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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Quick & Simple – Meal in Minutes

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 18th, 2006 | 4 Comments


I can never stress enough how quick and simple meals are important in my household. Though we love our slow-cooking wonders over the weekends, we often come home during the week with little less than just a craving of good food, with no energy what so ever to deal with it’s creation.

Egg Masala

Call me crazy but even scramble eggs can be made to look elegant by me. Yes, I have a sickness. I’m somehow very uncomfortable with the fact of showing off simple food just the way it is. When Hubby Dear comes home each evening to a table laden with the best of flavours on a platter, he often thinks that I’ve slaved over the hot stove for hours. I always smile a cunning smile, because even though my food looks and tastes like it’s been simmering for hours, only my stove knows how long it’s actually been running to bring our dinner from pot to plate.

I always glorify myself in the thought of having made a splendid meal that looks like I’ve spent half my life over. But I know how much I resent having to actually make a slow-cooked meal from scratch! I can’t even remember the last time I made my own stock.

A couple of days ago, when we were having our usual “something different for dinner” mood swing, it only seemed reasonable to make something out of the ordinary. Elegant, yes. Simple, definitely!

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Souping it Up

Written by Meena Agarwal on September 19th, 2006 | 9 Comments


It’s funny how the palette knows of season change even before the mind is ready and willing to accept it. A week ago, I found myself craving for soup. No matter how much I tried talking myself out of it, it only grew stronger. Suddenly visions of warm spicy curry drowned rice began dancing in front of my eyes.

Hot & Sour Chicken Curry

Growing up, I remember coming home to the warm comforting aroma of Mom’s chicken soup simmering on the stove on cold winter evenings. She would throw in a variety of vegetables and serve ladles of it over warm rice. It was a sure shot way to melt away the frozen senses.

The minute I walk in from the wet cold air outside, I can’t help but be overcome with a calmness that’s only characteristic of ambience in my home. As I stroll into my kitchen and look at my stove, as if waiting for some kind of sign for tonight’s dinner, I picture Mom pouring ladles full of warm hearty soup in big bowls around the dining table. That was it then, it had to be done. That was the sign and there would be no ignoring it. We were having soup, that would be hearty enough to double up as curry. I set out my ingredients and got to work.

A couple of minutes later as Hubby Dear walked in through the door, he was greeted with a warm aroma floating in the air. And I couldn’t help but notice the smirk on his face when he walked into the kitchen and saw a big pot of hearty goodness simmering on the stove.

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Pantry Essentials

Written by Meena Agarwal on August 4th, 2006 | 3 Comments


Spagetti with Meat Sauce

Pantry Essentials

It’s been hot, and I think I’m melting! I could’ve sworn I was an inch taller just two weeks ago!!Thank goodness for the rain Gods, it’s been much cooler the past two days. At last, I can actually enter my beloved kitchen, without getting cooked myself. Although I enjoy making elaborate meals and spending precious time creating culinary art, there are times when I just want to come home and not take more than a few minutes to whip up a delicious yet wholesome meal.

It is often at such times when i find retreat in my always over-stocked pantry. I love my pantry, and I sincerely believe that if I happen to have an unexpected emergency at hand, I’ll most probably be very well prepared to cook up a meal for 10 people using just the contents from it. I always make sure my shelves are well stocked with a variety of pasta, flour, canned beans, sauces and quick eats.

I always loved grocery shopping, which only added to my pantry stock. I love the feeling of losing myself in the aisles with the variety of oils, sauces and international fares. Learning to grocery shop the right way is an acquired art. It takes brain power and perfect precision, to buy things in just the right amount to stock a pantry. There were times when I would find myself staring at 5 cans of tuna, each with an expiry daye well passed.

It took time, and a lot of practice, but I learnt. I now have a perfect pantry to help me build my meals each day. And at times like tonight, when all I want is a quick fix and hours in front of the TV, my pantry is what I can count on!

SPAGETTI WITH MEAT SAUCE


Prep time: 10 min, Cooking time: 20 min | Serves: 4     

  • 2 handfuls of spagetti, boiled according to boxed instruction
  • 1 pound ground meat (I used chicken)
  • 2 cups pasta sauce
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  •  
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • handful of basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • a pinch of dried oregano
  • a pinch of dried parsley
  • SAUTE ground meat with chopped garlic and onions in hot oil till browned. 

    SEASON with salt, parsley and oregano, and add sauce. Cook for 3-5 minutes till it comes to a slight boil, and add basil leaves.

    STIR in spagetti and serve warm with a side of fresh baked garlic bread.



    It was a Sunday…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on July 24th, 2006 | 27 Comments


    Chiclli Chicken with Steamed rice

    It was a Sunday…

    … not like any Sunday!

    We were tired (from a really late Saturday night), a bit lethargic, and the pouring rain outside didn’t help liven up our spirits.

    While Hubby Dear and me love to keep our Sundays free of any commitments, there are times when we wished we were doing something adventurous, really adventurous. Even if it concerns our palates.

    I’ve always talked about my love and appreciation for Indo-Chinese fision cuisine, so much so that even dear Barbara decided to name a slightly influenced creation of hers after me. While we craved for the spicy goodness that it offers on this rainy droopy day, we were in no mood to drive through the bad weather to get a bite. No matter how strong a craving, I always feel that there must be a solution to it. And on this day, I found it in my kitchen.

    Not one to be let down by the weather, I decided to brave the challenge and attempt to create my very own versions of our favourite Indo-Chinese spicy fare. Aah, I could already taste the flavours. Simple enough, I thought. And boy was I right! Don’t believe me? Well then, you’ll just have to try it out then!

    CHILLI CHICKEN


    Prep time: 10 min, Cooking time: 15 min | Serves: 4    

  • 2-3 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 medium-sized onion, sliced thin
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp green onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  •  
  • 1 tbsp corn starch mixed with 3 tbsp water
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • HEAT oil in a non-stick pan and saute chopped green chillies, ginger and garlic till fragrant. Add chopped onions and fry till lightly brown.

    ADD chicken pieces, and stir-fry till chicken gets cooked.

    ADD salt, pepper, chili powder and soya sauce and cook for a minute. Add water and allow to come to a boil.

    ADD corn starch mixture and stir till sauce thickens. Cover cook for 2-3 minutes, and garnish with chopped green onions.

    Serve over warm steaned rice. Need to warn you though, eat with caution, for this can be very, very spicy!



    Hopping on the Bar-B’!

    Written by Meena Agarwal on July 17th, 2006 | 7 Comments


    Spicy Lamb Burgers

    Hopping on the Bar-B’!

    No matter how much it rains day in and day out, I can’t help but smile that we are still enjoying some pleasantly warm weather. Living in a city where it snows and is extremely, unbearably cold almost half of the year, one can’t help but smile when there is no “white” in sight!

    Ever since hubby dear invested on a great BBQ grill last fall, we have been basking in its glory. I can’t even begin to count how many times we’ve gotten outside and enjoyed our dinners fresh off the grill. He even treated me to a lovely BBQ surprise B’day last month, which was just perfect.

    While most times we love having friends and family over for deliciously grilled dinners, we love to indulge ourselves with some quality “together-time”, just the two of us, by the fire. We’ve had some yummy taco/fajita nites, evenings filled with kababs and spicy tikkas, and even the not-so-usual-but-surprisingly-delicious grilled pitas with hummus! But one of our personal favourites just has to be our big burger nights. Delicoiusly thick and juicy lamb burgers, sandwiched between toasted buns and topped with your choice of veggies. Sounds goo? Then what are you waiting for? Hop on and let’s get grillin’!!

    SPICY LAMB BURGERS


    Prep time: 20 min, Cooking time: 20 min | Makes: 6-8 medium-sized burgers    

  • 1 lb lean ground lamb (could easily be substituted with chicken or beef)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
  •  
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp light cooking oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • MIX all ingredients in a large bowl to incorporate well.

    FORM into patties 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.

    Enoy over toasted buns, topped with your favourite choice of toppings!



    Reminiscence

    Written by Meena Agarwal on June 19th, 2006 | 22 Comments


    My Dad has always cribbed about our long-distance phone bills. The main cause of which  was the exchange of recipes between Mom and me. Ever since I left home, Mom and I have had many a conversations around food. There would be times when the sole purpose of my call would be to find the ingredients to go into one of my favourite dishes.

    Egg-Vegetable Fried Rice

    Even though I’ve mastered my own art of cooking, I would take Mom’s home-cooked meals any day. With the “10 things I miss most about Mom’s cooking” meme doing the rounds, how was I to stay away from it. In no particular order, a few things I miss most about Mom’s cooking.

    1. Her nonchalant way of adding spices to flavour a dish – no measurements, just instinct that never goes wrong.
    2. Her “Hurry Mom, I’m starving!!” specials – a few things into a pan and a couple of minutes later, lip-smacking goodness!
    3. Shortcuts/Solutions – she always has a solution to troubleshoot any culinary disaster, even for custard that would not firm up after a whole day in the fridge! (made by yours truly, ofcourse!)
    4. Biryani – no doubt whatsoever, this is the BEST you can get!
    5. Her baked goods – I’ve never been into baking, but loved watching Mom make her special cakes. And to top it off, she would always leave a little extra batter for me to lick afterwards.
    6. Hot cures for cold days – Mom has a knack of making delicious soup out of annything available in the kitchen. No matter what she added, it would drive away all the sniffles.
    7. Fish – I’d eat any kind of fish that Mom makes, any kind at all. And that’s the only way I’ll eat fish – if she cooks it!
    8. The way she effortlessly cooks and entertains for over 50 people.
    9. The crisp evening snacks I would devour over fresh coffee.
    10. Her spic and span and highly organized kitchen!

    After this lovely walk down memory lane, I’d like to leave you with a little something. One of the fastest and fulfilling meals my Mom would make for me was Fried rice. Whenever we get together nowadays, we spend hours on end talking. The hours would wheez by and late into the night, we would get hungry. Fried rice is something we always come back to during times like these. It’s simple, splendid and hard to resist!

    Egg-Vegetable Fried Rice

    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked plain rice
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp soya sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey-garlic sauce
  •  
  • 1 chicken buillion cube 
  • 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp crushed black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • chopped spring onion for garnish
  • Method:

    1. Heat oil in a non-stick pan and fry onions till transparent.
    2. Add vegetables, bullion cube, salt, pepper and chili powder and fry till all the water from the vegetables evaporate.
    3. Add rice and mix well. Splash soya sauce and honey-garlic sauce, and stir-fry rice till everything is mixed well.
    4. Pour beaten eggs and mix well, stirring constantly till eggs cook through and blend with rice.
    5. Garnish with spring onions and serve warm.


    A Picnic we will go…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on May 25th, 2006 | 5 Comments


    “Zippity Do Da. Zippityay, My oh my, what a wonderful day…

    Zippity Do Da. Zippityay, Plenty of sunshine heading my way!!”

    I still can’t believe its time! The sun’s shining, birds chirping, flowers blooming and the trees are all green again. Need I say it, Summer is here… finally!

    And it brings with it joyful times, of enjoying an early dinner in the balcony, of walks at the beach, camping trips, biking, road trips and yes ofcourse, picnics.

    Spicy Grilled Chicken Legs

    Picnics have always been a favourite summer thing for me. Something about packing a lunch, a blanket and a good book, and heading out to a lovely park brings a big smile on my face. Hubby and I spend most of our summer idling away at a park with friends and family over good food and conversation. Opening up a basket of goodies for everyone to share brings about love and a feeling of togetherness.

    When we were kids, there have been one too many occasions where Mom would pack some of her most delicious goodies, and we were off to spend a nice warm day the beach. The time there would be spend frolicking around and playing silly games. But everyone would agree that a large chunk of the time was concentrated around the food.

    Most often than not, when a large group of friends come together for a picnic, we often decide on a menu. Just so no two people would land up bringing the same dish – which hardly ever happens ofcourse! I remember the last time we went on a picnic with a group of close friends – we had decided on making a BBQ event of it. We spent a good couple of hours pondering on what would be on the menu. We didn’t want the regular burgers and hot dogs. That’s just not like us. We like to kick it up a notch! And that’s just when I decided to make a big batch of my delicious Spicy Grilled Chicken Legs. And what do you know! It was a success, just like what a Picnic should always be!

    So here it is my lovelies, I bring to you a very simple version of deliciously spicy grilled chicken legs for our Picnic at the Park! Enjoy!

    Spicy Grilled Chicken Legs

    Ingredients:

  • 8-10 skinless chicken legs, slitted on the sides
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  •  
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp cumin powder
    • salt, to taste
    • 1 tbsp light cooking oil
    • 1 tbsp youghurt
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice

    Method:

    1. Mix all the spices, including the lemon juice, youghurt and oil in a big bowl and rub on chicken well enough to coat through. Let it sit to marinate for an hour or so.
    2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grill chicken for 20-25 minutes, turning once in between, till chicken is tender and cooked through.
    3. Garnish with lemon slices and serve warm right from the grill, or at room temperature.

    Spicy Notes: For best results, let the chicken marinade in the fridge overnight.



    Cure for a Cold…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on May 23rd, 2006 | 7 Comments


    With the rains making its unwelcomed guest appearances the past few weeks, every one seems to have caught the sniffles. This weekend was poor ‘ol hubby’s turn to bite the bullet.While he whimpered, sniffed and coughed his way through the morning, it was time for some stove-top therapy.

    I remember Mom bringing out her famous Chicken Soup whenever she heard the slighest sneeze or cough come from our poor little souls. Her recipe was simple – a lot of love and a handful of ingredients simmering in a big stock pot!

    Chicken-Vegetable Noodle Soup

    Now it was my turn. As I had no inkling of how Mom makes her soups, I decided to make my own version of it. My kitchen had the required necessaties, including a brand new stock pot, to make a big batch of a warm, soothing remedy to drive away hubby dear’s heebie-jeebies!

    There’s always something good about having a big bowl of hot soup when your insides just don’t function as well as they should. The warmness from the hot liquid brings about a comfort like no other. Add to that a handful of special aromatic ingredients, and not only would you feel your life spring up again, but the aroma will make you drift to a faraway land.

    You don’t have to be under the weather to enjoy this recipe. Just a need for some comfort will do! So bring out that pot and let the aromatic warmth fill up your home and you.

    Chicken-Vegetable Noodle Soup

    Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken breasts, sliced into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cup Chinese cabbage, finely sliced
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2-3 stalks of green onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp pure sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light cooking oil
  •  
    • 1 tbsp light soya sauce
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • lemon juice, required as per taste
    • 1/2 pack vermicelli rice noodles
    • 4 cups chicken/vegetable stock
    • fresh parsley for garnish

    Method:

    1. In a large stock-pot, heat sesame and light oil and saute ginger and garlic till soft.
    2. Add in chicken pieces and fry with salt and pepper till tender.
    3. Mix in soya sauce and vegetables, and saute for 2-3 minutes.
    4. Stir in chicken/vegetable stock and let it come to a boil.
    5. Throw in rice noodles, and let it simmer covered for 10-15 minutes.
    6. Garnish with lemon juice and fresh parsley, and serve warm.

    Spicy Notes: This recipe can be altered to add any kind of veggies. It can even be made using various kinds of noodles ot pasta. For a purely hearty vegetarian version, use vegetable stock with a variety of fresh veggies and chick peas/lima beans substituted for the chicken.

    Best enjoyed while wrapped with a warm blanket watching reruns of ‘Friends‘!



    Creating a Delicacy…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on May 6th, 2006 | 11 Comments


    Since I started working full-time last Monday, my days and not to mention evenings, have become more hectic. After the one and a half hour bus ride home there’s not much I want to do in the form of cooking. True, cooking relaxes me and brings about a certain burst of energy. But not when I’m famished and want something in my tummy pronto!

    So while we’ve been having “purposely made” left-overs and quick-fix meals over the last five days, I knew I wanted something more last night. And I also knew I was willing to anything to make it happen.

    Without any set plan in mind, I took a quick peak into my freezer. Aaahh… boneless chicken breasts! That’s always great to work with. So I set it in a big bowl of hot water to defrost and proceeded to watch my beloved Food Network! After all, Ina Garten was on, and despite the fact that I rarely use any of her recipes, I just love the way she presents it and the style she brings in.

    Chicken Curry with Potatoes

    So back to cooking! The chicken was all set and ready to be turned into a delicious lip-smacking meal. I came to a quick a quick conclusion of making some form of Chicken Curry (there are tons of ways to make this ever so versatile dish, just like here, and here!), served with delicious Basmati rice and bowl of cold Raita!

    A short peek into the fridge and pantry, and I was well on my way to create a delicacy. And boy did I hit the jack-pot! An hours later, the pot was licked clean with hardly enough for another meal. If only I knew how god it would turn out, I would’ve prepared enough to last me the whole week… Sigh!!!

    Chicken Curry with Potatoes

    Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2-3 mid-sized potatoes, cut into quarters
  • 2 large onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup plain youghurt
  • water, as needed
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
  •  
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1 tsp coriander powder
    • 1/2 tsp garam masala
    • 1/4 tsp cumin powder
    • salt, to taste
    • 1 tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 2 bayleaves
    • 1 long stick of cinnamon
    • 6-7 curry leaves
    • 3 tbsp cooking oil

    Method:

    1. Heat oil and add cumin seeds and curry leaves.
    2. Once they start to splutter, add in ginger, garlic and green chillies, along with bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Saute for a few seconds and add in sliced onions.
    3. Fry onions till they begin to brown, and then add salt, chili powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric and garam masala.
    4. Fry till spices blend well begins to give out oil.
    5. Add in chicken pieces and mix well to evenly coat with spices.
    6. Add about 2 cups of water and let it come to a boil before adding in the youghurt.
    7. Bring it to a boil once again, and when youghurt is completely blended in, throw in the potatoes.
    8. Cover cook for 15-20 minutes on medium-low heat, till potatoes are tender, adding in more water if needed.
    9. Add kasoori methi and cook covered for another 5-7 minutes.

    Enjoy over plain boiled rice, with a side salad or Raita.