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...
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!  

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 –...

Ghugni – Bihari Potato-pea gravy

Today’s special is Bihari Ghugni, a warm, hearty potato-pea gravy that’s easy to make and fantastic with pooris or rotis. This is the way our canteen Bhaiya makes Ghugni and he is from Bihar. Many a days we’ve been wrenched from our excel files by the ghugni aroma that wafts up from the ground floor kitchen to our cubicles on the third floor. We love watching Bhaiya in action especially when he’s making samosas. Once he even let me try making a samosa and I just about finished making the samosa when our boss arrived. I innocently walked out of the kitchen hoping he’d not seen what I was doing. He’d deport me to the canteen kitchen permanently (which I wouldn’t really mind). I was surprised that the ghugni was as simple as he said it was. But the taste is awesome. What’s more, it’s a one-pot pressure cooker gravy that’s quick and easy. Once you dump ‘em all in the pressure cooker, your job is done. While deciding the dishes for this state-wise menu, my most important criterion was that it should meld with our everyday cooking (as much as possible) and my family should be able to enjoy it. This ghugni is all that and more. The authentic version on the internet seems to use black gram but I am happy with the version that my canteen friend gave me. I’d lost my only chance of visiting Bihar when I didn’t make it for a Bihari friend’s wedding in Bihar. I wish I had. Bihar sounds like just the place for a hungry food blogger – litti chokha, kebabs, Rabri Jalebis.. Oh my, love it all. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 25 minsServes: 4-5 Ingredients Dried green peas – 1-1/2 cups soaked overnightPotatoes – 2 medium peeled and cubedOnions – 2 medium chopped fineTomatoes – 2 medium pureedGinger garlic paste – 1 tbspRed chilli powder – 1 – 1-1/2 tspCumin powder – ½ tspTurmeric powder – ½ tspGaram Masala powder – 1 tspSalt to tasteWater as necessaryCinnamon stick – 1 inch pieceGreen Cardamom – 2 wholeOil – 2 tsp Method 1.      Rinse dried green peas in 2-3 changes of water. Soak overnight. 2.      Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add the cinnamon stick and green cardamom. When the cardamom is nice and plump, throw in the rest of the ingredients. Add the chopped onions, ginger garlic paste, soaked...

Labra | Assamese vegetable curry

I have come to love panch phoran which seems so ubiquitous in the north eastern dishes of India. Now I want panch phoran in all my vegetable curries. I am especially in love with nigella (the seed mind you). Its heady, the aroma of nigella. To those who don’t know, panch phoran (five spices) is a combination of five spices (methi seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds and nigella seeds) that are tempered in oil and used in dals and currys and probably lots of other dishes that I don’t know about. There’s panch phoran in this Labra too. Labra is a lovely assamese vegetable curry. Labra is a medley of vegetables cooked in an onion-ginger-garlic-red chilli paste and tempered with panch phoran. Labra is beautiful eaten with steamed rice and dal. I used the Labra recipe from Sunita’s site. To someone whose only knowledge of Assam food was Assam tea, Sunita’s site was invaluable. Her site has lots of Assamese recipes, many of them with fish and all of them with mustard oil. I picked Labra because it was closer to home and I knew my family’d like it. The original recipe used potato, pumpkin, radish and eggplant but I settled for just potatoes and eggplants. I’d been planning to do Labra for weeks but I never had pumpkin at home and last week when a nice large home grown pumpkin sat on our dining table I chose to do the Labra without pumpkin. I am officially crazy and by birth lazy. So I just used potatoes and brinjals in the labra. I enjoyed labra with dal poori (Jharkand special coming up soon) although it is pictured here with rice. It was warm, just so rightly spiced and yummy. But the next time I make it I’ll eat it along with rice and dal. It just seems like the right thing to do. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 25 mins Serves: 4 Ingredients Potatoes – 2 medium peeled and cubed Eggplants/Brinjals – 6 small purple ones cubed Turmeric powder – ½ tsp Garam masala – ½ tsp Oil – 3 tbsp Mustard seeds/Kadugu – 1/4 tsp Cumin seeds/Jeera – ½ tsp Fennel seeds/Sombu – ½ tsp Nigella seeds – ¼ tsp Methi seeds – 1/8 tsp Salt to taste Water as necessary Ingredients – spice paste Whole dry red chillies – 5 Onion – 1 small chopped...

Paneer Tikka Masala

This is no internet researched rehashed recipe. My grandmother did not hand me this recipe. She never made Paneer Tikka of course, she made adhirasam, urundai kuzhambu and kola uzhundai.   ‘Cos we’re hip-hop Tamizha. Still this Paneer tikka masala tastes absolutely fabulous and is as close as it can get to the Paneer Tikka that I’ve tasted in really good restaurants. I used Madhur Jafferey’s recipe for the marinade from her famous curry nation book. The gravy, I made up by myself and it’s not rocket science but I was thrilled to be able to replicate the restaurant style perfectly rounded, creamy gravy. You know how the restaurant gravies have that well rounded taste that’s ever so slightly sweet with no jagged spicy edges – well this paneer tikka masala fits that bill. It’s brilliant. I served this paneer tikka with poori (that’s because of a strange family handicap that makes poori ok, but roti/chappathi not okay) but it goes best with chappathi/phulka or pulav. Marinate the paneer for 4 hours or overnight for the best results. I just toasted the paneer pieces on a tawa before adding them to the gravy. You could grill them in an oven or in a barbecure if you wish. Prep time: 15 minsCooking time: 30 minsMarinating time: 4 hours or overnightServes: 4 Ingredients Paneer/Cottage Cheese – 200 gm cut into cubesRed chilli powder/Degi mirch powder – 1-1/2 tspCumin powder – ½ tspTurmeric – ¼ tspSalt to tasteGaram Masala powder – ¾ tspSugar – 1-1/2 tsp (adjust)Cream – 2 tbsp (optional)Oil – 3 tbsp Ingredients – gravy Onions – 2 large chopped roughlyTomatoes – 2 large chopped roughlyGinger – 1 inch piece choppedGarlic – 6 large clovesCinnamon stick – 1 inch piece Ingredients – Marinade Fresh Cream – 3 tbspGinger-Garlic paste – 1 tbspRed chilli powder – 2 tspTurmeric – ¼ tspGaram Masala powder – ½ tspCumin powder – ¾ tsp Method 1.      Whisk together all ingredients under marinade in a bowl. Drop in the paneer cubes and mix well so that the paneer pieces are nicely coated in the masala. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. 2.      In a kadai/wok, heat 1 tbsp oil and when hot add the cinnamon stick. Then add the ingredients under “gravy” – ginger, garlic and roughly chopped onions. Fry till the onions turn translucent. Then add the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes turn soft –...

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