Friday, February 26, 2010

Mouhalabieh (Milk Pudding) With Balsamic Strawberries

There are times (plenty chez-nous) when one aches for something sweet to complete a meal. Times when the Valentines day candy stash you hid from your kids has run dry. Err...wait a minute...delete...

But given the propensity of heavy, spicy foods that you consume on a daily basis, you just need something cool and refreshing with a tinge of sweetness to refresh your palate. No heavy puddings. No gooey pastries. We'll save those for breakfast instead.

Enter Mouhalabieh - a creamy, delightful milk pudding from the Middle East that is a cinch to prepare. Milk, cornstarch and a little sugar. Boil. Cool. Eat. Lick. No-one is looking.

The following quantity is for 2 servings. Or one and a half greedy servings and a smattering for the spouse who walked in and caught you siphoning off his share.
But that totally didn't happen tonight.

(Middle Eastern Milk Custard)

Mouhalabieh For Two
1 cup milk
1 Tbsp sugar
2 heaped tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp rose water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Combine milk, cornstarch and sugar in a saucepan, whisk to remove lumps and bring to boil over medium heat whilst stirring.
2. Add vanilla extract and let the milk come to a full boil. Remove from heat. Mixture should have a thick consistency now.
3. Add the rose water.
4. Strain into two small dessert bowls or moulds. Let cool and refrigerate.

And now to kick up this dessert a notch further, I paired it with a few strawberries that had been doused in balsamic vinegar.


I was really intimidated by the balsamic vinegar because of its "Eau De Gym Locker Room" aroma. And I begrudgingly splashed a few drops on the ripe strawberries thinking "Well, gotta try it at least once!"

Atta girl! I love how the sweet strawberries enveloped the tart vinegar and you get some sort of magical reaction of sweet and tart. It ratcheted up strawberry's sexiness to another planetary level.
What a delightful combination and why did I not try this before I dumbfoundedly pondered as I shoved in a few more strawberries into my mouth.

But while I wax eloquent about Balsamic Strawberries giving Victoria's Secret models a run for their money, I will note that the husband was not entirely pleased with them and thought the vinegar detracted from the strawberries usual wholesome selves.

But I think he was just mad that I ate his share of the pudding.

Balsamic Strawberries
5 strawberries, hulled and sliced.
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar

1. Sprinkle sugar on strawberries.
2. Splash balsamic vinegar on the strawberries. Mix and let rest a few minutes. Use as an accompaniment to dessert.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Middle Eastern Saj Bread (Lebanese Markouk)

Yeast and I are not good friends. I'll put it right out there. No mollycoddling the issue. Or trying to hide it. We have a duel thing going. So far, yeast has won. By not working.

I own a lot of bread baking bibles. I try to bake bread. I fail.
I drool and cry over other peoples spectacular successes in the oven.
For me, I think my oven is in cohorts with the yeast, and they are secretly planning a massive coup against me.
Speaking of which, my washing machine has been acting up too.

But I may have thwarted my kitchen extremists rise with this simple, homely bread. Saj is a leavened bread that is made throughout the Middle East (Lebanon's version is called Markouk). It is a simple mix of white flour and yeast, and after rising, it is rolled out paper thin and is cooked on a special heated domed surface, called....*you got it* ...a "saj".

It seems to be Pita Bread's thinner and more modest cousin, the one who decided to stay home and help with the farm work and do all the chores, whilst Pita, with her thicker frame and come-hither pouches, crossed paths with that good-for-nothing ruffian Mayonnaise and started living it up and partying like a rock star in Europe and the USA.
Stop me people! Before this becomes the Mills & Boons of Breads.

This bread is simple to put together, give or take the 60-75 minute rise time. It reminded me of a lot of Indian flat breads, but the yeast and the "doughiness" does stand out as different from what I am used to. I love the pillowy softness of the bread, and it is great for sopping up a saucy curry or used as a wrap.

Saj Bread (Completely and unabashedly sourced from

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Oil for coating the dough

1. Put yeast in 1/4 cup of the water; add sugar and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Sift 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt into a warm bowl. Form a well in the center; pour in yeast mixture and remaining warm water.
3. Begin to mix with hand, wooden spoon, or dough hook, adding remaining flour or more warm water as needed. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky.
4. Oil a large bowl; place dough in bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place free of drafts for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Dough should be doubled.
5. Knead for a few minutes then divide into balls about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
6. Roll balls into circles on a lightly floured surface with floured rolling pin, or flatten into circles with hand.
7. Cook the flattened dough on a hot surface (I used a flat non-stick griddle pan). Cook for less than a minute on one side and then flip to cook the other side.
8. Pile the bread sheets as they are made and cover to keep soft and warm or serve immediately.

Saj Bread and Curry - Middle East meets Further East

I am sending this in to Joanne who Eats Well With Others' Regional Recipes Event - Middle Eastern Food and to Yeastspotting as well!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Lamb Kabouli - Cuisine of Oman

A month ago, the Walima group explored the country of Oman as part of the Middle Eastern Cooking Challenge and this layered rice and lamb dish was the featured Omani dish.

I will plead ignorance on Oman, I only knew of it as a tiny country in the south of the Middle East, I had heard of its capital city Muscat through a cousin who used to live there....And that's about it. When reading up on it recently, I was fascinated to find out that Oman actually used to rule Zanzibar (and parts of East Africa) and as a result was a strong player in the lucrative spice trade that emanated from that region.

But far more pressing issues were on my plate. As in, where the heck do I get lamb?

Fearless readers, I have never sourced, procured or cooked lamb before. In.My.Life.

So this was a supreme challenge for me, because I couldn't find this meat. Not at the local grocers. Not at Whole Foods. (Shock! Horror!). Not at the Asian meat market, where I got into an elaborate discussion complete with hand gestures with a fellow customer who insisted lamb was goat. He refused to believe lamb was potentially from the same animal that his wool sweater was from. I hear 'ya. especially with that sweater, dude.

So who came to the rescue?
Super Target. Tarzhay.
Yes! The same place where you can pick up socks, garden hoses and an Isaac Mizrahi dress offered me a tiny portion of lamb.
And the challenge ensued...

I followed
Yasmeen's preparation to the T, because I much fancied her way of cooking the lamb in oil with the spices and onions, as opposed to cooking the meat in seasoned water as originally suggested. Which may have technically transported this Lamb Kabouli from Oman to the Northern plains of Moghul India.
Much apologies....

Thanks to Arlette of Phoenician Gourmet for spearheading the challenge! I will definitely make this dish again....Now that I know where to get lamb from....

Lamb Kabouli (adapted for quantities and method from
Yasmeen of Health Nut and Walima Challenge)

Step 1: Prepare Omani Spice Mix (Omani Bizar A’Shuwa)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ginger, crushed
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tsp coriander seeds
1 heaped tsp cardamom seeds
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
About 2 Tbs distilled vinegar

Combine all ingredients in an electric food processor and process until a thick paste is formed, use vinegar sparingly as it can make the overall taste too acidic Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Step 2: Prepare Lamb
1 lb lamb, cut in small pieces, visible fat removed
1.5 cups white Basmati rice
2 cups (Medium size can) cooked chickpeas
Whole Spices:
2 cinnamon sticks
2 whole cardamom pods
3-4 cloves
1 tsp peppercorn, lightly crushed
1 large onion, chopped fine
Omani Spice mix (above)
1/2 tsp saffron strands
Salt (to taste)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup stock or water

1. Heat oil in non-stick pan.
2. Saute onions and half of the whole spices. When onions start to brown, add the prepared Omani spice mix.
3. Add lamb to the pan and mix with all the spices. Add 1 cup stock or water, cover pan and allow to cook till meat is tender. Depending on the cut of meat, it may take up to 30 minutes on medium heat.
4. When meat is done, add in chickpeas and incorporate.

Step 3: Cook Rice and Layer Meat1. Rinse and drain Basmati rice.
2. Bring 3 cups of water (add a large pinch of salt and remaining whole spices) to boil in another large pan. Add in rice and cook till rice is fluffy.
3. When rice is done, add lamb and chickpeas into the pot. Cover and remove from heat. After about 10 minutes, open pan and carefully mix together the meat and rice.
4. Serve.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ICC - Khachori - Fried Bread Stuffed with Onion

Real World : Cannot miss deadlines.
Blogging World: Can miss deadlines. Sometimes might get thrown out of group, but bloggers are known to be generally benevolent. I have yet to meet a Genghis Khan blogger in disguise.

Real World: Face threats, impact job security, reputation at stake if deadlines are not met.
Blogging World: You get to eat your deadline.

And so along I come with a painfully overdue challenge - from Indian Cooking Challenge - the monthly event hosted by
Srivalli where she challenges bloggers to try out authentic Indian treats. This month's challenge was Khasta Khachori - a fried bread or dunpling which is traditionally stuffed with curried moong dal, peas or onions.

Big reveal - I've never had a khachori, so I didn't quite know what to expect when making them. OK, I take that back, I once visited an Indian snack stall during an event years ago, and bought a box of "katori" - they were round balls of fried dough with a pungent green interior. I recall they tasted pretty bad, and I never attempted to have them again.

The problem was that person who made those "katoris" that day did not have Srivalli or Medhaa to guide them. These kachoris are pretty delightful, they are golden, crisp and filled with a heady aromatic blend of spices wrapped around some golden onions. I didn't get to try the peas and moong dal fillings, but I hope to at some later stage. The only reservation was the fact that these snacks are DEEP FRIED, painfully DEEP FRIED, as in 6-7 long minutes to get them to cook.

Thanks Srivalli and Medhaa! And check out
Srivalli's step-by-step tutorial on how to make these beauties!

Kachori - adapted from
Medhaa and Tarla Dalal

Resting Time for the Dough is app 1/2 hr - 1 hr
Frying time for the Kachoris - 20 mins for each batch.
Soaking Time for the Filling is app. 1 hr
Cooking Time for the Filling is app 15 mins
Yields - 12

For the DoughAll purpose flour - 2 cups
Oil/ Ghee - 1/4 cup ,
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Chilled water for kneading

1.Mix the flour and salt, Add the oil/ghee and mix till you get a bread crumbs texture.
2.Slowly add water and make a soft dough.
3.Knead well for about 8 minutes. Cover and keep aside to rest for at least half hour.

Special Tips / Notes for the dough:
Keep the dough covered at all times, if not it will dry up and not puff up when frying.

Fillings (3 options)
1. Khasta Kachori - Moong Dal Kachori

Split Moong Dal (yellow) - 1/2 cup
Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp
Hing / Asafoetida - a pinch
Curry Leaves - 2 tsp chopped fine (opt)
Green Chilli - Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Sauf / Fennel seeds powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala - 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Mango powder / Amchur - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tsp
Salt to taste

1. Wash and Soak dal in water for at least 1 hour. You can go upto 4 hours not more.
2. Drain the water well.
3. Grind the dal coarsely.
4. Heat oil in a pan.
5. Add the hing and cumin seeds.
6. Once the seeds splutter add the curry leaves.
7. Add the dal.
8. Lower the heat and keep stirring for 5 minutes till the dal stops sticking to the pan.
9. Cook for another 10 minutes on low till the dal turns slightly brown.
10. Add all the masalas.
11. Cook for few minutes till the aroma of the spices hit you.
12. Add Salt.
13. Remove from heat and keep aside to cool.

Special Tips / Notes for the filling:
The fillings have to be really dry if not when rolling they will ooze out when rolling.

2. Muttar Ki Kachori - for the Peas filling (from Tarla Dalal):
2 cups green peas
1 teaspoon green chillies, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds (saunf)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
4 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons oil
Salt to taste

1. Coarsely grind the green peas,green chillies and ginger in a blender without using any water. Keep aside.
2. Heat the oil in a pan,add the nigella seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves and ground green pea mixture and saute over a very slow flame for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Add the chilli powder, garam masala, coriander and salt and saute for 2 more minutes.
4. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Divide into 12 equal portions.

3. Pyaz Ki Kachori - for the Onion filling
2 cups onions, finely chopped
1 teaspoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds (saunf)
2 bay leaves
1½ teaspoons green chillies, finely chopped
2 tablespoons Bengal gram flour (besan)
2 teaspoons coriander (dhania) powder
2 teaspoons chilli powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
3 tablespoons chopped coriander
2 tablespoons oil
Salt to taste

1. Heat the oil in a pan.
2. Add the nigella seeds, fennel seeds, bay leaves, green chillies and onions and sauté till the onions turn light brown in colour.
3. Add the gram flour, coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and salt and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
4. Add the chopped coriander and mix well.
5. Remove the bay leaves and discard. Allow the mixture to cool completely.
6. Divide into 12 equal portions and keep aside.

To Make Kachori's
1. Make a small ball from the dough.
2. Roll out into a 2 inch diameter circle. Or flatten the ball using your fingers having the center thick and sides little thin.
3. Place about 1.5 tsp of the filling in the center of the rolled dough.
4. Cover the filling with the dough by slowly stretching it over the filling.
5. Seal the ends and remove excess dough.
6. Repeat with all the balls and keep aside for 5 -7 mins.
7. Then using your palm, flatten the balls by lightly pressing it.
8. Keep aside covered. Repeat with the remaining dough.
9. Meanwhile heat some oil for deep frying. The oil should not become smoking hot. Test to see if the temperature is right by dropping a tiny ball of dough and see if it is rising slowly to the top.
10. Drop the kachoris in batches of 3-4 gently into the oil.
It should rise up slowly. If you don't want to use lot of oil, use just enough for two or three at a time and fry them.
11. After it rises up (about 2 minutes), turn it over.
12. Cook for about 6 to 10 minutes till the side down gets a golden brown color.
13. Turn and cook the other side for another 6 minutes or till its golden brown in color.
14. Remove when done, cool and store in airtight container.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Curried Couscous - A Repost

Trust Jaya of Desi Soccer Mom to come up with an original event - The Repost Event.
Take one of your older posts that is stuffed in the back of your blog somewhere, the one with the horrid photo, and no comments.
Yes, that one exactly.
Take it, jazz it up, brush off the dust and repost it!

Thanks to her event, I found my
Curried Couscous post which ironically, has one of the first comments from Jaya herself, albeit lightly admonishing me for not "cooking" the spices in the recipe even though the recipe called for them to be used raw!
Here is the old picture:original recipe from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa).

I love this side dish with any Mediterranean main dish, and it really gives you freedom to stuff it chock full with nuts and veggies of your choice, because, as I had earlier said in
the original post, couscous can sometimes have the personality of beach sand. Couscous has been crying out for a makeover, and this should do the trick.

Curried Couscous - (adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)
1 1/2 cups couscous
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups boiling water/chicken stock (using stock adds more flavor!)

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tsp kosher salt (reduce based on whether you used stock to cook couscous)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced carrots
1/2 cup small-diced celery
I've made this side-dish countless times over, each time adjusting it slightly here and there and its now long departed from the
1/2 red bell pepper - diced
1/4 cup dried currants/craisins/raisins (optional)
1/4 cup blanched, sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup small-diced red onion
2 scallions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1 tsp chopped parsley, mint or cilantro

1. Place the couscous in a medium bowl.
2. Melt the butter in the boiling stock/water and pour over the couscous.
3. Cover tightly and allow the couscous to soak for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
4. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add vegetables, nuts (I like to saute the almonds or you can use them as is for garnishing), onion, garam masala and turmeric. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Lightly saute.
5. Pour over the fluffed couscous, and mix well with a fork.
6. Garnish with parsley/mint/cilantro, currants, scallions and season to taste if necessary.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ginger-Lime Salmon Rice Bowl

Hrrmmpphhh...maybe I should change that title to A Whole Lotta Ginger-Lime Salmon and a Smudgeon of Rice - given the proportions in the picture above....
Every Tuesday, our local paper has a Health section with Dr. (Celebrity) Oz who is always on Oprah's show, wearing his medical scrubs and showing us the inside of a colon. OK, I digress...but why should he wear medical attire on a day time TALK show?
Back to the point, the article repeats one thing every week - Eat salmon. Eat more salmon. Eat as much salmon as you can. So in a feeble attempt to get healthy and stop eating cake, more cake, and even more cake everyday which is the case chez-nous, I've been attempting to have us eat more salmon.
Except I only know of about two ways to make it.
Let the Salmon Games begin...
Here's an Asian inspired salmon recipe from Chef Mai Pham that originally called for the salmon to be simply pan-seared and served up with a refreshing ginger lime sauce. I don't like plain salmon, so I decided to quickly marinate the salmon in the sauce and cook it in it as well, and throw in some garlic for good measure.
Because we love garlic over here. It's a close second to cake.
Ginger-Lime Salmon Rice Bowl (adapted from Food and Wine magazine, 2006)
Two 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced/crushed
1 Thai red chile, chopped (or substitute 1/2 tsp red chilli powder)
1 Tbsp garlic, peeled and crushed
1 Tbsp sugar (reduce if you do not like overtly sweet dishes)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp Asian fish sauce or to taste
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups hot cooked rice (I used Jasmine rice)
Optional: one small Kirby cucumber

1. Grind together the ginger, garlic, sugar and chile in a mortar and pestle to get a coarse paste.
2. Transfer paste to a bowl, and add fish sauce and lime juice and mix.
3. Reserve about a Tbsp of this sauce into another bowl and thin out with a little water. Adjust for salt and keep aside.
4. Slash the fillets and season with salt and pepper. Pour on the sauce from (2) onto the fillets, and rub in well. Refrigerate fillets for up to an hour.
5. Heat a non-stick skillet or griddle and add oil. Add the salmon fillets and cook over moderate heat. Turn fillets over so that both sides are cooked and fish is opaque and garlic-ginger in the marinade has turned golden-brown.
6. Mound rice into bowls, and top with the salmon.
7. Serve with extra sauce (from (3)), or cut the cucumber into thin strips, dip into the sauce and serve as an accompaniment.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spicy Cauliflower Bake - Cheese Vali Gobi

Fresh off the heels of my book review at the "This Book Makes Me Cook Club", I chose to make this spicy cauliflower baked dish or "Cheese Vali Gobi" from the recipe collection in Madhur Jaffrey's autobiography "Climbing the Mango Trees".
Start placing your bets on why I chose to make this particular dish:

  1. It was one of the easiest recipes in the collection (sucker!)

  2. I had 2 cauliflowers in my fridge in imminent danger of being unused and tossed

  3. I actually have no idea how to turn cauliflower into a tasty side dish and was intrigued when I saw this recipe

  4. All of the above

  5. None of the above. Shut up and get on with the recipe already.
I'm not sure how "authentic" of an Indian recipe this is, because since when do Indians generously douse their dishes with cheddar cheese. Paneer, yes, but cheddar?
I had to backtrack a little, and thought maybe it was some trascribing error given the dire circumstances I had copied this recipe under *cough*.
Regardless, I really liked the dish. I'n not a fan of cauliflower unless its been spiced, cheese-d, fried or baked into oblivion. Given this had a spicy tinge to it AND the cheese factor, I was sold.
The Man of Chez Split-Pear was not duly impressed, I guess because, again, it is a little hard to picture this as an "indian" accompaniment dish with the cheese and it doesn't help that he detests cauliflower more than I do. But I loved the melted gooiness of the dish and thought it had the right spice punch to it.
Spicy Cauliflower Baked with Cheese (Cheese Vali Gobi) (adapted slightly from Madhur Jaffrey's "Climbing the Mango Trees)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 head of cauliflower , florets and stems roughly chopped
2 medium Roma tomatoes, grated
1" piece fresh ginger, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 hot green chillies, sliced in rounds
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1/4 tsp chilli pwd
1/4 tsp turmeric pwd
1/2 Tbsp coriander pwd
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

1.Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.Pour oil in non-stick saute pan.
3.When hot, add cumin seeds. Sizzle for a few seconds and then add tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chillies, cayenne, turmeric, coriander. Stir and allow ginger and garlic to soften.
4.Add cauliflower, stir to mix. Add salt and cook for about 5 minutes or until cauliflower has almost cooked though or tomatoes have been absorbed.
5.Add cilantro and stir. Remove from heat.
6.Put contents of pan in lightly greased ovenproof dish. Add cream, mix, and then sprinkle cheese over the mixture.
7.Bake in oven till cheese is bubbly, about 10 minutes.

To read other book club members reviews and their contributions, check out:
Simran made powdered rice pudding Phirni.
Janaki made
Palak Gosht.
Sheba made
Cauliflower with Cheese. Just like me. Except she was smart and posted it earlier!Sweatha made Madhur's "everyday" cauliflower Roz Ki Gobhi.
Jaya made a potato and tomato curry
Bazar Jaisey Aloo.
Aqua made rice with peas
If you would like to join this book club, contact Simran at Bombay Foodie.

This Book Makes Me Cook - Climbing The Mango Trees .... and a Hurricane

This month we're cooking the books with "Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India" by well-known Indian cookbook authoress AND award-winning actress Madhur Jaffrey.

"Well-known, you say? Well how come I haven't heard of her then, 'eh?"
Oh, sorry, you must have missed the TWENTY-SIX Indian cookbooks, three novels and an Autobiography that she wrote.

"Patooey, I don't read cookbooks, I only follow someone prestigious whom I've seen (on Food Network, ahem *cough*) or watched in action".

Ah, yes, that would have been hard given this James Beard winner also ACTED in a number of Merchant and Ivory blockbusters, had the lead role in the movie "Cotton Mary" and performed in Theatre and TV in England , India and the US. Oh, and I forgot about that part she had in "Law and Order" .

"Law and Order - oh! Was she that Psychiatrist chick! Now I know her!!!"

Despite the pedigree, I frankly have never researched or used a Madhur Jeffrey recipe. Why? Because I'm the one in italics above. Duh.

So I picked up this book on a whim from the library one hot September afternoon two years ago.

"Two years ago? Cheat! This was the Book of the Month selection THIS mon..."

Ah..patience, mon ami...

This book lays out a privileged childhood in a well-to-do and aristocratic family in Old Delhi. Jaffrey's family clearly were part of the creme de la creme of society, and had strong rapport with powerful political figures in pre-partition India.

While we are allowed a glimpse into her patriarchal family, and their splendid hill-station vacations with an army of servants, it is her description of the food that she grew up with and that she encountered that makes this book worthwhile. I feel Jaffrey's true strength shines whenever she encroached the subject of food as evidenced by the numerous times I ran to the kitchen starving after reading another mesmerizing account of fried breads sopping up juicy meats and curries!

The biography part of the book sadly, falls short. She tries to explain some of the relations in the family, like one particular over-bearing uncle and her unhealthy sister, which was enthralling for me, but she chooses to abruptly end the book with no form of closure or any idea of how the rest of her family fared. She also reveals very little of herself post-childhood.

The redeeming grace in the book is a large collection of Indian recipes at the end.
And as I read this book, September 13th 2008 rolled around, and with it, Hurricane Ike which landed in our town with the ferocity of a Category Two storm. It was the third costliest hurricane to hit the USA and caused the largest evacuation in our neck of the woods.

Did we evacuate? No.
We woke up to fallen debris, trees uprooted and electricity poles down. Our house was intact, but we had no power. The library that I took this book out from was destroyed, its books lay strewn as a soggy mess.

So. What does one do when they have no electricity and a book that obviously doesn't need to be returned in a hurry?
One sits down, and starts writing out all the recipes in this book into one's journal. Nice and neatly because we have all the time in the world. No TV. No Phone.


One then waits for the electricity to come back on. It does not, so one returns to writing more of the recipes. Albeit a little messier, because this whole no electricity thing isn't as romantic and great as it was first cut out to be. It's getting HOT in here. No A/C.


Day 8. Our street is the last to get power back, because, OF COURSE (!) the worst electrical damage occured in the line that our street uses. At this point, recipe notation and chicken scratch handwriting starts to reflect the demented state of mind of recipe-copier who starts chasing public utility vehicles when they turn into her street. It's bat crazy time at home now and the hand-writing below shows it. But I still kept writing...


So on that note, I will NEVER forget this book, because I had it with me for a good couple of months (side note, library is back in operation now) and I used it to provide some much needed distraction in that crazy time.
This also serves as proof that in the event of some natural disaster or alien attack or World War, I am NOT the person to be with, because I will be the one to do something left brain like, say, I don't know, SCRAPBOOKING whilst everyone else is running for cover or building generators from car engines.
The End.

To complete the review, I chose to make the Spicy Caulifower Bake - Cheese Vali Gobi.