Where I cook: Mallika in London, England
How I cook: Mallika Basu’s top Ten Tips for quicker weeknight Indian cooking
Recipe: Pudla (Indian chickpea pancakes)
Where I cook: Mallika in London, England
How I cook: Mallika Basu’s top Ten Tips for quicker weeknight Indian cooking
Recipe: Pudla (Indian chickpea pancakes)
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?
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?
Posted in Videos
Shubho Noboborsho to you all. As I was going about my business towards the end of the Bengali year, I got a cryptic email in my inbox. It was on behalf of none other than Patak’s, the British Indian curry sauce people.
Now Patak’s and I have a long history together. Mostly involving my early days in England at university, when I first discovered housework, illegal substances and the horror that I would have to feed myself. I slowly made my way from Taj Mahal takeaway to boil-in-the-bag rice and yep, Patak’s curry sauce jars for sustenance.
Somewhere since then, I stumbled upon Jamie Oliver and mother’s very own chicken curry recipe. The rest as they say is history. But while the curry sauce jars fell off my weekly shopping list, I still reached for Patak’s Mango Pickle and shook my head dutifully at their “when I was a little boy” adverts.
What exactly did they want? Request no 1: Would I like to be one of the faces of a new campaign for their curry pastes? A loaded question. Here I am, preaching the joys of cooking Indian food from scratch, savouring the pleasure of adding each spice lovingly to sizzling oil and watching oil ooze through pores on fresh masalas. Yes I would. Everyone needs a bloody night off. I need several.
Request no 2: Would I mind sharing a platform with my friend and professional chef, the better looking and far more sensible Maunika? Would I ever? I’m just hoping some of her eventually rubs off on me. (NOT like that, behave)
Request no 3: Please could I bring some bright coloured clothes to the shoot. That basically killed my entire wardrobe. And no, animal print did not qualify as a “vibrant pattern”.
So I settled on a denim shirt. Knocked back a glass of Lansons and went for it cooking three recipes, with two spoons of a jar of Patak’s masala paste. Or something. The resulting dishes were delicious: Crab Cakes, the perennial favourite Palak Paneer and Karwari Jhinga, a coconut prawn curry.
A jar of Patak’s masala paste will now join the lofty ranks of the Thai Green Curry Paste well by its use by date in my fridge. The video is here for your viewing pleasure. Poor mother has racked up 1,000 clicks on it alone. I’ll be standing against a fence waiting for the rotten tomatoes to land.
Do me a favour: try one of the jars to see what you make of it and tell me what you do on your night off. Will you?
Nail biting encounter with the grand dame of Indian Cooking
Soups, Stews, Hot Toddies And More (PHOTOS)
This comforting spinach dish also packs a detoxifying holy trinity: garlic, ginger and turmeric.
Mallika Basu quoted as a food writer and blogger in Jamie Oliver’s magazine.
My recipes on iDiva, a Times Group website, and officially the No.1 Indian online lifestyle portal for women in India.
What does it take to be POWERFUL? Ingenuity. Excellence. Fortitude. Dynamism. And the COURAGE to think up a big, INVENTIVE idea and then make it happen. ELLE presents a list of achievers who are breaking new ground in fashion, literature, technology, music, film, food and sport
“A couple of years ago, when anyone who could boil an egg became a food blogger, a good blog needed an absolutely fabulous USP. It had to be easy on the eye. It had to be smartly written in a tone that let you in just enough on the blogger’s life so you thought of them as a good friend. And the recipes, of course, had to be of the can’t-live-without kind. Mallika Basu’s QuickIndianCooking.com meets all of these criteria. Which is why it quickly became a bookmark that people around the world – Indian or not – still consider a go-to when they want to rustle up a quick and, most importantly, delicious Indian meal. Little surprise, then, that like all successful food bloggers, Mallika followed this up with a popular cookbook, Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living (HarperCollins, 2010).
The Internet has thrown up a new brand of Indian food inventors who are creating a stir with their innovative dishes and sense of adventure. Bazaar follows their trail.
“MallikaBasu… is committed to the concept of quick Indian cooking. Based in England, she started her blog in an effort to convey to people that Indian food wasn’t as cumbersome as was popularly considered. So, traverse the easy basics of creating delectable Indian dishes on her portal. Basu’s efforts also recently culminated in her debut cookbook Masala, that showcases ways to make cooking more fun, interspersed with anecdotes on how she juggles her work, goddess status, and social life.”
This is where I’ve been. Last Wednesday saw the launch of my new book Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living.
For all of you who have been following my recipes, straight talking tips and life’s ups and downs, Harper Collins has now packaged them into a handbag-sized read, complete with illustrations of vodka bottles and stilettos.
Seriously though, it took a year to get the deal, two years to write the book, most of it while being pregnant and then on maternity leave.
So the launch was an excellent excuse for a wild party. I decide to invite 200 well-heeled Londoners, book a bar in London’s Soho and order crates of champagne, vodka and gin.
Except I then find out there is another naan in the oven. Yes, people, micro mini Basu is also on its way! That would mean no champagne, vodka or gin for yours truly. Not even to celebrate three years of hard graft.
The immediate concern was finding a maternity dress that didn’t resemble a sack. I’m happy to report on a sequin fuchsia pink chiffon number set off perfectly by a pair of complimentary cubic zirconia dangly earrings sent to me by the lovely Sarah of Lu Shae jewelry art designs.
The launch was a huge success. Let’s hope some of you like the book! Now back to blogging, bhunas and babies. Wish me the best for the rest!
PS = the book is on Amazon and at most good bookstores in Australia and New Zealand, Europe (Belgium & Luxembourg, France, Norway and Sweden), Kenya and the UAE. India launch to happen soon. I’ll keep you posted!
PPS = 1000 thanks to anyone who follows this blog for your unstinting support. Bloggers Asha, Sia, Sra, Sandeepa, Indosungod, Srivalli, Jenn, Ann and Elisabeth also got a special mention in the acknowledgments before I ran out of space.
It’s unbelievable how cruel life can be.
Here I am, jumping in the back of a black cab for the Christmas lights on party at a high-end shopping arcade. As I meet friends and drink pumpkin soup, I moan about the delayed celebrity guest of honour. The shortage of macaroons. And then slip off with them for a special meal at a chi chi Mayfair American diner.
While on the other side of the world in Mumbai hundreds of innocent people are mercilessly targeted by mindless terrorists. Their lives turned upside down. Families distraught.
My heart goes out to everyone directly or indirectly touched by this terrible incident. If you’re lucky enough to be home, safe, in the comfort of your loved ones – Happy Thanksgiving.
I ate lunch with clients at a gorgeous French restaurant. The setting was rolling countryside. The three-course meal came complete with a cheese trolley, encyclopedic wine list and a lovingly-christened dog called Cassoulet.
Back in London I had just about enough time to rush to Covent Garden for dinner with the girls. Formerly journalism students, we all saw the error of our ways. Moved into PR. And regretted it ever since.
We tucked into another three courses and complimentary Bellinis at a low lit Covent Garden bistro. One German, a Kenyan, a Spaniard and me. The food was standard Brasserie fare. The conversation low brow to match – clients, classmates and copulation.
Sometimes it’s the simplest things that complete a meal.
Like Papad. These wafer thin discs of lentil crisps are the perfect accompaniment to any Indian meal. You can dry roast them on a naked flame. Or fry them in hot oil.
That’s a choice of too much effort or too much effort. So I don’t bother with either. I just stick them one at a time in the microwave for a minute each. They curl up slowly, turning crisp and golden in places. I’ve tried this technique with the perennial classic spicy Lijjat Padad and Khanum Madras Plain Pappadom. And it works every time.
Just don’t forget the three-part Indian meal to go with it…
Posted in Videos
Before I left I stuffed the desert island essentials of chilli powder, turmeric powder and asafoetida into my suitcase, mentally reminding myself never to make fun of travelling aunties again.
Four days I baked by the pool. Contemplating my big Tuscan curry effort, while our friends took it in turns to cook meals.
Soon it was mine. I found fennel seeds, cumin seeds, garlic and a pack plastered with the word “organic lentils” on it. So far so good. But no ginger.
This was a serious blow. But I ploughed ahead anyway. Hubby was tasked with chopping, washing and creating innovative implements to grind spices. Friends were banished from the kitchen unless collecting wine. I focused on making Moong dal-esque dal, Aubergine Raita and Pepper Chicken Curry.
In the stress of it all, I forgot rice. Sure enough, there was a large jar supplied in the villa. Of the well known Risotto family. Did I mention I was in Italy?
The meal was a success, despite the missing ginger and soggy rice. Which goes to show that if you care enough, you can always have a curry.
We were eating spicy spare ribs and Vietnamese noodle salad. At a BBQ. In pouring rain. The conversation went from the dire summer weather and China’s human rights record to how early is early to eat a curry.
I told everyone about my grandmother’s famous parathas or shallow fried, stuffed flatbreads. In my childhood I ate these as breakfast. Post my fruit and green tea deskbound breakfasts in London, mid-day is the earliest I can face these now.
Next morning, the weather was equally rubbish. Half a bag of carrots and 4 small radishes were lying aimlessly in the fridge. And the sack of chappati flour in the cupboard was well by its best by date too.
My love of kneading is well-documented. I rank it as one of my most hated activities, second only to standing in a blizzard on one leg. But the options were limited. And I didn’t fancy getting soaked again to top up the sorry contents of my fridge.
So I made gajar (carrot) parathas and mooli (radish) parathas for the first time. And I was pleasantly surprised with the results. It didn’t take long. The dough came off my nails fairly easily. And the parathas were as moreish and comforting as my nani’s.
Not just for rainy days then…
I chose to dust off one of my Indian cookbooks.
Now, Indian cookbooks are objects of great desire in my home. I purchase many. Mainly to see the spines lined up on the bookshelf. Occasionally I leaf through each recipe. Ogle over the full page of ingredients required. And then stick it back on the shelf.
This time, I decided to put one to better use. Out came this one. It was the photos of the whacky chef with elephants in South India that first attracted me.
But ultimately it was his sister’s recipe for Gosht Kali Mirch or Lamb with Black Pepper that clinched it.
The recipe was simple, used (comparatively) few ingredients and so delicious that I had to restrain myself from eating it all immediately. Not for the faint hearted or chilli challenged mind you.
We’ll see if the girls leave it on the shelf.
Read on for recipe »
I needed to get away from frantic deadlines, the summer social scene, grumpy people and smelly trains.
So I chose blinding heat, crazy traffic, tribal witch doctors, snake charmers and endless souks.
It was all going remarkably well until the fancy rooftop restaurant. Just as I finished tucking into half a kilo of couscous, two semi-naked belly dancers sashayed in.
My man instinctively fake-limped his way to the gents. The two pre-teen boys on the next table slithered underneath with their Nintendo. And the sickeningly glamorous girls beckoned me to the dance floor.
I wondered if there was any space left under the table next door. It’s never too late to master Nintendo.
There was hope yet. The next morning, I found the spice souks. Standing in front of sacks piled high with turmeric, cumin, coriander and mint I smiled stupidly.
Needless to say I have amassed ludicrous quantities of eye-wateringly expensive saffron. I’m thinking saffron chicken or maybe a biryani-style rice?
Six days without Indian food is way too long. Watch this space – although I don’t promise any exotic dancing.
Off I went to the dreaded yoga class. Me in gym-friendly spandex amidst a sea of linen cotton.
An hour into the class the Irish sadhu instructor whispered, now you are going to do a shoulder stand. Stretch your legs to the heavens, then gently extend them sideways and take deep breaths.
I lay there twisted into an unrecognisable human tower. The blood rushed to my brain before I could say Dal Makhani. I. Felt. Empowered.
So I decided to master the wonderful world of the blogosphere. I finally worked out how to read all my favourite blogs in one go. This site is now complete with a super recipe index and snazzy food conversion calculators (in the toolbar) thanks to my blog and children’s storytelling supremo Hugh. And then, I found this fantastic resource, Foodari, that allows you to create your own cookbook online.
Feeling rather smug over the weekend, I made a fresh, healthy and blindingly simple Paneer Bhujia or Paneer crumble. Then, tried chappati making with renewed gusto. And finally, plate heaped with brunch, found my inner peace in front of the telly.
PS = It would come as no surprise to learn that I NEVER make my own paneer or Indian cheese. Store bought is fine. I wouldn’t know the difference anyway.
Read on for recipe »
Sunday, I am told, is car boot sales day in the countryside. When one person’s clutter turns into another person’s treasure. No harm in getting stuck in for some new kitchen goodies, I thought.
Half an hour of sifting through dusty rubbish later, I came across a sweet square dish and inquired about its price.
“10p”, said the seller.
Not used to penny bargains, I blurted out: “Are you sure?”
To which he replied incredulously: “You want to pay more for that?”
I scurried off with the bowl and wondered what I would fill it with later. A morning at the car boot sale followed by a two-hour journey home meant no time to go food shopping. I would have to discover an old treasure in my crowded freezer.
Masala Mattar – sweet and spicy sauteed green peas – came to mind. Made with a bag of fresh frozen peas, this was the perfect side for our rump steak and sauteed potato dinner. Equally delicious with an Indian meal too.
This week hubby, QIC’s photographic genius and investor extraordinaire, had a minor op. While he braved the NHS, I stood in a corner shaking like a leaf at the sight of gauze and tape. For all that gobby, brassy chit chat…
How appropriate, then, that I get tagged by Gori Girl for my six unspectacular quirks! Despite being somewhat quirky generally, I figured mine had to be Indian cooking-related here for obvious reasons. So here goes:
The rules are as follows:
PS = Hubby is making a speedy recovery and hopes to return to Indian food photography early next week.
This man is the real deal when it comes to authentic Indian home cooking. And the official anti-Christ of quick Indian cooking.
In his sprawling Kolkata kitchen, one head chef and two assistants run ragged around him chopping, stirring and tidying. A floor-standing tandoor makes hot chicken kebabs. While dad navigates boxes of exotic spices sourced from far flung corners of India.
When he emerges from the kitchen six hours later, with an eight-part meal, I can’t help feeling a bit exhausted at the sight of it.
Now, my Indian dinner party meal planning technique is slightly less intense:
I’ve never had any complaints. But then dad hasn’t had my guests over for one of his feasts yet.
As we settled into our crisp onion bhajis, I let out a gasp. I had suddenly remembered my recent brush with international foodie fame and fortune.
I’m in Olive, I declared with a flourish.
Uncle one raised an eyebrow. Uncle two gave me a grunt. Aunt Madge just said: “Who’s Olive?”
Great. Only, like, the best food magazine published by the BBC. Read by a gazillion people, none of whom I actually know.
They asked me about my favourite cheap eat in London – the Â£6.95 eat as much as you want lunch buffet at Diwana Bhelpuri House in Euston. But if you’re not in London, this information is about as useful to you as your local weather to me.
So here are my top tips for spotting a really good Indian buffet instead:
I overslept on Sunday. Dashed to the shops to buy some kitchen cupboard essentials. Offloaded the whole lot in my kitchen. Grabbed my laptop and legged it to Geeks R US (with a small detour to research my Spring wardrobe).Back at home, I changed into pyjamas, lined the kitchen surface and took the plunge.I made naan.Yes. The stores sell perfectly, half decent ones. They do take longer to make that my one hour cap on Indian cooking. And kneading dough is my one of my least favourite activities, narrowly trailing behind eating Indian takeaways.But I could just never get the thought of those soft, fluffy flatbreads rising gently in the oven out of my head.(This Indian cooking thing is getting seriously out of hand.)Rammed full of all possible shortcuts, I got the time needed to get these babies finished down to three hours. Of course, two and half of those you don’t actually have to do anything. Except take loving looks at the dough. And gloat about your own genius.The dough really is the sticky part. First it clung to my powder pink painted finger nails like Elasto Girl. I got it off with a butter knife and plain white (all purpose) flour.Then the whole lot doubled into this enormous, heaving pile of naan dough that no amount of finger nail action could rescue. So I rolled them in some more plain white flour. The whole lot contracted. Making the early addition of yeast fairly pointless. At which point I stormed out of my kitchen swearing like a Bengali fishwife.
If I am perfectly honest, this recipe was not bad for a first try. However, it is in no way ready to be sprung upon you greasy-elbowed lovelies.
Thankfully, I am not ready to accept defeat yet. A blow by blow account of try 2 will follow. Hopefully, with a recipe in tow.In the meantime, cherish your nearest readymade naan. And remember: naan means bread. So saying “naan bread” is inexcusable. However sticky the situation…
I got used to being offered enlargements for body parts I didn’t possess. Or pills for body dysfunctions I biologically couldn’t have.
But this weekend, some scheming geeks inserted all sorts of unholy, adult website links into my innocent little blog!
An apology is in order if you spotted something odd in your brown basmati pulao in the last few days.
I should also apologise if you quite enjoyed the now deleted links.
Sadly, the only position this blog promotes is the quickie in the kitchen…
I got two bottles of greasy, glutinous tikka masala curry paste. Which my husband promptly appropriated declaring he hadn’t eaten decent curry for years.
So I despise the rubbish passed off as curry around the world. And my ultimate goal is to get people cooking real Indian food, quickly and simply. Technically, this means I may have to suffer the odd crap joke or two, right?
Forget it, I tracked down and decked my Secret Santa.
It’s now time to cook real Indian food for the greater good of mankind. Spread the love, feed the world with Menu for Hope, the annual fund raising event from food bloggers everywhere for the UN World Food Program.
It’s a simple idea. Food bloggers like me offer delicious prizes, which our readers can then buy raffle tickets to win.
Up for grabs here is the only Indian cookbook you’ll ever need – the National Indian Association of Women Cookbook:
A seminal tome, this little wonder has been passed down the generations to many a hapless bride, emigrating student and clueless bachelor. It has the most popular classic Indian dishes from around the country, contributed by the women who know them well – aunties, mummyjis, and even the Oberoi Group of Hotels. If you have ever wondered how to cook a real Pork Vindaloo, this book is for you. It is only sold in India, so I will source a special copy for a very lucky person.
This is what first got me cooking Indian food, and I haven’t stopped since!
All you have to do is visit The Passionate Cook, to view the prizes available. Then follow these simple instructions:
Go on… tikka look at it now…
It’s Diwali or Deepavali. The biggest event in the Hindu calendar. Festival of light, also noise, and celebration of good over evil.
Back in India, I spent it mostly hiding under my bed with our German Shepherd. The fireworks petrified the both of us.
The allure of the cash my father distributed after the Ganesh and Lakshmi Puja brought me out briefly. As did the food, of course. Light, swollen pooris or fried flatbreads. Ghee soaked halwa. Sookha kala channa or sauteed little dark chick peas.
You can see why it would have been hard to resist. Even under the circumstances.
This year, for the first time, I got my act together in time to get a group of friends over for dinner. We’re playing cards, eating traditional vegetarian food and setting off some garden fireworks in our unkept communal garden.
But it’s not, I’m afraid, well planned enough to feature the halwa barfi, kala channa and aloo kadhi I have cooked as part of dinner tonight yet.
Recipes to follow. Enjoy Diwali everyone.
It’s the last day of Durga Puja, a celebration of good winning over evil and highlight of the Bengali religious calendar.
I made it to the pandal (marquee) on Friday, only to be told to leave within an hour thanks to a queue of 400 people outside waiting to get in.
Thankfully, I’d made it to the bhog (food offering) table in time to grab some delicious khichuri (khichri), mango chutney and mishti.
Recipes to follow soon. Shubho bijoya dashami to all of you in the meantime…
Posted in Chit chat
Back from the world of high-street botox, designer dogs and leapord-print everything that is Cannes, I am basking in a warm glow that is a fabulous sun tan.
But until recently, I was more likely to carry a Victorian parasol in the sun for fear of catching colour than bake on a beach for hours a day.
I blame my grandmothers. When I was growing up in India, they considered a sun tan to be the third vice, after alcohol and cigarettes, exclaiming after my Goan holiday: “Look how dark you are. Who will marry you??”
Not like thisÂ was ever going to put me off tanningÂ for long (or anything else for that matter).
But two generations later, my sister greets me at home yesterday with: “Oh my God, look how dark you are. Use yogurt and lemon juice right now!”
Scary, that. It would both cool and bleach my skin right back to normal. But I’m not sure I want to steep myself in a chicken tikka marinade just yet…
Actually, I was already basking in a warm glow when I left for Cannes.
Despite missing every single food blog event, posting intermittently and blogging only when time permits, I have been deemed worthy of not one but two blog awards! A realÂ honour if I can spot one!
Thanks ladies. It certainly makes it all the more worthwhile. As do all the lovely comments, sometimes fraught, aboutÂ this, that and the other in recipes.
I’ll be back to blogging about food tomorrow. But here are my nominations for the awards:
I could nominate Asha of Foodie’s Hope for both, but then she has already received the award 100 times over as she well deserves it.
And a special mention for Mangs, who diligently tries almost all the vegetarian recipes on this site and is on the verge of pissing off her Halal Indian cornershop with her queries. Hang in there buddy…
Posted in Chit chat
The boozy Saturday night in before she left, we decided to have a mid-week party. My two Indian girlfriends would bring a dish each, mother would cook two dishes and hubby and his French best mate would eat for England.
Theoretically the easiest dinner party I’ve ever thrown. But this being the Basu household, things quickly unravelled.
Mother’s one kilo of prawns were not the shelled variety. On returning from work, I was handed a stainless steel bowl and strict peeling instructions.
Then one girlfriend arrived sans food. Too drunk on Saturday to remember the dinner party involved pot luck, she hastily made a beeline to buy the ingredients for her speciality anda raita.
While I sampled the other friend’s potato curry (aloo dum), hubby’s Irish, Indian food hating best mate called to say he was locked out and needed somewhere to go.
Before I knew it, he arrived, the group had collectively smashed two glasses, my dining table vaseÂ andÂ overcooked the dal.Â
We calmed down as my Russian friend arrived and soon eight people were sitting squashed around a table for four talking food, epilators, love and life and devouring anda raita, aloo dum, lentils cooked with oranges, mustard prawn curry and basmati rice straight out of pots and pans.
My top tips for a perfectly simple dinner party?
I would say get others to cook the food, but that wouldn’t quite work as a regular thing. Very sad to say goodbye to mother, but what an exit…
Posted in Chit chat
If, like me, you are always the last one to wake up to good things – sign up now!
The bad news is that my email firstname.lastname@example.org isn’t working. It’s down to the rather odd domain name of spunkymail, which gets blocked by the hotmail account emails get forwarded to.
All rather complicated for me. I’m usually quite happy to manually delete emails asking me to enlarge body parts I don’t posess or offering vitality boosters I don’t need.
Anyway, if you are trying to email me please bear with me while I get the funk back into spunkymail.
That does sound rude…
Posted in Chit chat
Rotis or chappatis are eaten as an alternative to rice around India, especially in the North of India. Not to be confused with paranthas or naan, these are cooked with whole wheat flour or atta (pictured) without any oil on a tawa or flat griddle pan.
The simplest version of a roti is called a phulka, because of the way it swells with air when cooked. It is topped with a dollop of butter or ghee before being torn into little pieces and eaten. When we were kids my mother used to make us rub some of the warm, melted butter on our lips as a natural lip balm.
It never occurred to me to make a roti from scratch. These flatbreads are best enjoyed piping hot and soft, cooked and delivered to the dining table by someone else. A cook, your mother, or if you’re lucky enough, a good Indian wife.
My husband couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw this in action. He said ruefully: “I married the wrong Indian woman!”
For I am more likely to throw a frozen chappati at his head than painstakingly knead, roll, pan cook and serve a fresh one to him.
Anyway, I decided to bite the bullet and teach myself how to make rotis. Don’t get me wrong, rotis/chappattis are really easy to make. They just require more effort to make from scratch than rice and are also easily available in ready-to-cook frozen packs.
Sadly, I didn’t have a tawa. But thankfully, I did have a rolling pin used last to make mojitos at our Cuban-themed party. As I got stuck in kneading, three thoughts came to my mind:
I was pleasantly surprised with the shape and started screaming “check me out, check me out” to the bemused hubby. As he left the house to play tennis with a friend, I insisted they both came back for a lunch of fresh rotis and lamb shakuti.
I left the rotis rolled out and ready for their return. Big mistake.
The rotis came out, as I texted my mum, hard as rocks and flat as pancakes. Poor hubby and friend ate in silence.
But I am still unfazed. Practice makes perfect, right? I have a 1.5 kg bag of atta and frozen chappatis as fallback. Try 2 to follow.
Posted in Chit chat
It’s Friday the 13th. Call me superstitious, but I have already had a bust up at work, a tough client meeting and slipped on my trendy winklepickers and grazed my knee.
But I am afraid. Very afraid.
Will I forget the long-stemmed lilies at work?
Will I be exposed as a lying fake with a bleeding knee as I burn the food while trying to reheat it in the oven?
Will I get drunk before dinner’s served again this time as a result of an antihistamine overdose and not excessive alcohol consumption?
This domestic goddess thing is way too stressful on a day like this. Wish me luck. Gulp!
Posted in Chit chat
I am reading a fabulous book – “Is it just me or is everything shit” – by Steve Lowe & Alan McArthur.
It just about sums up my views about life, love and everything in between as I chuckle on public transport deemed unsuitable for cattle transportation by the European Union.
If truth be told I bought this for my brother-in-law when he broke his leg on his first ski-ing trip and had to be airlifted to his chalet. Then I remembered he had just before that been the victim of identity fraud and then before that… oh God.
Totally unfunny. How insensitive!
Here’s a sample:
Delicatessan counters at supermarkets
The pakoras piled up in that quaint earthenware bowl are, of course, produced by the Indian matriarch up to her elbows in ghee out the back, merrily crushing her own spices while joshing with the French peasant dropping off filthy cheese in his 2CV.
Either that, or they’ve been mass produced, loaded into plastic containers, transported across the country in a big lorry, removed from the plastic containers and placed into said Earthenware bowl to seem just ever so slightly more appealing than the absolutely identical ones in vaccum-sealed plastic multi packs on the shelves.
While on the subject of books, I also bought Reza Mahammad’s “Rice, Spice and All Things Nice” on Indian cooking.
It looks interesting if a bit odd with the disproportionate number of pictured elephants. I’m hoping to cook something from this new find soon.
Before I go, this week is all about Indian cooking basics to keep with the semi-celebratory theme. I’ll bore off by the end of the week and start cooking instead.
Posted in Chit chat
I’ve been irritable all week. The first two days were spent almost entirely in the office preparing for the big mid-week meeting. Then came the meeting. It went fine and we all relaxed into our train seats, ready to tuck into whatever cold, stale food Virgin had to offer and head home.
The menu was incomprehensible. We want soup, but that’s only available on a Primo service. So? We are on a Pendolino.
Make sense? It didn’t to us either.
The food we could eat was unpronounceable or indigestible. A request for one portion of this combined with another portion of that was instantly rejected by the sullen-faced service manager: “You can only have one or the other.” Some cheek for £300 a pop tickets that could have bought us a weekend in Paris each.
Back in the office the next day, I succumbed to a throbbing migraine and left early. Now I’m stuck at home, nursing a heavy head and aching limbs at the mercy of my hubby and daytime television.
Needless to say, I am too fagged out to cook anything bar insipid grilled fish. The pack front says: salmon fillets. Allergy advice on the back reads: contains fish. Halleluiah!
I’m going to bed… (grumble, grumble)
Posted in Chit chat
I’ve arrived back in the UK from Peru. While I’ve been gone, Shilpa Shetty has published her very own chicken curry recipe featuring tomato ketchup and a gunman’s been loose in South London, near where I live.
On the bright side, it’s not snowing and I haven’t lost my job… yet! My colleagues have clearly missed me, which is both endearing and sinister at the same time.
It turns out that archaeologists in Ecuador have found that chillies were used in their cooking more than 6,000 years ago, way before inhabitants of Peru and Mexico.
What’s particularly interesting is that chillies were introduced to places like India and Thailand only after Europeans explored the New World in the 15th Century.
And I thought India was the mother of spicy cuisine! Looks like it’s only a little cousin to South America.
I guess you learn something new every day…
Posted in Chit chat
In the usual manic run up to a holiday, I didn´t get around to telling you that I´m in Peru for three weeks visiting my in-laws.
We arrived in Lima on 27th January and I kicked off our break tucking into a giganormous plate of barbequed cow´s hearts. There goes my award for Hindu of the year.
We are off to Huancayo this afternoon, the Andean valley town home to my mum and dad-in-law. It´s a gruelling six and half hours through the mountains, which inevitably involves a landslide, travel sickness and Pollo a la brasa (roast chicken… don´t ask).
Once I get there, I plan to cook salt and spice-free food for my mum-in-law. But also, spread the word about authentic Indian food using sign language and very broken Spanish. I hope the Huancayinos are ready for the onslaught.
The good news is that my in-laws are way less technologically challenged than my considerably younger mother and have embraced the world of broadband and working computers with ease. This means I can try to update QIC even in the Andes, with creative Indian recipes that don´t require a speciality store for ingredients.
Mirar este Espacio, as they say (I think) over here…
The Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty has been unfortunate enough to become a victim of bullying and accused racism in one of the UK’s most vapid reality TV shows – Celebrity Big Brother. Read all about it here.
This has blown up into one of the most criticised TV programmes over here in recent times, with Ofcom, the communications regulator, registering over 14,500 complaints and the show’s sponsor threating to quit.
Last night, the three girls accused of bullying Shilpa were sitting in the lounge as she swung past with a pot containing the remnants of a chicken dish she had cooked. As they tried to prevent her from doing it, she threw the remaining bones, oranges and spices down the toilet and clogged it up in the process.
The girls (understandably) got really annoyed with her and said a few more nasty things about how she never has to do any housework in India and doesn’t even know how to make a bed.
It looks like the real problem here is ignorance and not racism. The three bullies in the show have exposed themselves as completly ignorant of the lives of many Indians.
While National Geographic images of poor India are aplenty, the truth is that many Indians lead a comfortable life at home with domestic help – chauffeurs, cooks, nannies and cleaners. With high illiteracy and low labour costs, this is not a luxury for the super wealthy alone.
Take me for example, I never did any housework in India or even entered a kitchen. Once in England, I had to navigate my way around the basics of housework… but not until I had blown up a tin of baked beans in the microwave, served an uncooked meal, burnt a frozen pizza and yes, clogged the toilet with leftovers.
I am a mere ordinary mortal. Shilpa Shetty on the other hand is a Bollywood superstar. What do they expect?
The whole episode was cringe worthy to watch. But by picking on Shilpa the three girls are achieving little more than exposing themselves as the under-traveled, culturally challenged, thugs they really are.
Posted in Chit chat
I am about to have a birthday soon. Normally, I would invite everyone I know, plan my own surprise party and buy a whole new outfit.
But this year, it’s different.
I am edging closer to 30 by turning 29 and as far as I’m concerned, it ain’t no cause for celebration.
While I’m going all coy on the number, I thought it would be sensible to send my hubby a modest list of my preferred birthday presents (just thinking about it now makes me cringe). So this is what I send him:
If anyone asks… this is what I want for my birthday:
The Bharti Vyas Ayurveda Book
A £25 Mac make up voucher
A Waterstones voucher for cookbooks
A new garlic press (a really good one)
I should have seen this coming, but within seconds he had forwarded this to all our friends, his brother and my sister, adding:
1 carat diamond platinum ring
Boob job to size DD
Driving licence (or driver)
2 babies, a boy and a girl
So while I sit back as the centre of attention for the wrong reasons and butt of all jokes, I thought I’d share with you how I know I’m ageing:
I will head home soon to sulk…
Posted in Chit chat
I’ve been tagged. I did get very worried when I read this. Tagged? What exactly does this mean? Am I going to be followed, persecuted or simply watched closely on the blogosphere (this didn’t sound too awful).
I looked this up urgently and it appears I really don’t have anything to worry about.
This is my chance, thanks to Sra, to tell you all sorts of weird and wonderful things things about me in threes. It’s a game of tag, so Sandeepa picked her, she picked me and I’ve got to pick another unsuspecting bloggers. By the end of it we know more about each other than our favourite recipes and everyday bug bears. Sam has made a head start on this anyway…
So here goes:
Three people/things that make me laugh
My hubby, children and the film Clueless
Three things that scare me
Physical pain, ageing and terrorism
Three things I love
Cooking, travelling and talking
Three things I hate
Laziness, the cold and office politics
Three things I don’t understand
Men, languages and religion
Three things on my desk
Multivitamins, a rotting banana and lots of paperwork
Three things I’m doing right now
Trying to 1) be funny and failing, 2) work out how to enter my apartment block as I left the keys at home and 3) track down my wayward hubby
Three things I want to do before I die
Live life, travel far and wide and get people to appreciate and cook real “Indian” food
Three things I can do
Cook, offer solid advice and liven up your party
Three things you should listen to
Your husband/wife, your mother and your heart
Three things you should never listen to
Negative people, bad jokes and tuneless singing
Three things I would like to learn
How to keep my mouth shut sometimes, relax and Spanish
Three favourite foods
Chorizo, red meat and Biryani
Three beverages I drink regularly
Wine, vodka and water
Three TV shows/Books I watched/read as a kid
Anne Frank’s diary, Jane Eyre and Knight Rider
Ok, so that’s me. Now I’m going to tag you if you’re up for it:
Posted in Chit chat
I did a despicable, unforgiveable and truly stomach-churning thing last week. I ate an Indian takeaway.
Yes siree. An authentic inauthentic Indian meal, glowing with oil and food colouring and resplendent in its own mediocrity.
I know I must not try to justify myself, but we returned to an empty fridge from Christmas weekend only to find all shops and local restaurants closed apart from the neighbourhood Indian takeaway.
Needless to say, the meal was disappointing. How an establishment can sell that food is beyond me. I ranted for days about talking to the elderly owner of the restaurant about his negative effect on the global view of Indian cuisine, but was held back, quite sensibly, by hubby.
Now that a New Year has begun, I want to remind us why I started writing this blog
To bring authentic Indian food to busy people, who love eating it.
This obviously involves lots of easy Indian cooking and general ranting. But I don’t want to lose sight of all the great support of “real” Indian food lovers in the blogosphere.
You see, united we stand. But divided we are a chicken tikka masala balti! You get my drift…
So my New Years resolution is to draw on some of the fabulous recipes out there from Indian food blogs in addition to posting my own. Please email me recipes you like but look complicated at email@example.com. I will also keep posting tips on reducing cooking time and making life easier.
I will, and this is a promise, also get better at doing my rounds on the blogosphere. So far, it’s been a treat to meet all you interesting foodies and I’m really excited at the prospect of upping the campaign a notch. Note: an authentic Indian takeaway is pictured.
Watch this space…
Posted in Chit chat
O.M.G! Is it 2007 already? Huge wishes for the New Year.
Hubby and I decided to startÂ this New Year withÂ a clear head and fresh air. SoÂ we took off toÂ the countryside in our ageing mean machine.
Our two bedroom cottage was on a farm near an aptly-named village called Nomansland. We had no mobile phone coverageÂ and no cash machineÂ within easy walking distance. I even had to wear wellies because my two-inch heels sunk right into the slushy countryside. Quelle Horreur!!
We managed to find a lovely local farmer called Robert JamesÂ (pictured with his prize-winning bull) and buy fresh sirloin steaks for dinner. As I started cooking them on New Year’s Eve, I gaveÂ hubby the simple task of lighting the coal fire in the living room.
Before I could say medium-to-well-done, the open plan living area was filled with great big clouds of black smoke. The fire alarm promptly went off and hubby had to go running to fetch the farm owner fromÂ the crucial moment in hisÂ murder mystery party.Â I stood there waiting, whacking the fire alarm off with a designer shoe to stop it from upsetting the cattle, hens, sheep, countryside in general and the other guests on the farm.
The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful but it did feel good to wake up without a headache on 1 January 2007. Hope I wasn’t the only sad sap taking it easy on New Year’s eve…
Posted in Chit chat
… on my wonderful trip back home to Kolkata, India. I did very little, but still managed to stay terribly busy throughout flitting between hair/beauty appointments, lunch/dinner invitations and my sister’s engagement. My photographer hubby also dragged me along to all sorts of bizarre photographic adventures, involving trips to weird places at the wee hours of the morning.
Needless to say, I have a new stash of recipes to try and blog about. I couldn’t bear to do anything domestic in India, apart from mix myself a vodka. But wherever I went I told people about QIC and the recipes flowed like the Hoogli itself. I can’t wait to get started in the kitchen. Just as soon as I overcome jet lag, which is making me sleep by 8:00pm these days.
It has been two years since I last visited Kolkata and a lot has changed. But some things will always be the same. Here’s what to expect on holiday in India:
Until tomorrow’s recipe…
Posted in Chit chat
I am off home tomorrow to Kolkata (Calcutta) in India for a two-week holiday. Once there, I promise to try and use my mother’s relic of a computer, complete with window 3.1, to log into wordpress and write posts about all the wonderful food I’ll be eating.
But it may not happen. The last time my mother tried to do anything apart from send an email it spontaneously combusted and didn’t even flicker for months.
But when I do come back I promise to:
Maybe the third promise will be hard to keep…
Alvida (or ciaow for now)!
Posted in Chit chat
Right. Back to the subject of what alcohol to drink with Indian food. You remember a few days ago I touched on this subject, then got drunk and vowed never to touch alcohol again?
Well, here I am again. Sipping a Californian Rose, writing about what tipple best suits a curry. The research is over, and has also been tested on my consumer PR colleagues at Monday’s dinner party.
As a rule, I would never recommend drinking anything too heavy or complex with Indian food. The food has enough different spices to keep your taste buds content for it to be necessary to complicate matters with booze.
Let’s start with spirits, because that is what most people drink before dinner in India. Scotch and vodka are perennial favourites. Scotch for the men and vodka for the ladies.
My nutritionist actually recommends sticking to vodka when drinking because it’s so pure, it doesn’t interfere too much with the digestive system (Always good to think about the digestive system when eating Indian food).
Drinking spirits can be tricky at dinner parties though. How do you know what people prefer? And getting mixers to suit different requirements can also be a pain.
In my experience, beer is drunk during the daytime than at night in India. It’s more of a lunchtime tipple, presumably because of its low(er) alcohol content.
I am not a big beer drinker. But I believe many lighter and slightly sweet Belgian beers are excellent with Indian food, like Leffe. Indian beers like Kingfisher and Cobra are also hugely popular, sometimes because you don’t get a very exhaustive drinks list at Indian restaurants.
Ah-ha. This is where I can really show off with some new found knowledge.
Wine drinking in India is fairly recent phenomenon, with producers like Grover and Sula making inroads into international markets with their great wines.
My media and wine expert research has uncovered that aromatic and unoaked white wines, with a touch of sweetness worked best with Indian food. Rose wines also work well and with red wine, the light and fruity types with soft tannins (the dry taste you get at the back of your mouth, after a sip of the wine) are your best bet.
The Aberdeen Press and Journal was a huge help with this summary. Now, I am no expert, but this sounds to me like any wine that is described as “soft and fruity and drinkable”.
The other thing to look out for is acid. In my years of excessive wine drinking with Indian food, I have learnt that acidity and Indian food do not team well. According to wine expert Matt Skinner:
As a rule, wines produced north of the Equator will be higher in natural acidity and lower in alcohol.
At the dinner party, we tried Australian Chardonnay, Italian Pinot Grigio and Californian Rose wines and they all worked well. On the red front, we enjoyed a very drinkable Chilean Merlot. And I am happy to report that no one complained a dodgy tummy the next day, from the food or wine.
This is obviously a very simplistic view, as wines are wonderfully complex beings. But if you like me usually buy alcohol for dinner party drinking in a mad panic and are stuck for options in a restaurant, then these should help as easy-to-remember guidelines.
Just as I thought I had come to the end of my research, I found this fabulous article on how turmeric prevents alcohol-related liver disease! Glug…
Since my cook curry, drink wine experiment went horribly wrong on Monday, I’m working on a list of what alcohol best accompanies Indian food.
I had the grand unveiling planned for today, but the combination of irrate client, stressed out boss and looming deadline have derailed my plans.
In India we never drink alcohol during the meal. Just lots of it beforehand.
There’s a real “arrive, drink, eat and bugger off” mentality at dinner parties. Most of the drinking happens before the meal and people tend to leave almost immediately after they’ve eaten. So dinner is served quite late.
Scotch dominates bar drinks and wine is terribly fashionable these days. If you’re eating lunch, beer is the main tipple.
Anyway,Â it’s quite different since I’ve moved. Mostly whatever wine is on offer and lots of Cobra (Indian) or CusquenaÂ beer.
Tbc cop tomorrow as they say in the big bad PR world…
Posted in Chit chat
This time, we’re talking Gujarati food with a little help from Trupti. Trupti is what this blog is all about – she has her hands full with two children, a husband, a job as a trainee nurse and manages to dish up delightful dishes at home and write her blog. Genius!
Gujarat is a state on the Western coast of India. Gujaratis or Gujjus, as they are affectionately known, are primarily vegetarian. Their dishes have a light way about them, with steaming and gentle heating often being use to make light, fluffy and sweet n sour dishes. Over to Trupti:
One way people can distinguish Gujarati food from the rest is it is much simpler and has a sweeter taste to its curries rather than the heavily spiced Mughlai or South Indian curries. But I really think the liberal use of sugar/jaggery in practically EVERY dish sets it apart!! And also, we do not use coconuts or poppy seeds as a base for our curries.
If this has made you hungry and you want to know what the typical Gujarati dishes are, read on:Â
Dhokla, Undhiyu, Handvoh, Khandvi â€“ all reminders of a cuisine loved by all. A medley that brings together the simplest of ingredients in a delightful manner, better known as Gujarati food.
What sets this cuisine apart from the others? Perhaps itâ€™s the blend of earthy ingredients such as potatoes, eggplants, yams, raw bananas simmered in a garlic-based sauce â€“ a dish popular from the Southern part of Gujarat called Surat.
Or would you rather try the ever popular Khaman Dhokla- a steamed chickpea flour delicacy from the Northern part of the state?
Or maybe youâ€™re feeling adventurous and would like to go for the Sev-tameta nu shaak, a sweet and sour curry made from ripe, juicy tomatoes and topped with chick pea fritters?
And bhartu, roasted and charred eggplant blended with onions and tomatoes from the Kathiawad region?
What can beat the delicious yogurt curry known as â€˜Kadhiâ€™ along with â€˜khichdiâ€™ a hodgepodge of lentils and rice accompanied by crispy â€˜papadsâ€™ and pickles? Comfort food indeed.
Posted in Chit chat
A couple of weeks ago I spotted signs on the London Underground advertising the BBC Good Food Show.
A Food Show? In London? What better way for a new born food blogger to spend a whole day?
Excited at the prospect of seeing the UK’s top celebrity Indian chefs in action and sampling the treats on show, I went online today to book my advance discounted ticket.
On closer inspection of the planned “foodie day out”, I noticed a complete absence of any ethnic influences or world cuisine in the programme. No Chinese, Indian, Japanese chefs doing demonstrations. No mention of Indian food in the schedules.
It’s all a bit odd and disappointing to be honest! The line-up does not in any way reflect the good food BBC’s viewers consume regularly. And for the show to be hosted in a city world famous for the variety of cuisine, surely this small detail should not have been overlooked?
A spokesperson said all the Indian events were planned for Birmingham, widely known as the “curry capital” of the UK. Pity. I reckon they would have had more visitors if they had widened the net slightly.
I’m going shoe shopping instead…
Posted in Chit chat
Now I’ve heard it all. Tilda, the bastions of basmati rice, have published a nifty guide to the additive-ridden sludge served in curry houses across Britain.
If you’ve ever wondered, there are 90,000 curry houses in the UK that dish out 23 million chicken tikka masala portions each year. The guide is also a tribute to, er, rice, which is the ultimate accompaniment to Indian food.
According to Tilda, 125gms is the perfect rice amount for two people and the word basmati literally translates to “the fragrant one”.
Hats off to Tilda Basmati for creating yet another thinly-veiled PR toy for promoting its “pioneering rice recipe innovations”. But wait, there’s a catch. They’ve sponsored it, but like all good things in life it’s not free. Oh no… this little wonder is available at the bargain basement price of £9.99 at leading bookstores.
Anyway. Here’s my tribute to rice. It rocks. It’s easy to cook, cheap and filling. And there really is no better accompaniment to a curry. A perfectly shaped chapati (roti), lovingly served hot off the tawa, comes a close second.
Posted in Chit chat
It’s not been a good week for Indian cooking. I’ve had adjust my focus from dhal to driving lessons. And I would take dhal anyday.
I’m not sure why driving isn’t losing popularity? Clutch control is infinitely more complicated than chopping, stirring and following recipes. But some may beg to differ.
Mind you three pots is the most I’d have going at any one given cooking session. Imagine using three just to make dhal? Hang in there buddy, there is hope yet.
Anyway, focus is most definitely shifting back to Indian cooking this weekend. I thought I’ll make some chana or chick peas. It’ll have to be dead easy, as always, to fit around the whirl of weekend activitiy.
Also, to explain the coin image alongside this post, supermarket vouchers are up for grabs to all UK residents. You need to play to win. This could be just the thing you need to get you started on your Indian food Odyssey.
I’m amazed by the new trend for people not wanting to cook. Peter Grove mentioned it yesterday. And you can barely watch TV these days without having some celebrity chef chastising you for not cooking at home. Jun Tanaka, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay… the list goes on.
To be honest, I think celeb chefs are part of the problem, making us ordinary mortals look like brainless, unskilled children in the kitchen for years for our total inability to be like them. But in a fast world with high expectations, why would we want to slave over a hot cooker?
I’ll tell you why I cook:
Want to twist a knife into my husband/boss’s heart. Tired, angry, frustrated. But instead, chop a carrot, peel some potatoes and stir some curry. Incrediby therapeutic.
Feel old, frizzy, wrinkly, unloved. Want to hide under the blanket and feel miserable. Invite my friends over, cook a mean meal and gloat over the heaps of praise afterwards.
Hungry. Want to eat. See the crap sold in the supermarket under the guise of a ready made meal. Cook.
Husband threatens to cook (oh no, pesto pasta, frozen pizza, stir fry… again???). Hastily cook.
Some life coach once said, life is all about pain and pleasure. I think in our case he means, when you think of the pain in cooking, think of the pleasure in the eating.
Gotta go, my Chinese Takeaway just arrived.
If you needed an excuse to eat Indian food, you’ve got it. It’s National Curry Week in the UK and restaurants across the country are busying themselves with activities like building the tallest stack of papads, making the world’s biggest curry etc.
Menu Magazine, the event organiser, aims to get people to contribute Â£1 every time they eat curry in a restaurant this week for Oxfam’s relief work in India and Asia. Cor blimey. I may just have to try the Spice Balti on my street corner!
Peter Grove of Menu, said:
“Our figures show 23 million people are eating out on a repeat basis in Britain every year. We are a nation of ethnic cuisine lovers in general, of which curry is top.”
So if you want to do a good deed while stuffing your face, eat a curry this week. A full list of participating restaurants is available here.
And then next week, try cooking one at home.
Grumble. Grumble. Danced until the wee hours of the morning with wayward colleagues, swigging vodkas, champagne and anything else I could lay my hands on.
Over healthy living salad lunch, I asked my size 0 blonde bombshell colleague why she hasn’t used any of my recipes yet. S0BB is a saladoholic, with the occasional inexplicable urge for Buckingham Balti.
She buckled under the pressure of a throbbing hangover and my personal brand of persuasion and promised to try one of my recipes. But she’s demanding a dry dish presumably to eat with salad.
Hmmm, must think hard about low-fat, child-proof, salad-friendly recipe.
In the meantime, I put my few remaining brain cells towards trying to figure out why people who love Indian food don’t cook it at home. I came up with the following reasons:
The whole idea of this blog really is to break down the barriers and demystify Indian cooking. If you love Indian food but don’t cook it at home, I’d love to hear why.
Then I can really put my power of persuasion to the test!
Off now to the British Museum Bengali food event. There’s no better hangover food in the world, methinks…
My mind often wanders while I sit at my filthy work desk, under a paper mountain that doubles up as an incredibly sophisticated filing system. I imagine myself in a cotton kurta, with my hair in a bun. A rolling pin in one hand, I wipe the beads of sweat off my face while diligently shaping the perfect roti.
Instead, here I am. Working on version 87 of longest-presentation-in-the-world after a virtually sleepless night, with a long day ahead. In times like this, I wonder how I could ever bring myself to cook anything, let alone a curry.
But every foodie has a bag of tricks up its sleeve when it comes to saving time when cooking. With Indian food, which isn’t always quick and easy, these are a life line.
Here are three of my time-saving Indian cooking tips:
As the days go by, I am spurred on to help identify real Indian food from mass produced junk. As a Bengali from Kolkata, I think it’s a good idea to start with a bit on the cuisine from back where I belong.
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of West Bengal, the Indian state to the east of the country, beside Bangladesh. Better known for Mother Teresa, the Black Hole and Eden Gardens, its varied and delicious food often gets overlooked.
Shame. In Bengal, food is of utmost importance. Everything else comes second. As Simon Parkes puts it in “The Calcutta Kitchen”:
Once, a good friend told me, “what you’ve got to remember about us Bengalis is that we’re only really interested in three things: educating our children, reading books and food.” And in some ways that’s it in a nutshell.
Bengalis are also obsessed with their bowel function, but I don’t want to gross you out.
Udit Sarkhel, the co-writer of “The Calcutta Kitchen” has identified some real stand out qualities of Bengali food. Here are my top five, in his words:
This Thursday, 19th October, Udit and Simon are speaking at a Bengali food evening at the British Museum. A must for food lovers and other curious beings. I believe some of their recipes will be dished out as finger foods after the talk. Tickets are still available if you want a more hands on Bengali food lesson.
Jen may be a die hard Indian takeaway fan, but she’s not afraid to experiment. So when I receive her request for some “real” Indian restaurants, I get ready to push the boat out.
Most Indian restaurants in the UK are run by cooks from the Sylhet province in Bangladesh. Taffy explains it beautifully, so I won’t bother. Basically, the food is delicious but not Indian. It was created especially for the British beer and curry palate and is dished out by Bangladeshis.
You can spot a true Indian restaurant instantly by looking for the following:
Before I head off to eat dim sum and buy make up, I want to make an important point about Indian food.
Repeat after me. Chicken Tikka Masala. Is. Not. Indian.
Many of the dishes served up in the average Indian restaurant have been created especially for the Western Palate. Before I moved to England from India I had never heard of a phal, madras or tikka masala. And I am not alone. There are some stand out restaurants that are true to Mother India, but these are few and far between.
If I am totally honest, there is no such thing as Indian food. Each part of India has its own culinary influences and the dosas and idlis of the South are completely different from a Bengali fish curry. The word curry, too, is a fake. Curry means gravy. It is not, as commonly used, a word used to collectively describe an Indian meal.
I’m sick of the hotch potch, nonsense food that is passed off as Indian and sets off my digestive system and skin. You should be too. Stick to “real” Indian restaurants. Or better still, look for authentic recipes to cook at home.
The week started with a bang – a 72-megabyte email some idiot tried to send me crashed my inbox and semi-paralysed my work day.
Sitting at home in my sheep chic pyjamas after the day’s drama, I needed inspiration for our dinner. I had a pack of frozen chicken and half a pot of sun dried tomato to work with. Nice!
I know, I know, you’re wondering why the hell I don’t make a curry. Sorry to disappoint my adoring fans (all six of you, including mother) but just because I extol the virtues of Indian cooking doesn’t mean I never eat anything else. Food is all about variety and I want it all.
There is a problem though. When I don’t fancy eating Indian food I find I have too many cookbooks and not enough recipes.
I’m kinda feeling the pain of seasoned blogger Heidi Swanson, who got sick and tired of buying cookbooks and decided to actually start using them instead.
As my chicken defrosts, I’ll just have to trawl through Jamie, Nigella, Delia and whatever else I can find sitting on the shelves.
Could it be true? Have some evil trolls stollen a march on me by stealing the only good idea I have ever had in my life? Hubby alerted me to a website dangerously named easyindiancooking.com.
Not so fast, honeys.
On closer inspection, easyindiancooking.com was not the same curry proposition. It offers South Indian recipes. I embrace all of Mother India. It promises easy dishes that take a few minutes to make. I… well pretty much the same. It gives you the an Indian e-cookbook for $9.95. I offer my recipes that have been carefully perfected over years of tears, tantrums. burnt fingers and smelly hair for the grand sum of nothing.
Not quite my nemesis then…