Festivity bites

Quick fish kebabs

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Mahi Tikka 550

Why settle on managing a PR job, two children and food passion? The School Parent Teacher Association needed a new Chair. And Yours Truly stepped in valiantly.

How difficult could it be, I thought? All this needs is a bit of Corporate know how. Strong leadership at the helm, followed by excellent delegation and efficient delivery. If there was ever a community-led use of the years of Corporate slavery, then this was it.

It wasn’t. Cue: a shock initiation to the Voluntary Sector. The Cinema Social, Coffee Mornings and Playground sales paled in signifance compared to the Winter Fair. An after school extravaganza for the children and their families run with virtually no budget, and children hanging off each trouser leg in the playground.

The only answer was to dazzle the children with a panto Frozen skit by two actor mums, and a guest appearance by Olaf: a hapless male teacher no less. A quick warm cup of mulled wine in the biting cold, and I was practically ready for Christmas.

And Christmas it is soon. If you’re looking for easy party food nibbles that don’t  pile on the pressure, then these divine Mahi Kebabs, quick fish kebabs, could be just the answer. I found this recipe in Reza Mahammad’s Rice, Spice and All things Nice and made a few small tweaks to it, like using dill as it goes so well with salmon. And minced more of the fish than directed to help the kebabs bind.

Of course, I also grilled instead of shallow frying. My solution to cooking any food in batches is to shove it under a hot grill and flip half way through cooking. That’s serious time saved watching hot oil in a frying pan.

Must make a note to not go filling the free time with another project!
Read on for recipe »


    jokes aside

    Proper Chicken Jhalfrezi

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    It would be rude not to put up another video for the kind folks commenting on my Jamie Oliver FoodTube debut. This one was filmed after a long day’s hard work, and the jokes deteriorated with every sip of wine!

    This proper Chicken Jhalfrezi is basically the perfect after work curry. Our answer to wok-style cooking, it combines easy to find fresh ingredients with cupboard ready spices for a end result that  never fails to hit the spot – spooned over toasted pitta, tucked into rotis or served with a dal and rice if energy levels allow.

    Just don’t say limp, will you?


      new talent

      Cooking quick Chicken Korma on Jamie Oliver's Food Tube

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      No sooner than I had gone part time at work, that I got the call. Would I like to audition as new talent on celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s YouTube cookery Channel FoodTube? I dropped the phone, screamed inside, flew around the room just in time to master a composed, calm “yes”.

      Now just let me break it down the way I should have.

      Jamie Oliver first got me into cooking as a Naked Chef. I remember him cooking in a small kitchen and zipping around on his bike. Not only is he insanely talented, but also a food warrior bringing very important social issues to the front of our minds and the top of the political agenda.

      Oh, and FoodTube has over a million subscribers. And features some amazing cooking talent.


      It was an amazing experience, great fun and nerve wracking at the same time. So here I am, cooking my quick Chicken Korma on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube. Please watch, and if you like it, give me a thumbs up and share it with your friends. If I go back, what can I cook for you? Let me know in a comment under the video.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you!


        Letting go

        Chana Saag

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        Saag Channa 550

        Frozen fever has well and truly hit our household. How else to indulge a princess in practice than a Singalong version of the film, staged in London’s most spectacular venues?

        Preparations began the minute the invite came through the door via a friend. Daughter of a former soap star, turned yummy mummy no less. The stakes were high. I imported a vision in sky blue polyester from China. While Mini Basu started practising fist pumps timed to dramatic perfection. Conceal. Don’t feel. Let it go.

        I escaped work early to escort the princess to the ball. The man fittingly put a new Bentley delivered for his latest photoshoot to driving us to the Royal Albert Hall. And we arrived to a sea of excitable, mini Princess Elsas and hassled mums, herding their charges about.

        I hope they sell wine, I blurted as said mums turned sharply. Half disapprovingly and half wondering how I’d read their mind. A jug of Viognier and bag of popcorn duly acquired, we stepped into the vast labrynth. No sooner than we had sat down, that adult size Princess Elsa and Anna lookalikes waltzed throught the crowds to a live rendition of the theme song. As if that wasn’t enough, the heavens burst to shower glittery snowflakes on the 1000-strong audience.

        I took another sip of said wine and gently lifted Mini Basu’s jaw off the floor. Princess no 2 beside her couldn’t be distracted by a a herd of raging reindeers as she repeated every spoken and sung word from memory.

        And as I sat through the campest thing I have done in my life to date, I pondered on the meaning of it all. Disney’s word on Girl power (after several misses). Or the importance of will power?

        In my case, it’s the latter. Let it go basically summarises the approach to my diet, lifestyle and cash flow in the run up to Christmas. More luscious cocktails out, more stodgy comfort food in and far more indulgence than can be justified on the wallet.

        So, in preparation for the madness to ensue I am enjoying quiet nights in, with budget meals like this Chana Saag recipe, chickpeas in a spinach and tomato masala, spiked with mango powder. I first tried it at a dinner at home for colleagues and then Diwali. It’s pretty much become a weekday staple in our home now, for big and little kids.

        Letting go feels all the more timely for it.
        Read on for recipe »


          Tips and Jars

          Chicken Shashlik & Malabar Prawn Curry

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          Malabar Prawn Curry 550

          Forget demanding clients and scary colleagues, there is really nothing more intimidating than a room full of mothers.

          Mine, for a start, is a formidable force to reckon with. If you have a problem, she definitely has the solution. But when I embraced motherhood, I discovered the mighty powerhouse of mothering womankind that was Mumsnet.

          Who cares if my mother has reared three fine specimens of humankind (yours truly included)? I turned to this fiesty forum on whether belching infrequently would damage baby’s gut lining irrevocably, if formula feeding would destroy baby’s immune system permanently and whether the right angled arch stretch meant I needed to rush to hospital.

          So, imagine my terror and awe at being invited to speak at the Mumsnet Blogfest. The topic – Food Blogging: Where’s the Beef? It’s been eight long and wonderful years of blogging after all. During which I’ve gone from tormenting my mother to regretting it gravely. Revenge is best served with sweeties, fed covertly to your kids.

          It didn’t take long for the conference panel debate to go from how it all started with that back of a fag packet idea, and the 11 rejections before the book deal to how I navigate the murky waters of brand partnerships (read: paid content).

          This for me is particularly sensitive. I guard this site jealously. I don’t advertise here. Or offer guest posts. But on rare occasions, I do consider the odd brand partnership where the outcome could be relevant and interesting to you lovely people.

          Patak’s is a case in point. While their jars of sauces reminds me of my early days in the kitchen, their pastes I was sent to trial were more of a revelation for the Chicken Shashlik & Malabar Prawn Curry. The trick to using these is to look closely at the ingredient labels for recipe inspiration, and to add a host of fresh vegetables and herbs to increase the goodness quotient in the end result.

          The jar of Rogan Josh paste I used as a marinade for Chicken Shashlik, a juicy, grilled chicken and vegetable kebab, with roots in Mughal days basted generously with a melted lemon butter. The mild curry paste was ideal for a Malabar Prawn Curry, steeped in tomato, curry leaves and whole mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Both made excellent, quick and very lavish weekday meals for the lot of us.

          I’m not about to say: “when I was a little girl”. But sometimes life really does come full circle. I’ll take two jars and a night off, thanks.
          Read on for recipe »


            after party

            Easiest Masala Chai

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            Masala chai 550

            There could be no better time for festivities than the last quarter of the year. If you’ve sweltered through a long hot summer, the days turning more pleasant could be no better reason to celebrate. If like me, however, you are facing the untold joy of a long, dreary and grey cold spell: every party counts as distraction.

            No sooner than Diwali was over, that attention turned to Halloween. Since when did children dressed as evil creatures, high on cheap sweets, become such a calendar event? As the delirium couldn’t get much worse I threw mine out for trick or treat with their friends to focus on the biggest pre-Christmas calendar event: My little boy’s fourth Birthday extravaganza.

            Micro Mini Basu, as he was Christened early, arrived slightly unexpectedly four whole years ago. Since then, he has grown into a thepla-making, mummy worshipping, house wrecking, pre-schooler. There was only one way to celebrate his big birthday: a superhero party for him and his 8 terrifying/terrific friends.

            Cue hours of kebab making, batter mixing for the parents, cake baking and treats assembling for the kids. I laid on a feast of Chicken Hariyali Tikkas and Handvo for the grown ups, with outsourced Spicy Samosas. The kids got a Superhero Cake, monster sandwiches, crudittes in ice cream cones, colourful layered jellies and fruit swords.

            As the Superhero entertainer wound the kids up in crisp autumnal sunshine, I kept the bubbly flowing for the grown ups. The end result was as action packed as the combination of Batman, Superman and Spiderman taking on the Prisoners of Alcatraz.

            It’s no wonder, then, that I needed some much needed R&R after. Some downtime. A battered notebook. A warm drink.

            This, the easiest Masala Chai recipe, never fails. A milky tea infused with aromatic and warming whole spices like cardamoms and cinnamon, and a generous spoonful of sugar, this cuppa is the mother of all cuppas. In Kolkata, we drink this in little terracotta pots that get promptly binned afterwards. Just like your troubles and stresses perhaps.

            Just don’t mention it’s six weeks to Christmas.
            Read on for recipe »