Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

It suddenly occurred to me when I turned to my planner this morning, that it’s been almost two months since we got back from our vacation to India. Over the past few weeks, I have been juggling around entertaining friends, meeting deadlines, sampling new products (lots and lots of delicious reviews coming up soon!), and not to mention creating recipes to try out on our newly acquired charcoal grill! As I sit back now, a steaming cup of hot cacao in hand, it suddenly dawned on me that I had quite an eventful and experimental vacation with relation to food. And why not, I would have had it no other way.

For a food enthusiast, the cuisine of a country is as much to look forward to on a vacation as the most popular tourist attraction. So much so, that on many a short trip, I have been known to cross out a few stops on my sightseeing itinerary only to accommodate a much important trip to the local farmer’s market.

Of the many things that were on my must-eat list during my trip, the few that undoubtedly sought my utmost attention were those that can be found at almost every nook and corner of the busiest streets throughout the country. Ask any one who has ever walked the streets of any major Indian city, be it Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore, and they will attest to the fact that no evening stroll is complete without making a stop at one of the many hawker stalls in these cities. Street after street, stall after stall, you’re greeted by smiling faces and tempting plates that urge you to come and give it a try.

Smothered with spicy and tangy chutneys, yogurt and tons of other fixings, each plate creates a whole new experience in your mouth. Chaats are one of those purely addictive foods that I simply refuse to live without! Living outside the comfort of your home country teaches you to adapt in ways you wouldn’t have imagined. And I am no different. Although I do miss the flavours of my favourite eats, I have come to learn of ways to replicate them without having to buy a plane ticket. Here is my quick version of a delicious treat that will simply have you begging for more. It’s fast, simple enough to make, and if you’re pressed for time like me – almost all the ingredients can be easily found and bought at your nearest Indian grocery store. But be warned, it’s a mouthful this one!
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Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

I love getting emails from readers asking for menu ideas when hosting an Indian-themed party. Here’s one I received from Jen a couple of days ago:

Dear Meena,

I’m hosting our monthly book club and my selection is Interpreter of Maladies – a series of short stories that I absolutely love.  We try to coordinate our meeting’s food with our book’s subject – usually just appetizers & dessert, but occasionally a full meal.

I’d love to make some great Indian dishes for our group to sample – and to have as much as possible prepared in advance so I don’t miss out on the fun.  Even some spiced nuts or snacks would be great. Any ideas?

Many, many thanks,


I love putting casual buffet menus together where guests can just sit and chat while nibbling on some delicious food. For a book club meet, it’s always best to serve food that can be easily picked up with one hand and eaten while you use the other hand to navigate through your favourite passages and pages in the book. Here is what I think would go well at this particular meeting. Most of the items can be prepared up to a few days in advanced, stored in the freezer or fridge till D-day, and kept warm in the oven till it’s ready to serve. I hope you and your friends will enjoy this menu as much as the the party Jen! Happy hosting!

  • Potato Parcels – prepare the parcels in advance and freeze them without frying. When ready to serve, either fry them up or simply bake in a 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes till golden. For a slightly simpler, less effortless version, use large puff pastry sheets. They puff up like tiny pillows when done and look and taste marvellous!
  • Tandoori Chicken Pops – Let the chicken marinate in the fridge overnight, and when ready to serve, simply grill in an oven instead of frying.
  • Corn Chaat (recipe included) – Quick and simple to prepare, and delicious to the very last morsel! For an added flair, serve in mini tortilla cups.
  • Shakkarpare – A perfect sweet treat that can be made many days in advance and stores well in an air-tight jar.
  • Masala Chai – The perfect ending to a fun evening.

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Let me tell you all a little story. Once upon a time, there was a pretty little girl who absolutely loved peas. She loved them so much that she would even unquestioningly eat steamed broccoli if it was served with a side of peas. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration. Nothing, not even serving them with deliciously sweet peas would make her eat broccoli, least of all if it was steamed! She would simply devour all the luscious peas and probably slip the broccoli chunks under her seat when no one was watching. Yes, that’s undoubtedly what she would do. But nonetheless, let’s get back to the story shall we?

Pic taken from www.hookedonheat.com, visit site for recipe details.

So yes, this girl loved her peas. She begged her Mom to add them into anything and everything they could possibly be added to. And if it weren’t for her two evil green pea loathing siblings, her Mom might have even given in to some of her hideously bizarre ideas. But then, like every fairy tale, good things started to happen to her. She grew up, moved out of home away from the evil siblings (okay, they’re not all that evil, but they do bug her some all of the time!), and began to cook for herself. Like the ugly frog who turned into a handsome prince on the very first kiss, her peas lusciously flavoured her food. They graced every dish they were added into and touched it with their sweetness.

On days like today, when the clouds darken the sky, and drops of rain fall helplessly on the ground, all she can think of cooking for dinner is a one pot comforting meal comprising of rice, mushrooms, and oh yes, most definitely, peas. The meal was a breeze to make, and the girl and her peas continue to live happily ever after, much to the chagrin of Hubby Dear. If only there was a law forbidding one to hate peas!
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