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Showing posts from July, 2008

Proud to be a Punjabi

There is a lot to be said about growing up in Punjab. For starters, its the rustic charm of the place and its warm, friendly people. Then there's poetry and music. Not just bhangra, but also heer and mirza and sufis of Bulleh Shah's stature.

And then, the food. The stories of mounds of butter on sarson ka saag (mustard greens) are all true. So are the legends of huge lassi tumblers. But then, Punjabis have always been farmers toiling away on their land all day and needing nutrition to match. Not surprisingly, Punjabi food is heavy on fats and dairy. My mother would still cook all her curries in ghee. Olive oil? What's that!

Ever been invited to a vegetarian Punjabi home for dinner. You don't need to tell me the menu, for I can guaratee it was either chhole or rajmah. And a paneer curry - there's always paneer on the menu when guests come over. I don't have guests coming over today, but I am in a mood to indulge so there's paneer on my menu too. This is the…

Boat Party

It's that time of the month again when we present our book club read of the month. "This Book Makes me Cook", the book club Bhags and I started last month has added some new members and this month all of us were reading Jerome K. Jerome's classic "Three Men in a Boat".

Somehow, despite my chronic reading habit, this is one classic I never read. And I thoroughly enjoyed it now. The story of three hypochondriac English gentlemen (and a dog!) who set on a week long boat trip on the Thames is simply hillarious because these three have no experience in, well, anything. They can't pack, can't sail and definetely can't cook.

I like the times they stop in small English towns (oh! they sound so different in Jerome's telling from how I remember them) and cart away pies and tarts and so much else. But even before they set out, they pack food. And heavens above, they actually pack eggs. I mean, who takes eggs to a picnic or a boat trip. They would just…

Loaded with Flavors

Most people I know don't like the food at Ruby Tuesday. I might have been one of them, but for this one menu entry that reads “Loaded Fries”. Just look at the sheer brilliance of the idea. First you take a plate full of French fries, a tempting thing by itself. Then you top these fries with cheese and bake them. Now plonk a spoon of sour cream somewhere in the middle of the plate. Finally, get these to the table along with a creamy ranch dressing.

I agree it’s gross. But give me loaded fries with a milk shake any time of the day, to make my day. Or wait, for Bharti just made my day with a Rockin' Girl Award.

Thanks to this Sindhi veggie foodie, now I rock!

Cheesy and Corny

No, we are not talking about the latest bollywood hit. This is my entry for this month's Taste & Create, the recipe swapping event hosted by Nicole of ForFood. I was super thrilled to have a partner who originally comes from Mumbai. Aditi now lives in Chennai (in southern India), but her blog is full of Maharashtrian recipes. When I first saw her blog, I told her I will make a traditional Bombay dish from her blog.

But then, I kept coming back to her Cheese Corn Balls. As Aditi said, this is a favorite dish ordered at restaurants - for her, and for me. So why pass up the chance to make this delicious appetizer at home.

To make these perfectly delicious cheese balls, boil a cup of corn and grind until coarse. Be super careful because this only takes a few seconds, and you don't want a fine paste. Blend the corn with 100 gms paneer, 3 cheese cubes (cut into really small pieces), 2 tbsp corn flour, 1/4 cup plain flour, a pinch of baking powder, 1/2 tbsp lemon juice and salt.…

Blog Picks : Lemon Rice

Our next blog pick and my last night's dinner was courtesy Bhags' Crazy Curry. I dig the simple, yet good looking food she creates. And I dig good lemon rice anywhere, so this was an easy recipe to bookmark.

I had to make one adjustment to her original recipe because Bhags, like good Indian cooks anywhere, assumed that lemon rice needs onions. No, it doesn't, but she realized it only after she had posted the recipe. I dutifully excluded those, and the rest of the recipe was simplicity itself.

Boil 1/2 cup long grain rice (basmati for me) until done. Spread in a plate and mix in juice of one lemon. Heat oil in a pan. Add a few curry leaves and 1/2 tsp each of mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add a tbsp each of chana dal and urad dal, let them fry for a couple of minutes and throw in a tbsp of cashewnuts. Add a pinch of turmeric for color, now add the rice and mix to coat and color everything yellow. Add 1/4 tsp salt (or more if you like) and cook for ano…

In search of a perfect bagel

There is no other word for it - the Bagel Shop in Bandra is cute. A small bungalow in posh Pali Hill full of interesting knick-knacks. Serving the chewy Jewish bread you rarely see outside New York.

You get a choice of five or six varieties - my favorites are multigrain and poppy - and you can tell them to load it with cream cheese or make a sandwich with your favorite vegetable or meat filling.

Impressive stuff!

Except that bagels are not meant to be impressive. Bagels are something you snatch off the rack on office cafetaria, pop in the toaster, apply a hint of cream cheese on and take to your desk to eat. All for 80 cents. That's what's satisfying about the bagel.

Cute as it may be, the Bagel Shop can't give me the deeply satisfying "Everything Bagel" of the NY cafetaria!

Blog Picks : Soft Yogurt Sandwich Rolls

Much before I started blogging, I started reading through food blogs. And bookmarking recipes I would like to try some time. The list has grown so long that it would soon be enough to last me a lifetime. So I have decided to give my experiments in the kitchen a rest and go the tried and tested way with choice picks from my favorite blogs.

The first blog pick comes from a baker who inspired me to bake my first cookie. I never miss a recipe on her blog, but this one was specially appealing. For I haven't graduated to baking a loaf yet and I wanted to bake buns before I take the big leap. So here comes this recipe for soft sandwich rolls and I promptly bookmarked it.

Nicole has an excellent step-by-step recipe on her site so I am not going to repeat it here. But I must say that the buns were easy to make, and super yummy. I halved her recipe and made smaller rolls so ended up with eight of them. They never reached the making sandwiches stage because a few were eaten straight off the…

The Best Baked Potatoes in the World

There are two reasons for this post. One, I can never find baked potatoes to satisfy me. They are always too bland or undercooked or something. Two, I had a jar of mayonnaise left over from the biscuits I made for last month's Taste & Create and could not think of any use for it.

To make these super quick baked potatoes, preheat over to 180C. Cut potatoes into thin slices and arrange in a single layer on a nonstick baking sheet. Sprinkle salt and pepper to coat all slices. Bake for 7-8 minutes until half done.

Bring the baking sheet out of the oven and dot the potatoes with mayonnaise. Back in the oven for 5 minutes - I actually speared a slice with fork to figure out if they were soft and took them out when they were. Perfect as a side dish, or just on their own!

On breakfast buffets and bear hugs

Now there's nothing to beat the kick you get out of a great meal first thing in the morning. And the breakfast at Vista set me thinking about what would constitute the “best breakfast buffet” for me.

The essential part of the buffet is that is should have a lot of variety. But then, all the parts should add up. So here’s what to add and what to leave out of my perfect breakfast buffet.

The Must-haves

1.Fruits – lots of them and as many varieties as possible. And those flavored yogurts you get to pour over your fruits.
2. A range of sweet breads. I usually go with the chocolate/cinnamon roll or a muffin
3. Even better – warm pancakes and/or waffles with maple syrup
4. Then it’s over to the savory and hot section. Idlis/vadas are usually my first choice out of the buffet.
5. Its an egg-white omelet next with baked potatoes/hash browns. Somehow, on these occassions, I don't feel the breakfast's complete without eggs
6. Croissant to go with the eggs; even better if you find me…

Making a Hash of It

Do you like hash browns? I like them, in theory. Grated potatoes formed into cakes, shallow fried until crisp and served as a breakfast food alongwith your omlette and sausages. What's there not to like about it. And yet, every single place I've eaten hash at so far managed to goof up and create something you simply wouldn't like.

That was until yesterday morning. Then I went for breakfast at Vista, the coffee shop at Taj Lands End. And there on the buffett table, I met this really good looking hash brown. Perfectly round patties, crisp not just on the outside but all over. I had one with my egg white omlette and then went back to get a couple just to eat on their own.

These hash browns put Vista on my list of best breakfast buffets. And now, a list of best and worst 5-star buffets in Mumbai:

The Best Buffets

1. Lotus Cafe at JW Marriott

2. Peshwa Pavilion at ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton

3. Vista at Taj Lands End

The Worst Buffets

1. Grand Cafe at Grand Hyatt

2. Frangipani at…

I'm tagged!

First, the promised drink from my party. This one is a blackcurrant-orange drink. I don't have a name but I have two recipes.

For the mocktail, pour 2 tbsp blackcurrant crush in a glass (I use one of those Mapro bottles you get from Mahabaleshwar). Sprinkle a generous pinch of rock salt (black salt). Add enough orange juice to fill half the glass and give it a stir. Top with plain soda.

To make the cocktail, pour 30 ml vodka in a glass. Add 2 tbsp blackcurrant crush and stir. Now add orange juice to fill the glass to half and fill with soda. If you would like a sweeter drink, replace soda with limca.

And now the meme:

Sunshinemon, my fellow Mumbaikar has tagged me for this one.

Sarkar Raj

Three Men in a Boat - our book club's pick for this month's This Book makes me Cook



Bread baking, oranges - any citrusy fragrance


Party Time

Had a party last weekend, and while I didn't do much in the way of food (was too busy having a good time) the drinks were a big hit. I always mix drinks on the go, and so it was with these two creations that night. The group was split right down the middle among those who drink alcohol and those who don't so I made cocktail and mocktail versions of both drinks.

Here's my favorite - a lemon and mint cooler. Or rather what a mojito will look like if you don't own an ice crusher.

Drop 2-3 thin lemon slices and a few mint leaves (4-5 for me, more if you like) in an old fashioned cocktail glass. Add a tsp of demarara sugar and 1/2 tsp lemon juice and muddle it (i.e. give everything a sound beating). Fill the glass with ice cubes. If you are making a cocktail, now's the time for you to add a small measure of vodka. Leave it out if you are a mocktail maker and then, no matter what camp you are in, top up the glass with limca.

I didn't take any photographs of the othe…