Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Britains Best Dish

Well, Well, Well. Shame on me. I seem not to keep my promises. I had promised to come back more often , but I didnt. Was I that busy? No. Just laziness. Plain laziness.

Without much ado, I went on to participate in Britain's Best Dish 2010.  Fantastic experience. The studio people were lovely, the judges were very kind and overall, I loved the experience. Would I repeat? No, I dont think so. Realised that competitions are not my forte. A show of my own? Hmm.... A close friend suggested ''Curry on Seema!''. Hmm.. no harm in dreaming I guess.

The results first: I lost to a britsh man who made 'curry' !!! If its any consolation, he went on to win the seris!

My entry was 'Aromatic Salmon Biriani with cucumber and pomagranate Raita and spicy raisin chutney'. The biriani was well loved by the judges,(no other than John Burton Race, Ed Baines and Jilly Goolden)  they were all very kind with praises, (they absolutely loved it! yipee!!)  but what they didnt like was the combination of Salmon with curry. No complaints, its upto their individual tastes, right? I still vouch by my stand - I think Salmon goes beautifully with curry.

See me in action here: (You get to see more of Jonathan than me, as mine was edited out. I am looking for a fuller version, will upload as and when I find it)

So, here it is!


Scottish Salmon- 200 grams

Basmati Rice – 100 grams

Indian ghee – 50 grams

Fresh Pineapple – 50 grams

Cloves – 2

Cardamom – 2

Cinnamon – 2’’ piece

Fennel seeds – a pinch

Onion – 2

Beef tomatoes – 2

Lemon juice – a few drops


To blend:

Garam masala – 1 tsp

Green chilly – 2

Mint leaves - a handful

Cilantro – a handful

Corriander powder – 1 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1 tsp

Oil – 2 tb spoon

Garlic – 3 pods

Ginger – 6 grams


Onion - 2

Rose petals – a few

Cashew – 10 grams

Rose water – 10 ml

Saffron- a few strands.


Slice onions and tomatoes.

In a blender, blend together all ingredients together till coarse.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil and fry onions followed by tomatoes. Add the blended paste and cook till the oil comes on top .(This should take about 8 minutes, but don’t go by time, rather wait till the oil comes up which will give a nice hue to the sauce). slowly lower the salmon pieces without breaking. Add salt. Reduce heat to simmer and cook Salmon till done (5-6 minutes). To this add pineapple pieces (the pineapple need not be cooked). Sprinkle lemon juice and let the salmon rest in the sauce (30 minutes) so that it can absorb all the flavours.

In another heavy bottomed pan, pour 3 tb spoons of ghee and fry cardamoms, cloves, cinnamon and fennel seeds till the aroma comes up. To this add water (for 1 cup of rice, add 2 cups of water) and salt. When the water boils, add rice and cook till rice is well cooked and soft. Fluff up with a fork.
For garnish, slice the onions very thin and deep fry in ghee till they are brown. Leave aside. In the same ghee, fry cashews. Drain on tissue.

In a small ramekin, take a few teaspoons of milk, add the saffron strands and microwave for 30 seconds. Leave till the saffron gets infused into the milk.

Layering process

Take the fish out of the sauce and keep on one side.Normally the fish/meat is baked with the rice, but salmon is very delicate and it might break in the process, hence this is to be avoided.

In a heavy bottomed pan, smear some ghee, and add a layer of rice, followed by a layer of sauce. Now sprinkle in fried onions, nuts, coriander leaves, saffron flavoured milk and rose water. On top of that add another layer of rice. Repeat the process till all rice and fish are finished. On the top layer, sprinkle onions, nuts . Reserve the rose petals till serving. Cover with aluminum foil.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees and bake for 15 minutes.

Sprinkle rose petals on top and serve the dish.

Preparation – 30 minutes

Total cooking time: 50 minutes.

For Raisins chutney

Raisins – 50 grams

Ginger – 3 grams

Garlic – 2 pods

Malt vinegar -2 tb spoons

Salt- to taste

Red whole chillies – 1

Mustard seeds – 1 tb spoon

Sunflower oil – 2 tb spoon

Flame grill the whole chillies and garlic with skin.

In a pan, pop mustard followed by the other ingredients except vinegar. When the raisins pop up, remove from fire, check salt and blend to a coarse jam like consistency. Add a few drops of water to help with the blending and to get the desired consistency.

Total time: 10 minutes

Cucumber and pomegranate Raita

Greek yoghurt – 1 cup

Cucumber – 100 grams

Pomagranate seeds – 30 grams

Salt- to taste

Peel and chop cucumber. Mix with yoghurt and salt. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top and serve chilled.

Plating up

In a plate, place a medium sized square cookie cutter and press in the rice part of the biriani. On top place a piece of salmon and sprinkle rose petals, a few cashews. Place raisin chutney on one side and the raita on the other side, making sure that the pomegranate seeds come up in presentation.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Rice time

Its quite funny to notice that when it comes to comfort foods people go back to simple stuff. Like beans on toast. Apple crumble. I have never heard of one who cooks up, lets say, loin of venison with a blackberry and sloe gin glaze served with clapshot rosti and parsnip crisps (What?) or Warm wood pigeon tart, rocket salad and goats' buttermilk sorbet with wild garlic dressing (Do normal people eat like this?) or you have got to be Sophie Dhal, who does not mind making an omelette Benedict on a self indulgence day (what about a manicure instead?)

Talking about comfort food, rice is an absolute favourite of mine. That’s like going back to basics as I have grown up eating loads and loads of rice – like a 2 rice servings a day kind of childhood. (plus plenty of vegetables).

Last week, I was getting nostalgic about India. Specifically Kerala. To be more specific about food and sambar. But was not in a mood to go the lengthy way to make a sambar, rice and thoran combo. Instead I decided to try out my own version of sambar rice. Was it a success? Oh boy, see the pics to judge for yourself. Gordon (Ramsey, not Brown) could not have done better!

Here is a pic for you and the way I did it. No claims on authenticity.

For this sambar rice, the ingredients are:

Biriani Rice- 1 cup

Indian Red onion – 1

Big Green chilly (the mild one) – 1

Tesco’s grilled vegetables (frozen) – 1 cup (includes aubergines, courgettes, peppers, onions and cherry tomotoes – so versatile!)

Potato -1 medium size

Tamarind paste – ½ tsp

Asafoetida – ½ tsp

Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp

Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp

Curry leaves – some

Oil – 3 tb spoons

Salt – 1 tsp

And the star of the show, Sambar powder – 2 tsp

(For those who does not have sambar powder, try mixing 3/4 tsp coriander powder, ½ tsp chilly powder, ¼ tsp turmeric powder, ½ tsp asafoetida – but its worth buying a sachet of sambar powder from the asian stores for that authentic taste.)


In a pan, heat oil and pop mustard and fenugreek seeds. To this add chopped potato, green chilly and onions. Fry on low heat for a minute or so. Add asafoetida and curry leaves. To this add 2 cups of boiling water and the rice. Tip in the vegetables, salt, tamarind paste and the sambar powder. Give it a good stir. Close the lid and cook till the rice is fluffy and seperated.

Traditionally, it is cooked till the rice gets soggy. But I preferred a pilaf kind of consistency and wanted the grains separate. So if you like a traditional method, don’t go by this recipe.

But I have to tell you that this is the perfect Sambar rice I have ever eaten!

By the way, did I tell you that I got an invitation for ‘Britains Best Dish 2010’ competition? Details later…

Friday, 8 January 2010

Sinful Carrot Muffins

The festival season is finally over - now there is no excuse  not to stick to diets and try shedding those pounds piled on with binge eating. As the season was drawing a close, I fitted in one more binge eating session with yummy carrot  cup cakes with lemon and cinnamon icing. And realised a few facts of life. Here are the pearls of wisdom:

1. Whoever said cinnamon and lemon do not go well together, lied. They are an absolutely lovely combination.
2. Whoever said you cannot eat 5 muffins at a go, have never met me.
3. Whoever said muffins are not healthy, have not eaten a carrot muffin.

Enough? If yes, here is the muffin recipe. As always with my recipes, you dont have to stick to milligrams and nanograms. Just plunge in with confidence and stick to general measurements and be bold to differ - you will still be fine!

1 1/2  cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar (Just because I dont like them super sweet)
11/2  cup carrots (grated)
1/2 cup oil or butter
2 medium eggs
Few drops of vannilla essence
Reserve quarter cup of milk, if the mixture is too tight.

Mix together the sugar, oil and eggs.
To that fold in carrots, followed by vanilla and the flour.
Whisk till all ingredients are mixed - dont overwhisk!
now, if you feel that the mixture is too tight, add a few drops of milk and whisk to a cake batter consistancy.
Pour into muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes or so (By now we all know to check the doneness of a cake by inserting a toothpick onto them).

For incing, I used 1 cup of castor sugar and a 1 tb spoon of lemon and mixed well. On top of the icing, I sprinkled powdered cinnamon and some slivered almonds.

And have it with a cup of tea - absolute bliss!!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Wonderful Christmas Cake

A dear friend, budding poet and a great cook  Donna had sent the following recipe for the most wonderful Christmas cake ever. Now, I did try and it defenitely was the best, but try at your risk. You can replace any of the ingredients with whatever you fancy, the results are still guaranteed!!

Christmas Cake Recipe

Picture courtesy: http://webpages.charter.net/reference/images/ChristmasCake.jpg
You'll need the following:

1 cup of water

1 cup of sugar

4 large brown eggs

2 cups of dried fruit

1 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of brown sugar

Lemon juice


1 bottle of whisky

Sample the whisky to check for quality. Take a large bowl. Check the whisky again. To be sure it's the

highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat. Turn on the electric mixer, beat one cup of butter

in a large fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar and beat again. Make sure the whisky is still OK.

Cry another tup. Tune up the mixer. Beat two leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried

fruit. Mix on the turner. If the fired druit gets stuck in the beaterers, pry it goose with a drewscriver.

Sample the whisky to check for tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who cares?

Check the whisky. Now sift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add one table. Spoon the sugar or something.

Whatever you can find. Grease the oven. Turn the cake tin to 350 degrees. Don't forget

to beat off the turner. Throw the bowl out of the window. Check the whisky again and go to bed.

Now, did I wish you a Merry Christmas? Ow, anyways, you know that I mean it even if I dont say it.
so, what were we talking about?

Friday, 11 December 2009

Beetroots and some

Picture courtesy: http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk

Yesterday’s the Restaurant seris was educational, if not anything else. JJ and James yesterday had done their homework and had come up with some certain very interesting information, one of which is , that the Romans had considered beetroot an aphodisac! (it’s rich in the mineral boron which is important in the production of human sex hormones). The belief persists to this day that if a man and a woman eat from the same beetroot, they will fall in love (with each other, presumably.) A very lazy browsing in the google came with this result http://www.lovebeetroot.co.uk/fastfacts/

Well, I don’t need any converting – I am a big beetroot fan. In fact, I even use up the beet leaves. Yes, toss them in oil with a garlic and a green chilly and some onions, cook for a minute or two, and add an egg – your healthy scrambled egg is ready!

I also boil beets and chop them up and toss them with onions, green chilly and some lime juice to use as a healthy salad. And if you fancy colour, try to add cooking yoghurt as a dressing instead of lime – you will get a fantastically beautiful and tasty dish!

Now, yesterday’s show (The Restaurant 2009 seris) gave me another idea – cut beets into thin disks, boil them in water. Top with goats cheese and finish with a mint leaf. Thinking about the colour combination itselfs makes me tingle.

I will upload photos once I convert the ideas into proper recipes. In the meanwhile, there is no harm in trying out the ideas.

So till then,  happy beetrooting!!

Picture courtesy: http://www.virginmedia.com/homefamily/fooddrink/detox-foods.php?ssid=3

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Spare an hour for that perfect Indian Dinner

Cooking Indian food is always thought to be time consuming and labour oriented. But those were olden times. The new generation of Indian housewives is as lazy as their western counterparts. So how do we, the young and lazy ones, do ‘Indian dinners’? Well, a little planning and a lot of outside help in the form of readymade pastes go a long way to make that perfect Indian Dinner.

Here is a menu for an Indian Dinner for 6-7 consisting of

Chikken Tikka Masala (CTM)
Cumin Rice
South Indian Mixed Vegetable Stew with coconut milk
Onion and Cucumber Raita
Ready made shop bought Nans

Those who are looking for ‘made-from-scratch’ Indian dinner recipes can opt to hit the ‘Back’ arrow, as these recipes employ lots of ready made pastes.

I will be listing out the ingredients and method first, then tell you how to multi-task so that your dinner is ready and resting by the time the guests start arriving. Believe me, there is no ‘sweat’ involved, and you will be complimented for your tasty, homemade dinner. The ingredients are listed out and grouped in order of usage.

Here it goes:

Chikken Tikka Masala (CTM)

1. Chicken Breast – 500 grams
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Garam masala – 1 pinch
Lime juice – ½ a lime

2. Cooking oil – 2 teaspoons
Chopped Onions – 3
Store bought Ginger paste – 1 teaspoon
Store bought Garlic paste – 1 ½ teaspoon
Chopped Green chilly – 1

3. Store bought Garam Masala – 2 tsp
Tomato puree – 2 table spoons
Cashmiri Red chilly powder – 1 tea spoon

4. Cashew nuts – 20
Red food colour – a few drops

5. Double cream – 2 table spoons
Chopped Coriander (Cilantro) leaves – a few to garnish
Lemon juice – 1 table spoon


Cut and Marinate chicken overnight.
Chop onions and green chillies
Chop Cilantro leaves
Extract lemon juice
Using a good coffee grinder, powder cashew nut and then add some water to make a thick paste.

Cut chicken to small pieces. Marinate overnight in salt, lime juice, turmeric powder and a pinch of garam masala.

Grill the chicken pieces on a skewer for 8 minutes, basting with the marinate once or twice.

In the remaining oil, sauté chopped onions, ginger, garlic and green chilly till onions are translucent.

Add tomato paste and red chilly powder. Sauté till the paste is coated in the chicken pieces.

Add ground cashew nut paste and the food colour and heat till bubbles appear.

Add in the cooked chicken pieces and a cup of hot water and cook on slow fire with lid on for 10 minutes. Add cream at the last moment and switch off. Do not let the gravy boil after the cream is added.

Add lemon juice and cilantro leaves.

If you want to prepare CTM earlier and heat in the microwave when your guests arrive, reserve the lemon juice and cilantro for the last moment garnish.

For the real exotic look, sprinkle some pomegranate seeds and fried cashew nuts on top.

For a healthy version,
Replace double cream with single cream and eliminate cashew nut paste, instead add one more chopped onion to thicken the gravy.

Cumin Rice

1. Cumin – 2 teaspoons
Onion – 1

2. Basmati Rice – 3 cups
Water – 6 cups (adjust water accordingly if you are using a rice cooker)
Ghee or cooking oil – 3 teaspoons

Wash and drain rice. Heat the pan and sauté onions till brown. Add in cumin. Let cumin splutter. Add hot water along with rice and salt. Cook till done.

Note: The cumin, after spluttering will start to burn and start to omit a very strong odour which is not pleasant. Care must be taken to add water and rice as soon as the cumin splutters.

If using the rice cooker, switch off the cooker when it turns to ‘warm’ mode. The rice will absorb the excess moisture and will turn out to be soft and fluffy.

South Indian Mixed vegetable stew

1. Potatoes – 2
Mixed vegetables – 1 cup
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Onion- cubed – 2
Root Ginger- chopped – 2 teaspoons
Fresh Green chillies chopped – 1/2 teaspoon
Sunflower oil – 3 teaspoons

2. Ready made Coconut milk – 1 can
Coriander leaves – to garnish
Salt- to taste

Boil all except coconut milk in a cup of water. Let cook on slow fire till done. Once the vegetables are cooked, add coconut milk, let simmer for a minute and switch off. Make sure that the gravy is thick, not watery. Garnish with coriander leaves.

This is a bland dish and will be a perfect accompaniment to the spicy CTM.


Low fat yoghurt – 500 grams
Chopped onions – 2
Chopped cucumber – ½
Chopped green chilly – 1
Cilantro leaves
Salt to taste

Mix well and keep refrigerated till serving.

Now the 1 hour challenge lets start cooking at 6.

6.00-6.08 – Start to grill chicken

While chicken is grilling, complete the following steps

6.02-6.04 – Chop the onions and green chilies

6.04-6.05- Chop Cilantro and extract lemon juice – keep aside

6.05-6.07 – Prepare cashew nut paste

6.07-6.08- Heat a sauce pan with cooking oil.

6.08-6.12- Remove the grilled chicken pieces. Sauté the onion and green chilies in the heated oil. Add ginger and garlic paste.

6.13-06:15-Add tomato puree, red chilly powder, garam masala, food colour and let simmer.

6.16-6.17 – Add cashew nut paste and a bit of water for the gravy. Let boil.

6.18-6.19 Add chicken pieces and let simmer till oil separates on top.

6.19-6.22 – Switch on the rice cooker with cooking oil, let it heat. Meanwhile chop one onion in the chopper. Wash and drain rice.

6.23-6.25 – Sauté the chopped onions for a minute, and then add in cumin. Measure in hot water and add salt and rice. Close the lid. Let the rice cook.

6.26-6.30 – Chop onions, green chilies, cucumber and cilantro roughly in the chopper and add to yoghurt. Mix well and adjust salt. Put in refrigerator till serving.

6.31-6.32 – Check rice.

6.32-6.40 – By now CTM would have been ready. Add double cream and switch off. Transfer to serving dish and add lemon juice. Add the garnishing.

6.40-6.45- By now the rice would be ready. Fluff up with the fork and transfer to serving dish. Garnish with a few Cilantro leaves.

6.45-6.55- Boil 2 cups of water. Cut potatoes, green chilies root ginger. Add potatoes, Frozen mixed vegetables, turmeric, root ginger and green chilies with a dash of cooking oil to the pan. Let simmer on close lid. Once the vegetables are done, add coconut milk, let boil once and switch off. Transfer to serving dish and garnish.

6.55-6.59 – Cut poppudums to 2, place them in the Microwave in the microwave and heat on Full power for a minute. Your roasted poppudum is ready.

6.59-7:00- Place nans in a microwave safe platter, sprinkle milk and heat them for a minute.

Remember : Slow heat is the key here. Everything is cooked on slow heat so as not to burn.

And here are some anecdotes on Indian food to keep your guests entertained.

There in no such dish called Chicken Tikka Masala (CTM) in traditional Indian Cookery. CTM is Said to have originated between 1950s and 1970s and birthplace is sometimes cited as a Glasgow curry house. Legend has it one obstinate diner demanded gravy on tandoori chicken. A bemused chef responded by adding tin of Campbell's tomato soup and pinch of spices, unwittingly partaking in early example of fusion cookery. (source:BBC)

A 1998 survey by Real Curry Restaurant Guide of 48 different CTMs found only common ingredient was chicken. (Source: BBC)

Several British firms have now started exporting CTM to India. Remember the phrase coals to Newcastle. (Source: BBC)

Cumin either boiled with water or as candied, accompanies all heavy Indian meals as a breath freshener as well as a digestive aid.

Indian food is never meant to be consumed with alcohol or wines. Normally the food is served with either lassi (yoghurt based drink) or homemade lemonade.

The curry powder is not a must in all Indian curries. In south India, almost all vegetarian curries are made without curry powder.

Turmeric, wildly used in Indian cuisine, has proven to delay and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Each Indian state has their own different way of cooking as well as cooking oils.

Shopping list

Onions – 6
Cucumber – 1
Cilantro- 1 bunch
Lemon – 1
Potato – 2
Root ginger – 1 inch piece

Tomato puree- 1 small jar
Chicken breast – 500 grams
Yoghurt – 500 grams
Frozen Mixed vegetables- 500 grams
Double cream – 1 small container
Coconut milk – 1 can
Pomagranate - optional

Green chillies – 5
Ginger paste
Garlic paste
Cumin – 1 small packet
Garam Masala
Turmeric powder
Red food colour
Cashew nut – 1 small packet
Kashmir Red chilly powder- 1 small packet
Ready made Nan bread- 8
Basmati rice – 500 grams
Poppudums- 1 packet

Monday, 24 August 2009

A lemon a day to keep the doctor away..

The Lady M story continutes………………..

Lady M never believes in ‘Too much of a good thing’, especially when the good thing is offered very cheap. That’s how she came into possession of a big bag of lemon from the farmer’s market. Loaded with the bright yellow fruit, she set to work her magic around the house. Started off with displaying some of the yellow citrus in cute fruit bowls all around the house. The good thing about lemons is they hold the colour and shape for a long time and so she doesn’t have to bother to stop near the garage shop to pick up a fresh bunch of flowers every 2 weeks. Good for the purse , ahem.

After 4 such lemon baskets Lord M decided to intervene and showed the Red signal. The ever enthusiastic lady decided to put the lemon into other uses, if Lord feels that 4 bowls of lemons scattered around the house is an overkill. The next morning Lord was rudely awaken from his innocent sleep to see the lady standing in front with a tumbler and a smile. Ever so thankful for the small mercies in life, the Lord thanked the god that the lady had finally came into her senses to supply the man of the manor with a bed coffee, later to be discovered how wrong his assumption was. Though nothing compared to a cup of freshly brewed tea, the pale golden concoctation in the tumbler was pleasant in taste. Little did he realize that he was being the guinny pig to test the weight reduction powers of half a lemon mixed with a tea spoon of honey and lukewarm water, taken first thing in the morning. Lord could not complain, its much better than ½ an hour’s brisk walk in the cold morning.

The Lady also started a routine of taking a glass of lemon juice early in the morning as it is believed to cleanse your system and rejenuate the metabolism. Throw the lady hi-fi words like metabolism and health, and you can get her eat cat litter.

Lady offered half a glass of hot water with some lemon juice in it to Lord M, with an offhand ‘behave like grown up’, when he came back on Friday evening complaining about soar throat. Poor Lord M’s hope for some nice hot soup and lots of snoozes in front of the TV during the weekend looks like going in the drain. And to add to his irritation, the soar throat felt much better the next day. No more excuses for snuggling under the quilt and putting the feet up. Here I come, vaccum cleaner!

However, the ever optimistic Lord M tried to plead an upset stomach to get away with the cleaning task, only to be offered a black tea with lemon juice to settle the stomach.

The latest news from the Menon household is that Lord M is desperately preying for a miracle to make the lemon vanish from mother earth – he would otherwise have to rack his brain for more feasible ailments during the weekend which cant be cured with lemon – or hope that the vaccum cleaner breaks!