Dr Fuhrman

Dr. Fuhrman

Monday 2 July 2018

Review: Status Vegetarian Restaurant, Nariman Point

Last week, I was in my home-town in India, vs. Mumbai, and to eat out was inevitable. To celebrate my arrival, my family took me to a movie at the Inox theatre. After the movie, we went across to this restaurant where the crowd was not overwhelming as it was a week-day. We got a table quite easily without waiting. 

We ordered a sev-puri that was presented in six small glasses in a plate known as "Sevpuri shots". This tasted just like the authentic thing and it was quite exciting and tasty. 

For the main course, we ordered a "Vegetable Kadhai" with assorted bread. This item was good, but not great. However, it had the right amount of chilli. 

After this, we ordered the famous Gujarati Khichdi with pure ghee and sweet kadhi. This is something so unique, you can't have the combination in any other kind of cuisine. It was excellent enough for us to re-order another one to carry with us home.

During the dinner, the service was really good. Waiters were almost always within sight and kept coming to us to help with the serving of food, or replenishing the water in our glasses. 

On the whole. a very good experience.


Ratings:

Food 5*
Ambience: 3.5*
Service: 5*
Overall: 4*

Recommendation: Try the thali. Although I did not eat it, and this is not a thali speciality restaurant, I did see it being served on a neighbouring table and it looked gorgeous.


My family

Sevpuri shots

Kadai vegetable

Phulka

Chocolate overload - delicious!

Sunday 8 April 2018

Cook: Bohri-style Chicken Curry -My first attempt to create a cooking video

Some days ago, I made "Kaari masala". This is one of the tastiest recipes from a Bohri kitchen. It turned out very nice. I kept taking photos as I cooked. I haven't started on the road to vlog my recipes or cooking, but I used the Windows Movie Maker to make a slide show with narration and subtitles and posted it to my channel on YouTube. Do watch it HERE.

Here are the final photos from the show to entice you to watch the video and to try and make the recipe. If you cannot get your hands on authentic dry Kaari masala, fear not. I promise to make another video and will teach you all how to make an authentic dry Kaari masala. 

The whole spices are getting tempered

Tamarind paste - a crucial ingredient

As the cook continues, oil begins to separate

The final product, ready to eat with rice/bread/roti

Having it with shredded tandoori roti
Thanks for visiting. Do watch the video and let me know if you liked it. Even better, do try out the recipe. If you are in India, you will get the dry masala powder from any Bohri grocery shop. If not, wait a while and in some days, I will post the recipe and/or post a video on my channel on YT. 

P.S. You can make the same recipe with lamb meat as well. 

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Recipe: Kerala style "thoran": Cabbage stir-fry

Cabbage Thoran (Kerala dry, stir-fried cabbage)


This is a special item on the kerala meal. Preparation varies from one cook to the other. I first ate this in Alleppey, then checked out the recipes on YouTube. My method is an amalgam of the best of these.
Ingredients:

1 medium cabbage
4-inch piece of carrot
2 shallots
grated coconut (1/2)
curry leaves - many!
garlic - 4-5 pieces off a fresh pod
red chilli - 2
moong dal without chilka 1 teaspoon, washed
cummin - 1/2 tsp
mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
green chilli - 3
turmeric - 1 tsp
coconut oil - 2 tablespoons
salt - to taste
Preparation time: 
To cut the cabbage to a fine grate - (using a chopper device) - 5 minutes
To clean and dice the rest - another 5 minutes
To grate the coconut - 5 minutes
Method:
Use fresh cabbage. Remove the leaves, a few at the time, add them to the chopper, and grate them into a finely grated condition. Take the carrot, grate it with a normal grater. Mix the two. Add salt, and turmeric. Mix everything in a large bowl. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. 



In the meantime, using a mortar and pestle, crush the three green chillis, a small piece of ginger, all the garlic, the shallots, the cummin seeds and 8-10 curry leaves into a paste. Keep aside.
Reach for the cabbage mix and squeeze out all the water from it, handful by handful, till the mix is water-free (to the best of your ability).
In a large saucepan, take coconut oil. Put on the heat. Once the oil is heated, splutter the remaining curry leaves, mustard seeds, the washed, skinless moong dal and the red chilli. Once they are spluttering, add the grated cabbage mix, the grated coconut, the crushed spices from the mortar, and now stir fry the whole mix - never stopping the stirring of the mix - till the entire mix starts coming together and the coconut oil leaves the sides of the mix.




Your thoran is ready. Serve it in a small bowl as a side to fried fish or egg curry and rice. Or, just eat it by itself. It is delicious.

The final look


Saturday 3 March 2018

Review: Bombay Vintage, Mumbai

On my 58th birthday, my family and I visited the Bombay Vintage restaurant located on the ground floor of the Indian Mercantile Mansions opposite the Regal Cinema. This is a new venture by a team of three experienced restaurateurs M/s Shah, Gambhir and Honaver. These three worthies are already owning the Woodside Inn located on the back-side of the same premises at the very northern end of the Wodehouse Road (Nathalal Parikh Marg). Listed on Zomato, this restaurant has seen some of the best reviews. We, therefore, decided to reserve a table and booked ourselves in for dinner.

During my phone call to them, I had informed them that we were coming there to celebrate my birthday. They wished me, one and all, very effusive birthday wishes as my family and I checked in to have our meal. The ambience of the place is distinctly vintage Mumbai. There are frames and various paraphernalia of an era that is perhaps half a century into the past - or even more. A manual typewriter sits in a window alcove on the first floor of the eatery. There is a vintage dial-up rotary telephone stuck to the wall. Also found are other similar curios that hark-back to the past.

The tables and chairs are comfortable without being elaborate or ostentatious. A ceiling AC machine that juts out from the centre of the roof looks a bit jarring and in need of some modesty as it looks down upon the diners in full view, wires and machinery and all. 

At the entrance, Mr Vikas, who had taken my reservation over the phone, was the first to greet me and wish me a happy birthday.

Mr Mahesh, one of the waiters,  greeted us once we were on the top floor and helped settle us into our chairs. Throughout the meal, he remained cheerful, attentive and responsive to our needs. He even offered to take our photos. 

We also met Mr Deepen Kunwar, their manager. This gentleman entertained us with his stories of working in different restaurants elsewhere. He was, in the past, an overseer of a chain of restaurants that go by the Rude Lounge tag. 

The meal was fantastic. We had "Prawns Sion Koliwada" and "Chicken Uruval" as starters with "Sol kadi" for an appetizer/starter. Following this, we had a main course of "Bharli Vangi" and "Chura Paratha" and "Gomantak Surmai curry" and "Red Rice". To be honest, the portions were a bit smaller than we expected, but they then did something remarkable: they served us two dessert items ON THE HOUSE. This included a very unique "Tomato Halwa" topped with an ice cream AND a "Chocolate Ganache Mousse" from their own Pantry Cafe just a stone's throw away.

Our only grouse was their "Turmeric Almond Milk soda", which the family at the next table also had. This drink lacked any distinction. However, the sol kadi was great. Hence, as a reviewer, I am willing to overlook this little issue!

After the meal, we requested to speak to their sous chef, who has previously worked at many other distinguished outlets. Mr B. Kotliwal is from Uttarakhand. He was very effusive and gave us a tip or two on the foods he had cooked.

Ambience: 5*
Service and Staff: 5*
Food and Drinks: 5*  

Recommendations: Go there and stuff yourself. Almost every item is good, but I especially found their Bharli Vangi (creamy and the best aubergine/brinjal I have had), Chicken Uruval (positively enhanced by the roasted cashews) and the Tomato Halwa (yummy)delicious.


Final words: Expect the unexpected. Be nice to the staff and they will be more than welcoming to you. Chatting up with them is very entertaining and instructive. 

Sunday 7 January 2018

Recipe: Methi-gosht


METHI-GOSHT

I made methi-gosht last Saturday as part of my long cook-a-thon which saw me making many other foods.

Here is the recipe for my methi gosht.
Ingredients:
400 gm lamb pieces - I prefer the shoulder cut;
10 grams of methi leaves, washed and dried;
Onions, 2 sliced long thin;
Tomatoes - 1 vine tomato;
Yoghurt, 2 tbsp;
Whole spices: 2 bay leaves, 4-5 green cardamoms, 4-5 pieces of cinnamon sticks, 8-10 black peppercorns, 4-5 cloves, a tsp of cummin seeds;
Ground spices - red chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder - all 1 tsp; cummin powder and turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp;
Ginger paste 1.5 tsp;
Green chilli paste, 1 tsp;
Salt - as per taste;
Oil 1 tbsp for tempering.
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Serves: 2
Preparation:
1) Wash the pieces of mutton, then boil them for 10 minutes to soften them. Keep the water you boil them in.
2) Wash and dry the fenugreek (methi) leaves and leave aside.
3) Slice the onions thin and longitudinally
4) Dice the tomato into cubes
Method:
1) in the pressure cooker, heat oil till it is just under smoking heat, then reduce the heat, and add the whole spices one by one except for the cummin. Once they splutter, remove them with a fenestrated spoon and keep aside.
2) Splutter the cummin seeds, then, fry the onion till it is slightly brown (more than pink)
3) Add the ginger paste, then the green chilli paste, then the ground spices, sequentially. Add salt here.
Allow them to cook and let the oil separate. Add the diced 🍅 and the yoghurt, then cook further.
4) Now, add back the whole spices.
5) Add the methi, cooking for a minute.
6) Add the lamb pieces, stirring all the while.
7) As the whole pot cooks, add water which you saved from the boil.
8 ) Close the cooker, pressure whistle for 7 minutes on medium heat or 4-5 minutes on full heat.
9) After cooling, open the lid. Slow cook the mix on low heat for a further 10-12 minutes, or till the water is about 100ml.
10)Taste, and add more salt to season as per your taste.
11) Serve hot with pulao rice, naan or paratha.
Important notes:
1) You can marinade the meat with only yoghurt, ginger paste, green chilli paste, tomato paste, a little oil and all the ground spices for 1 hour outside the fridge or 2-3 hours in the fridge - instead of boiling it.
2) The entire recipe can be duplicated without a pressure cooker with longer cooking times.
3) Salt is as per taste. I prefer to add in the cook, as it is more healthy, rather than the new-fangled way of adding it at the end.

Thursday 13 July 2017

Live: Intelligent use of the freezer, the oven and the microwave

I have often observed people underutilising the power of their white goods. These include the refrigerator, the microwave and the humble oven. I am going to describe here the things I have been doing to optimise their use along with the stove or the hob or the gas stove that we use for our cooking, preserving and so on. 

I was inspired to write this post after a friend on Whatsapp asked a few questions related to thawing food and preserving food. Thanks, @mnkshah.

Let me begin by stating the most obvious things:

1. Freezers are for preservation. The temperatures are below zero degrees Celsius. In most cases, they are near -4 to -15° Celsius. At such temperatures, food becomes homogeneous to the human eye. It is therefore imperative to label your food containers before freezing stuff inside the freezer. Labelling can be in the form of either using special freezer labels or using colour-coded lids. 

2. Thawed food should not be refrozen unless you have kept it outside for less than 15 minutes. This is because thawing and bringing food back to room temperatures allows microorganisms to grow inside. Refreezing such food will allow microbes to stay inside and be activated whenever thawing next occurs; sometimes, microbes excrete toxins that are simply chemicals and these will cause you to be very, very sick indeed.

3. Fried foods always taste more heavenly than grilled, roasted, air-dried or toasted food. There is no alternative method to keep the EXACT same taste of fried food without frying it. 

4. Microwave ovens heat and cook from inside to outside, and this is very important when you are heating or cooking foods. This peculiar way of cooking actually can overcook the insides without the exterior being that hot. Remember this while using a microwave oven.

Listen to this podcast.

So, let us dig deeper then. 

First of all, freezing a freshly cooked item as soon as it is cool enough to stop smoking is the best way to keep the item fresh and retain all its nutrients. I have used this method to store away food for the days I won't be able to find time to cook. An example of this is to cook two or three different foods before the start of my run of night duties. This allows me to cook for a half-day ahead of the nights. I usually end up making two or three different foods, including a mix of curries, vegetables and some noodles etc. Remember, rice, noodles, salads CANNOT be frozen. I make those items when I actually need them. However, curries, roasts, gravies etc. can be frozen, so it makes sense to make them all together and put one in your fridge and the remaining in the freezer. 

Items like chapatis, bread, tikka, kebabs, etc, will stay unspoilt in the freezer for months! The one thing to remember is to store it in smaller packets with plastic bags so that you don't have to remove the entire packet when you need just a few for one meal. This is also true when you want to store green peas - they come in large packets of 200 -500 grams, and you won't be needing all in one cook, will you? So, break that up into smaller packets of 40-60 grams each before putting it away into the freezer. You may extend this to items like french fries (when bought raw, the packets are huge). 

A practical way to work with onions: remember, we need onions for over 90% of our cooking. Most dishes need onions to be fried golden brown at the very beginning of the cook. One way to save preparation times is to dice a lot of onions and then fry them in a large kadhai in one go. Once they turn golden brown, switch off the gas, allow them to cool, then drain them onto a clean glass bowl, and transfer them into an air-tight box to store them all in the freezer. You may retain a small portion to keep it in the fridge for use over the next few days, The rest can be frozen and used over an entire month without spoiling. 

Garlic-ginger pastes, chutneys, tamarind pastes, etc. also stay fresh for long periods if they are frozen. To be honest, g-g pastes do not spoil even without freezing, but when kept in the freezer, their aroma is retained for a much longer time. The same is true for green chilli paste. Try it.

Now, let me talk about frozen foods that we buy from the supermarkets. Nowadays, it is possible to get frozen raw stuff but also frozen cooked food. I have bought parathas, pooris, frozen avial, frozen medu wada, frozen cooked okra, and so many other things. When you buy parathas in this way, you need to bring them out and cook them straightaway on the tawa without thawing them at all. If thawed, they lose their hardness and become like putty in your hands. So, remove from the freezer, and transfer them immediately, one by one, onto the tawa till you have made them all. If you don't need all of them, use the numbers you need, but transfer the rest back into the freezer as soon as possible.

Cooked vegetables packed inside attractive boxes are a bit of a tricky thing. They can be thawed in the microwave, but you do need to remove aluminium or plastic coverings from them. This can be a pain, A better way would be to heat them in water in a large cooking pot rather than using the microwave. Just suggesting tricks to make your life easier.

Any don'ts? Well, you cannot freeze rice, pulaos, biryanis, noodles, etc., but bread and chapattis are just fine. Raw vegetables like tomatoes, brinjals, kaddu, etc. become absolutely watery and mushy when frozen. Coriander leaves stay okay for a few days, then turn into a sloppy mess. The same is true for mint leaves, spinach leaves and all leafy vegetables. Curry leaves, though, will stay good for a long time, but you need to remove them from their stalks. Long beans, french beans, etc. are also okay with freezing for long periods. 

Any words about the humble OTG? I think we all under-utilise it since the microwaves came along. To reheat chapati, kababs, samosas, etc. the OTG is fantastic, as the food heats evenly unlike what happens with the microwave. OTGs are also great to grill kababs, make cakes, make dhokla, and heat farsans of all kinds before consuming them. Popcorn is better made in a microwave. 

And that's it for now. Please participate in the discussion with adding your comments below. Thanks for reading this post. 

Sunday 4 June 2017

Live: Hobbies and Me

This post is not about food, although my blog is mostly about that. Well, in a way, since I do love cooking, and this is a hobby for me, the underlying theme is food. But, as the title says: this is a blog about living. So, in a way to enhance your life, each one should discover, research, adopt and then nurture a hobby that has nothing to do with one's normal field of work. 

I am proud to say that I have not one, but many hobbies. Sometimes, I wonder how I ever find the time to do my normal work! 


My earliest hobby was to collect stamps. I did this from my early childhood to some time around the age of 10 or so, then gave it up as I hardly received stamps from overseas. Next, I took to collecting matchbox covers. Since the paper labels were stuck on thin wood boxes, I would soak the tops in water till the labels came off the wood, then dry them and stick them onto the pages of a special notebook. It was a time-consuming exercise, but as I went on searching and cataloging covers, I realised these had price denominations just like stamps! A branded box cover sold at different prices over the years, so, for example, I had a "SHIP" brand cover for 5 paise, then 10 paise, then 20 paise and then 25 paise! This would all go on a separate page!


The hobby died out as my life became more and more complicated. From adolescence to the dawn of the internet age, my next, all-consuming hobby was reading books. I have read comic books, children's books, love stories, James Hadley Chase, detective tales, Enid Blyton, classics from Charles Dickens to Jane Eyre, and, as I grew in age, I have devoured Wilbur Smiths, Arthur Hailey, Shakespeare, Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Ludlum, Colin Forbes, and so many others. 


Reading inevitably led to writing my own books. During my school years, I wrote a series of adventures of four kids and their dog who go out and form a boys' club, then solve mysteries - exactly as Enid Blyton's Famous Five or Secret Seven did. I even wrote a full-length Hindi novel, a short biography of a fictional author, a full-length English novel, and poems galore. 


My writing hobby has continued, although I blog much more than write novels or poems. Readers who wish to read my work are requested to click HERE


Sometime around 2007-8, I turned to photography, I purchased my first digital DSLR camera, my Canon 550D. I have played around with it over the last decade. I amalgamated my interest in photography with my newfound interest in birding. I now go out birding, using my Canon camera and my different zoom lenses to record and save my sightings for posterity. 


Birding has been a very rewarding hobby insofar as it gives me peace, immense satisfaction and happiness of a very high order. I will write about birding in another post elsewhere. 


For this post, suffice it to say that for a fuller life, do have one or two hobbies. Discover the talents inside you, adopt the hobby and then nurture it over the years so that it takes you further and further in the territory ...

Saturday 3 June 2017

Review: Michael Wan's Mandarin Restaurant

This is based on dinner that I had here with a friend. I had been meaning to go to Mandarin since long as it looks like a chic place. When you peek in from their glass front, you can see English, Chinese and Asian guests, but what impressed me was that most of them seemed to be well-heeled, dressed in suits and formal attire. 

Located on Clifton street near the town centre, Michael Wan's Mandarin Restaurant is an easily accessible.

My eating-out companion Luckey and I went to eat here on Friday the 2nd of June 2017. We were sat at a 2-seater table that was in a crowded, front area of the restaurant. The waiters were quite prompt in their attention to us and kept hovering nearby to take the orders. It was a bit uncomfortable for me. Eventually, we ordered our soups. I had a Chicken and prawns hot and sour soup, while Luckey had a more traditional Chicken sweet corn soup. My soup was not as hot as I am used to, and, to be frank, tasted quite sweet. I managed to polish it off. 

For the main course, we ordered a Kung Pao King Prawn and a Chicken Sizzler with garlic sauce. We had this with steamed rice. While the Kung Pao was an interesting concoction of large, well-cooked king prawns, onions, and a few other vegetables on a nice gravy of roasted cashew, the sizzler was a disappointment. Not only did it never sizzle, it was insipid in taste - I couldn't even make out the garlic taste in the final product. 


Hot and sour soup

Kung Pao king prawns

Chicken sizzler with garlic sauce

The main course with steamed rice

Yours truly

With Luckey

The bar at the front 

The entrance area
To go with the food, we had a cocktail each. It tasted of chocolate liqueur. 

They added a 10% service charge on the bill. The final bill was a bit steep, no denying that. However, you could not fault their eagerness to please. Hence, I paid up that charge. And that's that. Thanks for reading this review.

Ratings:

Stars: 4
Food: 3.5
Ambiance: 3.5
Service: 5
Cocktail: 5

Recommendation: Ask for rear seating as they have sofas and more comfortable seating there.

I had written a review of this restaurant on TripAdvisor UK (read the review here)

The management responded with the following comments:


blkman1, General Manager at Michael Wan's Mandarin Cantonese Restaurant, responded to this review, 2 days ago
Thank you for your review, we're glad you enjoyed your evening with us.
We remember you from the pictures you were taking of the restaurant which you mentioned were for your blog :-) The area where you were seated was a temporary dining area which is added to the usual dining area for the duration of the Blackpool Dance Festival (this is usually the bar area) and may explain why you felt a little cramped.
We're very surprised to hear about the lack of sizzle, that's very unusual and if you had mentioned it to one of our waiters it would have been happily replaced without question.
Thanks again and hope to see you again
Team Mandarin


Wednesday 24 May 2017

Live - Some food for thought on how to do so

All of us desire the best in life. We all want to stay healthy, live long and be happy. Isn't it ironical then, that most of us strive for these things with all the money and time we have, but seem not to find the solution to the questions?

I wanted to point you all to an interesting source or two that come to you from a website that I have openly promoted here on this blog. Fuhrman.com has THIS and THIS book for your consumption. Do take a look at them, and let me know if they interest you enough to buy them. 

Even if you don't actually purchase them, let me tell you that reading about how to live long isn't exactly the best way to live long. You have to eat sensibly, enjoy doing your work and so on, and sleep well and engage in moderate exercise to achieve that best balance of rest and work to live longer. 

Tuesday 11 April 2017

Live: Anatomy of a Foodie

From: http://spreadshirt.co.uk
This morning, as I was cooking up some interesting stuff, I got to thinking about what makes me different from the millions of people who cook because they have no desire to eat ready-to-eat food from a supermarket, or those who cook because they have to support a loving family.

And, after some consideration to this question, the answer came to me in a kind of epiphany. A foodie is willing to experiment.

And that's it, basically. 

Today, I began to make a pasta dish from a ready to stir-fry vegetable pack and a pack of free range egg noodles. I had some left-over stir fry sauce and I am thinking, like, well, that's all that I need to make myself a good, edible meal. 

But, wait! How can I make this dish interesting? My first thought was to add a tadka of Indian masalas. How would that work, except that it would change a Chinese dish to an Indian mix? I had to think of something else.

Now, before I continue, let me add that, for me, the final look and taste of the food matter, but it's the whole journey from purchasing a food item, to storing it the right way in the fridge, to cleaning, cutting and preparing the various ingredients, to cooking them the right way, to storing them in the right containers to serving them at the right temperature, in the right plate/bowl - to finally putting the food in one's mouth - this entire journey is the full experience for a foodie. 

So, what did I finally do? I had cooked lamb kidneys about 2 days ago, and had partaken of about half of it that same day when I was working a "long day". The remaining half of this masala item was still waiting in the back of the fridge shelf. I brought it out, diced all the kidney pieces and the potatoes into smaller bits, and added them to the noodles-stirfry sauce-vegetable pot. Stirring the entire mix one more time, I finally came out with a Chinese stir-fry vegetable noodle lamb kidney pot!

This is what makes a foodie: the love of eating transcending borders and making the foodie try out new things at every step of his food journey. For me, I am always experimenting. At a Sainsbury store the other day, I was browsing through the aisles and noticed that there were many things that I had never ever had the pleasure of trying. Now, don't get me wrong. I experiment, but I still stay focused on thinking ahead. I won't, for example, buy pork meat in any form. Nor will I aggressively try new stuff. I remember a day when I went to a frozen foods store known as ICELAND. It stores mostly frozen food. Now, on that particular day, I approached a freezer with meat from exotic animals. I was literally amazed by the variety of meats - there were the usual kinds such as lamb, beef, pork and fish; there were also a few more familiar things like partridge, quail, venison and squid. But then, there was a slew of stuff that made me almost puke. Alligator meat, crocodile meat, hare meat, and even meat from an armadillo! Most of these were in the form of burger patty, but I simply stepped back and snapped the door shut. I will experiment, but even I have a limit, so, not those, please. 

Here are a few things I made in the last fortnight or so: The first is a stir-fry I made last week from noodles, moong sprouts, bell peppers and black bean sauce. To this mix, I added chopped, cooked pieces of chicken tikkas that I had purchased from an M & S food store. The result was delicious!





 This second is the Bohri traditional dal-chawal palidu. I will post the recipe for this in a subsequent post. I added drumsticks to the palidu (this is the gravy-like stuff in the green bowl), I think this is a favourite dish for me and I usually end up making it about once in a couple of months. It takes a little more effort than the stir-fry I have shown in the photo above.


This is the lamb kidney that I was speaking about. It turned out so good that I literally licked my fingers after having the first half of it with lachcha parathas. 











This, the final one, is a preparation that I made from halal chicken, a rogan josh paste, some tomato and fresh onions. It needed no other spices as the rogan josh mix had everything in it. I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried the item with some brown rice while working a night shift at the hospital. It was remarkably tasty. 





Which brings me to the end of this post. Tell me, friends, what experimentation do you all do when you start on your own food journey? Do add your comments. 

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Eat: Cooking for one

I have learned more about cooking since I went solo - about five years ago when I first moved out of my family's home to live and work in Saudi Arabia. Over the years, it has been all sorts of things to me: exciting, boring, rejuvenating, humbling, frustrating, and more. Over and above all this, though, I have learned so much. And not just about cooking, but about staying healthy, about nutrition in general, about worldwide cuisine, about sharing, about conserving resources, (and about optimising them as well), about natural food photography vs. blogging photography vs. advertising food photography, about recipes and how to write them, about translating the names of ingredients from one language to another, about storage of food, about how to purchase fresh ingredients and how to recognise when food has gone bad - and so much more. Eventually, it emboldened me to start this blog!

Here are a few moments from my experiences:


  • I was busy surfing the net, having kept some lamb meat in a pressure cooker. I never heard the whistles of this cooker as this was a different kind where the weight simply rotates above the lid without making any noise. The lamb got burned completely as I forgot about it for over an hour. When I opened the lid, the pieces were burnt into black, coal-like bits! (Learned to pay more attention to the kitchen when food is cooking, and bought a kitchen timer on my next visit to India - which I still use!)
  • Learned to dice and half-fry onions in a large batch to save time. I would store those half-cooked onions in a large box and take as much as I needed to make food till that supply got over. I don't do that any more, though, as I have a very small fridge in my Blackpool quarters).
  • Learned to use an oven to cook some dishes like fish and chicken. I had never used an oven either in India or in Saudi Arabia. And here, I am talking of the big oven that comes below the hob, not a microwave or a simple OTG that I HAVE used in the past.
  • Learned how to differentiate between different European vegetables. These are available at greatly hiked prices in India, where they are sold as exotic foods. To give you an example, while a small piece of Broccoli is sold for 40-60 rupees in Mumbai, the same is available for a few pence in the U.K. Well, the prices are comparable because a U.K. pound is still over 80 INR, but in comparison to U.K. prices, broccoli is as cheap as cauliflower.
  • Started taking pictures and shared them on social media. Everyone has been appreciative, not the least my own daughters who now wait for me to visit India so that they can ask me to cook all those delicious things I make when I am abroad.
  • Learned how to store stuff in a small fridge and freezer. In the accommodation where I live, I barely have 100 litres of space between the small fridge and the freezer. I have to really optimise how I use that space in the best possible way. I end up cutting long things like drumsticks, ridge gourd, long cucumbers, etc. I turn the large tomatoes into a tomato puree. I squeeze out the water from the lamb and meats to shrink the bags of raw meats. I buy and store only as much as I know the space I have left. (The other half of the 200 litre space is shared with a flat-mate.)
Here are a few of the best things I have made over the years. You can see more in my Facebook albums.

Molokhia soup

Prawns curry with rice

Masoor pulao and kadhi

Chicken masala

Batata wada

Lamb burgers

Pav bhaji

Lamb curry

Cluster beans and potato - the humble guvar with aloo

Spinach, Punjabi style

Dal-chaval palidu

Bhajia kadhi

Masala dosa

Bombay potato

Shirkhurma

Paya - trotters
And so, it has been a pleasant experience for me. Do share your own experiences as cooks - whether you are with your family or alone somewhere on Planet Earth. Thank you for reading. 

Sunday 12 March 2017

Eat: The convenience of ready to use/ready to eat food

Today, I am going to write about ready to use stuff. Whether it is about using such stuff to cook food quickly in your kitchen, getting your hands on preserved ingredients when fresh stuff is inaccessible, or getting your hands on prepared stuff that can be added to your pan so as to save time - or, whether it is about ready to heat and eat food - the truth is that these foods and ingredients are here to stay, whether they are healthy or not, and whether you like them or not.

So, just browse the website of any grocery store online, and what do you find? Over 60% of the products belong to one of these categories. Let me go down the list one by one.

A. Stuff used in the kitchen to prepare or decorate food:

1. Using items that help you to cook faster: This list includes cut and diced items like vegetables, meats etc. They are mostly in the frozen foods section. Who among us has not purchased these from time to time? So, be it mixed cut vegetables, diced and quartered pieces of boneless meat, shelled and deveined prawns, garden peas, cut and diced okra - these are the most frequently shopped for items. To be fair, there is no harm in purchasing them if they have been fast frozen at the place they were cleaned and diced. I am not sure, though, that this actually happens. The index of freshness of food is nowadays indicated by food miles: how far or how long did the food travel or stay without preservation. Obviously, items that are frozen at the place of produce are the best, such as frozen berries or cold-pressed oils. Modern belief is that frozen foods that were frozen rapidly after being cleaned or processed or harvested are nutritionally as good, or sometimes, even better than fresh food that has stayed on the shelf for a long time.


 This category also includes ready-made mixes that help you conjure exo

tic dishes in a jiffy. I am, of course, referring to items like "Chicken Balti mix", "Lazeez Haleem mix", "Beef ragu mix" and so on. It also includes frequently bought items like sambar powder, idli mix, medu vada mix, rabri mix and so on. The list is endless. You just need to follow the instructions on the box, and voila! your exotic food is ready.

2.Using items that are otherwise inaccessible or not easily available: In this category are items that mostly are difficult to procure. It may be a situation such as mine. I am based in Blackpool, and this place generally does not have Indian food stores. I am therefore unable to quickly find condiments and spices that I need. This applies also to Asian vegetables such as cluster beans, small aubergines, tinda, etc. I found frozen cut vegetables of all these kinds in Preston! Curry leaves are another rare commodity in Blackpool Now, you can either go to Preston every few weeks to buy fresh curry leaves, or, as I do, buy dried curry leaves available in a bottle. These stay unspoiled for months! You can find almost any leaf in dried form in a supermarket - whether Indian, or European. Ever bought coriander that is dry and available in a bottle? Do try it.


3.Using items that are available fresh, but you still buy them frozen for convenience: This is a somewhat gray area, but modern consumers often do this because they feel it is an easier way. This prevents the need to visit the grocer every day. Some people will buy fresh, then store it in the freezer having zip-loc'd it/ Still others will save the additional bother and simply store frozen food purchased from the counter. It all depends on your budget. I would prefer to buy fresh and store what I don't need immediately, but refer to the paragraph above on possible benefits of freshly frozen food (an anachronism, but there ... you have it!)

B. Ready to Heat and Eat Foods:

These are the fastest growing segment of foods. Available in the past as microwave dinners, they have now taken on a completely different complexion. All you need to do is to heat and eat them. You can find them on supermarket shelves all over the world. They cater to every palate, every culture and every taste. You can now eat Japanese, Thai, Korean, Indian, Indonesian, or even Chilean food bought off the shelf of Marks and Spencer in the UK, or Big Bazaar in India. These foods invariably have preservatives, additives, colourants and other agents to keep them without spoiling even without refrigeration. It is the multi-layered packaging that is the secret to these foods staying fresh until the use-by date. I am not referring to freshly packed cooked foods, but sealed foods that can be kept without cooling.

C.Cooking and storing food in the freezer for later consumption:

During my discussions with friends offline and online about this post, I was reminded of this third category. I am sure we all do this with leftovers. Well, not all of us, but quite a few of us. We do this because we don't want to throw away our labour of love. We also do not want to eat the same food again and again. So, we put aside some of that food into the refrigerator - either in the lower, normal fridge section (to be consumed in the next few days), or, as is postulated here, into the freezer section to be eaten after a much longer period of time. Now, mind you, some foods preserve well, while others become soggy and inedible - such as rice. 

So, dear reader, tell me, have you used some of the above kinds of foods or not? What is your opinion? Do share in the comments section. Thank you for reading this post.

P.S. All images are copyrighted to their respective brands.