Double beans curry, Quinoa and roasted veggies

It’s been a long time. I hope you enjoyed the Navrathri school break. I may have enjoyed the holidays more than Hasini and Yuvan. When Yuvan woke up and realized he had to go to school, he whined and pleaded. I told him firmly he had to go to school. He had had a good break. He needed to get back to his routine. After their school van disappeared around the corner, I sat down with my cup of lemon and honey and mentally ran through my master list of excuses to not go to gym – “I needed a break” – I was already in one. “I was tired” – Not really “I was late. I didn’t have time” – Not applicable “I just didn’t feel like working out. I have to listen to my body” – This seemed most appropriate. So I went with it. I just didn’t feel like working out. I had to listen to my body. So I skipped gym. I sat sipping my drink thinking of what else I could get out of. The after-holiday blues are always so hard to fight off. I don’t want to cook. I don’t want to do the laundry. I don’t want to work out. I want to stay on the couch all day, undisturbed. Days like these I make my laziest meals. I hope to slowly get back into the grind. I have plenty of posts I planned to write and a host of de-cluttering to do around the house but never got around to. I am looking forward to breaking though the ennui and getting all of them done. Good luck to all of you in beating the post-holiday slow-down! The recipe I have today can easily be a lazy meal too if you remember to soak the double beans the previous night. Just dump everything in a pressure cook and cook until soft and your desired curry consistency. Serve over quinoa or hot steamed rice. Top with a fried egg if you want to up your curry and rice game. Serve hot. Enjoy!   A delicious and filling meal to warm you inside out!  
Thai green curry

Thai Green curry

After 12 long years of ups and downs, happiness and sorrow, after 12 summers, 12 diwalis, 12 pongals, 12 Aadi thizhuvizhas and innumerable “everydays”, she broke up. I missed her when she was away, more than I missed Jagan when he was away on business. She completed us. She knew where Yuvi’s black hotwheels car was, that the uniforms were not ironed, that the umbrella was broken. She knew where was what. She was the silent lever that kept the whole house running like clockwork. I cannot believe she is gone and I cannot imagine how I am to go on. Not a day would pass without looking for her arrival each morning. I doubt you’ll understand the pain I went through when she did not turn up someday. I’d run my conversations over and over in my head to be sure I had not irked her in some way. Now she is gone for good. Where am I to find a maid like her? Ok, I admit it. I may have feelings for her. Ever since she broke up (I’d say quit if I didn’t care about her), I’ve been running around the house like a mad woman, racing against time trying to multi-task at a multi-level – loading the washing machine while rice, idli and tadka (tempering) pan are on the stove, and running out to pluck some curry leaves and running back to a blackened pan to throw in the curry leaves, scrubbing the vessels while sambar is simmering, ignoring the calling bell (go back, come back in 2 months) making N coffee/teas one at a time (morning coffee/tea drinkers never preferring to converge, each inevitably asks for theirs at a unique time), taking out the compost and absentmindedly opening the lid without knocking and jumping at the sight of the lizard and running all around the house and coming back to check if it is gone, all the while yelling to the kids to brush teeth, bathe themselves, water the money plant and get the hell down here to help me with the lizard. In spite of this great loss, I managed to make this Thai green curry last weekend. I had to move on. I needed to treat myself after a hell of a week. Thai food is among my most favourite foods. I absolutely love Thai curries. Thai green curry has been on my list...

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...

Chettinad Kathirikkai (eggplant) gravy

After an un-inspiring week of idli sambar, dosa sambar and rice sambar potato thokku at home and then a nice languid trip to Pondicherry, beautiful vanilla crepes, gratins and curries later I am still blank and clueless. The vegetable basket in the fridge is near empty. I’ve not stood staring at stuff in a grocery store in weeks. The stash of fresh rosemary and dill I lovingly bought are dried, wilted and frozen for eternity in my freezer. The last my oven saw any activity were some nice crispy Parmesan biscuits weeks back. The oven has been having a holiday ever since. But I’ve been hoarding bowls, plates and cups like a mad woman. I can’t think beyond tiffin sambar for idli, potato fry and sambar. I’ve got into the dangerous home cook rut. It is scary. I turned to my cookbooks for help, for inspiration, for solace. I found this Kathirikkai gravy in the “Chettinad cookbook”. I found joy. I found one more side dish for dosai. I found a sustainable alternative to sambar. I made this curry in 15 minutes flat when Hasini and Yuvi were clamouring for their breakfast on a Saturday morning. It was very late in the morning (too late to mention). We had taken our time with the weekly “yennai and thalai-kulial” (oil massage and hair-wash). I had Pogo on to distract them while I got the gravy underway, but the commercial breaks are so much longer and the kids come running again. I heave the dosa kal (tawa) on to the stove while the Kathirikkai gravy simmers beside it, the aroma already wafting up from the kadai. While the dosa kal heats up, I try to engage little Yuvi in some conversation “Cone dosai” or “Round dosai” or “Kutti dosai”. Yuvi: “Yedha kuda ippo” (Give something now) I pour some dosa batter on the tawa and furiously spread it out in fast concentric circles to make a crisp dosa, drizzle some oil and then check the gravy, nearly done. I ladle hot chettinad kathirikkai gravy beside each dosa and bring it out to my cartoon watching, by now furious patrons. Hasini declared “I don’t want kathirikkai”. I cajole, threaten, lie and coax her to taste the gravy. She does. She asks for a second helping. Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 15-20 mins Serves: 5 Ingredients Kathirikkai/Eggplants/purple brinjals – ¼ kilo cut into...

Thai Red Curry

You’ll want this one. This is the best Thai red curry out there and this recipe is absolutely fail-proof and you don’t have to import Kaffir lime or Galangal ginger from Thailand. You have my guarantee. What’s my guarantee? If it doesn’t turn out good, you can come here to my blog and swear/complain all you want and I wouldn’t retaliate. But you really wouldn’t have to. Just follow the recipe and don’t skip any of the ingredients and you’ll be on your way to a stunning restaurant grade Thai red curry. I say this with confidence because I’ve messed up before and spectacularly. I’ve not been to Thailand and I don’t know if Thai red curry is different there. I am talking about the Thai red curry in good Thai restaurants (Benjarong, Lotus and the likes) here. So purists who cannot tolerate substitutions, this may not be for you. I love a good substitution and this curry has a few beautifully apt substitutions. For those new to Thai cuisine, Thai red curry is a beautiful, aromatic curry (could be vegetarian or non-vegetarian) that is traditionally served with long grained steamed rice. The crux of the red curry is the red curry paste which is fried and then simmered in coconut milk. The ingredients that go into this curry paste are plain beautiful. We’re familiar with most of these flavours in Indian cooking but not in this combination or intensity. Lemon leaves, coriander root (or stems, the stuff we discard usually) fresh ginger.. Can you imagine how divine this must smell? The guy who thought of this combination is a genius. If you didn’t make out by now, I am a huge fan of Thai cuisine and I am not the type who orders the same thing every-time I go to a restaurant (I like to experiment, screw up), but with Thai food, it’s always Thai red curry for me.      I followed my instincts this time and didn’t follow any one recipe but combined and edited a few recipes (which among others includes a Goodfood magazine recipe and a Nita Mehta recipe) to arrive at my Thai red curry recipe. If you do have Kaffir lime, galangal ginger and birds eye chillies (cute looking little red chillies) by all means use them. I’ve listed both the original and the substitutes below so that you can use whatever you have...

Mushroom & Green Peas Curry

Mushroom and green peas are a cute pair, they complement each other well and they taste so good. This curry is more of a stir-fry but a slow one, the juicy, lightly caramelized mushrooms and the fresh green peas on a simple onion-tomato base hit it off with just a dash of black pepper and red chilli powder. This is a simple and elegant dish. If you’d like the stir fry to be drier, skip the tomato. I didn’t add any water to this curry as I wanted a dry curry. So keep an eye on this curry while it cooks so that it doesn’t burn. Browning the mushrooms separately is the key to getting a dry curry not to mention the oodles of flavour that it adds to the dish. Serve hot with roti or rice. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 3 Ingredients Mushrooms – 1 pack (200 gm)Green Peas – 1 cupOnion – 1 large chopped fineTomato – 1 large chopped fineGinger-Garlic paste – 1/2 tbspRed Chilli powder – 1 tbspBlack pepper powder – 1 tspTurmeric powder – 1/2 tspSalt to tasteOil – 1+1 tbsp Method 1.      Rinse mushrooms well in water. Drain and pat dry. 2.      In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and add the rinsed mushrooms. Fry till all the water has evaporated and the mushrooms start browning around the edges. Remove on to a plate. 3.      In the same pan add the remaining oil and add the chopped onions. Stir around till the onions turn translucent. Then add the ginger garlic paste and let fry for 2 minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes and sauté till soft. Then throw in the green peas. Season with salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder. Mix well. Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes till the green peas are cooked through. Then add the fried mushrooms and mix well. Add black pepper powder. Mix well. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes for everything to blend together. 4.      Serve hot with rice or roti.

Paneer Peas masala – Spicy side dish with Pooris or Rotis

Whenever we go to restaurants, there are certain dishes that we order almost involuntarily. Top one has to be biryani (my husband’s all-time favourite), second top would be paneer butter masala. He’d go through the entire menu, front to back, back to front and then order biryani. These are dishes that no matter how many times we’ve had, we order again. The paneer peas masala dish that I am posting today is not a restaurant style paneer peas masala. It tastes even better and is definitely restaurant grade. It is a smooth, zesty curry infused with freshly ground masala and is an excellent side with roti, poori or pulav. I have to thank my dear friend Priya and her mother, who so generously wrote down multiple copies of this recipe for me and my recipe crazy friends. Priya’s tiffen box is hugely popular at work especially for this trademark gravy. I served this Paneer peas masala with Pooris. You could easily substitute the peas and paneer with boiled potatoes or par-boiled cauliflower. This is a versatile gravy base that you can improvise and apply to your needs. Preparation time: 10 minsCooking time: 40 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Paneer – 250 gm cut into cubesPeas – 1-1/2 cupsCinnamon – 1 inch stick Kalpaasi (Seaweed) – ¼ tspCloves – 2 Chilli sauce – 1 tspSoy sauce – 1 tspTomato sauce – 1 tspChilli powder – 1 tbspTurmeric powder – ½ tspGaram Masala – ½ tspButter – 1 tbspSalt to tasteOil – 2 tbsp Masala Onion – 1 large, roughly chopped Tomatoes – 2 large, roughly choppedCashewnuts – 7Fennel seeds/Sombu – 1 tspCinnamon – 1 inch stickCloves – 2Cardamom – 2Ginger – 1 inch piece peeled and choppedGarlic – 6-7 podsGreen chilli – 1 chopped Method 1.      Grind together all the ingredients called for under “Masala” and set aside. 2.      Heat oil in a kadai/skillet and when hot, add cinnamon, cloves and kalpaasi and stir around for half a minute. Tip in the ground masala, and cook on high for 10 mins.   3.      Add chilli powder, turmeric powder, and salt and mix well. Cover and cook on high initially and then on low till the oil separates. This takes around 20-30 minutes. Use a non-stick skillet to quicken the process. 4.      Add chilli sauce, tomato sauce and soy sauce and mix well. Drop in the paneer and peas. Cover and cook till the peas...
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