Thursday, March 8, 2012

MUM- bo Jumbo

Happy Holi!

Love the colors in my dish today, definitely goes with the festive spirit.

Growing up along the coast, we had access to the freshest, juiciest, tastiest prawns. Prawns would appear on the dining table with a certain regularity. Since they were fairly common place we did not go all ooh! and aah! at the sight of them. We just ate them in large quantities.

Mom cooked them in several different ways. There was of course the regular jhol( onion, ginger, garlic gravy), Mustard prawns( the prawns turned out really succulent when cooked this way), then she made prawn cutlets and stuck the tail of the prawn onto them- those looked quite unique. Tons of small sized prawns( read shrimps) got added to Chowmein and Prawn sweet and sour( prawn wantons in a fresh tomato pureed sauce) . I loved her prawns any which way.

One of my favorites was sauted prawns- she usually made this dish when we had larger sized prawns. So when my husband bought some of those prawns home I immediately decided to call Mommy for the recipe. As I was cooking the dish this afternoon the house smelt of my Mom's kitchen- that familiar aroma of prawns being sauted with vegetables and sauces.

Mom's Special Prawns
Serves: 4, Cooking time: 20 minutes


Large prawns( we call them Jumbo prawns): 1 kg
Onions: 4 large onions, quartered
Garlic: 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Capsicum: 1 small capsicum, cubed into 1" pieces
Tomato: 2, remove the seeds and cut into 1" pieces
Green chillies: 4/5, slit on top
Chilli sauce: 1 tsp
Tomato sauce: 1 tsp
Soya sauce: 1 tsp
Corn flour: 1 tsp, dissolved in half a cup of water
Oil: 1/2 tbsp
Sugar:1/2 tsp
Salt: To taste( go easy on the salt because all the sauces have added salt in them)


  • Clean the prawns, leave the head and tail on.
  • Heat the oil in a wok/kadhai.
  • Add the sugar and let it caramalise. Next add the garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes.
  • Add the prawns, cover and cook for about 10 minutes. The prawns should be almost done by this time.
  • Open the lid and add the capsicum, tomatoes, salt, all the sauce and the corn flour. Increase the flame and saute so that the prawn is evenly coated with all the sauces.
  • Turn off the stove and let the prawns rest for a bit. Helps the prawns soak up the sauces. You could also the dish covered.
  • Serve hot with either a fried rice or noodles. We had ours with regular daal and rice.

You could also add some mushrooms and baby corn to this dish. Serve it over a bed of boiled noodles and you have a wholesome meal ready in a jiffy.

The prawns tasted yumm! and as with most of my dishes helped me relive a bit of my childhood.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sesame Street.....

Sunday lunch: Chinese konji, Honey mustard chicken and Sesame Beans

It has been a relaxed weekend and we are enjoying the last of the Winters. Come summer and one wants to stay miles away from the kitchen.

I love re-reading my posts, brings the food memories back. As I was leafing through some my earlier posts I realized that I tend to be a little partial to non-vegetarian food. We do eat a fair amount of veggies and I for one love veggies in all forms, shapes and types. As I child Mom never ever had to force me to have my veggies. Though I must admit that putting together a good vegetarian menu for non-vegetarians is quite a challenge. In contrast, Chicken inherently appeals and you can rarely go wrong with the dish. However to get a 8/10 on vegetables needs a lot more effort.

Coming to today's dish- Sesame Beans, served as an accompaniment with rice and chicken. You could also serve it along with boiled potatoes and grilled/roast chicken. Beans are really versatile as vegetables- they lend themselves with equal ease to Indian, Chinese and Continental food. They are great as fries/bhajis, add color and crunch to salads, a must have in Chinese food. If you have carrots, peas and beans combine you can put together an interesting pulao in minutes. In my house it is a staple vegetable along with the usual potato, onion and tomato. Most people I know like beans as a vegetable. I love the tender ones- they cook so quickly and taste delicious.

Sesame Beans
Cooking time: 10 minutes, serves: 4

Tender French Beans: 500 grams, cut into long pieces( cut each bean into three)
Sesame oil/Vegetable oil: 2 tsp
Chili oil: 1 tsp( helps spice up an otherwise bland dish)
Chili flakes: Snip and crush two regular dry red chili (these contrast well with the green beans and white sesame) or save the extra topping that comes with Pizza
Sesame seeds: 2 tbsp


  • Steam the beans for about 2 minutes( you could do this in the microwave as I did). Refresh in cold water. This keep the beans green and crunchy.
  • Heat the oil( combine the oils) in a wok. Add the crushed red chili. Once the pepper starts to sputter and smoke(I love these descriptions, they help create so much drama around basic recipes, makes the experience come alive in the post) add the beans and saute for a few minutes.
  • Next add the sesame seeds and toss so that the beans are covered with the same.
  • Remove and serve hot
Altogether it was an interesting combination of flavors- bland konji, pungent mustard chicken and spicy beans. Now for some Sunday siesta.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

On a roll...

We are having rolls for dinner tonight. That was a hurried photograph before the plate got whisked away. Once a dish is ready to be eaten my boys just don't have the patience for it to be photographed. So that part continues to be a little rushed.

Rolls always remind me of college. The 'mess' food left a lot to be desired. When food was doled out( we had to queue up for it) I was reminded of the lines from the movie Betaab, "khana hai to yahi khana hai, nahin khana hai to bhi yahi khana hai". Pocket money was fairly limited( yes, from a generation where parents did not believe in over indulging their children- you were sent to hostels so that you grew tougher in every possible way). There used to be a small department store close to our college called Snacko. We used the store to top up on the basics. Then Snacko introduced a roll counter. Going to Snacko was the high point in our lives. An egg roll cost Rs.3/, an egg chicken around Rs.5/ and a special roll(with all of the above) was Rs.8/. Most of us would settle for the egg chicken one as that allowed us to stretch our 'monies' for longer. For birthdays we would go to a small restaurant called "Eats" that served large portions of really delicious Chinese food. It worked out to under Rs.30 a head. Some very fond food memories and friends for life.

We occasionally have rolls for dinner. Typically it is the egg chicken variety. Funny how the same basic ingredients presented a little differently has a completely different response. On an average the boys eat around four rolls each, yes the same boys who struggle to finish two rotis when served with a regular subzi. I sometimes trick them with the vegetarian version.

Egg Chicken Roll

Serves: 4

Roti/paratha dough( Knead the dough just as you would for your rotis, could add a few tablespoons of maida to it)- enough dough to make about 10/12 rolls- roughly about 2 cups should suffice. If there is extra dough carry it over for regular rotis.
Onions: 6/7 sliced fine. My family loves a lot of sliced onion in their roll so I do go a little overboard.
Eggs: 3
Green chillies: 2/3, Chopped fine
Chicken Tikka: 10/12 pieces( you could buy them off the shelf or marinate some boneless chicken in ginger garlic paste, hung curd, garam masala and red chilli paste for a couple of hours. Saute till done and your tikkas are ready)
Oil: About a tsp per roll and 2 tbsp to saute the onions
Tomato ketchup: 2 tbsps
Chilli sauce: 2 tbsp


  • Beat the eggs and keep aside
  • Heat 2 tbsps of oil and lightly saute the onions and green chillies( for about a minute or two)
  • Roll out the paratha, cook it on both sides with about a teaspoon of oil. Once done ladle about a tbsp of the egg mixture on to it and spread it around to cover the roti completely( could also brush the egg on the roti) and let the egg cook. Once the egg starts to resemble an omelet, layer the onions,chicken tikka( could use about 2 tikkas per roll), add a dash of chilli sauce and roll it up.
  • Serve hot.
This tastes best when served immediately but also makes for a good lunch box option. Leftover sauted vegetables work well for the filling. Ideal time to make rolls is the on the day after the big party when you have leftover tikkas and kebabs.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Simmered and Stirred.....with apologies to Mr. Bond

Sunday evening signals that the weekend is almost over. The only way to cheer yourself up is to cook something really special. It is important for me to make the evening meal on Sundays a little different and interesting. Helps tide over Monday morning blues.

This evening I chose to make the handmade Tunnisian Harrisa Fettucine pasta that sister had got me. Apart from being hand made I am not really sure how this pasta is different but what I do know is that it is head and shoulders above any other pasta that I have cooked/eaten. It is also less sticky and stays separate for much longer.

I particularly enjoyed making the meat sauce today. I let the sauce simmer on the flame for over an hour. Was exciting to watch the mince simmer, bubble up and acquire the right consistency. I also kept adding ingredients impromptu- vegetable stock from last nights stew, some red wine that has been sitting in the refrigerator, a piece of cheddar from my husband's snack platter. All of them adding color, taste and richness to the sauce. Unlike other times I used a masher( yes, the same one I use to make Pao bhaji). This gave my sauce a uniform and glossy texture. The kitchen smelt really nice as the mince was simmering. Son claims he could smell it from two flights down. Never mind the exaggeration it all worked well together. And finally plating it so that the pasta and meat sauce could create some magic on our sensorials.

Pasta with meat sauce

Serves :4, Cooking time: 1 hour

Fettucine Pasta: About 100 grams
Garlic: 4/5 pods chopped fine
Onions: 2/3 medium sized onions, chopped fine
Tomatoes: 3/4 medium sized tomatoes blanched and pureed
Tomato ketchup: 1 tbsp( primarily to add color)
Red wine( optional): 1/2 cup
Mutton mince: 500 grams
Vegetable stock: 2/3 cups( else use warm water)
Olive oil: 2/3 tbsps
Oregano seasoning: 1 tbsp
Green corriander: 1 tbsp, finely chopped for the garnish


  • Boil the pasta in plenty of water to which a little salt has been added(to ensure your pasta does not stick, add a tsp of olive oil into the water) for about 8/10 minutes. Drain the water, toss the pasta with 1 tbsp of olive oil and keep aside.
  • Heat some olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes. Next add the onions and fry them till they turn glassy. Add the mince, oregano seasoning, tomato puree, ketchup and saute for a few minutes.
  • Turn the stove to a low flame add the vegetable stock and red wine. Let the mince simmer for about an hour. Alternate between cooking it covered and open. Keep stirring and mashing the mince with a masher from time to time. Add more stock if needed. The meat sauce should have a runny consistency
  • Once the sauce is done add salt to taste.
  • Now to plate. Place the pasta on a plate, shape it like a bird's nest. Spoon about 2/3 tbsp of the meat sauce onto the center. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and serve piping hot. As the pasta would have grown cold it is a good idea to microwave the serving for about 60 seconds and then serve. Add the garnish after you have microwaved.
  • Go ahead slurp it up!
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Pound of Flesh....

This post is dedicated to my Grandpa. He often quoted these famous lines from 'The Merchant of Venice'. That it was mostly in non- food related context and had something to do with his fights with Granny is another story. Like the rest of the family Grandpa loved food and thanks to his travels had sampled different kinds of cuisine very early in his life. His food stories were a delight, he managed to create excitement around everyday dishes. Pish Pash was one such dish- we always thought he had made up the name till years later bro found it on the menu of a Dak Bangla( referring to the times of the Raj) buffet.

Now coming back to the dish, like I had mentioned in my earlier post those loaf tins inspired me to bake with renewed vigour. My success at baking bread made me feel confident to try out other seemingly difficult recipes.

Compared to baking bread this one is a sitter. In terms of impact a perfect 10. I just loved the way this dish looks. While I don't have a picture of the sliced loaf( the boys were busy wolfing it down and unwilling to photograph any further) the tri-color pie- mince, egg yolk and egg white looked amazing. It tasted delicious too.

Meat Loaf
Serves: 4, Preparation time: 10 minutes, Cooking time: 1 hour.


500 grams of Mutton mince
3 onions chopped fine
Breadcrumbs: 1/2 cup or 100 grams
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tsp
Vinegar: 1 tsp
Boiled eggs: 3
Raw egg: 1
Salt to taste
Olive oil- 2 tbsp

  • Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions till they turn light brown. Sprinkle some salt over them and let them cool.
  • In a bowl mix the mince, raw egg, ginger garlic paste, vinegar, bread crumbs and mix well. Add the onions and mix again.
  • Now take the loaf tin, line it with some oil or butter. Divide the mince mixture into two. In the tin pat one half of the mince mixture to form the bottom layer of the meat loaf. Next shell and place the boiled eggs in a row to form the middle layer. Cover completely with the remaining mince mixture. Shape and compress to get rid of any air gaps.
  • Bake at 200 degrees for close to an hour. Initially with only the bottom coil on and for the last twenty minutes with both the top and bottom coils.
  • Once done let the meat loaf rest for about 15 minutes. Remove from the pan and slice evenly.
  • Take a bow when the accolades begin.
Ideally serve this with a clear soup and some stir fried vegetables.

Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

Breaking Bread!

Happy New Year! I know I am late by more than a month and half but this happens to be my first post of the year. I have been busy cooking some interesting stuff, just not managed to write about them. Hopefully I am going to be more regular over the next few months.

There have been many firsts since the year started. I baked my first bread loaf. The inspiration for the bread and several related dishes(watch this space for more) came from the " loaf tins" that my sister gifted me. These are non-stick, easy release trays so you get the entire loaf out in a jiffy. No more post baking stress of loosening the edges, turning the dish over, giving it a few gentle knocks, waiting for the familiar thump and hoping that you have managed to get all of it onto the plate. Now I just wait for the loaf to cool and pull it out-straight way up.

As soon as I got the trays I knew I just had to bake bread. There is something almost zen like about lightly buttered fresh baked bread. Maybe it has something to do with the amount of patience this dish requires and the sense of peace you experience when you take your first bite( this is no exaggeration, mind you) . While the ingredients are few and except for the yeast readily available at home the stages take time( no, there are no short cuts) and there are long waits in between. But it is well worth the wait my dears. And if you are clever and efficient as most homemakers are you would make good use of the waiting time to get the other accompaniments( soup/stew) ready. Or just curl up and watch your favorite TV show.

White Bread
Serves: 6, Preparation and Cooking Time: 3 hours


Flour- 7 level cups
Yeast- 1 tbsp( I bought mine from Modern Bazaar, Gurgaon)
Sugar- 1 tbsp
Salt- 1 tbsp
Warm water- 2.5 cups
Butter- 1 stick( ideally unslated, if using regular salted butter reduce the quantity of salt to 3/4th of a tablespoon)
Olive oil/Vegetable oil- 1 tbsp

  • Start by 'proofing'the yeast. In a large mixing bowl add 1 tbsp of yeast to 1/2 a cup of warm water and a tbsp of sugar( you could add honey instead). The sweetener helps the yeast to bubble up, expand and rise. Takes about 15 minutes or so.
  • Next add two cups of warm water and about 3 1/2 cups of flour( one cup at a time) and mix together. Very soon the dough would start to look like a sticky mess but don't you give up. In good time it will start to take shape.
  • At this stage you could add the salt, butter and remaining flour( 3 1/2 cups) . Keep adding the flour bit by bit.
  • Dust some flour on your rolling board or kitchen counter and start kneading the dough. You may add more flour if required. Follow three easy steps of push-fold-push for about ten minutes till the dough is no longer sticky( for beginners this could take a little longer).
  • Next, grease a bowl with some vegetable oil( this helps the dough rise easily) and place the dough in the bowl. Leave it undisturbed for about an hour.
  • The dough will rise to the top of the bowl. Here comes my favorite part- punch the dough to let all the air out.
  • Butter the loaf pans. Eyeball and make two equal halves of the dough. (if you want to be precise you can weigh them). Knead the dough a few more times. Flatten it out with your hands and fold from both sides(like a wrap), pinch the edges. Lift gently and place in the pan. Cover with a cling film( grease the side that touches the dough with a little bit of oil).
  • Let the dough sit in the loaf pan for close to an hour. The dough will rise again.
  • Bake in a pre-heated oven( 200 degrees) for about 25 minutes. Remove the bread from the tin and bake on the rack for another ten minutes. This ensures that the crust is a rich, golden brown.
  • Allow the bread to cool.
  • Knock on the bread- you should hear a hollow sound. That means your bread is done just right.
  • Cut with a serrated knife, lightly butter it while it is still warm and eat.
Mmmm! Delicious. Very few dishes equal the taste of freshly baked home-made bread. Once you have got your basic bread right you could try adding other ingredients like toasted sesame on top, some herbs or seasoning. I even tried one with Ragi(millet) flour and spinach.

Bon Apetit and Happy Baking!