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.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sukha Chicken - A Vineet Special !

Yes! I know... it's been forever since I posted anything ( 5 weeks to be precise!)... but in my defence.... my maid disappeared overnight!
She was there one day... helping clean the house, chop the veggies and take care of inhuman piles of ironing... and gone the next! 
Little do most people truly understand the role a good maid plays in the life of a woman.... and if you're Indian, married and have grown to depend on the one person who is actually more useful than your husband around the house on weekends ... you're world gets literally turned upside down when they're gone....

So anyway, now that things have finally gotten under control... Vineet cooks and I clean... (hehe... )... on the weekends that is. His stints in the kitchen are becoming more successful with every passing weekend, and one of Vineets recent master pieces... and believe me I'm not exaggerating when I say 'master piece'.... has been an out-out desi chicken... marinated in spiced yoghurt and stir fried with sliced onions, curry leaves and green chillies... alongside some steamed rice and dal.... its pure perfection! :)

Ingredients: For marinade (For 2 delicious portions)
- 300 g Boneless Chicken breasts
- 3-4 tbsp plain Yoghurt
- 1-1/2 tsp Ginger-garlic paste (fresh!!)
- 1 tsp Red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked Black pepper
- 1 tsp Garam masala
- 1 tsp Coriander powder
- Salt, to taste

For the stir fry:
- 2 tbsp Olive (or vegetable) Oil
- 1 large onion, finely sliced
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds
- 1 dried Red chili
- 1 green chili, slit
- 5-6 Curry leaves
- 1 small bunch Coriander, chopped
- Lime wedges

1.) Wash and pat dry the chicken breasts. Cut into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl.

2.) Whisk the yoghurt  along with the rest of the marinade ingredients. Pour over the chicken. This marinade is very thick, so dont worry if it seems sticky-ish when mixed with the chicken. Cover and set aside for atleast an hour... two hours is ideal.

3.) Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the cumin seeds, dried red chili and curry leaves. Stir fry for a few seconds. Add the marinated chicken pieces. Stir to mix and cover till almost cooked - about 12-15 minutes.

4.) Uncover the pan and add the sliced onions and slit green chili. Stir fry with the chicken for a minute or two till the onions are cooked through.

5.) Garnish with the chopped coriander and squirt a wedge of lime. Serve immediately along with some plain steamed rice and dal, or with roti's and raita. Yum! :)

Monday, October 24, 2011

KP's Asian style Baked Salmon with Mushroom fried Rice

This post marks the official inauguration of the new VIP recipe section that I'm introducing to my blog!
Krithika, or KP as she is known to friends, is like me, a major food and cooking enthusiast.
It was about 7 years ago... in a dingy hostel corridor that we got to know each other, and bonded over our mutual love for watermelon, mango and fish... As days, weeks, months went by we explored and discovered some gems of street food in Pune... I'm sure "our" anda-bhurji man still misses his most loyal fans.... (sigh!) Good times!

So, recently KP made a baked Salmon preparation, that involved marinating the salmon in some Ginger, Soya sauce & Vinegar and baking it. Served alongside a flavorful fried rice made with Mushrooms and Red Capsicum, this light and preparation is easy to put together and perfect for those of you who appreciate delicate Asian flavours.

Ingredients for Marinade:

- 2 tsp finely grated Ginger
- 5-6 tbsp Soya sauce
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 3-4 tbsp Rice wine Vinegar
- 3-4 tsp Sesame oil
- 2 boneless Salmon fillets, 150 g each
- 2 tsp Sesame seeds, lightly toasted on a pan

Whisk all the ingredients of the marinade together. Pour onto the Salmon fillets. Rub the marinade all over the fish using your fingers. Set aside to marinate for the atleast 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 180 deg C. Line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Pat the marinade onto the fish and gently lay onto the baking tray. Reserve the marinade to use in the rice.
Bake the Salmon for about 12-15 minutes till cooked and slightly browned. Sprinkle the fish with the toasted Sesame seeds. Serve immediately!

Ingredients for Fried rice:
- 2 cups pre-cooked long- grain Rice, refrigerated ( I used good ol' Basmati)
- 1 cup finely chopped Mushrooms
- 1 cup finely chopped Red Capsicum
- 1 medium bunch Spring onions, finely chopped
- 2 tsp Vegetable oil
- 1 egg

Method to make the Fried rice:
Heat the oil in a thick bottomed pan.
Saute the chopped spring onions and capsicum. Add the mushrooms and saute.
Add the reserved marinade from the Salmon. Crack the egg into the pan and swirl it around quickly. Using a wooden spoon, scramble the egg before it sets. Add the cooked refrigerated rice and toss.
Taste to check for salt and splash a few drops of Soya sauce if necessary.

Garnish with a sprig of Coriander. Serve immediately with the baked Salmon.
Eat up!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Home-made Whole-Wheat, Thin crust Veggie Pizza with Roast-Garlic & Onion Sauce

Vineet and I were in a mood to celebrate my blogs first birthday. Pimm's & Lemonade was on the menu, but we were wondering what one-dish meal it could be paired with, that would allow us to enjoy some much needed downtime at the end of a long week.

It's been a while since I had done any Bread-related baking, and I have been itching to make thin-crust Pizza at home, since there are few places (all very expensive) that make this just like I like it.... crisp crust, smokey flavours and not drowning in a pool of melted cheese... So the decision was made...

Home made Pizza sure might sound like a lot of work... But if I told you, that my active time in the Kitchen was about 40 mins TOTAL - which included making the pizza base and sauce - you will probably find that hard to believe.

Before I get on with the actual recipe... the total time for this pizza is about 2-1/2 hours... of which 1 hour 20 mins is spent watching TV or playing Poker... I promise :) Here's how;

Ingredients | Pizza Base:
- 1/2 cup Whole Wheat flour (atta)
- 1/3 cup All-purpose flour (maida)
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp Warm water (not hot!)
- 1/4 tsp white Sugar
- 1 tsp Active Dried Yeast
- 1 tsp Olive Oil
Ingredients | Pizza Sauce:
- 5-6 large large cloves, Garlic (with peel)
- 2 medium Onions, cut in half and thickly sliced
- 2 tsp extra-virgin Olive oil
- 1/2 cup Sundried Tomatoes in oil
- Salt, if needed, as per taste

Ingredients | Pizza Toppings:
- 1 medium Red Capsicum, sliced
- 1 medium Yellow Capsicum, sliced
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata Olives, sliced into rounds
- 10-12 Basil leaves, chopped
- 1 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
- 1/2 cup Feta Cheese, crumbled


1.) Measure out the Flours in a clean dry Glass bowl/ non-metallic bowl. Stir in the Salt and set aside...(Yeast reacts badly with metal, no metal spoons for measuring either!)

2.) Dissolve the sugar in the warm water. Add the yeast into the water and set aside for 10 minutes. At the end of 10 mins, the yeast will have expanded and look frothy... at this point. Add the olive oil into the yeasted water. *PREHEAT OVEN TO 180 deg C at this point*. ( BTW.. If the water is too hot it will 'kill' the yeast.. so make sure its temperature is something you can easily dip a finger into)

3.) Make a well in the flour, and slowly pour the yeast-water-oil mixture into it. Start mixing gently using your hands. The dough begins to pull-away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a lightly floured, non-metallic surface and knead for about 8-10 mins till a soft pliable dough forms.

4.) Place the kneaded dough back in the bowl and cover with a clean cotton cloth. Set aside in a warm place for the next 45 mins. Get on with the prep for the Sauce.

5.) Chop off the ends of the garlic, leave on the peels. Arrange the garlic cloves and sliced onions on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil. Put baking sheet in the pre-heated Oven, and bake for 45 minutes, till nicely charred --- as shown in the photo :)

Now go watch TV for the next 45 mins :)

6.) Uncover the rested dough. By this time, it will appear to have doubled in size as it is filled with air. Do not deflate it, but gently divide the dough into 2 parts. Cover and rest again for about 30 mins.

7.) While "dough-rising" Stage-2 is on - Peel the roasted garlic and place in a mixer/food processor along with the roasted onions. Add the sun-dried tomatoes along with their oil and pulse in short bursts till a thick paste is formed. Set aside.
Take a break for the next 25 minutes, till the dough finishes its 30 mins.
(See! I told you this needs very little active kitchen time!)

8.) Once again, Pre-heat the Oven to 180 deg C. While the oven heats, gently pick up one of the 2 dough balls, and roll lightly in your hands.  Place on a floured surface and Roll out into a 1/4" thick circle. (This dough is sticky, so keep dusting it with flour as you roll it out)
Place on a baking tray and bake in pre-heated oven for about 7 mins.

While the base is baking, slice up the veggies for your toppings. Baking the base prior to toppings ensures that it cooks evenly and prevents it from becoming soggy with the toppings. 

9.) Cool the pre-baked pizza base slightly. Spread half of the pizza sauce (this is a thick paste-like sauce) on the base. Arrange half the quantity of the sliced red and Yellow capsicums, radially, to cover the entire pizza. Dot the pizza with half of the chopped olives and sprinkle chopped Basil leaves.
Cover the entire pizza with the grated mozzarella and crumble half of the Feta cheese over the pizza.

Bake @ 180 deg C for 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven on baking and repeat steps 8 & 9 for second pizza.

Rest the fully baked pizza on a wire rack for a few minutes after removing it from the oven to cool slightly... One shall exercise patience and keep oneself from pouncing on the hot pizza, else one shall experience a stinging mouth burn from melted mozzarella if one is being greedy :(

Cut up into slices and Eat up! :)


"Pimms" and Lemonade

Pimms No.1, is a British Gin based liqueur that is served over ice or in cocktails. Pimms and Lemonade used to be the drink of choice on an English summer's day while watching Wimbledon, Cricket or simply lazing in the back garden... (so much fun to say this in my fake Brit accent!) :)

I tried this for the first time at a restaurant called "The Queen & Mangosteen", here in Singapore...served alongside a Ploughman's platter consisting of: Stilton Cheese, Grapes, sliced Ham, Salad leaves and fruit Chutney. Yum!

So anyway, since I didn't have much luck finding a bottle of Pimms No.1 at the Singapore Duty free, I asked Richard, a friend from work, to bring back a bottle for me from Ireland...and his timing couldn't have been more perfect... It was the perfect drink to celebrate my blogs 1st birthday :) God bless you Mr.Richard :)

Ingredients: (Serves 2)
- 90 ml Pimms No.1
- 330 ml (1 small can) Sparkling water/ Soda
- 1 large Lemon
- 5 tbsp finely chopped Apple
- 5 tbsp finely chopped Cucumber
- 3-4 Orange segments, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tsp finely chopped Orange peel
- 3 tbsp finely chopped Strawberries ( I skipped this since I could'nt find any)
- 8-10 Mint leaves, roughly torn
- 3-4 tsp White Sugar, powdered

1.) In a pitcher, make lemonade using the juice from the lemon, sparkling water and sugar.

2.) Stir in the chopped fruit and mint and add the Pimms No.1 to the mix. Stir using a long spoon.

3.) Chill for atleast 30 mins before serving. Serve over ice in a tall glass, garnished with a sliced orange :)

Vineet and I seriously recommend investing in a bottle of Pimms... pick one up yourself, or ask someone traveling abroad to get one for you, incase it is not available in your city... Trust me... it is a decision you will never regret! :)

Blueberry & Yoghurt Breakfast Smoothie

Another super yummy, super healthy, super quick breakfast in a glass.. using all of 3 ingredients - fresh Blueberries, Yoghurt and Honey. Can't possibly write a longer introduction for something that is made in just a few minutes :) But yes, I have to tell you that Blueberries are excellent fat  busters, are high in anti-oxidants and maintain healthy urinary tract and visual health. See this link for more information:

Ingredients: (Makes 2 glasses)
- 1 cup fresh Blueberries, washed & drained
- 1-1/2 cups plain Yoghurt
- 2 or 3 tbsp Honey

Stick everything in a blender and whirrrrrrrrr away. Add a couple of teaspoons of water to thin out the smoothie if its too thick. Garnish with a couple of blueberries, and Drink up!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Home-made Yoghurt Dip & Chips

Ok, this super easy party appetizer is something that my aunt ( mum's sister) makes very often, and its always the thing that disappears the fastest each time she makes it. It has the creami-ness of cream cheese, minus all the high fat ... the natural tang of the yoghurt and the crunch of the onions and green capsicum... its seriously finger lickin' good, and the only hard part is... is watching it swiftly disappear, while you're left wishing you had made more, so you'd have left overs to greedily eat after the party is over ;)

- 4 cups Yoghurt ( makes 2 cups of dip)
- 1 medium Onion, very finely chopped
- 1 small Green Capsicum, very finely chopped
- 1 small bunch fresh Coriander, very finely chopped
- Salt & cracked Black Pepper, to taste

1.) Line a deep bowl with a clean, dry fine muslin/cotton cloth. Scoop the yoghurt into the cloth and tie the fabric in a knot to create a pouch. Hang over the sink, or place a bowl underneath to collect the water from the yoghurt as it drains. Let it hang for atleast 4-5 hours ( or more, depending on the quantity of yoghurt)

2.) Transfer the thick, hung-yoghurt into a mixing bowl. Whisk together along with all of the other ingredients. Garnish with a little sprinkling of chopped capsicum and/ or coriander...and Voila! You're Done! :)

Chill in the refrigerator till its time to serve alongside chips of your choice! Eat up! ;)

Stuffed Eggs

Oooh! Stuffed Eggs! Had made these for a party a loooong time ago... and last weekend, they were the perfect choice for a (big) bite-sized appetizer for our poker party. I came across this recipe a while back in a book called 'Simple Cooking for Smart Men' by Karen Anand, something Vineet had 'invested' in during his bachelor days... its the book he has turned to, to impress me with his culinary expertise from time to time... he is very smart after all :)  So here is a slightly adapted version of Karen's original recipe:

- 6 Eggs (makes 12 halves)
- 1/4 cup Cream cheese
- 3 tbsp Feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 small Onion, very finely chopped
- 1/2 Green Capsicum, very finely chopped
- 3 tbsp Worcestshire Sauce
- 1 tbsp Soya Sauce
- 1 long Green Chilli, seeds removed & finely minced
- Freshly cracked Black pepper, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- 5-6 Fresh Lettuce leaves
- 5-6 Cherry Tomatoes

1.) Bring a large pot of water to a simmer. Float the eggs gently into the water and boil to cook (about 15-20 minutes). Once boiled, cool under running water slightly and peel and set aside.

2.) Slice the eggs in half along the longer side, such that you get 2 identical halves. Scoop out the cooked yolks into a bowl. Rise the boiled egg whites under cool running water to clean up. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.

3.) Take half the quantity of boiled yolks, and mash with a fork till they're soft and creamy. Whisk in the Cream cheese, Feta, chopped Onions & Capsicum, Chillies, Worcestershire & Soya sauces, and black pepper and salt.

4.) Using a teaspoon, scoop the filling into the hollows of the boiled eggs. Garnish with a little of the chopped Capsicum.

Serve on a bed of fresh, crisp lettuce along with halved cherry tomatoes scattered on the plate.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Grape & Apple Sangria Blanca

Sangria is a wine-based punch or cocktail, that consists of wine, chopped fruit and a sweetener.

Although the wine used in a traditional Sangria is a dry Red wine, I wanted to use the bottle of White Wine I already had... So I looked up a couple of websites, and finally settled on a recipe that used fresh Grapes, Apples, Mint and White wine....served chilled over ice, it is - simply put- absolutely delicious... with freshness of the fruit and the kick from the wine, it is perfect to enjoy with friends (or just by yourself!) on a warm summer evening!

- 1 Bottle (750 ml) White Wine (sparkling or still, your choice)
- 250g fresh Green Grapes (seedless)
- 1 bright red Apple, plus 1 for garnish
- 2-3 tbsp finely powdered Sugar
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 6-7 fresh Mint leaves
- 1 tablet of Vitamin- C ( if you're making this in advance)

1.) Wash the grapes and drain. Peel and core 1 of the apples and chop into cubes. Squirt with some lime juice to keep them from browning.

2.) Puree the grapes along with the apples, sugar, mint leaves and vitamin C tablet. The Vitamin C tablet has ascorbic acid, which keeps the colour of the Sangria a fresh green for a long time. Add some of the wine to the pureed fruits ( about 1 cup), and puree again till well combined.

3.) Strain the fruit-wine puree through a sieve. Stir in the remaining wine, and pour into a jug and chill for about an hour or so.

Serve over ice garnished with some sliced apple.... Cheers! :)

Roast Corn, Sour Cream & Feta Crostini

Menu planning for dinner parties is a lot of fun! Its a great opportunity to explore new recipes, and having an appreciative and hungry audience, is added motivation. I tried a Corn & Feta Crostini for a dinner party that we hosted for our dear friends Seema & Ganesh, and my cousin, Samar, last night. I wanted to keep appetisers light, and something that would pair well with the Fresh Green Grape Sangria that I planned to serve, to get the evening started off... So well... this is how you make it ...

- Ciabatta bread, 1 leaf (or 1 Baguette)
- 1/2 cup Sour Cream ( or hung yoghurt)
- 1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
- 1 ear of Corn
- 1/4 cup, Coriander, leaves seperated
- 1 tsp Red Chilli powder
- Lime wedges, enough to squirt lightly

1.) Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Slice the bread loaf into 1/2" thick slices. Toast in hot oven for about 3-4 minutes, till crisp and warmed.

2.) While the bread toasts, whisk together the Sour Cream and feta together. Roast the corn on the gas flame till sufficiently blackened in parts. Using a sharp knife, slice off the roasted corn kernels into a bowl.

3.) Smear the Sour cream-feta mixture on the toasted Ciabatta. Top with the roasted corn kernels. Lightly sprinkle some of the Red Chilli powder on top and squirt some lime juice onto the topping.

Garnish with a leaf of Coriander, and serve asap along with some delicious Grape Sangria and be transported to yumminess-heaven ! :)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Coconut- Date- Sesame Fudge Bars

I recently came across a recipe for Raw Fudge Brownies, that a friend from school, Reshma, made and posted on the blog she writes for healthy eating & living. Her recipe got me all excited about using dates in desserts, since they're not only gooey and deliciously fudge- y  but packed with several key nutrients like Vitamins, Calcium, Iron,Potassium and Magnesium. They're an excellent source of fiber and help maintain top-notch digestive and cardiac health.
I had a LOT of dessicated coconut in my freezer from last weeks coconut cupcake, so I decided to experiment a little... and since I was looking to make this healthy, I added some Oat cereal and Cornflakes.
So, well, here it goes, my Date-Coconut-Sesame fudge... sticky, gooey, yummy ... and healthy :)

2 cups seedless Dates (khajoor), roughly chopped
5-6 dried Apricots (optional), roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened Dessicated coconut
1 cup breakfast Cereal - Cornflakes / Oat cereal (either or both)
1/2 cup Pine nuts / Or / roughly chopped Almonds
1/2 tsp Honey
3-4 tbsp Sesame seeds

1.) Preheat oven to 180 deg C. Toast the Cornflakes and/or Oat cereal for 5-6 mins till they're super crunchy. Alternatively, heat a non-stick pan on medium heat. Toast the cereal stirring occasionally till its crisp. Set aside in a dry bowl to Cool.

2.) Toast the Pine nuts/ or / chopped almonds. Add to the bowl with the toasted Cereal.

3.) Now, toast the dessicated coconut till it begins to turn slightly golden. Switch off heat immediately or it will brown too much.

4.) Transfer the toasted Cereal and Nuts into a mixer / food processor. Pulse till coarsely powdered. Start adding the dates, about 1/4 cup at a time, and pulse till combined after each addition. As you pulse, the stickiness of the dates will begin to bind the mixture together.

5.) Add the toasted dessicated Coconut to the date mixture 1/4 cup at a time, and pulse again till well combined. Although it binds extremely well, this mixture is surprisingly non-sticky,and pulls away from the sides of the mixer very easily.

6.) Line a baking tray/ glass casserole with grease-proof paper or aluminum foil. Turn out the mixture into the bowl. Using your fingers , apply pressure on the mixture, and flatten into the bowl to form a layer which is uniformly thick (about 1/2" thick).

7.) Cover with a lid or foil and chill in the refrigerator for about 30-45 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the Sesame seeds and cool. Brush the honey lightly, over the top of the set fudge. Lightly pat the toasted Sesame seeds onto the fudge using slight pressure from your fingers to stick.
Holding the foil, extract the fudge from the bowl. Using a sharp knife, divide into 2" x 2" squares ( or 1" x 3" rectangles).

Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. Should keep well for about 7-8 days, but that's IF it lasts that long! :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fred's Couscous Salad

Although I love it,Vineet isn't the biggest fan of Couscous. So when I tried this salad that Fred, a friend from work, made for a potluck birthday party recently, I knew it was going to be something that would convert my Couscous-shy husband... reason being, it had all of his other favourites, olives, feta and sundried tomatoes :)

Couscous is made from Semolina (rava/ sooji) that is used widely in middle-eatern cuisine. It is soaked in hot water till it swells and becomes fluffy. Eaten as a side, much like rice or pasta, along with curried meat or vegetables, it has a soft grainy texture that readily absorbs flavoursand is yummy when used in Salads.

Couscous is among the healthiest of grain-based products. It has more fiber, vitamins and protein  than pasta and rice and has is excellent for a low-cal diet.See this link for more detailed health benefits of Couscous.

- 200 g / or 1 cup Couscous
- 1-1/2 cups HOT water (not boiling)
- 4-5 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
- 5-6 tbsp Extra-virgin Olive oil
- 1 cup french Beans, chopped into 1-1/2" long pieces
- 1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted & sliced
- 3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled into biggish chunks
- 8-10 strips of Sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Parsley

1.) Place the Couscous in a bowl. Mix the Balsamic vinegar and Olive oil with the hot  water and pour over the couscous. Give it a quick stir and cover with a lid tightly. Set aside for 7-10 mins. The Couscous absorbs the liquid and fluffs up.

2.) While the couscous cooks, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans to the boiling water and cook for about 2 mins. Remove the beans from the hot water and immediately transfer them into a bowl of chilled / iced water, to prevent them from over cooking.

3.) Fluff the couscous with a fork and ensure there is no water remaining. Add the beans, olives and sundried tomatoes and toss gently. Tumble in the Feta and chopped Parsley and toss again. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for about 10-15 mins.

Drizzle a little more Balsamic and adjust salt levels as per your preference.

Eat up!

Roasted ONCATOCA Soup

If I told you what "OnCaToCa" was in the beginning of this post... you will most certainly laugh at my (in)ability to come up with creative names...
But I do want you to know about this soup, is that its downright yummers!! And if made with fresh OnCaToCa, it guarantees 100% soup satisfaction :)

Ok, I'm going to kill the suspense right here... it was the shortest name I came up with for Roasted veggie soup I made... with roasted Onions, Carrots, Tomatoes and Capsicum :P  hence the name OnCaToCa... so no, its not some mysterious exotic ingredient that I discovered :)

We enjoyed this soup along side a lovely Couscous salad, the recipe for which comes from Fred, a friend from work who brought this for a potluck party a couple of weeks ago. You will find the recipe for the couscous in the "salad" section of the blog.

- 3 medium Tomatoes, cut into larg chunks
- 1 red/ yellow Capsicum, deseeded
- 1 large/ or 2 small Onions, peeled
- 1 medium Carrot, peeled
- 1 tsp dried Thyme

- 6-7 leaves, fresh Basil, chopped
- 1/2 cup Vegetable stock
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin Olive oil
- Salt, Pepper, to taste

1.) Preheat the oven to 180 deg C. Line a baking pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

2.) Chop the Onions, Carrots and capsicum into largish chunks, more or less of the same size, to ensure that they cook in the same time frame. Arrange the chopped veggies onto the baking pan. Drizzle with Olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast the veggies in the hot oven for about 20-25 mins, or till they're cooked and slightly charred in parts.

3.) While the first batch of veggies roast, cut the tomatoes into chunks. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Roast the tomatoes after drizzling them with the olive oil (about 40 mins)
The reason I roasted the tomatoes and the rest of the veggies separately, is that tomatoes have a lot more water, and therefore moisture, before they cook and get slightly charred. This time period is too long for comparatively drier veggies and they will overcook and burn if roasted with the tomatoes.

4.) In a saucepan, bring a cup of water to a simmer and dissolve the stock cube in it. While the water simmers, transfer the roasted vegatables and tomatoes to a blender along with the basil leaves and puree till nice and smooth. Add a little water if it gets too thick.

5.) Pour the roasted vegetable puree into the sauce pan with the water and mix well. Bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning (salt / pepper / thyme) and switch off heat. Let the soup rest for about 5 minutes.

Although this soup is vegetarian, I have also made this with fresh prawns... just season the prawns with salt and pepper & saute a tablespoon of olive oil. To make this more seafood-y puree some of the prawns along with the vegetables in the blender. Add the remaining to the simmering soup right before you switch off the heat. Yum!

Garnish with additional fresh basil leaves and Enjoy with a nice salad or toasted bread. This makes for a delicious, filling and supremely healthy weeknight dinner. Eat up! 

Malaysian Mutton Rendang

Cuisine from Malaysia shares a surprising lot on common with its neighboring Thailand.

The most commonly used ingredients of Thai food as I have come to know them (having eaten copious amounts of it!) are Lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, and Coconut milk... pretty much equivalents to what Curry leaves (kadipatta), Turmeric and Garam masala are to Indian food.
Marry these Thai ingredients to the Indian influences of Malay food and, Voila! you have Rendang!

Traditionally, this curry is made with beef, but I used fresh boneless mutton instead. Although the prep time is all of 10 minutes, the cook time for this delicious curry is a little generous... almost 2 hours...since it involves slow cooking the mutton in the spices. So plan accordingly if you're thinking of serving this for a dinner party :) This recipe is quantified for 2 persons.

- 500 g boneless Mutton, fat trimmed
- 1 large Onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves Garlic, sliced
- 1" Ginger, sliced
- 2-3 dried Red Chillies
- 1 stalk Lemongrass, bruised & sliced

- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Coriander seeds, roasted & powdered
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds, roasted & powdered
- 5-6 Kaffir Lime leaves
- 1-1/2 cups Coconut milk, low fat
- 1 tsp Tamarind pulp
- 2-3 tbsp Soy sauce
- 1 medium potato, peeled & cubed
- Salt, to taste

1.) Cut the mutton into curry sized pieces and place in a bowl.

2.) Grind: Sliced Onion + garlic + ginger + turmeric + dried red chillies+ sliced lemongrass + 2-3 lime leaves , to a fine paste using about 1/4 cup of warm-ish water.

Marinate the mutton pieces in this spice paste along with the roasted coriander and cumin powders, for about 30 mins.

3.) Heat the coconut milk along with 1/2 cup of water in a deep wok(kadhai). Dissolve the tamarind paste into the coconut milk. Once the coconut milk is simmering, add the mutton pieces along with the marinade and stir to mix.

4.) Add the remaining Lime leaves, Soy sauce and adjust salt in the curry as per your preference. Bring the curry to a boil. Lower the heat and bring it down to a simmer.  
(At this stage the curry will be a light creamy brown. Cover partially (not fully) with a lid and let the mutton cook. This will take approximately 1-1/2 hours.)

5.) Open the lid occasionally and stir the curry to ensure that the mutton is always well coated in the masala. This curry darkens gradually and eventually develops into a beautiful dark brown. While the water evaporates to thicken the gravy, you will occasionally need to add some water to keep the curry from drying up and to cook the mutton to perfect tenderness.

6.) Once the mutton is almost cooked to your liking, add the potato cubes to the simmering gravy. Cook further till the potatoes are done. Switch off heat and keep covered.

Be careful when you cover the lid during the cooking process. Allow a small opening for steam to escape, of your curry will boil over and mess up your stove (as I did)

Garnish with some sliced lime leaves and serve along with steamed brown (or white) rice. Eat up!

Jam-filled Fun cookies

As a kid, I was a big fan of jam cookies. My favourite part would be to open the cookies, lick off the filling and sham on eating the now, not-so-interesting shell :)
So I figured, that since some childhood favorites never change, to make Tania's (my friend and host of the BBQ party that I went to earlier this week) son a little treat to enjoy all on his own once the party was over :P, except these cookie shells with the lemon zest is equally yummy!

This recipe makes about 30 filled cookies.

- 3/4 cup Sugar
- 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp Butter, softened
- 2 tsp grated Lime zest
- 1 Egg yolk
- 2-1/4 cups All purpose Flour
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 cups each of assorted Jams ( I used strawberry, black cherry & orange)


1.) Beat the butter + sugar + lime zest till fluffy. Crack an egg and separate the yolk from the egg white. Add the Egg yolk and to the mixing bowl along with the salt. Beat again on a medium speed.

2.) Spoon in the flour little by little and beat lightly till a dough begins to form. Resist the urge to over-beat the mixture. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface. And knead well till it forms a soft yet firm ball of dough.

3.) Divide the dough into four equal balls. Wrap each ball separately in clear plastic wrap. Flatten the ball slightly by pressing between your palms. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

4.) Pull out one of the 4 flattened dough balls. Line your board or counter-top with grease-proof paper. Warm the dough ever so slightly between your palms to make it more pliable.

Unwrap the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on the board. Lay the plastic wrap over the dough and gently roll out the dough till its about 3-4 mm thick.

5.) Using a cookie cutter cut out the larger circular (or any shape of your choice) shapes. Divide the round cookies into 2 sets. Using the smaller cookie cutters, cut out shapes from within the round cookies of one set.

Ensure that you have the same number of plain and cut-out cookies.

6.) Knead the scraps of dough together and roll into a ball. Wrap in the plastic wrap and pop it back into the refrigerator to chill.

7.) Arrange the cookie cut-outs on a grease-proof paper and bake in an oven preheated to 180 deg C for about 8-10 minutes. These cookies are still a little soft when fresh out of the oven, but they harden as they cool.

(Alternatively,the cookie cut-outs can be frozen at this stage to be baked at another time.)
Repeat the rolling, and cutting process with all the of the dough. Make sure that the dough is always cold yet pliable.

8.) Once you're done with cutting out all of the shapes, get started with the Jam. Heat the jam along with 5-6 tbsps of water in a non-stick saucepan. Whisk as the jam heats an make it into a liquid jelly like consistency. Switch off the heat and allow the jam to cool. The jam with thicken and become stickier as it cools.

9.) Make pairs of the solid and cut-shape cookies. Spoon some jam onto the plain round cookies and sandwich using the cut-out cookie on top. Gently press together to stick and lay on a wire rack to set completely.

These cookies will keep very well for about 10 days when stored between layers of grease-proof paper in an air-tight container. Eat up! :)

Coconut cupcakes with Citrus-Cream cheese frosting

Earlier this week, I attended a really fun BBQ party at my friend Tania's place. I knew she'd be going all out with her prep for this party and I felt like I wanted to take her a little treat... actually... I just needed an excuse to spend my day in the kitchen, with my precious oven :)
So my day was spent making cupcakes and cookies my two most favorite things to bake! Cupcakes, for the party and Jam-filled cookies for Aarav, Tania's adorable 3 year old son :)

A while ago, I was watching a baking contest on "The Ultimate recipe Showdown" on the Food Network where a contestant attempted a Pina Colada inspired cake... It had coconut, fresh pineapple and a generous proportion of alcohol... Now, I love Pina Coladas, but I wasn't about to feed a bunch of kids (including Aarav) alcohol -spiked cupcakes...!
So, I left out the booze and used cream cheese on the frosting instead...

Cream cheese is the easiest ingredient to use on a cupcake frosting. It works brilliantly with a citrus-y flavour and is naturally creamy...and was a nice compliment to the coconut in the cake.

This recipe makes about 25-28 cupcakes.


Wet Ingredients:
- 2 cups unsalted Butter, softened
- 1-1/2 cups Sugar
- 5 large Eggs @ room temperature
- 1-1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup Buttermilk
- 1/2 cup Coconut milk (thick)

Dry Ingredients:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (maida)
- 1 tsp Baking powder + 1/2 tsp Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 cup shredded Dessicated Coconut, plus an extra half cup for decorating later


1.)  Preheat your oven to 170 deg C (325 deg F). Cream the softened butter and sugar first on medium speed and then on high till light and fluffy.
Crack the eggs into the batter. One by one into the batter. Beat the batter to mix eggs after adding each addition.
Add the Vanilla extract and beat again. Set aside the bowl.

 2.) In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set this dry mix aside.In a bowl whisk together the buttermilk and coconut milk.

Mix the flour mix and buttermilk mix into the egg batter alternating each addition. i.e. add the flour + followed by the buttermilk mix + repeat flour + repeat buttermilk + add the remainder of the flour mix.

3.) Line a cupcake tray with paper liners. Spoon the batter into the cups and bake in an oven preheated to 170 deg C for about 25-30 mins, or till a cake tester comes out clean.

 4.) Transfer the baked cupcakes onto a wire rack and allow them to cool and come to room temperature. Bake the rest of the cupcakes and allow them to cool completely before you frost them.


1 cup Cream cheese @ room temp
2 tbsp unsalted Butter @ room temp
Grated zest + Juice of 1 medium Lime
6-7 tbsp of Icing (superfine) Sugar ( add more if you want it sweeter)
Few drops of Green apple food colouring


Cream together the cream cheese, butter till light and fluffy. Add the lime juice,  freshly grated lime zest and the green food coloring and cream again. Chill for about 30-45 minutes before using. 


 Using a butter-knife or a flattish spoon, slather the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. 

Sprinkle on the dessicated coconut and decorate the cup cake with a slice of fresh green lime... Yum!

Refrigerate till its time to dig in! Enjoy greedily with your family, friends, or just all on your own :)