Written by Meena Agarwal on January 30th, 2007 | 16 Comments
If I told you that I whip up amazingly gourmet meals at the drop of a hat for my everyday dinners, that I’d have to be lying. Truth be told, I seldom ever cook something that would have me whisking away for hours on end. Except of course, when I have company coming! Now that’s a whole different story altogether. Even then, I’m not spending all those hours on one single dish, but instead, I’m actually going nuts fussing over a minimum of five main courses. Yes, I get like that while entertaining. But the diligent licking of everyone’s fingertips and perplexed weight-watching souls worrying over whether to go in for seconds (thirds, actually) more than makes up for all the effort.
When it comes to feeding family, I like to go more easy on myself. It’s not that I don’t enjoy feeding loved ones with rich palate pleasing favourites, but I’d rather spend my time with them enjoying simple, yet equally delightful food made in minutes. A recent email from one of my readers posed a question I have been subjected to many a times. This compelled me to come all out talk about my regular at-home meals. She writes,
All your recipes appear as if they leaped out of glossy magazines. While many them are quite easy to follow, it’s hard to imagine myself cooking lavish meals every night. Do you really cook all these wonderful looking food on a daily basis?
Well, dear reader, all I can say is yes. Well almost. You see, most of my recipes, no matter how elegantly sounding, are actually very simple and wholesome; and ones that I turn to on a weekly basis. While it may seem daunting to someone not so in tune with Indian cuisine, it’s not at all that hard. Most dishes can be made in a matter of minutes, whereas others, that seem to call for bucketfuls of spices, may just take a tad bit more time. But yes, sometimes even an adventurous cook like myself, wants to take a break and reach out to the nearest pack of instant noodles. And it’s often in times like these that I faithfully turn to my repertoire of quick fixes. And these, I assure you dear reader, can be whipped up real quick. Literally in minutes!
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Written by Meena Agarwal on January 24th, 2007 | 33 Comments
When it comes to simple everyday meals, I find it hard to succumb myself to the traditional Indian daily routine of ‘Dal-Sabzi’, translated, simply meaning a lentil and vegetable preparation. A simple Indian lunch would mainly consist of a lentil and a side of some vegetable, cooked in different variations everyday. These are then relished with warm rotis, rice, a dollop of pickle, and some fresh yoghurt. For me, a meal like this often finds it’s way to my dinner table once every 10 days. The rest of the week however, I prefer finding ways of simplifying indulgent favourites to treat my ever-so-demanding palate.
Often, when I talk to people on the topic of curries, the most common concern I get confronted with is the amount of time, and not to mention effort that comes with it. I for one, beg to differ. For me, a curry is nothing but a smooth blend of flavours brought together to highlight a star ingredient. True, you can spend hours toasting, pounding, and grinding spices to form the smoothest of pastes; you can spend days marinating and chopping to achieve the most delicate blend possible; and you can also lose yourself in a cloud of spices and herbs that would fill your kitchen and your home with an aroma almost so ambrosial, you would think you woke up in a foreign land. But then again, you could do what I do on days when all I have at my disposal are a few measly minutes at the brink of lunch-time with a rumbling tummy to cater to.
As I see it, curries are not something one should be afraid of. Neither are they something to look at with such cynicism or vengeance. A curry is a curry, and like any other can be easily tamed to suit ones tastes and preferences. I like mine to be quick and robust with flavour, and I don’t stop till I find my way with it.
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Written by Meena Agarwal on January 20th, 2007 | 13 Comments
Chicken & Bean Coconut Stew
… I make stew!
There are only so many days in the dreaded Canadian winter when the white blanket of snow is lovingly caressed by the intense warmth of the sun’s rays. It is often on days like these, which if unestimatedly fall on a weekend like today, that all I wish to do is have endless cups of hot cocoa and surround myself with the many sections of the bulky weekend newspaper. It is also on days like these, where I bitterly sulk over Hubby Dear’s absence due to his frequent business trips. And that too just a day after returning from our fabulous vacation filled with sun, sand and laughter. Need I add how much I miss him already? And it’s just been a measly few hours since we bid adieu!
While my appetite tends to take a downward stroll while Hubby Dear is away, I still can’t quite refrain from spending most of my time in my kitchen. The time spent in prepping, visualizing and finally creating the meal is what enables me to unwind and reflect on my thoughts. I love listening to the sharp crunches from chopping an onion, the sizzling of chopped garlic in hot oil, or the whistles of the pressure cooker; each of which can be easily substituted for any form of melody in my mind.
By allowing myself to sleep in today, and waking up to a wonderfully warm sunny afternoon, the idea of a lunch that would summon me to stand over a hot stove didn’t quite make an inviting prospect. But good food on a day like this was something I was desperately craving for. So I took the slow and easy way out. The thought of having my lunch slowly simmer on the stove was tempting enough to compel me to get my lazy self into the kitchen and prep for it. And that’s all I needed to do. The rest as they say, will take care of itself!
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Written by Meena Agarwal on January 9th, 2007 | 34 Comments
There are certain times in a year when all I want to do is nothing more than cuddle up with a great book and nibble on some extra-spicy food. Throw in a few cold winds my way, and the mood is set. With Hubby Dear out on one of his business tours, leaving me all alone to face the dilemma of what to pack for our upcoming tropical vacation, I was definitely in the need for some spiced up comfort.
While I successfully managed to pick certain favourites from my existing wardrobe, and shopped for what I deemed as must-haves for a holiday by the beach, I was still to face the toughest part – fitting it all into one lousy teeny-tiny suitcase. Okay, so maybe it’s not all that teeny-tiny, but it’s still too small for the 27 various outfit combinations I solemnly swear I need for the 7-day trip. And that’s not including all the coordinating shoes and accessories! Well, what can I say, I like to travel Bollywood style.
I suddenly realized as I emerged from the pile of clothes I was almost buried under, that I had spent the last four hours rummaging through my closet, getting all my “to-pack” things in order. Long past my regular lunch time, it had just occured to me how hungry I actually was. So I lazily stolled into my kitchen with no inspiration what-so-ever. Then, as if something called out to me, I recalled how I had left some chicken to defrost the night before. Okay, so I had chicken on my mind. What to do with it, I still had no idea.
And then I just began to play. A slight variation to this classic favourite, this recipe can leave you sprinting to the nearest bottle of cold water. But nonetheless, it’s a perfect call for a cold late winter afternoon. So ahead, don’t be afreaid, definitely give it a try. But then don’t go about saying I didn’t warn you!
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