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Smoked Vegetable Biryani

I have to admit that when I’m cooking something new, I aim to post the recipe here. But luck doesn’t always favor. Either the picture is not satisfactory or we are too impatient to wait for the photo session to get over or the dish itself disappoints me. I have to admire the food bloggers, who are so regular in posting new recipes with beautiful looking pictures. Anyway, I’m glad to post a new recipe here after getting convinced that this biryani is the best that I have ever made.  The biryani features many of the same ingredients that I have used all these years but the end result is entirely different. I thought it would be fun to show that with the simple addition of charcoal, you can take the recipe to an entirely new direction. This recipe is my aunt’s, who learnt it ages ago while doing her home science course. She then passed the recipe to all her sisters and that’s how I got to learn how to cook vegetable biryani. The only change/ addition that I made was th

Creamy Spinach Dal

The spinach dal I've cooked most this year - simple, but not boring.  There is so much going on with it despite a humble list of ingredients. It’s a one pot recipe and is cooked within few minutes.  Chopped spinach, lentils, and ginger- garlic cooked together. Onions, ginger and garlic fragrants the pot. The tang of the tomatoes and tamarind plays off the earthiness of the lentils. A dash of seasoning ( tadka ) on top… Delicious! Being a vegetarian I always keep in my mind that we need to consume enough of proteins and complex carbs and having spinach dal serves the purpose. It not only gives good stuff to our body but also I have this wonderful husband that cannot get enough of spinach.   The addition of seasoning ( tadka) in the end is really important here. Don't skimp. And if you like more heat, add more red dried chiili. Be sure to pick through your lentils carefully. I somehow always find dirt hiding in their midst. Soak them in still water for at least half

Matar Paneer – Indian curried peas and cottage cheese

I truly believe in the power of involuntary memory. Sometimes, just the scent, sound or taste of something can have the power to literally transport you to some old memories. Yesterday, while cooking Mater Paneer after ages, I suddenly found myself transported back to my mom’s kitchen in Delhi. She has always been my inspiration in the kitchen, and her cooking is legendary in our household. This was the very first dish that I remember cooking with her for my dad’s birthday. Mattar paneer is a delectable combination of soft green peas and cottage cheese cooked in a creamy curry paste… caramelized onions and tomatoes cooked with garam masalas and then counter-balancing those flavors with cilantro and a dash of cream. The cornerstone of this recipe is the curry paste. You can prep the curry paste for this ahead of time to make it a more week-night friendly. I make the curry paste first, then typically add things to it. You can serve it over rice, or with a side of naan or f

Pretzel Soft Bread

Ok folks, gather round. This thrills me beyond words, a colleague of hubby gifted a book to me ‘Bread Matters: Why and How to Make Your Own by Andrew Whitley’ . My words will fail me here when I attempt to tell you how spectacular it was to receive such a wonderful book. The book is all about the evolution of the bread industry, fundamentals of fermentation, the ingredients that go into an industrial bread, why you should prefer artisan breads and even try making your own at home. The author owned and ran a bakery in Cumbria from 1976-2002, he shares his inclusive work & his experiences during that time. You can read more about Andrew Whitley here I love the way he writes ‘It is time to take bread into our own hands.’ The book is perfect for a beginner like me. It provides troubleshooting advice and recipes for all great British baked goods. What I liked the most in this book is unlike other baking books this one is not very tech

Egg Puffs

Last week, when it was 6 degrees in Johannesburg city and all the sane people were warming up near fire, I looked around my kitchen, with its empty counter and cold oven; clearly, this was the day for me to make some egg puffs. The idea of baking egg puffs was on my mind for past four years. Yes, it’s long time. It never occurred that these were ridiculously easy to make with store bought puff pastry sheets. I remember being infatuated with these in Bangalore, India and ate almost four of these. I know what you are thinking…four? I’m no good, bad influence and possibly everything that your nutritionists, cardiologists warn you about. But like a true foodie with a pulse, I enjoy trying new things and when I like it…I go extra. Who wouldn’t love baked buttery puff pastry stuffed with caramelized onions and boiled eggs? Onion & Peas filling Filling & half egg placed in the center of the squared sheet. Ready to be baked! Ingredients ( For four egg puffs ) P

Palak Paneer - Global Indian Favorite

No matter where we go, we are never too bored of our lip-smacking baingan ka bharta, dal makhani or palak paneer . But I wasn’t aware that South Africans love our Indian food just as much. I guess Indian food is so popular because it tastes really good and is so flavorful. Just the other day, a Dutch decent South African friend of mine asked me to show her how to make palak paneer . Apparently, Jurie loved this dish when our families went out for a meal to ‘ Swad ’ an elegant Indian restaurant located at Melrose Square. She wanted to cook some Indian food for her visiting sister, who lives in Australia and a regular Indian food eater herself. We decided to meet at my place and we cooked the curry and some rotis. Palak Paneer is an easy north Indian curry for a first timer. A delicious combination of two utterly bland ingredients – spinach and cottage cheese (paneer) cooked in a moderately spiced onion and tomato sauce.   The smooth pureed spin

Basic Chutneys: Tamarind Chutney & Coriander-Mint Chutney

Any Indian can associate to the word chutney. Interestingly, the word chutney has become so well known in all parts of the world. A quick Google on chutney tells me that the concept was given to the world by South East Asians and was imported to Western Europe in the 17 th century. Our Indian chutneys are still made almost the same as our grandma’s made. The only difference is that these days it’s much easier with grinders as compared to pestle and mortars. The coriander chutney and the tamarind chutney are very basic yet versatile and can be served as condiments with any Indian main course. At my place, these are eaten with samosas, sandwiches, chaats, tikkis or dhoklas.                                                 Tamarind Chutney Ingredients Tamarind pulp 1 cup Jaggery ½ cup Red chilli powder ½ tablespoon Cumin powder (dry roasted) ½ tablespoon Salt to taste Method In a pan, dry roast cumin seeds and grind it into coarse powder. In a thick bottom pan, mix tamari