Monday, April 27, 2015

Heeng Jeera Aloo

Okay so it's 12pm, you've just binge watched all 3 seasons of Sherlock, save one episode, (thinking it's 10:30am), and just realized that while you were supposed to look for a job and make lunch, you've spent the whole morning doing VERY productive stuff. At that point, you realize you only have potatoes, and a cupboard full of spices to work your magic. A bowl of rice and dal fry aside. So you look online and come upon a recipe, simple and bloody quick, that can allow you to return to John and Sherlock as they find out the culprit basis which way the wind blows.

This happened to a friend of mine. Not me. Totally not me. 

So my friend made this Heeng Jeera Aloo, and her husband, also named R (coincidence I know right), licked the bowl clean, sans regard for civility. It was exactly that good. Have it with a couple of misshapen and burnt rotis, or underboiled rice and an unparalleled dal, and your lunch/dinner will be sorted. It stays well in the fridge, so take it for your office lunch as well. Roll it in a paratha maybe. Turn it into a stuffing for a nice sandwich. Simple, quick, bursting at the seams with flavour, multipurpose and frankly, pretty damn good. Just the way friend likes it.

Heeng Jeera Aloo
Adapted from Veg Recipes of India

You need:
  • 3 medium-large potatoes
  • 1/2 inch ginger, chopped fine
  • 2 tsp jeera or cumin
  • 3-4 pinches of heeng or asafoetida, or how much you like.
  • 1 green chilli
  • pinches each of turmeric powder, Kashmiri chilli powder and Kuti chilli powder
  • 1 heaping tsp of coriander or dhania powder
  • 1 tsp of amchur or dry mango powder
  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • salt
  • chopped coriander

The How:
  • Boil the potatoes, whole with skin on. Make sure a knife passes through the thickest part of it easily. (This is for all my readers who too are learning to cook, and can use a few tips that make our life easier!) Try to do this: after the pressure cooker whistles sufficient number of times, don't open it. Keep it shut for another 15 min. This result in the residual heat cooking it further, without wastage of gas. Test it with a knife. If it feel resistant in the centre, put it back in the cooker. Repeat till done. It should not fall apart, buit should be easy to stab!
  • Once done, soak the potatoes in ice water. This cools it down rapidly. Change the ice water if need be. Once cooled enough to handle, peel the skin, and chop into dices.
  • In a pan or kadhai, heat the oil.
  • When hot, add the ginger.
  • Add the jeera/cumin. It will splutter.
  • Add the green chilli.
  • Before it gets burnt but is a nice brown colour, add the turmeric, chilli powders, salt and heeng.
  • Stir it well but take care that it doesn't get burnt.
  • Tip in the potatoes, and gently combine the spices with the potatoes, taking care it doesn't get all mashed up.
  • Once combined, add the coriander powder and amchur. Stir well to combine.
  • Taste, and add salt if need be.
  • There would be a nice crust at the bottom of the pan owing to the powdered spices. Scrape it up with your ladle. This is the crispiest, tastiest bit of all!
  • All in all, once all your spices are in, fry it for 3-4 minutes.
  • Turn the heat off, sprinkle with half the chopped coriander leaves, take out in your serving bowl, sprinkle the rest of the coriander and cover till ready to be eaten.
  • That's it!
So my friend says she is very much excited for you to try it out, and to let her know how much you like it. I...she is looking forward to your comments!

Till the next time!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dal Fry and Life.

So hey! Welcome back to the brand new me. New? Me? How's that? Oh wait I'll tell you how..


To R, yes yes. After 8 beautiful years, we finally decided to take the step. Look!

Marriage changes you. Believe me it really does. I've shifted to another city, with R, in our home. It's something we always spoke about, but now that it has happened, you can't believe it has. I've gone on a short sabbatical, enjoying domesticity for a few days before I jump into the workforce once again. It's been a mega hectic last few months, what with preparations for the wedding, and preparations of me leaving town. Learning new things. Shopping till my shoulders break off. Skin treatments. Some more shopping. Packing. Oh god the packing. The wedding itself. Rituals pre and post that. The amazing fun honeymoon to Spain. Coming back to Delhi and then shifting to Mumbai, bidding farewell to what was home for the last 12 years. Turning R's bachelor pad to a home here. So I'm more than entitled to a bit of a break.

And what else would I do in a break, than cook and experiment? Oh but there's a catch. You see, when Mum used to cook regular dal rice fish vegetables at home, I was free to do cakes and cookies and what not. Now that I'm on my own, the responsibilities of a household is on me.


So yes, I now make regular home food. With my twist and experimentation. Dal. Different kinds of rice. Chicken. Fish. A myriad varieties of sabzis. And the cakes and sweets of course, just lesser. So here goes: this blog will now also feature food to feed people in real life. Daily stuff that you make quickly, for you know I hate slow food. Stuff that you can whip up for lunch. Simple easy home style food. The cakes etc will always be there. But as of right now, Aishwarya Eats has grown up.

So the first thing I thought I can share with you is a dal. It's healthy, quick and one-pot. Using stuff you ALWAYS have in your kitchen. I make this almost daily! Presenting the Yellow Dal Fry, homey and comforting.

Yellow Dal Fry

You need:
  • 1 cup arhar/toor dal or pigeon peas
  • Water
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped. You can adjust the amount of garlic according to your liking.
  • 1 medium onion chopped fine
  • 1 inch ginger, chopped fine
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 green chilli, chopped fine
  • couple of pinches of hing or asafoetida
  • Salt
For the tempering:
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin or jeera
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
  • 1 tbsp kasuri methi
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • a pinch of hing or asafoetida
  • 1 dry red chilli
  • A handful of coriander, chopped

The How:
  • In a pressure cooker, add the thoroughly washed pulses. Fill with enough water, the level should be about half an inch (more or less) above the level of pulses.
  • Add in the ginger, garlic, onion, tomato, green chilli, hing, and salt. Don't worry about the salt now, you can adjust it later. Keep it on the low side though.
  • Pressure cook this till about 8-9 whistles. Please be careful with the cooker! Make sure the release vent has nothing stuck in it. 
  • Let all the pressure go out. Once you open it (open it only when all the steam is gone), stir it with a whisk or wooden spoon to mash all the pulses.
  • At this point, add water if need be to liquify the dal in case its too thick. In case it's too thin, turn the heat back on high but don't put the lid back. Let it boil for some time, the appropriate thickness will come.
  • Adjust the salt once your thickness is achieved.
  • Now for the tempering. Keep every single ingredient ready. 
  • In a tadka pan or a small pan, heat the ghee.
  • When the ghee is hot, add the jeera. When it starts to splutter, add the whole red chilli, broken into two halves.
  • Next, fry the garlic in the ghee, I like it a bit brown and crispy.
  • Once it's fried, add the hing.
  • Turn the gas off. Add the red chilli powder, stir and add the kasuri methi.
  • Immediately add this into the dal in the cooker. It should splutter wildly! In case you think the ghee has cooled, heat it back up and then add it.
  • Stir to mix.
  • Dump in the coriander. Mix.
  • Immediately turn out into the serving bowl. Cover till you're ready to eat it.
  • Preferably, before eating, add a little bit more coriander, and a squeeze of lemon if you want.
Serve with rice, roti, phulkas, parathas, anything!

And that's it. I'm telling you. If I, the one who only knew cakes and pannacottas, can make this, anyone can!

Till the next time!

Friday, February 20, 2015

A Wish to Banish World Hunger- 1000 Voices for Compassion #1000Speak

Today, more than a 1000 bloggers are flooding the blogosphere, the internet and timelines with stories about compassion and sentiments about kindness. Today, 20th February 2015, is 1000 Voices for Compassion Day.

I feel very strongly in issues like racism, sexism, ageism, ableism and discriminations that take away the basic right of a human being to live with dignity. But one issue I feel for even more, is the issue of hunger. No man, no woman, no child should go to bed hungry. Nobody should have to live by scrounging waste out of trashcans. Especially when in India, so many thousands of kilograms of food grains are going waste, and rotting in silos where nobody can reach them. So many litres of milk go to waste on worships and rituals, when a child on the street grows up malnourished. So much money goes into donations to houses of worship to no end, whereas a family starves to death in the villages.

It's a promise I've made to myself, that in my capacity, I will never let anyone go hungry. As and when I do have children, this is a teaching that they too will get. Giveaway that packet of cereal you have extra. Someone needs it so much more than you do. To those who have the means, it is a negligible cost we bear. But for those who have next to nothing, it means a meal. Those with means will never be able to understand the pain of going hungry, the pain of seeing your family go hungry to sleep.

And I will not allow it. as much as my capacity is, I promise to never let anyone go hungry again. Which is why, I have a plan that I wish to implement. Many kilograms of delicious food go to waste in restaurants, small, mid-size or large. I wish to implement a mechanism, that collects these extra food items, and deliver it to those who need it. I will do it, I can do it. Food should not be a privilege. In my own way, I wish to eliminate world hunger, a little spoonful at a time.

And the day I bring this dream to reality, I will have achieved that one dream I've always had: never to see anyone go to sleep hungry.

It can be anything.
A child feeding the pups that live in her colony.
A man buying an ice-cream for that child on the road.
An office making a collection drive for a flood affected area.
A husband making parathas for his wife, before he goes out for a meeting, because she'll be alone and may not want to cook only for herself.
Spreading out a few grains of rice for the birds.
Someone lending me a phone charger in my time of need.
A school selling UNICEF cards to raise money.

It's not about the money.
It's not about the strength.
It's not the size of the problem, nor the size of your plan.
It's not about who else is with you.
It's about what you want to do.
It's about how much you want to do.
It's about you.

I don't see it anymore.
Wars. Injustice. Tears. Greed. Lust. Corruption of the soul. Wickedness. An astounding loss of humanity.
I see it everywhere.
Spoons of food from a nurse to a patient. A cat defending another in front of a dog. A star dressing up as the superhero on screen,visiting a children's hospital to make a sick child laugh. A humble auto driver in Mumbai who is the most selfless man I have ever read about.

Compassion is not sympathy.
Compassion is not doing good for someone, and feeling good about oneself.
Compassion should be like breathing. Do you give yourself credit for breathing? It should be the way you live. It should be how you live.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Product Review: Philips Airfryer

So, first product review!

Let me just jump right into it. The stuff I reviewed was the Philips Airfryer. It’s been around for about a year now, but yours truly got to lay her hands on it just a few weeks back. I have friends who have bought it and are using it, many friends, and I really wanted to know whether it was worth it. Philips sent me a sample, and what better time than now? I made frozen French fries in it, and a batch of fried chicken, and I’ll be using my observations from both to explain the pros and cons.

Firstly, the pros. It’s shaped like a huge black egg with a handle. The handle is for the frying basket. It has a dial for the cooking temperature, and a rotating knob for the time. So how this works is through hot air. Yep, it’s that easy. It’s just hot air, much like in our convection ovens. Because the bottom of the basket is a mesh, the hot air circulates easily.

It’s actually super simple to use. Preheat, clean the basket, place your food item in it, in certain cases drizzle with a smidge of oil, toss, close, turn up the heat, set your time and take out when the Airfryer goes ding! It is also a breeze to clean; a button releases the inner basket and that can washed, dried and set right back.

Honestly, at first I really wasn't buying the no/less oil point. Because how is that supposed to work? But it definitely did. I cooked an entire bag of frozen French Fries with about 1 tsp oil. I mean that’s crazy, and that’s awesome! (And I made my homemade BangBang sauce to go with it!)

Now for the cons.

Because of the shape, it takes up a lot of space and leads to a lot of space wastage. A rectangular appliance would use space much more judiciously. In today’s scene of reducing home spaces, it doesn't quite make sense to have an appliance that wastes space.

The basket size. The basket size was way too small. It holds too little in one batch. When I combine this with the average time it takes to cook anything in it, it becomes impractical to wait for 20 minutes for a batch of French Fries.

I firmly believe some things are to be had with oil. Going with the French Fry example, they came out well-cooked, but extremely dry, almost dehydrated. The fried chicken too came out cooked, but the outer layer was dehydrated to the point of cracking open. This was a major disadvantage in my book.

Most homes today have a combination oven, with a microwave and convection built right in. It is, in my personal opinion, quite redundant to have something that does the same job as a convection oven. Which brings me to my next point…

The price. Right now, at INR 10690 on, it is too expensive to justify a second appliance doing the same job as most ovens already do.

So all in all, I would recommend purchasing an Airfryer for those people who would like to have a new, healthy gadget in their kitchen. It has its issues, but it definitely promotes healthy eating!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Garlic Rolls

Have you ever tasted, smelled garlic? Smelled that delicious green funky smell? Remember how your fingers become kinda sticky after chopping them up? Can you smell that brown, toasty smell of garlic frying in olive oil before you dunk it all over your tagliatelle? Inhaled that rich smell of roasted garlic being slathered on a crusty piece of buttered bread? Sucked on that whole bulb of garlic that Ma put in light mutton curry, soaking in all the delicious juices?

I'm really not high. It's just that I love garlic more than anything on this planet.

Plus side, I'm totally safe from vampire attacks. Haha eat it Twilight!

Yeast, on the other hand, frightens me to bits. There's so much depending on it, and that itself depends on so much. It must lukewarm water, not hot. It must froth properly, not just a few bubbles. That is of course, if you've found good quality yeast somewhere, which, from what I heard, was last seen in the hearts of the deserts of Australia. But I love me some carbohydrates!

So what I made a few weekends past marries all my loves, ie, truckloads of garlic, copious amounts of butter and pillowy soft buns into one roll. That is to say, I made Garlic Rolls. From scratch.

These were rolls of doughy yet cloudy bread, absolutely slathered on the insides with butter and garlic. Dip it into a sauce, or have it with soup, or just stuff your face with just like that. I've gained weight just remembering this thing, but it was worth every single bite. So here's how to make it.

Garlic Rolls
Adapted from Kurry Leaves

You need:
  • All purpose flour: 24 tbsp
  • Active dry yeast: 1 tsp
  • Lukewarm water: 0.5 cup
  • Salt: to taste
  • Sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Oil: as needed
  • Salted butter: 3 or 4 tbsp
  • Minced and cooked/fried garlic: 2 tbsp
  • Coriander leaves: chopped, 2 tbsp

The How:
  • Mix the butter, coriander and garlic in a bowl, keep aside.
  • In a bowl, keep the flour and salt mixed and ready.
  • Add the sugar to the lukewarm water, and add the yeast. Stir lightly to combine. The yeast, if of good quality, should froth up in about 8-10 minutes. It need not look like soap bubbles, but after about 8 minutes, it should look something like the picture below. Dip a toothpick gently, when you take it back out, it should have foam. You are thereby done.

  • Add the yeast to the flour, and add the required amount of water to form a slightly sticky dough.
  • Lightly oil the doughball and the bowl. Cover the dough with a clean moist towel and put it in somewhere warm. I heat the oven, switch it off and chuck it in there.
  • It should ideally take about 1.5-2 hours to double in size, looking something like this:

  • Punch it down. It should feel hollow, spongy and well risen when you punch it down. Divide into two pieces.
  • Roll out one into a square/rectangle/amoeba shape. Remember the dust the counter well. Also remember, be careful while rolling it out, since it needs to be of even thickness.
  • Slather half the butter-garlic mixture on the dough, leaving space on all 4 sides.

  • Now roll it up. Take care that the filling isn't leaking through any holes.
  • Slice the roll into 2 inch discs.
  • Grease a baking pan. Place the rolls cut side up in it, leaving enough space between them, like this:

  • Cover with a moist clean towel and leave in a warm place to rise for about 30-45 minutes, at the end of which it should look like this:

  • Now brush the tops of it with milk, preheat the oven to 180 celsius and bake for about 18-20 minutes, till the tops are light brown/golden.
  • Repeat for the other half. If you want, grate some cheese on top.
  • Now this is my request, please wait for it to cool before you grab one. I know they smell irresistable, but just wait!

And that's it!

It cured my fear of yeast, for a while, and kept me, a garlic lover, stinky forever more!

Until the next time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Mango Sandesh

Now I have real live proof that I am a Bengali.

No I knew previously as well. You know, after a lifetime so far of speaking, reading, writing and understanding Bengali, preferring a Mayabono Biharini to Jumme ki Raat, the Gollum-like wait for Durga Pujo, resolutely calling it Pujo and not Puja, the pathar jhol and murgir jhol and not mutton/chicken curry, the exasperated eyeroll at everyone who mimics Bengali accent as every word having "o", the dhakais, the Tagore-worship for good reason, the aloo-sheddho-bhaat, chholar dal, luchi, shaak, mocha, echor and chhenchki, the million ways to cook ilish, rui, pabda, puti, chingri, tangra, parshe, I'm pretty sure that I am as hard-core a Bengali as any other.

But there was one thing. One elusive thing. And that was, making a Bengali sweet. A roshogolla, lengcha, payesh, kanchagolla, and what not. Oh, and the sandesh.

Sandesh is an all-encompassing term for a dry (as in not dripping sugar syrup), but soft or hard sweet made of fine cottage cheese, in different shapes and sizes. It can be stuffed. It can also be flavoured with anything and everything. Pineapple, chocolate, the rounded brown flavour of nolen gur (date palm jaggery), cardamom, kesar, strawberry, orange, etc. And the king of summers, mango.

Which I made.

So without further ado, let me tell you how I attempted to replicate what the moira (halwai) of yore had done. It is not at all difficult, but it takes time, and it is absolutely worth it. 

Aam Sandesh
Recipe from Neha Mathur

You need:
  • 1.5 litres of milk. You can use full cream m,ilk.
  • 2 tbsp Lemon juice. You can sub this with vinegar, but you might need more.
  • 6-8 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 4 tbsp milk powder
  • A pinch of cardamom powder, optional
  • 1-1.5 tea cups of mango puree. I used 2 medium mangoes. You can also use canned pulp.
  • Sliced almonds/ pistachios
  • Silver foil for garnish, totally optional.
  • Oil for greasing

The How:
  • Put the milk in a heavy bottom saucepan. Let it come to a boil.
  • When it boils, add the lemon juice or vinegar. Reduce heat, give it a stir and let simmer for 2-3 minutes more till the whey runs clear.
  • Strain the cheese in a colander or cheese cloth or strainer.
  • Wash it with drinking water once to get rid of the lemony smell.
  • Let it drain for about 45 minutes. By this time, enough water will have drained to make it easy to handle, but it won't have dried out completely.

  • Now take the cheese in a large bowl or plate. Mash with the heel of the hands till it is absolutely smooth no matter how much time it takes. If you're not confident, break up the mass of cheese into smaller chunks and process in the food processor till smooth. By smooth I mean smooth not touch, not liquid. This part is of utmost importance. My cheese was still a little grainy.

  • Add the sugar and mash it in.
  • Turn out the cheese on a non-stick pan or a heavy bottomed saucepan. Don't turn on the heat. Add the mango puree and milk powder (and cardamom powder if using). Mix it well. It should look like this.

  • Turn on the heat to medium-high to high, and cook. Constantly stir, so that the bottom doesn't burn. At this point, if you see some larger particles of the cheese, use your ladle/karchi to mash it. The aim here is to dry it out, but leave some moisture in. The original recipe took about 12 minutes, for me it took close to 20. Go by eye-feel. It should look like this when it is ready to be taken off the heat.

  • Let it cool for about 7-8 minutes in room temperature, till you can touch it and handle it. Do not allow to completely cool, as this will make it difficult to handle.
  • Now take a mould (there are sandesh moulds available), or like I did, the bottom of a fancy looking pudding bowl. Grease it lightly.
  • Take a heaped 1/2 tbsp of the mixture, and press it into the mould. The amount you take depends on how large/deep your mould is.
  • Press gently with your hand so it takes the shape.

  • Take it out gently. If it breaks, no worries, just lump it together and press into the mould again.
  • Or if you don't have a mould, just form it into balls.
  • Press the sliced nuts on top if you want to.
  • Arrange on a plate, and let it cool in the fridge for a while before jumping in.

And that's it. Delicious, soft, all-natural sandesh you can wow your family and friends with, packed with juicy mango flavour. Mind-numbingly amazing when cold!

Till the next time!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Eggless Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars

Today's story, is of a dessert that will blow your socks off.

Today's story, is about buttery yet crispy, cold, creamy, summery, tangy yet sweet goodness.

Today's story is about calories, and how sometimes, it's totally okay to forget your diet.

Today's story, is about my Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars.

Between wishing for a summer vacation from work and my commitment to make something, anything every weekend, I chanced upon a recipe I've bookmarked ages ago. Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares, by the awe-inspiring Pioneer Woman, who I believe is my soul sister (she just doesn't know it yet). A killing heatwave in Delhi gave me my chance to make this beautiful dessert. I edited it a bit though.

Imagine a cold, creamy, citrus-hinted condensed milk filling, that oozes, but is also set in place, sandwiched between a layer of almost granola-like cookie base, and a layer of loose buttery cookie crumbs on top. 

And imagine if you could see it layer on layer as you make it. That's right, this time, I did not use my aluminum baking pans, but a Borosil square baking dish. Simple reason why. In this particular recipe, I don't need to cook anything, I simply need to heat it till it sets and melds. An aluminum pan would have heated very fast, and the sides of the layered dessert could possibly burn. A borosilicate dish helps here, because it heats gently, enough to set the layers together, but not enough the burn the edges. Plus, the layers looks gorgeous!

Creamy Lemon Crumb Bars
(Makes about 16 squares)
You Need:
  • 250 gms of Marie biscuits/ digestive biscuits/ Ginger biscuits
  • about 100 gms of salted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar, powdered/ castor
  • Rolled oats (optional)
  • 2 pinches of salt
  • one can of Milkmaid
  • A few drop of vanilla/ butterscotch flavouring (optional)
  • juice of 3 whole lemons
  • Lemon zest, about 1 tsp
  • Oil, for greasing

The How:
  • Put the cookies in a food processor and process till mostly fine, but has a few small chunks left. Alternately, chuck the cookies in a ziploc bag and go at it while a rolling pin till a similar consistency.
  • Mix the oats in, if you're using it. Put 1 pinch of salt in. Put in the sugar.
  • Chuck the softened butter in and rub it in till it resembles wet sand. Set aside.
  • Very lightly grease a mixing bowl. Dunk the entire contents of a Milkmaid can into it. I greased it so the Milkmaid will be easy to pour out.
  • Add the lemon juice, vanilla/ butterscotch flavouring, zest and salt.
  • Mix well till completely combined.
  • At this point you are totally allowed to taste a spoonful (or three).
  • Preheat the oven to 180 celsius.
  • Grease a large square or rectangular Borosil dish, preferably with handles.
  • Now chuck half the biscuit mixture in the pan. Press down with fingers till it's an even crust.

  • Dump the Milkmaid mixture in it. Spread lightly with a spoon so that it's even, and reaches all the edges and corners.

  • Take a look at the side of the dish and whoop in glee!
  • Now take the rest of the cookie mix, and gently sprinkle over the two layers. Be careful and ensure even coverage because you can't press this layer down.

  • Now bake, at 180 celsius for about 10 minutes. This helps in setting it.
  • Once done, take out, and let cool completely.
  • Once completely cooled, cut into squares, but don't take it out just yet.
  • Put into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  • Now take the squares out gently. Some parts of the crust will remain and some of the topping will fall off, but that's the fun of this dessert!

And that's it!

Enjoy the summers!


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