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Friday, January 30, 2015

Bathua ka Paratha

Another recipe with leftovers !! By now most of you would be aware that I tend to add the remaining veggies to make a paratha, so this one is no exception :) ...

Read on for the quick recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup bathua or chenopodium leaves 
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 2 pinch cumin powder
  • 3 tsp oil/white butter 
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Blanch the bathua leaves and keep aside to drain excess water.

Add the blanched leaves, crushed garlic flakes, flour, salt, chili powder, cumin powder and 1 tsp oil/butter to the food processor. Blitz it while adding a few teaspoons of water at a time.

When all of it just comes together, take the mixture onto a floured working surface. Knead it into a smooth dough. Rub a little oil all over it and cover with a moist cloth or a bowl. Keep aside for 15-20 mins.

Divide the dough into 3-4 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a circle of about 2-3 mm thick.

Cooking - Heat a non-stick tawa. Put the paratha over it, apply the oil/butter and cook on either side for 2 mins.

Serve hot with some pickle and more white butter (makhan) if you are in the mood for some indulgence.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Top 5 Dessert picks for Valentine's Day !!

Valentine's day might be a fortnight away but the cacophony leading up to this day has started to affect our equilibrium. 'Plan a V-day getaway', 'Treat your loved one to a lavish spread', 'Gift a diamond to your special one' and so on. Makes me wonder if all that marketing hoopla has actually taken the romance out of the day. There is so much pressure to impress, outperform the others and make a statement that people tend to forget that love can happen even over a shared cup of coffee ( or even Chai for tea addicts like me ).

I always prefer to enjoy a special dinner at home on the day. And I ask my husband to help with cooking the non-veg dish as that is what he knows best. A special dessert follows and yes we do exchange gifts if we have had the time to buy some.

Here are some desserts that I would love to make on V-day ( No red strawberries for me ) -

1. Chocolate-Gajar Halwa-Gulkand Truffles

Though time consuming, these pop-in-the-mouth lovelies are worth the effort. A fusion recipe, it combines the best of Western and Indian desserts.

2. Chocolate Kheer

No Valentine's day celebration is complete without chocolates. So, why no incorporate some into another luscious Indian desserts and voila you end up with a double whammy !!

3. Paan and Gulkand Kheer

Another delicious Indian dessert with a quirky twist !! The delicate flavours of the Paan and Gulkand make it utterly irresistible .

4. Shahi Tukda

This royal dessert is perfect for the special day.  Give it a lovely twist by using a cookie cutter to cut out heart shapes from the bread !!

5. Tiramisu

A classic Italian dessert that spells comfort . Add some whipped cream and strawberries to make it even more special !!

Stay tuned as there is more to come .....

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Chicken Bharta

Chicken Bharta is one of those easy recipes that taste great even though you do not put too many spices in it. Though it gets a little time consuming as one has to boil the chicken first, carefully shred it once cooled and finally cook it with the spices, tomatoes and egg yolks, the wonderful melt in the mouth texture is worth all that effort. As the meat has been cooked on the bones, it has that wonderful flavour that most boneless chicken recipes lack.

And the best part is that it yields a delicious 'Shorba' or chicken soup as a by-product ( or atleast the stock that you get while boiling the chicken makes the task of preparing a 'Shorba' very easy ). Will get to that recipe soon enough. But first read on the recipe that has been a blockbuster hit with everyone in my house  -

Preparation Time - 40 mins

Ingredients -

For boiling the chicken -

  • 200 gm chicken (on the bones)
  • 1 small onion (peeled and cut into 4 halves)
  • 3-4 garlic flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 4-5 black pepper corns
  • pinch of turmeric
  • salt to taste

For the final dish -

  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp GG paste
  • 1/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp chicken curry/tandoori chicken masala
  • 2 pinch garam masala powder
  • 1 medium tomato (finely chopped)
  • 2 tbsp yogurt
  • 1 tbsp kasuri methi
  • 1 boiled egg
  • 1 tbsp fresh cream(optional)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and cook the chicken pieces in a pressure cooker along the the onion, garlic, bay leaf, cinnamon, pepper, turmeric, salt and 2 1/2 cups water.

Allow steam to escape before opening the lid. Strain and keep the stock aside. This can be later made into a shorba.

Carefully shred the chicken into thin long strips. Though it takes time, this step is what gives the wonderfully layered texture to the bharta.

Separate the egg yolk from the white portion.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok.

Add the onions and fry till they start to turn slightly red on the edges. Add the GG paste and stir fry for 2 mins.

Add all the powdered masalas along with 2 tsp water at this stage. Fry for a minute before adding the tomato. Cover with a lid for 1 minute to soften the tomatoes. Fry for another 1-2 minutes before adding the beaten yogurt.

Rub the kasuri methi between palms to warm it up before adding to the chicken.

Finally, when the oil starts to separate from the masala, add the shredded chicken and fry for for 2-3 minutes before adding a little of the stock. Adjust the salt and cover it with a lid. Allow to cook for 5-6 minutes.

Add the mashed egg yolk and cook for 2 minutes before adding the cream and taking it off the flame.

Garnish with the egg white and some cilantro. Serve hot with naan or rotis.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Shalgam Ki Subzi (Turnip Stir Fry)

It is difficult to find 'shalgam' or turnip in Odisha. Alteast ten to fifteen years back, I had never seen the vegetable being sold in the local markets. So, every time I came across this vegetable in Hyderabad or Bangalore, I would think about trying it out. But since I was not too sure about how it needs to be cooked, I kept postponing it till my vegetable lady egged me on to buy some. 'Didi, you can make it like Ol-kopi, they are similar in taste', she told me. And it turned out to be true. At first I had tried a spicier version just like I do it for Kholrabi  (Ol Kopi or Ganthi kobi). The leftover bits went into the 'Sarson ka saag'. The second time I bought the vegetable, I made a simpler version that works well for chapatis.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20 mins

Ingredients - 

  • 2 medium sized turnips ( peeled and cut into 3-4 mm thick pieces )
  • 1/2 of a small onion
  • 1/2 tsp GG paste
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 pinch garam masala
  • 1 large tomato (finely chopped)
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • cilantro for garnishing (optional)

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the broken red chili and cumin seeds. Once it gets spluttering, add the chopped onion and allow it to turn translucent.

Add the GG paste and fry for 2 mins. Add the tomatoes along with all the powdered spices. Stir fry for couple of minutes till the tomatoes turn mushy and the oil starts to leave.

Add the turnip pieces, mix in and turn up the flame for 2 mins. Add about 1/4 cup water along with the salt. Cook with lid covered for 5-6 mins or till the turnip becomes soft.

Remove from flame and garnish with cilantro.

Serve hot with rotis !!

Check out a spicer version ( Masaledar Shalgam ) here !! ( Prepared it in the same way as I cooked the Kholrabi but did not post a separate recipe )

ASUS is the way to Go !!

It is the morning hour rush. I have to reply to those mails from the sponsors while responding to the multiple queries from the readers. And there are yesterday's posts which need to be shared on multiple social networking sites. All this needs to be done while I prepare breakfast for family and pack a lunchbox for my husband. Talk about multi-tasking. It can be hectic being a lifestyle blogger. But worry not when there is something as versatile and sleek as the ASUS Eeebook X205TS at hand.

Next I find myself stuck in the traffic while driving my kid to school. It is time to catch up with friends and extended family while waiting for the lights to go green. "Hey Rhea Aunty got a new puppy !! Can we too buy one Mama ?", exclaims my 4 year old as he looks a picture that my cousin has shared on FB. I quickly make up an excuse about how his father is allergic to all that fur and close the screen. But not before I have 'Liked' her latest share. People do get offended if they perceive that they are being ignored on a social site. I quickly play a new nursery rhyme that I had downloaded yesterday. It takes care of my restless kid while I drive the remaining distance to his school.

I am back home and now it is time to get down to work. There is a 'Green tea infused Kiwi delight' to be prepared for today's food post. And the latest variant of a 'Ready-to-Eat' brand that needs to be reviewed. As I work on the dessert, I am careful to click the step by step pictures using my ASUS Eeebook. Most readers these days like to get a feel of how the dish shaped up.

Once done, I get back to my desk and switch on my ASUS All In One PC ET2040. There is some heavy duty writing and photo editing to be done for today's posts. The work is done in an hour and my posts are up. I take a fifteen minute break to rustle up some quick pasta with veggies for my lunch. I reach out for my ASUS EeeBook. Even this needs to be shared on my FB page so that my readers get some inspiration to eat healthy. Once lunch gets done, I rush off to pick my kid from school. I do not forget to take my ASUS Eeebook along in case I can manage some spare time.

Kid needs a quick snack once he gets back from school. So, I offer him a sandwich along with some milkshake. The next two hours are his play time and I accompany him to the play area where he can mingle along with other kids and get some fresh air too. Needless to say, the ASUS Eeebook keeps me company while my kid runs around. I quickly surf the net to check out trending food stories and plan out what I need to cook/review for the next day. Another couple of emails are taken care of.

Dinner is being prepared while kid is immersed in his homework. Along from his books, I have made it a habit to teach him through online videos which are colorful and at times interactive. In the meanwhile, husband returns home and it is time for some family bonding. Once dinner is over and the kid is put to bed, he too catches up with his friends using the ASUS Eeebook while I work on the ASUS All In One PC on a new story before we retire to bed.

This post is written for ASUS Eeebook X205AT and ASUS All In One PC ET2040 .

Friday, January 23, 2015

Stupid are the ways of Cupid

Candlelight dinners are passe. Hanging precariously from balconies (a la Romeo) is increasingly out of question what with all the high rises that we live in. These days people are resorting to flash mobs and elaborate set-ups to pop that million dollar question to a loved one.

But mushy romance is not dead. For people like me keep thinking of doing crazy stuff now and then. My story is told in flashback mode, so hold on to your seat belts as I take you back in time.

Countdown begins. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Swoosh.

Year 2009. The pristine white beaches of Goa are witness to many a love stories. And the friendly natives go out of their way to help couple find love in this paradise. It was one such couple whose name was recommended to me by a friend who spent her honeymoon in Goa. But since it was a plan that was a little difficult to execute by myself, I had to rope in a couple of friends too.

A Valentine's day trip to Goa was planned. Once the tickets and hotel reservations had been taken care of, we went about working on the details. And as our plans were very much dependent on the high tide, prayers were sent up to heaven every now and then. Though our to-be hosts had assured us about the punctuality of tide, still I had my fingers crossed.

We reached Goa on Saturday morning and checked into the cottage of our friendly couple. Situated next to the beach, it was the perfect setting for a Valentine's day dinner date. After I had given specific instructions to the couple about the menu that I wanted for V-day dinner, all of us set out to explore the place on our bikes (hired ones to be specific). It was late afternoon by the time we returned. As my then-boyfriend took a siesta ( As a rule, we stop looking into the watch during vacations ), we ventured out to the beach.

The private beach made the task easier for me. A small section of the beach was marked, the trees on which the lights (concealed ones) were to be put were identified and our host volunteered to take care of the music. We planned to split up into two groups on the evening of the big day as everyone wanted the two of us the savor the special moment. I returned to the cottage as our friends and hosts set about with the execution of the surprise. I did not want to be absent for too long in case he got suspicious. From that moment onward, time seemed to pass in a fast-forward mode for me. Everything leading up to that evening remains a hazy memory. Even the flowers and gift that he had got for me did not quite register until later.

The moment finally came. It was a little after sunset and the last golden rays of the sun were kissing the still warm sand. Our hosts had laid out a small table beneath the swaying palm trees. As we walked on the wet sand, the waves gently licked our feet. I noticed that the waves were inching closer to the marked spot and felt my heart beating faster. In another fifteen minutes, it had turned dark and our host switched on the lights and the music started to play. He looked surprised as I suggested that we go and sit down on the table.

As we sipped the delicious cocktail served by our hosts, the waters of the high tide miraculously exposed the heart that had been concealed by the sand. Made with a whole lot of sea shells, it had a red box (also in the shape of a heart) in the center. He smiled as he walked up to it and picked it up. "Open it", I said. It revealed a piece of paper with the words "Will you marry me ?". He looked taken as I asked him if it had stumped him. He took time to reply but finally hugged me and whispered a 'Yes' into my ear. He later told me that among all the surprises that I had sprang on him with my take on gender equality , this one had impressed him the most.

Fast forward. February 14, 2010. Exactly an year later, we got married.

This post is written for Closeup Cupid Games .

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Shahi Paneer ( A Truly Royal treat for the taste-buds)

I had not prepared any Panner dish for quite sometime as my husband had got bored with it. So, when I got some from the supermarket last week, I wanted to try out something different from the usual spicy gravies that usually make. After browsing through lots of recipes, I zeroed in on this simple recipe of 'Shahi Paneer' as it looks quite easy and less time consuming. I have avoided tomatoes as I wanted that white look and hence used some extra curd to get that tang into the gravy. But feel free to choose whichever you like.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30-40 mins

Ingredients -

  • 250 gm Malai Paneer
  • 1/2 cup thick yogurt
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala power
  • 1/4 turmeric
  • 1 tbsp makhan (white butter)/oil
  • a pinch of saffron
  • 3 tbsp warm milk
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • salt to taste

For the gravy -

  • 1 medium onion
  • 3-4 garlic flakes
  • 1 inch long ginger
  • 5-6 cashews
  • 4-5 almonds
  • 3 cloves
  • 3 green cardamom
  • 1 inch cinnamon
  • 2 pinch cumin (jeera)
  • 2 pinch shah jeera

Preparation - Soak the saffron in warm milk for 20 mins.

Boil 2 cups water in a small saucepan and add all the ingredients listed  under 'For the gravy' . Let it boil for 10 mins (else you can use a pressure cooker and cook all the ingredients for 2 whistles on a medium flame).

Allow to cool down before straining the water (do not throw). Grind the cooked ingredients into a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Cooking - Heat the white butter / oil in a wok. Add the paste that we have prepared in the previous step. Cook for 5-6 minutes till the oil starts to separate.

Add the coriander powder, chili powder, garam masala and turmeric at this point. Stir fry for 2 mins.

[Note - If you plan to use any tomato puree, add it at this point and cook for 4-5 mins]

Add the yogurt (whisked to break any lumps), strained water, sugar and salt to taste. Boil for 10 mins on a low flame (be careful as it tends to stick to the bottom).

Add the saffron milk and the paneer cubes. Simmer for 2 mins before removing from the flame.

Serve hot with naan or any other Indian bread. Also goes well with white or any mildly flavored rice.

Bathua ka Raita

Simple, flavorsome and easy to make. It is best way to use up any leftover greens after making the 'saag'. Bathua ka raita can be served as a dip and as a simple side dish for those chappatis/parathas, It goes well even with rice, dal and a dry subzi.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup bathua saag (roughly chopped)
  • 2/3 cup yogurt
  • 1-2 garlic flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin-chilli powder
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Boil 2 cups water in a saucepan. Add the bathau and let it boil for 1-2 mins. Immediately drain off the water and transfer the greens into a bowl of ice cold water. Remove from the water after 5 mins and put in a colander to drain off excess water.

Transfer it to a blender jar and give it a buzz. Scrape down the sides and add the remaining ingredients to the blender jar itself. Add 2-3 tbsp water and buzz for 3 seconds. Adjust consistency if required.

Pour it into small bowls and serve as a dip/side.

Note - Chill for 10-15 mins for a better flavor. Use up on the same day as it tends to lose flavor is refrigerated overnight..

To make roasted cumin chilli powder, dry roast 2 tsp cumin and 2 dry chilis. Allow to cool down before grinding into a fine powder. Use as required and store the rest in an airtight jar.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Inspirational Talks for the Litterbugs Amongst Us

Remember those days. One came back from school, threw the school bag in one corner, the shoes would be sent flying in different directions with one landing on the TV stand while the other lodged itself underneath the sofa. And the socks ? Must have shoved them under the carpet or under some cushion or maybe into the flower vase. The same story was repeated with the toys which wound up in each nook and corner of the house once one was done playing with them.

However, everything was back in order the next day even though one did not have to lift as much as a finger. Before one attributes this miracle to the higher powers, I, the Great Indian Litterbug must give due credit to the one superpower that I possess, the Great Indian Mother ( Now don't they keep quoting "Mere pass Maa hai" which translates into ' I have my Mother' in those Bollywood blockbusters ). Programmed to clean up every mess and if required, even own up to the messy act in the first place, she makes sure that I can get ahead in life without having to shoulder any responsibility.

Whether is it threatening the parents of my classmate (who nose I incidentally broke), fighting with my geography teacher for extra marks ( I did mark the capital of Namibia on the map...just that it was a centimeter off), rebuffing my numerous girlfriends (who had anyways got too clingy for comfort) and even heckling my wife (and her parents), she has the multitasking abilities that can put even a Lumia/Galaxy/iPhone 6 to shame.

Secure in this knowledge, I step out of the house into the outside world. I can happily continue with my ways while someone else takes care of setting things right. 'What if it is beyond the reach of her powers?',  some skeptical folks may question. Worry not, for the mother of all mothers, our very own Mother India aka 'Bharat Mata' is there to take care of matters through her appointed servants (I do pay tax, don't I ?). These are the people who pick up the wrappers, bottles, cans, etc from the streets/parks after I am done with the obligatory duty of feeding myself. They even clean up the beautiful red graffiti that I have put on the walls with my paan-staking effort (nobody appreciates art these days, do they ?). If you happen to remain skeptical, let me inform you that they are even running a campaign called the 'Swacch Bharat' to clean up after me (and the millions of others like me). But what I cannot understand is why they chose someone like Amitabh Ji to be the face of the campaign. Wouldn't it have been better if they had appointed his wife instead ? After all, cleaning up after her son is part of the legacy that a mother-in-law passes on to her daughter-in-law.

This post is written for The Great Indian Litterbug, which is an initiative by The Times of India and is brought to us by IndiChange.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Kolotho Dalma (Coastal Odisha Special)

In Coastal Odisha, if you happen to cook any lentil with vegetables, you end up with a dish that is suffixed with a 'dalma'. So, when I decided to add some veggies to my regular horsegram dal recipe (a western odisha version and my personal favorite), I had to peddle it as 'dalma' to please my husband who is rather fond of this particular category. While there are different versions of the recipe favored by different households, I have used the recipe provided by my mother in law who prefers to ditch the 'ambula' or dried mango / tamarind in favor of an overload of country tomatoes.

It is a very healthy and delicious recipe that provides a good dose of protein and fiber in one go. A word of gentle caution though. Since it is a winter recipe that is used to keep the body warm in the chilly weather, it is best to avoid consuming the lentil frequently during the summer months. However, one can continue to drink the water that is obtained by soaking the lentils overnight as it is perceived to be a cure for kidney and gall bladder stones.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2/3 cup kolotho/horse gram (lightly roasted & broken)
  • 1/4 cup baigana/eggplant (cubed)
  • 1/4 cup saru/taro (cut into roundels)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin (cubed)
  • 1/4 cup green papaya (cubed)
  • 1 drumstick ( cut into 2 inch pieces )
  • 1 small potato (cubed)
  • 2-3 big ripe tomatoes (roughly chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp pancha phutana (mix of fenugreek, cumin, mustard, nigella & fennel seeds)
  • 4-5 garlic flakes
  • 3-4 dry red chilis
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 3 tsp rice bran oil
  • 1/3 turmeric
  • salt to taste

Cooking - Wash and cook the kolotho in a pressure cooker with 2 cups water, salt and turmeric. Allow for 2-3 whistles. Remove from flame and allow steam to escape.

Open the lid and add the vegetables (except tomatoes) before closing it once again. Cook for 1 whistle on high flame. Remove from flame and keep aside till steam escapes.

Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan. Add the chopped tomatoes, sprinkle a little salt and cook till they become mushy. Add the tomatoes to the contents of the pressure cooker. Put the cooker back on the flame. Adjust the consistency of the dalma by adding some hot water if required.

Heat the remaining oil in a tempering pan. Add the pancha phutana, broken red chilis and curry leaves. Allow it to splutter before pouring it over the dalma.

Serve hot with some white rice and a light stir fry.

Click here for other recipes with horse gram.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Two Step Chicken Curry (An easy chicken recipe)

Sometimes we are too tired to cook up a decent meal and yet are in no mood to order anything from outside. A piping hot chicken curry with some white rice/roti can save the day for the non-veg lovers amongst us. This curry is one of the easiest and tastiest ones that I have ever made. I have christened it as 'Two-step chicken curry' partly due to lack of any imagination and partly because it is a lazy curry that can be made in two steps.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 500 gm chicken pieces
  • 1 medium sized onion (roughly chopped)
  • 1 small tomato (roughly chopped)
  • 12-14 garlic flakes
  • 1 1/2 inch ginger (chopped into small pieces)
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
  • 2 inch long cinnamon stick
  • 3 nos green cardamom
  • 2/3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 dry red chillis ( low to medium heat Kashmiri or Byadgi chilli )
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 1/3 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp vinegar

Preparation - De-seed the dry chillis and soak them with vinegar and 2-3 tbsp hot water for 2 hours. Drain off the liquid and grind the chilies with 6-7 garlic flakes.

Grind the onion, ginger, 6-7 garlic flakes, tomato, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin seeds and coriander leaves into a fine paste.

Wash the chicken pieces thoroughly and marinate them with the above paste, salt and turmeric. Allow to rest for 30 mins.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the chicken along with the marinade liquid (if any). Stir on high flame for 2-3 mins. Then reduce the flame and allow it to cook (without lid) till the  chicken is almost done (95 % cooked). 

Finally add the chili-garlic paste and stir fry on high for 1 min. Then add 2/3 - 1 cup boiling water, cover with a lid and allow to boil for 2 mins before switching off.

Serve hot with rotis/white rice/jeera rice.

Book Review : Adultery (by Paulo Coelho)

'An attractive woman in her mid thirties is terrified of her humdrum but rather privileged existence. She keeps sinking into the abyss of depression till she meets an ex-boyfriend who is super successful. Predictably a torrid affair follows and then she is possessed by guilt. But it ends on a placid note when she gets back to her husband who accepts her with open arms (and heart). '

The above paragraph is a short summary of what the book is all about. While it opens with a great setting which sets off the mood for the affair that is to follow, it actually fails to strike the right chords with the reader. Not what I would expect from an author who gave us something unforgettable like 'The Alchemist'.

The opening lines certainly raised my expectations (and that of my female friends too). 'Every morning, when I open my eyes to the so-called "new day", I feel like closing them again, staying in bed, and not getting up. But I can't do that.' Then we are exposed to the turning point in Linda's (main protagonist) life. It is a question that changed her life. You feel good at that point as quite a few of us would have experienced that kind of a moment.

But then the story progresses to her first meeting with her ex-boyfriend (Jacob) where she transforms herself into some kind of a porn star. It gets a little jarring because at this point you realize that it is not emotional security that she is after. It is the sheer thrill of living on the edge that drives her. From then it is one crazy roller coaster of emotions which gets to a point where she devises of a scheme to plant drugs to get Jacob's wife out of her way.

It is a little incredulous when she finally attains enlightenment during a paragliding expedition( why of all things in this world ??). The ending of the story is quite lame and certainly very disappointing. It is a little too convenient as if the author just decided to finish the book one fine day and gave it a "lived happily ever after" kinda climax.

Rating 2.5/5 (only for the sake of those awesome opening lines). Read at your own peril.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Biotique Bio Berry Plumping Lip Balm

Lip plumpers are products that are supposed to give a bee-stung effect to your lips so that they appear fuller and smoother. Now which woman does not aspire for Angelina Jolie's famous pout ?? But what kept me from trying out plumpers are that they are expensive products and give a mild burning /stinging sensation when applied. So, when I saw the Biotique Bio Berry Plumping Lip Balm in a shop near my home, I grabbed it with both hands. It is priced at just Rs 99/- and is free from chemicals (as per the brand's claims).

Read on to find out how it fared on my scale -

Pros -

1. Priced economically (Rs 99/- for 4.1 g)
2. Free from chemicals ( therapeutic product as per claims )
3. Hygienic bullet application ( certainly better than the earlier tub )
4. Smooths out the fine lines on my lips
5. Gives a mild plumping effect
6. Provides moisture to lips for 3-4 hours.
7. Tasteless and very mild smelling. But gives a light tingling effect.
8. Looking at the older reviews on beauty blogs, they seem to have relaunched the product with a new look and improved formula.

Cons -

1. It is very mildly tinted. Does not show up on pigmented lips.
2. Works best when applied under a lipstick/lip polish.
3. The bullet is too long and sticks out of the tube. The cap was already soiled with some of the product when I purchased it.
4. The formula is a little stiff/hard so one needs to rub it 2-3 times on the lips (but the good thing is that it will last longer).

Rating - 4.25/5 . I find it quite useful as it is transparent and takes care of my lip lines. I regularly apply it under any other lip color I am using. Will repurchase for sure.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Pasta with Kasundi Sauce (Low-calorie snacking !!)

Pasta and Kasundi ?? Whoever would have thought of such an unlikely pairing !! But let me tell you that it works incredibly well on my Indian taste buds. And even before you ask me why I thought of the combination, let me remind you that I have been looking forward to maintaining a healthier lifestyle from this year. That translates into cutting down of fattening food like cheese. Moreover, it being so cold these days, I wanted something hot and spicy to warm me up.

While I could have gone with a regular Marinara sauce, It felt like too much effort. Moreover, the flavors are heavier as compared to this recipe. Since I already had a bottle of tomato Kasundi (recipe at the bottom of this post) sitting in my fridge, it hardly took any time. The trick is to balance the flavors of the fresh tomatoes and the kasundi so that neither one dominates. And yeah, do not forget the peppers. I used the spicy Guntur variety which I personally prefer as compared to the Jalapenos and Habaneros. We do have a lot of good native varieties of peppers/chillis in India which are just waiting to be discovered. And they turn out to be quite economical as compared to the imported varieties.

Read on for the lip-smacking recipe -

Preparation Time - 15-18 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 1/2 cup pasta (chifferi rigata)
  • 1 large fresh tomato ( chopped into small pieces )
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 red chili pepper (Guntur variety)
  • 1 tbsp coriander roots (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp coriander leaves (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp tomato kasundi (adjust as per preference)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • salt

Cooking - Heat water in a large saucepan. Once it gets to a boil, add enough salt so that it tastes quite salty (almost like sea water). Throw in the pasta and cook on medium to high flame till al-dente (cooked yet firm). Retain 1 cup of the pasta water and drain the rest.

Dissolve the kasundi in 2 to3 tbsp of pasta water.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the chopped garlic, red chili and coriander roots. Fry till the garlic turns golden. Add the chopped tomatoes and cover with a lid for 30 seconds. Once the tomatoes get a little soft (but still chunky), add the cooked pasta along with the kasundi. Sprinkle some more pasta water if it gets too dry. Cook for 1-2 mins before removing from flame.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve immediately.

Note - Click here for the recipe of Tomato Kasundi. Adjust the amount of pepper as per preference. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

(Z)its just not my day !!!

For someone who had battled with pimples/zits for the better (read worse) part of my life, any mention of the topic is enough to trigger the floodgates of memories. Right from the early teenage days when one just started to discover the other sex (and it suddenly become important to look good), it was my faithful companion till my mid-twenties. And finally when we parted ways, it left behind a trail of destruction in the form of scars and potholes on my face.

Pimples were the primary reason I adopted a proper skin care routine, gulped down 10-12 glasses of water in a day and controlled my diet to exclude chocolates, pickles, pani-puris, fried food and red meat. I would religiously wash my face 2-3 times in a day and splash it with cold water whenever possible. And I applied everything on my face ranging from Margosa(Neem) paste, Fuller's earth (aka multani mitti), turmeric, sandalwood, gramflour(besan)-curd mixture, tomato, lemon juice and even garlic paste (please do not ever try this..it stings like hell). And yeah, I forgot to add the toothpaste that a friend's sister had suggested. But that is not all. These home remedies were in addition to the countless bottles of Cetaphil, tubes of prescription medicine and strips of antibiotics that I have had to consume. But these remedies/medications would only reduce the severity of the eruptions and that too for a limited period of time.

By now you would have guessed that my life had turned into a living hell. Standing for hours in front of the mirror and wishing those zits to simply disappear, I dreaded to venture outside my home. It was as if everyone I bumped into was bound to peer into my face and ask about it. After hearing about my losing battle with the zits, they would cluck their tongues and impart a few pearls of wisdom about a remedy which magically cured the pimple problems of someone known to them. It was a different story that none of this stuff worked in my case.

After the initial struggle, I kind of resigned myself to fate. Instead of pondering over a problem on which I had no control, I decided to concentrate on extra-curricular activities, reading books and do whatever I could to distract myself. I would give pep talks to myself to deal with the problem of low self-esteem and convince myself that it is just a passing phase. After all, there is more to a person than just looks.

My efforts paid off and by the time I joined Engineering college, my pimple problem had substantially subsided. Yes, there were those scars, and there would be 3-4 of those eruptions on my face at any point of time, but it was manageable. By the time, I was out of college, most of the scars had faded substantially and I heaved a sigh of relief. But my happiness was short lived as I suffered from yet another bad bout of eruptions six months into my new job. The stress of job training and the frequent change of cities had not gone down well with my over-sensitive skin. But this time I came in touch with a good dermatologist. She gave some medications which showed good results within two months and then there were a few sittings of chemical peel and microdermabrasion after the pimples had reduced. Her treatment was remarkably good (the best actually)  and I was delighted because my skin had never looked better.

As my doctor had made it clear that I was in for a long term struggle, I was advised to stick to a mild yet effective cleanser twice a day, regularly apply a medicated cream at night and a medicated sunscreen while going out in the sun. My skin continued to behave well though I would still get a few eruptions at times. But the turning point came with my pregnancy when I had to stop applying all those medicated products. I was scared that the pimples would be back with a vengeance. However the hormonal changes worked in my favor and the pimples just went away by themselves.

The status quo has been continuing for three years now. But I still follow a regular skin care routine which includes a cleanser and a weekly face pack featuring a natural ingredient with known anti-bacterial properties/pimple fighting abilities like neem, mint, clay or aloe vera. Yeah, I do get a pimple once in a while due to some hormonal fluctuations but that is quite rare.

This post is written for Garnier (No Pimples No Marks) and Pure Active Neem Face Wash .

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Horse gram (Kulith/Kolotho/Kollu) Rasam

Horse gram rasam has become my go-to drink over the past week even surpassing the favorite ginger tea. Yes, it is almost magical on a sore throat and also helps in digestion. Most of us would be aware of the benefits of rasam and horse gram, so combining these two packs a double punch. Even when it comes to taste!!

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 25-30 mins

Ingredients -

  • a handful of horse gram
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
  • pinch of turmeric
  • salt to taste

For the rasam powder -

  • 1 tsp peppercorn
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • 1 tsp toor dal
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida

For the tempering -

  • 3-4 garlic flakes
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • dry red chilli
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 2 pinch asafoetida
  • 2 tsp oil

Preparation - Dry roast all the ingredients for rasam powder. Allow to cool down and then grind into a smooth powder.
Soak the tamarind in 3 cups warm water for 20 mins. Squeeze out all the juice and discard the pulp.
Chop the tomato into small pieces.

Cooking - Soak the horse gram for 1-2 hours. Then cook it for 3-4 whistles in a pressure cooker along with 1 1/2 cups water, turmeric and salt. Keep aside till steam escapes.

Use a hand blender to mash up the cooked dal.

Boil the tamarind water with little turmeric and salt in a saucepan. Allow to boil for 5-6 minutes till the raw taste goes away.

Add the cooked dal along with the tomatoes at this point. Let it boil for 4-5 mins more.

Add the rasam powder dissolved in 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Heat oil in a tempering pan. Add broken red chilli, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Allow to splutter. Add chopped garlic, curry leaves and asafoetida. Fry for 30 seconds.

Pour the tempering over the hot rasam. Simmer for 3 minutes. Switch off flame.

Serve hot as a soup or have it along with plain rice.

Happy Makar Sankranti

Happy Makar Sankranti/Pongal to all my readers !!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Relocating just got Qui(c)kr

For someone who has had to change five cities in the span of seven years, I can vouch that it is an exercise in confusion and utter frustration. Deciding which stuff to keep and what to sell off, calculating whether the relocation expenses would be sufficient to cover all expenses and finally the pain of searching for a new house are some of the bigger concerns when shifting to a new city.

But things just got quicker and easier thanks to Quikr. I discovered that it is like a one stop solution for all my needs. From finalizing the movers and packers to finding my current flat to buying a second-hand bed for the guest room, I found it all on their website when I moved to Bangalore in 2012 .That too at a decent price. And since the Ad for the flat was posted by the owner himself, it saved me a good amount in terms of brokerage charges. It also helped me to dispose off an old TV stand which did not go with the decor of the living area and was too big for the other rooms. It felt good to manage everything (including a mischievous toddler) on the home front by myself even as my husband grappled with settling down in a new office.

And I ended up recommending it to my neighbors who also bought their sofa, a computer table and a study table from Quikr and that too from the same seller. The guy who sold the stuff had set up house just an year back and had been asked to move to US for a long term assignment by his company. My neighbours actually loved the stuff which was in very good condition. Though some people have a thing about buying used stuff, it is the logical thing to do when you work in a sector that calls for frequent job change and changing cities. Most of my IT friends would apply and swear by the equation -
amount earned from selling in city 1 + relocation allowance = amount spent in buying in city 2.

That is why is becomes equally important to get a good price for the furniture/electronic goods that one is selling. With Quikr it is as easy as posting an Ad, chatting up with the buyer and fixing an appointment and finally selling the goods. Of course, you get to quote the price you want for the stuff and if the buyer likes it, the deal is closed.

Another great thing about it is that you can pick any kind of services from their website. So whether you require someone for pest-control or a cleaning lady or a cook, it is possible to find someone on Quikr. I even helped my in-laws staying in Bhubaneshwar to find a full time domestic help through the services of Quikr. Yeah they have a presence in 900 cities which makes it all the more convenient no matter whichever city one is relocating to. Do I need more reasons to recommend Quikr to my family/friends/acquaintances who are moving to Bangalore ?

This post is written for Quikr (Bangalore) .

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Fish Curry

I love fish curry...the tantalizing red color, the aroma that tingles the nose, the heat bombs that explode on the tongue, the warm feeling that leave one guessing about the complexity of spices, everything about it is ambrosia to me. And that is why I keep trying out different varieties from different states of India..spicy, tangy, sweet, thick gravy, thin gravy...just about anything that catches my eye.

But of late I was feeling a bit confused about which one to cook, so I just threw in a bit of this and a bit of that and ended up with a lip-smacking curry. Some mustard paste, a little onion-ginger-garlic-masala paste, some yogurt, about half a cup of finely chopped tomatoes and of course the lightly fried fish are the core ingredients that go into this dish. With so many ingredients, it becomes important to get the proportions right especially as this curry needs to be a light one (with a thin-gravy).

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 30 mins

Ingredients -

  • 6 pieces Rohu fish 
  • 2 tsp (heaped) onion-masala paste
  • 3-4 tsp mustard masala paste
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cup boiled potato cubes
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/5 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • (Oil for shallow frying fish)
  • coriander leaves for garnishing

Preparation - Marinate the fish with a pinch of turmeric and some salt. Shallow fry on both sides to a golden brown. Remove and keep aside on a tissue paper to absorb excess oil.

Beat the yogurt to break any lumps.

Cooking - Heat 4 tsp oil in a wok. Add the onion masala paste and fry lightly for 3 mins.

Add the mustard masala paste and fry for 1 minute (do not overdo).

Add the chopped tomatoes along with chili powder, turmeric and garam masala. Cover with a lid for 1-2 mins to allow tomatoes to soften. Fry for another minute.

Add about 4 cups boiling water. Adjust the salt and allow the curry to come to a rolling boil.

Let it boil for 2-3 mins before adding the fish and the boiled potatoes. Cover with a lid and let simmer for a while till you get the desired consistency.

Finally stir in the yogurt along with a little salt. Let it boil for 2-3 mins before adding the coriander leaves and removing the curry from the flame,

For onion masala paste - 1 large onion, 8-10 garlic flakes, 2 inch ginger, 2 dry red chilis, 1 tsp cumin seeds, 1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick, 2-3 green cardamoms. Grind everything together into a smooth paste.

For mustard masala paste - 3 tsp mustard seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 7-8 garlic flakes, 1-2 green chili. Grind everything together into a smooth paste.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Sri Lankan Pumpkin Curry (Wattaka Kalu Pol)

Pumpkin Curry ??? No ways. Going by the way most people feel about this humble vegetable, I had actually put off posting the recipe. But leafing though my diary to sort out/refresh some of the low oil dishes that I have cooked over the years, I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe. I had first watched this curry being prepared by an old Sri Lankan lady on television but I could not catch all the ingredients that go into the making of this dish. So, when I searched for this recipe on the net, I stumbled upon Dani Venn's blog . She has a great collection of recipes and please do check them when you have the time.

Coming back to the recipe, I decided to stay true to the ingredients used (though I skipped the rice and desiccated coconut paste) but made some minor change in the order in which they go into the dish. Call it 'cultural conditioning' or whatever you like, but I could not understand the logic behind adding the tempering ingredients after frying the onion, ginger and garlic :). The curry turned out to be delicious (and amazingly aromatic) despite using so less oil.

Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 25 mins

Ingredients -

For curry powder -

  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 3 cardamon pods
  • 2-3 dry red chilis
  • Sprig of curry leaves
  • 1 1/2 inch long cinnamon stick
  • 1 teaspoon rice
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder

Others -

  • 1 tsp rice bran oil
  • 1 medium sized onion(finely chopped)
  • 3 garlic flakes (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ginger (finely chopped)
  • 1 red chili (broken into small pieces)
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp fenugreek seed
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 pandan leaves, roughly torn into pieces
  • 500g pumpkin (peeled & diced into 1 1/2 inch cubes)
  • 2 cups thick coconut milk

Preparation - Heat a frying pan. Add the rice to it and roast for 2-3 mins. Then add all other spices (except for turmeric) mentioned under 'For curry powder' and roast till they give off their fragrance.

Remove from flame and allow to cool down. Grind into a fine powder and mix turmeric with it. Since this is more than what you need for the curry, keep the rest of it in an air-tight bottle in the fridge.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a wok. Add the broken red chili, mustard and fenugreek seeds to it. Once they start popping, add the onions. Fry till translucent.

Add the chopped ginger and garlic. Fry for 2 mins before adding all the powdered spices.

Fry for a minute and then add the curry leaves, pandan leaves and pumpkin cubes.

Add the coconut milk to the wok and let it simmer on a low flame.

Once the pumpkin is cooked, add 2 levelled teaspoons of the curry powder and mix it well. (Add more curry powder if you like it spicy).

Remove from the flame and serve hot with white rice and yogurt.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Curd Rice /Thayir Sadam (Comfort food from down South)

"Does anyone need a recipe for curd rice ??", I blurted out in bewilderment. "Yes, in fact a lot of them do. Else they will keep dishing out variations that range from being chewy to being downright watery", replied by frustrated husband. He had had a particularly bad day at office and it was exacerbated by the unpalatable lunch that the caterer had chosen to serve. Though the curd rice served by the canteen guys is never the best, it was really bad that day and had my husband fuming.

Now even though I am not a South Indian, I have stayed down South for a long time and have picked up the nuances of quite a few South Indian recipes (especially the ones that my husband and kid adore). And I do make good curd rice ( a fact endorsed by my South Indian friends ). I find it easy, quick and quite soothing on the tummy. So, while it is a staple during the summers, I end up making it once in a while during the winters when I have had a heavy dinner on the previous night.

( Do not forget to check out the Odia version of this recipe - Dahi Pakhala )

Read on for my recipe -

Preparation Time - 10 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup cooked rice (needs to be cooked softer than usual)
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2/3 cup fresh yogurt
  • 3 tbsp coarsely grated carrot
  • 1 sprig curry leaves (finely chopped)
  • 1-2 finely chopped green chilis
  • 7-8 cashews (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp urad dal
  • 1/4 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dry red chili (I prefer Byadgi which gives a good flavor)
  • a pinch of asafoetida
  • 2 tsp oil
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Take the still warm rice in a mixing bowl. Use the back of a heavy spoon to mash it up. Add warm milk little by little and mix it up.

Allow the rice and milk mix to cool down completely before adding the beaten curd. Add salt, grated carrot and chopped green chilis to the mixing bowl and mix everything thoroughly.

Heat the oil in a tempering pan. Add the mustard seeds, urad dal, cashews, dry red chili, asafoetida and curry leaves. Fry for 8-10 seconds.

Pour the tempering over the contents of the mixing bowl. Mix it uniformly.

Serve immediately along with a pickle and/or papad .

Note - If you are making it for kids, do not put any green chilis. Instead add about 1/2 tsp sugar and fruits like grapes (chopped into small bits), pineapple (chopped into small bits) and pomegranate. 

When 'No' did not mean 'Yes'


"Good Morning Maam. This is Sunita calling on behalf of Ronafone ( now 'rona' is the Hindi for cry and that is what I have been doing ever since I bought their SIM). Please confirm your number '973XXXXXXX'."


"Are you the user of this number?"

"Yes" ( Isn't it plainly obvious ??)

"Maam, would you like to activate a new plan for 3G ?"

"No, I do not require any 3G plans." (As it is my calls keep dropping due to the bad network and you guys have still not done anything about it despite logging a complaint)

"But Maam, 3G is already activated for your number. With this new plan you can get more download for just 50 rupees extra"

"What? But I did not activate 3G." (God....Rishabh keeps fiddling with my mobile all the time..what have you done this time kid??)

"Maam...would you like to go with the new 3G plan ?"

"No...and I would like to deactivate 3G. Please tell me how to go about it ?"

"Maam, I cannot do it. Please call XXX. It is a toll free number."

"But you just called for activating a new plan. Surely that means that you can deactivate/change the existing one....or you can take down my request and forward it to the concerning department"

"No Maam, I cannot do it. Please call XXX."

"I still do not understand why you cannot take my request"

"Maam, it is not possible for me to change/deactivate the existing plans"

"That means I need to call up some XXX customer care number and fight my way though the maze of an endless menu"

"Sorry for the inconvenience Maam. Please call XXX for deactivating 3G."

"Ok. Thank you."

"Thank you Maam. Have a nice day"

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gurubariya Ambila ( A rustic vegetable soup from Odisha )

Well...excuse me for the 'Gurubariya' bit . I kept thinking of a name for this recipe and could not come up with anything better. While the Ambila is a popular dish from Odisha which is somewhat similar to the Andhra rasam, this version is made only during Manabasa Gurubar or the thursdays of the Hindu month of Margasira. Devoid of the generous garlic tempering and made to include only a few select vegetables ( sweet potato, radish, banana stem & taro ) that are usually offered to Goddess Lakshmi, this has a unique taste which is unlike the regular vegetarian version (click here for recipe) or the non-vegetarian version(click here for recipe).

Read on -

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1/2 cup radish (cut into circles)
  • 1/4 cup sweet potato (cut into circles)
  • 1/4 cup taro/arbi (cut into circles)
  • 1/4 cup banana stem (cut into small pieces)
  • 1 green chili
  • 1 dry red chili
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ginger juliennes (my addition)
  • 1 tbsp jaggery
  • 1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • salt to taste
  • 1/5 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp refined oil/ghee

Preparation - Mix the banana stem pieces with a bit of salt and set aside for 20 mins. Squeeze out the water from the pieces.

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup warm water for 15 mins. Mash it with hands and strain the liquid. Discard the solids.

Cooking - Add all the vegetables to a pressure cooker along with 4 cups of water, green chili, turmeric and salt to taste. Cook for 2 whistles. Remove from flame and keep aside till steam escapes.

Put the pressure cooker on a low flame. Add the jaggery and the tamarind to it. Allow to simmer for 6-7 mins. Adjust consistency.

Heat the oil/ghee in a small pan. Add the cumin seeds, asafoetida, broken red chili and curry leaves to it. Once it gets spluttering, pour the tempering over the contents of the pressure cooker. Boil for 1 minute before removing from flame.

Serve it hot with meals or enjoy as a light soup.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Whole Wheat Carrot Cake ( That's some Low calorie indulgence )

"How can a cake be healthy?", queried my husband. "It has to have sugar, butter/oil and maida", he elaborated. "How about we cut down on the sugar and oil, and replace the maida with atta ?", I replied. "What about the taste?", was the obvious question that followed. Humm. That last question sent me scurrying to my laptop for a godsend solution as any other plea regarding health was going to cut any ice with father and son. And I did find the prefect solution in Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe.

This recipe very cleverly substitutes a part of the wheat flour with grated carrot while going easy on the sugar and oil. The natural sweetness of carrots combined with the generous use of eggs gives this cake a deliciously moist texture and awesome flavours. Read on for the recipe -

Preparation Time - 1 hour 20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (atta)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice bran oil
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 tsp Eno
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • Baking dish - Borosil 1.2 L Square dish

Preparation - Grind the sugar into a powder.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat them till fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat for 2-3 mins .

Stir in the grated carrot followed by the wheat flour, cinnamon powder, salt, Eno and baking powder.

Finally add the oil and mix everything together.

Baking - Heat an oven to 180 degrees Centigrade for 10 mins.

Grease and then dust the baking tray with a little flour. Pour the batter into it and place it in the center of the oven. Allow to bake for 45-50 mins or till a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool down. (Run a knife along the edges and flip it over while it is still a bit warm. This way it comes out clean)

Cut into pieces and serve along with some tea/coffee. (Since it is a moist cake, it is best to refrigerate any leftovers)

Note - Baking time will vary with the size of the baking dish.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Chicken Kheema Matar

A few days back I had posted the recipe for soya kheema matar . That had been inspired by the Kheema matar, a delicious recipe of minced mutton cooked along with fresh green peas. But as I have resolved to stay away from red meat this year, I substituted the mutton with chicken. I found it to be easy and quick, and one of the best side-dishes for hot puffed by rotis.

Read on for the easy recipe -

Preparation Time - 15-20 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup chicken kheema/minced chicken
  • 1 cup shelled green peas (fresh ones only)
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 medium sized onion
  • 1 small boiled potato
  • 1 green chili (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1/3 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/5 tsp Garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 inch long cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 green cardamom
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tbsp thick curd
  • 3 tsp oil
  • salt to taste
  • fresh coriander leaves for garnishing

Preparation - Wash and drain the chicken kheema to remove excess water.

Chop the onion into medium sized pieces. The tomato can either be finely chopped or grind into a paste.

Peel and cut the potato into small pieces.

Beat the curd lightly with a spoon to break any lumps.

Cooking - Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Throw in the whole garam masala. Add the onions and fry for 1-2 minutes before adding the ginger paste, garlic paste and green chili. Fry for 3-4 minutes till the raw smell goes off.

Add the chicken kheema at this point along with the coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder and half of the garam masala. Fry for 4-5 minutes.

Add the tomato pieces and fry for 2-3 mins. Add the beaten curd and cook for another 2-3 mins.

Finally add the green peas, potato pieces, salt and remaining garam masala. Cook for 3-4 mins on low flame before removing from the stove.

Serve hot with rotis or even with some white rice.

Note - Add some meat masala to add that extra zing to this dish !! If making this dish with mutton kheema or country chicken kheema, add about 1/2 cup hot water while adding green peas and cook it for 2-3 whistles.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Chicken Porcupine Balls ( That's one guilt-free snack )

One of the resolutions that I have made for 2015 is to go easy on the oily/fried stuff. And that takes me on a journey to discover and adopt as many steamed/roasted (read 'low calories') recipes as possible without compromising on my family's taste buds. So when I came across this recipe in a magazine, I just had to try it.

Though these cute looking porcupine balls were at first intended as party snacks for the kids, I added green chili instead of pepper powder to up the heat content. One can also add some finely chopped greens/cabbage/carrots/peppers to the chicken mince to get some fiber into this dish. With a little bit of tinkering, one can tailor this recipe in accordance with one's dietary plans.

Read on for my version of the recipe -

Preparation Time - 20-25 mins

Ingredients -

  • 1 cup chicken mince
  • 1/2 of a small onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (grated)
  • 1/2 inch ginger (grated)
  • 1 green chili (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • few drops of light soy sauce
  • one egg white
  • 1/4 cup rice (preferably the thin and long variety)
  • few drops oil for greasing
  • salt to taste

Preparation - Wash and soak the rice for 2-3 hours.

Take the chicken mince in a mixing bowl and add all the remaining ingredients (except oil & rice).
Mix well and divide into 12-14 portions. Shape each portion into a ball.

Strain the rice, spread it on a plate and put under the fan for 5-10 mins so that the excess water gets evaporated. Roll each ball over the rice so that the rice grains coat it well.

Cooking - Plug in a steamer. If you do not own one, use an idli stand and spread some banana leaves over the plates. (Or you can even do it in a pressure cooker like we steam dhokla)

Place the balls and close the lid. Steam for 15-18 mins .

Remove from the steamer/idli pot and serve hot with schezuan chutney/sauce.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Koli achara /Ber ka achar/Kuller Achar ( and a whiff of nostalgia )

'Koli' or 'barakoli' used to be one of my favorite fruits during the school days. I still prefer it to strawberry, raspberry, blueberry or for that matter, any other berry on this planet. Almost everything about it was so much fun. Eagerly gobbling a few of the still green ones and spitting them out in disgust, waiting for them to take on that slightly golden hue which signaled the ripening stage, throwing stones/beating the branches with long sticks to pluck the ripened berries from the tree, all accompanied with the admonishing from elders who forbid us to eat them before Saraswati Puja. Growing up in a small town like Rourkela where there were lots of 'barakoli' trees in almost every neighborhood, we surely had a great time. It was considered quite cool to snatch some berries from a neighbour's tree while the occupants of the house were having their afternoon siesta. And thankfully nobody branded a bunch of kids as 'kleptomaniacs' in those days.

Once Saraswati Puja was over, one would find the fruit being sold everywhere in the local markets. Though it was less fun as compared to savoring the first (read 'stolen') berries of the season, we still consumed them till we got stomach cramps or sometimes even a bad cough. But still these minor side effects did not deter us kids. Finally it would be time to pickle the berries. The ladies of the house would wash and dry the berries before pickling them. And we would finish more than half of the stuff even before they reached the pickling stage. So, my grandmother would pickle the remaining lot and keep it out of reach. Somehow she managed to ration the stuff so that it lasted almost the entire year. Aaah, those days were quite magical.

But these days we always buy our pickles off the supermarket shelves. Neither do they have the taste which my grandmother's pickles had nor will my kid have any such memories to hold on to. Maybe that's why I made this pickle so that he can experience some of the magic though in a much subdued manner. Here is the recipe -

Preparation Time - 15 mins (this is the coking time only, the drying process takes days)

Ingredients -

  • 250 gms koli/ber
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel/saunf seeds
  • 3-4 dry red chilis
  • 1 cup jaggery
  • 4-5 tsp mustard oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste

Preparation - Wash and clean the berries. Dry them a bit so that the surface moisture evaporates.

Crack open each one and check for insects. This is the most time consuming part but one has to be careful while doing it.

Sprinkle turmeric and a little salt on the berries. Mix thoroughly and sun dry for 3-4 days.

Cooking - Dry roast the mustard, fenugreek and fennel seeds. Once cool, grind them into a powder.

Separately dry roast the red chilis and cumin seeds. Once cool, grind them into a powder.

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the jaggery and the red chili-cumin powder. Sprinkle a few teaspoons of water. Once the jaggery melts and starts bubbling, add the dried berries. 

Cook for 2-3 minutes or till the jaggery thickens. Remove from flame and sprinkle the mustard-fenugreek-fennel seed powder and mix thoroughly.

Allow to cool down completely before bottling it up. Stays good for an year or even longer (that is if you can control the urge to gobble it up).

Note - Some people also prefer to make this pickle by cooking the dried berries in jaggery to which some chili powder has been added and finally adding a tempering of pancha-phutana or panch-phoran at the end.

Pancha-phutana or panch-phoran is a mix of mustard, cumin, fenugreek, nigella and fennel seeds in equal proportion. It is very frequently used in Odia and Bengali cuisine.

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