Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sambar and a dash of gyan

OK so this post is purely for my reference and will be of no interest to you. Like i mentioned before this food blog was started not because of my love for food and cooking, but because this was just an easier way to draft all the recipes i have tried. Otherwise i spend endless hours searching the net for the perfect this and that and at the end of it feel so irritated. So for the sambar i searched the internet quite a number of times to get an easy sambar recipe and ended up whipping up one of my own with outlines from here and there. I mean how much interesting can a sambar be anyway? I dont get many of the veggies required for the sambar from the local supermarket and so make it only when i visit East Ham (the ultimate desi area) and pick up ready made dosa maavu. It lasts us forever and by the end of it we get sambar sick.

Toor dal/urud dal- a cup
Water- enough to cook the dal
Salt- a few dashes
Turmeric- a pinch

Veggies- okra, beans, potatoes, drumstick, carrots, tomatoes, small onions (as you like it)
Large Onion- 1, thinly sliced
Garlic paste- 1 tsp
Green chillis- 3 thinly sliced
Sambar pwd- 3 tbs (heap)
Asafoetida- a pinch
Tamarind paste- 1 tsp diluted in half cup water
Oil- 2 tbs
Salt- to taste

To temper:
Coriander pwd- 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds- 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilli- 2 crumbled
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Oil- 1 tbs

Coriander leaves- to garnish

Cook the dal with turmeric, salt and water required. Mash and keep aside.
In a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil and sautee the onions, green chillies and garlic paste. Once they become translucent add all the veggies, the sambar powder and a pinch of asafoetida. Mix well. The powder must coat all the veggies well. To this add the dal mix (i don't drain the water, but use it to cook the veggies) and if water is not sufficient enough, add water and also pour the tamarind water. Mix well. Check for salt and add the required amount. This must be cooked on low heat till the veggies are cooked and have taken in the flavour of the sambar pwd. When it starts to boil, take it off the heat and keep covered.
Just before you serve do the tadka. Heat some oil in a pan and when piping hot add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When they start spluttering, throw in the rest of the items and mix well. Remove and pour into the sambar and mix well. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

Notes: I know this is an elaborate way of making sambar and there are simpler ways of doing it all at one go in a pressure cooker. My fear of cookers have put me off this process:)
You can add some more chilli pwd, as this is not a very spicy version and i prefer it to be more spicy but my overgrown baby (read Ro) cant handle spice and so i have to do accordingly.
Doing the tadka gives that extra flavour to the sambar and adding coriander pwd and cumin seeds is my personal choice because i like what they do to the sambar. But its optional and you can just temper with mustard seeds and curry leaves.
I also dont like my sambar watery and so this is a thick version.

Also, i am assuming there are hundreds of ways to make sambar and in the blog world itself i have seen so many of them. I hope i don't get a mail saying i have copied this off someones blog and declared it as my own. My reason for saying this is because i have been following a couple of blogs accusing people of plagiarism and patenting recipes. Doesn't this take the whole fun out of blogging? Why do people make such a big deal out of it. If it is a picture that was copied, I understand you have every right to be pissed. But this person has stated that the recipe matched more or less (but not 100 percent) and that credit should have been given to her blog for displaying it. If that was the case, each time we make something, we have to do a hundred searches online, see if someone else has made something similar and then give credit to whoever has. Isn't that silly and immature? Whether or not credit is given to the original recipe shouldn't be of concern here. If you do get it, good for you. It should be taken in the right spirit and you should be glad someone out there is trying out the recipe you posted. If it was that great a recipe then you probably shouldnt have posted it online in the first place. I personally would be thrilled if someone did try out a recipe from my post and wont accuse that person of plagiarism. And what amazed me was the number of comments saying she did the right thing and a couple of days later i saw the blog she was accusing and there again the same people have commented saying it was silly of the other to make this an issue in the first place. Hypocrisy? is that to be appreciated? Seriously people, get a life! So what if someone copied your recipe? Don't let it get to your head. Take it in the right spirit and move on!!!

We got 'Bangalored'

We visited an Indian restaurant, yet again! This was sheer coincidence and also had no choice but to surrender to the hunger pangs called by the stomach. We were back after visiting an aunt in Camden and decided to take the bus instead of the tube since we love watching the London life pass by from the upper deck. We curse if some one's already taken the front row seats. How very apt right?
So we get down at Waterloo where the bus terminates and wander around a bit trying to figure out where to take the next bus from and we come across this restaurant called 'Bangalore Express.' By then our stomachs were growling and without a second thought decided to explore the restaurant.
The interiors are tastefully done with pale green and white symmetrical designs and there is also an interactive kitchen. The booths are set to resemble the insides of a train back in India, or so i thought. There are ladders to go up to the top booth and are a bit scary if you are sitting down. The waiters tactfully hold their serving trays in position while climbing up the stairs and you cant help but cringe in fear of it toppling all over you. Nah I'm just exaggerating a bit here, but on a serious note, i think its a brilliant way of saving space and accommodating more people at the same time. The menu is not so elaborate, but to the point and not so expensive.
I ordered the mango lassi which came in a tall glass, enough to last me through the whole meal. I would have personally preferred if it was a little more sweet, but it didn't bother me that much. They also have a fully licensed bar with cocktails and the like. So if you prefer that, go ahead, but I must admit they were on the expensive side. You can order from an array of Tandoori and Tapas dishes and also platters to share. There is also the 'Big plates of curry and rice' deal where you can choose between sea food, mutton, chicken and duck, select the cooking style like roganjosh, vindaloo, kurma etc. You also can choose any vegetable and a rice dish from the list as well. All this comes for a meagre 8.50 GBP and is quite filling even though it didn't look so at first sight. I opted for this deal ..tiger prawns cooked in fiery jalfrezi style served with pulao rice and a side of spinach and yellow peas. It came with a salad and also some potato and pepper fry which was not on the menu. Ro ordered the large dosa with the spiced duck filling. You can again choose between vegetable, tandoori chicken, lamb and prawn filling as well. The filling was quite less compared to the huge dosa and the sambar was not so great either. The coconut chutney however was really nice.
I wanted to try out the desserts but i was just too full. They do have about four or five varieties, some of which sounded interesting.
Flavours were distinct and food was served hot. Service-wise also we didn't have any complaints, except they added a mandatory 12.5 % service tax on the bill which i think was a bit unnecessary. But on the whole the experience was good and i wouldn't mind trying it out again.

Bangalore Express is located at:
103- 105 Waterloo Road
Ph: 0207 021 0886

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Line-caught tuna steak- Ro style :)

We got some fresh line-caught tuna steaks from the market yesterday and they just looked gorgeous. I am no good at preparing fish dishes and even worse at eating them, so Ro takes care of fishy stuff. This is what he did to the steak.

Tuna Steaks or any fish fillet, for that matter- 2 large (approx. 100 gms each)

To marinate
Ginger garlic paste- 2 tsp
Kashmiri chilli pwd- 3 tsp
Turmeric pwd- 1/4 tsp
Pepper pwd- 1 tsp
Garam masala- 1 tsp
Lime juice- 2 tsp
Salt- to taste

Oil- 2 tbs
Onion - 1/2 an onion cut into rings.

Mix all the ingredients in the 'to marinate' section and make a paste. Spread this mix onto the tuna steaks and keep refrigerated for atleast an hour.
In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onions till they become brown. Remove and keep aside. In the same pan fry the fish till it becomes brown on either sides. Put the onion rings back into the pan (you can also add some curry leaves at this point) and give a final mix. Serve hot with rice.

Note: Ro's spice tolerance level is really low and so this one lacks a bit in spice. You can jazz it up with some chilli pwd.
If you fry it in coconut oil, it would be an authentic mallu fish fry.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Paneer Butter Masala

The initial excitement of maintaining a food blog has died and i am back to square one. I am now not too enthu about making fancy dishes in the first place, leave alone taking pics. I have an ardent cousin who religiously follows my bogs and has started cooking. She asked me for a palak paneer recipe and i promised her i would put up one. In fact i bought paneer thinking id make palak paneer but at the last minute changed my mind and made Paneer Butter Masala instead. Sorry sweets, il make the palak paneer soon. I still have left over paneer. In the mean time, please make do with this.
Paneer- 250gms, cut into cubes
Onion- 1, thinly sliced
Tomatoes- 2 big
Green chillies- 2, thinly sliced
Ginger paste- 1 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Asafoetida- a pinch
Coriander pwd- 2 tsp
Turmeric pwd- 1/4 tsp
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Cream- 1/2 cup
Tandoori masala pwd- 1/4 tsp (optional)
Coriander leaves- to garnish
Ghee- 2 tbs
Salt- to taste

In a blender, puree the tomatoes, ginger paste and green chillies. Keep aside
In a pan, heat the ghee and lightly fry the paneer. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
In the same pan, add some more ghee if necessary and splutter the cumin seeds and asafoetida. To this, add the onions and cook till golden brown. Add the tomato puree mix, all the powders, salt and sautee well. Cook till the oil starts separating. Remove and cool. In the same blender, beat the masala mix just once and make it into a paste like form (optional) and return it to the pan. At this point if you want you can add some water. Now add the fried paneer slices and mix well. Towards the end add the cream, stir well and cook for another 3 minutes or so. I added 1/4 tsp of Tandoori masala so it gave a nice red colour. This is however optional. Garnish with coriander leaves just before serving and have it hot with roti or rice.

Note: Cream can be replaced with curd and you dont have to cook this in ghee. Oil can be used.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Roasted Chicken with Garlic Bread

I'm not bragging here, but this is one of my signature dishes adapted from a recipe passed on by a friend. I have tried and tested this quite a number of times and it has always tasted so good. In fact, this is the only dish i am confident of making, when i have guests over. Yes, i panic when people announce they are coming over for a meal, invariably ending up causing havoc in the kitchen and a not-so-great outcome. Ro comes to my rescue and he is so confident about cooking and gratefully takes over. I give moral support, BTW!

Chicken Roast

Chicken- 500gms (Thighs, drumsticks, breasts anything but bone-in pieces are the best and preferably without skin)

To marinate:
Chilli pwd- 3 tsp
Coriander pwd- 2 tbs
Ginger garlic paste- 2 tbs
Turmeric pwd- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Meat masala- 1 tsp
Lime juice- 2 tsp
Fennel seeds- 1 tsp
Butter- 1 tbs
Salt- to taste

To bake:
Onion- half, cut in rings, or more if you please

Mix all the ingredients in the 'to marinate' section and make a paste out of it. Make gashes on the chicken pieces and generously rub the paste on to the pieces. Keep the marinade refrigerated over night or at least for 5 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Transfer the marinade onto a baking dish and cover with foil paper and bake for 30 minutes on one side. Take the dish out, flip the chicken pieces, cover and bake again for 30 minutes. Remove the foil paper, stir in the onion rings and bake open for another 30 minutes (approx) or until the chicken pieces become a dark brown and the onions are well mixed in the gravy. Serve hot with rice, roti or bread.
I wanted a bit of gravy so i didnt leave it on till it became dry and thats why the colour isnt a dark brown yet. But the longer you keep the better it is, if you need it dry, that is!

Notes: The dish is very very spicy and if you are not a fan of spicy food, reduce the chilli pwd quantity. I personally love the spice.
If you don't want the chicken dry, you do not have to bake it for the last 30 minutes, you can reduce it to about 15 minutes, just enough to cook the onion rings. This goes great with rice.
Marinating it for a minimum of 5 hrs is apt, but its ok if you reduce it to about an hour or so, if you are in a hurry. It tastes just as nice. Have tried it :)
You can throw in any veggie possible. I have tried it with baby potatoes, carrots, trimmed beans and peas and is a whole meal on its own.

Garlic Bread

The one in the picture is store bought since its just move convenient, cheap and tastier (well..i am not sure i should have mentioned that, since i am trying to promote my blog and not blurt out that store bought ones are any day better). But my mom makes yummy garlic bread back home and this is her recipe.

Bread- 1/2 a loaf
Garlic paste- 1 tbs or more depending on how strong you want it to be
Butter- 2 tbs at room temperature

Mix the garlic and butter and make a paste out of it. Spread the paste on the bread slices and arrange them one over the other (stack them up). Cover the entire loaf with foil paper and bake in a pre-heated oven at 200C for about 20 minutes or till the ends start becoming nice and crispy. Serve hot with soup or as mains.

Note: If you want to jazz it up a bit, add some herb like thyme or sage.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Sunday Brunch

Weekend was so so boring with absolutely nothing to do. Ro was on a training programme and I had to stay put at home cos the weather was not all that great and the lazy part of me just took over and i spent all day watching silly movies, one after the other. Sunday, I woke up with full enthusiasm to make brunch and also submit it to 'Dinner and a movie' event hosted by Susan of Sticky gooey creamy chewy. But like a million other things, this also fizzled out half way through and i was no longer interested. Yes, that's the story of my life. Even though the brunch was awesome, the pics just didn't turn out well and so i skipped the event this time. Maybe next time il be more driven and wont get bored in between. I am anyway posting the brunch recipe here.

The recipes are from the Low GI Diet Cookbook, so i must warn you its healthy :)

Egg omelet with chives and dill

Egg- 1
Milk- 1 tbs
Pepper pwd- 1/2 tsp
Chives- 1/2 tsp, thinly sliced
Dill- 1/2 tsp- finely chopped
Salt- to taste

Whisk together egg, milk, pepper, chives and dill in a small bowl. Heat a non stick pan over medium heat and add the egg mixture. Cover and cook for about three minutes, or till the egg is done. I like mine well done, so i cook it a bit longer. This can be made scrambled as well.

Portobello mushrooms with feta and roasted tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes- 8 to 10
Balsamic vinegar- 1 tbs
Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)- 2 tbs
Lemon juice- 1 tsp
Dill- 1/2 tbs, chopped
Portobello mushrooms or any flat mushroom- 2, stems trimmed
Feta cheese- 4 or 5 small cubes, low fat preferably
Pepper pwd- to taste
Salt- to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C.
Combine 1 tbs of EVOO, lemon juice and dill in a bowl and season with pepper. Brush the mushrooms generously with the oil marinade and place stem side down on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
In the same baking tray, place the cherry tomatoes and drizzle balsamic vinegar, 1rest of the EVOO and sprinkle with pepper and salt.
Place in the oven and cook for 8 minutes or till the tomatoes are soft. Take the baking tray out and move the tomatoes onto a serving plate. Turn the mushrooms over, crumble some feta cheese over the top and spoon over the remaining marinade. Cook for another 3 to 4 minutes in the oven, or until the mushrooms are soft. Serve warm with the roasted tomatoes.

I had the above with a slice of whole wheat bread and back bacon and finished it off with a cup of fresh strawberries. It was a hearty meal which kept me satisfied the whole day.
Notes: If you are making a brunch for more than two people, then scrambled eggs are a better option, just increase the number of eggs, mushrooms, ingredients etc. as per requirement.
Low fat cheese and milk are optional. Not on a regular basis though! Since the quantities used are less, i don't think it could harm you that much.
Dill and chives have a very distinct flavour, and may not be a favourite of many. Try it out first with a small quantity and if you like the taste then you can be more generous the next time.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Wonders with leftovers

I have been pushing the last couple of days with ready meals and junk food like burgers, hot dogs and pizzas and Ro hasn't complained till now. Its just plain laziness and also to prove to Ro that he needs me to at least! I have also run out of almost everything and haven't made an effort to go grocery shopping either. The rains and cold winds have added to this misery and i just don't want to step out of the house. Yes, i go into these nonchalant moods once in a while and no matter what happens, until i feel like doing something, i just wont budge. Awesome right?
It was also the aftermath of a kitchen disaster where i tried to make a caramel something and it all just smoked up. Thank god my smoke alarm didn't go off, and after scrubbing and scratching the hardened caramel off the vessel, i was in no mood to be proactive. So after searching all the cupboards and freezer for an easy dinner option, I came across some pasta, sausages, bacon and asparagus and decided to make something eatable, which ultimately turned out quite tasty.

Wheat pasta (Fusilli)- 200 gms (was all that was left)
Spring Onion- 1 large
Baby tomatoes- 8 to 10 sliced in half
Green chillies- 3, sliced thin
Asparagus heads- 5 to 6, sliced
Pork frankfurters- 3 sliced into coin size pieces
Bacon- 2 rashers
Grated cheddar cheese (mature)- 2 hands full
Maggi seasoning sauce- a few dashes
Tabasco sauce- 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste

Cook the pasta as per instructions with a pinch of salt. Drain and keep aside.
In a frying pan, fry the bacon rashers. Once cooked, remove and drain on a paper towel and slice into small pieces. In the same frying pan, fry the sausages in the oil oozed out from the bacon (If there is too much oil, pour out some and use the remaining). Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
Now throw in the sliced spring onion, baby tomatoes, green chilli and asparagus and sautee till the asparagus becomes more or less cooked. Add the pasta, bacon and sausage slices, a few dashes of Maggi seasoning, Tabasco and salt and mix well. Do a taste check and if its not spicy enough, you can either put some more Tabasco sauce, chilli pwd or pepper. Towards the end, sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese and give a final stir. The heat from the pasta will make the cheese melt. So it doesn't have to be on fire. Enjoy!

Notes: You can use spinach, green peas, carrots and any other left over veggies for this meal. Ro hates asparagus, but he didn't even realize they were in it:)
If you want to make it a bit more rich, you can add some white sauce. I was lazy, so i didn't.
Instead of spring onions you can use normal onion and for baby tomatoes, the normal ones can be used. I didn't have either of those.
Also, i used both sausages and bacon, but you can choose any one or none at all if you have enough veggies to compliment
Make sure the left over oil from cooking the bacon is used to do the rest of the cooking because it gives that extra flavour to the dish.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Okra Avial

I love avial (a South Indian dish), but have never attempted at making it because, for one i don't get all the veggies required and two, i just assumed its a difficult task, the second one taking more preference. However, this dish was not supposed to be avial like, but it somehow ended up so. I had just finished making it, and was setting the table for dinner when Ro walked in and said, 'oh are we having avial?' and I'm like, 'huh..avial..that looks like avial?' He then had to think twice before he answered because that sure was a trick question. It was like me asking, 'Du think I'm fat?' A lot of thought goes into answering such questions. Three years of marriage has taught him stuff like that, I'm glad!
Anyways, avial it was! or so i decided to call it. Since it was dominated by the Okra and since it had no other important veggies, i simply named it Okra avial. It had a nice tangy taste and i have no clue what gave out that flavour. Also, a special thanks to Sig for the outline of this recipe. Here goes:

Okra- 10 to 15 no's, slit lengthwise
Chilli pwd- as per taste
Coriander pwd- 1/4 tsp

Shallots- 1 big, cut into thin slices
Tomato- 1, cut into cubes (not too small)
Green chilli- 1 slit
Curry leaves- 1 sprig
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Oil- 2 tbs
Salt- to taste

To grind:
Grated Coconut- 1/2 cup
Shallots- 1 big
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric pwd- 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Garlic paste- 1/2 tsp

Grind all the items in the 'to grind' section to a smooth paste with a wee bit of water (if required) and keep aside.
In a non-stick frying pan, heat some oil, put in 1/4 tsp coriander pwd and a few pinches of chilli pwd and sautee till the raw smell goes. Fry the okra slices in it till they turn slightly brown. This is just to take off the sliminess. Remove from the pan and keep aside.
In the same frying pan, add the remaining oil and once hot, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves, shallots and green chillies till they turn golden brown. Add the ground coconut mix, tomatoes and half a cup of water and bring to a simmer. Finally add the fried Okra pieces, leave on fire for about two to three minutes, give a final stir and take it off the fire. Serve warm with rice or chapatis.

Notes: I used frozen coconut and i also used coconut oil for that mallu flavour.
I used chilli and coriander pwd to fry the okra in, so it gives an added flavour. You dont have to do so. It can be fried just in oil, if you prefer that way.
The dish was not gravy-like, and I'm not sure its supposed to be..but mine was neither dry nor too runny and the coconut had absorbed all the water. I guess if you make this gravy-like, you can have it as a curry instead of avial.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Prawn Fry/sukka

I am not sure i have mentioned this before, but during my glorious days in Chennai, we had a maid who used to cook up the most fabulous of dishes. She was the type who would make dishes even though i hadn't asked her to, but because there was left over this and that and would whip up something tasty. She hated wasting food and if there were left over coriander leaves, she would immediately make a chutney with it, if there was left over chicken from the biriyani marinade, she would make a curry with it. She knew i was completely vulnerable to cooking and would offer to come twice a day and help me if i had guests. I didn't mind at all because i was working full time and couldn't care less about what was happening in the cooking department. She was not unfaithful and if she needed help she would def ask me. As long as there was something on the table to fill the hungry souls, it was fine. The parathas and biriyani she used to make were so so delicious and the sambar..oh god, i regret not having learnt anything from her. The vegetarian dishes were somehow much more tastier than the non-veg ones. She even used to be good with Chinese cooking and the few mallu dishes she learnt from another house, were also really really good. Now when i make sambar both of us sigh and say its no where near what Asha used to make. Ok i could go on and on about Asha and her cooking..but for now, I have tried my hand at her version of the prawns sukka (a term i learnt from her), which according to me is just prawn fry.

Prawns- 150gms, de veined and cleaned
Shallots- 2 big ones sliced into thin pieces
Tomato- 1 small
Ginger garlic paste- 1 tsp
Pepper pwd- 1/ tsp
Coriander pwd- 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves- a sprig

To marinate:
Ginger garlic paste- 2 tsp
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric pwd- a pinch
Coriander pwd- 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste

Marinate the prawns with all the ingredients in the 'to marinade section and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Meanwhile in a kadai sautee the shallots, tomatoes and curry leaves till the raw smell dies. Add the Ggp and sautee for a minute or so. Next add the coriander, chilli and pepper powders and mix well. This should be done on low fire till the masala becomes nice and brown. Check salt content and add if necessary. At that point add the prawn marinade, little water and mix the masala well with the prawn. On low fire cook till the water dries up and the masala becomes dry. Serve with rice or parathas.

Notes: Shallots can be replaced with onions
Garam masala can be added, but i personally don't like the taste it brings out and so omitted it
Prawns cook really fast and if you over cook, it becomes hard. So add them only towards the end and make sure the masala is well coated.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Tomato Rice

Yeah i know, its quite a standard dish and i cant believe I'm actually blogging it. well, somethings better than nothing right? Had a friend visiting us on Sunday and since i was just too lazy to make something fancier, i ended up making tomato rice with some left over rice. Also, after cleaning up the house and making it presentable enough, I didn't have the energy to do anything, leave alone cooking. Ro made chicken curry (just another chicken curry) to go with the rice. I still need to get hold of an awesome chicken curry recipe. I suck at making the simple chicken curry itself and i would be glad if anyone can pass on a yummy chicken curry recipe. Whatever i do, the gravy is not thick and tasty. Ro did his lazy job of making it in the pressure cooker and it sure was easy, but taste wise, there was nothing great about it. It was good that's it....not out of this world.

Rice- 2 cups cooked and cooled (i used Basmati rice)
Tomato- 4, chopped up finely, or you can even use puree
Green chillies- 3, thinly sliced
Shallots- 3 large, thinly sliced
Coriander pwd- 1 tbs
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric pwd- 1/4 tsp
Ginger garlic paste- 2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Curry leaves- a sprig
Coriander leaves- to garnish
Oil- 2 tbs
Salt- to taste

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil and splutter the cumin seeds and curry leaves. Add the onions and green chillies to this and sautee till they become golden brown. Add Ggp, mix well till the raw smell dies. Keeping the heat on low, add the chopped tomatoes, all the powders and salt, sautee well and cook till the oil separates. Towards the end, add the cooked rice and mix well. Make sure the tomato masala coats the rice well. Close the lid and cook on low heat for about 3 to 4 minutes, just to warm up the rice. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with chicken curry and pappad.
Notes: The rice is cooked and cooled, so don't keep it on fire for too long, it might become mushy
An easy recipe, especially if you have leftover, cooked rice.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Beef Stir Fry with Thai Noodles

This is my own version of a beef stir fry as the umpteen sites i browsed for a recipe had major complicated stuff and ingredients i didn't have, so here's my version. Since its my version, its obviously an easy lazy one:)

Lean beef- 400 gms, cleaned and diced lengthwise
Shallots- 4, sliced lengthwise
Green chillies- 2, slit lengthwise
Red/green/yellow/orange pepper (Capsicum)- 1, cut lengthwise
Spring onion- 1 big, cut in circles
Cornflour- 2 tbs
Soy sauce- 5 tsp
Fish sauce- 1/2 tsp
Ginger paste- 1 tsp heaped
Garlic paste- 1 tsp heaped
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Maggi seasoning sauce- 1 tsp
Oil- enough to deep fry the beef slices
Salt- to taste
Coriander leaves- 1 tbs, finely chopped (optional)

Marinate the beef slices with 3 tsp soy sauce, chilli pwd, ginger and garlic paste and refrigerate for half an hour. Meanwhile have all your veggies cut and ready.
Take some water in a bowl and mix the 2 tbs of cornflour to form a thick gravy. Pour this into the beef marinade and mix well. The cornflour should coat the beef. In a deep bottomed pan, heat the oil and when its boiling hot, put in the beef slices and deep fry in batches. Once crisp and brown, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen towel.
In a frying pan, heat about 2 tbs of oil (leftover from frying) and sautee the onions and peppers. Once it becomes soft, add the green chillies, fish sauce, the remaining 1 tsp of soy sauce and the Maggi seasoning sauce. Mix well. At this stage you check the salt and spiciness and add more if required. Next, add the fried beef slices and mix well. On low fire, sautee the beef till they become a darker brown, mixed with all the masala. Just before you take it off the fire, throw in the spring onions and garnish with some coriander leaves if you fancy it.

Serve with noodles or fried rice. I made noodles with the Thai green curry paste. Stir fry mix is available with an assortment of veggies like bok choy, bamboo shoots, bell peppers etc. In a steaming hot wok, sautee the veggies with green curry paste and a generous dash of soy sauce. We get ready-made noodles which just needs to be put in at the last minute (yes, when i meant lazy i really meant LAZY). So add the noodles to the veggies, give it a final stir and you have steaming hot Thai Noodles.

Notes: The oil for frying needs to be really hot and so does the wok for the noodles.
Don't over fry the beef slices, because they can then become chewy. Trust me, i have been there, done that.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Melting Moments

I saw this recipe i saw on the Joy of Baking website and had to try it out immediately. Ro is not a fan of any dessert without chocolate in it and so i cut down the measurements to half of what is required thinking i will have to eat them all on my own. But he loved it for a change, though i had to convince him i made it at home and it wasn't store bought. Had to make him feel the oven cos it was still hot from the baking (see what all i have to do..hmmmpffff).

My mom used to make this quite often and used to just refer to to it as vanilla cookies. Anyways, here goes:

All purpose flour- 105 gms
Cornflour- 30 gms
Icing sugar or powdered sugar- 20gms
Unsalted butter- 115 gms (room temperature)
Vanilla essence- 1/2 tsp
Salt- a pinch

In a bowl, mix the flour, cornflour and salt and keep aside. In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter and icing sugar till smooth and fluffy. To this add the essence and mix well. Put in the flour mixture bit by bit and fold well into the butter mix. Do this till the entire mixture is well blended in. Refrigerate for at least half an hour so the dough becomes firm.
Preheat over to 177C. Layer a baking tray with baking paper, make small balls out of the dough and place them on the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart and bake for about 20 minutes or till the sides start to brown a little.
Once done, cool on a rack, sift some icing sugar over it and have them with milk :)

Notes: I don't have a cake mixer or hand beater, so used a ladle and creamed it as much as possible. Turned out just as well.
You can store the cookies in an air tight container for as long as you want.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Thai Massaman Beef Curry

There was a book sale by the Readers Digest group at Ro's office and he picked up a '30 Minute Curries' book with loads of fancy recipes which they claimed would take only 30 minutes but obviously more than that for people like me who would take that long to just get the vegetables ready. Ro on the other hand has become an expert at some of the recipes in the book, the favourite of ours being the Massaman Beef Curry, a classic Thai curry popular in the Muslim areas of Thailand.. While i watched the Michael Jackson Memorial Service with the 'please don't disturb me sign' plastered on my face, Ro prepared dinner. He doesn't follow the recipe to the dot, which kinda bugs the crap outta me, but the curry turns out beautiful. I am however posting the original recipe for your perusal:

Stewing beef- 750 gms cubed (We used meat balls instead...about 12 of those)
Tamarind paste/ pulp- 1 tbs
Coconut milk- 500 ml or 2 cups
Cardamom pods- 4 bruised
Coconut cream- 500 ml (without shaking the tin, remove the top creamy layer)
Massaman curry paste- 3 tbs
Shallots/ baby onions- 4 cut into cubes
Baby potatoes- 8 (Cut in half if too big. You can also use normal potatoes)
Jaggery- 2 tbs
Fish sauce- 2 tbs
Unsalted Roasted Ground peanuts- 70 gms (optional)
Coriander leaves- to garnish
Oil- 2 tbs
Salt- to taste

Dissolve the tamarind paste in half a cup of boiling water. Keep aside.
Heat oil in a wok and cook the beef in batches over high heat for 5 minutes or until browned. Reduce the heat and add the coconut milk and cardamom and simmer till the beef is tender. Add the potatoes towards the last 15 minutes of cooking.
Simultaneously, while the beef is cooking, in a sauce pan, put the cream of the coconut milk and bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the oil separates and forms a layer on top. Add the Massaman curry paste and onion and cook till the paste becomes aromatic and the onions soften. Pour this mixture into the beef mixture, add the fish sauce, jaggery, peanuts and tamarind liquid and mix well. Simmer for 10 minutes. garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

OK, so this is the actual cooking version which we did try a couple of times and when we kinda got the hang of it, made a few changes here and there and came up with this easy lazy procedure. It tastes just as good.
Since we used meatballs, it just required shallow frying in oil just to brown them. If you are using beef cubes, instead of simmering it till it cooks, you can cook the beef and the potatoes in the pressure cooker for a whistle and it would be perfect. This will save time and gas.
To the cooked beef, add the coconut milk, cardamom, curry paste, fish sauce, jaggery, onions and potatoes and mix well. Simmer on low heat till you get a nice thick gravy and by which time the potatoes would have cooked. Towards the end, add the tamarind mix and give a final stir...bring to a boil, remove and garnish with coriander leaves (which Ro obviously avoided).

Notes: We omitted the coconut cream since it was too rich.
If you are cooking the potatoes and beef in the pressure cooker, then add the potatoes to the coconut milk only at the last stage, otherwise they over cook and lose its shape and consistency.
The whole point is to get a nice thick gravy and so you will have to simmer it on low heat for quite some time.
I didn't think the peanuts added any sort of extra flavour. So its optional. Also, the coconut cream is very rich and 500 ml of it is quite a bit and so we just used the cream in the one can of coconut milk we had, which didn't make much of a difference, but doing the separate procedure in the saucepan adds to the grandness.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Munchies with leftovers

Some friends from Wales suddenly announced they were coming over and I had to make do with some left over chicken breasts and sausages to do the impromptu cooking. These are good cocktail recipes, really easy and absolutely tasty.

Thattukada style Chicken Fry adapted from Sig's recipe

Boneless Chicken breasts- 250gms, cut into bite size pieces
Ginger garlic paste- 1 tbs
Coriander pwd- 1/2 tsp
Turmeric pwd- a pinch
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/4 tsp
Maida- 1 tsp
Lemon juice- 1 tsp
Salt- to taste
Oil- enough to deep fry

Onions- 1 small cut lengthwise
Curry leaves- 2 sprigs

Marinate the chicken pieces with the above (except onions and curry leaves) ingredients and keep for an hour. In a wok, heat the oil and deep fry the chicken pieces till brown on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a kitchen towel.

Remove some of the oil from the wok and throw in the curry leaves and onions. Fry well till brown and soft. To this add the fried chicken pieces and sautee till they are all well mixed. Serve hot with a glass of Chardonnay.

Notes: I guess it would taste even better if its with bone. I didnt have any
Using coconut oil for the frying makes a world of a difference but an unhealthy option.

Sausage Stir Fry

Chicken or Pork Frankfurters/ sausages- 4, cooked and sliced into bite size pieces
Pointed sweet red pepper- 1, sliced lengthwise
Pepper pwd- 1 tsp
Balsamic vinegar- 1 tsp
Oil- 1 tbs

In a wok heat a little oil and cook the sausages along with the pepper powder. Keep aside
Pour in the rest of the oil and stir fry the red pepper till soft and cooked. Add the sausages and the balsamic vinegar towards the end, give a final stir and serve hot.

Note: It will be fancy if you use tooth picks and do a pepper, sausage arrangement.

Breakfast in Bed...almost

Saturday is lazy day with a big L. We wake up late, potter around while the coffee is brewing and then settle down with our laptops till brunch or lunch. Last Saturday wasn't any different except that we had the whole day planned ahead and had to head into Central London. There was no time to prepare brunch or lunch and so i came up with this quick fix breakfast which in turn was quite heavy.

French Toast with an Apricot syrup

For the toast:
Bread slices- 6 (we use brown bread)
Eggs- 2
Sugar- 2 tbs
Milk- 3 tbs
Cinnamon- a pinch (optional)

Beat the eggs, sugar, milk and cinnamon together in a bowl until light and fluffy (don't over do it). Dip the bread slices in it and toast on medium heat in a frying pan. Take it off the burner when both sides are brown. Keep aside.

For the syrup:
Apricots- 4 sliced
Brown sugar- 1 tbs (white sugar is also fine)
Butter- 1 tbs
Orange juice- 3 tbs

In a sauce pan, melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar. Keep stirring till the sugar melts. To this add the orange juice and the sliced apricots and mix well. Keep stirring till you get a syrupy texture and the apricots are nice and soft. Take it off the stove, pour over the toast, wait for it to seep through and then dig in.

Notes: You can adjust the sweetness according to your taste. I like it a bit sweet and so add sugar in both.
If you don't like the tangy taste of the orange juice, you can leave that out too.
If you over do the cinnamon, it can be a bit too over powering and not the best of tastes. So add a pinch if you like or omit that.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Tuna and Pasta Bake and high on Sangria

Thanks to easy peacy cooking recipes like this, we are still surviving. I think UK has spoilt me in a lot of ways. If its not Indian cooking you are into, then i think being in a place like UK or US helps. The sachets of easy mix powders and gravy's and cut veggies and mixes, add to this luxury.
I am a big fan of the Coleman's brand and they have a various powders in sachets which you can just mix with milk or water and pour over anything from mashed potatoes to beef to chicken to vegetables to pasta. I bought a Tuna and Pasta bake sachet with the intention of using it for a simple bake, but instead decided to try out the recipe at the back of the cover. This is how it goes:

Pasta- 225 gms
Tuna- 200 gms (tinned)
Milk- 425 ml
Carrots- 1/4 cup cut into small bite size pieces
Green peas- 1/4 cup (frozen)
Onions- 1/4 cup (thinly sliced)
Pepper- 1 tsp
Salt- to taste
Cheese- to layer on top (I used Cheddar)
Regular bag of chips
1 sachet Coleman's Tuna and Pasta Bake
Oil- a wee bit

The onions, peas, carrots, pepper is my addition since i did not have sweet corn which the recipe asked for.

Cook the pasta as per instructions (with salt and enough water. Strain and keep aside)
In a heavy bottomed pan heat some oil, saute the onions till transparent and add the carrots, pepper and salt and cook till done. Toss in the tuna along with the green peas and pasta and mix well. If there isn't enough salt or spice you can add as per your requirement at this stage. Keep aside
In a saucepan, tip the contents of the sachet, add a little bit of milk and stir well so no lumps are remaining. Tip in the rest of the milk and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Reduce heat and simmer for a minute. the sauce will be somewhat thick and creamy.
Pour this mixture on to the pasta/ veggie mix and make sure the cheesy sauce is blended well with the pasta mix. Take it off the stove and pour into a baking dish.
Crush some chips and layer it on top of the pasta, and then layer the cheddar. Bake for 20 minutes in a pre-heated oven at about 175C or heat on high in a microwave oven for 5 minutes or till cheese melts.

Note: The crisps added that zing to the dish and i loved the idea. I think children would love this dish

Its been really hot the last couple of days here in London and so i decided to make Sangria, the perfect summery drink and also because i had some leftover fruits i needed to finish.

Red wine- 1 cup
Rose wine- 2 cups
Orange juice- 1/2 cup
Gin/rum- 60ml or less according to your taste
Apple- 1 sliced into small cubes
Apricot- 3 sliced into small cubes
(Pears, oranges etc. can be added if you want)
Sugar- 3 tbs
Lime juice- 1/2 cup (lemonade if you need a fizzy drink)

Mix all these together in a bowl, pour into tall glasses and drink your heart away:)

Notes: The gin was a bit too strong and it kinda made us a wee bit tipsy after the first glass.
If you keep it overnight, the fruits will be infused with the flavour and will taste better i guess. We didn't have the patience though :)
Sangria is usually a red wine and rum drink, but i didn't have enough of red wine so i mixed it with the rose and it tasted just as good.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

A lazy bake on a lazy Friday

The baking section in almost all the grocery chains here are bad, compared to the ones in the US. I would have visited three different ones in three different areas looking for butterscotch chips, after seeing this awesome recipe while surfing the net. No luck with that, but i still had to bake a cake. So i picked up some boring white chocolate chips and decided to give it a shot. The outcome was not as great as expected. Somehow, the cake texture never comes out right for me. Is it because i hand blend it? I have no idea. Its never moist and soft like my moms :(

All purpose cooking flour- 1 cup
Brown sugar- 1 cup
Egg- 1
Butter- 1/2 cup melted
Vanilla essence- 1 tsp
White chocolate chips- 1/2 cup

Mix all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl till smooth and fluffy. The recipe says you can blend it with a ladle but its not come out that well for me and so i suggest you use a mixer if you have one.
Pre-heat oven to 175C and transfer the mix into a buttered baking dish. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Ro is completely chocolate biased and has decided for himself that any dessert/cake without chocolate in it will not be good. Since i cant finish the cake by myself, i did a chocolate icing on half the cake. I am lazy and so i didn't bother to make icing, instead i bought the Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge icing and spread it evenly on the pieces and slightly whisked it so it forms a fancy pattern.

I wanted to do an apricot drizzle on the other half, but didn't get down to it. Maybe next time i will be motivated to try out a new icing. I think the white chocolate cake is perfect to try out various icing and toppings.
Notes: If you cant find white chocolate, you don have to put them in. I really don't think it added any extra flavour. Also you can substitute it with any other chips. For e.g., if found this on another blog and definitely looks much more interesting than what i made. In fact this was what i wanted to try in the first place.
I think the brown sugar did add a zing to it and the colour also comes from that i suppose. My first time with brown sugar and now that i have a whole lot left, i have to figure out what else to do with it.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Thattukada, East Ham, London

Its very strange that mallu's who make mallu food at home still crave for mallu food and ends up eating at a mallu joint whenever possible. I am just not able to understand this. Aren't we supposed to be sick of the food we are so used to and try out different cuisines? Well i sure hope to.
On a lazy Sunday we headed to East Ham in London for lunch(border of Zone 3 and 4 and at the Eastern most end of London), which is like a mini India, South India to be precise. That's where you have all the mallu, tam, stores selling anything from Udayam coconut oil to home made dosa batter (which i consider a saving grace since i cant be bothered to grind the rice and make dosas) and the never ending line of restaurants from Saravan Bhavan to Chennai Dosa to Hyderabadi Biriyani Centres. The department stores there sell your Indian cooking utensils like the Hawkins pressure cooker, the Idli steamer, Appam kadai and even the traditional Kerala saris. Impressive i must say!
Coming back to lunch, we decided to try out the mallu restaurant (see what i mean) called Thattukada. One look at the place and you are not impressed. There is a maximum of 6 tables crammed next to each other and the pink walls do not add any sort of consolation that this place would be worth the visit. Well, i guess that's what the whole Thattukada deal is all about right? But since the Food and Hygiene license etc. need to be attained in order to run a restaurant here in UK, the place is kept relatively clean. Lunch time was busy and we had to wait a good 15 minutes to get a table. There is no concept of waiting to be seated, reservations etc. as i again imply, its literally a Thattukada and we mallu's are shameful enough to hover around a person finishing up his meal so we can probably grab his place the moment he gets up to wash his hands. Something like that happens here too, as the bill is paid at the counter after the meal and not brought to your table (we learned this only on our second visit).
The menu is elaborate for a small restaurant like this. Starters are Vada, Banana fritters (vazhakka/ethakka appam), samosa and rolls which we didn't try, as we realized it would kill our appetite. Then there are the thattu dosa's with sambar and chutney, puttu and appam ( a Syrian Christian delicacy) with a curry of your choice. The seafood section is quite exorbitant with at least 10 to 15 items (curry, fried, steamed etc.). We were four of us and so decided to order different items. We started off with a Mango Lassi, sambharam and Lime juice for the men (after which they obviously ordered our very own Kingfisher beer) followed by mussels masala and a plate of beef fry. Both were delicious and we ended up ordering more. Mains were again split between us as the quantities were decent. You can opt for the standard meals (veg or non veg accompanied with veggies, kappa, pickle and curry) and choose from fish, chicken or mutton if you are going for the non veg. Fish would be the most safest of these as we tried the other two and wasn't up to mark. Another favourite was the egg curry. I personally have never had such tasty egg curry in my life. That with the Kerala parathas are a brilliant combination and is a must try. We also tried the Prawn Biriyani and had to waste quite a bit as it was too big a portion but very very tasty. The Karimeen (pearl spot) fry was next on our list, but decided to skip since it looked very oily (yes, mallu's also have the habit of looking at the other tables and figuring out what they are having).
The meal was very fulfilling, not to mention unhealthy as the oil (that too coconut oil) is lavishly used in all the dishes. Another advantage and a very important one at that is the price. Four of us drank and ate to our hearts content and the whole bill came up to 40 odd quid, which is approx 10 per person and is not a bad deal at all as per British standards. We didn't see any desserts on the menu and so skipped it. Make sure you ask for the specials as the mussels and beef fry were not on the menu and they were the weekend specials. They also apparently have fancy stuff like quail fry and duck. Maybe next time.
If you happen to be at the east end of London, make sure you visit this Thattukada, as it is good value for money in an otherwise expensive London.

Thai Green Chicken Curry

This is one of the easiest curries i have ever made. Considering that it was my first time with a Thai dish, this one turned out pretty awesome. It goes well with Jasmine flavoured rice, but we had it with just plain rice and it sure was good enough. You can make this with any meat, sea food, meat and seafood and as a vegetarian dish.. You more or less can decide what goes into it.

Chicken Breasts- 500 gms cut into bite cubes
Bell Pepper- 1 medium size chopped lengthwise(any colour)
Onion/ Shallots- 1/4 cup
Spring onions- 1/4 cup (optional)
Green chillies- 2 slit lengthwise
Thai green curry paste (any brand, store-bought)- 3 tsp (heaps)
Ginger paste- 1 tsp
Garlic paste- 2 tsp
Coriander pwd- 1 tbs
Chilli pwd- 1 tsp (can substitute with Chilli sauce as well)
Fish sauce- 2 tbs
Dark Soy sauce- 1 tsp (or 1 tbs of the regular soy sauce)
Coconut milk- 1 can
Coriander leaves- chopped fine, to garnish
Oil- 2 tbs
Salt- to taste

In a large wok, heat the oil and sautee onions and peppers till soft. Add the ginger and garlic paste, coriander pwd and chilli pwd to this and mix well. In goes the cleaned chicken pieces and once they become light brown, add the Thai green curry paste. Sautee for a few minutes and then add the sauces (fish and soy sauce and if using chilli sauce, that too at this stage) and salt and make sure the entire chicken is covered in this mix. In goes the coconut milk, simmer till the meat is cooked through. I left it on low heat for quite sometime so that the gravy and coconut milk flavour will nicely be infused into the chicken pieces. Add the green chillies and keep stirring once in a while. Just before you take the curry off the flame, sprinkle the spring onions and give one final stir and when you serve it, garnish with coriander leaves. I think the coriander leaves add that extra taste and flavour to the whole meal, try not to avoid that. Ro however got mad seeing the 'leaves' and managed to remove quite a bit of it.

If you do not have the store bought Thai Green Curry Paste, here is a recipe i found online.
Green chillies- 3 chopped
Garlic cloves- 2 minced or approx tsp of paste
Lemon grass stalks- 1, sliced
Kaffir lime leaves- 6
Shallots- 3 finely chopped
Coriander leaves- a handful
Ginger- 1 inch piece finely grated
Peeled rind of half a lime
Coriander pwd- 2 tsp
Cumin seeds- 1/2 tsp
Shrimp paste- 1 tsp (optional)
Pepper- 1 tsp
Salt- to taste
Oil- 1/2 tsp or more if desired

Blend all the ingredients together till it forms a thick paste and voila you have your Thai green curry paste. If you have leftover, after using the desired amount in your curry, you can transfer it into a jar and store in the refrigerator for future use. It is an added task to make the paste, but an easy one if you can find all the ingredients.

Notes: You can throw in beans, corn, carrots, peas, potatoes, broccoli, egg plant or any othergreen vegetable you fancy. Paneer is also a good substitute for meat i guess
The entire dish is made uncovered.
If you have the Thai green curry paste and coconut milk, the desired taste will be achieved no matter what.