Thursday, 31 October 2013


There is one thing, among many things actually, my mother detests. Wasting food. I do not have much trouble dealing with her on that front because I do not let any food go to waste. They'd rather go to my tummy than the garbage bin. My nightly ritual of raiding the fridge makes sure nothing stays long enough to go bad. In fact, the concept of leftovers is only, well a concept, at my place...I ensure that I leave nothing over.

However, I might be a nightly glutton on the prowl but even I can't dig into bowls full of cold rice. Everyday extra rice is made lest someone drops by. And One thing you will always find in our fridge is a large bowl of rice. One of these days I was trying this dish in which I stuffed Chicken breast fillet rolls with minced chicken
 and stewed them in a tomato gravy. So I insisted I need a certain quantity of minced meat despite my mother's persistent warnings that it would be way too much. I wouldn't budge. So I got the minced meat, tossed in the herbs and spices, stuffed my breast and well....I was left with 3/4 of the spiced mince.

I could already hear my mother's words, not the ones which she had already said, but those she would be saying. And I sure didn't like it. It was without much thinking that I brought out half a bowl of chilled rice from the fridge and tossed it into the minced chicken. The chilled rice and the minced, seasoned meat wasn't a good idea. What I had was a soggy mix of rive and meat. So in went a couple of eggs, some more seasoning and a tablespoon or two of cashew nut paste (I don't know why I did that). In a few minutes I had just what I needed. I molded the mixture into smallish patties and shallow fried.

What I had was the dish of the day. And I have made it so many times since. Apologies for photographs that do not do justice to the taste. I am sharing the recipe


Minced chicken - 500g
Finely chopped onions - 1/2 cup packed
Finely chopped garlic - 2-3 tbsp
Finely chopped ginger - 2 tbsp
Finely chopped coriander - 6tbsp
Finely chopped mint - 3 tbsp
Cashew nut paste - 2 tbsp
Salt to taste
Green chilli paste - 2 tbsp
Vinegar - 4 tbsp
Cooked long grain rice - 1 cup packed
Eggs - 2


Marinate chicken with vinegar and salt for an hour. Subsequently drain out the liquids.

Add all the ingredients, except oil. Mix it all nicely and shape into coin-like patties.

Shallow fry on carefully monitored heat. The chicken must cook well and the patties should be nice and brown on the outside.

Serve with onion salad and mint chutney! Drool-worthy...isn't it?

PS: Sometimes, when they are on the griddle, I usually fry a number of them in a single batch, I sprinkle some cheese from top.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Tomato tango: Tomatoes stuffed with dill flavoured rice and meat

I love to stuff stuff with stuff — stuffed bell peppers, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed aubergines, stuffed potatoes and the kind. Stuffed potato is my absolute favourite. Of course, I like it best if the stuffing is meat, or fish, or prawns. And the only time I would eat potol (pointed gourd) is when it is stuffed with a spicy meat or fish stuffing and cooked in a delicious gravy — the fabled potoler dolma every khadyoroshik (foodie) Bengali would swear by. This post, however, isn’t about potoler dolma or Bengali delicacies, though it quite looks like it right now. 
    In this post I wanted to share with you another recipe from our first Greek themed Pop Up menu — Tomatoes stuffed with dill-flavoured rice and minced lamb. This is yet another recipe I came across on and couldn’t resist trying. Like I said in my previous post, there’s no fooling around with the pop up menu. Anyway so we had decided to do these tomatoes and serve them with mini buns and garlic parsley butter and we sprinkled some Parmesan shavings on the dish. Pity we don't have pictures of the plated stuff. We were too busy doling out the dishes that we forgot to click. 
     Now this recipe uses three different fresh herbs — parsley, mint and DILL. If this was a year ago I would have panicked, fretted, fumed and finally given up the idea of trying this recipe. Where can you get fresh Dill for Christ’s sake? But after Angona, gave me an educational tour of New Market’s vegetable bazaar last winter (I had hardly ever been to that treasure trove before…what a fool) I could totally  

My aunt used to say that if you go looking you could perhaps strike a bargain on tiger’s milk in New Market. I think she was exaggerating only a little. Not only dill, you could get fresh oregano, thyme and Rosemary too. I haven’t asked them about Tarragon though. I thought it was important to mention this here because many people ask me where it is that they can get fresh herbs. And rust me the dried and bottled variety stands no chance when it comes to fresh herbs.
     Strangely, it were the beef tomatoes that got the New Market grocers into a bit of a sticky spot. And after they had smirked, laughed, grimaced and looked at each other in a way that we could well have been from another planet, one of them said “There is beet and there is tomato, nothing called beet tomato.” 


  • 4 beef tomatoes
  • pinch sugar
  • 4 tbsp Greek extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
  • 1 Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g minced lamb (I used goat's meat)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 50g long grain rice
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp chopped dill
  • 2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint


  1. Heat oven to 180C. Slice the tops off the tomatoes and reserve. Scoop out most of the pulp with a teaspoon, being careful not to break the skin.  
  2. Finely chop the pulp, and keep any juices.
  3. Sprinkle the insides of the tomatoes with a little sugar to take away the acidity, then place them on a baking tray.
  4. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large frying pan, add the onion and garlic, then gently cook for about 10 mins until soft but not coloured. 
  5. Add the lamb, cinnamon and tomato purée, turn up the heat, then fry until the meat is browned. 
  6. Add the tomato pulp and juice, the rice and the stock. Season generously. 
  7. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 mins or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. 
  8. Set aside to cool a little, then stir in the herbs.
  9. Stuff the tomatoes up to the brim, top tomatoes with their lids, drizzle with 2 tbsp more olive oil (I used melted butter here), sprinkle 3 tbsp water into the tray, then bake for 35 mins. 

You could also see the recipe on

PS : Do not use Basmati where it says long grain since Basmati has a strong essence of its own.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The red chicken

My mother doesn’t cook regularly. Her culinary expeditions are few and far between. But each of her culinary expeditions is a lip-smacking affair. But for a person who isn’t into regular cooking, her enthusiasm for learning new stuff and collecting new recipes is amazing.
       Now, my mother is a homemaker and the kind who has never looked for any gratification beyond her family, especially her kids – something about her I both admire and detest. But if that’s what made her happy, so be it. So, no matter how much we wanted it, she would never leave us alone at home when my brother and I were kids.  She didn’t go for movies, or meet friends or go shopping on her own, except... when she went for her cooking classes.Of course after ensuring we had someone to look after us, much to our disdain (and we stayed in a joint family, too many people doing the looking after).I remember how excited we were about those classes. One, because we could be home alone, and two, because she would bring back the tasting portions.
              And she has been to so many of these classes. She still has these stacks of exercise books of different colours scribbled full with recipes. And it’s amazing how these diaries and copies say so much about her. The earlier ones have impatience written all over them. Some have boredom written all over. Then there’s a phase when she is immaculate, her handwriting like pearls, and her recipes even have foot notes. Some have doodles, too. And there are those half written ones and ones with innumerable abbreviations which she says she couldn't remember to save her life. In fact, she couldn't remember those anymore the moment she had walked out of the class and hence had never tried those recipes.
          I love going through these recipes though and I owe my interest in cooking to these. I have never been to a cookery class myself, but I did put Maa’s efforts to good use. Nowadays, when I obsess about creating my own recipes and giving my twists to classics, I, at times, feel that she feels a little disappointed. She perhaps feels her collection of recipes will go to waste. But then that I can even start to think about tossing up my own concoctions of flavours is because of all the afternoons I have spent reading mums recipe diaries.
           The recipe I am sharing today is from one of her diaries. I do not remember though,  which one and hence can’t credit the particular person (one of Maa’s several culinary gurus) but I take no credit for it. This is one of the first things I made when I started cooking and this is one of my family favourites. The original name is lost in time we call it THE RED CHICKEN….CRAZY.



Chicken (boneless) - 1 kg
Tomatoes (bog) - 4-5
Garlic paste - 2 tbsp
Gineger (julienne) - 2 tbsp
Whole red chillies - 6-7 (or depends how hot you like it)
Salt to taste
For spice mix
Fenugreek seeds - 1 tsp
Coriander seeds - 4 tbsp
Whole dry red chillies- 3-4
Dry roast the whole spices, add the fenugreek towards the end so that it doesn't burn. Grind and keep.

  • Heat oil in a pan. Add garlic and fry till its catching colour. 
  • Add the tomatoes and ginger julienne. Sprinkle some salt so the the tomatoes releases some juices and fry till oil separates.
  • Add the whole red chillies and the spice mix. 
  • Fry for a few more minutes or until oil separates. 
  • Add the chicken, adjust seasoning and cook on low heat, covered. 
  • Once chicken almost done, remove lid and cook on medium heat until the juices reduce and you have a thick gravy and the oil, a deadly red now, separates. 
  • Serve with Roti or a light Pulao. I love it with steamed rice.  


Sunday, 27 October 2013

My Middle Eastern inspired Chicken Roast

I have a soft spot for Middle Eastern cooking. And I love their spices. Leave me in a souk in Saudi Arabia and I might not want to leave ever. Only I would have to so that I can cook with them. Ras al hanout, sumac and my favourite Baharat.
          One of the best birthday gifts I have ever received is a bottle of Ras el Hanout.  On my last birthday my colleagues gave me a selection of gourmet sauces and spices and I have never been as happy to receive a gift as I was that time….talk about the thought behind. I never thought I would ever get Ras el Hanout here in Calcutta, and there it was in a pretty little bottle. I could see bits of dried lavender and rose petals and my heart did a quick jig. The bottle was empty 2 days later. I had put it in anything and everything rice, meat, potatoes…whatever I could lay my hands on.
          I headed to the gourmet section of the super market my colleagues had got it from and it turned out they were out of stock, and they had no clue when they would stock up on the spice mix, if ever. By the way the sales guy had no clue what it was that I was looking for.
          However, it isn’t easy to get ready-made Middle Eastern spices. You will get them if you tried but definitely not at your neighbourhood grocers. But the good thing is that most of the ingredients that go into making these spice are available at the same neighbourhood grocer's. No not the lavender and rose petals, but come on... let’s start with basics.
          So, I tried out Baharat at home, following a recipe I got online. And it was great. I have tasted food that had Baharat in it…and this one seemed quite authentic. But Baharat is of various kinds,. Different countries do theirs differently. This one is Bahraini. and here's the recipe.  

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick (about 2 inches long)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
  • 1 tablespoon paprika powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • For the baharat, set the paprika and nutmeg powders aside. Place all remaining ingredients (whole seeds, cinnamon stick and cloves) in a small frying pan and dry roast over medium-high heat, tossing regularly to prevent scorching, for 3-4 minutes or until very fragrant. Transfer to a spice or coffee grinder and let cool. Add the paprika and nutmeg and grind all the ingredients to a fine powder. Store left over baharat in an airtight jar.
Baharat recipe courtesy 


 Yesterday I made some again and this time I used it in a mean Middle Eastern inspired Roasted chicken. Thought it was a good way to get into the vacation mood…after all I am headed for the Middle East…well I am not going to Saudi Arabia…no…I headed for Turkey, but that is traditionally Middle East too. So is Egypt by the way.


Whole chicken - 1 (Cleaned)
Parsley leaves - a big bunch -
Garlic paste - 2 tbsp
Ginger Paste - 1 tbsp 
Whole cloves of garlic - 8-10
While Oil - 1/2 cup
Rind of 1 lemons
Salt to taste
Baharat - the whole of the quantity given above

This is how it'll look after 12 hours of marination. If you don't have the time, 3 hours would suffice but that would never be the same as overnight would it?


  • In the half cup oil add the garlic paste, ginger paste, salt and Baharat. 
  • Rub on the mixture into the chicken evenly. Refrigerate the marinated chicken overnight, covered with a film. 
  • Next day, take the chicken and let it come down to room temperature. Stuff the cavity  with the bunch of parsley and the whole garlic cloves.
  • Preheat the oven at 175 degree centigrade and roast the chicken at 170 degrees for 1 and a half hour or until chicken has browned well outside and is tender inside. 
  • Rest for about 10 minutes before carving. A squeeze of lime and then...utter bliss.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Pop goes my heart: Warm Honey Cup Pudding

You don’t often meet people who are passionate about something as passionately as you are passionate about the thing you are passionate about. And less often still, that thing you both are passionate about is one and the same.

Usually you share everything about your passion passionately with people and hope that they understand how passionate you are about your passion and for all you know they turn around and call you an idiot.

Yes, I babble often. May be you know that already.  

Again, your workplace is not often the place where you meet that someone who is passionate about the thing you are passionate about and not just that, the same thing turns you from colleagues into friends and then into partners set out for the same goal.

In my case I got lucky and I found someone as passionate about food as I am at my work place. Angona. She is my senior at work, a great friend and one of the funnest people around. But what connects us and hold us together is our love for food. To cut a long story short, after one and a half years of discussing food, where to eat, what to eat, how to eat, how to eat more than you can handle and then handle more than you can eat, we decided we need to roll up our sleeves and take our love for food to the world.

On one of our crazy adventures. And that day we had some great food too. I a village roadside eatery. Memorable stuff I say.
 We did ponder and mull over the idea of a restaurant, small one, no fuss eatery focused on great food…well we didn’t for once think we would be able to do that. Why? We are poor people. That’s why. And those who have nothing, have? God? Yes yes God and…think mortal. Unsuspecting friends who can be swayed into lending their homes, the kitchen and the dining room actually, to extremely talented (blush blush) friends and not throw these friends out no matter what the consequence.

Well we decided we’ll go the pop up way. And get our friends to lend us their space where we would whip up some great food and feed people who understand, love and respect food. We call ourselves PHAT Mamas (I thought Fat first and then I told myself “stop being selfish, this isn’t just about you”)

The process was long and cumbersome. But we did do out first pop up do (it was a backbreaking, nerve wrecking affair) and the theme was Greek. The menu was Minced lamb and dill stuffed tomatoes, served with mini baguettes and garlic parsley butter; Classic Greek salad, Couscous with sultanas and pine nuts (oooh they are expensive, cost us our profit that one) Chicken stifado, a classic Greek stew, usually cooked with beef but we did it with chicken and it was a super hit. And finally for dessert Warm Honey Cup pudding. I did the tomatoes and the pudding and Angona did the rest.

It was quite the success (we didn’t make a profit but earned compliments of people begging for repeats) and we are planning our next one already. Angona is currently on a vacation in Spain savouring the best of Spanish food, and I am a week away from mine in Turkey. Once we are both back we’ll set to work. If you are in Calcutta you could pop by at one of our pop ups.  May be if you are a regular reader of my blog I’ll give you a discount. 

Warm Honey Cup Pudding
Anyway, I though I’ll share the recipe for the honey cup pudding here. Although I am not too fond of following recipes I do with this one though with minor adjustments. This one’s a great recipe and with winters round the corner, this will be a good addition to your kitty.  

Ingredients (Servcs 2)

  • 2 tbsp butter, melted, plus extra for greasing the cups
  • 2 tsp clear honey, plus extra for drizzling
  • 50g self-raising flour
  • 25g ground almonds
  • 50g light muscovado sugar (we used brown sugar)
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 egg
  • 85g Greek yogurt (we used hung curd)


  1. "Butter two large ramekins,  line the bottoms with a circle of non-stick paper. 
  2. Spoon in a teaspoon of  honey to the bottom of each
  3. Heat oven to 180C/fan160C/gas 4. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make sure there are no  lumps of sugar in the mixture. Get your fingers dirty to ensure that. 
  4. Beat the egg, butter and yogurt together, then stir into the dry mix until smooth. Spoon the mix into the cups, sit them on a baking tray, then bake for 20 mins until risen and golden. 
  5. You'll know they are ready if a skewer (I use all kinds of stuff) inserted through the centre comes out clean.
  6. Loosen the edge of each pudding with a blunt knife or something, then up-turn them onto plates. I don't have to tell you that you have to remove those little discs of papaer do I?
  7. Now the original recipe suggested we serve this delicious goodie with a pistachio ice cream. Honestly we didn't think we would have the time to whip that one up. Instead we decided to serve it with some fresh cream. And generous drizzle of honey. We did and it was a hit.
 Recipe courtesy:

Notes: If you do not get or have self raising flour MY GOOD FRIEND friend Nigella (Yes Lawson, believe me she is a friend, the one in need)  has just the right trick. 2 tsp of baking powder for 150g of flour. Sift the two together and voila its ready for use.

Okay, honestly today's  post is more like a filler. I was feeling extremely guilty for not having posted anything worthwhile in the last few days, But I have been caught up at work and couldn't spend a lot of time eating or But I promise to be back tomorrow with a fantastic recipe. Till then...