Monthly Archives: November 2012

Food, Photography and Workshop

When kiddo turned one year old, we relocated to London as my husband had to handle a year-long official project there. We spent that one year in a single bedroom house, which my sweet friend and her husband found for us.

It was the time I started baking and clicking my culinary trials so that folks back home can be assured that I am not starving my family. Being a novice, but very enthusiastic baker (unfortunately), I had landed myself in really embarrassing situations. Once, I ended up gifting a half-baked cake for my friend’s birthday. Imagine the scene when someone cuts the cake and you find uncooked batter in the middle! (Thankfully, it was a very private affair and I had a ‘trial’ cake as backup :D.)

Another time, a cake which I baked for my hubby’s friends was returned as such. Excuses offered varied from ‘stomach full, stomach ache, on diet’ and many more.

Surely, it was time for improvement! That started the search for online recipes.

And that’s how I landed myself in Aparna’s My Diverse Kitchen.  It’s almost four years now and I am still following her blog.

I have cooked and baked many recipes from her space successfully and I am a great fan of her pictures. I love her ‘Less is More’ style, when it comes to props and styling. Check out the picture below of Lime Posset from her space. Great picture with minimal props!

So, when I saw that Aparna is conducting a Food Photography Workshop in Chennai, I registered for it immediately.

The session started at 9 AM in Kettle, a coffee shop in Anna Nagar. It’s a beautiful cafe with great ambience and great food.

I use a Canon IXUS 75 point and shoot camera for all my photography. I had borrowed my brother’s DSLR (Canon 400D) specifically for the workshop. I have been following the Food Photography basics in My Diverse Kitchen, but now that I have a dSLR, the posts make a lot more sense.

The workshop had Aparna talking about various elements of photography in the forenoon and after lunch, it was time to try clicking with our cameras.

What I learnt from the workshop (what I remember now :D):

  • Learn photography first, food photography is a subset.
  • Invest patience and passion into photography. The rest will follow. Of course, good equipment helps! (Are you reading this, hubby dear?)
  • Practise, practise, practise.
  • Learn the Rule of thirds, Rule of Odds, Rule of Space. Learn lighting. Food off centre looks better than right in the middle (rule of thirds), try different angles while clicking.
  • Train your photographic eye – learn to look for the light source, look at the direction of food, look at the empty space in the frame, look for rule of thirds
  • Use geometric patterns in the subjects.
  • Rules are meant for breaking! So don’t be afraid to try new ways of looking at food.
  • How to use reflectors, how to diffuse light, how to block light, using color wheel for composition
  • Don’t compromise on the composition, ie, don’t click with ‘I will crop/edit it later’ thought
  • Use a tripod (I am doing this since the workshop and no shaky pictures anymore :) ! )
  • Also, try to read and practise as much as you can, before you enroll for a session. It’s good to be prepared, so that you can utilize the workshop better.

A lot of what is mentioned above comes with experience. For example, after this session, I realized that I was shooting with odd numbers, mostly with three items. Also, I follow the triangle pattern (using geometric patterns) a lot. And about the props, less is really more!

The session made me realize that I am in the right learning path and thus encourages me to look out for more things now.

I had the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers who had come to attend the workshop. It was a lot of fun clicking together. I am thankful to Meena Thennaapan for patiently holding the ‘white background’ (thermocol sheet) for some of my clicks :-)

We came home with a goodie bag from Urban Dazzle. You will see them in my clicks soon :)

My baking did not improve tremendously from the minute I started following Aparna’s blog. I had to find my way about to reach where I am now (still a long long way to go!) though perfect instructions from her space help a lot.

Similar to that, my photography and my composition is not going to change overnight because I attended a workshop with Aparna. Here too, I have to invest time and patience to get to a higher level. But I am happy for the guidence and more than anything, for the reassurance that I am in the right path!

Thank you Aparna and the girls, I really had a lot of fun at the workshop :-)

10 Comments

Filed under This, that and the other

Chana Pulav

I have many many recipe books. So many, that I can start a library with them. Earlier when I used to visit bookshops, I used to go directly to the cookery books section. Comics, Classics, Fiction – everything was given a miss.

This went on for a long time, and finally it came to a point where hubby refused to take me to bookshops! His reason was valid – there were so many cookbooks at home and yet I keep buying more. And worse, I don’t use them much!

So now, thanks to the free recipes accompanied by beautiful pictures in blogs and the internet, the book-buying craze has come down. And now, I concentrate more on cooking from the books I have!

Chana pulav is from one of the cookbook collection. Its a perfect lunchbox recipe and its perfect for this week’s Blogging Marathon theme too.

Check out the other Blogging Marathon participants for more recipes and more themes.

Recipe Source:  Mallika Badrinath’s ‘Rice Delights’ book

Serves : 2-3

Ingredients:

  • Basmati Rice                                               :          1 cup
  • White kabuli Chana                                   :          1/2 cup
  • Onions                                                          :         2
  • Tomatoes                                                      :          3 big
  • Kasuri methi                                                :           1 tbsp
  • garam masala powder                               :            1/2 tsp
  • Bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves             :            1-2 each, optional
  • ghee                                                              :             1 tbsp

to grind:

  • pearl onions             : 10 (I used 1 big onion)
  • red chilies                 :  4-5 (or per taste)
  • Cumin seeds             :  1 tsp
  • Garlic                         :   4-5 flakes
  • Coconut                     :    2 tbsp (I added this, but felt it would be better to skip)

Method:

  1. Wash and soak chana overnight and pressure cook for 6-7 whistles or until cooked thoroughly. Keep aside.
  2. Wash and soak the rice for 10 minutes. Grind the three tomatoes into a puree. Grind the items in the ‘to grind’ list into a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  3. Heat ghee. Add cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves. Add onions and garlic and saute till brown. Add the ground onion-coconut masala paste. Fry for 3-4 minutes, until the raw smell goes away.
  4. Add the tomato puree, garam masala powder, kasori methi, salt and chana. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Drain water from the rice and add it. Add one cup of water (tomato puree + water = 2 cups, double that of rice) and cover and cook till rice is done. I usually transfer the rice to a pressure cooker or rice cooker at this stage.
  6. Serve with a simple raita.

Linked to:

11 Comments

Filed under Rice, Pasta

Parippu Urundai Sambar – Lentil Ball Sambar

Kiddo prefers playing with friends than playing with toys. So he doesn’t mind sharing his toys from his almost a mini store sized collection with his friends.

But bring in Bhagus, my cute little 1.5 years old niece, and the entire equation is changed! She is almost viewed as a terror at times by my kiddo. He would whine, crib, cry, run and even climb on top of tables, just to get away from her.

His main complaint? ‘Mommy…Bhagus is troubling me. She wants only my toy.

Well, she wants to play with him and anything he has in his hands are attractive for her. But explaining this to a first grader is difficult – especially when, like a monkey, he is standing on top of the shoe rack to avoid her. And she would be lingering around, waiting him out.

The funny thing is, the minute she is away, he says,’I want to play with Bhagus.’ And when she comes in, its again the ‘She is grabbing toys from my hand!’

It reminds me of how I was with my younger brother. ‘He is troubling me’ was a standard, oft repeated statement from me.

Funny, all these things came to my mind when I was making this sambar. Its my younger brother’s favorite and amma used to make this often for him. If we were both kids, I would have said ‘Amma! He is taking all the lentil balls. He is not leaving any for me!’

Blogging Marathon 22 is in its last week now and this week’s theme is Chana/Chana dal recipes. Check out the BM page for more interesting themes and recipes from the participants.

Recipe Source : Gayathri’s Cookspot

Serves : 4

Ingredients:

For lentil balls

  • Chana dal                       :          1 cup
  • Mint leaves                    :           7-8 leaves
  • Green chilies                 :           2
  • Cloves                             :           1
  • Salt

For gravy

  • Tomatoes                        :       2
  • Coconut                           :       1/4 cup, grated
  • ginger garlic paste         :       1 tsp
  • Onions                              :      2
  • Sambar powder              :       3 tsp
  • Water                                :       3-4 cups
  • Mustard seeds                 :      1 tsp
  • Jeera                                 :       1/2 tsp
  • Oil                                      :       2 tsp
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Wash and soak chana dal for 2-3 hours. Drain and grind along with mint leaves, cloves,salt and chilies. You dont need to make a paste, pulse it a couple of times so that everything is crushed and has come together.
  2. Divide the dal into marble sized balls and steam them for 5-7 minutes till they are firm. This step is optional. Keep the lentil balls aside.
  3. Grind the tomatoes, coconut and ginger-garlic paste into a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a big wide kadai. Add mustard seeds, jeera and let it splutter. Add the onions and saute till the color changes. Add the tomato puree, sambar powder and salt. Saute till the raw smell goes off, say 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add 3-4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat a bit and drop the lentil balls and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Do a taste test, adjust the seasonings and cook covered for another 5 minutes till the balls are cooked thoroughly.
  7. Serve with plain hot rice.

Note: The gravy thickens as it sits. So its a good idea to keep it on the runny side while cooking.

Linked to:

11 Comments

Filed under Side Dishes

Parippu Vada

The minute you say parippu vada, my mind pictures the roadside chayakkada (tea stall) with people sitting on wooden benches and eating the vada, holding tea in the other hand and sharing the day’s gossip.

We were never the vada making kind of family (no deep fried items in general), but amma used to buy this from her office canteen now and then. I used to prefer the soft Uzhundu vada over this one, but then taste changes with time and now I love this version too. Or in fact any version, if someone else makes them for me ;-)

Last week of Blogging Marathon 22 and here I am with a set of Chana-based recipes. Kicking off with parippu vada, two more recipes to follow. Check out the Blogging Marathon page to see posts from other participating bloggers.

I have no idea what is wrong with the pictures here, but then sometimes you just have to let it go when things go wrong!

Enjoy the vadas!

Ingredients:

  • Chana dal (Gram dal)          :      2 cups
  • Onion                                      :      1
  • Ginger                                      :      1″ piece
  • Green chilies                          :      2-3
  • Curry leaves                           :      1 sprig
  • Asafoetida                              :       a pinch
  • Salt
  • Oil for frying

Method:

  1. Wash and soak chana dal for 2-3 hours. Once its soaked, drain off water completely. I let the dal sit in a wide bowl for sometime so that the moisture will be gone.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onions, chilies, ginger and the curry leaves fine .
  3. Pulse the dal in a mixer couple of times, without adding any water. Do not make a paste out of it, it should be just crushed.
  4. Transfer the crushed dal into a bowl or plate and add the chopped items. Add salt, a pinch of asafoetida and mix. Take about a heaped tablespoon of the dal mix, roll it into a ball and then shape it into a patty. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  5. Heat oil and deep fry the parippu vadas in batches. Serve with hot tea/chaya.

Linked to:

14 Comments

Filed under Any Time Foods

Wonderland Drink Me Potion

Reading was an important part of our growing up and our childhood was full of books – Amar Chitra Kathas, Tinkle and lots of local magazines for kids. As we grew older my mother – who is an avid reader, started introducing translated version of Children’s classic books. Once you are done with the translated book, there is an automatic interest in reading the original.  She would then get it from the library.

So when I thinking about a recipe for the third day of Blogging Marathon, for the theme ‘Storybook Based Recipes’, my thought went to the all time classic Alice in Wonderland.

I was planning to bake the ‘Eat me’ Cookies, but then changed my mind and settled on the magical shrinking potion. I made rose milk syrup, but unfortunately I had only orange-red food color. So my syrup turned out to be orange! A drawback indeed! I didn’t ponder much on it since the taste was correct.

This is a simple sugar syrup (half cup each of sugar and water) cooled, flavored with a tablespoon of rosewater and a few drops of rose essence. A pinch of pink color (or the disastrous orange, in my case) is added for color.

Check out the other participants of Blogging Marathon here.

Linking this post to Srivalli’s Kid’s DelightCooking From storybook hosted by Archana

12 Comments

Filed under Beverages, Soups and Salads

Butterbeer Latte

Being an ardent Harry Potter fan, I expected a lot from the Harry Potter recipes too. Though I won’t say this latte was bad, it was quite different from what I expected. Kiddo loved it, hubby found it sweet and I found it messy to be clicked :)

This is the second recipe under the theme Storybook Recipes for Blogging Marathon. Check out the other participants here in the Blogging Marathon page.

You can check out here for the original recipe.

This recipe is off to Srivalli’s Kid’s DelightCooking From storybook hosted by Archana

13 Comments

Filed under Beverages, Soups and Salads

The Very Hungry Caterpillar!

After taking a short break, I am now back in action with a very hungry caterpillar for the third week of Blogging Marathon. Theme for this week is Storybook Recipes. Check out the other participants here in Blogging Marathon page.

I would love to go on and on about my son’s reading habit, but now with all the books packed and kept inside (too much of dust in the new place), there is hardly any reading going on.

But The Very Hungry Caterpillar comes out of the shelf now and then, to be read and enjoyed. Its not only my son’s favorite, it is a bit hit with me too! So thought of starting this theme with a hungry caterpillar cheese sandwich.

Recipe inspired from : The Very Tasty Caterpillar

Ingredients:

  • Bread Slices          :     8 (or as many as required)
  • Cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Cabbage leaves
  • Olives for eyes
  • A small tomato wedge for mouth

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C, if you are planning to grill the cheese, its optional.
  2. Cut all the slices, but one, of the bread with a small round cookie cutter or with a vessel with sharp edges. I used my hubby’s cylindrical stainless steel pickle dabba for this.
  3. Cut the face with a bigger cutter or a bigger lid or vessel. Using the same big cutter, cut through a slice of cheese and a leaf of cabbage.
  4. Cut through the cheese to get a long cylindrical piece, and then thinly slice for the body of the caterpillar.
  5. Slice the tomatoes and  cut the cabbage leaves with the same cutter.
  6. On your baking tray, place a parchment paper. Arrange the bread in the form of a caterpillar, keep the head on top.
  7. Layer the cabbage leaves so that the bread doesnt become soggy. Keep the tomatoes on top of the cabbage leaves and the top it with the cheese slice.
  8. Gril for 2-3 minutes. Once done, keep the olives for eyes and a tomato wedge for mouth. I used the edges of the cheese slice for ‘horns’ and legs.
  9. Season as per wish and serve with ketch up.

Note: I grilled for 5 minutes and wasnot around to check on them, so the cheese melted and was a gooey mess when I returned. I had to use fresh cheese slice for the face, as the previous slice had just sunk in and was not looking good at all. I took off the excess melted cheese away and transferred the caterpillar to another parchment sheet.

This recipe is off to Srivalli’s Kid’s Delight – Cooking From storybook hosted by Archana

13 Comments

Filed under Any Time Foods, Break Fast Recipes

Lahsooni kadhi & Begun Bhaja


I made brownies last week to show off to some friends. It came out rather well (or so they told me).

I made an impressive Mugalai Potato curry and a tasty carrot rice to go with it this weekend when my cousin visited us. Everyone loved it!

And tonight I made rock hard chapatis with a lukewarm curry to go with it.

And thanked god that things are back to normal :))!

But don’t worry, these kadhi and bhaja are not my recipes. You can try them with confidence. These too got me some compliments, though I am yet to learn how to handle that.

For Blogging Marathon 22, I have chosen ‘Dishes from Bengal’ as the theme. Check out the bloggingmarathon page for more themes and more recipes from the participants.

Have a look at this BengaliThali too while you are around!

Recipe Source:Kitchen e Kichu Khonn

Serves:  4

Cooking Time : 15 min

Kadhi Ingredients:

  • Yogurt/Curd                :        1 cup
  • Water                            :        2 cup
  • Besan/Gram Flour     :       1 tbsp, heaped
  • Garlic                             :       5-6 pods
  • Chili Powder               :        1 tsp
  • Turmeric Powder        :       1/4 tsp
  • Salt
  • Oil                                   :       1 tsp
  • Hing/Asafoetida          :       a pinch

Method:

  1. In a big vessel, mix yogurt, besan, chili powder, turmeric powder and water. Whisk thoroughy for a minute ensuring that no dry lumps remain.
  2. Heat a tsp of oil in a deep non stick pan. Add the hing and garlic, saute for half a minute. Add the yogurt mix and salt.
  3. Let it cook in low fire for about 10 -15 minutes. You can turn off the heat when the besan and garlic are cooked completely. The kadhi’s consistency needs to be adjusted according to your preference. You need to add more water if you want it a bit runny, in that case you have to a taste test and add more salt & chili powder. Serve with rice and a vegetable fry like Aloo Bhaja or Brinjal Bhaja. Scroll down for the recipe.

Recipe Source: Bengali Lunch

Serves:  4

Cooking Time : 15-20 min

Begun Bhaja Ingredients:
Brinjal. : 2, baingan ka Bharta kind
Turmeric powder : 1/2 tsp
Chili powder. : 1/2 -1 tsp
Salt
Oil. : to shallow fry

 

Method:
Wash and Slice the brinjal into circles. These shouldn’t be too thin. Add the turmeric powder, salt, chili powder and keep aside for at least 10 minutes.
Heat oil in a wide pan and add as many slices as you can without crowding the pan. cook for a couple of minutes. flip over and cook the other side too. It will be good if you can cover the pan while cooking as oil might spatter a bit.
Serve hot with rice and kadhi.

Note : I didn’t get the big purple baingan ka Bharta brinjal. I just used up the ones that were there in the fridge at that time.

9 Comments

Filed under Side Dishes

Aloo Bhaja/Potato Fry

Blogging Marathon 22 is beginning today and this week’s theme is Dishes from Bengal for me. Check out the other participants here.

Flashback : Ten days back.

Scene : Bangalore, brother’s place.

Characters : Brother, SIL, niece Bhagus

Audience : Me, hubby, kiddo

Dialogue 1 : Brother to SIL ‘Leaving for office, see you in the evening.’

Dialogue 2 is drowned out because of the howling in the background by Bhagus! She UNDERSTANDS grown up talk perfectly!

God save us now! And in the meanwhile, its the ‘hush-hush’ style there.

  • Recipe Source: Internet, no particular one source 
  • Serves : 2-3
  • Ready in : 15-20 min

Ingredients:

  •  Potatoes                                 :          2 big
  • Chili powder                          :          1 tsp or per taste
  • Turmeric Powder               :          1/4 tsp
  • Salt
  • Oil, about 3-4 tbsp

Method:

  1. Wash and clean the potatoes. Pat them dry with a kitchen towel. Cube them or cut them into 1″ long rectangular pieces. Wash the potato cubes so that the startch is washed off. Else the pieces might stick together when you microwave them. Drain them.
  2. In a Microwave proof glass bowl, add the potatoes and about 2 tbsp oil. Mix till the potatoes pieces are coated in oil and cook at high (open) for about 4 minutes. You might want to add another spoon of oil, if required. I usually add very less, though, at times I skip the oil also. The result willnot be a fry, but yet a tasty potato side dish.
  3. At the end of four minutes, stir the potatoes with a wooden spoon, taking care not to break them. Cook for another 3 – 4 minutes or until the potatoes are 90% cooked. It takes about 8 minutes in my MW, and this will vary depending on the model and power of the MW.
  4. Heat a kadai, if you feel like, you can add a spoon of oil, otherwise just add the cooked potatoes with the oil to the kadai. Add the chili, turmeric powders and salt. Mix, taking care not to break the potatoes. Let it cook for 4-5 minutes or until they look fried and done. Serve hot with rice/khichdi or roti.

13 Comments

Filed under Side Dishes

Vegetable Khichdi

 

Blogging Marathon 22 is beginning today and this week’s theme is Dishes from Bengal for me. Check out the other participants here.

Nilam came here when Sandy was in the US.

There was no power inside the house and the wind was howling outside. It was tug of war with the door, as it was not opening because of the wind pressure.

We had power back up, so things weren’t that bad.

A minute outside showed me how forceful the wind was. It was like walking through a storm (which was what it was!). I had to almost abandon my visit to the temporary shopping mall and manage with what we had at home.

Luckily, except for a couple of fallen roofs, there wasn’t much damage here and by night, things were back to normal.

Another reminder that we are nothing in front of Mother Nature!

Ingredients:

  • Rice                                :            1 cup
  • Moong dal                   :            1/2 cup
  • Mixed Vegetables    :            1 cup ( potatoes, carrots, peas and beans)
  • Ginger garlic paste  :           1 tsp
  • Green chilies             :            2-3
  • Bay leaf                       :             1, optional
  • Salt
  • Onion                            :            1 small, optional
  • Cumin                           :             1 tsp
  • Ghee                              :             2 tbsp, or per taste

Method:

  1. Wash and clean the dal and rice separately and let it drain while you prepare the vegetables. Heat a kadai and roast the dal for a minute (optional step, after the dal is dry).
  2. Clean the vegetables and dice them into even sized pieces. Mix the rice, dal, veggies together in a 5L pressure cooker. Add the turmeric powder, chilies, ginger garlic paste and bayleaf. Add 4.5 cups of water. Pressure cook for 3-4 whisles or until rice is cooked. Take off the heat.
  3. Chop the onion and keep aside. In a small kadai, add a spoon of ghee. Add cumins and chopped onions. Once the pressure falls, add this onion tempering to the khichdi and mix well. Dot with ghee and serve with Aloo Bhaja/Begun bhaja.

This recipe is off to :

13 Comments

Filed under Rice, Pasta