Thursday, May 29, 2008

Masala Bhaji Parantha

Today, we'll see how to make Masala Bhaji Parantha. The name encodes everything that this dish contains:

  1. Masala: Any Masala. I used Pav Bhaji Masala.

  2. Bhaji: A mixture of vegetables. I used cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes and onions.

  3. Parantha: A covering of wheat flour knead into a dough, and flattened into a roti like shape.

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Serves: 8-9


  • Pre-knead dough for making about 8 chapatis

  • 1 large potato

  • 1/4 cabbage, thinly sliced

  • 1 large onion, cut into fine pieces

  • 1/3 cauliflower

  • Salt

  • 2 tsp Pav Bhaji masala

  • 2 Pinch Asafoetida(Hing)

  • 1 tsp Ginger paste

  • 2 garlic cloves, cut into fine pieces

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Butter(salted/unsalted)

  • 1/3 tsp Turmeric powder(Haldi)

  • 9 Tbsp Ghee or Vegetable oil(approx.)

Special equipment required:

  • A potato masher


  1. Make about 8-9 small balls from the pre-knead chapati dough. You may optionally colour and flavour it by adding haldi(or pudina[mint] paste) and salt -- to taste.

  2. Roll these into chapatis. Keep aside.

  3. Boil the potato and all the vegetables(except the onion). You may add some salt in the water so that the vegetables soften faster.

  4. Once boiled, drain out most of the water. We will need some(about 1/4 cup) to cook the vegetables.

  5. Peel the potato.

  6. Heat butter in a pan, and add Hing to it.

  7. Saute the onions till they are light golden in colour.

  8. Add the ginger paste and garlic pieces. Mix well for a few seconds.

  9. Add the vegetables, and add the pav bhaji masala, haldi and salt to taste.

  10. Cook for a few minutes till all the water has evaporated and the vegetables are dry. Keep stirring or the vegetables will get burnt.

  11. Now use the masher and mash all the vegetables in the mixture above.

  12. Let this mixture cool for a while under the fan. As the mixture cools, it will also thicken a bit. This will help us in used it as a filling for the paranthas.

  13. Now use this as a filling for the paranthas, and again roll them into slightly thick paranthas.

  14. To fry, heat a thick tawa(roti pan) till it is completely and evenly heated up. Spread a little bit of ghee on it evenly.

  15. Reduce the flame to medium-low.

  16. Now spread the parantha on it, and sprinkle the sides with ghee. This should be about 1/4 tsp.

  17. When it feels done, use around 1/4 tsp ghee to coat the top side.

  18. Over-turn the parantha and sprinkle this side too with 1/4 tsp ghee.

  19. Use the rest of the ghee to cover the now top-side with ghee./li>
  20. When it is done, over-turn once again, check for doneness on both sides, and serve.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I started out making Doodh Peds, but the milk curdled, so I converted it into Sondesh. This is a bit different from Malai Peda, because the milk hadn't halved in volume when it curdled, so it is actually very close to a Sondesh.

Serves: 9 pieces.


  • 1 ltr High Fat(bhains ka doodh -- buffalo milk)

  • 1/2 lemon

  • 125g granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 pinch kesar(saffron) strands

  • 20 g(approx.) ground pista and badam(it should be quite grainy)


  1. Warm the saffron strands a bit so that they crumble easily.

  2. Grind them into powder and add about 1 Tbsp of warm milk so that they dissolve completely. You should get a bright yellow coloured mixture.

  3. Take milk in a large saucepan and heat on high flame, stirring continuously till it is boiling hot.

  4. Remove seeds from lemon and squeeze juice over the milk to completely curdle it.

  5. Heat for a while till the milk separates completely.

  6. Strain out all the water with the help of a strainer, or as is more traditionally done, by putting the entire thing in a cloth towel, and squeezing the towel hard to remove all the water.

  7. Place the paneer in the saucepan.

  8. When it is still quite warm, break into small pieces, add sugar, kesar syrup and mix well.

  9. Form small roundlets about 1 1/2 inch in diameter, and male a small depression in the center(The pedas will be quite crumbly, so be careful while to pinch depressions in them).

  10. Put the ground badam and pista in these depressions, and press so that they stick.

  11. Refrigerate till cool, or serve warm and fresh.

Hitchhiker's Noodles

Today I'm going to detail the recipe for Hitchhiker's Noodles which is a dish I just came up with. I eat noodles when I'm out of town or have a crunch situation in which to make something edible, or am in a mood to experiment with vegetables but don't want to make chapatis.

These noodles are called Hitchhiker's Noodles because they are supposed to be for the Hitchhiker -- quick easy and cheap to make.

There are 4 main steps to making these noodles:

  1. Cook the noodles

  2. Cook the gravy

  3. Boil the the vegetables

  4. Mix the above, add sauce and garnish to serve

Let's discuss each one of them in detail:

  1. Cook the noodles: You may use any flavour noodles. I generally use Masala flavour Top Ramen or Maggi noodles.

  2. Cook the gravy: The gravy can be any gravy of your choice. I have used a tomato and egg based gravy, which is both tasty and healthy. Tomatoes and eggs are generally very widely and freely available(even on other planets!!!! ;-))

  3. Boil the vegetables: You may choose any combination of vegetables to add to the dish. I chose Cauliflower, Peas, and French Beans.

  4. Mix, sauce, garnish and serve: You need to properly mix up the individual constituents of the dish discussed above, and add sauce and mix again. Top off with your choice of garnish, and serve....

Now that we know the basic framework of the recipe, let's discuss the the recipe itself:

Cooking time: 42 minutes
Serves: 2


  • 1 packet(80g) Top Ramen Masala flavour noodles

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Butter(salted/unsalted)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 medium green capsicum, finely chopped

  • 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped

  • 1 Tbsp Ginger paste

  • 1 large Garlic clove, finely chopped

  • 2 Pinch Asafoetida(Hing) powder

  • 1 egg

  • 1 Tbsp Pudina(Mint) paste

  • 50g Cauliflower

  • 40g Peas

  • 50g French Beans

  • Salt

  • 1 tsp Soya Sauce(or to taste)

  • 1 1/2 tbsp Tomato ketchup(or to taste)

  • Fistful Coriander leaves for garnish


  1. Cook the Noodles as indicated on the packet. Add the flavouring when half the water has evaporated and mix well. Let some water remain after cooking so that the noodles can soak up the flavoured water. This will enhance the noodles' flavour.

  2. Remove from the heat and let them stand.

  3. Break the egg, and beat it for a few seconds till the white and yellow are mixed up well. Set aside.

  4. In a separate pan, add all the chopped up vegetables and put water so that all the vegetables are completely immersed in water. Add a teaspoon of salt(for faster cooking), and set aside to boil on a medium flame.

  5. In a separate pan, put the Butter, and when it is frothing hot, add the Hing and saute the onions till they are golden in colour.

  6. Add the Ginger paste and garlic and mix it up well.

  7. Add the finely chopped capsicum pieces till they are coated with butter.

  8. Add the tomato pieces, and salt to taste and cover with a lid. Cook on a low flame till the water in the tomatoes starts leaving it.

  9. Remove lid, and stir while cooking till most of the water from the tomatoes has evaporated.

  10. Now add the egg to the pan with the tomatoes. Keep stirring till the eggs are cooked. You may increase the flame to medium so that the egg gets cooked well, and the proteins coagulate. You will find that the egg will form a gravy with the moisture in the tomatoes. If we had used more eggs, we would have gotten scrambled eggs or bhurjee.

  11. Add the mint paste, and mix well. Turn off the flame, and set aside.

  12. Check if the vegetables have been boiled al dente. Once done, drain out all the water(and along with it, lots of the nutrients of the vegetables) and add it to the noodles.

  13. Now add the gravy we made to the noodles, and mix them all up well. Check the mixture. Add more salt if required.

  14. Add soya sauce, and tomato ketchup and mix it up well.

  15. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve in style ;-)


  1. You may also add ajwain along with the Hing in the vaghaar(tadkaa) for a more aromatic flavour

  2. You may add more vegetables like carrots, cabbage. However, avoid using vegetables like cucumber, zucchini, sweet gourd(galka) since they give off lots of water, which will be lost when you drain off the water.

  3. Typically, each vegetable needs different amounts of time to cook properly. Peas cook fastest, followed by cauliflower, followed by french beans. So, expect your peas to be slightly over-cooked, your cauliflower to be cooked just right, and the french beans to be slightly under-cooked. It is the way it should be since this is a poor man's recipe. If you have the time, go ahead and cook them all separately.

I hope you enjoy cooking and experimenting with this recipe, and I wish you all the best :-)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Make like a shrink

I've come to believe that most people can be classified into 2 categories based on their concentration span. I assume that everyone in the Universal Set of people has something to offer to everyone around them, no matter how little it may be. So, the 2 broad categories based on concentration span would be:

1. Those who can concentrate on something for long periods of time.
2. Those who can concentrate on something only for a short period of time.

I have further noticed that generally, the product concentration(C) X concentration span(CS) is constant over a large set of people.

So, if C X CS is constant(K), then, it would imply that people falling into category [1] don't concentrate very hard on what they are doing, but do it for longer(marathon athletes), whereas those falling into category [2] concentrate really hard on short bursts(short distance sprinters).

I think these basic differences dictate as a person what job you are most suited for. For example, managers and overseers of tasks could fall into category [1] whereas inventors into category [2]. Say you are working on building a large system. You would need someone from [1] to look after the general progress and well-being of the system, whereas you would also need someone from [2] to provide the much needed pushes at vital stages of the project when it is stuck or in need of an idea.

I think that if people try to cross these barriers and try to choose careers that violate this basic underlying trait of theirs, then they would find it very difficult to adapt to their job, and would feel under-qualified as compared to their peers who are from the suitable category of candidates.

Ambrosial Candy -- a tale of East v/s West.

I've been learning to make sweets of both the western and eastern(Indian) types. Westers sweets include cakes, breads, pies, and different types of pastries, etc.... Indian sweets include mawa, ghee and sugar based sweets such as Mysore Pak, Gud Papdi, Mohanthaal, laddu, etc....

The primary difference(from the little exposure I've had to both) between these sweet making paradigms I've noticed are the following:

Parameter Western Indian
Basic Ingredient Flour, sugar, eggs Sugar, Ghee. Indian sweets are broadly classified further into either milk based or flour based, in which case a variety of flours are used
Preparation time Moderate Low
Cooking time Moderate/Low High
Sensitivity to change in ingredient proportion Very High Low/Moderate
Sensitivity to change in cooking time Moderate/Low Very High
Number of Ingredients Generally around 10 Generally less than 5
Heating Method Using Oven Using Stove
Shelf life of product Depends upon the product Depends upon the product
Concentration required during preparation Moderate/Low Very High. You can not leave the working area while the dish is being made
Fat content Moderate/Low High/Very High
Principle technique Leavening High temperature roasting in liquid
Artificial Ingredients May contain in the form of Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Cream of Tartar, etc.... Should not contain. However, commercial sweet vendors generally use Hydorgenated Vegetable Oil(which is not good for health) instead of Pure Ghee these days

Sweets.... should we buy them?

I've been trying to work out the costing of producing one of my favourite(and first Indian sweet I learned to make) Indian sweets, the famous Mysore Pak. Shops sell it for as much as Rs. 140/- a kg. However, armed with the knowledge that 4.5 units of the sweet require 2 units of Ghee(clarified butter), 1 unit of besan, and 1.5 units of Sugar I decided to work things out for myself.

For 1 kg of Mysore Pak, you need:
450g Ghee
225g Besan
330g Sugar

The rates of the items are as follows:
Ghee: Rs 100 for 500g
Besan: Rs 25 for 500g
Sugar: Rs 20 for 1000g

That means 1kg of Mysore Pak will cost(for the ingredients alone):
Ghee: Rs. 90
Besan: Rs 11
Sugar: Rs 6

Total cost of ingredients: Rs. 107.
Lets take cost of production to be about Rs. 8 per kg(fuel, labour, transport, etc....)
So, the total cost per kg is now Rs. 115.
The profit per kg is just Rs. 25!!!! And this is not including the cost for renting the shop and electricity bills, etc....

Surely the shop keepers must be making more money. The food industry is known to have a profit margin of at least 100%. the only way they can do this is by cutting down on the cost of the most expensive ingredient -- Ghee. It is most commonly substituted in India by Dalda(Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil[HVO]). However, it should be known that Dalda has very detrimental effects on human and animal health. Just search for "Hydrogenated vegetable oil" and you'll get many hits on your favourite search engine.

To cut a long story short, Dalda contains Trans-Fatty acids, which are not easily absorbed by the body, and they are comparable to "plastics" in the body which stick around for long. These are the equivalent of foreign substances in the body and lead to many diseases. So, please think twice before buying sweets from an un-trusted shop.


  1. Actual incident: I went to a sweet shop asking for unsalted butter(makkhan) and the shopkeeper said that they generally cream the milk and use the butter at home(I could see he wasn't lying from the size of his waist-line).

  2. Pune Cow's Ghee can cost anywhere from 180 to 200 per kg, while Dalda costs anywhere from 110 to 130 per kg. It is a saving of about 40% as compared to using Ghee. Who knows if the shopkeepers are further cutting costs by using inferior quality HVO?

  3. Interesting aside: Dalda Ghee costs less than Dalda brand cooking oil!!!! When in fact the Ghee is Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil. What do you think makes up that extra weight and cost of production of Ghee from the oil(palm oil)?

Saving Electricity

With oil touching $135 a barrel, and rising electricity costs in major cities, I thought it would be good to figure out how to keep those bills down.

  1. Turn off the switch on your phone's charger, and don't just remove the phone from the charger.

  2. Use room temperature water for bathing, esp. in this weather.

  3. Electricity costs more with more units used, much like taxes.

  4. Watch your computer usage. Turn off your PC(esp monitors) when not in use. Don't use screen savers.

  5. If you have a habbit of falling asleep while watching TV, use that "auto off timer" on your TV. Most TVs these days have it. Read the manual.

  6. (For India) Turn off your CAS box if you have one.

  7. Turn off the monitor when not in use.

  8. Use power-saving lamps(CFLs)

  9. Use Electronic chokes instead of the traditional induction types. They save up to 40% electricity.

  10. Make sure that there is at least 6 inches separation between the refrigerator and the wall behind it. It helps the air circulate and hence the heat dissipation from the coils.

  11. Use an electronic fan regulator v/s the traditional rheostat type which converts some of it's energy to heat to perform the function of a resistor(hence the heating of the regulator when you run the fan on low speeds for too long).

  12. Last but not the least -- please turn off the lights, fans, etc.... when leaving the room.

My friend has a collection of environment-philic blogs/pages on the web that he has collected and placed here: