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Stir Fried Carrots in Chilli Onion Paste

Stir Fried Carrots in Chilli Onion Paste

Anjali Venugopal June 3, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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My love and passion for home cooked meals is not something that germinated in my veins overnight. I grew up in a household that took (and still continues to take) home cooking extremely seriously; to the extent that I can with the help of a negligible amount of effort to back me up, recall practically all the occasions my family has eaten out during my childhood. Both my Amma and my grandma are fantastic cooks with a convincing belief in a fact that they have proved time and again; that a wholesome, home cooked meal is the secret to fitness and good health. And this is possibly what got me hooked to the idea that the tastiest food, the food that gives a nudge to all your five senses, the food that lingers on in your mind for days after you have tasted it, can be whipped up within the confines of your own kitchen while you have absolute control over the quality and the quantity of every ingredient that goes into the wok.

Good food has always been held in great regard in my home; where every dish prepared is critically evaluated; praised when it was called for and criticized (constructively of course) otherwise; where a lot of love and effort goes into the preparation of a meal. As a Hindu household in Kerala, it should come as no surprise when I tell you that we have and continue to celebrate festivals of all other religions alike. I use the term ‘Hindu’ with caution, lest I should be brought within the ambit of the sheer mockery our country, headed by fanatic goons masquerading as saviours of this pure and noble way of life, propels today, shamelessly under the guise of this term. No, I am not one of them. And proudly so.

Let me not unnecessarily venture into areas that make my blood boil.

The term ‘celebration’ in my home had one, and only one meaning and that was to make a delicious, home cooked meal. I still see the twinkle in Amma’s eye when she brings up suggestions such as “maybe we should buy some tender mutton for Christmas” or “how about we prepare a yummy biryani for Eid?”

That would be followed by all of us sitting down together for lunch, laughing, smacking our lips in delight and wiping our plates clean. This practice went on meticulously for all the years I was at home and in all probability counts for a large chunk of the fondest of memories I hold within. Ah those were the days!

Today I share with you yet another incredibly easy recipe which you can whip up with around three ingredients. The base for this yummy recipe is something a lot of us don’t find too exciting; carrots. This has been a favourite dish all through my childhood and I have lost track of the number of times, Amma packed me this for lunch. Till rather recently, I was completely unaware of the possibilities of having this with anything else but rice, or Chapattis. A friend tried this recipe out and came up with the option of using this in a sandwich with some grated cheese. So, the possibilities are many, try it out and keep me posted as always.

Things you will need:

  • Carrots- 4 or 5 large ones (Chopped into round disks, not too fat)
  • Onion- 1 medium sized
  • Dried red chillies- 4-5 (vary according to heat tolerance)
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt

 

How to go about it:

  1. Grind the onion and the dried red chillies to form a roughly smooth paste.
  2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok, add the chopped carrots and the onion paste to it with adequate salt. Stir well to make sure the paste is evenly distributed. Add about ¼ glass of water, keep the wok closed and let the carrots cook well.
  3. Once the carrots are cooked, get the excess water to evaporate. Once that is done, add a bit more oil and nicely fry up the carrots. This should take about ten minutes or maybe a slight bit more. The key to this recipe is to make sure the onion paste is nice and brown, since this is what gives it that lovely flavour. So, as I always tell you, patience is the key 🙂

That was easy as pie wasn’t it? Serve with rice or chapatis and dal or even as a sandwich topping with some grate cheese. Yum Yum. This dish is quite a favourite in my part of the world and I feel it deserves a lot more. So try it out, and let me know!

 

Fried Eggplant in Coriander Chilli paste

Fried Eggplant in Coriander Chilli paste

Anjali Venugopal May 16, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_4024Getting to leave work when the sun is still out is a lovely feeling. Also, this is something which I promise to never take for granted considering all the frowns (and mumbles) that I have had to put up with in India, if and when I ever had the audacity to as much as walk out of the office door any minute before the wee hours of the night (or morning). Yesterday, as I was skipping down the winding stairs in the old, beautiful Viennese structure that houses my workplace a little past 5, I gulped when I realized that this would have been treated as nothing but a half a day’s worth of work in India. This thought nudged that sense of gratitude in me for letting me escape the monotony in that part of the world where ‘work-life balance’ is just an unholy, fictional term which is never to be uttered and is treated almost at par with the term ‘remuneration’. On giving it a second thought, I think ‘remuneration’ still takes the gleaming trophy.

We live in a world where it is somehow illogically unpardonable to speak about money at your work place, lest you should be seen as “money minded”. When being confident of your own worth (on monetary terms, of course) was deemed to be an outright crime I will never know. So, in short, once you decide to take up an employment in an organization, you are expected to erase from your memory the fact that you have a home to go back to; the fact that you have people in your life who would want (maybe need) a fraction of your time every day; the fact that you had something called a ‘life’ right before you made up your mind to inscribe your initials onto that sheet of white paper with fine print which is your employment contract. And all this without being as much as concerned about the sum that is expected to hit your bank accounts (hopefully) by the end of every month? Really now?

I am not one to preach about high flying deals like “quit your job and travel the world”. On a side note, I have always thought that such ideas are nothing but absurd, and propounded by kids who have a tad too much in their respective bank accounts all thanks to the gold plated spoons they were born with in their mouths; gold that came from the lives of toil their parents lived. Coming from an upper middle class family, I don’t need to be taught about the importance of being able to fund for yourself and for the people you love. I do not need to be taught the sheer delight a well-earned pay cheque brings. All that bothers me is the fact that the term profession and all that it stands for in our world today, is seldom seen as the ‘means to the end’; the end which is your happiness. Instead, it is seen as the end in itself and that my friend, I feel is ridiculous.

Yesterday, as I walked back home from the subway station in the warm sunshine, with the lovely, cool spring wind on my face, I felt strangely content. I was happy to go back to our warm, cosy little apartment while the sun still streamed in; while I was still pepped up as opposed to my Indian law firm days when all I would have the energy to do once I got back home in the dead of the night was to change in to my pyjamas before hitting the sack. I was in such a light mood as I got back home, that I wanted to cook something elaborate for dinner. So, I changed into one of my oversized tees and a clean pair of stone washed denims, made a visit to the supermarket round the corner, came back home and prepared a feast for the two of us, opened a can of beer each, chattered about my day to the Husband, watched a movie and went to bed early. This was the kind of day I had always dreamt of while in India. And today, as I live the dream, I cannot help but wish the same for every one of us.

Anyway getting down to business. A lot of you had written to me with suggestions for the blog and I could not be any happier. Something that I come across a tad too often is that I should concentrate more on vegetarian dishes and this is something I plan to take up very seriously. So today, I share with you a recipe to a vegetarian dish which you can whip up in practically no time. This is something I chanced upon during my pursuits to get to something more complicated which a friend of mine had suggested. Although I did not quite get the dish I had in mind quite straight, what came out of the experiment was delicious. So, here goes.

What you will need:

  1. Brinjal/Aubergines/Eggplant- 250 gms (cut into long pieces)
  2. Coriander leaves- 1 small bunch
  3. Green chilies- 4 or 5 (vary according to your heat tolerance levels)
  4. Turmeric powder- ¼ tsp
  5. Cooking oil
  6. Salt
  7. Curry leaves (optional)

 

How to go about it.

  1. Make a smooth paste of the coriander and the green chilies and keep aside.IMG_3949
  2. Heat some cooking oil in a wok and temper some curry leaves. Add the cut eggplant to the wok and sauté well. Add the salt and turmeric, mix well and keep the wok closed to make sure the eggplants are cooked well. Once they turn soft, add a bit more oil in case you feel the wok is running dry, and fry the aubergines till they are almost well done. This should take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Add the coriander chili paste and mix well. Fry the eggplants well in the paste till you lose the raw flavour of the coriander.IMG_3955
  4. All you need to do for this recipe is to make sure that the eggplants are fried well. They taste the best when they are fried till they are a step away from burnt.IMG_3960

Your eggplants fried in coriander chili paste is ready and tastes great with some hot rice and dal (lentil curry). Give it a try and let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Kerala Beef Roast

Kerala Beef Roast

Anjali Venugopal April 28, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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It’s a cold, cold day in Vienna. We even had a snow shower this morning and all this in the middle of April when it is supposed to be bright, sunny with all the flora in full bloom, occasional showers here and there and all things happy which we associate with Spring. However no, Vienna chose to play a wet blanket this week and I can’t offer any prizes for guessing that all I would want right now is a warm, cozy blanket, a mug of hot cocoa (with maybe a few marshmallows) and a good book to take me to another world. But responsibilities, responsibilities.
As I sit back, trying to focus on my to-do list for the day, I can feel my mind wandering away to the good old days, a little less than 2 decades ago, when I would spend most of my holidays in bed, reading. Apart from the frequent visits I made to the refrigerator to replenish the chocolate bars I kept munching on or to the kitchen to refill the tall glasses with more lemonade infused with dried ginger, I don’t think I ever moved from under that large worn out blanket I still hold dear. My dad made it a point to buy me books from every city he visited on work. Most of my birthday gifts, if not all, have been books. My dad was the one who introduced me to the magical world of Harry Potter before it became the life blood of my contemporaries. I remember re-reading the Enid Blyton books so many times that I can still recall the food spread on the table, complete with the large jug of warm, creamy milk, fresh from the dairy, Philip and Dinah were welcomed with, on their first trip to the farmhouse nestled in the Welsh mountains. There was something in the books that I read and re-read countless number of times, that instilled that yearning that continues to draw me to the countryside.
Among the various compartments I have meticulously segregated in my memory for all the places that have pulled at the strings of my heart, the people who have walked in and out of my life, the food I have relished, the scents I have known and the lessons I have learned, the fondest compartment would be the one where I have saved all my memories from my innumerable trips to the Munnar, the upper middle class version of the Welsh mountains for a Malayali like me. In fact, as far as my family is concerned, there is much more to Munnar than just being a summer holiday getaway. My dad was born and raised there, among the trees and the flowers, the woods and the brooks. He lived and breathed the mountain air. Needless to mention at this point that the emotion called Munnar was injected into my veins long before I knew it.
Even today, as I sit thousands of miles away from the nook that saw our little family drive through the narrow, winding mountain roads, scale the mountains covered in the majestic green velvet woven by the tea leaves, sit on the rocks by the stone chapel counting the tulips by the stone graves, all I need to do is just close my eyes and I can feel the cold mountain breeze on my nose; the scent of freshly cut tea leaves stronger than ever before and the cool of the pristine water lashing against those round pebbles as I gently put my bare feet into that shallow brook by the woods. I go back to those clear, starry nights the four of us spent huddled around the fire talking about everything the sun shines on, laughing till we cried, singing odd Mohammed Rafi numbers, pulling each other’s legs. I go back to the incredible mashed yam and hot meat curry served in old rundown shacks in the mountains; to the scent of the fresh cardamom and ginger boiling in the tea served in the village in those tiny glasses made of steel.
The recipe that I share with you today, is one that reminds me of my trips to the mountains; the traditional Kerala style beef roast. Although this is quite a staple dish in Kerala, the memories I have attached to the exotic flavor of the whole spices and the heat from the red chillies are from the time I savored this spicy meat curry from one of the shacks on the wayside in Munnar. The taste of this dish from back then still lingers on my palate and without further ado I shall get in to how it is done.
Things you will need:
1. Beef- 500 gms chopped into small bite sized pieces
2. Onions- 2 large finely sliced
3. Tomatoes- 2 large chopped
4. Ginger- 2 inch stick
5. Garlic- about 10 pods, you can afford to be liberal here
6. Red chili powder- 1 tbsp
7. Coriander powder- 2 tbsp
8. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
9. Ground peppercorns (powder)- 1 heaped tsp
10. Garam Masala powder- 1 tsp
11. Cloves- 6
12. Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
13. Bay leaf- 1
14. Star Anise- 1
15. Vinegar- 1 tbsp
16. Cooking oil
17. Curry leaves, mustard seeds and dried red chilies for tempering

How to go about it:
1. Heat some cooking oil in a deep wok and temper the mustard seeds and the dried red chilies. Keep the curry leaves for later. Add the whole spices (cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf and star anise) to the oil and let them release their aromas.
2. Add the finely sliced onions to the wok and sauté for a good ten minute or until the onions turn a lovely golden brown. This step is indeed important. Don’t be lazy, keep sautéing. You could add salt to the onions to make sure they brown faster.
3. Grind the ginger and the garlic to form a rough paste. Add this to the onions. Mix well and keep sautéing. Scrape the bottom of the pan as ginger garlic paste has a tendency to stick to the bottom of a hot pan. Add a bit more oil if you feel it is too dry.
4. At this stage, add the chopped tomatoes. Mix well. Keep the wok closed for about 1 minute to make sure the tomatoes are soft and cooked well. Add the powders and the vinegar at this point, mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave from the sides and the mixture begins to look homogenous, as opposed to the onions and tomato pieces floating around.
5. Add the beef pieces and mix very well. After that, transfer to a pressure cooker and cook for about 6 whistles on a medium flame or until the meat the cooked thoroughly.
6. Once the beef is done cooking, transfer the meat with the gravy back into the wok and leave it on the stove on high heat to get the water to evaporate and the gravy to thicken. Add the curry leaves at this point.
7. Allow the gravy to thicken while stirring occasionally until you achieve a semi dry, rich consistency.
8. Add a spoon of oil, fry up the meat and the lovely thick gravy nicely, one last time and your Kerala beef roast is ready! 🙂

Easy Chicken Biryani for Mr & Mrs Lazybones

Easy Chicken Biryani for Mr & Mrs Lazybones

Anjali Venugopal April 24, 2017 NO COMMENTS

IMG_3374It looks like I am still pursuing my goal of putting up one post a week. Last week was particularly busy (to be read as insane amounts of fun) with the sister around. We have been spending our days gawking at the sheer beauty this city encompasses, going on long walks on cobbled streets with tulips blooming all along the wayside, pausing at every little nook that catches our fancies, treating ourselves to an occasional ice cream cone or two. We spend all our time talking about everything the sun has ever shone on; about the challenges at our respective workplaces, the days that we spent in our childhood engaging in all sorts of mischief but sticking up for one another no matter what, about the time and effort wasted on people who least deserved it, love lost and found; in short, life in the greatest of detail.

We sat on a lone park bench in the woods for hours yesterday under the azure skies adorned with those white, fluffy clouds floating around like bits of cotton candy from the carnival, listening to the little birdies chirping away in the bushes and the trees all around, our feet softly brushing against the grass so green that it almost looked like Nature herself had decided to give the Instagram filters a shot, trying to count in vain the white and yellow daisies that seemed to have scattered themselves all over the grass carpet, chasing dandelions. It was just one of those beautiful days right out of a story book, when all you wanted to do was to spend some quality time with your loved ones talking, laughing, reminiscing, and we did just that.

With the sister around, it has been an easy week for the Husband and for me because it means that there is an extra pair of hands in the house, and that too, a pair that is ever so willing to help out with the household chores. Although we have been getting her to try out all our favourite joints in the city, we have still been cooking at least one meal per day at home. In other words, she is being bombarded with food and drink from all sides, every single day.

That brings me to the point.

I have been receiving quite a few requests for an easy biryani recipe, for some time now. And with two people in the house who are possibly the biggest fans of the enterprise called Biryani, I could not have been bestowed with a better opportunity to try out a recipe that I have been developing in my head for months. I do not normally deviate from my fail safe recipe for Biryani, but I did realise that the recipe does not exactly cater to the crowd that I want to help out; the beginner/lazy cooks, who enjoy great home cooked food nevertheless. A bad biryani is unpardonable in my books and this, in all likelihood, is the easiest recipe for a yummy Biryani and trust me, not a soul will guess the negligible amount of effort that goes in to whipping up this royalty. This took me exactly 45 minutes and that I believe is quite something. Added bonus, you end up looking like nothing less than an Indian chef extraordinaire. So, here goes.

Things you will need:

(Serves 4)

  1. Chicken- 500 grams (boneless, cut into small pieces)
  2. Basmati Rice- 2 cups
  3. Onions- 2 medium sized sliced finely
  4. Tomatoes- 2 medium sized chopped
  5. Cloves- 6
  6. Cinnamon- 1 inch stick
  7. Green Cardamoms- 3
  8. Bay Leaf- ½
  9. Garam Masala powder- 1 tsp
  10. Red Chili powder- 2 tsp
  11. Coriander Powder- 1 ½ tbsp
  12. Turmeric Powder- ½ tsp
  13. Ghee
  14. Cooking oil
  15. Cashews- 15-20 (broken into halves)
  16. Raisins- 15-20
  17. Fresh coriander leaves chopped- ¼ cup

For the marination

  1. Yoghurt- 2 tbsp
  2. Red chili powder- ½ tsp
  3. Turmeric- ½ tsp
  4. Salt
  5. Vinegar- 1 Tbsp

How to go about it

  1. First, marinate the chicken with all the ingredients mentioned under the head “for the marination”. Let the chicken marinate for about an hour, lesser if you are too hungry to care.
  2. Next you need to cook the rice. While cooking the rice (you may choose to use a rice cooker or pressure cooker or even an open vessel to cook rice) add ½ a teaspoon of salt, the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom and a little more than 1 tablespoon of ghee to the water. Once the rice is cooked well, keep it aside to cool. Important to ensure that you don’t overcook the rice since the consistency of the rice is what determines the texture of the biryani.
  3. Next, in a deep wok, heat some cooking oil and sauté the sliced onions till they turn a nice golden brown. Yet again, for the umpteenth time, the effort you put into sautéing the onions is what determines the final quality of the dish you serve.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mix well and keep the wok closed for about a minute so that the tomatoes are cooked well. After the tomatoes are cooked, keep sautéing for about three to four minutes or until the tomatoes lose their raw smell. Add the powders at this point and mix well and keep sautéing till the oil starts to leave from the sides of the mixture.
  5. Add the marinated chicken to the wok, mix well and keep stirring for about two minutes. Add a little less than half a cup of water to the chicken, mix well, check the salt and keep the wok closed till the chicken is cooked completely. Once the chicken is done, open the lid and let the water content evaporate till you reach a semi dry consistency. Make sure you don’t dry the dish up completely.
  6. Next, in a pan, heat some ghee and sauté the cashews and raisins till they turn a nice golden brown. Add the chopped coriander leaves to the pan, sauté well for about another 40 seconds. Keep aside to cool.
  7. Remove the chicken from the wok temporarily. Layer half the cooked and cooled rice in the bottom of the wok. Layer the chicken on top of the first layer of rice. Layer the remaining rice on top of the chicken. Garnish with the coriander, cashews and raisins sautéed in ghee. Close the wok, leave it on the stove on minimal heat for about three to four minutes and your biryani is ready to be pounced on! 🙂

 

 

 

 

Tastes Like Home, Part 1: Dal Khichdi

Tastes Like Home, Part 1: Dal Khichdi

Anjali Venugopal February 25, 2017 2 COMMENTS

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‘Home’ is one word that can trigger a myriad of emotions in us; especially ones like me, living in faraway lands hoping to get a solid grip of the real adult life. There is something about twilight that invariably reminds me of all things home. Just as I watch the sun bid adieu outside my window, I cannot help but reminisce about my own little corner in the world, where I was taught that ‘love’ was the answer to all the questions life had to throw at you.

I get carried away to the laughter, the fun, the fights and the tears the walls of my home have witnessed through the years. I can just close my eyes, take a deep breath and I can smell my pillow who has seen more tears than I would like to admit to; I can feel the warm rice porridge seasoned with nothing but a pinch of salt on my lips fed to me by my amma’s soft hands when I came down with that wretched flu when I was 8; I can feel the taste of that crisp, raw mango my granddad plucked for my sister and me, from the neighborhood tree, which we relished with some chilli powder and salt with a dash of coconut oil; I can see my dad helping me out with my first set of tube paints; I even remember vividly the first sip of beer I had with him; I can see myself in my new pink and black frilly dress ready to celebrate my sister’s second birthday; even the first swing my dad put up for me on the chikoo tree behind my house; I can almost see myself at my granny’s knee listening to her ramblings of her first time on a ship. In fact, I can even see myself at my first formal date with the Husband, many years ago by the sea nibbling on a plate of chicken stir fried in some oriental flavours.

However, coming to think of it, I realize that the concept of ‘home’ has little to do with the structure of your house. It is the memories you have made all your life with the people you love without realizing you were making them. But to me, food plays a serious role in bringing back these memories. I associate a great deal of nostalgia with every bite I take and it is no secret that every time I miss home, a good home cooked meal helps to alleviate the emotional turmoil at least by 20%. Well, that is how it works for me.

There are days when I am moody beyond human comprehension and the only thing I want to do, is devour a plate of hot rice with amma’s spicy fish curry. There are other days when I sense a void, when nothing but a plate of some steaming hot momos, drenched in that killer sauce can satiate my soul. I come to realize that every single place I have spent a reasonable amount of my time at, has something to contribute to what I call ‘my idea of home food’. I have seen a considerable portion of India, ever since I left home at 17 and each of the cities I have had to spend a fraction of my life in, have in some way or the other affected my taste buds and the way I see food in general.

When I left home in 2007, my palate could not have been more mallu. All I craved for, day in and day out, was some boiled rice, stir fried vegetables and the mackerel curry. However, at some point in my life, it dawned on me that my palate has evolved and that there are days when I crave for that Andhra Chili Chicken from Nagarjuna on Residency Road, in Bangalore. There are other days when I all want is a plate of Rajma Chawal from my hostel in Delhi. Or maybe just some rich Dal and that sweet Kadhi that is lovingly served at Mayur Thali on JM Road, in Pune. Maybe this signifies that all these cities have, in some way or the other, altered my definition of home and have broadened it to include the love that is served in the form of food in our incredibly diverse nation; and this being solely because I may have unlocked certain cockles of my heart when I unknowingly felt at home in the nooks and corners of these places that warmly took me in.

So, today I share with you my recipe for a dish that is so warm and wholesome that it could arguably be the number 1 comfort food for many of us; the Dal Khichdi. It took me many years to comprehend that the sick man’s khichdi had a yummy variation too. Here I share with you, the not so sick man’s version of the simplest Dal Khichdi. Whip up a plate of this for yourself, and feel at home!

Things you will need:

  1. Masoor dal- ½ cup (red split lentils)
  2. Basmati rice- ½ cup
  3. Turmeric powder- ½ teaspoon
  4. Chilli powder- less than ¼ teaspoon
  5. Onion- 1 medium sliced finely
  6. Garlic- 4-5 pods sliced finely
  7. Ghee- as you may deem fit
  8. Water- 4-5 cups
  9. Mustard seeds, dried red chillies- for tempering

 

How to go about it

  1. In a pressure cooker, add the rice and the dal (1:1 ratio) along with the turmeric powder, chilli powder, salt and one tbsp of ghee. Add 4-5 cups of water. (I prefer my khichdi nice and gooey) Let it cook on a low flame for about 5 whistles. After the whistles, keep the cooker aside and allow the pressure to drop on its own.
  2. In the meantime, in a pan, heat some cooking oil and temper the mustard seeds and the red chillies. Once tempered, sauté the onions and the garlic till they turn nice and brown and start giving out that wonderful garlicky aroma.
  3. Once the pressure has dropped, whisk the rice and dal well to achieve an even consistency. Add the tempered onions and garlic to the khichdi and mix well. Drizzle some ghee on your khichdi in the end and your khichdi is ready to be pounced on.
Chicken Chettinad

Chicken Chettinad

Anjali Venugopal February 17, 2017 NO COMMENTS

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Today for some strange reason, feels like a super productive day; feels like I have achieved quite a bit. Whereas, in reality, all I have actually done is find my way around the city, relying solely on my phone or my instincts as I would rather believe. My exceedingly pitiable navigational skill is no secret. I currently hold the record for the maximum number of times a single person has circled the same area around my (ex)house in Mumbai before eventually ‘accidentally’ finding the house, that seemed to have miraculously risen from the ground sometime during the last lap. Keeping that in mind, you cannot blame me for gloating a slight bit for having successfully found the way back home, after my jaunt to the newly discovered salon.

It is a norm all the world over, that the lady at the salon would be talking nineteen to the dozen while tending to you. At least that is how it normally is with us women, I am not quite certain if that’s how it works with the men. Care to update me on that front? The nice lady at the salon today, was no exception. She was warm and friendly and refrained from asking any inappropriate questions whatsoever (brownie points right there). She was just happy to yap on about how she moved to Vienna 21 years ago, newly married and how she set up her home from scratch with her husband; how she knew absolutely no one in the city and how daunting it was at the beginning; how she made a drab little apartment her home and how she started warming up to the new environment.

I could relate to her banter on so many levels. Hearing that this path I am walking on has been trodden many many times before me, felt like a cool breeze on my forehead glistening with sweat on a sultry day in May. While walking back to the tram station I kept replaying the stories I had heard for the day in my head, as usual. What she had said was so true; there certainly is something incredibly beautiful about setting out on your journey of life, in a new city, with the love of your life. Something endearing about that strange emotion you encounter just as you hug your mother tight right before you set out to make your own home, just as your mother did, many years ago. Something unnerving about the responsibilities that await you in a foreign land.

I have been living on my own since I was about 17. For the longest time I thought I had mastered it all; living alone, cooking, cleaning, looking after your keys and other such belongings, dealing with homesickness, managing money, the list is endless. However, nothing can (or should be allowed to) take away the joy of setting up your own home as a couple. Starting from the first step of figuring out (to be read as arguing/ biting each others’ heads off) the expendable budget for a home, the journey is nothing like anything I have done before. I still remember the day we moved in and we were faced with the quick decision of who sleeps on which side of the bed. That was cake walk because the Husband picked the side with the plug points which meant that I got what I wanted; the side with the bed side shelf to store my lip balm and foot cream. Haha. Well, the point being, every single step is a joy in its own way. Be it picking that gigantic floor lamp together, or the visits to ikea and spending almost your life’s savings, be it the day you sit together under the blanket on a cold day browsing through fifty thousand pages on amazon trying to fix on the right vase for round wooden dining table, be the aimless walks through the supermarkets every weekend stocking up on groceries, be it that bottle of white wine that called to be opened since new wine glasses had joined the family or even the walks to the florist around the corner to decide whether to pick yellow tulips or those pretty white carnations.

I shall now make an abrupt detour and get into business. Today, I share with you the recipe to an incredibly yummy chicken gravy (yet again 🙁 I promise I am finalising a few of my vegetarian recipes and you shall get hold of them in no time). This time, a Chicken Chettinad recipe. This popular and much loved dish from south India does not need an introduction. For all those days your palate craves for some spicy south indian food,  here you go.

Things you will need:

  1. Chicken- 500 grams
  2. Onions- 2 large sliced
  3. Tomatoes- 2 medium chopped
  4. Ginger garlic paste- 1 tbsp
  5. Turmeric powder- 1 tsp
  6. Corinader leaves (chopped)- quarter cup

To roast:

  1. Cinnamon sticks- 2 pieces about an inch long
  2. Cloves- 6
  3. Peppercorns- 1 tbsp
  4. Whole coriander seeds- 1 tbsp
  5. Cardamom pods- 4
  6. Dried Kashmiri chillies- 3 large
  7. Grated Coconut/ desiccated coconut powder- 2 ½ tbsp.

How to go about it:

  1. First, in a pan, roast on a medium flame, the ingredients from 1-6 under the heading “to roast” till you get the aroma of the spices. This should take about 4 minutes.
  2. Then add to the pan (with the spices) the grated coconut or coconut powder and roast till the coconut turns a nice golden brown. The coconut powder will brown much faster in comparison with actual coconut. Once it reaches the golden brown colour, take the pan off the heat and keep it aside to cool. Once cool, grind the roasted mix in a grinder without using any water, to form a smooth powder, keep it aside. (“Roast Spices Powder”)
  3. Next, in a wok, heat some cooking oil. Sauté the onions well till they are turn a golden brown.
  4. Add the ginger garlic paste and keep sauteeing till the raw smell is lost.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes, sauté for a couple of minutes and keep the wok closed for a minute or two.
  6. Once the onions and tomatoes are soft and cooked thoroughly, add the turmeric powder the Roast Spices Powder and mix well.
  7. Add the cleaned pieces of the chicken along with a teaspoon of vinegar, mix well and then keep the wok closed till the chicken fully cooked. (Stir occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the wok).
  8. Once done, add the chopped coriander leaves to the gravy and mix well before taking the wok off the stove.
  9. Serve with hot white rice or chapatis or anything else that suits your fancy 🙂