Carrot kheer

10 Tips to help plan your next big party | Carrot Kheer recipe

Have you experienced “biryani fatigue” ever? I am in the middle of it now. I don’t want to eat biryani ever.. in the next 2 months. We were about to have a large family get-together of nearly 30 guests. We decided to order biryani and make everything else at home. I’d make carrot kheer, gulab jamun, mangalore ghee chicken roast, mutton kola urundai, rice, rasam, vegetable biryani, mixed vegetable jalferazie and curd rice. We wanted to make sure the biryani was top-notch. So the week leading up to the party we ate biryani daily, taste testing biryanis to decide the best place to order from. If you had seen a woman with a faint masala scent, walking up and down the store with a notebook in one hand and a fully loaded cart, kneeling down here checking the label behind the byadigi chilli pack, going back and adding an extra pack of everything and stopping every shop assistant for help, you should have probably helped her, without judging.   I made estimations and calculated volumes of each dish and worked backwards to calculate volumes of each ingredient I had to buy. I visited the grocery store twice a day during that period. I bought extra ladles, extra-large woks and steel buckets to serve from. I spent the 85 hours of the next 72 hours in the kitchen. I cooked each dish one at a time, slowly, tasting along the way, tweaking, taking a second opinion, fine-tuning again. I erred on the side of caution and made a little too much of everything. And about one-third of them didn’t show up. Nothing serious. In our part of the world, requesting for RSVP is considered rude. However not showing up is perfectly fine. And so I ate biryani the whole week after the party as well. The party menu was our family menu for the entire week after that. This after I dug out all the dabbas I possessed to pack food for my maid, for my parents, for my parent’s cook and for relatives who lived close by. This, my friends is what party hangover feels like. You’ll want to not cook even an omelette, you’ll feel like you’ve released “Bahubali”, you’ll crave a leg massage, you’ll want to eat out, watch a movie, rest for a week and want to go on a holiday alone. I compiled a list of...
chicken burger

Chicken burger

Me: “It is so hot these days. Summer is here.” Yuvan: “AC podu ma” (Switch on AC) Me: “Summer le nariye Vathal podalam” (We can make lots of vathals this summer) Yuvan: “Vathal pota summer poiduma?” (Will summer go away if you make vathals?) I guffawed. He smiled, pleased that he had cracked me up. He genuinely didn’t understand how my “vathal making” made any difference (“Nee vathal pota yenna podalena yenna?”). Yuvi and I have been at loggerheads for the past week and a half because of his exams. He wasn’t pleased that he was doing all the writing and I wasn’t. He swore that he’d make me write hundreds of pages just like he was writing (2 pages). After he put away his books, sharpened his pencils and put away his bag for the next day, he came up to me and gave me a sheaf of papers. He had drawn rows and columns and written an alphabet in each little box. He wanted me to write A, B, C, D… till Z and repeat in each of those sheets. I looked at his serious face seeking justice, revenge. I took the papers from him and started writing A,B,C. He wanted to eat burger, he told me – “With the leaf and sauce and chicken”. So I made chicken burger for him stacking cheese, onions, lettuce and chicken. He opened up the bun, took down the chicken cutlet, set aside the lettuce and made a deconstructed burger platter. He then ate his favourite parts – the chicken, bun, cheese, onion and sauce and left out the lettuce and tomato. He liked it, he said. Like most homes, I have one who likes burgers and two who don’t and one who abstains, two who like pasta and two who don’t, two who like chutney and two who don’t, two who like sambar rice and two who don’t, three who like Pongal and one who doesn’t. I manage with zero consensus on most dishes. I make do with coercion and blackmail (no movie, no colouring, no TV). Or I offer a more hated alternative which immediately makes this one look better – podi instead of chutney? Curd rice instead of sambar rice? Go ahead and make these chicken burgers with or without consensus. They’re easier than you think. The chicken patties are really simple to put together belying their crispy,...
Hyderbadi biryani

Hyderabadi Biryani

Yesterday I took the lift in my office. I thought “I’ve exercised today, I deserve a reward”. Today I took the lift. I thought “I didn’t exercise today. A break day has to be a total break.” I am not sure if secretly, deep inside I want to be fat. On the surface I don’t want to be. I also know that I should not say no to Biryani and Lasagna and molaga bajji. Saying no to biryani because I want to fit into an old pair of jeans seems quite shallow. After about two weeks of sincere exercise and painful diet control, I see that I weigh the same. Instead of breaking the weighing scale, I rebel. I don’t exercise for 3 days after that. I add a heaped spoon of sugar to my coffee instead of sugar-free. I make deep fried sweet corn cutlets. I make a rich, decadent, ghee laden Hyderabad biryani. I eat it for lunch and dinner. There, take that. I usually shy away from making the Hyderabadi style biryani because it is too much work. It involves lots of different components and takes the whole morning. But this time, I compressed and downsized the process to my lazy comfort level. There are just 3 components to my version – Marinated & cooked chicken, partially cooked rice with whole spices and fried onions. Just layer these three components and you’re done. Critical to a good hyderabadi biryani is the point to which you cook the rice initially. I would recommend not cooking the rice for more than 4-5 minutes. The partially cooked rice should be firm, not soft. Also important is the amount of liquid in the chicken masala before you do the layering. The chicken masala should be thickish, not runny. If your masala is runny, cook down the masala till it is nice and thick. This Hyderabadi biryani pairs beautifully with a simple raita and boiled eggs. Make a salan if you wish. But this Hyderabadi biryani is magnificent on its own. Rice in lovely ombre shades of yellow and orange dotted with succulent flavour packed chicken make this biryani a great dish to make for parties. This is the kind of biryani that stays in the mind long after you’ve scraped the last ladle from the handi. You can adapt this recipe to make a vegetable hyderabadi biryani or mutton hyderabadi biryani...
chicken masala vadai

Masala Chicken vadai

I spent three days cleaning out my cupboards, shelves, beros, paranai, tops of beros, top of fridge, window sills, between wall and cupboard, behind cupboard, under cupboard, under stairs and inside drawers. Did you know you could store stuff in all these places? Martha Stewart won’t tell you that. I found I did not fit into 80% of the clothes I had. I had so many different cables and wires I could technically connect my TV to laptop to remote controlled car to DVD player to charger to camera to mixie. I’d still be clutching a handful of un-identified cables that fit into obsolete ports. I had loose change everywhere. None of the pens actually wrote. My fountain pens had all dried up. I had about 2 huge suitcases of books I had no space for. I hadn’t read most of my recent purchases. I wasn’t going to deal with the toys. It was too much. I had 100 glass milk bottles – the small cute kind for times when I might throw a party for 100 people. I had no business having as many cake pans as I did. I had enough small bowls in melamine, ceramic, earthenware, steel and microwaveable plastic for every conceivable need that I knew not, how to put away. I had my napkins, tablemats, little pieces of cloth, wooden boards, empty photo frames, textured cards – stray stuff that were the props for my blog photos. Friends, relatives and the maid when they see these, turn to look at me searching for reason. I don’t meet their eye. All I did those few days was to pack bag after bag of stuff that I just couldn’t have any more. I was angry at myself. I was severe with every little purse, dabba and tight jeans I hadn’t fit into in 7 years. I needed about two and a half kitchens to store just my baking stuff. It seemed impossible. When I couldn’t make up my mind, I put them in boxes and stashed them in the paranai. I started with a cabinet full of stuff. I kept going ruthlessly. At the end of it I had emptied most of the cabinet and filled up all of the paranais. For those who are unfamiliar with “paranai” these are the Indian equivalent of your “attic”, only we have these all over the house to stow away...
Cauliflower pakoda

Cauliflower Pakoda

Did you realize I’ve not blogged in 3 weeks?  … No? Thanks I’ve been working on transitioning Foodbetterbegood to its own domain – Foodbetterbegood.net complete with a cleaner prettier layout, printable recipe card, easy to search pictorial recipe index and easier subscription option! Most of the work’s done but there’s still some more that I am pegging away at. But I couldn’t wait any longer. So here it is. Look up… at the address bar of your browser. You are here! Welcome! If you are an ardent fan of Foodbetterbegood, I suggest you subscribe using the subscribe button. I am not sure if subscribers on the old site will receive the new posts.  Or you could follow on Facebook, Instagram, Google+ or Pinterest. Take a seat. Have some cauliflower pakoda. These cauliflower pakoda are dangerously addictive; the kind of addictive that gets your hand into a nice rhythmic action, popping one after another into your mouth. These are irresistibly tasty. Add some company, some conversation, a cup of hot coffee or a book and you have yourself a nice, cosy evening. Whoever thought of selling hot cauliflower pakoda on the beach, was obviously a connoisseur. Seated on comfortable plastic chairs twisted down into the beach sand, digging your toes into the sand, the evening breeze tousling up your hair, kids playing nearby – bucket loads of sand in their trouser folds, the smell of the sea in the air, piping hot cauliflower pakoda arrives alongside a spicy chutney. Everyone rushes in to grab one. Too hot! You blow impatiently and take a bite and half-blow, half-eat the pakoda. Ooh! Nothing beats cauliflower pakoda on the beach. But if you ever are craving those pakoda, here is the recipe. I deconstructed the recipe. It is not the beach pakoda recipe. It is my interpretation – my cover version of the beach cauliflower pakoda. Enjoy!  

Chicken Pasta salad with creamy mayo dressing

“STOP FIGHTING and STOP SHOUTING. Why do you shout that way? I don’t like shouting” –  I shout, louder than both of them. “I don’t want to hear any complaints about each other. Go, brush your teeth. Your teacher also says the same thing? Yes, she is right. I don’t want complaints either. Be friends. Better, stay away from each other. Brush your teeth. I don’t know where the white race car with the skull sticker is. Find it yourself. No, I will not buy ice cream again today. No, I am not giving my phone instead. Switch off the TV. Brush your teeth. Close the fridge. I can’t make lemon juice now. Close the freezer. No Poori. Same tiffen for everybody. Brush your teeth. I don’t have time. No, I have to go to office. I can’t stay at home. Brush your teeth.” Yes, Summer vacation. I think back to my summer holidays. What ever was I doing? Cartoons were only on Sunday – Duck tales and Mickey mouse in the morning, He-Man in the evening. What did I do the rest of the time? I played out in the sun the whole day, running about, making up games, leaves were money, the Ashoka tree was the shop, the gate was the school. Nobody called us in for lunch. We were on our own. We fought, ran, chased each other, fell down, scratched our knees, got up and ran again. We could play carom pauper the whole afternoon and not be bored. What is really weird is that the grandparents of our little ones, the same ones who didn’t bother to check on us while we sweated outside in the sun, the ones who didn’t check if we had eaten lunch, the ones who bought us one Mango 2-in-one bar once in 6 months, stops the Kwality Walls vandi every day to buy Jiggly jelly and Cornetto for our kids. Strange. We are the in-between generation bewildered, muddled trying to please everyone, satisfying no one. Summer is pushing me towards salads, muskmelon juice, mangoes and lassis. I am always trying to simplify meals – one-pot meals, one dish meals. I had a wonderful idea of making an all-in-one Chicken pasta salad that could be a meal in itself – chicken, pasta, fresh crisp vegetables and creamy mayonnaise dressing. I could have the whole thing done in 20 minutes and...
Banana foster cake

Banana Foster Cake

Every year my sister and I buy shirts for our father’s birthday. Every year he asks us “Why do you waste money on this?” It is his way of saying “Aawww”.   Every year we make a big deal of surprising him. We steal out of the house and when he asks us where we’re going, we explain in elaborate detail where we’re going to buy what for whom while usually we’d say “out” or “shopping”. He knows we’re going to buy him shirts. He has even noticed that we have taken one of his shirts for size reference. He doesn’t show. He plays along. Once we’re back he asks much like Hasini “I know you have bought me shirts. I know.” We act like he is crazy. It is a surprise. Next day we give him the shirts. He says he had known all along. He wears it and finds it is too tight or too large. We go back to the store with him and exchange. This is the birthday ritual.   Another recent addition to the ritual is the cake I bake for him. I bake him a birthday cake, usually a simple, hearty old-school cake without frosting, glaze etc. He refuses to be photographed cutting the cake, scolds us for singing “Happy birthday” and generally fusses around. This year I made banana foster cake. The recipe is from foodnetwork. It is simple, easy and a treat for banana lovers. I love that you brush the cake with rum when it is still warm. It adds a lovely depth of flavour. The caramel and sliced bananas that you line the bottom of the pan with becomes the top once baked and inverted – a lovely molten, crimson top. The cake itself is soft with a beautiful crumb. This is a beautiful cake to bake as a dessert for a party. I wouldn’t make this much ahead of time though as the caramel-banana top tends to discolour a bit when chilled. It still tastes yummy. It just doesn’t look as glamorous.   Enjoy!  
Chocolate truffle cake

Chocolate truffle cake

The inspiration behind this beautiful cake is Jagan. The reason for this beautiful cake is my sister. The creator of this beautiful recipe is not me. Must be a genius at bbcgoodfood who came up with this recipe. Where (Why) do I come in? The maker of this beautiful cake is me. The one who made this cake from start to finish, the one who peeled the parchment paper off an un-chilled super-moist cake before transferring to cake board and paid hell, the one who made indigenous crème fraiche substituting a substitute for a substitute, the one who forgot to add in the said indigenous crème fraiche and then swirled it in the cake pans.  Still, this cake was stunning, in-spite of all the madness. I write this to tell you what not to do in making this gorgeous cake, and to tell you that even the hand-mixer wielding, Amul fresh cream using, birthday baker like you and me can make this cake. And you will be known ever after as the one who makes the best chocolate truffle cake. Recently at a coffee shop, Jagan asked me why I’ve never made Chocolate truffle cake like the one they have there. Why? I didn’t know. So I set out to make one. My sister’s birthday was the right occasion for a Chocolate truffle cake because it was the one coming up next. Then I found this recipe. I figured you couldn’t go wrong with 800 grams of chocolate plus cocoa and more than a pound of butter. I immediately decided this was the recipe I was going to go with. This is my best chocolate cake so far and it is going to be my new most favourite chocolate cake to make for a long time to come. It turned out absolutely fantastic – rich, fudgy-moist and so so chocolatey interlaced with velvety chocolate frosting and finished off with a luscious smooth chocolate ganache. Oh My! Perfection!  Make this for Valentine’s day, for a birthday or for a celebration. It is a special occassion cake.  

Shahi Paneer

Somebody please explain to me what’s with all the Halloween themed dress up parties here in India, spooky deserts and special Halloween themed menus at restaurants. I am at a loss here. I understand Indians living abroad dressing up their kids and showcasing for us on facebook. They’ve got to get along. But here in India? Why ya? There is only so much pumpkin spice anybody can take. And you guys do know we get pumpkin all year round around here. Does Kasi Halwa ring any bell?     I am not on the beef banning side, mind you, in case you start to think I am a saffron propagandist. I am all for embracing other cultures but I really wish we were more aware of our own rituals and festivals.  Embrace local. Take pride. Learn about them or they may be lost forever until Americans patent them and National geographic makes a documentary. Did you know about the Maasana Kollai festival? I bet 8 out of 10 wouldn’t know. It is an ancient Tamil ritual that is at once scary and fascinating. Dr. Lakshmi, our family friend often recounted tales of how she’d stay up all night during Shivaratri playing Dhaaya kattai with her sisters and cousins. It sounded like fun but I have never stayed up during Shivaratri. I don’t stay up for New year’s eve either. I generally don’t stay up. When I was a little girl, still in school, we once went to the beach during Chitra-pournami in a huge group of family and friends with a big picnic hamper of lemon rice, tamarind rice, curd rice, vadam, mor milagai and maavadu. It was a fun outing. I wish I’d stayed up for shivaratri, I’d woken up for Vaikunta yegadesi, accompanied my mother for the golu round-ups and learnt to make adhirasam from Ammama. I wish I’d slept less.  You know what I’ve been making lately? I didn’t make pumpkin spice anything, you’d know. Bread toast and bulls eye. I can’t seem to tire of it, ever. I can safely say I’ve mastered it. One of the days, I made Shahi paneer along with mushroom pulav for Hasini’s lunch. I’ve unknowingly reared a paneer fiend here. The little girl will order paneer anything anywhere anyday. So paneer finds its way into our menu at least once every week. This is a Sanjeev kapoor’s version of Shahi paneer, minus...

Best chocolate frosting ever

Ok, I don’t like American buttercream. Who does anyway? There are those who say they love American buttercream. I can’t understand them. I don’t suppose they’ll understand my cheese cube with lemon & honey routine or why I like to dip vadai into payasam. Does that gross you out? You don’t understand what you’re missing. American buttercream is way too sweet and never smooth enough for me. I have been on the lookout for smooth, silky, not too sweet frosting recipes forever. Just like I’ve always been on the lookout for a good tailor, just like my mother is perpetually on the lookout for a good house-help. This chocolate frosting is bang on. It is smooth, velvety, just sweet enough and gorgeous on just about anything. I will take the extra effort, cook the milk, sugar and cocoa down to a pudding, strain it even, melt the chocolate, chill everything up and wait till everything chills before beating them together, all for this beauty. The most difficult part for me is waiting while these components chill. It is slow and excruciating. But once chilled, it thickens up nicely and pipes like a dream. It is best to take small portions of this frosting in the piping bag at any time while putting the rest into the refrigerator while you work to keep the frosting nice and chill. Prep time: 45 minsCooking time: 10 minsMakes: enough to frost 15 cupcakes Ingredients Good quality dark Chocolate – 80 gm (I used Bourneville)Milk – 1 cup (230 gm)Maida/All purpose flour – 1/3 cup (43 gm)Cocoa powder – 3 tbspGranulated white sugar – 2/3 cup (134 gm)Salt – pinchUnsalted Butter – ½ cup (113 gm) Method 1.       Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat, stir till the chocolate is nice and smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. 2.       In a saucepan, combine cocoa, maida and salt and whisk well. To this add milk slowly whisking till all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add sugar to the saucepan and place on stove. Cook on low heat whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken slowly to a thick pudding consistency. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve. Press with the back of a spoon to force the mixture through. Chill this mixture for 15 minutes. 3.       Take room temperature butter in a large bowl and beat for a minute until soft and...

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