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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Liebster Award Nominees


Thank you Anshie for liking my post and passing me the Liebster award..truly honored….Love your recipes on your cooking blog at Spiceroot. I picked up this award from your post of dessertParatha..quite innovative that dish..sweet  with raisins and cheese..hoping to try it some day…..for sure…Thank you for nominating me…..

As to what the Liebster Award is, it is an award for blogs that regularly contain great posts. Of course, the way the Liebster Award works is that once nominated, one nominated five other blogs for the award. Ultimately, it’s a way of recognizing those blogs one really appreciates.

As per tradition: Here are my five nominees:

Love the poetic prose of Sandy, my friend who writes between cups of coffee.

Nisha, my friend, who takes me to places while she travels with a purpose through her blog ‘Le Monde’

Anu, my friend who has ‘A Wandering Mind’ and so much to share about her travel adventures. I am especially awed by her postcards and stamps collection…….

T o my friend, Ramya who blogs honestly as a chronic thinker with ‘The Idea Smithy’ magic, and is always up to date with the latest trends.

To my friend, Aarti, whose pictures are delight to see and whose words flow easy on her blog and now she has a site of her own…..

Here is the Liebster award for you



Okay, I am not going to say that you have to do this, but it would be nice if you do it. Pass it on…….

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Eggplant is Actually a Purely Vegetarian Brinjal

Yeah..there is no egg in an eggplant........hehehe


When I was writing recipes for my cook book I was always confused what name should I give, In Sindhi we call it Vaagan, in Hindi we call it beyngan,  but to translate it into English was quite challenging, should I write brinjal, eggplant or aubergine?  Or maybe garden egg?  Or madapple?  This fleshy edible fruit/vegetable is known by different names and as many names that it has, that much more versatile it is and it has found its identity in every country around the world.

During my growing up years I have seen mom cook brinjals in variety of ways. Mom was very creative in her cooking. Even if she cooked the same vegetable every day, it was always cooked differently, so if we had deep fried brinjals with dry masalas sprinkle over it one day then it baigan ka barta the next day, sometimes it was used in the mixed bhajji or in Sindhi curry and sometimes cooked with raddish and tomatoes.

I especially liked the brinjal dip that we have with salads. She would use hung curd for this purpose, roast the brinjal over fire, peel and mash it with hung curd, add chilies, garlic, coriander leaves, salt and mix it in the blender.

This is one vegetable that I never made a fuss because I liked its sweetest pulpy taste.

It was when I had gone through a different cooks book that I was surprised to see it being relished all over the world.

I especially like the way Chinese use it in the most innovative way. The brinjals are peeled, sliced and deep fried and then stir fried with other vegetables to produce a beautiful vegetarian dish. The pulp retains its firmness because it is deep fried and Chinese sauces are easily absorbed by this vegetable.

This vegetable is very nutritious and it has healing powers. 
The peel or skin (deep blue/purple varieties) of aubergine has significant amounts of phenolic flavonoid phyto-chemicals called anthocyanins. Scientific studies have shown that these anti-oxidants have potential health effects against cancer, aging, inflammation, and neurological diseases.(source)

However, it is not recommended for pregnant women......

I am always confused when I see several variety of eggplant in the market. There is green long one, then a purple round one, there is one with light purple stripes, then tiny round ones. Oh! There are so many different types that you need to have a recipe in your head before buying them, Its funny how our brain works, as you eyes scan the vegetables, the recipes flips in our mind with each vegetable, helping us decide what we would like to buy and what recipe you are going to use. 

Strange..isn't it?

But while buying I always make sure that they are shiny, plump, firm, unwrinkled and heavy for its size. They should not have any scars or bruises. If I press a bit, it sinks in but it should spring back quickly to its shape.  Its better to cut it with stainless steel knife because carbon steel causes it to turn black.

I normally cut it and salt it for some time, wash and pat dry before cooking.

This week I made brinjal pickle. This is a very easy recipe and very tasty, It can keep for a week in the fridge and can be enjoyed with all meals. I have with khichri, puri, bakri roti or even just for time-pass.

Step one



I picked up one kilo of small round dark purple brinjals from market. Slit them lengthwise and boiled them in salty water till they were soft.  Discarded the water. (don't want that bitter, salty water with floating nutrients)

Step two


Grind 50 grams of garlic, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tbsp crushed mustard seeds, 1 tsp red chilie powder, 1 tsp salt, 50 grams dried red chilies into a smooth paste

Step three



In a sterilized jar, transfer the boiled brinjals, add the paste, add four glasses of water and 1 tbsp of oil. (you are drooling, right? I am too)

Step four



Cover it air-tight and keep it for two days, stirring occasionally, whenever you pass by the jar. Its like saying “hello, you okay?”  As you shake its tummy..er..I mean jar….

After two-three days you will see the color of the pickle change and oil begins to float. Take a spoonful to taste.

If it is spicy, sour and tasty, it’s ready to eat. To boost your ego, share it with friends………

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Food Bashing and Gnashing


The other day I was attending a food demonstration, the host used just 20% of the ingredients and the rest he just dumped it aside. One of the persons in the audience was offended and scolded him for wasting food.

In India, we worship food Goddess called ‘Aandata’. From childhood this fact is drilled into our head that one must never waste food and that we must fill our plate with only sufficient amount that we can finish it. Left-over are neatly packed and used for some other day. At every Indian festival, food is served with passion and even in communal kitchens; the food is prepared over the hymn in praise of Lord. People who dine in a restaurant pack a doggy-bag of the food that is left at the table, to pass it to a hungry beggar out on the street or bring it home for their next day breakfast.

So how do we react when we see people waste food?

Or throw the food around just for a thrill?

Image source
 The girl in this picture is not only wasting tomatoes but is somersaulting in tomato sauce!

LaTomatina Festival is celebrated in Bruno, Spain where they have tomato fights for over two hours.  Such festivals will never be allowed in India. Indians, who saw this festival in a Bollywood film ‘Zindagi nah Milagi Dubara’, tried to replicate this festival in places like Delhi. Bangalore and Mysore but were unsuccessful because like I said before ‘We don’t believe in wastage of food in any form’ unless of course if it is wheat grains in Punjab which is allowed to rot because of lack of storage space.

But that’s another story.

In Bruno, Spain, the tomatoes are specially grown for this festival and there is a ritual to be followed. The first event of the Tomatina begins with ‘Palo Jamon’ which is a greasy pole with a ham on the top. While one person tries to reach the ham through greasy pole, the crowd grows frenzy with singing a dancing and showering sprays of water from hose in an effort to drop him off the pole. As soon as someone is able to drop the ham off the pole, the signal for tomato fight is given with tomato squashed and thrown at each other.

And they paint the city red…..

Image source

Another fruit that is found in abundance in Spain is grapes. If you walk in the rural areas of Spain, you are likely to find bunches of grapes peeping over the ledge. You may pluck the grape and chew while you jog or feast your eyes till the grapes rot. In the town of Haro in the La Rioja region of northern Spain is the festival called a ‘Batalla de Vino’ or ‘Battle of Wine’ whereby the buckets and buckets of wine are poured at each other just like we play Holi in India. The goal is to drench everybody in wine from top to bottom.

Now, would we waste so much wine in India?

In another small Italian town called Ivrea, thousands of oranges arrive in the city during the festival calledBattle of Oranges’ whereby there is flinging of oranges with great force between teams to celebrate the town’s defiance against the ruling tyrant who was eventually killed by a local miller’s daughter.

Image source
 In Italy this playing with oranges and squashing them during food fight is not considered as waste because these are the leftovers from annual harvest and would have to be destroyed under EU rules.

Maybe they don’t know the recipe of orange squash?….er…or the fact that they can export it to neighboring countries?

Sometimes the waste is not for fun or to celebrate some festival, but waste is the result fight against the law makers.

Image source
During my visit to Boston some years ago, I looked deeply into the Charles river to check the color of the water as I imagined it to be of dark brown color. The tourist guide informed me about the wastage of 342 chest of tea that was dumped into the river in the course of three hours by Americans dressed in Mohawk warrior disguises back in the year 1773. The river was deep brown color for months after this revolution and I wondered what it must have looked like as the river flowed, passing through different surrounding cities. Did the people bend down to taste the waters? Or did they add lime and had green tea?


 The Boston tea party has often been referred in other political protests. When Gandhi met with the British viceroy in 1930 after Indian salt protest campaign, Gandhi took some duty free salt from his shawl and said with a smile, that the salt was “to remind us of the famous Boston Tea party.”

Food is the favorite subject in every home and many of the cuisines can be created or improved upon. There are many food channels on TV which inspires us to cook various recipes. MasterChef is the favorite TV channel which is enjoyed world over but nothing beats the culinary Olympics called ‘Bocuse d’Or’, the two-day, biennial global culinary contest founded by the 84-year-old master, Paul Bocuse, and considered by organizers the Olympics of cooking.

Image source

This is the interesting event where chefs are invited from all parts of the world and throughout the day, the commentators pumped up the crowd, encouraging ear-piercing whistles, hoots, cowbells, chants, shouts and there is a loud playing of recorded songs. Accuracy is not the top priority of the commentary at all, be it in English or in French. Pine nuts become peanuts; beef becomes buffalo. Bread sounds like thread. The fish and meat dishes all get mixed up and I am sure lots of food gets wasted at this event too……although they do lose points if they waste too much…..

The food fight goes on around the world for different reasons, some for entertainments while others for getting even, but if u decide to waste, then just waste on pepper spray to show anger and on cream confetti oozing out of the can for fun….... tried those???

Friday, May 11, 2012

Snacks and Finger Food Cooking Demonstration


Normally people enjoy finger food more than the actual dinner at social events. Most of the conversation takes place over drinks and one is not aware of the quantity one has consumed during conversation and drinks. Therefore making a variety of snacks becomes mandatory and involves lots of creative activity and playing around with ingredients to produce innovative dishes.

Making Samosas, bhajiyas and patties is become quite old fashioned, though they do appear on tables sometimes but a creative dish has a charm of its own. There are more dips and roasted snacks that are now preferred by diet conscious individuals and for people who want to spend more than two hours just snacking and drinking, the continuous supply of variety of snacks becomes important and is popular.

When I received an invitation to attend the snack and finger food cooking demonstration, it was one more opportunity to learn the same things different way. Since making a snack is a creative cooking, therefore one cannot actually learn but new ideas do crop up when we watch others cooking their own way. Chef Thomas Zacharias from Olive Bar & Kitchen was the host of this demonstration. I reached early and got to meet another food blogger who blogs on ingredients and does lots of research before blogging. It was nice interacting with her.

The table was laden with salt, pepper, mayonnaise, paprika and the different bowls that would be required during the cooking. There were four rows of four chairs each placed in front of the cooking station. A big LCD screen, ready with the camera focused on the demo-table occupied one corner of the small room. There were about thirty attendees, most of them house-wives and also some bloggers and food-writers.

The session began with Daredevilled Eggs



Chef gave us the tips on perfect boiling of the egg saying that eggs be immersed into cold water, adding salt and vinegar and then boiled till water bubbles, the fire is then put off and the eggs are kept covered for 14 minutes, then removed and transferred into ice-cold water.

He took 10 eggs and boiled them. The eggs are then sliced into two and the yellow is removed into the separate bowl. It is then combined with 1/2cup mayonnaise, 1tbsp spicy paprika, I lemon juice, 1 tbsp of mustard sauce, salt and pepper. It is mixed properly till it becomes creamy, then transferred into a piping bag and piped into the halved eggs. It is garnished with paprika and coriander leaves and refrigerated till it is ready to serve.

Boiled egg yolk combined with mayonnaise gave it a creamy feel and it melted immediately filling the mouth with its rich taste. I liked this snack because it can be made before hand and served cold; this gives us more time to spend with the guest.

This was followed by vegetarian Mushroom snack called Feta Mushrooms


This required large button mushrooms which can be cleaned in plain flour solution which helps extract dust from mushrooms. The stems are removed carefully so as to cause a dent for filling.

10 medium size mushrooms were marinated in the mixture of 1 cup Olive oil, 2-3 chopped Rosemary twigs, 2-3 chopped thyme twigs, salt and pepper.

A cheese stuffing was prepared by blending 1 cup feta cheese with 2 tbsp of Parmesan cheese.

Caramelized onions were prepared by sautéing 3 onions on medium heat till they become translucent. Salt, pepper and 3 tbsp of Balsamic vinegar is then added and cooked till all the water has evaporated and onions are caramelized.

Caramelized onions are used to stuff the dent in the mushrooms and is coated with mixture of blended cheese and baked in the oven till the top layer of cheese is browned.

Finally the Warrior Wings with Blue Cheese Dip


Blue cheese dip is made by mixing 1 cup of mayonnaise with ½ cup blue cheese, 2 cloves of finely chopped garlic, and 2tbsp of finely chopped celery, 2 tbsp milk, ¼ lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. It can be stored in the fridge till it is ready to serve.

 In another plateful of 2 cups of flour, 2 tbsp of paprika, salt and pepper is added and 2 kg of chicken wings are dusted with this powder and deep fried then dropped into the mixture of BBQ sauce and Buffalo wings sauce.

Most of the people liked this chicken wings preparation the best which was slimy because it was being coated with sauce and then served with dip.

What new did I learn? Actually nothing new, I have prepared these snacks many times, often creating new snacks on the spot, of which I have no clue when people ask me for a recipe, or ask me to prepare again and I cannot repeat the taste even if I use the same ingredients. Nevertheless I do enjoy these demo, because I get to taste and compare my cooking with the professionals and come back with feel-good-factor-clinging-on-my-bonnet.

Monday, May 7, 2012

DimSum at ChurchGate Station

Large crowd of people pass through Churchgate station at all hours of the day. During the peak hours, there is just enough space to walk in the same lane where the crowd is moving, it is not possible to stand or even to bend down to scratch your knee. However there are quite a few kiosks tucked on the side of the passage that sell fast food like Frankie, Batatawadas, samosas, puri bhajji and other fried stuff and there is also one tiny room that sells Dim sum, fried rice, noodles and some delicious soup.



Many years ago, on my visit to Cantonese restaurant in Hongkong, I was highly impressed by a waitress, who carted around from table to table with assorted dim sum, and we had the freedom to select our preference, and take as many as we wanted. “How do they bill us?” I had asked my cousin and she told me she counted the plates on my table and charged according to the size and the number of the plates. I will never forget that evening when I had the tastiest dim sums of different fillings that ranged from stir fried vegetables to minced meat, fish, pork, chicken and many other variety, that was the first time that I had ever tasted something so slimy that melted in my mouth leaving behind the delicious taste.

Image source
"Originally a Cantonese custom, dim sum is inextricably linked to the Chinese tradition of "yum cha" or drinking tea. Teahouses sprung up to accommodate weary travelers journeying along the famous Silk Road. Rural farmers, exhausted after long hours working in the fields, would also head to the local teahouse for an afternoon of tea and relaxing conversation.
 Still, it took several centuries for the culinary art of dim sum to develop. At one time it was considered inappropriate to combine tea with food: a famous 3rd century Imperial physician claimed this would lead to excessive weight gain. As tea's ability to aid in digestion and cleanse the palate became known, tea house proprietors began adding a variety of snacks, and the tradition of dim sum was born." (Source)


In Mumbai, people have developed taste for this dish mainly because it is nutritious and it is steamed. Many stalls just specializing in dim sum have sprung up in different parts of Mumbai, so it’s no surprise that there is one at Churchgate station too.


What attracts you is the sign outside the restaurant that says Dim Sum and more. Many people stop by the little window and pack the steamed Dimsum with garlic sauce for their long train journey, but for those who decide to eat inside the tiny room, there are high bar stools and tables where one can comfortably dine. It’s a tiny room which can seat just 10 persons, shoulder to shoulder and if you are lucky to find a seat, then it’s worth it, because you can sit and enjoy the hot delicious Chinese meal which is cooked in small portions just for you.


The menu card has limited dishes but they are worth it. At Rs50 a plate of 6 pieces of Dimsum and Rs28 for a bowl of soup, it makes a fair bargain. The place is quite clean and food quite satisfying.


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