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Monday, November 28, 2011

Pork Vindaloo - hot, spicy and fabulously tasty

It’s winter and the perfect time to be eating red meat, and spicy food. My favourite combination being pork vindaloo with steamed rice. It’s actually one of the easiest dishes to make, but you just need to take the trouble to roast and grind all the spices. Don’t take shortcuts and use ready-made powder, it just won’t taste the same. This is the recipe which I like the most, but every family has their own vindaloo recipe – some more tangy, others more spicy, all of them fabulous.

I usually buy my pork from Pigpo in Jorbagh market, but have lately found this fabulous pork chap in INA market. Make sure you choose pork shoulder with a nice layer of fat. Get them to remove the skin though as it just gets tough in a curry. I’m a little under the weather, so I’m sticking to some healthy and hearty chicken stew with root vegetables, but go pick up some yummy pork, cook and enjoy the vindaloo and thank me later.


• 1 kg pork – with the fat on, but the skin off

• ½ cup malt vinegar – not synthetic vinegar

• 2 tbsp freshly ground ginger-garlic paste

• 2 tsp dried red chilis (ground)

• 1 tsp coriander (roasted and ground)

• 1 tsp cumin (roasted and ground)

• 5 cloves (roasted and ground)

• 5 green cardamoms (roasted and ground)

• 6-inch piece cinnamon (roasted and ground)

• Salt to taste

• Mustard oil

• 3 bay leaves

• 4-5 peppercorns


Marinade the pork in the vinegar and salt and all the spices for as long as possible. I like to marinade it for almost 24 hours. The longer, the better. And always use a glass bowl for marination, not a steel one. It’s something to do with chemistry, which eludes me, but does impart a metallic taste.

Heat the oil in a deep pan and put in the pork with tis marinade. Fry on high flame and then add the bay leaves and the peppercorns. Fry the meat well, for at least five to ten minutes and then turn the flame down, add ½ a cup of water and cook the meat for almost two hours till it loses its firmness. Being a good Bengali, I of course always serve my vindaloo with steamed rice., But you could serve it with pao. Because of the malt vinegar, you could keep the vindaloo in the fridge for almost 2-3 weeks, but I’ve never been able to exercise such self control.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Boozy pineapple upside down cake

I've been waking up at the crack of dawn for the last few days, for absolutely no reason. And it's been driving me bonkers. So today, when I once again woke up at 6am, I decided to put myself to good use and bake something I've never attempted before -- a pineapple upside down cake.

I've been sitting on some cans on sliced pineapples for the last few weeks and have had no clue what to do with them. Can't eat the slices straight from the can because I find them way too sweet. But all my problems were solved today, thanks to this recipe. Now I know what to make for dessert for the next few dinners I host -- until I manage to go through the cans.

So I found this recipe for a normal pineapple upside down cake on the web, which I then tweaked to my taste. You can make it with or without the cognac, therefore.

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 6 slices pineapple or 1 can (20 ounces) can of drained pineapple chunks
  • maraschino cherries (I didn't add any)
  • pecan halves (I didn't add any)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon cognac (my addition, which you can leave out but it really enhances the taste)
  • 3 tbsps of the syrup the pineapple slices were soaked in (my addition again, so leave it out if you wish. I felt it added a pineapple flavour to the body of the cake)
  • 2 pineapple slices chopped into little pieces (my addition again)


In a 9-inch square cake pan, melt butter; sprinkle with brown sugar. Arrange pineapple and cherries and nut halves on sugar, making a design. Make cake batter.
Cream 1/2 cup butter; gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients alternately with the milk; beat until smooth, ending with dry ingredients. I added a spoonful of cognac and some extra flour at this stage, and the pineapple syrup and the chopped pieces of pineapple. Blend the mixture really well, so that it's smooth and has a glossy look to it also. Pour it over the pineapple design.  

Bake at 180° for about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for about 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate.
Here's my badly shot picture of the cake. But it still looks yummy.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cooking made easy-peasy: stock up your kitchen

Most of us frequent cooks while sharing recipes with people, don’t stop for a second and wonder whether the ingredients which we are reeling off to the novice cook, make any sense to them or not. So, after being asked by a number of people – at work and online – various questions on the nitty-gritties of preparing recipes, I decided to put together a laundry list of ingredients and masalas and pastes which you must have in your kitchen at all times. Have this bunch of stuff in your fridge and on your shelves, and you can whip up almost anything in a matter of minutes.

Garam masala (whole) – Every home has its own mix of garam masala. Ours is very simple. Usually comprises of cinnamon sticks, cloves, and green cardamom. If you’re cooking around 1 kg of chicken/meat, I’d suggest you use a two-inch stick of cinnamon, 3 green cardamoms (which I like to give a light bashing to so the pods open up) and around 4 cloves.

Panch phoran - This is a Bengali blend of spices containing equal parts of mustard seeds, kalonji (nigella seeds), cumin seeds, saunf (fennel) and methi (fenugreek) seeds. Make the mix and keep it in a jar, and heat up oil, and add a tsp of the mix and saute for it to release its fragrance before cooking vegetables or even fish with it.
Garam masala powder – The reason why certain people’s home food tastes better than others, is because they don’t use that hideous packaged garam masala powder which has no fragrance and no real taste to it. Nothing can change a dish’s flavour and fragrance as much as freshly ground garam masala powder. Take equal quantities, say 200 gms each of cinnamon, green cardamom and cloves and put into a grinder and grind to as fine a powder as possible. Finish off your meat/chicken dishes with a teaspoon of the powder. This will keep on your shelf in an air-tight container for a month at least. I even sprinkle some on my shepherd’s pie filling if I’m in the mood.

Ginger and garlic paste – This might seem a little tedious, but once again the difference in your cooking will be instant. And while the pastes in packets and bottles were a heaven send when I was in college or even when I’m feeling especially lazy today, I’d suggest you take out some time and get this ready. Get large garlic and peel the garlic cloves and skin the ginger. Take the peeled garlic, put into your mixer and just whiz to a paste. Do the same with the skinned ginger. Keep in air-tight containers in the fridge and use as you wish. Do NOT make onion paste and refrigerate it though, it tends to lsoe colour and texture.
Roasted jeera/ cumin – Take a dry frying pan, put it on a high flame. Add 8-9 spoons of whole cumin seeds and dry roast till the cumin changes colour. Hold the pan an inch above the flame, so it doesn’t get too hot. When the cumin changes colour, let it cool and either grind in a mortar-pestle or in a grinder. Store in a container on your kitchen shelf. Perfect  seasoning for a raita, or even in meat dishes if you run out of normal cumin powder. Just use ½ the amount you’d use otherwise.   

Freshly ground pepper – This I learnt the hard way. I always believed that you shouldn’t grind pepper before-hand and keep it in a jar as it will lose its taste. Rubbish. Take a bunch of whole peppercorns and put it in the grinder and make a powder. Keep in a jar on your shelf and use as you want. Much easier than grinding it fresh everytime.
Other must-haves in my kitchen:
  • Dried oregano and thyme. While I can get my hand on fresh parsley and rosemary, I really can’t find fresh oregano and thyme anywhere in Delhi – usually.
  • Castor sugar -- grind white sugar to a fine powder and keep in an air-tight jar. very good for raitas, dips and desserts
  • Cocoa powder (If you can’t get Hershey’s, get Cadburys)
  • Condensed milk
  • Mayonnaise.
Indian spices –
  • turmeric powder
  • coriander (whole and powder)
  • cumin (whole and powder)
  • fenugreek (seeds)
  • nigella seeds (perfect for vegetables)
  • Kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves)
  • nutmeg (whole and powder)
  • mace (whole and powder)
  • chili powder and chili flakes
  • dried whole red chilis
  • bay leaves
  • pomegranate seeds (perfect for meat dishes again)
  • poppy seeds/ posto (excellent for potatoes and fish and meat)
  • whole black cardamom
  • mustard – black and yellow
  • saffron
  • peppercorns (whole)
Pastes and purees –
  • Tomato puree (for when you don’t feel like blanching and chopping tomatoes)
  • coconut milk (I think the tetrapacks are the best)
  • cream (again tetrapacks)
  • curd (I prefer Nestle as it doesn’t split up when you cook it)
Sauces and oils
  • Honey
  • butter
  • olive oil
  • sesame oil
  • oyster sauce
  • tomato sauce
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • vinegar – malt/plain
  • balsamic vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • mustard (whole grain and English/Dijon)
So, you spend this weekend stocking up your kitchen and I’ll spend it thinking of a nice recipe or two to share with all of you.     

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Assamese style beef in thick brinjal gravy

My little Man Friday at home broke his leg about a month back, which resulted in me having to walk my utterly wild dogs twice a day and then coming home to cook food for myself and limping boy in the wonderful Delhi heat. But then God sent me an angel in the form of the my chauffeur’s wife, who happened to be on leave from her job at some diplomat’s house because they’d fled the tropics for cooler climes. She made me a plethora of gastronomical delights – both continental as well as from her local cuisine for me. While her bolognaise and grilled chicken with celery was lovely, it was her home food which was divine. Chicken with snake gourd, fish with sour spinach, beef in a thick brinjal gravy – I’d never seen or tasted such unique combinations. Now that Limping Boy is Walking Boy again and she's left, in her memory I’ve cooked delicious beef in brinjal and have to say it’s turned out nearly as well as hers.

Beef in thick brinjal gravy

This is for a kg of beef.

Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Add around 3-4 sliced onions and 2 tbsps freshly made ginger-garlic paste. Saute and then add 4 chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp each of turmeric, chili powder, coriander and cumin powder and keep sautéing. This is all on high heat.

Now add the beef. Add salt to taste and turn the gas to simmer and keep stirring and ‘bhuno-ing’ for around 30 minutes. You’ll see the masalas take on a rich deep colour, and the tomatoes and onions will release enough liquid to make sure that the beef doesn’t stick to the bottom of the vessel. Then add the magic ingredient of one large round brinjal chopped into one inch pieces and sauté more. Once the brinjal is coated with the masalas, add enough water to cover the beef and then put the pressure on.

For really tender beef, let the pressure cooker be for at least 12 whistles and then open and stir in a spoon of freshly made garam masala powder. (Garam masala powder – equal portions of cinnamon, clove and cardamom, ground together. Just make a bottle of the powder and keep it handy. Beats that hideous packet garam masala any day). You’ll notice that the brinjal has totally broken down and formed the base of the gravy. Take your ladle and break down any remaining solid pieces of brinjal.

This tasted divine with some steamed rice and freshly squeezed lime.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Baking glory -- double chocolate chip cookies, chicken patties and cheesestraws

I've been stuck at home for the last month, looking after the dogs and playing nurse to my Man Friday who's gone and fractured his leg. The heat of Delhi is also so unbearable currently, that you don't even feel like venturing out. So instead of cooking in the heat of the kitchen, I decided to put my oven to good use. I've spent the last week making chicken patties - just like my mom used to make for us for tiffin in school - and cheesestraws and yesterday I baked chocolate chip cookies for the first time. While the recipe didn't ask for grated cooking chocolate, I dumped in some because I had tons of it at home. You could always leave it out if you want.


2 cups flour
1 cup butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup grated dark cooking chocolate
1 cup brown sugar (I powdered it, but it should work as well even if you don't)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

Sieve the flour and baking powder and salt together.

In another bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and eggs and vanilla essence. Then add the chocolate and the choco chips. 

Then mix in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. It will take on a fudgy texture.

Prepare a baking tray with greased butter paper. Take a teaspoon and put a dollop of mixture around 3 inches apart on the tray. Make sure it's not too close because the mixture will flatten out and the biscuits will merge into each other if there's not enough space between them.

Place in a pre-heated oven, set at 190 degrees C for around 15 minutes. Take out, allow to cool on the baking sheet and then eat :) If the cookies have flattened and merged into each other, just break them at the division line with your hand. 

These turned out extremely chewy and fabulous, and perfect for a tea party. Especially if you serve them with home-made chicken patties and cheese straws.   

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Easy pork chops with a yummy marinade

The mother will be visiting soon, so I decided to clean out my freezer and pre-marinate some stuff for her visit. So along with prepping a lasagna with some delicious meat sauce and a few vinaigrettes, I also decided to marinate some pork chops which I’ve been meaning to cook for a while. Here’s my easy-peasy recipe for really nice sticky sweet and tangy teriyaki style pork chops. Enjoy 


• 1/2 cup soy sauce

• 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

• 2 teaspoons honey

• 2 teaspoons garlic powder

• 4 pork chops


Mix all the marinade ingredients together -- the soy sauce, vinegar, honey and garlic powder - in a bowl. Soak the chops in the marinade and place in a shallow dish with a cover. If you’re cooking the chops for a meal that day itself, marinate for at least 2 to 4 hours in the refrigerator. Otherwise if you’re going to cook it later, like I am, you can keep it in the marinade for up to 3-4 days and then cook it.

If you have a grill, lightly oil it. Grill the chops 5 to 8 minutes per side, for them to be medium rare. You can drizzle the remaining marinade over the chops while grilling for them to remain moist. If you don’t have a grill, use your non-stick frying pan.

Serve the chops with some nice garlic bread and a green salad.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Food for Thought catering and a jug of Pimm's

Well I'm back from what I felt was a much deserved break to recharge my batteries. And I'm back with a brand new venture, which is of course food-related. A friend of mine and I have decided to start a catering and party planning company called Food for Thought which will cater parties for a minimum of 5 people. We'll also help plan parties - themes, invites, decor, menu. The whole shebang. So if you know anyone in Gurgaon or even Delhi who might want to serve up some delicious home-cooked Bengali, continental, thai or burmese cuisine do let them know about us. They can check out our menu and website at or check out our facebook page at!/pages/Food-For-Thought-Catering-Party-Planning/218341524858777

And in the meantime, just to beat the heat, here's a quick recipe for my version of Pimm's:

Chop up a bunch of fruits. Whatever you have in the fridge. You should have at least 2 cups of chopped apples, grapes, half a lemon in circles and some strawberries. Also add some chopped cucumbers, without peeling the skin off.

Soak all the fruits in around 200 ml of bacardi/ vodka (basically one of the white alcohols)

Add a can of ginger beer and top up with 500 ml of Pimm's. Stir. Throw in a handful of mint leaves.

Lie back, sip and enjoy.  

Monday, April 4, 2011

White chocolate and orange cake with a cognac orange glaze

I had a bunch of white cooking chocolate with me and since I’m not a great fan of white chocolate, I’ve just been storing it for ages. The other day I decided that I might as well use the chocolate and bake something or the other. I came across this lovely recipe for white chocolate and orange cake which had only fresh ingredients. The main thing with baking is that you have to stick to measurements. It’s precise, an dmight seem clinical while you’re making it – but I find baking like magic. You put in all the strangest ingredients and the most magnificent cretaion pops out of the oven. It is a science, so just stick to the emasurements and you will be so happy with the result. The only thing I deviated from the original recipe on, was my addition of cognac – and it was a fabulous addition if I say so myself. The fresh orange juice and zest gives th cake a lovely tangy fragrance and taste and the cognac gives it a really ncie kick.
Read through the recipe before you begin. It may seem like a lot of work, but it goes together quickly. Don’t substitute the fresh orange juice with the carton one, it really won’t give the same taste.
·         1 large orange
·         2 cups all-purpose flour
·         1 tsp baking soda
·         1 tsp salt
·         1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
·         1 cup granulated sugar
·         2 large eggs, at room temperature
·         1/4 cup fresh orange juice
·         3/4 cup yoghurt
·         1 cup white chocolate grated
·         Orange zest (about 1 tbsp)
·         1/4 cup orange marmalade – I used Kissan, but if you have any other kind just use it
·         2 Tbsp butter
Preheat the oven to 350 F or around 200 C. Prepare a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter and dust with flour.

Remove the zest from the orange (should be about 1 tablespoon) and set aside. Make sure you don’t get any of the pith in your zester (that’s the white inside part of the orange which is really bitter). Juice the orange (should be about 1/3 cup), reserving the juice for use in the recipe.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating into the mixture. Beat in 1/4 cup orange juice (reserve the rest for icing) and yoghurt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Fold in the orange zest and keep mixing till the mixture is well-blended.

Pour into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle white chocolate chips on top of the batter. If they do not sink in, tap pan gently once on the counter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and the cake is done. Stick a knife in the centre and if it comes out clean, it’s done.

While the cake is baking, melt orange marmalade and butter in the microwave about 45 seconds. Stir it and then add around a large peg of cognac – good quality cognac.
I of course forgot to dust the cake tin with flour, so as I took the cake out of the over I immediately flipped it out of the baking tray – and much to my joy, it came out in one piece and perfectly.
Brush this glaze over the top of the warm cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Then let the cake cool and cut it into small squares. It’s been a fabulous hit with all my friends and even I wowed myself with how wonderful it tasted.
Pardon the picture, but I took it with my mobile phone.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Raja Mircha and the bestest pork curry ever

It’s definitely been a while since I last posted a recipe and the only excuse is that I’ve been terribly busy with the restaurant.  But enough of excuses. On to more important topics.
Just the other day, my driver who has been on leave for a couple of weeks and hails from Assam, returned with a brilliant gift for me – a bushel of raja mircha or bhoot jolakia a.k.a the spiciest chili in India. In an effort to preserve and relish them for as long as possible, I first dried them on the roof in the burning Delhi sun and then proceeded to think of how and what to cook with them.
The main word of caution while using raja mircha is that it is bloody spicy, so you don’t want to use more than one chili for a kg of meat. It does have a divine taste and fragrance all its own though and you don’t need to add too many spices as a result. Also, if you have a low tolerance for spice, this is not the ingredient for you.
So now that I had my hands on a raja mircha, I decided that the best thing to cook with it was a nice Naga spicy pork curry, which I’ve cooked for the first time. And I must say, you’ll be left licking your plate clean. Two of the best parts of this recipe are that first, you don’t use a smidgen of oil. And second, there’s no bamboo shoot used in it, which makes it more palatable for me as I haven’t really developed a taste for bamboo shoot yet.
So here goes, just follow the recipe and I promise you you’ll be licking your plate clean.  Also, for best results get hold of really good quality pork with a generous layer of fat.
·         Pork 1 kg with meat and fat, cut into small chunks
·         Garlic crushed: 1 ½ tablespoons
·         Ginger: 1 ½ tablespoons
·         Salt to taste
·         One raja mircha fresh or smoked and dried
·         Tomatoes 400 gms pureed
Serves 4
Wash the pork and soak it in 2 tbsps of white vinegar. Puree the tomatoes and keep aside along with crushed garlic and ginger.
Put the pork along with the vinegar in a thick bottomed pan, add salt to taste, add half a glass of water and let it cook until half done. I also chopped some potataoes and added it to the pork while it was boiling. But you can leave it out if you want. Then add the tomato puree, ginger and garlic and let the pork cook until tender. When it is almost done, add the raja chilli and stir until the pork is cooked and tender. The curry will be a bright red thick gravy.

This tasted perfect with steamed rice. Enjoy.