Blogoversary

I finally got to celebrate my Blog’s birthday!!

A whole year of not much fat-freeness!! Yahoo.

Like I mentioned earlier, the first anniversary went by in February, and I had been too swamped to even whip up a simple something.

Fat-Free Brainwaves had humble beginnings.

My first post was dated February 1st, 2008. It was about fried hotdogs. That’s right. Of all the things I’ve ever made or learnt, one of the first things I tried to cook for my very own party was chopped chicken hot dogs in a flour-egg-oregano batter.

My friends had actually looked at me in disbelief when I had announce the blog’s web address to them.

“A blog?” asked Udit.

“What? You’re gonna write your secrets in it or something…?”

A big burst of laughter followed….

Honestly, I didn’t know. All I knew was that I wanted one. What would I put in it? I hadn’t asked myself this question.

Back in February 2008, we were in the middle of Final Year Thesis, just recovering from the battering that we undergone from our Thesis Guides and Professors on the presentations of our poorly thought-out design concepts. We had little time to think of anything else, let alone blog, websites and magazines. The only typing we were doing at the time was meant exclusively for our Thesis Books and briefs.

And in the middle of all that, setting up a blog seemed like a waste of time and maintaining would have been quite impossible. But I just had to have a place to put up all the photography and design work that I’d done.

And then food happened.

I had learnt too cook basic meals from Mom…on the phone. So, I decided to add all the my mishaps and haps in the kitchen to the blog, along with design and photography. Its been a whole year (a couple of months more) and I can’t wait to hit the 30,000 visitors mark!

Yesterday, me and Fauri, like true Indians, cooked up a whole deep-bottomed-pot full of phirni.
Chocolate phirni, at that!!

Phirni (firni) is technically a custard made out of reduced milk with sugar and rice flour, stuffed and garnished with dry fruits.

Its heavy, sweet oh-so-sweet and you can try out a ton of flavors, if you’re willing to experiment.
Phirni, is usually flavored with mava (dry milk), which is something most Indian sweets are made out of.
Our version is flavored generously with bittersweet chocolate…..wat else?

Ingredients:

– 1 litre of full cream milk
– 4 tablespoons of rice flour
– 2 tablespoons of ground almond
– Good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2′ pieces
– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
– 4 tablespoons of brown sugar
– half a cup of almonds, slivered
– half a cup of walnuts, chopped
– a pinch of saffron
– whole cashews, almonds and raisins to garnish
– 1 tablespoon of rose water

How To:

– Add the rice flour to 1 cup of cold milk and stir well to dissolve, remove all lumps. Keep aside for about 15-30 minutes.
– Heat the rest of the milk on low heat. Add the sugar, ground almond, saffron and the rice flour-milk mixture. Stir well. Make sure no lumps exist.
– Heat the milk till the mixture thickens into a custard. Coat the back of a spoon with the custard. Run a finger across the back. The custard is done when your finger leaves a clean line across the back.
– Stir in the almonds and walnuts.
– While the milk is reducing, melt the chocolate pieces with butter in a bain marie.
– Stir the chocolate into the custard. Mix well.
– Spoon out the custard into ramekins or bowls.
– Garnish with slivered almonds, raisins, cashews, etc.
– Sprinkle the rose water on the surface of the mixture in each ramekin/bowl. this is best done by dipping your fingers into the rose water and flicking the droplets on the surface. Rose water here is not for flavor, just for aromatic purposes.
– Chill in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours, before serving.

Kareem’s

A sweaty Mumbai evening, greasy duct-taped tables, worn-out wooden benches, a couple of black soot-lined tandoors and the intoxicating smoky smell of kebabs.

Kareem’s, just off Carter Road at Bandra, Mumbai, was where we splurged on our Saturday night dinner. Being hardcore non-vegetarians, it was an obvious choice for me and Azaz. Fauri on the other hand, was apprehensive as always, since these eat-outs rarely have sufficient choices for vegetarians.

The menu is a humble single-page book. But don’t let the simplicity of it fool you.

The service is prompt. The crowd is a mixed one that includes college students, professionals, couples, families and friends just looking to spend the evening gorging on food at another eat-out.

But Kareem’s is not just another eat-out. There is only one workd to describe the food : awesome!!!

We ended up ordering Murg ke Reshmi Tikke, Sabz Dum Biriyani, Murg Nizami Roll and a Nawabi Gosht Nalli curry.

The reshmi tikka is technically skewered boneless pieces of chicken (or sausages made out of minced chicken, kheema) marinated in sour curd and a delicate mixture of spices. The kebabs melt in your mouth! The amount of sour curd used was near perfect in making the pieces tender and succulent without being too overpowering.

The usual accompaniment with kebabs, is a green mint chutney, which was, honestly, disappointing. It was minty alright but too bitter and lacked salt.

The roll was a delicious (and super-hot) combination of spicy meaty filling with a crispy flour wrap…not for the faint-hearted though, cosidering the amount of green chilies use.

The Nawabi Gosht Nalli curry was, well a nalli curry. A gorgeous meat-on-bone-with-marrow mutton curry — spicy with a sweet edge to it, which in turn brings out the taste of the marrow. The fun part, as always, was sucking the marrow out! The only down-part, if I can call that, was the fact that the curry was mealy. Heavy enough to make me push the other dishes away.

The Sabz Dum Biriyani was a regular dum biriyani, cooked in a flour-sealed pot in steam. The refreshing touch which set it slightly apart from most dum biriyanis was that a sprinkling of rose water in addition to zaffran (saffron) had been added before sealing the pot. The aroma was pure heaven!

The meal ended with a decadent chocolate firni (a traditional Indian, milk and rice flour pudding). Tasted good though not upto expectations and the quantity, unfortunately, was miserly.

Kareem’s does not burn a hole in your pocket at all but isn’t that cheap either. The kebabs are worth INR 125-180, depending on the “exoticness” of the ordered dish. The rolls at INR 85-100 are not so okay, considering the fact that they’re snack-sized but are not something you want to snack on. the vegetarian menu is limited, but delicious and appropriately priced, with the biriyanis priced at INR 125-150. A meal for two would cost you anything between Rs.400 – Rs.700.

My rating: 8/10….totally worth a weekend visit!

A Missing Birthday and Boozy Mutton

I’ve been the worst blogger. Seriously.

My blog’s birthday has gone by (in February) and I’ve simply done nothing about it!

Last year, I had resolved to make a chocolate cheesecake to celebrate Fat-free Brainwaves’ birthday…but its been up and down so much the last few weeks that I missed it altogether. Bad, bad girl.

For the last three days I’ve been gathering all the snaps e-mailed to me from Port Blair (above) and snaps from my own collection (below) for a little project….The Boyfriend Project, I call it!

Anyway, the positive thing is I have been photographing a few of the nicer stuff that I’ve cooked till now over the last couple of weeks, and a White rum-Rosemary mutton’s on top of the list.

Mutton Stew with White Rum and Rosemary

This is essentially a stew, slightly watery but not much boozy, though it calls for a considerable amount of white rum, the rum evaporates as the stew cooks.

The granulated sugar makes this stew more sweet than salty, but I prefer it that way.

Another special touch to this stew would be if you roast the garlic before sauteing them.

Feel free to experiment!

What You Need:

– 800gms of mutton

– 80mls White Rum (My Captain Morgan was almost empty so I used Bacardi…any good brand will do)

– 2 sprigs of rosemary

– 6 big cloves of garlic, chopped

– 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not necessarily extra-virgin)

– 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (this depends on how hot you like your food)

– 2 spring onions, chopped

– 1 heaped teaspoon of granulated sugar

– Salt to taste

– Freshly chopped curled parsley leaves, to garnish

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the chopped onions, sprigs of rosemary and garlic for about a minute on high heat, till the onions acquire a typical translucent color.

– Reduce the heat. Add the peppercorns and the pieces of mutton and chilli flakes and saute for another minute, coating all the pieces with the rosemary-garlic scented oil.

– Pour in the rum. Add sugar and two cups of water.

– Stir well, cover and cook on minimum heat for about 45 minutes.

– Uncover. Do a quick taste check and add salt accordingly. Cover and cook for another ten-fifteen minutes. At this point you need to be happy with the amount of water remaning in the pan. Some like their stews to be more watery than others. So add some more water if you want the stew to be more fluid. Or not.

– Conduct another quick taste check. Adjust amounts of salt and sugar accordingly. Take the meat off the heat. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with steamed white rice!

Enjoy…and yeah, I’m not forgetting the cheesecake this time!

Spicy Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers or stuffed capsicums as we call them, have always been a family favorite. I remember, as a kid I used to help out my grandmother with all the stuffing. This was not a “regular” preparation though, and were only made when guests were invited. My brother and I would hide outside the kitchen, around the corner waiting for the first batch to come out; when it did, we’d grab one each and run!!

We ended up with scalded fingers and tongues of course.

Grandma’s recipe asks for fish in a spicy turmeric and tomato sauce. The ones I made yesterday were stuffed with minced meat or more precisely, mutton. Now, mutton’s always usually goat out here, but minced lamb meat does more than well.

The meat’s prepared the way we prepare curry, keeping only a few points in mind:

– the onions have to be super-finely chopped, and

– the tomato is pureed

To make the stuffing, I used: (the quantities depend on how much you’re making, of course)

minced meat (kheema), about 250gms

– boiled and mashed potatoes

– pureed tomatoes

– finely chopped white onions

– turmeric powder

– red chili powder…I like a lot of this to make the dish super-spicy!

– cumin powder

– chopped green chilies

– garlic paste

– ginger paste

– salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onions in a pan along with the ginger and garlic pastes, until the edges turn brown. Add the green chilies, turmeric, red chili powder and cumin. Cook for about a minute. Add the kheema and the potatoes. Mix well to coat the meat. Add the tomato puree…I use little of this, since I don’t want the stuffing to be too watery or tomatoey ….uh, is that a word?

Cook covered, on medium heat for 15-20 minutes.

Cut the peppers in half and remove the tops, seeds and membranes. Wash ’em and pat ’em dry. Spoon the stuffing in and add grated cheddar on top. Brush the stuffed pepper with a little butter. Place on a baking dish lined with parchment paper, pop it in the oven and bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes. The peppers come out soft, perfectly cook with a slight crunch to them.