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...

Bombay Toast

I am officially jet-lagged. I am dozing away early evening, at night and waking up late too and finally that seemed to be acceptable. But someone told me that sleeping any time of the day is actually extreme laziness being passed off as jet-lag. I pretended to be falling asleep when ‘someone’ was still talking. I am very mature. I spent the last month in US of A but resisted the urge to change my Facebook location. Don’t worry guys – I made sure to visit Niagara. Indian travelling to east coast is not allowed back in India if they don’t produce their Niagara floaters. I did what I had to.   I ate my way through chicken salad sandwiches, quinoa bowls, Burritos, orange chicken, Japanese bento box lunches, pancakes, cheese burgers, Greek Gyros, pizza, Bao buns, eggplant parmigiana, pot-pies, ravioli, grilled chicken and Spanish tapas – and everything with a large order of fries and coke. I forget Bud light Lime. I lost myself in the food aisles of Walmart – ready to cook pot pies, Lasagne, pasta sauce in jars, canned beans, tortillas, minced garlic, pancake mixes, puff pastry, breaded chicken cutlets, biscuit mixes. Why would I chop vegetables, knead dough, roll out dough, soak beans? I lost reason for effort. I picked up some bare essentials as a back-up for hungry times, for lazy times. Strange that I went looking for garlic paste, ginger paste, garam masala and basmati rice for my back-up. I wanted to be equipped to make biryani when the need arose. Now that I am back in India I want to make croissants. I loved the stick sized butter and the tbsp. measurements on the wrapper. Third world me, I’d spend 5 whole minutes trying to mentally register all the snacks in the snack vending machine before choosing. I met some old friends, among the sweetest ones while I was there. Nisha made us dosa after crisp dosa along with a fiery hot chicken curry. It was around the first week when everything seemed all wrong – “The steering wheel is on the wrong side”  “The vehicles are on the wrong side of the road” “The restaurant tips will bankrupt me” “Stop making small talk with me – “check out person”, “store lady”. I have no ability for that.” I was sure I hated the place. It was around this time that we...
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!  

Chicken Kheema Pav Bhaji

Something I read yesterday on Facebook hit me hard –  “I am being forced to not eat meat to respect you. What if you’re forced to eat meat to respect me?” Bang on! Please answer, judgers, the right wing vegetarian converters and especially the born again vegetarian converts out to sermonize the barbaric chicken tikka eaters at the other end of the table. Before you call me names, before you judge, let me explain. I am a mostly vegetarian, occasional meat eater who can’t live without eggs. I am neither, yet I am both. I don’t think vegetarian food is tasteless. In fact I think it is vastly under-rated and I think it can be as tasty as the cook wants it to be. I never chastise vegetarians for uprooting living, thriving greens (keerai), leaves, roots and all, for yanking cute little carrot tops out of their homes, for coldly cutting off all water to the rice paddy fields to let the plants dry so that they can be killed (ouch)/ harvested. To me, a chicken’s life is as precious as a turnip’s as a cow’s as fenugreek greens’ as a dinasaur’s as a carrot’s. We are finding newer, more dangerous ways of one-upping one another, of being the more righteous group, the more moral group, the more correct group, the better group; in the food we eat, in the books we read, in what we speak, in the cartoons we laugh at, in how well behaved we have our women. Scary. Someone who today supports the meat ban in Maharashtra today, may have been shocked by the ban on AIB roast and may be outraged if alcohol is banned tomorrow. Many of us are missing the larger conformist angle because the particular conformist action now fits us, because “I am a vegetarian and I am better” or “because I can’t appreciate literary freedom, I can’t accept non-conformism even in a story, I need to burn the book, hound the author and make him promise to behave, to think proper, to write decent”.  I am pained that this one-upping had to move into what we should and shouldn’t be eating, and what others should be eating. I am as surprised as you are that this post turned out as sombre as it did. I needed to say this though. I love me my vegetarian readers and my meat eating readers. I...

Cheesy potato tomato sandwich

The day I work out, I feel I am obligated to have that Cadbury or eat Queen’s toffee at Ibaco. As compensation. And like that, I maintain status quo, never missing a chance to level it off. The other day after I’d done my 5 minute plank routine in 2 minutes and was resting face down, sprawled on the floor I discovered my long lost pen under the bed, a couple of hot wheels cars under the wooden almirah, Hasini’s time-table sheet, a comb, hair pins and a pencil. I closed my eyes, inhaled deeply and pretended I’d not seen any of it. I couldn’t interrupt my 10-minute rest time. I couldn’t crawl under, on my elbows and knees; that would be too much work.     I remember to not take the lift at office, I take the stairs. And when I take the stairs at office, I feel I must eat the masala vadai at tea time. I’ve become somewhat of an expert on energy conservation. I realize I am trying hard to maintain status quo. I am afraid of change. I realize I need to meet it head on. But I don’t trust myself. I cannot trust myself to add a touch of cheese, I will smother in cheese like I did with this cheesy potato tomato sandwich. I cannot indulge responsibly, I cannot eat a small square of chocolate. I have to compulsively finish that bar of chocolate. I cannot exercise portion control with biryani. Can anyone? So I joined a gym yesterday. I wanted to hand myself over to the instructor, tell him to work me all-out no matter what I say later, no matter the excuses I give. It was his duty to reduce me by 1/6th. I didn’t want to scare him the first day. I kept my mouth shut. This cheesy potato tomato sandwich is one of those healthy sandwiches that turned out a bit cheesy. If you’re master of your will, you can leave out the cheese. But I wouldn’t recommend that. Nevermind my recommendation if you are master of your will. I smear a thin layer of green chutney spread on bread slices, arrange sliced onions, sliced tomatoes and boiled, sliced potatoes, season with salt and pepper and top with a dash of cheese. I slather (you can lightly brush if you like) butter on both sides of the sandwich...

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....

Rain-holidays and Egg Bajjis in monsoon struck Madras

There is no better feeling than when you wake up in the morning weary and disgruntled thinking of going to school (or readying the kids for school) and then suddenly hear that it’s a holiday because of the rains. Really! It is a one-of-a-kind feeling. Not the same as knowing before-hand about a holiday. Not the same as pretending to be sick and taking leave. This is guilt-free, unexpected, sudden joy. Nothing like it! Bliss! The past week was just this. After the first rain-holiday, we got into the practice of groping for the mobile phone first thing in the morning and squinting through half closed eyes checking our SMS’es for the school’s announcement hoping for another rain-holiday. And they never once disappointed. Every day the school sent an SMS announcing a holiday because of the rains. Yuvi would lift up his head to confirm if it was a holiday “Amma leave a?” and when I told him it was, he’d smile contentedly and drop back on to his pillow. I’d curl up next to him and go back to sleep. I always wait for the rains. Madras looks so much better in rains – atleast the first day. By the fourth day I want the bloody thing to stop. I’ve run out of my kids’ jatties (underwear). It is such a pain hauling all the wet clothes around, laying them out on tables, racks, coat-stands and mats all over the house, turning them over half way through and personally fan-drying every T-shirt, nighty and lungi. This time I just let it all soak up 3 days of non-stop north-east monsoon rains. I was down to my kids’ last few emergency jatties in my handbag but I decided to let go (of the wet clothes), live the moment, enjoy the rain. Rainy day watercolour? Picture through car’s windscreen What I miss is a large window to sit by and watch the rain however clichéd that may sound. I am a sucker for such clichés. Bajjis during rain must the most dog-tired, hackneyed clichés around and I may say it often too but you will never catch me saying “No” to bajjis when it is raining. The truth is you will never catch me saying “No” to bajji anytime, rain or not. You have to admit that the idea of sitting by a window looking at the pouring rain, biting into...

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...

Badeel – Fried Lentil bars from Uttarakhand

The Badeel from Uttarakhand must be the North-Indian cousin to South-India’s Poricha Paruppu Urundai (which I wanted to make as part of the TamilNadu meal last weekend but couldn’t). For Badeel, we grind soaked masoor dal and cook it with onions, chillies and spice powders until a little dry, turn on to a plate, cut into diamond shapes and then fry to crispy, tasty perfection. Sounds like a lot of work, but isn’t really. I really liked Badeel. It’s a nice side with rice. It also makes for a filling nutritious snack that can be packed into kids’ tiffen boxes. Uttarakhand is mostly covered by the Himalayas and has many ancient temples and pilgrimage centres – Badhrinath and Kedarnath among the most auspicious Hindu pilgrimage centres.  Uttarakhand was carved out of Uttar Pradesh and Himalayan areas in 2000. The famous Him Corbett National park is in Uttarakhand. I remember reading Jim Corbett’s “Man eating tigers of Kumaon” as a kid. It made for a fascinating read. Garhwali and Kumaoni are the two major communities in Uttarakhand. Their food comprises a lot of lentils, rice and vegetables. I’ve never tasted Badeel before. So I hope I’ve made as close a replica of the Badeel as they make in Uttarakhand. Close or not, it was tasty.   Prep time: 20 minsCooking time: 25 minsServes: 6 Ingredients Masoor dal – 1 cupGinger garlic paste – 1 tspGreen chillies – 3 chopped fineOnion – 1 large chopped fineTurmeric powder – ¼ tspGaram Masala – ½ tspRed chilli powder – 1 tspCoriander powder – ½ tspSalt to tasteOil – for shallow frying Method 1.      Rinse and soak masoor dal for 2 hours or overnight if that’s convenient. Drain the water and grind the dal to a coarse, chunky paste without adding water or very very little if necessary. 2.      Heat a pan, add 2 tbsp oil and when hot throw in the chopped onions and green chillies and sauté till the onions turn translucent. Then add the ginger garlic paste, ground dal, spice powders and salt. Mix well and fry till the dal mixture turns a little dry and leaves the sides of the pan (it shouldn’t get crumbly though). Turn the dal mixture on to an oiled plate, spread it with a flat spatula to a ½ inch thick layer and level it. Let cool. 3.      Cut the cooled dal mixture into diamond shapes....

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