Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'll be back. ASA(humanly)P.

You know that annoying day job of mine? It's gotten in the way of the blog... but not for long. Will be back this Sunday!

In the meantime, I suggest you take advantage of the Strawberry/Apple season and make yourself a scones or crumble! Ice-cream isn't optional.

You can also eat healthy things like chickpeas, either in the form of Roasted Chickpea poppers or Classic Hummus. This could be a good move, considering I'm coming up with some calorie bombs parading around as (delicious) food.

Or. Make things with chocolate in them. Always, always and always a good move.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Doner Kebab/Chicken Shawarma Experiment Turned Lovechild.

How did I survive before Chicken Shawarma finally made it to Chennai?

Incidentally, how did I survive before Sub of The Day existed? Or Subway? I know they've pulled the offer; and it's thoroughly depressing.

Everything comes late to Madras, thanks to honcho-types firmly believing in the penny-pinching cliche of Tamilians. Cliche is not uncalled for, since Mum nearly goes into Kussmaul's breathing when she finds out how much fancy things like Callebaut gelato or a pint of Haagen-Dazs costs; and I always tell her only half of what it actually did.

What I meant by things coming late: KFC, Mocha, Costa, Starbucks and the like. Extremely annoying, except maybe when I have to pour/squeeze/pull/push/shimmy/wriggle into skinny jeans.

Along the way, I've learned to make most of the things these places have to offer. Breaded Chicken (way better than KFC's), Momofuku's Crack Pie (I've no clue about the original, but it'll be interesting to find out) and Magnolia Bakery's Cupcakes (Ditto).
Chicken Shawarma, I learnt to make quite recently. I'm sure you think there is no reason for you to attempt these, when there's a stall within 200 metres of your home.

I'd like to insist (very politely) that you try. You can control the spice mix, the moistness of the chicken, the crispness of the potato wedges, the fluffiness of the pita and instead of a gloopy mayonnaise, you can make your own garlic-scented tahini and yogurt sauce. Instead of a garden variety chicken-and-mayo roll (which at Rs. 50, is still ah-mazing). And it's supremely easy and takes up only one bowl (each).

This is one of the dishes that redeemed my savoury-cooking skills at home. I had to search high and low for the recipes of each of the components, and I am in love with all of them. The chicken part is from a Dubai-based site, so that comes with a Bonafide attestation. I added some garlicky fries, some tahini and shawarma pickles, because I'm a big believer of foodgasms.

I'm also going to try something new. I'll put up all the pictures and basic recipe details first, and a detailed and uninterrupted recipe below. Let me know if you like it!

Start off with the best spices you can find.

Pound the elaichi/cardamom pods, grind the cinnamon sticks, make your garam masala, whatever it takes.

Taste the marinade before the meat goes in and adjust, if necessary!

Marinate the chicken for at least an hour. Cover with cling film or some random lid and pop it into the refrigerator, if you live in a hot place like Madras!

Cook the chicken in all of the marinade over low heat, breaking it up as you go.

For the fries:

Refer to this post. And try parboiling, instead of microwaving... it makes a world of difference.

For the tahini-yogurt sauce:

Make a not pretty (but deelishus) batch of tahini.

Add lemon juice, salt and yogurt, playing by tongue and eye.

Use thick, preferably hung or Greek yogurt, for this sauce. You can make a regular yogurt sauce.

For the pita:

Make wholewheat pitas or buy the fluffiest, grainiest piece of pita bread in your city.

For the shawarma pickles:

Recipe coming soon! I don't give everything away on the first date. You can skip this step and add a couple of more drops of Tabasco, to spice it up.

Assembling these babies:

Get all of you stuff on one table and gather the people around it.

Slick the tahina-sauce on the pita.

Add chunks of cooked chicken.

Add the lettuce, pomegranate seeds, onions, tomatoes, shawama pickles and fries.

Splash on some tabasco, wrap it up and CHARGE!

Doner kebab/Chicken Shawarma Lovechild:

(marinade recipe from Sips and Spoonfuls)Ingredients:

For the chicken shawarma marinade:
500 gms boneless chicken, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup thick yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cardamom pod powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
Salt to taste
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp garam masala
3 tsps ginger-garlic paste

For the tahini-yogurt sauce:

1/2 cup white sesame seeds
3 tbsps Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup Greek/hung/full-fat yogurt
2 plump cloves of garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

To serve:

1 batch of Garlicky baked fries
8 wholewheat pita bread (1 batch of this recipe)
1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1 cup tomato, chopped
Pomegranate seeds.
Shawarma pickles.
Chopped coriander and mint leaves-plenty.
Tabasco, as needed.


For the chicken:

Marinate the chicken pieces in the marinade ingredients for at least an hour.

In a non-stick pan (no need to grease), over medium-low heat, cook the chicken for about 10 minutes. The marinade should have dried and the chicken should be moist and tender. Break up the chicken as it cooks.

Keep aside.

For the tahina sauce:

Roast the sesame seeds over low heat until it turns a pale shade of brown and pops. Take it off the pan in which it is heated, or it will continue to cook in the residual heat and burn.

Once cooled, grind the seeds to paste in a mixie/food processor. Add in the garlic, salt, olive oil, lemon juice and blitz until a nice paste is formed.

Add in the yogurt, and adjust the salt as per taste.

To assemble:

Heat the pita over a non-greased tawa for around 10 seconds on both sides, on medium heat.

Spread the tahina sauce on it.

Add the chicken, fries, pickles, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pomegranate, herbs, tabasco as per each diner's choice.

Serve immediately.

Store each of the components separately, closed in the refrigerator.

I didn't bother with that, because there was enough left over for one tiny roll.

A midnight-snack-portion roll. As my own personal toast to the amazing Nigella Lawson. Cheers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Mmm. Food. 100.

What started as a shameless display of gluttony, has spiralled way out of control.

There are now ONE hundred posts on this nano-to-the-nano-fraction (femto/pico or way more negative powers of ten whose nomenclature has long escaped my sieve-like memory) of web space.

Honestly, I ought to have been stopped 98 posts back. But there was so much ego-inflating love that I could not, in all conscience, stop posting badly-composed/lit photos of edible deliciousness.

And I do mean it. Unless it's been declared delicious by three unrelated parties on two different occasions, I wouldn't deign to feature it on the blog. Along this journey, I've learned to make my own ricotta and mascarpone successfully and cream-cheese not very successfully.

I've baked a few cakes. I've pretended to be healthy. I've tried developing substitutes. I've around 100 synonyms for "delicious" in my vocabulary.

It is NOT easy. In retrospect, I wouldn't have attempted this if had I known how much time and effort it would take. Medicine is an excessively demanding profession (blood, sweat, tears and happiness. Oh, and time). I've had to forgo an extra hour of sleep or reruns of The Simpsons, in order to make this work.

So why do I do it, right?

I look forward to it, almost as much as I do for the 31st of 31-days-containing months. If I look forward to something as much as I do for Mint-chocolate-chip ice cream at 31% off, then something must be working out, no?

For the hundredth post, I couldn't decide which recipe to actually post.. did not have any spectacular triple-layer cakes or ten-hour pasta sauce recipes to post.

Instead, you get to see the making of the blog; a few photographs taken over the last year and a half.

One of the first "fancy" photographs ever taken for the blog: a decidedly unfancy midnight snack. Dark chocolate yogurt with granola. All homemade.

Quite possibly the best thing I've eaten this year decade. The mother of all birthday cakes. Dark chocolate hazelnut ganache heaven. MMM.

In all honesty, this is what my meals usually are like. If I'm craving Nutella crepes, but feel too lazy to invest all the time and labour: Panini press to the rescue!

Very rarely, food is just the background score for the bigger picture.

You know you're a food blogger/vegan/banana bread addict when you specifically ask the fruit-vendor for "overripe" bananas. You also draw glares when you photograph an Idli twenty times at Ratna cafe.

To the CFO of the blog. You've known him in local blog parlance as the W. Who is responsible for this blog's existence and now orders better food than I do. Thanks for never batting an eyelash when I order a dish that costs 800 bucks and thanks for pretending to enjoy the soggy sandwiches I brought to college.

This blog reminds me of my nephew, Zaad, who has grown up being the guinea pig for the dishes you've seen... he's very honest, even if not quite vocal yet. If he spits it out: BAD food. If he asks for more: GOOD food. It's that simple.

There are many recipes which did not make it past the chopping block. These Mocha pops, for example. Freezing coffee does not make ice cream. Your brain will believe the lie only if you look at a photo of yourself in your "shrinking" skinny jeans whilst you eat.

Not that all healthy recipes suck. My search for diabetic desserts (Dad has a major sweet tooth, funny little thing called genetics passed it down) sometimes proves fruitful... in the form of Wholewheat Orange Ricotta Scones. YUM.

The main reason for the borderline obssession with cooking. I love feeding people; the purpose of my life is six-parts feeder, two-parts healer and two parts eater.

Nigbe and Mum.

I especially love feeding people when paid in bundt-cake tins, Chex Mix and Papaya Body scrubs.

Sarbs/Dumbasssaf and Masterchef Machi.

Sumi's first S'more, thanks to one of Spica's food-parcels!

This blog has also emboldened me to eat butter (after a long stint with pre-anorexia), make mousse and attempt food at a Dhaba midway between Srinagar and Gulmarg. Best cup of kahwa and Pakora this side of the Milky way.

Another one of the main reasons I'd never stop blogging. The publicity! Confirmed narcissist, I am.

For all my relatives who now show me up by making my own signature recipes better than me. Thank you. For all my friends who've publicised the blog more than a paid PR person; thank you. For all the lab animals, who lie blatantly that whatever I make is delicious(even the Vegan desserts). Thank you.

While I'm on this thanking spree; Thanks to all the lovely blogs out there, who have inspired me. Thanks for those who have shamelessly plugged the blog. Thanks for visiting from Latvia/UAE/Texas (thanks, A!)/Azerbaijan, when there a bazillion other better food-blogs in the food-blogosphere. And especially, thanks to the people, who thought I was a Masterchef even when I was 12, had no clue about brown butter (!) and could only make brownies from a box (I have no photos of you posing with baked goods taken this past year).

This one is for you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Valentine's Day Special #1 / No-bake fudgey Chocolate Peanut-butter cookies.

There are sometimes in life when Chocolate becomes a necessity. So much of a necessity that you consider getting a Continuous Ryle's Tube feeding of molten chocolate.

It could be post-breakup, especially when Valentine's Day and celebrity couples of amalgamated nomenclature and your late-teenaged neighbour flaunt their Two-Hearts-One-S***holeSoul status. It could be post-midnight, when all the shops selling candy (of the chocolate, not the substance-abuse variety) are closed. It could be post weddings of grandeur and younger cousins popping out babies; seats of higher-education or topnotch jobs gained. You're truly happy for them, but this gives you a fat nasty dose of Reality.

There's also another females-only situation.

Science recognizes this as the big M. Men may know this as a time in life where you've been forced to lie "you? Fat?! You're painfully skinny!" As for the women, I feel for you. I really do.

Apart from throwing back a couple of Meftal-Spas 500 and drinking black tea and doing your version of pranayamas, this is the only solution I have for you.

Load up on the carbohydrates, banish the bloat-inducing salt.

And by carbohydrates, I mean Sugar. Quite a bit of it. But there's also heaps of oats, peanut butter and milk, so it should cancel out, by the laws of Denial.

These No bake cookies require no oven. They require no eggs. They require no patience. And they taste bloody good. This is the closest I've got to Z's Fantastic Chocolate-Peanut Butter fudge, the ones I used to beg her to make (so good!) and not make (fattening). Of course, she would be outraged at the addition of oats.

This recipe is made out of pantry staples.

And if you close your eyes and add a little more salt, you can pretend these are Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Yum!

No-Bake Fudgey Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies:

(Adapted from Food Network)


1-3/4 cups white, granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter (smooth is preferred, I used chunky)
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
3 cups oatmeal (instant oats)
1/4 tsp salt (optional)


In a heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk together the sugar, butter, cocoa and milk. Place the pan over high heat.

Bring it to a foamy boil, and let it boil for exactly one minute.

If it isn't nicely reduced and fudgey, boil for 30 seconds more.

Whisk in the peanut butter, vanilla essence, salt (if using) first.

Add in the oats.

If the mix is too runny, you can add a couple of tablespoons of oats. If it's too stiff, thin it out with a teaspoon of milk or peanut butter.

Place scoops of cookie dough onto a sheet of waxed paper or aluminium foil.

It will ideally set in its shape at room temperature, but if you live in Madras, refrigerate!

Things to do with the cookies:

Eat with milk for breakfast.

Eat by yourself in pajamas while watching one of Woody Allen's movies.

Pack them and give to your loved ones.

Invite a friend over and gossip/b**ch/polambify for hours over these.

Or if you have a boring life, you can chase random brats who steal your cookies and run out when you aren't looking.

This is Zaad's happy/hungry face. People say he takes after me.

You can easily halve the recipe and still get at least a dozen large cookies. Which will keep, wrapped in foil, for around a week in the refrigerator in a normal household and three hours in mine. There's just one niggling thought.

Please make it with Nutella and tell me how if it matches up to all my daydreams/fantasies.

P.S.: This post is dedicated to some skinny-yet-strong women:

Rad (who asked for egg-less); for Spica (who asked for more non-NEWT-y recipes); for Anisha L (cupcake liners and making me mildly famous!); for A, who would have eaten it with no regard to "calories-and-crap"; for Z, who made me fudge for the first time and for funding my two-Reese-cups-per day habit (for a whole week); for Sarbee (who likes her chocolate-laden cookies, but has no oven) and for Nigbe (who pretends to hate Valentine's Day, but is a closet romantic and the happiest when true-love stories do work out).

Monday, February 6, 2012

13 things in the Pantry.

There is some version of a pantry in every Indian kitchen. You could be a Paying Guest, and your pantry would be a shelf in your closet that houses a half-eaten box of Chocos and a jar of Kissan Jam. You could be a finicky gourmet, whose refrigerator plays host to blue cheese salad dressing and Madagascar-not-Tahitian Vanilla. Or you could be my sensible mum, who makes sure we don't run low on Maggi 2-minute noodles and Marie biscuits.

What I'd wager was just enough to permit decent cooking would be the following. This list has been prepared in mind, assuming you'd already have vegetable oil, salt, pepper, sugar, rice and flour. Even TopChef never counts them as ingredients in their "Five-Ingredients-Only!" Challenges.

Note: The ones in Green have to be fresh. The ones in Purple keep well for a while.

1) Olive Oil. Preferably extra-virgin. You know what those words do to a person of Indian origin.

Buy in small quantities... you'll have to finish it up in 6-8 months for best flavour
 and health benefits!

2) Herbs. Dried herbs are a boon to those of us who nag the people at Pazhamudir Chozhai and the like in vain for fresh parsley and basil. And spices. Saffron, fresh black peppercorns, dried chilli, so on.

3) DairyCheese, butter, milk, yogurt, cream cheese. Anything except Amul Processed cubes gets through. Mozzerella, Feta, Cheddar, even decent Paneer costs way less than those foil-wrapper plastic blocks. As for butter, any decent unsalted butter (Note to self: Uthukuli butter CANNOT be used in baking).
Any one of the following, at any given time, should suffice for a fantastic dessert!

4)Cocoa powder/Chocolate syrup/Bars of Chocolate. Enough said.

Baking and dessert supplies!

5)Condiments: Mustard/Mayo/Ketchup/Jalapenos/Capers/Olives/Green Chilli Sauce: You can stash them for a long time and dress up any recipe! Just remember to call it Aioli or Spiked Honey Mustard dressing or Thai-style Maggi or something.

A panini machine/hot plate and you'll be the celebrity of your dorm.

6)Bread. Atkins diet = Fatkins diet. The founder died of a heart attack; or so says my Spam. If I had to live without bread, pasta, potatoes and bananas... I'd choose being Vegan or Early-less-painful-Death.

Oatmeal = Awesomeness. Clubbed it with bread, because both are big breakfast items for me!

Textured bread like Rye, Multi-Grain for the posh recipes. Nilgris/French Loaf make the best bread. Never, ever store bread in the refrigerator unless it's for Microbio lab, it makes a good culture media for a plethora of fungi. Invest in a bread box, and keep it out of the refrigerator.

7)Pasta-good quality fettucine, spaghetti, penne for simple, classy recipes. If you're going to be making Mac-and-cheese or lasagne that gets hidden in an avalanche of cheese and bechamel (the classic French white sauce that goes in gratins), Bambino macaroni should do.

8)Fresh produce: Do not buy fancy ingredients such as zucchini (unless it was grown in a sustainable farm) or spinach or red cabbage or anything that looks like it spent its long afterlife in a plastic packet. Read tired, wilted, spoilt. You could do great things with local produce as long as its fresh. Buy only the amount you require, from a sustainable greengrocer.

If your veggies turn on you by wilting, turn them into delicious soup!

9) Measuring cups! Those red plastic cups/spoons are crucial to the novice cook.

10) Burnol: Unless you have your own X-Men Origins movie, Burnol is a must. And keep it somewhere close to your oven. I've burnt myself enough times. Also, a nicely padded (again, person of Indian Origin) glove is a big boon to the Clumsily-Abled.

11)Beans: You can make everything from hummus to chili to cookie dough to rajma-chawal. Yes, YOU CAN.

12)Protein: Since electricity isn't predictable in India, I'm wary of freezing meat. But if your electricity is your friend and not foe, or if you have a back-up power generator, you can make breaded chicken nuggets, chicken parmesan, fish fingers and stash for a while in the freezer. Buy flavoured sausages (N recommends Jalapeno and Cheese sausages) and eggs and you have fancy brunch.

13)Nutella. Duh. Although for me, it's Nutella, not Nutella.

This post has been in the works for six months. Kept postponing it due to the unavailability of the featured ingredients for the photography, and because it was near-impossible to narrow down to 13 categories. It might seem pricey, but investing in ingredients is better for your wallet and health/tastebuds in the long run.

Except for Nutella. Don't compromise on Nutella. It's the stuff of which dreams are made of.