(Lima) Beans and Delhi Cha(a)t

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cooking for Love...And a bit of Celebration

First up, a bit of bragging. This may not be the relevant space to discuss it, but I can hardly restrain myself from sharing the good news with the readers of this blog. I am on my way to becoming a published writer. :P. My debut book, titled Making Out in America, is slated for release in the coming few months. The book happened as a result of my personal experiences with American slang and colloquialisms at an online writing chat room. My publisher, Cavern Press was so nice as to provide me with a website . It’s my joy to share it with you.

So that was the celebration part. As for love, well it’s the singular element that governs the entire universe. Isn’t it love to see a fresh new morning everyday; isn’t it love to see squirrels jumping jolly, scurrying for nuts in the park; isn’t it love to see an infant smile without any apparent reason; isn’t it love to see your cat throwing mock tantrums; isn’t it love to see seasons change so seamlessly, spring after winter, summer after spring, refreshing monsoon showers after the searing summer heat?

Love can also be silly, impulsive, impractical. For it was the love of food that led Cesar and me to start this blog. We had no readers apart from each other back then, but we had no remorse over that either. Because silly is a whole lot of fun! It is also better any day than serious and somber.

So when I saw love to be Meena’s theme for From My Rasoi (FMR) this month, I knew what I had to cook. It had to be something my family members loved to eat; it also had to be something my blog partner would pounce upon, given the opportunity. Of the numerous treats I have shared with Cesar virtually, he voted most spontaneously and vigorously for two things—momos and biryani. The second choice is a family favourite (tell me one non-vegetarian who doesn’t like biryani) and hence it wasn’t tough to decide my entry for this month’s lovable FMR event.

This is the first time I was attempting biryani. Also the first time I was going to make Mirchi ka Salan with it—the uniquely Hyderabadi spicy concoction that is such an integral accompaniment to biryani in the southern region.

I had made preparations (at least mentally) for cooking this combination, days in advance. For this, I fished out the recipe that looked authentic (in terms of the spice blend and the cooking method). I must say the result was excellent. For your perusal, this is the link.

And this is what the salan looked like:

For the biryani, since I am such a greenhorn to the kitchen premises, I looked for an easily manageable recipe. After going through a lot of online ones, I finally settled for one that was in the catalogue of the new pressure cooker we recently bought! It looked pretty doable for my liking, and even though biryani could be daunting even to seasoned practitioners, I was confident of dishing out decent-tasting mutton-rice preparation.

And so I followed to recipe to the hilt. I marinated the mutton with all of these for four hours: Beaten curd, ginger-garlic paste, cumin powder, garam masala, lime juice, chopped tomatoes, caramelized onion, chopped green chillies, and salt.

4 hours later:

Took the mutton out, lightly fried some sliced potatoes, and added to the mutton mix.

Next I put the cooker on heat, boiled water and added whole green cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, a bayleaf and the rice to it. Brought it to full pressure on high heat and removed from fire immediately. Drained it into a colander and cleaned the cooker, wiping it dry. This was the point when my mother warned me that I should not cook the rice on full pressure. I defied her. And suffered. Coming to that later…

It was time for the mutton. I heated oil and ghee in the cooker and put the marinated mutton mix. Stirred it for a while and added a little water. Removed it from heat, placed the ¾ cooked rice even over the meat, added saffron-milk and closed the lid. Now I brought this to full pressure on high heat and cooked it for another 10 minutes on low heat.

Opened cooker and yup, my mother’s heeding glared at me. The rice was overcooked, appearing more like khichri than biryani. My day-long venture in the kitchen had met with a mini disaster. But wait! The taste was brilliant (no credit to me, the spices did the trick) and it was very well received at home.

So does that count as a legitimate entry? I hope so. Even if the rice grains were not well apart as is must for true biryani, the preparation had love. All those hours I spent in the kitchen were so joyful, just because this was going to be a hearty treat—a treat from the heart. And what if the end result wasn’t picture perfect? Ultimately, cooking for love is cooking with love. And in that respect, I did a good job.

With love :)


Sunday, February 19, 2006

India Calling

Foodie events hosted by Indian bloggers

Let me start with a disclaimer. I know this is an Indo-Peruvian blog and thus not restricted to things Indian. But I write this post with the kind approval of Cesar. At the same time, we are also shouting out to other food bloggers from South America, if there are any. Do send us your URL; we will be more than happy to link you and spread the word!

Over the past few months of blogging, I have been hooked to the wide array of Indian food blogs out there. The variety these blogs bring is as diverse as the landscape and indeed foodscape of India itself. I have learned tremendously from all these wonderful journals, and the journey continues.

So this is just to give a heads up to fellow food bloggers about events hosted by Indian food bloggers. These make for a great way to learn about Indian cuisine and are also fun to take part in. So what are we waiting for? Let’s begin the show right away.

1. From My Rasoi: Hosted by Meenakshi, whose blog Hooked on Heat recently won the award for Best New Indie Blog (Yay, Meena!), this is a theme-based event held every month. The first two events garnered a huge response and the excitement just keeps growing with each new episode. There are still a few days left for you to send in entries for this month’s episode. For details, hop over to Meena’s blog here .

2. Virtual Cooking Competition: None other than the Chef de Cuisine of the immensely popular blog My Dhaba brings this quarterly contest for food bloggers from the world over. The theme for the first contest is Appetizers (any cuisine). Deadline is March 31, so cook up your best entry. Find details here .

3. Curry Mela: And finally, from the self-proclaimed (and Sury-endorsed) Maharaja of bachelor cooking, Anthony , comes this veritable weekend feast. In this, Anthony painstakingly presents a mouthwatering line-up of recipes and entries he selects from Indian and International blogs through the week. He is always on the lookout for tempting recipes, so if you come across one while hopping blogs, please send him the link. Curry Mela is a round-up no food lover would like to miss. Go check it out now!

Here’s to a joyous continuation of these super events with the hope for more to join in the show. Cheers!


Friday, February 17, 2006

Celebrating Sweetness

Recently I wrote about how the harvest of rice in Bengal brings with itself celebrations involving some very special delicacies, a lot of them for the sweet-tooth prone. One of these mouth-watering sweet dishes is this dessert made with sweet potato.

The filling is more or less the same as the one used for patishapta pithey . A subtle difference in the outer coating and the style of cooking, and you have a completely new dessert, one that can give some stiff competition to gulab jamoon even (try it and you will trust me).

So how about we get to the brass-tacks?

Ranga Alur Puli (Sweet potato dessert)


For Puli Dough:

Sweet potatoes: 500 gms
Flour: 1 ½ tablespoons

For Stuffing:

Milk: ½ litre
Sugar: 1 tablespoon
Coconut: ½ (grated)
Cardamom (green): 2-3

For Syrup:

Sugar: 1 cup
Water: 1 cup

Oil for frying


The Puli Dough:

Wash the potatoes and boil them until soft. Peel and mash. Add the flour and knead into dough. Keep aside.

The Stuffing:

Bring the milk to a boil by adding a tablespoon of sugar in it. When the milk starts to thicken, add the coconut and the raisins and condense it to a thick, sticky consistency. Remove from head and add crushed cardamoms. Let it cool.
The Syrup:

Add a cup of sugar to a cup of water and bring this to a boil. The syrup should be of medium consistency. Let it cool.

Making the pulis:

1. Take a small portion of the dough in your hands and flatten it. Make a cavity in the centre and fill it with a little of the stuffing.
2. Seal the edges of the dough and give it the shape of a puli (see image). Repeat with the rest of the dough.
3. Heat a lot of oil in a wok and deep fry the pulis in batches.
4. Remove from oil as pulis start browning.
5. Dip the pulis into the syrup carefully, one by one.
6. Serve hot or cold.

Not born with a sweet tooth, I don’t enjoy sweet potatoes…except for this sweet! This is truly a joy—the soft outer cover of potatoes and the creamy filling mesmerizing your gastronomic senses.

Prove me wrong! :P


Friday, February 10, 2006

Doi Machh/Fish curry in yogurt sauce

It’s been a while since I have blogged about fish. That’s a shame for a non-vegetarian whose primary affinity is with fish. So here’s a post to make amends. Doi machh or curd fish is a delicacy in Bengal and its surrounding eastern states. It’s fairly easy to make and tastes yummy--mostly tart, with a hint of sweet.

The best part about this fish curry is its health value. In the recipe I am going to share with you, the fish isn’t fried and thus retains its nutrients. And although it is simple to cook, the end product is a creamy, delicious curry; just the perfect accompaniment to freshly made steamed rice.

Here goes:

Doi Machh/Curd Fish


Fish: 1 kg, cut into pieces
Plain yogurt (curd): 500 gms
Onions- 2, big
Garlic: 8-10 cloves
Ginger: 1 small block
Sugar: ¾ teaspoon
Turmeric: ½ teaspoon
Cumin seeds: ½ teaspoon
Garam Masala powder (Dry grind green cardamoms, cloves, and cinnamon): 1 teaspoon
Bay leaves: 2
Cinnamon sticks: 2
Cloves: 3-4
Cardamom (green): 4-5
Dry red chillies: 2


1. Wash the fish pieces and keep aside.
2. Grind the onions, garlic, and ginger into a fine paste.
3. Beat the yogurt well. Add the onion-garlic-ginger paste, turmeric powder, red chillies and raisins to it.
4. Marinate the fish in the yogurt mix for about 15-20 minutes.
5. Heat oil in a wok. Add the cumin seeds, bay leaves, cloves, cardamoms, and cinnamon sticks.
6. Add the marinated fish to the oil. Add the sugar and salt to taste.
7. Stir a bit. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes.
8. Remove cover and check if the fish is tender.
9. Add the garam masala powder. Stir lightly, taking care not to break the fish pieces. Turn off the heat.
10. Serve with hot, plain rice!

This is one of my favourite fish curries and I can assure all fish lovers they will relish every bite of it. Check out for yourself :)


Friday, February 03, 2006

Happy Pisco Sour Day!!

February 4th is a special day for us Peruvians and since it has to do with something edible I can't let the opportunity pass to share with all of you. On this date we celebrate Pisco Sour Day.

Pisco is our national liquor, a source of pride for us Peruvians. Peru is a very important producer of liquor, especially wine and of course Pisco. We have very big and important vineyards in Ica (south of Lima where I live) and our Pisco has become internationally recognized.

It hasn't been easy for us, Pisco was in the middle of a tug of war with a neighbor country who claimed it belonged to them. Fortunately things were set straight and everyone now knows... Pisco is Peruvian!!

Pisco is the base of our most famous drink, Pisco Sour. No foreigner who visits Peru can leave without tasting this unique lemony beverage, and it is even given as a welcome drink in many of our finest restaurants. I cannot let the day go by without sharing with all of you the Pisco Sour recipe. You will of course need Pisco, which might be difficult to get, but do look for it. Also this drink uses our lemons, not the big American lemons, these are smaller (the size of table tennis balls) and much more sour.

Let's get to it!


3 parts of Pisco
2 parts of sugar
1 part of lemon juice
1 egg white


Mix Pisco with sugar and lemon juice in a blender, then add the egg white and ice until the level reaches 3/4 of the blender's flask and blend.

That's it! Serve it and sprinkle a little cinammon on top.

Say, Happy Pisco Day! and bottoms up :)



Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Keeping the Embers Burning

Anthony tagged me for a common cold remedy meme. Glad to share my tips with you all. They are simple, but effective.

By Indian tropical standards, it gets pretty cold in New Delhi. This is a region marked by extremes of weather--both hot and cold. So every winter, almost all Delhiites become suceptible to those cold attacks. And wisdom says medication helps just as much as the absence of it. With medication your cold will abate in a week; without it, in seven days.

Me, I am healthy otherwise (a bit too healthy perhaps, lol) and the immune system seems just fine to dodge most ailments. But the cold grips me too once in a while, and you guessed it right, I don't enjoy that.

So with the onset of winter this season, I was targetted by the cold monster one morning. When the tissues started pershing in dozens, I knew it was time to enter the combat zone. I decided to chase the cold away in a day; I couldn't bear it longer than that. So besides some chicken soup, this is what I had at regular intervals during the day:

Hot Lemonade with crushed ginger and pepper

In a glass of lukewarm water, add the juice of half a lime, some crushed ginger and freshly crushed black pepper. Add sugar to your liking and a pinch of salt. Drink 3-4 times in the day.

What actually happens when we get cold attacks is that the immune system becomes weaker and this in turn disturbs the body's balance. So the best solution is to consume things that generate heat. Or as Ayurveda says, keeping the body's fire burning. I make use of the ginger root and black pepper for this. And for strengthening my immune system, I rely on Vitamin C coming from the Citrus.

And how can I do without a cup of hot adrak (ginger in Hindi) chai? Cold or no cold, this is welcome all winter. This is how I make my cup of

Ginger tea

Put some crushed ginger into a cup of water, with 3-4 teaspoons milk added to it. Bring this to a boil. Turn off heat and put about a teaspoon of tea leaves. Cover the teapot and let the tea leaves brew for around 4-5 minutes. Now strain into a cup and add sugar.

Sip hot!

Believe me, my cold was gone the next morning. The box of tissues still has a good many left in it ;)


PS: After writing this post, I forgot I also had to tag five more bloggers. So here we go: Ashwini , Lulu , Paz , Rowena , and Deccanheffalump . Let's beat the cold monster together!