Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Anna's Baked Beans and Toast Recipe

Baked beans and toast hold a lot of memories for me. They were my early morning sustenance for almost three years at Xavier's.

Baked Beans and Toast Recipe
Our undergraduate classes at Xavier's used to start at 8 am in the morning. Which meant I HAD to leave from home by 6.15 am sharp. There was no way I'd feel hungry that early in the morning... I'd have barely woken up! So the first thing I would do on reaching college is go to the canteen or mess and order myself a large breakfast!

Baked Beans and Toast Recipe

Anna's (our mess owner) baked beans and toast were the first time I'd ever had baked beans. We'd never gotten them home before because we did not know what they were. I had loved them and I started eating them regularly. I also thought that's how they came out of the can. Till one day I had them at a restaurant... the ones served straight out of the can were horrible! That's when I realised Anna did something magical with them. It seems I have finally made that recipe work!

Anna's Baked Beans and Toast Recipe

Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 4


2 tbsps peanut/ sunflower/ olive oil
1 large onion finely chopped
2 cups baked beans
1 tsp red chilly powder
2 tsps mixed herbs (oregano, parsley, thyme, basil etc)  or pizza mix
1 tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste

Bread slices and butter to serve.


Heat oil in a pan. Saute the onions till they turn translucent.

Add in the baked beans, red chilly powder, and mixed herbs.

Season with pepper and salt to taste.

Cook for about 2 minutes on high flame.

Serve with buttered toast.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Cooking 101: Frying

For the Cooking 101 series, I thought I'd start with some basic cooking methods or techniques that are essential to Indian cooking. I will cover each technique's definition, the science behind it and the best practices, particularly for Indian food. So next time you read a technique I use, you will know how to best use it! 

Today's technique is frying.


Frying is essentially cooking food in a fatty medium. There are many fats that can be used for frying like oils, animal fats etc. Indian cooking primarily uses vegetable oils such as peanut oil, sunflower oil, rice bran oil and olive oil. 

There are two kinds of frying that we use to make our food: deep frying and shallow frying, 

Deep Frying 

Deep Frying
In deep frying, the item to be cooked is completely submerged in the oil or fat for cooking. So you need a large, deep vessel and lots of oil for deep frying. Samosas, pooris, wadas, pakoras/ bhajiyas all are our eternal favourite fried foods. 

Tips for Deep Frying: 

Testing the Heated Oil

You need to make sure the oil is hot enough. A traditional way to test this (while deep frying) is to put a bit of the batter or snack being fried into the oil. If it rises from the bottom to the top of the oil in less 2-3 seconds, it's hot enough! 

Putting the Items In

Put in the items to be fried from a distance using a long slotted spoon. This will prevent hot oil splattering on you which happens when water comes in contact with hot oil. The hot oil will try to throw the water out. Hence you need to be extra careful when frying stuff with water in the batter or wet stuff.

Frying in Batches:

When you have a large number of items to deep fry, they're best done in small batches. So if I have 10 wadas to fry, I will do in batches of 3 or 4 to the max. This allows them to cook evenly. It also uses lesser oil because less is needed to submerge lesser food items. Allow time between batches for the oil to heat again. 

Recipes for Trying Out Deep Frying: 

1. Wada pav

2. Shallow Frying 

Shallow frying

Shallow frying is when the food is only partially in contact with the oil. It is usually done on a a flat surface like a tawa (flat iron griddle). It's considered the healthier version of cooking dishes by frying as it needs much less oil for cooking and the food absorbs lesser oil too. Patties, parathas and cutlets are best served by shallow frying till they become crispy. In our home we also shallow fry marinated fish coated in rice flour (recipe of marination here).

Tips for Shallow Frying:

Testing Heated Oil

The oil should be decently hot for shallow frying. There should be a loud sizzling noise when you put the shallow frying item on it to cook. If there isn't, give it some more time to heat. 

Crispy Crusts

Shallow fried items mean crispy crusts. To get the best crispy crusts, heat oil well, lower the flame to medium high and cook one side till done. When you flip over, add some more oil and put the flame on high to heat oil well. You'll get a beautiful golden-brown crust! 

Recipes for Trying Out Shallow Frying:

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Misal Pav Recipe

Misal pav has recently beat many dishes around the world to be named as the world's tastiest vegetarian snack! I was not surprised when I read this. Who'd be? If you've had misal pav, you'll know what I am talking of!

Misal Pav Recipe

Misal pav comes from Maharashtra in India. The snack usually comprises of sprouted moth beans cooked in a thin gravy of onion, garlic, coconut and a special spice mix. This gravy is topped with a farsan mix that has gathiya, theekha gathiya, shev, chana dal etc, sev, chopped onions and tomatoes. A squeeze of lime is the final touch needed to mix it all up. And you have it with soft laadi pavs dipped in the gravy.

Misal Pav Recipe

There are however some regional differences in how misal is made and served. In some places like Nashik, misal is made of a combination of pulses and not just moth beans. Some places serve misal pav with khajur imli or teekhi chutney. And of course, the main difference, the spice mix varies from place to place. However, it's easy to find misal masala around the country in stores. If not, chana masala or chhole masala can be used, but try for the misal masala! 

Misal Pav recipe
Misal Recipe 

Preparation Time: 20 minutes (not including sprouting time for moth beans)
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4


For the vaatan (ground paste for gravy)

2 tbsps peanut/ sunflower/ olive oil
3 medium sized onions roughly diced
3 tbsps dried coconut shavings
10 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup water

For the misal 

3 tbsps peanut/ sunflower/ olive oil
2 tps asafoetida powder
2 star anises
3 dried bay leaves
Vaatan as made above
2 tbsps misal masala
2 cups sprouted moth beans
3 cups water
Salt to taste

For Serving

Laadi pav
Lemon wedges
150 grms mixed farsaan
150 grms sev
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped corriander leaves


Put the moth beans to pressure cook first. Cook for about 3 whistles and they'll be done.

In a kadhai heat 2 tbsps oil. Add in the roughly diced onions and saute on a medium high flame. Keep stirring. The onions will start turning brownish in about 5-7 minuutes.

Add in the dried coconut shavings immediately to the browning onions. Keep stirring. In about 3-4 minutes, they'll start turning brown.

When the coconut turns brown, add in the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes on medium high flame.

Grind the mixture with 1/2 cup water till it forms a smooth paste. This is our vaatan.

To make the misal, heat oil in a kadhai. Add the asafoetida, star anises and bay leaves. Fry for about 30 seconds.

Add in the prepared vaatan and the misal masala. Saute on a medium high flame till the  mixture starts releasing oil (about 10-12 minutes). This shows that the mixture is cooked and the spices have bloomed.

Add in the pressure cooked moth beans, salt and water. The consistency should be of a thin gravy. Bring to a boil and then lower the flame and cook for about 5 minutes.

To serve, fill a bowl with about 4-5 serving spoonfuls of misal. Add in 2 tbsps of mixed farsan, 1 tbsp of onion, 1 tbsp of tomatoes, 1 tbsps of sev and 1/2 tsps of corriander leaves. Serve with two pavs and wedge of lime to be squeezed on top as per preference.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Cooking 101: The Basics of Cooking Series

Why the basics of cooking series?

While writing recipes, I have understood that there is no way around using technical terms or certain basic assumptions. Though I try to give explanations and keep it simple, I have always had something at the back of my mind that needs to be done. I finally had that 'aha! moment' today. I need to write about the basics of cooking. 

How will a person who has never cooked before get around to feeling more comfortable with it? Simple, by knowing the beauty of each technique and spice that goes into the process and what outcomes it brings. For that I need to write down all this implicit knowledge that we have of cooking. 

I have picked up a lot of knowledge about cooking from my grandma, mom, aai, aaji, bhabhi, professional chefs' articles and recipes. Most of this has been passed down orally or during show and tell. And I WRITE recipes. That's the gap that needs to be filled.

I need to write down why do I feel comfortable when I read a recipe. Why do I know what I know about the steps in a recipe when I read it? These things can't be explained in every recipe. But having explanations of it can make new readers of recipes and budding cooks feel more competent to attempt them. 

So here's writing down the goals of this series that I am attempting. This is to the knowledge of cooking that we know and have not easily expressed in recipes! This goes out to all the first-time cooks to whom I say welcome to magic!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Laal Kaalwan (Maharashtrian Red Fish Curry) Recipe

Move over Thai red curry, I just found a beautiful fish curry right here in aai's kitchen!

Laal Kaalwan (Maharashtrian Red Fish Curry) Recipe 

There it is! The beautiful laal kaalwan.

Laal kaalwan literally means red curry. It is one of the two fish curries aai makes at home. The other one is surprise surprise hirva kaalwan or green fish curry (sounds familiar?). I am not surprised by this great similarity between Thai food and Maharashtrian food. Both are coastal cuisines with a fondness for fish. Both are heavy on spices. And both use loads of coconut. There had to be some similar dishes, right?

Enjoying laal kaalwan is bit of a matter of pride for me. I come from a mostly vegetarian home and I used to occasionally have chicken outside. I had fish for the first time very late in life with my hubby. I fell in love with it so much, that I even love kaalwan which I am told is something that only hardcore fish eaters love. For me, it has also been about being absolutely unafraid of eating new dishes and cuisines, and finding the merits in them.

Laal Kaalwan (Maharashtrian Red Fish Curry) Recipe 

This recipe has been passed down from aaji (my grandmother-in-law) to aai and now even I have tried it. It's not rocket science but tastes like it is! It is a versatile curry that can be made with quite a few salt water fishes like pomfret, prawns, Indian salmon etc. It is also a great way to use up those parts of the fish which we normally can't shallow fry and eat like the head, the tough parts near the stomach or the tail.

Laal kaalwan, like any other fish curry, is best had with steamed rice. We also squeeze a wedge of lime over it.  Baba likes to add ghee  and salt to the mix while eating it. Any way you have it, you will enjoy this beautiful spicy and sour flavourful fish curry.

Laal Kaalwan (Maharashtrian Red Fish Curry) Recipe 

Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes


For Marinating the Fish

100 gms promfret/ Indian salmon (raawas)/ ghol (Jew fish)/ prawns/ surmai (seer fish) cut into 2 inch pieces
3 tbsps corriander-garlic-ginger paste (recipe here)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2 tsps laal masala/ garam masala
Salt to taste

For the Curry

Marinated fish as above
3 tbsps oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp asafoetida
2 medium sized onions roughly sliced
2 tbsps grated fresh coconut
2 tsps magaj (dried melon seeds) (optional)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp red chilly powder
3 tsps laal masala/ garam masala
1 1/2 tbsps lemon juice
Water to adjust consistency
Salt to taste


Take the fish in a bowl. Put in the corriander-ginger-garlic paste.

Now put the turmeric powder, asafoetida, laal masala/ garam masala and the salt.

Coat the fish well and marinate for at least 10 mins.

Soak the dried melon seeds in water for about 10 minutes.

Grind together the onions, coconut and the melon seeds with a little water (about 3 tbsps) till they form a smooth paste.

Heat oil in a deep pan. Add in the turmeric and asafoetida.

When it starts to sizzle in about 10-15 seconds, add in the fish pieces. Saute them in it for about 2 mins. Don't cook it completely or the fish will overcook when we cook the curry.

Add the paste we grinded of onions, coconut and melon seeds.

Add in the red chilly powder, the laal masala/ garam masala and mix well.

Pour in about 1 cup water to get a thin curry consistency.

Season with salt.

Bring the curry to a boil and lower the flame. Let it simmer on low flame for about 5 minutes.

After 4 minutes of simmering, add in the lime juice (not before that or it will go bitter). Simmer for about a minute and turn off the gas.

Serve fresh with steamed rice and a wedge of lime!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

I've had a box of rice noodles lying around in the kitchen cupboard for quite some time now. They have been unopened because I couldn't think of a good recipe for them. I did not want to make a regular stir-fried Thai noodle dish from them. So I kept thinking, and these noodles have been lying around in the kitchen cupboard for some time.

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe
A few days back, I heard them call out to me... they were desperate to see the light of the day! And so I decided I had to make something out of them soon. Even if it is as simple as a salad. That's it! Why not try a salad out of them? And the salad had to be Thai-style salad that would go with the noodles.

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

I have made the dressing of the salad in the philosophy of Thai cuisine. It has a delicate balance of sour, salty, sweet and pungent tastes that Thai cuisine is so famous for. Another interesting aspect of the salad is the jugalbandi of the textures of the noodles (softness) and the cabbage (crunchiness).

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe
This salad can be had as a side dish with some Asian-style grilled meats or by itself as a meal. I like pairing it with some soothing jasmine green tea that adds an interesting floral note to the meal.

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

Spicy Thai Rice Noodle Salad Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Making Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 2


For the Salad:

50 gms 3mm thick rice noodles
500 ml water
50 gms green cabbage shredded
10-15 fresh corriander leaves
6-7 Thai basil leaves (optional)

For the Dressing:

1 tsp peanut/ sesame oil
2 tsps soya sauce
2 tsps white vinegar
3 cloves of garlic chopped
3 Thai red bird's eye chilly (or 1 fresh regular red chilly ) sliced
1 1/2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste


First mix together all the dressing ingredients. Stir well till the sugar dissolves... a fork is very helpful in doing this!

Put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to let the garlic and red chilly's flavours infuse into the dressing.

Bring the water to a boil. Lower the flame and put in the rice noodles for 2 minutes in the boiling water. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold water. Let them cool.

In a bowl, mix the shredded cabbage, the noodles, the corriander and Thai basil leaves.

Pour the dressing over it. Mix well with your hands till the dressing coats the noodles evenly.

Serve with some jasmine green tea.