Thursday, November 22, 2012

Reminiscing Kuwait...

This morning , I was gazing at some of the pictures taken in Kuwait and was fondly recollecting the time spent there. The early morning driving lessons with father, late-night idiosyncrasies with my beloved sis, the restaurant try-outs and then the innumerable tours to the local markets are some of the many favorites in my Kuwait retreat. It was an absolute vacation time for me to unwind and do things that I have always loved!

I am the kind of a person who in sight of neat exhibits of produces would go all glee. And to me, shopping groceries in a buzzing ,fresh local markets gets me into an excitement that's much similar to that of a kid in Disneyland. I recall how my sister gave me that mortifying look when I sniffed and examined each spice in the spice section. The vegetable markets in Kuwait are profoundly pleasant to me. The produces in these markets are always fresh and the packaging so impressive. Yet another thing, that was striking to me was the cleanliness in these markets. 

With blistering-hot climate and the extensive desert topography, one might think the agricultural development in Kuwait is very limited. One has to see to believe the huge produces of this dry country. Some say the local growers use extensive amount of pesticides but I don't know if thats true. All I cared was to take pictures. So more than I had shopped, I clicked :P

Picture perfect tomatoes...

Garden-fresh produce..

Vast and magnificent...

Unwilted greens...

Tea time for the farmers...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Walnut (Akhrot) Halwa

Diwali is here!  I believe the houses are lavishly filled with sweet delicacies and are impressively lit up with decorative lights. Living in the hostel, had me separated from my beloved cooking and blogging. I am home now to celebrate the festival with this delightful sweet recipe!
‘Akhrot’, meaning Walnut is a wrinkled, brain-like nut that is contained in a very hard shell. For this Diwali, I chose to deal with this ‘Nut’ and make him sweet  :P Most of you know about the impressive benefits of this super nut . It contains the omega 3 and antioxidants that is good for your brain. 
So when life gives you 'SO MUCH' of walnuts , then try this recipe :)

You will need:
2 Cups of Walnuts, de-shelled and chopped
1 Cup of Milk, Warm
2 Cups of Brown Sugar
0.5 Cup of Ghee (clarified butter)
A pinch of salt
3 Cardamom pods, Powdered


Soak the walnuts in the warm milk for a couple of hours

Then grind the soaked nuts with the milk in a blender to a smooth paste

Heat quarter cup of ghee in a heavy bottom vessel. Add the blended walnut mixture.

Stir in the brown sugar and mix thoroughly without forming lumps. Add the remaining ghee a spoon at a time while stirring. This will keep the halwa from sticking to the vessel.

In a low flame, keep stirring the mixture for about 20 minutes or until the mixture comes together as a solid mass. Turn off the heat.

Sprinkle the cardamom powder and mix well.  

My Tip: You can add 'Praline' ,  caramelized nut nuggets to this mixture in the end and make it an extraordinary Halwa :D

Wish you all a very prosperous and joyous Diwali!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Red Riceflakes(Aval/Poha) Upma

This Tamilnadu style aval upma is a very simple, flavorful and quick to prepare item. In less than ten minutes you can get this on serving table if you have some grated fresh coconut ready.
Moreover, its a wonderful food for those who are health conscious. And the red rice flakes are even better if you are able to grab this from your local store. You will need the thin variety of poha for this recipe.

Preparation time : 5 Minutes
Cooking time : 5 Minutes
Total : 10 Minutes
Serves 2
You will need:
2 Cups of Red rice flakes (Aval/Poha)
1 Red onion ,chopped
1 green chilly, chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, grated
1/4 cup of grated fresh coconut
2 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp Urad dal
A pinch of asafetida/hing
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan and put the mustard seeds and hing. Once it begins to splutter add the urad dal and fry it in low heat till it appears to change color.

Now rinse the rice flakes once and drain them in a colander. Do not soak and
Add the green chillies and ginger followed by onion. Fry till the onions appear translucent. Add salt.

Add the rice flakes and give a good stir for a minute until all the flavors marry together.

Turn off the heat and sprinkle the fresh coconut.
I promise. Its a no-fail recipe. Why not serve this for your guests who visit during tea time? Also, its an easy-peasy breakfast idea for busy mornings!

Wasabi-A Japanese restaurant in Kuwait

This is my first restaurant review in my blog and its been in my mind for a long time that I should tell people about the restaurants I visit :) 
In the past couple of weeks, I had been watching Japanese movies among which Tampopo and The Ramen Girl made me crave for Japanese food,especially for some ramen noodles. Wasabi  is a fine dinning Japanese restaurant offering a range of westernized Sushi rolls as well as some Japanese classics. So finally today, I was able to convince my entire family for a dinner at Wasabi. My mom and sister are those who do not believe in eating anything that is not Indian or not heard off. I'm so glad that no body complained my choice. Even my pickiest sister seems to have enjoyed. So bad that I forgot my camera at home but thanks to the iphone.

Tori Ramen Soup-Lots of chicken chashu pieces, japanese fish cake (kamaboko), sliced carrots, cabbage and of course ramen noodles in a soy based broth. I was disappointed quite a bit with this one. Its taste was not bad but I was feeling like this isn't the real deal! The broth was bland and was covered up with some sinking pieces of meat and vegetables. The serving portion was also small. I was expecting a big hearty bowl of ramen noodle soup like I idealized from the movies :/

Green Valley Salad- Corn, avocado, super finely shredded carrots, iceberg lettuce, rocket leaves tossed in umami rich soy-ish dressing and lots of japanese mayo squirted on top. Quite not convinced that this salad is Japanese (with use of corn and avocado) but Dad loved it.. Expect me all my family members are Vegeterian, so there were very limited vegeterian options to choose from.

Yasai Spring roll- Black fungus, spring onions, cabbage and carrot were wrapped on wonton sheets and deep fried. Quite happy with this too. Sometimes spring rolls gets too oily when not fried in the right temperature. But this one did not fall in that category :)

Nigrizushi- A classic Japanese sushi with sashmi salmon as neta (the topping) and vinegar-ed rice clump. Wasabi pea and pickled ginger on the side. Absolutely loved this dish. Good salmon, I must say!

Hawaian roll- Rice rolled with nori (seaweed wrapper), avocado, pineapple, rocket leaves, and cucumber bits with a gentle splash of mango sauce speckled with pomegranate beads. Exotic, fresh and beautiful. 

 Hawaian roll bursting with tropical flavors ..

My Dad ordered a Japanese egg fried rice- which I some how missed to click :( It looked humble but the taste was quite satisfying.

Tempura Icecream- Tempura batter fried like a puff was served with caramelized coconut and topped with melted vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce. My kind of dessert. Not too sweet or calorie rich. Very light and exquisite!

Pinacolada and Fizzy Tangerine for drinks- My faint hearted  mom had to order these just to save the night. No complaints on the drinks. Both the drinks were bountiful and teased the palate.

Lovely ambiance, especially the lighting is perfect. Service was slow but really appreciate the unlimited servings of green tea :) Located in Al-Mashoora tower,Kuwait city. Our dinner tonight costed us 16KD -Quite pricey !

Verdict: Once in a while to try out something new with your family, Wasabi  is a great place to dine in Kuwait.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Iyengar Bakery style Carrot Toast/Sandwich

There are so many baked goodies to try from the iconic Iyengar Bakeries. But the 'Carrot Toast' is one of the most favored items of Iyengar Bakery. Recently, my dad and I got into a serious 'food conversation' which predominantly included talking about some delicacies that is nostalgic to him and me. Then popped up the famous 'I.B 's Carrot Toast' in our conversation and I immediately wanted to try it. 

Before going into the recipe, let me tell you the secret of this recipe. Though, it is an 'Iyengar' Bakery I doubt they add egg whites to the carrot masala(I'm not sure.. at least I believe!). So my recipe here calls for egg white. If you are not for it, you can omit that. But trust me, adding the egg white did bring out the exact taste of Iyengar Bakery's and also no one can tell there is egg in it unless you reveal it (I promise!).

One more tip for the authentic I.B's taste: Once you prepare all the toasts, transfer them in a serving tray and saran-wrap it while they are still hot. This way the steam gets into the bread, making it soft. When you are serving you can just re-heat in microwave. (Thats how exactly the bakery do!). So this is perfect for parties too :)

Prep Time       -   05 Minutes
Cooking Time -  10 Minutes   
Total Time      - 15 Mintues
Makes 4 Toasts/ Sandwiches

You will need:
1 large Carrot
1 large Onion
1 small Tomato
1 Green Chilly
1 egg white
1 tsp of Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp of Cumin seeds
1 tsp of Urad dal (split white lentil)
A pinch of Asafetida(Hing)
1/2 tsp of Red chilly powder
A pinch of turmeric
1/4 tsp of garam masala
1/4 tsp of coriander powder
Fresh coriander, finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 tsps of oil
4 Slices of white bread
Ghee(Clarified Butter) to toast

Chop the onions, green chilly and tomato very finely. Peel and grate the carrot.

In a pan, heat oil and add the mustard seeds,cumin seeds and asafetida. Then add the Urad dal and let it golden brown. (caution : do not over brown it!)
Add the green chillies and onions. Fry till translucent.

Add the spices(chilly powder, turmeric, coriander powder and garam masla) with salt. Mix well and then add the chopped tomato.

After a minute, add the grated carrot and cook covered for couple of minutes. Add the egg white and mix so well until it gets disintegrated in the carrot mixture. 

Heat a flat pan and spread some ghee on the bread slices. Place the bread slices and toast them on either side till it becomes golden brown and crispy.

Spread the carrot mixture on top of each slice and serve them as toast or as sandwiches.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A Thousand Paper Cranes

'Senbanzuru' is a cluster of 1000 origami cranes tied together by strings. Crane is the national bird of Japan. The bird crane is considered very auspicious and every Japanese knows how to fold a paper crane. It is believed that anyone folding thousand origami cranes will be granted one wish by a crane.

Sadako Sasaki, a girl who got affected by leuekemia in the Hiroshima-Nagashaki atomic bombing wanted to recover from her illness. So, she set on to folding 1000 origami cranes. But she died when she completed 644 cranes. This touched the hearts of those who were around her. So they folded the rest of the cranes and buried her with 1000 cranes. In order to make her wish come true, they made a statue of her with a crane perching on her hand and thereby making her immortal.

The pile of 1000 paper cranes
It is common to see in Japanese weddings people gift a 'Senbanzuru' for the newly married couple and wishing them thousand years of happiness and prosperity. It is believed that having a Senbanzuru in home attracts enormous luck and benevolent charm.

After learning about this, I decided to take up the ultimate Origami project- 'folding 1000 cranes' and not wish for anything myself.
I had always been the kind of person who wanted to do many things but would never begin/complete as I get distracted easily. Also, I want to test myself if I could work towards something with out any reward and just for the joy of doing it.

It took me three weeks to fold, sort and string the origami cranes. I tied the cranes to form a long screen which is now hanging above the hand rail partitioning the living and visitors areas of my Dad's residence.

The whole project to me was very uplifting. The moment I completed the project I was so elated. And that feeling of accomplishment , I have never felt before for anything else.  Not even when I was graduating! All these three weeks, my mind was only in completing the project and never to give up.

Many would wonder how come folding 1000 cranes would grant one wish. The logic is pretty simple. Folding an origami crane is not a random act and it needs focus and some concentration. As you fold 1000 origami cranes thinking about something you want to get, you are programming your subconscious mind 1000 times what you wish for to happen-like a meditation. As a result, your sub conscious mind will make you work towards your goal and get it.

For those who are interested in the project, see this brilliant youtube tutorial and here is an easy way to assemble the cranes to make a beautiful curtain.

How to string the cranes:

  • Measure the length of each strand you want it to be on white thread. Using the sewing needle pierce through the bottom of the crane on the thread
  • Connect 10 cranes (if making 100 strands) per string.
  • Space out the crane with equal gaps in between the cranes. Leave 2 inches of the thread on the top.
  • Using a toothpick, take some  white glue and place dots on the bottom and top end of each crane. Let it dry before you hang the string vertical.

The glue prevents the crane from jamming together and they look evenly spaced out while hanging.
I find this method easier than beading and knotting.

I'm not an artist. But looking at the 'Senbanzuru' makes me feel like I have created a masterpiece. This project also refined me to be a better person. Patience, serenity, determination, persistence, magnanimity, optimism are some of the great virtues the cranes taught me throughout the project.

Honestly, I don't know what to wish for myself. Right now, I feel pretty contend with my life. There are thousand cranes here, so whoever visits this page make a wish for yourself and I wish the crane would grant you :)

Best Indian summer drink~ Cumin Mint Swirl

Cumin Mint Swirl Lifewater- A fantasy product that we, me with two other friends, made up for a our MBA marketing Project. SoBe  with its cool lizard logo caught our attention and we decided to market our product under Pepsico's SoBe brand. SoBe is a famous brand that markets flavored water, teas and smoothies.

In the  past couple of decades people began to seek healthy alternatives for sodas, sugary beverages and plain water. Then came the 'Flavored water'- water enhanced with artificial flavors, vitamins and sweeteners. Soon 'Flavored water' became the buzzing word for all the beverage companies in the recent decade.
In India, we have been drinking flavored water for several centuries. Yes! flavored with different spices and aromatic roots which have immense healing properties. Ranging from the humble 'Cumin seeds' /jeera to 'Vetiver roots'.

SoBe is always on the look out for exciting, new, tropical flavors. And it had been only having fruity flavors. So we decided to give it an heads up with a bunch of flavors that uses the 'healing spices'.
Though, we never directly suggested SoBe to include our suggestions but our idea was to imagine that our Professor as the company itself and convince her to take up this as line!

As we were working on the project, we came to know those secret healing properties of mint and cumin.

The astounding health benefits of Mint and Cumin :

Cumin -Stimulates appetite, increases metabolism, relieves insomnia and detoxifies the body. Since this is rich in iron content it is also helpful to cure anemia and also believed to treat cancer and piles.

Mint- anitbiotic in nature, rich in vitamin C, cures asthma and flu,helps in indigestion, stress and sore throat. This ultimate refreshing and cooling herb is best suited for tropical climates.

Research says consumption of iron with Vitamin C helps to absorb iron better in the blood. 

Also, I would like to recall a particular region of people who consume cumin water everyday. Kerala- No body would deny the fact people from this place look radiantly beautiful and healthier. One of the reasons for their good health is that they had been drinking this sassy water for centuries.

So why not include them in everyday diet?

I know I did my best marketing it to my professor for grades. But now, I am not marketing it for any personal gains but for the well being of all.

Summer is almost here. Buttermilk is the ubiquitous drink of India. There are like zillion variations in consuming it ranging from the sweet lassi to masala chaas. Here is how I like it.

Cumin Mint Chaas Recipe:

A handful of fresh mint leaves and 2 teaspoons of roasted cumin seeds ground to fine paste. Mix this paste with required salt in half a liter of buttermilk.

Cheers to good health!