31 July 2006

Dinner party

This must be the most mixed crowd I've ever catered for! A invited a few of the research students from the Univ to dinner. I cooked for a group comprising of a Slovakian, Hungarian, German, Korean, Malaysian, and of course, Indians... US!

Since it's been a while since we last entertained (all of 3 weeks) I decided to make something slightly fancy. And with the mixed crowd in mind, also considering that the Europeans and the Korean had never eaten Indian food, I had to plan a good menu... balancing out the mild with the unbelievably hot.

The menu I finally came up with has to be one of my best ones to date. Naans, Tandoori salad, Aloo matar, Biriyani, Raita, Malai Kofta and Ice-cream for dessert. I decided on store bought naans as I don't have an oven... yet..
The recipes for biriyani, raita and aloo matar have been blogged here before. The only change, I dunked in about 250 gms of green peas along with the potatoes, and cooked it the same way.

Malai Koftas
serves 8

Koftas as made in this recipe.
Optional: Stuff koftas with chopped cashewnuts and raisins before frying them.

3 big onions
4 cloves garlic
1" piece ginger
1 cup milk powder (or khowa)
1/2 cup almonds (soaked and peeled)
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp garam masala
1" cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 pod cardamom
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp oil
salt to taste

Peel onions, garlic and ginger. Boil till onions are clear. Reserve water used in boiling. Cool and grind to a smooth paste. Keep aside.
Grind almonds to a smooth paste with milk. Keep aside.
Heat oil. Add dry spices and let them splutter.
Add onion paste and fry for 3 minutes.
Make a smooth paste of milk powder and 1/2 cup reserved cooking water. Add to the onion paste and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add ground almonds, Garam masala and adjust salt to taste. Simmer for 3-4 minutes till well combined. Dilute with reserved water to adjust to desired consistency.
Arrange fried koftas on serving platter.
Pour hot gravy over them just before serving. Garnish with cream.

Tandoori Salad
serves 4

100 gms Paneer
1 big tomato (very firm)
1 big onion
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
1 yellow/orange capsicum

For the marinade:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsbp lemon juice
2 cloves garlic (ground)
salt to taste

Peel onions. Deseed Capsicums.
Cut paneer, and vegetables into equal sized chunks.
Blend ingredients for marinade till well combined.
Let vegetables and paneer marinate for at least 2 hours.
Grill in batches for 5-7 minutes (turning when they start to brown)
Alternately, bake in topmost rack of oven at 180C till browned.
Skewer before serving.
Serve hot.

28 July 2006

A whole new look...

I've been rather bored with the look and feel of my blogs, and didn't really care all that much for the templates available on blogger. I really wanted a three column template, colours of my choice etc...

The previous template was alright, but it was absolutely BORING!! Rather colourless... uninspired too.

Today I discovered PsycHo, one of the best template generators I could find online. The customization options are quite comprehensive. It does need some very minor tweaks to personalize it further. If a HTML/CSS doofus like me can do it, trust me, anyone can!

All I need to figure out now is how to get the side columns run the length of the page, and not abruptly terminate where the column text ends.

Comments anyone? And yes, I really need to know the column length thingie... so do put on your thinking caps and help!

09 July 2006

A vegetarian??? How strange....

That would just about sum up the reactions of people in this neck of the woods when told about our dietary preferences.

Vegetarianism, in this part of the world, is looked on as a joke. Why on earth would someone want to restrict their food choices???

Sachi, at the International Forum, asked if I could demonstrate 'Indian' food to a local cooking club. That sounded interesting, and I agreed. On the condition that I be assigned an interpreter for the session. My Japanese is still farily rudimentary, and the most I do is go to the local markets and somehow come back with all the right things!

So one day last month she called back and asked that we get together with the co-ordinator of the cooking club and plan the menus, and help them write the recipes in Japanese. The meeting started off well. Their brief was quite simple... Would I demonstrate 3 main dishes, one side dish, and maybe one appetiser or dessert. And yes, they would so appreciate it if I could use fish, seafood and beef in each of the main dishes. I just gaped at the lady. I very gently told her that I was vegetarian and had no clue how to cook meat of any sort. She was quite sweet about it. Of course, then lets just use fish. "Er.... Excuse me, W-san, but I am a vegetarian... and er... fish is not really vegetarian, you know...." Even as I said uttered these words, I could see the shock spreading over her countenence. What?? No fish?? How could you eat no fish?? This concept was totally incomprehensible to a Japanese. Don't eat meat, that's fine... but how can one not eat fish?? What is there to eat otherwise?

With my limited Japanese, and with W's even more limited English, we pulled Sachi away from her work to sit down and translate. So there followed just what went into a vegetarian diet. It wasn't easy, and I soon began to believe that this demo was about to be called off. Finally, curiosity got the better of W-san, and she said that she would like to see just what a person eats in a meal without any dead animals on the table. And we started to work on the menu.

My idea of a nice lunch was some vade-sambar, maybe rava-dose, one or two chutneys, maybe puliyogere and, the traditional south Indian staple, curd-rice. I painstakingly wrote down the recipe for each one, and gave W the list. She started ticking off some items on the list of ingredients, and of a total of 20+ ingredients, only rice, salt and sugar were available locally. So what, I said, we can order it in advance from one of the Indian stores from Tokyo. But turned out that any 'foreign' cooking had to use only locally available ingredients. This in turn necessitated a very comprehensive survey of all local stores, markets and supermarkets. Finally I came up with a very toned down menu for some simple (toned down, modified and simplified) north Indian type of dishes.

On D-day, the club gathered in full force. As I started the session, one gentleman pointed out that his recipe sheet was incomplete and could he please have a complete set? I looked through his papers and pointed out that everything was there. I guess he just took my word for it, and we started the session. At the end of the cooking class, he got into an arguement of sorts with W-san. I couldn't follow head of tail of it, and decided to let it be.

We all sat down to lunch and had our fill of pulav, raita, palak-paneer and egg curry, followed by payasam...

Finally, some hands went up and I was told they had questions.

"Did you forget the fish??".... Yes, their famed politeness carried them so far, but no longer... I had left out the main part of the meal, after all.....