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Eat to live or Live to eat?

Updated: 2017-09-03T07:55:40.814-04:00


Mixed grain savory biscuits.


You know your transition from US to India is complete when you start calling 'cookies' biscuits. There is no major story behind this post, except we baked these for N's dad. He is a connoisseur of baked goodies. But more importantly, he has diabetes but he doesn't behave like he has it. Fresh pineapple cake from Sweet Chariot, gulab jaamuns made by N's mother, butter cookies from Cakewaala, some of our muffins (that makes us accomplices in crime) are just the tip of the icesugarberg.So we decided to be responsible (read ran out of sugar but promised to bake something for him) children and took these savory biscuits instead. This is pretty easy and quick to make. Probably takes about an hour to hour and a half from sifting the ingredients to getting about 30 biscuits out of the oven. Here's how we did it.Ingredients (we made 29 cookies so we'll round it off to 30. You do a better job of cutting them OK?)1/2 c maida/all purpose flour1/2 c oats1/4 cup ground flax meal2 tbsp cornmeal2 tbsp aata1/2 c melted (and cooled) butter1/2 tsp baking powder1/4 tsp baking soda1/2 tbsp salta pinch of sugar1/2 tsp chili powder1/3 c roasted and chopped nuts (we used a mixture of almonds, cashew and pistachios)1/2 c milk (if you're using already boiled milk in the fridge, make sure to add the malai/cream. Good way to use it :) )1. Sift the dry ingredients together, twice. Add the chopped nuts and toss.2. Add the wet ingredients and mix them until they come together. We use a hand beater for this. Knead a couple of times to bring everything together. Do not over-mix.3. Shape this into an 8-9 inch disc and put it in a bowl. Cover it. Let it sit in the freezer for 20-30 mins. (It could sit there for 4-5 days but you'll have to thaw it a bit before step 4 & 5).4. In the meantime, preheat oven to 180 C with a rack placed in the middle.5. Remove the dough, roll it further and shape into a rectangle (or whatever shape), about 1/2" thick. Cut into rectangular pieces with a knife.6. Line a cookie tray with aluminum foil sprinkled with some cornmeal. Place the cookies, leaving a 1/2" gap between two pieces. Bake for about 12-14 mins. Baking time varies from oven to oven and how thick the biscuits are, but for the last 2-3 mins of baking, turn both the top and bottom heaters on to make them nice and golden throughout.7. Remove the biscuits and put them on a wire rack for cooling.8. Repeat with the remaining pieces.Pack them when they're lukewarm for your friends/family or just have some with chai. This recipe is quite versatile. You could use kasuri methi, cumin seeds, nigella seeds and even carom seeds/ajwain or pretty much anything to suit your taste. Go ahead, give them a shot![...]

Shakshouka, Mexican style!


I love one-pot meals. And I love brunch-ey meals. I wait for weekends for 2 things. More sleep and slightly- more-elaborate-than-cereal brunch or breakfast. Shubha, one our partners in crime when it comes to food and eating out kept mentioning Shakshouka to A and me every time we spoke of food. Which is everytime we meet :) She went to Turkey on a holiday and came back with more Shakshouka stories. I kept thinking that we should make it and postponed it quite a bit until I found a stunning recipe (In fact, the pictures were so inspiring. Go to her blog and see why ;)) at the Sassy Earl Grey blog.  That. Was. It. It's been raining gloriously in Bangalore this month. Rain makes me really, really happy. I love eating traditional, warm, spicy food during winters and the rain. And this recipe seemed to fit into our lives at the right time - a cloudy morning in July. Some of my best memories of my relationship with A have been around food. Sitting with him after a round of elaborate cooking and digging into hot food together.A and I've totally lost the interest in setting up props and taking pictures and processing them and then posting them on the blog. We've been bitten by the Instagram and Twitter bug. We take pictures on our phones and post it on these social networks and get done with it. A lot of the times, we have people asking us for those recipes (I know, so celebrity-like :D) and we keep promising to write back. You know how that goes, don't you? So, we are making a conscious attempt to get back to everyone who's asked us for recipes. This happened via email for the last couple of weeks, and then I thought I should put it down here going forward. All over again, yes.So, here it goes :)Apart from what she asked, we had some cooked white beans that we added. I personally didn't like that too much. It interfered with everything else, I thought. But A seemed to be okay with it. We also didn't have tomato juice or Worcestershire sauce, so subbed it with home-made Marinara sauce. Worked beautifully! To make it heartier, maybe, I could add some greens or mushrooms to this mix. But I'm most keen on making this with Labneh. While I like Ricotta, it isn't easily available in India and I don't believe in buying imported cheeses all the time (+ not going to take the trouble to make it!) I've also realised that I love smooth, creamy cheeses as opposed to something slightly grainy like the Ricotta. As I write this, it strikes me that creamy Feta might be a good substitute too.The dish looked SO beautiful that I didn't want to break those sunny eggs and ruin the look. I'm a huge fan of anything with tomatoes. Also a huge egg lover. This works well at so many levels. We didn't have bread to eat it with, but it works quite well without!  I also took it to lunch a day later and I think it tasted way better. The tomatoes' sourness had mellowed down, the corn got sweeter and the Chipotle really kicked in.Next experiment with the Shakshouka: use Mediterranean flavours. I'm sure a little Zatar here, a little Sumac there and lots of creamy Labneh will keep me and Shubha happy :) I think that's what makes this dish a winner - you can adapt, it's a one pot meal with one pot to wash and tastes better the next day! And can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner.The other big thing next time I make it is going to have friends around. People we love, lots of bread and a pot of Shakshouka to dig into. Nothing else spells comfort better than that for A and me.[...]

Eggplant Boats with Millet.


Typically, large eggplants are synonymous with Baingan Bharta or Baba Ghanouj for us. Both of which essentially require smoking the eggplant over flame. Recently, we have taken a strong liking to Begun Bhaja, which comes out great with circular slices of these large eggplants. With liberal use of mustard oil, of course :) One day, we found a large eggplant that was left unattended in the refrigerator for quite sometime. One half was going south. I decided to cut it out to see if the other half could be salvaged but it was futile. During this process, I ended up scooping out the entire eggplant and that is when it struck me that this could be a good way to use large eggplant. One could simply scoop out the flesh and stuff it with various things like grains, vegetables, even cheese. Hence, this whole exercising in trying to recover an eggplant gave us the idea for this dish. We went with millet since it was there in the house.So here it goes...P.S: These are approximate measurements. You could alter the recipe as per your taste.Ingredients2 large eggplants1/2 c foxtail millet (makes about 1 1/4 - 1/1/2 c cooked millet)Diced vegetables - we used bell peppers, frozen corn, onions, peas and carrots)dried apricots, about 8-10 pieces, sliced and stewed in hot water for 10-15 mins.2 tbsp dried cranberries - we used craisins2 tbsp Toasted and chopped almondssalt to tastepepperdried rosemaryRed chili flakes (optional)cilantro for garnishing1 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Use the option where both top and bottom coils are on.2 . Cut the eggplants vertically right down the middle so you have 4 large pieces. Scoop the flesh out with a knife and spoon. I used the 'avocado technique for guacamole'. Essentially, make vertical cuts using a knofe, taking care not to pierce the entire eggplant. Then make horizontal cuts so you have a checkered pattern which will give you small, joined pieces which could be scooped out with a spoon. This would be your boat. Make sure to leave a 1 cm border on all sides or else the boats will be too flimsy after baking.3. Generously slather the interior and exterior of the four boats with olive oil and pepper mixture.4. Place these on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about 30 mins or until the eggplant is well cooked. Turn off the top heater but leave the oven on.5. In the meantime, cook the foxtail millet by adding 1/2 to 1 1/2 c boiling water and then cooking it until almost cooked. Drain, mix with some salt, pepper, olive oil and set aside. Olive oil will prevent it from forming unsightly lumps. 6. Fry the diced vegetables in olive oil with the herbs and seasonings until slightly al dente.7. Slice the stewed apricots into small chunks and add it to the vegetables. Add the cranberries.8. Add the cooked millet, some more olive oil and cook it for about a minute to absorb the flavors. Add lemon juice and turn the stove off.9. Once the baked boats are cooled down so they can be handled with bare hands, stuff them with the millet and vegetable mixture.10. Bake for about 5 mins. Make sure the millet doesn't become too dry. This is evident from a dry crusty layer on the top. 11. Garnish with nuts and cilantro or parsley.12. Enjoy hot with some yogurt or any other dip of your choice.This is a pretty flexible recipe. You could even throw some mozzarella or parmesan on top. You could stuff it with barley, couscous, just vegetables and cheese. Also, one shouldn't forget the flesh that we scooped out :) Sautee it with some onions, ghee, garlic and tomatoes with some garam masala and you have some quick 'faux' bharta on the side. Or just sautee it with some gingelly oil and add it on top of yogurt and then splutter some mustard seeds and curry leaves and you have some thayir pachadi.Go ahead, let your imagination loose with this one ;)[...]

Egg Fry Gravy and some nostalgia.


One of my batchmates from college, who is currently in the US, asked me if I could meet him as he was town. He also told me that one of our seniors wanted to join as well. I was excited to learn that my senior had moved to Bangalore. We used to talk quite a bit during college days because we pursued our BE in the same discipline. But after college, life takes you in different directions as you are swept by the proverbial tide of time. But when you're in college, you might not even explore your department entirely during your four year stay but there is one place where you went every single day. The boiling cauldron of emotions that was fueled by the denizens.The canteen.The college canteen was THE place for hooking up, talking to people, freeloading samosas off others and engaging in some harmless ragging/hazing and umm...getting a glimpse of the opposite gender. We're all (typically) under 21 and if you don't do these things in college, you might not get to engage in some of these life-enriching activities ever in your life. And trust me, while this might sound superficial, they do impact (often) on the way you think and look at people.It was the place where people had a bite before attending a job interview, with Baby, Sridhar (caretakers) wishing them all the best. Folks who made it came running back and were mobbed by not only their close friends, but folks who had never met them, for everyone knew a treat was in order. Tea was the official 'spirit' of celebration. For those who didn't get a job on that day, the canteen was a place of refuge and encouragement. A place to sit back and dissolve all their worries into a plate of Mysore masala dosa with piping hot sambar or another favorite. Egg fry gravy. Back in our days, mundane treats such as dosa, samosas etc. cost Rs. 6. The two delicacies I've mentioned, however, cost us Rs. 10. Those who purchased this on a regular basis were considered posh. Golden era, I tell you.Well, if I go down this memory lane, I might end up meandering endlessly so I'll cut to the chase. The egg fry gravy served at our canteen was an extremely popular dish. It has "corrputed" many "pure vegetarians". It used to consist of a fried egg (half or full fried) with some tomato-onion gravy and some green chilies.After talking to my old college mates, I had an instinctive urge to make some. However, we put a spin on it by incorporating some Bengali flavors. So here it goes:Disclaimer: these are approximate measurements. You could easily add more masala and chilies to suit this dish to your taste.Ingredients (serves 2-3 ppl)5 large tomatoes, medium diced.4 eggs3 tbsp milk or cream1 tsp red chili powder½ tsp pepper powder1 medium onion, medium diced.Panch phoran masala          1 pinch Nigella seeds          1 pinch fenugreek seeds          1 pinch radhuni (wild celery)          1 pinch cumin seeds          1 pinch fennel seedsCoriander seeds 1 tspTurmeric powder – 1 tsp4 Green chillies, slit lengthwiseSalt to taste2 tsp mustard paste (Kasundhi)1 large bay leafSalt to tasteWaterMustard oil and regular cooking oil.Chopped coriander leaves for garnishing1.   Dry roast the ingredients for panch phoran masala and the coriander seeds. Grind into a powder with some salt using a pestle and mortar.2.   In a pan, heat some oil and mustard oil. When the oil is hot, add the bay leaf and turmeric powder. Once the turmeric sizzles, add the onions and green chilies.3.   Add some salt to the onion and let it cook for 4-5 mins.4.   Add the tomatoes and panch phoran masala. Add some more oil and mustard oil. Cook on medium flame for 5 mins.5.   In the meantime, whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and red chili powder. Make thick omelets i[...]

Pesto Pinwheels....and oh, were're back :)


Wow it’s been 14 months since the last post. It’s interesting how the pursuit of resources (read earning for  your living) to pursue your passion (read cooking/baking) often engulfs you and you don't actually pursue your passion!But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been cooking. If there is one thing that keeps us sane among the vagaries of life, it is food. The medium of sharing our culinary experiments and adventures, however, has expanded beyond this blog, namely Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I have just about become more active on social media. Well, after a lot of initial hesitation like anything else I do.However, the blog is special for many reasons. A lot of recipes are associated with events and when we think about them, it takes us back to all the excitement, goof-ups, road trips, events…basically all the little things that make our lives fun.So we have decided (again) to consciously revive this food blog. Last weekend, we made some pesto pinwheels. In one sense, it feels full circle as attempts to bake bread when we were in the US really spurred us to post more on the blog then. Now that we’re in India, the smell of bread  has pretty much had the same effect on us. So here’s to a new and hopefully more sustained inning JIngredients1 ¼ c maida (all purpose flour)1 c aata (whole wheat flour)½ c + ½ c and another tbsp. water*3 tsp vital wheat gluten**¾-1 c pesto sauce (we used homemade but store bought is just as good)2 tsp salt½ tsp sugar1 ½ tsp active dry yeast1 tsp olive oil1 tbsp melted butter.* the amount of water depends on the extent of kneading and if you’re using machine versus hands to knead. The idea is to use as less water as possible to make nice, smooth dough that doesn’t stick to your hands after kneading.** we’ve realized that maidaand aata, particularly aata  in India have less gluten content than most all purpose flours available in the US so it is good to add some gluten for some spongy, porous bread.Take ½ c lukewarm water and add sugar to it. Then add the yeast granules. Cover and let it rest for 10 mins. The water should be frothy, which means the yeast has ‘woken up’. If it isn’t, stop immediately and get a fresh batch of yeast and repeat.In a stand mixer (hands are just as good) with the dough hook attachment, add the flours, salt, gluten, olive oil and mix it dry for a few seconds. Then add the yeast water and knead for some time.Add the next ½ c water and knead some more. You’ll have to scrap the sides with a spatula and knead again a couple of times.Keep kneading (5-6 mins.) until you have a nice, smooth dough without any dry spots. The dough shouldn’t stick to the hook and when you press it against your fingers, it should (more or less), come off cleanly without sticking. Add the remaining 1 tbsp water only if the dough is too dry. If the dough is too wet and sticky, try kneading for some more time. If it continues to be sticky, add some flour.Remove the dough from the mixer, shape it into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Cover it with a wet kitchen towel and let it sit for 2 hrs or until double in volume.Remove the dough and release the air gently. On a floured surface, roll it into a rectangle (about 15” x 8”). Basically, the rectangular sheet should be at least ¼ inches thick.Spread the pesto uniformly on the sheet, leaving an inch gap on all sides.Now roll the dough into a cylinder and cut pinwheels with a knife.Place the pinwheels into the final baking dish. Make sure they’re separated by at least an inch.Cover with a wet kitchen towel and let it rise for another 1.5-2 hrs or until (nearly) double in volume.Preheat oven to 200C. Place a rack in the lower third.Remove the kitchen towel and apply melted butter wash to the dough.Place the baking dish into the oven and bake for 12 mins. Then lower oven temperature to 180C and place the dish in the middle rack and bake for another 10-15 mins. You could even broil [...]

Tomato Saar


Raji's death has left me a little more than shaken and I wanted to come back and blog more and keep at it on working on my promises. I wanted to get to know all of you a little better, so here I am with a different recipe today. Something that is homely and something that you need to eat with your hands and lick your fingers for. Something soul-satisfying. Food does cure. After the previous post, I haven't made Brinji yet, but I made some South Indian food. The food I grew up on. Remembered my grandmother who fed us for over 50 years continuously and who I tremendously missed in the last one month.January has been a hectic month for us and our families. 2 weddings aren't easy to organize or even just attend. Clothes co-ordination, inviting people, socializing, arranging for a million little things, travelling, guests - all this and more can drive one crazy. However, I think we managed it with aplomb!One of my cousins got married in Chandigarh and we were guests to an absolutely amazing spread of Punjabi food. I don't think any restaurant- five star or not can equal the kind of food served at this wedding. The Dum Aloo was to die for and I could kill for a meal like that. I hardly ate though. The tension of the wedding, running around and everyone falling sick around me made me gobble food just so I could eat something. A, of course, did full justice to the food and can possibly write another Ph.D thesis on the food at this wedding. Brilliant, brilliant food. That said, the next wedding was down South. My sister's, to be precise. I think it was just right because after an overdose of paneer and Rotis up North, we were more than ready to settle down  to 'elai saapadu.' (elai = plaintain leaf, saapadu = meals)My sister got married to a Konkan guy. So, I'm trying to master some Mangalorean/Konkan recipes. Not. It doesn't really matter for A and me which region good food belongs to :D We are both on a regional food spree and loving it! So, we tried this Tomato Saar from Arch's blog The Yum Factor. I've tried several recipes in my non blogging days from her blog. I love her simple style of writing and that she posts a modern take on authentic Konkan recipes. Tamilians are known for their Rasam. And Tamilians like us, settled in Karnataka make the #worldfamous Mysore Rasam on most days. I grew up on one type of Rasam and ended up hating it for most part of my life. I saw it just as spiced water. I think it was because the same Rasam was made every single day. Of course, my mum tried to change it up once in a while with her fantastic Lemon Rasam and Pepper Rasam. Now when I cook on an everyday basis, I love Rasam and I love trying out different types of Rasam. We don't cook South Indian food enough thanks to sheer laziness. But there are weekends and some weekday nights that I crave for Rasam Saadam and Thair Saadam (curd/yogurt rice).The South Indian that I am, nothing equals slurping your Rasam Saadam with Rasam dripping down your arms. And Thair Saadam or curd rice? That dish belongs to the heavens, I'm telling you. Also, I firmly belong to the category that says eating rice is satisfying to one's soul.It was one such day when we were in Atlanta when we tried this Tomato Saar. I was bowled by the flavours in this Saar. I'm not  a fan of coconut and was rather sceptical about coconut in Rasam. Isn't Rasam supposed to be light and all that? But this totally changed the way I looked at Rasam. Now this is a regular. I love, love, love the addition of jaggery in this Rasam. Karnataka cooking is known for adding jaggery and it lends that caramelly sweetness to our cooking. Most people ridicule this and call our Sambar sweet. I say, so be it. There has to be some regional variation, no? This is ours. We like it like this. A little sweet from the jaggery and the coconut, sourness from those tomatoes and the thickness of this Rasam could qualify for a soup too. No need to call it Mulligawt[...]

Thank you.


A lot of bloggers have written about Miri of Peppermill or Raji. I didn't know her, and didn't make an effort particularly to know her. My loss. I first saw her name as a very 'composed and grounded' commenter on Anita's blog. Soon, on Manisha's too. I have to admit that I didn't go to her blog to check it out even when she was reading all my favourite blogs, all my friends' blogs. You know how it is. Way too many of us and way too much food to talk about in a day. And her blog was postponed to check for another day. I visited Manisha in June 2011. It was visit long due and we knew we wanted to meet after all those email conversations. We thought similarly about a lot of things and I really wanted to meet Medha. That girl fascinated me. I ate well, keeping true to the belief that grad students don't leave food when they see it. One night, I think it was Medha's birthday night, we decided to cook something special. She suggested Brinji - something that she'd eaten when she'd visited Anita's home in Delhi where she met Raji. She thought I'd know about it since I was a South Indian. Frankly, I have no clue about ingredients or food or the Science behind cooking. I had no clue if this was part of my heritage as a South Indian. The mixed rices in my home were very conventional. Brinji was something I'd never heard of. She made Brinji that night. We had some guests too, Medha's friend and her family who came to visit. It was a table full of food and a house full of people eating that Brinji. I wasn't sure how it'd be. You see, I'm not a huge fan of anything coconutty. I've only lately (shamefully enough, after eating Thai food) come to appreciate the nutty sweetness of coconut. I took a small serving in the name of 'oh, I can't eat much, been eating all day' and didn't want to stop eating. Only, I wasn't in my house to put my feet up and stuff my face.I have this stupid rule that I wouldn't eat much in front of guests. Why? Not because I want to tell them I eat less, but because I'm worried it's not going to be enough. That night, I wanted to sit down and polish that Brinji off because I LOVED it. I guess Miri was like that. She seemed very unassuming, someone who didn't really write about her illness or her struggle with it. Or, how she had to change her career because of this illness and the pains she went through being a modern woman (the pressure on us to have both- home and career is unimaginable - again my narrow focus). But all this made her the wonderful person she seemed to be. It's a pity I didn't take the time to write to her to tell her how much I enjoyed that Brinji of hers. I came back from the US a couple of weeks after, and at my first coming back party, I made Brinji. I made it consecutively for 3 parties after that. Once at my parents', then at my friends' and twice at my place. I should've written to her and let her know how much this dish had taught me - my own food heritage that I had no clue about, cooking rice on the stovetop without a cooker, falling in love with coconut and just my own happiness and satisfaction of coming back home. As I write this post, I realise that every single time I've eaten Brinji, I've been insanely happy. Happiness because of achievements, because of events, because of the people around me. Manisha's family and friends, my own family that I came back to, that quiet night when A and I snuggled and ate this Brinji at 12.30 AM when we had one of those conversations, with my friends who went ballistic over Brinji. I was going to make Brinji in memory of this woman who I never knew. There was this sense of shame and guilt that I crib way too much about my life, my weight (without working on it), my career, people around me, trends in food blogging, and there was this one person who just did what she wanted because she loved it and lived what, in my eyes, was a pretty full life. I was stunned when I re[...]

Pasta Sauce/Marinara


Happy New Year to all of you. Or, rather the 4 of you who read our blog :D This post could be reflective and sentimental for rather obvious reasons. It's the end of the year and no one thinks and analyses and dissects every event in 2011 and every person met in 2011 more than me. It has been a fantastic year in all senses of the word. I graduated from the top school for communication studies (Yeah, baby!), came back to India, my beloved India. And of course, to the best husband in the world. I get to praise him once a year, so do tolerate the mush. Now letting the past slide away gently, moving onto 2012- I have a ton of plans, ideas and this year is possibly going to be the culmination of a lot of plans that remained 'unstarted' in 2011. Cooking lists is one such plan. Since I came back in 2011, highly excited beings that we were, we made a cooking list. A cooking resolution of sorts to say that we will try making, say croissants this year. Of course, I spent most of my time ducking from butter in 2011 too. We have a similar list this year. Only, I don't remember where I kept it! So, fodder for the next post, that will be. One of the things on my cooking list that I can cross off is Marinara sauce or the tomato sauce for pasta. Every single time I read posts from people saying they made their sauce, I'm all enthusiastic to be this perfect woman making my own pasta sauces and achaars (Indian pickles) Who am I kidding? I love to eat and I'm the most impatient cook in the world. So how will I let Marinara bubble on the stove for 3-4 hours? And pickle? Really, who waits until all the spices are soaked in? This time, I decided to. Plus I saw that the tomatoes were super cheap at Town Essentials (Check this out if you're in Bangalore. Uber cool!) So, the last weekend of 2011 was kept aside for Marinara. Also, I really missed my class #MM2011 and our themed dinners. We had an Italian dinner for which my classmates, H, S and A had brought some family classics. Each of their Marinara sauces tasted different and I asked them to send me recipes! This is more like S's mother's recipe that he described to me. Thank you, S!What happened was this. We hosted, entertained and met more people than A has ever met in his whole life, or dreamt of in his nightmares. Cousins, second cousins. mother's sisters, mother's brothers, uncles, aunts, uncles of cousins, Golu/Navratri visits, Gruhapraveshams, weddings, visiting families, friends from school, friends from college, friends from work, friends from the online world, tweetups, neighbours - you name it and we've socialized with them. In fact, through December, we had guests continuously until the last weekend. We love guests. Okay, I love them. I love people. I love having them over, cooking for them. Fine, will accept. Making A cook for them while I hold intelligent, sparkly conversations laughing at everyone else and bitching about everything else. So, for the last weekend, since A is getting really old, we decided to take it slow. 'No human contact' was the brief I received. Yeah, I'm a sexy kitten, but we'll leave that for now ;) I settled down for a weekend with endless cups of chai and a pile of books and a cooking list comprising of Marinara and this achaar that didn't end up getting made this weekend.Then Nandita called. We succumbed. We went to their house for a New Year's party. Thankfully, it wasn't one of those loud, hajaar people all over the place party. So, we made gougeres and this dessert. Turned out pretty well. I had several awkward moments while I was stuffing my face with gougeres and someone came and praised our efforts. That said, the party went well and we got back home the next morning to crash. Then, in the evening, Nandita came home again to drop stuff off and we ate yummy leftovers. Biryani always tastes best the next day. I should know after weekends of 3 years in [...]

Bharwan Karela


Boy, has it been long since we posted anything around here or what! Sigh.I'm someone with severe OCD. Especially with date/day and time. I don't start exercising on Sunday, because work starts on Monday. I don't start anything randomly anytime. I need the beginning of the month/week/year to start it. Yeah, so you see the picture, don't you? So, I postponed blogging to the first of every month. Only that date never arrived. So, finally when December started, I figured I will seize 2012. The Year of the Reluctantchefs, it shall be called, I said to A. Okay, Reluctantbloggers (before any of you point out!)Then why today, you ask? I actually sat and thought about what I wanted from the next year. My resolutions list was made. Nothing, nothing stops me from making lists. I even know that if I start eating non vegetarian food (which may be never!), I have a list of stuff I want to eat. Remember OCD? Ya. Then, I thought I should kickstart with some of my resolutions BEFORE January, so I have time until the 1st to modify them :D This idea came about mostly because I had the wild idea of running a marathon next year. After two days of trying to stick to my resolution, I've decided to shelve that dream. See? Good I started a good month earlier ;)With that logic, I should have started blogging too. So here is the ever popular 'Bharwan Karela recipe. So, Karela or Bitter Gourd is something people either hate or love. I fall into the latter category. A doesn't mind it and likes it when cooked well. In fact, when I was unsure what I wanted to do with the Karela and asked on Twitter, a friend @Calvinator_18 gave me his rather ingenious recipe. He says, "Take 2 karelas. Put oil in pan, add chopped onions, salt, chilli powder, garlic, diced potatoes etc. Throw away the karelas. Serve warm."This is reason no. n+1 why I love Twitter.My love for Karela goes back to when I was a kid. My grandmother made this most awesome, lip-smacking, tangy Karela sabzi. Ya, I know tangy isn't one of those adjectives used with Karela, but she did this South Indian curry, which had tons of tamarind, jaggery, slow cooked to perfection. Even as a 10 year old, this was one of my favourite curries. Give me some rice, ghee and this curry, and I'm set for life. However, I'd never tried a North Indian Karela recipe. And A's colleagues spoke to him about a Bharwan Karela and we decided to try it out. We made a filling recommended by his colleague, R, added some of our own twists and I loved the end result.Here is the recipe. The stuffing used here is my maternal grandmother's #worldfamous Besan-onion stuffing for her amazing stuffed capsicum sabzi. My cousin and I are known to eat the stuffing separately apart from the stuffed capsicums. That I love Besan is an understatement. This, I found is a unique filling because R suggested we use the Karela seeds. Even with all my Karela love, the seeds are a different story. But surprisingly enough, they tasted fantastic and weren't all that bitter. And hey, it provided for the right texture between the soft, but caramelised Besan filling with the crunch of the seeds. With that statement, I've done my quota of food writing for the year. Phew!Ingredients4 Bitter Gourds1/2 cup Besan (Chickpea/Gram flour)1 cup onions, finely chopped1 ping-pong ball size chunk of tamarind1 tbsp cumin seeds1 tsp turmeric powderSalt to taste3 tbsp oilcayenne/chili powder as per taste2 tsp garam masala1. Bring some water to a boil in a saucepan. The saucepan should be wide enough to contain all the bitter gourds in their entirety.2. Peel the bitter gourd partially, meaning do not remove the entire skin. Add 2 tsp salt and then dunk the bitter gourds into the saucepan. Let it cook for 7-8 mins. until tender but not overcooked.3. Remove the bitter gourds and pat them dry with a towel. Then take a bitter gourd and snap the end[...]

Butterscotch blondies


You know how our social life was always in shambles in the US, right? Because A wouldn't talk, meet or greet anyone remotely human. He spoke to me but I don't count. I'm superhuman. So. However, after coming back to India, all we do during weekends is either go to my mum's house which is a good 30kms away and pig out and I sleep while A watches cricket or holds hilarious one-sided conversations with my dad. Or, we are figuring out the house cleaning bit. We've decided not to have a maid and clean the house ourselves. Only, the first part of the previous sentence is about A and the second part of the sentence is about me. Rarely, in between visits to my mum's house or my grandmother's house or trips to Chennai, we visit friends. Okay, we've visited this person precisely twice. She is A's colleague and a wonderful person. Very unlike A, highly social with something to say about everything always. A's office is full of Bengalis and I've heard and I can confirm personally now that Bengalis love their food. Or any food. A is also known to be very popular among the women in his office thanks to his Monday morning baked goods parcel to office. So, we were invited to this friend's house for chai and we took these beautiful butterscotch blondies for them. I remember seeing them on Nags' blog and the pictures stuck in my head. However, this recipe was adapted from Dorie Greenspan's method for making classic brownies. The chocolate chips were replaced with butterscotch chips and some other minor modifications. Ingredients 6 tbsp unsalted butter6 oz butterscotch chips + 1/4c extra3/4 c sugar3 eggs1 tsp vanilla extracta pinch of salt1/3 c + 3 tbsp AP flour 1. Preheat the oven to 160C 2. In a bowl, melt the butter and 6 oz butterscotch chips. Once melted, add the sugar and stir for 1 min. Then add the vanilla extract. Let it cool. 3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs. Do NOT over-beat them as brownies should be dense and not 'airy'. 4. Once the contents of the bowl with the chocolate mixture become lukewarm, add the whisked eggs and mix well. 5. Sift the flour. Add the remaining 1/4c butterscotch chips. 6. Fold this into the wet ingredients and stir until combined. 7. Pour the batter into a greased 8" square pan (about 2" deep). Place it on the middle rack and bake it for about 25 mins. or until a skewer comes out clean. You could choose to line the pan with greased aluminum foil and then pour the batter into it. I found these a tad sweet and couldn't eat more than one. A, the one with the sweet tooth too felt it was very sweet. The recipients, of course, very politely declared they loved it. I'd have cut down the sugar a little bit. Given a chance, I wouldn't use butterscotch chips. As much as I love butterscotch ice cream, I think I prefer chocolate or fruit desserts any day compared to something like butterscotch. A loves it though and plans to gorge on them irrespective of what I think. But then, we have a ton of butterscotch chips in the fridge courtesy my sisters who love A and his baking and shower him with chocolate or butterscotch chips. A's list to his sister who is visiting end of this year begins and ends with chocolate. The snob that he is, he spends hours reading ingredients behind a chocolate slab here and declares them unworthy to be baked by him. So, tell me dear Indian bloggers, where do you source your chocolate from?[...]

Oatmeal-Lemon Cookies


Shocked? Don't be. I'm back in India, back being A's most loved guinea pig. It took me a long time to settle down and finally, I'm all settled in. Not had a weekend without friends and family. I love it like I hate it #getit? Sometime back in Syracuse, while chatting with a friend, who had gotten interested in baking had just started, we'd both decided to bake some oatmeal cookies together. Virtually, that is. Just like one of the groups. But with just both of us. Ya, we swing like that. She found a recipe and baked it and posted it here. I'm proud to say that it took me less than 6 months to make it and it took me another month to post it. On July 5, it was her birthday and I was sitting around at home doing nothing. It had been over 15 days since I'd landed and except unpacking for the most necessary stuff (read toothbrush), I was being extremely lazy and didn't even want to cook everyday meals. So much for my 'I want to go home to cook, to eat' spiel I gave you all. Finally, when the whole of Twitter was wishing her, I thought it was time to get off my behind and make these cookies in her honour. Also I had to use the new KitchenAid without A interfering with 101 instructions. New only to me. When A came back to India last year, he bought himself a shiny red KitchenAid that he used to make cake and bread for our parents. I figured I was no less. So, decided to use the KitchenAid to bake up this really fresh tasting cookie. I'd never have mixed oatmeal and lemon together. I like my oatmeal with chocolate or with spices like cinnamon and ginger, thank you! But thanks to her (do click on this link, coz she has a hep food blog now!), I tried this out. Another reservation was that I'm not good with cookies. Both A and I constantly mess up with cookies. If you notice, the only other cookie we've baked are the shortbread ones. We don't have the patience to cool it on a cooling rack and mostly never take it out on time. Plus, the amount of butter that goes into it? Makes you feel that a pound cake is better. Don't ask me why. My non Maths calculating brain has decided that cookies are far more dangerous. Anyway, this took all of 10 mins to whip up and was so, so easy! I burned the first batch. No surprises there, I guess. I wasn't still used to the oven we have here. So, I had to adjust some temperature details with my oven and watch it like a hawk the second time around. Mine weren't as flat and thin as hers. Hers look crisp, while mine came out looking dense and fudgey even ( the batch I took out really early because I was reminded that this is A's work :P) But I loved it. The delicate hint of lemon without overpowering the rusticity of the oatmeal in the cookie worked wonders with chai. The cookie wasn't sweet either. That's another thing about lemon cookies - they are overpoweringly sweet. Do try it and tell me how you liked it! P.S.- A is trying his writing skills (ha ha!) on Burrp these days with some rather hilarious (for me and you) reviews. Here's a sample for which he won a movie voucher. Yeah, lucky bugger! "Typically, herbivores (a.k.a us) and Bengali food are considered antipodes. However, our love for regional cuisine got the better of us and we went to 6 Ballygunge Place for dinner tonight. Blah, blah, blah." You are very welcome. I love making people laugh, yes.[...]

Chocolate Eclairs + Old post alert!


As I was poring through our previous posts and drafts, I was shocked to see that I never hit the 'publish' button on this post! Since I'm too lazy to edit the post to confirm to present, I'm going to just hit the publish button :P I don't pride on my literary but try to bear with this rather anachronistic post ;)This has not just been on my baking list, but also on my to-eat list :P N & I managed to have a few GOOD ones at Alon's. Since then, I've been wanting to make them at home. It's a pity that I ended up baking these AFTER N left had left for New york. I was browsing through Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours and I came across her Peppermint Cream Puff Ring's recipe. While I wasn't in the mood to bake the gargantuan looking ring, I did scale down the recipe for the choux pastry dough.I have to admit that this was one of the easier things to make. Very few ingredients are involved and I didn't even use an electric beater. And it came out pretty darn good. I got too lazy to make the pastry cream, which is typically used as a filling in these eclairs so I just whipped up some cream. The eclairs are just not the same without the pastry cream, but the cream puffs themselves came out rather well. I'm definitely keeping this recipe for future needs since these are fairly easy to make and look pretty cool ;) For the Choux Pastry1/2 c all purpose flour1/2 stick butter2 large eggs, beaten (should amount to 1/2 c liquid)2 tbsp sugar1/2 c milk (I used 2% reduced fat)For the whipping cream1c heavy whipping cream2 tbsp sugar1 tsp vanilla extractFor the chocolate drizzleI have to admit that I ramdomly added some of the leftover cream to some chocolate chips and melted them over a double boiler so I can't give any measurements ;)1. Preheat oven to 400 F.2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring the milk, butter and sugar to a boil.3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add all the flour at once and then stir vigorously with a spatula. Cook for about 2-3 more mins.4. Remove from heat and let the dough cool down until warm. In order to accelerate the cooling process, continue mixing with the spatula.5. Once the dough is warm (if you can stick your finger in for 10 seconds without wincing, it's fine!), add the beaten eggs to the dough. Mix well to form a smooth, uniform and a somewhat shiny/silky dough.6. Pipe the dough on to a baking tray lined with a silicone mat. I piped it without a tip into wide stripes. If piping is not your thing, just take a small ladle and scoop the dough and place mounds on the baking tray.7. Bake in the middle rack for about 12-13 mins. Then reduce the temperature to about 375 F and continue baking until the top is golden brown and 'crusty', about 20-25 mins.8. Remove from the oven and cool them completely on a cooling rack.9. Cut them in the middle. Sandwich the two pieces with whipped cream and pour some lukewarm chocolate ganache on top. Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.10. EAT!The sight of the choux pastry dough 'stripes' rising in the oven to take the form of cream puffs was really neat. The cream puffs themselves were almost 'hollow' and porous on the inside. I finished a couple even before I filled them with cream ;)Needless to say, N was not too happy to see the pics. I mean she loved the fact that they came out well but wasn't too excited about her not being there to grab a bite ;) I told her that I'd try to make up for this audacity by baking her a Croquembouche some day ;)[...]

Cooking with mom...


One of the perks of settling back home is that you get to eat food prepared by your favorite my case, my mom ;) Typically, folks from our parents' generation are averse towards international cuisine. They're quite happy sticking to Indian food. But on one of my parents' visits to the US, N and I took them to Top Spice and they really loved the Kari Sayur Kampur served in clay pots and the Buah Mango Tofu. Since then they've at least opened up to Malaysian and Thai food.My mom and I relived their visit to Atlanta and I told her that if one doesn't use real ingredients like Thai basil, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal etc. then one would have a tough time replicating the taste and authenticity.Thanks to N and the information she sources from local Bangalore food bloggers, we found some really fresh Thai Basil at really low prices (Rs 10 for a coriander-bunch sized portion) at Namdhari Fresh. They also have Italian basil at similar prices. But that's a different post ;) Also, retail stores like M K Ahmed among others have started selling Tofu at prices lower than paneer so one doesn't have to rely on "Nasoya" brand, which is almost 5 times more expensive.We decided to have some simple Thai inspired Noodles for lunch the next day. My mom and I did the cooking. She told me that it was pretty easy to make and she'd probably try it again at home ;)IngredientsPeanuts - 1 cCoconut Milk (w/ cream) - 100-150gSesame seeds - 2-3 tbspGreen Bell Pepper, chopped - 1.5 cCarrots, chopped - 1.5 cOnions, chopped - 3/4 cTofu, cubed and fried in oil - 1.5 cChilli Oil - 3-4 tbspCooking oil - 1-2 tbspThai Basil Leaves - 20-25 leavesSalt to tasteHoney - 2-3 tbspGinger, chopped - 1 tbspPasta (sphaghetti) - 300 gRed chilli powder - 1-2 tsp 1. Bring water (with 1-2 tsp salt) to a rolling boil in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook the pasta until al dente.2. Roast the peanuts and sesame seeds dry and powder them in a blender.3. In a wide saucepan, add 1 tbsp oil and fry the onions. When they're half done, add the ginger and all the vegetables. Add salt, red chilli powder and 2 tbsp chilli oil and continue frying.4. Once the vegetables are half done, reduce the heat to low and wait for a minute before adding coconut milk.5. Add the coconut milk, thai basil leaves and let it simmer for 5 mins. Add the peanut/sesame powder and continue simmering for 5-6 mins. If the 'gravy' appears too thick, you could add some fresh coconut water.6. Add honey and mix well.7. Drain the cooked pasta and toss it with 1 tbsp chilli oil.8. Add this to the gravy and mix well. Let it sit at low heat for 4-5 mins.9. Serve hot!We decided to skip the lemongrass/kaffir lime leaves and galangal. We could have added some lime zest to compensate, but we chose not to.It came out pretty well. All of us enjoyed our dinner and topped it off with some kadalai urundai for dessert ;) Well, only I did because my parents are trying to control their sugar levels!N will be back soon and regular jabber, better stories, better writing and certainly highly opinionated posts will follow. Until then, I struggle to weave a story around a recipe and keep thinking how lucky I am to have married N. P.S.- the last line in this post has been added by N. Obviously ;)[...]

Mixed Vegetable Curry


One of the most redeeming lessons being a graduate student and being in America has been about money. 2 years ago, I didn't have a job and the feminist in me became stingier (I've always been stingy) by the day before I asked A for money. Being a graduate student and paying through my nose without a loan has brought out the stereotypical inner South Indian in me (My rather bindaas about money and generous parents will be horrified) and I think 100 times before doing anything. And the tree hugger in me, of course, wants to buy only food that is 'good' for the body and the world. Unfortunately, these two factors clash in my life right now and I'm forced to be stingy all over again. To this dilemma, let's add a no sugar, most of the times no polished carbohydrates diet and watch the fun unfold.It has truly been fun - this past year. Customizing food, cooking quick-fix meal, making cakes with honey and applesauce, eating mostly vegetables, eggs, beans (God bless them!), Dals or lentils, fruits at almost every meal has made me way fitter and way more determined to stick to my diet. I tweeted a couple of days ago how my comfort food has moved from Dal-Chawal or Curd rice with pickle to a quick roasted vegetables or quinoa with dal or veggies on top. I do indulge once in a while. Wednesdays are bad days for me. I come home at 9 PM after a rather exhausting day. It's no fun in the cold at least. And I don't take to hunger that well. Earlier, during such times, I'd come home to eat a tortilla while I was cooking or make rice and gobble it up with some curd. Nothing more comforting for a Tamilian :) Nowadays, thanks to my diet, I'm way more creative. I end up using canned beans or frozen veggies on Wednesdays and quickly make myself a meal. Last Wednesday, I made this curry. It was really quick and absolutely lickable, dare I say so myself. This doesn't even require a recipe considering this blog's followers, but this is for all those Twitter friends of mine who tweet every night about food :) Ingredients2 small Potatoes - sliced lengthwise1 carrot - peeled and cut lengthwise1/2 an onion1 Jalapeno/Green Chilli, choppedAny other random vegetable - I didn't have anything else!1 tsp Kalonji (Substitute with Jeera/Cumin seeds)2-3 tsp Garam Masala1 tsp Cayenne Pepper (Chilli powder)1 tsp turmeric (I didn't use it because I didn't have any!)2-3 tbsp water1-1.5 tbsp oilSalt to taste1. Heat oil, add the Kalonji or Jeera. Let it splutter. Add the onions and jalapeno or green chillies2. Let it cook for 2-3 mins, add the potatoes, sprinkle some water and close and let cook for 7-10mins. Thinner the slices of the potato, the better it is.3. Add carrots to this mixture and the rest of the spices, some more water IF the mixture is dry and let it close to let it cook.4. Once they are partially cooked, take the lid off and let it cook for a good 5-7 mins. Stir if you think it's getting burned. Voila! It's done. The spice level may be high for some people. I love spicy, hot food and so, the cayenne pepper, the Garam Masala and the chilli. You can adjust it accord to your preference. The quantity should be enough for one really hungry person or two people who behave decently when there is food around! I didn't pay much attention to this curry. I throw one ingredient, wash the vessels lying in the sink or clean up. On this day, I made rotis along with the curry and that kept me occupied. One can think of a 101 vegetables to add to this mixture. Adding cabbage or beans, peas or bell peppers could work brilliantly. Or, even peanuts for the crunch factor. If you are the type to use the Microwave which I admit I have become, you can zap the potato or carrots in the microwave for a quick 3-4 mins before ad[...]

Chocolate cookies


And with that, I'm back. Hopefully, for longer than just this one post. So yeah, a lot has happened in the last 4-6 months that we haven't done anything related to this blog. After a rather cheesy post (in retrospect) and several good wishes later, I have 4 months 19 days, 19 hours, 13 mins and 10 seconds to go as I write this line. My solitary cooking and eating habits have improved vastly thanks to some New Year resolutions. My resolution this year or at least for this semester is to cook at home and eat home cooked food only. I'm not eating any sugar or sugar substitutes (slowly cutting that down) and eating only brown rice/quinoa. I spent most of last year, from June, to be precise, eating only bulgur/couscous/quinoa with occasional rice indulgences. I don't quite regret it. I'm way fitter now and way stronger physically. However, I lost control a couple of times last year. Once, when I had Finals week breathing down my neck and cookies, random food and anything that made me happy and stuffed. Next, in December, I went to California for a cousin/sibling reunion. While I ate normally most of the time in LA/SFO, the last 4-5 days when we returned the car and did nothing but lie around watching TV, we lost it. In order to show sisterly love to our baby brother, we baked a lot. And ate a lot thanks to his emotional blackmail. This cousin of mine stays an hour away from me. We didn't talk much to each other over the last so many years. Suddenly, we all seemed to bond on this mighty California trip. How, why and what happened is anyone's guess. While he likes to point out that we never spoke to him, I think I have the whole family nodding their heads in agreement when I say that he was a very quiet kid. It is also quite shocking these days for me to see kids like him and my youngest sister act like adults. Because they are adults now. I don't feel old or anything, but just that as this cousin of mine pointed out, I have become rather maami-like (like an aunt- very maternal; feminine version of avuncular, I suppose) So, anyway back to food. This kid loves food. I remembered all the times in my granny's house when we'd all stuff ourselves with food and eat dessert too. While some of us ate dessert much later or skipped it sometimes, he never did. He has a sweet tooth and everyone in the family knows that. My aunt, granny and my mum have been known to send sweets, bought or home-made through every other person who goes to Chennai. I remember the days we drove to my granny's house to pick up the 'bhakshanam' (snacks) and bought Chiroti from Subbamma's (an old store in Bangalore selling amazing snacks and delicacies. Sigh) for him. So, when I came back from California, we started talking more. More emotional blackmail ensued from his side. And since he loves chocolate (and how!), I decided to bake him these. I saw them on Tastespotting and haven't stopped thinking about them ever since. I cut the recipe by half for the sake of good health and made them. While mine don't look like hers by any standards, I have to say that they were tasty. I didn't get the dark chocolate colour she got probably because of the difference in the kind of cocoa powder she used. I also cut down on the chocolate chips. My cousin may not be too happy about that! All said and done, several of my friends on Twitter have been asking me to come back to blogging about food. And some of them ask for simple recipes, some just want to see pictures. I hope that this post is just the beginning and both A and I blog more regularly going forward. He is currently busy with his sister's wedding and I can't believe I'm missing the biggest event in my in laws' house after I got married. Calli[...]

We are not blogging...


Because we are not cooking. I'd love to say like every other time or every other blogger, that we've been cooking but just not found the time to blog. A has found the time to blog and I've just about figured that I need to realign my priorities to still do what I want to do, apart from what I hate- studying :P But the truth is that in spite of the foodies that we are, we both haven't cooked good meals in quite sometime now. A left for India in August and spent a month at my parents' eating my mom's food and helping her cook (She is touched, shocked, amazed and rather happy -since she hates cooking :P)I had the most hectic summer semester with classes and enough readings to last me a lifetime. I'm currently in the Fall semester and finally settled down. Today, I spoke to A for a long time after a long time. Its funny how we haven't had a heart-to-heart conversation in ages now. And we are husband and wife. Yes. Still. I've had people either expecting me to cry at the drop of a hat missing him. Or, there are feminists who think that I should totally be nonchalant about my relationship status and act like he doesn't exist. Sorry to disappoint you, folks. I'm in the middle somewhere. I miss him terribly every single time I eat. Because he cooked most of the time and I just ate. Now I have to cook and eat. And every single time I have to clean the house. I'm only used to supervising and now I have to do it myself. Albeit, it is being done once in 3 months.Today, during our lengthy conversation, he was talking of returning to cooking now that he's settled in his own apartment. He said he'd been trying to bake bread and cookies for a week now and every attempt was a failure. I was quite surprised. He is a master baker. He may make mistakes, but they don't repeat. I spoke of how I've been planning forever to make bread and never got around to doing it. I told him how I went to our favourite food blogs and kept telling the blogger am going to try their latest recipe, buy the ingredients but never end up making it. We laughed saying we've become lazy.Suddenly, he banged his fist and I had a tear rolling down my cheek. Its no fun anymore. Before getting married, I couldn't identify one Dal from another. And he'd cook the usual, sabzi, chawal, dal, sambar. Nothing special. Ours was an arranged marriage. We fought every single day until we got married and after we got married. We've had a turbulent time together. Except for food. Until we discovered how much we liked food and cooking and eating. We took our own sweet time getting to know each other and it was hell until we figured it out. I knew I'd miss him and he'd miss me. I mean, who doesn't miss their spouse when you're away from them, right? And we were ready for the heartache and what not. But this is something else! I just can't seem to make anything more than random one pot meals or worse, Maggi noodles for dinner. While he is struggling with basic cooking and baking in spite of spending on a new kitchen with all the equipment. It struck us today that its going to be a bad year for our foodie-selves. He said he'd not made Pasta in ages while I thought of the rotting pasta in the fridge. That is his favourite meal. I haven't made Vethe Kuzhambu in ages while he has it often. My favourite meal. I broke down after a long time. Ever since things have been working - read university admits, job in India etc, I've not worried about anything. Today was something else. I was scared I will never eat good food again. Ya, I'm like that. I get scared about missing out on food. You can safely call me a lunatic now.Then the calm voice spoke ( certainly not me, it was him!). We figured it[...]

Chocolate Eclairs + Old post alert!


As I was poring through our previous posts and drafts, I was shocked to see that I never hit the 'publish' button on this post! Since I'm too lazy to edit the post to confirm to present, I'm going to just hit the publish button :P I don't pride on my literary but try to bear with this rather anachronistic post ;)This has not just been on my baking list, but also on my to-eat list :P N & I managed to have a few GOOD ones at Alon's. Since then, I've been wanting to make them at home. It's a pity that I ended up baking these AFTER N left had left for New york. I was browsing through Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours and I came across her Peppermint Cream Puff Ring's recipe. While I wasn't in the mood to bake the gargantuan looking ring, I did scale down the recipe for the choux pastry dough. I have to admit that this was one of the easier things to make. Very few ingredients are involved and I didn't even use an electric beater. And it came out pretty darn good. I got too lazy to make the pastry cream, which is typically used as a filling in these eclairs so I just whipped up some cream. The eclairs are just not the same without the pastry cream, but the cream puffs themselves came out rather well. I'm definitely keeping this recipe for future needs since these are fairly easy to make and look pretty cool ;)For the Choux Pastry1/2 c all purpose flour1/2 stick butter2 large eggs, beaten (should amount to 1/2 c liquid)2 tbsp sugar1/2 c milk (I used 2% reduced fat)For the whipping cream1c heavy whipping cream2 tbsp sugar1 tsp vanilla extractFor the chocolate drizzleI have to admit that I ramdomly added some of the leftover cream to some chocolate chips and melted them over a double boiler so I can't give any measurements ;)1. Preheat oven to 400 F.2. In a heavy bottom saucepan, bring the milk, butter and sugar to a boil.3. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add all the flour at once and then stir vigorously with a spatula. Cook for about 2-3 more mins.4. Remove from heat and let the dough cool down until warm. In order to accelerate the cooling process, continue mixing with the spatula.5. Once the dough is warm (if you can stick your finger in for 10 seconds without wincing, it's fine!), add the beaten eggs to the dough. Mix well to form a smooth, uniform and a somewhat shiny/silky dough.6. Pipe the dough on to a baking tray lined with a silicone mat. I piped it without a tip into wide stripes. If piping is not your thing, just take a small ladle and scoop the dough and place mounds on the baking tray.7. Bake in the middle rack for about 12-13 mins. Then reduce the temperature to about 375 F and continue baking until the top is golden brown and 'crusty', about 20-25 mins.8. Remove from the oven and cool them completely on a cooling rack.9. Cut them in the middle. Sandwich the two pieces with whipped cream and pour some lukewarm chocolate ganache on top. Refrigerate until the chocolate has hardened.10. EAT!The sight of the choux pastry dough 'stripes' rising in the oven to take the form of cream puffs was really neat. The cream puffs themselves were almost 'hollow' and porous on the inside. I finished a couple even before I filled them with cream ;)Needless to say, N was not too happy to see the pics. I told her that I'd try to make up for this audacity by baking her a Croquembouche some day ;)[...]

Eggless Jalapeno Corn Cheese Muffins.


One of the things that I'll miss the most about the U.S - friends and family here. In certain cases, friends have pretty much become family! One such family (the Gs) are not only a source of moral support for us, but also a source of inspiration. One of the family members is battling cancer and the resolve that person has shown has been nothing short of astounding. It is unbelievable to see the smiles, the sheer appreciation for life and the unfettered determimation to fight through adversity. I truly run out of words to express my amazement!I recently invited them for dinner. While tikki-chholay was the main course, I knew they liked baked stuff. While they weren't particularly averse to eating baked goods containing eggs, they really preferred if they didn't. I didn't have much time and I consider Dorie Greenspan's basic muffin recipe to be a life saver in such circumstances. I have tweaked it enough to remove the egg and be able to retain the texture to a reasonable extent. However, this time, I decided to give it a savory touch. Hence, these Jalapeno Corn Cheese Muffins.Ingredients:3/4 c cornmeal3/4 c whole wheat flour2 tsp salt2 tbsp sugar1 tsp baking soda1 1/4 tsp baking powder1 medium jalapeno, finely diced (you could choose to retain or remove the seeds)1 stick (8 tbsp) butter (I used Parkay), melted and cooled.1/2 c corn kernnels (if you're using canned corn, make sure to dry them)3/4 c buttermilk1/2 c milk1/4 c shredded cheese (I used Mexican cheese blend sold at Costco)1/2 tsp Hungarian paprika powder (you could replace this with Cayenne pepper)1. Preheat oven to 400 F2. Beat the buttermilk and milk in a bowl and keep separately.3. In a large bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and salt.4. Toss the jalapenos and corn kernels into the sifted ingredients.5. Add the wet ingredients (butter followed by buttermilk+milk mixture). Whisk until the ingredients have barely combined and you don't see any uncoated flour.6. Spoon this batter immediately into a well greased 12-muffin pan.7. Bake in center rack for about 13 mins or until a skewer comes out clean.8. Remove from the oven and let it cool on a cooling rack, but inside the tray for about 10 mins.9. Remove them from the pan and eat them right away ;)This recipe makes 12 muffins.[...]

Chocolate Almond Brownies.


In the previous post, I alluded to the soccer world cup that concluded recently. I had the opportunity to watch the finals with a good friend of mine. His family has a sweet tooth and I am always looking for guinea pigs to try my experiments on ;) I baked these brownies the night before and let them sit so that they got sweeter with time. The recipe was inspired by Dorie Greenspan. I took her basic brownie recipe and tweaked it a bit.These served as dessert after a nice home cooked meal at my friend's place. I'm glad they liked the brownies and to top everything, the finals was one heck of a game. It started off a bit slow but picked up pace after the first half. If it weren't for a red card, the game would've ended with penalty kicks. But again, Spain played better than the Dutchmen and certainly deserved to win the world cup. To cut a long story short, good food+good friends+good game=Great time!Ingredients:2/3 c flour3 large eggs7 tbsp butter6-7 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips2/3 c almonds (toasted and coarsely chopped)1 tbsp coffee extract1 tbsp freshly brewed coffee decoction1 tsp vanilla extract1 c granulated sugar1 pinch salt1. Preheat oven to 325F.2. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a bowl. I used a microwave. When the mixture is hot, add sugar and stir to dissolve. This will also help the mixture to cool down. Allow it to cool until warm. If you can stick your finger for 10 seconds without discomfort, the mixture is cold enough ;)3. Add the extracts and decoction to the bowl and stir to dissolve.4. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, one at a time with an electric beater. Do not overbeat since we're not baking a cake here. We want dense, moist, fudgy brownies ;)5. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg, stirring continuously with a whisk.6. Add the flour and fold in the chopped nuts. Do not overmix.7. Pour the batter into a rectangular pan, lined with aluminum foil. I leave a long strip on one of the corners that lets me pull the whole thing after it has baked easily. Pour the batter into the pan. I used an 8" X 10" pan that was 2 inches deep.8. Bake in the middle rack for about 50-55 mins. or until a skewer comes out clean.9. Place the pan on a cooling rack and allow the brownies to cool completely in the pan. Then, pry the aluminum foil out of the pan and cut into squares.These brownies had a nice crunchy crust on top and were pretty chewy and fudgy on the inside. The coffee was a nice addition. the almonds imparted additional richness (as if chocolate wasn't enough :P). [...]

Bok choy with Tofu and Cashews.


I hope everyone has gotten over their world cup fevers! For some, it must have ended in disappointment as their favorites got knocked out earlier that anticipated. I'm one of them since I am a huge Brazil fan! But at least they lost to Netherlands that eventually finished second. I don't intend to consume this space with my personal analysis of the world cup but it suffices to say that Spain really deserved to win. They outplayed their opponents in every facet of the game. Things have taken a turn the personal front as well. I'll be moving to India for good! The support I've received has been tremendous, including the food blogosphere. People have been kind enough to answer some of my inane queries regarding availability of ingredients, oven-related concerns and so on ;)Coming to Bok Choy, it is something that has been flying under my radar for a long time. No real story about it! I've been wanting to try it for quite sometime and after googling for recipes, I got the hang of how to handle Bok Choy and then came up with this recipe on the fly.Ingredients:2 medium size Bok Choys2 c tofu, cut into 1" cubes and lightly fried on both sides1/3 - 1/2 c roasted cashew nuts4-5 dried red chillies1 tbsp sesame oil1 tbsp vegetable oil1 tbsp soy sauce2 tbsp finely chopped garlic2 tbsp finely chopped ginger1 tbsp rice wine vinegar4 tsp honey1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds1 c water+extra for blanching the Bok Choy leaves.salt to taste.1. Cut the Bok Choy stems into 1" pieces after separating the leaves. Blanch the leaves in hot water for about 30 sec. Remove from water and place them on a kitchen towel to dry.2. Microwave the dried red chillies with 1/3 c water for about a minute. The water will turn red. Allow to cool. Grind into a paste with some salt and a couple of cashew pieces.3. In a pan (or Wok), add the vegetable oil, garlic and ginger and set the heat to medium-high.4. When the oil gets hot, add the stems. Sautee for about 3-4 mins until somewhat tender.5. Add the chilli paste, the blanched leaves, vinegar, tofu cubes and the roasted cashew nuts.6. Cook for another 2 mins and then add the remaining 1/3 c water.7. Cook until the stems are tender to your liking.8. Stir in the sesame oil and top it with toasted sesame seeds.This goes well with rice and serves 2 pretty hungry people.[...]

Kuzhi Paniyaram


I love recipes that salvage leftovers, or make more interesting stuff with leftovers than the 'main' dish. This is one such meal. While a lot of people actually make their dosa/idli/paniyaram batter for Kuzhi Paniyaram and make it regularly, we don't. Not because we don't like it. Just that I've never thought of it. We never had this, as kids at home. I mean, who had leftovers of Dosa! :) However, I saw Cham's recipe for this and wondered about how cute they look! We tried it once. And I loved it. I mean, I'm obsessed that way. Obsessed about figuring out interesting recipes for what I think is leftovers :D Like the way I ruined a good lemonade by adding a highly concentrated 2 tbsp of strawberry syrup left over from a dessert experiment. All because I couldn't see it lying in the fridge. I love emptying the fridge. I feel efficient :D Which is why I can plan meals for the next two years and dream about an empty fridge. It gives me peace of mind when I plan and make a things-to-do list. Okay, I digressed. My OCDs don't end and this post isn't a forum for that!Coming back, we met her and she fed us fat, juicy looking, crisp-on-the-outside-but-spongy-on-the-inside Gunta Panganaalu. I love this name :D Reminds me of Shetty uncles from my childhood in Bangalore. Anyway, I loved the recipe and decided to pester my mom-in-law to finally get me an abel-whatever pan from India. She got me a non stick pan which was small. I wanted a large cast-iron one dreaming of making rounds of Kuzhi Paniyaram to feed hungry people. I have this vision of my house being the abode of abundance with people forever coming over to eat and all that. Much like the old times in India used to be. Its a different thing that A thinks rather differently about this! He gets scared at these harmless dreams. Okay, again, I digress.So, when my mom-in-law got me this, the time was opportune. Want to know why? I thought I will show her how efficient a home-maker I was and how well I fed her son who looks so scrawny that people thought I ate his share of food too! So, the day before she landed, I ground up TONS of Idli/Dosa batter, so my fridge will look like the classic South Indian housewife's fridge. Big utensils with nicely risen batter. To make anytime and everytime. Since the word efficient doesn't apply to me for any part of my life, let alone my home-maker self, the idlis turned red. Ya. Red. I threw a tantrum because now, I didn't know how to show I was a good wife. I didn't wake up at 4 AM like the mom-in-law. I didn't pack fresh lunch for my husband. He took leftovers because I believe food tastes better the next day :P, I didn't get up lovingly to watch him eat cereal in the morning. Now, this Idli batter also threw me off course!In sheer anger, I threw a lot of batter and sat there waiting for her to come. Come, the next day, without any pretence of jet lag, my mom-in-law was up at 4 poking in the kitchen. She saw the rest of the batter and decided to make dosas for bfast. She realized something was awfully wrong with the batter in probably 10 seconds. So, then she made this. Her son, after 2 years, ate hot breakfast and left for work, happy! She made sure I had my fill since I'm the breakfast person and I snacked on these the whole day.*scene change - time moves - a year later*I come back from India to see old batter in the fridge. While I've become really efficient, my OCD hasn't really gone down. I decided to make a weekend breakfast out of this batter. I could've made Dosa, but, but, the memories of my mother[...]

"Grilled" Pineapple and Tofu Quesedillas.


Recently, N and I went for a little picnic. The problem is, our perceptions of a picnic are polar opposites. N's idea is to go to an enchanted place, sit down, talk, relax, eat, relax and then head home. My idea is to go there, grab a quick bite, canoe or kayak if possible, relax, , go for a hike and then head home. You get the picture ;) But I must give it to N for being a sport and playing along with me more than often. This was one such occasion. We went to a state park. We decided not to eat out because we had dinner outside the previous evening. So we decided to make these quesedillas and take them with us for our little picnic. They were very easy to make and it took us literally 15-20 mins. to make.The pineapples, however, weren't really you're about to find out ;)Ingredients (Makes 3 whole quesedillas)3 pineapple rings1 cup tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes2 jalapenos, chopped finely1 small onion, chopped coarsely2/3 c corn kernelssalt and pepper to taste1/2 tsp cumin powder1/2 tsp Chipotle chili powder2/3 cup shredded cheese (we use the Mexican cheese blend available at Costco)1 tbsp vegetable oil6 tortillas1. In a pan, heat 1/2 tbsp oil. Add the jalapenos and onion. Let it cook for 2-3 mins.2. Use the other 1/2 tbsp oil to fry the tofu cubes until golden brown on two sides. Set the pieces aside.3. On this hot electric stove, place one pineapple ring and wait for about 10-15 seconds. Flip it. If you see 'grill-marks', continue. Otherwise, flip back until you see some marks. Repeat with remaining slices of pineapples. Once done, cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.4. Add the corn kernels, cumin powder, chipotle powder, salt, tofu cubes and pepper and cook for 5 more mins. Add the pineapple pieces and set aside.5. Take little butter on a flat bottom pan. When hot, place a tortilla on it. Sprinkle cheese on top of the tortilla. When the side exposed to the pan begins to brown, remove it from the pan. The cheese should have melted a little.6. Repeat this with three out of the six tortillas. Fix the remaining tortillas without cheese.7. On the tortilla without cheese, spread the veggie mixture and top it with a tortilla with the cheese. That makes one whole quesedilla. Similarly, make the remaining two.Enjoy!We really enjoyed the flavors. The heat from the jalapenos was countered by the sweetness of the pineapple. The smoky nature of the chipotle chili and the heartiness added by tofu were also great. We had a great time and these quesedillas were more than enough to keep us energized![...]

Chocolate-Chip Shortbread Cookies


N and I are usually pretty bad with cookies! What a lovely, encouraging way to start writing a post after ages ;) But it is the sad truth. The recipes are pretty easy to follow, we use all the right ingredients, and thanks to my profession, we even try to measure as accurately as possible. But when they come out of the oven, they do not look or taste like the ambrosia we so desperately crave for. Instead, we get these adobes that could shatter out jaws into smithereens. But N and I love to bake and we typically never give up on anything. We even had the gall to try macarons recently. Needless to say, we failed ;) OK enough that is self-deprecation! One fine Saturday, N and I decided to bake a funky cake. Something we had never tried before. We tried to get some inspiration from books so we decided to call upon Dorie Greenspan. As we opened the book, we stumbled upon a particular page, thanks to a bookmark placed randomly. N and I smiled at each other after seeing what was on that page. It read "espresso-chocolate shortbread cookies." Reveries of unsuccessful experiments and attempts started to flood our brains. But on a whim, we decided to give cookies another shot. N told me that shortbread cookies are apparently very soft, buttery and delicate. Considering our luck with cookies in the past, we even realized that we didn't have any espresso powder. And I was quite averse to expending 2 sticks of butter on something I wasn't confident :P So we even decided to halve the recipe. Since we made these subtle changes, I think I can go ahead and post the recipe for the cookies without getting into copyright violations ;) Suffices to say that Ms Greenspan, N and I LOVE you and credit you (partially :P) for these fantastic cookies.Ingredients1 cup unbleached all purpose flour1 stick butter, cut into cubes and softened1/3 cup powdered sugar (obtained by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor)1/2 tsp vanilla extract1/2 c mini-chocolate chips 1. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric beater until smooth and creamy, about 3-4 mins.2. Add vanilla extract and beat a couple of more rounds.3. Add the flour in 3 batches and beat until just incorporated. Do not beat excessively.4. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula. Cover the bowl with Saran wrap and refrigerate for an hour.5. On a floured plastic (we used a zip loc bag), roll out the dough into a 1/4 inch rectangle. Before you do this, make sure the dough is hard and not too soft. This can be tested by trying to roll it with a rolling pin. If the dough is hard enough, it'll offer some initial resistance and then rool out fairly easily. If you do not observe this initial resistance, it means that the dough needs to be refrigerated again.6. Take another zip loc bag and place it on top of the rolled dough. Refrigerate this sheet for another hour or so. This helps cookies retain their shape upon baking.7. 10 mins prior to taking the refrigerated sheet, preheat the oven to 325F.8. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper. The dough has plenty of butter so it is not necessary to grease the parchment paper further.9. Cut about 2 inch squares while the dough is cold. Place the squares on the tray and bake it for about 20-22 mins. Note that the cookies won't turn very brown. They'll have a pale yellow color.10. Cool them until they reach room temperature. This is very important. N and I, in our fit of joy, tried to eat one straight out of the oven and it disintegrated easily. So we[...]

Eggplant in spicy ginger-garlic sauce


Do you like eggplant? I know there are either 'haters' or 'lovers' in each of us when it comes to eggplant. I love eggplant. My eggplant fascination goes a long, long way. Back when I was a kid, I used to wait eagerly for my granny to make her Vangibath recipe. Nothing, nothing can pull me away from tamarind and other sour food. I love tamarind and could possibly eat it by itself. Okay, I have done that too. But then, I digress.Actually not. That is the major reason why I love Chinese cuisine. Or, at least the Indo-Chinese food. Its sweet, sour and spicy - all at the same time. However, for all my eggplant fascination, I'm no fan of soggy eggplant in a Chinese sauce. A is. He loves all kinds of vegetables and anything Chinese. So, every single time we go to a Chinese restaurant, he is always wanting to try this dish and I keep avoiding it. Thanks to me being the dominant one in the relationship (I needn't have specified that now, right?), we've escaped the eggplant dish so far.That said, beggars can't be choosers. Especially, when you beg your husband to cook fantastic food when its your turn to indulge him. How much A loves cooking is actually an understatement on this blog now. And in my life too. I take it for granted every evening that A will come up with something. This is one of those dishes that I couldn't him stop him from making. I agreed on a sulky note to just make do with the gravy and tofu in the dish. Well, what do you expect, ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. Yet again. This is one of my favorite Chinese dishes now. I can't claim that all eggplant haters will love this dish, but surely, do try it and let us know how you liked it! Here is the recipe.Ingredients1 large eggplant, cut into 1 to 1.5" chunks1 large onion, coarsely chopped1/2 cup tofu, cubed and fried with minimal oil until crisp on both sides2 tbsp sesame oil1 scallion, bulb and green part separated3-4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped3-4 tbsp coarsely chopped ginger3 tbsp brown sugar2 tsp molasses (optional)1 tbsp vinegar1 tbsp rice wine vinegar2 tbsp canned tomato sauce or puree2-3 tbsp soy saucesalt and cayenne pepper powder to taste1-2 tsp red chilli flakes1/3-1/2 cups water.1 tbsp sesame seeds1. Get started on the sauce. Take 1-2 tsp sesame oil when hot, add sesame seeds, garlic and ginger. When the garlic starts to turn brown, add the tomato sauce. When is almost cooked, add the molasses, brown sugar, soy sauce, cayenne pepper powder, salt, both vinegars and water. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let things simmer for 10-15 mins. Add the tofu at the 5 minute mark so that it absorbs all the flavors.2. While the sauce simmers, in a separate pan, fry the eggplant on medium heat until tender but not mushy. Add some salt and red pepper flakes to it while its cooking. Keep it separate.3. In the same pan, fry the onions with some oil, salt and red pepper flakes.4. Add the eggplant and pour the sauce on top. Cook until the eggplants almost turn soft, about 5-6 mins. This will also let the flavors to absorb further.5. Top with chopped greens from the scallion. Enjoy it hot with rice!It has this nuttiness thanks to the sesame seeds and the crisp tofu works great against the soft eggplant. I'm sure this'd go great with whole wheat noodles or rice vermicelli too! We had it with hot steaming rice and ate it with our hands :D I think, for meals like this, eating with hands wins hands down (pun unintended!) as against with a fork!Wh[...]

Barley salad


So, when I saw this salad last summer on Soma's blog, I just knew I had to do it. And I've made it several times since then. I love trying out new grains and barley was casually added to the list. I'd bought barley, but hadn't figured out what to do with it. Just when I think this way, Soma, very helpfully comes up with a post :D So, I figured, might as well do what she did. Its amazing how filling this dish is, and how easily it can be put together. It requires a lot of chopping work, what with the myriad veggies thrown in, but trust me, its all worth it. Now, again, come this summer, I was determined to make it, click it and post it!As Nandita and I were discussing on Twitter, sometimes, some dishes come out so well. And mostly during dinner at my place thanks to that being the only major meal cooked! Either I find the photos not great, or I just don't take any pictures. While I don't want to put any pressure on myself to take a picture of every thing I eat, I don't want to skip posting great recipe ideas on this blog. What do you guys do? How do you cope?Here is the recipe!Ingredients1 cup barley1-1.5 cups mixed veggies (carrots, beans, corn- we used the frozen mix :D)1 cup spinach (fresh leaves) - no need to chop them.1 small onion, diced1 tsp cumin seeds1 star anise1 tsp garam masala1/2 tsp red chili powder (or cayenne pepper powder)1 tbsp oilsalt to taste 1. Cook the barley. We did so in a microwave. Cook until its tender but not too chewy/mushy. We ended up using about 2-3 cups of water. It took us about 15-20 mins. to cook the barley. Once cooked, drain if there is any excess water remaining. 2. While the barley is cooking, add 1/2 tbsp oil to a skillet. When hot, add the cumin seeds and star anise. When they crackle, add the onions and the veggies (except spinach) together. Let them cook for about 3-4 mins.3. Add the spinach and all the spices and let it cook for another 5-10 mins. 4. When the veggies are almost tender enough to eat, add the cooked barley with remaining 1/2 tbsp oil. This will avoid individual grains from sticking together. 5. Cook for 2 more mins. Let it rest for a couple more minutes. And you're ready to go!Make it this summer. This works great as a salad or as a pulao too. We try to create different flavors every time we make this. Last time we made it, we experimented with Thai flavors. When you cook the barley in the microwave like we did, there is no need to soak it even. While I cut the vegetables, this cooked in the MW and it was drained and ready by the time I got done with cooking the veggies. How easy can it get? [...]