Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Romancing a simpler time - Pear and Cheese Bread

It was the year 1999. I was studying in Chennai and my then boy-friend was supposed to visit me for a day. All I knew was that he said he would meet me at my hostel bus stop in the morning. Taking into consideration his estimated arrival time, how long he would take to drop his stuff off at his friend’s house, freshen up, and then reach my hostel, I figured it would be 9am. So I waited patiently.

8.30am – What if he arrives early?  I skipped breakfast and rushed to the designated meeting place. Giddy with the promise of romance.
9.30am – Still waiting with mounting excitement.
11.30am – Excitement turned to severe butterflies in my stomach. Probably the result of a hungry stomach.
1pm -  Tears and trepidation. My heart beating faster every time I saw an auto pass by. Feeling conscious of the many people who kept looking at me wondering why I had been sitting at the same bus stop for the past many hours.  
1.30pm – Nervous wreck.
And finally when he walked up to me a good 5-6 hours after the appointed time apologizing profusely about a bus break down… well I’m not going into how that story ended. Because that is not the point here.

The point is, there was a certain drama and romance to not having cellphones, not having every minute and second mapped out, of not tracking someone’s every move by the hour. Yes it could be frustrating, but we knew no other way and I believe the love stories of those decades were so much more a by-product of destiny because of that.

Destiny. Love. Back to basics. A simpler time. Bread.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Hiraeth" and a Homely Chicken Curry

My Instagram page says that I discovered the word “Hiraeth” 23 weeks ago. After almost 20yrs of searching for a word I did not even know existed, I finally feel a strange relief, a satisfaction... the kind of satisfaction that comes not from getting a  void filled, but from just knowing that that void is real.

Hiraeth… When the home you grew up in becomes a palace in your memories, when childhood escapades take on the epic feel of fairy tales, when the daily grind of that distant past seems imbued with a golden glow… That is my kind of Hiraeth, a homesickness that no home can ease.
If you, like me, love to live in your past, then this word might just be for you. Try it on for size. Say it in your head first. Then taste it on your tongue. Take that H from a long-held sigh, roll that R with a mild sense of impatience, and then, end it on the deep, warm sound of TH. The cozy way the word “hearth” ends. Hiraeth.  

And when the memories flood your eyes and nose and mind (because my memories sure have a fragrance)… Just reach for those familiar childhood ingredients and cook something new. Old-as-time earthy ingredients each of which remind you of home, made into a dish that brings alive the flavour of sunshine and cycles, bougainvilleas and bees, stone floors and steel plates, jasmine strands and juicy pickles…

That’s what I did. Bay leaves for that sweet, earthy fragrance of childhood, curry leaves and coconut for all mom’s Sunday Special meals, poppy seeds or “posto” that flavour my East Indian upbringing… And the new – some Goan chicken masala, vinegar and soy to add the sourness of adulthood.


Chicken on the bone – 1 kg
Shallots – ½ cup peeled
Bay leaves – 2
Cardamom whole – 2
Cloves whole – 3 to 4
Curry leaves – 10 to 12
Green chillies – 5 to 6 (As per your spice threshold)
Shredded fresh coconut – 2 tbsp (Or use dried coconut pieces)
Garlic cloves – 5
Poppy seeds – 1 tbsp
Vinegar – 1 tsp
Soy sauce – 1 tsp
Goan Chicken Roast Masala (optional – I used it just because I had it) – 2 tsp
Salt – as per taste
Oil/Ghee – 1 tbsp

Wash and clean the chicken and set aside. You can also marinate it in some lemon juice, turmeric and ginger-garlic paste, but it’s not really necessary.
In a small pan, dry roast the garlic cloves and poppy seeds. Keep turning the cloves till they are evenly and lightly browned on all sides, and the poppy seeds start to splutter. Now add the shredded coconut and toss till the whole mixture is lightly toasted. Transfer into a mixer jar and add the shallots. Blitz into a coarse paste.
In a non-stick pan or vessel, heat the oil/ghee. Add the cardamoms, cloves, bay leaves and green chillies. When the spices start to pop, add the curry leaves and stir. Now add the shallot-garlic-coconut-poppy seed paste and cook for 5-10 minutes till the onions are cooked and stop smelling raw. Sprinkle in a teaspoon of salt.
Add the chicken into the pan and mix well till its coated with the entire masala. Now sprinkle the Goan masala or any garam masala of your choice. You can also choose to skip this step, or just go with regular cumin/coriander powder.
Cover the pan and let it cook for 15-20min on low heat or till the chicken is cooked through. Add the vinegar and soy sauce, check seasoning and mix well. Turn off heat and the throw-everything-in chicken curry is ready.

The way I like it:
If the masala is sticking to the vessel, then add a little water, but don’t thin it out too much. It should have a robust, thick gravy – like a cross between an traditional curry and a pan-roasted chicken fry. Tastes great with both rotis and rice. This recipe is neither fully South-Indian nor East Indian nor Goan. It’s a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Just like all of us…

Now tell me, what would your Hiraeth-inspired dish be? What ingredients make you feel nostalgic?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Perfect Sunday - Barrio's Boozy Brunch

What's your idea of a perfect Sunday?

My "Perfect Sunday" can be many things... A rainy day spent curled up at home reading a book or watching my favorite TV show; a Sunday spent experimenting in the kitchen with some new dishes and then feeding family and friends; or a Sunday that starts with the perfect lazy brunch followed by a dip in the pool and a couple of hours at the beauty parlor getting a massage and a pedicure!

When the gorgeous and bubbly Amrita (The Bacon Jam Girl?) pinged me about Barrio's Boozy Brunch, I knew it was the perfect way to unwind on a Sunday with the husband and our friends G&A.

Barrio's is located inside the "Inch by Inch Body Temple" in Versova, Andheri. And honestly, I had no idea a place like this existed! Started just a couple of months ago, the Sunday Brunch is definitely a great pull.

We were told the Brunch would be on from 12 till 5pm and we reached the place around 12.30pm on really hungry stomachs! I think we were probably the first people to arrive. Though we were welcomed warmly by the PR team, everyone else looked a little lost. Most of the brunch dishes hadn't been set up and the cooks at the pizza and waffle counters looked a little baffled whether to start serving us or not! 

But thankfully, within 15 minutes, the place started buzzing and how! By 1.30pm there was live music, people were milling around the bar, the pizza counter had started serving warm pizzas to everyone and Barrio had transformed into one of the most chilled out yet fun Brunch places ever!

The Bar
The Seating Area

As soon as you enter, to your right is the bar and straight ahead the pool. Tucked behind the bar is an open-air but covered seating area with fans and in spite of the summer heat, it was pleasant for most part of the afternoon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Just a little cuckoo...err... cookie!

I have too many passions in life. Some are temporary, some are permanent, and I tend to get obsessive about all of them. As the long silence on the blog indicates, my passion for blogging has now taken a slight back seat. Not the cooking obsession, that’s been diagnosed as permanent. But the reading up of food blogs till 3am, surfing and bookmarking websites and recipes, thinking up of funny posts to go with all my recipes - all of that has waned a bit... hopefully temporarily.

My latest obsessions are TV shows (have been for a while now), and this one film called Ram-Leela. That’s a story for another day, but suffice to say that all my free time in the past few months was spent planning my life around Ram-Leela (or "Goliyon ki Raas Leela - Ram Leela" as its now called). But this past Friday the movie released, and all of you who read this blog will go watch it and send best wishes our way (even though you may not know why, but hey, I believe in unconditional love and the power of positive thinking!).

So that leaves us with the TV shows. Which I think I have a handle on. I just need to watch “The Good Wife” every Sunday, “The Vampire Diaries”, “Scandal” and “Greys Anantomy” every Thursday, “The Originals” every Monday and oh, catch up on Downton Abbey, Homeland, White Collar and Masterchef Australia :) That’s do-able, right? I mean I haven’t even put Criminal Minds, Elementary and The Blacklist in the list... which I watch whenever I am bored. So those don’t really count, do they? Ok, don’t answer that :/

All I am trying to say is that I'm going cuckoo balancing too many things and so I deserve a cookie. And now that all of you stuck around to read my crazy rants, here is your cuckoo.. err... cookie reward.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Weird Diaries - Watermelon Curry

I like weird people. And weird things. And weird flavours. Like the time I decided to add Thums Up to my Gooseberry Jam :/ 

And if you really want to know, that jar of jam has been wiped clean. Ha. But before I scare you away, let me assure you that this particular dish may sound weird, but tastes wonderful! Now I see why you wouldn't want to trust me, but I got this recipe from a friend who claims to have got it from The Good Food Magazine, no less! 

So here you go... a wonderfully weird, sweet-spicy-crunchy Watermelon Curry!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Jodhpur Food Trail

I am one of those people who hates "sight-seeing" on a holiday. I find it tedious and predictable and utterly commercial. But a city or town with character, now give me that any day over a city where you have to go on a crowded sight-seeing tour.

A couple of years ago, we went on a trip to Jodhpur and Jaisalmer with our friends G&A. And it was one of the most fabulous holidays ever. Every place we stayed at, had so much character, so much history...  And the food! It was a culinary experience that we won't forget for a long time... 

Even though this trip happened many many moons ago, this post has been long overdue. So here's a quick glimpse at the Jodhpur food trail...

We stayed at the beautiful Haveli Inn Pal, a gorgeous yet affordable heritage hotel that had a distinctive old-world charm. I cannot urge you enough to stay at this hotel. The rooms, the view, the hospitality, the food, the entire colonial yet traditional Rajasthani feel...

It had a rooftop restaurant and our breakfast on arrival was just perfect - hot pooris, aloo subzi, and honey-filled banana crepes. Comforting, tasty and filling.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pasta in a Roasted Pepper-Tomato-Garlic Sauce for a Lazy, Rainy Day

The rains are lashing the city and all one wants to do is snuggle in bed, nurse a bowl of warm comforting food, read a book, and watch the raindrops pelt your windowpane harmlessly.

The reading of the book is an integral part of the rain experience for me.  And it needs to be a warm, snuggly book. Don't you agree that all books have a flavor, much like food, that would best describe them? Like Homey. Cloying. Bittersweet. Crackling. Tingling.

Books and food just seem to go so well together. When I was a child, Enid Blytons were my favorite and not having access to scones, jugs of cream, and homemade jams, I would make do with honeyed toast! You should try it some time... tastes just as good even today.

This Pasta dish is just another such homey, comforting dish perfect for the rains. I had made this a few months ago and it has been languishing in my drafts. But today seemed the perfect day to dust the cobwebs off this warm, easy, filling recipe.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Raw Mango Chicken Curry

Last year on my many trips to Chennai, a colleague and I went to Fisherman's Cove at the Taj Vivanta, Mahabalipuram for dinner. It was a lovely evening, the restaurant was right on the beach, and the food was fresh and delicious. Sitting by the sea, enjoying the balmy breeze and the interesting cocktails, we had one of our best meals in Chennai. And that's saying something because I love the food of that city - from Ponnusamy, to Zaras, to Benjarong! Chennai has some of the most diverse and amazing restaurants I have ever been to.

Though our entire meal at Fisherman's Cove was good, this one dish really stood out. I forget what exactly it was called, but it was a Chicken curry made with raw mangoes. The sauce was an earthy red in colour, thin and silky in consistency, sour but without being mouth-puckeringly so, extremely spicy yet creamy, and absolutely delicious.