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Author Archives: arundati

A simple summer spaghetti recipe and a long story

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Some days Most days, I cook just to get done with a meal and don’t put too much thought when my only aim is to whiz in and out of the kitchen. I always wonder how my mom did it. These days, I have far greater respect for her than she could imagine. As a working woman in the 80’s with school going children, a bed ridden mother in law, a blind brother, rambling house, pets and assorted creatures living and a retinue of permanent and semi permanent house guests, I wonder how she managed. Not that I or my brother gave it much thought, but we always had a welcoming if sometimes messy home, hot freshly made food on the table at all meals and some non negotiable rules about things such as eating what is on the plate and rudeness quotient for behaviour.

Everything else was pretty much flexible. We didn’t have maddening schedules but we had to help around the house. I cannot remember not being a house / kitchen help since I was 5-6. We had strict rules about eating as a family at the table and no TV while eating. Duties were gender neutral and included bathing and dressing ourselves, laying and clearing the table, filling bottles with drinking water from the blasted water filters and feeding and bathing the pets.

I cannot remember her asking for ‘me time’ or ever laboring over what to cook. Favorites were made by rotation on the weekend, but that apart no fuss about food was entertained. She discharged her duties with utmost responsibility and made sure everyone was taken care of without feeling smothered.

What's an occasion that isn't marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

What’s an occasion that isn’t marked with a selfie? Enroute the hospital for the surgery

Yesterday Amma had an eye surgery for cataract. This is in today’s time a simple 15 minute procedure. In her case, it is far more complicated because she has only one eye. A few years ago, after multiple operations to help her with her eyesight failed, Amma became fully blind in one eye with an irreversible damage to her optical nerve. The last couple of surgeries had to be abandoned because of complications and contributed to the rapid loss of her eye. The other eye has 30% vision and that made this operation even more critical.

She travels between my brother’s home and mine alone, manages her daily routine, even reads the newspapers with a magnifying glass, chops vegetables and cooks full meals. She is determined to make the best use of whatever vision she has and not be a bother to anyone around. She has a busy circle of friends and family that she keeps in touch with. Watches her favourite TV programs sometimes relying only on the dialogues to figure out what is happening and freely gives her opinion on everything from how clumsy I sometimes am to football teams in the current world cup :). We were fortunate to find a doctor who invested almost 2 years to understand her case and gain her trust. He reassured her that he would operate only when it was absolutely needed and only in her interest.

So last week when the doctor told her at the end of a routine check up that it was time, though she was anxious, she agreed. She spent the week preparing mentally for being sightless for atleast 6 hours post operation. She counted the steps from her bed to the washroom and dining table and back and practiced with her eyes closed. She made little packets of her medication and kept them ready so that I wouldn’t have to help her figure out which ones to take. She told the doctor that she was in his hands and that he was in God’s hands as she walked in for her procedure.

After a half day’s stay at the hospital, we came back home yesterday. The procedure went well and the doctor has said that he was happy with the outcome. He was able to successfully remove the cataract and some growth that would help her see a little clearer than before. Amma is recovering well. She has eaten all her meals by herself with a spoon, seated at the table. While I was busy in the kitchen, she found her clothes, freshened up, changed herself and combed her hair. I am scanning all phone calls from her close circle of trusted friends and family who are checking on her progress. She is tenacious and determined not to ask for help unless needed, yet she knows her limitations and wont jeopardize herself by taking unnecessary risks.

If I turn out to be even a fraction of what she is as a person, I will be very happy with myself.

The recipe I am sharing today is unlike what Amma would have rustled up. On the busiest day too, the table would be laden with rice, rotis, dal and atleast one vegetable or meat dish, all made from scratch. The kitchen appliances and other conveniences I so much take for granted were not available, no pastes, no frozen masalas, no fuss.

I turn to pasta when in doubt. When I need to feed just myself, when I couldn’t care less about what to cook. This is an ingredient that lends itself so well to any situation. It is a summer pasta and inspired by what I saw my current TV chef obsession David Rocco cook in an episode while travelling in India. My fellow salivator over David Rocco, R too made something similar and when I saw her post, I thought I should post this recipe of easy pasta (do I ever post anything that I don’t claim is easy to make?) too.

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti

Summer Spaghetti Recipe (serves 2)

Spaghetti or any other dry pasta for 2 servings

1/2 piece of Green Zucchini (About 4-5 inches, sliced)

6-8 button Mushrooms, washed (yes they are dirty in India), wiped and quartered

1 large Roma or other firm ripe tomato, chopped into 8 pieces

2-3 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil (be generous)

a small sprig of fresh basil (1/2 teaspoon of dried)

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pods of garlic, peeled and sliced finely

2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice

2-3 tablespoons of parmesan cheese (optional, I never have this on hand)

In a wide pan, bring about 2 litres of water to a rolling boil and add 1 teaspoon of salt to it.

Add the spaghetti and cook stirring till done the way you like it. I do not like it al dente, so I cook it 1 minute more than that. By all means cook the pasta the way YOU like eating it :D

Drain the pasta and reserve 1/2 cup of the water. Set aside the cooked pasta.

In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fry the garlic till just turning a shade darker. Add the zucchini slices and cook till they are turning golden around the edges, turn over gently and repeat. Remove the zucchini slices to a plate.

Add the tomatoes and mushrooms to the remaining hot oil and toss till they are beginning to wilt about 2 minutes but retain a crunch. The idea is not to cook them till mushy so cooking time is flexible as per your taste. Add the cooked spaghetti, zucchini slices and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste and the torn basil leaves. Toss well. Add a little of the reserved cooking liquid if it is very dry.

Turn off the heat. Drizzle on the lemon juice and toss well before serving it out into bowls and top with some parmesan cheese if you have it or drizzle the remaining olive oil. Serve.

This is a simple dish and can be served with a nice soup or salad on the side. For a non veg version, grilled chicken or prawns can be added to the mix. The simple flavours are so refreshing from the loaded with tomato / sauce / cheese pasta dishes that we usually reach out for.

Breakfast Ideas ~ Egg Salad Rolls

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Stop stealing my eggs!

Stop stealing my eggs!

I find myself dipping into Sage’s share of boiled eggs once in a while for a quick snack, an idle time eat, to pimp up my salad or just dunk into a tomato onion gravy. Having a couple of boiled eggs on hand has always allowed me to be fed on days when K is travelling or I am feeling particularly slothful.

I had to come up with an easy kid friendly breakfast recipe for my newspaper column and decided I had to pay homage to one of my favourite ways of eating boiled eggs – egg salad.

There is nothing much to ‘making’ this breakfast roll. Unless boiling an egg and toasting bread counts as cooking in your books (which it sometimes does in mine ;P)

Egg Salad Roll

Egg Salad Roll

Egg Salad Roll (Makes 2 rolls)

Wholewheat bread roll           2

Boiled Eggs                                 2

Mayonnaise                              2 tablespoons

Tomato Sauce                          1 tablespoon

Cucumber                                  ¼ chopped fine

Tomato                                      ½ chopped fine

Coriander leaves                   a small bunch

Salt and pepper                      to taste

Chop the boiled eggs into medium pieces, toss with the chopped cucumber and tomato in a bowl.

Add the mayonnaise, tomato sauce, fresh coriander leaves and salt and pepper and gently mix.

Slice the rolls in two lengthwise, gently warm them on a tava. Place a few spoonfuls of the filling along the length of the roll.

Cover with the other half. Secure with a toothpick. Serve with some tomato sauce on the side.

*This mixture can also be used to stuff a paratha or roti like a frankie and served.

 

Mango cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting

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Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

I am nothing if not a mango fiend. I brave the summers in Hyderabad only because of the fabulous array of mangoes we get here. The most popular and commercially successful one is the Banaganapalli. While my favourites are Shakkar gutli (a small apple sized mango that is sweet as sugar – shakkar +sugar) and Imampasand for its flavour, the humble banaganapalli is a good fruit to use in bakes and desserts.

I made my basic vanilla cupcake recipe and swapped out the vanilla for a dash of mango essence and pulp. The result was a moist, subtle mango cupcake. I went a few steps further and slapped on some mango flavoured buttercream. My mantra seems to be “when in doubt, go the whole hog”

I made this for a party and it was a huge hit. Try this with fresh mango pulp while the last of the season slowly inches out or with frozen if you cannot get fresh mangoes in your part of the world.

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes (makes 12 medium ones)

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar (I used regular sugar, powdered for ease of mixing)

2 eggs ( use 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt for an egg-less variant)

1 teaspoon mango essence

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of mango puree (mango pieces chopped and pureed in a blender with a splash of water)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenhiet or 175 Celsius and line muffin trays with paper liners

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the yogurt (or eggs, beating well after each addition) and beat well. Beat in the mango essence.

In another bowl, whisk the flour with salt, baking soda and baking powder

Add the mango puree and flour to the butter-sugar mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Evenly fill the paper liners with batter and bake for 18-20 minutes or till a tester comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Edited to add: Sometimes the consistency of the mango pulp/ puree can make the batter thicker than desired. Adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk / water to the batter to get cake batter consistency will help.

For the mango butter-cream frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

11/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar / icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon mango essence

1 pinch of salt

1/2 cup mango puree

Whip the butter for 1 minute on medium speed with a hand whisk/ blender until creamy. Add the sugar in 2-3 batches and whip on low speed till it has mixed well. Add the salt, essence and mango puree and mix till blended. Use as required. If the buttercream is too runny, add upto 3/4 cup more icing sugar to make piping consistency.

I used a star tip nozzle to pipe swirls on the cooled cupcakes. Added a few slivers of chopped fresh mango as garnish.

 

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

 

Beat the Heat series ~ Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

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Remember when as children, everyone strained their ears for the tinkle of the bell that the ice cream vendor would sound? Kids would rush out and pick their favourite frozen treat. Popsicles are by far one of the easiest things to make. It is as simple as making a fruit crush/ juice and freezing it and doesn’t need any specific recipe. They are also one of the best ways to beat the summer heat. I tried my hand at quite a few of them recently for an article I was writing and was quite happy at how simple it was to make them with whatever fruit is lying about at home. Devoid of artificial colour and excess sugar, these make for a nice treat.

Kulfi or ice cream moulds with the sticks are easily available in metal or plastic in supermarkets or any store selling utensils. They are also inexpensive to buy. Make sure the mould is filled right till the top for it to freeze better. If the moulds are unavailable, plastic disposable cups can be used with an ice cream stick stuck in the middle. These ice cream sticks are easily available in most grocery store.

I made a mint tea by boiling fresh mint leaves in a little bit of water as K does not like whole or crushed mint leaves except in a chutney. I think adding fresh mint leaves as they are will add a nice contrast to the popsicle, so do try it out if your family is less picky than mine!

Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

Watermelon Mojito Popsicle (Makes 6 medium popsicles)

2 cups Watermelon chunks (deseeded)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons white rum

1/4 cup water boiled with 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves and 1/4 cup sugar to make a simple syrup, strain out the mint leaves and use the syrup.

Method

Chop the watermelon and remove the seeds. Add all the ingredients in a blender jar and blend till it is smooth.

Pour this equally into the popsicle moulds and close with the lid. If not using the moulds, divide equally between 4 paper cups and place a wooden stick in the middle.

Freeze for at least 8 hours for best results. Rub the moulds between the palms to warm it slightly and pull the stick gently to unmould. Enjoy it immediately.

{Recipe} Spicy Mango Thokku (Pickle)

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Spicy Mango Thokku

Spicy Mango Thokku

Raw mangoes are still in the market and if like me you will be sad to say good bye to them, this is a good way to make them last a little longer. My mom has a made up name for this pickle – she calls it Chekkudukaya which means “grated” in telugu. This is temporary pickle that will last upto 10 days without refrigeration and for a couple of months if kept in the fridge. Eaten best with hot parathas or rice and dal with a dollop of ghee.

Spicy Mango Thokku

Spicy Mango Thokku

Spicy Mango Thokku (Makes 200 grams)

Raw Green Mango                           3 medium, skinned and grated to yield 2 cups of grated mango

Red chilli powder                            3 tablespoons, adjust according to taste

Salt3                                                      4 teaspoons, adjust according to taste

Mustard seeds                                  1 tablespoon

Fenugreek Seeds                              ½ teaspoon

Cumin seeds                                      1 tablespoon

Turmeric powder                            ½ teaspoon

For the tempering

Sesame oil                                         ¼ cup

Asafetida                                           a large pinch

Whole mustard seeds                  1 teaspoon

Dried red chilli                               1

Fenugreek seeds                            ¼ teaspoon

Ginger garlic paste                       1 teaspoon (optional)

 

Wash and wipe the mangoes. Skin them and grate them and set aside in a non reactive vessel.

Dry roast the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds for 3-4 minutes on low heat till they just begin to change colour. Cool completely and grind to a fine powder and set aside.

Add the red chilli powder, salt, ground masala powder and turmeric to the grated mango and mix well. Let this sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

Heat the oil in a kadai till it is very hot and turn the heat down. Now add the fenugreek seeds, followed by the cumin and red chilli. Saute for a few seconds. Next add the asafetida and the ginger garlic paste and saute for a couple of minutes till the ginger and garlic paste is cooked.

Add the grated mango into the kadai and turn off the heat. Mix well. Set aside to cool completely before putting it into a sterile bottle. Store in the fridge for upto 2 months.

 

{Eating Out ~ Review} Tuscany – Italian speciality restaurant at Trident, Hyderabad

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On a hot Thursday, when my nerves were frazzled by many many things, I really wanted to excuse myself out of my dinner engagement. Two things held me back from a cop out ~ I had cancelled twice already and I was in no mood to make dinner at home!

Wine cellar

Wine cellar

I’ve never had a less than great experience at  Trident, Hyderabad. So I always look forward to dining at their restaurants. Having never eaten at Tuscany, their Italian specialty restaurant, I excited. Walking in to the Restaurant, one is greeted by two walls filled with bottles, albeit of different kinds. On the right is a whole wall of decanters filled with Olive oil from the darkest green to the palest shade possible. The left of the entrance is their well stocked wine cellar with floor to ceiling racks filled with wines both Indian and imported.

Jars of Olive oil

Jars of Olive oil

Therestaurant is large and beautifully lit (open only for dinner) and the glass panes ensures diners have a view of the busy lights from the IT hub of Hitech City. We chose a table from where I could see the open fired oven which I have a fascination for! It is powered both with gas and wood and one can see the chefs put in and take out various breads and pizzas.

Focaccia

Focaccia

The fluffy focaccia studded with sun dried tomatoes that came to the table had the texture of cake. As I sheepishly remembered to pick up a fork to take a wedge, the Chef stopped me and asked me to please use my fingers. At Tuscany, they encourage you to eat with your hands. Emphasising that all Italian restaurants are filled with boisterous loud people with their entire families. And it is so similar to the way Indians eat and live, hence no need to be coy! That was music to my ears.

Olive oil tasting

Olive oil tasting

We did an olive oil tasting.  First the Ligurian olive oil  which has a light body and a nutty flavour. Next was an organic olive oil that had a milder and lighter body and flavour. My favourite tho was the Verdenso oil – non filtered, dense and very strong in flavour, with more anti-oxidants this was fun to taste while dipping the fluffy focaccia into the aromatic and sharply flavored olive oil.

Chef Manik, the genial photography enthusiast who is the new Executive chef in charge of the kitchens at Trident Hyderabad is clearly passionate about his food and ingredients. With a career of over 10 years which has seen him helm the Oberoi kitchens at Cecil and Udaipur, he brings his enthusiasm and passion for seasonal and fresh ingredients sourced very carefully to Hyderabad. Always happy to explain the use of ingredients and what character they add to the recipe. Understanding their passion for food and how it is channeled into pleasing tricky palates of customers makes for great conversation! With the food at Tuscany, the Chef and his team want guests to enjoy robust flavours that are provided by the best and freshest seasonal ingredients. Some ingredients are imported because they cannot be sourced locally, the sea food is flown in every day from Vizag and they try very hard to remove all the fuss of a five star dining experience and allow the food to do all the talking.

Frito Misto ~ Sea food platter

Frito Misto ~ Sea food platter

We began the meal with an assortment of batter fried seafood with tartar sauce and a Tuscan anchovy dip. The platter had giant prawns, scallops and squid along with broccoli and asparagus. Having never tasted scallops before, I was quite excited to try them. I loved the sweet taste and the texture, a little bit like a robust crab. The prawns were succulent and cooked just right and the asparagus was crisp and retained its colour. A good start.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio

The wine pairing which was a white wine with a fresh floral and fruity wine was served and went very well with the sea food. I do not claim to know anything about wines, except that they are catching up with the Indian customer and almost anyone I know claims to know a lot about them! The wine I tasted was Danzante Pinot Grigio (grigio meaning grey, due to the colour of the grape).

Foot long with melted mozzarella and pepperoni

Foot long with melted mozzarella and pepperoni

Next came one of my favourite dishes of the evening – A freshly baked foot-long topped with melted mozzarella and thin slices of the most amazing pepperoni. The crust of the bread, the melted indulgence of cheese, fresh basil and a dash of dried herbs and the topping was perfect and I wouldn’t have minded if the dinner ended right there!

For vegetarians, the options include a lovely fennel and arugula salad with walnuts and an orange maple vinaigrette.  The trio of Crostini topped with mushroom and mozarella, tomato and basil and roast peppers with gorgonzolla is highly recommended. Also the insalata Caprese which is a dish I am very partial to! The fresh mozzarella, tomato slices topped with pesto had a nice twist with fresh asparagus.

Next up was a delightful Tuscan tomato soup. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get a nice picture of it! Three layers of robust flavours – the tomato soup was thick and sweet with the tomatoes, the ciabatta crouton with tallegio cheese was rich and the pesto topping had a nice change in flavour.

Thin crust pizza

Thin crust pizza

There was a thin crust pizza topped with smoked chicken and goat cheese. If you do not want to eat a complicated dish, a thin crust wood fired pizza from the extensive menu is an absolute must do! The crisp edges of the pizza, the toppings and the creamy goat  and the soft melty , the smokiness of the chicken and the creaminess of the goat cheese was just perfect.

The second wine I had was the merlot from Dazante, robust and full flavoured, with lots of deep fruity notes.

Beetroot Ravioli stuffed with goat cheese

Beetroot Ravioli stuffed with goat cheese

After protesting that I had no more space in my stomach, I proceeded to devour the beet ravioli. The little discs of beetroot ravioli, stuffed again with creamy goat cheese and tossed in a flavorful sauce made of brown butter, sundried tomatoes, mixed greens and poppy seeds was terrific. I’ve never seen or eaten an Italian dish with poppy seeds. They add a nice texture and nuttiness to the sauce.

Pappardelle with lamb ragout

Pappardelle with lamb ragout

The other dish from the dinner was the homemade Pappardelle with lamb ragout. The pasta that is freshly made tastes so good that it can be eaten tossed with some olive oil and herbs. But this sauce was again reminiscent of a home style preparation, the lamb slow cooked and almost disintegrating. The fresh sage on top was just the right amount of woody flavour. A well flavoured vegetarian option is the Paccheri pasta ~ pasta with tomatoes, mozzarella and eggplant.

Home made gelatos

Home made gelatos

The icing quite literally had not yet arrived at the table. We had a selection of home made gelatos. There was every chocolate lovers indulgence – the chocolate, mocha fudge gelato. Even though I am agnostic to chocolate, I enjoyed this one. The white chocolate peanut butter was my least favourite because I dislike both the elements of peanut butter and white chocolate! I loved the freshness of the gelato that paired fresh mint with green tea, light and very refreshing.

My favourites had to be the ones spiked with booze! The Glenlivet flavoured one with candied ginger and caramelised pineapple ~ the tropical notes of the pineapple pieces and the sharpness of the candied ginger was terrifically combined with the single malt whiskey was superb to say the least. The Baileys Irish cream gelato too was hard to resist and after a half hearted protest, I proceeded to demolish this as well. There is nothing that can compare adding a full bodied flavourful swig of alcohol to desserts!

We ended the meal with a nightcap of limoncello served over crushed ice. A terrific evening of fun, conversations and truly fabulous food had ended.

Tuscany ~ The Italian Speciality Restaurant  at Trident, Hyderabad

Recommendations: Thin crust pizza, tuscan tomato soup, beetroot ravioli

Price: 2400 for a meal for two

Hours: 7.30 pm to midnight.

Location: Hitech City, Hyderabad
Credit Card Accepted: Yes
Valet Parking: Available
Telephone: 91 40 6623 2323

PS: I was invited by the hotel to dine at the restaurant but the views are my own.

Beat the Heat Series ~ Rose Falooda

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Rose Falooda

Rose Falooda

This blogging is a dangerous activity, yes it brings you in touch with like minded people, you make friends, you connect offline, but it also means that you can get quite obsessed with making / cooking what someone else is eating because you are bombarded with pictures or descriptions!

R of Hungry and Excited blog, was talking nonstop for a couple of days about replacing her meals with Falooda that she made at home to combat the heat and I was insanely jealous. I usually make falooda at home. We love having it to beat the hot summers here in Hyderabad. There are also a lot of popular places where one can have falooda that people flock to. But it was past 10:30 PM and I didn’t have ice cream on hand so I made K drive me to the nearest place and slurped more than sipped this sickeningly sweet but yummy drink/ dessert.

kesar falooda

kesar falooda

We had the special kesar falooda with dry fruit. The other popular flavours are pista, khus and ofcourse kesar

Falooda is by no means a low calorie indulgence. It is sugar laden and very filling. No wonder R was replacing her meals with it.

Falooda (makes 2 servings)

2 cups chilled milk

4 teaspoons sabja seeds soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained (basil seeds)

1/2 cup falooda sev (if not use regular semia, cook in 1/2 cup water with 2 teaspoons sugar)

3 scoops butter scotch/ vanilla or pista icecream

1/4 cup rose syrup / rooh afza

Divide all the ingredient equally as you layer in the glasses first add the rose syrup next add the soaked and drained sabja seeds

Next add the cooked falooda semia and gently pour the chilled milk so that it doesn’t mix with the rose syrup

Top with icecream & drizzle some more rose syrup, serve immediately

Instead of rose syrup any other syrup like khus / pista or kesar syrup can be used.

The pairing of icecream is as follows khus/ pista syrup with pista icecream

kesar with butterscotch or vanilla icecream

rose syrup with vanilla or strawberry icecream

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