Friday, August 19, 2011

Laughs: Midnights

It is a question that has plagued midnights through the ages.

When eyes are are bleary from hours in front of a screen (whether monitor or television). When the mind is content but the body wants more. When creativity is at its peak, and you feel nothing can stop you from tasting the fruits of your endeavour, you find yourself asking the inevitable.......”Where's the Mayo?”

So you had a snack at 7. You know you should not have, but those potato chips looked just so darn appetizing. Every neuron in your brain warns you against it. “Dinner time is appoaching” they say. But your hand moves on its own, it just wants one....just to taste....get the grime of the day out of your mouth, and maybe one more...oh you cant stop at two....

It takes exactly a third of a bag for the taste in your mouth to change from savoury saltiness to metallic guilt. That last crunch always coincides with the clock striking 7.45. Now you have less than an hour to go, and you can hear noises from the kitchen. You wonder if the spoons and forks so hated their time apart in their respective containers, that they need to have a banging good time. The plates just cannot wait to pile on top of each other. .

You look down at the bag in your hand. You wipe the other one on you trousers and try and remember if your mom is in a good mood. You hope she wasnt. At least then she didnt slave too hard over the stove. Nothing to feel guilty about, ....maybe one more......

We then skip forward in time to the screen. No other sendentary activity consumes as much energy as your eyes staring at a screen . Mankind blinks every 5 seconds, but perhaps the glare increases the frequency. Yes, that is where the calories went. You watch your calories by watching a screen. Of course guilt is directly proportional to calories. So a snack seems more of a reward than an indulgence.

There is only one stop for the beast. The fridge door opens, you look around, you exit with a sandwich. The rest of the kitchen sits as a dark mystery. You dont want to turn on the lights. Im sure the spoons and forks need their rest. One of the plates looses out, but we all need to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Now a midnight sandwich is a special animal. It has no class, no taste, no theme. It is akin to that loose t-shirt and faded jeans combo that you have worn since you were able to shave (irrespective of whether you are a man or a woman). It is there for comfort and not aesthetics. It is never discussed outside your house, except in sagely yet humourous prose with subtle philosophical contexts.

The contents of the sandwich are chosen by logical elimination. Only if you can answer in the affirmative to any of the following , are they laid on the sacred bread:

1)Is it cheese?
2)Can it be spread or sprinkled?
3)Is it safe to eat though i think its been here since last august?
4)Is it edible?

Once you have slapped, spread and sprinkled everything together, you then leave the spoons to their forks and you exit to the safety of your room. Ease of picking up the sandwich depends on the proportion of sprinkles versus spreads. You lick your fingers first, hoping it will give you an idea of the future. You eye it one last time, and then you bite, which always leads to the inevitable.

“Needs mayo”.

Event: Masterchef Australia - Press Junket

Why is everyone cooking?

Actually let me make that question more specific. Why is everyone experimenting with new techniques? Why does everyone know what Mis en place is? Why is everyone discussing the effect of textures with tastes? Why is everyone plating their food like they are contestants on Masterchef?

Oh wait, did I give away the answer?

So when I was asked by Rushina (Of A Perfect Bite Fame .. do visit her website) if I would like to come for the Masterchef press event, I said yes before she finished her sentence.

Thats Rushina. Lovely person. Do visit her blog and say hi.
Lets add some icing to cake shall we? Guess who was also going to be there.....

Have you guessed yet? ... Oh cmon, the cravat is right there....

Thats right, the man himself, Matt Preston.

Anyway, in celebration of the launch of the 3rd season of Masterchef in India, we received the wonderful opportunity of meeting the food critic who makes chefs in Australia quake in their aprons.

Speaking of aprons.....

As you can see I was excited, but in my defense so were the remaining food bloggers...We couldn't resist showing off the goodies we got at the event.

What? They had chef's hats, we are chefs. Chef + Chef's Hat = Chef wearing chef hat. 
The man is an idol for food bloggers world wide. We left the prim and proper for those people who were there merely for a paycheck (yes, im talking about you journalists). We were there for the food and for Matt. 

No that is not Matt (no cravat.. see). Thats Kunal "The Foodie" Vijaykar. He has his own show coming on TV sometime soon and here he was there to start the event off.
Did you know that Masterchef is one of the most watched shows on Indian Television? Well... yes, otherwise you wouldnt be reading my blog. But anyway, where there is Press, there will be statistics and who better to present the statistics than the man himself... 

Saurabh Yagnik, GM and Senior VP of Star World India Pvt. Ltd. 

Ok, thats the last one, I swear. Please don't stop reading. 

Statistics, blah blah blah, ratings, TRPs... where is MATT? 

Oh there he is!!!! He gets on the stage with flair matching his own flamboyant personality.

Can I mention that his persona in real is as powerful as it seems on TV. He had us gripped from the first word. He told us about his history with masterchef and his cravat of success. No really, the cravat is the reason he is on the show.

Note-To-Self: Get a signature piece of eccentric clothing.

Anyway, before he started cooking, he realized that the audience was mostly Journos and hence they wouldn't know what to do with the food he made. But if they were going to comment on it, they might as well look the part.

So we received a short primer on how to look like a judge. This included a look that will probably send a shiver down the spine of any MC:AUS contestant who is reading this article. (What, they might be, who knows).

Anyway, now it was getting time for the part we had all been waiting for.

We had bated breath, our cameras were ready....Matt was about to be taught how to pour lassi.....

What? You thought I was kidding? Someone, somewhere decided that Matt Preston needed to be shown how to pour Lassi from one glass to another.

And of course, when the lassi fell, He had ... THE LOOK!!!!

But being the sport that he is, Matt decided to give it a go.

And proved to be quite adept at it.

The Foodie... meet The Critic...

Well, actually the lassi making was just to distract us whilst a mini-kitchen was rolled out behind them. Now the real fun was about to start.

The Aprons go on, and the knives come out.....

First up was an appetizer. A light salad if you may. A concoction of Watermelon, cucumber, various seeds and seasonings.. 

See this is the issue with Journos. Matt Preston made a dish. He asked us who would want to taste. Who do you think were the first two people up on the stage to get the food? Mr. Aneesh Bhasin and Me. The journos were too busy not eating.
Oh, who is Aneesh Bhasin. He is a photographer and wine expert. His website is here.

And like me, he had no qualms about being the first to get at the food. See, he is also wearing the hat. Another true foodie.

I have to say, our audacity paid off. Look what we got to eat..

Thats Feta cheese crumbled on it and you can make out the Sunflower seeds. (thats for texture). 
We raved about it enough that someone had to get a second helping. Someone who had also stood quiet when we ran to the stage.  Someone who now had to sneak up to get the last bowl.

Thats Vinda. Read her blog at Lettuce-eat.

She is a wonderful blogger. I hope, however, that she never gets into the thievery business. Someone needs to tell her that when she is sneaking, you do not pose for the cameras on the way out...

Whilst that was going on, Matt showed us a nifty little technique. Smoking Mayonnaise. Now as any of you who have read my post on Mayo know, I love mayo. And just to get us even more excited, Matt decides to show us... 

Oh cmon, the suspense is killing me..... 
Well its a handy little gadget he picked up in the States. Something to help add that smokey texture to anything. 

The reason im stressing how handy this gadget is, and how much I love mayo, is that my birthday is coming up. No pressure dear readers, none at all... 
In fact it makes absolutely yummy smoked mayo. It was sent out into the room for everyone to get a taste. 

The smokeyness adds this depth to the richness of the Mayo that is indescribable. I wholly recommend that anyone who has that machine give this a try. 

But what was the mayo being used for? What was Matt making for all of us. 

Poached eggs, avocado, corn, an english muffin, mayo? Is your mouth salivating yet? Mine definitely was when he was plating it up. 

And what did we end up with? Ladies and gentlemen, get your towels ready...

Don't say I didn't warn  you. His take on a classic poached egg on an english muffin. Would you blame me if I said that I was the first to go grab a plate?

I would never have believed that smoked mayo and poached eggs go together. Such a simple dish, but I have to recommend it to anyone and everyone. Even to those vegans out there... oh wait, eggs... and wait, mayo... Ok, so maybe not to the vegans out there.

Which is probably the feeling that plagued Harini? What does a vegan do amongst all this yumminess? Why, she goes and tells Matt, who promptly starts preparing ......



This is Harini.

Harini is a food blogger who blogs at Tongue Ticklers. (P.S. notice how all the fun stuff revolves around us food bloggers?)
Harini is a vegan by choice and thus felt a little left out when we were relishing our food. So she does the best thing she could have, she goes and tells Matt.
Matt, being the gentleman that he is, decides there is no way he will let her starve on his watch. And with creativity that could put his contestants to shame, he makes her...

I dont know what to call it. It was an english muffin with  corn, avocados, pumpkin seeds, coriander, and other assorted ingredients. I did not get a chance to taste it. It was made specially for her. How many of you can claim Matt Preston invented something for you eh?

I wonder if she enjoyed it? Don't you?

Now that Matt had shown us his talents, it was the Indian contingents turn. But then, right after a display of impromptu inventiveness, what can Kunal do to show the culinary talent in India?

He makes Bhel.....

Yup, Bhel....

At least Matt likes bhel.....

And the Journo's go wild....Human interest stories for bored housewives flash before their eyes. Matt Preston's acknowledgement that bhel tastes good has brought India to the forefront of the culinary world.

But then vegans can eat it too.....hmmm....

With the fun stuff out of the way, it was time to get down to business. Now that the food portion of this cooking show was done, it was time for a quick Q&A.

Vinda's Blog has a more extensive list of the questions and his answers, so do pop over to Lettuce-eat for a run down.

The slowly wound down to a close, there was an outstanding lunch where we discovered that Matt likes jalebis. He shared laughs with all us bloggers and showed humitlity and warmth that endeared him to all of us.

P.S... I got a picture with him

Monday, June 13, 2011

Recipe: Beer Batter Pakoras

Its raining, its pouring!!! Monsoons make me hungry. Well, just about everything makes me hungry, but monsoons bring out the cravings. There is nothing like enjoying some pakoras on a nice rainy sunday afternoon. Lets add a twist though, lets make them beer batter pakoras <insert evil laugh>.


1 cup of Besan Flour (Chick pea flour)
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon of Red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt.
1 teaspoon of Garam Masala or Chaat masala (as you want it flavoured)
Assortment of whatever you want to use to make pakoras. In my case it was  Potatoes.
1 can of Beer.
Sunflour or other oil for frying purposes.

Lets COOK!!!

Time for some Mise en Place. Lets boil those potatoes and cut them up into thin disks. You can possibly use raw potato but this gives you a nice soft pakora. Season them with a bit of salt, some red chilli powder.

To spice up the batter you want some Coriander and some fennel seeds.

Pound away at them in a mortar and pestle till you get as fine a powder as possible. 
(It will become finer. This is an intermediate stage, put some elbow grease into it!!!)

Add your ground spice, salt, chilli powder to your Besan flour. 

Now crack open that can of beer and slowly start pouring it into the mixture. Keep stirring it constantly, but be gentle. The whole idea here is to try and maintain the carbonation within the liquid. The air within the beer is what give shit pakora batter its light fluffiness.

I got it to the consistency of something like cream. You can go thicker or thinner if you like. If you go thinner, it might fall off the potato whilst frying. If you are making onion pakoras you want it to the consistency of a really thick thick paste, or maybe coat the onions in some all purpose flour so they hold onto the batter. (Not something I've tried, so let me know how it turns out if you do).
So pour slowly till you get the consistency you want. Don't worry about having beer left over, I doubt it will go to waste.
Now work quickly. You do not want the batter to stay out too long because it will again loose its aeration. Get the sunflower (or other frying oil) onto a wok, and start heating it.

When the oil is hot, dip the potato in the batter and drop it into the oil. Let them fry till they get a nice golden brown texture.

Once they are done, remove them with a slotted spoon and sit them on some paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

Sprinkle a little Chaat masala on them and serve them with tomato ketchup and enjoy the rains!!!!

Printable Recipe:


1 cup of Besan Flour (Chick pea flour)
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon of Red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt.
1 teaspoon of Garam Masala or Chaat masala (as you want it flavoured)
Assortment of whatever you want to use to make pakoras. In my case it was  Potatoes.
1 can of Beer.
Sunflour or other oil for frying purposes.

Lets COOK!!!

1) Boil your potatoes and cut them into little discs. Season with a little salt and red chilli pepper
2) Grind your fennel and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle.
3) Season your besan flour with the ground spices, salt, and red chilli powder.
4) Slowly add beer to your flour till you get the consistency you are aiming for. Be gentle whilst mixing the beer so as to not lose aeration. Work quickly.
5) Heat your oil in a wok.
6) When it comes to temperature, dip the potatoes into the batter and drop them into the hot oil.
7) Cook them till they are golden brown in colour and remove with a slotted spoon.
8) Let the pakoras sit on paper towels to soap up the excess oil.
9) Season them with Chaat masala, serve with Tomato Ketchup.

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