Saturday, December 18, 2010

Butter-garlic Prawns

Prawns and veggies. And a butter overload.

First off, the husband has made a come back with photographing this experiment. Hes been hiding away, while I juggled the camera through the last few experiments that I have posted here.

Part of the reason he was so enthusiastic to shoot this was because hes been dying to eat prawns at home forever and we finally found a supermarket close to home that has started selling fresh fish that they clean right in front of you. No more bloody visits to the bloody market. And I mean that "bloody" quite literally..eeruughh! Call me faint hearted, but I cant stomach that assault to my senses.

Moving along..todays experiment was a simple prawns in butter garlic sauce. Something we eat a lot here in Goa. This is however the very first time we tried our hand at it at home. It was gorgeous. Taste-wise. And looks-wise too. Prawns photograph so well!

What we used:
500 gms prawns, shelled and cleaned
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
8-10 pods of garlic, finely chopped
Juice of 1-1.5 lemons
Some freshly chopped coriander

How we made it
To begin with, clean out the prawns and set aside. The husband and I had our first shot at deveining the prawns even though they were supposedly cleaned at the supermarket. And it was quite an experience. We decided to spare you of the pictures.

Next, finely chop up the garlic.

In a pan, heat the oil and the butter, till the butter melts and mixes with the oil.

Add in the finely chopped garlic and let it sizzle for a bit. Saute the garlic, making sure that it doesnt burn.

When the heady aroma of sauteed garlic begins to drive you crazy and you can take it no longer, add in the lemon juice, and almost immediately add in the prawns.

Saute and watch as the prawns shrivel up into tiny coral curls. They're gorgeous. Its amazing how ugly they look before being cooked and just how pretty pink-orange they get when cooked!

And thats about all there is to it. Saute the prawns until theyre cooked, which doesnt take longer than 3-4 minutes at max. Turn off the heat and let the prawn sit in the butter-garlic sauce for a while. Garnish with a little coriander, for just that extra flavour.

I must say that I didnt need to add any salt because I used salted butter. But for those who like everything a little extra salty, you might want to season this a little more.

We decided to keep it simple today. And had the prawns with some lightly steamed and sauteed veggies. It made for an intensely satisfying meal and I suspect all that butter had something to do with it :)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Crispy Potatoes

Another quickie!

Im on a quest to learn to cook things that are easy to make, dont take much time and are tasty. So here's another recipe that definitely goes into my quick-to-make-and-perfect-to-take-to-work log. Because its simple, quick, crispy and tasty. Oh and it features POTATOES. who doesnt like potatoes? And when the potatoes in question are crispy, theres no doubt about it.

Here's what I used:
Potatoes, chopped into fingers. Not too thin so they turn into wafers, and not too thick so they dont get crispy. They need to be just right.
Chilli powder

Here's how I made it:
Peel, wash and chop potatoes into slender fingers.

Heat a little oil in a pan. When relatively hot, throw in some jeera, followed by mustard and a pinch of turmeric. When the mustard and jeera begin to sputter, throw in the potatoes and toss around continuously.

Continue to toss around on a medium-high flame, so that the potatoes cook and get crisp. Add some chillipowder, as per taste/spice threshold and continue to toss. The potatoes will first turn a golden brown, and later crispy brown. You'll know when its done.

Crispy Potatoes go best with a humble dal rice and a wintry night.

EDIT: Not quite done. As my mother rightly pointed out i forgot to mention the pinch of asafoetida that needs to go in right after the jeera and mustard seeds and right before the turmeric!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Home-style Rajma

Giving in to my Rajma calling

Its been a week since work started and I have yet to wholeheartedly fall into the new schedule and routine of things. I have to now cook my lunch for work an evening in advance, to avoid a maddening rush the next morning. So I have resorted to the few 1-2 dish meals I know, basically combining rice or rotis with a curry of some sort, or dal or gravy. A lazy Sunday demanded that I make something utterly simple, something that involved throwing together a bunch of things, but with a yummy result. Thats how we decided rajma it would be.

I have tried several different versions of rajma, based on recipes Iv found online and some techniques people have recommended. But Iv finally hit upon this method, after much trial and error, and this works best for me. Most recipes I have seen call for the rajma to be pressure cooked separately and then added to the masala and cooked together. But I have taken a short cut of sorts, which funnily enough, I have found to be much tastier. I love how it turns out, and I love the process because its basically a 3 step easy-peasy way of doing it. Mince/grind, roast, pressure cook. Done. Just what I needed today.

Here's what I use:
1 and 1/2 small cups rajma (for 2 people)
3 small onions
4 small tomatoes
3-4 cloves of garlic
2 green chillies
A handful of fresh coriander
Chilli powder
Jeera powder
Dhaniya powder
Garam Masala

Here's how I make it:
Wash and soak the rajma in sufficient water for at least 4-5 hours prior to cooking it. I usually leave it soaking overnight, but today I soaked it in the morning and cooked it in the evening. I doubt it really makes a life changing difference.

When ready to cook, peel and roughly chop the onions. Also chop the tomatoes into smallish cubes.

Grind the onions to a paste along with the green chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander.

In a pressure cooker/pan, heat a bit of oil and ghee, and roast the masala (paste) on a medium flame until its semi cooked and has dried up sufficiently. Add in the turmeric, chilli powder and chopped tomatoes, and continue to mix and cook well on a medium flame. Keep this going till the masala has fully cooked, the tomatoes are almost pulpy and the masala begins to release oil.

Next, drain the soaked rajma and add it in to the masala.

Mix well, add sufficient water and shut the pressure cooker/pan. On a high flame, cook for an appropriate number of whistles, till the rajma is soft.

Make yourself a cup of chai and kick back and relax while the pressure cooker does its thing and fills your kitchen, your senses and your head with the amazing aromas of what lies within. But you'll have to waitforitttt!

This tastes equally good with rotis and with hot rice, along with a simple onion and tomato salad, drenched in lime, salt, a dash of pepper and coriander!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cucumber Raita

The most refreshing way to polish off leftovers

Iv been through a series of days spent all alone, ensconced within the cosy walls of my home, with the husband working ludicrously long hours. One never knows if he is going to have the time to eat his meals at home like he used to until a few weeks ago. Therefore, it often happens that I cook for the two of us, but end up eating my meals alone, and carrying leftovers forward and finishing them off the next day.

It was no different with the pulao I made yesterday. I was all alone in basking in the joy of finally getting it right and also proceeding to methodically finish it over the next meal too. Except, the second time round, I decided to make a raita to go with it. Here's how.

What I used
Main ingredients:
1 small cucumber (since it was just me)
1 small cup of curd
A dash of milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper
Chaat masala
Red chilli powder
Jeera powder
Juice of 1/4 lime

How I made it
First, I chopped up the cucumber. Its also nice to grate it in, but i prefer the crunch of the cucumber.

I beat the curd up well. I like my raita to be neither too thick nor too runny, so I usually add a dash of milk just to loosen it out a bit. This is of course left to your discretion. The milk also cuts the overly tangy edge that curd can sometimes have, giving it a more creamy taste.

Next, I added in the seasoning in one by one. First the salt and pepper, followed by a tiny bit of sugar. Then the red chilli powder, chaat masala and a dash of jeera powder.

When the seasoning is all stirred in, I then added a squeeze of lime juice. Lastly, I added the chopped cucumber and serve with pulao.


This raita was so refreshing and cooling, I could eat it as a meal just by itself. I also make the raita sometimes using cucumbers+tomatoes+onions, or boondi, or grated cucumber+thinly sliced onions. It works with pretty much anything you think is feel free to innovate!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Vegetable Pulao. My way!

When I decided to get brave and let the experiments begin

Its been a while since I made a veggie pulao at home. Mostly because I have never been able to get it right, spot on. Yeah its always just short of hitting the spot and leaves us feeling like "something's missing", without being able to really say what that something was!

Today though, I decided to give it another shot. I decided to trust my instincts and the many months of experience I have added on to my culinary repertoire. I decided to go with my gut and throw things in as I felt they would fit, combining a few lessons and tricks I have picked up along the way, with my sense of smell and flavour. Dont look so confused. I did say this was going to be about being brave and letting the experiments begin.

What you need
For the pulao:
Assorted chopped veggies. I used potatoes, carrots and beans, but feel free to add in whatever you want.
Rice, soaked for at least 30 mins before cooking. I used 2 cups, and it was enough to feed 3 hungry people.
One handful of roughly chopped mint leaves

For the pulao masala
1 large tomato chopped
1 medium onion chopped
1/2 a handful coriander leaves
2 green chillies
A large-ish piece of ginger
3-4 cloves of garlic

Dry masalas for the rice
1 tsp jeera (whole)
2-3 cloves
1" piece of cinnamon
1-2 bay leaves
1 star anise (if easily accessible)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp dhaniya powder

What you need to do
Wash and clean the rice. Leave it to soak in water for at least 30 minutes (until you get all the rest of the preps done).

Chop up all the veggies you need and keep them aside.

Grind all the ingredients for the wet masala to a fine paste.

Dont add any water to begin with as the tomato and onion releases juices. If it is too dry you can add a wee bit of water, just enough to grind it easily.

In a pressure cooker/pan, heat some ghee/oil. When its hot enough, throw in the whole spices like jeera, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon, and star anise, and saute till it smells divine.

Next, add 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chilli powder and 1/2 tsp dhaniya powder. Then, add the wet masala and saute continuously till the masalas cook well, dry out a bit and the oil begins to separate.

Next, throw in the vegetables and mix it well with the masala. Add salt to taste at this stage. It will release a bit of water, so dont add any extra water just yet.

Add the soaked rice and slowly add the required amount of water to cook it through.

Finally throw in the chopped mint leaves and mix well. Shut the lid and let the pulao cook to as many whistles as your pressure cooker would need to cook rice.


If I started off by calling this an experiment, I must say it ended being a successful one. The pulao was fresh-tasting (thanks to the coriander and mint) and light and flavourful. I tend to enjoy a pulao when its not overly packed with masala. While I did use a wide variety of spices, using them in smaller quantities balances it out, giving just the right amount of flavouring.

I can already see this recipe being repeated at our home on a night when I cant think of what to make and dont wish to spend too much time in the kitchen!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


..OR, what to do on your last week of freedom

With one week of extended freedom before I step back into the world of having a regular job, I find myself with a lot of empty time that I hadnt planned for. Im all about planning what I want to do, even if it is to laze around all day. In a happy coincidence, I also had this really strong longing to have my cooks (back home) BisiBeleBhaath. Because the way she makes it, is to die for. It is comforting, homely, satisfying and altogether scrumptious.

There are some tastes that are just meant to be reminders of home. Comfort food, home food, call it what you want. These are things one tends to enjoy best at home and no substitute can come close. BisiBeleBhaath (BBB, as I call it) is one such home delicacy for me. Since Iv moved out, every trip back home features one BBB meal, and truly completes my going-home-experience. Without it, something is amiss.

Despite the massive cravings and pangs for BBB I have had since I moved to Goa, I still hadnt mustered the courage to try my hand at making BBB on my own. However, there is always a first time, and it seems that time for me, was today.

What you need
For the masala:
1 tbsp poppy seeds (khus-khus)
1" piece of cinnamon
2-3 cloves
3-4 tbsp dry coconut (if you dont have dry coconut, you could dry roast freshly grated coconut, like I did)
2 tbsp sambar powder (I get this home-made from my cook back home, so I dont really know what secret ingredients she puts in it, unfortunately)

For the main dish (to feed 2 hungry people):
2-3 cups chopped vegetables of your choice. I used carrots, potatoes and peas because thats all I had handy. But you can even add cauliflower, french beans, double beans, or even sambar onions or small brinjals.
1 cup toor dal
1 cup rice
2 small tomatoes chopped
1 small onion chopped (I took the liberty to add this in, inspired from an online recipe of BBB that I was looking at yesterday)
1-2 tbsp tamarind paste
2 sprigs curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 dry red chillies roughly chopped

What you need to do
First, dry roast the poppy seeds, cloves and cinnamon on a low flame. Keep this going till the poppy seeds turn nice and brown.

Next, dry roast the fresh coconut till it has lost all its moisture and begins to show some brown specks. If youre using dried coconut to begin with, you can skip right to the next step.

Grind together the sambar powder, poppy seeds, cinnamon and cloves, along with the coconut. This should give you a deep brown, rich and flavourful dry masala.

Meanwhile, par boil the chopped veggies. Start to cook the dal and rice (mixed together) on a low flame.

In a deep bottomed pan/pot, generously add some ghee. When its hot, throw in the mustard seeds, curry leaves, onions and roughly chopped red chillies.

When the mustard seeds stop sputtering, add the onions and saute till slightly translucent. Next, add the dry masala and roast well. Continue to saute this on a low flame till the masala is cooked. Note that this is all done without adding any water.

Next, throw in the chopped tomatoes, add the tamarind paste and a cup of water. Continue to cook the masala.

By now, the dal and rice should be more than half cooked. Tip it into the masala, mix well and continue to simmer on a low flame.

The best BBB is usually mixed so well that the masala, rice and dal are well combined into one giant pot of flavourful splendour. So continue to simmer and add water when necessary, until you get that rich silky looking BBB.

At the very end, add in the parboiled veggies and add salt to taste. Cook for a few minutes more so that the various components are all well combined.

BBB is best enjoyed with something crunchy. Traditionally it is served topped with khara-boondi, but back home it was tradition to have it with locally made potato chips.


My first endeavour at making BBB was quite a success, so I can safely say that future BBB-homesickness-pangs will be efficiently dealt with and put to rest.