Tag Archives: food

Introducing: Indian meal recipes + Granny’s Green Masala Masoor daal

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My journey in the culinary world started with Baking. Yes, BAKING! Neither chopping vegetables, nor with a simple salads. Nope, I did not help in cooking. I dived straight into baking, head first. And I loved every bit of it.

I was young, naive and also not the one responsible for preparing our daily meals. Our meals did not involve baking. It was mostly rice, curry, vegetables and something fried on the side, like fish. It was simple and nourishing. I couldn’t be intrigued, it was the food I grew up eating. I honestly didn’t find it interesting to even attempt to understand it better. I said I was young and naive, so just stay with me here and don’t roll your eyes.

At that time, I was still studying and Baking was my ‘extra curricular activity’. A hobby that I engaged in to keep occupied in my spare time. Although a hobby, it meant a lot to me, A LOT! and still does.

As I continued this journey, I discovered the world of blogging. I connected with bloggers. I also met people who blogged about regular/ daily home cooking. Simple soul-food, comforting and nourishing. Back then I wouldn’t have used these words to describe it. But anyways, I wondered why would someone blog about Indian home cooking, don’t we all know it already. Truth is, I didn’t. And what I didn’t know is that years later I would be the one struggling, frantically making calls back home and jotting down recipes and going back and forth these blogs to prepare a meal. Blogs, which feature regional Indian curry, rice and vegetables, turned out to be my lifesaving grace.

Initially, it was just to put some food on the table and later to beat the monotony, that I started trying out different recipes. Who knew there would be a thousand different ways to make daal? Ok, that’s exaggerating, but you get the drift. Indian food, as complex as it may seem in terms of flavours, is equally challenging in terms of techniques. How thin in consistency should the neer dosa batter be ? or how long should you leave the idli batter to ferment? These are somethings you learn only by doing. It all takes time and practice to get it right.

So while I have started stalking family members in the kitchen each time I visit my country, I am also going to share with you some of these recipes here. These are mostly my family heirloom recipes, recipes that they adopted from other sources, some traditional manglorean recipes, recipes that are successful attempts of my experiments, recipes that might help someone somewhere stuck in a dilemma regarding what to cook for the next meal. I will document these recipes under the ‘Indian Meals’ tab.

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Since you have been so patiently reading, I will leave here the first recipe. It’s something my grand mother used to prepare often and one of my favourites.

Green Masala Masoor Daal

Step 1: Cook the Daal

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Whole masoor daal (Whole red lentils)  1/2 cup
Onion 1 medium, chopped
Tomato 1 medium, chopped
Oil 1 1/2-2 tbsp
Salt to taste

In a heated pressure cooker, add oil and saute the onions till translucent. Next, add the tomato, salt.Add the daal and sufficient water (almost 2 inches above the daal). Cover the lid, top it with the whistle and pressure cook it for 4 whistles. Once done, allow the cooker to cool for 15 mins before you remove the whistle and open the lid. Once done, add the green masala paste.

Step 2: Prepare the Green masala paste 
(This paste can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer for upto a week. Just thaw it to room temperature before use. Do not confuse this with Green Chutney, it’s different)

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Coriander leaves with stalk 1 bunch ( 3/4 cup when chopped)
Ginger 1 inch
Green chillies 2 (spicy ones)
Cumin seeds (Jeera) 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Bafat masala 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt to taste

Roughly chop the coriander and ginger. In a mixer, grind all the above ingredients to a paste. Avoid water, if required add very little water only to aid the grinding process. Add the green masala paste to the daal and simmer on low-medium heat for roughly around 7-8 mins. The raw dark green colour of the masala should change to a bit brownish olive green or mehendi green. Once done, take it off the heat and temper it (add the tadka).

Step 3: Tempering/ Tadka

Oil 1 tbsp (sunflower oil)
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida (Hing) a pinch
Curry leaves 5-6
Garlic cloves 3-4 (crushed)
Dried red chillies ( small, round ones) 2

Heat oil in a tadka pan. Add mustard seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add the asafoetida, curry leaves, garlic and dried red chilles. Allow it all to sizzle for a minute and quickly transfer it to the daal and masala mixture and cover for a minute or two. Serve hot.

Tastes best when consumed with steamed rice, vegetable and something crispy on the side like papad or along with steamed rice and a fried fish. 

green masoordaal

 

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Our Favourite Green Chutney

green chutney

On a random occasion, just to beat those ‘in between meals’ hunger pangs, I thought of making chutney sandwiches. I grew up in Mumbai so the spicy chutney sandwiches available street side was on my mind. I looked up a recipe from an old book, mostly on Manglorean cuisine. The ingredients being commonly used in Indian households, I had everything I needed at hand.

That evening, the hungry monsters glorified chutney sandwiches beyond my expectations. So much is this chutney popular in my home, that sandwiches or no sandwiches, just the plain chutney is devoured as condiment with lunch or dinner instead of the pickle. It is a pantry staple made every week. You can also tweak the spiciness or tang as per your liking. And the best part? I can make a big batch and store it in the fridge for the coming week and can easily make toast sandwiches anytime.

Slather it on buttered toast slices with cucumber and tomato stuffed sandwiches like we do or even add it to wraps. I will try and share more recipes with you to use this chutney. For now, here is how you can make it.

Time taken: 5-8 mins if you have all the ingredients at hand.

Ingredients:

  • Coriander leaves a bunch
  • Green chillies 2-3 (spicy ones)
  • Garlic flakes 5-6
  • Ginger half an inch
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  • Roughly chop the coriander leaves, green chillies, garlic and ginger. (I prefer chopping them as it makes the grinding process easier since I refrain from adding water – see notes)
  • Add all ingredients in a mixer. Grind till it forms a thick paste.
  • Store refrigerated in an airtight container. Stays good this way upto a week.

Notes:

Refrain from adding water while grinding. The lime juice and the water remaining on the coriander after washing it is sufficient for grinding. Adding salt, also makes the ingredients release water. Adding water will only make the chutney very runny which is not the desired consistency.

 

 

Sweet Coconutty Hand-pies

I am now slowly reeling over the indulgent and gluttony-behaviour inducing Christmas celebrations. It has been a good year. When I look back, I am thankful for all the blessings. Crossed many milestones, traveled, made new friends. This year has been close to my heart. I will treasure the memories forever.

I did miss celebrating Christmas back home and with family. But Dubai has given me a new home, new family. And because the year has been so kind, I wanted to make Christmas special and culminate the year on a sweet note. We decided to make all the Christmas sweets at home. Just like the way we do it back in India.

For me it was the first time I made the sweets by myself, with the man being sous chef 😉 And in my attempt to make these treats, I stumbled upon  a lot of tricks and techniques. More on that, I will share with you later.

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For this Christmas, I (or rather we) made and shared goodie boxes with all home-made sweets. We made a mix of modern and traditional christmas sweets. We made Christmas Cake, Marzipan, Tandlache ladoo (red rice ladoos), Date rolls, Shankarpala (or Tukdey), Kaliyo, Gingerbread cookies. And a special fusion item – Sweet Coconuty hand-pies.

I actually wanted to make the traditional Nevries, but like some magical influence, I was drawn towards baking. Well, it was no magic, I just didn’t want to deep-fry the cresent shaped treats and preferred baking instead. Et Voila!

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Sweet Coconuty Hand-pies

Makes approx 8 medium hand-pies that serve well as dessert or snack for high tea.

For the filling:

  • Jaggery grated 2-3 tbsps
  • Fresh Coconut (grated) 1/2 cup
  • Almonds, powdered 1 tbsp
  • Semolina/ Rava 1 tbsp
  • Nigella seeds/ Kalonji 1/2 tbsp
  • Sesame seeds/ Til 1tbsp
  1. In a pan, dry roast the sesame seeds, nigella seeds, semolina, almond powder till fragrant and keep it aside.
  2. In the same pan, dry roast the grated coconut till fragrant and the oil is released a bit. While this is still hot, add the above mix to it. Add the grated jaggery. Use a spoon to stir and ensure the jaggery has melted and combined well with the rest of the mix.
  3. Keep aside to cool.

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For the hand-pie dough:

  • Plain flour/ Maida 200 gms
  • Butter 100 gms, cold and cut into cubes
  • Icing sugar 2 tbsps
  • Egg yolk 1
  • Ice cold water (a few tbsps)
  1. Take the flour and sugar in a bowl, add the cold butter and using your fingers keep cutting through the butter and flour, till the entire flour resembles grainy sand like texture.
  2. Add the yolk and combine. Add a tbsp of cold water at a time, to bring the dough together. Stop, just till the dough comes together. You don’t need a well kneaded smooth dough, just need a lump come together.
  3. Refrigerate it for 30 mins. This will help the butter to remain intact and not melt away while rolling.
  4. After 30 mins, take it out and start rolling it between parchment sheets.
  5. Cut into rectangular shapes and add little bit of the filling ( a tsp maybe).
  6. To seal the edges, dip your finger in water and run through the edges. Fold the hand-pies and using a fork, crinkle them.
  7. Poke a few holes on the top with a fork.
  8. Bake at 175 degrees C for 10-12 mins.
  9. Take it out of the oven and brush with egg wash for a golden hue on top.
  10. Bake again with only top side heat for 5 mins.

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Discoveries from the food scene in #MyDubai

Mumbai has been home for a very long time. It satiated the food enthusiast in me through countless ways. From being able to try out different cuisines while eating out to experimenting at home (since a lot of stuff is easily available here), foodie events to meeting like minded people who continue to inspire me every single day. In a way it does hurt a bit to leave this place. In a few months from now, I will be moving to Dubai, another place I can call home.
2013-01-31 14.18.16Dubai is a beautiful place. But I was still skeptical. While I was there for a short visit recently, I was curious to see if Dubai would help me sustain my culinary enthusiasm. I knew there would be something to surprise me since I love to explore different cuisine cultures. Dubai with its bustling food scene, left me mesmerized and how!
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Gulfood, Dubai Food Festival, Taste of Dubai are some events that I would love to experience. Frying Pan Adventures conducts food trails in Dubai, I hope to go for one someday or many more. I also got to know about a few UAE Bloggers, it would be nice to connect with them and see my blog someday on that list (wishful thinking) 🙂 And just like Mumbai’s FBAI Salt, Dubai also has an e-magazine by bloggers called FoodeMagdxb. If you are visiting Dubai any time soon, you must visit the Global Village for some amazing middle eastern and turkish desserts.
IMG-20150315-WA0007When it comes to food, here are my favourites:
1) Kunafeh
IMG-20150315-WA0011I call this the godfather of all middle eastern/turkish desserts! I had it fresh out of the oven, still warm and the cheese all melty with a crisp shredded pastry covering soaked in pleasantly sweet syrup to keep it juicy and topped with pistachios. If you have a food bucket list, this goes straight in it.

2) Baklava
baklavaWhen in the middle east, eat Baklava! Although you do get variations of these with different nuts, I prefer mine with just pistachios. If only I could pack tons of it and carry it back home, sigh.

3) Charcoal Chicken
IMG-20150315-WA0008You do find chargrilled chicken at most places in Dubai. I had this at YAM’s a small little joint at AL Hurair, Bur Dubai. Chunky chicken charred on the outside and succulent and juicy on the inside is served alongwith pita, hummus, garlic sauce, salad and fries. After, shawrma, this is #MyDubai comfort food.
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I know there is still a lot left to discover but Dubai has managed to woo the foodie in me. I have vowed to explore Emirati cuisine and I can’t wait to get my hands on some beautifully designed tagine pots. Can’t wait to move to Dubai! For now, I just have to figure out how I’m gonna pack & carry all my baking stuff there.

Cooking Fusion Food – Pasta in Spinach sauce

pasta in spinach sauce

Everyone has a style of cooking. Whether you’ve picked up recipes from your family members or dabbled with disasters learning on your own, each one who cooks does it in their own unique way.

Some rely on recreating dishes they are familiar with while some others are bold enough to think out of the box and come up with some splendid creations. And then there are people like me, heavily influenced with international cook shows/cook books, mapping familiar flavours from local dishes to prepare a different dish, that I refer to as “Fusion Food”.

I hope to share with you some of my Fusion Food ideas. Here’s one – “Pasta in spinach sauce”
Pasta, classic Italian. Need I say more about it? In India, the Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese) combination is famous as a dish in itself. The attempt here is not to just put some palak paneer over pasta but to use palak/ spinach as the base for the sauce and to add paneer/cottage cheese and peanuts to give the dish another dimension.

pasta in spinach sauce

Pasta in spinach sauce with cottage cheese and peanuts
(Serves 2-3)

Ingredients:
Pasta (penne) 1 1/2 cup
———————
Spinach chopped 1 cup
Coriander leaves chopped 1 tbsp
Garlic crushed 4 pods
Olive oil 1 tbsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Pepper 1/4 tsp
———————
Butter 1/2 tbsp
Plain flour/ maida 1 tsp
Milk 1/2 cup
———————
Cottage cheese cubes 6-7
Olive oil, Salt & Pepper to taste (to coat & fry the cottage cheese)
Roasted peanuts 1 tbsp

Method:
1. In a pan add olive oil and garlic. When the garlic turns golden add spinach and coriander and saute. Add salt and pepper. When the spinach leaves have wilted and turned dark green (about 3-4 mins), take it off the flame, cool to room temperature and puree this mix.
2. Add butter, flour and milk in another pan and keep stirring. Once the mixture starts to thicken. Take it off the flame. Mix the spinach puree with this white sauce and set aside.
3. Drizzle olive oil on the cottage cheese and sprinkle salt and pepper to taste. Fry the cottage cheese cubes in a pan till the sides turn golden.
4. Boil the pasta as per instructions on the pack or Al Dente. Drain the pasta and start assembling.
Assembling:
Spread out cooked pasta in a dish, add the spinach sauce over it. Top it with cottage cheese cubes and roasted peanuts.

7 Tips for a Perfect Pavlova

After watching all those MasterChef series, I too wished to be a part of such cook-offs. The thrill of using your creativity and cooking knowledge to wow the judges, and all that in a limited time frame is just too exciting. As a culinary enthusiast, I love taking up a cooking challenge to learn something new. I found a perfect opportunity when Beacon Holidays organized the #TasteNewZealand cook off challenge.

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The challenge: To cook a New Zealand dish with atleast one of these ingredients – Lamb chops, Lamb mince and Kiwis. As soon as I read about the challenge, my baking instincts took over and I decided to bake a Kiwi Pavlova.

me in the kitchen

Now I have made pavlova just twice and although a fairly simple dessert to whip up, the trick lies in getting the meringue right. So here is the recipe I used and a few tips to help you bake a perfect pavlova.

kiwis

Serves 4-5 people
Prep time: 15-20 mins
Baking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

2 eggs
1/2 cup castor sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tbsp cornflour
1 cup whipping cream/double cream
2 ripe kiwis
2 tbsp white chocolate ganache (optional)
milk chocolate for piping (optional)

Method:

1. Separate the eggs whites from the yolks and whip on high speed.
2. When soft peaks form, add sugar 1 tbsp at a time.
3. Once stiff peaks form, add vanilla essence, cornflour and vinegar. Fold in till combined.
4. Spread out on a lined baking tray. Bake at 140 degrees C for an 55-60 mins.
5. Allow to cool completely. Almost an hour.
6. Whip the cream till soft peaks are formed, add in white chocolate ganache, and half a kiwi, finely chopped – almost mashed to puree. (for the ganache, chop a tbsp white chocolate and add a tsp of really hot milk, stir till it melts completely)
7. Spread this mix on the cooled pavlova. Top it with kiwi slices and pipe on some milk chocolate.

Image credit: Shanti Padukone Image credit: Shanti Padukone

7 Tips for a Perfect Pavlova:

1. Egg whites…and just eggs whites! Not even a dot of yolk. Start with a clean bowl and separate the egg white one at a time. I use a different bowl to separate the eggs whites from the yolk and then transfer the egg whites one at a time. This is a very very crucial step because if you don’t get this right, the egg whites won’t whip up to the desired consistency.

2. Consistency: Stiff Peaks. Whip the egg whites with an electric hand mixer or a stand mixer on high speed. Initially, it will just froth up and you will be able to see bubbles and the runny liquid. Be patient, give it some time. After about 5-10 minutes, it will start getting white and gradually soft peak will form. Soft peaks is when the hand mixer moves you can see it leaving a trail of its movement. Start adding the sugar when you see the soft peaks. Once all the sugar has been added, the meringue will look glossy. Keep whipping it till stiff peaks are formed. Stiff peaks: when you lift the hand mixer out a stiff peak will be formed at the tip.

Another famous test is holding the bowl inverted above your head. When you tilt the bowl, if the meringue slides, its not ready yet.

3. Once it has baked, allow it to cool in the oven itself, keeping the over door slightly ajar. After a while you can keep it out to rest, but allow it to cool completely. Even though the surface seems cold, the inside takes a while to cool. It is important to let it cool completely else the whipped cream that you are going to top it with, will melt completely.

4. For mini pavlovas, when you hold it and gently knock on the base, will sound hollow. For a larger pavlova you might not be able to test with this method, but an hour in the oven should be just right for the pavlova to bake completely.

5. Avoid trying to transfer it while it is hot. It will fall apart into pieces. After its cold, you can gently lift it or just slide the parchment itself on the serving plate. Because of the weight of the cream and fruits, it is best to put on the toppings after you have transferred it to the serving plate.

6. Crack are normal. A proper pavlova will have cracks so don’t worry. You can cover it with whipped and fresh fruits.

7. Bake the pavlova in advance, top it with whipped cream and fruits just before serving.

Here is my prize from the cook off, a bottle of New Zealand wine, Sauvignon Blanc 🙂 Thank you Beacon Holidays!

wine bottle

You can view the entire photo album of the cook off here – http://tinyurl.com/ounzxy2

Food Blogging 101

Grab a cup of coffee if you please, this will take a while. 🙂

My journey as food blogger started off a bit…umm…should I call it like a “Leap of Faith”?
I don’t remember clearly if I wanted to be a ‘Food Blogger’ back then. I gaped at the amazing food photographs I saw online, I wanted to learn to cook different cuisines, I wanted to share my ideas, my recipes. With tons of enthusiasm I decided to start blogging…*sigh* and then I actually learnt about Food Blogging!

Food Blogging = Cook/Bake + Write & Click pictures + Post

Done! See, so simple right? Or maybe not…

Sometimes the cake gets burnt, sometimes your camera acts pricey and nobody even warned me about writers’ block! Welcome to my world of Food Blogging 🙂

Ok so I don’t mean to scare you off! I am going to share with you a few things that I learnt along the way (read mentally preparing you :P) So here’s Food Blogging 101 – Creating a food blog, maintaining it, some dos and don’ts and the way forward.

Creating a Blog:

1) Registering: All you need is an email ID to sign-up on a blogging platform like Blogger/Blogspot, WordPress, Tumblr, etc…Each of them do have their differentiating factors. As a beginner you need not worry about all that, as and when you evolve you can compare features and shift base (yes, most allow you to import all your previous posts too.)

2) Christening: The name of your blog will go on to be your brand, so get as creative as possible and select a name for your blog (even hound friends and family for suggestions if need be!) Keep it simple (so that it is easier for people to understand when they ask you what your blog is called); let it convey what your blog is about. Coming up with a name is not easy, I chucked out 10-12 names before I settled for Culinary Zeal. Even if you do manage to come up with a brilliant name, it might not be available, so always have a backup or 10 more!

3) Avoid identity crisis: To build your blog’s identity, consider getting a logo designed. It is also nice if you can get a domain name and link it to your blog so that instead of, say yourblog.wordpress.com, you can have yourblog.com. The blog can be like your own website, so cool right? Right!
If you are a techie or can get some help with coding, you can buy hosting and get the blog customized. If not, either learn about it else don’t bother, just Keep Calm and continue reading.

Maintaining a Blog:

1) What to share: In the world of food blogging, I was like Alice in Wonderland, totally lost! That is till I figured out what I wanted to write about. What is your blog about? Baking, vegan recipes, food photography or restaurant reviews? No, you don’t have choose just one. But identify where your strengths lie and leverage it rather than trying to do everything. Build a niche. This is only meant to give you a direction and not to be restrictive. Try a lot of things, after all experience teaches you what no professor can. But that does not mean you have to blog about everything you try.

2) Getting Inspired: Content is a challenge every blogger has to deal with. It’s like a big wall that you need to climb. I told Elson I can’t write this post because I don’t know what to write…and look at me going on and on and on… Sometimes, you just need time and space to come up with something worthwhile. And like Elson says, look around little things in your day to day life can inspire you. For example, I got the idea to write this post when Shanti Padukone (Riot of Flavours) was discussing with fellow bloggers about the process to register a domain name.

3) Prose & Pictures: Different bloggers have different writing styles, identify your style. Writing style…err what it iz! Let me explain, check out these blogs Nonchalant Gourmand by Nikhil Merchant and The Purple Foodie by Shaheen Peerbhai Kiswani. See how these bloggers have their unique style of writing? While Nikhil elaborately builds a story connecting with the recipe shared, reading Shaheen’s blog is like reading a letter from a pen friend. The manner in which thoughts/ideas are shared is a reflection of the blogger’s personality too. You can get as elaborate or as specific to-the-point as you wish. And how you present your story, that will be your style. Also spare a thought for those who will be reading your posts (your target audience) and write accordingly.
Pictures make a post interesting. They can sometimes convey effectively what you would otherwise struggle to explain with words. Not every post needs pictures though. Like this one.

4) Get some visibility: When you start off, no one knows your blog exists. Share it with family, friends, and friends of friends (the more the merrier!) You can also get listed on sites like IndiBlogger, blogadda, PetitChef, The Daring Kitchen, etc…

5) Monetization: Once you have established yourself as a Food Blogger, you can look at generating some revenue out of it. While one way is having Ads displayed on your blog, a lot of bloggers opt against it to keep the blog clean and to avoid distracting the readers.

Dos & Don’ts on Food Blogging:

  • Blogging is about adding some value, if you are just going to replicate something that already exists, spare yourself the trouble!
  • Plagiarism is a big No No! There is just no excuse for that.
  • Ask for permission to use material and always give due credit (while using images, recipes, content, etc)
  • If you are writing for the purpose of getting freebies, I will judge you!
  • Be unique, be yourself.
  • Stay open to learning – from books, online sources, friends, (also network with other bloggers… xoxo for my food blogger friends!)

The way forward:

Food Blogging need not be your destination. It is a great stepping stone for future ventures as well. Perzen Patel (Bawi Bride) caters Parsi cuisine, Amrita Rana (Life Ki Recipe) conducts food workshops and also provides consultation as a food stylist while Kalyan Karmakar (Finely Chopped) conducts food trails. Going forward, here are a few things you can consider:

  • Catering for events
  • Selling (gourmet/organic/home-made) food products
  • Conducting food workshops/customized classes (Take-home chef’s)
  • Taking up food writing/ food photography/food styling assignments with food magazines, restaurants, etc
  • Conducting food trails
  • Authoring cook-books

Too much of gyaan there, I don’t know about you, but I am 3 cups of coffee down! So I’ll just leave you with some ‘Food for Thought’: Don’t participate in a race if you don’t enjoy running.

A Big thank-you:

To Elson, for pushing me to write this post.                                                                                 To all the Food Bloggers mentioned in this post, for allowing me to use their names, their blog names and blog links.                                                                                                         To you, readers, I know it was a lengthy post but I hope you have found it meaningful.

Repost Disclaimer: I had written this article as a guest post for Elson’s blog – Tummy Tales