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!  

Shortcut Bhel Puri

The kind of holiday I really like is the one where I am the only one on holiday and everybody else is busy. Kids are at school and very important – husband is working too and not from home. Others at home are away too. I am at home, I am alone and I am free. I can watch TV but I’ve lost touch. I don’t know what I’d like to watch. I can sleep but I am too excited to. I can read. Aha, What a pleasure! Which among all those “first chapter alone re-read several times to get back into context” books do I read now – “Sita’s Ramayana”, “Interpreation of Dreams”, “Hegemony or Survival”? Or should I write? Should I read or should I write? I am not making the de facto lunch of the house. I am not making rice, sambar, varuval and poriyal for lunch. I am not making dosai for those who won’t eat rice. I am not making an extra poriyal for those who won’t eat kezhangu. I am not making omelettes to order during lunch hour. I am not making an extra portion of rice just to be on the safer side and then deal with the leftover rice. I am not cooking at all. I am making a bad-ass shortcut bhel puri. I am going to lounge in my shorts, have some friends over – no mommy friends I need to behave with, where I need to be at my best. Note to me: There aren’t any such.   It’d have to be lazy-ass friends who’ve seen worse, who can be just as bad. +Sangeetha, +Lakshmisri Gopalan come to mind. We’d eat extra large portions of bhel puri for lunch, watch a dabba Tamil movie on K TV, talk and gossip uncensored, uncut and unthinking. My shortcut bhel puri is truly shortcut. And you know how fond I am of shortcuts however long they may be. I had to visit 4 grocery stores this week to get all my ingredients in place, not that they’re difficult to find. But I just couldn’t find the one ingredient that I wanted in the store that I had gone to. Happens to me all the time. I make a simple sweet and sour sauce with tamarind and jaggery and that is by far the only work in this recipe. I have to say this but I...

Fried Moong dal Toast

I am in ‘plan-B’ mode these days. I think I must make a decorated, layer cake for my dad’s birthday, then switch last minute to a brownie with frosting and finally make just the brownie. I buy loads of green chillies to make Mor Milagai but I can’t find Mor (buttermilk) anywhere. But I didn’t look for it. To think that just a couple of weeks back our fridge harboured not just tons of Mor and yogurt but other assorted wild cultures of I don’t know what (and I threw them out, peasant me. Sour-dough illiterate!). I make pizza dough, pizza sauce and even ready the toppings but don’t make pizza because I can’t find Mozzarella. My to-make vathal and oorkai (pickle) list are growing, summer is full blast on in Madras and I do nothing. I am waiting for yogurt to sour when there is no yogurt at home, for bananas to blacken but they get eaten up. I am there, yet not there. It’s there, but not there. I want to do, but don’t. I know many people who’d call this laziness. Maybe. I can’t wholly deny that, so I’ll accept it. So one morning I wake up to an idli-batter less fridge which means tiffen other than idli/dosai. I’d planned pesarattu or French toast but made Fried Moong dal toast instead. It is not my invention though. I remember a similar recipe in a Nita Mehta book that I am not able to locate now. I soaked moong dal in some hot water for 10 minutes (you can soak in regular water for 20-25 minutes) because I woke up late and I was in a hurry which is my normal state of things. I then ground the dal to a coarse paste, mixed in finely minced green chillies and fresh coriander leaves and slathered them on some bakery bread (these are smaller than your regular loaves and are usually softer) – both sides of each slice and then deep fried them till the edges are dark brown and crisp. I had a mild attack at the amount of oil the bread was taking up and I tried a skinny pan fried version with a couple of slices. I am sorry health freaks but deep fried toast was undoubtedly the winner – crispy edges and slightly chewy, crunchy dal coated inside. It was fantastic. I made this for...

Easiest Parmesan Biscuits

5 signs I am getting older, acting older I gravitate to the easiest recipes (like these amazing Parmesan biscuits), the quickest recipes, the one pot ones, the pressure cooker ones. The baklavas, the opera cakes, adhirasams remain on the to-try list. I stop opening forwarded messages. I have no respectable profile pictures to update. I lose faith in the ‘like’ system and I have absolutely zero interest in selfies. A cookbook and amrutanjan (pain balm) are always under my pillow. I haven’t read a book without ingredient lists and cooking techniques in ages. I start telling myself that cakes ought to look like cakes and not so life like. I catch myself thinking – Instead of a barbie cake, why not a simple rosette cake and an actual barbie? Instead of a whiskey bottle cake, why not an undecorated rustic tiramisu loaded with rum? All this may have something to do with the fact that I am as good at cake decorating as at making small talk (no good) and gaping at the unbelievably stunning cakes on Home Baker’s guild and reality finally checking in. I order hot coffee at coffee shops and never cold coffee anymore. Invariably I have a headache too. I need a hot coffee and preferably an aspirin as well. When my friends suggest going out for New Year’s eve I say “None of these loud new year bashes. Somewhere quiet, away from the crowd and preferably early evening so that I can get back home for dinner”. I’ve got more than 5 here. I must be getting older than I think. But these Parmesan biscuits are easier than you think. These Parmesan biscuits just melt in the mouth and it is hard to believe they’re so easy.  They’re perfect as a snack or as party nibbles. What made them easier than the original recipe was that I forgot the eggs that had to be added. Another sign there. I made eggless Parmesan biscuits thanks to my absent mindedness. They were harder to cut out into proper shapes as you can see. I made rustic roundish biscuits by pinching a marble sized ball of dough and then simple flattening it out with my hands and pressing down with the back of a fork for some pattern.  I loved the biscuits. Hasini loved them. Yuvi loved them. My dad loved them. 4 of us agreed on it....

Paneer cheese vegetable sandwich (Juice junction style)

I’ve taken it upon myself to teach Hasini one Tamil cinema song a week, every week until I find a music class for her. I want Hasini and Yuvi to appreciate good cinema and good music as much as I want them to appreciate good food. Born into a nil-music background family, but a bonafide cinema-crazy family Hasini needs to keep up. Do you remember those days there would be little cinema song booklets sold on road platforms that had the lyrics for every song in the movie. I don’t know if these are around still. I’d love to get my hands on some. My dad would collect those booklets, memorize the lyrics and sing along to the songs on the gramophone. I sing along to the radio in my car. I don’t want Hasini to just sing along to her i-pod. Hasini is the family’s only hope. Lately Hasini and Yuvi have been pouting “Let’s take a selfie pulla, give me a umma umma” which is kind of cute but I don’t know if her principal might approve of it. What if her principal is a “Thala” Ajith fan? I have a hard time picking songs that are appropriate for her. Ever since Hasini won the fancy dress competition in her school singing M.S Subbulakshmi’s “Kaatrinile varum geetham”, she has been singing that for every teacher in her school, every athai, paati, onu-vitte-mama, next-door aunty and postman. I want her to sing a wider variety of songs. I am no purist but I don’t want to teach her “Daddy mummy veetil illai” or “Katti pudi Katti pudi da”. If you have suggestions for good songs that she can learn please do let me know in the comments box at the bottom of the post. I’d really truly appreciate it. I’ve been mixing up her lunch too for a little variety. I sent her this paneer cheese vegetable sandwich yesterday hoping and praying that she’d eat it up and not bring back leftovers and embarrass me. Yeah, it is a very big deal.I opened her lunch box with nervous anticipation and peered inside.Just a few tomato slices. I was ecstatic. She told me later that she didn’t like the tomatoes but the sandwiches were good. I’ve wanted to re-create these sandwiches ever since I ate them at Juice-junction in Bangalore, which is a very very long time ago. I loved...

Chicken – 65

Yesterday during our skype conversation, Yuvi tried to pounce on his dad by head-butting the laptop screen to directly jump into America. It is Yuvi’s way of saying “I miss you”. Jagan is more away than in. He’s away for most occasions – kids’ first day of school, his own birthday, Hasini’s birthday and now our wedding anniversary. I was going to make a classic Tiramisu for our wedding Anniversary today, from scratch but didn’t have Rum. If only Jagan were here! I am fighting the lone battle against lizards and “Maravattais” (millipede) in our house. Even yesterday, I kicked out a maravattai that had found its way into our bathroom. I am not enjoying driving during weekends and definitely not finding parking. I never worried about car repairs, AC repairs, bills and public relations at home. It is hard to believe that Jagan was taking care of all of these silently while watching “Two and half men” and “Destroyed in seconds” and while always being “just now seen”  on whatsapp. It is my way of saying “I miss you”. So I made chicken-65 instead (of Tiramisu). How in the world Chicken-65 instead of Tiramisu? We love both equally. Jagan’s love of chicken is un-paralleled. Hasini takes right after him. She even eats like him I noticed yesterday just like how Bhagyaraj’s son in “Mouna Geethangal” adjusts his glasses like his dad. Bhagyaraj is a genius. Anybody who disagrees is… is… is not my friend. I made this lip-smacking chicken-65 (courtesy: Chef Jacob’s cookbook “Asaiva samayal”) and Jagan’s favourite coconut and poppy seed chicken curry along with chappathis yesterday and wolfed down everything to my heart’s content all the while thinking how much Jagan would have enjoyed this meal.For more south-indian non-vegetarian recipes check out Maayandi Kudumbathinar Menu | South-Indian Non-vegetarian dishes Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 3 Ingredients Boneless Chicken cut into small pieces – ¼ kiloOil for deep fryingCurry leaves – 1 stemOnion – 1 medium chopped fineGreen chilli – 1 chopped fineGinger – 1 inch mincedGarlic – 4 pods minced Marinade Ginger – 1 inch pieceGarlic – 5 podsGreen chillies – 3Kashmiri Red chilli powder – 2 tspSalt to taste Dipping Batter Corn flour – 4 tbspWater – ¾ cup Saute mixture Whisked yogurt – ¼ cupSalt – a pinchKashmiri red chilli powder – 1 tspTurmeric powder – ¼ tsp Method Clean chicken, pat dry and cut...

Leftover Dal Tikki

Happy Vinayaka Chaturthi everyone!  Strangely I have the TV and remote all to myself and I am flitting from one cinema climax to the next and I am loving it. Strangely there are so many good movies on today and not “Singam” or “Singaravelan”.  Sorry, that was last week when I sat down to write this. I loved “Yaam Irruke Bayame”. It was hilarious. “Endrendrum Punnagai” was good too. I’ve been sitting on these Leftover Dal Tikkis, an absolutely cracking puff pastry recipe, my first really well decorated red rosette cake and a whole lot of stories but haven’t been able to sit down to it. I don’t want to open the fridge these days. It is scary. Yesterday’s rice, last week’s lemon rice, alpha, beta 1 and beta 2 versions of the same coriander chutney, assorted slices of cakes, extra frosting, light fresh rasam, concentrated rasam, multiple loaves of bread, huge dabbas of dosai maavu (dosai batter), one hardened chappathi dough ball that’ll make exactly one chappathi.... multiple blocks of butter, the half tin of cherries (from the fantastic blackforest cake), multiple bags of lindt chocolates (we hoard lindt chocolates) and Hershey’s kisses stare me in the face (We’re out of eggs though). And I can’t find a place for my little bowl of dal. I told you about Joint families. We’ll have multiple versions of everything but never enough eggs. Some repurposing was in order. I wasn’t going to throw out my favourite dal. I re-arranged, switched smaller dabbas for a few bigger dabbas and managed to squeeze the dal into the fridge. We were going the have leftover dal tikkis the next day (but I made up the recipe as I went along). I first cooked the dal down to a thickish consistency, adding in powdered oats, some fresh green peas and spice powders, drizzling in some oil now and then to help along and reducing it to a dough almost. I then shaped it into tikkis, rolled in bread crumbs and shallow fried in butter and oil. I didn’t have to find a place for the dal tikkis in the fridge that night. The tikkis were gone. Success! Next alpha, beta 1 and beta 2 chutnies.. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 15 minsMakes: 10-12 tikkis Ingredients Any leftover Dal – 1 cupGreen peas – ½ cupOats – 4 tbsp powderedRed chilli powder – ½ tspGaram Masala powder...

Vegetable stuffed Somas

It is finally raining here in Chennai and my kids are sound asleep already. It’s such a pretty sight the two things and together it’s almost poetic. I am left strangely unoccupied and free and for a moment I didn’t know what to do. Confused, I called up a couple of numbers but none of them picked up. I could watch TV, cook, bake, read or write. I chose to write. It’s been raining all over Tamil Nadu but not in Chennai. It finally rained today. So tomorrow morning’s Tennis class is Ooooo (Ooooo in Chennai Tamil is “gone”, “game over”). But did I tell you that these days I wake up before 6 am everyday, Tennis class or not. Yeah, it’s a medical miracle. I don’t know if Kochadaiyan’s advice (“Suriyan ku mun yezhundhu kol Suzhiyaniye jeipaai”) had anything to do with it. But I am changed.  Every night I prep for next day’s breakfast and lunch, box them and shove them into the refrigerator – chopped vegetables for curries and poriyals, grated coconut and sautéed onions for chutnies, boiled potatoes with skin for potato fry, peeled garlic, finely minced ginger, sautéed pureed gravy bases for gravies and curries and anything else I can prep beforehand without worrying about it getting spoilt. Next morning as soon as I am up, I pull out all my boxes from the fridge and start them all off – grind, temper, sauté and have them cooking while I run back and get a kicking Hasini out of bed and ready for Tennis class. By the time we leave for Tennis, they’re all almost done. We rush back from Tennis, shower, dress, eat and rush to school just a few minutes late as always. That is again a miracle how we always seem to arrive at that time irrespective of how packed or totally empty our mornings are. The few mins after the bell seems to be our steady state. I feel like a super-efficient, mean machine like a fighter bomber – planning and prepping the previous night, cooking and packing Hasini’s lunch, taking her to tennis class, readying Hasini and little Yuvi for school and finally dropping them off. The bombs are dropped. Mission accomplished. By the time I reach office, I am done. What Iittle is left, my boss finishes off for me. I made these vegetable stuffed somas on one of...

Breaded sweet potato crisps

I waited outside the gate to the kindergarten section at Hasini’s school this morning bracing myself for a fight. I was prepared to talk to the Head-mistress if necessary or stage an online protest, post facebook ads… whatever it took. I came home on Friday last week to a teary eyed Hasini who ran up to me and wailed “Amma, Miss adichitaange ma, thititaange ma, naa school po maaten”(Teacher beat me, scolded me, I don’t want to go to school). She cringed at the mention of school but she could not get it out of her mind either. However much I tried to move the conversation to cheerier things, she circled back to school Me: “2 days leave – Saturday and Sunday. Jolly!” Hasini: “Adhukku apparam school a” (After that is there school?) Me: Lunch pidichidha inniki? (Did you like your lunch today?) Hasini: Nariye yen vecha? (Why did you pack so much?) I could not bear to see my child so forlorn and anxious. She forgot her worries temporarily over the weekend watching Chotta Bheem, splashing around in our huge new inflatable swimming pool (which I spent 2 hours inflating with a hand pump and would have taken another 8 hours but then remembered our vintage vacuum cleaner and managed to finish inflating in 2 minutes) and getting her nails polished. But she woke up today, silent and dull and wouldn’t eat a thing. When the assembly was finally over, I walked over to her classroom and met her teacher determined to be direct, diplomatic, firm and tough all at the same time. I introduced myself and told her how miserable Hasini was. The teacher replied smiling “I know Hasini well. I was just being stern.  I think of them as my own kids..” and I burst into tears. The teacher was mighty embarrassed and had a hard time consoling me. For all my bravado, I am a scaredy-cat when it comes to my kids. I really hope the teacher meant what she said. And I hope Hasini had her lunch. I made these breaded sweet potato crisps that she really enjoyed eating recently (at Mathsya’s buffet) for lunch today along with baby corn pulao. The sweet potato crisps were nice, crisp and tasty. I carefully packed a small portion of pulao and sweet potato crisps so she wouldn’t worry about finishing lunch. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 20 minsServes:...

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