Cabbage & Coconut Stir-fry

photo-01-01-09-12-04-30-amIngredients:

4C. Cabbage (shredded)
6-8 Potatoes (small to medium size)
2 Green chilies (sliced and deseeded)
3-4 Dry red chilies
1T. Cumin seeds
1T. Mustard seeds
1T. Lemon juice
2T. Desiccated coconuts (lightly toasted)
4T. Coriander (chopped)
2T. Oil
Asafoetida (a generous pinch)
Salt & Pepper

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Method:

Start with preparing the potatoes for the recipe. In a pot of boiling water add salt and cook potatoes for 10-12 minutes. Peel and lightly crush. Set aside.

In a pan heat some oil and add dried red chilies along with mustard, cumin and asafoetida. Smoke till fragrant. Once the seeds began to crackle, toss in the cabbage and sliced green chilies.

Make sure the cabbage gets coated with spices and oil nicely. Add the potatoes and continue tossing for few minutes. Add salt and pepper according to your taste.

Once it combines, throw in the toasted coconut, chopped coriander and lemon juice. Give it a final toss to combine.

Serve hot as a side dish.

The key here is the crunch in the cabbage. Don’t overcook!

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Brazilian Chicken Soup

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Ingredients:

300G. Chicken breast (fine shredded)
2T. Olive oil
2 ½ C. Vegetables (chopped, I used carrots, peas, sweet corn & beans)
½ C. Spring onion (chopped)
¾ C. Rice
10C. Chicken broth
4. Eggs (white separated)
1. Onion (chopped)
3. Garlic cloves (minced)
¼ C. Coriander (chopped)
Salt & pepper

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Method:

In a pot add olive oil and sauté onions with garlic till fragrant. Add the shredded chicken and cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the chicken starts turning white, add the rice and roast along for few minutes.

Now add the chicken stock, chopped vegetables and check for seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover the pot. Let it simmer till the rice is cooked.

Once the rice is done add the chopped coriander and egg whites while stirring it.

Pour it in a bowl, garnish with a lime slice and enjoy!

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Cauliflower Risotto

Photo 01-01-09, 12 08 38 AMIngredients:

1C. Arborio rice
½ C. White wine
2C. Vegetable stock
2T. Parmesan – Romano (grated)
1T. Lemon Juice
3T. Olive oil
Saffron (optional)

Ingredients for Puree

1 Cauliflower head (minced)
1 Onion (chopped)
6-8 Basil leaves
1C. Water
3T. Butter
Salt & Pepper

Ingredients for Garnish

2T. Garlic (minced)
3T. Cauliflower (minced)
3T. Mushrooms (chopped)
2T. Red bell pepper (chopped)
2T. Green bell pepper (chopped)
2T. Spring onion (chopped)
1T. Olive oil

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Method:

Start with preparing the cauliflower puree. In a pan add the butter, basil leaves and onions. Once the onions start to sweat, stir in the cauliflower and season with salt & pepper. Cook the cauliflower on slow – medium heat without turning it brown. Add a cup of water if required. Once cooked properly let it sit for few minutes and puree using a blender. Set aside.

Take another pan and prepare for the garnish. Drizzle few drops of olive oil once heated add the garlic, spring onions, bell peppers, mushrooms and cauliflower. Saute for 6 – 7 minutes and reserve for later use.

Heat a flat pan on medium heat. Add some olive oil, once hot add the Arborio rice. Toast the rice till fragrant and then stir in the wine. Once the wine is absorbed add the vegetable stock. Keep on stirring to avoid sticking at the base. Also, you can add a dollop of butter to emulsify the rice. Add the lemon juice, cover and cook. Once the rice is almost done add the cauliflower puree and stir. This is the time when you will add the saffron, if using. Remove from the heat and add the grated cheese. Stir to mix the cheese evenly. Check for seasoning.

Pour some hot risotto in a plate, top it up with some prepared garnish and serve hot.

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Creamy Cottage Cheese

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Ingredients:

250G. Small Curd Cottage Cheese
1T. Ginger – Garlic Paste
2 Green Chili (deseeded, finely chopped)
1C. Red Bell pepper (finely chopped)
½ C. Green peas
2 Onions (chopped)
1 Tomato (chopped)
1T. Cumin seeds
¼ T. Garam Masala
¼ T. Turmeric Powder
½ T. Red Chili Powder
1T. Coriander Powder
¼ C. Milk
1T. Lemon Juice
2T. Fresh Coriander (chopped)
Oil
Salt

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Method:

Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds. Allow them to crackle.
Add chopped onions, chilies, ginger-garlic paste and saute for few minutes.

Now add the chopped tomatoes and bell pepper. Give it a quick stir and cook till they turn soft.

Add garam masala, turmeric powder, red chili powder, coriander powder and salt to taste, stir.

Once fragrant add the milk and mix.

Stir in the cottage cheese, green peas, along with the lemon juice and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with the bread of your choice.

Tip: Any type of cottage cheese can be used for this recipe. Crumble or grate it before use.

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The Great Wall of China

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He who has not climbed the great wall is not a true man
– Mao Zedong

The moment I landed in China, I was excited to tick another attraction on my list. The Great Wall, one of the greatest wonders of the world. Listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO and having a historical significance for over 2000 years this wall is stretching approximately 21000 kilometers from east to west of China and indeed is an architectural marvel.

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Stairs leading to the watch tower
Stairs leading to the watch tower

The Great Wall of China is not one long wall but a system of many walls built over years by different dynasties coming in to power in China with a purpose of protecting their kingdom & people. The wall has a lot of beacon and watch towers which were built to garrison troops. The labor forces used to construct the wall were mainly soldiers and convicts. Many of them who died during the construction were buried within the wall itself. During the war times this wall played a vital role for communication. Messages were relayed by smoke and fire signals.

View of the wall with watch towers
View of the wall with watch towers

Today due to natural erosion & visitor induced damage a big part of the wall is missing but there are many sections which are restored and are open for tourism. Several well-preserved stretches of the Wall are near Beijing and are just a short drive away. The most touristic, crowded and restored of them being Badaling section of the great wall. Mutianyu section is a little far and less touristic. The third section which is Jinshanling is far from the city but is in the original state without any restoration.

To get to Mutianyu from Beijing, one can catch a bus, take a day tour or use a private car rental. The best alternative is to use a car rental. An excellent 4 seater car would cost something between 500 – 700 RMB (all inclusive) for a round trip and 4 – 5 hours of waiting time at the wall.

To enjoy the great wall it’s important to start early as the most of the crowd reaches by midday. I planned to visit the Mutianyu section and left early in the morning. It was a good decision as there was no traffic on the way and I was at the wall by Seven O’clock. Mutianyu is at an incredibly scenic location; the Wall looks like a giant stone snake built over ridges of mountains. You could get spectacular view while you are climbing up. If you don’t like climbing stairs to reach the wall then the easy way up is a cable car.

After getting up to the wall you can stroll between any of the twenty two watch towers and enjoy the beautiful forest scenery or impressive rolling hills. The wall has lot of steep climbs and descends so a good pair of walking shoes is a must along with lot of energy and enthusiasm as the climb is quite a challenge.

Scenic forest view from the wall
Scenic forest view from the wall

During your stay up at the wall if you feel like having a refreshment break then just next to tower 10 you a have kiosk selling cold and hot beverages. Feel free to have a can of Sing Tao (Chinese beer). There is also a graffiti wall available at tower 14 where you can mark your presence.

Graffiti wall available at tower 14
Graffiti wall available at tower 14

Planning to go back proceed to tower 6 where you can take a toboggan ride down the great wall in style. The individual carts are self controlled and fun, provided you don’t have someone slow in front of you to spoil the thrill. After all you don’t get a chance to slide down The Great Wall of China every day.

The entry ticket cost 60 RMB
Cable car/toboggan rides available at an additional cost.

To book a trip to the great wall visit:
http://www.wildgreatwall.com

Basic Makhani Gravy

1
Ingredients

2C. Tomatoes (chopped)
1 Onion (chopped)
1 Green chili
2 Cloves
2 Cardamoms
5 Cashew nuts
3T. fresh cream
2T. Butter
2T. Ginger garlic paste
1T. Sugar
1T. Tomato ketchup
1T. Tomato paste
½ T. Cumin seeds
½ T. Dried fenugreek leaves
1T. Red chili powder
¼ T. Garam masala
½ T. Coriander powder
¼ T. Turmeric powder
Salt

2Method

Start with combining tomatoes, cloves & cashew nuts in a mixer jar and form a smooth puree. Set aside.

Now puree onion and green chili as well.

Heat the butter in a pan and add cumin seeds along with the cardamoms and sauté.

Now add the onion puree along with the ginger garlic paste, tomato paste and sauté on medium flame for 3-5 minutes.

Add the tomato puree and continue stirring. Once the oil begins to separate add chili powder, garam masala powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder & a cup of water. Let it simmer for few minutes.

Add the fenugreek leaves, sugar, ketchup and check for salt, while stirring occasionally.

Once the gravy reaches the desired consistency turn the flame off & add the cream.

The Makhani gravy is ready for use.

Tips:

For restaurant style smooth gravy, pass the gravy through a mesh before adding crème. This will remove all the whole spices.

If you would like to freeze this gravy for future use then do not add crème as it may spoil. To use the frozen gravy just thaw it before use and add the crème in the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic Carrot Cake

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Ingredients

3C. Fine grated carrots
1 ½ C. White sugar
½ C. Brown sugar
1C. Raisins
1C. Crushed pineapple
4 Eggs (lightly beaten)
1 ¼ C. Vegetable oil
2T. Vanilla extract
2C. All purpose flour
2T. Baking soda
2T. Baking powder
3T. Ground cinnamon
1C. Dried coconut (grated)
½ T. Salt

For Frosting & Garnish:

1C. Chopped nuts
½ C. Unsalted butter (softened)
2C. Cream Cheese (softened)
4C. Confectioner’s sugar
1T. Vanilla extract

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Recipe:

Preheat the oven at 180°C.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs, oil, white and brown sugar; once combined stir in flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, dried coconut, grated carrots, raisins, vanilla extract  & crushed pineapple.

Grease and flour a cake pan and pour the batter into it. Bake in the pre heated oven for 50 – 60 minutes or until the tooth pick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Let it cool completely.

To prepare frosting, in a bowl, combine butter, cheese, confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract. Beat under the mixture is smooth and creamy.

Spread the frosting evenly over the cake and sprinkle the nuts on top.

Vibrant Istanbul

Photo 01-03-017..Another city discovered. One more story added to many of mine.
A city designed multiple times, a city where the east meets the west.
A city with which you might fall in love – Istanbul!

The most important thing to do when planning a trip to Istanbul is to allow enough time to explore the city. Begin by choosing a hotel close to a district where you would like to spend your evenings. I began my Istanbul tour from Taksim, a landmark in itself; this area has everything a tourist might need. From shopping to nightlife, history to trade & street food to a variety of upscale restaurants. It is indeed a very interesting place to spend few hours as it spreads till the Istiklal Caddesi, one of the most touristy and busy street. While wandering on these streets, if you don’t feel like walking anymore then try the famous historic red trams. The experience will turn out to be a beautiful memory.

View of  Istiklal Caddesi during the day
View of Istiklal Caddesi during the day

In order to save yourself from “too much to see and too little time” kind of a situation, plan an old town tour the first thing. My suggestion is to take a Big Bus Tour. The ticket is valid for 48 hours, gives you unlimited rides throughout the city & saves you from the hassles of the taxi drivers.

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For more information, visit – http://eng.bigbustours.com/istanbul/home.html

The Big Bus tour route is very carefully designed and takes you to all the major landmarks and historic sites.  At the same time you are connected to the free wifi and have access to your personal recorded commentary in eight different languages explaining about the history and culture of this city. If the weather is in your favour, you can take a seat in the upper deck of the bus and enjoy the magnificent view of Bosphorus Bridge, the Blue Mosque, Dolmabahce Palace, Galata Tower and much more. I think for solo travelers like me, the Big Bus tour is one of the safest and relaxing ways to discover Istanbul.

Sultan Ahmet Camii or The Blue Mosque
Sultan Ahmet Camii or The Blue Mosque
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Bosphorus bridge
Bosphorus bridge

Once done with the historic tour of Istanbul it’s time to turn towards the culinary side. When visiting the heart of Turkey, there is no need to comprise on taste. Food from all categories exists here and you should try it all! I personally started from the Simits (sesame breads), moved to the Doners (wraps) and continued shuffling between Pide (flatbread with cheese and meat), Kofte (meat balls) & Balik Ekmek (grilled fish in bread). However many other seafood and mezze options are widely available in addition to the famous food chains.

A vendor selling Simits or sesame breads
A vendor selling Simits or sesame breads
Freshly made  Balik Ekmek
Freshly made Balik Ekmek

Before your trip comes to an end be sure to take a Bosphorus cruise, bargain at the bazaars, get scrubbed in a hammam, sip the amazing turkish teas/coffees and sample a few varieties of Baklava or Lokum (Turkish delight).

Bosphorus Cruise Ship
Bosphorus Cruise Ship
A cup of hot turkish tea
A cup of hot turkish tea
The famous Hafiz Mustafa - Baklava shop
The famous Hafiz Mustafa – Baklava shop

Istanbul, with so much of diversity, history and art is definitely a full package vacation deal and I am sure with a bit of research and information you will enjoy it the same way I did.

Mixed Vegetable Soup

File 22-02-16, 6 37 43 PMIngredients

½ C. Corn Kernels (frozen or fresh)
1 Carrot (peeled & chopped)
1 Onion (finely chopped)
4-6 Beans (finely chopped)
2T. Spring Onions (chopped)
2T. Cauliflower (small florets)
2T. Peas
1T. Cornflour
2C. Water
2C. Vegetable Stock
½ T. Sugar
¼ T. Oregano Seasoning
Salt & Pepper
1T. Butter

Recipe:

In a pot melt some butter & sauté all the vegetables except the spring onions. Around 3 – 4 minutes.

Meanwhile stir the cornflour in 1 cup of water and leave aside. Make sure there are no lumps.

Now in the pot with the vegetables add the stock and water. Once comes to a boil allow to simmer for few minutes.

When the water in the pot is reduced, stir in the cornflour mixture. The soup will start to thicken at this stage. Add the sugar, pepper and check for salt. Let it simmer for 5 more minutes.

Garnish with spring onions, oregano seasoning and serve hot.
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Say “Bonjour” Fellas!

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While to many, Paris could be about love & romance and to the rest about their cuisine. For me Paris was a dream, I had, while in high school. The French capital not only combines both the things but also presents it to you in such a beautiful way that you just can’t resist trying it all. With all its marvelous architecture and breath taking view this city is for sure the most interesting city in Europe. Whether its summers or the chilly winters you can roam around and discover this city full of art, history, fashion and love.

Paris has a lot of stories. Spare a day or two to transport you back in time with a historic stroll through one of the many museums such as Louvre Museum. If you are not a history person still things to do in Paris are many. You can visit the famous Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe & many more spectacular sights.

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Eiffel Tower is the most iconic structure in the city and has witnessed a lot of marriage proposals till date. A lot of arm-in-arm couples could be seen walking around, while some enjoy a flute of rosé bubbly in candlelit bars. The opportunities for romance here are endless.

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Not very far from the Eiffel tower is the extravagant Pont Alexandre III. The bridge is a sight to behold & was inaugurated in 1900 for the world fair. This bridge connects Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, and the Invalides.

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If you are an evening stroller and love to see the city coming into action while the sun goes down than Champs Elysees is the place for you. Named after heaven, it’s also known as the most beautiful avenue in the world. Heading a bit left from the main street you would reach Arc de Triomphe, another artfully created structure honoring the people who died during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars.

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A day spent in this city will be incomplete if you do not indulge in some of the city’s most delicious cuisine. French food is known for its flavors. From baguettes to cheese and basic to the traditional, there is something here for everyone to tempt the palate. Don’t forget to try my favorite pâtisserie Ladurée for a sweet finale with that loved one of yours.

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