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...

Pan Roasted Paneer

Schools have reopened for the third term and we’re back to the usual grind all the while looking forward to the Pongal holidays coming up next week. Here’s a quick and tasty dish that you can easily rustle up on weekday mornings for your kids’ lunch boxes. An extremely quick roasted paneer dish that is sure to please kids and adults alike, this pan roasted paneer can be varied innumerable ways. You can serve this roasted paneer as a side with rice or rotis or simply as a snack. Stick in tooth-picks even and serve as party appetizers. Hasini loves paneer, she fishes them out of gravies and chomps on them. I make it easier for her by making these easy to eat roasted paneer. This is a perfect dish for weekday mornings. Just remember to toss the paneer in the marinade the night before and refrigerate. The next morning, just heat up a pan and shallow fry these paneer pieces till nice and roasted. Don’t worry about over-cooking the paneer. Generally over-cooked paneer turns rubbery, but I was pleasantly surprised that this paneer didn’t turn rubbery. I am guessing the marinating did the trick. This goes into my Somberi series of recipes – a special compilation of easy, no work recipes for lazy people like me. Are you lazy enough? Check out my Somberi series of recipes and see if you’re up to it. Prep time: 5 mins Cooking time: 5 mins Marinating time: 2 hours or overnight Serves: 4 Ingredients Paneer/Cottage cheese – 200 gm cubed Ginger-Garlic paste – 2 tsp Red chilli powder – ¾ tsp Lemon Juice – 1 tsp Water – 2-3 tbsp Salt to taste Oil – 2 tbsp Method 1.      In a bowl, mix together ginger-garlic paste, red chilli powder, salt and lemon juice. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time to make a marinade of medium consistency neither too thick nor too runny. Drop in the paneer cubes and use your hands to coat the paneer pieces well. Refrigerate overnight or for a minimum of 2 hours. 2.      Heat a tawa and add the oil. When medium hot, arrange the marinated paneer cubes on the tawa/pan and cook on medium low till the paneer pieces turn golden. Gently flip over and cook so that the paneer pieces are roasted on all sides. Remove from tawa and serve hot with steamed rice and...

Fish Fingers

These fish fingers were the biggest hit at Hasini’s birthday party couple of weeks back. Fish fingers are a great make-ahead party appetizer and they were one of the first things I got done for this party and they were the first things to go. Kids loved the fish fingers as did the adults. I prepared nearly 4 kilos of fish fingers (the day before the party) and it took me approximately 1-1/2 hours to get it all done. But I was mighty pleased that one big item on the party menu was done and was sitting snug in the freezer ready to be deep fried.  I stacked the fish fingers in neat lines in a big rectangular plastic box, and used butter paper to separate the layers of fish fingers to avoid sticking/breaking. The next day, I thawed them for a couple of hours and then deep-fried them in the afternoon but the party was not until late in the evening. I just warmed them in the oven before serving and they were perfect. I served them with mayonnaise and ketchup. I’ve given the scaled down family-size recipe though. This is an Indian fish finger recipe with just the right amount of heat and masala. I was apprehensive of trying the western type fish fingers with just salt, pepper and parmesan as I was serving it at a party and the crowd was mostly Mayandi Kudumbathinar type. This is really easy and there’s almost zero cleaning (seafood generally involves a lot of cleaning) involved. So here it is, a sure winner and a must try recipe. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 10 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Seer Fish – 15 boneless pieces cut into 1 inch strips Ginger paste – 1 tspGarlic paste – 1 tspLemon juice – 1 tbspRed chilli powder – 1-1/2 tbspSalt to tasteEgg – 1 beatenBread Crumbs – 1 cup spread on a plateOil – as needed for deep frying Method 1.      Rinse the fish pieces in 2 changes of water till the water runs clear. Handle gently. Pat dry and set aside. 2.      In a bowl, mix lemon juice, ginger paste, garlic paste, red chilli powder and salt to make the marinade. Dump the fish pieces into the marinade and mix well so that all the fish pieces are well coated in the marinade. Let rest for 20 minutes. 3.      Pick one fish piece at a...

Rajma Kebab

I bookmarked these Rajma kebabs from Srivalli’s blog last month. I tried them today, yeah just this morning and I am posting it hot off the stove. They’re that good and I am that late for my blogging marathon post (theme – “Bookmarked recipes”) and my office. First of all, these kebabs tasted awesome – crispy, soft and beautifully flavoured. I found these kebabs very interesting the way they’re made and they’re also a wonderful new way to present these lentils. My family I told you is not too much of a dal-roti type, they’re more of a rice-Meen Kuzhambu type, so dals aren’t very popular at home. So any recipe that spins lentils in a different way is always welcome. The Rajma is pressure-cooked and ground to a coarse paste, then again cooked with onion, tomato, yogurt and ginger-garlic paste and seasoned with red chilli flakes and garam masala. Once cooked through and nearly dry, the Rajma mixture is shaped into kebabs, dipped in a maida-cornflour batter and dredged in breadcrumbs and then deep fried to crispy golden perfection. Thanks Valli for a great recipe! Srivalli’s blog is like an encyclopaedia of recipes and all with easy to follow step-by-step pictures. I really like it that she mentions little mistakes and screw-ups also as part of the posts (like in this recipe, where I remembered to drain the water and then grind the Rajma) which I think are hugely useful to readers. I also enjoy the way she narrates everyday happenings in her posts. There was a time when I hated Rajma. Those were my MBA days in a college hostel in Bangalore where Rajma was the mess owner’s personal favourite. He made it a point to serve Rajma twice a week at the minimum along with jeera rice. Everytime it was Rajma, I’d head out for a bun and jam at our little potti kadai. But I don’t feel that way about Rajma now. Strange! Not long after my MBA, when they served Rajma and steamed rice on a jet airways flight I ardently ate it up while the rest of my family fiddled with their spoons. They didn’t like Rajma. Maybe it’s starting trouble with Rajma. This Rajma Kebab should definitely help get you revved up on your Rajma journey. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 40 mins Serves: 4-5 Ingredients Rajma – 2 cups soaked overnight...

Masala Vadai

This month being Purataasi, it’s been raining vadai, pongal and payasam every Saturday. Masala vadai is an all-time favourite and a classic Tamil dish (I have done no research into this, I just feel it in my bones. If it’s not, don’t sue me). Have you seen these masala vadais stacked high at tea stalls? Those vadais are usually much bigger and thicker. The ones we make at home are thinner which means they’re crisper and tastier. I enjoy the vadai-patting and frying routine. It’s a very comforting, typical Tamil-woman exercise (remember the Paati-vadai-Crow story). Masala vadais are much quicker and easier than the medhu vadais. The dal needs to soak just for a couple of hours, so you needn’t kick yourself you didn’t do the soaking the previous night. These masala vadais are much easier to shape too. Just remember not to add water to the vadai mixture at any point during grinding or at any other time. This is a firm vadai mixture. These vadais make great snacks along with a hot cup of coffee or tea. I am sending these masala vadais to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon #33 for the theme Kid’s Delight. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 15 minsMakes: 20 vadais Ingredients Channa dal /Kadalai paruppu – 1-1/2 cups rinsed and soaked in water for 2 hoursOnions – 2 chopped fineGreen chillies – 3 chopped fineGarlic – 5 pods with peelFennel seeds/Sombu/Saunf – 2 tspSalt to tasteOil for deep frying Method 1.      Rinse channa dal in 2-3 changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in water for 2 hours. Then drain the water and retain the dal. Pulse the dal in a mixer grinder to a coarse mixture. Don’t add water. Make sure not to grind it too smooth. It has to be a little uneven and a few dals may still be whole. This is how we want it. Remove onto a bowl. 2.      Add the garlic and fennel seeds to the small jar of the mixer grinder and pulse till it is crushed roughly but is not a smooth paste. Again do not add water. 3.      Throw in the chopped onions, crushed garlic mixture and the chopped green chillies. Season with salt. Mix well with your hands so it is properly incorporated. 4.      Heat oil in a kadai/skillet. Pinch a lime sized ball of the vadai mixture and pat into a round thinnish...

Brinjal Pakoda | Eggplant Fritters

I am currently in a phase of eggplant madness. I want eggplants on everything. I am dressing them in myriad ways and I am liking every one of them. The latest in the line is the eggplant fritter/Brinjal pakoda that I made a couple of days back. Brinjals/eggplants are so versatile; cut them into chunky quarters for a traditional brinjal curry or a spicy brinjal chops, or roast thinly sliced pieces for stylish toppings on pizzas or croutons (Roasted Eggplant topped crouton). The small purple variety of brinjals work best for this pakoda. But I am sure you can try it with other varieties as well. Make sure to slice really thin. This way the brinjal cooks faster, is crispier and tastier. I served this brinjal pakoda as a side with rice and dal. But these could very easily be prettied up as a party appetizer. Serve these hot along with a sour cream dip and you have a tasty new party appetizer. I am sending these off to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon #33 for the theme “Kids Delight” and to Srivalli’s Kids Delight Potluck party. Prep time: 10 mins + 30 mins resting timeCooking time: 7 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Small Purple Brinjal/Eggplants – ½ kilo thinly slicedGram flour/Besan/Chickpea Flour – ¾ cupRice flour – 3 tbspCurry leaves – 2 stemsOil – 3 tbsp + more for fryingGhee – 4 tbsp heatedRed chilli powder – 2 tbspTurmeric – ½ tspSalt to taste Method 1.      In a medium bowl, combine gram flour, rice flour, red chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Mix well. Set aside. 2.      Slice brinjal/eggplants really fine and throw them into the flour mixture. Add the curry leaves. Toss well to coat. Add oil and combine gently so that the flour mixture coats the sliced eggplants but not completely. Add the warmed ghee as well and combine till the flour mixture and eggplants are combined. Set aside for half an hour for the flavour to blend. 3.      Heat a skillet. Add oil for deep frying. When hot, drop tablespoon sized mounds of the eggplant mixture into the oil. Alternately you could drop individual pieces as well. Fry on medium high till golden brown. Remove onto absorbent paper. Serve hot. Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing BM#33

Vegetable spring rolls

Vegetable spring rolls are my favourite order at Chinese restaurants. Now they’re Hasini’s favourite as well. The other day I asked Hasini what she wanted for next day’s lunch and she immediately declared she wanted Spring rolls. So spring rolls it was last Saturday. Saturdays I live my dream house-wifey life (I hear house wifes smirking, but really). I cook lunch for the family, pick up Hasini from school, serve lunch and wait on them. I really look forward to Saturdays when Hasini’s school is working.  You could buy spring roll wrappers at stores which makes it much quicker and easier. I made them at home. I used just maida and water to make the spring roll wrapper batter.  The earlier time I made spring rolls, I added a well beaten egg as well which I thought gave the batter more structure and the wrappers were also easier to peel off the pan then. Spring rolls can be made ahead of time which makes them perfect party food. Make the filling, wrappers, fill, wrap them and refrigerate them until serving time. Remove them half an hour before serving time, deep fry in oil and serve hot with ketchup. I am sending these off to Blogging Marathon – Kid’s Delight theme and Srivalli’s Kid’s delight potluck party. Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 45 minsMakes:  7 spring rolls Ingredients – filling Carrots – 3 grated (about 1 cup loosely packed)Green French beans chopped fine – ¼ cupShredded Cabbage – 2 cupsFinely minced garlic – 1 tbspFinely minced ginger – 1 tbspSoy sauce – 1 tspWhite or Black pepper powder – ½ tspSalt to tasteOil – 1 tbsp + Oil for deep frying Ingredients – spring roll wrapper Maida/All purpose flour – 1 cupWater as necessarySalt – a pinch2 tbsp Maida dissolved in a little water to make a runny paste Method 1.      For the filling, heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and when hot, throw in the minced ginger and garlic. When the garlic starts colouring, add the vegetables and stir around on medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes till they wilt and shrink but are still crunchy. Add soy sauce, salt and pepper powder. Mix well and cook for another 2 minutes for the flavours to blend. Switch off and let cool. 2.      To make the wrappers, make a very thin runny batter by dissolving the maida/all purpose flour in water....

Cheesy croutons topped with eggplant and caramelized onions

I love croutons in any form, in salads, soups or just on their own. Cheese, roasted eggplant and caramelized onions make these croutons even more irresistible. These were absolutely lip-smacking and super easy to make. I bet you can’t stop with one that is if you don’t have anything against eggplants. Many do. But even diehard eggplant haters might change their minds with this one. The eggplants (note that I don’t say brinjal. Brinjal is for sambar and gotsu, Eggplant is for croutons and pasta) are sliced so fine and ever so lightly sautéed before being baked atop the cheese laden croutons. They just melt in your mouth. If you wish you could switch these toppings with just about any other vegetable of your choice – mushroom (vegetable or not?), paneer (though not a vegetable), sweet corn or chopped tomatoes would all be nice variations. I am posting these cheesy croutons for the third day of the Blogging Marathon for the theme – Mini Servings  and to the Kid’s delight event hosted by Nisha of The Magic Saucepan. These cheesy croutons would make great party appetizers too. Easy to put together and make-ahead starters that you can bake at the last minute just before serving. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 10 mins (5 mins sautéing + 5 mins baking) Makes: 24 croutons Ingredients Bread – 4 slices cut into cubes (1 slice into 6 cubes) 1 medium Eggplant – sliced really thin (I used the purple variety) Grated Cheddar Cheese – ½ cup Onion – 1 small sliced fine Minced Garlic – ½ tsp Olive oil/Butter – 1 tbsp + 2 tbsp Italian seasoning – 1/2 tsp (optional) Method 1.      Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. 2.      Cut bread slices into cubes. Don’t bother removing the crust. Arrange these on a baking sheet. Brush the top of each cube with a little bit of softened butter or olive oil. Set aside. 3.      In a pan, heat the remaining olive oil/butter and add the minced garlic and sauté for just a minute. Add the sliced onions and sauté till they are soft and caramelized about 5-7 minutes. Remove the onions and garlic to a bowl. Season with Italian seasoning if using. Set aside. 4.      In the same skillet, throw in the sliced eggplants and cook on low for 1-2 minutes till soft. Remove to a plate. 5.      To assemble, place some grated cheese on each of the...

Corn Cheese Balls

Corn cheese balls are perfect kid-pleasers. Everything about these golden cheesy balls spells fun – they’re crispy and crunchy with juicy sweet corn and gooey cheese. These corn cheese balls are rolled in bread crumbs and sesame seeds which impart a wonderful crunch and nuttiness. These would make great finger food for a kids party or any party for that matter. You can make these cheese balls the day before and refrigerate. You can deep fry them just before the party and warm in an oven before serving. Adults would enjoy these just as much as kids. I would order these any day. In fact, when out with friends we almost always order these cheese balls at Cream Centre. We’re a group of diet-agnostic, calorie-ignorant weight-watchers. We watch how our weight climbs every month. We have sudden realizations when we go shopping for clothes, and then we sincerely make exercise plans while we eat our samosas and masala vadais at tea break but our bosses don’t cooperate. We’re invariably stuck in office till late in the evening v-looking up, drafting verbose e-mails and doodling through long-drawn conference calls. And so our resolve fades and we forget until we see our photos and are shocked to see ourselves barely fitting within the photo frame. And so it continues. None of this should deter you from making or eating these corn cheese balls. They’re easy to make and taste just like the cheese balls in restaurants. There are lots of ways to lose weight. Depriving yourself of good food is not one of them. That’s what I tell myself. I am sending these corn cheese balls to Srivalli’s Blogging Marathon – Kid’s Party Finger food, to Srivalli’s Summer special mela and to Kalyani’s “Kids Delight” event. Prep time: 20 mins + 1 hour refrigeration Cooking time: 10 mins Makes: 25-30 cheese balls Ingredients Corn Kernels – 300 gm (about 2 whole boiled Corn cobs)Butter – 4 tbspAll purpose flour/Maida – 4 tbspMilk – 2 cupsBlack Pepper powder – 1 tsp (adjust)Salt to tasteParsley or Coriander – 1 tbsp finely choppedGarlic Powder – ½ tsp (optional)Grated Cheese – 6-8 tbspBread crumbs – 5 tbsp + 1 cup White sesame seeds – 2 tbspOil – for deep-frying Method 1.      If you have packaged corn kernels, steam them for 5 minutes or as per packet instructions. If you are using whole corn cobs, pressure cook the...

Crispy Shrimp Fritters/Crispy Prawn

These Shrimp Fritters are crispy, crunchy and beautifully seasoned with fresh ginger, garlic and spices. They make wonderful appetizers served with tomato sauce or a mayo dip. You could serve these on toothpicks too for parties. Once marinated and refrigerated, these are as quick and as scrummy as any of the store bought ready-to-fry packs. The only sore part is the cleaning, which I see as a sort of meditative time when you can think, plan and ponder a whole lot of things. While you shell and devein the prawns mechanically, your mind is free to plan the coming week’s menu, make shopping lists, choose what new necklines you’d like to try for your blouses and salwars (Sneha’s sleeve in that song, trisha’s neckline in that ad.. the tailor will anyway deliver something totally different like they always do for me), plan appointments/excuses, rehearse leave requests or sing out aloud. This is my kind of “me-time” – busy in the kitchen with my own thoughts with of course, frequent ad-breaks where my kids feature their talents. Now experience cooks may do it faster. But it took me around 20 minutes because I am a fresher with seafood. I am going to describe as best as I can how to clean shrimp/prawns for the benefit of other beginners like me. It’s quite gory like Vishwaroopam fight scenes, so delicate faint-hearted people, jump over to the recipe. For others, hold the shrimp in your left hand, rip off the head with your right hand, pluck out the tiny tentacle like things from the body, peel away the plastic like shell and then pinch the tail portion and pull gently to remove the tail. Now you’re left with the “C” shaped shrimp that is thicker at the top and tapers downwards. At the top convex edge of the “C”, use your fingers to open up the flesh and you’ll find the thin thread like structure (vein) which you can gently pull out. Don’t hold the shrimp too tight or you’ll not be able to pull out the entire vein.    The discarded parts of the shrimp make great manure you can use in your garden. As is the water you use to rinse the shrimp. So don’t throw these away. Preparation time: 20 minsMarinating time: 1 hr to 1 dayCooking time: 5 minsServes: 4 Ingredients Shrimp/Prawns – about 1/4 kilo cleaned and deveinedOil –...

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