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Soy Fish, Chili Rice, Micro Greens

When we buy fish, I prefer a whole uncleaned piece, or the next best, whole cleaned. This format allows me to practise cutting different types of fish, familiarise myself with its anatomy, as well as the flexibility to extract whatever cut suits my needs that day. In addition, not only is the fish much cheaper in this format, the carcass is scraped and the outcome enough for a sandwich, and the carcass itself used for stock.

We had freshly cut fillets available therefore yesterday evening, and I wasn’t in the mood for much cooking. The rice was washed and boiled, the fish pan grilled, the rice then spiced, the whole plated and we were done.

Ingredients:

  • For soy fish
    • Dark soy, 1 tbsp
    • Light soy, 2 tbsp
    • Sechuan pepper oil, 1 tsp
    • Sugar, 1/2 tsp
  • For spiced rice
    • Tibetan chilli paste
    • Sesame oil
    • Oil for sauteeing
    • Onion, 1 pc, sliced
    • Garlic, 5 cloves, sliced
  • Rice, cooked, 3 cups
  • Filleted fish, 4 pieces
  • Mustard micro greens, 3 small bunches
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Mix ingredients for soy fish well, marinate fish for 30 minutes, pan fry/grill with a little oil; about 3 to 5 minutes on medium heat on each side, depending on the thickness of the piece.
  2. Fry onions until translucent, add garlic, fry some more, add remaining ingredients for rice, mix well, then mix well again with the cooked rice.
  3. Plate and serve.

Notes:

  • The fillets used came from a 1.5 kilo Indian basa, which were trimmed to remove the semi-circular row of thick ‘rib’ thorns, then sliced in half. Four pieces therefore constituted two whole trimmed, boneless fillets.
  • Dark soy has more colour, little flavour. Light soy has little colour, more flavour.
  • Ideally, one would use sticky rice, but whatever you have should work fine.
  • The coarser your sugar, the longer it’ll take to blend with the marinade and have any real effect. Use powdered sugar if your sugar is very coarse.
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Baingan, Tamatar, Anda

As you’ve guessed by now, I love love love aubergines. As usual, I was too lazy to go find more ingredients to make a meal to break my 16 hour daily fast. Here’s what happened.

The succulence of the tomatoes, juiciness of the aubergine and softness of the eggs comes together well in this one.

The components:

  • Baingan / Aubergine: Scored vertically and horizontally, seasoned, fried with white butter.
  • Tomatoes: Halved and pan fried
  • Eggs: 3 eggs beaten, made into a soft omelette, topped with one cube of shredded cheese.
  • Topping: Onions, garlic, Tibetan chili paste
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The Cooking Class

He was feeling quite pleased, having been invited to demonstrate a dish to a bunch of eager cooks. When the folks from the institute suggested a whole wheat carrot cake baked in a pressure cooker, he quickly agreed, despite never having baked anything in a pressure cooker before, nor a whole wheat cake and in fact, this would be the fourth cake he was baking in his life.

“How difficult can a cake be anyway”, he smirked to himself. The following evening, a whole wheat cake was baked, admired and eaten. The test having been passed, he slept soundly.

The next morning, he strode into the classroom an hour earlier to check preparations when it struck him. The cake he’d made last night, he’d forgotten the carrots!

“Whatever. I’ll just add 50gm of carrots to the mixture and that’s that”, he thought. “Let me ask a baker, just in case, even though this is a childishly simple subject.” So, he first WhatsApped the recipe and called Suman Sharma in Bangalore, asking what she thought. “You’ll need more lift”, she said, “since the mass to be lifted has increased. Let me call someone more experienced and get back to you”, she promised.

“This cake baking thing might actually be a skill”, he thought nervously as the clock ticked away faster than usual. The first few people had started trickling in and little beads of sweat ran down his brow.

Suman called back, said she’d spoken with Sulochana Roshan from Bareilly, neither of whom had baked anything in a pressure cooker before. She said they’d picked up a recipe ‘from the net’, and adjusted it for the amount of batter in his original recipe. “All the best!” she chirped cheerily, unaware of the knots in his stomach.

Then, looking at a recipe that wasn’t close to his and had in fact never seen the light of day till an hour ago, the knots in his stomach began churning around. “Maybe I should get someone else to confirm this new recipe”, he decided, and then called Sahana Karnik-Khanolkar, a master baker in Mumbai. She said the recipe could do with another egg and maybe some wheat bran for extra lift. He didn’t have any wheat bran. “Stupid question, Sahana, but this is the process I follow”, he said as if he’d baked a hundred cakes in the past week, and proceeded to explain his ‘process’. “No no”, she said, “you need to cream the butter and sugar first”, then continued, telling him the right way to do it, explaining her reasons as she went.

There he stood, in front of a crowd of 30 young cooks, all the bluster and arrogance replaced with fear and perspiration, looking at a bunch of ingredients he’d never used together before, at a recipe that had never seen the light of day and a process that he’d never thought of before then.

First, he creamed the butter and sugar. Then came the questions. The lighting was hot. The butter began separating. He whipped furiously and tossed the bowl in the fridge. Then the eggs. Then the grated carrots from the fridge and wheat flour and the rest of it. The carrots were moist and condensation was heavy. The mixture became a dough for carrot parathas. He began separating each strand. Didn’t work.

Then, in a last ditch effort, he mixed them together in the sequence Sahana had mentioned, and magically, they separated and the batter came together beautifully.

At this point, he noticed the gas flame, working off of a small cylinder, was much bigger than expected and so the temperature of the cooker was much higher than usual. Throwing his fate to the mercy of the ghosts of cooks long past, he chucked the buttered and floured tin into the cooker, shut it, flashed a fake, gracious smile and collapsed into a chair. It would be an hour before the cake was done.

Someone in the audience said, “I’m waiting for the frosting”. Then he remembered. Oh Lord! The cream cheese frosting! Slowly taking out his phone, he looked up the first recipe in grams and found one. 227 grams of cream cheese, it said. He only had 200 grams. In haste, instead of adjusting the ratios, he deducted 27 grams of cream cheese, 27 grams of sugar and forgot to reduce the butter.

When the hour was up, he opened the cooker, with an eager audience looking on, flipped the tin over, muttered a silent prayer to the benevolent spirits of Escoffier et. al., knocked on it a few times and lifted it off. It was perfect!

Letting it cool a bit, he began applying the cream cheese frosting, explaining the recipe as he did so. Horror of horrors, the residual heat from the cake began melting the frosting, containing excess butter as it did! Talking some more, reciting the Hanuman Chalisa in his head, he laid on thicker and thicker coats of frosting until it seemed stable. Then, to his dismay, the frosting began melting from the sides, and dripping down to the plate. “How pretty the dripping frosting looks”, someone remarked.

He smiled, sighed and began taking questions. Baking cakes was indeed a skill and one he wasn’t likely to underestimate again.

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A Loving Husband

Gently stirring the Coorgi pork curry around the earthen pot, he proceeded to add a dash of vinegar to it and then some bits of this and more of that until the dish was done.

Reaching into a pocket, he withdrew a small glass vial filled with a colourless liquid that he poured into the curry, quickly mixing it in. It was tasteless and odourless and would leave no traces later. He read the label, half smiling; the things you could get over the counter these days.

They’d been married so very long, it was such a pity he had to do this. There wasn’t any choice. She refused to listen to reason.

He placed the tray with a platter of rice, pork and salad on the bed in front of his wife and began making small talk as she worked her way through the platter.

She had just begun showing, that little bump announcing her as a mommy to be. She finished the platter and looking up, caught a glimpse of the triumphant glint in his eyes. A look of horror crossed her face and she clutched at her tummy, eyes wild with disgust.

“You didn’t”, she gasped.

“I did”, he crowed, “and I’ll keep doing it till you start eating them vitamin tablets!”

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Well Played, Chum

In the summer of 2003, I met this chap, let’s call him Vijay, who managed a restaurant on the Delhi-Chandigarh highway. I used to drive from Chandigarh to home in NOIDA every weekend via that route. Consequently, we got talking and while we were never friends, we were friendly. On one such visit I was told he had an accident and was recovering and didn’t work at that restaurant any more. I called to wish him a speedy recovery.

We didn’t meet for the next couple of years, though he did keep in touch on and off. Around 2005 Vijay called and asked if he could meet me at my office, then came over a little later.

We shared a cup of tea in my office while catching up and he casually asked me which car I drove. My car at the time was a Hyundai Elantra and I told him so. After a while, he asked if I could drop him to an interview in Chandigarh. He was pretty banged up, recovering from his accident, limping and used a walking stick to boot – I wasn’t about to refuse an ailing man help towards rebuilding his life and not a quick drive in any case.

We sat in the car. I drove and Vijay sat at the back saying it was better for his spine. During the drive he called someone at the company he was to interview at and asked he could be met at the gate as security wouldn’t likely let him enter without delay and he wasn’t feeling well enough to go through the formalities and wait. From his tone, the person appeared to be the one who would interview him.

We reached the large building that was his destination. I could see a man standing alongside the entrance who appeared to recognise my passenger, who asked me to stop the car near the man. I did so.

Vijay asked me if I could open the door as he was having trouble with his walking stick. I got out of the car and opened the door for him, waited for him to climb out, shut the door and while he shook hands with his contact, got back into the car and waited for them to finish so I could say a quick goodbye and go back to office.

He finished shaking hands, turned towards the car, instructed me in an authoritative tone, in Hindi, to go back to the office – he would call if he needed me any further, turned around and walked away.

I never heard from him again. 
(true story)

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Following the Plan

Shrishti’s diet had started that morning and she was determined to eat healthy, lose weight and buy a cupboard full of new clothes! The 1200 calorie chart said to eat a bowl of papaya in the morning, but there was no papaya at home, so she had a mango instead – everyone knows that fruits with similar colours have similar nutritional properties. She’d read this on WhatsApp.

Bhuaji had called the moment she heard about Shrishti’s new diet and advised her to have a tablespoon of Patanjali’s desi cow ghee before every meal. “It is swadesi, so it is healthier than other ghee, plus it is cow ghee and it is written in our holy books that cow ghee doesn’t have any harmful effects”, she told Shrishti, who needed to lose just about 5 kilos from around her hips where all her weight automatically accumulated. So, not wanting to offend her darling Bhuaji, Shrishti bought a pack as instructed and consumed a heaped tablespoon before every meal. “And our elders have always told us about eating nuts and dried fruits during the day. It gives strength and immunity”, said Bhuaji offering Shrishti a small katori of shelled walnuts. “This is for the whole day?”, asked Shrishti. “My God, no! That isn’t enough for the whole day!”, said Bhuaji, her triceps jiggling as she laboured to hold the little katori up, “you’re a young girl and need your strength. Have this much before every meal”.

So, for breakfast that morning, Shrishti was to have a bowl of papaya (400 gms, 200 calories) which she substituted with mango (240 calories), a heaped tablespoon of ghee (40gm, 360 calories) and a small katori of nuts (50gm, 325 calories), totalling 925 calories.

Around mid morning, the neighbour aunty came over with a big bowl of Gajar ka Halwa. “This is home made and everyone knows we can’t get fat from eating home made food. It is all this outside food that makes us fat. Home made food only gives us strength. I saw this on the Astha channel yesterday. Plus, I have used cow ghee.”, she said sagely, while serving Shrishti a bowl full of the rich halwa, gleaming with ghee and dotted with white chunks of khoya and kishmish and peeled almonds. Since one bowl is hardly anything and aunty was looking at her so expectantly, Shrishti ate it while making all the required sounds of appreciation, adding another 300 calories to her day, bringing the total to 1225.

At lunch, the chart said to have two small rotis, dal and palak ki sabzi (~400 calories) but mamaji had come over from Pinjore and obviously he couldn’t be fed such a simple meal on his arrival. Plus he had brought boxes of Pinjore’s famous pinni. For lunch, Shrishti chatted with her mamaji over a sumptuous meal of parathas (desi cow ghee), paneer makhani (cow milk paneer) and dal makhani followed by bowls of hot moong dal halwa (organic dal, desi cow ghee, brown sugar). Mamaji had quite an appetite, so Shrishti also ended up eating a bit more than she would otherwise have eaten. All his fault, coming in unannounced like that. 800 calories later + a tablespoon of desi ghee as instructed by her aunt, which equalled 1,160 calories, Shrishti went to her room to rest for a bit as she was feeling heavy. This was puzzling, since she was following the plan. Strange. (Current total: 2,385 calories)

Around tea time, her chart said have a cup or two of tea if she wished, with apple (~70 calories). Who eats fruit with tea, thought Shrishti, choosing instead to have 4 – 5 pieces of rusk (240 calories), which were almost completely free of oil, which as per WhatsApp, was the reason we gained weight.

Bhuaji came over at dinner time with a casserole of her famous Shahi Paneer. Though the rich colour wasn’t usually visible through the inch thick layer of ghee on top, once the ghee was gone, it was easy to see the brilliant saffron-yellow colour and smooth texture of the gravy below, which was always delicious. Now, this didn’t happen every day and poor bhuaji would be so offended if she didn’t eat some. So Shrishti ate 3 rotis, a big portion of Shahi Paneer and some of the afternoon’s dal makhani for dinner (~800 calories), instead of rajma, mushrooms, salad and curd (~400 calories) as suggested by the plan. Rajma would have given her gas any way and her brother would mimic the sounds from his room next door. She also dutifully ate the tablespoon of ghee bringing her meal total to 1,160 and the day’s total to 3,785 calories, and slept a sound sleep, smiling happily.

One month later, Shrishti fired her nutritionist, having gained an extra 10 kilos during the month. She did though fulfill her dream of buying new clothes since none fit her any longer.

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Taming the Weather

The room was airy and functional with the slightest hint of decor and a mild splash of colour. The bed was the centrepiece and it had one occupant, who had just switched off a softly beeping alarm clock and now stared vacantly at the ceiling, preparing for another rigorous day at work. Willing herself off the bed, Anita very quickly went through her unchanging morning routine of getting ready, the results of which were unchanging too – white trousers, white shirt, black shoes, a white lab coat and black rimmed glasses. Some might call her severe, though she liked to think of herself as effective.

Stepping out of the room, she walked down a long, brightly lit corridor towards the bank of elevators at the end whilst planning the day ahead. Weather data from the three geo-synchronous satellites should be in by now, even considering their painfully slow data links. The data needed sanitising, filtration and a few final scrubs before it could be used for analysis, the nature of the data scrubbing depending on the nature of the data, which she’d have to take a look at before deciding the way forward. There were reports of a possible intervention required in sector 35 of the western quadrant, where extreme weather was destroying crops and infrastructure. A mild re-working of the areas parameters would fix that.

She reached the elevators and took one to the 98th floor, which was still below the ground, where the primary repository of weather data was located – many found the bright, white surroundings on this floor quite stark, but it was just the way she liked it. Entering her office and heading for the weather console, she began reviewing the sheets of data that the system threw up on the screen, quickly scanning every page in seconds as she was trained to do. Quite unexpectedly, the emergency action system began chiming, the usual gentle pulses of indicator LEDs now flashing randomly with every sensor beeping a different tone. Something needed to done right away. Obviously, things were far more wrong in sector 35 than she’d thought.

Swinging over, she began to reset each beeping, flashing sensor panel. A throat cleared behind her and in the midst of all that was happening, she turned for an instant to see another white coated figure with a tray in her hands. “It’s time for your morning dose, Dr. Anita”, said the figure. Couldn’t she see this wasn’t the time?! “Not now!”, said Anita, “Come back another time. I have a situation here.”

The figure in white, a nurse, sighed. It would be another one of those days, she thought, and they didn’t pay her enough. She placed the tray on the chest of drawers on the right and headed towards the little old lady, dressed in a faded, floral nightie, seated on the floor in a corner of the room, stabbing a patch of air with her fingers, making sounds – “beep beep bop bop”.

What was she today, thought the nurse, the weather scientist or the horse trainer?

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De’Longhi, Kenwood and Braun are officially in India!

On the face of it, a blender is a blade in a jar that connects to a motor, that’s it. Other home kitchen appliances can similarly be described and one would be forgiven for think it’s simple to start. It is true that in their simplest form most kitchen appliances can be simply described and also true that we could even find such simple appliances for sale. Having said that, to the kitchen enthusiast, there are many more facets to the simplest piece of kitchen equipment than is apparent. We need superior ergonomics, which ensure we can safely and effectively use the appliance repeatedly without incurring health issues, there’s build quality and weight, both of which need to be balanced against each other, plus more aspects such as jar design, blade design, type of plastics and other materials used and so on.

The simple fact here is, we need equipment that is effective, efficient and usable, and there aren’t many brands that deliver on these requirements across their product ranges. The De’Longhi Group, a long time and reputed manufacturer of small appliances for home and kitchen offers appliances that are available worldwide under the De’Longhi marque as well as the very well-known brands like Kenwood and Braun.

The good news is, De’Longhi Group has tied up with Orient Electric to bring these excellent brands to the Indian market. This means that, not only can the entire range be browsed with ease, strategically located service centres will be available to provide repairs, service and spare parts as well. Isn’t that wonderful?

On 28th November 2018, Orient Electric Limited announced a strategic partnership with the De’Longhi group to bring De’Longhi’s premium range of small appliances to the Indian market. A part of the renowned CK Birla Group, Orient Electric Limited will market the De’Longhi, Kenwood and Braun brands in India. Tying up with an Indian partner, especially one who has been in the business for as long as Orient Electric has, is a good thing, given that the local partner understands the market, the needs of consumers and many other dynamics that need to be considered over and above the product.

As per Mr. Tunc Gencoglu, MEIA Vice President Commercial and Turkey Managing Director, De’Longhi Group, each of the three brands have their own niche to operate within. De’Longhi for awesome coffee experiences (‘Bean to Cup’), Kenwood for jazzing up home cooking (the ‘joy of homemade food’) and Braun specifically for its technically superior hand blenders and irons. Given how demanding we are as a market, this is a good strategy where brands put forward their best products in the best possible way to ensure acceptance and ultimately overall success.

The announcement was held at Le Meridian hotel, Delhi, with one side of the hall laden with buffet tables, the centre for all of us in the audience and the speakers, and the right had the most lovely sight – a line-up of all the products destined for the Indian market with product experts standing by to help us use them and to provide whatever information and details we needed. There really is a marked difference between average and premium. These products felt more solid while at the same time being easier to handle, due to superior construction and product design, blend cycles ere shorter due to improved blade designs, blending is splash free, immersion blenders were designed such that they were much easier to clean than others I’ve seen and while we might moan about doing bit of ironing, a good iron makes the chore so much better, and there’s hardly any better than Braun!

Also unveiled at the event were the popular De’Longhi fully automatic coffee machines that are to sure to impress most coffee lovers with the level of customisation and ease of usage they offer. On the other hand, Kenwood caught our attention with their all-in-one kitchen machines that allow one to beat, knead, whisk, cream and fold with confidence.

This would be a great time to go check out the products at your closest store and figure out which ones you’re going to pamper yourself with this festive season! Or you can buy ’em online. Just click the product you’re interested in.

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Bedmi Kachori + Aloo Sabzi

Kachori Dough: Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Atta
  • 1/4 cup Sooji
  • 2 tbsp Oil for Moyan
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as required to knead the dough 

Kachori Dough: Method

  • In a mixing bowl together the atta , sooji , salt and oil. Mix well.
  • By adding water little by little, knead a smooth dough. Cover and let it rest for half an hour.

Kachori Stuffing: Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup Urad dal, soaked for 6 hours at least
  • 1 tbsp Ginger, finely chopped 
  • 1 tbsp Green chillies, finely chopped 
  • 1 tsp Red Chilly powder
  • 1 tsp Dhaniya / coriander seed powder
  • 1 tsp Saunf/aniseed powder
  • 1/2 tsp Amchur/dried mango powder
  • 1/4 tsp Heeng/Asafoetida
  • Pinch of Garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for deep frying

Kachori Stuffing: Method

  • In a mixer jar grind the soaked urad dal coarsely.
  • Put the coarsely ground dal in a bowl and add ginger and green chillies. Mix well.
  • In the meantime heat oil for deep frying, first on a high flame then when it’s hot enough, reduce.
  • Drop small balls of the dal batter in the hot oil, like small vadas . Fry them by turning regularly until they are half cooked.
  • Take them out of the oil and in a plate let them cool down.
  • Mash the half cooked vadas, adding red chilly powder, dhaniya powder, amchur powder, garam masala, saunf powder, heeng and salt.
  • Mix well with your fingers.
  • The stuffing is ready

Making the Kachoris: Method

  • Heat oil for deep frying. Use a high flame initially and then reduce it when the oil is hot enough.
  • Make medium sized balls from the dough.
  • Make small balls from the stuffing mixture.
  • Flatten each ball of the dough and place the ball of stuffing in its centre. Seal the dough well from all the sides so that the stuffing doesn’t leak.
  • Roll this stuffed ball very gently into a poori of medium thickness.
  • Slide the poori in the hot oil and fry on medium heat by turning it at regular intervals, until it becomes light brown and crispy.
  • Repeat until all the kachoris are ready.

Aloo ki Sabzi: Ingredients

  • 2 Potatoes, boiled and roughly mashed
  • 1 tbsp Oil
  • 1 tsp Jeera/Cumin seed
  • 2 Laung/Cloves
  • 1 piece Dagad phool
  • 1 small stick of Dalchini/Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp Ginger, finely chopped 
  • 1/2 tbsp Green chillies, finely chopped 
  • 1 tsp Red chilly powder
  • 1 tsp Dhaniya/coriander seed powder
  • 1/2 tsp Amchur/dried mango powder
  • 1/2 tsp Anardana/dried pomegranate seed powder
  • 1/2 tsp Moori masala
  • 1 tbsp Kasoori methi / dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/4 tsp Heeng/Asafoetida
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as required

Aloo ki Sabzi: Method

  • Heat oil in a kadai
  • Add jeera, cloves, cinnamon stick, dagad phool and heeng. Let them splutter.
  • Add red chilly powder, dhaniya powder, amchur powder and salt. Mix well.
  • Add potatoes. Stir well.
  • Add ginger and green chillies. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Add anardana powder and moori masala. Mix well.
  • Add water and mix well.
  • Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  • Add kasoori methi and mix well.
  • Cook for 2 more minutes then serve.

Serve kachoris and sabzi along with some green chutney, tamarind chutney and whipped curd.