Friday, March 31, 2006

off to france

i'm taking a short break from blogging as i'll be chilling out this weekend in britanny. we're flying to nantes and then driving a few hours to a small village called pontmain near which our friend has a chateau. look for lots of posts about french food and village life next week!

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

leek soup for weight loss

i had never bought leeks before i moved to london. i knew that the french used it a lot in their cooking but beyond that i was totally oblivious to the versatile nature of this vegetable.

i've since learnt that leeks belong to the same family as onions and garlic. they make great soups on their own or along with other vegetables. the famous french cold soup, vichyssoise, is made from leeks. they can also be used in frittatas and quiches. as well as in salads.

i picked up a bunch consisting of four cylinders a few weeks back from the farmer's market. i read several recipes and then just made up by own avoiding any oil or butter.

i cut the four leeks in thin slices at a 45 degree angle. i then chopped up five baby potatoes. i put the leeks and potatoes in my le creuset and added four cups of water and a few cubes of vegetable stock. i brought the water and vegetables to boil and then lowered the heat to a simmer. after about fifteen minutes, i took the pot off the flame, whizzed the soup with my hand blender, seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper before serving in a big bowl.

what's lovely about leeks is that they create a velvety texture without the fat. i've heard people complain about the bland taste of leek soup but that can be rectified with freshly ground pepper. the potatoes do add a few extra calories and can be avoided if you really want a super healthy recipe. this soup is great when you're trying to eat a light dinner that will keep you going till bedtime.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

porridge from steel cut oats

the english weather makes porridge a lovely breakfast on almost any given day of the year except perhaps in the summer. then too, i suspect that london is crisp in the mornings. i am finding it quite hard to have my usual cereal and cold milkfor breakfast when it is so chilly and grey. i've started to eat a lot of oatmeal or porridge as they call it in this part of the world.

it was my friend, trevor, who first introduced me to the concept of oatmeal made from steel cut oats a while back when i was still living in the bay area. she got me hooked on mccann's steel cut oats which came in a distinctive old-style tin. i got addicted to the chewy, wholesome texture of the grain. every since, i haven't been able to eat rolled oats or the instant flavoured varieties available in the supermarket.

i was browsing the food halls of selfridges a few weeks back looking for mccann's. i found a look-alike (or perhaps the original!) called hamlyn's pinehead oatmeal. hamlyn's is a scottish brand and i have found their pinehead oatmeal makes an absolutely chunky and delicious porridge.

place 1/2 cup of oatmeal to 3 cups water or milk in a saucepan. i usually use water and add just a bit of milk when the porridge is ready. bring to boil, stirring well. simmer for 20 or 25 minutes, or until desired consistency. i like to add bananas, raisins and some honey to my porridge to make it a hearty breakfast.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

spicy delicious sambhar

i tried out viji varadarajan's recipe for spicy delicious sambhar (araithavitta thakkali vengaya sambhar) after she left a comment on an earlier post. i was eager to see if i could create an "authentic" tasting sambhar. i was a little skeptical at first wondering how this recipe could be any better than the one i usually follow. after all, sambhar is sambhar is sambhar. well actually, i was wrong. i followed instructions exactly and ended up making the most delicious sambhar i have ever made. it came really close to tasting like saravana bhavan's. at the end of the post, i'll tell you what i think made the difference.

small onions - 1 cup, peeled
tomatoes - 1 cup, chopped medium
thoor dal - 1/4 cup
tamarind - medium lemon-sized
pitlai powder - 1 1/2 tsps (see recipe below)
mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
oil - 1/2 tsp
methi seeds - 1/4 tsp
red chilli - 1
curry leaves - a few
jeera powder - a pinch
salt - to taste

- soak thoor dal for 15 minutes in 2 cups of hot water and cook until soft
- soak the tamarind in a cup of hot water for a few minutes and extract the pulp fully

- heat oil and pop the mustard seeds, add red chilli and methi seeds
- now add onions and saute for 10 seconds. add half the curry leaves, half the tomatoes, tamarind juice and salt. close lid for a few minutes and allow it to simmer over a medium heat
- when the onion softens add dal, pitlai powder, the remaining curry leaves, jeera powder and the remaining tomatoes. boil until it thickens a little and transfer to a serving bowl.

serve hot with rice, ven pongal, dosai, idlis and uppuma.

i ate my sambhar with brown rice and spicy ladyfinger dry curry made in the microwave. i think the key difference in taste was created by the pitlai podi which i have never used before. i use a sambhar powder made in my parents' home in bombay but i'm pretty sure it does not include coconut powder. also, sauteeing the onions just a bit adds a lovely roasted taste to the sambhar. adding tomatoes also makes a difference as i usually don't. overall, a great recipe if you are looking for the real deal when it comes to sambhar!

pitlai podi recipe

dhania - 3 cups
channa dal- 1 cup
red chillies - 3/4 cup
hing - 5 marble-sized pieces
grated coconut - 2 cups
oil - 2 1/2 tsps

in a 1/2 teaspoon of oil, roast the hing well (press it down with a ladle so that the insides are roasted well or use the powder). in another teaspoon of oil, roast the dhania, red chillies and chana dal. in another half teaspoon of oil, roast the grated coconut to a golden brown colour. place the spices in the blender. coarsely blend and store in a container and refrigerate.

ps - i made just 1/3 of what this recipe calls for as i don't cook south indian food more than a few times a month. the pitlai powder can also be used with various other south indian dishes which i will post about in the coming months as i am eager to use the powder!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

rigatoni with sweet tomatoes, eggplant and mozzarella

i just can't love jamie oliver enough! i have almost a hundred cookbooks and yet i find myself returning to one of three cookbooks written by the naked chef that i own. one of my favourite recipes from "jamie's dinners" is a pasta dish that jamie has had many times in italy, on the amalfi coast. i can't wait to go to italy this summer.

i bought some cow's milk mozzarella from borough market which i used in this dish. it's torn up and added right at the last minute and so is nice and stringy when you dig in.

here's the recipe from page 194 of jamie's dinners. enjoy jamie's distinctive voice which also makes reading his recipes so much more fun!

serves 4
1 firm ripe pink, black or white eggplant
extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 14 oz cans of good-quality plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt abd freshly ground black pepper
1-2 fresh or dried red chillies (optional)
a bunch of fresh basil, leaves stripped and stalks sliced
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1 lb rigatoni (or penne)
7 oz cow's milk mozzarella
1 piece of paremesan cheese, for grating

remove both ends of the eggplant and slice into 1/2 inch slices, then slice these across and finely dice into 1/2 inch cubes. some people prefer to season their eggplant with salt and let it sit for a while in a colander to draw out the bitterness, but i don't really do this unless i'm dealing with a seedy, bitter eggplant. this dish is really best made using a firm silky one.

now put a large saucepan on the heat and drizzle in 4 to 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. when it's hot, add the cubes of eggplant, and as soon as they hit the pan stir them around with a spoon so they are delicately coated with the oil and not soaked on one side only. when they have a little colour, add the canned tomatoes and the balsamic vinegar. stir around and season carefully with salt and pepper. at this point, if you wanted to give the dish a little hear you could add some chopped fresh or crumbled dried chilli, but that's up to you. add the basil stalks, and simmer the sauce nice and gently for around 15 minutes, then add the cream.

while the sauce is simmering, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta. cook according to the package instructions until it is soft but still holding its shape, then drain it, saving a little of the cooking water. i like to put the pasta back into the pot it was cooked in with a tiny bit of the cooking water and a drizzle of olive oil and move it around so it becomes almost dressed with the water and oil.

at this point add the lovely tomato sauce to the pasta. by now the eggplant will have cooked into a creamy tomatoey pulp, which is just yum yum yum! season carefully to taste with salt and pepper. when all my guests are sitting round the table, i take the pan to the table, tear up the mozzarella and the fresh basil, and fold these in nicely for 30 seconds. then very quickly serve into bowls. by the time your guests start to eat, the mozzarella will have started to melt and will be stringy and gorgeous and really milky-tasting. just lovely with the tomatoes and eggplant. serve at the table with a block of parmesan cheese and grater so that everyone can help themsleves.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

der andechser, wiesbaden

i tasted a bit of bavarian hospitality last night. i spent the early part of this week visiting clients in wiesbaden, 30 minutes outside of frankfurt. in a mood for traditional german food, we went to der andechser, a german pub located in the cellar of what was once a monastery. from as far back as 1516, monks brewed a pure beer named andechser klosterbierre which is supposed to be beneficial for the body and soul. i'm not exactly a beer connoiseur but i did enjoy the light, draught beer like flavour profile and can see how it can be relaxing and nourishing at the same time :)

this was my first experience eating german food which to me evokes sauerkraut, pretzels and lots of meat. a german colleague translated the seven page plus menu and helped me decide on a few meatless options. as he was translating for me, he was enticed by the vegetarian dishes and so we shared two of the best on the menu.

the first dish we shared was semmelknodel (authentic bread noodles) served over mushrooms sauteed in a yummy white sauce with lots of cream on the side. i was trying hard not to pay attention to the carb and fat overload which would have certainly prevented me from fully enjoying this german comfort food. the dish was warm, mushy and very rich.

the second dish was a bavarian cheese plate and fingerling potatoes baked to perfection. only in germany do you have potatoes to dip in cheese!

i'd love to hear your experiences with german food so do leave a comment..

Sunday, March 19, 2006

shopping at the farmer's market, kensington

why go all the way to borough or brixton when there is a lovely farmer's market in my very own area? especially when it's a cold saturday and the wind feels glacial! i recently heard about the saturday morning farmer's market in kensington which is set-up in the parking lot behind waterstone's at notting hill gate, just off kensington church road, and is open between 9 am and 1 pm. i didn't want to buy too many fresh fruits and vegetables this week as i'm leaving for frankfurt this afternoon and won't be back till later in the week. i focused on finding a few interesting foods that can last a lot longer.

a beautiful jar of goat cheese with cloves and red chillis caught my attention at first glance. on chatting with the owner of the cheese stall, i learnt about the healthful properties of goat cheese with its low fat and cholestrol content. i also liked the idea of having cheese on hand always. i was told that this jar would last upto six months. look for many goat cheese recipes!

i was also very tempted to buy many jars of various garlicky spreads from the garlic farm but restrained myself to a single purchase - a sharp tasting garlic horseradish mustard which i think would be lovely on toasted bread with eggs.

Garlic Farm's stall at the Kensington Farmer's Market

i then made my way towards holland park avenue to seek out this no-name fruit and vegetable merchant on clarendon road which many of my neighbours rave about. after asking a few people, i was able to find this tiny shop tucked away in a small gulley, away from the main road.

The best fruit and vegetable merchant off Holand Park Avenue on Clarendon Road

what's most special about this store is that you are attended to individually and can be assured of the choicest selection of hand-picked fruits and vegetables you desire. you queue up and wait to be served and then you can take your own sweet time with the expert attendant helping you, picking all the produce to your hearts content. from mangoes and papayas to rhubarb and leeks, lingonberries and strawberries to jerusalem artichokes and turnips, you can find just about every fruit or vegetable. i was a bit disappointed that they didn't stock fresh curry leaves but the owner promised to have them for me next saturday. now that's personal service.

i walked through holland park on my way home enjoying a bit of sunshine despite the chill. it was a beautiful walk through this woody park which is considered one of the most natural and peaceful parks in london.

if you like, check out the photos from my food shopping trip and walk through holland park on my way home yesterday.

dabbawallahs in america

if you read the dining section of the new york times, you probably have already come across this article on the rising popularity of dabbahwallas in the big american metros. my friend, shivani, who lives in manhattan is the authour of the article.

i had a long chat with shivani on the phone yesterday and learnt a few things about reactions to this article which i wanted to share with you. well firstly, the article was the number one most emailed artile from last week. congrats, shivani - that's so fabulous! what this shows is that interest in india and things indian have really reached a critical mass in america. i can't imagine such an article having generated so much interest even five years ago. secondly, shivani told me that anaadaata's website had such a huge surge in hits after the publication of the article that they were really worried of the site crashing! apparently, more than 90% of the queries to their phone line were from non-indians. i was quite surprised by that. they even had a call from china asking if the food could be delivered there!! and thirdly, shivani even got a call from a literary agent wanting to take her to lunch to brainstorm about book ideas. i'm just so excited for my friend!

my only regret is that i don't live in california anymore. san franciso is covered in annadaata's lunch route 1 which means i could have had piping hot, home cooked food at work. i'm so jealous of all my friends in the bay area. got to look into such options in london.

Friday, March 17, 2006

braised fennel with chilli, lemon & thyme

did you know that all parts of the fennel are edible? you can eat the roots, stalks and even the leaves! i always thought of fennel as a spice until i saw the spring issue of bbc's goodfood magazine which has a great looking photo and recipe for a braised fennel dish. it take a bit long to make but the end result is just so delicious. the red chilli, lemon juice and wine mix brilliantly with the garlic, thyme and coriander to give the vegetable a lip-smacking flavour.

here's the recipe which can be found on page 75 of the april issue of bbc's goodfood:

serves 6
prep 10 mins, cook 25 mins, healthy, low fat
this is good with any piece of fish, but the delicate flavour of the fennel works particularly well with sea bass. (i made it as a side dish with rigatoni and tomato sauce with eggplant and mozzarella).

3 tbsp olive oil
4 fennel, quartered
2 thyme sprigs
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted
glass dry white wine (about 125ml/4fl oz)
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
juice 1 lemon
handful parsley leaves, chopped

heat the olive oil in a saute pan and fry the fennel for 5 mins until it starts to brown. stir in the thyme, garlic, coriander, fennel seeds then splash in the wine. lower the heat and cook gently for another 20-25 mins, until the fennel is just cooked. next add the chilli and the lemon juice, then cook for a few minutes more. scatter over the parsley and serve.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

rocket pesto on ciabata with grilled veggies

i picked up a big bunch of rocket (known as arugula in america) at borough market last weekend but hadn't used it all up in a salad like i had planned to. i was wondering what else to do with it before it withered away when i remembered reading in some cookbook or seeing on some food show that you can make pesto from rocket. so i put it all in a food processor with some left over basil, a clove of garlic, a handful of toasted pine nuts, lots of chilli oil, a handful of shaved parmesan, some sea salt and black pepper. the result was a spicy and sharp pesto which i spread over thin slices of toasted ciabata bread and enjoyed along with oven roasted veggies. a simple weekday dinner enjoy with a chilled glass of sancerre.

ps - i have to keep remembering that it takes only a tablespoon of olive oil to roast a lot of veggies as they release their own delicious juices in the process of getting roasted. i think i added more than one tablespoon in haste and so ended up having the veggies float in a bit in chilli infused oil. luckily i had lots of leftover bread to scoop it all up!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

pimientos de padron at brindisa tapas bar

after a few hours of browsing around borough market wide-eyed on saturday, i was ready for some snackitos spanish style at brindisa, a tapas bar located right near the entrance to the underground at london bridge. what i wasn't ready for was champagne and wine which everyone else seemed to be washing down over a late lunch. it felt like being in spain already!

i was reunited with my new best friend, the pimiento de padron, which i've heard is becoming quite popular even as far west as san francisco. i encountered it only one other time at a tapas bar in clerkenwell but have been quite taken up with it ever since. i read online about zarzuela,one of my most favourite restaurants in san francisco, serving crispy padron peppers deep fried in olive oil and sprinkled with kosher salt. that's exactly how i had them on saturday afternoon at brindisa. they're not exactly the spiciest peppers around. in fact, they actually taste a little sweet. but every now and then you bit into a spicy pod and therein lies the fun.

delicious as they were, i couldn't survive on pimientos de padron alone so i also ordered a salad of greens and roasted beets.

so brindisa is where the naked chef gets his recipe idea of roasted beets from! the soft and flavbourful beets were delicious and they reminded me of shopping for beets of all varieties at the green market in manhattan.

Shopping at Union Square Farmer's Market

to be perfectly honest, the beets are brindisa were much better cooked than when i have made this dish. i get impatient and pull them out of the oven sooner than i am supposed to. 45 min for roasting beets is just so excruciatingly long, no?!

brindisa has a fantastic selection of tapas. the atmosphere is so cheerful and the crowd a bit boisterous. i felt transported to spain at least till i walked out and had to confront the horrible english weather.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

food shopping at borough market

i've been dying to go food shopping at borough market ever since i arrived in london. but somehow there was one thing or the other that took precedence on saturday mornings until this weekend and the weather hadn't been terribly cooperative either. but yesterday morning i was determined to make my way to the market no matter what.

The grand entrance to Borough Market

i took the circle line train from high street kensington and changed at westminister. then i took the jubilee line to london bridge. as soon as i emerged from the underground, i could tell that i was in foodie heaven. the smell of fried onions and garlic was wafting in the air. there were food shops and restaurants all closely packed next to eachother and each one seemed to be doing brisk business. a long queue had formed outside brindisa, a spanish tapas restaurant near the entrance to the market. i was so overwhelmed by all the choice and eager to soak it all in that i was clueless where to begin. the burly owner at the italian cheese shop was kind enough to direct me to the entrance. as i walked in, i was reminded of the spice market in istanbul which has a similar grand entrance. all the old world markets must have been designed in this way. and like the spice bazaar in istanbul, the inside of borough market was like a maze. i'm sure that it's going to take a lot of trips before i begin to figure out where my favourite vendors are located within the market.

Degustibus Breads

the first stall i came across was desgustibus which was selling all sorts of artisinal breads. i couldn't resist the smell of freshly baked bread - i bought a loaf of ciabata immediately. as i made my way through the market, my senses were delighted in amazingly different ways and my eyes got progressively wider in total wonder. before i knew it, i had bought basil and rocket, vine tomatoes, blood orange marmalade from portugal, fresh mozzarella and all sorts of vegetables including baby onions and purple garlic.

Wet purple garlic

this was more fascinating and wonderous than any food market i have ever visited. green market in union square comes in second but it's hardly a patch on borough market which has the most diverse choice of foods on display from fresh vegetables and fruits to exotic cheeses. there are plenty of fresh food stalls that cook up crowd pleasers like ostrich burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Neil's Yard Cheese Shop

one of my favourite stops was at neil's yard, supposed to be the best cheese shop in the world. it was so fun to wait in line for your turn and then spend as much time as you like tasting different cheeses before you bought some. i was served by an american from philadelphia who was gaining experience here before going back to the states to start his own cheese shop. how fun!

my only regret was that i didn't go to the borough market earlier in the day otherwise i might have caught a glimpse of my favourite chef, jamie oliver, who comes to borough every saturday morning with his daughters daisy and poppy while his wife, gets some time on her own.

borough market has inspired me to go food shopping every saturday. the most recent issue of time out london has a great feature on london's best markets. next up: brixton. stay tuned!

check out my photo album which has a few more photos from my trip to borough:

my flickr album on food shopping at borough market

Thursday, March 09, 2006

roka for contemporary japanese food

some of you may have heard of or eaten at zuma, the phenomenally popular and tres trendy japanese eatery in london. roka is the sister restaurant specialising in contemporary japanese robatayaki (open charcoal grill) cuisine. exotically marinated fresh vegetables, meats and seafood are perfectly scorched by expert chefs and beautifully served.

my dear friend uzra was visiting from the states. uzra graduated a few years after me at davidson and we've kept in touch over the years. it's been great that she was able to visit me in san francisco, new york and now london as well. i just had to plan a fun night out for her so i got a bunch of people together for dinner at roka followed by drinks at milk & honey, a private members club where my friend rutton booked a lovely table for a big group of eight. i wish some of uzra's work buddies were visiting as well. i've heard so many stories about the accenture crew. she said that you guys are a lot of fun and you read my blog?! a special shout out to you, especially OMAR who i am dying to meet!

we ordered various small and big plates since it was all family style. three dishes were outstanding. first, the yaki asparagus with sweet soy and sesame. i'm not a huge asparagus fan but the soy and the sesame really opened my eyes to the interesting texture and softness of this otherwise bland vegetable. second was ko nasu, eggplant in mirin, ginger and soy. this is probably the best eggplant dish i've ever had. it just melted in my mouth and had a wonderfully tangy aftertaste from the ginger which had me craving for more and more. third was a rice hot pot with assorted mushrooms. it was just so different to have a hot rice dish at a japanese restaurant.

try to get a seat downstairs where all the action is. there's a lovely central bar around which all the tables are situated. the atmosphere is strangely very happening while being very romantic as well - lush red interiors, candlelight everywhere, exotic get the picture! quite a lovely combo if you're out to have fun as a couple.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

vom fass at selfridges

look, taste, enjoy. that is the tagline of vom fass, a german purveyor of exquisite vinegars, oils, wines, liquers and spirits all straight from the cask. vom fass is available at selfridges and harrods in london and other locations all over the uk. it's also available at galeries lafayette in paris or online.

h and i were at selfridges on oxford street last weekend looking for a very belated birthday gift for my mother. it was only 11:30 in the morning but we were already ready for lunch so we swung by the food halls to see what was on offer. oh my, what wasn't on offer! from yo sushi to krispy kreme doughnuts, leonard's fine belgian chocolates to lucky charms and other american brands, a wide selection of cheeses to fresh pasta and lots more, we were completely blown away by the sheer variety of food stuff on display. the pie and mash food stall attracted us and i ordered a spinach and feta pastry topped with mashed potatoes and peas. it reminded me of the vegetable pie i ate in sydney from harry's cafe de wheels almost a year ago!

after lunch, we were still walking around the food court when we ran into a section which had these beautiful coloured casks filled with exotic sounding liquers. lovely empty glass bottles of various shapes and sized lined the shelves, waiting to be taken home. two charming brazilian women working for a company called vom fass were encouraging us try their products. we weren't exactly in the mood for shots but i felt like something sweet after lunch so i agreed to try a little bit of some dessert liquer. one of the young women suggested some limoncino which i loved immediately. the fresh burst of lemony flavours reminded me of lazy summer afternoons and sipping ice cold lemonade all day long. i was attracted to a very funky bottle in the shape of a high heeled shoe which i chose for the limoncino.

the bigger hit with me was the tiramisu cream liquer which was pure heaven on earth. i don't think i'll ever eat tiramisu again when i can drink it so easily. i loved it so much that i had to choose this adorable heart shaped glass:

the vom fass concept is very simple. pick a wine, liquer, vinegar, oil of your choice after tasting as many as you like. select a bottle shape that you like in the size that you want. the name of your selection is written in beautiful handwriting on the bottle along with the percentage of alcohol. we also bought fig vodka and blood orange vodka which are great for cosmos, martinis and margaritas. vom fass products arfe such a terrific and stylish gift. not that i plan to give away any of the bottles i bought :)


Saturday, March 04, 2006

rava dosas and shallot sambhar

inspired by indira's post on shallot sambhar, i decided to make dosas and sambhar last weekend when my friend darshini and her husband came over for dinner. i really miss the homemade tubs of dosa batter that were available at the indian stores in redwood city and mountain view. but i've found a great recipe for rava dosa from viji varadarajan's "samayal" that is super easy to make (if you have all the ingredients on hand) and has a texture similar to a regular dosa.

prep time: 15 min
cooking time: 20 mins
makes: 10 to 12

1 tbsp wheat flour
1 1/2 cups semolina
1 cup rice flour
1/2 tsp jeera
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
a few curry leaves
3 to 4 chillies
1 inch piece of ginger
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 tsp hing powder (asoeftedia)
oil for preparing dosa
salt to taste
5 1/2 cups water

chop the chillies and ginger finely. you may blend the ginger into a paste.

mix yogurt, water, salt, hing and curry leaves with wheat flour, semolina and rice flour. the batter should be a very thin consistency.

in a deep pan heat the oil and pop the mustard seeds, and then add the jeera and the chillies in oil. stir in the ginger to the batter. add the curry leaves, yogurt and hing powder into the batter and mix well.

heat a tava or a flat griddle iron like the one in the picture above, spray a little bit of oil and wait till it is very hot. prepare dosa by pouring with a ladle and spread using the bottom of the ladle. using a small spoon, sprinkle a little bit of oil all over the perimeter of the dosa. since my pan is so rectangular, i usually make two dosas at a time. after a minute or two, turn over and let the other side cook.


serve hot with onion sambhar or coriander chutney. as you can see from the picture, my dosas aren't perfectly shaped but they were pretty delicious thanks to the easy recipe. my only regret was that i didn't have fresh curry leaves on hand - they add a lovely flavour to rava dosas that is very hard to substitute.

a day trip to warrington on a virgin train

yesterday, for the first time since i moved here, i got out of london and experienced a little bit of the rest of england. i had a business meeting in warrington which is in the north west of england, between liverpool and manchester.

my colleague and i took a virgin train from london euston that was headed to lancaster. the train was delayed by fifteen minutes but the tea and freshly baked croissant we were served at their lounge at euston (i love how virgin has a lounge even at a railway station!) made up for the delay. the actual experience on the train was just fantastic. we effortlessly glided through the picturesque english countryside. though the train was moving at a very high speed, you didn't really feel it inside the train except a little bit of tilting every once in while. i was supposed to get work done but i was quite mesmerised by the green fields and little villages that we passed, it was hard to concentrate. i was most excited to pass a town called rugby where the game originated.

warrington itself is not a terribly special town. the cab driver gave us some random facts about the city which he was very proud of - population of half a million, exactly halfway between london and edinburgh, a pub/post office/bank/convenient store at every corner just like the old times, three asdas, three marks and spencers, and the first ikea in england!

my biggest take away from my train journey yesterday is that there is so much of england waiting to be explored and virgin trains have a fantastic network covering many of the places i'd like to visit including brighton, birmingham, glasgow and edinburgh. now if the weather would only warm up soon...

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

spinach and ginger soup on a snowy day

the snow showers in london are surreal. they've beautiful to look at and they trick you to almost admiring the season but before you know it they're gone and you're left dealing with the bitter cold. agh! nothing better to warm me up than cooking and eating lots of soup. i made spinach and ginger soup last night. it's one of my favourite soups because it is not only super healthy but also super tasty! my mom gave me the idea of ginger in the soup and i've adapted her recipe to create a lighter version without the white sauce. just for the record, she wouldn't approve of my version only because i add loads of garlic which she can't stand!

roughly chop a couple of medium sized onions (half a red onion for some extra kick if you like), a few cloves of garlic and an inch of ginger. sautee in a few tablespoons of olive oil until the onions turn soft, about five minutes. i am terrible at chopping vegetables so i'm all in favour of jamie oliver's "rough" method.

add a big bag of cut spinach bought from the store or a few bunches of fresh spinach straight from the market. make sure you wash the spinach really well in either case. don't worry if it looks like the spinach is going to overflow. it will get sucked into the dish magically after a few minutes and reduce to less than a quarter of the original.

once the spinach has settled down a bit, about three minutes, add about 4 1/2 coups of stock. i usually heat up the water in a separate pan and use vegetable stock in the form of cubes. i'm currently using a veg stock concentrate from marks and spencer which i've found is pretty good in adding depth to soups and risottos.

after five to eight minutes, remove from the fire. stick in a hand blender, blitz for a minute or two and voila, the spinach and ginger soup is almost ready. put the saucepan back on the stove and add seasoning - sea salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. the nutmeg adds a great finishing touch and helps in bringing out the ginger.

bon apetit! this soup can be enjoyed with toasted baguette slices or your favourite crackers.

ps - that is not cream in the soup but just the steam as it was sizzling when i took the picture!