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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Adrak ki chai on a Tuesday morning

It has been the longest time.

Work has been very crazy and even after a quick weekend getaway to the city of lakes and palaces - Udaipur - I can't seem to shake off that feeling of push and shove of city life. I woke up resolved to skip work, and instead stay at home to unwind. After sending a couple of important messages I turned off the cell phone. Now, there are some things I absolutely abhor and one that tops the list is a messy room. Clutter. How I hate that word! And that is exactly how everything around me looked. From an unmade bed, to a sink full of dirty dishes, dust on the shelves, what not - I resolved to de-clutter, clean out my apartment. 

I thought I'd begin the day with my favourite adrak ki chai, and while that was getting done, went to brush my teeth, only to come back to the kitchen to find that the milk had boiled over. So much for relaxing with a hot cuppa!

But, anyway it is done and here I am punching out the keys while sipping my not-so-perfect chai - a somewhat halfway decent hot milky beverage that will probably set the tone for the rest of my day. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Cupcake lovin'

I just realized that in all these months I have posted nothing that is sweet, gooey, chocolatey! How is that fair?

Chocolate cupcakes

You can find the original recipe on this wonderful site, here.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pickled Tuna

I feel especially happy today: two reasons primarily. One is because I got to meet an old childhood friend, Ranjana, who flew down from Sweden to spend time with her granny in Delhi. The other is that I shall get to see Len tomorrow night after a whole week - he is in Siliguri, for work.

Pickled tuna to spice up a dull meal

Ranjana, Madhu, and I: how long do we go back? Possibly when we were six, seven, or eight years old. I cannot clearly remember how we first met but as little girls in the neighbourhood, there was little else needed to build a friendship apart from possibly a love for play-time in the evenings and, yes, a severe dislike of singing classes that we attended every Saturday morning. At six or seven, classical music was not appealing to any of us, neither was the lady who taught us. In retrospect she was a rather sweet lady, who never forgot to bring us presents on our birthdays, or little knick-knacks now and then. But at that cruel age, none of these gestures made up for the strong aversion we had for that brand of music, nor the seemingly wasted Saturday mornings, sitting indoors pouring over a harmonium instead of playing little-girl games - whatever they might have been!

That was years ago. But it struck me suddenly today that the three of us who shared many-a-dull hour straining our vocal chords in unison, are now separated from each other by a continent each. Madhu in the US, Ranjana in Europe, I in Asia! Nevertheless, with some friends you pick up from where you left before and that is how it is with us :)  

The reason I am posting about a tuna pickle is because as Ranjana and I got talking over coffee today, she happened to mention that she is a big fan of pickles. I had tried out this recipe some time back, as a back-up plan for those quick-meal nights when all Len and I can muster up is a pot of rice and a pan of daal! This is the perfect accompaniment that can make week-night cooking a little bit easier and bit more satisfying :)

Pickled tuna in a jar

What you need

150 gm, fresh tuna* chunks, diced into 3 cm pieces
2 tbsp, freshly ground pepper powder
2-3 tbsp, ginger-garlic paste
2 inch piece, ginger roughly sliced
4-5 fat garlic cloves, roughly sliced
1 standard cup, vinegar (I used apple cider)
I tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp, chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
20 curry leaves
Oil, half cup (I used a 70:30 ratio of vegetable and coconut oil)
salt to taste

*This recipe would work well with shrimps, prawn, chicken, or even pork. The cooking time will vary depending on the meat used, but the flavours would be without doubt absolutely fantastic!

How to

Chop the tuna into small chunks - a teaspoon can hold about 4 or 5 pieces. Wash, clean, and air dry for a bit.

Then, marinate the tuna with some salt, about 3 tbsp vinegar, and ginger-garlic paste. (I left this in the fridge for a night, stirring it from time to time.)

Before you begin this step, allow the marinated fish come to room temperature. In a pan heat the oil. Add the tuna chunks along with the marinade, and fry until completely cooked. The oil will separate and the fish would be a dark brown colour and ready to eat. Remove from oil and keep aside.

In the same pan, throw in the mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, add the sliced ginger and garlic and fry until they are slightly brownish. Add the turmeric and chilli powder. Keep stirring. After a couple of minutes, add the rest of the vinegar. The vinegar should boil over and evaporate. I simmered this for about 7-10 minutes, or until the raw smell of vinegar (which is quite terrible!) disappeared.

Immerse the fried fish back into the pan. Cook this mixture for about ten minutes or so, or until everything is nicely integrated.

Remove from heat. Cool. Transfer into a clear, glass jar. Always store in the refrigerator (unless you reside in sub-zero temperatures!).

Friday, June 24, 2016

King of all fruit: Jackfruit

What can be a better way to start the day but with some ripe jackfruit?

First time ever. Ripe kathal in Delhi!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Potassium Bromide: What all we being fed?

Despite my staunch dislike of newspapers and anything to do with them, a news item caught my eye the other day. A recent probe and investigation by a team from the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) found traces (or perhaps more) Potassium bromide and Potassium iodate in samples of popular brands of bread being sold in the country. A little more reading revealed both these agents to be potential carcinogens. Not only packaged products by fast food joints such as Dominoes, Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds - all add these carcinogens to their dough. Personally I am not a fan - in fact I can not remember the last time I called for a pizza or a burger from any of these places - why have sub-standard pre-packaged stuff, if there is better stuff to be made at home?!

Anyhow, this revelation seems have caused a slight stir in the bread making industry because yesterday when I went to purchase a loaf, I see that Harvest Gold (one among the brands having higher levels of this carcinogen in its product) was selling all its products with a little sticker saying "Potassium Bromide FREE". Is this really true? As a Virgo, my instinct has always been of suspicion and I find it hard to believe if this would be entirely true or not. Are we as consumers in a position to really know what we get?

From antibiotics being injected into fish and poultry to slaughterhouses that run without any proper regulations in place, vegetables and fruits being grown out of season, kept in cold storage, coloured with harmful colouring agents to packaged food that is an absolute no-no for anyone looking for healthy food, there is no dearth of the bad stuff out there in the market!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Behold! It is Parmesan

Home-made delights!

I have been watching food shows on the tele and on YouTube for the longest time now. And if there is any conclusions to be drawn or inference to be gathered, it is this - people love to finish off a dish with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan (or even better Parmigiano Reggiano).

All this while, it had remained a big mystery - what is this magic ingredient that transforms the ugly duckling into the beautiful swan every time? For the most part, when I visit the local grocery stores in the neighbourhood, I come across the ubiquitous processed cheese by Amul and a handful of other 'herby' cheese spreads that have erupted into the Indian market. I have nothing against these, I mean whatever works -  but I have to admit that when I bought that block of Parmesan I had to pause to soak in the accumulated glory of at least five years of watching tele food shows!   

The Cheese Ball at Meherchand market has been a favourite of mine ever since I discovered it four years back, but I had always only tried their own brand - Flanders. So mozarella - ricotta - gouda, all had their moments but Parmesan, well that was a different league altogether. My cousin Shruti and I hurried back home and we tried out our precious purchase in simple vegetarian pasta dish. Tomatoes, garlic, basil, and dried wild mushrooms. All that with a generous portion of grated Parmesan - and, it was delicious.

Needless to say, my favourite tomato sauce has just got better. This is the one I use for my pizza sauce - here - (although I have stopped using onions in tomato sauce after I realized that I like better with just garlic). One could add a pinch or two of sugar though to add a tinge of sweetness to the sauce.

For the pasta, we used spaghetti and boiled it along with the mushrooms. The mushrooms flavoured the pasta water and added a hint of a smoky flavour, which I grown to love so much. Once the sauce was prepared we added a generous portion of the Parmesan along with the pasta, the mushrooms, and a small cup of the starchy pasta water. We let it cook for five to ten minutes, tossing the pasta every now and then so that every strand was covered in that heavenly goodness of tomatoes and cheese and basil. By the end of it we were so hungry that we turned on the AC in the bedroom, plopped down on the bed, and devoured the pasta in big mouthfuls.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Celebrating summers: Gourd, mong-phung, and lemon leaves

Summer-time delight


The shiny new laptop is here finally. The updates are done, thanks to Len and I am now the proud owner of a really jazzy piece of techie goodness. This of course means regular blog updates - no more excuses now - along with a healthy dose of good cinema, music, and of course, more writing.

Summers are here in full swing, and its been almost scorching most days. But luckily since Thursday the temperatures have dipped slightly and it has been partially overcast during the day. The best thing about this is that the plants on my terrace get some respite from the heat, and watering them once a day is sufficient. And anyone who has ever lived through summers in Delhi would instantly know that potted pants requiring water just once a day, is as good as it would ever get this time of the year! 

I had made a gourd curry some time back but lack of a working computer forbade me from sharing this recipe. It didn't strike a cord with some people at work when I insisted that boiled gourd can indeed taste good, but perhaps there are others out there who also like this vegetable in its most basic form! :) Our very own mong-phung tree (that we brought all the way from Manipur) has grown in size and I used it to flavour my curry along with some fresh lemon and coriander leaves. I had written a post earlier about how much I hate eating/making kofte, especially using gourd, and this recipe just reinstates the fact that when gourd is cooked in a way that keep its flavour and texture intact it is delicious.

Shades of green

What you need

1 baby gourd, diced
10-15 baby potatoes, scrubbed clean, whole or cut into half
2-3 garlic, cloves, chopped4-5 cherry tomatoes
Mong-che, a handful*
Lemon leaves, a handful
Coriander leaves, a handful, chopped
Green chillies, chopped
Salt, to taste
1 tbsp, vegetable oil
2 cups, water

* Mong-che has a slightly tangy flavour and generally the soft young leaves are eaten. When curried they become very soft and almost melt in the mouth. As a substitute, any other leafy vegetables could be used, along with a squeeze of lemon. Also, the number of cherry tomatoes could be increased to balance the flavours.

How to

Essentially boiled, the only time one needs to really watch this curry is at the beginning, when you add the oil and garlic. The garlic should be slightly golden - not more. Then add the potatoes and gourd.

Stir fry the vegetables for 5-7 minutes before adding all other ingredients. Add water and cover. The curry needs to cook for about 20 minutes after which it can be transferred on to a serving bowl.

With its soft fresh flavours, this curry tastes great with steamed rice and a dried-shrimp pickle on the side.