 2008-2009. I would tend to think eggs never really went out of fashion even in upper middle class households. One restricted consumption purely for reasons of health.

Boiled egg sandwiches qualify as comfort food. Unpretentious in character and simple in terms of taste. They too bring back nostalgic childhood memories.

Boiled Egg Sandwich

Boiled eggs: 4( one egg should suffice for about four slices of bread). If you store your eggs in the refrigerator take them about half one hour before you need to boil them. Boil them in plenty of water to which some salt has been added, this prevents the eggs from cracking while boiling. And you thought it was really easy to make an egg sandwich eh!
Milk: 3/4 tbsps( roughly one tbsp per egg)
Tomato: 1, finely chopped
Fresh Green Coriander/Dhania Patta: Finely chopped
Salt: 1 tsp
Pepper: 2 tsp, freshly ground for that extra flavor enhancement
Mayonnaise: 2/3 tbsps


Boil the eggs and shell them.

Use a spoon to crush them coarsely so that the whites and the yolks mix well. Add the milk at this stage. Adding the milk( picked this tip from my friend S, yes the same one in whose house I had first sampled Khao Suey) keeps the sandwich soft and prevents the egg from drying even hours later. Bet you didn't know that.

Next add the chopped tomatoes and dhania patta( this was a last minute improvisation, there was some tomatoes and dhania patta leftover from the scrambled eggs made earlier).

Take two slices of brown bread. Apply some mayonnaise on the slices. Place the egg mixture on one of the slices, cover with the second slice. Wrap in an aluminium foil/butter paper and pack in your lunch box. You also have the option to eat immediately.

Cold sandwiches are convenient as ' to go' food.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Fun with eggs........

The title of this post was suggested by my younger son. I thought I should indulge him. Years later when he reads the food diaries( or so I hope) it should cheer him up. The post is about eggs and scrambling eggs with assorted veggies is a lot of fun. Hence an apt title. Good job son! Naming the post is half the job done.

Bread and eggs are regular breakfast items in most households, made at least a couple of times during the week. Simple, understated and comforting, dress it up( stuffed masala) or down(plain), works equally well.

The best omelette's and scrambled eggs that I have had were made by my Dad. He had got himself a wonder hand blender and used it to whip up the frothiest coffee, the tastiest chutney and the fluffiest eggs. Sometimes we would ask him to use a fork to beat the eggs so that it got done faster. But he would be quite adamant about using the contraption and say: let me do my "ghur ghur"(referring to the sound the hand blender made). He took the task of making eggs very seriously(as with most of the cooking that he did). He would painstakingly chop all the vegetables, beat the eggs and grate the cheese. Then like an expert he would toss, flip, scramble and finally with a lot of gusto land some on our plates. " Always a little runny, that is the trick" he would instruct as I dug hungrily into mine. Dad loved kitchen gadgets and would sometimes sprinkle freshly ground pepper over already done omelette's. The eggs Dad made tasted just yumm! I am reminded of the taste as I write this post.

While my eggs don't come anywhere close to Dad's I am at it( and yes, Dad I leave them runny) and someday my children will have similar things to say about me. Sigh!

Scrambled eggs( serves 2)

Eggs: 2
Onion: 1, chopped really fine
Mushrooms: 2/3, sliced really thin and then chopped
Tomatoes: 1, finely chopped
Green chillies: 2, chopped fine
Green coriander/dhania patta: 2/3 tablespoons
Milk: 2/3 tbsp( surprised? Trick to making your omelette's/scrambled eggs really fluffy)
Salt: To taste
Freshly ground pepper: 1 tsp
Oil: 1 tsp
Salami/Sausage cut into small pieces would also enhance the taste.


Though this is easy enough to make, it is still easier to get it wrong and leathery( Ask me rather ask my sis). So here is a step by step guide to get your scrambled eggs right, every time. Before you start do make sure that you have the eggs, veggies and seasonings ready.

In a bowl break the eggs. Add the milk to it, salt and pepper. With a fork beat 25- 30 strokes to blend the mixture( do not over beat the eggs as that would toughen the protein in the whites). Some of my friends insists that the best way to make scrambled eggs is to break it directly onto the pan. I disagree. Each to his egg.

In a non stick pan heat the oil. Add the onions and saute till onions turns glassy. Next add the mushrooms, green chillies, tomatoes and fry for a little while. Add the coriander.

Then pour the egg mixture into the pan and start scrambling the egg immediately( do not let the egg settle down or coat the pan).

Cook till the egg is almost done. The consistency should be a little runny.

Serve with some hot, (buttered) toast and you are good to go.

This also works well as a cracker topping and can be served as a starter. To make your starter a little more interesting you could add some grated cheese to the scramble as you cook. Would give it a smoother texture. Add some chilly flakes if you want to make it spicier.

Use this as a sandwich filling though for sandwiches boiled eggs work the best.

The possibilities are endless. A wee bit of imagination and an experimentative palate is all it takes.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!