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:
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:

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

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:

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!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Indian picnic menu for an Indian Summer

Lady M was in a dilemma. Not to the Hamletian proportions, but a dilemma nevertheless. The culprit is, as always, Lord M. Lord M and friends were discussing a day out with family while the over enthusiastic Lord M promised home made (read ‘Lady M made’) Indian finger food for the picnic. All this, without bothering to consult (beg) Lady M.

Lady M wanted to be firm and refuse to provide the goodies, in which case, Lord M, in order to save the face will be forced to hit the supermarket shelves for readymade stuff, which will eventually be labeled as ‘home made by Lady M’. As Lady M can’t have the friends to believe that she made those substandard stuff, it’s either cook something or be branded as a no-good cook in front of friends.

Lady M, who has an ego as big as an elephant when it comes to cooking, decided to concede this time, all the while thinking of ways to take it upon Lord M in the most appropriate manner. Lord M, having foreseen the big thunderstorm brewing, had been extremely cooperative and courteous as the picnic day was approaching and even offered to clean up the entire kitchen once Lady M was done with cooking.

Lady M, desperately wanted to impress the picnic goers, planned to make Onion Bhaji, Grilled Tuna patties, Vegetable samosas and a spicy summer fruit salad. The dips would be coriander chutney and spicy raisin chutney, with fresh lemonade for the under aged.

The grilled Tuna patties were made first as the patties can be frozen and can directly go to the grill during barbeque. Lady M chopped an onion, 2 green chillies, one or two garlic cloves and a piece of ginger and emptied them to a teaspoon of olive oil in the heated pan. While they were browning, she opened 3-4 cans of tuna flakes, drained the water and added them to the pan. In went ¼ tsp of turmeric, 1 tsp of garam masala and salt. As tuna does not need a lot of time to absorb the flavors, she switched off the cooker and then added a healthy dollop of tomato ketchup, salt, cheese and some coriander leaves. Some boiled potatoes were mashed with salt and added to tuna along with an egg and shaping the mix to round patties was kid’s play.

Next, Lady M heated a table spoon of oil and popped mustard seeds and cumin (1/2 tsp each) in preparation for the samosas. Into the popped mustard, went one onion, a small piece of ginger, two three green chillies, all chopped fine in the food processor and then in went finely cut vegetables – potatoes, carrots, beans and some frozen peas. The vegetables were left to cook on steam on a low flame till soft. In the meanwhile, Lady M rolled the ready made puff pastry sheets to squares. Ones the vegetables are done, she added some lemon juice and salt and coriander leaves to the mixture, mashed them a bit and dolled spoonfuls of the aromatic stuff onto the pastry sheets. The sheet was folded to form perfect triangles and the samosas just needed to be deep fried for 5 minutes or so.

The fruit salad was meant to be a colorful event – juicy strawberries, pink water melon, Creamy yellow honey melons, pink and green grapes and berries – all co-existing snugly in a bowl with honey and chat masala topping (The chat masala was taken out of packet sourced from one of the Indian shops). There are green apples and yellow bananas too, but the wise lady would not be cutting them till the last moment, or they will discolor and look less appealing.

The coriander chutney was easy peasy Lemon Squeezy – a bunch of coriander, 4 table spoons of fresh coconut and a green chilly , ground well and then half a lemon squeezed on top and a sprinkling of salt. The health–un-conscious ones can go for a garnish to intensify the flavour by popping mustard seeds and black gram seeds in a tea spoon of cooking oil.

The raisin chutney was next – Sauté 3-4 garlic, 1 dry red chilly and 1 cup of raisins on slow fire in a bit of hot oil, and blended well to form a ketch-up like consistency.

While Lady M was in the kitchen, Lord M , the eternal peace maker and a suitable candidate for UN, had managed to bathe and put a nappy on a wriggling toddler, who suddenly decided that he was too grown to use a nappy and proudly produce a full load of bed sheets and smelly clothes every 24 hours. And countless waking ups at night too.

While the hamper was being set, Lady M thinly sliced white onions, sprinkled some salt on them and dunked the onions into a batter of 1 cup chick pea flour (Besan), one egg, some cumin seeds, half a teaspoon of red chilly powder and some coriander leaves all mixed with water to form a thin batter. And spoonfuls of the batter coated onion went into the chip pan to form deeply fried sweet-smelling golden onion bhajis. No wonder Lady M is considered as the best onion bhaji maker around. Though she graciously shares her recipe with everyone, she had never disclosed that the secret behind her crunchy-on-the-top-and-soft-inside bhaji lies in pinch of soda bi carbonate added to the batter at the last moment.

So all was set to go for the picnic, when Lady M suddenly remembered the lemonade. As there was no time to squeeze lemons to a jar of water, and slot in a teaspoon or two of ginger juice, some honey and mint leaves for the ’zing’ factor, they stopped at the nearest food store, grabbed a bottle or two of readymade lemonade and emptied them to the pitcher. Lady M sprinkled a few mint leaves and some sliced lemon rings for that homemade touch. Thus a cheater’s version of homemade lemonade was born. Yes, Lady M is an avid follower of Delia Smith.

Monday, 3 August 2009

There is something about Kebabs!

Our neighbours were moving as part of the NHS Doctor's programme. And I racked my brains as to what to serve them for the farewell dinner. The dinner should be easy to cook, as I am one with not much time or patience to spare. It should defenitely have that 'Wow' factor too too if I have any chance of impressing them, since they are brilliant cooks, as if being brilliant doctors were not enough!

Having said that I need something easy and tasty, I still wont go the Delia Smith way. For me, a meal is good only if all ingredients are as basic as possible. Like tomatoes should be off the wine, not from the can. Ditto with potatoes, fish or meat.

Mallika's Quick Indian Cooking solved my problem. What a delightful lady and what an inspiring blog!(

I nicked the Malai Kebab recipe from her. But, me being me, adapted it to my taste (and wallet!). I am a very miserly Indian housewife, so off went the saffron and in came the goody goody turmeric. And I replaced the nutmeg with full flavoured, freshly ground my own garam masala. No, I am not going to give the recipe, Mallika's is much more professional. See here:

Believe me, they were the most succulant kebabs I have ever tasted (restaurants included).

Those beauties were served with corriander chutney which was made of fresh coconut, green chillies, corriander leaves, Asafetida, ginger and Fried Gram dhal. The couple asked me for the recipe, and, Mallika, sorry, I didn't mention your name there! Afterall, isn't a lady supposed to have some evil secrets when it comes to cooking?

The kebabs of course were the star of the show, though we also ate fried some samosas and chips.

Those were just starters, by the way. Dinner is another story, another day.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

'Garam Masala' de -mystified!

The novice cook often gets stumbled there - the rows and rows of ingredients, all to be roasted and powdered to make one curry - who wouldn't feel like tipping those perfectly cut onion and ginger and garlic in the bin and order a take away curry? Honestly, is it worth all the trouble?

While, no denying the fact that a perfectly balanced spice mix or 'garam masala' powder can make or break a curry, there is no need to panic. You can master the art of spice grinding - its as easy as counting one, two, three..

Before going to 'what constitutes 'garam masala', lets talk about whats 'garam masala'? 'Garam' in Hindi is hot and 'masala' is a term generally used to refer to spice mix. So its hot spice mix! How simple!

Well, as to what goes into the 'masala' is not that easy. Each home has got its own closely guarded recipes for 'garam masalas'. While claiming that battles have been fought between the 'Patel's and 'Shah's for that elusive garam masala recipe will be an over statement, it is true that 'the perfect blend' is every Indian housewive's pride and joy.

For those of us, who have left homes and mothers to foreign countries, 'home-made-garam-masala' is a nostalgia. But, we still make do, life has to 'curry own' after all. So, how do we, (read full time working, mother to a toddler or two Indians) make garam masala? Well, I don't know about others, but here is my method and it works pretty well.

I take equal quantities of Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Fennel, Poppy seeds and a leaf or two of bay leaves. Heat a non stick pan very gently and dry roast the spices. After a minute or two, you will start to have a gentle aroma of the spices rising on the air. That is when the spices start to release their oil. At this stage, switch off and blitz the roasted spices in your coffee grinder. Fresh, aromatic and potent garam masala is ready! You wont have to use more than 1 teaspoon of this powder for a kilo of meat, so there will be plenty left around, which you can keep for three months or so in an airtight container.

Apart from sprinkling it in curries towards the end of cooking for that 'tonguelicious' flavour, try sprinkling a bit on your stir-Fry's or home made burgers, even on omelette's and taste the difference!

Well, what ever you do, use it sparingly as the home made 'garam masala' is much more strong and superior in quality than the store bought ones!

Now, tell me, how difficult that can be??

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

How 'NOT' to do a Curry

Well, I am a bit bitchy today. Who wouldn't, when people who cant make a cup of decent coffee turns a 'curry wizard' overnight? A friend of mine, who had spent the last 30 years of her exciting life evading the big 'K' word, mailed today saying that she cooked up chicken curry for her new TDH boyfriend!

I am pissed off at that. I swear that its not because she got a new TDH fellow. No. Positive. Its because she took the 'curry' so lightly.
Madam threw in 'lots' of ginger, 'lots' of garlic, 'lots' of onions, 'lots' of tomatoes, chicken, around a table spoon of turmeric powder, a jar of curry paste and another jar of yogurt and let the pot boil away merrily for an hour or so. No, she didn't have the magic wand the last time when we spoke, so I have a fairly good idea how that 'so called' curry would have turned out.

No, thats not the way a curry is made. (unless you are Harry Potter, that is) The curry have some ground rules. Here are a few:

1. Though all Indian chefs and housewives vouch that its always a 'pinch' of this and a 'pinch' of that, try to balance all spices and condiments - don't go over board with enthusiasm. Meaning, if its a pinch of 'this', it cant be a 'cup' of that - as far as spices go!
2. Never replace spices. For example, don't even think that you can throw in a tablespoon of cloves instead of cumin, as you don't have cumin in your kitchen cupboard. When in doubt, go without it!
3. Say no to cornflour as a thickening agent. Use onions, tomatoes, yogurt, coconut milk or cream as gravy. For kormas, use cashew nut or almond paste.
4. Olive oil does not go with Indian spices - healthy or not healthy.
5. Take the skin off the chicken, its difficult for spices to permeate otherwise.
6. Always keep the hot water handy as adding cold water during cooking will destroy flavours.
7. Let the oil heat up before adding spices. Also, its always better to add lemon juice after all cooking is finished, the lemon turns bitter if added during cooking.
8. No, no to chilly paste and Tabasco in curry. Ditto with chutneys, jams and condensed milk. Ask for Kashmiri chilly powder in the Indian grocery stores which gives all the colour but not the heat.
9. Curries are strong enough to face the world, they don't need alcohol in them. Stay off!
10. Finally, don't blame the curry if it stops trying when you keep on adding 'stuff' to it- there is a limit to Curry also, as to what it can comfortably carry off. You just cant endlessly 'extend' a curry by tipping in the entire contents of the vegetable tray.
So, now you have got the 10 commandments. But remember, curry is not a burger - its not that fast! It requires time and effort and yes, attention. Now, don't shoot the messenger.....

By the way, if you are wondering, the boyfriend is still with her, breathing and all.

The Credit Crunch Menu

Its credit crunch time and the Menon household are trying to save up pennies to make it a mighty pound. The ‘cutting down’ officially started this weekend, though they opted to call the process ‘lifestyle remodeling’ instead, just so that their inflated egos don’t get hurt. And for anybody who cared to ask, they announced that they were following the Jamie Oliver at Saintsbury’s example.

So the Friday evening take away is out, the healthy home cooked meal is in. But What Lady. M did not realize was that cooking was going to be a one (wo)man operation, a tired and irritated full time working woman operation, that is. ‘I am hungry’ announced Lord M upon reaching home and headed direct to the laptop, and the unwilling chef was stuck with Junior M screaming for dinner, who was yet to be bathed, lotioned and be coxed to bed . After a meal of fried chicken and chips, and 10 renderings of ‘Lavender’s blue dilly-dilly’ off he closes his eyes and bang! It stuck 8.

Lady M’s resolutions for healthy home-made were going astray, though she managed to push in two-three baking potatoes into the oven with a sprinkle of rock salt. Tuna and sweet corn came out of the can. Lady M chopped some onions and green chillies to mix with mayonnaise, all the while pretending that she was chopping the one at the laptop! The onions came out pretty small, by the way.

The Lord and the Lady managed to wolf down the jacket potatoes with tuna and corn topping and fresh fruits (plus some forbidden ‘units’ – at a quarter of what they would have spent at the restaurant) and were off to bed by 10, though the satisfaction normally associated with putting the feet up on the Friday night and eating all the calorie laden cheesy pizzas and fries was evading the Lady. It certainly did not feel like a Friday!

The ‘healthy-living’ theme continued to Saturday and they managed to hit the farmers market and came out with lots of oranges, sweet grapes, crispy green leaves, freshly-dug potatoes, perfect strawberries and juicy carrots- all under a 10! Lady M was having goose-bumps with pride and then realized that she still had to clean the dirt off the stuff and actually cook them! OMG, what will happen to the French manicure?

The lunch was plain rice and vegetable curry with coconut milk. And poppudums dry roasted for a minute in the Microwave. That tasted good and yes, its under a fiver!

Great, its left over rice for dinner disguised as one pot Fried Rice meal, decided the Lady. Stir fried some frozen veggies, some chicken strips, eggs and a handful of soybeans and some garlic in olive oil and added them to rice along with a bit of soya sauce.

Then the phone rang, announcing the arrival of friends in 30 minutes- so the menu had to be expanded now, much to the Lord’s delight. The tofu was browned gently with onions, tomoto puree, ginger and garlic paste, to be added with a bit of cream, yoghurt, curry powder, chillies and coriander leaves to form the low fat version of the eternal favorite - Paneer Tikka Masala. Out to impress, she threw in and sautéed some onions, lamb mince and green peas and coriander leaves along with the leftover baked potato from yesterday’s dinner, broken an egg over it and scrumptious mince patties ready to grill happened like Magic.

Some garlic-tomato ketchup jumped out of the jar and got mixed with mayo for that sophisticated dip. The very generous Lord M did a salad of lettuce leaves, cucumber, coriander leaves and cherry tomatoes and emptied a can of cooked drained chick peas on top with a generous helping of lemon juice and the dinner was bursting with texture, colour and nutrition - all with 30 minutes of toiling. And the fun they had at the back yard – No pub smoke to harm the lungs and a gently breeze lifting the spirits under the shiny stars, that was a night out to remember!

Sunday came in with lots of sunshine. So its Italian theme today, pasta! Off pasta goes to boiling water. With Onions and tomatoes and spinach and a bit of bacon and mushrooms all sautéed to perfection and added in, the homemade pasta was a thing of beauty. The strawberries and melons and pineapple met the 5-a-day requirement without adding any extra sugar. The neighbors, Lady and Lord J brought in a carrot cake and some lemonade and hours were spent basking in sun and generally having fun!

By evening, Lady M was so tired that she started longing for a take away and the associated guilty pleasures and above all, rest. Lord M rose to the challenge and came up with spiced meat balls (onions, tomatoes and a bit of curry powder sautéed and mixed with the canned meat balls) and herby noodles (the cheap Asda variety with chopped herbs and a sprinkling of cheese on top) and the plates were licked clean. The Junior was served some grilled cheese too.

Sunday night was the audit night and the Menons realized how much good money they saved without loosing any of the fun! Its friendship and love that matters and what’s more convenient and easy than knocking down two or three dishes and having a good time at your garden with the loved ones?

But the glitter, glamour and adrenalin-rush associated with evening-out still lures, and let’s wait and see if Menons will stick to their resolutions.

(This first came here:

Monday, 27 July 2009

A taste of India

Ever since coming to UK, I have been bombarded with questions on how to cook a particular curry or how to grill the perfect Kebab! Every British man (and women) I have met have some opinion about Indian food. It seems that the British know more about Indian curries than Indians themselves!

However, for an average British, the essential Indian food is the greasy disposable containers of red or yellow nutty sauce with a few pieces of meat or vegetables and lots of coriander leaves thrown in. Though it makes a pretty picture, my very unsophisticated palette finds all take-away Kurumas, Masalas and Jal Frezies taste like coming out of the same ‘Tesco readymade Sauce’ jar! This is indeed a sad picture, and I muse how we need ambassadors of Good Indian Food here! (No offence to the up market chefs in UK, we are talking about the lowly working class people like me who can’t afford to pay £8 for a good curry every Friday).

Years ago, when we first came to London as tourists (with tons of enthusiasm to make up for the infinitesimal wallet), we found our food haven in a tiny dhaba-style steel structure in the heart of Southhall, which used to dole out (rock-hard) idlies, (1 pound coin size) vadas and (runny) sambar for under a fiver! That tasted heavenly, after a week of munching on bland sandwiches and pies in a row. However, the first thought was, is this the standard of Indian Food available in UK?

Later on, having had chances to dine in good Indian Restaurants, I changed my opinion, though our current take out budget is still within 10 pounds and as a result we end up with the above mentioned pots of yellow Kurumas that taste sweeter than kheer or greasy masalas, out of which (if you manage to extract the oil), a family of 4 can cook their entire 3 day’s meal!

Make no mistakes, friends, this is not the finest of Indian food. Indian food offers something for every palette: tasty, tangy, sweet, salty, spicy, crunchy, soft and you name it, Indians have it! It has the right balance of tastes and textures and is one of the most sophisticated in the world, having taken shape in the palaces of Kings and having integrated the finest of techniques from the world cuisine! Above all, Indian food is healthy too!

How come we get passable Pizzas and juicy burgers for under 5, but when it comes to curries, it is either pay a ransom or be happy with something substandard?

Well, to keep up the trend of ‘curry-craze’, We need cheap and tasty take-aways , which
1. Offer us authentic Indian food
2. Not rob us of more than £10 for a meal
2. Not making us eat all that oil which will eventually block our arteries (or valves or veins? –
Excuse the ignorance, medical folks!).

Believe me, entrepreneurs, offer us proper Indian food, and there are millions to be made!

(This came here first: