Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sweet Vermicelli

The other day we were discussing something, and my children did not know what a typewriter was.  When we explained it to them, it was something incomprehensible to them.  As a child, I remember the annoying noise of the typewriter my mom used to use to type letters.  And of course no one was allowed to go near the machine as it could get spoilt.  I remember this one time pulling out the ribbon to see how it worked and having ink all over me.  And I can never forget the punishment that followed for spoiling the ribbon.  

Later in life, when I was in my late teens I worked as an office assistant.  It was just the beginning of computers and we had to use them sparingly as they could get "spoilt" and it was difficult to find technicians to repair them.  At that time I also used a typewriter and remember how annoying it was when mistakes were made in your letter or your boss forgot to dictate an important point and you were sent back to re-type the whole thing.  Gradually as the computers were replaced by these machines, it was such a relief as everything became so much easier - no more retyping letters.  Of course there was the occasional loss of data due to power failure as then we still did not have the UPS.  Nonetheless, at least I know what a typewriter is and have had the (dis)pleasure of working on one.  Unfortunately my children would only get to see one in a museum or if they come across one in someone's attic and even then they would be told to be careful as it would always be an "antique".

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Serves 4


2 tablespoon butter
1 cup vermicelli, broken into small bits
¾ cup sugar
30 grams almonds and cashew nuts, sliced
20 grams raisins, sautéed in butter
¾ cup hot water
¼ teaspoon nutmeg-cardamom powder
Rose essence

  1. Fry vermicelli in the butter till dark brown.  
  2. Add hot water, sugar and stir continually.
  3. Serve sprinkled with cardamom, nutmeg powder and rose essence.
  4. Top with nuts and serve hot or cold.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chicken Fry Coorgi Style

My little girl is not very happy now that I have started this blog.  Her complaint is that because of this blog she is having to eat new dishes almost everyday and she missed the old ones I used to cook.  Actually her main complaint is that she misses spaghetti - her favourite which I used to make previously at least once a week.  Now it is almost a month I have not made it and she misses it and blames it all on the blog.  Are we not all afraid of change?  Do we all not object to change?  At work we were used to some old coffee machines.  Some weeks back we received notification that new machines would be installed.  Of course these are more modern, more jazzy and bigger.  But oh my - were we all not opposed to this change?  Some complained about the coffee being old, some about the glasses being too small, some others about the service.  And we also had some complains about having to go for special classes to learn how to operate these machines as they were not simple enough like their predecessors.  I have to admit I too was involved in these discussions.  But then if there was a new employee who never knew what existed before and came directly to use these machines, would he have any complaints?  He would not have to adapt to any change, so what was there was what he always knew.

Come to think of it, religion is also the same.  We are used to certain practices in our own religions - praying in the Church on Sundays or using flowers to worship our Gods or then fasting during Ramadan.  If someone were to come and tell us to change these practices, someone were to tell us to adopt to the new methods, how would we react?  Someone were to tell us times have changed and we need to change, what would we do?

Preparation Time:  20 minutes
Serves: 6

1 medium sized Chicken
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon peppercorns
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 stick cinnamon
1” piece ginger
2 flakes garlic
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 big red onion
4 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 tablespoons water
Salt to taste

  1. Clean and joint the chicken.  
  2. Lightly roast the coriander seeds, peppercorns, cumin seeds and cinnamon and grind to a paste along with the ginger and garlic.  
  3. Heat oil in a pan and add the sliced onions.  
  4. When brown, add the turmeric and the ground paste.  
  5. Fry for 5 minutes on medium flame and then add the chicken pieces and salt.  Fry well.  
  6. Add water and cook covered for 10 minutes on medium flame.
  7. Add lime juice and remove from fire.  Serve hot.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Eggplant or Brinjal Kootu

Some days back I came across a beautifully illustrated thought provoking question - Time or Money?  So I decided to put this on my status on Face Book and see what sort of replies I get.  Of course the most common reply was "both" or "time is money".  But the real thing is when you really start thinking about this and have to decide between either time or money - what would you really choose?   

I decided to give it some thought and see what was really important.  Money could buy me all the comforts I could only dream of.  Money could mean I would not have to go to work another day of my life and be able to spend more time with the family and children.  Money could mean not having to think twice before I want to buy something.  Not a bad choice.  Time - what could I do with time.  Stop time? Rewind time?  Fast forward time?  What would I gain?  Stop time and be stuck in this cold weather?  Rewind time to go back to those days when I had to wake up to sick children and wet diaper?  Forward time and go to God knows what? But then why was I still scared to choose money?  Why were all my friends and acquaintances on Face Book not choosing money?  What are we scared of? Perhaps in secret I would choose money but would not admit it openly to all.

The dish below is south Indian.  I made it using very small eggplants and doubled the amount of tamarind to get a sourish taste.  I served it as  side dish with a chicken I had grilled and the combination was perfect.
Yellow lentils (raw & boiled)

Preparation Time:  40 minutes
Serves 6


½ kilo small eggplants
½ cup yellow lentils (tuvar dal)
1 teaspoon peppercorns
1 tablespoon coconut scrapings
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon Bengal Gram dal (chana dal)
1 teaspoon white lentils (urad dal)
3 red chillies
Coriander seeds, Bengal Gram Dal, White Lentils & chilies
1 small ball of tamarind
Salt to taste
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
A few sprigs curry leaves
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of asafoetida
2 tablespoon sunflower oil

  1. Soak the yellow lentils in 2 cups water for 15 minutes.  
  2. Now put the lentils in the vessel along with the water and cook for 20 minutes till the lentils are soft.   
  3. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup hot water. Remove juice of tamarind and keep aside.   
  4. Cut eggplants into quarters and keep aside.   
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan.  When hot, fry coriander seeds, white lentils, pepper, Bengal gram dal, red chillies and asafoetida.   
  6. Grind the above to a smooth paste with coconut scrapings.  Keep aside.   
  7. Now heat the remaining oil in a pan.   
  8. When the oil if hot, add the mustard seeds and the curry leaves.   
  9. When they splutter, add the ground mixture of coconut.   Fry for 2 minutes.
  10. Now add the sugar and salt and the eggplants along with the tamarind juice.  
  11. Cook for 10 minutes on low flame.   
  12. Now add the cooked dal and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Serve hot with bread or chappatis.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Semolina Biscuits

 I used to make biscuits previously, but never owned a biscuit cutter set.  I used to always use a sharp steel glass to cut out the shapes - always round.  Then one day I was browsing some cooking books with my daughter, and we came across some rather attractive pictures of biscuits in different shapes and decorations.  My daughter wanted to know how we could get such accurate shapes - I then educated her on the concept of biscuit cutters.  The next weekend when we went shopping, she made sure I had cookie or biscuit cutters included in the shopping list.  Oh - and she loves to choose the shapes for the cookies.  And the more shapes the cookies have, the better - she tastes all the shapes and deducts that they taste the same, but the shapes make a difference.  For example the hearts are better than the stars and the Christmas tress are better than the flower.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves 24


320 grams all purpose flour
250 grams soft wheat semolina
Pinch of salt
200 grams castor sugar
250 grams unsalted butter
2 eggs
150 grams Macedoine of fruits


  1. Mix the flour, semolina, salt and sugar in a bowl.   
  2. Soften the butter and mix with the dry ingredients.   
  3. Add the beaten eggs gradually until the mixture forms a rough lump.  
  4. Turn this mixture onto a floured board and knead it till a smooth dough is formed.   
  5. Add the macedoine.  Try not to add any water, but if needed add a few drops of milk.   
  6. Roll out dough as thin as 1.25 millimetres and cut it into different shapes.   
  7. Lift these into an greased baking tray and bake at 180 degrees C for 15 minutes. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vegetarian Stew over Noodles

 Books - let us talk books today.  With so much snow and nothing to do outside, what else can keep me company?  From the time I was young, I have loved reading.  I remember going to the school library and getting Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys and reading them in an evening and then having to wait for a week before I could get another book out of the library.  Then when I was bigger, I joined the city library and was able to get books more often home.  After marriage I moved to Yemen for 5 years and remember missing reading books so much.  Internet was not so advanced then, there were no English books available there and I missed books so much.  

Coming here to Belgium again opened doors for me in terms of reading - I was able to easily find books in libraries, sales or on-line ordering.  The bad habit I have though is that it is very difficult for me to throw or get rid of the book after reading.  I have tried to encourage the children also to take up this hobby.  I remember in the beginning I had to blackmail them to read - read this book and then you will get to see the film made on this book.  Once the habit was inculcated, they now want to be at the library every week and check out the new books and get them home.  It is just a matter of getting children interested in this hobby - once the interest is aroused, they nurture the habit on their own.  

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves 6


1 kilo assorted vegetables like potatoes, French beans, carrot, peas and cauliflower.
2 cups uncooked Chinese egg noodles
2 teaspoon oil
2 large red onions, finely sliced
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
½” Ginger, crushed
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 teaspoons curry powder
¾ cup coconut milk
Salt to taste
  1. Prepare the egg noodles according to the package directions, omitting the salt.  Drain noodles and keep warm.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan.   
  3. When hot, add the onions.  Stir fry for a minute.   
  4. Add ginger and garlic and fry for a further 3 minutes.   
  5. Add curry powder, salt and tomato and stir fry for 10 minutes.  
  6. Add the vegetables and stir fry for 3 minutes.   
  7. Slowly stir in the coconut milk.  Reduce heat to medium and cook till vegetables are tender but not over-cooked, approximately 10 minutes. 
  8. Serve the stew over the noodles.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter Soup with Lentils

I woke up this morning to a sore throat and a running nose.  And then I looked around me and found that the rest of the family had the same symptoms - some with the accompanying cough and sneeze.  Thankfully it is the last week of schools here and the vacations would soon begin - so at least the children can stay warm at home during the next two weeks.  

I have a 12-year old boy, Anis, and a 8-year old girl, Sahar.  They can be such angels at times and at times can be such naughty devils.  But from what I hear, this is the story of every household who has children.  There are days when there is so much bickering and fighting amongst them, that I want to retreat to a quiet place somewhere in the woods.  But then end of the day, I cannot imagine a life without them.  They are the light and life of the house.  

This is a soup I learnt from my mom which is great during those cold winter evenings.  It can be made with or without meat.  The benefits from the lentils which are rich in proteins is immense and besides they are good to lower your cholesterol.   The greens added to the soup give it the nice colour and flavour from the dill, coriander and spring onions.  I use a pressure cooker to cook the lentils to save on energy.  

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Serves 6
Spring Onions


1/2 kilo meat (optional)
1 cup dried chick peas
1 cup dried red kidney beans
1 cup masoor
1 cup black eyed beans
1 cup moong beans
1 cup Bengal gram dal
3 cups dill leaves
3 cups coriander leaves
8 spring onions
2 brown onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon black pepper powder
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons Sunflower Oil
1 cup thick yoghurt for the garnishing 


  1. Combine all the chick peas, red kidney beans, masoor, black eyed beans, moong and the Bengal gram dal.  Wash and soak in water for 8 hours or overnight.  
  2. Cut the coriander and dill leaves and the spring onions and keep aside.  
  3. Heat oil in a pan.  
  4. When hot, fry the onions till light brown.  
  5. Add the ginger-garlic paste and fry for another minute.  
  6. Now add the turmeric and coriander powder and the meat (if you are using meat) and fry for a further 2 minutes.  
  7. Add the soaked beans with the water and cook till the beans are done.  If the water evaporates, add more.  I use a pressure cooker to do this as it takes about 10 minutes for the beans to cook.  
  8. Once cooked, add the greens to the vessel and keep on a low flame for another 20 minutes.  Add the black pepper and salt to taste and serve garnished with a scallop of thick yoghurt.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peanut Candy (Chikki)

Some years back we had booked our vacation from Brussels to India by Al-Italia.  Some friends who had flown Al-Italia before warned us that they go unexpectedly on strikes.  We thought, "that happens to others and not us".  So the morning of our flight, all excited, we headed to the airport only to be told that the staff of Al-Italia were on strike and we should come back the next day.  I remember the feeling of intense sadness.  Here we were, planning our vacation for weeks, if not months and when the day finally comes, we are told we could not go.  Of course there was nothing to be done, but take our bags and go back home and sleep off the day.  The next day we got our flights.  We never booked Al-Italia again and a couple of years later they went bankrupt.  Now, during this holiday season, seeing the hundreds of passengers stranded on airports due to the bad weather conditions in Europe, my heart goes out to all of them.  

This candy is famously called "chikki" in India.  They are packed individually or together in transparent cellophane and sold in these little "mom & pop" grocery shops.  I remember as a child buying these and sucking on them and enjoying the sweetness of the caramelized sugar and nuts.    I have used peanuts in this recipe - but you could substitute that with cashew nuts, almonds or even dry coconut gratings.  Now I like this best with some unsweetened black tea.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Makes 10 squares


200 grams Peanuts
200 grams granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
Baking sheet

  1. Roast the peanuts in a pan till brown on all sides.  Rub between your hands to get rid of the skin as much as possible. 
  2. Coarsely grind the peanuts.   Keep aside.
  3. Heat a vessel on low flame and add the sugar. 
  4. Let it melt and turn a light brown.  Keep stirring.
  5. Now add the ground peanuts and cardamom powder and mix well.  Take off from fire.
  6. Pour on a plate lined with baking paper. 
  7. Roll or flatten with the back side of a spoon when still hot, mark it, cool and take out the pieces.

Chicken Temperado

The festive season is coming up, but for some reason everyone around is either tensed or stressed.  I read some place that it is during this time that many go into depression and many stress out.   The reason I read was because for those who are alone this holiday time, they miss their families and hence go into depression.  For others it is the stress of meeting the family that puts them into tension.  For some others it is the sheer expenses related with this holiday time of the year that stresses them out.  Why is it that a joyous occasion should be the reason for so much sadness around?  

In our limited capacity, what can we do to share a bit of joy around?  I think I am going to sleep on this question tonight and see what I could do to make a few friends happy around this time...perhaps bake some cookies and cakes for my colleagues...maybe  walk up to my neighbours and offer some help they could use...maybe volunteer at some organization this season...or maybe just be happy myself and light up another's day with a smile.  There was a song by Red Grammer whose lyrics go something like this:  

I think you’re wonderful.
When somebody says that to me; I feel wonderful, as wonderful can be.
It makes me want to say, the same thing to somebody new.
And by the way I’ve been meaning to say; I think you’re wonderful too.

To hear the full song, you can hear it on this link in youtube:

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves 4
Mixed Spices & Tamarind pulp


1 small chicken, cut into medium pieces
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1” piece ginger
12 peppercorns
1 piece cinnamon
1 cardamom
Chicken & fried onions
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 flakes garlic
4 cloves
1 green chilli, chopped fine
Tamarind, lemon sized ball
1 tablespoon apple cider
Pinch of white sugar
1 big white onion, sliced
4 tablespoon sunflower oil
1 cup water
  1. Soak the tamarind in ½ cup of hot water and extract the pulp.  Keep aside.  
  2. Roast the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin seeds, peppercorns and cloves.  Grind to a paste.  
  3. Add the ginger, turmeric and garlic to the above and grind.  
  4. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till golden brown.  
  5. Add the ground spices and chilli and fry for 2 minutes.  
  6. Add chicken pieces and brown on all sides.  
  7. Now add ½ cup water and let it cook for 10 minutes with the lid on.  
  8. Add the tamarind pulp and continue cooking for another 15 minutes. with the lid on  
  9. Now add the cider, sugar and salt and cover for 5 more minutes and serve hot. 
Tip:  The spices for this dish can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and stored in the fridge.  So when ready to cook, all you need to do is start from step 4.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eggplant or Brinjal Stew

Have I mentioned that I also have Iranian blood?  I was born and brought up in India, but my dad is from Iran.  Similarly my husband's mom is also from Iran.  I still have aunts and cousins living in Iran and also have picked up the Persian language and some of the foods.  It is nice when you can pick the best of every culture and create a culture of your own - a culture you are comfortable with. One thing Iranians love is their food.  Unlike Indian food, it is not spicy, but still full of flavour.  Of course my version of Iranian food always contains Indian spices.

I was talking to one of my Nigerian colleagues about culture and how some cultures are more open or more sociable than others.  For example we were sitting in the cafeteria, and this dude comes over and starts talking about his family and New Year party and life in Belgium.  Of course he was not from Belgium - he was Colombian.  Now we have several Belgian colleagues too, and no offence to them, but they cannot be open and just start up conversations.  Again, it is not that this is bad and that is good - but it is just culture.  Indians can also be very open and hospitable people and will always say "yes" to everything.  Iranians on the other hand can also be sociable and hospitable, but tend to be more like "birds of a feather flock together".  These are again deductions based on my interactions with only small parts of certain cultures and in no way could we generalize.
Onions & dried lemons

Preparation Time:  1 hour
Serves 6


1 kilo Eggplants
½ kilo meat
2 onions, chopped
1 cup tomato purée
2 dried lemon
1 cup Bengal gram dal
Pinch of asafetida
½ teaspoon red chilli powder
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
8 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying
2 tablespoons sunflower oil for cooking


  1. Soak the bengal gram dal in water for 30 minutes.  
  2. Peel the eggplants and cut in rings and spread them on a tray.  Sprinkle salt on it and let it stay for 30 minutes.  Wipe the eggplants with paper towels.  
  3. Heat oil in a pan and brown the eggplants lightly on both sides and keep aside.  
  4. Heat 1 tbsp oil in another vessel and when it is hot, add the asafetida.  
  5. Now add the onions and when brown, add the ginger-garlic paste.  
  6. After frying for 3 minutes, add the chilli powder, turmeric and coriander powder and garam masala.  Fry for a further 2 minutes.  
  7. Now add the meat and let it brown on all sides.  
  8. Add the tomato purée and the Bengal gram dal along with one cup water.  Cook on a low flame till the dal and meat is done.   I put it all in a pressure cooker and cook for 10 minutes. 
  9. Once done, add the eggplants to the stew and the dried lemons.  Let it cook on a low flame for a further 15 minutes.  Serve hot with rice.