28
Aug
2014

Home made garam masala

How to make garam masala

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Ready powdered spices reign supreme in my kitchen. But for that extra special moment, a cheap coffee grinder doubles up as the spice grinder of my dreams.

Cheap equals value here, as grinder blades eventually dull. The best of the best are the ones with removeable bowls, for easy clean up. I confess now that I hate pestle and mortars: hard work and not worth the rough specks of spices that fly everywhere.

Garam masala is one of the most special spice mixes to make at home. Blindingly fragrant made fresh, it lifts the simplest of dishes with a sprinkle towards the end of cooking. In fact, adding it too early can turn the dish a tad bitter.

The actual spices that go in vary from household to household. I keep mine simple with 4 cardamoms, 8 black peppers, 8 cloves, 2 small bay leaves, 1 inch cinnamon and 1 tsp cumin. All whole, of course. You can add coriander seeds, dry dinger and even nutmeg to make yours as you like it.

How do you like yours?

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    24
    Jul
    2014

    Changing times

    One-pot Mangshor Ghugni

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    Mangshor ghugni

    This July marks a step change in my existence. I, people, am no longer a corporate superbitch. I am now a three-days a week corporate superbitch.

    In what has been an exciting moment in my world of work and career, I have spent four days of every week this month relishing that rarest of rare commodities: spare time.

    I didn’t hold out for too long. By the end of week one, yours truly was the newly christened Head of Corporate Marketing for mini Basu’s School Parent Teacher Association. Since then, I have:

    • Baked cupcakes x 56
    • Nearly strangled my children x 20
    • Spent life savings in summer sales x 1
    • Cranked up the “dominate the world one curry at a time” plan up a notch x 3

    The plan, of course, is to focus on being the best mother and wife, ever, while making money doing all the things I love with passion. Cooking and Corporate PR take centre stage here.

    What better place to start on the cookery plan, that a long overdue attempt at mastering rotis? So, an eager friend/guinea pig agreed to a quiet, girly evening, and we drank wine while I stewed tender chunks of lamb with chickpeas – Mangshor Ghugni – and rolled out the rotis.

    The rotis are improving every time age. And the one-pot Mangshor Ghugni is a winner’s dinner. Can women have it all? I’m not sure, but I will happily die trying!

     
    Read on for recipe »

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      27
      Jun
      2014

      Storing spices

      Art and science of spice storage

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      It’s not an art, nor a science. Everyone has a method to the madness of a cupboard bursting with Indian spices. Here is mine.

      I binned the metal container years ago in favour of dishwasher-friendly jars that hold more substantial quantities.

      But beware of sacks of ultra large spice bags. Unless you are inviting my extending family around for lunch regularly, they will quickly lose punch. Not too mention hog precious cabinet space.

      How do you keep yours?

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        06
        Jun
        2014

        Home comforts

        Fridge Freezer Ready Prawn Bhuna

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        Prawn bhuna 550

        I hardly get to Indian restaurants. The Peruvian man is unconvinced about paying for Indian food outside, when he gets quite enough of it at home already. And when I am out with friends, they lead the way.

        This year I am on a mission. Every time it’s my turn to choose for a special occasion dinner, guess where we end up?

        It’s been interesting.

        The neighbourhood favourite on New Year’s Day kept our table of 8 waiting for well over an hour. One hour of false promises and no food later, I had a rant in Bengali at the owner. Mid way through the impassioned outburst, he stopped me to say he wasn’t Bengali and didn’t understand a word of what I was saying. This was followed quickly by a shaky phone call asking if I would like to return for a complimentary meal.

        Then there was my Birthday at a veritable institution. Take a large group of hungry punters in a grand setting, and all we could decide on from the wide ranging menu was kebab platter and mixed breads. The only sparks that flew that night were from the dodgy fizzing candle in my celebratory cake.

        And finally, the review lunch for my industry rag at London’s latest upmarket Indian restaurant. A homage to the Colonial times, with whirring fans and specialty game dishes spiced with a kick. Desperate to impress, I invited my peer, the MD of the Consumer Division, who declared, “I eat to live” in the cab on the way there, and “I don’t like game, and I can’t handle spicy food” to the bemused manager.

        Until I get better at this, I am the mercy of cupboard handy and fridge freezer ready ingredients to create that rich, restaurant-style curry on busy week days. This one’s a pure classic: Prawn Bhuna. I usually have a bag of frozen prawns and frozen peas tucked away in the freezer, along with ginger cubes, and the rest of the ingredients are easy enough to find. Better still, with a dollop of Greek Yoghurt or generous pour of single cream, and ripped up fresh coriander on top, this could quite easily be the  centre piece of a more fancy dinner.

        I am eternally grateful to anyone who will bring a hot roti to my table. But sometimes there is nothing better than the comfort of home.

        Read on for recipe »

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          14
          Mar
          2014

          Curry for recovery

          Soothing Sheddo Bhaat

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          Sheddo Bhaat 550

          No trip to Kolkata for me is complete without the dreaded stomach infection. This has little to do with the environment there. More a result of the abject torture I put my system through cramming the food in before the inevitable return to Blighty. (I am a camel, I will fill my hump, etc etc etc.)

          The first week flew by. By the middle of the second week, the familiar tummy cramps set in. The fever was yet to descend so off we went to India’s premier North Indian restaurant. With a cup of chamomile tea, and a stern warning from the manager, I deep dived into Maa Ki Dal, a ghee laced bread basket and soft, spicy kebabs. The stuff of heaven.

          Hell was soon to follow. Bundled into the car afterwards, I told driverji to find me the nearest pharmacy. It was late at night, the options were limited. I soon found myself ducking stray dogs in a local fruit and vegetable mart, which handily housed a shiny pharmacy.

          I flung myself inside. Hello, I have come from London. And then launched into a sordid recount of the painful symptoms.

          The object of my self diagnosis was directed at a smiling man, sat presidentially behind a desk. He waited patiently for my tirade to end, and then said in Bengali: “Acha, tell me something.”

          I was all ears.

          “Who told you to eat food outside your mother’s house?”

          Was this man telling me off?

          “Can your mother not cook? Ok, never mind. Filter water.”

          Was this a question?

          “Why did you drink filter water? What is wrong with mineral water? Available everywhere, tsk tsk.”

          Now, I know Bengalis have a particular affinity with medicine. But it was late, and I was being given a dressing down by the owner of the only open pharmacy in the locality. I started blubbering a response. Translating feebly to my man. Who by this time had started taking portraits of the quasi medicine man.

          Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, he declared his remedy: “Quickly, go quickly, to the shop next door and buy some chire [flattened rice]. Cook it gently and eat it with yoghurt tomorrow morning.”

          This was quite enough. Are you a doctor?

          I am a homeopath,” he proudly declared, breaking into the widest grin. His assistant finally handed over the stash of the OTC drugs I was really after.

          There are a few things Bengalis eat to settle the stomach. But Sheddo Bhaat has to top the list. This is basically rice, lentils, vegetables and eggs, boiled, subtly flavoured, and then eaten with bits of broken green chillies. You can cook it all together, or at least cook the rice together with the veg and eggs, and the lentils separately. Vegetables that can be used here include pumpkin, potol (pointed gourd) and karela (bitter melon).

          So this is what I ate on my return. And sooth it did. My bruised pride and burning insides. Until next time, my dear friends…
          Read on for recipe »

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            27
            Jan
            2014

            Paleo-friendly curry

            Andhra-style Methi chicken

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            Methi chicken 2 550

            Forget New Year’s day, my resolutions usually follow my birthday. Take all that unconditional love, unfettered attention, add increasing age, propensity for senility and voila, you get a stupid New Year’s resolution that will last a day. If lucky.

            This year was all about the possibility of middle age spread. No matter that I am nowhere near middle age yet. Prevention is better than cure. So when a local mother declared she was doing the Autoimmune Paleo, I immediately paid attention.

            If you haven’t heard about the Paleo, you must be living in the dark ages or something. This, people, is the diet du jour. Basically, you eat what your cavemen ancestors did, pre-agriculture. (Paleo is short for Paleolithic – geddit?) If it wasn’t available through hunting, fishing and gathering back in the old days, it’s not worth eating.

            So far, so fascinating.

            Except, I should have known this would never work for me. For a start, hunting, fishing and gathering already sounds like more hard work than I have done in my entire life. Then there is the brain power needed to work out what entered our diets through agriculture. So sweet potato okay, not white potato? Hello migraine.

            And finally, I am Indian. I live on rice and lentils. It is the stuff my dreams are made of. Life without both? You cavemen have no idea what you were missing.

            Nonetheless, I embarked on the ancestral dietary pattern. Kale Omelette for breakfast. No drama. Mackerel and Avocado salad for office lunch. No big deal. Chocolates winking at me at tea time. Tempting. Then I came home to find a tall stack of warm Methi Theplas, freshly made by nanny K, on the kitchen worktop. End of.

            I have on good record that no one trusts a skinny cook. If evolution has taught me one thing, it’s to be sensible with portions. Dinner time meals, in particular, tend to be a one pot dish with protein and vegetables, served with a reasonable portion of carbs. Usually a fistful of steaming hot Basmati rice. Chicken curry, tends to feature a lot.

            This Andhra-style Methi Chicken curry, combines sweet tangy tomatoes with the bitterness of healthy fenugreek, a match made in heaven. Fenugreek is available in abundance in Indian winters, and a staple ingredient when the temperatures dip. Imagine my delight when I found a frozen bag of chopped fenugreek in my local supermarket?

            That’ll be a last time I’m a Dodo about a diet.
            Read on for recipe »

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