Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Eggplant/Aubergine Pizza

As part of the cooking course assignment I had to get into the nutritional information of "prepared eggplant". I assumed there would be a recipe too and had bought this big chinese eggplant from the grocery store. There was no assignment but I had some leftover pasta sauce and hence decided to put that together with the eggplants to clean out the fridge. I had seen a similar dish in a colleague's lunchbox and decided to have a go at it. It was yummy and gone in minutes.

I made the aubergine two ways this time. 2 slices as below and the remaining I pan fried with Indian spices after seeing this recipe on a friend's blog. Both were delicious.

This recipe boasts of meeting almost all of one's dietary fibre intake for a day while being low on the calorie intake.

Preparation Time : 10 minutes
Cooking time : 40 minutes

Ingredients (serves 1) :
  1. 1 large Aubergine/Eggplant
  2. 4-5 button mushrooms
  3. 1 small sized onion finely chopped
  4. 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  5. 4 tbsp chopped bell peppers - I did not use this as my pasta sauce was a roasted bell pepper sauce
  6. 1/4 cup pasta sauce/tomato sauce - I used Roasted Peppers Dolmio Pasta Sauce
  7. A handful of grated cheese
  8. Salt to taste
  9. Pepper
  10. Olive oil - a drizzle
How I made it :

  1. Preheat oven at 180 degree C.
  2. Slice the eggplants lengthwise with the slices being about a cm thick.
  3. Slice the button mushrooms and mix with onions, garlic, pasta sauce.
  4. Adjust salt and pepper.
  5. Spread atop eggplant slices.
  6. Sprinkle with cheese.
  7. Place eggplant slices in ovenproof plate/pan.
  8. Drizzle olive oil on top of slices.
  9. Bake the eggplant slices for 30 minutes.
  10. Serve hot

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Quickie Soup

There are days when you feel like you've eaten a very heavy lunch and are not too hungry for dinner but you still would like to have something light. This quickie soup is just the answer to those tiny rumbles in the tummy.

Preparation Time : Nil
Cooking time : 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 2) :

  1. Vegetable stock - 2 cups - I used the water remaining from boiled chickpeas and some veggies that I had boiled for cutlets.
  2. 1 egg
  3. 1 dry red chilly broken into two
  4. 1 clove of garlic crushed
  5. 1/2 tsp vinegar
  6. 1 tsp olive oil
  7. Salt to taste
  8. Pepper to taste
How I made it :
  1. In a pan, put in the oil, red chilli and garlic.
  2. Turn on heat and fry till garlic starts to turn brown at edges
  3. Carefully pour in stock.
  4. Add vinegar.
  5. Adjust salt and pepper.
  6. Let this come to a boil.
  7. Beat the egg and pour the egg into the mix while stirring the soup.
Hot, wholesome soup is ready to be served.

Kerala Kadala Curry

Both Pras and I are morning people and so I'm always on the lookout for quickie breakfast recipes. I believe breakfast is a very important part of the day and should not be missed. Back in India, it was easier to manage breakfast with idlis, dosas, bread, cereal, oats and the occasional parathas on a weekday. Here, in Auckland, the idli and dosa batter is not available ubiquitously, the breads is quite different from what we get in India and hence the hunt for breakfast recipes is on.
Many people told me about the breakfast biscuits but nah, they aren't to our liking.  For a while I made rawa dosas and ran out of rawa/semolina. It takes some planning to get to the other side of town to purchase "Indian" groceries from the Indian supermarkets.

Anyhow, I decided to experiment and made this kadala curry to be served with thai rice noodles as a replacement for idiyappam. Except for the little bite to the noodles, it went quite well. So here's a big tick to this breakfast item.

Kadala curry is mainly made of chickpeas which are a high source of proteins. Since this recipe calls for the use of a pressure cooker as well as not discarding any of the water used, you should get the full benefits of the protein content. Serving this as an accompaniment to a rice based dish makes it a source of carbohydrates as well.

Preparation Time : 5 minutes if using store bought coconut milk, excluding time to soak the chickpeas
Cooking Time : 30-40 minutes

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  1. 1 cup black/dark chickpeas/kadala - washed and left to soak in water overnight
  2. 1 bay leaf
  3. 1 stick of cinnamon
  4. Water to boil the chickpeas
  5. Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
  6. Salt to taste
  7. 1 medium sized onion chopped as finely as you can, need to go to extraordinary lengths
  8. 2 green chillis - slit
  9. Thick Coconut milk - 1/2 cup
  10. A pinch of asafoetida
  11. Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
  12. Coriander powder - 1 tsp
  13. Black pepper powder - 1/2 tsp
  14. Curry leaves - a stick or two
  15. mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  16. Oil - 1tbsp
How I made it :
  1. In a pressure cooker, put in all ingredients from 1 to 6. The water level should be about 1 inch above the chickpeas.
  2. Cook on high for one whistle and then low for 4 whistles.
  3. While the pressure releases, in another pan, heat 1 tbsp oil
  4. Once the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds and cover till the mustard seeds stop spluttering.
  5. Add the curry leaves and split green chillies.
  6. After 30 seconds, add the onions and fry till they turn pink.
  7. Add the red chilli powder, pepper powder, coriander powder and asafoetida.
  8. After 30 seconds, add the chickpeas and any remaining water.
  9. If there is too much water, allow it to boil till the water reduces to required quantity.
  10. Add the coconut milk and once it comes to a boil, adjust salt and turn off the heat
Serve hot with idiyappam, appam, puttu or like me thai rice noodles.

Friday, October 18, 2013

An Immune India

Personal experience :
A few years ago, the following was quite a frequent conversation.

Day 1 :
Me : I think I am falling sick.
Pras : Take dabur chywanprash.
Day 2 :
Pras : How are you feeling? Did you take dabur chywanprash?
Me : Yes and I am feeling better.
Pras : Don't forget to take dabur chywanprash today also.

Back then, I had moved out of my parents' nest and would fall sick once a month. Slowly, over a year, my immunity has improved. I fall sick less frequently and even if I do feel like I am going to fall sick, I act quickly by taking my trusty Dabur Chywanprash. I do believe that it has been a strong player in improving my immunity. Even today I carry a bottle of Dabur Chywanprash wherever I go and imagine my relief when I found it at Indian stores in Auckland as well.

Now for some factual information and my thoughts on building a stronger, immune India.

"Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young." - Henry Ford

It would be a crime to not take advantage of the plethora of online courses from A-listed universities across the globe made available for free through sites like www.edx.org and www.coursera.org, especially if you, like me, have not got a chance to pursue your studies outside of India.
One of the courses that I am currently enroled in is on World Poverty from MIT. The course tries to cover all possible causes of World Poverty, including the impact of poor health on a person's earning capacity. Interestingly and shamefully, most of the research is conducted in India. I share my thoughts on the problems and a possible solution.

Problem 1 : Superstitious Beliefs
The vast majority of India still believes in superstition and witchcraft. There is no dearth  of conmen who claim to rid you of the spirits that have infested your body and soul as well as perform rituals to help improve your situation. Unfortunately, this is something that most of us Indians grow up with and in most cases it sticks on. I still do walk reaaaally slow if I see a black cat cross the road with the hope that someone else will cross before me and take on that share of bad luck or think twice before cutting my nails on a Friday for fear of causing some dear one some misfortune. It makes no sense but by chance if you do go against it and you do face some misfortune, you want to believe it. Likewise, many of the people who fall sick in India head not to a doctor but to a conman to rid them of the spirit that is causing them the sickness.

Problem 2 : Self Proclaimed Doctors
This I learnt from the course that there are many people who claim to be "Bengali Doctors". These people have no formal training whatsoever but turn into doctors prescribing paracetamol and IV fluids based on their experience. People feel better with the IV fluids and tend to believe that these "Bengali Doctors" are better than the real doctors who require tests to be done to give a prescription. The lack of regulations in India and needless to mention, the corruption, allow these self proclaimed doctors to thrive and make a quick buck.

Problem 3 : Lack of Awareness
As the Anna Hazaare campaign proclaimed "Chalta Hain ab nahin chalega". Most of India grows up with this "Chalta Hain" attitude. There would be solutions available but people are just unaware of them and make no attempt to learn of available solutions. Media is a useful way to spread awareness but most of India still lives in darkness and a lot more don't know how to read. An advertisement in the paper or on television alone wont do. India has a huge human capital which should definitely be exploited.

Problem 4 : Failing Government  
During the emergency, the government of the time, in an attempt to control the population, rounded up women, mostly those who were Muslims, and tried to sterilize them. Whether it was an attempt to control the muslim population or not is another issue. This has unfortunately made people skeptical and though the Government, today, may organize health camps and other vaccination camps, most people don't attend them for fear that the Government may actually be trying to mislead them. This is a smaller problem I think, since the Government has been successful with eradicating polio, though I would attribute the success to the bollywood stars who came in the advertisement campaigns. India being a huge believer in "reel" life hails actors as godlike, and hence the move to enrol bollywood stars is a definite recipe for success.

Solution : Dabur Chywanprash to the rescue
One solution could be to make people aware of Dabur Chywanprash and may be distribute free samples of the same, especially in rural areas. It would be more effective if a sort of education is imparted on the benefits and limitations of the product. Most of the research done by the Poverty Action Lab team at MIT shows a strong relation between demand for a product and the cost. If bednets were distributed for free, more women came to the fertility clinics and if people had to pay for the bednets, the demand reduced to almost 0 even if it costed 10 cents. Further, once you knew the benefit of a product, you would most definitely go ahead and buy it the next time and so would your neighbours and others in your social circles. Distributing it for free as well as having people monitor that it is in fact being used when a person is sick will ensure that people are aware of the benefits of chywanprash, thereby increase the demand for the same.

What better way to share your thoughts and recent learnings when you have a chance to win with www.daburchyawanprash.com? This post is an entry to the "An Immune India" contest hosted on Indiblogger.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Kumara and Chickpea Patties/Cutlets

This is one of my own experiments since I got "Down Under". It has been a hit with both friends and hubby alike. The best part - it is easy and Kumara aka Sweet Potato is of really good quality here.

P.S. I am yet to fully settle in to cooking in a smaller kitchen, so please excuse the lazy picture taken with my phone. But I urge you to try this recipe as it tastes really good.

Prepation time : 5 minutes
Cooking time : 10 minutes excluding time to pressure cook the chickpeas and kumara

Ingredients ( For 10 medium cutlets):
  1. 2 medium sized Kumara/Sweet potato
  2. 1/3 cup boiled chickpeas - soak overnight and boil in salted water, may be 2 whistles on high and 2 whistles on low in a pressure cooker
  3. 1.5 tbsp ginger garlic green chilly paste
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  5. 1tsp garam masala powder
  6. 1/4 tsp amchur powder
  7. Oil for deep frying/shallow frying
  8. Salt to taste

How I made it :
  1. Boil the kumaras - 1 whistle on high in a pressure cooker will do.
  2. Peel and mash the kumaras.
  3. Add all the ingredients listed from 3 to 7 and mix well.
  4. Lastly add the boiled chickpeas.
  5. Shape into cutlets and shallow or deep fry as per preference. When deep frying, please ensure that the oil is very hot else it will just split.
You could serve these as a snack or make sandwiches or use them in pita pockets. Versatile and tasty.

Hoki Fish Curry - no coconut

Hoki fish is a part of the backbone of the NZ fishing industry. Unfortunately, it is one of those over fished varieties thanks to the corporate giant McDonalds. Now, though I may feel sad I can not control Pras who is like every other mallu, an ardent seafood lover. We had bought 500g of this beautiful fillet of hoki when we had gone to the super market and since I could not think of eating another sandwich (we've been eating a lot of bread these last few days), I decided to give it a go in fish curry.

I've seen my mother-in-law and co-sister make a similar curry except I did not have the quintessential kodumpuli for it. I used normal tamarind paste that I got at an Indian store here called "Cooking Without Mess" which is kind of true when it comes to extracting the tamarind paste.

Hubby's verdict : "Tript ho gaye baalak" which translates to "I'm content". I keep saying this to him after I have made something that reminds me of my childhood.

Cooking time : 20 minutes
Preparation time : 15 minutes (lesser if you multitask, explained below)
Equipment Required : Mixie if you don't have a mortar and pestle to make the ginger/garlic paste

Ingredients : (Serves 3)

  1. 500g fish 
  2. 1 large onion
  3. 2 large country tomatoes
  4. 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  5. 1.5 tbsp tamarind paste
  6. 2 cups of water
  7. 1 tbsp red chilli powder
  8. 1 tbsp coriander powder
  9. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  10. 1/2 tsp pepper powder
  11. 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  12. 1 tsp mustard seeds
  13. A few curry leaves
  14. 1 green chilly
  15. 1 tbsp oil
  16. Salt to taste
  17. Coriander to garnish

How I made it :

  1. Chop the onions fine.
  2. Heat oil in a pan. 
  3. Add mustard seeds and fenugreek seeks to hot oil. Cover, lower flame and let them stop spluttering
  4. Once they stop spluttering, add curry leaves and 1 sliced green chilly.
  5. After 30 seconds, add the chopped onions.
  6. Lower the flame and get to cleaning the fish. Chop into 2 inch pieces.
  7. If you are using fresh ginger and garlic, use your mortar and pestle and smash them well. You could alternately, grind the ginger, garlic, red chilly powder, coriander powder, pepper powder, turmeric powder with a little water. 
  8. Once the onions are soft, takes about 5-6 minutes, add the ginger garlic paste.
  9. After 30-40 seconds of frying, add the powders and a little water.
  10. While this is frying on low flame, chop your tomatoes and add them to the pan.
  11. Fry till the tomatoes are well cooked and soft. 
  12. Add the tamarind paste in 2 cups of water.
  13. Adjust salt. 
  14. Let this boil till you can see a kind of froth or oil floating on the top.
  15. Put in your fish pieces. Ensure they are well covered with the water. Add more water if required. Cover and cook on low for 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Usually fish does not take long to cook. If you want a thicker curry, do not cover. As you can see mine is a little thin.
  16. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with rice.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gravity and the IMAX experience

"Please put on your 3D glasses" mentions a ladies voice and so reads the projection on the screen. Dutifully, I did put on my 3D glasses. In fact, a few mins earlier I had put them on for trailers and Pras laughed at me for having put them on earlier than required. Aaaaand... Whoa!!! There are things coming right at my face, frightening me and for a moment I was like, I don't want to sit for 2 hours through something like this. I turned to Pras to tell him that I wanted to go home but he had this look of amazement and content that I kept quiet. And then the calm, it was just the IMAX ad, which had to be par excellence. Come on, the entire movie is not going to be this bad... umm good and then the next round of trailers, one out of which was for Dhoom 3. Aamir's stunt of sliding under a moving truck on a bike. Please tell me, where did I see this before?

Okay, getting back to #gravity. Great cinematography and one does get a somewhat real glimpse of what it must be out there in space. Well, we've all seen those great pictures of earth from a satellite in many journals and magazines but seeing them on an IMAX screen is impressive. George Clooney makes the drifting in space on a jet pack seem like an everyday stroll in the park. It would be cool to do that once in while me thinks. The story line mostly talks about a medical engineer astronaut adrift in space but what really impacted me is how much we take the earth's gravitational forces for granted. The last scene where Dr. Ryan Stone gets walking was what left me 'wow'ed.

I always relate to some character or the other when I go through a film and in this one I could not relate to any character in particular. However, I kept asking myself a whole load of questions. Would I have the focus that would be required? Would I be able to keep the emotions aside? Would I be able to take the constant spinning and be okay to not feel grounded? A little upside down while doing my yoga routine and I feel light headed. A flight's take-off and landing make me feel dizzy sometimes. Whew!  And I am not going to think about claustrophobia now.

A must watch, if not for anything else, at least the IMAX experience.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Science of Cooking

As we settle into our new routine "Down Under", I was exposed once again to the multitude of courses offered online by top universities on coursera and edX. One of the courses that struck me as interesting this time was "SPU27x Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science".

So as I am now enrolled into this course, I hope to complete the course. While I do that I plan to attempt (and eat obviously) as many of the lab assignments, I hope that my blog will have more MasterClass creations to boast of (fingers crossed).

Monday, October 7, 2013

Palak Panneer

This has been a long pending one as I keep forgetting to take a picture. Palak panneer is an absolute favorite especially with rotis and the punjabi papad. Now, there are many ways of making palak panneer and I prefer the method which prevents max loss of nutrients. At least I hope that is the case. (wink).

Love the greeeeen in the picture.

Difficulty level : Medium
Equipment required :  Food processor/blender/mixie

Ingredients :

  1. 1 large bunch of spinach
  2. 4 green chillies - this will make it spicy so adjust accordingly. Also, adjust if the bunch is small.
  3. 1 large onion finely sliced
  4. 1 large tomato
  5. 1/4 cup fresh cream/milk or coconut milk - this is my new find
  6. 1 cup panneer cubes
  7. 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
  8. 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  9. 1 tbsp + 1tsp  oil
  10. 1 stick of cinnamon
  11. Salt to taste
How I made it :
  1. In a pressure cooker, add washed spinach and green chillies. 
  2. Give one whistle. There is no need to add extra water as the spinach leaves water while it cooks. 
  3. In another pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and fry the onions till pink.
  4. Add the ginger garlic paste and let the raw smell go away. You could also use fresh pieces of garlic and ginger this will anyway be blitzed in the food processor/blender/mixie.
  5. Now add the tomatoes and cook till they go soft.
  6. Once the onion-tomato mixture cools down, add the spinach mix and blitz the whole thing in the blender/food processor.
  7. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan. 
  8. Add the cinnamon stick. 
  9. Add the paste and panneer cubes.
  10. Mix well. Add the fresh cream or coconut milk. If using milk, check for consistency required. 
  11. Adjust salt and add garam masala.
  12. Cover and let it bubble for a couple of minutes.
  13. Serve hot with rotis and punjabi/sindhi papad.
Myth or fact : A papad takes 14 days to completely digest and get out of the system?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A review of Phata Poster Nikhla Hero

So on a lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing but time to kill I played the DVD of "Phata Poster Nikhla Hero". Nice sunny day but for some reasons was confined to the four walls of the living room and went through the entire movie. Would I have bothered watching this movie had I been able to go out and do other things? A big "NO".

You may be wondering why then was I writing this post? Why waste more time right? Well, I am still stuck within the confines of the home and so thought I'd pen down what I thought of the movie.

If you are someone who has watched movies from the 80s, as soon as you watch the first part of this movie, you can get an idea of what you are in for with this one. A mother forcing upon her son to grow up to be an honest police officer rather than giving him a chance to follow his own dream and the son wanting to be an actor. A lot of drag and then a little of Munna Bhai followed by some terror plot. No, seriously why was this required? Oh right, to bring back the father from the dead. The biggest 80s influence is seen in the son versus father sequence. But the ending is not what one would expect. No, Shahid does not become an actor but becomes a hero cop.

Now, my thoughts... Could it be that the goal of the movie was to let people know that heroes exist not only in movies but in reality too and there could be a hero in you? No seriously, why else was this movie made? Me wonders why would actors even agree to make something like this? Would I do a movie if I was paid in 6 figures. Ummmm... Yes but only if it was the only movie I was going to act in.

Credit to Shahid for looking the age of the character and to Ileana for her super thin frame and great costumes. But I think her smile definitely needs some work.

Quickie Sandwiches and Trek Grub

So we had planned to go on a trek and since most of New Zealand is protected by a lot of conservation laws, the requirement for the grub was that it had to be packed in hard plastic. Further, to take advantage of the early bird offer on the fuller's ferry to Rangitoto, we had to start from home by 6:30 am. Another thought that had been bothering me from quite a few days now is the fact that I have not been serving any raw veggies/salads. Yes, we do eat a lot of fruits but almost no raw veggies. Hence, decided to buy a pack of mesculun leaves and use them in sandwiches.

Ingredients ( for 4 sandwiches) :

  1. 8 slices of multigrain sandwich bread
  2. 4 slices of cheese
  3. 4 tbsp of mayonnaise
  4. 12 chorizo slices - I used 3 in each sandwich
  5. 4 handfuls of mesculun leaves or any lettuce that you may prefer
  6. Salt to taste
  7. Pepper powder to taste.

How I made it :

  1. Spread about a tbsp of mayo on half the slices. 
  2. Place a cheese slice on the top
  3. Next place as many chorizo slices as you like
  4. Top with washed mesculun leaves.
  5. Sprinkle salt and pepper.
  6. Cover with another slice of bread.

The sandwiches were yummy and fulfilling as trek grub. The spicy chorizo was a good fit for the Indian taste.