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 РSaut̩ 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.