Sunday, 9 June 2013

Masala Fried Prawns

I think most people I know agree that prawns are their personal favorite seafood. In fact I have a friend who's allergic to prawns and still ate them! Obviously I was a little bit surprised when his face swelled up to twice its size! But such is the love for prawns.

When I used to think prawns I would think Goa. Sitting in a shack somewhere on the beach eating prawn curry and prawn masala. That was until we went to Diveagar!

To celebrate my 21st birthday Regina and I decided to go to Diveagar. It's a tiny little town on the coast around 210 km from Pune, just off the Mumbai - Goa highway. To make things more interesting we decided to take me 9 year old second hand Activa! The route was beautiful and was incredible fun albeit tiring and the road was terrible. After 6 hours of riding we reached at 11 o'clock at night and crashed.

Next morning we were starving. Being on the coast we wanted to eat some seafood but there wasn't a restaurant in sight! We went to the one shop there was and asked where we could get some lunch. He told us that we'd have to place an order an hour in advance and we could ask for anything we wanted! No points for guessing what we asked for - prawns!

Lunch was incredible, we were served a delicious fish curry, rice, rotis and a plateful of delectable prawns. Considering all the ingredients were so amazingly fresh, our taste buds went on a riot. The prawns were cooked perfectly, had a slightly spicy 'masala'; but still retained their true 'prawny' flavor! The most intriguing part was that the prawns had an almost sweet flavor, its difficult to describe such pleasure!

We haven't been to Diveagar again, and unfortunately, never managed to get the prawn recipe. Imagine my happiness when this recipe came out spot on, and took me straight back to Diveagar. Here's to nostalgia.. and prawns!

Ingredients -
  • 250g shelled Prawns
  • 1 medium Onion, roughly chopped
  • 7-8 cloves Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1tsp red Chili powder
  • 2tbsp Lemon juice
  • 2tbsp Coriander (stalks and roots), roughly chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 2tbsp Oil
Fry the garlic and onions in the oil till they are golden and fragrant. Add the chilli and fry for a further minute.

Place the onion mixture, coriander, salt and lemon juice in a food processor and grind to a smooth paste.

Mix the prawns with the marinade and allow to sit for a couple of minutes.

Fry the marinaded prawns (in the same dish that you fried the onions; you won't need to add any more oil) till they are cooked through and the marinade has dried through.

Garnish with the coriander leaves and a few wedges of lemon. Serve hot. 

The Best Fudgy Chocolate Brownies

Who doesn't love the chewy, fudgy, chocolatey, crunchy goodness of freshly baked brownies! They're like the perfect cross between fudge, cookie and cake and go oh so well with ice cream.

This recipe for fudgy chocolate brownies was found by my grandmother who is the best cook I know. She got me to make them and agreed that they are the best brownies she's had so far! They come out chewy, fudgy and warm on the inside and crunchy on the outside. Easy to make and so yummy.

Ingredients -
  • 10 tbsp Butter
  • 1 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract/Essence
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1/2 cup Flour
  • 3/4 cup Walnuts (Optional)
Mix the butter, sugar, cocoa powder and salt in a microwavable bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, mixing in between, until all the butter is melted and the mixture is relatively smooth. It may appear grainy but that will be taken care of once the rest of the ingredients are added. (If you don't have a microwave you could use a stove, be sure not to burn the ingredients).

Let the mixture cool a little bit till it is warm to the touch. Add the vanilla extract and eggs and stir well. Add the flour and if using walnuts add as well. Fold it all together till the flour is completely incorporated.

Pour the mixture into a cake tin lined with foil (to make it easier to take it out) and bake at 325 F for 20 - 25 mins until a toothpick poked in the middle comes out with just a few crumbs. Take out and let it cool before slicing.

Gobble them up just like that or serve with ice cream.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies

I have heard about oatmeal cookies so often; but have somehow never eaten them or even tried to make them. My mother enjoys eating oat porridge (I don't) and therefore, I saw a huge bag of oats in my kitchen shelf a few days ago. Understandably, something had to be made!

I knew that the basic idea of oatmeal cookies was that you replace some of the flour with lots and lots of oats. It was too late in the night to bring out all the 'heavy equipment' and that is why this is the easiest recipe ever. Even I was surprised by the results - crisp yet chewy at the same time. 

This recipe makes 12 medium sized cookies

  • 1tbsp soft Butter
  • 3tbsp Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 cup Flour
  • 2 cups Oats (I used regular instant oats)
  • 2tbsp Cinnamon
Beat the sugar and butter till it is light and creamy, add the egg and beat for a further minute.

Add the flour and oats to the egg mixture and gently mix in. You will be left with a rather sticky dough.

Divide the dough into 12 equal parts and roll into small balls. Arrange on your baking sheet, and flatten slightly till they are about 1 cm thick disks. Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon over each cookie. Bake in an oven pre-heated to 200C for 10 minutes, and a further 3-4 minutes at 225C. Allow to cook slightly and then place on your cooling rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Creamy Coconut Prawn Curry

Every year; I go to West Bengal to visit my father. It is a refreshing change from the heat and the traffic in Ahmedabad. Also; I get to eat prawns to my hearts content.

Manas Da is one of my fathers closest friends; he is a wonderful person with a voice like an angel. His wife is incredibly sweet, and we somehow manage to converse even though we barely speak the same language! Considering my father is Marvadi, we never used to eat meat in the house till my father decided to build an outhouse. Before that (and even now), it was Manas Da who would satisfy all my meat cravings. It was he who introduced me to prawn heads and made me fall in love with them!

Manas Da and his family are true food lovers and appreciate good food. Understandably, they are also incredible cooks, especially his wife and mother. I still remember the taste of the prawn curry Moni used to make.

This recipe finally materialized in Pune when I was truly desperate for prawns. It may not be absolutely authentic, but it sure is delicious.

Recipe inspired by Manas Da and his wife Moni; two amazing people and true food connoisseurs; who enjoy eating just as much as they enjoy feeding people.

  • 1kg shelled Prawns
  • 2 fresh Coconuts, grated
  • 2tbsp Ginger, roughly chopped (do not peel the ginger as the skin holds a lot of flavor)
  • 1tbsp Cumin seeds
  • 5 green Chilies, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, ground to a paste
  • 3tbsp Mustard oil
  • 1tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1tsp red Chili powder
  • Salt to taste
Marinade the prawns in the turmeric powder and chili powder for a few minutes. Heat the mustard oil in a deep wok and fry the prawns till they are almost cooked; set aside.

Grind the ginger, cumin and green chilies to a fine paste.

Mix 4 cups of hot water in the grated coconut and squeeze through to get the coconut milk.

Pour a small amount of the coconut milk (this will act as your oil) in the wok (the same one you fried your prawns in to retain as much of flavor as possible) and heat. Mix in the onion paste and the ginger paste and fry till the mixture is cooked through (you will notice a little bit of oil releasing on the sides and the mixture will be rather fragrant). Add the prawns and fry for a minute. Pour in the remaining coconut milk and simmer on a low flame for a further five minutes. You can now add salt as per your taste. Serve hot with steamed rice.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Kalonji and Onion Seeds

Kalonji is widely used in Indian cooking. They are little black colored seeds and add a nice peppery flavor to your cooking. They are mostly used in pickles and achaar. People often refer to Kalonji as Onion Seeds. This is not true!

The botanical name of kalonji is Nigella Sativa. They look almost exactly like onion seeds, but the flavor slightly differs. Onion seeds are rarely used in cooking and are mainly for actually growing onions!

Although you will find many sources that say onion seeds and kalonji are the same; even I thought they were; this is not the case! Kalonji and Onion Seeds come from two completely different families.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Indian Working Hours

Working in an international call center, it is difficult to find out what the official working hours for the respective countries are. It is only due to my work that I discovered that different countries have different work weeks and break patterns. For example, UAE takes their week off on Friday and Saturday with Thursday being a half-day. Their timings are also incredibly different, they work for a couple of hours in the morning and then take an elongated break till the evening when they start working for a couple of hours again. Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia follow a similar pattern. This is incredibly different to India.

India's work week is Monday to Friday, with Saturday being half day in a few organizations. The work day generally starts at 9:00am and finishes at 5:00pm/6:00pm. Lunch break takes place in the afternoon, from 1:00pm to 2:00pm.

This post may not seem of much concern to most of us, but after having to spend hours to find out official break timings and working hours for a number of countries, I'm sure this will help at least some one!

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Garlic Salt

I was in Hyderabad for a couple of days last year. We went to a shopping mall to pick up some supplies and I went completely insane. There was so much to choose from. There were even things that you wouldn't think existed! I came across a section that was entirely devoted to salt - garlic, onion, coriander, ginger, celery and so on. Not being a millionaire, I chose from all these options and picked up a jar of garlic salt. It got finished in two weeks!

I have a close affinity with garlic, the flavor of garlic speaks to me and I use it extensively in my cooking. Therefore, I decided to try making a batch of garlic salt. It worked out perfectly! This makes a small bottle garlic salt.

Ingredients -
  • 3 pods Garlic
  • 4tbsp Salt
Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Cover the garlic with salt and place on a tray. Let it dry out completely in the sun for a couple of days. Blend the garlic and salt to a fine powder in a food processor; store in an airtight jar.