Saturday, 30 July 2011

Crispy Fried Prawns

I usually try to record the happy and funny things that happen to me in this blog, and sometimes think for ages wondering what will make interesting reading, am i boring my occasional readers? And especially the odd reader who comes back. And in this quest, i read a lot of blogs. So many that my husband is amused at my addiction. And sometimes not so amused when i forget to cook lunch or dinner losing myself in a really interesting read. Two days ago, i somehow found my way into this non-food blog that wasn't telling you the happy things. It was about talking truths that people usually would not talk about, mostly because it is not considered polite conversation. I loved her writing so much, i ignored all else, my own blog included, and spent a whole 72 hours going through her archive and old blogs. I am glad there is a person like that who shares her experiences to the world, making it easier for people like me who will never open up as much.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Easy Indian Potato Curry

Potatoes are possibly the most ubiquitous food. I am yet to hear of any cuisine that never cook with potatoes. And with all that starch, a real comfort food too. There are possibly a million ways to cook potato and i may have tasted a few dozen. In the cities of west bengal in India, and i have lived two years each in two cities, potatoes are used in almost all their meals. During my student days in the city with the longest railway platform, our meals were cooked in the canteen of the student hall of residence, we had very little say over what was served to us. The only choice was eat or don't. (Wow, suddenly makes me realise how much luckier i am now to be able to cook and eat all this variety of meals!) Yes, we did have student body meetings and decide a weekly menu for the next month, but more often than not, the cook would make what he wanted. When confronted, he always had the same excuse - couldn't get the ingredients of the set menu within budget. So he added potatoes!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Bachali kura pappu/ Malabar Spinach curry

The weekend was hectic. I made mushroom pizza for Saturday lunch. Dad was in town on Saturday and i cooked him some dinner. I made him some plain Naan and served it with chicken curry. And later made myself some masala Naan that i had with the potato curry leftover from here. And since i also wanted to give him something special to take home to mom, i baked this cake again earlier in the day and packed it for him. On sunday, we went to a housewarming get-together and i got to eat my favourite Hyderabadi Biryani for lunch there. The recipes for the new stuff i cooked on the weekend will have to wait, because i have decided that i will first tell you more about what i cooked for lunch today.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Tendli Fry/ Dondakaya Fry

I used to eat this a lot when i was young, still do, but never knew what it was called in English. It was only after i started shopping in these huge supermarkets in Hyderabad that i was enlightened with the English and Hindi names of the vegetables for which i only knew Telugu names till then. And for the purpose of this blog i even did some google searching and wikipedia reading. My finding was that what i fondly called dondakaya in Telugu is called Coccinia grandis (ah, sounds grand!) or Ivy gourd in English and Tendli in Hindi and a lot of other names in other languages which you can search yourself, if really interested. Also, its supposed to contain beta-carotene. And my lesson on this vegetable comes to an end.
Don't go away yet. I am now going to tell you how you can turn the tender green fruits (vegetable actually, despite what wikipedia calls it) of this exotic tropical vine plant into delicious food. And how very simple it is too. You just cut them into whatever shape you like, shallow fry them for a while in a little oil, season them and you are done. You can eat it straight away based on the amount of seasoning you add, or like us Indians, add a lot of salt and mix it with rice as a curry. If you would like a little more specific instructions, below is my recipe for dondakaya fry, i mean tendli fry, i mean {insert whatever you call it in your mother tongue}.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Fluffy Puri/ Poori/ Indian puffed fried flatbread

Would you believe me if i told you that i have not cooked puris even once in almost two years of married life, until last night? And its not even that i am not fond of them. My mom loves to recount how i would sit next to her in the kitchen when she was making puris and ask to be served fluffy puffed puris straight from the frying fan. It was a favourite breakfast item growing up. And yet i was afraid to make them in my own kitchen for the fear of not getting  them right. 
Last night, i found out all my fears were for nothing.I did make wonderfully puffed up puris and the process was not at all difficult. It is here that i should admit i read through a lot of food blogs in the last six months and read puri tips and tricks at different places, of course some contradicting each other as is bound to happen when there are so many people talking about it. So i will tell you the tips i have followed, also having talked to my mom and mother-in-law before making these. Oh, and it would be remiss if i didn't mention here that my mother-in-law makes the most wonderful puris i have ever eaten, every single one of them always puff up, they are all evenly golden brown and taste delicious. Every single time!
La's Tips
  • Mix the dough and allow to rest for 30 minutes to one hour. This will make the dough softer and allow for softer puris. This process will NOT cause the puris to soak more oil.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Jackfruit seeds curry/ Panasa ginjala kura

We love jackfruit, finally a food that the husband and i both love. The ripe fruit in its golden yellow colour, and delicious smell beckons to me, every time i open the fridge. We eat little else for snacking any time of the day when there is jackfruit at home. And the jackfruit season is one time i feel lucky to be living in India (that's compared to the times when i can't get fresh rosemary or blueberries or leeks or fennel or basil or.. you get the point, things like that at reasonable prices) lucky to be able to buy a whole big fruit at the farmer's market, to be able to get the vendor to do the messy job of cutting it open and picking the juicy, fleshy, yellow, eatable bits out. All fresh, possibly organic and at totally affordable prices. You gotta love it.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Lemon and Herb Grilled Chicken Breasts

Chicken happens to be our favourite non vegetarian item. Lamb, fish, shrimp and squid are only occasional boredom busters. Most Indians i know (at least those living in India) only cook chicken into different curries to be eaten as a side dish with rice or rotis. Almost never as the main dish to be eaten with a side salad or vegetables. I was like that too until a year ago. But because we like chicken so much, we are always looking for new ways to cook it. Our current favourite is the soy grilled variety, that's how most of the chicken breasts that gets into our fridge finally end up on the table these days.
One day i was watching the food programme Gourmet Central on ndtv goodtimes channel where the chef Vicky Ratnani made a herb marinade. All i remembered about it later was that it was green, and had coriander, mint and lemon it. Then i made up my version in a week to experiment on chicken. And you get to see my recipe here. Oh, i forgot to tell you that i really enjoyed the chicken, although if i have to be honest, soy grilled might still be the favourite.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Simple Tangy Lemon Rice

A few years ago, when i was living in Melbourne, i hardly did any cooking. Most days i would eat both lunch and dinner out. Breakfast was the only thing i would definitely eat at home, not because i was conscious about getting a healthy start to the day, but because i would be hungry within ten minutes of waking up and was too lazy to get to work early enough to eat breakfast out. I was working in the office tower adjoining Melbourne Central with its huge shopping area and numerous food outlets. You could have something new for lunch everyday and never get bored. And i was living within walking distance from my work place. So why would i even think about cooking? There was another senior work colleague P, and we were the only two people from India working in that project in Melbourne. Mr P had never been out of India before that, and had never had to cook for himself, and as a typical old-school type Indian husband - he had always had a woman cook for him. I think he did experiment with cooking in Melbourne, seeing as i was never going to cook or invite him to home-cooked meals. But what i am getting to is that, one day i did invite him (and another senior lady colleague who was there for a fortnight) to dinner on a work day. Not before several hints that they wanted to try out the cooking of this young girl they were working with.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Black Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

My initial yeast-bread making experiments were a disaster. I mean if you can’t eat a single bite from a loaf of bread and have to throw away whole loaves, you can call it little else. It was a real humbling experience – baking breads. For most of my life, I could succeed fairly well in anything I took up, while also making it appear effortless to on-lookers. Whether it was studies or sports or stove-top cooking too, to an extent. I had very rarely had criticism from others. So I wasn’t too pessimistic about trying yeast breads, i looked for the easiest recipe and went ahead. There was a banana cardamom loaf that was under-baked inside with a blackened bottom. There were multiple attempts at baking Indian dinner rolls (the pav of pav bhaji fame) which simply refused to rise vertically and would instead spread horizontally, and having puffed up outside the oven, would deflate once inside to become biscuits instead of bread. Oh, the experience scarred me. Pizzas were the saving grace, which brought me back to befriend yeast again. Oh and the beloved orange bread i talked about in a previous post too.

But I still had my eyes on Focaccia for a while now, having bought it from a supermarket a few months ago, one of the very few types of bread the picky eater in our house actually picked up. Most of the focaccia recipes called for a herb called Rosemary. And it needs to be fresh. Welcome to another ingredient that is hard to find in Hyderabad. To my delight, I came across a little bunch of fresh organic Rosemary in this supermarket called Spar in central Hyderabad. I almost squealed and jumped in delight. Then I left it sitting in the fridge for a week or more. When it was almost drying out, I finally decided Sunday night was a good enough time to make my first focaccia at home. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Awesome Cocoa Brownies

Brownies are a beloved favourite for all chocolate fanatics. Don't be mistaken that it took me this long to try out some brownies, having started off with a chocolate cake recipe. No, i tried one a few months ago, for which i can't remember the recipe source. What I can remember is that it was not worthy of talking to you about. It looked more like a dense cake that forgot to rise or become fluffy and had cracks all over the surface. The husband had one look at the finished product and pronounced it ready for the trash can. I blamed myself, not the recipe, for the failure and kept away till now. But wait, why i am telling you so much about the wrong brownie. This post is about the one I baked last night, the one that turned out awesome. You don't need 70% dark chocolate for this brownie, just cocoa powder and butter and sugar and eggs will produce this rich, fudgey, chocolaty brownie.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Orange chocolate chunk cake/ Birthday Cake

My blog turned 1 month old on July 6th and i got invited to my nephew's birthday party who turned 8 on the same day. I couldn't have been happier to get this wonderful opportunity to bake a birthday cake! I wanted a cake that could hold its own without icing and was rich enough for a birthday kid. This was one cake where i wasn't going to substitute the usual low fat vegetable oil in place of butter. No, it was going to be rich, creamy butter all the way.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Chocolate Peanut Spread

Ever since i first saw 'make your own nutella' on SmittenKitchen website a few months ago, it has stayed resolutely in the back of my mind. Maybe even displaced other more important things in that little brain space. For those in India who don't usually have bread for breakfast, Nutella is a sweet hazelnut spread with cocoa. I suspect millions have it as part of their breakfast everyday around the globe. It is now available in supermarkets in India but quite expensive as it is imported. I have a weakness for all things chocolate and have been eyeing Nutella for a while now - though i don't care much for Hazelnuts. Sometimes i involuntarily reach up to the Nutella bottle on the grocery aisle, turn it around in my hand and decide it is still too expensive. I won't lie, this has happened a few times now. 
Saturday night i found myself home alone, when the husband went off for a boys night out and two of my girlfriends couldnt make it to a get-together (OK i am partly to blame, i called them at the last minute). Still, it only meant that the time was ripe for making my own choco-nut-spread. And i went looking for the recipe online again. I have followed the ingredient list as is but changed the method quite a bit to suit my kitchen. And while we are on the subject, i think you can do without the extra 1/4 cup of sugar. One cup should suffice.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Spicy Puffed Rice Snack (Maramaralu)

Is it just me or do most people's list of must have three meals of the day consist of breakfast, lunch and dinner? The man i cook for, however, doesn't fall in this category. His list instead has lunch, evening snack and dinner in it. Just the way i can barely live without breakfast - and must have it within the first hour of waking up, he definitely needs his evening snack. 
While chicken/shrimp snacks are preferred, there are no strict rules in what is acceptable. When i am feeling really lazy, raw mango slices with a side of salt and red chili powder mix is graciously accepted. Ain't i lucky to have this man :-)
So when i am feeling generous, i make him (t)his favourite puffed rice snack. Don't tell him how easy this is to make. At least, not yet. Of course, when i am feeling really generous, or when he absolutely demands it, i make the little more time consuming chicken wings too.
When you are hungry and want something tasty to eat this very instant, look no further than this light and healthy snack. And next time don't forget to get a big bag of puffed rice into that grocery list.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Unripe almonds on tree

Does that sound like an exotic recipe name? Well, I am actually talking about an almond tree i spotted the other day and couldn't stop clicking at. Now having downloaded the pics onto my computer only hours ago, i wanted to post them here right away. 
Little kids were pelting stones at the tree to get the occasional ripe fruit to fall down. While i was looking at them, one of them came forward and offered to climb the tree and pluck the fruits right out with a higher percentage of success, and the other kids gladly agreed. That kid is on the tree in this below pic and already climbed quite high. Can you spot the kid on the tree in this pic? One foot is clearly visible and the rest of the person is camouflaged behind the large leaves of the tree. You can zoom in on the picture for a better view.

And can you count how many green and purple almonds there are on this tree - within the below picture that is. 
I spent a few minutes counting. My count was 29. Just for fun, let me know your count too - do you match me or beat me? Waiting to hear your comments.
Happy Weekend! :-)

Roasted Bell Pepper and Onion Pizza

It has become a bit of a ritual for us to have pizza for weekend lunch. You see, we still have Pizza cravings when Pizza Hut's 99 rupee three course meal is no longer valid after Friday night. Oh yes, we still eat Pizza not baked in my kitchen. I didn't mislead you into thinking that i cook everything i eat now, did i? Sorry, but a girl can only get so much inspiration from reading food blogs and watching food shows on TV. She's gotta go out and see the variations in the real thing, sometimes.
Let me apologize first for the poor quality pics of the finished Pizza. I was too hungry to click proper pics and as you can see from the above photo, i could not even wait to slice the entire pizza to start eating. There will be better pictures next time. I promise to show more restraint. So please just take my word that this definitely tastes better than it looks, will you?
Well, I don't believe that there is a perfect pizza out there, just waiting to be discovered. I think this is one food where any amount of creativity can't hurt. We might each swear by a particular combination of toppings as our favourite but that wouldn't stop us from trying out the latest variety being zoomed into our computer screens by the endless deals being advertised.