Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pear Cake

 I have to make it a habit to carry my camera everywhere I go.  You never know what you come across and you would have liked to capture it on film (or now on an SD card).  I have one of those little camera phones, but it never beats what a real camera could do. 

For many, they see the world through the lens of a camera.  Some time back I had the opportunity to meet a semi-professional photographer.  While getting talking, he mentioned that he feels compelled to capture almost anything he sees.  He gave me a good example – he said had he to see a house on fire and people needing to be saved, his first priority would be to capture the shots with his camera and then only try to save the people.  But then again, pictures speak what a 1000 words could never describe.  The powerful pictures coming out of Vietnam or Iraq during the war stirred so many emotions. 

I am no pro at taking pictures.  Hell…I am not even a semi-pro.  I just like to capture moments with the family, landscape and of course my food.  Not only my food, even food others cook and I think is good enough to be worked upon or experimented with.  For example, yesterday I was at a restaurant and ordered some baked mussels in a pumpkin sauce.  The mussels were minimal – about five to be exact.  The sauce was good, but too “pumpkin” which then gave a sweetish taste.  And the color – let us say I would serve this dish only at Halloween.  Now if I had my camera with me, you would have understood exactly what I meant.  But I do plan to work a bit on this dish sometime in the future and add my own stamp to it.  It is a good start point, but I would have increased the mussels, perhaps added some other veggies to the pumpkin for a better texture and taste and then maybe even some herbs and garlic. 

Preparation Time:  1 hour 30 minutes
Serves 6


4 cups peeled, cored and chopped pears
2 cups white sugar
3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 egg whites
2/3 cup corn oil
Vanilla essence
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon almonds, chopped
1 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon chocolate chips


  1. Combine the pears and the sugar and let stand for one hour.    
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Spray a 10 inch bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray. 
  3. Slightly beat the egg whites and combine them with the oil, chopped pecans and pear mixture.
  4. Stir the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. 
  5. Stir in the pear mixture. Pour batter into the prepared bundt pan. 
  6. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  
  7. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Marinated Chicken Curry


Judging a person, we all know, is a trait we should not have.  Forget judging – we even misjudge.  I am guilty of this even though I know that it should not be done.  Unintentionally I form opinions of persons only after meeting them for a few minutes – boring, smart, introvert, flirty – my list can go on.   And more often than not, I have been proven wrong.  It is something I am fully aware I should not be doing, and am working on it, but something I keep repeating…bad girl!

I have been having minimal interactions at work with a certain person whom I had branded “weird, boring and an introvert” whom I was sure I did nothing in common with.  And then fate put us both in a car – alone – on a three hour journey.  Oh how wrong could I be!  Not totally wrong, mind you, he is an introvert.  But he is definitely not weird or boring.  He is a world traveler, has a very good taste in music and a good conversationalist.  Not great, but good.  I realized that he did not speak unless he was asked something, which could have been the reason I found him boring initially.  But when he got talking, he could be so detailed and so vivid in his description that it amazed me.   I would classify the trip I took with him as being anything but boring.

And when I was back in my bed, pondering about my day, the good, the bad and the ugly things I did and said, the people I hurt, the people I made happy and the people I misjudged.  How ashamed I was of myself…and I made myself a promise to make another attempt to stop judging people.  I am sure you would know how unsuccessful I have been about this.

Preparation Time: 2 hours
Serves 6

1 whole Chicken, skinned and cut into small pieces about 1 1/4"
7 tablespoons  Vegetable oil
 4 Onions, medium, chopped
 4 ½ tablespoons Coriander powder
 1 ½ cup Coconut, grated
 12 Garlic pods, crushed
 1 teaspoon Turmeric powder
 3 teaspoons Red chilli powder
 Handful of Cilantro with stems
 1 Tomato, large, chopped
 1 Lime, juice
 ½ cup Coconut milk, unsweetened
Marination paste:
 1 Garlic, whole
 1” Ginger
 3 Green chilies
 1 cups coriander leaves
Salt to taste
Dry spice powder:
18 Cloves
1 ½ inch cinnamon 
5 Cardamom
1 ½ teaspoon Anise
1 ½ teaspoons Poppy seeds (Khas Khas)
½ nutmeg fresh powdered
3 Star anise


  1. Grind the marination ingredients to a fine paste. Marinate the chicken with the above paste for about an hour
  2. Fry the dry paste in 1 tablespoon oil for a minute and half, except poppy seeds. Make sure none of the spices burn, otherwise they will turn bitter. Grind the dry spices to a fine powder including the poppy seeds.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons oil in a medium sized pot and fry half the onions till golden brown. Then add 2 tablespoons coriander powder and fry for another minute. Remove from heat and set aside
  4. In another pan lightly brown 1 ½ cup grated coconut. In a blender incorporate the coconut and onion mix (from 3) with the dry spice powder (from 2) and grind the mix to a very fine paste. Ensure that the coconut is completely ground so it is not gritty between fingers
  5. To the pot (from 3), add 2 ½ tablespoons oil and fry the remaining onions until golden brown. Add the crushed garlic pods and cook for a minute. To this add turmeric, coriander and chilli powder and mix well
  6. Immediately add tomato. Roast till tomatoes are softened
  7. Add the cut up chicken pieces with half to one cup water and mix all the above ingredients thoroughly
  8. Add ground coconut paste (from 4) along with the lime
  9. Stir in the ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
  10. Cover and cook on low to medium heat until chicken is thoroughly cooked about 30 minutes
  11. Serve with Indian flatbread and basmati rice 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Semolina Pumpkin Dessert

I was in the most boring conference call today – actually most conference calls are boring.  You have a couple of people who do all the talking on lines that are unclear and you and a bunch of others attend the call just in case there are questions for you.  And after 60 minutes you realize you could have as well not had to attend the call.  The presentation shared during the call was all you needed and you could have gone through that in less than 10 minutes on your own.  And people who organize the calls have the notion – the more the better (and merrier?).  No one seems to do the maths – 60 minutes of 10 people on a call – 600 minutes of company time!  I would not generalize and say that all conference calls are unnecessary – hence I used the word “most conference calls…” in the beginning of this paragraph.

Oh but you also have trainings on calls – especially people who think technical trainings on calls is possible.  I remember initially I had to attend some training on SAP which is enterprise software for those of you who have not heard of this before.  The training was to last for 3 hours and I remember after struggling to keep abreast of what was being said on the bad lines for 30 minutes, I lost track of what was being said.  My mind drifted everywhere – from the fly on the wall, to the dinner I was to make that evening, to the colour of the shirt I thought suited my colleague.  And finally when the training was over, I actually doubted my intellectual capability – was I stupid to not be able to follow only 3 hours of a training on phone with someone who was 3000 miles away in another time zone who was giving the training in English which did not sound anything like the English I was used to on a subject that I was unfamiliar with.  Was that not the reason in the first place as to why I needed the training?  Over the months and years I have met more and more people who understand my frustration – teleconferencing is just not our thing.  We come in a category of people who are more used to interacting and being a passive listener – that too over a phone – just distracts us.

And while I am at it – while ‘attending’ today’s conference call, I was chatting with my friend, planning my business travel for next week, discussing an issue with my colleague on my desk and having my lunch sandwich.  Now that is what I call productive and a good multi-tasker.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4


1 cup fine semolina
¾ cup grated pumpkin
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups white sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups water
1 tablespoon cashew nuts, broken into bits
1 tablespoon almond slivers
½ teaspoon cardamom powder
Pinch saffron soaked in warm milk


  1. Roast the pumpkin gratings in 3 tablespoons butter on a moderate flame.  Keep aside.  
  2. In the same vessel roast the semolina and cashew nuts.  Remove from the fire.  
  3. Boil milk and water in a vessel and add the roasted semolina.   
  4. Stir well and cook till the mixture becomes a lump.  
  5. Add sugar, roasted pumpkin and soaked saffron.  Cook for 5 minutes.  
  6. Stir in between, add cardamom powder and a spoonful of butter.  
  7. Transfer to a bowl and serve hot or cold garnished with almond slivers.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Stuffed aubergine casserole


Almost all of us have played with or given our children battery controlled toys.  We are well aware of the fact that the battery gets over after some hours – so either it needs to be replaced or recharged.  Once the battery has been replaced or recharged, the toy is better than ever and goes on again for some hours till we have to repeat the whole process again.  We work for long hours at offices or at home or other jobs we have, but how often do we realize that we too need recharging and rejuvenating every once in a while to perform better. 

Recharging for all of us could be different – for some a simple walk in the evening, for others tending to a hobby and for others perhaps a short holiday.  Whatever the means, breaking the rhythm every once in a way could do wonders to some of us.  For me, cooking can do wonders.  Another approach that really works, but sometimes I am too embarrassed to admit is ironing – yes you heard it right i-r-o-n-i-n-g.  Actually one of the best birthday gifts I got from my husband was an excellent steam iron.  For some it is difficult to know when they really are stressed or what relaxes them, but I guess sooner or later we all know what we like best that we could use as a de-stress too.  One of my friends had once sent me the best de-stress tool as a joke.  It was an application which you open and then choose a hammer from the application and you could simulate smashing your computer screen.  You also had a worm which could simulate eating your screen, but the best of all I liked was a small lighter which just simulated the burning and exploding of my screen in seconds. 
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Serves : 4


3 eggplants (aubergines/brinjals) (long variety)
1 ½ cups peanuts, roasted and coarsely powdered
2 green chillies, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
Salt and red chilli powder to taste
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
A pinch of asafetida
½ cup coriander leaves, chopped
3 sprigs curry leaves
¼ cup oil
½ cup Tamarind juice extract


  1. Peel and slit the aubergines lengthwise but take care not to cut it fully and keep aside.  
  2. Apart from the curry leaves and the tamarind juice, mix all the above ingredients in 3 tablespoons water and half the oil.  
  3. Stuff this mixture into the aubergines taking care not to break the aubergines .  Keep the remaining mixture aside if you have some left.  
  4. Place a pan on medium heat and add the remaining oil.  
  5. When the oil is hot, add the curry leaves and place the stuffed aubergines carefully in the vessel.  Cover and reduce the flame.  
  6. When the aubergine is soft, approximately 20 minutes later, add the tamarind juice and the left over mixture that was kept aside.  
  7. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes on low flame.  
  8. Remove from heat and place gently in a casserole dish before serving.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Meat filled Pastries {Kheema Samosa}

 I heard somewhere that you have more chances of being hit by lighting 40 times in a single day than winning a lottery.  I have not personally come across someone who won a lottery jackpot, but from the news and other sources I know that such persons exist – people who have won lotteries, jackpots and had their world change overnight. But I have not heard or read about a person being hit by lighting 40 times in a single day!  My point being here that though I personally have never bought any lottery ticket in my life, I think you can hope that someday you might win based on stories of so many common people winning it over the years.  

I have colleagues who regularly invest small amounts in a weekly lottery.  It is not a fortune they invest, but cumulatively if you account for it over the years, it does add up to a small fortune.  These are all educated people who know about the odds of winning, but still choose to play this game.  Is it an addiction?  Is it hope?  Some of them even joke about not coming in on Monday in case they have hit the jackpot over the weekend.  Of course I have seen those same faces back on Monday, quite enthusiastic about the week ahead and waiting and hoping again for the next lottery draw.  All a vicious cycle if you ask me...but who am I to judge people’s dreams, people’s wishes and people’s luck.   You never know when some day one of them do not turn up for work on Monday and instead are seen on the front pages of the daily newspapers collecting the millions they spent their life hoping for.
“Samosa” is a pastry packet filled with meat or vegetables and then fried and served as an evening snack.  The recipe below is for meat packed samosas, but to be honest I prefer the vegetable ones which I will make and post at a later date.  For the pastry, I went to an Asian shop and was able to find ready-made pastries instead of having to prepare everything from scratch.  However in the past I have prepared the pastry myself and I have to say when I weigh the pros and cons of readymade versus homemade pastry, in terms of taste and texture I would vote for home made but when it comes to time saving, I would definitely opt for the readymade version.
Preparation Time:  40 minutes
Makes 24 samosas


For the Pastry: 225 grams flour
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon oil
4 tablespoon water

For the Filling:  ½ kg lean mince
4 tablespoon curd
½ teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon coriander powder
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoon corn oil
5 onions, diced
400 ml water
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon ginger paste
3 green chilies, chopped
2 tablespoon lemon juice
Oil for deep fat frying


  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.  
  2. Work in the oil with your fingers.  
  3. Pour in water to form a stiff dough.  
  4. Knead on a floured surface until smooth.  
  5. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
To make the filling:
  1. Place the mince in a bowl.  
  2. Stir in the curd, turmeric, cumin, coriander powders and salt.  Set aside.  
  3. Heat oil in a pan and fry the onions till golden brown.  
  4. Add the mince mixture.  Brown the meat.  
  5. Pour in water and add ginger, garlic and green chillies.  
  6. Cook till all the liquids evaporate and the meat is tender. 
  7. Stir in the lemon juice.  Cool.  
  8. Roll out the pastry to 4” diameter circles.  Cut each round into half.  
  9. Moisten the straight edge with water and form pastry in a cone. 
  10. Fill the pocket with a teaspoon of cooked filling.  
  11. Seal the open edges with water.  
  12. Fry samosas in hot oil over low flame until golden and crisp.  Drain and serve.