2013 in review

31 Dec

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Mexican Breakfast

8 Feb My version of Mexican breakfast

I am in love with Mexican cuisine. As a self-proclaimed foodie I am ashamed to say that the extent of my exposure to Mexican food before I came to the UK was restricted to four things – Salsa (like the dance), Nachos (like Senõr Pepito’s masala triangles), Tacos with black beans (as in, rajma, right?) and Tortillas (don’t pronounce the ‘r’ ), none of which I truly liked. Yes, I had tried jalapenos and of course I loved chorizo, but in my mind these individual things didn’t map up to make ‘cuisine’. At most, they were snacks that you bought at the movies and avoided at restaurants.

Until, that was, the evening when I saw this programme on the Food Network channel. I was bored with eating the regular stuff, and was looking for something easy and exciting when I saw Thomasina Meirs make this simple Mexican breakfast dish.

My version of Mexican breakfast

As I watched, I realised that I already had most of the ingredients at home. I didn’t waste time in putting knife to  red pepper, and soon, this amazingly tasty dinner-breakfast was ready.

Fried egg replaced with goat’s cheese

Truth is, I had been waiting for this ‘intervention’ all my life, and immediately followed it up with a meal at Taqueria where I tried

Flautas deep fried rolled tortillas filled with refry (v) or chicken, with tomatillo salsa, crema, lettuce, sliced onion, queso fresco. The sauce on this one is super awesome


Quesadillas toasty corn tortillas folded around melted cheese with mushroom and house made Mexican chorizo. Woah. Died and went to food heaven, and was glad to be alive to be able to try it before going to heaven

and some other things I don’t remember.

And then of course, I went to Wahaca, where I tried

Fish a la Pimienta Grilled mullet with a melting onion, black pepper, fresh lime and pumpkin seed sauce, served with green rice and salad. It grows on you till you cant get enough


Tostadas with Chicken guajillo Chunks of marinated chicken, lettuce,
guacamole and a smoky guajillo oil. *Want to out of the house at this moment and sinking my teeth into some *

You can find the original recipe for Mexican Breakfast  here.

If you want to make my version though, replace the egg with some goats cheese or semi-hard cow’s milk cheese (I usually use the plain Apetina), and switch the Worcester sauce with sweet smoked paprika.

If you’ve had great Mexican food experiences elsewhere in London, I’d love to know, so drop me a line with your suggestions!

Plain or pretentious?

1 Feb

I read this article today in the Guardian about how the innocence of the potato crisp must be preserved i.e. it should be seasoned only with salt, instead of dousing the fried delight in fancy flavours (read ‘Pizza’, ‘Chargrilled Steak’, ‘Chicken Tikka’). I personally love to break up the boring routine, espcially when its a flavour like Lay’s Masala Magic.

Here’s a link to the article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/feb/01/walkers-crisps-gourmet-chipsnk

What is your opinion?

The simple things in life

31 Jan

With all this advertising going on about how ‘every little helps’ and how we should ‘live well for less’, sometime I really wonder if buying fresh produce like vegetables, fruits, fish and such like, is anywhere near what is promised by supermarkets. It is a pity that I live nowhere near a market, but if given a choice, I think that I’d prefer shopping there, any day.

Recently, I was having a discussion over lunch with some of my work mates about how imporant good quality food really is, and I realised that back at home, in India, I somehow feel much better off knowing that the carrot I am eating comes from the local bhaji wallah who I can scold and argue with if the quality is bad, rather than a sanitary plastic bag that tells me its is fresh and washed, so I can put it straight in the pot (heebie jeebies! always wash vegetables even if they tell you they’re clean)

The discussion moved on to how, in fact, some supremarkets arent doing as well as they would expect, and people are slowly starting to realise that being cheap is one thing and quality yet another.

Flashing back, I also remembered that my grandfather and a few other elder men in the family would have a weekly ritual of going to the market and spending hours choosing only the best for their wives, children and grandchildren. The joy of then cooking with that produce would be unparalleled. Not only would it bring the family together, but also ensure that they lived long and healthy. Better ingredients always made better food, and that is a fact.

It is when the simple things in life are great, like that zesty sweet orange I like sinking my teeth into or the perky pomphret that I put in my curry, that you can truely live well.

Fried Baby Eggplant with Salad

4 Oct IMG_2330

And we’re BACK! Has it really been more than a month?!

Between relocating and getting my kitchen set back up, I haven’t been able to do much cooking, but here’s a little something to get me started again and to give you a taste of the exciting stuff that’s to come.

Making Fried Baby Eggplant is quite simply the easiest-tastiest thing there is and can be passed off as a regular meal after a hard day’s work, or be dressed up on your party table to impress guests. My mother makes another version of this at home, which has a more complex seasoning, but for now, let us work with really simple ingredients and let the eggplant do its smoky flavoured magic!

What you need (serves 2):

4-5 baby eggplants

Oil for frying (about 4-5 tbsp)

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp garlic powder

Salt to taste

For the garnish,

1 large red onion, thinly diced

1 large tomato, chopped

a handful of coriander, finely chopped

What to do:

Combine the smoked paprika, salt, oregano and garlic powder and keep aside.

In a shallow pan, heat oil for frying.

Now take the baby eggplants, wash and slice off the green heads. Now carefully make two cuts going downwards to the base of the eggplant, so it forms a cross.

Take a pinch full of the prepared seasoning, and stuff it inside the baby eggplants. Make sure that it is spread evenly on all four of the segments we’ve just made.

Once this is done, pop in the eggplants into the heated oil, and turn the flame to medium. Fry until the purple skin turns very dark indigo.

Serve hot with sliced onions, tomatoes and coriander for garnish.

Hiding under an avalanche of onions and tomatoes!

Here served with pita bread and leafy salad


25 Aug

Hello world! 

Sorry  haven’t been updating for a while. Looks like its going to be another week before I can get back to the blog (working on my final submission for the MA). Sorry, but see you soon!


Healthy for 2 weeks and counting…

10 Aug IMG_2300

For the last two weeks, I’ve been on this somewhat-diet that I made from a hotchpotch of advise from women’s magazines, some serious examination of calorie charts and titbits of common sense. Just for fun (and I’m not advocating ANY of this) I thought I’d share this diet with you. I still don’t know how well I’ve fared on the weight loss front, but I am feeling a lot less “loose” and a bit more “tight” if you know what I mean  :)

So up first, Breakfast. Most important meal of the day for me, and I like to think the most healthiest as well. I never have meat in the mornings anyway, so it wasn’t really that much of a struggle. I usually have bran flakes and a cup of coffee. Although fruits do get a bit heavy on the student pocket, they are totally worth it.

Bran flakes with raisins, blue berries and watermellon

In between breakfast and lunch. When I was in boarding school, they used to call this period between breakfast and lunch “juice break” where we used to get a glass of juice (if we were lucky to get there before everybody else did) and two biscuits. When my parents first heard about this, they found the idea ridiculous. How can one eat so much and constantly? But the idea behind it was this – to keep your metabolism going, so you wouldn’t go overboard at lunch time (not that it stopped us :P). So mid-morning, when the breakfast effect has worn off, I have a few almonds (about 6 to 8) and some swigs of a yoghurt drink. Its both refreshing and nutritious!

Lunch. I discovered this really cool, cheap and tasty option that would leave me feeling full AND help me lose some of that extra flab. Its called Rye Bread. Tada!! My friend Shuli who I suggested it to (and who is a willing consumer of it) fondly calls it “cardboard”. It is. But its healthy, fibrous, nearly no calories cardboard. Now for the fun part: go crazy on the dip that accompanies the rye bread. There’s a whole host of flavours out there that I didn’t even know about! In 2 weeks I’ve discovered 3 types of hummous (all low fat), tzatziki (which is so wonderully like raita), and an aubergine dip that has a lovely smokey flavour combined with a smooth texture. Along with the rye bread, I have stalks of celery or carrots, or some fruit to give me a break from the bread. And sometimes sometimes when I’m feeling really generous with myself, I throw in a stick of cheese😛

In between Lunch and Dinner. At about 6 in the evening, I get really hungry, and its usually for things like chocolate and chips and other fattening stuff that I should stay far away from. To placate my pangs at this hour, I usually whip up some tea which is usually loose-leaf Assam tea and have it with 2 ginger-nut biscuits (only) and perhaps a handful of peanuts. This combination usually keeps me covered until dinner time : )

Dinner. This is probably totally anti traditional diet, but I let myself go slightly over the top for dinner as compared to my other meals during the day. I don’t know why that is. Maybe I’m used to this pattern because I’ve followed it for most of my life. Even back at home in India, dinner was always the heaviest meal because at the end of the day, you could just relax and enjoy it (plus the family was all sitting together!). So for dinner, I’ve come up with a few options that range from grilled fish, to boiled vegetables and noodle soup (with only salt and pepper!) or just a vegetable stir-fry with egg (sometimes I eat the yoke, at other times I don’t).

Sweet chilli roasted salmon (from Tesco, absolutely delicious) and Noodle soup with celery

So that’s it. Don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep this up, but I’m hoping it’ll be long enough to get fit!

Healthy Udon Noodle with Crunchy Vegetables in Black Bean Sauce & Chinese Chilli Oil

2 Aug IMG_0433

EEEeeeeek! I’m sooo excited! This is my very first guest post and it’s by none other than Soapsuds and Doodles who happens to be my classmate at Warwick and also a recently converted health freak! Here she is sharing a recipe from her very own customised diet. It’s an absolutely delicious  and experimental (yet simple) dish and her descriptions+ photographs will want to make you eat the screen! A complete winner in my opinion🙂 I hope you enjoy it just as much as I have! ♥

After devouring a giant bar of Toblerone for both breakfast and lunch a couple of weeks ago (you know – the kind that’s compulsory for everyone going through airport duty free), something told me it was time for a major diet revamp.  I love salads, fresh vegetables and low fat Japanese cuisine but by-and-large, I’m not a health food person so for me to switch to eating wholesome things permanently, they’d have to be pretty darn tasty.  Live to eat, am I right?

Shriya gave me a great idea when she mentioned that one of her kitchenmates constantly eats stark meals of noodles and boiled vegetables with a little seasoning for taste.  I figured that with the right sauces and herbs, such a dish could be a really quick, healthy lunch option and set out to recreate it my own way.

The secret ingredients in this are a fermented black bean sauce and a traditional Chinese chilli oil (make sure you buy a really tasty version because some brands they sell in the West can be quite bland – I recommend Lao Gan Ma.  You know you can’t go wrong when it has a man’s face on it).

The black bean sauce gives it a nutty, salty soy flavour and the chilli oil adds a garlicky kick.  And the thing I love about this meal idea is that you can do almost anything with it.  Jonesing for meat?  Throw in some shredded chicken breast.  Want it cold?  Boil up some soba and soak in dashi.  And I’m sure it’ll be just as amazing with dried chillis and fried onions on top for some added crunch.

My specific recipe uses mushrooms, pak choi, spinach, cucumber, fresh coriander and chilli for a zesty, fresh flavour.  I make it with chewy udon and the resulting dish is a bright, fragrant tangle of firm, earthy noodles and mushrooms, juicy pak choi stems and crunchy vegetables that won’t make you feel guilty about dessert – if you still have space for it!

What you need:

A deep pan or saucepan

A big noodle bowl (I love this pretty pyrex bowl that I found at Tesco for £3 because I can see the colourful veggies right the way down and it makes me feel extra healthy.  Whatever works, right?)

A colander (I made one batch without this and everything was swimming in icky oily water.)

Fresh udon (or noodle of choice.  I use a brand that comes with pre-packed portions.)

A quarter of a cucumber

One bunch of pak choi

A handful of mushrooms

A fresh red chilli

Handful of coriander

Handful of spinach

Half a teaspoon of chilli oil

Half a teaspoon of fermented black bean sauce (The amounts for the last two condiments are estimates – adjust them to regulate saltiness and spiciness.)

What to do:

1)  Cut the bottom off the pak choi.  Slice the cucumber, chilli, coriander and mushrooms.

2)  Put the raw cucumber, coriander and chilli in your bowl.

3)  Put in half a teaspoon of black bean sauce.  Drain the oil from half a teaspoon of the chilli oil mixture and put in the remaining chilli flakes and bits.  It’s important to drain the oil and just use the bits or it completely defeats the “healthy” intention.

4)  Heat water in your deep pan or saucepan.  Bring to the boil, put in the udon, mushrooms and pak choi and let boil for about three minutes.

5)  It’s ready when the pak choi turns a deeper green and the udon strands seperate when you stir them with a fork.  (About three minutes.)

6)  Throw in the spinach to wilt then immediately turn the heat off.

7)  Drain, toss in bowl with raw veggies and condiments.

8)  Eat like you’ve never eaten before.  At least, that’s what I do!  Enjoy!

An evening at Jamie Oliver’s Italian

27 Jul IMG_2248

I’ve already done two posts on Jamie Oliver (is that right?) and one might think that that would be more than enough, but the thing about running a food blog is that you just cannot avoid the man. He’s everywhere – in the supermarket, on the internet, television. He’s even in the book (and app) best-seller list since he released his 30-minute meal manual at the end of last year!

In fact it is surprising that it took me so long to finally get to his restaurant here in Birmingham. A bunch of friends and I decided to pop in for dinner, and when I broke the news back to my sister in India, she behaved responded exactly like a star-struck, celebrity starved giggling girl. “What!”, she said, “You’re going to Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant? Do you know how lucky you are!” And then she went on describe in full detail how even former US President Clinton had trouble meeting the man because he came with a larger than expected party of people. This happened of course at JO’s ‘Fifteen’ restaurant in London. Regardless, I made nothing of it on the phone, but was secretly feeling the butterflies in my stomach. People who’ve known me for a while will also know that I am a big follower of the Chef and more so for his work in revolutionising food in schools (he even inspired me to write a few food-based stories for children).

So when the day finally came, I was very excited. We got there on time, entered and then were shocked at the kind of crazy crowd that had gathered. Our original reservation was for 9 pm, but I think we finally got our table around 9.45. We sat ourselves down, were handed the menus which were surprisingly simple. I know this is his speciality and I also know that on the website he had stated very clearly that the restaurant was all about home-like Italian food. But I have to say that my expectations were so high, that I felt a little disappointed. Although the ambiance was very warm and welcoming (with yellow lighting and wooden panelling), the place was too busy for us to feel like we were sitting in a speciality restaurant.

We ordered the white house wine, which was the right amount of spritzy and fruity for someone who is a wine-amateur like me, and then went on to the main course. The specials that day like the 15-hour cooked lamb risotto and the pork chop with roasted apple turned out to be the best dishes, apart from the sea bass that one of my friends said was delicious. I also tried *wild boar* pepperoni for the first time in my life, which was a bit chewy but subtly spicy and oily (part of the pleasure of eating any pepperoni is the fat it comes with, isnt it?)

The stars however were the desserts. I especially *loved* the chocolate and espresso tart that was served with figs (what a sexy combination!) and orange cream fraiche and dusted lightly with cocoa powder. Wah!

I guess overall everyone was quite happy. Put together – the ambiance, the culinary highlights, a few glasses of wine and fine company made for a wonderful evening. I wouldn’t mind paying another visit, and this time they better have their JO aprons on sale!

Pastel – pretty Ladurée

20 Jul IMG_2231

On my recent London stay, I hopped out of my lonely hostel at King’s Cross and meandered to near-by Covent Garden for an evening of hustle-bustle. I had heard a lot about the new Ladurée outlet that had opened there and was dying to get my hands on some authentic French macaroons.

As expected, the place was full and the poor ladies behind the counter were finding it hard to keep track of all the enthusiastic fans and to-be fans queuing up to get a box-full. It was then that I noticed the steps going upstairs, made a quick enquiry and the next thing I found myself sitting in this pastel-shaded parlour of sorts, sipping some Vanilla tea and delicately spooning off from a Passion Fruit tart with raspberries (ooh lala :P) Of course it no longer bothered me that I was by myself. In fact, it felt like my own tiny secret (think young girl disguises herself and enters an aristocratic villa only to be lavished and doted upon!)

The waiters were totally friendly, and I had to give them a pat on the back by buying a box of Les Macarons. There were all kinds of flavours, including Lemon and Thyme, Passion fruit and Chocolate, Granny Smith Apple etc and I got a Cherry Box of six that cost me a fortune as far as macaroons go, but were worth every penny.

Despite my opening the box 2 days later, they remained quite supple (usually they turn really hard and the cream goes all squishy) and were a delight to bite into at tea.

I also discovered the quaint lilttle Ladurée also makes beauty products (with fresh cream?! :P), baby products and picnic products among others. You can explore more on they’re website  (which is incredibly cute complete with pictures, illustrations and sounds), and I urge everyone to definitely drop down to the store to get some of them amazing macaroons!