Basics Featured

#1 Heat: Your Friend and Foe

This is a part of the Basics series, intended to help novice cooks with what I consider to be the building blocks of food and cooking. It would be nice if you started from the top and worked your way to the bottom.

This started with trying to help novice cooks in my Facebook group, Chef at Large and I thought of copying the same content here too.

Your best friend and worst enemy while cooking, is usually heat. Too little and your food is raw, too much and it’s burnt. Other unwanted effects include being cooked just right on the outside and raw/chilled on the inside.

Heat also removes harmful bacteria from food, may increase or reduce nutritional elements within different foods and so on.

Understanding how heat works, how it’s conducted and how it effects different foods is one of the keys to making your time in the kitchen a little easier and more productive.

There are three types of heat transfer:

  • Conduction: via direct
  • Convection: via a medium like air or
  • Radiation: via direct heat/MW waves from a source

I’m not a trainer in this subject, and might skip steps that are important for a structured lesson. If you think I’m doing so, please ask for more details.

These methods of heat transfer translate into different types of cooking techniques, such as grilling, roasting, boiling, stewing etc. Even within the context of a pot, one can have different methods such as stewing, braising, jugging, boiling etc.

At the end of the day, you’ll find it’s all about the heat and how it’s transferred, using what medium and for how long.

The easiest way to understand heat better, is eggs. I’m sorry, but I don’t know of any vegetarian food that behaves in the same manner.

Eggs can be cooked with many different kinds of heat and heat transmission, and they’re so sensitive to heat that they become the ideal foods to begin with, and end with.

Why do I say ‘end with’? Because trained chefs also need quite a bit of practice before they’re able to master eggs. If I were to use one ingredient to test how good a cook is, that would be eggs.

Would you like to try answering these? Your answers will help others.

  • How many ways do you think eggs can be cooked
  • How many types of heat conduction have you used in your
  • Can you share a method of cooking that doesn’t use heat? (excluding salads and fruit)
  • What do you think happens when we introduce too much heat too fast?

Yogurt, Greens, Oil

Cherie was working late on her fine arts practicals portfolio, and while making a mug of hot chocolate for her, I thought I’d fix myself a little something too. We don’t usually have very many vegetables, snacks or leftovers in the house, buying and cooking fresh for most part. The only exceptions are meats in the freezer and perhaps a roast in the fridge from time to time. That, combined with my almost-obsession with lowering my carb intake, leaves very few snack options. And while there were three whole birds in the freezer, there was no cooked meat to munch on.

This was just a very late night / early morning (3am) snack that I put together and shared and had no intention of writing about it here. When I saw the post had garnered nearly 400 likes, I thought it might just be something that should be recorded. So, here’s probably the simplest recipe on this blog.

The result is a wonderfully aromatic bowl, both oils having their own distinct aromas, with the pepper oil being surprisingly floral. Each spoon is soothing due to the sesame oil and the salt, and there’s a bit of crunch and mustard sharpness from the greens.



  • Pour yogurt into bowl
  • Top with the rest of the ingredients
  • Serve; mix well and eat.


  • If raw garlic is too strong for you, consider garlic powder or toasting the garlic prior.
  • Some may find this bland. Add a dash of Sriracha sauce if you like.
  • I found the Sechuan pepper oil at Majnu ka Tila in Delhi and couldn’t find any equivalent on Amazon.


Using a Whole Fish

We ordered a 1.5 kilo Indian basa a few days ago, and cut it up into a bunch of different pieces for different purposes. In case you’re thinking this takes too much time, the whole process took me about 10 – 12 minutes.

  • Head – I don’t like the whole head much and usually keep it for stock. When done, and the head is scraped, quite a bit of extra skin and flesh can be retrieved for gravies or to mix with potatoes and make little fried patties or as a filling for pies etc.
  • Fillets – This is the area above and below the central bony section. We use it for boneless applications where hands aren’t used for eating. Can be used in gravies, grills, stir fries, deep fries etc.
  • Ribs section of fillets and tail – This is a semi circular section, at the front, lower end of the fish, ending just below the head. It has a row of thick bones and can be difficult to de-bone without a fair bit of trouble or making a mess of the piece. We use this for curries, grills and dishes where we use our hands to eat the food.
  • Carcass scrapings – When the fillets are separated from the bone, the choice is to make a cleaner cut, leaving less flesh on the bone but bits of bone in the fillet, or more flesh on the bone and clean boneless fillets. I choose to keep my fillets smooth and scrape off the flesh with fingers/knife and use it for sandwiches, burgers, scrambled with eggs etc.
  • Carcass – This is always reserved for stock and boiled with the head. There’s usually some fat at the edges that I prefer keeping for the nutritional value add.

Using a whole fish will not only cost you less as well as possibly reduce waste on the part of the producer, but you’ll also have a bunch of different parts with different tastes, textures and culinary uses.


26 Beautiful Vegetarian Thalis by Jaina Mehta

Browsing through the CAL group towards the end of December, I found a post with some of the most delicious looking thalis I’d seen in a while. Living in a nuclear family, where both of us work, it’s hard work to put together a thali with all those different components.

Jaina Mehta was kind enough to share her pictures and recipes with. All of these pictures link to her posts on the CAL group. The recipes for a bunch of more thalis I’ll share a little later as individual posts. You might also like to take a look at her page, Jaina’s Kitchen for more of her work.

One of my wishes for 2020 is to be able to partake of one of these scrumptious thalis. Which one of these appeals to you the most? Do leave a comment below with your choice.

Paneer Jalfrezi, Rajma Thali
Gobhi ke Parathe
Panchratna Dal, Beans Aloo Thali
Bhindi Aloo, Karela Tamatar Masala Thali
Chhole Pulao platter
Ringna Bateta Nu Shaak, Kobi Gajar Capsicum, Methi Paratha Thali
Mixed Vegetable Sabzi, Paneer Butter Masala Thali
Bhindi Aloo, Baingan Shimla Mirch, Sabut Masoor Tadka Thali
Paneer Bhurji platter
Aloo Methi, Baingan Masala, Bhindi Ka Raita Thali
Raswale Gobhi Aloo, Boondi Anar Raita, Tomato Rice platter
Methi Muthiya Walu Shaak Thali
Gobhi Matar Sabzi, Methi Dal, Chawal Ke Pakode Thali
Methi Paneer Bhurjee, Sabut Masoor Tadka Thali
Baby Aloo Matar, Bhindi Masala, Sabut Urad Moong Ki Dal Thali
Methi Aloo Paratha, Chhole, Bhindi Ka Raita Thali
Aloo Gobhi, Baingan Bharta Thali
Methi Chole, Chawal Ki Kheer, Laccha Paratha Thali
Ringna Bateta Nu Shaak, Kobi Vatana Nu Shaak, Kadhi Thali
Ringna Papdi Methi Nu Shaak, Tindora Nu Shaak Thali
Bhindi Masala, Dal Tadka, Gajar Ka Halwa Thali
Mooli Patton Ke Parathe platter
Dahiwali Bhindi-Aloo Shimla Mirch
Rava Sheera-Kobi Vatana
Masoor Pulao-Bhindi Masala-Kadhi-Cabbage Pakora
Paneer Jalfrezi-Lobia
Broccoli Mix
Aloo Methi-Dal Fry

Microgreens at Home

Ever since we first tasted mustard micro-greens, all three of us have been hooked on to their sharp flavour and crisp texture. Unfortunately, their commercial availability in most areas is limited and they’re expensive too – about 200 rupees for 50 gm from what I just saw on the net.

We’ve recently started growing them at home, and all we need are some seeds (I mostly use black mustard seeds), any containers you have lying about, kitchen towels and water.

The containers I’m using right now, are:

  • Teacups that don’t have saucers
  • Assorted lids
  • Assorted containers like cookie tins
  • Earthen containers (these dry out fast and need watering more frequently)
  • Others

The basic steps are:

  1. If using earthen containers, pre-soak them to prevent quick drying out initially. They’ll need watering more frequently.
  2. Use folded paper towels to line the bottom of your containers. The thinner the layer, the more frequently they’ll need water. I aim for a thickness of about 1 cm, and need to water every 2 – 3 hours. This isn’t necessary. They’ll grow just as well without the towels.
  3. Wet the towels and drain off excess water.
  4. Sprinkle a seeds all across the surface of the towels. Close together is fine; don’t overdo it.
  5. Spray the seeds with a mist of water, or press them down a bit to moisten them.
  6. Leave them alone and water every couple of hours. I add a generous bit of water, swirl it around, then pour the excess into the next container and so on. During the first couple of days, you might want to take care not to pour out seeds with the water.
  7. The first 2 days might see a white, cottony fungus like growth. I ignore this for two reasons. One, it goes away in a day or two. Two, if it does stay, the greens are in any case snipped leaving behind a couple of centimetres of stalk, so it’ll be left behind.
  8. When your greens are a 2 – 4 inches tall, snip them and use in salads, garnishes etc. This may take between 5 to 10 days depending on the temperature, consistency of available moisture, etc.
  9. Replant the container immediately, so you’ll always have a ready supply of greens. I’ve purchased a 500gm pack of mustard seeds to ensure there’s always some to plant.
  10. The black seed husks are sometimes attached to the plant and do not wash away easily. These are okay to eat.

You can experiment with different seeds, keeping in mind they’re likely to behave differently. I’m currently working with mustard, millets and fenugreek (methi). My favourite is mustard, due to it’s flavour and quick growth. Do share your experiences.

Featured Recipes

Dhokla Bruschetta

When the hubby is travelling on a Sunday, sonny boy has a mixed bag of sadness and the grumps together. How about serving him a dish that’s a combination of Gujarati and Italian cuisine? You heard that right! Here, I present Dhokla Bruschetta.


  1. Besan / chickpea flour, 2 cups, sifted using a sieve
  2. Citric acid, 1 tsp
  3. Water, 1.5 cups, to be used in three batches
  4. Ginger and green chilli paste, 1 tsp
  5. Asafoetida / heeng, 2 pinches
  6. Turmeric powder / haldi, 1/2 teaspoon
  7. Baking soda, 1 tsp
  8. Powdered sugar, 4 tbsp
  9. Oil, 2 tbsp
  10. Salt, to taste


  1. To the sifted besan add the citric acid, ginger green chili paste, heeng, haldi, salt and the powdered sugar
  2. Now add half cup of water to the besan mixture and whisk well making sure that there are no lumps remaining
  3. Add another half cup of water and once again whisk until the texture is smooth
  4. Finally, add another half cup of water and whisk vigorously in one direction for at least  3-4 minutes until the batter is light, pale and fluffy
  5. Add oil to the batter and mix well and then keep it aside for 10 minutes
  6. In the meanwhile, heat water in the pan in which you will place the dish containing the dhokla batter, and grease that dish too.
  7. Add baking soda to the batter; mix well
  8. Transfer the batter to the tin/dis, place it in the pan with boiling water, cover and steam for 20-25 minutes.
  9. Check using a toothpick; if a toothpick inserted comes out clean, your dhokla is ready.

Ingredients for the topping:

  1. Chopped bell peppers, all 3 colours, ½ cup
  2. Onion, ¼ cup, chopped
  3. Tomatoes, ¼ cup, chopped
  4. Olive oil, ½ tsp, chopped
  5. Garlic, 3 -4 pods, chopped
  6. Salt, to taste
  7. Mixed herbs, ½ tsp
  8. Oregano, ½ tsp


  1. In a pan add olive oil
  2. Immediately add the garlic, then add the onions, bell peppers and tomatoes, stirring for a minute before adding each ingredient
  3. Add all the seasonings and cook on high flame for a minute

Final Assembly:

  1. Slice the dhoklas and spread the toppings on them.
  2. Bake at 1600 Celsius for 8-10 minutes in a pre-heated oven using top heating rods only
  3. Serve hot.


  • You’ll need a dish in which to steam the dhokla and a pan big enough to hold that dish and some water for the steam. Choose both carefully.
  • Optionally, mozzarella or other cheese can be added as a topping too.
Featured Recipes

Chilli, Garlic, MSG

A few years ago, we breakfasted at a Gujjar table, with a meal of chilli garlic chutney, buttermilk, bajra rotis and white butter, the combination known as chaaya-chatni. The prodigious quantities of white butter I ate that morning will never will repeated.

This chutney is a slight variation of that one, which we still fondly remember.


  • Red chillies, dried, soaked in water overnight, 50 grams
  • Garlic cloves, peeled, 50 grams
  • Roasted Sesame oil, 2 tablespoons
  • MSG, finely ground, one fourth teaspoon
  • Sugar, 1 teaspoon
  • White vinegar, 3 tablespoons
  • Water in which the chillies were soaked, as needed


  • Blend the lot, adding the water as needed.
  • Use quickly or store in an airtight jar with a layer of sesame oil over it.


  • The strength of different brands of vinegar differs. Add sparingly for sour notes per your taste.
  • MSG is optional.
  • Use for stir fries, marinades, with parathas, noodles and more.
This chutney is great with parathas, noodles, as a marinade for meats and chicken, as a masala for a vegetable stir fry and more.
Featured Recipes

Fish, Radish, Buttermilk

I found myself in a very comfortable place, where I was using the same ingredients over and over and quite happy doing so. Yesterday evening, I knew I had some fish in the freezer and what else would I do other than coat it in haldi, namak and mirch and shallow fry the lot and eat it with dal chawal, one of our favourite meals? A little thinking and this thought came up and it turned out to be light and delicious. I hope you like it too.

Here’s a quick video that might make the process clearer.


  • Fish, sliced and coated with a paste of haldi, namak, mirch, shallow fried on all sides until partially cooked. I used about 700 grams.
  • Radish leaves from 3 radishes, chopped
  • Radish root from 1 medium sized radish, finely sliced
  • Ginger, 1.5 inches, finely diced
  • Mustard seeds, 1.5 teaspoons
  • Kadi patta, 2 stems
  • Green chillies, 3, finely sliced
  • Masala Buttermilk, 600 ml (I used Mother Dairy)
  • Oil for initial frying


  1. Heat oil. Splutter mustard seeds. Add green chillies and kadi patta. Lightly fry.
  2. Add radish leaves. Saute for a while until significantly reduced in quantity. Add radish root, mix well.
  3. Place the partially fried fish in the pot.
  4. Add 3/4 of the buttermilk, leaving a little aside, keeping it warm.
  5. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked, whichever is earlier.
  6. Add the remaining buttermilk. Turn off the heat.
  7. Serve hot with rice.


  • I used Indian basa as my choice of fish. It has a nice bit of fat and is better than Vietnamese basa IMO.
  • Your haldi, namak, mirch paste can be of any proportion you like. I use 1 measure each of haldi and mirch, and half a measure of namak.
  • My fish were fried in mustard oil. You can use whatever you like.
  • Buttermilk splits while cooking. The reason for not adding the whole and keep part of it warm and adding that part at the end is an attempt at retaining some of the white colour. This is purely cosmetic. If it doesn’t matter to you, add all the buttermilk in one go.

Featured Recipes

Baingan, Tamatar, Palak

I’ll cook with whatever’s in the kitchen and that’s usually when some of my best work happens – in the presence of restrictions.

Another platter that can’t be eaten while staring at a phone.

The components:

  • Baingan / Aubergine: Seasoned and fried on low heat.
  • Potatoes: Cut into fine strips, boiled, topped with chili oil
  • Tomatoes: Sliced, raw
  • Onions: Fried, mildly
  • Raw baby spinach and tomatoes: No seasoning
  • Spinach: Blanched, squeezed, chopped, tossed with raw garlic, sesame oil and salt.
  • Topping: Freshly crushed black peppercorns, salt, basil leaves, mint leaves and garlic, fried in olive oil.

Here’s a video of the plating.