Monday, July 25, 2011

Grilled Spicy Hamburgers/Juice-grease-peace.

See the little tag cloud on the right? Below those messy ads I've been meaning to clear up. It's been building up over the last few months. But the lack of reviews or meat dishes is astounding. It makes me seem like one of those "Indian love-marriage chicks who cook NV for their husbands" but are vegan/vegetarian themselves. I am most definitely not one of those.

I eat seafood by the platefull. My family thinks only poor people live without meat. So why does the blog not have any, right?

Because as much as I eat biryani and Prawn varuval, I can't cook those things with confidence. The Salmonella, over-cooking or raw meat thing is off-putting. You've seen Top Chef. You know how it goes.

As for the lack of reviews, does anybody want to know how the canteen food at the hospital I work at tastes? I got the specially-marked Renal Diet once (restricted food for patients on Dialysis and Chronic Kidney Failure). It's not good.

Am I allowed to use the adjective terrible for food? I don't want lightening to strike me. And I know 46% of Indians can't afford three square meals a day. So I won't say terrible.

Let's just say my social life is a little lacking at this point and move on? Shall we? OK.

As you might have guessed, I'm bringing out the meat. I've a big problem with red meat. I don't eat it. Unless, of course, it's minced very fine and hidden in a moussaka or a khuska kurma or koftas. And my Urdu-muslim man loves his meat.

And yeah. Burgers. Hamburgers. Hard to find in Chennai. If I wanted a cutlet in a bun, I'd have that. Call it what is. I wanted one of those burgers I've had in the US during my childhood. Double-patty, triple cheese, with a side of salty fries. And Diet Coke.

Do not skip the cheese or the mayo if you want juice and grease. Making
a mess is obligatory/inevitable.

So if you love yourself some burgers, but can't track down juicy, meaty, flavourful, grilled burgers... MAKE THEM YOURSELF. It isn't hard. Buy some minced meat. Throw in some seasoning. Fashion out some patties. Get yourself a macho man to grill those babies. Toss them in hamburger buns with store-bought condiments. Done. Which part of that is hard?

The macho man bit? I hear you.

Spicy Hamburgers with caramelized onions:

Roughly adapted from Nigella Lawson's Speedy Hamburger Recipe.


500 g lamb/beef mince
1 tbsp yogurt
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp tabasco sauce
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Bread crumbs, for binding
salt, pepper, chilli powder, to taste
Olive oil, for frying

Cheddar cheese slices
Lettuce, tomatoes
Jalapenos, pickle

To caramelize onions:

In a non-stick pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium. Add in the onions. Lower the heat. Add a little sugar, a little salt, and caramelize those onions until deep brown, but not burnt. 

This might take around 15 minutes.

To make the patties:

Mince the meat extra fine. Add the yogurt, soy and tabasco sauce, mix into the meat.

Add the chilli powder, salt, pepper, finally the caramelized onions and garlic and knead well.

If the mix isn't stiff enough to fashion out patties, add in a couple of tablespoons of bread crumbs and bind.

Form 6 or 8 balls out of the meat. Flatten it on a greaseproof paper into patties. Stow it in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Assembling the burgers:

Heat olive oil on a griddle. Cook the patties on medium heat for atleast 2 minutes on each side. You may need more.

If you're using cheese, cook the patty on one side, flip over, place the slice of cheddar cheese on the cooked side. It'll melt as the other side is cooking.

Toast the burger buns. Place the grilled patty. Add in the mayo, mustard, jalapenos/pickles, some more caramelized onions, and yes, ketchup.

And kindly ignore the onions rings I baked with semolina on the side. Half-hearted attempt at a healthy side.
Next time I'm making batterfried onion rings. The only thing that goes with Grease is Grease. And Diet Coke.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gryffindor-y Plum-and-Mango Parfait/Potterhead grows up.

A day without dessert is not a day worth living. A day without running on the treadmill? Yay. A day without taking a bath? Allowed if you don't step out of your room. A day without meals? Totally doable. A day without dessert? Not worth living.

It's OK if it's just yogurt with granulated white sugar (dahi-cheeni/thayir-chakkarai) sprinkled on top. Or a tiny square of Lindt's Dark Chocolate with Almonds and Oranges. There has to be something sweet, preferably with chocolate or peanut butter in it.

And it's more than OK if it's mint chocolate-chip ice-cream with extra dark chocolate chips and hot fudge sauce. Actually, it's the ultimate.

But, sometimes, you have to restrict yourself. You're in charge of making dessert for people who are diabetic, on a diet, and the like. Simple dessert, with healthy fruit, can be a delight... just make sure you use the freshest of ingredients and local produce.

As much as I wanted to make Butterbeer cupcakes in celebration of Harry Potter 7, Part II, I didn't have the ingredients for or the inspiration to, after a hard day at work. So I decided to make something with Gryffindor-y colours, something that is breakfast, dessert and healthy, all at the same time. Damn. I am growing up.

Here's my take on a Plum and Mango parfait.

I've tried to keep it as light and healthy as possible, but feel free to jazz it with greek yogurt or whipped cream and the aforementioned dark chocolate chips. It's all good.

Gryffindor-y Parfait/Plum-and-mango parfait:

1 ripe mango, chopped into bite-size pieces

For the plum sauce:
6-7 ripe plums, stoned and halved
juice of half a lemon, lemon peel
a cinnamon stick
2 star anise
some nutmeg, grated
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water

Yogurt or Greek Yogurt or Whipped cream

Granola, 1 batch =>preferably with plenty of figs, almonds, walnuts and the like.


For the plum sauce:

In a medium-sized saucepan, bring together the ingredients for the plum reduction and place on medium heat. Cook all of it together until the plums gets completely softened.

Add more water to keep from burning, if necessary. Add more sugar if your plums are tart.

Take it off the heat. Remove the cinnamon stick, lemon peel and star anise.

For the parfaits:

In a couple of glass bowls (so you can see the layering), place the chopped mangoes in the bottom. Add some of yogurt.

Add the plum sauce.

Add some more yogurt.

Sprinkle with a handful of granola.

You can change the order, add more layers, whatever makes you happy. Just remember to serve it immediately.

This made for an unusually yummy breakfast. I don't know if it was the healthy fruit-and-nut-and-oats-and-honey thing or the tabloid supplement of Deccan Chronicle or the Harry Potter connection (and I must add I was going to watch the movie that day, as well). I was happy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vegan Mango Coconut ice-cream/An Indian Summer.

It's that time of the year. OK. That sounds gross, thanks to all of the traumatizing 'time of the month' adverts.

But it is a sad time of the year, altogether. It's when I have to say goodbye to mangoes.

I used to think that it was supremely unfair that mangoes were available only three months a year. I love the damned fruit, I really do. Even more than I like bananas and pineapple. At long last, however, I realize that there is a God above, who wants me to be able to fit into my clothes, and somehow eating a whole mango a day doesn't leave much room for that.

So I'm frantically making as many mango recipes as I can. Sweet, savoury, decadent, fresh. Making and eating it all. You know what I really enjoy though? The mango seed, with little bits of flesh on it. I can feast on it for an hour, not unlike a hungry crow. The heart wants what the heart wants.

And since we're on a health kick (albeit a manipulated version of healthy), I thought I'd make a Vegan Mango ice-cream/sorbet thing that I can eat without thinking "oooh-yum-oh-no-sigh-mmm" and similar. You can make this with Indian pantry ingredients and a Braun hand-blender/mixie. No ice cream maker, no nothing.

Vegan Mango ice-cream:


2-3 ripe mangoes, cut into chunks
100 ml coconut cream/milk
juice of 2 lemons
5 cardamom pods, crushed
Honey/Stevia/Sugar, if necessary.


I used a mix of Alphonso and gorgeous, gorgeous Himayat mangoes!
Puree the mangoes to a pulp.

Add in the coconut milk.

I used a mix of coconut cream and a lighter milk.

Add in the crushed cardamom, lemon juice and honey and blitz with the processor once more.

Bring to boil, hoping that the lemon won't curdle the coconut milk. It won't. When thick, take it off the heat.

Pour into a freezer-safe container.

Freeze until it is rock solid.

You can scrape the ice cream with a fork and make granita.

Or beat the frozen ice-cream once more and freeze. Repeat the whole process two more times.

Serve with mint, crushed Nice biscuits (yum!) or chopped pecans, and some more cut mango bits. I don't have a fancy photo of the end product, but trust me?

Farewell,  my sometimes-yellow, sometimes-orange/green/red, mostly glorious-golden-skinned friend. See you soon. And not just because I have a few kilos of pulverized mango pulp in the freezer.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Malted Chocolate "Soft Serve"/Smug-virtuous "Ice Cream"

I eat things that are not cake/brownies/bread. Hard to believe?

In fact, the thing that I'm always searching the foodblogosphere for, is the perfect post-gym snack. Something other than a smoothie/banana/whole-grain toast. Even though all of the above is delicious and a half.

Sadly enough, my search always yields densely calorie-and-nutrition packed bars made of dates, coconut and nuts. Working out in the gym does not equal training for a half-marathon!! It can mean wearing the new Reebok trackpants you got on 40% off, slow-walking on a treadmill and gossiping away to glory. It can, OK?

If your gossip session does not take you down the natural path to Kiwi Kiss for Fro Yo (because talk is cheap, but delicious frozen yogurt is expensive), go home. Facebook and a home-made snack are decent substitutes.

Home made snack options? Tzatziki and baked pita chips. Yum. Hummus and a plate full of veggie strips. Double Yum. But if the fro-yo craving strikes really hard, reach into your freezer for the frozen fruit.

So you know how I'm always asking you to not throw away ripe bananas and make breathtakingly gorgeous banana bread or a nutrition-packed smoothie instead? Turns out there are a couple of other things you can do with over-ripe bananas.

Like Soft Serve! The whole internet was buzzing about it a while back. Softee ice-cream (think Milky Way circa 1995), made with only one real ingredient. Bananas. Yes.

Incidentally, freezing bananas is an art. Here's how it goes.

Step one. Peel banana and cut into slices.
Step two. Freeze all the slices on a tray.
Step three. Put all of the frozen banana slices into an airtight box/Ziploc bag and freeze until you need it.

I froze the bananas for 5 hours, and it was OK, but the next time, I'm using rock-solid-frozen bananas.
Make sure you use ripe (over-ripe is even better) bananas, or you get the slightly bitter, paste-like taste.

And if you want to mask the fact that it is bang-bang-banana, put in different flavours (additional calories, additional taste). Here are 13 options.

1)Peanut butter and Grape Jam/Jelly.
2)A teaspoon of instant espresso powder: Coffee Soft Serve.
3)Chocolate chips.
4)Fruit such as frozen strawberries can be blended in.
5)Peanut chikki/caramel smashed to bits as topping.
6)A teaspoon of cocoa powder: Chocolate Soft Serve.
7)2 teaspoons of cocoa powder: Dark Chocolate Soft Serve.
8)Serve with hot fudge sauce made with 1 tsp cocoa, 1 tsp honey and a little hot water to bring to consistency.
9)Served as ice-cream sandwiches: soft serve between two graham crackers/Digestive biscuits.
10)Fruit salad: A scoop of soft serve, chopped fruit and honey! Perfect for Ramadan!
11)As a parfait: Soft serve, granola and fruit layered in glasses and topped with brown sugar or more muesli.
12)Indian style: Soft serve-flavoured with elaichi(cardamom) with bits of mango and crushed almonds. Kulfi/Lassi leanings.

And 13: The way I made it. And I'm convinced is the best of the lot.

Sharjah Banana "Soft Serve"/Malted Soft Serve


2-3 medium bananas, frozen well
1 tsp cocoa powder
1 tsp malt powder (5-star Bournvita!)
1 tsp milk (I used Nestle Slim)
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
a handful of salted, roasted peanuts


Pulse/blitz the frozen banana in a food processor or mixie for a minute or so.

When you've got something that looks like the picture, stop. That is your base for the soft serve. You can eat it as it. Or posh it up with all the options that I've mentioned, or come up with your own wacky combos.

Add in the cocoa powder, malt, milk and pulse once more.

Using almond milk or whole milk heightens the creaminess. You can use
Soy if you're Lactose-Intolerant or a Vegan!

Scoop out the "softee" into a bowl. Top with salted peanuts and a couple of maltesers/whoppers or even Dairy Milk Shots. Serve with hot fudge sauce, if you're cool like that.

Don't tell me the whole purpose is defeated by the add-ons. Not unless you want to be dragged into a Proust-y conversation on what life is and the purpose of it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts/ Wholly-holy yum.

I'm not a picky eater. I'm not! Don't believe everything my friends tell you.

Some food, however, it's hard for me to eat if bad. Curd rice, coffee, biryani and the like.

Brownies come under that category. It's one of the first things I baked, at the ripe old age of 13. I used a boxed mix... Betty Crocker, I think. My parents gloated for days.

The uncool thing about baking/eating brownies so many times is that I can't eat a bad brownie any more. We've talked about this earlier.

Most brownies I eat are bad brownies. It's justifiable, spending 100 bucks on a decent brownie... it has to live up to every penny and every calorie, though. I'm sure the good people of Cake Walk still remember the emphatic speech I made about their terrible brownies.

Ooh. When you want to impress people, make brownies. That's the first of the many things I've baked for the W. You can go wrong with the baking and the mixing, but until you've eaten 100 brownies, you won't know the difference. These bad boys usually turn out good, in any way, shape or form. Even the burnt, biscuit-y bits are divine.

I use a basic fudge brownie recipe, usually. This time, I was lured by Bon Appetit's cover shoot of Alice Medrich's brownies. I decided to elevate the gourmet quotient by browning the butter and adding a healthy mix of plump American walnuts and flavourful little Kashmiri akhrots. And a couple of teaspoons of espresso don't hurt, either. And Toblerone chocolate chips.

I can't promise you that this will be my regular brownie recipe. But what I can promise you is that if you're on my A-list, you'll probably get a little parcel of these soon enough!

And fellow brownie-connoisseurs, don't turn your nose up at cocoa brownies... you might have to bite your words. Taste wholly/holy yum with a slice of brownie and glass of cold milk.

Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts


10 tablespoons (150 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups powdered white sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons water/ brewed coffee
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs, chilled
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1 cup walnut pieces, chopped


Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 F.

Place aluminium foil over an 8 x 8" pan, leaving some over the edges so you can pull up the brownies with ease. Grease the pan, keep aside.

Browning butter:

Cut the butter into tablespoonfuls for the sole purpose of ease.

In a heavy bottomed pan, add the butter. Heat it over medium heat. The butter should bubble up, and you should keep stirring this.

When the froth clears up, check the bottom of the pan to see if brown bits have formed. If it has, STOP. It's better to under brown than burn. You'll know when this gorgeous smell permeates through every nook of the kitchen.

Take the butter off the heat. Immediately stir in the cocoa, sugar, water/coffee and salt. Beat until well-combined. It will be gritty, so don't panic. You can use a hand-mixer.

Let this cool for 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at time, stirring until well-combined. Fold in the flour with a spatula.

Stir in the nuts. Pour the batter out into the prepared pan. I added a handful of chocolate chips (fashioned out of Toblereone) and created a swirly pattern.

Bake for 20 minutes, and start checking. You don't want to over bake it... it needs to have a shiny shell on top, and pure fudge-y goodness underneath. Cool in pan for 15 minutes. Pull it out of the pan with the foil overhang, and cool for two more minutes. Cut into 16 squares.

If you cut it too soon, it'll crumble and make an almighty delicious mess. Perks of being the cook.

You'll have to taste. As I did.

I put these brownies in a Ziploc bag when they were FULLY cool. And then hid them in the last place that people would look.

Apparently, it can be stored at room temperature, in an airtight box for about 48 hours. Apparently.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mock Caramel Corn/Sticky Date Popcorn!

I've got so much flak over posting exclusively fattening, buttery, unhealthy recipes on the blog, that I've decided to do something about it. As much as I want to post about W's birthday cake (Devil's food cake, layered with strawberry filling and a rich chocolate ganache, frosted with strawberry Swiss meringue buttercream, and has a chocolate-y glaze on top), I've decided to go down the healthier route. For a change.

Caramel Popcorn is something I adore. I've used the L-word too many times to describe food, but I truly, really am head-over-heels in Love with Caramel Popcorn. I eat it by the tub. I make unholy amounts of it and eat handfuls of sugary, buttery caramel corn straight out of the pressure cooker. Still don't believe me? I buy the burnt, overpriced, undercaramelized popcorn that is sold at Sathyam/Escape and eat every last morsel and fight the urge to buy another tub.

However, it is an indulgence, even for me. Instead of quitting caramel corn cold turkey, I browsed for healthier alternatives. And quite accidentally, I landed up finding a fantastic recipe for sticky "caramel" corn.

It's vegan (except for the honey?), mostly healthy, and delicious. Nope, it isn't caramel corn, but it isn't your birthday or the day you found out that the guy you were crushing on has a girlfriend, is it? So if caramel corn is uncalled for, make this sticky date popcorn. You can have it on any given day and not feel so terribly guilty, it keeps you up at night.

Sticky Date Popcorn


1/4 cup popping corn
8 Medjool dates
3 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
5 tbsp honey (I used Kashmiri Saffron honey)
1 tsp vanilla essence
a pinch of salt


Pop the corn via the method of choice.

I popped it in the pressure cooker with a pinch of salt and a couple of teaspoons of oil. I got around 8 cups of usable popcorn and that should be just about right.

Soak the dates with 2 tbsp of water for an hour or two.

Use very good quality dates, please!

Remove the pits and grind it to a fine paste in the food processor/mixie.

In a small bowl, heat the oil, honey and vanilla. Add in the dates and bring to a boil. Simmer it down for a minute more, and pour the sticky sauce over the popcorn. Mix well.

If you play around with the proportions, you can make this even healthier. Total post-gym snack food. Or something you pick away at, in front of the TV. Or eat an entire batch, in lieu of dinner.

Or make batches of caramel popcorn and kettle corn as well, and have a popcorn buffet party. Things to live for.