About ahighandahalf

a c(r)ook, a painter (?), an ex drummer, a semi nomad and a bohemian juggling a not so 9 to 5 job surviving the chaos Illuminated by flashes of lightning!

Of Haldi Milk and Thai Food

And so some time was spent in delhi trying to nurse a sick sister back to health and then it’s been this crazy circus of a go live weekend and frankly quite traumatic experiences with paperwork and digital work and a migration from an old laptop to a new laptop that have all successfully managed to keep away from experimenting much and sticking to the tried and tested..!

Nursing the sick sister to health turned out to be tons of fun with making pasta and risotto and chocolate biscuit pudding and corn bake and of course.. Haldi wala Doodh aka Haldi Milk aka HM!

And then through it all there were also these…

If this one’s Love at First Sight… 

then what do you call this…? 

The Extra Marital Affair!!!

Coming back to the real business of life… try making an elder sister fussy about the smell of warm milk drink HM and all your nightmares will seem small! So there we were following instructions to the tee.. while the milk is heating up put in 4 freshly wounded (yes wounded and not crushed) peppercorns into the milk… find a cup of any size you wish for it will eventually be negotiated to a smaller one come what may… add in an exact half tsp of sugar and an exact half tsp of haldi to the cup… boiling the milk and the haldi can make for quite a disaster when it comes to your olfactory nerves… so warm milk, haldi in cup and remember to seive the malai off when pouring the milk! (haldi flavored malai… ~eeyyuuu!) And then stir it all and give it the special halwai touch by pouring it back and forth between cups and find in you the patience to stand over the patients head as he/she rants about not wanting to drink it till it’s in their hands! ~phew!

(Dearest Diu… Get ekdum perfect super soon! HM works well for the physiotherapy so please please DIY! 🙂 We luv you!)

That said… I was taught some wonderful shortcuts to some lovely thai food and when I came home and tried them… they worked like a charm!!! 🙂 Hat tip to Dipali Chachi and Diu!

So we woke up on this wonderful thursday morning thinking that the worst is now behind us in terms of work and paperwork and we can put back in place the ritual of taking food to office! There was broccoli, green, red and yellow capsicum (yeah yeah.. bell peppers! ~sheesh!), carrots and green beans and a knife desperately waiting to go at them! So bright and early with a cup of black tea to keep me company these happy veggies were chopped up!

Then came the surprisingly easy part! Just follow the instructions on the pack!! 😀 A lil bit of oil, the curry paste, a tetrapak of homemade’s coconut milk, a lil bit of water, all the veggies… one happy boil and there it is!

Thai Green Curry just as they would serve it in your gully-ka-high-end-thai-restaurant! And one helping of steamed rice.. butter it up if you wish! (it does do wonders… one happy dollop of butter!) Anyone who tasted it at work thought I had laboured in the kitchen and kept trying to guess the ingredients.. someone went ginger.. another went lime… a third just smiled and dove into it!

Lucky for me I wasn’t putting in too much effort in the kitchen for the Boss called and said ‘hey you’ll be there by 11 right?!’. Poor lil me looks at clock and decides to have a bath and skip breakfast.. packup the food and run for it was 1015 by then! (Crime, shame, torture to make people run to office when their first planned action of the day is only at 230 in the afternoon!) And if I was complaining about the Thursday here’s to the Friday where Super Boss calls at 8 AM and goes hey come in ASAP! ~sheesh! (Now it’s a different story that the a couple presentations to people really high up went really really well… and on zero notice! pats self on back! but also continues to crib!!)

By Friday’s morning fiasco boss owed us lunch so it was a glutton fest at the food court.. and a coffee and sandwich nicely sufficed over a long pending dinner conversation with the Pinchester! 🙂 Costa and Pincha – always very chilled out! Lovely Bangalore weather and a warm cup of the Cafe Mocha as the breeze takes over!

After the mad crazy week it’s only natural that coffee will also put you to sleep! Knocked out cold and awoken only by 12 noon on Saturday and pretty much dying of hunger.. knowing only 100 bucks in wallet so can’t order takeout food either without going through the pains of changing and walking to atm! (and the chinese food guy is right next to the atm..!) so no.. not happening!

Open Fridgesame! Half of the broccoli and bell peppers were still there calling out to be chopped and cooked!

And there was that pack of the Pad Thai Noodles! Nice very very straight, flat, white sticks for noodles I must say! Anyways.. put those to boil while you chop the veggies and brush your teeth! 🙂

Roast some peanuts to perfection and keep aside for the garnish.. and then again..

… follow instructions on the pack! 😀 A lil bit of oil… stir fry the veggies.. I had some sprouts begging to be eaten as well so in they went too and well…  it’s a nice touch if you’re a sprouts person! Then goes in the masala in the pad thai pack.. a lil bit of water… some more stir frying… ! By then the noodles should be boiled… drain in colander… wash down with cold water to avoid them sticking together and becoming noddle halwa… add them into your stir frying wok and again… stir fry for a couple more minutes! Toss in the roasted peanuts… yes – stir fry..! And you’re done!

I settled down with this and an episode of My Family and went right back to sleep! 🙂 Ahh.. the joys of a supra lazy saturday!

Sunday shall find me experimenting with Dahi Vada’s and Lauki ka Halwa..! If it turns out well I shall tell you about it… if not I shall sit in a corner and mope over the bowls as I find the courage to eat them! wish me luck!

Of Corn Bake and Aam Panna!

so it’s been a few tumultuous days and i haven’t really been in my den hence there has been less of me on this blog… and less food that i have been cooking even though it continues to be yumm dumm yummm de dumm and home cooked!

so sexy sam paid a visit to namma bengaluru and was to drop into humble barsaati with ocean blue floor tiles and pink walls at 8 in the morning! Called for grand breakfast morning now didn’t it?

and so we set about making the lovely passed on from dad recipe of corn bake! ~ ahh of simplicity and complexity in the same bowl as it finds a way to finally melt in your mouth in it’s nutmegged happiness!

take fresh.. absolutely fresh corn still on the cob… break it in two and call on the services of the infamous paanch litre ka cooker! put in in.. add a pinch of sugar (yes sugar.. it brings out the natural sweetness of this beautiful corn and adds millions to the taste – that one tiny pinch!)

Give it about a whistle and a half and wait for the cooker to open! Ahh… such wonderful smells of steamed yellow joy! Scrape of the lovely boiled corn from the cob using a knife and voila… fresh corn!

What you have done in the meanwhile is utilized the efficiencies of the food processor… (for future reference this one shall be called GurrPurr) and belted out these lovely thin sliced onions!

And what’s life without simla mirch! So there she sits all nice and chopped waiting to be stirred into wholesomeness! (Personally I have thought that capsicum by itself is rather incomplete however when mixed in with other lovelies it is too good to be true!).

There it begins… a weeny bit of olive oil boiling away with a few peppercorns spilled in (i used black and white both!)…

As those begin to cackle, in go the onions… and as they turn this pretty pink in goes the corn and the capsicum! Let it bhuno for some time and then sprinkle about 2 fistfuls of maida on it!

Let it turn into this wonderful warm light brown and add in a packetful of milk… it should just about cover the mix in the old faithful aluminium ka kadhai.. add in salt to taste… lots of freshly ground pepper, a pinch (yes a tiny pinch of nutmeg! with nutmeg less is more!) and bring in one tiny boil! It’s best to keep stirring this thing to avoid the white sauce from sticking to the sides (and that my friends was also your secret encounter with a shortcut white sauce!)… simmer it for a bit and take it off the flame!

I normally end up ending it here and start the devouring… however I had a guest! So it went into this beautiful porcelain bowl inherited from mom and got two cheese slices on it and was all shoved in the microwave and put to bake! About  5 minutes is magical enough! And there it is.. this wonderful, hot, comforting, loving, steaming bowl of ‘corn bake’ served with brown bread and some strongly flavored cold coffee! 🙂 Fatness is happening!

Days turned to nights and nights to day and I found myself in Delhi! Dilli ki sardi ka to pata nahi however the dilli ki garmi had instantly gotten to me and when I found myself in the sabji market in the evening going happy with the greens I also found myself over joyed to find kachcha aam! An instant phonecall to mommy dearest made me realize this really is the simplest thing on this planet to make!! And there I was happily buying these 6 medium sized ambi’s and some gorgeous green pudina!

Now my mother knows the shortcut loving freak that I am! And so she says put the lovely green mangoes in the cooker.. cover with enough water and let the cooker have fun maaroing chaar seeti’s at the hari bhari kaeris! And let it stand overnight! So that’s what we did!

Then morning morning after the lovely cup of adrak wali chai and the breakfast of an easy peasy omani omlette (we shall leave that for another post since I quite love the short cutted healthiness of it to keep making it!) we got around to opening the cooker and smelling the khattaas of the boiled mangoes! Just roll up your sleeves and dip your hands and as you remove aaaallll the pulp and remove the peel and the seed! This slushy mush should then be put in parts into a blender and well… blended!! It becomes this even spread thick paste like thing in fairly large quantities! Here is when if it’s too pasty you add water and bring it to drinkable tendencies… In go about 6-7 large tablespoons of sugar… free flowing fresh bhunoed and peesa hua jeera, lots of black salt… and you remember that pudina we bought? Wash it and crush it in a mortar and pestle and dunk it all in! Stir away to let the chaos in your mind settle as your soul and your taste buds both find their peace! Keep adding in the sugar and the masalas and the pudina as needed till desired level of peace is attained! 🙂

Chill! The aam panna and the self! Serve on the rocks!

Of Burgers and Parval and Shortcuts!

Been crooking along but just not been finding the mind space to sit and tell you about the exploits!!

With a movie marathon pledged to and friends in town eating out is but natural… it was a weekend of burgers! The first serving found us at a McD… and the kungfu panda toy led us to the happy meal of a McVeggie! It indeed is one of the better veg burgers around!! And with Po staring up at us as we ate… it indeed was a Happy Meal!!

What’s a movie without popcorn right? So there it was… the perfect mix of salted and caramelized fresh popped corn… Hat Tip to Ruchi Pincha for introducing me to this divinely perfect taste… the salt was so wonderfully balanced with the caramel… it melted… and it stayed… it left that wee bit of extra longing… it added that perfect ounce of satisfaction!

A movie marathon directly implies enough brain and body dead-ness to not cook at all! It involved an iced tea craving as well for the strangest of reasons and hence found us at the nearest barrista enjoying a corn spinach club sandwich, green apple iced tea, the dark temptation and a cheese croissant! Holy fatness!!

You would think we had had our fill… lo and behold the next day had us staring into the face of the world’s largest humus and falafel burger!! Take a look yourself! This wonderful tasting mustard sauce, french fries and coleslaw accompanied beast resides at a place called Thulp in Namma Bengaluru! THIS with a vanilla shake! (If you do end up at thulp.. the vanilla milkshake is a must must must have!)

Is sabke baad the shaam ki chai was bahut zaruri! So there I was in Ruchi Pincha’s kitchen tinkering away to make the adrak elaichi wali station jaisi chai! (I guess I managed it!) Aur fir… shaam ki chai aur duniya jahan ke kisse… kuch tere hisse.. kuch mere hisse! (missed a very dear friend jab vo chai ki pyaali pakde hum ek dusre ki zindagi samajhne lage!)

And so… after a crazy mad junk fooded weekend the soul craved for simpler home cooked food! Simple ka to pata nahi… but parval aaloo it was and for the first time ever in my life! Warning: Nobody tells you that if you have a weak wrist scraping off the parval can screw your hand for the day!

So there they were… little scraped off green slimy seeded things! (Yes… I read a calvin and hobbes today about how gooey green food is toxic waste that can turn you into a mutant!)

Heat some oil… sprinkle in lots of jeera just for the love of it… add in some garlic… and then dunk in your long and fine cut parwal…! I have discovered the thinner i cut the parwal the more i love it! Just as it starts to sizzle around in the old faithful aluminium kadhai in goes the longly cut potato! This is the perfect time to add in whatever masalas you feel like… but again remember… this is NOT the time for the garam masala! As I have said before… garam masala should be steamed and not all crooked up! Breathe in the wonderful early morning smells of spices in a clean kitchen and add in a dash of mustard sauce.. (you will soon discover that I am a mustard sauce freak! anything and everything can be set right in the pan with a dash of mustard and a sprinkling of pepper!) Stir it all in… cover it up and let it cook on a wonderful slow flame!

Naani used to leave food on the slow flame for hours on end… jo subah subah pakna shuru hota tha vo just in time for lunch gas se utarta tha! And yes… slow cooked food has a taste all its own! But worry not… the time involved here cannot be that much… it’s on slow fire while you do up some masala parthas, some raita and a glass of kokum to go alongwith it!

Lo and behold… as the effort of a monday morning starts to find its way into the tiffin box the parwal gets done and this is when you sprinkle on the garam masala, cover it and let it steam and go for a bath! 🙂 And it is done!

The first time effort was successful enough for me to want to make it yet again inspite of the scraping and cutting involved!

The Tuesday morning found some goonda hua aata on it’s last life in the fridge and thus came to rescue the potatoes i had boiled and refrigerated over the weekend! Take one large on.. add in the chopped onions, the pudina, the salt, the red chillies, the green ones, lots of dhaniya powder, some anar dana if you have it handy, aamchoor and really whatever you feel like! Mash it all together and you’re all set to make nice well stuffed aaloo parathas!

Team it with the very basic, yet very lovely yellow dal tadka (i like my tadka with garlic, chillies, tomatoes and a plethora of lightly sprinkled masalas!) and you’re all set for a lunch you know you will eat at your desk for want of a long day at work!

Given that the day was so long really how much energy do you have left to manifest a dinner? I never get how much of the aaloo masala i should make for the aaloo parathas and it is but always extra! Convert that into yumm short cut stuffed snack toastied and team it mustard sauce and you have a winner! I do like coating the bread with olive oil instead of butter (hat tip to Mitesh Shah)… so breathe in the fresh smells of pudina, brown bread, oilve oil and mustard… pour ypourself some nice beetroot juice and well… bon apetit!

My senses had me wailing for a mango tonight… so the indulgence was but natural… there it was all green and red on the outside and a wonderful orangish red on the inside! And there I was cutting it up like a pineapple and having fun slurping it off from my hands!

(as for yesterday’s dinner… that’s a whole other story that shall repeat itself soon and will then duly be told!) Meanwhile.. Happy Fooding!

Office Saints and Namkeen Seviyan

the world is a beautiful place when you have office mates who don’t mind you gobbling up their entire tiffin without so much as a thought for what they will eat! I have one such office mate who’s tiffin I love to dive into! On many a day when I have run out and skipped breakfast it is this tiffin that has saved me from death by hunger!

yesterday had me in office at a freaky 8:30 AM! now in my world that is the deepest act of insanity! you walk into a dark gloomy floor, fumble around for light switches, the a/c is as cold as ever ‘coz you are the only one on the office floor and even the chai wala has not arrived! so come 11 AM when my savior walked in it was time to raid the blue and gray box of goodies! and lo and behold…!! this was one of the best meals in that box of goodies!! It was soya cooked with mustard and curry leaves… and it was this truly amazing dal which almost tasted like mutton and not dal!! (Yes – the recipes have been asked for and shall duly be experimented with!! 🙂 ) The stomach decided to go into a trance while singing hymns of blessings at every morsel of that food!

by the time it was 6 PM yours truly had been in office for a gruelling 10 hours and could do with more food to keep me going! it wasn’t the want of food so much as the need to get comforted… and another office saint who typically does not get his dabba on a friday (for we eat out) had decided to get one and it was lying humbly ignored in it’s little black and white cover… it held in it the wonderful juicy mix of capsicum, onion and tomatoes and some wonderful rotis! Ahh.. heaven thy name is a box of food that’s almost like a big hug to the tummy!

you would think 10 hours is enough for a sane person at work… here’s something you should know… when we remember we are all mad then life stands explained! 😉 It was another 7 hours before the circus decided to let up and i decided to trudge back home…! now you can’t blame me on a day like this if i forgot that my car was parked in the basement and not in the half km away parking lot!! I guess this was a blessing in disguise coz i had these 2 lovely strays run up to me with their tails wagging as i played with them and forgot all about the day at work (apart from the food of course!) I firmly believe that some warm food and furry friends go a long way in keeping your sense of peace firmly rooted around you… (and here’s a pic of mom to prove it!)

well… i still needed dinner..  not too much energy left to chop and stir the easiest option was namkeen seviyan! So I heated up some oil while I peeled off a couple of carrots… put in a generous helping of jeera and mustard seeds and let it bubble away to happiness! To that I added one green chilly finely chopped with the old faithful kitchen scissors straight over the flame and let happiness find it’s way back to me in the smoky smells of chilly and mustard!

this is a call for the diced carrots… and then some of that infamous pre sautéed tomato from the box in the fridge and then of course capsicum! (yes.. over a period of time you will realize that life without capsicum is a very boring monotone of reds).

In it all went.. and with it went in three fistfulls of the seviyan cut open and free’d from a packet of bambino. cover it with enough water… stir in the salt… and finish off the coriander from that box with holes in the fridge for now it is 5 days old and will die any which way! cover it and let it steam while you wash up and change and figure out which book you would curl up with to beckon sleep and it will be done!

revel in the wonderful aroma of fresh masala and gobble away! sweet dreams are made of namkeen seviyan i say!

Mexican Paneer

and so morning broke with a work call awaiting to be logged into… and it was time for the rescuer black tea with a dash of honey in it! (i have discovered i just cannot start my morning without them! and having a coffee maker that doubles up as the perfect way to steal the flavor from these gorgeous leaves makes me much happy!)

warm cup of tea snuggled in hands and i was somewhat willing to face this world! this was followed by a late breakfast of some gorgeously fresh brown bread from daily breads and this amazing apple cinnamon semi honeyed jam i had managed to lay my hands on in pondicherry a while back duly accompanied with cold chocolate!

happy and comforted i prodded away patiently at the several work fires i knew i had to douse today! and then the stomach rumbled as inspiration was found in some paneer fast approaching slow death in the fridge! so that was turned into this beautiful chillied mix of mexican paneer!

Now this one’s easy!! All i did was delve into my dabbas of pre cut and pre sautéed veggies…

heated some oil.. doused in it some finely cut garlic pods and some even more finely cut green chillies! This is a smell I have come to love in my kitchen.. perfectly smoky and you know it’s the right amount of chilli if it just about opens your nose to the world without watering up your eyes! Mix in a dash of oregano and a tiny dash of chilli flakes and it all looks like colors in bubbly motion!

Lo and behold you’re ready to add in the pre cut onions.. a couple of tsps does it… and then you OD on the tomatoes! I like the mexcheese nice and tangy for the love of tomatoes and usually hurl in double of the onions! Here is when I like to add in the salt, a lil turmeric, some coriander powder and tons of fresh coriander! I normally use the fresh coriander as a topping but in this one I like the deep yet fresh flavor it brings to the well cooked gravy! Then it’s time for the lil cubes of paneer to be tossed in!

Add some water to just cover what you have in the pan (or the old faithful aluminium kadhai in this case!) and add a tbsp of regular tomato sauce. I prefer tomato chilli – but remember you already added a generous helping of green chillies and you have chilli flakes to boot! This is where you can happily add in some finely chopped capsicum if you have it around! Put it on a happy medium flame and let it boil as it gradually reduces… Reduce to desired consistency, add some garam masala and voila! And now as another wonderful chef recently reminded me… garam masala you must only steam and not cook!

So there lay a wonderful Mexican Paneer steaming under some lovely homemade garam masala! This is where getting the spiced yoghurt (you need something to cool off after all that chilli) and steamed rice come in! I like to do both of these just as the paneer is getting done to allow time for the steaming and for each succulent cube of paneer to have absorbed the wonderful flavors!

The yoghurt (or raita so to speak) was easy with pre cut onions and fresh mint leaves being mixed into nice thick curd with salt and spices to taste! I strangely like black pepper in mine!

And this is what we looked like… and boy did we taste good! 🙂

I was secretly thankful for this lovely home c(r)ooked meal when we ended up at a dinner with friend’s at La Casa! Now I have previously adored their non vegetarian fare but tonight I was the veggie crook! All I will say is that beyond the chilli cheese toast (which indeed was cold) and the cheese naan this world is in dire need of better veggie crooks! This is a call to arms!!

Methi ke Parathe

and then on a day when you’ve been bored out of your guts because you’ve been made to work from home there comes a savior dressed in green and black and a thick ponytail with a satchel holding in it a box of yummy mummy methi ke parathe!!

not too many people in my world have been able to get these parathas right… they shy away from the salt and water routine that methi is supposed to be treated to to get rid of it’s bitterness and then that screws it up all.. You just can’t be in a hurry with these green leafy bunches!

but there they were… all yummy and tasty and ghee’d up… and then there was gajar ka achar made by mommy dearest and some excellent mirchi ka achar from Mother’s Recipe

teamed with a cucumber spinach juice (from Real) (sounds awful i know… but is one of the freshest things that come in a tetrapak on this planet!) it was heaven on a full moon night as the food giver stared endlessly into the lava lamp!

such is everyday nirvana!

Risotto a la colors!

It starts with opening the fridge to find inspiration..! And this fridge had just been stocked up yesterday so carrots, capsicum, parsley, garlic pods, tomatoes, mustard sauce, some milk and some cheese were all easy to find! Bored of masala khichdi it was time for a veggie delite risotto!

On came the flame under a tiny good for one person aluminium ka pateela and in went a dash of olive oil… now with olive oil less is always more! And as it expanded in went a few fresh peppercorns and a one super tiny star anise (you don’t want a large one.. it’ll over flavor!) As the pepper begins to pop about insanely add in the finely chopped two pods of garlic… and stir.. stir furiously till the garlic is glazed! It shouldn’t burn.. it shouldn’t turn brown! The minute you see the lazy glaze coming over throw in the chopped tomato (yes just one does quite fine and is essential to counter the sweetness of the carrots you will throw in in just a while!)

Let the tomatoes lose a little of their juice and then topple in the carrots and the capsicum! Enjoy the fragrances of fresh spices and vegetables play havoc with the stress of a bad day as it all spirals out! Add in as much oregano as you like, a lil salt, some chilli flakes and a dash of mustard sauce (yes mustard sauce!) Now… stir in the rice.. i typically never have the so called arborio rice that is supposed to be oh so perfect for risottos so i make do with regular or basmati or whatever i can lay my hands on!

Add one and a half times the water than that of the veggies and rice and about 3 tablespoons of milk and cook on medium flame… it’ll all turn into this happy pool of bubbly mush in sometime… add in the fresh parsley (it’s an acquired taste.. so if you’re better off without it just let it go!) and roll in a lil less than one tbsp of cheese!

Feel the magic! Forget about the food on the flame and go outside to take a peek at the clouds moving away to reveal a beautiful moonshine… breathe in some fresh air… lay your table and then shut off the flame! Cover and let steam till you listen to your favorite song and then settle down to a plateful of comfort!!

Bon Apetit!