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, January 11, 2011

Palak Chicken Curry

Just got back from work a little while ago. I had a bunch of fresh Spinach that I was wondering how to put to use when Vineet suggested we make Palak Chicken Curry... So while he stepped out to go pick up some chicken from the shopping complex next door, I got the rest of the prep done...and in about 25 minutes, dinner was served! Apologies for the quality of the photograph...but I really was in a hurry to eat ;) !

450g Boneless chicken
2 medium Onions
2 medium Tomatoes
1 medium bunch Spinach
2 large cloves Garlic
1/2" piece Ginger
1 green Chilli
Whole Spices:
1 Black Cardomom + 3-4 Cloves + 3-4 Black peppercorns + 1/2 Bayleaf + 1/2 tsp Saunf (fennel/ aniseed)
Powdered Spices:
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder + 1/2 tsp Red Chilli powder + 1-1/2 tsp Kitchen King Masala + 1/2 Mutton masala or Garam masala, whatever you have at hand.

1.  Puree the Onions, Ginger and garlic till chunky. Heat oil in a pressure cooker, and sautee the whole spices till fragrant. Add the pureed onion-ginger-garlic mixture. Fry on a medium-high flame till light brown.

2.  Meanwhile, wash the Spinach leaves and put them into a microwave safe bowl with a little water. Cover with a lid and cook for about 2-3 minutes till the leaves are wilted and cooked. Open lid and allow the boiled spinach leaves to cool for a few minutes.

3. Puree tomatoes and add along with the slit green chilli to the browned onions in the cooker. Cook for a few minutes, and add the dry spice powders and cook for another minute. While the tomato puree cooks, puree the boiled spinach leaves till nice and smooth.

4.  Cut the chicken into curry-sized pieces, and add to the onion-tomato gravy. Stir gently, to coat the chicken nicely in the masala. Cook for a couple of minutes till the chicken pieces are formed. Add the pureed spinach leaves along with 1/2 cup of water, and Salt.

5.  Pressure cook for 2 whistles. Allow pressure to drop. Open cook for a few minutes if you wish to thicken the gravy.

We enjoyed this with fresh warm Rotis and Boondi raita along with some chopped onions spiked with a squirt of lime juice. Yum! :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fodni-cha Varan (Tadke waali Daal )

'Dal tadka' is one of the most common preparations in our households. Each family has its own way of making this and its surprising how combining identical ingredients in one's own style can make this humble preparation so unique! This version of Dal-tadka conceived by my grandmother is best had with Dahi-Chawal... Yes, stop cringing... Dal and Dahi may not be a combination you would normally think of, but don't judge before you try it :) And if not, make this along side any regular sabzi and dig in with warm chapatis or steamed rice. Bon appetit!

1 cup Arhar daal (cooked)
2 tbsp Oil
1-1/2 tsp Rai (Mustard seeds)
2 Garlic cloves (mashed)
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder

1 tbsp Red Chilli powder + a little extra if you like it spicy!
1 cup water
Salt (as per taste)
Coriander leaves, chopped

1.)  Pressure cook the Daal with water in a 1:2 proportion, so that it is cooked but not runny.
2.)  Heat the oil in a thick bottomed vessel. Add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the turmeric powder and garlic (mashed using a mortal-pestle).
3.)  Keep a cup full of water ready. Once the garlic begins to turn golden brown, add the Red chilli powder and stir the contents to keep the chilli powder from burning. Immediately add the water to the 'tadka'.
4.)  Bring the water to a simmer. Add the cooked daal and salt and mix well. Add a little more water to adjust the consistency of the Daal to your liking. Garnish with coriander, and Eat!

Once again, I seriously recommend you try it with Dahi-Chawal. If you like it, this will most likely become a favorite on your list of comfort foods... or there's always the Chapati's and Steamed rice :)

Imli-Aloo ki Sabzi

For today's posts, I'm going to skip the usual jibber-jabber and get right to the point :) The list of ingredients is a little exhaustive, but it really is stuff that most Indian kitchens always have in stock!

12-15 baby potatoes(steamed & peeled & halved)
3 tbsp Oil
1 pinch Asafoetida (Heeng)
2 tsp Jeera (Cumin Seeds)
1/4 tsp Methi Seeds (Fenugreek)
3/4 tsp Saunf (Fennel Seeds)
4-5 Dry Red Chillies
1-1/2 tbsp Imli paste (Tamarind) dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
1-1/2 tsp Red Chilli powder
2 to 3 tsp Garam Masala
3/4 tsp Chaat Masala
1/2 tsp Mint powder/ fresh mint leaves
4 tbsp Coriander leaves (chopped)
Salt - as per taste

1.) Heat the oil in a thick bottomed kadhai. When hot, add the Hing, Jeera & Methi seeds. When the jeera & methi seeds start sputtering, add the Saunf & Dry red chillies. Fry for a few seconds and add the Tamarind water to the spices. Allow the tamarind water to simmer for just about a minute.
2.)  Add the steamed(cooked) , peeled and halved baby potatoes and stir gently to avoid mashing.
3.) Add the Red chilli powder, Garam masala, Chaat masala & Mint powder. Add the salt and mix gently to ensure that all the spices are mixed well and coat all the potatoes nicely.
4.) Add the chopped green coriander and serve with warm fresh Chapatis!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dates wrapped in Bacon

I like Dates. I like Bacon. I like Pistachios. And, I LOVE Feta cheese.
But I had never imagined all of these coming together to create a burst of sweet-salty-nutty-bacony magic!
I first sampled these gorgeous little parcels at a Thanksgiving dinner that a friend from work hosted in November, and I knew I HAD to try these myself! So since Vanessa (god bless her for introducing me to these!) was away vacationing, I googled the recipe, and found it on Martha Stewarts website. My soul was now at peace!
Sigh! Just typing up this recipe is making me want these NOW!

15-20 Seedless Dates (soft)
1 packet Bacon
2-3 tbsp crumbled Feta cheese
15-20 shelled Pistachios

1.  Preheat the Oven to 200 deg. C.

2.  Stuff each Date with a single Pistachio and some crumbled feta cheese.

3. Cut a slice of Bacon into half. Lay the date on top of the bacon, and gently roll into a little parcel, as shown in the picture on the right.

4. Line a baking sheet with Aluminum foil, and arrange the bacon wrapped dates, as shown in the picture on the left.

5.  Bake in the pre-heated oven @ 200 deg C for 10-12 minutes, or till bacon begins to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven, turn the parcels around to cook the underside. Stick the baking tray back into the oven, and bake till the bacon is browned and crispy, and sizzling!

6. Wait for these to cool slightly before you pounce on them, or you will wind up with a scalded tongue (from the trapped heat inside!) and wont be able to enjoy the rest of your meal :) Serve these with toothpicks, and Eat Up!!

Lamb cutlets with Olives, Chillies and Garlic

Hmmm... January 1, 2011... The most FAQ being, "So,How did you guys celebrate New year's eve?", and I sense an almost disappointed reaction when I reply saying, 'We stayed home and cooked!". I for one, have never been the kind of person to be hyper-excited about New year's eve parties... OK, may be I was for a few years in my teens, but even then it wasn't as much about 'new year's' as it was, about it being once chance when there was an extended deadline and hanging out with friends...
So we figured, that we'd prefer to relax at home... whip up a feast, and bring the new year in with the best company we know in Singapore, each other :)

I have been proud to acknowledge that I am an absolute fan of Nigella Lawson... I love the way she feels about food. She (like so many of us) is an untrained cook, and I find it so easy to relate to her greedy, and non-chalant ways of getting fab things onto a plate!

So we rang in the new year with her Lamb cutlets with olives, garlic and chillies. To go I made a simple salad with no specific name, and made these mind-blowing (yes I'm tooting my own horn!) Dates-wrapped Bacon....

So here goes the 1st post of the year!! Happy New year everyone!!!

(Serves 02 Greedy people)

600 g Rack of lamb 
10-15 Black Olives ( preferably 'kalamata' olives)
1 long Red Chilli - chopped very finely
2 tbsp Garlic - finely chopped
6 tbsp Extra virgin Olive oil
2 tbsp Dried Oregano leaves
1 tbsp Dried Red chilli flakes
Salt (as per taste)
1. Carve the rack of lamb (ribs) as shown in the picture below.  (Do not stress if you can't find rack of lamb. I'm saying this as I know it might be difficult/expensive to buy in India. So feel free to use a boneless shoulder/ leg. Ask the butcher to slice the piece for you into 1/2" think slices - these will be easy and quick to cook, and also look better on a plate than chunks!)

 2.  In a bowl lay the out the lamb pieces and drizzle about 3-4 tbsp of the extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt and coat the meat nicely using your fingers. 

3.  Next, add in the chopped (de-seeded) Red chilli, chopped garlic and chopped up black olives (use some of the brine from the olive jar as well for added flavour!). Add the Oregano leaves, dried chilli flakes. Coat the lamb nicely in all the ingredients using your hands, and cover and leave it to marinate for atleast 20 mins.

4. Once marinated, heat the remaining olive oil in a frying pan. Shake off the marinade stuck to the the lamb pieces and pan fry the meat in the hot oil till its browned and tender. Retain the marinade in the bowl - this will become the 'dressing'.

5.  Pour the left-over juices from the pan onto the meat and serve the lamb cutlets, garnished with the remaining marinade (garlic,olives,chillies,oregano etc). Eat up! 

We enjoyed this with some Salad... You could use the receipe for the 'Chef's Salad' from the Salad's section of this blog. I especially LOVE this recipe, as it is excessively simple to put together, yet looks delightfully elaborate, and fit for celebration! :)