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Fries with Chunky Bacon Sauce

Last night we felt like eating something decadent and indulgent and this dish happened. Going by how good it tasted and the few ingredients within, I’m sure it exists already.


  • French fries or wedges, 3 frozen handfuls, fried crisp
  • Spinach, 3 handfuls, washed, drained and chopped
  • Bacon, 10 thin rashers, chopped coarsely
  • Carrots, 2 medium, sliced thin
  • Onions, 6 small, 3 sliced fine and 3 chopped coarsely
  • Garlic, 20 medium cloves, chopped fine
  • Salt, pepper and chili of choice to taste
  • Water, 1 cup
  • Oil for the sauce and deep frying
  • Cheese of your choice for topping


  1. Heat oil, fry the sliced onions with a pinch of salt on medium heat until golden brown and caramelised, perhaps crisp, but definitely not dark brown or burnt.
  2. Add garlic, remaining onions and carrots. Saute for a bit.
  3. Add bacon, saute until cooked.
  4. Add water, bring to boil
  5. Add spinach, stir for a bit
  6. Ladle on top of fries, add some cheese, serve.


  1. If you time it right, the fries and the sauce can be finished together, ensuring you serve hot and crisp fries with a hot and steaming sauce.
  2. Thicken the sauce a bit if you wish, right after step 5.
  3. If your chopped bacon is clumped together, mix well when cooking so they separate, or they’ll remain clumped together.
  4. I used Tibetan chili paste as well as freshly cracked black pepper. You can use green chilies, red chilies or any other chili hit you feel like.

Mongra Aloo Casserole

Twelve years ago, I posted a dish called Pan Haggerty, about which you can also read a bit more here. Yesterday, for dinner, we made a slightly different version of this dish and it turned out quite nice.


This recipe was created for The Right Side of Life, a Safal community on Facebook. If you’re interested in eating healthier and involving food in different aspects of wellness, this is a group for you. We’re planning lots of activities and content for this group that I’m sure you’ll love!

I find quite a few of us don’t like the taste of mongre-aloo, conditioned as we probably are since childhood. This version has a very different format, thought the flavours remain somewhat the same and doesn’t need much attention, though it takes a while to cook.

The quantities of the ingredients are your call, as they depend upon the size of the pan you’re going to cook in, the number of layers you’re going to apply, the thickness of the slices and so on.


  • Mongre, washed and finely chopped
  • Potatoes (I used new potatoes that don’t need peeling), finely sliced
  • Cheese (I used Gouda and some mozzarella), optional
  • Salt
  • Chili powder
  • Garam masala powder


  1. Take a non-stick, preferably heavy bottomed pan.
  2. Add a layer of sliced potatoes to cover the surface.
  3. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt (very important), chilli powder, garam masala and mongre.
  4. If you’re using cheese, sprinkle some evenly all across
  5. Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 until the pan is full.
  6. Place the pan on low heat, covered, until the top layer is cooked.
  7. Serve directly from the pan to individual plates at your table.


  • On step #3, the salt is important as it’ll cause the potatoes to shed water, which will then generate steam, which will cook everything. Skipping layers with salt may result in uncooked bits.
  • Use a little salt per layer and remember the total amount will add up with each layer.
  • On step #6, if the top is cooked, likely the rest is cooked too.
  • At home, we’re good if the potatoes have a bit of bite, instead of being completely soft. Your call.
  • If you don’t have a heavy bottomed pan, or if you’re using a thin pan, or if your lowest flame is too high (as is mine), put your pan on a roti-tawa, as I’ve done in one of the pictures. This will prevent the bottom layer from burning.

Anchovy, Aubergine & Spinach Pizza

One of the causes of our ill-health is our attachment to the familiar. For example, if we are to eat choley, it must be with greasy, deep fried, refined-flour bhature and so on. And if we are to eat pizza, it must be dripping with cheese and can only have pepperoni, chicken, paneer or mushrooms on it. Also, we tend to believe that so-called healthy ingredients cannot be tasty or be combined with other foods.

Not true.

This pizza tasted wonderful and a week later, Indu still tells me how much she loved that pizza. Here’s how easy it was to make.

A pizza has a few basic parts.

  • Base
  • Sauce
  • Toppings
  • Cheese

Depending on how the toppings are prepped and how much moisture is in your sauce, you want them under or over the cheese.

Base: APF flour, instant yeast, salt, water and milk – I tend to throw the lot together, make a nice smooth dough, let it rise for a bit, then knock it back down, roll it out, lay on the sauce, toppings etc. and that’s that. I also use a little more yeast than is usually recommended.

Sauce: Pureed tomatoes, garlic, freshly ground black pepper, dried basil (because I have a tough time finding fresh), onion powder – I add the tomato puree, pepper and basil and onion powder and slowly cook it for a long time, perhaps an hour or so, adding extra water as required. Over time, the sauce develops a wonderfully complex and deep set of flavours. Remember to season it with a bit of salt before taking it off the flame.

Cheese: I use a blend of cheeses if I have a choice or whatever is available. As much as we love our cheese, remember you love food more and food, is more than just cheese. There are so many flavours in play in a well made pizza. Why smother them with a pile of cheese? Experiment with cheeses and blends of different types and see what works for you. Quality over quantity is worth a shot, yes?

Toppings: Our toppings were anchovies, aubergine and spinach. The spinach was blanched in boiling water, drained well and chopped into bite-sized pieces. The aubergine was thinly sliced, sprinkled with salt, left for 20 minutes, washed an drained. The anchovies were fresh, coated with seasoned flour (dried basil, pepper, onion powder, salt) and shallow fried.

To assemble your pizza, just roll out the flour into whatever size or shape you want, smear the sauce over it, the amount depending on how intensely flavoured it is. Don’t go by having a red-red look to your pizza – if the flavours are right, that’s enough sauce. Lay on the toppings. In this case, we chose to put the cheese next and then the toppings on top of the cheese.

The pizza cooked for 20-25 minutes at 180 degrees in a pre-heated oven. The only ingredient that needed cooking, was the base and the aubergine, the rest being pre-cooked.

The outcome was a wonderful pizza with complex flavours and ‘grown-up’ toppings. We drizzled on a glug or so of some good olive oil to complete the dish.

My bases need some more work, though the rest turned out well. If you have a good recipe for the base, please do share.


The Top 10 Foods We Stress Eat

A couple of days ago, I asked folks on Chef at Large what they ate when emotionally stressed. That post received over 750 responses of all sorts, though a pattern was more or less apparent on going through the responses.

Our stress eating usually based on childhood conditioning and remnants of our evolutionary past. Childhood conditioning is usually about repeating patterns inculcated during our childhoods, when we were given foods to placate our childhood selves, and we continue eating the same foods when stressed, as adults. Evolutionary remnants are about our heading for sweet, salty or fatty foods, behaviour that used to be a part of our survival instincts aeons ago, and still survives within us.

Interestingly, the second most quoted response was ‘Nothing’, which was quite nice to see, as in some of us beating the urge (or not experiencing it at all) to stuff ourselves when upset, which is always a nice thing to see.

The Bottom Five

10 Butter – At the very bottom, we have butter, a food this country loves and reveres. Thankfully, in this context, it wasn’t as a food, but as part of a dish. This includes butter chicken, peanut butter, toast and butter and aloo ka paratha with butter among others.

Butter is closely followed by:

  • Pizza
  • Cheese
  • Chicken and
  • Cake

The Next Three

The usual instinct I’ve seen is to eat something, but quite a few folks prefer drinking (#4) something after an argument or other stress inducing activity. It could be a hot drink, such as tea (#3) or coffee (#5), or it could be alcoholic. Regardless, drinking as opposed to eating definitely seems to be a preference amongst a significant number of us.

The Top Two!

The second most popular refuge for the emotional eaters amongst us is… you’re right, ice cream! This could also be a social outcome of the dozens of movies where a tub of ice cream is shown as the ideal refuge for a bad mood.

The #1 food eaten in an emotional state is, and you’re right again, chocolate! But then, you already knew that, yes?

So, that’s the list. If any of you are curious about the original comments that led me to this conclusion, here it is. What’s your stress-eating go-to? Leave a comment, okay?

If you’re facing a weight problem that stress eating is partially responsible for, click here.


Egg Salad – Take 2

Who says egg salads have to be a mess of chopped boiled eggs in a sloppy dressing? Sure, it’s a comforting combination, but you can do better.

This egg salad is a delightful mixture of eggs, fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese and flavoured oils that you’ll absolutely love making and feeding to your friends, family and children.

When you eat this salad, there’ll be a surprise in every bite – the crunch of nuts, a burst of moist sweetness from the grapes, the satisfying smoothness of cheese, crisp onions, juicy bell peppers and more.

Nutritionally, this egg salad has very low carb content, some fat and plenty of different nutrients. It’s great as a quick, light breakfast or a snack that’ll satisfy without slowing you down.


  • 4 Eggs, medium size, beaten, scrambled
  • 1 Bell pepper, red or yellow, chopped
  • 5 cloves Garlic, toasted
  • 1/2 Onion, medium size, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Olives, sliced
  • 10 – 15 Mint leaves, torn
  • Handful Coriander, with stems and roots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Cheese of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon Peanuts, salted and roasted without oil
  • 2 Strawberries, medium size, sliced
  • Handful Grapes, sweet, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon Olive oil, extra virgin
  • 1 tablespoon Sesame oil, Chinese
  • Half a lemon, juice of
  • Salt and pepper as per taste


  • Mix all ingredients and serve

Serves 2

When you cook and eat this salad, I want to know how it worked for you, the changes you made, why you made them and what your version tasted like. So, do leave a comment, okay? :)


The Diplomat’s Table

And there I was, holding a fork bearing a clump of steaming risotto, trying to pay equal attention to the textures in the rice, the points of view wafting between the seated nine and being careful not to forget the wine. The risotto was perfectly done, not too mushy nor too hard, neither too cheesy or at all greasy and it went perfectly with the glass of white at my side.

I had walked into my host, Alessandro’s home, 20 minutes late, hoping he hadn’t started cooking, looking forward as I was to observing an Italian cook a quintessentially Italian dish in an Italian home. Commercial food at the end of the day is mass produced and cannot hold a candle to good home cooking, as much as they might dim the lights and glorify the chef. Fortunately, Alessandro hadn’t started on the risotto and a few minutes later, invited me into his kitchen.

A steel stockpot lay bubbling on the stove, a pile of frizzy, grated parmesan in a bowl alongside a little chopping board with sliced porcini mushrooms and another bowlful of soaked, drained and chopped mushrooms, just below a shelf with a glass container full of amber liquid – soaking saffron. The oven was cold and atop it was an aluminium roasting tray containing a thick tenderloin, tied with string, sprigs of rosemary jutting forth, the bottom of the tray covered with a roiling mixture of juices, wine and olive oil.

Under Italian law, only cheese produced in certain provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, references to which can be found as early as 1348 in the writings of Boccaccio.

Beside it was a stack of plates with what looked like east European design, which I couldn’t help but fondle. “That Czechoslovakian dinner set was a present from my mother when I entered the diplomatic services”, said my host, noticing my interest.

Zwiebelmuster or Blue Onion is a fine porcelain tableware pattern for dishware that first started production in the 18th century in Germany, and was modelled after a pattern first created by Chinese porcelain painters.

In another corner was a kitchen scale laden with half a pack of Carnaroli rice. “I’m cooking for 10 people, so it’s 700 grams of rice”, said Alessandro, as he removed his jacket and stood in the middle of the kitchen rolling up white shirtsleeves. Preparing to make the first course of the evening, he quickly made the transition from diplomat to cook.

Carnaroli is the most commonly used rice in Italy, has a longer grain and keeps its shape better than the more commonly known, Arborio rice. Available on Amazon.

“You have to treat your risotto like your wife”, said the cook, “never leaving its side as it cooks and giving it all your attention until it is done”, and true to his words, he never left that pot for a single moment. “The rice must be touched as little as possible”, he added, in a somewhat contrasting addition to the ‘wife’ analogy.

There are very few sights as satisfying as watching a knob of butter melt in a hot pan and that’s what we started with. Moving on, the rice was toasted until the pot exuded the telltale aroma of roasting grain, at which point a few generous glugs of white wine were added. Some moments after, the cook shifted his attention to the bubbling stock pot. “The rice and the stock must be at the same temperature”, he murmured, as he ladled stock onto the rice, gently stirring around the edges until the stock was gone, leaving in its place a gentle creaminess that would be the high point of the dish later.

“I don’t like using too much butter in the house”, said the cook as he continued feeding ladle after ladle of stock to the rice, “but with risotto, there is no choice”. Simple words that highlight the importance of food, culture and tradition all at once. “Get yourself a spoon from that drawer there”, he instructed, “and taste some of this”, which I did. The rice wasn’t done yet, still bearing a bit of crunch, though it was getting creamier and I could taste the mild flavours of mushrooms, toasted grain and butter. I was looking forward to his definition of ‘al dente’. About 25 minutes after starting, the rice was pronounced done, saffron and mushrooms having been mixed in and word was sent from the kitchen to the guests, asking them to please be seated.

Then came the final and perhaps the most important step – the addition of large amounts of grated parmesan cheese and butter, the whole lot coming together to create a pot full of creamy, flavourful risotto. Turning his attention to the stack of plates, Alessandro ladled a portion of rice into each, smartly slapping the bottom until the rice spread out flat over the plate and passed it to Gloria, their cook, who garnished each platter with slices of porcini mushrooms and a few strands of saffron before sending it out to the dining room. A few minutes later, back in a jacket, the cook returned to being a host and we seated ourselves at the dining table.

The ideal risotto will be subtly flavoured, with different elements (such as cheese and butter) in harmony, a bit of bite in every grain and the whole bound with creamy notes.

So, there I was, eating fork fulls of that delicious, steaming risotto – creamy and buttery and cheesy and mushroomy, sipping a perfectly paired wine and quite content to sit back and listen to the conversation at the table.

Conversation is an underrated part of our meals, and judging by most couples I see dining out, a dying art too. Seated at our table were a historian, a hotelier, a bureaucrat and a food writer, mingled with a legation of diplomats, with perhaps three generations between the lot of us. The resultant waves of conversation were nuggets of experience, perception and opinion that one would be otherwise hardpressed to find – thoughts that were expressed with all the eloquence one gathers over a lifetime of living; every one at the table clearly had.

These slices of roast tenderloin were medium-well done, flavoured with pan gravy and accompanied by buttery mashed potatoes.

Our meal continued with slices of roast tenderloin, dollops of mashed potatoes, flavourful gravy, more wines and finished with a pie stuffed with delicately flavoured ricotta cheese and an assortment of chocolate truffles and bon bons.

This lattice-top pie was stuffed with creamy ricotta cheese, delicately flavoured with orange essential oils, and accompanied by Marsala, a Sicilian wine.

I have no doubt there is finer food in my future, nor am I likely to find myself bereft of interesting company. Superlative versions of both however, at the right time, in the right place are unlikely to be found quite so quickly, making this an evening to remember.