Sunday, October 29, 2006

slow cooked scrambled eggs

i find myself being much more inspired by food blogs than cookbooks these days. yesterday, i was catching up on my friend amy's blog and was quite taken up with her suggestion to take your own sweet time to make scrambled eggs. it was quite contrary to everything i've read about making scrambled eggs so i was intrigued and immediately wanted to give it a try.

i whisked four eggs in a bowl and added a tablespoon of skim milk. i also added a pinch of salt though amy's recipe does not call for it. i then melted a tablespoon of butter on a sautee pan on the lowest heat. after the butter had melted, i added the eggs and slowly stirred for about six to eight minutes when the eggs were cooked to a creamy perfection. amy says this should take ten minutes but my eggs were cooked in about six and i hung around a little longer just to make sure! it was so therapeutic to keep stirring the eggs and watch them being cooked slowly and surely. quite a change from the usual tension of making sure you remove the pan from the heat before the eggs are overcooked.

i then sliced a baguette and toasted with just a bit of extra virgin olive oil that my friend, joy, had brought back for me from a farm in croatia. then as a final touch, i used my garam masala mill to grind some aromatic spice over the creamy scarmbled eggs.

i recommend the slow cooked method to make scrambled eggs every time. thanks, amy!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

sunday jazz brunch at chutney mary

my friends and colleagues often ask me for indian restaurant recommendations in london. chutney mary in chelsea is always on top of my list. i've been there thrice now and each time has been more memorable than the previous one.

h and i treated my mother (who is visiting from bombay) to a jazz brunch at chutney mary on sunday. amma was totally awed by the ambience from the minute we stepped and were greeted by a very elegant and cheerful cane sofa with lots of silk cushions. it wasn't long till we were shown to our table in the conservatory downstairs but it was just enough time to admire the interiors and set high expectations of the meal to follow.

we opted for a simple three course lunch menu for just £20 each which i thought was such great value, especially for such a high end establishment.

aaloo tikki with sprouts and tamarind chutney was the starter:

this was followed by a hearty vegetarian platter consisting of paneer makhani, dal tadka, saag and baingan curry. this was accompanied by black dal, naan with raisins and almonds, cheese naan and steamed basmati rice:

for dessert, you had to choose between mango panacotta, mango sorbet and green apple sorbet:

we listened to live jazz all through lunch and watched the rain heavily pelting down on the glass windows of the conservatory. what a perfect (and dry) way to spend an otherwise cold, wet and grey london afternoon.

ps - i'm getting a bit depressed by the london weather. any suggestions for cheering up?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

happy diwali!

jalebis are by far my favourite indian sweet and i had a big ambition of making jalebis at home for diwali this year. however, because of a long and exhausting work week (including two days in paris), i just resorted to making the trip to southall in search of the famous jalebi junction shop that has been profiled in so many british magazines.

the best way to get to southall from central london is to take a train from paddington. in twenty minutes or less you are in southall which is india central. a gurudhwara (sikh temple) is the first building you see and then as you make your way down the main street to southall broadway, you are amazed by the sheer number of indian grocery stores, dvd shops, saree emporiums and restaurants. it's hard to escape the smell of curry all around. one in about every hundred people is white.

jalebi junction is located on southall broadway. fresh dough is piped into boiling oil and fried. the dough takes on the characteristic orange colour in the deep frying process and then is dunked into another container of sugar syrup. the jalebis are then cooled on a wire rack until they can be transferred to a brown paper bag and handed to you. it was very fascinating to watch jalebis being made and i had great expectations of how delicious they would be. alas, i was sorely disappointed.

the jalebis from jalebi junction were not the real mccoy. they were thick and overly syrupy and totally lacked the thin and crisp yet succulent taste that i have come to adore in the jalebis that you get at kailesh parbhat in bombay. oh well, that's my sad jalebi story from diwali this year.

wishing all of you a very happy diwali and prosperous new year - hope you celebrated with lots of mouth-watering sweets and loud firecrackers!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

afternoon tea at the wolseley

given the number of starbucks all over london, it's easy to forget the english tradition of afternoon tea which was created by anna, the seventh duchess of bedford, in the early 1800s. londonders were first introduced to tea back in the late sixteenth century when it was imported from china by the east india company. tea was consumed only be the elite until 1784 when heavy excise duties were removed by the government. today, a hot cup of tea is still a cure-all for many londoners. and afternoon tea served at the ritz, clardiges, fortnum & mason is a much sought after outing for londoner and tourists alike.

my mom is visiting and i was keen for her to experience a typical english afternoon tea at one of the above mentioned establishments. however, even though i tried to make a reservation two weeks ago, the ritz and claridges were booked till the end of the year! whatever. so i asked around at work for other recommendations and a colleague suggested the wolseley on piccadilly. luckily, i was able to book a table for sunday afternoon.

the wolseley is right next to the ritz on piccadilly and a few blocks from the flagship waterstone's. we arrived fifteen minutes early and were aksed to wait at the bar. h ordered a champagne (quelle horreur) but my mom and i were looking forward to the tea so we just nibbled on a what looked like muffins but turned out to be chocolate covered custard cakes. that nibble of sweetness put us in just the right mood for a cup of hot tea.

the main restaurant at the woseley is located in an impressive hall with high ceilings, thick columns, gigantic chandeliers and funky marble floors, all of which give the place another century look. the staff were super friendly and throughout the afternoon we must have been served by four or five different people, all intervening at just the right moment to ensure the tea pots were refilled with hot water, fresh scones were brought to the table or a fallen fork was replaced. it made you feel very well taken care of.

i ordered a full serving of afternoon tea - a big pot of earl grey, vegetarian sandwiches (cucumber and butter on white bread, cream cheese and tomato on sun-dried tomato whole wheat), an assortment of pastries (chocolate eclair, walnut cake, lemon cheesecake) and several scones. clotted cream and gooey strawberry jam on hot scones was what i enjoyed the most.

the only disappointment was the selection of teas. i didn't find a single unusual tea on the menu so had to stick to my regular favourite, earl grey. it was just the usual selection of jasmine, earl grey, green, lapsang souchong and a wolseley afternoon blend.

in summary, i'd say that experiencing afternoon tea at the wolseley is all right if you can't get into one of the popular places like the ritz or claridges that are supposed to treat this event much more ceremoniously.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

tomato and basil soup

heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan. add one medium onion finely chopped and cook on gentle heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently until soft but not brown. add about 2 pounds of chopped plum tomatoes which is roughly about 4 or 5 medium-sized ones. add a garlic clove chopped, 3 cups of stock (i use 3 cups of water plus a few tablespoons of marks & spencer vegetable stock), 1/2 cup of a dry white wine, salt and pepper to taste.

bring to boil and then lower the heat, half cover then pan and then let it simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. take off the stove and use a food blender to blend it all together. at this point you can enjoy as is (which is the way i prefer it) or press through a sieve, add 1/2 cup of double cream and heat a little bit more till it is consistency you like. pour the soup into bowls and garnish with lots of freshly chopped basil.

if you want to give the soup a bit of a kick, add 1/4 teaspoon of red chilli flakes to the onions when they are sauteeing.

another version is to roast the tomatoes in the oven and add roasted tomatoes instead of raw plum tomatoes in the recipe above.

Friday, October 13, 2006

mirchi ka salan


according to tarla dalal, the over 400-year old culinary history of hyderabad is unmatched by any other state in india. though i haven't been to hyderabad myself, its food evokes for me an old mughlai world of curries that took all day long to make, fragrant biryanis, lavish dinner feasts and lots of chillies in the food.

i first encountered mirchi ka salan at shalimar in san francisco and hence mistook the dish for a typical punjabi curry. when rumy pointed out in a previous post that mirchi ka salan was hyderabadi, i was curious and so looked in all my cookbooks and chanced upon what looked like an authentic recipe for this dish in tarla dalal's "swadisht subziah." if you have an hour or so to spare, this is a perfect curry to whip up on a cold and dreary london afternoon.

prep time: 20 mins
cooking time: 20 mins
serves: 6

2 cups long green chillies (bhavnagri chillies) or green peppers, cut into thick strips
1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (rai)
1/4 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
1/4 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
6 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
2 tbsps coriander-cumin powder (dhania-jeera)
2 tbsps chopped coriander
5 tablespoons oil
salt to taste

to be ground into a dry peanut-sesame powder

2 tbsps peanuts, roasted
2 tbsps sesame seeds (til), roasted
1 tbsp cumin seeds, roasted

to be ground into a paste

6 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
3 tbsps freshly grated coconut

1. wash and slit the green chillies. remove the seeds and fry in hot oil until they turn whitish in colour. remove and keep aside.
2. in the same oil, add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds and curry leaves.
3. when the seeds crackle, add the paste and cook for 2 minutes. add the turmeric powder, coriander-cumin seed poweder, chilli powder and powdered peanut-sesame mixture. cook over a medium flame, sirring continously until the oil separates.
4. add 2 cups of water and tamarind pulp and bring it to a boil.
5. add the fried green chillies, coriander and salt and simmer until the gravy thickens.

i like my mirchi ka salan with naan and a few slices of raw onion.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

dim sum in westbourne grove

if you're looking for a stylish place to enjoy some tasty dim sum, head to ping pong in the trendy westbourne grove neighbourhood in west london. somepeople i know complain that ping pong is more style than substance but i don't really know the difference between very authentic dim sum and not-so-authentic ones so i'd take the ambience any day. at least i know what i'll be eating and i won't be the only non-chinese person around! by the way, the food is very good and it's great value for money.

74 - 76, westbourne grove
london w2 5sh
0871 0757898

Saturday, October 07, 2006

bombay biryani


i love making biryani. by the time i've chopped all the vegetables (a great de-stresser), assembled the ingredients (love taking out my special stash of saffron strands that amy brought me from barcelona) and start the first step of frying the onions in ghee (when a fragrant aroma starts to fill up my house), i realise why i love cooking so much.

there are some dishes that i make only when i'm entertaining and biryani is one of them. it just makes the experienc of cooking biryani that much more special. i've tried so many different recipes over the years and have finally created this one with different ideas from many including a fantastic one for a vegetarian hyderabadi biryani that i found online. believe it or not, my recipe is adapted it from the back of the shan food'sbombay biryani spice mix packet. it's the most delicious spice mix available in the market.

3 cups basmati rice, washed and soaked for 30 minutes
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 peppers (red, green, yellow), cut into strips
2 fat carrots, cut into discs
3 medium potatoes, peeled and halfed
2 tbps chopped ginger
1/2 tbsp garlic paste
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup ghee or vegetable oil
one packet shan bombay biryani mix
pinch of saffron stands
1/4 cup milk, warm
2 tbsp of finely chopped mint
2 tbsp of finely chopped coriander
handful of raisins, fried in ghee

1. fry the onions in hot ghee (or oil) until golden. add the peppers and fry for another 5 minutes or so. then add tomatoes and fry until the oil separates.

2. add potatoes, carrots, garlic, ginger, 1 cup of yogurt and shan bombay biryani mix. fry for 15 minutes. add about a cup of water and cook on low heat until the potatoes and carrots are tender. then increase the heat and stir fry until the oil separates from the gravy.

3. in 12 glasses of hot water, add 3 tbsps of salt and the soaked rice. boil until the rice is more than half cooked. remove from heat and thoroughly drain the water.

4. soak the saffron strands in 1/4 cup of warm milk. then add this to the remaining 1/2 cup yogurt. add mint and coriander. keep aside.

5. now spread the cooked vegetables over the rice in a few layers. make sure you spread some of the yogurt mint and coriander paste over the rice in each layer. this adds a wonderful frgrance of herbs to the biryani. top with the fried raisins. cover the pot and cook on low heat until the rice is fully cooked and tender. mix before serving.

this recipe will serve over 10 people. you can cut everything by half if you are cooking for fewer than five people.

biryani goes well with raita. my favourite combo is duke's lemonade and biryani.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

lulu's mixed salad

mix together a big bunch of salad greens, julienned betroot, a sliced apple, a handful of salted almonds and lots of raisins. the point is not to be precise but to just use your imagination freely to create your own signature salad. this combo works for me. for the dressing, i like to squeeze a lemon all over the salad. then i add some high quality extra virgin olive oil. and finally, some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

fried egg and pesto

here's a super simple brunch idea. fry an egg in one tsp of olive oil. serve it on toast with homemade pesto that has been generously spread all over. garnish with freshly cracked pepper. healthy and so yummy.

khaman dhokla


khaman dhokla is a savoury snack from the state of gujarat in india which is famous for its wholesome vegetarian thalis. though it is consumed as a snack in india, you can actually make a meal out of it as it is very filling.

i was craving spicy indian food after ten days in italy. but i didn't want to upset my stomach by shocking it with something too heavy so i chose to make khaman dhokla which is a steamed savoury cake. the dhokla itself is wonderfully light with just a hint of spiciness. mustard seeds tempered in oil are poured over the dhokla and then fresh coriander and coconut are added as the topping. you can vary your spice intake depending on how spicy you make the accompanying chutney. i found a terrific tarla dalal recipe for mint and coriander chutney which has just the perfect balance of sweet, salt and spice.

for the dhokla
1 cup (160 gm) bengal gram (chana dal), soaked overnight
4 green chillies
1 inch piece of ginger
3 tbsp vegetable oil
salt to taste
1/4 tsp asafoetida (hing)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

for the tempering
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 dry red chillies, whole
10 curry leaves

for the topping
handful of chopped coriander
handful of chopped coconut

for the chutney
2 cups chopped mint leaves
1 cup chopped coriander
1 large onion, sliced
juice of 1 to 2 lemons
1 tbsp sugar
4 to 6 green chillies
salt to taste

grind the green chillies and ginger to a smooth paste. keep aside. grind the bengal gram coarsely; whisk to incorporate air in it. keep aside to ferment in a warm place for at least 10 hours or till tiny bubbles appear. add the oil, asafoetida, bicarbonate of soda, and green chilli-ginger paste to the bengal gram paste. add a little water and whisk the mixture thoroughly once again.

grease a flat stainless steel plate or a baking dish (2 inches deep). spread the mixture to a thickness of one inch. steam till it is done. to check if the dish is ready, pierce with a fork. if the fork comes out clean, then the dhokla is ready. allow to cool and then cut into squares or diamonds.

for the tempring, heat the oil in a pan; add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and dry red chillies. when they start crackling, add the curry leaves and pour over the dhokla. garnish with chopped coriander and coconut.

for the chutney, combine all the ingredients and grind to a smooth paste in a blender using very little water.

recipe sources: vijaylakshmi baig's "gujarati kitchen" and tarla dalal's "chaat"