Food for Thought

Green Beans & Lots of Coconut

Dear Foodies & Friends,

Back in June during the last week of my vacation, I went slightly loco in a supermarket and bought lots of colorful plates and bowls for the blog. Thanks to baggage constraints, much of it was left at home. I have been teased on many occasions for packing so much luggage, it’s hard to tell if I’ve brought clothes or snuck in a human or two.  No apologies though! Plating up is so much more fun when you’ve got colorful cutlery. If only I could have brought it all.

I can’t be trusted in places full of produce, cooking items and of course, bookstores. I’d love to be in one right now, slumped in a bean bag, nose stuck in a book, sniffing happily at the smell of fresh parchment (alright, maybe that last part sounds a little creepy, but I’m sure there are others like me right? Let me know, all you book loving people out there!) Anyhoo, I digress.

Last week I promised to put up some recipes of side dishes that I made for dinner along with rasam and rice. If you haven’t read that post yet, do check it out here! It’s delicous!

Beans poriyal

Today’s recipe is ‘beans poriyal’. It’s a dish with tender beans cooked with fresh or lightly roasted coconut and is a staple in every South Indian household. I haven’t met a single person who doesn’t love it. Every time my mom makes poriyal at home, I ask for extra coconut over the top, so you can bet I was pretty generous when I cooked it myself! 😛 Here’s the recipe.

Beans & Coconut

Beans Poriyal

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 30 Min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Rasam, beans karamadu & Aloo Curry

Ingredients

  1. 150 gms of green beans
  2. 1.5 tablespoons of fresh or toasted coconut
  3. 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  4. 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  5. Half a teaspoon of dal
  6. 1-2 chili peppers
  7.  A few coriander leaves
  8. A few curry leaves
  9. Salt to taste

 

Directions

Contrast!

STEP 1: String the beans and chop it into small pieces. Set aside. Heat some oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds, jeera (cumin seeds), the curry leaves, chili and dal. Fry until the seeds pop and the curry leaves give off a wonderful scent.

Garnish!

STEP 2: Add the beans to the pan with some water so that the vegetables cook through. This ensures that the beans don’t brown or burn. Season generously with salt. Mix the coconut through, top with some coriander leaves, Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

True Love is a Steaming Hot Bowl of Rasam.

Dear Foodies & Friends,

FINALLY. After a three-week slump, some introspection and a lot of self motivation (“you will STOP being such a potato”) I’m back on the blog with my favorite recipe in the entire universe! Rasam with steamed rice (and vegetables, but we’ll leave those for a future post or two! 😛 ).

Rasam & Kai

Things here on campus seemed to be heading towards an endless downward spiral. The whole disaster started off with half the girls in our hostel falling sick. None of us could figure out why, but there were likely many causes- the water, and highly unpredictable weather being just a few. Anyway, after spending days in bed, moaning like a zombie, and dressing without a care in the world I was in no mood to confront work and classes. I guess you could say it got a little too overwhelming. Cooking is my favorite form of therapy, and while I have been doing some of it now and then, I didn’t want to put anything up until I really felt like I could give it my all. This is my passion and I really want to be able to do it justice. So I decided that taking a little sabbatical to sort my fuzzy head out wouldn’t be the worst idea. And noooow, back to the FOOD!

Rasam has always been my favorite dish in the entire world. It’s a tangy, mildly spicy soup (for lack of a better word) served with a vegetable side dish (or dishes) and rice. Every time I go home it’s the first thing my mom puts on the table, and it’s absolute perfection. I feel like it’s got some kind of special healing powers; One bowl of rasam when I’m  sick, and things instantly feel so much better. Also, did I mention just how delicious it is? My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Here’s the recipe!

Rasam, beans karamadu & Aloo Curry

RASAM

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Time: 45 Min
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Rasam.

Ingredients

IngredientsRasam!

 

Directions

Isn't it perfect?

STEP 1: Cook the lentils in a pressure cooker, or if like me you don’t have one, then simmer it for ages (approximately 30-45 min) until it’s well cooked and combined.  The lentils cook really quickly in a pressure cooker so do use one if you’ve got it. For the rest of you hostel/student folk, bare with me! This dish is worth all the time it might take.

Just a bit of Garnish!

STEP 2: Add the spices, salt, and chopped tomatoes into a pot along with the water and bring to a boil.  When the tomatoes have broken down and the spices are well combined, pour in the dal and simmer for a further ten minutes.

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STEP 3: For the final garnish (tadka), heat the ghee/butter till smoking point, then add the mustard seeds (you know they’re ready when they explode with a popping sound), the jeera and the curry leaves. Pour over the rasam with a few coriander leaves Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

 

A Lazy Lemon Tart

Dear Foodies & Friends,

A lot of my recipes involve a little trip down memory lane and this one is no different. During the holidays when I was younger, we would head over to Washington D.C to visit my cousin. These were sight-seeing trips, so every day we’d have an itinerary planned, to visit The Smithsonian, Washington Memorial, the aquarium and so on. My aunt would  pack us little snacks and goodies for the journey, and off we we’d go. Of these, my favorite were her little lemon bars. They were gooey, crumbly, lemony perfection and I’d asked for them all the time. It’s been years since I’ve had one, but the memory of them is so vivid I can almost taste it. Since then, I’ve moved on to lemon tarts, cakes and macaroons!

I love all things lemon (read my Lemon Cake recipe here for more!) and this recipe was something I made when I had a real craving for some yummy lemony goodness, but no patience to muck around making an actual tart shell. It’s fun, less time consuming, and easy on the pocket too; perfect for a student lifestyle (or any other for that matter! :D)

Here’s how you make it.

LEMON TART

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: 2 Hrs
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Lemon Tart
Now if I could just transfigure it into a lemon bar 😛

Ingredients

Ingredients

 

The whole tart!

Directions

When life gives you lemons!

 

STEP 1: To make the lemon curd, mix together the lemon juice, zest, butter and sugar in a heatproof bowl. Place over a water bath so that the curd can cook in indirect heat. Whisk together the eggs and combine with the mixture. Stir often so that the eggs don’t scramble, and the curd forms a thick, glossy consistency. Remove from heat and place in a refrigerator to cool.

Lemon Tart

STEP 2:  To make the faux-tart, roughly grind the biscuits (I used a rolling pin and a ziplock bag) and combine them with the cinnamon, sugar, butter and vanilla. Line the sides of your dish and blind bake. Set in the fridge to cool.

Just a yellow blob
Looks like a giant scotch egg! 

STEP 3: When both elements have cooled down, spoon the lemon curd into the tart shell and place it back in the fridge to set and become more firm. Take it out when you’re ready to serve, Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Moving Mountains & Shifting Hostels

Dear Foodies & Friends,

After a blissful, annoyingly short stay at home, I’m back on campus and in a new room. The past few days have been so crazy and intense. We had to move out of our hostel to make way for the new batch of first year students and I had a LOT of luggage and knick-knacks.

The journey down two flights of stairs and up again, laden with suitcases fit to burst any second amidst the many cats, toads and centipedes was already horrible. To make matters worse, there were extra kitchen supplies, dirty laundry and random objects (why do I own so many?) that I lugged up in a giant jute rucksack.  I must have looked like a skinny, harassed Grinch. Not all for naught though, there was light at the end of the tunnel- a bigger room!

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Light up the room!

That’s right folks. I’m now the proud resident of a room that’s about a foot longer than my old one. Every inch of space is precious to me, especially with my little food dreams, so this makes me quite happy. I’ve already started getting things in order and decorating my side of the space with lights, posters and other funky things. This arrangement is going to be in place for year, after which we get our own single rooms. 😀My wall!

I AM SO EXCITED! I’ve really taken some time out to figure out where I see myself in the next few years and what I want to do with my life. Everything seems to point towards a career in food. It’s my biggest passion and I love being able to use my love for art and creativity and combine it with cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying my law courses, but after a lot of introspection I’m not sure if I see it as a fulfilling path to follow. Being here right here, right now though, I’m going to give it my best, and really concentrate on my work. During my downtime, I’ll cook my heart out. I’ve already got plans for a little kitchen corner! We’ve got a long weekend coming up soon, so there’s gonna be lots of cooking.  The challenge now is to come up with innovative, delicious recipes that are hostel friendly and set some goals so that I can balance the two contrasting spheres of my life. This is an exciting time for me, and I’m so happy that I have you all to share it with. Stay tuned for more food and craziness!

With love & lots of butter,

Little Chef

A Slice of Apple Pie

Sometimes I wish I could take my favourite memories, experiences, feelings and just bottle them up. I’d visit them whenever I want, like a pensieve of sorts (forever a Harry Potter fan). One of the wonderful recollections I’d include in this fantasy bottle of mine would be Christmas morning in Ohio. Every year I’d wake up to the heady, sharp, and tangible smell of cinnamon mixed with the aroma of bubbling apples. Outside, the ground would be covered in an endless sea of delicate white, and some of our neighbours’ lights would still be on in the wee hours of dawn. On some of these days every year, we would try to bake an apple pie. I say try, because most of the time it turned out to be a hilariously epic failure, albeit a delicious one. We never could get the pastry right! So instead, we’d scoop out the apples and eat it like a crumble. At some point we stopped making apple pies altogether.

My Childhood Home

I started this blog last December, to celebrate my love of food and cooking. Ever since then I’ve tried to recreate some of the food I already love, and experiment with recipes that I’ve never tried before. This apple pie is one of many such concoctions. The poor thing is a bit deflated because I didn’t use as many apples as I should have, and looks a bit unseemly in my photographs, but I LOVED IT!! Even disasters can produce sweet little successes, and this one’s mine.

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APPLE PIE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 2 Hrs 30 mins
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

Ingredients

Untitled

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Directions

A Slice of Pie

  1. For the rough pastry: Mix the flour and cold butter together in a chopper. Lumps are fine; they make the pastry light and puffed up. Slowly add in the water. You only want enough to form a workable dough. Do not overwork the pastry. Wrap it in clingfilm and refrigerate to firm up.
  2. For the apple filling: Peel and chop the apples, adding them to a pan with a giant pinch of cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla, brown sugar and a dusting of nutmeg. 
  3. To assemble the dish: Roll out the pastry, using extra flour to make sure that it doesn’t stick. Place one half of it to form the bottom layer. Blind bake for about 10 minutes just to make sure that the pie’s filling doesn’t make it soggy. Top the pie with the other half of pastry and decorate it as fancy as you’d like! Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

Apple Pie

Ratatouille with Fresh, Clean, Well-Seasoned Perspective

I fell in love with Disney Pixar’s film Ratatouille the first time I saw it. It was quaint, and artistic; a passionate celebration of food and France. I was one of those little kids who had imaginary friends and tea parties. Silly I know, but it gave me comfort. In my mind, that’s exactly how I saw Gusteau- a comfortable looking version of Casper the Friendly Ghost, complete with his starched white chef’s hat. I imagined him popping up beside me, rotund like Humpty Dumpty, providing little tidbits of advice and comfort. I’d present my dish to a raptured group of diners and like a play, the curtains would close to the sound of a thundering applause.

Well, none of that theatre and flourish ever happened, but I did finally make Remy’s recipe. It still transported me to dreamland, and made me truly appreciate the essence of the film. Even the most humble of foods can be a masterpiece. As Chef Auguste Gusteau said, “Good food is like music you can taste, color you can smell. There is excellence all around you. You need only to be aware to stop and savor it. With those happy thoughts, here’s my recipe for the perfect Ratatouille. Just like in the movie.

Untitled (2)Ratatouille

STEP 1: To make the sauce for the base, roast the bell peppers over a low flame until the skins are charred. Peel and set aside. Fry the onions, garlic and ends of the vegetables (waste not, want not!) with the fennel seeds and rosemary. Blitz to form a fine puree. Screenshot_20170525-222329 (2).png

STEP 2: Using a slicer, chop the vegetables into fine circles. The finer the vegetable, the easier it is to mould it into the desired shape. Spoon some of the sauce over the bottom of the tray and lay a round of each vegetable, overlapping them to form spirals. Roast in the oven at 180 C, till the vegetables are cooked through. 

Screenshot_20170525-233957STEP 3: This is the really fun part! Get yourself a mould and fill in the ratatouille in a circular motion, topping it off with a section of vegetables (eggplant, zucchinis, and tomato) Place the mould over a plate and gentle ease it off. Finish off with a generous smothering of sauce around the ratatouille. Garnish with some chive or basil,  Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

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Couldn’t resist an excuse to get my furry book into the picture

Easy Peasy Lemon (Drizzle Cake) Squeezy

Our old home in Bangalore was nestled in the middle of an unfriendly, barren and desolate land. There was nothing for miles, except the odd liqueur shop, meat stalls, and gloomy cyber cafes. Yet somehow in the midst of this misery, my brother and I grew up in an artist’s paradise.

The house was uniquely designed, with vast, airy spaces, and rooms that did not conform to the standard square or rectangular shape. The porch out front looked like a scene out of a Midsummer Night’s Dream; wild roses blossomed alongside vibrant hibiscus, and creepers stretched endlessly towards the sky. When the wind blew, you almost felt as if the velvety pale pink petals were whispering to each other as they fluttered. The garden was my favourite part of the house. I could hardly believe that such a beautiful place could exist amidst the dreariness of the outside world.

The real treasure though, was at the back of the house-a magnificent lemon tree, giving off a scent only dreams are made of. My love of all things citrus started then, at the age of 8, and everyday after school I’d run to the back of the house, press my nose against the yellow orb, just close my eyes and drift away. Years later I visited the house to find it in a terrible state of disrepair. My beloved lemon tree, and all our beautiful flowers had long withered away, and with them, a little piece of my heart.

This recipe is one of my mothers. Its a soft, delicious cake with a lemon buttercream frosting that I made to celebrate my love for this special fruit, and the lost memories of my childhood. I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.

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DISCLAIMER:  My mom is a cake whizz in the kitchen, but she’s not very good with definite instructions. She just follows her heart, throws in a bunch of things and prays to the heavens. The end result is perfect every time. Have no fear!

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DIRECTIONS

STEP 1

Sieve the dry ingredients before mixing them together in a large bowl. Slowly incorporate the wet ingredients and fold to form a viscous but not claggy cake batter.

STEP 2

Line your cake tray with butter paper and pour in the batter. Place the tray in a pressure cooker and cook for an unforeseeable and vague amount of time. You’ll know that the cake is ready when your kitchen smells wonderful and you can stick a fork inside and have it come out dry. Leave the cake out to cool.

STEP 3screenshot_20170602-150913.png

For the lemon buttercream, whisk the butter (should be room temperature) and slowly incorporate the sugar. Continue to whisk until the frosting is creamy and has increased in volume. Add in the lemon juice, zest and food colouring. I loved the subtle hint of vanilla in it too, so don’t forget to put that in as well!

STEP 4Screenshot_20170518-125456

When your cake has cooled down, and the frosting has been chilled simply decorate any way you like, Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

Take Me Back to Beaches, Sunsets & Curry

Dear Foodies & Friends,

One of the things I crave most when I’m a gazillion miles away from home is a big bowl of rice with some spicy, tangy Kerala prawn curry. It’s absolutely deliiiicious and takes me right back to my happy place- sun-drenched beaches and endless, glistening waters. My sisters and I have been on some amazing trips to Goa, and during one of them I had the best prawn curry of my life. Freedom, family and great food, what more could you ask for? This recipe is now one of my favourites and I had to share it with you all. Enjoy!

Coconut

prawn (2)Screenshot_20170509-232705 (3)

DIRECTIONS

STEP 1

In a heated pan, add in mustard seeds, one green chili, and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds have ‘popped’, stir in the onions, ginger and garlic. Fry the onions until they are translucent.

STEP 2Screenshot_20170509-231232 (2).png

Stir in the spices, to release their aroma, making sure that they don’t burn. At this stage you can add the tomatoes. Cook until softened and pour in the coconut milk. KEEP TASTING. If you feel like the dish needs a bit more of a sour note, add in some tamarind paste or kokum extract (click here to learn more about the benefits of Kokum!)

STEP 3Screenshot_20170509-231055 (2)

Leave the curry simmering for about 20 minutes to let all the flavours infuse. Season generously and add the prawns. Let them poach gently for about a minute, then remove from heat and garnish with fresh coriander leaves. Et voilà! Bon Appétite! 🙂

Serves 4

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Pommes et Concombres

Dear Foodies & Friends,

There’s something about the French language that makes everything sound beautiful. I have a fascination with all things French, but we’ll leave that for another day. This dessert is centered around apples and cucumbers and was inspired by Elena Duggan’s dish Cool as a Cucumber, made during season 8 of Masterchef Australia. It’s subtle, fresh and perfect for hot summer months. The recipe is a little time consuming, but do give it a try, it’s well worth the effort! 🙂

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Feel free to make any or all of the elements on the dish.

P. S. I haven’t given specific sugar quantities, since I don’t add in too much sugar in my food. Taste and add in as much as you like! 🙂

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DIRECTIONS

STEP 1: FOR THE APPLE & CUCUMBER BROTH

Add a glass of wine/   into a saucepan and simmer till the alcohol burns out. Pour in half of the apple and cucumber juice. Reduce slightly, remove from heat and stir in the remaining juice. Add in sugar to your liking and refrigerate until needed. 

STEP 2: FOR THE CUCUMBER SORBET

Juice the cucumber and blitz with a handful of fresh mint. Squeeze in the juice of two limes, and stir in sugar to taste. Strain the liquid and place it in the freezer. Every 30-45 minutes or so, remove and stir briskly (this prevents large crystals from forming) until set. When the sorbet has frozen, blitz it smooth in a blender, set in the fridge for longer or serve immediately. 

STEP 3: FOR THE APPLE BUTTER

Roughly chop up the apple and add it into a saucepan along with 4 peeled, de-seeded dates, and the rest of the ingredients. Cook until the apples are soft and tender, then blitz to form a smooth puree. When the mixture has cooled slightly, stir in the butter and refrigerate till needed. This apple butter is delicious with pancakes, waffles and loads of other desserts!

STEP 4: FOR THE APPLE AND CUCUMBER ROSE

Swirl 1/2 a cup of sugar with 1/8th of a cup of water in a pan. Stir until the sugar dissolves and begins to form a syrup. Once this step has been achieved, stop stirring and leave the pan until the syrup is a rich golden brown. Remove from heat and pour over strips of apple and cucumber. Refrigerate. The fruit should be soft and malleable in a few hours. Layer the apple and cucumber alternatively with a half inch distance and roll. Invert to form a rose. 

STEP 5. FOR THE YOGURT AND LIME SNOW

Combine the yoghurt, honey, sugar and lime juice thoroughly in a bowl and refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve, grate the frozen yogurt with a fork to form little clumps. 

When you’re ready to assemble, garnish with a few extra sprigs of mint, Et voilà! Bon Appétite!

Serves 4

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Balsamic Glazed Chicken/Paneer, Roasted Veggies & a Mint ‘n’ Lime Broken Wheat Salad

Dear Foodies & Friends,

These days, I’ve been keeping busy as an intern at a law firm, here in Bangalore. The hours aren’t long, but travelling to and fro is a rather tiring exercise. The thought of new recipes to make and experiments waiting to happen in the kitchen always lifts my spirits. It’s first thing I think about every morning. Little ideas creep into my head constantly throughout the day, and by the time I get home, I can’t wait to get cooking. Screenshot_20170513-213846 (2)

I’ve had a fascination with balsamic vinegar for a while now. It’s sweet yet tangy, and rich without being heavy on the palate. The trouble is, it isn’t a common ingredient in most Indian households, so getting it is a little expensive. But soooo worth it.

This dish is Balsamic Glazed Chicken/Paneer,, Roasted Veggies & a Mint ‘n’ Lime Broken Wheat Salad. I made the paneer version for my mom, and all my lovely vegetarian friends out in the big wide world 🙂

HERE’S WHAT YOU’LL NEED:

For the chicken/paneer-Ingredients

  • Chicken thighs or leg pieces
  • 1 pack of paneer if you’re doing the vegetarian version
  • Balsamic vinegar- 2 tablespoons
  • Honey-1 tablespoon
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Half a teaspoon of chili powder (omit if you don’t like the heat)
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary (or dried, which worked fine too)
  • Soy Sauce (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the roasted veggies-

  • Tomatoes (preferable cherry, but I didn’t have any)
  • Bellpeppers (red and yellow are delicious here)
  • Baby corn
  • Zucchini
  • Asparagus
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil

For the broken wheat salad-

  • 1-2 cups of cooked broken wheat
  • 1 small cucumber
  • A handful of olives
  • A few sprigs of mint
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of one lime
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

STEP 1

Brown the chicken in a large pot on both sides and set aside (It will not be fully cooked at this point). Add the garlic and stir for about a minute. De-glaze the pan with balsamic vinegar, honey and soy sauce, as well as a splash of water. Sprinkle in the chili powder, and rosemary. At this stage you can place the chicken back into the pot to braise for about 15-20 minutes. If you’re making this with paneer, simply fry the paneer before adding it to the glaze.

STEP 2

This is where you can really go freestyle. Throw in your favourite fresh summer vegetables into a tray and roast them depending on the varied cooking times. I pan fried the carrots and baby corn before adding them to the rest of my veggies. The whole thing screams colour colour colour!!

STEP 3

In a large bowl, mix in all the ingredients as mentioned above. Squeeze in some more lemon juice if you need to, and some lemon zest. Season well with salt and pepper.

Et voilà! Bon Appétite!

Serves 3 very hungry people

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Almost couldn’t fit in that big bowl of salad there. Food Food Food!