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I am a professional and a cook,rather a cook by choice and passion.Cooking is something I fantasise about.When I first thought of starting a blog,a thousand ideas coursed through my mind,albeit,none stood the sands of time.Except for the thought of a food blog accompanied by subtle nuances from daily life and from the world around me!



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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pineapple Chutney or Relish - something sweet for a special day!

Woke up this morning to the sound of dried maple leaves scratching at the timbered balcony floor just outside my bedroom window. It was a sunny day with the sun high up already and a willowy gentle breeze conjured up the image of a lithe maiden being graciously serenaded to rippling soft music. The winter this year has been pretty mild - till now, that is. But time and again, people around me have said that winter does play tricks in this part of the world. Last year, snow had buried everything towards the end of February - this is how mischievous it can actually get!
 With the sun rays peeping through the folds of the blinds, I opened my eyes to a special day.A journey of five long years culminated today once again in a bond of caring,loving and understanding each other. It was our fifth wedding anniversary!

It has been a checkered smorgasbord of sorts this far - just like any other couple, we have had our happy moments and fun-filled memories and also our share of fights, sulks and misunderstandings. Five long years had taken me through a roller coaster ride of rediscovering myself in constantly changing roles, bringing a matured approach to the way I think and and even coaxed me to re-appraise some of my own thoughts and beliefs.As a young girl, I never thought much about how it would feel to get married. But once I was actually married, the change would overwhelm me at times.It was a world of difference and the realization took some time to sink in.Things were not always easy and there were ups and downs - but our soulful wish to make things succeed worked towards helping our companionship emerge unscathed!
 Throughout the years, we learnt exactly where to stop a skirmish so that it wouldn't take a bitter turn, where to let go of something to achieve a greater level of happiness instead, where to draw the line for prying eyes so our 'us-time' would be still ours!Believe me, it was not always easy but at the end of everything, the fact that we both grew up in our relationship together was the greatest takeaway.When it still dawns on us that the absence of the other is very poignantly missed, and when fond memories of each such Sunday afternoon when we wear ourselves out guffawing silly over a funny movie are all that we want to come back to time and again - it feels that the journey has been worthwhile.Life is indeed the greatest Master of all - you may not score at the top of your class for each course you take, but it is the cumulative grade at the end of the year that actually matters!
 In keeping with that, I am posting my sweet Pineapple Chutney or Relish for today's post. It is an interesting jumble of sweet from the pineapple and sugar and fiery from the dry red chilies - just the perfect flavor of life!

Sending this to 'Midweek Fiesta # 14' at my dear friend Amy's place!Do check out her lovely blog!

Pineapple Chutney or Relish
You will need:
Fresh Pineapple - cut into chunks. You may also use the dried variety,provided it has some flavor in it.
Castor sugar - 3/4th of a cup
Water - 1 and 1/2 cups
Ginger - About an inch, finely minced
Dry Red chilies - 2 or 3
Panch Phoron - 1/2 a teaspoon (This is an Indian-Bengali spice consisting of five kinds of seeds together.Easily available in any Asian/Indian store). In case you do not find it, substitute with 1/4th of a teaspoon of Nigella seeds.
Lime juice - 2 tablespoons
A pinch of salt
Canola oil/Mustard oil/vegetable oil - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons, for cooking

How I made it:
1. After chopping the pineapple, dice into bite-size chunks.In a wok, heat the cooking oil and when hot, add in the Panch Phoron or Nigella seeds, as available and the dry Red chilies. Allow to splutter.

2. In a separate bowl, add the sugar and water and mix well with a spoon. When the red chilies start to splutter, add in the sugar water. Add a pinch of salt and the minced ginger and put the flame on high.

3. After a minute or two, add in the chopped pineapple chunks and put the flame on medium-high. The sugar water should get thickened slowly while the pineapple chunks get cooked.Stir occasionally.

4. When the sugar syrup gets fairly thickened up and takes on a reddish glossy hue, check if the pineapples are cooked.The pineapples will hold their shape, so we just need to check if they are soft enough to be eaten.Put off the flame and allow to cool down.
 5. When the Chutney has cooled down a bit, sprinkle the lime juice. This Chutney is best served cooled. If you want to have a runny consistency (for having this with rice or Indian Flatbread or Paratha), put off the flame while the syrup is still slick. If you want a preserve type of consistency, you can thicken the syrup a little while longer.Your Pineapple Chutney is ready!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A much yearned for street food - Beetroot Cutlets

Some years back, I remember watching a BBC documentary series on 'Street Food'. The series was very interesting in that the anchors would travel to different cities all over the world and deeply explore the street food culture prevalent in that part of the world. It was so interesting to discover that the concept of street food in an universal concept. So much so that street food plays a very important role in even shaping the character of a city!
Talking about street food, I cannot pen down a single line further without drooling mentally at the thought of street food in my own city back home. The fried savories used to be my absolute weaknesses. Although we were sternly warned against having them too frequently - there is not much guarantee to the hygiene around street foods after all - an occasional trip to the local street food seller would be granted, after much persuasion.And then there would be no stopping thereafter!
  After moving to the US, I often tried recreating those amazing street foods in my own kitchen.Unfortunately, the taste didn't turn out to be the same and achieving that- as I have come to understand - is just next to impossible!However, I am not easily dissuaded - cause I just cannot do without fried savories, specially if we have friends coming over for tea.So the other day, I had a lot of fresh beets lying in my refrigerator and I decided in a jiffy to try my hand at making Beetroot cutlets. This was quite a lofty ambition, since I had never made Beetroot cutlets at home before and there was no other fallback option to depend on for my guests!Hoping for the best, I set sail and believe me - what my friends said was music to my ears!Apparently, these cutlets were the closest to the street Beetroot Cutlets back home.The crispy savory Cutlets made me the star of the day - and we spent a lovely evening, munching on them with steaming cups of ginger tea.So here goes the recipe for my homemade Beetroot cutlets - hope they will impress you too and just like me, make you the uncontested star of the day! 

Linking this up to Akheela's lovely 'Tea Time Snack event' at her lovely blog...
 and also sending this to Anusha's lip-smacking event 'Street Foods'!

This is also my third entry to Vardhini's event 'New U' where evrything new you are trying this new year is welcome! 
 Last but the least, sending this to 'Midweek Fiesta # 14' at my dear friend Amy's place and 'Full Plate Thursday' at dear Miz Helen's cute cottage!Do check out her lovely blog!

Beetroot Cutlets
You will need (for approx. 15-16 cutlets)
For the filling:
Potatoes - 2 (if medium) or 1 (if large), skinned
Onion - 1 whole, sliced finely
Carrots - 1 cup, shredded
Beetroots - 2 whole, shredded
Green peppers - finely sliced
Garlic - 2 to 3 cloves, finely minced
Ginger - About an inch, finely minced
Green chilies - finely chopped
Black pepper
Chat Masala -1 teaspoon (easily available in any Indian store)
Cumin powder - 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Roasted peanuts

For the coating:
Cornflour/All purpose flour - 4 teaspoons
Lukewarm water - 6 teaspoons
Breadcrumbs - 2 cups

Vegetable oil/Canola oil - 2 tablespoons for the filling and 4 tablespoons for deep frying the cutlets

How I made them:
1. To begin, cut the potatoes in halves and boil in water till the potatoes are soft and mashable. You can soften the potates in the microwave as well (10 mins on high) but I prefer boiling them in water, because that helps retain the moisture in them.

2. While the potatoes boil, heat up 2 tablespoons of oil in a wok and when hot enough, add the chopped garlic, ginger and green chilies. Saute lightly for a minute or so and then add in the sliced onions and green peppers.

3. Next add in the shredded carrots and beetroots and cook well till the carrots and beetroot lose their rawness. In the meantime, check on the potatoes. Mash them to a smooth paste with a potato masher or simply with the back of a spoon.

4. Add in the mashed potato to the cooked veggies and mix everything together with a wooden spatula. It will take some time for the potato to even out but keep on mixing well till everything comes together. Season with salt, black pepper powder and Chat Masala and throw in the roasted peanuts. Your filling for the cutlet is now ready.

5. In a bowl, add in the cornflour/flour and lukewarm water and stir to form a viscous liquid good enough to coat the cutlets. Spread out the breadcrumbs onto a plate plate and lightly season with salt and black pepper powder.

6. In a deep-bottomed pan, heat 4 tablespoons of oil. To form the cutlets, pinch out a small ball from the potato filling mixture with your fingertips, roll between the palms of your hand and then flatten it out to form a round,circular patty. Dip it first in the cornflour/flour mixture and then drop onto the breadcrumbs. Coat very well on both sides and shake of any excess breadcrumb. Form all the cutlets in this manner before you start to fry them.
7. Immerse the crumb-coated cutlets in hot oil and fry on both sides till golden brown. Take care not to over fry and burn the cutlets, since breadcrumbs can burn too easily. Serve piping hot with thinly cut onion roundlets and Tomato ketchup. Savor the myriad flavors of this awesome street food to your heart's fill!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple Custard Tart - for the sweet tartness in my life!

A couple of weeks back, a blogger friend of mine had a post on a very interesting - and amusing - topic. The post was on how people belonging to the blogging genre perceive the reactions from people around them about their blogging. I was so amused by that post that I thought I should be writing about my experiences too. So while I jot that down, you can have a look at Amy's lovely post here.
 When I started blogging, around 2 years ago, it was a matter of deep curiosity for the Husband. I have a habit of typing very fast and as the speed goes up, so does the tapping sound on my keypad, till it becomes almost cacophonous. So the first thing that drew him over to my blog was, what do I write about and where and why am I so serious when I do it? Then came the photos. From then till now, the Husband almost faints with hunger every time I prepare a dish and promise him a bite only after I've taken a couple of photos!That however doesn't happen for dishes that I don't take photos of and don't publish on my blog! His repartee, when posed with this question was, I take photos of food which I know has turned out good and leave out the not-so-good ones. So he has very correct reasons to vie for the ones I photograph and leave out the rest. What do you retort to someone who knows you so well, after all?
 So now after 2 years, anything and everything that I cook is for the blog and not for him. Some nights, when I'm up too long working on a post, I will hear mild jeers floating from the other side of the bed. And when I wake up groggy the next morning, he never fails to present me with that serves-you-right-for staying-up-late-for-the-blog smirk!I smile to myself when I think that my blog has almost become the 'other man' in my life and the Husband almost goes green over that! All in a good way, of course!
 But even after everything else, I will of course mention that without the Husband, my posts would be incomplete because he is after all the guinea pig for all my creations!He will fumble and grumble, but will gorge on what I make. And this symbiosis will continue, and the happy blogger and her sweet guinea pig will keep on cooking happily ever after!Which is why, I baked a lovely Apple Custard Tart for the Husband, and the blog, last week.This was my very first attempt at making a Tart and I was quite apprehensive. I wanted it to be light and hence cut out on the cream cheese filling, opting instead for a light Custard. And believe me, it really did turn out good.So here goes the recipe for my Apple Custard Tart for today's post -  keep blogging and have fun!

Linking this to 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's wonderful blog and 'ABC series: Desserts' at Ramya's place. Check out her ongoing event and join up!
 Also sending this to 'Valentine Day Special ' at Anzz Cafe...
 and 'Valentine's Day Event' being hosted by Teena Mary at her wonderful place!
Sending this to 'Midweek Fiesta # 14' at my dear friend Amy's place!Do check out her lovely blog!

Apple Custard Tart
You will need:
For the pastry:
All purpose flour - 1 cup
Castor Sugar - 1 cup
Cold butter - 1 stick
Cinnamon - 1/2 teaspoon

For the Custard:
Whole milk - 2 cups
2 large eggs
Sweetened Condensed milk - 1/2 a cup
Vanilla extract - 2 teaspoons
Castor Sugar - 5 tablespoons
Coffee Creamer/Milk powder - 4 teaspoons

Apples - 1 or 2, depending on the size. I used 1 big Gala Apple.You may use any variety, preferably a sweet one.
Soft brown Muscavado sugar - For sprinkling on top
Cinnamon - 1/2 a teaspoon

How I made it:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Usually you will need a Springform pan for making a tart, but if you don't have one, don't fret. You can make a tart using the usual baking tin by lining it with a parchment paper or aluminum foil that will hang over the edges of the tin, so that you can use them as handles to draw out the baked tart from the tin.

2. For the pastry or crust, take the sugar. flour and cold butter together and mash softly between your fingertips. Everything will get combined together and turn into a wet sand kind of consistency. Sprinkle the cinnamon lightly for a subtle flavoring. Press the pastry dough with your hands on the base of the baking tin and level the top with the back of a spoon or ladle, leaving space foe the Custard filling to go in. Prick the base randomly with a fork and bake for 10-15 mins in the oven till it browns lightly.

2. While the crust is baking, you can start preparing the Custard. In a large bowl, take the milk and add the condensed milk and 5 tablespoons of sugar to the milk. Put on the flame and while stirring constantly, boil the milk till it is reduced to almost half of the original volume. Keep on adding the creamer or milk powder, one teaspoon at a time, to help the milk thicken while it boils.When the milk becomes half the volume, put off heat and allow it to cool down slightly.

4. In another bowl, crack the eggs and beat lightly with a whisk or beater. Now add 203 tablespoons of the milk mixture to the eggs and beat them up quickly so that the heat doesn't cook up the eggs. Now, pour all of the milk mixture into the eggs and mix together very nicely with a spatula. Add the vanilla extract and give it another good mix.Your Custard filling is ready.

5. Once the crust is done, take out of the oven and allow to cool down. When completely cooled, pour in the
Custard filling onto the baked crust and allow it to settle down. The tart will now need to be baked for 40-50 minutes, till the Custard is set.But midway, the tart needs to be topped with the apples and the rest of the baking will be done after that.So bake the tart for 20 mins at first go.

6. For the apple topping, cut the apple into thin slices. In a bowl, take the apple slices, Muscavado sugar and cinnamon together and mix everything together with your hands. The apple slices should get well-coated in the sugar and cinnamon.

7. After 20 mins, check to see if the Custard has set slightly. It will have set in the middle, good enough to hold the apple slices, but will be slightly jiggly on the sides.Arrange the apple slices on top of the Custard base, making a nice flowery design.Sprinkle a little brown sugar on top for that golden look.
 8. Bake the tart for another 20-30 minutes till the sides are amber and bubbly and the Custard is set good enough to slightly sink in the apples. Cool the tart on a wire rack and then leave in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to set nicely.Enjoy the crumbly crust laden with almost cream-like Custard and let the tartness of the baked apples lift up your senses!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Potato and Chicken strips curry - curry in 15 minutes!

I don't mean to bore you with details of how busy I was the whole week - cause I know I do that too often!
 But I really was busy and so busy that I had a couple posts lying in draft but couldn't manage the time to get them up and running. The Husband was scared that I'll ask him to manage a day or two without lunch or dinner!Which however I didn't, cause I had other options for that, clever me:)I cooked and served as I always do,but little did the poor dear know that my recipes were full of shortcuts!No harm anyway,if you can manage to put something that is tasty,good to eat and filling,whaddya say?
 I have a lot of things to talk about, but I'll leave them for another post another day.Cause I still have some touching up to do on my recently concluded assignment.The only thing I wanted to say is a big 'THANK YOU' to my dear friend Ashwini from Indulge-Ashcorner who was so kind to think of me and gift me the 'Triple Cute Awards' and the 'Cherry on Top Award'.
 I have received these awards from two of my dear friends earlier, but it always feels so good to be appreciated!Thanks a bunch, dear Ash! Though I did share this with some very special friends last time, I don't mind doing it again - I will love to pass on this award to 9 of my very dear friends who are extremely talented bloggers.Please do take out time to visit their places as well as Ash's lovely blog and have a great time!

In no particular order, I am passing on these awards to -
Marsha at The Better Baker
Shirley at Luxury Haven
Tina at Flourtrader
Balvinder at Gluten Free Food
Deepthi at Naughty Curry

Now for today's recipe. It is a simple Potato and Chicken curry which gets prepared in a jiffy - 15 minutes to be precise! And the thing about this is that I cook it with store-bought cooked Chicken strips.I like using the ones available from Tyson but you can always use chicken cubes lying in your refrigerator. If you are using chicken cubes, you just need to poach the chicken pieces slightly with a little bit of salt and then roughly shred the poached chicken. For the store-bought Chicken strips, you just need to defrost.So here goes the recipe for my Potato and Chicken strips curry - have fun in making and eating it and have a lovely weekend!

Sending this curry recipe to the lovely event 'Hot n spicy treats' being hosted by Amy at her lovely blog 'Food Corner'. Do take a peek and join in to enjoy the spicy party!!

Potato and Chicken strips curry
You will need:
Potato - 2 whole medium potatoes, skinned and cubed into small squares
Cooked Chicken strips - 500 gms
Onions - 1 whole, thinly sliced
Garlic cloves - 3, finely minced
Ginger  - About an inch, finely minced
Tomato - 1 whole, diced roughly
green chilies - chopped
Spring onions - chopped
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Canola oil/Mustard oil - 2 tablespoons, for cooking

How I made it:
1. Defrost the cooked Chicken strips in the microwave and when done, chop into squares liked the cubed potatoes. The curry tastes a lot better when the potatoes and chicken pieces have the same shape (yes,it does make a difference!).

2. In a wok, heat the cooking oil. when hot enough, add the cubed potatoes and fry to a light golden brown. drain on a kitchen towel and keep aside.

3. In the same oil, add the minced garlic, chopped green chilies and minced ginger and saute lightly for a minute. Next add in the thinly slices onions and saute everything together. 

4. When the onions are lightly browned, add in the chopped tomatoes and cook on a high flame. When the tomato and spices turn into a mesh, add a pinch of salt, turmeric powder, cumin and coriander powder and half a cup of water. Cook everything together till the water evaporates and the spices brown up and turn into a puree. 

5. Now add the chopped green spring onions and give a quick mix. the crunch of the spring onions should be felt in the curry, so don't overcook them. Add in the fried potatoes next and the cubed Chicken strips, mix everything together and add a cup of water.Cover with a lid to let the potatoes cook. The Chicken strips are already cooked, hence they won't need any time to soften up - just need time to take in the spices.
 6. Keep on stirring in between and when the potatoes are cooked through and soft, put off the flame.The curry will have a mildly spiced gravy which will tasty heavenly with fresh Bread or Roti or plain white rice.Enjoy the dish and have fun!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rich dark Chocolate cake - the best I've ever baked!

I have been keeping insanely busy with an assignment that I am scheduled to complete by this weekend.I am really glad that I wrote my earlier post about my hair loss ordeal and how I got artichokes to make things better for me. So many of my friends dropped in to say that they felt encouraged about using artichokes for their hair loss problems. Many left a caring note.I am really overwhelmed by all yours thoughts. My preoccupation kept me from visiting each of your blogs and leaving a 'thank you' note - something that I try to do usually.But that does not mean that I felt any less. Thank you, my dear friends!
 The weather has been really going crazy here. After an impromptu snowfall curtain-raiser last week, that lasted just a day, the temperature soared up to almost 64 degrees this week. Leave alone snow, I can't even keep my woolens on when the sun is high up! And to add to that, the winds have been causing mayhem since last evening. I let open the windows in the den to let the spicy, cool winds blow in and how I loved it swoosh into the room swaying against the blinds.Sipping on a cup of hot lemon tea, a light crocheted shawl draped lightly around my shoulders, I watched amused as a flock of geese cackled happily and scurried about in the choppy waters of the lake overlooking my balcony.Mesmerizing wonders of nature that make you forget everything else!
 A couple of weeks back, I had baked the richest, densest and most fabulously moist Chocolate cake I have ever baked!It had a gnarled appearance on the surface owing to the richness bursting through from inside - but I felt so rewarded when I took a bite.Have been saving it up in my draft to share with you friends. So for today's post, here is the recipe for a lovely moist Chocolate cake. Stay well and keep well till next time!

Rich dark Chocolate cake
You will need:
All purpose flour - 2 and 1/2 cups
Unsweetened dark cocoa - 1/2 cup (I used Hersheys)
Granulated sugar - 1 and 3/4th cups
Baking soda - 2 teaspoons
Melted Butter - 2/3rd cup
Salt - 1/2 tsp
2 large eggs
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Plain Yogurt - 1 cup
Boiling water - 1 cup
Semi-sweet chocolate chips - 1/2 cup

How I made it:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a square baking tin with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, add the sugar and dark cocoa and mix. Next add the flour, baking soda and salt to the sugar and cocoa and give another good mix.Keep aside for a minute or two.

3. Next add in all the wet ingredients one by one except the boiling water - eggs, melted butter, vanilla extract and plain yogurt. Using  an electric beater or a slotted spatula, start whipping and mixing everything together. The batter will eventually become a bit heavy, when you will need to add the boiling water little at a time to make the batter pliable.

4. When the batter is done, transfer to the baking tin. strew the semi-sweet chocolate chips evenly on top of the batter so that the chocolate chips are visible and soft on the surface when the cake is finally baked.
 5. Bake on high for 30-35 minutes and when a toothpick comes out clean, you know your cake is done. Cool on a cooling rack or just like that before serving. You may top with whipped cream or ice-cream if you wish, but for me - just the cake as such tasted divine. Do give it a try!

Linking this to 'Death by Chocolate Blog Hop' being hosted by The Hungry Australian.  
Check out the Blog Hop and join in the fun by linking up your entries below!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beetroot mishmash with Peanuts

The first time around I landed in North America, I was faced with a heart-breaking dilemma. I had flown into Canada just towards the end of the fall season. The last of the amber colored leaves hung on precariously to their shriveled stalks, ready to trip off the branches.It reminded me of the locks of hair I was losing at an alarming rate. I had always been blessed with healthy, strong and black hair, thanks to my genes and had never experienced hair loss at this rate before!
 I wept copious tears to all and sundry and let no one in my vicinity leave without haranguing about my tremendous loss.Well-wishers poured in with probable reasons ranging from my scalp being shocked by the drastic temperature change to icy, cold winds wrecking havoc on my hair strands.I bought a fashionable blue woolen cap to cover whatever little was left of my tresses whenever I went out in the snow.The rate of hair loss went down a bit but nothing really worked in replenishing what I had already lost!

So down I went, searching frantically around the Internet, when one day I chanced upon a very decrepit looking website promising a couple of herbal remedies. Being an avid net-surfer, I know just how spammy these websites can be, but something told me to take a look around and browsing through the page, I found a mention of Artichoke. That thorny cactus-like vegetable that I never cared to give a second glance at and thought to be more fitting in some sandy desert rather than the veggie shop stand! But now I was softening up a bit - that is exactly what happens to your vanity when it is on the receiving end!The method was easy - boil the artichoke leaves in a good amount of water till all the leaves get wilted, then strain the water and apply it to your scalp and hair. Shampoo later on and feel the difference in four weeks.
The initial feeling was yuck!The strained artichoke juice clung on to my hair and dried on it,making it feel like slippery rubber tubes!Yes, that is exactly how it felt the first time - but something urged me to go on.Sometimes it benefits to keep on pursuing something without a pint of faith in it - you just feel so elated when you have concrete results! Sure enough, I found little curly strands of hair sticking out of the edges of my forehead within about a month's time.I was overjoyed!Whether it was the artichoke that worked or the loads of veggies that I had been having in the meantime - I will never know.But I am still carrying on that regimen even here in the US. Although the cold here is not as pressing as it was in Canada, I am still taking all measures and it has never been the same!
 Which is what bring me back to today's post. The morale of all my banter is that - never belittle seemingly timorous veggies - you never know when they can rise to the occasion and steal the show!Just like the stack of beetroot stem and veggies that were lying quietly in a corner of my refrigerator after I had cooked the beetroot but kept them aside instead of casting them into the trash bin. Will be of some use to me sometime, I thought and rummaged for recipes. There were loads of recipes for beetroots but none for the stems and leaves, unfortunately. So I decided to try a very quick and tasty trick to cook them - something that is done in my native cuisine with other leafy greens. I prepared a mishmash, throwing in peanuts and served hot with plain white rice. It was such a delicacy to have, believe me and I was so happy that I had been able to put it to use ultimately!So forgive me for naming the dish 'Beetroot mishmash' - it should actually be 'beetroot stems and leaves' mishmash.But then, what's in a name after all? Enjoy the dish and have fun!

Sending this to the exciting event 'New U' at Vardhini's place! 

Also sending this to a very exciting event titled 'Just 4 Fun' at Shobha's beautiful place. 
This is an event with a twist since it calls for a dish using only 4 ingredients.  Quite challenging to figure out something to suit that - so check out the event and have fun!!

Beetroot mishmash with peanuts
You will need:
Beetroot stems and leaves of 3 beetroots - Chopped finely
Black mustard seeds - 3/4th of a teaspoon
Pinch of salt
Peanuts - 3 tablespoons (optional)
Mustard oil - 1 tablespoon
Dry Red chili/ Green chili- 1or 2, as per your taste

How I made it:
1. In a skillet, heat the mustard oil. When hot, add the black mustard seeds and dry red chilies or green chilies and allow them to splutter.

2. Next add the chopped beetroot steams and leaves and cover with a lid, allowing the veggies to wilt.Stir occasionally so that the leaves do not stick to the pan.

3. In a separate skillet, roast the peanuts till slight golden and keep aside.Now check on the veggies and add a pinch of salt. The veggies will get wilted and will reduce to half the initial volume. It will release some water so no need to add water from outside,unless the veggies become absolutely dry.
 4. When the stems and leaves and cooked through but still juicy and succulent, add the roasted peanuts.Mix together and then put off the flame. Serve hot with plain white rice or have it as such as a tasty salad.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

My favorite Caramel Pudding

If you have been wondering where I've managed to disappear - nowhere actually! Its just that I have been thinking of changing my blog template for a while. And not having found the time to look for an appealing template, I decided to stay satiated with going just for a new header, as of now. So if you see right up there - I have a new header!!
  Also, I have been cooking some interesting things in the meantime. And baking too! I have always loved puddings - jiggly stuff that look so innocent on the outside but contain a whole treasure trove of flavor and lovely goodness on the inside. I was just Googling about puddings the other day, and it was so interesting to know that puddings actually mean a whole range of desserts across continents! Back home in India, Pudding is basically a baked dessert item which is slight jiggly, creamish white and has a whole lot of sugar and eggs in it, not to mention milk. Ditto in the UK and some European countries. However, some Indian cuisines add a new dimension to puddings with the inclusion of rice and jaggery, namely yummy rice puddings. In the US, puddings generally refer to the creamy concoction and chocolate reigns supreme in most store-bought pudding varieties. So there is no conclusive definition of what a pudding actually means! To a dessert lover like me, it just means something nice and sweet and something that I got to dig my teeth into, without much ado..tee hee!
 On the day I made this Caramel pudding, I had actually set out to make bread and butter pudding. But just at the nick of time, my good fairy paid me a visit and warned me of all the calories that I had already managed to put on these last couple of weeks! Good sense prevailed - but a pudding I had to make!So then I settled for this very simple, easy-peasy and absolutely divine Caramel pudding, which just has milk, sugar and eggs. I will post this recipe for today and hope you will make it in your homes and find out for yourself how sumptuous it tastes. This is more or less like Flan, but unlike Flan, I do not flip it over for the Caramel side to be on top.For me, rich golden caramel splurges out with each gorgeous spoonful of pudding and bursts into magical flavors inside the mouth.Try this out and enjoy - till we meet again!

Sharing this with 'Midweek Fiesta # 11' at Amy's place and 'Hearth and Soul blog Hop # 82'!

Also linking this specially to Miz Helen's 'Full Plate Thursday' where she is celebrating her first blog anniversary today:) So do visit her wonderful place and join in the fun!

Caramel Pudding
You will need:
Whole milk - 2 cups
Sweetened Condensed milk - 1/2 cup
Granulated Castor sugar - 1 cup and 5 tablespoons
Water - 1 cup
2 large eggs
Vanilla extract - 1 teaspoon 

How I made it:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and keep a baking tin ready. If you want to invert your pudding, butter the sides and base of the tin. I do not invert mine, hence I do not butter my baking tin.

2. In a large bowl, take the whole milk and empty the sweetened condensed milk in it. Add 5 tablespoons of sugar and put everything together on the flame while stirring constantly. It will initially be a bit tough to stir, but as the condensed milk loosens up, the stirring will become easier. Take care not to burn and keep on stirring till the liquid comes to a boil.Once it comes to a boil, take it off the heat and allow to cool down slightly.

3. In another bowl, take 1 cup of sugar and add 1 cup of water to it and put in on the flame. Allow the sugar to caramelize and when it changes color, put off the heat and pour the caramelized sugar in the baking tin.Allow it to settle nicely at the base.

4. In another large bowl, beat two eggs roughly with a spoon. Squirt a small amount of the boiled milk into the eggs and beat swiftly. Take care that the milk has cooled down a bit or the eggs will get cooked in the heat. Do this 2-3 times till the eggs are beaten well. Now add whole of the milk to the egg mixture and stir very nicely with a spatula so that everything comes together.Add vanilla extract and give another good mix.
  5. Now pour the milk-egg mixture into the baking tin with caramel at the base. Make the baking tin sit in another baking tin with high edges to create a water bath. Pour water into the outer tin till water reaches just the middle of the inner baking tin. Put inside the preheated oven and allow to bake for 40-45 minutes. When the top of the pudding is slightly scorched to a pale golden and is still jiggly on the sides, you know that your pudding is done. Take out of the oven, allow to cool down and then keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours to set. You may even serve it warm - tastes delicious anyway!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Homemade Thin crust Chicken Pizza

I love to live life as if there was no yesterday and there is no tomorrow.There is just today.
 But there are times when I just sit back and reminisce about fond memories that seem as clear as crystal in my mind - almost as if things happened just yesterday!Just like the other day, when I was letting my mind wander, I remembered how I had wrapped up work early and whisked off my Maa on her birthday to a nearby pizza corner just a couple of years back. It was a total surprise to her - and how I had loved the expression of awestruck happiness on her face.I ordered her favorite chicken pizza and we hit off like two old chums, gorging on the pizza and guzzling down bottles of Coke - my Maa had become my age that day!I smiled to myself when I thought of this and the next moment I was on the phone, talking to my Maa. Bless the inventor of telephones - this is the only thing that keeps me so close to the people I love back home!
  The industrious person that my Maa is, she was the first to suggest that I should try making my own pizza at home. I had this recipe for making pizza from a close friend who is quite renowned among friends for doling out yummy homemade pizza - but as usual, I had been too lazy to try. But this day, goaded by my ever-enthusiastic Maa, I decided to give it a try after all! Believe me, the result made me gloat with pride - I had baked my first homemade pizza and it had flown off in minutes (word had reached friends that I was on my newest venture and they had lost no time in fuelling my morale, as always!) So here goes my recipe for homemade thin-crust Chicken Pizza - and do not forget to chip in for the 'Love for Lentils' going on at my place!Be there friends!

Sending this to 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's place, a 'DIY Blog Hop' at Katherine's and 'Midweek Fiesta # 14' at my dear friend Amy's!!

Homemade Thin-crust Chicken Pizza
You will need:
For the pizza dough:
All purpose Flour - 2 and 1/2 cups
Good quality active dry yeast - 1 packet
Sugar - 1 teaspoon
Warm water - 1 and 1/2 cups
Olive oil/Canola oil - 2 and 1/2 tablespoons
Pinch of salt

For the pizza topping:
Onions - cubed
Green peppers - cubed
Bell peppers - cubed
Tomatoes - sliced
Spring onions - Chopped
Cooked white chicken strips - 1 cup
Cooked sweet corn - 1/2 cup
Any pizza sauce/salsa/tomato ketchup - 2 tablespoons
Shredded Mozzarella cheese - 3/4th of a cup
Italian seasoning
Salt to taste
Freshly ground Black pepper

How I made it:
1. To make the pizza dough, you will first need to do the proofing. For this, empty out the whole packet of active dry yeast into 1/2 a cup of warm water and leave it aside for 10 mins. After 10 mins, add a teaspoon of sugar to the yeast water and stir it well with a spoon. The water will have whitish foamy bubbles at the surface which will tell that the yeast has started working.

 2. Now add this yeast water to the all purpose flour along with the remaining 1 cup of warm water, olive or canola oil and salt. Knead the flour loosely with your fingertips and when everything comes together, take it out on the counter top and knead with the palm of your hand.When the dough is tight enough, put it in a bowl and cover it with a warm and damp cloth. Stick the covered dough in a warm place (I prefer the oven - it remains warm even when off) for about an hour.

3. After an hour, check the dough to see if it has doubled in size.If it has, then your pizza dough is done. Deflate the doubled up dough and knead another time and then separate out into two smaller balls (The measurement here makes up for 2 thin-crust pizzas). 

4. Rub the counter top with some flour and roll out the pizza dough roughly with a rolling pin. You might want to roll out as evenly as possible and as thinly as possible since this is a thin-crust pizza. The dough might be a bit slimy and elastic, so take the help of flour to help you roll out the pizza base.

5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Smear out pizza sauce or salsa or tomato ketchup on the pizza base and then spread out all the cubed and chopped veggies on top. Lay out the cooked pieces of white chicken and spread out the cooked sweet corn. As a last step, generously spread out the shredded mozzarella and top with a dusting of Italian seasoning, salt and freshly ground black pepper powder.
 6. Bake the pizza in the hot oven for 15-20 minutes.The cheese will melt and spread out evenly over the surface and you will know that the pizza is done when the base of the pizza is firm and crusty. Take the pizza out and enjoy your homemade delicious thin-crust chicken pizza with family and friends!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Announcing my first event this year - 'Love for Lentils'!!

I am keeping my word.I had promised to myself that I'll try to be more loyal to my blog this year and I'm just trying to start off.I have seen dedicated bloggers who make it a point to blog not once, but more than once a day and that too with incredible recipes! I really appreciate their dedication and just wish that I could write more frequently.

Now coming back to my post today, I am glad to announce the very first event of 2012 that I will be hosting at my place. And that is about lentils.In my country India, lentils are one of the most popular, common and staple food items.It is so common that it might not even find a mention on the menu list in many Indian cuisines - it comes by default with the staple! Lentils are an absolute powerhouse of vegetable proteins and very very filling. They can be fried,blended, curried - can be made into soups or curries and can even be taken steamed and lightly spiced. Such is the range of varieties that lentils provide!
In my kitchen, lentil is almost a staple and a bowl of lentil soup or 'Dal' is mandatory both with lunch and dinner. Moong, Musur and Urad are the most common lentils that I usually cook. Lentils can be spiced with a wide variety of spices and they can be made to taste superbly with a whole range of veggies like cauliflowers and beans.I have plans to share a couple of my common 'Dal' recipes in my blog posts so that you can try them out in your kitchens. Also, I would love to have Lentil preparation ideas from your kitchen too.So please stop by my event 'Love for Lentils' starting Jan 5, 2012 and ending Feb 15, 2012. Do share your ideas about preparing Lentils and find out what others have in their minds.Lets all come together and cook something healthy and wholesome this month!

The rules of the event are very simple and easy to follow:
1. Post a recipe on your blog about any preparation with Lentils and link it to this event page on my blog.
2. The event badge above must be displayed in your post or anywhere on your blog.
3. The post may be a recent one or an archived post - 
I wouldn't mind as long as it links back to this page!
4. After posting the recipe, leave me a comment stating why you think lentils should be a part of our daily diet.

5.I would love to have as many posts as you care to send me! So no restrictions on the number of posts that you may send in.
6.Please use the Linking up tool below to send your entries.
7. If for any reason you are unable to use the linking up tool,please send me the details of your entry in the following format to my mail id - the.chef.sings@gmail.com

and I'll take care of the rest!

i. Blog post URL(not the Home page plz!)
ii. The name of your dish
iii. A photo of your dish that you want displayed

The event will be on till Feb 15, 2012. So please start spreading the word and join in with all your splendid ideas!I will be waiting:)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sweet n sour chilli chicken and an award in the New Year!

So the New Year has started rolling on a nice note for me, save for a runny nose, an occasionally grumbling stomach (all the feasting is finally taking its toll!) and aching limbs from all the walking and zooming around during my week-long vacation. It was a fantastic trip to Houston and San Antonio, stopping by the lovely landscaped city of Austin and busy Dallas.We had taken Texas by storm..ha ha!!
Meanwhile, two very loving friends of mine thought of me and my blog when they gifted me with the Inspirational Blog Award. Faseela, who owns a fantastic blog of her own at 'Good food ends with Good talk' and Rathai of 'Rathai's Recipes' have been very kind to give me this lovely award. Thanks so much Faseela and Rathai - I am humbled! This award has a very interesting aspect to it. I have to answer a couple of questions about myself and then pass it on to 8 more blogger friends, who will then pass it on to others to keep the chain going.
 Before talking more about the award, I will post the recipe for today. I had some uncooked chicken dwindling in my refrigerator after all the holiday feasting and I really wanted to make something which would be easy, quick and not too hard on the stomach. The recipe was there at the back of my mind and I thought this would be the best time to try, cause this is the easiest way on earth to cook chicken(took me just about 20 mins from start to finish!). And believe me, the chicken tasted absolutely divine! What better way to start off the New Year than with a dish having the subtle sweetness of fried onions, the sour tang of Soy sauce and the fiery spike of dry Red chilies!So here goes the recipe for Sweet and sour chilli chicken - soak it all up friends!!

Sending this recipe to 'Midweek Fiesta#10' at Amy's place, 'Hearth and Soul blog hop' and 'Full Plate Thursday' at Miz Helen's!

Sweet n sour chilli chicken
You will need:
Chicken(preferably with bones)  - 500 gms
Onions - 1 whole, finely julienned
Sugar - 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Dry Red chilies - 4-5
Freshly ground black pepper - 1 tablespoon
Salt, as per taste
Tomato ketchup - 3 tablespoons
Soy sauce - 1 tablespoon
Canola oil - 3 and 1/2 tablespoons, for cooking

How I made it:
1. In a wok, heat up the oil and when hot enough, fry the julienned onions till a light golden brown.

2. Drain the onions once done and keep aside on a kitchen towel to drain the excess oil. In the same oil, add the sugar and allow it to caramelize, stirring gently. Once the sugar gets dissolved, add the dry Red chilies and freshly ground black pepper powder and add in the chicken pieces. Fry the chicken pieces, covering occasionally with a lid till the pieces are cooked through. Add salt as per taste and keep on cooking till the chicken is cooked and golden brown on the outside.
 3. Once the chicken is cooked, add the tomato ketchup and the Soy sauce and mix everything together very well. The ketchup and soy sauce will form a thick gravy. Now put off the flame and serve the chicken. garnish the dish strewing the fried julienned onions over the dish and serve hot with plain white rice or any type of bread.Enjoy the smoky taste of the dish and revel in the flavors!

Now going back to the award, here are some questions that I had to answer about myself - interesting stuff:)

1. What makes you laugh, smile or giggle?
A funny joke makes me split my sides laughing (guffawing actually!) and it takes quite an effort to stop me - cause it keeps on coming back:) A witty repartee makes me smile and so does a witty gesture. I am all about wits, you see;)

2. What are your dreams for your future?

I do have dreams, but I never know if they will come true. So I don't really dream too much after a point. All I dream of now is to flow with the tide of life and live life unconditionally.

3. If you are going to a cruise, where would it be and why?

A: Egypt.This land has always been alluring to me and the rich history of the world that this land cradles agelessly in its folds makes it all the more enticing. I would cruise along the Nile and have a blast in Egypt!

4. How would you spend your vacation and with whom?

With family and friends, who give me joy and whom I enjoy to be with. A vacation for me is all about traveling, exploring, knowing more about and relaxing and every vacation that I've had till date has been an experience to remember!

5. If given a life, what life would you choose ? Your life now or your past?

Who knows what I was in the past!I live life in the present and will like to live each and every moment of it now itself.

6. Is there something that you wished before when you were young but you didn't get it?
Yes, there are a couple of them.But thinking about them doesn't actually make you get them - this is what life has taught me. So just let go!

7. Have you been in a situation where you might have given up but you still choose to move on?

Yes of course. But I believe it was not me that moved on - it was my destiny that made me move on.

8. Is there someone in your life who has been your source of strength and inspiration?

My Maa. She is my best friend and my best teacher and whatever little that I am doing today is because of her. Life has been a tough walk many a times, but I have always found here beside me - her strength of mind, her values  and her quality of being a good human being is what I try to imbibe every day.I am extremely proud of her and so is she of me:)

I am gladly passing on this award to the following talented and very favorite bloggers of mine.Please do come and accept your awards - thanks!

Puja at US Masala
Akheela at Torview
Reva at Kaarasaaram

Till we meet again, stay well and see you soon!

~~Featured recipe on my blog one year ago ~~