Aug 17, 2010

Totally Tuna

In our house even the starters need to be innovative and well, enthralling. Chips and dip is something I do only after at least 2-3 lavish Indian and continental appetizers have been finalized. I try to keep these hors d oeuvres as light and simple as possible because I hate it when no one takes seconds and third, though over time I have realized if my guests are drunk enough they will eat well no matter how many appetizers I served!

One of our favourite meats for snacks and starters is definitely tuna, maybe after pork cold cuts. There is a lot we do with tuna, we bake it, fry it and of course salad it, this particular starter is delicious even for people that don’t usually eat fish and seafood. It is so popular in our house, that Andy will finish work at midnight (he has a home studio!) and pop into the kitchen to make ‘fish paste’. He can eat 3 packs of salted crackers with a bowl of this stuff and still be ok in the morning.

No Cook Fish Paste Mix

1 can Tuna fish (preferably in oil, though the brine one is healthier, but this one is tastier)
2-3 tbsp mayonnaise (I love kraft, it’s fluffy and light)
1 large onion, minced fine
1 green chilli minced
Juice of half a lemon

2 packs of salted crackers (like Monaco)

Drain the oil out of the tuna. Blend the onions and chillies with the mayo and salt. Mix all the fish into this dressing, top on the crackers, add a drop of Tabasco on each for prettiness and go ahead and gorge! Simple isn’t it!

This is our yum yum movie snack too and this paste is excellent for sandwiches as well, you can make mini ones with cucumber, it is the most cooling food I can think of in the summers!

Aug 8, 2010

Shirazi Style Goulash

I am writing this on a Monday morning, rather begrudgingly, I usually do all my writing over the weekend, but this one was super hectic and all I managed to do was a cook a couple of decent meals for the family and finally go to a canteen style restaurant I have been dying to eat at. The weather has been dull and miserable, with an occasional smattering of rain, very annoying. The clouds need to open up and pour or shut their faces and glide by, the piddle like pitter patter is useless and depressing! Though it makes for perfect ‘food craving’ season... the rains make me want soul food as much as winters does. So instead of moping about the grim situation outside, I decided to brighten things inside. Saturday was going to be bright food day; I personally love colours in my food, that’s what attracts me to Pan Asian cuisine, the al dente bits of coloured peppers, the greens, the salmon pink of the meats and the white of spring onions. These days with the opinions on MSG, I really feel like my Asian recipes don’t taste as good, may well be a psychological thing but I cook Asian food much less now.

One given when it comes to soul food is at least one dish of red meat. My family also has a special affinity to tomatoes and they definitely need rice. So I decided to make Shirazi style ‘desi’ Goulash. This dish is more like an Iranian chicken curry I once had, tomato base, light chicken and very wholesome. But since I tend to use bacon sometimes and make a curry out it, I like to call is a Goulash (apologies to Hungarians, foodies massacre each other’s foods all the time, it’s for the greater good at the end of the day!). I don’t use boneless meats, by principle! Only if it’s a must in recipes do I succumb, I do a lot of my Chinese stir fry’s with smaller cuts of chicken, rather than going boneless. I feel bones add a lot of flavour and natural moisture and fat to the dish. So I make this recipe with meat on the bone, you can try boneless; a lot of people feel it works better. I serve this with potato wedges (from scratch) and herbed rice.

Shirazi Style Desi Goulash

½ kg Mutton
2 tbsp oil
2 white onions, minced or pureed
4 large tomatoes cubed
4-6 garlic pods crushed
2-3 tbsp tomato puree
1 bayleaf
2-3 cloves
2-3 tsp crushed pepper
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 cup Water for gravy

Brown the onions and garlic in oil, add the bayleaf and cloves. Fry for a minute or so and add the mutton. Toss it up on high for a minute, turn down the heat, add the cumin and chilli powder and salt, stir and cover. Use a heavy bottomed pan or a pressure cooker, so you can cook the meat for 25-30 minutes on low. After about 15 minutes of cooking, add the tomato cubes and the puree. Stir and keep covered, only stir 2-3 times in the 30 minutes. Top with the pepper powder, add half cup water and pressure cook if you need the meat to flower (I realize how gross that sounds but what I mean is, the meat opens up and softens, doesn’t remain tight and compact!). Check the salt before you serve, if you feel the gravy is too tangy, feel free to add a tsp or two of sugar, its cuts the tang and brings out the pepper.

From Scratch Potato Wedges

4 large potatoes
Oil for deep frying

Masala Mix:

1 tsp. Oregano/Italian seasoning
½ tsp garlic salt or celery salt
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp salt.

Cut the potatoes in wedges, deep fry till soft and brown. Toss in the masala mix and serve hot.

Herb Rice:

1 large bowl of cooked white rice
1 tbsp butter
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 tsbp very fine celery leaf

Heat the butter, throw in the rice, herbs and celery, toss on high heat for 3-4 minutes and serve right away.

So this is the meal we had the other day, it was superfluous if I may say so. The rain was beating hard in the balcony, we almost wished it were lashing on the window, to add to the ‘dak bungalow’ rainy effect that this food had already created. This is one dish I love to combine with a nice spicy rum or a fruity red wine, the pepper and tomato combo is perfect for some with dinner drinking!

Shirazi Chicken 69

You want to hear a world of urban legends and rumours? All you have to do is live in a hostel at least once in your life. Seriously, we used to hear an average of one urban legend (this girl hitchhiked alone from so and so beach, by truck and then ....) a fortnight to a rumour a day! Now that my level of interest in food is fairly established, I remember one such urban legend, well!

One of the most popular snack in the millions of bars in our student town, yes, you heard that right, millions of bars in our student town... well anyway, was Chicken 65. Now that we have broached this subject, Gurgaon is very much like that, there is a booze shop about ½ km from my daughter’s school and that stands good for all schools in Gurgaon. In fact one of the best ones has a booze store on either side, lest one of the students forgets to buy his stash for the day!!!! Chicken 65 is apparently on their menus as well. Anyway, back to my chicken 65 story. Now this is one dish that was consistently good no matter where you ordered it. It was good at the ‘hotels’ we had (brightly lit guest houses that sourced tea and breakfast from the snack outlet on the ground floor!), it was good at roadside bars, it was good at the beach shacks (every little beach has a little tea shack, that makes some of the best egg parantha’s ever!). So we were bred on a staple diet of Chicken 65, Khoday’s Rum, Bun Masala and the like (local cuisine, I’d say). The most well known facts about the origin of the name of this dish were that it had 65 ingredients (it doesn’t!) and that it was developed in 1965 (no one to corroborate that!). The urban legend we heard was the grossest, we heard that the dish was marinated for 65 days ....ewww, can you imagine the state of that chicken? What I believe as most plausible is the story about the army officers from the north that ate a restaurant when they were posted in the south. All the dishes on the menu were in the local language but were serialized, they loved dish no. 65 the most!

It’s been close to 15 years and we still can’t forget the aroma, the taste, the sheer perfection of this awesomely spicy, frighteningly orange chicken dish. We don’t have it that orange though we just skip the food colouring. We make it regularly and compliment it with typical canteen fare, watery ‘sambhar’ and rice. I do whip up a batch as a bar snack but that’s dangerous if you have more than 3-4 people, you have to make loads of this stuff. Chicken 65 is like peanuts if you combine it with booze, you need bowls and bowls of it! We at home like to call it Chicken 69 because throughout college Andy would call it that wherever we ordered it!

Shirazi Chicken ‘69’ aka 65

Marinade mix:

½ kg boneless chicken breasts
1 tsp red chilli powder (I use ‘Deggi mirch’ which is essentially the powder of red chilli skins, so its not as spicy and adds a lot of colour, I feel cayenne pepper is quite similar)
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 egg
2 tbsp cornflour
3 tbsp white flour

Oil for deep frying

Tempering/Stir fry Mix:

1 tbsp oil
10-12 curry leaves
6 -8 garlic pods crushed
1 tsp ginger paste/grated
6 green chillies
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
½ cup yoghurt

Wash and dry the chicken, cut it into 2” long strips, not very thick, so split the breast if you need to (ewww! At the thought, not the meat!). Marinate the pieces in a mix of the flours, spices and egg. I usually put it all on the cubes one after the other and work it with my hands, I don’t like to use water so if you try to make the marinade separately, chances are it will be weird and gooey. So coat the pieces nicely. Heat oil to the temperature of chicken nuggets and drop in the pieces one by one. Don’t make too much together, you will cool off the oil and then the pieces will just lie in the oil and get soggy, keep the fire up, the pieces moving and do them for around 2 minutes, till evenly light brown. Drain. In a separate pan, heat oil, brown the ginger and garlic, throw in the curry leaves and the green chillies, add the spices, stir and fry for 2 mins on low fire. Add the yoghurt, stir and let it come to a boil, add the fried pieces of chicken, stir and cook on high flame for around 2-3 mins or till the moisture evaporates. Try a piece to check if it’s done, if not, cover and cook on low for another 2-3 mins. Don’t overcook this, the chicken was boneless and deep fried, it can’t possibly be raw. Check the salt and serve.

We had this with a regular ‘dal’ the last time but I also like to serve it with a onion and tomato pulao.

Aug 4, 2010

Baby Shirazi Fudgesicles

Baby Shirazi was born on 16th December, 2005. It was a cold but sunny day and since we chose the day, we had the spent the previous night on tenterhooks, knowing well that at this time tomorrow we would be first time parents. I cooked for my parents in law, who were due the same day as the delivery, I remember I made ‘Chicken Khas-e-Kalinga’, a recipe my mom picked up from a hotel she ate at, ages ago! Baby Shirazi was born via C-section at around quarter past 3 in the afternoon and I was smitten from the moment I saw her. I watched my surgery in a ceiling mirror and there has been nothing grosser and more magical than that. She was a big girl, who has grown up to be delicate and petit, but one thing was certain, she had a voracious appetite from the time she was born. Touch wood. We wanted a child that loved food as much as we did and had the spirit for living like we do. We are truly blessed.

Since I brought her up pretty much by the book, Ally didn’t have much of the usual first foods that Indian kids have, instead she started on pureed fruits, soft tart shells, homemade pasta’s and soft, chewy cookies and ‘rusks’. We have a picture of her gnawing on a pork chop when she was little over a year old! Ally did have the usual ‘Khichdi’ (lentils and rice boiled together) but she wanted hers with slices of tomato or cucumber, once she was old enough to ask for pickles, she did! So now we had 3 foodies in the house, which meant a lot more improv work for mommy.

Ally is almost 5 years old now and loves cooking and baking with me. She can spend hours with a ball of dough, she can mix a bowl full of batter and she is thrilled when she is asked to crack eggs! One of her favourite things to do is cook kid stuff for herself. So she and I decided to combine two of her favourite flavours to make her a new summer snack/dessert. Ally loves bananas and she loves chocolate. So we decided to do something fun with those two ingredients. We also wanted something easy, cold and well ...easy! so here is what we did!

Baby Shirazi Fudgsicles

2 ripe bananas mashed well
½ cup of fresh cream
½ cup of milk
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp Hershey’s chocolate sauce, we have used others, they work as well. Best is fudge lava, that’s room temperature chocolate fudge, this has a higher concentration of cocoa mass so it freezes better.
1 cup of chocolate pudding

To Freeze:

Ice cream sticks
4 small cups or bowls/popsicle moulds

Make a milkshake of the bananas and milk. Stir in the cream and sugar, you can blend the sugar if you like; we don’t mind its crunchiness in the final product. This mix should be pretty thick. Fill into the four cups/moulds, now with a teaspoon, swirl the fudge over the mix, very gently use a thin butter knife to create swirls that go deeper into the mix. Put in the freezer, after around 5-6 minutes; put the sticks in the centre. I tried doing it before freezing, the sticks always get slanted. The fudgsicles are usually done in 3-4 hours. If you have time and energy, whip the banana, milk and cream mix, the fudgsicle’s turn out less icy and creamier.
We do a lot of variants of this popsicle, kids love to be involved, the idea is also to try and impart some level of responsibility ... I’d rather she learns like this than from some odd textbook!

My Meen Moily

I had been working from home for years with an occasional visit to an actual office, so I managed to catch a lot of 4 pm cooking shows. I saw one with model/chef/author Padma Lakshmi, in Kerala, she was cooking by the coast with a chef from a local 5 star hotel. I personally love outdoor cooking and really wish I could do it more often. Now that we live in a condo, I am waiting for our next fishing trip or beach BBQ in Kuwait where Andy’s parents live (great country for quality meats and fantastic seafood). The chef was making beachside fish curry. I don’t remember taking down the recipe but I remember being riveted. I was so desperate to try it that I took a rickshaw over 5 kms away (that’s far enough when a human being is pedalling you places) to the local fish market (?), more like alley. I bought a kilo of ‘surmai’ fillets and went straight home with the loot. I feel my version of this curry is very wintery and soup like wholesome. I also love how aromatic it turns out if I keep it simple and I can really taste the fish. I find this curry so simple to do now, that’s a quick fix comfort food staple in our home.

½ kilo ‘surmai’, ‘betki’, red snapper or any other boneless fish you like. It needs to cook in the curry without being fried, so choose a fish that will hold.

Fish marinade:
½ tsp Turmeric
1 tsp salt
Juice from ½ lemon

3 tbsp cooking oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
1 large tomato, cubed, into fours
4-6 pods of garlic, smashed
1 tsp minced ginger
8-10 curry leaves
3-4 slit green chillies
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sugar
½ lemon squeezed

2-3 cups of coconut milk (if you are using a powder than make one cup thick and one cup thin. If you are using the real thing, then use the first squeeze last … if you are using cans or tetrapacks then anything goes!)


Marinate the fish and keep it aside, marinate for just about 10-15 mins. Heat oil, always put onions in hot (not smoking) oil or they will absorb all the oil and not let anything else fry. Throw in the ginger, garlic and curry leaves, toss it around gently, I hate smashing the onions, I like them evenly brown and un-crispy. I also don’t like to fry the curry leaves unless they are for tempering, for curries I like them to be fresh and chewable. Once the onions are brownish, add the dry masala powders, the turmeric, the chilli powder, coriander and cumin powder, but hold the tsp of ‘garam masala’. Make the coconut milk mix, I prefer for it to be warm, so give it a spin in the micro if you are using from a can or pack. Keep half a cup of the coconut milk separate, if you made fresh or from the powder, then this is the portion that’s thick, creamy coconut milk. Boil the curry on low for 3-4 minutes, you will see the oil separate on the sides. Slip in the fish pieces and turn gently in the curry, no need to mix this like crazy, just leave it, as long as the pieces are all submerged in the curry, you’re good! Cook for 2-3 minutes or so and add the tomato cubes and slit green chillies. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, finish with sugar, salt, lemon juice and garam masala. Serve with white rice and papads.

Oh, it kills me that the show’s host is a fit and fine woman, even today after a baby, she looks the same. Though I can imagine her love for food … Andy is like that, he can eat anything and get away with it, no weight gain and no IBS! I secretly hope my metabolism catches up with him or I will just end up being the chubby and fun wife of the cool and sleek guy! Though deep inside I hugely admire women like Padma Lakshmi, they wear their vice like a medal and I suppose when you are underweight then it’s easier to go around saying “I am secretly a pig!”, hell its almost endearing. Like the other day when I read an interview with a local stand-up, where he said he loved women that could really eat, he would hang out with a woman that ate 2 naans and butter chicken and all that stuff! Believe me if she really was the type to let herself go, he wouldn’t last more than 6 months with her! So walk the talk baby, let’s see you with a voluptuous woman, for that matter let’s just see you with a woman first.

Aug 2, 2010

Eating IN

Very soon you all are likely to realize that I am dealing with a ‘lot’ of beef these days! It’s a consignment thing, when I get beef...I get loads of it! A part of me wishes I could have access to the real thing, which is banned in India, so much for secular democracy! I want to eat a cow, now if that offends anybody then they are most welcome to not partake in the meal I prepare, they are welcome to avoid my home and kitchen and never speak my name again! All fine by me but that still doesn’t solve the problem! There are days I want just 1 kilo of real veal ...the melt in the mouth stuff and then I just have to wait for my next trip abroad or pay through every orifice of my body for it in a fancy 5 star hotel! In any case India has a fixation with hotels, whatever they cook ...goes! We have few and far between A- class kitchens in this country and that’s a reality people like me just have to live with. I would probably only spend in an ITC or Oberoi’s property, I know how these guys work (first hand), I know they source from the best of purveyors and I know they employ the best of talent. So that makes my meal half good already. For me the flip side is that I am also a big fan of thrift so I just don’t do value meals anymore, I just wait longer and choose better ... and hope we have a good meal ahead of us! No ordering cheap grub from obscure neighbourhood joints unless you happen to live around iconic street/budget food joints. I would love to live across from Karim’s, even now, despite the price hike and the commercial flavour in the food.

So I say do better, yummier, fancier meals at home and splurge on quality meals when you eat out. One perfect way of making a budget for exotic ingredients are the above mentioned cut backs. The savings from your restriction on budget, average chow is your budget for some fine, quality foods, produce and preserves. Say you spend Rs.1000 on a meal for 4 from the average Tandoori joint next door, I say wait! Keep that 1000 for 1 kilo prime lamb ribs (just ask your butcher for single ‘chaamp’), which is ...ok here’s a better break up, pricing is an average, in Rs., as of July 2010 –

Main Course:1

kg mutton champ (14 + pcs) 250
1 kikkoman soy sauce 99
10 garlic pods 25
1 tbsp honey 10
2 tsp coarse ground black pepper 25
1 tsp salt (Kikkoman has lovely soy saltiness so be careful!) 2
250 gms breadcrumbs 20
2 eggs 10
Salt/pepper seasoning for the crumbs 5
Oil to fry 50

1 meat mallet 199

Bag of 4 bread rolls 30
Bag of 500 gms French fries 50
(bake ‘em, arrange them in a Pyrex dish, spray oil, use any kind of spray bottle, clean well and use for oil. Bake on 250 till done, 4-5 mins usually)

Lettuce 50

2 lt. Coke 60

1 lt vanilla ice cream 100
(Amul is usually 1+1)
2 Mangoes 20

TOTAL: 1005

(Hey you would have paid for parking, given tips, all that!!)

So there I spent your 1000 bucks, created an opportunity for you to hone your cooking skills, be thrifty, spend quality time with the family over a meal and movie Saturday night! Oh ya, I also got you a mallet to add to your kitchen tools just in case you don’t have one. Locally in Gurgaon you get them at the Lifestyle store in DT Mall, I have linked listing to an page, so help yourselves.

Wash the chops under running water, pat dry with a kitchen towel. Keep a few sets of budget kitchen towels and use the hell out of them. Keep the meat ones separate if you can or junk them after use if you got a good deal on them! Put each chop on a cutting board and gently beat the meaty side with the mallet. There are two sides on a mallet, one with a large surface area to beat down and the other with a smaller one. For lamb chops use the smaller spokes side. Flatten each one, not through and through, just a bit to soften and loosen up the meat. I keep two cutting boards, one for meats and one for veggies and everything else. I learnt that from my mother in laws kitchen; makes complete sense in terms of hygiene.

Marinate the chops in the soy, honey, pepper, salt and garlic. I always crush the garlic with the flat side of my knife, I got me a cool garlic press but I believe Anthony Bourdain hates them, so from a chef’s perspective, that tool is officially shunned! It makes an excellent prop when I style food, so am still happy with it! You have to peel the damn garlic either way, so crush-with-knife it is. Mix the marinade in a bowl, pour over the chops and please please use your hands to mix the meat and marinade. Seriously, the heat from your hands and the mixing motion with work the marinade in, so use those hands. Marinate in the fridge for 4-6 hours, if you can, they will cook faster.

Beat the eggs lightly; put the crumbs in a flat plate, season with salt and pepper. Best way to check the seasoning is taste the crumbs, they are cooked ... you can put them in your mouth! Now dunk each chop in the egg then flatten on the crumbs and coat both sides well. Sometimes if the chops are too thick, I add 2-3 tbsp of cornflour to make the crumb coating less crumby and smoother. Cooks slower that way and when the chops are thick, they need to cook slower! Prepare all the chops before you start frying. Heat oil in a non stick pan, I don’t use non stick pans to use less oil; I just like them for the non stickiness. So I put about quarter inch of oil, enough to half cover the chop. Heat the oil well, don’t let it smoke, throw in a few crumbs to see if they sizzle, if they do, add a chop or two and if they sizzle too, then add as many as your pan can fit. Now is when you put the fries in the oven. Back to the chops, do each side of well, so you only turn the chops once, the less you turn the less chance of the crumb top falling apart. Turn the chops, lightly brown on both sides, check the fries, wash the lettuce very well and just tear it up in a pretty bowl, better still get one of the younger kids to do it....get someone else to lay the table! Heat the bread rolls before the oven cools. Serve the meal together, the chops, the rolls, the fries and drinks for everyone! For dessert I planned mangoes and ice cream because its mango season right now, so make the most of it! You however have a bit more than 100 bucks to plan your dessert (that’s Indian rupees), you can do a coffee pudding. How about I share that tomorrow?!

Back to the Beef

Back to beef, back to the basics. That’s how it feels for me. I love cutting meat; that creep’s me out sometimes though my intentions are for the simple pleasures of consumption and nothing sinister but I love cutting meat. That’s how I cook. I cut, chop, julienne, cube, dice, mince everything myself, I hate things out of packets and I despise recipes that go something like 1 can whole tomatoes, 1 pack of frozen pastry and 2 boxes stroganoff mix... what the F is that? Thankfully I still live in a world where things are more or less done from scratch, I don’t know where to buy frozen pastry and thank God for that lest I get tempted to slacken off! I admit to be a victim of terrible time management, so I have succumbed to garlic pastes and tomato purees but that’s how far it goes, I swear! In my defence, I only use these when I make homey lunch time curries like ‘matar paneer’ and ‘rajma’. That’s the cool part about north Indian home grub, the overwhelming masala-ness pretty much covers everything else in the dish, so go ahead and squeeze in that spoon of tangy, chemical-y ginger paste, no one will know. But when I am really cooking, cooking... then I need everything fresh, juicy, plumpy and the like. I love shopping for produce as much as I love shopping for shoes. I am not averse to fancy shmancy stuff like truffles and caviar, I have bought them to eat them and not experiment with them. Honestly, I should have left the caviar for pro’s to do ...I couldn’t have it as is! The truffles however went off well, I have a ‘gucchhi pulao’ recipe that really worked out for me. I need to remember to share that, but before I do I need to get all this beef out of the way.

So, I had cut around 5 steaks from the rump, nice, thick ones. I kept them about an inch thick and a little smaller than a side plate. I didn’t want to use the mallet on it, I wanted to tenderize them with marinade and time and not a beating. Andy wanted a simple recipe, one where he could really taste the meat, so I kept it super simple.

4 beef/lamb steaks, each should weigh around 200-225 grams, so that roughly a kilo of meat

Lots of fresh pods of garlic, like 10-12 of them, thinly sliced. Please master this, it’s excellent to stud meats like steaks and chops with sliver of garlic, they stick on the meat when you sear it and come out amazing.

2 tsp sugar, to caramelize on the steak and give me a nice seared colour, it also brings out the other flavours; I feel.
3-4 tbsp worchestshire sauce
1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar, I like how the sweet cuts the tang.
3-4 tbsp of very coarse black pepper, if your mill dispenses a fine powder, then beat the peppercorns with a rolling pin or mallet, do it in a napkin, so it won’t fly everywhere.
1-2 tsp salt, I like using sea salt.

Wash and dry the steaks, pat down with a mallet if you want, I kind of have a knack of how meat cooks vis a vis the pans and stove I have, so I don’t flatten them at all. Make the marinade in a bowl, taste it please... check the salt-sweet balance and pour over the steaks. Work the marinade into the meat, do this for like few minutes, you will be thankful when these suckers come out looking professional and tasting heavenly. Refrigerate for a day, do this, please, that’s the key. I use glass containers with covers for meats that need to sit in marinades, I don’t like the idea of the vinegar reacting with the plastic and I certainly don’t think zip lock bags can take the chemical balance of this marinade. Invest in some nice glassware bowls that have air tight lids, they are the best for food storage. Remember to shake this bowl a few times before cooking day arrives. On cooking day, heat a nice big skillet if you have or do my non stick pan ploy... I don’t hold back on fats, those are essential in making food taste good. I don’t like diet foods, I hate light meals (actually once in a while is ok) and I don’t believe in substituting. You want stuff to taste like the picture in your recipe book or like the steakhouse you ate at last; then slather the damn thing with fat, now! I use olive oil for this kind of naked steak, I love the way it burns off the ends, I love the way olive oil heats, you can see golden swirls forming across the surface and you know this is what your food needs. Good old olive loving! Then I pick off all the leftover garlic slivers from the marinade and stuff them into the sizzling steaks, I use tongs for this, I use tongs a lot. I actually use tongs in most places where I would otherwise use a metal/plastic spatula. Get tongs! Here too, cook one side only once; constantly turning the steaks will make them tough and overdone. These are relatively think steaks, so you need a sizzle of around 3-4 minutes per side on low fire. With a day of marination, even a total of 7 minutes on the fire are a bit much but I know very few people that like a medium rare steak, at least in India. Use the tongs to pick up the steaks and place them on plates; again don’t forget to pick up the burnt garlic bits for a final finish.

I serve this meal with mashed potatoes, I love infusing the mash with a chiffonade of celery, really nice flavouring. I boil peas and sauté in butter for the kid and any other family member that would like to give health a chance, but husband is done with meat and potatoes possible carb add-on, bread. And he likes plain white commercial bread, so too bad if I made Focaccia. Or alternatively, I make a quick pasta salad, white onions, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, spiral pasta, dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a pinch of oregano.

So this is what we had the other day and I think we need to take a break from beef. I don’t want to freeze any of the leftover meat, so I am going to marinate the chunks I cut for a coconut pepper curry I learnt from a friend’s cook, back in Manipal, this was like 15 years back but we still love this curry to bits!

Welcome to Me

I am finally doing it, taking the plunge, going all out! I am starting my own cookery blog, its been long enough! I longed to have time to do this and only lately realized that I will never have that privilege. I am a mommy to an almost 5 year old human child and an almost 7 year old doggie child, both are a handful. I work full time, well almost, when you leave home at 8 am, then a day that ends at 4 pm, is as 'full' as a day can get. When that day gets over, all I can think of are my babies and my kitchen. The two joys that bring solace and peace to my otherwise hysterical soul. For me a perfect evening is when Andy (the husband) gets home in time, the kids have had play time and finished their workbooks, well at least the human one and I have a fresh, new meal bubbling in the kitchen. To me that's heaven.

I have read and envied way too many food blogs and sites to stay still any longer. So for me, this is it! This is my Michael Jackson movie, except mine is meaty, garlicky and veers towards desserts more than occasionally. I am secretly (not so much now!!) in love with Jamie Oliver and Anthony Bourdain, though from what I know Tony is capable of pot roasting Jamie anyway! I don't much care for Gordon Ramsay and I truly believe Nigella Lawson is my chef alter ego ...though I don't look anything like her...sadly! I used to enjoy watching Kylie (Kwong) cook till she started abusing the word 'beautiful' which actually happens to be one my favourite adjectives for food ...but not anymore. I love all of these guys for something or the other and mainly because they promote good food, good eating and good living, all of which is essential for my personal sanity.

I also believe in moderation, however cliched it may sound. Everyone can eat everything and everyone should eat everything, again in moderation. So please pop that piece of chocolate in your mouth already, you know you're going to hate yourself for not eating it .... and hate yourself for eating it ...its a no win up! So the objective of this blog is to promote food, all kinds of it. The other objective is to to get you cooking, its therapeutic, its makes people like you and its a great conversation starter. Believe me, its all I talk about... most of the time!

Last night we had Kerala style Beef Fry. Kerela is a coastal state in India, famous for its tag line "Gods own country"... from the way its landscaped, God certainly took a wee bit of extra interest in this one! Thanks to its coastal location, Kerala enjoys some of the best fish and seafood in India and I personally love their curries and stir fries. Some of the food is very akin to Far Eastern countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and even Thailand. I got this recipe off the internet and modified it to suit my family's slightly more adventurous palette.

Shirazi Beef Chili
1 kg beef tenderloin cut into strips ...about an inch long and half an inch thick
2 large onions sliced very thin
Slivers of 6 garlic pods
2 inch thick clump of ginger...crushed with a rolling pin
6 slit green chillies
3 tbsp. Cooking oil

1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tbsp. Apple cider vinegar (use wine vinegar if you like, I like it a bit sweetish)

Masala for cooking:
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tbsp. Honey (try and look for organic fruit honeys, did you know that a beehive on a litchi tree will have litchi flavoured honey!)
2 tbsp. soy sauce (try Kikkoman ...I love it!)
2 large potatoes, thinly sliced
Salt to taste

1 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
15 curry leaves
4 dry red chillies

Marinate the beef for a couple of hours. Heat the oil and fry the onions, ginger and garlic, till the onions are brown. I personally prefer to crush the garlic with the flat side of my knife rather than chop or use a press, ditto for ginger. Add the marinated beef; keep the flame on high till the juices from the beef cover the contents in the pan. Fry for 2-3 minutes and add the ‘masala’ for cooking, along with the green chillies. Stir, cover and cook on low for about 15 minutes. Make the tempering in a separate pan, heat oil, add the mustard seeds, wait for the crackling, add the red chillies and curry leaves, I like the curry leaves crispy so I tend to slightly overcook the tempering. Now back to the beef, add the soy sauce, honey and potatoes, cook for another 10 minutes on low, covered. Check the meat for doneness ...pop a piece in your mouth! Top this with the tempering before serving, toss it up...and enjoy.

We loved the dish, we had it with ‘dal’ and rice, though my dad would have had it with a garlicky potato mash and some whole wheat bread. I actually like having this with flat noodles and I dribble a little chilli sauce on it ...just to give it a twangy finish.