One-pot Wonders

Written by Meena Agarwal on February 19th, 2007 | 20 Comments


Coconut Fish Curry
Coconut Fish Curry

Even though I would like to think of myself as a highly organized person, the fact doesn’t seem to hold true in every aspect of my life. No matter how many times I update my to-do list, or how many post-its I leave around every unexpected corner in my home, I still have to deal with unpaid bills, unanswered emails, and missed deadlines. However, one area where I always seem to excel as someone who would have ‘organization’ as their middle name, would be in making sure my fridge, freezer and pantry are well stocked. This would surely have something to do with the fact that I may be a compulsive list maker. Yes, I love making lists. In fact, I make so many lists within the span of one day that I sometimes even have to make a list of the lists I’ve made. Confusing? Tell me about it!

Though I may not seem to be most successful in crossing out everything on my day’s schedule, my grocery list is one that can be easily counted on. I always have a freezer stocked with a few pounds of chicken, a huge bag of fries and a couple of packets of frozen veggies. My fridge never runs out of eggs, bread and milk, and not mention the staples like veggies and fruits. And my pantry, oh what can I tell you about my pantry, except that if ever we were locked in our house with no way to getting out whatsoever, I could easily survive with three other people for an entire week, with a couple more days added to it! Yes, my husband does comment on the size of my pantry, but hardly ever do I see him complain when I dish out a perfect meal after he refuses to head to the grocery store in the midst of a huge snow storm!

When it comes to wanting a wholesome, no-fuss, quick and easy meal, I always turn to my pantry for comfort. Like the long lost friend who always brings a smile to your face and warm joy to your heart even after seeing them after what seems like ages, my pantry serves me well. I always make sure I have enough of rice, flour, and a few different kinds of pasta to serve me when I call for them. I also stock on various sauces, lentils and beans. And it’s in times like these where I can happily fall back on my tried and tested stack of recipes. Most of them can be made within a few minutes with ingredients entirely coming from pantry staples, while a few may need a little help form something fresh or something frozen.

Speaking of frozen, I like to have a pack or two of some of my favourite seafood always on hand, and fish is definitely one of them. I like buying them pre-cleaned and pre-cut, which then only leaves them the need to defrost and cooked to my liking. Take for example this curry. It’s simple and quick, with only a handful of ingredients. And if that’s not good enough, it’s all made in one pot. Now what could be better than a one-pot meal left to simmer by itself while you tend to a few emails?

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Conquering Demons!

Written by Meena Agarwal on February 14th, 2007 | 42 Comments


Ginger Chilli Shrimp
Ginger Chilli Shrimp

When it comes to cooking, I hardly ever follow a recipe. I often give it a quick read, making a mental note of the spices, and then just play by instinct. But baking, now that’s a whole different post altogether! Coming back to cooking, apart from my daily ritual of pouring through endless mounds of paper scattered all over my floor, I also make time to decide what would be on the day’s menu. Some days, I plan in advance, like say the night before, while most other days, I go by my mood.

Take today for instance, I woke up craving for shrimp. While I don’t often cook seafood, I do however, have tons of recipe ideas for them. And today was just the day to try one out, I thought. As I sipped my morning cuppa and went through my regular rounds of email, I heard a little voice in my head – “Ginger… Chili… Shrimp…”! As I read an email from a fabulous lady requesting me to review her latest cookbook, I heard it again – “Ginger… Chili… Shrimp…”! Half an hour later, drooling over an episode of Ina’s where she made the most delicious looking lemon loaf, there it was again – “Ginger… Chili… Shrimp…”! By the time it was mid-morning, I could take it no longer and set off to cook myself some lunch – “Ginger… Chili… Shrimp…”! There it was again!

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Quite the Contrary

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 30th, 2007 | 16 Comments


Egg Masala
Egg Masala

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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Domesticating the Dilemma…

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 24th, 2007 | 33 Comments


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

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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When in doubt…

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 20th, 2007 | 13 Comments


Chicken & Bean Coconut Stew
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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Peppered to Perfection

Written by Meena Agarwal on January 9th, 2007 | 34 Comments


Pepper Chicken
Pepper Chicken

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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Stop me…

Written by Meena Agarwal on December 21st, 2006 | 9 Comments


Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

… before I flood the town with cookies!Okay, so I have a disease. When I like something, and I mean, really like it, I tend to go overboard. Yes, as in waaaay overboard!So, the past few days have kept me busy with regular trips to the kitchen store to load up on parchment paper, pastry brushes, whisks of all sizes and most importantly, cookie jars!

I guess you could say I’ve caught the cookie-baking bug. I’ve been baking non-stop for the past four days, churning out tray after tray of the most delicious, chewy, melt-in-you-mouth goodies I’d have never even imagined possible by someone who doesn’t really like to bake per se.

The journey so far has been fun, and for the most part, enlightening. I figured out many short-cuts, some easy and simple substitutions, and learnt quite a few lessons the hard way over some not-so-delightful looking treats that filled my home with the whiff of burning plastic! Yes, it’s been an insightful few days, and nothing that I’d regret. Infact, I think it’s going on great and I still have the will to try out a few more of Hubby’s picks from a cookie bible I bought not so very long ago.

With my Christmas shopping all taken care of, gifts duly wrapped, labeled and strategically placed under the tree, and the home looking it’s absolute best in all Holiday slendour, I can’t help but wait to wake up on Christmas morning to the smell of fresh brewing coffee and a platter of home-made baked treats. Yes, nothing can quite beat that feeling, except, of course knowing that mine is the biggest gift under the tree this year. Now, if only I knew what it was!

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Soup’s Up!

Written by Meena Agarwal on December 8th, 2006 | 13 Comments


With the temperatures decreasing at a considerably ridiculous rate, I find myself constantly looking for something warm enough to melt my insides. Now these are not one of those simple craving of comfort that could easily be taken care of by a steaming cup of rich hot chocolate or some spiced infused tea. No sir, these longings call for something more that compels me to take the extra tiny step further.

Meatball Noodle Soup

When I think of soups, my mind always seek the ones filled with lots of vegetables and other bites of goodness like dumplings or bits of meat floating in a light flavourful broth. Seldom ever do I desire one that is thick and rich, and made with dashes of cream. Infact, to be honest, I almost never do. You see, for me, soups are best when they come in a clear broth, and that’s eactly always the way I prefer to make them.

I’ve been having a hard time the past few weeks what with being buried in reports and deadlines. With all that finally taken care of and set aside, I was happy to find some quite time in my kitchen on this cold friday evening. With a few hours to spare before Hubby Dear came home, I had enough of time and a lot of energy to make a big pot bubbling with the most fragrant and aromatic flavours that would warm up our home and give me the comfort I so needed.

A few hours later we were nestled on the couch infront of the TV with a big bowl as we slurped and cuddled, of course all warm and cosy together!

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Sinful Pleasures…

Written by Meena Agarwal on November 15th, 2006 | 16 Comments


Let me make a confession. I am not a baker. I am not into baking, nor do I enjoy the tiresome process of folding one part of the batter into the other. Infact, the closest step I take to baking is opening a pre-packaged box of cake mix, breaking an egg or two into it as per the instructions, a spash of water as needed, and popping it into a warm oven.

Chocolate Cup Cakes

Except until I decided to throw down my shield and create this. It was simple, quick and easy – not something I can easily relate to with baking. And so today, once more, I thought of doing the unmentioned. I decided to create a recipe that wouldn’t drive me away from the oven, but instead, could be my run-to solution for a quick remedy to those sugar pangs.

For the past one week, I’ve been craving chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but those sinfuly, rich, dark, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth-rest-on-your-hips decadent chocolate cakes. And it didn’t help that all the food magazines I subscribe to (yes, all 10 of them!) were filled with the most drool enhancing photographs of chocolatey holiday treats.

Looking puppy-eyed and battling my eye lids to Hubby didn’t work either. He refused to buy me a 12-inch cake to eat all by myself (locked in a room, gorging on it with my bare hands and having cream all over my face and hands, just like in my most secret chocolate fantasy!). So I had no choice but to experiment, and that I sure did. I studied over a dozen recipes, worked out the necessary ingredients, altered the measurements and of course, simplified the process.

As I sat down and took the first bite of the warm cake, I was taken to a place I had since long yearned to go. I suggest induling in the sin fresh from the oven. The soft chocolate chips in their almost liquified form, gives the cakes a warm gooey goodness. almost to the likes of a molten chocolate interior.

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When rich meets poor…

Written by Meena Agarwal on November 10th, 2006 | 8 Comments


Whoever invented the ever-so-rich-finger-lickin’-melt-in-your-mouth delicious Butter Chicken, truly did not take my whims and fancies into consideration! Let me explain…

Butter Chicken

I never enjoyed eating Butter Chicken. Yes, you heard me right, and no, I’m not kidding! Whenever I refuse to order this age-old dish at any restaurant, people didning at my table often look at me like I’m from out of space. But it’s true, I do not enjoy this dish that is considered to be the epitome of the Indian cuisine. Infact, I think it is way too rich to my liking, if I may say so.

Though Hubby Dear has been seen wiping his plate clean of this dish whenever he gets the (good) fortune to dip into it, being the sweetheart that he is, has not once asked me to cook it at home. You see, I hate cooking with cream and/or milk. There’s something about adding cream/milk to my food that makes me look at it with such torment. While I happily add dollops of cream to make my own chocolate desserts, adding it to my actual meal gives me the jitters. So clearly, Butter Chicken, which is as rich as the amount of cream and/or milk added to it, steered clear from my palate.

Until today that is. I woke up this morning with my mind made. I was going to invent a rich Chicken Curry, and cream would be nowhere near the picture!

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