As someone who loves a good meal, cooking one, came to me as a natural passion. I belong to a family where meal times consisted of not just food, but also noisy conversation centered around the events of the day and discussing the menu for the next. (ah yes, we are a greedy lot! )

For the most part of my life so far, my contribution in the kitchen was assisting mom and my duties were limited, to chopping veggies and laying the table. Then along came the great Indian wedding, and I was suddenly the queen of my very own kingdom. My curiosity about this magical world, coupled with an enthusiastic sous-chef (my husband, Vineet), led me to take on the challenge of preparing meals on a daily basis, and not succumbing to the convenience of hiring a cook.

This blog is a product of my experiments with food (not all are life threatening :D) for my fellow culinary enthusiasts - especially the newly weds and hungry bachelors and is dedicated to the women who've inspired me in the kitchen;
Aji (s),Ma and Nigella Lawson.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Matar Nimona - Food for the 'Benarasi' Soul

Sunday mornings are usually when I go stock up on Veggies and other groceries for the upcoming week. This past Sunday, I decided to sleep in, and therefore ended up skipping my weekly ritual , and I knew I'd have to invent meals from what I already had around the house, till I squeezed in a quick shopping trip in the middle of the week.
My husband is a big fan of a very simple Green-peas based preparation, called "Nimona", so when I realized that we were out of veggies on Wednesday, I pulled out the frozen peas stashed in the freezer (although this gravy tastes a 100 times better with fresh green peas!) and dinner was ready in exactly - 10 minutes!

1-1/2 cups Green peas (frozen, fresh are even better!)
1 medium Potato (peeled & cubed)
1 large Tomato (cut into big cubes)
1 or 2 Green chillies (depending on how much spice you like)
2 cloves Garlic- peeled
2 tbsp Oil
2 tsp Cumin seeds (jeera)
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1-1/2 tsp Garam Masala
Salt (as per taste)

1.)  In a mixer, roughly puree half the amount of Green peas, Tomato, Garlic & Green chillies till chunky.
2.)  Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Sautee the Cumin seeds till fragrant. Add the turmeric powder and sautee the potato cubes till they are golden brown and slightly soft - not cooked through.
3.)  Add the Peas-tomato pureed mix and stir and open cook for a minute or so. Add the remaining green peas (non-pureed ones) and the Garam masala.
4.)  Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for upto 2 whistles (max!). Switch off heat.

Enjoy this Matar-nimona with Steamed rice. Sliced raw onions (with a pinch of salt and a squirt of lime juice) are an excellent accompaniment. This no-frills-no-fuss meal, is perfect for a weeknight, when your back home, don't feel like struggling with dinner (yes, it happens to the best of us!) but don't feel like eating out either. Everyone wins! :) Happy eating!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Layered Chocolate Mousse Birthday Cake!

Birthday's are "just another day" for Vineet. One day you are 'young and dynamic' and the next you're 'older and wiser'.I'm on the other hand, the kind of person who is willing to celebrate pretty much anything, so my dear husbands 30th was'nt exactly something that I was going let slip by without as much as a cake! So this one is dedicated to Vineet and all of our friends, who have turned or are soon turning 'older and (hopefully) wiser' this year! :D Happy birthday!

 So, since the mousse needs a little time to cool down and set before it can be assembled onto the cake, I recommend you begin with that. I started with the cake and ended up wasting a lot of time waiting for the moussed to cool!


Ingredients for the Chocolate Mousse:
1 cup Heavy Cream 
175 g Bittersweet chocolate (chopped - I used bittersweet chocolate chips)
1/4 cup Sugar
3 tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa powder (sifted)
4 tbsp Unsalted butter (at room temperature)
4 large Egg whites
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1/4 tsp Salt

1.  Pour cream into a large saucepan and set over a medium flame. Add the Cocoa powder and stir, and bring the cream to a full boil. 

2. Remove the pan from heat and immediately add the chocolate chips and butter. Whisk with a fork until melted and smooth. Add the Vanilla extract and salt. 

3. One by one separate the egg whites into a clean and dry (preferably glass) bowl. Whip the egg separated egg whites using a hand held electric beater till they're fluffy yet stiff. Once the egg whites are stiff and form soft peaks, scoop them into the cooling chocolate mixture, little by little and gently fold in using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon. 
*Avoid over mixing as this will 'deflate' the egg whites, and can mess up the texture and lightness of the mousse.*
If you've never beaten egg whites before, please see:
4. Set the pan over a bowl of iced water. Alternatively, allow it to cool to room temperature naturally. Pour into a glass/Steel bowl and chill in the refrigerator till it sets.

While the mousse cools, get on with the cake!

PART 02/03 - THE CAKE!
DRY Ingredients for Cake:  
1-1/2 cups Cake flour (maida)
1/3 cup Unsweetened Cocoa powder 
1 cup Sugar
2 tsp Baking powder 
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt

WET Ingredients for Cake:
1 cup Water 
1/4 cup Vegetable oil 
1 large egg 
2 tsp Vanilla extract

1a.  Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

1b.  Lightly grease a 9" x 2" cake tin with a little butter/ oil and dust it with a little maida. Set aside without touching the dusted surface.

2.  Sift together all the dry ingredients (except sugar) in a large mixing bowl. Then add the sugar and whisk until blended.

3. In a glass bowl mix together the Wet ingredients using a fork.

4.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and gently beat until the dry mix is moistened. Do not overbeat - or the cake will bulge in centre like a 'dome'.

5.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 30-35 mins or till a knife comes out clean. (My oven took about 42 mins).

6. Once done baking, allow the cake to cool slightly (about 20-25 mins). Loosen the sides with a knife and turn it out onto a cooling rack. Allow it to cool completely.

 1.  Once the cake has completely cooled, slice the cake in half horizontally. To ensure that you cut across in neatly and not unevenly, line the edge of the cake with toothpicks, or mark 'dots' using a fork for a line of reference. 

2. Once you have the cake in 2 flat-ish halves, Line your serving plate on the edges with some paper napkins and lay the 1 half of the cake on top.
3.  Bring out the chilled mousse and slather it onto one half. Place the 2nd half on top and apply a very slight pressure with your fingers. The mousse will squish out from the middle. (If you're a pig like me, you will scoop it up with one finger and lick it up.... Don't worry, no one will judge you for being greedy :D)

3.  Use a rubber spatula or a flattish wooden spoon and smear the rest of the mousse over the assembled cake. Allow it to set and chill in the fridge till its time to dig in!

Decorating the cake:
Yes, I love my husband, and would go to the end of the world for him, but at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon, I just got uncharacteristically lethargic... So I took the easy way out and topped the cake with some fresh berries and really, it dint need anything else!
Since this cake is really moist and soft, it might not be a good idea to stick birthday candles into it , since the mousse will begin to melt with the heat... And anyway, as we get older, there end up being more candles than cake... now WHO needs THAT! :) 

Besan Laadu's & Chiwda

Diwali is one time of the year, when food related indulgence is absolutely guilt-free. Vineet's folks are here in Singapore for three weeks, so Diwali was relaxed, fun and full of great conversation and good food. Excited about our first Diwali together, my mother-in-law and I decided to make Besan laadu's and Chiwda for snacking on through the weekend.These simple traditional treats guarantee to win over the hearts of your new families.... brides-to-be, are you listening? :)


4 cups Gram flour (Besan)
2 cups powdered Sugar
1-1/4 cup Ghee (clarified butter)
1/4 Milk + 1 pinch Saffron
1/2 cup Raisins
1 tsp Cardamom powder

1.  Heat a thick-bottomed Kadhaai (wok) over a medium flame and dry roast the gram flour for about 4-5 minutes. Add the ghee (clarified butter) and continue to roast till the mixture is a golden brown with a soft paste-like consistency. (about 12-15 minutes)

2.  Turn off the heat and splash the saffron-milk - the hot mixture will sizzle and splatter. Mix well, till the milk in integrated into the mixture. Let the mixture cool slightly.

3.  Once the mixture is luke warm mix in the powdered sugar and knead well till soft. Mix in the raisins, and cardamom powder.

4.  Take a teaspoonful of the mixture and roll into small lemon sized balls. Cool slightly, to allow them to set into shape, and.... EAT!


3 cups Poha ( Rice flakes)
3 cups Murmura (Puffed Rice)
1 cup Peanuts (unsalted with skins)
1/2 cup Cashew nuts (optional)
1/2 cup Roasted Gram seeds (futaane)
3 cloves Garlic (finely sliced)
1/2 cup Dry Coconut (thinly sliced and broken into 1 to 1-1/2" long pieces)
1 cup Oil ( I used extra light olive oil, but you can use any other vegetable cooking oil)
5 tsp Mustard seeds (rai / sarson)
3-4 tsp Cumin seeds (jeera) 
1/2 tsp Asafoetida powder (hing)
3-4 Green chillies (chopped into 1/2" pieces)
10-15 Curry leaves (kadipatta)
1-1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
Salt + Sugar (as per preference)

1.  Dry roast the Poha & Murmura (seperately) in a large thick bottomed kadhai (wok) - I used a large sized pressure cooker since i do not own a large kadhaai. If not the results achieved by using a hot oven (@ 180 degrees for about 5-7 mins) are just as good.
(The idea here is ensure that the ingredients are completely dry, but not browned... So make sure not to leave this process unattended... constantly turn the contents gently to ensure even roasting and too keep them from scorching)

2.  Heat the oil and one by one, fry the Peanuts, Cashews, Roasted gram seeds and Coconut pieces till they're golden brown. Remove from oil and set aside onto a paper napkin to cool slightly. Next, fry the sliced garlic till golden brown and set aside.

3.  Next, use the same oil to make the tempering (tadka / fodni). Add the Mustard seeds + Cumin seeds + Asafoetida powder + Chopped green chillies + Curry leaves.
Reduce the flame to low and add the fried [ peanuts + cashews + gram seeds + coconut + fried garlic ] when the chillies and curry leaves stop sputtering. Gently stir and immediately add the roasted Poha and Murmura and mix gently to ensure that the spices are mixed evenly. (Make sure that the gas burner is on its lowest setting, to keep the poha and murmura from burning)

4.  Switch off the flame and add salt and sugar as per taste, and mix well. Allow the Chiwda to cool down and store it in a air-tight container.

The Chiwda by itself is pretty addictive, but adding some finely chopped onion + chopped coriander and a squirt of lime juice (right before serving / eating ofcourse!) makes it just pure sweet-salty-tangy-spicy heaven! Its the perfect snack to go along with a chilled beer !