Saturday, February 27, 2010

Feedback on today’s workshop

I was so excited! Hillwood Farm location is picturesque and very unique; there are 3separate buildings inclined on a hill. The setting reminds me of an old English movie. The ‘Soul Source’ building is the very first one.

The workshop started about 10 minutes late since we waited for the last 3 people to get there. I had a full class. Started off with an introduction on Indian cuisine, spices, lentils, health benefits, etc. This took about 25 minutes. Then moved on to making the dough for the chappathis. A very cool thing about the kitchen was the range itself that reminded me of some English kitchen that you see in the movies. Although the stoves were not that effective, they were prettydecent for the demo. It felt like a kitchen show on TV with people surrounding the prep area, asking questions, watching every move of mine. I am so glad the dishes turned out tasty. It was just a tad bit spicy for one of the students who was happy to hear that cayenne pepper can be completely eliminated, and all other spices can also be adjusted to taste. One tip that I shared with the students was that Indian cuisine especially stove-top cooking is quite forgiving. They do not have to be as precise as baking for instance. So, a little less of the cayenne pepper would not make a big difference to a palette that is not used to spices.

I continued with a demo of a simple dhal and a side vegetable dish. Everything went like clockwork. The students were excellent listeners and observers. Had very good questions. Everyone sampled the dishes and thought they were delicious. There was plenty for a second and a third helping.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Breads – Is kneading necessary? Yes, for the Indian Breads (rotis)

I just read in today’s article in NYT that breads really don’t need kneading. And, that is for the kinds you get in bakeries and the ones we use at our dinner tables. Whatever the case I had always thought that more kneading means better bread. The article says not really.

If you are using bread for sandwiches, then the really fine flour needs some bit of keading because ‘homemade bread in the 1970s was modeled on English pan loaves, with a tight, even, fine-grained interior ideal for tidy sandwiches’. These were the words used in the article. But if you need crusty, light bread as long as the dough is wet and loose you can actually get the results without having to knead.

It is totally different for Indian breads though. Indian home made breads do need a lot of kneading. I don’t use any baking soda or oil or any other additive. The only way I have found to get that fluffy, light roti is to knead and also let the dough sit for a few hours. The Indian bread’s dough also needs enough moisture for a soft roti.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Naturally experience a serene, feel good state

I read an article on Huffington Post about our body’s built-in feel good chemicals, meaning when we do certain activities or eat certain foods we attain a mental and an emotional state of happiness. Sounds great. I have got to keep this in mind. I feel good when I have good tasting chocolates. But obviously I cannot have it all the time. I do feel good when I have exercised rigorously. I sometimes push myself to the point of a feeling like I will collapse. At that point I stop. I don’t do it all the time. But once that stage passes, I feel extremely healthy and light in mind and heart.

There are a few other things I do that make me feel good. I guess I should make a list of those things and repeat them day after day for a continuous production of serotonin, the anti-depressant chemical within my body.

Love to hear comments on this one.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Here’s a simple Chole recipe (pronounced cholae)

This dish is northern Indian in origin. Made with Garbanzo beans, it can be turned into a delectable side dish. Tastes great with Puris or Bhatura.

Pointer 1: You’ll find Garbanzo cans in the ethnic/hispanic section of a regular grocery store.
Pointer 2: An ambitious cook like my mom, rarely me, would buy this raw, soak it overnight and then pressure cook. When cooked that fresh the finished dish can literally take you to the heavens.
Pointer 3: Coriander leaves as pictured above is a great garnish for vegetables. Just the right amount is sure to enhance the dish.


* 1 can of Garbanzo beans
* 2 large tomatoes, diced
* 2 Tbsp. Canola oil (you may use olive oil)
* 1 medium-sized onion, diced
* 4 cloves of garlic, crushed or diced
* 1 clove
* 1 small piece of cinnamon stick
* Red chilie powder to suit your taste
* 1 tsp. turmeric^
* 2 tsp. coriander powder^
* 2 tsp. cumin powder^
* 2 tsp. garam masala^
* 1 tsp. of concentrated tamarind paste^
* Salt to taste
* 2 Tbsps. fresh coriander leaves

Take a wok^ or a skillet. Add the oil and let it warm. Now add the cinnamon stick and clove. They will turn slightly brown. Now add garlic, saute for a couple minutes. Add the onions. Let it become translucent (saute for 5 minutes). Now add the turneric, coriander, cumin, and chilli powders. Let them roast for a couple minutes. Add the diced tomatoes. Let the mixture cook together for another 5 minutes. Now add the beans after draining the water. Add salt. Add about 1/2 a cup of regular water. Mix everything well in the wok/skillet. Cover it with a lid. Let everything cook for about 15 minutes. Make sure that the garbanzo and the spices are mixed well as they cook. Now take a potato masher and mash the garbanao just a bit so some of them are broken down. Add the tamarind paste and let it cook again for 5 more minutes. Now add the garam masala. Mix well. Turn off heat. Sprinkle the coriander leaves after it is transfered to a serving dish.

^Contact me for any of the spices or utensils via the contact form here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pizza for dinner

I love pizza. Last week when I was in india I tasted Domino’s stuffed pizza. The first bite was okay but I did not care for the cheese at all. Sorry, it is no match for what we get in the U.S. Maybe a different type of cheese would have done it.

Sometimes it is the sauce, at other times it may be the crust or the cheese. Crust is quite important for a tasty pizza. The secret to a good crust is a round stone surface. You can find this at any kitchen show or specialty home sale such as Pampered Chef’s. It is the next best thing to a brick oven that is only available at restaurants. The crust cooks evenly and tastes great. Of course, given that the dough is made the right way. For cheese go with fresh brick mozarella cheese. If not even the regular mozarella cheese is good. Sauce? This is as important as the crust. Choose fresh non-tart variety of tomatoes. The rest is not that difficult by which I mean actually making the sauce. Just add some basic Italian spices and you’ll have the best home-made pizza.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Can anybody be a restaurant critic?

Just because someone gets paid to critique a restaurant or write a column doesn’t necessarily mean that the words of the other non-paid majority don’t matter. Paid or unpaid, they are all feedback on actual experiences. How else can anybody recommend or un-recommend a restaurant? Food lovers have to contribute their share too!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Foods for Romance… Try something different on Valentine’s day.

I have mentioned on my Web site that there are spices, vegetables and foods for different moods and emotions. Some are also considered aphrodisiacs. I do believe certain aromas, tastes and smells invoke certain senses; and can assure you chocolates for instance make me happy.

Around the world, chocolates are associated with romance and courtship. But don’t limit yourselves to just chocolates. I recently read that figs fall under the category of an aphrodisiac fruit. Don’t ask me about proof. Instead, just try it. A box of figs may be a good gift for your Valentine! If you are in doubt, add some chocolates as well.

Fear of fried foods? A once in a while treat can actually be good for you.

I am guilty of that. Fried foods if you ask me are sinful. I do not like to fry anything although my husband encourages that whenever he gets a chance. We can’t however refrain completely from frying. Here’s a way one could overcome the fear of frying.

Use olive oil. It is a monosaturated fat and can actually help our bodies. It is a dietary fat that will indeed benefit our health. For instance, you can try making sweet potato chips in the oven, instead of deep frying in a pan. Look for recipes in the next ‘recipe of the week’ on my Web site

Back from my food vacation

I will not get on the scale for at least the next 10 days. My travels over the last few weeks haven’t helped at all. If you had the chance to read my blogs you would have found quite a few restaurant and food reviews. I was at a restaurant either for breakfast, or lunch or dinner every day. Sometimes we ate two meals in a restaurant. The only reasoning in my mind was that I was not going to be in India at least for another 2 to 3 years. Hopefully, I can stay away from eating out here at home for the next month or so. Today is only day 1!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

At the Copper Chimney

Tuesday evening’s dinner was at the Copper Chimney. Dhal, Subz Handi and a tandoor naan were beyond my expectations. Will add pictures soon.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wang Garden

My food vacation continues…

I had heard that ethnic foods in India are excellent and growing in popularity. A late Sunday lunch at an Indo-chinese restaurant called Wangs Garden seemed like a good idea. The menu had a good bit of vegetarian options. I went with a hot and pepper soup, vegetable Manchurian and vegetarian noodles. For some reason the vegetables and spices used in foods here taste fresher. Possibly, there are less additives and genetically modified ingredients. I had my fill and came back with a doggy bag enough for another meal.

I gave my system a break, a welcome one that my body probably needed as well. The evening dinner was a simple, tasty meal at a friend’s home. Chappathis with a couple sabjis were just the right combination.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Hot Point or Sangeeta?

Some of our food connoiseur friends recommended another popular restaurant ‘Hot Point’ for our day 2 breakfast . It took a good bit of driving since we had no clue where the restaurant was. We finally found the place and ordered the same two things we had at Sangeeta on day 1. One bite of the idli was all it took for us to just boot out. While driving and looking for a better place to stop at, we received a call from our friend Jaidev. A strong recommendation for Sangeeta at the Abhirampuram location was all we needed. We were there within five minutes. This time I decided I’ll try something a little different so asked for chappathis. Out came a beautiful display of 2 chappathis with a side of kurma and potato masala. It tasted twice as good the second day. I’m not a coffee person but needed to share with you at least a photograph of how coffee is served. To my friends in the U.S. who rave about Starbucks I would say on your next vacation to India stop by Chennai for a cup of coffee.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sangeeta gets my vote

On my first day in Madras, we stopped by at this unassuming place for an Indian breakfast. My anticipation was already built high, however, I was not going to give a verdict until after tasting the food.

This place did not fall short. I had a couple idlis, one vada and one dosa. With all the frills around such as sambaar, chutneys and the hot chilli powder with oil, the food was just amazing. One thing I did forget to do is take some pictures.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An appeal to the several people that have spoken to me about this blog

Several of you have commented on my Web site and verbally have approved of this blog. I am going to now request you to write, send comments, ask questions.

The next few days I will be adding pictures of the wonderful foods that I will be tasting at different restaurants. I can’t wait. Hopefully, you will read them and gain knowledge about Indian vegetarian foods.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Red cabbage versus regular cabbage

I never bought red cabbage until recently. Like blueberries I do know they are loaded with antioxidants but it took me too long to accept them because of the color. If you do need a recipe, a simple one to cook the red cabbage, try this. Follow this exact recipe used for regular cabbage curry.