STYLING INSPO FOR SUMMER PARTIES

The five prettiest Pinterest images making me smile into my screen this summer!

Simple natural beauty at the table
PC: Pinterest
Sweet girly brunch PC: Butterfly Party by Chickabug
Bright happy Moroccan feels PC: Camilla Styles
Always pick champagne PC: Champagne bucket and frozen roses
Beautiful natural place settings PC: Ruffled Blog

MUTTON ROGAN JOSH

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s OwnThis recipe for Mutton Rogan Josh is another I’d misplaced and only rediscovered when trying to clean out my photo folder. The photos are obviously, kind of crappy (they’ve been taken by my dinky old pink camera which I retired about 2 years ago) but the recipe is a good one so I’ve put it up. Looking through my old photos made me nostalgic about those confusing days when I was starting this immense time sink.

There’s a lot of writing out there on how to begin your own blog and I remember reading some of it before starting out but no number of helpful guides makes the process easier. Still, I thought this was as good an opportunity as any to write down the stuff about blogging I wish someone had told me a couple of years ago:

1. First drafts suck. The first set of photos/ posts you come up with will all suck. So will the second, third and fourth probably. Even the tiniest post on my blog takes much more effort and patience than I imagine it will.

2. Get yourself up to date on the technical toys that’ll help your blog look more polished. If you’re not good with technology hire/ request someone who is. For photo editing, my go to tools are Picasa, Picmonkey and Typic. They’re not going to be able to give you photoshop levels of quality but they’re reliable and easy to use.
3. Speak to other bloggers – they’ve probably gone through the same teething trouble you’re dealing with now and figured out ways to sort through it.4. Do NOT abandon your blog! It’s okay to make mistakes, slack, or not consistently deliver quality. Fine, it’s not okay but you’ll survive. The only thing your blog can’t survive is you abandoning it.

5. The number of numbers can drive any crazy. Between facebook stats/ blogger stats/ instagram likes/ twitter/ pinterest and everything else, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the numbers and data being thrown at you. Make as much sense of it as you can but after a while I’ve learnt to let it go. Sometimes I slave over a post and am really excited about it and the only person who likes it is my mom. Sometimes I put up something random and hordes of people fall over themselves saying it’s amazing. Just keep on doing what you’re doing. I assume it’ll all make sense one day.

6. No pictures are better than bad pictures.
7. Don’t become a slave to blog trends. Initially, the more food blogs I’d look at, the more worried I got, that my photos weren’t filled with mason jars, that I didn’t have the time to get a Christmas themed recipe up in December, that I wasn’t putting up enough posts. If you manage do everything everyone else is doing then your blog will be like every other blog. That is not the point.8. Listen to constructive criticism but know what your vision for your blog is. You don’t have to take on board everyone’s comments. If people go on and on, tell them to go start their own blog.

9. For those trying to monetize their blogs, congratulations you’ve just signed up for an impossible task. The more ads you put up, the less attractive the blog looks, the less traffic you get. The more sponsored posts  you put up, the less genuine the blog looks, the less traffic you get. Basically you need to find a way to make money without your readers finding out you’re trying to make money. Good luck.

10. Grammar matters.
11. Blogging is a public activity and if you continue to keep your day job you have to remember that EVERYONE (including your boss, colleagues, clients, ex, future marital prospects and basically anyone with an internet connection) can read and judge you on what you’re putting up. We still live in quite a conservative society and specially if you work in a more formal work environment you can be sure there’s no dearth of gossips passing judgment. Be prepared for all the pitfalls of being a public figure without most of the perks.12. A lot of people have great ideas but it only counts if you implement them. Also, get to implementing quickly, before someone else has done it and you’re left squeaking you thought of it first.

13. Read everything you can on what you want to blog about. There’s a lot of faffers out there and your knowledge will set you apart from the lightweights.

14. Ask for favors, for help, for advice, for input, for publicity opportunities. It won’t happen if you don’t ask for it.

15. Be prepared. Carry your camera, notebook, business cards and other tools with you everywhere you go. You never know when inspiration, a potential contact or the opportunity for a great photo-op will show up.

Serves 4

Adapted from Anjum’s New Indian
What you’ll need:
1 kg mutton (on the bone or boneless – obviously not keema)
4 tbsp vegetable oilWhole spices
10 peppercorns
5 brown cardamom (badi elaichi)
7 green cardamom
5 cloves
Atleast 2 inch cinnamon stick
2 onions (sliced finely)
3 tomatoes (pureed)
4 tbsp yoghurt (stirred well)
1 tbsp ginger (paste)
1 tbsp garlic (paste)Powdered Spices
4 tsp ground coriander
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tsp fennel seeds
3 tsp garam masala
Salt to tasteHandful of cilantro leaves with stalk (chopped for garnish)
How to:
1. Pour oil into a large pan, heat. Add whole spices and fry till sizzling. Add onion and stir till the onions are nicely golden.
2. Add the mutton pieces and stir for 4 – 5 minutes till the mutton
colors over.
3. Add the ginger garlic paste to the pan and stir for a couple of minutes till cooked. Add tomatoes and then the powdered spices. Stir. Cook for about 20 – 30 minutes till the tomato sauce is reduced and the sauce starts to release oil.
4. Move the contents of the pan into a pressure cooker, add a cup and a half of water and pressure cook for 2 whistles.
5. Once the meat is tender, transfer back into the pan. You should have some gravy in the pan, add the yoghurt, stir and bring the pan to a boil.
6. Cook for another couple of minutes (add some water if the gravy is getting too thick) taste, fix the seasoning.
7. Before serving stir in the cilantro.

 

HOME MADE PIZZAS

“There’s very little in my world that a foot massage and a thin-crust, everything-on-it pizza won’t set right.” – G.A. McKevett

I don’t like pizza. It reminds me of days spent in boxy conference rooms discussing shareholders’ agreements or nights when there’s absolutely no other option but to order in. When I moved to Delhi I was shocked to realize so many people close to me, including my brother and father, love that ridiculous flat bread with cheese on top. Since they do I started experimenting with pizzas at home and found that if you’re not making the crust yourself this is possibly the EASIEST food to put together at home. Also the easiest to jazz up.

What you’ll need:

Pizza bases (try whole wheat)

Sauces

1. Pesto (I used store bought) –  you can try the Basil Pesto by Wingreen:

2. Tomato –

2 tomatoes (chopped)
1 pack tomato puree
2 -3 tbsp garlic (as much as you like)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 -3 tbsp Oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

 

Toppings

Be as creative as you like but here are a few options for inspiration –

Mushrooms/ Potatoes/ Capsicum/ Pineapple/ Spinach
Bocconcini/ Cheese (any kind that suits your fancy)
Pepperoni/ Bacon/ Sausage
Basil/ Parsley/ Oregano
Eggs

If you feel like, put together different themes like Thai, French, Indian by using different ingredients.

How to:1. For the tomato sauce, sauté the garlic in the olive oil till it browns. Add the tomato chunks and tomato puree and stir for 2 -3 minutes. Add the seasonings. Taste and adjust to suit your taste.

2. Spread the pesto/ tomato sauce on the pizza bases, anoint with toppings of your choice. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes.

3. If you’re making multiple pizzas prep 3 – 4 at one go and pop them into the oven one after the other so you have one coming out every 20 minutes. Don’t bake them all at one go in advance because the pizza will get soggy if you don’t serve it immediately.

 

 

ROAST GARLIC SHRIMP SLIDERS WITH ORANGE ESSENCE

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” – Margaret Mead
 


I spent an afternoon with my adorable, fourth grader fluff ball cousin recent and was, as usual, amazed by everything she did. She regularly demonstrates more awareness, confidence and wisdom that I only hope for at 27. I guess children are captivating because of the second chance they represent. You can’t help but try to atone for your mistakes by trying to keep them from repeating them. As if dictating their behavior will absolve us of ours.

 
There are two things that have been floating around in the back of my sub-conscious since that afternoon. The first, how far do children really need to be protected and do we really help them by shielding them? Obviously I don’t think second graders need to be exposed to extreme violence or sexually explicit material but what about rigorous schools and coaching? Is shoving a kid into a classroom for 10 hours a day setting them up for the hard knocks of real life or just oppressive? What about choice? We can’t allow kids to make all their decisions because they may be too young to understand the consequences but there’s a whole range of decision making that precedes that level. When I was growing up most of my friends and I didn’t get to pick what we wore from our wardrobe, forget about shopping for it. Baby fluffball though is a little diva who will not entertain sartorial interference. She picks what she wants and when she’ll wear it with accessories to match. I’m not sure if there’s any connect, what with not having any kids and definitely not having a degree in child psychology but her increased sphere of independence, appears to me, to make her more sure of what she wants. An attribute that will stand any little girl in good stead.
 
I guess, based on my once in a financial quarter interaction with people under the age of 23, the most important thing you could teach a kid is how to live well. To all those who would insist that the most important thing is actually math and that all this holistic living, new age bullshit doesn’t work in India, I highly doubt that if you manage to raise a kid with some hobbies, some athletic acumen and a healthy sense of perspective “who haath se nikal jayega.” Every day I meet young people who spent their childhoods in tuition centers and as adults don’t have the tools to move beyond going to work like an automaton, getting their work done like it’s homework, counting the hours till they can leave, with only junk food and alcohol as outlets. Anything that lends a kid the ability to combat stress while giving them a sense of perspective and accomplishment will take them much further than a 97 in Chemistry in Class 8.
  


Perfectly sized for any young cretins in your life, these shrimp sliders were a revelation. They’re adorable, fuss free finger food and the juicy shrimp chunks burst on your tongue with the complementing flavors of garlic and orange. I have to admit these aren’t exactly for a reluctant chef, getting the patties together and keeping them together while frying them was tough. I’m not particularly good at frying things anyway, all the oil and pressure freak me out but if you’re handy with a sauce pan and don’t mind getting your hands dirty, these little shrimp burgers are definitely worth trying. 

Makes about 6 mini burgers
Recipe adapted from Food 52

 

What you need:

250 g frozen shrimp

¼ cup red pepper (chopped into little bits)
5 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp garlic paste
1 egg
1 cup refined flour (maida)
1 orange (zested and juiced)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon

For assembly:

6 small burger buns

Mayonnaise
Cheese Slices (optional)
Lettuce leaves (optional)
Tomatoes (sliced) (optional)
Cucumbers (sliced) (optional)

How to:

1. Defrost the frozen shrimp and chop into tiny bits. Add in the egg, red pepper, the zest of the orange and a couple of tablespoons of orange juice.

2. Pop some oil into a small pan and roast the garlic till it browns and is fragrant. Stir the garlic into the shrimp mix.

3. Flour up your hands and make little patties out of the shrimp.

Note: This isn’t that easy and you may need to mix some flour into the shrimp mix just to get it to hold. Basically throw maida into the mix, around it, around your hands and do whatever you have to do to get the patties to hold together. Try not to use more than a cup of maida in this whole process though – otherwise you’ll end up with shrimp pakodas.

4. Now that you have patties that (mostly) seem to hold together, heat up the olive oil on a large flat pan. Add more oil if you think you need it.

5. Once the oil is hot, carefully transfer your shrimp patties on to the pan. Let the patties cook till they start to change color at the base and then very carefully flip them over. Let the other side cook.
 

Note: Should take about 4 -5 mins on each side but you’ll be the best judge of when it’s cooked through.

6. Slice your burger buns, slather the insides with butter and stick them in the oven for 5 minutes to toast up.

7. Layer the buns up with mayo, tomato/cucumber/lettuce or whatever else you like.

8. Add a squirt of lime over the shrimp patties and assemble them into the burger buns. Serve.

 

 

RED PEPPER AND POMEGRANATE MOLASSES DIP

“Am I tough? Am I strong? Am I hard-core? Absolutely.
Did I whimper with pathetic delight when I sank my teeth into my hot fried-chicken sandwich? You betcha.”
― James Patterson
When I’m trawling the net for recipes to try out I look for any of the following:

(a) the recipe is remarkably simple,
(b) the dish is a classic I want to learn to make, or
(c) it involves unusual combinations of ingredients.

Just to clarify the ingredients themselves should not be unusual – I hate nothing more than having to forage through grocery stores for a bottle of something or the other which will gather dust and fungusify on my kitchen shelf after I’ve used 1 1/2 tsp for one goddamn recipe. I mean that the mix of ingredients should be unexpected.

Like for this exciting, punchy red pepper dip – it has old bread, it has pomegranate juice and peppers. Whaat?! What will this even taste like?! I get all excited and mad scientist-y about stuff like this. But to get back to the question of what it tastes like, this is a light dip with gentle, sweet tones and an incredible soft heat that follows – very truly an unexpected bouquet of delights. A must try.

 Serves 8
Adapted from Martha Stewart

What you’ll need:

2 red peppers
1 cup pomegranate juice
¼ cup olive oil
1 pita (torn into chunks)
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
¾ tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste

How to:

1. Simmer the pomegranate juice in a pan for about 10 – 15 mins till it’s reduced and much thicker.

2. Throw in all the ingredients (including cooked pomegranate juice) and blend till you have a smooth paste.