One-bite Wonders…

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 19th, 2006 | 17 Comments


With Diwali just around the corner, it’s no surprise that my little kitchen has been bursting with activity. Though I shy away from entertaining on a large scale on this occasion, I still look forward to the crowding of family and friends around my dinner table. I guess the old saying does hold true in my case that nothing pleases a cook more, than to see the happy faces of those enjoying the food.

Shakkarpare

Diwali in my home, has always been centered around food. In fact, any occasion I can think of, revolves around us hovering over the stove while Mom dishes out treat after treat. Now that I have my own household to care for, the tradition still continues. Hubby Dear has already declared an open house to his tummy. Friends and family have invited themselves over and requests have been made and duly considered. And I’ve done my part as well, by promising each of them their favourites on the table.

As I while away my time in the kitchen churning up one request to another, I can’t help but take a time out to snuggle in a treat for myself. After all, festivals are for indulging, and who am I to defy tradition. So before I head back to cooking up a storm for this weekend, how about joining me for a cup of coffee and some tasty bites?

Here’s wishing all my readers a Very Happy and Prosperous Diwali!

Jump to the Recipe »



Back to the Basics…

Written by Meena Agarwal on October 16th, 2006 | 13 Comments


Good food is nice. Delicious exotic food is even better. But when you’ve overfed yourself with a variety of scrumptiously rich delicacies, the mind begins to move to a more subtle and simple option. The past few weeks saw us gorging on the best of Indian festive delicacies, and what with Diwali Just around the corner, this trend is sure to continue for the next few days as well. But last night, as we came home after a long day of running errands, just in time for a quick hearty meal, our palates began to repulse at the slightest thought of anything even remotely extravagant.

Alu Fry (Sauteed Potatoes)

In most North Indian households, the availability of the three basics – onions, tomatoes and potatoes, along with the most basic of spices cannot be missed. Truly, just with these three, one can can create a pretty hearty meal to feed the whole family. And the choices are never limited. By altering and changing the flavourings and spices, a variety of dishes can be concocted from these basics.

So it’s no surprise that when I look for simplicity, I undoubtedly turn to the basics.

Jump to the Recipe »



Saying Goodbye…

Written by Meena Agarwal on September 5th, 2006 | 10 Comments


We cramped the whole of summer into the past long weekend. After a cancellation of our camping plans, due to the bad weather that poured on us, we decided to make the most of whatever enthusiasm was left. We took to the city and visited the sights, slept in and went out for a lavish brunch, walked by the lake, read a book in a cafe and took pleasant afternoon naps. And as Tuesday sprung, trying hard to get back into the weekly groove, it suddenly dawned on me that the weekend marked the end of summer.

Vegetable Chow-Mein

As a child, the first day of school always marked a drastic end to a wonderfully joyous summer. Suddenly, our trips to the park were cut short because of pending homework that was to be done. Barbeque parties came to an abrupt end since most parents had to shuffle their kids between weekend extra-curricular activities. And the first of all, we had to get yo bed early on Sunday nights and wake up at the break of dawn on Monday mornings.

But as the sun slowly hide behind heavy clouds and the rains became more frequent, I always looked forward to something even better. Rainy day food. Comfort food. Food I can come home to from the cold, wet outdoors, that would instantly bring out the warmth in me and perk me up. Tpday, lounging on my favourite chair with a great book and bowl of warm melt-in-your-mouth goodness, I look out the window and bid a sad farewell to summer. Only to follow it with a warm welcome to my most favourite season of all. The Fall.

Jump to the Recipe »



Beat the Heat

Written by Meena Agarwal on August 9th, 2006 | 21 Comments


Spicy Pepper Mushrooms

Beat the Heat

Just when I was done sulking about the rains that swept my weekend picnic plans away, out comes the Sun and makes me run to the nearest shelter!

The sweltering heat and the unwelcome humidity has led us wanting to shed skin and drown in a cold pool somewhere. but horror of horrors, neither am I an amphibian, nor am I able to grow new epidermal layers! So the only choice we have is to fight it, fight it with that we have. And what is it I have, that you ask? I’m glad you did! It’s none other than the star of every show around here. Yes dears, it’s spicy, and it’s a definite killer of the heat waves!

I really have no idea why, but just as it gets real hot outside, I begin to crave more and more heat in my food as well. They say, heat kills heat, and I’m a firm believer of that!

Making something spicy enough was the easy task. Deciding what it was that was going to take on the avatar, was the test. I picked up a batch of lovely fresh mushrooms over the weekend, and was pondering on what I could do with t. I’ve always loved mushrooms. But getting Hubby Dear to enjoy it even half as much as I do, always challenged me. We are one of those couple who go out for pizza and say, ‘mushrooms on one half, NO mushrooms on the other’! So even though I somehow accepted that Hubby Dear might not be thrilled with the idea of coming home to a plate of mushrooms for dinner, I was determined to make him beg for more!

Long story short, we can now both enjoy mushrooms over glasses of chilled water! I guess sharing a mushroom pizza would have to wait a while!

SPICY PEPPER MUSHROOMS


Prep time: 10 min, Cooking time: 10 min | Serves: 2      

  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • 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 tsp black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp light cooking oil
  • 1 tsp pur sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • HEAT oils in a non-stick pan and saute chopped green chillies, ginger and garlic till fragrant. Add chopped onions and fry till lightly brown.

    ADD mushrooms, and stir-fry till they begin to cook and lose moisture.

    ADD salt, pepper, and soya sauce and cook for a minute.

    GARNISH with chopped green onions and serve along-side fried rice or noodles.



    A Culinary Journey to West Bengal, India

    Written by Meena Agarwal on July 19th, 2006 | 12 Comments


    Baingan Fry (Fried Eggplant)

    A Culinary Journey to West Bengal, India

    During my college years, when I was in Bangalore, I spent sometime living with a very close friend of mine. She, being a Bengali, and being how Bengalis are about their culture, food and language, taught me a lot of what I know today about the state of West Bengal. Needless to say, one of the first few words I learnt from her in Bengali, could easily see me through any uninvited mishaps. Yes, like most of us, when asked to learn a language, I too wanted to know the big “bad” words.

    Besides its language, West Bengal is widely known for its league of extra-ordinary artists. From admirable writers like Rabindranath Tagore, to talented movie-makers like Satyajit Ray, Bengalis have dominated every field from music, dance, cinema, and not to mention, sports.

    With an abundance of culture in its offering, Bengal is not one to be left behind in its food. From their humbly delicious vegetables, to their mouth watering fish dishes, and their sweet tasting desserts, Bengal hosts a treat for any adventurous palate.

    As I continue on my Culinary Journey to the whole of the Indian sub-continent, let me take a break in this wonderfully diverse state, to bring to you one of my personal favourites. A melt-in-your-mouth dish of eggplant slices smeared with spicy tangy spices, to tantalize the taste buds.

    FRIED EGGPLANT


    Prep time: 10 min, Cooking time: 30 min | Serves: 4 

  • 2-3 medium-sized eggplants
  • 2-3 tbsp light cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  •  
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor powder
  • salt, to taste
  • CUT eggplant into slices and let soak in cold water for 15-20 minutes. Pat dry and set aside.

    MIX all dry spices, including salt, to form a spice mix.

    HEAT oil in a pan and place eggplant slices without overlapping with each other.

    LET eggplant fry on one side for 3-4 minutes on medium-high heat. Flip once, sprinkle each slice with spice mix, and let it cook on the other side.

    FLIP slices once more, sprinkle spice mix and remove onto a plate.

    Serve with steamed rice over Dal, with a side of Tomato Chutney, to relish a simple, yet wholesome Bengali meal.



    Perfectly Simple…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on July 9th, 2006 | 10 Comments


    Sukhe Alu (Sauteed Potatoes)

    Perfectly Simple

    Most days, by the time I get home in the evenings, I am strved and craving for warm home-cooked meal. And most often than not, I am too tired to dish out something wholesome.

    Since hubby dear has been out of town since the past two weeks, I’ve found myself spending much less time in my kitchen. The reason being when I’m alone, I couldn’t care much about how, when and even if I eat. I can be just as happy opening up a pack of instant noodles or having a grilled cheese sandwich.

    But last night, after many days of eating left-over and processed foods, I was craving for a good home-cooked meal. Something wholesome, fulfilling and delicious. And not to mention, quick! Oh yes, it just had to be quick. I was tired and hungry. And no one messes with me when either the one. Not even Mr. Time!

    As I set a pot of my favourite Dal to cook alongside some steaming rice, I thought of making a real quick side. No guesses as to what it would be made of. I walked into my pantry and found them – a nice big bowl of red baby potatoes!

    Potatoes are one of the staples of the classic Indian meal. It is also the most versatile and beautiful vegetables I know. I let a batch of them boil just till tender and the stage was then set for a wonderfully delicious and fulfilling dinners!

    SUKHE ALU
    SAUTEED POTATOES


    Prep time: 20 min, Cooking time: 10 min | Serves: 2  

  • 8-10 red baby potatoes, boiled and peeled
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp aniseeds
  •  
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp light cooking oil
  • CUT boiled potatoes into quarters and set aside.

    HEAT oil in a pan and add dried red chillies, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and aniseeds, and fry till they start to sizzle.

    ADD in red chili powder and potatoes, and stri-fry till spices mix well with potatoes.

    ADD salt and cover cook for five minutes.

    SERVE warm as a side with Dal, and rice or Rotis.



    Pot(luck) Party

    Written by Meena Agarwal on May 11th, 2006 | 8 Comments


    It’s mid-week. Which just means that energy levels of us regular 9-5 folk are slowly dying out. It’s also raining heavily out side, which means that a warm comfort meal ranks high on the wish-list! The simple solution – a one pot meal warming enough to drive away those heebee-jeebees…

    Mixed Bean Tomato Rice

    One pot meals are a great way on saving time when it’s called for. Sometimes all you want and need to do is put everything but the kitchen sink into one big pot and hope that it forms into something delectable. One pot meals are also a great way fo rme to clean up my fridge of leftovers. Many a times, I’ve added any vegetable within arms reach into a thick hearty stew.

    But not today. I wasn’t in the mood for soup or stew. True, it’s droopy and cold out, but that just makes me crave for a huge helping of warm flavoured rice. A can of mixed beans, some left-over rice and a bag of cherry tomatoes struck a cord in my head. And then… everything was good again!

    Mixed Bean Tomato Rice

    Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked white Basmati rice
  • 1 can of mixed beans (kidney beans, chick peas, lima beans, and anything else you like)
  • 1 medium onion sliced thinly
  • 8-10 chery tomatoes, sliced in half or 1 whole tomato, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 green chillies, finely chopped
  •  
    • salt, to taste
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
    • a couple of dried curry leaves
    • 2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
    • 2 tbsp cooking oil

    Method:

    1. Heat oil in a large pot and add curry leaves and mustard seeds. Once they start to sizzle, add garlic, green chillies and sliced onions.Saute till lightly browned.
    2. Add tomatoes and cook for a few minutes till they begin to pulp. Add salt, turmeric and chili powder and allow spices to blend well.
    3. Add mixed beans and let cook for 5-6 minutes.
    4. Mix in cooked rice and stir-fry till each grain is well coated with all the spices. Add chopped coriander leaves and serve warm.

    Enjoy with a side of Mango Pickle and cool Cucumber Raita.



    Of rainy days and deep-fried foods…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on March 29th, 2006 | 17 Comments


    What is it with rainy days and cravings for deep-fried goodies going hand-in-hand? Well, in my house, its just the norm.

    So while it drizzled, rained and poured all through the weekend, there was nothing much we could do than watch tons of movies and eat good food! While the movie list was dominated with animated flicks, the kitchen had just one theme – Deep Frying!

    Dal Kachoris

    Usually, hubby dear and I would simply settle for a big bowl of fries and spicy wings, but it was not to be the case this time. Yup, we wanted something different and not to mention, GOOD!!

    So as we debated and counter-debated what we wanted to dip our fingers into, there came a point where we both knew it was a fine compromise. Considering the fact that this is one of hubby dear’s favourite rainy-day eats, and the fact that this would be the first time ever I was attempting a hand at it, made it quite an adventure. Needless to say, I found yet another dish I excelled at, and hubby dear, well, let’s just say, he was in food paradise!

    Dal Kachoris (Deep-fried lentil-stuffed bread)

    Ingredients:

    For the Kachoris:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (atta)
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  •  
    • water, as required
    • oil for deep frying

    For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup toor dal, soaked in hot water for 1-2 hrs
  • salt, to taste
  •  
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • 1/4 tsp red chili powder
    • 1 tsp cooking oil

    Method:

    1. Grind soaked dal coarsely in a food processor and set aside.
    2. In a non-stick pan, heat 1 tsp oil, and saute cumin seeds till they begin to sizzle.
    3. Add in coarse ground dal, salt and chili powder and fry for a few minutes till dal dries up and starts to toast a bit.Set aside and allow to cool completely.
    4. Mix flour (atta) with salt and one tbsp of oil and form into a smooth dough with water.

    5. Separate dough into golf-sized balls and set aside.

    6. For each dough ball, roll out the dough into a small circle and put around one tbsp of the filling in the centre. Bring the ends of the circle together and form into a ball.
    7. Seal the edges completely so that the stuffing does not come out. Roll out these dough balls into a small puris.

    8. Deep fry till brown and crisp on both sides.

    Enjoy warm with chutney and masala chai!



    Cranking up the heat…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on March 20th, 2006 | 22 Comments


    Spring is almost here. But before it arrives, we always get a final snowfall. I’m just crossing my fingers and hoping that we witnessed that yesterday!

    While it snowned outside, and hubby dear napped his way through the afternoon, I needed something warm. Nothing to eat or drink, but warmth for the home. I know turnin on the heat always seems as the obvious option, but not for me! When I want heat, I turn to my trusty stove. And yesterday, it was my oven that did it for me!

    Baingan ka Bharta

    Growing up, I always enjoyed Baingan ka Bharta. Truly, it was a family favourite. As I grew up and moved far away from home, I craved for it. The restaurant version never seems to have the same taste as that of Mom’s recipe. So I craved it even more!

    Until one day, when I decided to give a call to my Mom and asked her for the recipe. She surprised me by making it sound so simple. Well, I did give it a try, and long-distance phone calls between me and Mom discussing recipes have gone on since!

    Baingan ka Bharta (Indian Roasted Eggplant)

    Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 mid-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1-inch chunk of ginger, finely chopped
  • 2-3 green chilles, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  •  
    • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
    • 1/4 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp cumin seeds
    • salt, to taste
    • 2 tbsp cooking oil
    • fresh chopped coriander leaves, for garnish

    Method:

    1. Make tiny slits all around the eggplant and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, till eggplant gets a charred coating on all sides.
    2. Remove the charred skin and mash insides of the eggplant. Set aside.
    3. Heat oil in a pan and saute cumin seeds, ginger and green chillies, till they begin to sizzle.
    4. Add in onions and fry till brown. Mix in salt, red chili powder and turmeric and fry spices till fragrant.
    5. Add tomatoes and cook till pulpy.
    6. Add mashed eggplant and cook for another 10-15 minutes, stirring constantly to blend in well.
    7. Sprinkle with garam masala and garnish with coriander leaves. Enjoy with warm, fluffy rotis.


    Fusion Cooking at its best…

    Written by Meena Agarwal on March 9th, 2006 | 59 Comments


    I love fusion cooking! I enjoy mixing and matching non-traditional methods and ingredients and creating something different. Its a wonderful feeling to bring This time around, I decided to go my all-time favourite. A wonderful blend of easy Chinese cooking with a dash of Indian spices thrown in!

    Gobi Manchurian

    This has to be one of the most popular and tastiest dishes in the Indo-Chinese menu. You won’t find it in any of the authentic Chinese restaurants, maybe because it must be an Indo-fusion creation that has been perfected by the hawkers on any street in India!But you will surely find it in any Hakka place around Mississauga. Till your next trip there, put on your apron and dish this up. It’s as close to the real thing as it may get!

    When I was in India, I simply loved Chinese food! Anytime we went out for dinner, it was usually Chinese. The food would be spicy and bursting with flavour. Even soups were never simple. The zestier it was, the more it was loved!

    Little did I know that Chinese food usually served in India, is influenced with Indian tastes! It was a surprise to find out that authentic Chinese food is not really all that spicy. Well, as you all already know, I’m a sucker for spicy food, and so the authentic Chinese food, so easily available here doesn’t tantalize my taste buds! Luckily for me, we have all those Hakka joints in Mississauga that serve the so-called Chinese dishes we Indians as so very used to.

    Gobi Machurian (Cauliflower in a Spicy Sauce)

    Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-sized cauliflower broken into florets

  • 2 tbsp cooking oil

  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp green chili, finely chopped

  • ½ tbsp corn flour mixed with 2 tbsp of water

  •  
    • Salt, to taste

    • 1/4 tsp white pepper

    • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
    • 2 tbsp Tomato-chili sauce
    • ½ cup of water
    • fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped for garnish
    • green onion, finely chopped for garnish

    For the batter:

  • ½ cup all-purpose Flour

  • ¼ cup Corn Flour

  •  
    • ¼ tsp red chili Powder
    • Salt, to taste

    Method:

    1. Combine together all-purpose flour, corn flour, red chili powder, salt and a little bit of water to form a batter thick enough to coat each cauliflower floret.

    2. Heat the oil in a pan and deep fry florets coated with batter, till golden brown. Set aside.

    3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan. Add the chopped onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Fry for a minute till fragrant and then add pepper, soy sauce, tomato-chili sauce and salt.

    4. Cook for a minute and add the corn flour and water mixture. Add a little water and let simmer till the sauce becomes thick.

    5. Add the fried cauliflower florets and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

    6. Garnish with chopped spring onions and coriander leaves.