Thursday, December 29, 2011

Chicken cutlets

I am not a Christian, but I do believe that Jesus Christ was a Messenger of God just like Krishna or Buddha or Moses or Muhammad.  So when someone asks me if I celebrate Christmas, I reply in the negative.  I have been asked this question more and more in the past few days.  Inquisitiveness taking the better of me, I wanted to know what the regular Christians do during Christmas here in Belgium.  So when I was asked this question again, “Do you celebrate Christmas?”I responded with another question, “What is ‘celebrate’ and how do you celebrate Christmas?”  The answer I got was, “We eat and drink together with the family and exchange gifts.” I had to ask, “What about the Mass at Church?  What about giving to the poor?” I received blank and surprised stares from my friend and all those with him who were hearing the conversation.  I realized I had asked something stupid and perhaps outrageous to some.  So if people in Belgium celebrated Christmas by having dinner and drinks together and gift giving, I too was in effect celebrating Christmas like everyone else.  And so were all the Moroccans and Turkish living in Belgium, albeit unknowingly.  We were all eating and drinking (perhaps not wine, but nonetheless drinking something!) on Christmas Eve.  I even had a small plastic Christmas tree all decorated by my daughter.  I was indeed celebrating Christmas!

Now in India, on Christmas Eve you would see 100s of people headed to the cathedrals and churches for the midnight mass.  On Christmas morn, our Christian neighbors brought us sweets and cakes, cookies and savories to celebrate the birth of Christ.  I thought Christmas was all about that – sharing and giving.  But Christianity had always been strong in the West – perhaps the believers in the East have got it all wrong! 

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Makes: 12 cutlets


750 grams minced chicken
4 eggs
2 red onions, grated
2 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves
1" piece ginger
8 cloves garlic
2 green chilies
1 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup blanched almonds
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup corn oil for frying

  1. Coarsely grind the almonds and mix it in a large bowl along with the chicken mince. 
  2. Soak the bread crumbs in milk and keep aside. 
  3. Coarsely grind the ginger, garlic, coriander leaves and green chilies and add to the chicken mixture. 
  4. Add the nutmeg powder along with the salt, pepper, bread crumbs and eggs to the mixture. 
  5. Divide mixture into 12 equal parts and shape into cutlets.
  6. Heat oil in a deep pan and when hot, deep fry the cutlets till golden brown on both sides. Serve hot with salads and/or grilled vegetables.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Trout with tamarind sauce

 School holidays are here again.  I remember my holidays were always so full of activities.  I spent the day helping in household chores, running around in the street with my friends, cycling, climbing trees, playing cricket, plucking mangoes or tamarinds, playing with clay and making toys, reading or then just doing nothing at all which was also OK.  Then why do I spend hours arguing with my children that if they do not have the computer or TV, they still could have loads of things to do?  Why do their holidays revolve around electronic games?

Is it OK to be bored?  I tell my children that yes, sometimes it is OK not to have anything to do and be bored.  They do not need to be occupied always.  It is not necessary for them to be engaged every minute of the day with something.  However, if I tell them they cannot use the computer, they feel that there is nothing else that they can then do.  They do not realize that there is a whole world out there besides the electronic world they are so used to.  I would need to start taking them on this new re-invention of the world without electronics.  Like my husband says, “they need to be detoxed.”  Not an easy task considering they are almost teenagers, but there is no harm in trying to make them see how many things they can do once they move away from the flickering screen of the computer.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4

4 trout, cleaned
6 spring onions, sliced
¼ tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
Fresh red chili, to garnish
For the Sauce:
50 grams tamarind pulp
7 tablespoons boiling water
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 fresh red chili, seeded and chopped
1” piece fresh root ginger, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons Thai fish sauce


  1. Slash the trout diagonally four or five times on each side.  Place them in a shallow dish that is large enough to hold them all in a single layer.  
  2.  Fill the cavities with spring onions and douse each fish with soy sauce.  Carefully turn the fish over to coat both sides with the sauce.  Sprinkle any remaining spring onions over the top.   
  3. In a bowl, add boiling water over the tamarind pulp.  Mash well with a fork until softened.   
  4. Tip the tamarind mixture into a food processor or blender.  Add the shallots, fresh chili, ginger, sugar and fish sauce.  Process to a coarse pulp and scrape into a bowl.  
  5. Heat oil in a large frying pan or wok and cook the trout, one at a time if necessary, for about 5 minutes on each side, until the skin is crisp and browned and the flesh cooked.   
  6. Put on warmed plates and spoon over some of the sauce.  Chop the coriander and chili and serve with the remaining sauce.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Triple Delight

I have never been to IKEA and not bought something.  You always find something that could be used and end up buying it.  And I have not regretted anything I have bought from there.  They are very functional, easy to assemble and good value for money.  No, I am not an IKEA spokesperson – just appreciating the things they sell like any consumer.

This weekend actually we spent rearranging our pantry.  It was arranged, but needed some more organization.  So off we went to IKEA and bought some inexpensive shelving units.  My husband and 9-year old daughter spent about two hours assembling the shelves together and had it fixed in the pantry.  Within a couple of hours we had a completely re-organized pantry, more space and very pleasing to the eye.  Comparatively now, the rest of the house needs some organizing now.  Like Project management, our scope was only the pantry, but looks like we are going to go out of scope.  And of course off to IKEA again…

Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Serves 6


2 cups carrot gratings
1 cup coconut gratings
½ cup almond powder
½ cup milk
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 tablespoons ghee
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
Rose essence (optional)

  1. Grate carrot and coconut gratings and reserve some for garnishing.   
  2. The rest can be ground along with the almond powder and milk to a coarse paste.  
  3. Cook the paste on low flame along with the sugar, stirring till the mixture is dry.  
  4. Add the ghee gradually and stir till the mix leaves the sides of the pan.  
  5. Add the cardamom powder and essence and mix well.  
  6. Put in a mould of desired shape while still warm and serve garnished with shavings of carrot and coconut and almonds.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Celery Chow Mein

Nationalism – what really is that?  The Webster dictionary describes it as “loyalty and devotion to a nation; especially : a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups”.  The first sentence of the description is nice – loyalty and devotion to a nation.  I think we should all be loyal to and devoted to the nation we live in irrespective of whether it is the nation we were born in or not.  We should respect and follow the laws of the nation we live in.  But then what spoils nationalism for me is the words subsequent to that sentence – why would I want to exalt one nation over another?  Actually why should one nation be exalted over the other?  What makes one nation superior to another?

This brings to mind the ever-green song of John Lennon - “Imagine”.  The lyrics of the song go something like this:
“…Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You, you may say

I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one…”

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6


500 grams celery, sliced
1 onion, chopped
60 grams butter
500 grams chicken, cooked and shredded
2 tbsp soy sauce
60 grams mushrooms
2 ½ glasses chicken stock
Worchester sauce to taste
2 tbsp corn flour
500 grams egg noodles, cooked


  1. Wash, trim and cut celery into diagonal slices, ¼ inch thick.  
  2. Chop onion and sauté together in butter for about 5 minutes.  
  3. Add celery, mushrooms and soy sauce and cook for 10 minutes.  
  4. Add the shredded chicken and the seasoning.  
  5. Mix corn flour with the stock and add to the mixture.  Cook till thickened.  
  6. Serve hot over boiled noodles.