Dumplings..Momos…whatever you may call them…

These little white parcels are probably the best export from my neighbour, China. Ever since I first tasted them, I always thought this must be one complicated appetizer to make. So I had to make do with my visits to Chinese restaurants for my Momo cravings.

The name “momo” is apt…you always want more of ‘mo-mo’! That’s what they are called here in India.

One day I came across a recipe for momos in a magazine, I was just shocked – it is the simplest dish there ever was. This here is my own version of a vegetarian momo.

Meat-lovers, please substitute with chicken or pork and cook it for longer as meat takes more time to steam.

Ingredients:

3 small mushrooms chopped

1 spring onion (scallion) chopped

1 small carrot chopped

2 green chillies chopped

1 tsp ginger-garlic paste

Salt to taste (don’t use too much if you will use the soya dipping sauce – recipe ahead)

3/4 cup flour

Boiling water for making the dough

Method:

1) On a clean flat surface, add the flour and spread it evenly. Make a hole in the centre and start adding the boiling water gently. As the water is being added, use a spoon to mix till it forms a dough. The water needs to be hot to ensure a smooth dough.

2) The dough needs to kneaded for 5 minutes. Also,, it has to become a soft and smooth ball of dough otherwise the momos will not be steamed properly.

3) After the dough is made, add the other ingredients and mix in a bowl. Make sure the vegetables are cut to the same size for uniform cooking.

4) Divide the dough into equal portions. Make a disc of a diameter of 1.5 inches and 1/2 cm thick with a rolling-pin.

5) Add the vegetable mixture onto the centre of the disc and wrap the remainder of the disc around it and ensure it is completely covered at the top.

6) Place in a steamer for 7-8 minutes.

7) Serve with dipping sauce – Mix 11/2 tbsp soya sauce, 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 2 tsp chopped green chillies, 2 tsp brown sugar.

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The sun never sets here…

As is the case for most women, I am always on the look-out for dishes that are healthy and tasty. Don’t let the cynics fool you. Find the right ingredients and use the right cooking technique: one can always fight the weight-gain/loss battle. The following words will lead you to a wonderful way to get rid of your hunger pangs without feeling an ounce of guilt. This creamy, golden-sun liquid gives you your daily dose of Vitamin A, adds glow to your cheeks and a spring in your step. Chow down with a couple of whole-wheat dinner rolls and you are good to go!

1 kg (2.2 pounds) pumpkin (peeled and chopped)

2 tbsp butter or olive oil

1 large onion (ground into a fine paste)

chicken or vegetable stock – 1 litre. See note below on how to make stock

2 sprigs of thyme

2 tbsp garlic paste

1/2 tsp coriander powder

1/2 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp chilli powder

Salt to taste

For garnish – add roasted pumpkin seeds

1) Add garlic paste and onion paste to melted butter and cook on medium heat.

2) Add thyme to the paste mixture and cook for a few minutes.

3) Add the chopped pumpkin and let it cook out for about 7 minutes. Cook till the pumpkin is tender.

4) Add the spices (coriander, cumin, chilli) and cook for a few more minutes.

5) Add stock and cook it to a rolling boil.

6) Add salt to taste. This depends on how salty your stock is.

7) Garnish with a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds for a different texture and flavour to the soup.

8) Now send this to all the cynics in the world!

Note: To make stock at home, add all the vegetables  and herbs and spices you have at home and cook with water in a pressure cooker: For example: Take an onion, a carrot, tomato, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 1/4 inch knob of chopped ginger, beans, a broccoli stalk, half a bunch of spinach leaves, half a bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste (I skip the salt as I add it to the soup at the end), 1/2 tsp of turmeric, paprika, dried thyme, oregano. Cook the veggies with water to the brim in a pressure cooker for about 15 minutes. Drain the veggies and store the additional stock in the freezer for use in the future. Do not throw away the cooked vegetables as they can be used to make a quick vegetable stir-fry or a vegetable pulao.

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I don’t get people who don’t like chocolate Part 1!

This is perhaps the easiest way to get back to life after a hard day’s work. Whenever I need a quick fixer-upper, (of course, I mean chocolate 🙂 ) I throw all the ingredients of this recipe together: sure enough, it is always, always a great reminder that nothing can beat chocolate at its game. Not even a bad cook!

          I borrowed this recipe from Nigella Lawson who is an excellent representative of a real woman – a woman who enjoys her food and makes no apologies for it and still manages to look gorgeous! I added the base as I love that texture of the biscuit base against the creamy chocolate souffle – it feels like those ice creams which come in a cone and has melted in your mouth. Okay, at least that’s what I tell myself. Why don’t you try it and let me know?

Ingredients for the souffle:

175 g (6 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup cream

175 ml milk

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla essence

Ingredients for the base

175 g (6 oz) whole-wheat digestive biscuits

75 g (3 oz) melted butter

1) Make the base about 30 minutes before you make the souffle. Crush the biscuits in a closed plastic bag by bashing them with a rolling-pin. I find this step extremely relaxing!

2) Add melted butter to this mixture and mix it. Then add this mixture to a medium round cake tin.

3) Press the mixture with your hands so that it is completely set into the tin.

4) Place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

5) Back to your souffle, throw in all the souffle ingredients (chocolate, milk, cream, egg, vanilla) into a food processor/blender.

6) Once it is done, add it gently to the cake tin with the biscuit base. Place it in the fridge for 2-3 hours to be set. You can also speed up the process by placing it in the freezer.

7) If you would like to make it more pretty, you can add grated chocolate and place a few strawberries on top of the souffle when you are serving it or you can just dive in!

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The Chicken Biryani that saved my life at Ana and Peters, Vienna

A summery day 5 years back, I was hosted by a lovely couple Ana and Peter at Vienna. part of a wonderful experience known as hospitalityclub.org, I got to devour all my European food fantasies and it was my turn to give back to this warm and hospitable couple.

                  As a beginner cook, nervous, and wondering if I will find my ingredients for my shortcut biryani (my favourite comfort food), I walked alongside Ana and Peter in Vienna’s Asian market. Not only did I find everything, but I also had mini heart attacks! That bunch of coriander costed Rs 200! Back home in India, I could have got a truck load of that stuff.

After recovering from my frantic Euro to Rupee conversions, Ana helped me with the prep work. Peter provided the entertainment, cracking jokes and lightening the atmosphere with some nice music and taking a mini-photo session. Soon, I forgot my nervousness and was back to my letcooksomethingtodaycauseitsundaymood. 

This shortcut chicken biryani reminds me of lazy sunday afternoons and the earliest tastes of my childhood. The gravy in the dish is also one of the earlier dishes my mother taught me – which I will hope to pass onto everyone I know ’cause absolutely no one in this world should miss out on this heavenly experience!

1 kg (2.2 pounds) chicken (cut into medium-sized cubes)

4-5 medium, firm tomatoes (chopped)

6 medium red onions (chopped)

100 g  (4 ounces) ghee (available in Indian stores) 

                  or

3 tbsp vegetable oil 

1 kg (2.2 pounds) cooked Basmati rice (available in Indian stores) See the note below on how you can cook Basmati rice!

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 and 1/2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (for a milder version, use less of the paste)

2 cloves

Small bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

2-3 green cardamoms

2 tsp chilli powder (we add more as we are indians!)

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp cumin powder

Salt to taste

Coriander leaves – a bunch

1) To heated oil, add the whole spices (cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaf). Simmer and let it infuse the oil on medium heat.

2) Add the chopped onions. Saute till they turn dark brown, taking care not to burn them, as  it will turn bitter.  This step is important as the dark brown onions add a great flavour to the dish.

3) Add the ginger garlic paste to the fried onions. Saute the mixture and let it cook.

4) Add the tomatoes and the spice powders (turmeric, coriander and cumin and chilli). Cook for a few minutes. Let the juices of the tomatoes cook out. Add 1/2 cup of water to ensure all the spices get amalgamated thoroughly and you have an even gravy.

5) After cooking for about 5-10 minutes, add the chicken. Let it cook out for a bit before you add another 1/2 cup of water and ensure it completely covers the mixture.

6) Close with a lid and let it simmer on medium heat for 30 mins. Check the chicken if it is cooked. Add salt to taste. Then add the three cups of cooked rice to the gravy.

7) Mix it gently, taking care not to break the chicken pieces and ensure the rice is coated with gravy.

8) Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with Raita – add 1/2 red onion (chopped), salt to taste, and 1/2 tsp coriander powder to 2 cups whipped, non-sweet yoghurt.

Note: Reduce the amount of oil if you are watching your weight as the chicken’s fat will cook out the dish. However, you will not be able to fry the onions to a dark brown colour.

Note: To cook 2.2 pounds of cooked rice: wash rice grains to remove any impurities. Soak in water for 15 minutes so the cooked rice comes out fluffy. You can skip this step if you are in a hurry. Basmati rice is always cooked in the ratio of 1:1 and 3/4 (rice to water). Add water. Cover the vessel with a lid and cook on medium heat. Turn off heat after 20 mins of cooking.

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