Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I am a big fan of watching cooking shows on tv. If there is a channel dedicated to only food and cooking, that’s all I would be watching. And that was the case when I lived in the US for a couple of years. Food network is all I used to watch. And they have a good website ( with loads of recipes to browse through. Even now I look for recipes on this particular website. If you are looking for ‘Quiche Lorraine’, for example, this website will have at the least 10 recipes for it. There are many celebrity chefs who are part of this network and each one probably has his/her own recipe for ‘Quiche Lorraine’ put up on the website.

I once watched a tv show many years ago when they baked a carrot loaf on it. It appeared reasonably easy to make and it looked delicious. I am constantly looking for vegetarian dishes since I do not have many. This recipe involves eggs and mushrooms so it may not be an option for strict vegetarians.

900 gms carrots
200 gms button mushrooms
200 gms spinach leaves removed from the stem
5 eggs
100 gms cheese (cheddar/gruyere), grated
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
3 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel the carrots and cut them into 0.5cm slices. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a pan and sauté the carrot slices in it until the carrots are tender and cooked. Allow it to cool and chop coarsely by hand or in a food processor.

Slice the mushrooms thinly. Heat ½ tbsp of butter in a pan and sauté the mushroom slices in it until cooked and the moisture evaporates. Allow it to cool and chop coarsely. Add the chopped mushrooms to the carrots and mix thoroughly.

Heat 1 tbsp of butter in a pan and sauté the spinach leaves in it until cooked and the moisture evaporates. Allow it to cool and chop coarsely. Break 1 egg into the spinach and mix. Add salt and pepper according to taste.

Beat 4 eggs and the grated cheese together with the freshly grated nutmeg. Add this to the carrot and mushroom mixture along with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Use the remaining butter to butter a loaf pan. Add half the carrot mixture to the loaf pan followed by the spinach and egg mixture. Finally add the remaining carrot mixture on top and even out the surface. Line the top of the loaf with a buttered paper to prevent the loaf from browning too much while baking. Now place the loaf pan in a larger baking dish and pour enough hot water into the baking dish to cover the bottom by about 1 ½ inches. Place the baking dish with the loaf pan into an oven that has been preheated to 180˚C. Bake for about 1 hour and a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Allow the loaf to cool a little bit and invert it on to a serving plate.

You can use half butter and half oil instead of using only butter to sauté the vegetables. But do not compromise on the quality of cheese. Using a good quality cheese is important since this recipe uses a considerable quantity of cheese and its quality shows in the final taste. Enjoy……..

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Food of Love

A great way to say you love and care is to cook a fantastic meal for your loved one(s). Be it a birthday or an anniversary or valentine’s day. You can either just cook his or her favourite dishes and make a meal of it or you can cook a 3 course or 5 course sit-down dinner depending on your resources and time. If you are cooking Indian food, the best way is to put an array of dishes together and present it as a complete dinner. If you decide to go with Asian or continental or some other cuisine then definitely try out a 3 course or a 5 course sit-down dinner.

To make things more exciting pull out your best crockery and cutlery and lay out your table very well. You could also get a lovely centerpiece made out of flowers or candles to add the right mood to the dinner setting. Also if you have a black board or a white board, write out your menu for the evening on it.

To give an example, last year I cooked a 4 course meal for a special occasion and the menu was as follows:

• Prawns with onion and cumin marmalade
• Green salad with red wine vinegrette, blue cheese and walnuts
• Grilled fish with a red pepper romesco sauce
• Dark chocolate mousse

Serve each course as individual servings one after the other. You may have to spend about 5 minutes each for each course, plating up in the kitchen. This wait between courses is definitely worth the end result. Also if you are trying out a chocolate dessert like the mousse for instance, try presenting it in a martini glass or a shot glass. As an alternative to the meat dish as your main course, you could cook pasta or rice with a sauce.

The recipes can be looked up on cookbooks or from the numerous websites on-line. I think it’s a good idea to try out new recipes rather than repeating old recipes. And remember, presentation is of utmost importance. Try to be as creative as possible and use herbs, spices and sauces as garnishes to make each serving a sight to cherish. This blog may have been useful for Valentine ’s Day but it’s never too late. Treat your loved one on his/her birthday or your anniversary to a memorable dinner.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Moplah Cuisine

During my childhood years seafood was not a significant part of our diet. We may eat seafood once in 2 months or so. Fresh seafood was not readily available in our town and we were discouraged from ordering seafood in restaurants since the quality and freshness of the seafood was questionable. But from the time I got married, I was introduced to a whole new array of seafood by my husband and now there is no looking back. I never imagined that I would be cooking squid in my own kitchen, one day.

I first heard about ‘Moplah cuisine” from my mother-in-law who has a friend from the Calicut region in Kerala. This is a cuisine from the muslim households in the northern regions of Kerala. It has strong influences from the Arab, Persian and the Moghul cuisines. There is an array of meat and seafood dishes along with a long list of sweets. Moplah cuisine is very rich and uses many exotic spices and dried fruits. Having heard all this, when I saw a cook book on Moplah cuisines (which is not very common in book stores) I immediately bought myself a copy.

Title – Malabar Cuisine – Traditional Moplah Favourites

Authors – Rasheed, Roshna Khader, Reshmi Joseph and Salim Pushpanath.

Published by Salim Pushpanath at DEE BEE INFO PUBLICATIONS, Kottayam, India.

The book has a lovely introduction to the Malabar region and the Moplah cuisine. There are many recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and desserts. The recipes are predominantly for meat and seafood dishes and also include a variety of desserts. I tried the squid roast (Koonthal Varuthathu) today. And it turned out well and my family enjoyed it with ghee rice and a beetroot pachidi for dinner.

If you are interested in trying out Moplah cuisine in your kitchen, this book is a good buy. I have tried some other recipes from the meat and seafood sections and they have all come out well. The ingredients are listed well and the instructions are detailed and easy to follow. And it has great pictures that tempt you to try out new dishes everytime.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Prawn Balchao

The first time I ate ‘Prawn Balchao’ was at the Karavalli restaurant in Taj Gateway Hotel, Bangalore. It is one of the best seafood restaurants in India that I have been to. And no trip to Bangalore is complete for me without having one meal, preferably dinner there. Prawn Balchao is a tangy dish with a thick masala that can be served as an appetizer or as a side dish with plain boiled rice or a mildly spiced pulao. It is almost like pickled prawns, both spicy and tangy. It will stay well in the fridge for up to a week because of the presence of vinegar.

Last Sunday, I went to the fish monger with the hopes of buying fresh white pomfret to make a crispy fried dish. But to my disappointment there was no white pomfret on that particular day. I found the prawns fresh and good so I bought a kilo of it to make our favourite balchao. Very often I change my menu depending on whats available fresh in the market.

I have tried making balchao earlier with different recipes from cookbooks and on-line websites. On Sunday, I arrived on my own version combining a few recipes. Here it is……..


600 gms prawns, shelled and deveined
½ cup oil
1 inch ginger
15 garlic cloves
1 tsp cumin
10 red chillies
5 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 tsp mustard seeds
¾ cup malt vinegar
2 onions, chopped
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp brown sugar
2 sprigs curry leaves
Salt to taste

Serves : 3 - 4

Cooking time - 1 hour

Wash and drain the prawns thoroughly. Add salt and keep aside. Grind the ginger, garlic, cumin, red chillies, cloves, cinnamon and mustard to a fine paste using half the vinegar.

In a pan, heat half the oil and sauté the prawns until all the moisture dries up. This will take a while since the prawns will give out about a cup of liquid and all this liquid has to dry up. It should take about 15 mins or so. Now remove the prawns and keep aside. In the same pan, add the remaining oil and sauté the chopped onions until lightly browned.

Add the ground masala and sauté for about 5 mins until the raw smell leaves. Add the chopped tomatoes and remaining vinegar and sauté until the oil separates. The tomatoes should be cooked through and pulpy. Now add the prawns back in to the pan along with the brown sugar and curry leaves and sauté for a few more mins until the oil separates again.

It is perfectly fine to substitute malt vinegar with white distilled vinegar and brown sugar with regular white sugar. The flavour of the dish may be slightly altered but it’ll still taste fantastic. The oil used in this dish may be a little too much for some people but this dish needs ½ cup of oil to get the desired taste. I have tried cooking it with less oil but the taste is not as good at the end.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Good times with the grill..........

Grilling has always fascinated me. My family was introduced to grilling by two Swedes (thank you Christopher and Martin) when I was about 10 years old. We were taught to make only one marinade which is similar to barbeque sauce and the only meat we grilled was chicken. We used to build our own make-shift grill using loose bricks and home-made metal skewers (not sure what we used to make the skewers). All the kids in the family were very involved in the process and I have very fond memories from my grilling days back then.

Anyways, grilling today is a totally different experience. Thanks to Weber, I have an efficient and easy-to-use grill that I can just pull out in a jiffy and get grilling. Although a gas grill is a lot less work and user-friendly, I am a fan of charcoal grills and hence I bought myself a charcoal grill. I just love the flavour the charcoal adds to the food while grilling. Smoked food is even better. What I really love about this recent advance in grilling is the briquettes. Back in those days, lighting up the grill was a laborious process. It took a long time and sometimes starting the fire was a bit tricky. We would use kerosene to light the fire and sometimes end up with food that smelt of kerosene. Starting the grill today involves very little effort and a lot less messy!

The first time I used the grill, which was about 2 weeks ago; I was entertaining a group of 14 for lunch. I marinated prawns, chicken and mutton in marinades from different cuisines and also did a paneer tikka and asian-flavoured mushrooms for the vegetarians. To go with the grilled food, I served pita chips with hummus, couscous with grilled vegetables and a baked dish that contained baked beans.

Last night when I entertained a group of 4 people, I decided to do an Indian-themed barbeque dinner. For this, I marinated the fish cubes in a paste of onion, coriander leaves, garlic, green chillies, turmeric and cumin. I marinated the chicken in Bombay flavors which involved paprika, garlic, coriander powder, cumin powder and turmeric. I marinated the mutton in a blend of spices and ground fried-onions to prepare ‘Pathar Ka Ghosht’. With paneer, I just repeated the paneer tikka because it was a real hit the last I grilled it and paneer was so soft and was just melting in our mouths. To go with the grilled food, I made corn pulao, warm carrot salad and a potato and curd curry.

The best part of the dinner last night was the dessert. I grilled fresh figs on the oiled grill until lightly browned before I put the meat and paneer on it. I put away the figs while we were eating the other grilled food. At the end of the meal, I served the grilled figs with rum-flavoured ice-cream, a sprinkle of ground cinnamon and a drizzle of honey. It was simply fantastic. That to me was the highlight of the dinner and I’ll definitely be serving that dessert again as long as I can lay my hands on some fresh figs. Grilled pineapples can be a great alternative and I think its flavours will blend well with cinnamon and honey. Also just plain vanilla ice-cream should go well with the above flavours if you can’t find rum-flavoured ice-cream.

I am looking forward to many more encounters with my new grill. It sure is good times with the grill…………….

Ragi for breakfast

I love eating ‘Ragi Idiyappam’ for breakfast. It’s such a healthy dish and it fills me up enough to last until lunchtime without any snacking in-between. For those of you who don’t know what ‘Ragi Idiyappam’ is, its dried vermicelli made out of ragi. The English term for Ragi is finger millet and it is also referred to as African millet. I buy the ‘ANIL’ brand ragi idiyappam which is available at the local grocery store.


1 ½ cups ragi idiyappam
1/8 cup green gram / moong dal
¼ cup grated coconut
2 tsp brown sugar / jaggery

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 1

Soak the ragi idiyappam in water (room temperature) for 5 mins and drain. Place it in a steamer (idli vessel is handy) and steam it for about 10 mins. Meanwhile, cook the dal in about ½ cup water until its cooked through and drain. Make sure that it does not get over-cooked and mushy. Now, toss the cooked Idiyappam, dal, grated coconut and brown sugar together and serve.

The ragi while steaming tends to stick to the container (the idli vessel for instance). To avoid this you can rub a little bit of oil on the container before placing the soaked ragi in it to steam. Other than the oil used to coat the container, there is no oil in this dish. The fat content of this dish is very low and I get to eat ragi which is otherwise absent in my diet. As an alternative, you can even make other dishes like upma out of ragi idiyappam. I have tasted bread made out of ragi flour. It was a substitute for rye bread. and it tasted good.

I have heard and read that millets are a good and healthy source of energy. A friend of mine once mentioned that it is particularly good for diabetic patients since it releases energy slowly while being digested. I’ll try to write more about millets at a later date.

Nutritional value of Ragi per 100 g

Protein 7.3 g
Fat 1.3 g
Carbohydrate 72 g
Minerals 2.7 g
Calcium 3.44 g
Fibre 3.6 g
Energy 328 kCal


This is a blog where I want to share my thoughts on food. I enjoy cooking and am actively involved in the kitchen every day. I like to try out new recipes from the many cookbooks I have and I also enjoy searching for recipes on-line. I like to cook food that is healthy and complete for my family’s need. During my travel, I plan my meals meticulously and enjoy eating in both new restaurants and old-favourites. And I am fond of collecting little kitchen gadgets that make life a lot simpler in the kitchen. Some of these gadgets can also be fun to use. I want to share my thoughts and experiences during my escapades in the kitchen.

I have enjoyed cooking right from when I was about 12 years old. I would come back from school in the evening and whip up something for my evening snack. Both my mother and mother-in-law have been huge influences in cultivating a love for cooking in me. They are both fantastic cooks and have been great inspirations. And trust me, cooking is a great way to a man’s heart!!!! ;-) Now I also enjoy cooking for my children and try out various child-friendly recipes.

I’ll be posting my thoughts on some of the things I cook in my kitchen on a daily-basis for my family, on dinner menus I plan for a gathering of friends or family, my opinion on specific restaurants, on kitchen gadgets and some must-haves in the kitchen, on food ingredients, on cookbooks, on food shopping and on a whole bunch of things related to food. I would appreciate feedback and suggestions from readers and ideas on more arenas for me to explore in the world of food.