Sunday, 16 June 2019

Recipe 84: Aloo Bindi Bhaja (Stir Fried Potato & Okra)

Just two vegetables and such a delicious and comfort food.


Absolutely simple to prepare and easy to digest, potato and okra/lady fingers can be cooked in several ways. But I have a family favorite that uses no spices and still can make you crave for more.
Serve this stir fried dish with roti or paratha. It makes for an awesome tiffin recipe.


But if you want a real Bengali emotion, then serve it with hot steamy rice and dollops of ghee/butter. Mash the potatoes into the rice and lightly mix in the bhindi pieces. Oh! such a yummy taste.

Ingredients:

  1. 2 large potatoes
  2. 1/2 kilo bhindi/okra
  3. 2 tsp. cumin/zeera whole
  4. 1 tsp. turmeric/haldi powder
  5. 1 tsp. sugar
  6. salt to taste
  7. vegetable oil for frying

Method:

Wash thoroughly all the bhindis and let it dry.
Discard the head and tail of the bhindi.
Cut each bhindi 1 inch thick.
Keep aside in a bowl.
Peel and cut potatoes into small cubes or the size of the bhindi pieces.
Heat oil in a kadhai.
Add zeera and let it crackle.
Add the potatoes and fry till they are 70 percent done.
Now add the bhindi pieces.
Add salt and haldi.
Keep stirring on medium heat.
Do not cover the vessel.
Continue stirring the vegetables on low flame.
Cook till the vegetables are fully cooked.
Sprinkle sugar and stir for another 2-3 minutes.
Serve warm.



Thursday, 6 June 2019

Recipe 83: Doi Macch (Fish in Yogurt Sauce)

The number of ways a fish curry can be made is amazing.


Uptil now I have shared spicy fish curry, everyday style fish curry, and even fish and orange curry. And each one scores one above the other.


Notching up my skills, I have a fairly simple way of Doi Macch recipe today.


My recipe ditches the traditional method and has a few extra ingredients that I feel has turned Doi Macch even more yummy.
Try to find out!

Ingredients for 4 Servings:

  1. 4 rohu fish pieces
  2. 2 medium onions
  3. 4 green chillies
  4. 1 cup sour yogurt
  5. 1 tbsp. ginger-garlic paste
  6. 1 tbsp. melon seeds or 5-6 cashews
  7. 2 tsp. sugar
  8. 1 tsp. haldi/turmeric
  9. 1 tsp. red chilly powder
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 4 elaichi/cardamom
  12. 1 inch stick dalchini/cinnamon
  13. 4-5 laung/cloves
  14. salt to taste
  15. mustard oil for cooking

Method:

In a pot, heat water for boiling onions, green chillies, melon seeds, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
Cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes or till the onions turn translucent.
Cool and make a smooth paste of all the ingredients.
Reserve the flavorful water for making gravy later.
Meanwhile, smear salt and turmeric all over the fish pieces.
Heat a kadhai/wok and add mustard oil for shallow frying fish.
Fry till both sides of fish develops a brown color.
Take them out in a plate.
In the same kadhai, add some more mustard oil and temper bay leaf.
Add ginger-garlic paste.
Fry till raw aroma stops.
Now sauté the onion paste in it.
Add salt, turmeric and sugar.
Stir for 5 minutes.
Add yogurt.
Keep stirring till oil begins to surface.
No add the fish pieces and the reserved water.
Cook for another 5-10 minutes.
Add more water if you prefer a thin gravy.
Finish off with a sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Recipe 82: Basic Cheela

My husband Ajit's favourite breakfast item is cheela. And he makes them often for the whole family.


Cheela can be made simple with just onions and green chillies or you can add many vegetables.


Either way, cheela is an awesome and nutritious dish that goes very well with tea.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 medium onion
  2. 4-5 green chillies
  3. 1/2 cup suji/semolina
  4. 1/2 cup rice powder
  5. 1/4 cup besan/chickpea flour
  6. 2 tbsp. chopped fresh coriander leaves
  7. 2 tsp. red chilly powder
  8. 1 tsp. haldi/turmeric powder
  9. salt to taste
  10. vegetable oil for cooking

Method:

Chop onions and green chillies finely.
In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and make a pourable consistency batter with water.
Rest the batter for 1-2 hours.
Now heat a non-stick pan and add 1 tbsp. of oil.
Pour 1-2 ladle full of the cheela batter.
Wait for tiny bubbles to form.
Add 1 tsp. oil on top of the semi-cooked cheela.
Flip after 1 minute.
Cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Serve hot with tomato ketchup and tea.


Aneeta Paul
I am social, goal-oriented and fun loving person.
I love to dance, sing, paint and do yoga.
I love to travel and make new friends.
Professionally, I have been into teaching for several years. But lifestyle demanded a change and I am loving the desk job. Currently, I am recruiter in an MNC.

Monday, 27 May 2019

Recipe 81: Easy Mexican Fried Rice








Who doesn't love fried rice? Specially when it has the goodness of vegetables and beans, and the aromatic flavor of dried herbs.


Here is a recipe to an easy-to-make Mexican Fried Rice. But I should admit that this is not the traditional recipe. The traditional one is a one-pot recipe where you will have to fry the rinsed rice with the vegetables and then boil them in vegetable/chicken broth to perfection.


This is my unique way of making it where you cook the rice separately and then add it to the pan of vegetables and stir fry. You can use either freshly boiled rice or leftover rice.


So, I guess this unique recipe can become your clean-the-fridge meal!
Check out the recipe below.


Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup Basmati rice
  2. 1/2 cup red kidney beans boiled and drained
  3. 1/4 cup sliced yellow pepper
  4. 1/4 cup sliced red pepper
  5. 1/4 cup finely chopped carrots
  6. 1/4 cup tomato ketchup
  7. 1/2 finely chopped onion
  8. 4 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  9. 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  10. 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
  11. 1/2 tsp. black pepper powder
  12. 1/4 tsp. oregano
  13. 1/4 tsp. thyme
  14. Salt to taste
  15. Water to boil rice

Method:

Boil the rinsed rice and keep it aside to cool down.
Add oil to a skillet and fry the garlic well.
To it, add the onion pieces and stir fry.
Then add the red and yellow peppers, carrots and red kidney beans.
Add herbs (oregano & thyme), chili flakes and pepper powder and mix well.
Cook till the vegetables are medium crunchy.
Add the tomato ketchup, mix well.
Finally add the boiled and cooled down rice.
Give a good mix by carefully folding the cooked vegetables into the rice.
Serve hot accompanied with a poached egg.
Disfrutate de la comida! (Enjoy your food)


Sohini Nandi
Hello from the Land of Santa Claus!
Professionally I am a Conservation Architect. That means I spend most of my time snooping around dilapidated and haunted buildings. I love the smell of old damp lime washed walls. Sorry to put you off with all the unpleasant details.
Now for the fun facts. I have been living in this extremely cold socialist country (its Finland, for the people who are still guessing!) for a few years. But I was in London doing my second post-graduation (University College London) and working on a few projects for the last 1.5 years.
Being a culture enthusiast, I have travelled far and wide in Europe learning culture and trying the unique local cuisines. Yes, I am a foodie too!
In SpicesnSecrets I will be sharing some of my experiences for similar lost souls in an alien country.
Cheers to life!



Sunday, 26 May 2019

For the Love of Cooking and Blogging

Yesterday I saw a beautiful and yummy movie titled Julie & Julia.


It is based on books called Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously and My Life in France.


If you are a lover of food, cooking and blogging, then this movie is for you.


I watched it twice. And again can. That much I love.


If nothing, then you will be craving for butter during or after watching this movie. Because butter is all over. Cooking and food is glorified and seen as a pleasurable job rather than a chore.


The movie also highlights the modern day method of stress buster - Blogging. Blogging is shown as a way to reach out to the world and use writing for relaxation.


The protagonist is a first time blogger, failed almost in every creative sphere, takes a self-imposed challenge to cook all the recipes of Julia Child in a year. With a lot of trials, tribulations and laughter, she not only successfully finishes the challenge but also becomes a published writer who turns her blog into a book (and the book is turned into this movie! Yes, the movie is a biography of Julie Powell, a real person)


As a disclaimer, I must mention that the movie celebrates French cooking. And, while I am an Indian and almost always cook with Indian ingredients, I still enjoyed watching and made no mockery of French style of cooking. Infact, I am not even inspired to cook French food where an omlette is ever so slightly cooked and kept 10-20 percent raw, because I love how we Indians fry well our eggs and the omlette has a brown toasty color and aroma on both sides.


What truly made me love this movie is the sudden realization that Spices n Secrets (SnS) also took birth out of my love for food and cooking. I have been maintaining a recipe diary and for long I wanted it to be in a more secure form. Blogging then became my preferred choice.


Ofcourse, if you see, SnS is least of the design and narrative of a blog. It is very structured, with carefully chosen topics, and all the blog posts are well drafted write-ups by me and my guest bloggers.


And, while I am in love with how SnS has turned up, I do miss the old-school blogging in which the writer is typing away their day's activities in "Dear Diary" form, speak their heart out, and random ramblings of thoughts coming every now and then.


Anyone can start a blog and you don't have to be a writer. However, in my experience, if you are a writer or you have a knack for creative writing, blogging is an unending journey for you. One can express their feelings and connect so well, over a single blog post, you will be amazed.


And, while it may seem you are sending out words in a void of air, it is actually being read and smiled over. Some would muster up the instincts to comment, some wont. But never ever does it mean, your post was unread!


Anyways, Julie & Julia, the movie I started the discussion with today, please watch it. The movie is there in Netflix. Let me link the books for you to read and add to your recipebook collection.


You just never know what this movie will inspire you to do. Maybe you begin scramming your kitchen for ingredients and begin cooking. Or plug your computer for starting a blog of your own.
   












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Tuesday, 7 May 2019

DIY Coffee Chocolate Scrub Bar

I love to exfoliate my skin no matter what the season is.


If it is summer, the dry and hot season calls for scrubs that are nourishing yet gets rid of dry flaky dead skin cells. And, if it is winter then dry skin syndrome heightens and scrubs becomes even more essential.


Today I have a recipe that is so delicious smelling that you can almost eat it.


Actually you can ! Because all the ingredients are edible.


Edible ingredients also means active ingredients that really gets down to work and give you a nice smooth skin feel after every exfoliation.


I am a coffee person and it struck me to include it into my skincare. And BAM! Comes into picture my DIY Coffee Chocolate Scrub Bar for not just face but the whole body.
The benefits are:
  • Coffee has antioxidants and when applied directly onto skin, the skin cells improve.
  • Some studies tells that coffee protects the skin from harmful UV rays and other skin damages.
  • Coffee grounds are natural scrubbing agents that promotes good blood circulation as opposed to micro plastic beads that are used in commercial skincare products.
  • Coffee has the exact same effect when applied on skin as it has when taken internally. The aroma of coffee is invigorating and very stimulating to the senses, and fills one with energy.
  • Coffee reduces cellulite on skin. It also reduces puffy eyes,
  • Sugar is a humectant, meaning sugar attracts moisture from the environment into your skin and helps keep skin soft and hydrated.
  • Sugar is a natural glycolic acid, so it exfoliates dead skin cells.
  • Milk has lactic acid which is a great cleaning agent.
  • Milk has fats, so it is moisturizing the skin.
  • Milk itself is loaded with vitamins which treat dry skin, boosts collagen, fights dark spots, and repairs ageing tissues.
I have used a premix meant for making hot chocolate/chocolate drink. And the reason is that a premix is a mixture of sugar granules, cocoa and milk powder. This way I don't have to measure and add sugar, cocoa and milk powder later into the scrub.

Ingredients:

  1. 1/2 cup filter coffee granules
  2. 1/2 cup hot chocolate drink mix (alternatively use 1 tbsp. of each - sugar granules, milk powder and cocoa powder)
  3. 3/4 cup coconut oil

Method:

In a container add all the ingredients.
Mix well.
On dry skin, gently massage the scrub.
Most of the oil will be absorbed by your skin.
Now take some water on your palms and pat on your skin.
Continue massaging.
The water will begin to dissolve the sugar and milk. Thereby allowing milk's lactic acid to activate.
Now wash off the scrub.
You have the option to leave your skin as it is with a slick of oil. Or use a face wash right after scrubbing.

Storing & Usage Options:

Pour the mixture into small moulds and refrigerate. Take out when it solidifies and use the scrub bar in shower for one time usage.
Or
Pour the mixture into a container and leave it on your bathroom shelf. In colder months, the coconut oil will harden the scrub and in summer the scrub will remain soft and mushy. Ensure that you finish it off within 1-2 weeks.
Or
Pour the mixture into air-tight container and refrigerate. Whenever you feel like scrubbing face or body, scrap off the required amount and use. This is my most preferred way, as I am not contaminating the whole scrub with wet fingers each time and storing the scrub in cold temperatures.
 










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Sunday, 5 May 2019

Recipe 80: Coconut Pancakes

In an Indian household, breakfast means bread, egg, roti, sabzi, paratha, poha, etc.


Dishes like pancakes, waffles, croissant, sausages, etc, are not considered common Indian breakfast. In fact, these are considered more as a dessert and delicacy.


One evening, wanting to experiment with pancakes, I made some for my family. It was an absolute hit-and-trial and I was rather amazed at the results.


Believing pancakes to be a good evening snack, everyone loved it and so the recipe became blog worthy!


I made a good enough stack of pancakes and drizzled thick sugar syrup instead of the quintessential maple syrup on not just top of the whole stack but inbetween each pancake. I then cut the stack like a cake and served each person a slice with extra syrup! This way you get a mouthful feel.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  2. 1/2 cup shredded fresh coconut (you can use desiccated coconut also)
  3. 3/4 cup of milk
  4. 1 egg
  5. 2 tbsp. sugar
  6. 1 tbsp. baking powder
  7. 1 tsp. vanilla essence
  8. 1/4 tsp. salt
  9. Sweet syrup (maple or sugar) for serving

Method:

Whisk egg, coconut and sugar till sugar dissolves and egg turns frothy.
Add the flour, baking powder, salt, essence and milk.
Whisk to yield a smooth batter.
Now heat a non-stick pan and brush 1 tsp. of butter or vegetable oil.
Add 1-2 ladle full of the batter.
Do not try to spread the batter with the ladle. Let the batter spread on its own gently.
The more the batter spreads the thinner the pancakes will be. So, choice is yours in terms of a thick or thin pancake.
Keep the heat on stove on low and wait till tiny bubbles form all over the pancake.
Flip the pancake.
Do not press or flatten the pancake. The baking powder will ensure that pancake rises.
Place it on a serving platter and drizzle syrup.
Prepare more pancakes and stack one on top of the other and keep drizzling syrup inbetween.
Finish off all the batter and serve with more syrup, fruits, whipped cream, etc.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Dalai Lama's Tip on Parenting

I have been reading a book nowadays, called Winning in Testing Times, edited by Namita Bhandare.


It is basically a compilation of speeches that were delivered at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in 2010.
From Manmohan Singh, Gordon Brown, Nandan Nilekani to Wasim Akram, Dr Ravi Gopal Verma, the Summit was an excellent gathering of people from almost all professions.


Each of the speeches and the question-answer rounds have been noted in this book. And all are so inspiring.


I finished the first speech by Dalai Lama and he had an interesting thing to say about parenting. And, I felt it is worth sharing.


  1. Everyone is influenced by their mother. So, for a child (who later becomes a person) to become good natured and compassion, the mother has to be very kind and loving. In the words of Dalai Lama," At a very young age we survive on our mother's affection. At that stage the maximum affection we receive is from our mothers. That experience is absorbed by every particle of our body … Those who receive the most affection from their mother at an early age are safer and feel more secure. Those who grow up lacking a mother's affection or in abusive conditions, always remain insecure no matter how smart they may turn out to be."
  2. The next remarkable point Dalai Lama made was in the context of religion and state development. But I found it to be application to parenting as well. He says that, "Without human action, Buddha's blessings are not very effective, are they?" He means that there are scores of scriptures and classes held on Buddha and his teachings but if people and state do not sit down to implement it, change will not take place. This got me thinking that no matter how many books on parenting and child care we read and no matter how many educational and learning toys we gift our kids, if parents/guardians do not deliberately sit down to talk, play and spent time with kids, never will they be able to change their parenting style for good. A lot of our efforts to raise to a child is dependent on television, mobiles, tablets and computers because with a click of a button songs can be played, alphabets are taught, and dances can be shown. We never really think about raising a child technology free and ourselves dancing, singing or teaching numbers and alphabets. Coming to Dalai Lama's point, human action is required to implement the things that are taught in parenting books. But, sadly we all prefer to pick and choose what suits our lifestyle and interest.











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