Button mushrooms are now easily available
in the market. Can you suggest some easy ways to make them?
Eat more mushrooms, as
they are good for you , considering the total fat and carbohydrate content is minimal
and low cholesterol to boot. Do not buy mushrooms that are wet and
dark. Store them unwashed in a brown paper bag or plastic containers and in
the frig. Do not store them for over two days, they taste best when consumed
My favourite recipe for
100 gms mushrooms ...
mushrooms thoroughly and slice them, discarding the edge of the stalk. Chop 2 spring onions
both the white part and the green tender stalk. Fry in a tablespoon of
butter, add 1 tablespoon of refined flour and switch off the stove. Work in a
cup of milk, reheat and cook till thick. Add salt to taste, ½ teaspoon of
freshly ground pepper, ½ .teaspoon of mustard powder and 3 tablespoons of
grated cheese. Top on toasted buttered
bread, or use them to make sandwich
button mushrooms to make a pulao, or just fry them in oil with salt and pepper,
or serve them sliced on pizzas with a layer of grated cheese. Make delicious
mushroom soup as you would any other vegetable soup, liquidise before
not eat mushrooms before cooking or
steaming them, it may be dangerous.
What is the difference between
cupcakes and muffins?
They do look alike don’t
they? A cupcake really is like a
miniature cake, light and decorated with icing often with a small fruit or
nuts and made with refined flour. A muffin is significantly heavier in
texture and also in weight. You do add fruit before it is baked, also using
nuts or chocolate chips, and as a rule muffins are not iced, and taste like a
fruit cake which is not too sweet. Some recipes call for cooking with bran as
I use the Victoria Sponge
cake recipe for cupcakes ¼ kg butter
beaten till light and airy with ¼ kg castor sugar. 4 eggs added one by one to
the mixture, beaten well with each addition, a teaspoon of vanilla essence
for flavour. ¼ kg of refined or all purpose flour sieved with 2 level
teaspoons of baking powder and a pinch of salt folded into the mixture. ¼ cup
of milk makes the cake lighter. Place paper cups in muffin moulds and spoon
the batter into the cups allowing room for the mixture to rise. Each batch
would take about 15-20 minutes in a moderate oven 180 degrees. Lift off the
paper cups, and start with the next batch. Do not overcook.
Blend 50gm of butter with
100gm of icing sugar, apply over the top of each cupcake when cool, stick a
cherry or a pineapple piece and please eat the little cakes fresh!
As with all children, mine reach out for
junk food. My son loves burgers. How do you make these complicated
things at home?
Not at all complicated if
you know how! Junk food commercially sold, often have leftover meat, stale
butter and other undesirable ingredients. At home you know what you put in.
Firstly prepare the patties at home. Use minced meat, minced chicken or soya
granules for the vegetarians. Cook the mince with salt and allow to dry and
absorb the water keeping the utensil on low heat. Grind the mince with green
chillies, green coriander, a little bit of onion, ginger garlic paste, and
bread slices immersed in water and squeezed dry. Sometimes I mix in mashed
potato and any other vegetables I have in my refrigerator. Make balls and flatten them into patties,
shallow fry in oil.
available are sliced in half, and
mayonnaise spread over each half. Place a cleaned, washed lettuce leaf,
a slice of tomato, a slice of cheese, then the pattie. Close the burger with
the other half of the bun, fix with a toothpick and place in the oven just
for a couple of minutes, before
Indian food is so laborious to make and yet so delicious.
Can you give tips on how to make it easier to prepare?
With our current
lifestyles crowded and the pace of each day certainly accelerated, we don’t
have the time grandmothers did to labour over wood fires, grinding masalas
fresh on stone! I believe in short cuts without compromising on the taste.
The ginger-garlic paste
for instance without which survival is difficult, if you love Indian
food. Take equal quantities of ginger
and garlic, clean thoroughly and grind together. I prefer grinding them separately, as some
recipes call for one ingredient without the other. Store them in small
airtight plastic containers, in the refrigerator. Use only clean dry spoons
to take out the specified quantity and place the containers back in the frig.
This way the pastes can be safely kept for two weeks without spoiling. Mine
last! Other ways of ensuring that the pastes keep, are adding a pinch of salt
when grinding, or use a few drops of vinegar.
Coconut is an essential
ingredient, and I always grate the coconut ahead and store in plastic
containers in the freezer compartment of the frig. You may grind the coconut
and store the paste, but I do find that this does not work so well. Of course
coconut paste and milk are commercially available if you are hard pressed for
If you have a lot of
cooking to do, onions chopped and stored in airtight containers for the next
day work well. But they have to be used up, and it is not advisable to keep
them for long.
I keep my spice powder
mixed and ready. For our type of cooking, we use chilli powder and dhania
powder in the proportion 1:1 ½ I have
them ground in a mill and store this in my pantry cupboard.
When tomatoes are in
season, puree them and pour into ice trays and place in the freezer. You can
straight away use tomato cubes for cooking.
1 .I am always afraid to cook cauliflower, as
it has worms sometimes. I also find that it gets soggy very easily
when I make them. What can be done for this?
You have to
be very careful when you cook cauliflower. Buy them when they are fresh and
white. Cut them into florets the size the recipe calls for, and soak in a
large vessel of hot water with salt. Alternately, place them in a vessel of
cold water to which a tiny pinch of potassium permanganate is added. Wash
thoroughly after 20 minutes of soaking.
cooks very soon, and is tasty when
crunchy. The best way is to steam them in very little water, and then use
them in whatever dish you are making. If you are making a baked dish, there
is no need to steam the cauliflower but just wash them thoroughly before you
2. Bread always gets leftover, and when it
gets mouldy, I just throw it away. How can I use left over bread?
There are many ways you
can use leftover bread. You can just sun dry them or warm them gently in an
oven, and leave them in a cold oven for a day. The exposure dries out all the
water, and the bread becomes hard, after which you can make them into
breadcrumbs. You can use the stale bread as a base for making au gratin. Use
them in a bread pudding, or shape into vadais, deep fry them and pour beaten
curds over them, and add the seasoning to taste.
3. Many recipes call for
pine nuts which are not easily available here. What can be used as an
The most effective
substitute are walnuts. Gently warm the walnuts before using. Here is a no
fail recipe for pesto sauce.
rough paste the seven ingredients below, adding the oil little at a time.
1 heaped cup parsley
(substitute with green coriander)
¼ cup pine nuts or hazel
nuts (substitute with walnuts) roasted lightly
capsicum, yellow capsicum (1/2 each)
pasta of your choice, preferably fusili (spiral)
pasta al dente, in a large vessel of
water where a table spoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of olive oil have been
added. The pasta should be soft not
mushy, and not chewy. Drain the water in a colander and run cold water over
it. Set aside.
mushrooms, slice and cook in a teaspoon of water and set aside. Dice
little oil in a wok or kadai and fry the chopped capsicum and mushroom. Add
the pesto sauce and ¾ milk just before serving. Mix in the milk, stirring all
the time. Remove from fire. Pour over the cooked pasta just before serving,
and mix lightly.
4. These days excess of
salt is considered very bad for health.
What do I do when there is too much salt in say a gravy, how can the
salt content be reduced so that I can still use it?
All of us maids included
have used extra salt at some point. If
your curry is salty, just add a whole potato, skin removed and cut in four
into the gravy and boil till the potato is cooked. Amazing how this versatile
vegetable uses up all the salt. In a dry fry, add a little water and add
pieces of bread to it.
5. I always make excess
of chutney and keep it in the frig. But I don’t like to eat it cold. Would
heating in the microwave oven spoil the taste?
This is a genuine
problem. The chutney would have lost
moisture and becomes thick. Heat or
boil about half a cup of water and stir it into the chutney just before
serving. Voila! You are able to use
the chutney at room temperature.
- What is the difference between a mousse and a
Both are similar
in many respects. A mousse is a light soft preparation either sweet or savoury,
where the ingredients are whisked, and
then folded in. It is set in a mould and usually served cold. Sweet mousses can
have fruit in them and the most popular are chocolate mousses with the addition
of coffee and served as a dessert, in tall glasses.
A souffle is
rather like a cake but more airy and cooked and refrigerated in baking dishes.
This could also be a savoury souffle like cheese, tomato etc or a sweet
souffle. A custard is made with egg yolk, milk and sugar and the whites beaten
into peaks and folded into the mixture..the flavouring could vary like lemon,
strawberry or chocolate with an inclusion of cream. When a hot souffle is
required it is baked and served immediately after removing from the oven, so
that the whole mixture does not collapse.
there any way of preparing an Xmas cake faster…it is so laborious!
Some things in
life do not work with short cuts! More
so in cooking when you take time over a dish and prepare it with love it turns
out beautifully. I always make the
traditional Xmas cake a month earlier. It is the preparation of fruit which is
laborious. Wash the fruit and dry out with paper towels or. sun them. Then soak
in brandy for a few days. This eliminates the drudgery of doing everything the
- We don’t eat turkey. What is the best way to
prepare stuffed chicken instead of the traditional turkey roast?
Buy a fresh whole chicken.. Clean the insides thoroughly
and smear salt.
The stuffing for 1 ½ kg of chicken:
8 slices of
bread, 1 apple, 1 bunch spring onions, 1 bunch celery, 1 capsicum,salt and
pepper to taste ,½ tsp dry rosemary, 100 gm butter
Crumble the bread, chop the
apple and other vegetables.
Melt butter mix in the chopped
ingredients, add rosemary and adjust seasoning.
Pack the stuffing tightly into
the cavity of the chicken. Insert the legs into the cavity and bind with twine
so that the stuffing does not spill out.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees
and roast in a baking pan for 1 hour and turn at intervals so that it browns
The same recipe
applies for turkey, whenever you change your mind and want to try it out!
4. What is a healthy alternative for bread
croutons for soups?
It is when you deep fry bread croutons that
it packs in the calories. Cut the bread
into cubes and toast them in the oven ….and you have the same crunchy croutons minus the dangers of deep frying.
Can you use anything else other than white bread crumbs for cutlets?
It is better to avoid refined white flour which is the main
ingredient in bread that is usually bought. You can use stale brown bread
slices to make the crumbs, but care should be taken when frying as the brown
bread crumbs will assume a darker colour and look burnt. A better option is to
use fine soojee or crushed cornflakes.
the December issue one more question
have heard the term “praline” used, but could never make out what exactly it
Praline gives a caramelized delicate flavor
or filling to desserts and sweets.
Blanch 200 gm of almonds, remove skin and
toast them in the oven to a golden brown. Place ¾ cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon
of water in a heavy pan and melt over high heat. When the mixture bubbles, add
½ teaspoon of vanilla essence. When the sugar melts and turns brown , add
almonds and mix briskly for a minute. Leave to cool and pound praline finely as
Praline is also a cake which is layered
with the sponge cake and praline butter cream and sprinkled over with chopped
- When we lived in Bangalore, Aapams came out
beautifully because my mother used to add toddy to the batter. Now it is just not available and I am
unable to make good aapams in Chennai, could you suggest a substitute?
works better than the natural stuff. But we do have to learn to improvise! add grated coconut while grinding the batter.
While it is being ground, add 1 teaspoon
of dry yeast to half a cup of warm water, adding 1 teaspoon of sugar. After the
batter is ground, add the fermented
yeast mixture to the batter, and a tablespoon of curds. When the batter ferments overnight, you can
make lacy aapams the next morning for breakfast.
Recipe: 1 cup raw rice, 1 cup boiled rice, under ¼
cup urad dal, 1 heaped tsp fenugreek seeds to be soaked together for 4-5 hours.
Grind to a smooth paste with ½ cup of grated coconut, add yeast mixture, and
curds and salt and allow to ferment overnight.
vegetable stew and coconut chutney.
- What is the secret to making good crisp dosais
which are uniformly golden brown?
Dosai making is an art, the aim should be
to make golden brown dosais, which are crisp on the outside and soft inside.
The batter should not be as thick as a cake batter at the same time not thin as
in a pouring consistency. You will determine the consistency with experience.
The tawa (cast iron is best) should be warm not hot. The dosai should be poured
quickly in swirls, and the heat increased moderately, and kept till it is
evenly brown and the heat switched off. If the inside is cooked, there is no
need to flip it over. When one dosai is made don’t just pour the next. Test if
the tawa is warm, not hot. Use a cloth dipped in water and rub it over the tawa
to cool it down quickly. I use two tawas which makes it easier, if you
alternate between the two.
And please please, this fabulous dish is
called DOSAI not DOSA!
- I have heard the term, “baking blind” what does this mean?
We bake blind when we prepare pastry cases
and flans. Prepare a pastry dough according to the recipe you want to follow.
Roll out to a thickness of 3mm. Grease and flour a 11” flan ring or pie dish, and mould the dough
to fit inside, lining it in a way that it stays fixed, pressing the sides and
top gently. Do not stretch the pastry. Pass a rolling pin on the fluted edge
of the flan ring so that extra dough rolls off. Prick the base with a
fork, and cover with a greaseproof paper. To keep it flat sprinkle some dried beans or peas on the
paper. Bake in a preheated oven about 180
degrees C for 10 minutes. You can add the filling of your choice after
removing the paper, glaze the crust with beaten egg and bake for another 5
- Is it easy to prepare au gratin at home?
Of course it is. It is a French style of
cooking. Once a casserole is prepared with say vegetables and a cheese sauce,
it is given an au gratin topping. Season
breadcrumbs with pepper and salt, blend in butter and grated cheese and sprink
liberally over the casserole and place under a grill or in a baking oven. The
dish is ready when the top turns golden brown and a crust is formed. Even
sliced potatoes with béchamel sauce can be served with an au gratin topping.
- How do you prepare asparagus for various dishes?
This exotic looking vegetable can seem
daunting! Cut off the tips of the asparagus, and discard the portions of the
stalks which are hard. Tie up the
tips which should be about 4 “ long in
bundles of 10.Peel the lower part of the asparagus which have been cut away and chop into small pieces. Boil in
water for 4 minutes, then add the asparagus tips and cook uncovered for 8
minutes. Remove bundles and dip into cold water. The tips and the water could
be used for soups as garnish or as a tasty dish with mayonnaise or cheese
Quiche is pronounced
“keesh”. It is an open tart originating
from Lorraine. You make a pastry shell,
which is baked blind as described in my previous column. Do not bake the shell
for a longer period, as the shell becomes hard. Remove when the pastry shell is
light brown. You can vary it with fillings of your choice. My favourite is mushroom with a cheese sauce
base, blended with cream, spiked with mustard, salt and pepper. This mixture is
poured into the pastry shell, and baked again.
Can mayonnaise be prepared without egg?
Yes. Make a cup of thick white
cheese sauce, seasoned with 2 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp sugar and ½ tsp freshly
ground pepper powder. Add oil in a thin stream, very very gradually, till the
mixture becomes thick and light cream in colour. Add the juice of a whole lime, and more if
you like the mixture to be tangy.
When you boil vegetables say for poriyal it loses its
colour and looks insipid. How can you make it look attractive? Can I add a
pinch of soda?
When you cut the vegetables the
pieces should be the same size. Boil with very little water..approx 2 tablespoons
of water for 1 cup of finely diced veggies. Boil on high heat uncovered and
keep on heat till all the water is absorbed. Vegetables should always be
crunchy and never overcooked and soggy. I never use soda. If you cook them in
the microwave the colour will be retained.
I have seen crisply fried colocasia. Is it because it is deep fried?
When you buy the
vegetable select all the same size. Scrub them clean. Boil water and place the
vegetables in the water, and allow cook. Test for being done using a skewer or
a fork, and if necessary, remove the ones which are cooked earlier. Peel off
the skins, and cut into roundels less
than ¼ inch in thickness. Prepare a marinade with 1 tsp chilli dhania powder, ½
tsp turmeric powder,3/4 tsp salt and 1 tsp thick tamarind juice. Add one heaped
tsp of rice flour. Mix it into the cut
colocasia pieces and leave for ½ an hour.
When we visit Kodaikanal or Pondicherry I get tempted to
buying loads of cheese. How do I preserve it?
Firstly, don’t buy loads of
cheese its not good for you! Keep out
only a smaller amount of cheese which you will use up and the rest should be
stored in the freezer in the refrigerator, in a box. Another recommended method is to cut the
cheese into sections and store in an air tight jar in the refrigerator. If you
would like the cheese stored whole as it is ideal for grating, wrap it in a
cheese cloth moistened with white vinegar, which may be kept outside if you are
using it regularly.
What about paneer? Is it better to buy it as an when you
To keep the paneer fresh, a
slab of paneer may be immersed in water
in a bowl and kept in the refrigerator. But please remember to change the water
- What is the difference between red
onions and white onions?
Onions are normally available in three colors:
yellow, red, and white. Yellow onions, originally from Spain, are full-flavored
and are a reliable standby for cooking almost anything. Yellow onions turn a
rich, dark brown when cooked and give French onion soup its tangy sweet flavor.
They are mild tender and sweet, and can be eaten raw or cooked.
The red onions have dark
purplish red skins and extensively used in India. The Italian red onion is smaller
than its French counterpart and is generally oval in shape and a bit
elongated. In terms of comparisons with
other onions like the smaller onions they are mild and slightly sweet. The red onion is a good choice for fresh
uses or in grilling and char-broiling.
The white onions are
larger in size, with a white skins and are milder than the red and sweet. They
are quite tough. They are excellent for salads. White onions are the traditional onion used in
classic Mexican cuisine. They have a golden color and sweet flavor when
Once peeled onions oxidize rapidly and can become
toxic, so peeled or cut onions should be stored in a covered box.
- What are the different kinds of tomatoes
available in the market and what do we use them for?
Tomatoes are rich in lycopene and ward off
cancerous cells. Tomatoes are originally from Peru..the name itself is derived
from Aztec (tomatl) Until the 18th
century, tomatoes were thought to be poisonous, and were grown as ornamental
plants. It was only in the 19th century that it became well established
and used extensively for cooking. Most of the Indian recipes 2 generations ago,
didn’t have tomatoes in the list of ingredients.
In the market today we have Bengaluru thakkali
(higher priced) and naattu thakkali. Lately cherry tomatoes are also available.
The Bangalore tomatoes are large, internationally
known as beefsteak tomatoes, they are sweet and ideal for making stuffed
tomatoes, because of their firm thick skin. This apart they have excellent
The medium size tomatoes or nattu thakkali and
have all round uses, in curries, stews, salads etc. They are sour and not sweet
as the large tomatoes.
The cherry or miniature tomatoes have thick skins
and can be used for salads either halved or whole. They can be skewered with
kababs or used whole or braised in gravies.
Recipe for stuffed tomatoes
Use firm ripe tomatoes. Cut a circle round the
stalk, and remove the seeds with a spoon. Enlarge the hole slightly so that the
stuffing will go in. Lightly season the inside with salt and invert the
tomatoes on kitchen paper so that all the liquid drains off. Arrange the
tomatoes on an oiled baking sheet and warm them for five minutes in a hot oven.
Drain again and stuff with ingredients of your choice.
You can opt for mincemeat made as you like, or
soya granules prepared like keema
but fried dry. Or you could use mashed potatoes seasoned with salt and pepper
with cheese, crushed garlic and chopped
coriander or parsley. Stuff the tomatoes carefully, sprinkle breadcrumbs on top
to seal the opening, dot with butter. Smear the tomatoes with oil and bake
in a preheated hot oven for 20 minutes.
If the stuffing is
precooked gently for about 10 minutes the tomato will not collapse when stuffed
A waffle is a thin light batter which is cooked
between two greased and heated plates of a waffle iron. The sandwich toasters
you get in the stores have waffle plates, and are made of non stick material..
Popular in the US waffles are served with maple syrup for breakfast.
Sift 500 gm refined flour with two teaspoons
baking soda, 4 teaspoons baking powder and 2 teaspoons salt. Add 3 tablespoons
castor sugar, 150 gm melted butter, 5 eggs lightly beaten, and 3 ½ cups of
milk. The batter should be runny. Heat the waffle plates in the toaster itself.
Pour a ladle of butter in one half of the open waffle iron. Close the mould and
turn it over so that the batter is distributed equally in both halves. Leave to
cook remove waffles, sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.
4.I have heard that you can use flowers for cooking. Can you give me an example of at least one
flower that one can use?
The nasturtium is a good example. It is an
ornamental plant with edible leaves, flowers and seeds. They are colourful and
look beautiful when arranged in a salad. The leaves are a bit pungent, peppery
but the flowers are milder by comparison and can also be used as a garnish,
including the leaves.You can pickle the seeds and use them as condiments. The
flower buds and seeds can be pickled,
and have similar taste to mustard. The Tuber nasturtium come from Peru, can be
used as garnishes for hors d’oeuvre and cold cuts.
A fondue is a Swiss speciality, essentially
cheese, two or three different kinds of cheeses. The cheeses are melted in a
pottery fondue dish, and it is flavoured with wine or other kinds of seasoning.
It is blended to creamy consistency then gently warmed over a small spirit lamp. There can be many
variations, like the addition of cream, milk or shaltlots. Some prefer adding
sliced mushrooms. Strips or squares of toasted bread are forked and dipped into
the melted fondue and eaten as an accompaniment to the main dish. Roast meat
cubed can also be dipped into this
delicious fondue and eaten hot.
Then there are vegetable fondues as well. It is a
name given to finely chopped vegetables cooked on a slow fire till they become
pulpy. Fondues made with carrot, leeks, celery etc can be served as
accompaniment or as an ingredient for other dishes.
- There are so many different vinegars
available in the market. Can you
describe some of them and what best they are used for?
Vinegar is a sour liquid used
for enhancing the fIavour of certain food, as a dressing or as a marinade. It
is a dilute solution of acetic acid obtained by
fermentation of wine or any other alcoholic solution. I will list the commonly used vinegars.
Balsamic vinegar is the most
expensive and is a richly flavoured wine vinegar from Modena Italy. It is made
from selected grapes which are reduced to a concentration of liquid and
fermented for at least a year in wooden casks. Sometimes it is allowed to mature
for 10 years and hence is precious and should be used sparingly. It is used as
salad dressing, or drizzling over roast meat or vegetables or cheese.
Wine vinegars red and white are
used more often, to make vinagarette sauce, salad dressing or marinades. Red
wine vinegar is used to flavour red meat and vegetables and white wine vinegar
for fish and chicken.
Apple cider vinegar is a milder
vinegar and not all that expensive, useful for dressing, and providing the
sharp tang to sauces and drinks also for
pickles and cooked chutneys.
Malt vinegar is obtained from
malted barley and is slightly milder than wine vinegars. The Brits consider
malt vinegar part of the traditional accompaniment to fish and chips.
Rice vinegar is made from rice
and the mildest of all vinegars and used in Asian and Chinese cooking.
Vinegar should be kept in
tightly closed bottles in cool, dark places, and generally are good for a year
then lose their flavour.
- What is apple crumble?
crumble is a dessert made with apple and a crumble mixture and baked in an
1 ¼ cups (150 gm) refined flour, 150 gm butter, 150 gm castor sugar
processed in a mixie till the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.Mix in ¼ tsp
cinnamon powder or grated nutmeg.Remove the skin of the apples,( 1.5 kg) core
them and chop into quarters. Lay the
apple pieces in an oven proof dish and spread the crumble mixture over them,
and bake in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes at 200 degrees C. Serve with any custard.
- What is lemon grass
and how is it used?
This is a special variety of grass which
grows in South East Asia with a lemonish smell and flavour, and used for Thai,
Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese cooking. You can grow it in pots very
easily. It could be used fresh or dried and powdered. The grass should be fried
before placing it in curries to get the full flavour, and ideally removed
- How is a sweet potato
different from the usual potato?
A sweet potato is also an edible tuber which was first discovered in North
America and it reached New Zealand, Europe and Asia besides other countries. It
is reddish or violet coloured as opposed to the creamy colour of the potato and
is floury and much sweeter. It can be cooked with the skin, baked or pureed and
added to desserts, in gratins and even in souffles. Many people confuse this
with yam, which is tough and quite different.
- What is a good
substitute for sour cream? And for cream cheese? So many recipes call for these ingredients..
Commercially sour cream is available. But
I find that our home made curds make good substitutes especially if you know
how to make thick curds. I strain the curds and use the thick portion
immediately to substitute for sour cream, blending it first to a smooth paste. For cream cheese you could make hung curds,
where curds are strained and hung overnight. This is firm and can be used for