A never-ending learning process: Fried Egg Sambal

Written by Meena Agarwal on July 23rd, 2008 | 38 Comments


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

A few days ago I had a wonderful lunch meeting with an editor of a local magazine. Over a slew of emails deciding on what time and day would best suit the both of us, she suggested we meet for Thai food. That’s when I knew I was going to really like her. And the moment she asked for her Tom Yum soup to be extra-spicy, I knew we were going to be best friends! Lunch was delightful, and the conversation we shared over fresh salad rolls, Pad Thai and Fried Bananas with ice cream was simply exceptional. Being the food editor of the magazine, she undoubtedly shared my obsession with all things culinary. We bonded over our favourite childhood snacks (who knew that ketchup on toast with a dash of pepper was not something that only weird ‘ol me enjoyed! I know, I know, it sounds like a hideous combination; but in my defence, I was 14, breaking out in pimples and was going through a phase where anything out of the ordinary was thought to be “in”…), how we usually plan our vacations based on places that are mostly know for their food more than anything else, and our dislike for broccoli! It was going great until she asked me the dreaded question – when and how did I learn to cook?

I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve been faced with that very question. If only I had a penny for each time I was asked, well, I guess I’d have a lot of pennies by now! As far as I can remember, I actually started cooking when I moved out of home for college; the food there sucked, and since I had an inbuilt kitchen in my room, I figured I could at least try and salvage my hunger and save some money in the process. But I wouldn’t be lying if I said that wasn’t really when I learned to cook. My mom didn’t think much of having me and sister learn to cook the real way. Sure, she’d often have us help her at dinner time by setting the table, making the salad, frying puris while she rolled them out splendidly, and of course, doing the dreaded dishes once everyone was fed. There were days during holidays and weekends, when I would spend time talking to her in the kitchen while she prepped meals. In the process I often took note of how she added one ingredient after the other, roasted spices in dry heat to bring out their aroma, and took special care to avoid any extra gravy while layering Biryani. Little did I know that these special sessions we shared would one day be the basis of my career.

Truth be told, I can’t really point an exact time frame in my life when I actually learned to cook. It kind of just happened, maybe it was always there somewhere. In fact, I’m on a constant learning curve. Each day I educate myself with something new – be it how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg without having the shells stick to it, or that soft, delicious naans could actually be made at home in a flash. Without a tandoor. Who knew! What I can tell you honestly though is that the one thing I actually learned to cook was fried egg. My mom decided to teach me so that I could make my own breakfast without her having to leave the laundry halfway to feed me. It wasn’t a fun experience at all. I must’ve had thrown away a couple dozen before I could manage to crack them just right without thrusting my thumb in and breaking the yolk. But it was all for a good cause. How else could I have made myself this delicious Egg Sambal had it not been for that fateful day.

So, now I ask you – when did you learn to cook?

FRIED EGG SAMBAL
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

4 large eggs
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3 tbsp light cooking oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat about 1 tsp of oil in a non-stick pan (Use one large enough to cook the entire dish, since it makes it much easier to clean up. Personally I prefer using a wok to get perfectly round fried eggs.), and fry egg one after the other seasoned lightly with salt and pepper, adding in more oil if needed. Set aside.

Add in remaining oil in the pan and saute garlic and onions till soft and lightly browned. Add in spices and fry for a few seconds.

Throw in chopped tomatoes, season with salt and fry for a few minutes. Add in tomato paste and continue to fry, breaking up tomatoes till it starts to dry out and give out oil from the sides.

Slowly slide in the fried eggs, and carefully mix them with the tomato mixture to coat, without breaking the egg. Allow to heat through for a few minutes and serve warm.



Simply summer: Mediterranean Kebabs

Written by Meena Agarwal on July 11th, 2008 | 24 Comments


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

What is with people who graciously accept your dinner invitation, arrive two hours late without so much as an apology or look of regret on their face, eat merely two bites of the delicious spread you took hours to lay out and declare that they’re just not that hungry! Huh? Wha…?

A few years ago, when I was a newbie in town, I had decided to invite a few people over for a nice dinner so that we could all mingle and get to know each other over mounds of spiked jello shots. The list of invited guests included a few of my colleagues, neighbours, the friendly dude from my dance class and a close friend on mine I’ve known since we were barely in our teens. A weird bunch to bring together no doubt, but I figured that if I ever intended on having a close knit circle of friends to run to over the weekends, then they should at the very least meet each other in person.

I had decided on serving Mexican food. Mainly, because they were such a diverse bunch and I figured that bringing them together over a Taco/Fajita bar laden with fixin’s and over-flowing pitchers of Sangria would definitely lighten everyone’s spirits. And also of course, who doesn’t like Mexican food? I mean, seriously, isn’t it illegal to frown upon it in some parts of the world? Mexico included?

The table was set, plates, glasses and cutlery laid out, and a Mariachi band was serenading away on my second-hand stereo. Slowly, the crowd started to pour in. The music continued to play, folks laughed at each other’s jokes and I couldn’t empty out tortilla chips into the bowls fast enough! It was all going well, until this person made his entrance. He seemed to be in a real bad mood, which made me wonder why he didn’t just call me up and say that he wasn’t able to make it. He sulked in a remote corner all night, nibbling on a handful of chips dipped in about a teaspoon of salsa. Did I mention I actually roasted tomatoes for the first time to make that delicious batch? Needless to say, he hardly even kept a conversation with me – summarizing his answers to my questions in monosyllables. And you’d think he would call me up the next day to apologize, but I’m yet to hear his reasons for his insane behaviour – and it’s been almost seven years now. Not that we’re still in touch though. I somehow find it very hard to maintain my cool with people who show no consideration for others. Which is why I hardly ever cook dinner for them more than once.

When it comes to having friends over, and I mean those people who you really love to spend your time with and not those that you hope to spend some time with – I almost, always, cook whatever they enjoy most. I recently had a close friend over for lunch who is simply smitten by anything Mediterranean! Her love for this eclectic cuisine knows no bounds, and she’s not one to let a good meal pass her by. Since it’s that time of year when I love throw anything on the grill and enjoy a nice lunch outdoors - I wanted to create a cool, calm and simple summer menu, the highlight of which were these deliciously lovely kebabs.

MEDITERRANEAN CHICKEN KEBABS
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Makes: 8-10 medium-sized kebabs

Ingredients:

1 lb lean ground chicken
1 medium onion, finely chopped
a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten
2-3 tbsp bread crumbs
salt, to taste

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl to incorporate well. Form into kebabs and grill till done on both sides.

RECIPE NOTES: To grill in an indoor oven, heat oven to 375 degrees and grill for 20-25 minutes till done, turning once in between.



A ‘no-recipe’ recipe: Garlic Tofu Noodles

Written by Meena Agarwal on July 7th, 2008 | 21 Comments


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

Today I have for you what I like to call one of my ‘no-recipe recipes’. These are a class of recipes that I often come up with at the spur of the moment – they have no reason, no inspiration. Just a bunch of ingredients thrown together in the hopes of creating something edible. While a few of such of my creations have turned out perfect to go into the trash, many of them have become a family favourite over the years and continue to make their appearances on my dinner table. Most of them are throw-it-all-into-one-pot-and-hope-for-the-best kinda meals, while others are quick assembly ones. But they each have one thing in common: a few starving mouths waiting to be fed.

I remember this one time when I tried cooking spaghetti with some leftover meatball curry, spaghetti bolognese a la Indian, which did not work out much to our liking. Nethier is combining paneer with green curry paste in hopes of creating a Thai-Indo fusion fried rice such a great idea. But I digress, a ravenous tummy = brains cells on holiday! But sometimes, the lack of time, energy and a frighteningly increasing hunger can create the most delicious meal.

Take today for example – I woke up with a strong will to bake. And bake I did! A bunch of sorry looking carrots found its way into my baking pan and turned into the most deliciously moist treat, a perfect pairing for my evening cup of coffee (but that’s a recipe for another day!). Then I slowly crossed off things on my to-do list one after the other. I was on a roll and nothing was going to stop me. Except, of course, my screaming stomach who knows nothing about keeping its cool when hungry. A quick glance at the clock confirmed that I was past my regular lunch time, and I had to act fast! So I did what I could – picked a bunched of that, chopped a few of those, boiled a pot of this, and stir-fried them all together. And might I add, as hideously simple as it sounds – it was a great meal. Or maybe that’s just my tummy talking!Â

GARLIC TOFU NOODLES
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4

Ingredients:

3 cups boiled egg noodles
1 large onion, finely sliced
1 cup diced extra-firm tofu
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 tbsp Sambal Olek
2 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp light cooking oil
salt, to taste

Directions:

Heat oil in a deep non-stick wok and saute onions and garlic, till lightly browned and fragrant. Add in tofu and fry for a few minutes till crisp around the edges. By this time, the onions and garlic should be caramalized and very fragrant.

Add in the shredded cabbage and Sambal Olek, and stir-fry for a few minutes to combine well. Stir in noodles, sprinkle soya sauce, and stir fry to coat noodles well with the sauce and veggies. Season with salt and serve warm.