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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spicy Sweet Potatoes (Chatpati Shakarkandi)

An easy and spicy curry made with sweet potatoes, this one goes well with Kuttu (buckwheat) parathas/puris or Rajgira ( Amaranthus ) parathas/puris. Spiced generously with chili and peppers, and dry mango powder providing the necessary tang, this one is a sure winner.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 sweet potatoes (or 2 cups boiled, peeled & cubed )
  • 1-2 green chili
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 pinch asafoetida
  • 1/3 tsp chili powder
  • 2 pinch pepper powder
  • 1/2 tsp amchur/dry mango powder
  • black salt/rock salt/sendha namak
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp ghee/clarified butter

Preparation - Cut the sweet potato into 3 inch long pieces. Put in a pressure cooker with 1 cup water and cook for 2-3 whistles. Keep aside till steam escapes.

Peel them and cut into smaller discs.

Cooking - Heat the oil and ghee in a wok.

Add the green chili and cumin seeds. Once the spluttering stops, add the sweet potato and fry for 1-2 mins.

Add all the spice powders and salt. Sprinkle a bit of water. Fry them till the spices form a layer around the potato pieces.

Serve hot with Kuttu/Rajgire paratha/puris.

Sabudana Vada

Sabudana being loaded with carbohydrates (starch) is an ideal choice for fasting days. Most of the recipes are easy, quick and tasty. One such example is the Sabudana Vada, crispy and lightly spiced fritters of sago, potato and peanuts.

Quite happy with my first attempt. The vadas turned out crisp on the outside and soft inside without absorbing too much oil. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1/2 cup sabudana
  • 1 cup mashed potato
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 3-4 tbsp roasted and lightly crushed peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped green chilis
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp finely chopped coriander leaves
  • 1/2-1 tsp lemon juice
  • salt to taste
  • oil for deep frying

Preparation - Soak the sabudana overnight (or lesser time for smaller pearls). Strain to remove all excess water (this is important)

Take the sabudana in a mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients except for the oil. Mix into a dough.

Grease your palms with a little oil. Pinch small portions of the dough, roll into balls and flatten them. Make sure they are not very thick as the center will not be cooked properly.

Cooking - Heat sufficient oil in a wok. Add the flattened dics 2-3 at a time. Fry on both sides till light brown. Make sure that the flame is kept medium high so that the vadas do not absorb excess oil.

Remove from the wok and place on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Repeat for the remaining dough.

Serve hot with a chutney.

Note - It is important to test the soaking time of the sabudana before making the vadas. The tiny varieties need only half an hour to become soft and mushy. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Plantain Chips

Another chips recipe for Navratri !! This time is it with green bananas. Very useful when entertaining guests/friends over those nine days of fasting.

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1  green banana
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • red chilli powder
  • salt as per taste
  • oil for deep frying (rice bran/sunflower/olive)

Preparation - Peel the banana and dip them in ice cold water to which salt and turmeric have been added. (this prevents discoloration)

Cooking - Heat oil in wok. Directly slice the bananas into the hot oil, a few at a time. Fry on both sides till crisp.

Remove from wok and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil Sprinkle the salt and pepper on the hot chips and toss to coat them. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container once cooled.

Sweet Potato Chips

Another easy Navratri recipe with sweet potatoes (Shakarkandi) !! Comes handy when entertaining guests/friends over those nine days of fasting.

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 Sweet potato 
  • freshly crushed pepper or pepper powder
  • rock salt as per taste
  • oil for deep frying (rice bran/sunflower/olive)

Preparation - Peel the sweet potato and make thin slices (thinner the better). 

Cooking - Heat oil in wok. Add the sweet potato slices a few at a time. Fry on both sides till crisp.

Remove from wok and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil Sprinkle the rock salt and pepper on the hot chips and toss to coat them. Serve immediately or store in an air-tight container once cooled.

Note - One can also use table salt instead of rock salt.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kacche kele ki subzi (Navratri special)

This is one of my the favorite Navratri recipes. Got it from Tarla Dalal's cookbook and have loved it ever since. Frugal and tasty without much effort. And green banana being one of its kind is a low calorie source of carbohydrates and is rich in dietary fiber. They make one feel full as well as help the body burn fats.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 10-15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 green bananas
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 green chili
  • a sprig curry leaves
  • 2 pinch asafoetida
  • 4 tbsp curd
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp ghee
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Peel and cube the bananas. Put them into salted cold water immediately.

Beat the curd with a little water to break any lumps.

Cooking - Boil water in a saucepan and add a little salt and turmeric to it. Add the banana pieces and cook till done but not mushy. Strain the water and keep aside.

Heat the oil and ghee in a wok. Add the broken green chili and cumin seeds followed by the asafoetida and curry leaves.

Add the banana pieces and fry for 2 mins.

Add the beaten curd along with salt and mix everything. Cook till the curd dries and forms a layer around the banana pieces. Remove from flame.

Serve with white rice or rotis.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Book Review: The Lives Of Others (By Neel Mukherjee)

This post has been moved to my other blog. Read HERE.

Pulihora/Tamarind Rice (Navratri Special)

Pulihora is one of the offerings (Neivaidyams) made to the goddess in South Indian during Navratri. A simple recipe without any fussy ingredients, it is quick to make and quite tasty. While one does get some packaged Pulihora mixes in the supermarkets, it can be easily made at home without one.

Read for the easy recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins.

Ingredients - 

1/3 cup raw rice
4-5 cashews
a fistful of peanuts
2-3 tbsp gram/chana dal
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 red chilis
a sprig of curry leaves
1 tbsp tamarind paste (adjust as per taste)
1 tsp jaggery (powdered)
salt to taste
3 tsp oil

Cooking - Cook the rice in a pressure cooker or an open pan till it is soft. Keep aside.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds followed by the chana dal and peanuts. Allow to brown a little. At last, add the cashews and curry leaves. Fry for 15 seconds.

Add the tamarind paste with a little water, jaggery and salt. Cook for 3-4 mins.

Add the rice and mix thouroughly.

Serve hot.

Watch out this space for more Navratri recipes (both from North & South India) ......

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shakarkandi Chaat (Navratri Special)

Shakarkandi Chaat is a famous Delhi street food that it very common during the winters. While I have never seen it in any of the cities that I have lived in, I came to know about it from a neighbor of mine. We happened to be discussing pregnancy cravings and she mentioned that she had lost all her appetite during those nine months. "Lucky you", all the ladies chipped in. A very natural reaction (and laced with some envy too) for all those who had experienced such cravings and were still in the process of losing all those pounds gained as a result of gorging on sweets and other high calorie stuff. Coming back to my neighbour, as she continued to share her stories about how people around her would try and get her to eat, one particular recipe caught my attention. The description of a yummy sweet potato and fruit chaat prepared by her grandmother-in-law almost reduced my mouth into a pool of saliva. This was something I had to try at least once.

I made a small change in her recipe by omitting the fruit. And it turned out to be just yummylicious. Read on for this simple 'phalahari' chaat which is very apt for the Navratri -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

2 cups boiled/baked, peeled & cubed sweet potato
1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 tsp lemon juice
rock salt as desired

Preparation - Take all the ingredients in a mixing bowl. Toss well.

Serve immediately.

Note - One can also add sliced bananas, pomegranate, nylon sev, amchur/chaat masala, coriander leaves, green chilis, etc to spice it up further.

Capsicum- Mushroom Korma

An easy vegetarian korma !! Or a toned down version of the luxurious gravy dish that most people remember savoring at a restaurant !! My modified version is one that can be had on a everyday basis and it goes equally good with both rice and rotis.

It is somewhat similar to ( and inspired by ) the mushroom-capsicum curry that we make with mustard sauce in Odisha. Do check the recipe (HERE)

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 200 gm button mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped capsicum
  • 1 medium sized boiled potato (boiled, peeled & cubed)
  • 1 medium sized tomato 
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 inch ginger
  • 4-5 garlic flakes
  • 1-2 dry red chilli
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 green cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 8-9 cashews
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • coriander for garnishing

Preparation - Clean the mushrooms and cut each one into 4 pieces along the length.

Chop the tomato into small pieces.

Grind the onion, ginger, garlic, red chili, 2/3 tsp cumin seeds, cardamom and cinnamon into a smooth paste using as little water as possible. Keep aside.

Similarly, soak the cashews for half an hour in warm water before grinding them into a smooth paste.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the cumin seeds and allow them to splutter.

Add the onion and spices paste to the wok. Fry lightly till the raw smell just goes off. Add the tomato and cover for 1 minute to allow the tomatoes to soften.

Add the mushrooms, capsicum and potato to the wok. Stir fry on high heat for 3-4 mins till you can see the mushrooms starting to shrink.

Add 1 cup hot water to the wok along with salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and allow to simmer on low flame.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, add the cashew paste and mix well. Allow the curry to simmer for 3-4 mins. Finally garnish with corinader leaves before removing from the flame.

Serve hot or warm.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Online Grocery Shopping Creating a Buzz (Guest Post for 27Coupons)

With grocery predicted to be a US$ 11 trillion market globally by 2018 (Reference) and India poised to overtake Japan as the third largest market by 2016 (after China and USA), it hardly comes as a surprise that every investor worth his salt (or shares) want a share of this ever mushrooming pie. But even the most hardcore of shopping fans or shopoholics as we put them, would concede that shopping for grocery is only marginally better than the proverbial pain in the ass. And this is where the new age grocers or e-grocers like Bigbasket, Zopnow, Aaramshop, Ezkart, etc step in. Helped by technology like real-time monitoring and predictive data analysis, they promise to take the pain and drudgery out of shopping for groceries through online grocery shopping.
Leading the pack is Bigbasket which has a presence in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai and plans to expand its operations to Pune and Delhi within the next six months. With over 12,000 products across categories like Fruits & Vegetables, Grocery & Staples, Bread Dairy & Eggs, Beverages, Branded Foods, Personal Care, Household, Imported & Gourmet, Meat, Frozen Foods, etc, it offers a customized shopping experience by allowing one to shop from his/her previous order or an online shopping list or even a smart basket which consists of the frequently bought products for the customer. This flexibility of choices certainly helps, when one is hard pressed for time or keeps shopping for the same items/products at regular intervals. Orders below Rs 1000 attract a delivery charge of Rs 20 while above Rs 1000, the delivery is free of cost. You can use theircoupons to use some of their current offers. Also, there is no minimum order value which comes a boon for folks who are hard-pressed for time. Bigbasket offers an option of 4 time slots in a day, starting from 7 am and stretching till 10 pm. Customers can choose a slot as per their convenience. With real-time tracking in place, the customers receive regular notifications about the status of their order via SMS. Customers also have the option to return/decline a particular product if they are not satisfied with it. COD (Cash on Delivery) is also available. No doubt online grocery shopping has picked up in various cities where they are serving.
Bigbasket has a delivery model which is very logistic intensive as they are involved in every step starting from the point the order is placed to the final delivery which happens at the customer’s doorstep. ‘Till the last mile’ is how V.S. Sudhakar, one of the co-founders of Bigbasket puts it. The company has recently raised Rs 200 Cr funding from VC firms Helion and Zodius Fund II with Avendus in the second round of its capital raising. With this move the less than 3 year old company reaches a 1000 Cr plus valuation. The founders plan to use it for expansion to 10 cities by end of year 2015 and acquiring cutting edge technology solutions that will help understand/predict consumer habits and improved online grocery delivery. According to a report in the Economic Times, the company has crossed an annual revenue of Rs 250 crore and are growing at 10 percent month on month. They currently execute over 5000 orders per day and have recently reached the milestone of one million delivered orders. The shrewd use of technology and the vast domain experience of the founders (they had previously launched Fabmall, the pioneer of online shopping in India in 1999. The ensuing dot-com bust made them convert it to a chain of 200 plus offline grocery stores in South India. They were later on sold to the Aditya Birla group and re-branded as ‘More.’) ensures that every order remains profitable.
Ever since I started shopping with Bigbasket (sometime in late 2012), I have seen them introduce innovative features and products on a regular basis. They have recently introduced a recipes section on their website on a pilot basis. The ingredients used in a particular recipe are clearly mentioned and linked to the page which lists out the various varieties and brands available. Quite an useful feature as it saves one valuable time and effort that would otherwise be wasted in searching for it. Add that to the guaranteed on-time delivery and the widest selection of products, I am now a Bigbasket convert.
Note: Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Safed Zarda

Zarda is a traditional Pakistani dessert that has rice cooked with spices, sugar syrup and milk solids (mawa). Usually it has yellow food coloring added to it but I have skipped it. Enriched with nuts, milk and milk solids, it is one healthy dessert. An interesting variant to the Indian 'Meethay Chawal' or 'Kanika' (Odia recipe).

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup Basmati rice 
  • 4 tbsp Sugar
  • a few saffron starnds
  • 1/4 cup cashews
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 star anise
  • 1-2 strands of mace
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 1-2 green cardamoms
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1/2 cup khoya
  • 4 tbsp warm milk
  • 2-3 pinch salt (optional...not a part of the original recipe)

Preparation - Soak the saffron in the warm milk. 

Boil the sugar with 1/2 cup water till it reaches a thick (one string) consistency. Keep aside.

Cooking - Boil sufficient water for the rice. Add the spices, salt and the washed rice. Cook for 8-9 mins till it is almost done ( 90 % cooked ). Drain and keep aside.

Heat the ghee in a flat bottomed vessel. Add the cashews and raisins. Fry for 30 seconds. Add the rice, crumbled mawa, sugar syrup and milk along with the saffron strands. Cover tightly and cook on low flame for 5 mins. ( one can also place the covered vessel on a tawa to avoid the direct flame ). 

Remove from flame and keep aside for 10 mins before serving.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Mawa Gujiya

The first of my posts leading up to the Diwali festivities ( I know it is still a long way but was feeling quite happy after a thorough cleaning session ). Mawa gujiya is one of those classic Holi/Diwali recipes that are on the must-do list of everyone. They are deep fried pastries stuffed with a spiced khoya (solidified milk ) and dry fruits filling. They can be stored in an airtight container for upto a week. The vegan version uses a mix of roasted semolina and fried coconut instead of the milk solids.

Read on for the recipe -

For the dough -

  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 tsp hot oil
  • 2 tsp semolina
  • 2 pinch baking powder
  • salt to taste
  • cold water for making dough
  • oil for deep frying

For the stuffing -

  • 2 cups khoya
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 12-14 cashews
  • a fistful of raisins
  • nutmeg powder

Preparation - Take the all purpose flour, semolina baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add the hot oil and rub in. Then add water, very little at a time and knead into a stiff dough. Cover with a damp cloth/little oil and keep aside for sometime. Knead it once again after 30 mins. It should feel smooth else repeat the process once again.

Cooking - Fry the khoya in a wok till it just starts to brown. Remove and keep aside.

Fry the raisins and cashews in the same wok with a little ghee. Remove and add to the khoya. Also add the powdered sugar and mix lightly using your fingers.

Pinch small portions of the dough and shape into a flattened disc. Dust a working surface and roll out the discs into small circles. Put some of the khoya mixture in one half of the circle leaving out some space on the edges. Apply water along the circumference before folding it into a half moon shape. Use a fork to make crimp patterns on the sealed edge. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and stuffing.

Heat sufficient oil in a wok. Add the gujiyas one or two at a time. Fry on one side till brown before turning over and frying the other side as well.

Allow to cool down a bit before serving. Keep the rest in an airtight container.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cheesy Quesadillas ( Three Cheese Quesadilla )

The third and final post for the Indusladies Kid's lunchbox event. This time I have chosen to do a three cheese quesadilla as most kids happen to love the cheesy filling in almost everything. Quesadilla's are quite healthy if one substitutes the white flour for the whole wheat version. The cheese provides the much needed proteins that children require and the veggies pack in an impressive amount of fiber and nutrients.

Read on for the recipe -

Sending this as a contribution to the Indusladies event 100 Kids Lunch Box Recipes. Check out more details here - http://www.indusladies.com/food/kids-lunch-box-recipes/

Preparation Time - 25 mins (plus some standby time)

Ingredients -

For the Tortilla/rotis -

  • 1 cup wheat flour or maida
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt to taste
  • a dash of pepper
  • warm milk for kneading

For the filling and final touches -

  • 1 cup chopped vegetables ( I used lettuce, peppers and tomatoes )
  • 4 tsp grated Cheddar cheese
  • 4 tbsp cream cheese ( one can also substitute it with softened/crumbled paneer )
  • 4 tbsp grated processed cheese (I used Amul processed cheese)
  • pinch of pepper
  • a bit of grated garlic
  • a dash of vinegar/lemon juice (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • EVOO for brushing the quesadillas.

Preparation- Take the flour in a wide plate. Add salt, pepper and butter. Rub in.

Add milk to the flour, little by little and keep on mixing so that it is well incorporated into the dough. We want a soft dough. It is ok if it is slightly sticky but too sticky means more flour should be added.

Cover dough with moist cloth and rest aside for 30 mins.

Take the veggies in a mixing bowl. Add the cheddar cheese, cream cheese, pepper, vinegar/lime juice, garlic and salt. Mix well and keep aside.

Pinch small balls from the dough. Dust a working surface with flour and roll out into thin circles.

Cooking - Heat a tawa/flat pan. Put the roti/tortilla on it. Wait till small bubbles begin to form. Add some of the veggie filling to one half of the circle. Sprinkle processed cheese on the veggies. Fold over the other half so that the veggies and the cheese are sandwiched inside.

Slightly press with a spatula for 1 minute or so to allow the cheese to melt from the heat. Brush some olive oil on the side. Flip over and brush more olive oil on the other side. Cook for 30 seconds.

Remove from tawa and keep aside. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling.

Serve immediately or cover tightly with a foil wrap before putting in the lunchbox.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lauki ka Halwa ( Doodhi ka Halwa )

As a kid I used to wonder aloud about the the perceptible change in the atmosphere during the Puja (Dusshera) season. The slight nip in the air was accompanied with a divine fragrance as if someone had made it a daily ritual of emptying a lot may bottles of perfume all around us during the evenings. Even the nights grew more and more silent. My grandmother who was adept at spinning tales would explain that it was the harbinger of the arrival of Maa and other gods. And she would further support her theory with the argument that the gods and goddesses who were adorned with the heavenly blossoms were the ones responsible for the aura. For years I believed her before reasoning got the better of me and I could attribute the aura to a combination of factors like the cooling of the atmosphere, the steadily dropping humidity levels and the blossoming of a variety of winter blooms. Even the cacophony of the insects which peaked during the monsoons, was slowing fading away as the approaching winter forced most of them into hibernation.

Ever since I moved out of my native, I really miss the Dusshera festivities and also the run-up to the actual event. The shopping for new clothes, watching the idols shaping up, the Pandals being put into place and drawing up the itinerary to cover the maximum number of pandals during those five days would sometimes be even more fun than the actual Pandal hopping. And ofcourse, there was the mandatory 'mela' (fair) and the au rigueur joy-rides which was on every kid's bucket list. At times, growing up is no fun.

Unlike some other parts of India, people in Odisha do not keep as nine day partial fast during Durga Puja. There is the mandatory Ashtami Vrat and some also keep the Navami Vrat but no more. Onion and garlic are prohibited on these two days and people usually prefer to consume Khichdi/ rice and dalma/ puri-alu dum etc apart from fruits. But for people who follow the 'navratri fasting' quite rigorously, it is nine days of subsisting on 'phalahar' or a plant based diet. There are a number of dishes which are religiously prepared during this period. One of them happens to be the 'lauki ka halwa' or bottlegourd halwa. Read on for the recipe -

(For more Navaratri recipes, click HERE)

Preparation Time - 30-35 mins (less if you use a food processor to grate the lauki)

Ingredients -

500 gm lauki/bottle gourd
2 cup milk
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup milk powder
3-4 tsp sugar
2 green cardamoms (powdered)
a few strands of saffron
1 1/2 tsp ghee
7-8 cashews
12-15 raisins

Preparation - Peel the gourd and chop into big pieces. Grate coarsely leaving aside the center portion containing the seeds.

Cooking - Heat the ghee in a wok. Add the raisins and cashews. Fry for 30-40 seconds before removing from wok.

Add the grated bottle gourd to the wok. Fry on medium high till much of the water evaporates and it starts to turn light brown.

Add the milk and bring it to a boil. Cover with a lid. Allow it to cook on low flame for 6-7 minutes. The bottle gourd would be cooked by this time. If not, cover it again for 3-4 mins.

Finally add sugar, milk powder, condensed milk, cardamom powder and saffron strands. Cook till most of the water evaporates. Add the fried cashews and raisins.

Serve at room temperature or even chilled.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Ordering Food Goes Online (Guest Post for 27Coupons.com)

Recently I was on a cleaning spree before the Ganapati festival. Changing the curtains, dusting out every nook and corner, giving away the old stuff in anticipation of the festive shopping, etc. If you are in the habit of reading in between the lines, you would wonder why I cannot entrust the domestic help with such mundane matters. Well it so happens that I am quite finicky about small things like people touching my stuff or worse moving it around. Personally I would prefer things in their natural state of disarray as I have left them to things arranged in an orderly fashion by others. And this style of management is made even worse by a toddler who has made it a ritual of throwing things around the house or still worse…stacking them in secret places that he has discovered.
It was during one such broom wielding spree that I discovered this neatly arranged stack of flyers in a forgotten corner of the kitchen cabinet. Belonging to various restaurants in and around Marathahalli, Bellandur and Kormangala, they had been painstakingly and enthusiastically collected by me akin to the manner in which kids collect stickers and tattoos. Their yellowing appearance was almost metaphorical, evoking sepia tinted memories of a bygone era when they had been in-disposable for ordering food from a restaurant. Whenever I was not in a mood to cook or some friends/relative decided to put in an appearance at the eleventh hour, I would frantically rummage through the lot and pick up a restaurant. The next step would be to call up the place and check if they delivered to our locality/apartment. As fate would have it, more often than not the designated delivery guy for our locality would have either fallen sick or taken off to his native. However on the rare occasions that I got lucky, the next step would be to check if a particular dish would be available on that day. A curt ‘No’ for an answer would set me back to square one but I duly persisted till I successfully hunted down a restaurant that home delivered the food of my choice within the shortest possible time.
But that was before I discovered FoodPanda (Coupons), Just-Eat (Coupons) and TastyKhana. Now one just needs to log in to their website, select the city and the locality and voila, all the restaurants that cater/deliver to a particular locality are listed in a matter of seconds. Additional filters allow one to narrow down the choice based on cuisine type, delivery time, and even minimum order value. Plus they display the individual restaurant ratings based on the customer reviews as well. Having their app on ones smartphones make it still simpler, allowing one to order on the go. One needs to pay either cash on delivery or opt for an online payment (which often translates into an additional discount or cash-back).
A recent report in the TOI pegs the food services industry at a Rs 2.5 trillion valuation which is set to reach a Rs 4.1 trillion figure by 2018. Rising salaries and dual income households are fueling the trend which is being fanned by a number of cookery shows/competition on television. Exposure to various international cuisines is whetting up the Indian appetite for experimentation. Indian are regarded as quite conservative when it comes to their food but this is now changing at a very rapid pace.
A win-win situation for both parties, the portals/websites offer a wider reach for the restaurants while their own revenues are driven by large volume sales. While Foodpanda and Just-Eat are established global players who have targeted major cities where a sizable section of the population has more disposable income per household and established eating-out habits, the Pune based TastyKhana might as well emerge as the dark horse in this race. It has partnered with the Jubilant Foodworks owned Domino’s Pizza in India. The association would enable TastyKhana.in to take online orders on its website for Domino’s Pizza across 158 cities in India with an option of COD and online payment. While the 158+ cities on its map include Tier I cities like Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, etc, it also takes home delivery to Tier III cities like Rourkela (Orissa), Manipal (Karnataka), Amravati (Maharashtra), Limbdi (Gujarat), Rongpo (Sikkim). With no major players catering to these cities, TastyKhana might have earned some customers for the keeps. Once the population of these cities get a hang of ordering food online, it is only a matter of time that more local restaurants jump on to the online bandwagon. And with industry pundits predicting that the future lies in Tier II and Tier III cities which is where the next wave of retail boom will take place, TastyKhana might be in for a windfall. I have my bets in place, what about you ?
Note: Image courtesy of Keerati at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Noodles, Red Cabbage & Peppers Coleslaw

The basic definition of coleslaw is a shredded cabbage salad with a vinaigrette consisting of vinegar/lime juice, vegetable oil, sweetener like sugar or honey, salt, and other seasonings. It is commonly served with grilled/fried/barbecued chicken or used as a sandwich filling. While most of the coleslaw dressings make a generous use of mayonnaise, I am feeling a bit bored with it these days. Had a bit too much of it in those sandwiches last week. So, I have skipped it and added some mustard sauce instead.

Read on for the recipe - 

Preparation Time - 15 mins (less if you are using a coleslaw mix off the supermarket shelves)

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 1 cup red pepper juliennes
  • 1/2 cup yellow pepper juliennes
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onions
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 cup cooked noodles

For the vinaigrette dressing -

  • 3 tsp vinegar/lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil/mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon sugar/honey
  • 1 teaspoon mustard sauce
  • 1/4 tsp salt ( I generally keep it less for salads and sandwich )
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper/paprika or as per taste

Preparation - Take all the ingredients of the vinaigrette in a large mixing bowl. Whisk it a bit to get it mixed up.  Throw in the rest of the veggies and the noodles. Toss together.

Chill for half an hour before serving.

Note - Vegan Mayonnaise is loaded with fiber and nutrients and has a low GI value.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Roasted Peppers Pasta (with Sambar masala)

This is my second entry for the Indusladies Kid's Lunchbox event. Most kids love pasta given that it is paired with the right kind of sauce. A sweet, tangy one with a hint of chili works well with the little ones. Red peppers (especially roasted ones) have a natural sweetness to them and are a popular choice for making pasta sauce. Roasted peppers with herbs and cheese, roasted peppers with balsamic vinegar, roasted peppers with tomatoes, roasted peppers with red wine. These are just a few of the varieties that one can find over the internet. While I have tried some of them, my son's current favorite (and mine too!!) happens to be one with sambar masala. Yeah, it might sound strange but it is a real good combination. But in case you are skeptical about it, leave out the sambar masala and add some good old processed cheese in it's place.

Read on for the recipe -

Sending this as a contribution to the Indusladies event 100 Kids Lunch Box Recipes. Check out more details here - http://www.indusladies.com/food/kids-lunch-box-recipes/

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup pasta 
  • 1 big red bell pepper
  • 1 medium sized tomato
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/5 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sambar masala
  • 2 tsp rice bran oil
  • salt

Preparation - Roast the pepper on a low flame till the outer skin turns black.

Keep aside till it cools down to a bearable temperature. Peel/remove the blackened skin and chop up the flesh. Discard the seeds.

Finely chop the onions and tomato and keep aside.

Cooking - Bring water to boil in a large saucepan. When the bubbles start to form, add the salt.

Once it gets to a rolling boil, add pasta. Cook till al-dente and another minute extra ( do give a stir 2-3 times in between so that the pasta does not catch at the bottom) on a medium flame. Drain the water ( while preserving 1 cup for the sauce ) and keep aside.

Add 2 tsp oil to a skillet. Add the onions. Fry till they turn translucent. Add the chili powder and coriander powder. Fry for 20-30 secs.

Add the chopped tomato to the skillet and cook till it softens up. Transfer the roasted and chopped pepper to a food processor/mixer jar. Buzz it to get a smooth paste.  Add this paste along with the sambar masala to the skillet. Cook for 2 mins.

Add the pasta. Cook for another 2-3 mins till the sauce thickens and coats the pasta. ( Add a few teaspoons more of the pasta water if the sauce feels too dry )

Serve hot or cold.

Note - While pasta is supposed to be cooked al-dente, it makes sense to make it a little softer for the younger kids who are reluctant to chew their food.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Drumstick leaves Uttapam (Murungai Keerai Uttapa)

Uttapams are quite versatile when it comes to the flavours that one can infuse in them. They work great with everything ranging from Chinese (schezwan/manchurian) toppings to even Italian ones (cheese, peppers and herbs). But the recipe I am sharing today is a very simple one that takes the flavors from the nutrient loaded drumstick leaves. Apart from their medicinal/nutritional qualities, these leaves also happen to be quite aromatic.

Read on for the simple recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups thick dosa batter ( I use the I.D. brand)
  • 1 medium sized onion (finely chopped)
  • 2/3 cup drumstick leaves
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 3-4 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Add salt and chili powder to the batter. Adjust water if required. This is a thick batter so take care not to dilute it too much.

Wash the leaves that you have already plucked from the stems. Be careful to discard leaves that have the tiny insects/eggs sticking to them. (You can do this by immersing them in  warm water to which salt has been added)

Cooking - Heat a non-stick pan. Drizzle some oil and then add a ladle of the batter. Do not spread too much. Top up with the drumstick leaves and chopped onions.

Cover with a lid for about a minute or two. Remove the lid and check if it has firmed up. If yes, flip it over.

Add a little oil from the sides if required. Again cover with a lid and cook for 1-2 mins. Remove from the wok.

Repeat with the remaining ingredients. 

Serve hot with chutney.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hash Brown Sandwich

I am totally into sandwiches these days. Most of them are vegetarian and quite easy to prepare which works well given that I am feeling quite lazy to cook. Came up with this one last week when I prepared Hash Browns (Rosti) for my son. If your kids do not like potato, this is something that you should try.

While Hash Brown's/Rosti's are traditionally made from shredded raw potatoes, a few chef choose to boil the potato a bit before coarsely grating them. After trying both methods, I also prefer to make them this way as it becomes easier to work with. It gives that perfect crisp on the outside and moist on the inside texture. This method is preferable for the younger kids/toddlers.

Read on for the easy recipe -

Preparation Time - 10-12 mins ( if you have boiled potatoes at hand else add 10 mins )

Ingredients -

  • Burger buns or any plain buns
  • 1-2 boiled potatoes ( about 3/4 cooked is preferable )
  • 1/2 cup coarsely mashed avocado
  • 1 tbsp mustard sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
  • few slices of tomato
  • few lettuce leaves
  • freshly ground pepper
  • butter
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Take the avocado, honey, mustard sauce and a bit of salt in a bowl. Mix togather.

Grate the potato into a mixing bowl. Add some salt and pepper and lightly toss togather.
Using very little pressure shape into patties.

Cooking - Heat sufficient butter in a pan . Add the potato patties and fry for 4-5 minutes till it firms a bit. This side should be golden brown and crisp. Then flip it over and fry the other side till it develops a similar texture. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil.

To assemble the sandwich/burger -

Layer on some of the avocado-mustard-honey sauce on the bun. Place the Hash Brown over it. Layer it with tomato slices and lettuce. Spread some mayonnaise on the other bun and place it over the lettuce layer. Dig in.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Changing Face of Indian Retail (Guest Post for 27coupons.com)

From Mom & Pop stores and kiranawallas to opulent malls to shopping from the comfort of the living room sofa, Indian retail witnessed a lot of flux over the last decade or so. A lot of it has to do with evolving technology and the changing demographic of the average Indian shopper. With apps that let you shop from almost everywhere ( the Flipkart TV Ads are a brilliant demonstration of this), the thirty something urban professional could not have asked for more. No more worrying about dodging the work deadlines, facing traffic snarls, facing the endless queues at the billing counters. E-commerce firms are paving the way for you to spend quality time with the family.
So do we ditch the existing brick and mortar stores ?? Hardly. For they have the credibility and the infrastructure to provide a holistic shopping experience. But they seldom offer the attractive pricing that one finds on the online shopping portals. In fact some of the smart ones among us have leveraged the pluses of each one and taken to trying out stuff for ourselves at the B&M outlets before purchasing them online at a discount. It is probably one of the reasons behind online entities reaching out to the customers in more than one ways. This is something that even the tech-savvy customer would appreciate especially when it comes to making a big ticket/high value purchase. And I can vouch for it even though I have been making online purchases ever since 2008. A sheer physical presence somewhat on the lines of the FabFurnish offline stores which are much smaller as compared to the regular furniture stores but allow the customer to touch and feel the product, helps to foster confidence and build the brand value in the long run. Another good example of providing the customer with a personalized experience would be the Chumbak kiosks.
For the existing retail entities, a collaboration between the brick & mortar stores and the e-commerce portals that gives both the brands an omni-channel presence and allows each to leverage the existing capabilities of the other. A very good example of this is the strategic integration between Zopnow and Hypercity retail chain stores. For the uninitiated, Zopnow is an online grocery and consumer product goods retailer that operates only in Bangalore. But the move will now allow it to expand to other cities where Hypercity already has a presence. It also sorts out the cold storage issues ( for F&V) that Zopnow had been facing for sometime and effectively reduces the wastage for Hypercity.
As a first hand customer of both entities, I am quite excited as I now get access to the whole range of fruits and vegetables, including the exotic/imported variety and cut vegetables from Hypercity delivered at my doorstep within 3 hours. It also gives me access to the delectable repository of cheese that one can only find at Hypercity. And being a food blogger, I cannot think of anything more exciting. Though the whole integration process is not seamless and I have faced a few issues while trying to place/modify an order, I am hoping that they can work it out over the next few months. Of course, I will keep visiting Hypercity at leisure and keep checking out their offline offerings. But it will not be a need based trip.
Given the tangible advantages/benefits of having an offline presence, many e-tailers have taken to expanding the network of franchisee brick-and-mortar stores. Firstcry, Healthkart and Lenskart are noteworthy names which are going that extra mile to give the customers a real feel of the products before buying from them. Quite interestingly, a large number of these stores are located in Tier II cities where the customer is still a bit wary of online shopping. For those e-tailers who cannot have a physical footprint, offering a fixed/limited number of free trials is the way to go. For example Lenskart offers a trial for up to five frames before the customer has to choose one. Another option is enabling a ‘Virtual Trial Room’ which enables the customer to upload a picture of himself/herself and try on the clothes/make-up before making a purchase.
Not to be left behind, Brick & Mortar retailers are also jumping into the online bandwagon. One of the interesting brands in this section has been Medplus (the pharmacy chain stores) which went the online route selling cosmetics and toiletries at Medplusbeauty.com. But they have now taken their pharmacy online. Check the site and you will find a lot of useful information like alternative medicines with the same composition, side effects, precautions, food restrictions, usage during pregnancy and a whole lot of medically relevant stuff. Definitely one of the most useful e-commerce that one can find.
Either ways, the brands should look at providing the evolving customer a seamless experience. Even it means over-hauling the existing infrastructure to give the customer continued support and connect. It is the only way to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty,which ultimately translate into higher sales figures.
Note: In case you would like to get coupons of the websites mentioned in the blog post, you can go to 27coupons.com and search the same.

Vegan Empanadas ( A LATAM cousin of the desi Karanji/Gujiya )

Ok....plz try not to look too shocked/septical!! Why on earth is she calling the good old Karanji/Gujiya something so alien ? Empanadas......what next ??? Long forgotten memories of a grandmother stuffing up the rolled out dough with a sweetened coconut/mawa filling and crimping it before frying it in oil evoke a strong sense of nostalgia which makes the rebellion even more poignant.

I would like to share that even my first reaction was on the same lines. It was the market challenge of Masterchef Australia Season 6 that made me aware of the existence/popularity of this fried/baked snack in the Latin American region. It is simply defined a snack made by folding dough around a sweet or savory stuffing. The savory variety is definitely more popular going by the sheer number of recipes on the net and it could be anything ranging from meat, cheese, corn, mushrooms and even sauteed/fried veggies.

The baked variety is healthier in comparison but as far as the taste is concerned, the fried stuff definitely takes the crown. Maybe I will stick to the baked variety on regular days and just save up on the calories for a festive occasion. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 1 hour

Ingredients -

For the dough -

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp hot oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  • 2 pinch baking powder
  • salt to taste
  • cold water for making dough
  • oil for deep frying

For the stuffing -

  • 1 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1 small potato (boiled & peeled)
  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/ 3 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/3 tsp grated garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • 2 pinch turmeric
  • 2 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Take the all purpose flour, baking powder, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add the hot oil and rub in. Then add water, very little at a time and knead into a stiff dough. Cover with a damp cloth/little oil and keep aside for sometime. Knead it once again after 30 mins. It should feel smooth else repeat the process once again.

Cooking - Heat 2 tsp oil in a wok. Add the cumin seeds followed by the onion, ginger and garlic. Fry for sometime till the raw smell goes away. Add the potato and the green peas along with all the spices. Cook covered for 5-6 mins. Lightly mash the potato and green peas mixture with the back of a heavy spoon. Allow it to cool down to room temperature.

Pinch small portions of the dough and shape into a flattened disc. Dust a working surface and roll out the discs into small circles. Put some of the potato and green peas mixture in one half of the circle leaving out some space on the edges. Apply water along the circumference before folding it into a half moon shape. Use a fork to make crimp patterns on the sealed edge. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and stuffing.

Heat sufficient oil in a wok. Add the empanadas one or two at a time. Fry on one side till brown before turning over and frying the other side as well.

Serve immediately.

Note - If preparing for Navratras, leave out the onion and garlic. Add some shredded cabbage or grated carrots instead. Add some raisins and nuts also if you like.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Avocado Sandwich

I was delighted when I received an email from Indusladies to be a contributor to their Kid's lunchbox event. Being a mother myself, I can vouch that there is nothing more satisfying than to find the lunchbox empty when the kid comes back from school ( and now if you thinking about all those times when you gave away your lunch to some stray dog while returning from school, let me inform you that my kid has not yet reached that stage. Will learn to deal with him when it comes to that).

The first recipe I picked up was this simple avocado sandwich with whole wheat bread. Avocado being a source of good fats and packed with nutrients, helps kids remain full for a longer time and also aids their brain development. Read on for the recipe -

Sending this as a contribution to the Indusladies event 100 Kids Lunch Box Recipes. Check out more details here - http://www.indusladies.com/food/kids-lunch-box-recipes/

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 3 slices of whole wheat/multi-grain bread
  • 1/2 of an avocado ( cut into slices )
  • iceberg lettuce leaves
  • a few slices of tomato
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp mustard sauce
  • 1/4 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 4 tbsp grated cheese
  • freshly ground pepper
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Cut the bread diagonally into triangles. Lightly toast the slices.

Mix the mayo, mustard sauce, vinegar, honey, pepper and a bit of salt in a bowl to prepare the sandwich spread.

Take one bread triangle. Cover it with the spread and then layer the avocado slices over it. Cover it with a bread slice. Add another layer of the sandwich spread before sprinkling the grated cheese and layering the tomato slices and lettuce. Sprinkle a bit of salt. Close with the final slice. Gently press.

Repeat for the remaining slices.

Serve immediately ( or cover tightly with a foil wrap and put in the kids lunch box ). It stays good even after 4-5 hours.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Moringa Rasam

I got lucky last week when I chanced upon a vendor selling 'sajana' saag or moringa olifera leaves outside our apartment. So thrilled was I that I cooked three dishes from the same lot on the day. A simple stir fry, one with veggies and dal and finally a rasam. Now, I had read about drumstick leaves rasam on a blog (Sorry...but I cannot remember which one) a long time back but did not get the opportunity to try it out. Turned out to be quite simple, fragrant ( can it be otherwise ?? ) and delicious.

Read on for the simple recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup moringa olifera leaves (sajana saag)
  • 1/2 of a small onion
  • 4-5 garlic cloves
  • 1 marble sized tamarind ball
  • 1 tsp rasam powder
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil

For the tempering -
  • 2 pinch asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • a pinch of fenugreek seeds
  • 1-2 dry red chilis
  • 1 tsp oil

Preparation - Soak the tamarind in a cup of warm water for 30 mins. Squeeze out all the juice and throw away the pulp.

Chop the onion and garlic into small pieces

Cooking - Heat oil in a wok. Add the onion and garlic. Fry till fragrant.

Add the moringa leaves and stir fry for 3-4 mins.

Dissolve the rasam powder in the tamarind water and add to the wok. Add another cup of water too and adjust the salt. Let it simmer for 8-10 mins.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. Add the tempering ingredients and allow them to start spluttering. Pour immediately over the contents of the wok. Simmer for another 2-3 mins.

Serve hot or warm.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Garlic French Toast

Most of the times I am in a tearing hurry during the breakfast hours. Getting my son ready for school and packing his tiffin-box takes top priority closely followed by supervising all the cleaning stuff done by the maid. And in the midst of all this madness, I also try to get lunch ready, run the washing machine and finish writing my blog posts. Little wonder that a lazy breakfast while catching up on the morning news becomes a luxury. I blindly gobble up the stuff along my second cup of tea (without sugar hopefully) for the day. But on the days when the workload is less, I prefer to make something nice for myself. This recipe is one of those rare indulgences.

Read on -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 slices of bread (cut diagonally)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 4 tbsp milk
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 2 pinch paprika (optional)
  • 2-3 tsp grated Amul cheese (optional)
  • 1 tsp fried oregano
  • salt to taste
  • butter for frying the bread

Preparation - Take the eggs in a mixing bowl along with the milk and salt. Grate the garlic into it. Whisk together.

Cooking - Heat the butter in a pan. Dip the bread triangles into the batter and place on the pan.

Flip over once the bottom side is cooked. Sprinkle some cheese over the top along with a bit of oregano (rub it between your palms first). The heat should be sufficient to melt the cheese. Remove from the pan once closed.

Repeat for the remaining slices. Enjoy with a cup of coffee.

Note - Always use bread slices that are on the thicker side. This way it will absorb sufficient batter.

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