31
Oct
2014

Meet eat learn

Launch of my Indian cooking pop up

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Menu 550

Baby number four has finally arrived. After the wild success of two darling sprogs and a rather cute book, I have finally mustered up the courage to deliver my first ever Indian cooking pop up. Part Supper Club, part Indian cooking 101, this is a pop up with a difference.

I’ll be will be dishing out crispy pakoras, tender lamb on the bone and freshly roasted, hand-rolled chapattis, along with tips and tricks for time-starved lovelies to start cooking authentic Indian food at home.

The venue is the gorgeous Maida Hill Place in London W9, right by Westbourne Park tube. And the wine has been handpicked by curry loving, grape experts at the General Wine Company to match the menu perfectly. Signed copies of my book will be available for sale on the night at a heavy discount to RRP.

Book here now to nab one of the limited seats at an introductory £60pp. Meet Eat Learn something new before the end of the year or buy someone a present they’ll enjoy for years to come.

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    23
    Oct
    2014

    Diwali Dhamaka

    Simple Chocolate Burfi

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    Chocolate burfi 550

    Sitting in the pub with a glass of red wine, it suddenly occured to me that we should have an impromptu dinner party for six to celebrate Shubho Bijoya. The next day. What a great idea.

    Not so great, actually.

    On D day, I ran around London running errands, meeting people, sourcing cubed lamb shoulder arriving home in a blaze of panic barely two hours before guests were due to show.

    Refusing to crumble, I made a jug of Mango Lassi and shoved it to the back of the fridge. Then I got to work on 3kgs of Kosha Mangsho, Cholar Dal, Shahi Paneer. Jacking the idea for a fancy snack for drinks, I opted for chilli cheese toasts, and desert was going to be shop bought Gajar Halwa with Vanilla Ice Cream.

    The guests arrived on time, just as I finished cooking and put the rice cooker on. Shock number one: They don’t like melted cheese. Shock number two: The rice cooker hadn’t actually been turned on at source, which meant we were all sat waiting at the table with a stone cold and watery pot of raw rice that I ceremoniously served. And shock number three: Just when we could no longer eat or drink anything, I remembered the giant jug of mango lassi at the back of the fridge.

    No wonder, then, that seeing all the Diwali prep food porn on the blogosphere has made me want to run screaming to the nearest mithaiwala. Just to regain my street cred, I thought I would trial possibly the most idiot-proof, child-friendly, mithai for dummies: this blindingly simple chocolate burfi, a rich and creamy fudge laced with ghee for Diwali.

    If, like me, you have left it to the last minute. This is the recipe to ressurect the domestic goddess in you this Diwali. May you and your family be blessed with all things sweet and special.
    Read on for recipe »

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      17
      Oct
      2014

      Fish is the dish

      Crowd pleasing kedgeree

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      Kedgeree 550

      The new portfolio career, means new cookery projects. Where there is a chef, a gorgeous professional cook, there is clearly a spot for yours truly flying the diversity flag for the ordinary person. One Indian dish at a time.

      The first was the Fish of the Dish campaign for Seafish UK, the seafood authority. The task: to popularise the use of fish and seafood in every day cooking. A worthy initiative, with a number of amazing health benefits. So I rolled up my sleeves and dived right in.

      Walking into Hearst Magazine HQ with a celebrated chef, his man Friday/ Sous Chef and a trunk load of ingredients was bad enough. Entering Good Housekeeping Institute’s kitchen next sent my head reeling back to mother’s collection of treasured 70s & 80s editions on our Kolkata bookshelf. No pressure. No none at all.

      While man Friday got to work under the sharp eye of the esteemed chef, I reapplied war paint. Who needs sharp knives when you have lipstick?

      I got started with prep, leaving the PR lady in charge of eggs. In a cupboard the size of an airplane hanger, induction pans were nowhere to be found. One gas hob was already doing its thing. It soon transpired, said PR lady couldn’t even boil an egg. Literally. As chunks of boiled egg peeled off with the shell, the client stepped in to help and the lovely chef took mercy on the housewives in the corner and sent man Friday in to rescue us.

      Meanwhile, the odd raised eyebrow at the kitchen entrance had been replaced by a steady stream of more inquisitive punters from Hearst UK. It was edging close to mid day and the sizzled cinnamon, roasted cumin and smoked fish had done their magic. Before I could say “eat more fish”, there were 22 journalists in front of me waiting for their lunch to be delivered.

      Lunch was served. Kerala-style Monkfish Curry, with tamarind and coconut, and Kedgeree. Kedgeree is my go to crowd pleaser: a cousin of the khichdi, with an Anglo Indian twist from way back when. My favourite way to serve this is for a giant brunch that the whole family, and visiting relatives, can tuck into. Where this one’s concerned, fish really is the dish. Now to increase my repertoire!
      Read on for recipe »

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        10
        Oct
        2014

        Slim Pickings

        Chicken Cafreal

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        Chicken Cafreal 550

        Oh if I had a penny for everyone who asks me whether Indian food can be healthy and easy to cook. I’d be pretty rich by now.

        The answer is YES. But it’s easy to see why anyone would think differently. Take the humble Onion Bhaji/Onion Pakora. Delicious? Yes. Deep fried? Oh yes. Not quite the poster child for Generation Type 2 Diabetes.

        And then there’s the healthier evils. Like chappatis. Wholewheat flour, roasted and puffed nicely enough with a nutty aroma and soft texture, with not a smidgen of oil in sight. Your inner self is likely to feel better than your aching arms and doughy fingernails though. Unless you are lucky enough to have a dough hook and someone to do your washing up.

        It is easy to see why anyone would think differently. Here are some common mistakes I’ve found people make with Indian cooking at home:

        • Blending your own spice powders: There is no need. Unless you really fancy a bit of a kitchen experiment. In which case invest in a good mini coffee grinder, with a removeable bowl in it. It is perfectly acceptable to use ready ground spices. I prefer to add them in individually rather than use the all encompassing (and slightly one-dimensional) curry powder
        • Making your own Indian breads: Again, why? Most Indian kitchens are a hotbed of activity with several dishes being prepared by several people. This a lovely thing to do if you have the time and the assistance in the kitchen. Or, if you are a seasoned cook with lots of time on your hands. (In which case, what on Earth are you doing reading this?). Store bought packs of chapattis, parathas as just fine.
        • Laying on a three-course meal: I mean, seriously. You don’t have to get the deep fat fryer out to make your own Onion Bhajis for starter. Dal, roti, sabzi form the basis of every day meals. And then you can add raita, a meat/fish dish, and rice (plain or pulao). What you usually see offered as starters in restaurants are snacks. These are often just bought in from the shops. Or else, cooked at snack time. Desert, too, is usually a little (store bought) something sweet. The more lavish sweet treats are reserved for important occasions.
        • Cooking, and then cooking again: I have watched many home cooks fry a vegetable, remove, make a masala, then add said vegetable back. That’s a very dead vegetable. Cooked in twice the amount of oil, with twice the effort. Why? Think about how your main ingredient can be cooked in one go. Unless you’re making paneer, which usually tastes much better in dishes once sealed first.

        Any others you can add?

        My mantra is everything in moderation. And I refuse to spend more than an hour dishing up everyday family meals. These days, the kids get stuck in too. Chopping herbs with butter knives, peeling ginger and garlic, mixing and rolling said rotis. Apart from the ever popular 30 minute meals, my favourite killer dishes are the ones where I slather meat in marinade and cook in the oven while the chaos of bathtime, bedtime ensues.

        Like this oven-baked Goan Chicken Cafreal in a Coconut Vinegar marinade. A shallow-fried spicy sour chicken that is usually marinated for a few hours, I find cooking it in its own juices in a tightly sealed foil parcel gives it a lovely depth without the need for efficiency or planning.

        Mopped up Maunika’s sweet and sour dal, and steaming hot basmati rice, it’s an easy and healthy way to get a masala kick.
        Read on for recipe »

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          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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