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Friday, April 27, 2012

Rice Stew with Capsicum and Black Olives

When you find a bowl of left over rice in your fridge, you tend to get creative.

Hundreds of variation can be made with plain rice; all we need is just imagination and ingredients.

I surf my fridge to see what else can I find? 

Hmmn! There is capsicum, , lime leaves, green chilies  and a tin of black olives……and yeah, I also have onions and garlic.

Okay, that should be enough to create a dish and then suddenly I see this small packet of Ching’s secret:  ‘New Chowmein Miracle Masala’

Now this packet has been lying in my fridge since it came with a magazine as sample piece - some two months ago - and I had been meaning to try this one but never had a chance…there is a graphic of noodles on the packet, but there is no hard and fast rule that I must use noodles, is there? The print is so fine that I can hardly read the instructions or the ingredients.

I cut open this packet and smell..okay…reddish brown masala smells quite good. (I am hoping it's vegetarian and does not contain any animal fat or some useless bone powder.) I take a pinch of this masala to taste…its salty, spicy and contains agnomoto so I decide to use this too…..That means I must not use too many chilies and not use any salt at all…..

I quickly slice the cucumber and tomatoes and keep it aside to go with the rice dish….

Then the cooking begins

Step one:

Crush 3 garlic pods with 3 dried red chilies in the pestle.

Step two:

Slice one medium onion, one medium tomato, one medium capsicum, 2 green chilies, 6 olives

Step three:

Heat one tbsp olive oil and fry the crushed garlic and red chilies, add onions, tomatoes, capsicum, and 1 cup cooked rice, stir well

Step four:

Add the Chowmein Masala, and 4-5 lime leaves, mix and then add corn flour solutions (1 tbsp cornflour to 1/2cup water) Stir till the sauce thickens.

Step five:

Add the chopped black olives.

Step Six:

Transfer the stew rice in the plate, arrange the cucumber and tomatoes

Click the picture for your FB profile to share with your friends whom you didn't invite and sit down to eat…hot, hot…

You may have a cup of green tea if you find the masala too hot……just tissue to wipe the nose will not suffice.......

Friday, April 13, 2012

Khichri. A Complete Meal by Itself

“Kya Birbal ki khichri paka rahe ho?”

How often had you heard this comment whenever you were slow in getting the work done?

Well, according to the legend, during the time of Nawabs in Awadh, Birbal, one of the wisest and the wittiest men in the court of the grand Mughals had taken infinitely long time to cook a perfect khichri. It had to take long because he had substituted almonds slivers for rice and pistachio granules for the green moong lentils.  

That rich khichri could pass for Mughals and elite but for a common person like me, a khichri is just the mixture of lentils and rice with the tadka of mustard seeds to be eaten with curd and papad during the time the stomach is too bad to digest any spicy food.

This delicacy is enjoyed in every culture, mostly during fast when cereals and grains are taboo and Saboodane ki khichri is preferred. In the month of Magh, it is considered obligatory for every pious Hindu to eat ‘Maash ki Khichri’ at least once during the month.

Indeed! This is one dish that is relished in all parts of India. You travel to the different parts of India, you get to see the variation of this dish. 

Go to Hyderabad, and you will be served breakfast with Khichri and Kheema, go to Rajasthan and you will have an unusual Baajre ki Khichri served with glass of Lassi, In Bengal it has its own version of Khichuri  ritually prepared in a celebratory way which is in no way inferior to pulav or briyani.

And this exactly is the dish I enjoy during DeviMata festival, when I go for langar (community meals) and this delicious kitchri is served with fried eggplant, lime pickle, and rosgollas.

It’s easy to make too

All we need is the right ingredients and the will to cook

Step one
Soak the mixture of 1 cup rice and 1 cup moong dhal for half an hour

Step two
Collect all the ingredients.

Step three
In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil, add 2 bay leaves, 1 inch cinnamon sticks, 2 split green cardamoms, 2 cloves, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp crushed garlic, 1 tsp crushed ginger, 3 chopped green chilies, stir and add 1 finely chopped onions, 1 chopped carrot, 1 chopped potato, 100gms peas, 2 finely chopped tomatoes.

Step four
Add the mixture of soaked rice and lentil, add salt, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp red chilie powder,  mix and add 2 glasses of water and let it cook

Step five
Mash it when cooked; keep it covered on a low flame for 5 minutes

Garnish with lime juice and coriander leaves

Serve with deep fried eggplant and deep fried rice wafers.

Remember: Khichdi can made into a gooey texture, a porridge like consistency, by increasing the quantity of water by approx 2-4 cups

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Nephew Cooks Exotic Meals For Me

When you belong to the family of food lovers you are likely to be satisfied during every casual gathering, for besides the idle chatter and jokes, food is a must. A visit to a restaurant or to some way side inn may bring equal amount of joy but nothing compares to the joy of cooking and eating together in the midst of aroma, and the steam filling the kitchen, it's altogether a difference experience when one is busy taking each bite in between the cooking, tasting for salt, chili, flavor and the joy of seeing the finished dish on the table which has been created from the ingredients which were spread before you in their raw state only a few moments ago. The rich flavors of the sauces and its' rich taste is the one to die for and the party continues, everybody eating and over-eating and still wanting some more till the tummy begins to protest and groan loud enough for us to stop.

Such is the beautiful moment that I experience each time I visit my family in Poona and this week-end it was no different.

It was the Easter week-end and this time, it was my nephew who volunteered to cook one of his specialties, steamed fish and wanton soup, which was decided after a reasonable thought given to many different options that included Dimsims too. For me, it didn’t matter, as long as I was to get some exotic food and that too at home.

The remarkable quality about my nephew’s cooking is that there is no recipe-book to refer to and all his dishes are made on instinct factor and of course there will be some accidents but all is taken in one’s stride, with due encouragement given periodically by his parents who themselves are good cooks, and can offer great culinary advice by just glancing at the dish.

So, when I went for evening walk with a friend down the lane (to be out of his way of cooking and prompting), I refused all the street food lined along the side-walks so that I could be hungry at dinner time and enjoy the flavors on an empty stomach.

At 9pm, the drool flooding my palate, I enter the house, to the sumptuous meal, only to see the kitchen with ingredients still scattered on the kitchen table. In moments like this a glass of drink would be an option, or should I nibble on something? I glanced at the wall clock and it stared back at me with a loud signal "Wait!"

The wanton were to be made of shrimps, but the frozen-last-minute-shopping-in-emergency shrimps were stale and after cooking they smelled terrible and had to find their exit into the garbage can, this had to be replaced by another-frozen-in-the-freezer-last-minute-no-choice-boneless-chicken. The wanton dough was rolled out into circles for the cooked-minced-filling but because the shrimps had to be replaced by chicken-filling, the wanton circles dried up during that lapse, therefore after filling, when they were dumped into the soup for boiling; it giggled and stubbornly oozed out the filling into the soup and it had to be remolded with wetting-and-making-it-behave-as-it-is-supposed-to-behave-that-means-not-sprouting-the-filling-and-floating-limply-with-a wrinkled-skin.

It was one of the worst days perhaps, because the mixie betrayed too and refused to work and all the grinding had to be done on a chopper, but the spirit did not drip and my nephew continued to cook, having promised to cook a tasty meal.

I waited, when finally nephew emerged from his kitchen, his face flushed red with steam and heat, nodding his head side-wise and announcing his regret at not being able to cook to perfection.

‘Aw’ said I,
‘Aw’ said his mom, 
‘Aw’ said his dad, 

All of us showing sympathy but encouraging him nevertheless adding that mistakes do happen even to the professionals.

We waited with bated breath as his dishes made appearance, one by one, at the dining table.

Nephew knows that the dish should be visually appetizing and his presentation did make us drool, The aroma that followed the steamed fish didn’t match the apology that came with it. The steamed fish was beautifully decorated with pakchoi, red capsicum, and spring onions. A spoonful of fish melted instantly into the mouth with the perfect flavors of sweet and salt exploding in the mouth. Within minutes, the fish disappeared from the plate leaving behind its bare bones; it was so tasty that only a yum was heard between the bites.

The soup was delicious too with wantons floating in the soup and the spring onion garnish making the dish more appetizing. The resulting dish was mind boggling and I was not surprised when I over-ate and didn’t stop until I burped. It was worth the wait, only two hours late.

But then most of the tastiest dishes are normally enjoyed at 11pm. Who was I to complain?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Quenching with Summer Drinks

Instant karma are the cocktails? Or so they say...Good Karma or bad karma, taste decides, if you like it then good Karma but if you hate it then bad

But when you chance upon the mixing techniques to enjoy the drink to perfection then its going to be only good Karma, right?

Well this Thursday, I got an invite to attend the workshop on ‘Mocktails and Bartending’ by mixologist Ameya Sharma at Nature’s basket at Bandra.

Beginning of the month, my shopping was overdue at this store and I needed to fill up my larder, this was the perfect timing for attending this workshop as well.

So before my tedious shopping of organic fruits, vegetables, cheese and sauces, and surf the shelves for something new, I could do for some drinks.

Nature's Basket has one small inner room where hard drinks are stocked on regular days, this is the room where workshops are normally held. Until last year, we watched demonstrations as standees, crowding around the table, but over the time it is getting more organized. There were twelve chairs in three rows plus another six plastic stools. A big LCD TV in one corner and four assistants for helping with serving and attending to the comfort of the audience and the host. The table was laden with different kind of juice packets, syrups and fresh fruits, cutlery, mixing jugs, muddler, strainers, cocktail shakers, measuring cups, glasses and many other accessories.

Word spreads fast, because the room was full, with hardly any space to move. The men who had come early to get the best seat, had to sacrifice their comfort for late comers, especially women who expected this service. The recipes of the drinks were handed out to all those present and it listed all the items that would be demonstrated during the evening. The session began with the short introduction of the accessories that are useful during mixing of drinks.

There is the way to shaking the cocktail shakers, “Shake it like so, on the side above your shoulders” he said showing the right direction "so as not to wet yourself during mixing of the drinks".

Volunteers from the audience were invited to replicate the method demonstrated by host, and one by one, the drinks were mixed to make it visually appealing and then poured into tiny glasses for tasting.

Beside the various drinks he also demonstrated different ways the glass of drink could be garnished: a curled lime rind, a fan shaped apple slices hinged on a tooth-pick, the salting of the rim. It made interesting visual impact.

After every demo, we were given a shot to taste

I am not sure how many such shots I took but I came home in a very pleasant mood.

Some of the one which I liked

Orange Julius

Mix and blend........ 
120ml orange juice
60ml milk
3-4 chunks fresh orange chunks
30ml vanilla syrup
30ml fresh cream
10 ice cubes

The taste was sweetest milky flavor

The Pom Pom

Mix and blend........ 
300ml apple juice
½ cup chopped apples
½ cup chopped pineapples
½ cup chopped peaches
30ml blood orange syrup
7-8 ice cubes.

There was a sweetish sour, crunchy taste of fruits from the tiny bits that had escaped during double straining of the juice

Off Shores

Mix and blend........ 
5-6 coriander leaves
8-10 mint leaves
6-8 drops Worcestershire sauce
2-3 drops tobacco
60ml guava juice
Pinch of salt
3 scoops of ice cubes.

This tasted like panipuri, sweet, sour and spicy

Many people asked different recipes for various drinks and Ameya patiently shared his recipes. My cousin had tipped me to ask the recipe of Pinacloda
And he obliged

Mix and blend........
Pineapple juice 120ml
Fresh cream 30ml
Coconut cream 30ml
Vanilla rum 30ml
White rum 60ml

image source

But looking at the ingredients I agree its High-CalAlcoholic Beverage to Avoid

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