Khoya_aloo_mutter

Khoya Aloo Mutter

I have woken up late. It is a holiday. I don’t go downstairs to the kitchen because I want to scrub myself clean today after a week of 5-min showers. Actually I want to avoid the late-comer scene. There may be no dialogue but those scenes are usually the worst. I put it off for later.   I massage copious amounts of oil on kids’ heads trying to make up for instant noodles, lollipops, smartphones and excessive T.V. I hope I am making up in some way. I scrub them up, dress them and send them downstairs so I can wallow in the bathroom in peace. I massage oil, apply the face pack for good measure and think of soaking my feet but begin to feel I am taking too long. I then try to relax but hurry along at the same time. It is some auspicious day. When I finally descend downstairs feeling clean, smelling nice for a change, I am ravenous. I eye the kids in the hall watching TV and eating from banana leaves. I head to the kitchen. Nobody’s around. I find some vadais are already fried, payasam made, sambar, rice and potato thokku ready by the side. I grab a vadai and bite into it. There’s no salt in it I realize. I go out with the half eaten vadai and see that there’s no banana leaf in the Pooja room. Poojai is not over yet. You don’t eat before the poojai (Kids don’t count). I turn back to the kitchen and try to find a nook to hide my half eaten vadai in. I also know that there’s no salt in it. At that moment, somehow everybody emerges ready for Poojai. Maamiyaar heads to the kitchen to fry more vadais. I have just enough time to snuck the vadai in a corner. I walk out trying to look innocent, casual and purposeful. I don’t want to be stopped. I hold the terrible truth about the salt-less vadai batter. It breaks me to think I’d have to eat salt-less vadais. My mind races on how best to expose this truth before the vadais are fried. Just telling her is not an option. That’s not how we roll here. I ask the kids about the vadai. They haven’t eaten it yet. They’re too engrossed in TV. I manage to corner Jagan in the hall, I lower my...
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...
Vegetable kurma restaurant style

Vegetable kurma – restaurant style

I am trying to mentally note down little pieces of dialogue that kids happen to say, to narrate later. Over weekends, I am adjusting the web-cam to fit everyone into the skype window or scouring the country’s Amazon website for the best deals that I can get without shipping and exchange rate overheads. I do what a wife-of-frequent-traveller-husband does best. For a short period, I live a slightly lame bad-ass, almost-single-but-with-kids-and-domestic-duties kind of life. I while away weekends, play loud music, defraud dinner, read the day’s papers first, in its original folding from the living room instead of the toilet, get around to my long-lost to-do list & re-do that list and command kids freely.   I schedule my best laid plans for the husband-away days. Finally I have the remote, but I’ve lost touch. So TV remains off. The Bose player is on throughout starting with M.S. Subbulakshmi’s Suprabatham in the morning to “Saathi Malli poocharame” in the evening. I plan my vathal and pickle learning sessions, parlour appointments, family visits, pondy bazaar shopping trips and meetings with friends during these times. I make Mor Kuzhambu, keerai masiyal, dal and rice with abandon. No Mor Kuzhambu opposition party to accommodate. I read into the night in full glow of the CFL. I write through the night, I’d like to think. I am staring at the blank document, watching cake decorating tutorials on youtube, staring at the document, scrolling facebook and staring at the document. I make vegetable pulav, vegetable curry and order vegetarian pizza because Jagan is a strict non-vegetarian. I make different iterations of vegetable kurma (This recipe is from the canteen maami. Thank you!) I test and re-test. I make again till it tastes like this. It is hot and heady aromatic pulling you from wherever you are to the kitchen, is full bodied enough to scoop with a piece of roti or mop up with some idiyappam and you eat an extra roti/idiyappam for the kurma. That to me is a true tribute to the kurma. This vegetable kurma is that kind of kurma. Enjoy!  

Capsicum Aloo Mutter | Capsicum, Peas and potato curry

Is it still new year on 9th Jan, oops 10thJan? Is it too late to clean the house and have it painted before Pongal next week? Is Linga still in theatres? Is it a bad start to the year to have slept in 7 of the first 10 days of the year, to have been late every day to school? Is it normal to want to make a new master to-do list for the year in Excel but not put “do-by-dates” for any of the items? Is it okay to make a birthday cake after the birthday? Is it terrible to plan to make Idiyappam and curry the night before, sleep early to wake up early but then wake up late and make oats the next morning and douse it in Hershey’s chocolate syrup? When I cleaned out my wardrobe yesterday, I found 2 categories of everything – tops, T-shirts and churidars I actually wear and those I hope to wear someday. Those that I used to fit into long back, that I wish I could get into now, that I hope to fit into someday soon, that I don’t have the heart to give away ‘cos that would mean I’d given up. Do you do that too? Is Capsicum Aloo Mutter celebratory enough for the first recipe of the year, though not cake, dessert or sweet? Do you also adore the aroma of capsicum as it cooks? But cook it just so, in the last few minutes before you switch off. Capsicum ought not to be overcooked, ever. Capsicum makes this curry lovelier. I added a dollop of fresh yogurt for just a hint of creamy tang, a pinch of garam masala to notch up the flavour and finally a dash of sugar to round everything out. Play around, taste as you go, you’ll know when you’ve hit the sweet spot. And hey, Happy New Year to all my readers. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 25 mins Serves:  4 Ingredients Capsicum – 1 seeded and chopped into 1 square inch pieces Peas – 1 cup Potato – 1 large boiled, peeled and cubed Onion – 1 large chopped fine Tomatoes – 2 pureed Ginger Garlic paste – 1 tsp Red chilli powder – 1-1/2 tbsp Coriander powder – 1 tsp Turmeric powder – ½ tsp Salt to taste Cumin powder – 1 tsp Garam Masala – ¼ tsp...

Coconut and poppy seed chicken curry

I turn down the fan speed to the lowest possible. I’ve not switched on the AC in weeks. Hindu’s pages are filled with kutchery schedules and concert reviews. Garden fresh green peas, mochai and double beans call out to me from the vegetable market on Mambalam Station road. Sundari silks and GRT Jewellers are already handing out their 2015 calendars along with sarees and jimkis.  I am craving hot, spicy curries, some rice and a not too sweet dessert (which I probably do all year round). Winter must really be here in Chennai. Which also means December is here. More importantly November is gone (did I really have to say that? please grit your teeth if you have to, but stay with me. I am on to something here) and with that Hasini’s 5th birthday as well. After twisting myself into crouching tiger and hidden dragon positions (Hiyah! Oo! AaaI) frosting a single barbie cake, running out of frosting midway through making barbie’s skirt (as expected), starting over again making frosting, colouring and then finishing in a haze of neck pain and back ache, I am ready to give my readers some invaluable “What not to do” advice while making a barbie cake. I’ll save that for another day though. The point is I managed to PLAN, prep, prep and prep some more (I prepped like mad), cook, bake, decorate, take a bath before Hasini’s  friends arrived, make conversation with my friends (and not really worry about the empty chutney bowl. That’s kind of hard for me) and pick up the dirty plates and glasses before my feet gave way.  One more birthday party up my sleeve or rather – down my back. Oucch! I lounged around the entire weekend after the party. I had to. I felt I had to. Fought for the remote, argued with kids over Chota Bheem vs movie, watched about 10 half movies on TV (I am never able to catch one full movie from start to finish these days),ate mochai kottai kuzhambu,  vazhakkai bajjis (Amma samayal), slept, ate out, came home and went to bed early. On to the season special, I ain’t making no pumpkin pie or mashed potatoes ‘cos my maamiyaar is always putting the parangikai (read pumpkin) in the kootu and the potato in the thokku (although I’d really like to give the pumpkin pie a shot). My winter special dish...

Paneer Pasanda with Ghee Pulav

Today while we were walking to Hasini’s class in the morning because we were uncharacteristically and shockingly early and the gates were still open, Hasini’s buddy joined us. Hasini’s buddy: “Hasini didn’t finish her oothappams yesterday” Me:  “Yeah, she didn’t. She doesn’t finish her lunch, keeps bringing back leftovers these days. She shouldn’t right?” Hasini’s buddy: “Maybe you should make what she likes” (Palaar – slap sound) Me: “Bae.. Bae – ” (thinking Who have you been talking to? My Maamiyaar?) After this most humbling conversation I felt grateful that I had packed Hasini Vegetable fried rice and Chinese style hot and sweet potatoes today. In my defence, Hasini likes oothappams and I had exactly 27 minutes that morning to pack lunch, make breakfast, bathe the kids and ready them for school. That I got up late is besides the point. I had to somehow make do in 27 minutes. And you wouldn’t believe but every time we go to a Saravana Bhavan or Vasanta Bhavan Hasini orders the seven taste oothappam ever since she tried it during a trip. She wouldn’t trust us that they’re out of oothappams. She likes to confirm with the waiter herself. But yesterday, the little rascal wasn’t in the mood for oothappams it seems. My fundamental principle, the absolute core of my faith is that children need to appreciate all kinds of food. I don’t want them turning up their noses to Upma, away from Adai and kanji or being reluctant to try Lasagna or Risotto. I want them to give everything a try. So In-spite of that most chastening advice from Hasini’s friend (and domestic cold wars nothwithstanding), I’ll still send Hasini the beetroot rice or cabbage stuffed parantha or Thinai Kichadi. I do make it a point to mix it up with some of her favorites. Like this Paneer Pasandha and ghee pulav (She loves paneer). She polished off her lunch that day and had the leftover Paneer Pasandha for dinner too. She licked her fingers clean. If you’ve always been frying paneer cubes and tossing them into gravies, then you’ve got to try this one. You’ll want to make it for guests, for dinner parties. It is lovely. All said and done, Oothappam smeared with milagai podi and gingelly oil is a perfectly acceptable lunch, don’t you think. That’s what I thought for very many years. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time:...

Chicken Tikka Masala – Punjab special

I love the Punjabi food ideology – whole milk, full fat, heavy cream. These guys really know how to eat. Tandoori chicken, butter chicken, chicken tikka, kebabs, shahi paneer, Rabri, Batoora, Kulfi – Cream, butter, Ghee, paneer their food is rich and lip-smacking. This is not to say they don’t make healthy everyday stuff which they do, but those don’t interest me as much as these cream and butter loaded goodies do. Most Tandoori dishes originated from the former undivided Punjab. Most restaurants carry many of these Punjabi dishes, proof of their universal appeal. The chicken tikka masala and butter chicken masala are legends. The tandoori roti deserves a life-time achievement award.Among the most successful of all my state-wise recipe experiments and the most enjoyed one was this Chicken Tikka Masala. Chicken tikka masala has perfectly spiced chicken that is grilled and folded into a creamy, delicious onion-tomato based curry, laced with cream and butter.  Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the most popular british curries and I forget the number but several tonnes of it are sold every week. CTM as it is fondly called, although a recent adaptation, it is very much a Punjabi dish. I adapted Madhur Jaffrey’s chicken Tikka masala recipe from her book “Curry Nation” using her marinade as is but changing the curry slightly. It is a winner, no doubt. You can safely try this for the first time for a party without worrying about how it’ll turn out. It is perfect. But be mindful while grilling the chicken as it is very easy to overcook them. Vegetarians, just switch paneer for the chicken and you have the wonderful paneer tikka masala. Just as delicious. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 40 minsServes: 4 Ingredients – Marinade Chicken – ½ kilo boneless pieces cut into small chunksGinger-Garlic paste – 2 tbspFresh cream – 4 tbspLemon juice – 1 tspKashmiri red chilli powder – 2 tspCumin powder – 1 tspGaram Masala – 1 tspGhee/Melted butter – 2 tspSalt as necessary Ingredients – Curry paste Onions – 2 medium chopped roughlyTomatoes – 2 medium chopped roughlyGreen chillies – 2 roughly choppedGinger – 1 inch pieceGarlic – 4 clovesCinnamon stick – 1 inch piece Ingredients – Curry Yogurt – ¼ cupKashmiri red chilli powder – 1 tspGaram Masala – 1 tspCumin powder – 1 tspSalt as necessaryButter – 2 tbspOil – 1 tbspSugar – ½ tspFresh cream –...

Oriya Dalma

I’ll never be making paruppu (Dal) the same way anymore. In doing this state-wise blogging marathon, I’ve realized that paruppu (dal) features in almost every state but with just a tiny twist here, a little tweak there. And these tiny twists and tweaks do wonderful things to the un-assuming paruppu. The Dalma (adapted from here) is Orissa’s, sorry Odisha’s way of making dal – toor dal cooked with potatoes, eggplants and a dash of ginger and topped with ghee tempered panch phoran. Panch phoran is magical – I absolutely love the 5 of them. Yuvi enjoyed his rice and dalma and that is saying something. Till recently, he’s have his afternoon meal while riding his cycle. I’d wait while he has a bite and then cycles down the road, turns around and cycles back. With the Dalma, he did not dodge me while turning around. When he’s feeling particularly wild or doesn’t like the food, he likes to come near me but swiftly swerve away before I can thrust in the spoon. I’ll definitely be making Dalma again. Odisha is an ancient land, as old as the Mahabharata. It lies on the east coast of India above Andhra Pradesh and below West Bengal. Odiya or Oriya is the language spoken there. There are several wildlife sanctuaries in Odisha that are popular tourist attractions. From what I read Odiya people are dessert lovers – chhenapoda, rasgulla, chhena jheeli, kakara peetha are sweets made in Odisha. The Chhenapoda has been on my to-do list for quite some time now ever since some of my blogging friends posted it. They really aced it. I need to try it too. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 25 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Toor Dal – 1 cup Potato – 1 medium, peeled and cubed Eggplant – 2-3 stalks removed and quartered Green chillies – 2 slit lengthwise Ginger paste – 1 tsp Turmeric – ½ tsp Asafoetida – a pinch Salt to taste Ingredients – Spice powder Whole dry red chillies – 4 Cumin seeds – ¾ tsp Ingredients – Tempering Ghee – 2 tbsp Mustard seeds/Kadugu – ½ tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera – ½ tsp Fenugreek/Venthayam – 1/8 tsp Fennel seeds/Sombo/Saunf – 1/4 tsp Nigella/Kalonji – ¼ tsp Method 1.      Rinse dal in 2-3 changes of water and transfer to a pressure cooker. Throw in the cubed potatoes, quartered brinjals, ginger paste, green chillies, salt,...

Sana Thongba – Manipuri Paneer curry

Was I glad I could find a non-pork, non-momo dish to make from this north-eastern state. I found a simple rustic Panner curry that’s made in Manipur (original recipe here) and I pounced on it. I love it that it’s simple and uses minimal ingredients. Paneer is always popular at home and this Sana Thongba was well received too. Hasini adores Paneer. I dare not keep fried paneer cubes un-supervised while making the curry. While I am busy at the stove, a pair of chubby little hands would sneak in and grab a handful of the paneer cubes and by the time I turn, the little imp would be dashing out. If she’s running out, it’s usually either paneer or sugar that she’s gobbled up. With Yuvi it is bovonto or Coke or jelly. I served the Sana Thongba with Poori. It was perfect. It would be nice with rice too. There is no chilli powder and no tomatoes in this dish. The beautiful yellow of the curry is from the turmeric and milk in it. I wouldn’t change anything in it. You could adjust the heat by adding or reducing the green chillies though. Manipur, one of the seven north-eastern states, lies on the eastern edge of India and shares borders with Burma. I read that many Manipuri homes have little kitchen gardens where they grow their own vegetables and fruits and small ponds where they rear their own fishes. What a rustic setting! It’s giving me ideas. Where are my gardening gloves (do you wear gloves while gardening?) and those pots and seeds? I know zero about gardening but a kitchen garden is really tempting. They also use a lot of fresh herbs and roots in their cooking that are specific to the region. Their staple diet includes rice, lots of green leafy vegetables and fishes. No wonder they all look so svelte. Prep time: 10 minsCooking time: 15 minsServes: 3-4 Ingredients Paneer – 200 gm cut into cubesGreen Peas – ¾ cupOnion – 1 chopped fineGinger-Garlic paste – 1 tspGreen chillies – 5 chopped fineTurmeric powder – ½ tspMilk – 1 cupWater – ½ cupCumin seeds – ¾ tspCoriander leaves – a handful for garnishingSalt to tasteOil – 2 tsp + 2 tsp Method 1.      Heat 2 tsp oil in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and after a minute add the chopped onions and sauté till...

Kerala style Vegetable Stew

Happy New Year everyone! It’s the 1st day of the Tamizh calendar – Chithirai 1. I hope all of you have a fruitful, healthy and yummy new year. May this year bring the long awaited promotion, a discernible hike at the very least (sometimes I can never make out the difference, it’s that miniscule), weight-loss & hair-gain (I know everybody wants these), good food, great recipes and  family time. I am starting the year with a yummy vegetable stew. I had always thought Aappam was tamil. But appears Aappam is as much Malayalam as it is Tamil. Aappam is one of our beloved breakfast items at home.  We have it with sweetened coconut milk or with vegetable korma. I love it with sweetened milk. We like to tear up the soft spongy centres of Aappam and soak them in the sweet coconut milk while we eat the the lacy, crisp edges.  By that time the aappam pieces would be drenched in all that sweetness and each piece would be a little piece of heaven – sweet, soft, melt in the mouth madress. In Kerala, the vegetable stew is popular with Aapams. The vegetable stew is again a subtly spiced, elegant and creamy coconut milk based stew. It’s easy and tastes luscious. I tried Kerala style Pal Aappams with the vegetable stew. The Pal  Aappams did not turn out too well but the vegetable stew was great. My kids loved it. Prep Time: 20 mins Cooking time: 20 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Carrots – chopped ½ cup Green Beans – ½ cup chopped Potato – 1 small, peeled and cubed Green Peas – ½ cup Onion – 1 medium sliced Coconut milk – 1st and 2nd extract from 1 medium cococut Salt to taste Whole Black peppercorns – ¼ tsp Curry leaves – 1 sprig Cinnamon – 1 inch piece Cloves – 2 Cardamom – 2 Oil – 2 tsp Spice Paste Green chillies – 3-4 Ginger – 1 inch piece Method 1.       Heat oil in a pan. When hot add cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Then add the whole black peppercorns and curry leaves.  After a minute add the sliced onions and sauté until they turn translucent. 2.       Meanwhile grind together ginger and green chillies to a fine paste. Set aside. 3.       Then add the chopped vegetables and salt. Mix in the ground spice paste. Pour in the 2nd thin extract...

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