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. 

Aloo ka Paratha

Parathas are a type of roti. They are layered which makes them heavier than normal rotis. You can have plain parathas which are layered with oil making them flaky and crisp; or, you can have stuffed parathas. The most popular fillings being potato, cauliflower, white radish/daikon (mooli), cheese, even left over rice! Parathas are best when they are piping hot, the traditional condiments are yogurt or raita, chutney, butter and pickle.

This is a basic recipe, you can add some grated ginger or garlic, aromatic spices, and tweak the measurements around to suit your taste-buds. This recipe makes 7-8 large parathas.

Ingredients -
  • 6 medium sized Potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 2 medium sized Onions, finely chopped
  • 4 green Chilies, finely sliced
  • 1tsp Salt/Garlic Salt
  • 1tsp red Chili powder
  • 800g Atta
  • Water
  • Oil for cooking
Mix the mashed potato, onions, green chilies, red chili and salt together. Taste the mixture and you can add more spice according to your taste. Let the flavors be a little strong as they will become subdued once you stuff them in the atta dough. Divide the potato mixture into 8 even balls

Place the atta in a large dough, add enough water and knead to form a soft dough. You will need about a glass and a half of water. Divide the dough into 8 even balls.

Take one ball of dough and flatten it out slightly, place one ball of the potato mixture in the center and bring up the sides of the dough to get a large ball (potato on the inside, dough on the outside). Flatten this potato-dough ball out with your fingers, and use a rolling pin to roll out to a thickness of about 1/2cm. Cook the paratha on a non-stick frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side, then add half a teaspoon of oil to each side and cook till it is golden brown. Serve hot.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Gooey Center Chocolate

The paternal side of my family is massive. My grandfather had four brothers and three sisters, each having a couple of children, who then went on to have some more; so you can imagine how many cousins I have! Every couple of years, the family tries to come together for some event - a wedding, an anniversary or even a funeral! It was in one such event that I met my cousin Rashi after years.

After a few days of gossiping and exploring; we entered the kitchen. Rashi enjoys cooking and eating just as much as the rest of the family. She's the one who taught me this simple recipe, which has an incredibly fancy result!

Ingredients -
  • 4tbsp Condensed milk
  • 20g Butter
  • 250g Chocolate
Melt all the chocolate over a double boiler and keep aside. (I will upload a post on how to temper chocolate properly later).

Beat the butter till it is smooth and slightly pale. Add the condensed milk and 100g of the melted chocolate. This mixture will form the gooey centers.

Pour little amount of chocolate in your molds and swirl around so that all the sides are completely covered. Upturn the mold over your bowl of chocolate and gentle tap to remove any excess chocolate. Allow these shells to set in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Pipe small amounts of the previously made chocolate mixture into the shells till they are three fourth full. Allow to set again for a few minutes. Cover the shells completely with chocolate and set till the chocolate is completely firm. Pop the gooey center chocolates out of the molds and enjoy!

Spicy Lemon Pickle

Any kind of pickle or achaar can spice up a boring dish. My debut with pickle occurred for a very random reason. I was walking out of my society when a lady stopped me and handed over a bag full of lemons. Confused I asked her who they were from; my neighbor had sent them for my grandmother. That's when inspiration struck! There wasn't much I could do with a kilo of lemons apart from make pickle of it. This is an incredibly simple recipe and the amounts can be tweaked according to your tastes. The advantage of making your own pickle is that it will taste exactly how you want it, and there are no preservatives. The measurements that I have given make a rather spicy pickle, incredibly delicious!

Ingredients -
  • 20 medium sized Lemons, quartered
  • 3tbsp red Chili powder
  • 5tbsp Sugar
  • 5tbsp Salt
  • 1 cup of sliced Ginger
  • 3 green Chilies, sliced length-wise
  • A large glass bottle
Soak the bottle in some hot water to sterilize it. Allow it to dry completely in the sun.

Squeeze the juice from the lemon quarters into the bottle and throw the skins in as well. Add all of the remaining ingredients. Close the bottle tightly and shake till everything is combined completely. Place the bottle in the sun for a week shaking it occasionally. The pickle will be ready in about two weeks.

Note - if you want the pickle to mature faster, you can further halve the lemon quarters!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Banoffee Pudding

Ingredients -
  • 1 tin Condensed milk (400g)
  • 4 Bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup crushed Biscuits
  • 20g Butter
  • 200ml fresh Cream, whipped to soft peaks
  • 50g Chocolate, grated
Put the condensed milk in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook on a low flame till the color darkens slightly and the mixture thickens to a sticky toffee like texture.

Mix the crushed biscuits with the butter and line the base of a glass dish with this mixture. Pat the mixture slightly till you have a rather firm base.

Arrange the sliced bananas over the biscuit base. Spread the toffee over the bananas; cover completely with the whipped cream. Sprinkle the grated chocolate on top. Allow the pudding to set in the refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours. Serve cold!