It’s been quite a long while since I posted a recipe. I’ll have to put it down to good old fashioned laziness for the long gap. I was traveling a bit as well but using that as an excuse would only be fooling myself. Usually, I am a healthy eater (I do make room for a treat every once in a while) and mostly stick to safe and easy to make healthy recipes. But from time to time I get this calling from within to experiment with flavours and ingredients. More often than not I try and incorporate healthy foods in my diet like chia seeds or millet flour or avocado and recently I had this urge to use the latter as a part of my meal rather than a standalone food to be enjoyed by itself.

Mexican ingredients are not always easy to come by but this recipe called for smoked paprika and cumin. I always prefer to use fresh whole roasted cumin which I then ground into a fine powder over packaged cumin powder. And one day while roaming the aisles of a local super market I came across a container of quality smoked paprika which I wasted no time in acquiring. Avocado on the other hand, although expensive, has increasingly become more widely available in local and super markets in this part of the world. A dear uncle of mine who lives in the mountains of northern West Bengal always manages to get some unique local ingredient for me each time he visits me and this last time he landed up with a bag of organic black rice. So I rustled up this slow cooked Mexican inspired shrimp chilli with black rice.


  1. Black rice – 30 gms. You can substitute black rice with regular or brown rice or even quinoa.
  2. Black beans – 30 gms. You may substitute black beans with red kidney beans.
  3. Shrimps – 100 gms. Washed, deveined and cleaned. 
  4. Avocado – 50 gms. Thinly sliced.
  5. Tomatoes – 50 gms.
  6. Tomato puree – 0.5 cup.
  7. Garlic- 1 pod. Finely minced.
  8. Onion – 1 small or 0.5 medium, finely sliced.
  9. Smoked paprika – 0.5 teaspoon.
  10. Roasted cumin powder – 0.5 teaspoon.
  11. Dried oregano – 0.5 teaspoon.
  12. Fresh parsley – For garnishing.
  13. Regular olive oil – 2 teaspoons.
  14. Seasoning as per taste.
  15. Chilli flakes as per taste. (Optional)


  1. If you are using black or brown rice then soak them for 30 mins. This results in softly cooked rice. Skip this step if you like your rice with a little bite to it.
  2. The beans ideally must be soaked for at least 30 mins to let them release the nitrogen. Pre-soaking the beans also cooks the beans faster.
  3. In a dutch oven or deep pot take the oil and let it get warm.
  4. Sweat off the garlic and onion. Once the aromas release add in the tomatoes.
  5. Next strain and add the beans and rice. 
  6. Add the smoked paprika and ground cumin. Mix well so that the spices are evenly distributed.
  7. Now pour the tomato puree.
  8. Add 1/4 cup of water and cook on low until beans are soft and mushy. It should not take you more than 30 mins.
  9. Increase the heat and cook off the liquid content to achieve the desired consistency.
  10. Season as per taste. Also add chilli flakes and mix well.
  11. Pour into a bowl and set the avocado atop.
  12. Finally garnish with a bit of parsley.
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One of my favourite things to cook is a meatloaf. Cooking a meatloaf comes with a few advantages. Firstly, it is really easy to cook. You just have to acquire and arrange all the ingredients in an orderly fashion, mix them together and cook it in the oven for the right time at the right temperature. Secondly, it can be extremely flexible, meaning that it can be cooked with any kind of meat you like, with any topping or sauce of your choice. Lastly, it is hassle free because most of the cooking takes place in the oven. So if you have guests to entertain or other things to do at home you can easily pop it in the oven, go about doing your stuff and by dinner time a delicious meal will be ready.

My version of the delicious meatloaf.

My favourite version of the meatloaf is the one I cook with finely minced pork topped with a sweet and tangy homemade tomato sauce. As I mentioned before cooking a meatloaf offers a great deal of flexibility. It can be made with minced beef, pork, lamb or even a combination of multiple meats. However, the only important thing to note is that you should get your butcher to make the mince meat in a ratio of 80:20 i.e. 80% lean meat and 20% fat. This will ensure your meatloaf remains moist, juicy and flavourful. If your mince meat comprises of too little fat it could end up as a very dry end product. Feel free to experiment with the toppings. One of the most convenient and popular toppings is plain tomato ketchup. If you’re feeling indulgent you can even use bacon. You may also opt out of a topping and make a sauce instead which maybe tomato based, mushroom based or even a homemade barbeque sauce. Here’s my favourite recipe:


For the meatloaf.
1. Pork mince at a lean meat to fat ratio of 80:20 – 1 kg.
2. Eggs – 2.
3. Milk – 1/2 cup.
4. Fine breadcrumbs – 1 cup.
5. Garlic cloves chopped into fine pieces – 6 – 8 cloves.
6. Fresh parsley chopped.
7. Salt and pepper to taste.

For the topping.
1. Fresh and ripe medium sized tomatoes – 5, peeled and chopped into pieces.
2. Fresh garlic paste – 2 tablespoon.
3. Onion – 1 medium sized.
4. Chilli flakes – To taste.
5. Salt, pepper and sugar – To taste.


1. Spread the mince meat on a large container making a crater in the middle.
2. Break the two eggs into the crater and mix it in evenly.
3. Next add the milk and breadcrumbs. Mix evenly. The eggs and breadcrumbs will help keep the loaf nice and firm which will help it to hold its shape.
4. Then add the garlic and chopped parsley and ensure that they are well spread out throughout the minced meat.
5. Finally add the seasoning. Be sure to taste a bit of the mixture so that it does not turn out to be under seasoned when cooked.
6. Mould the meat in the shape of a long loaf of bread in a baking tray.
7. In a preheated oven bake the loaf at a temperature of 180 deg. celcius for 30 mins.

1. In a saucepan take about 1 tablespoons of olive oil.
2. Chop up the onion. On low heat begin to brown the chopped onion. Make sure the heat in low during the entire process. This will allow the onion to caramelise and the sugars of the onion to break down. But do not allow the onion to turn black which would mean that it has been burnt.
3. Remove the onion and allow it to cool down. Once it has cooled down blitz it up into a fine paste in grinder.
4.In the same saucepan take a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic paste.
5. Once the garlic is a little cooked add in the tomato.
6. As soon as the tomatoes take on a saucy consistency add in the brown onion paste. This will add a nice char-y sweetness to the topping.
7. Add the seasoning and a pinch or two of sugar. Let the mixture reduce to a thick sauce. Check for seasoning and finally add the chilli flakes.

Final touches.

1. Once the meatloaf has finished baking bring it out carefully. At this point you can stick a knife into the middle to check if it has cooked through. If it goes in smoothly and comes out clean you’ll know the meatloaf is done.
2. Carefully spread the thick sauce evenly on the top surface of the meatloaf.
3. Put the meatloaf back into the oven for ten minutes on broiler mode and turn up the heat to 200 degree Celcius.
4. After ten minutes the sauce will have become a charred, sticky, sweet and spicy topping.

The charred sticky goodness atop the meatloaf.

5. Let the meatloaf cool down a bit and then begin slicing.

All ready to dig in.

6. Enjoy your meatloaf by itself or with veggies on the side for a wholesome meal.

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Another year has passed by and another holiday season is upon us. And no holiday season is complete without spiced rum. A couple of years back I happened to be attending a Christmas lunch party at a social club and they were serving a drink in small tumblers. The brown effervescent liquid with a few whole spices languishing at the bottom of the glass intrigued me and upon inquiring I was told that they were tiny glassfuls of rum punch. I had read about rum punch before but I had never ever thought of making it at home. That particular year I gave it a go, infusing the rum with the spices on gentle heat. The heating would invariably result in a bit of the rum being lost due to evaporation which as far as I am concerned is not quite desirable. The next year I tried the same thing again but this time I innovated and added a few elements that remind me of winter. I squeezed in a bit of fresh orange juice, grated a bit of orange zest and a bit of ginger to add some heat. While doing so definitely added flavours to the rum but the undesirable loss due to heating and subsequent evaporation persisted.

Another holiday season is upon us.

This year though, has been different. I have tried my hand at several spirit infusions throughout the year most of them being rum infusions. While not all of them have been successful there have been a few that were resounding successes. You can browse a couple of them here and here

Old Monk maybe enjoyed all year round but it has a special appeal at this time of the year.

So when the holiday season set in I decided to infuse good old Old Monk dark rum with spices that I love using during winter namely, cinnamon, star anise, nutmeg, mace, cloves and cardamom. The results have been overwhelmingly enjoyable. The rum took on the flavours of all the spices, retained all of its original notes and since there was no heating involved in the process no rum was lost. Give this simple recipe a go and I assure you won’t in the least bit be disappointed.

Holiday Spiced Old Monk!


1. Old Monk Very Old Vatted Rum – 1 bottle x 750ml.
2. Cinnamon (whole) – 1 stick broken into several smaller pieces.
3. Star Anise (whole) – 2 – 3 pieces.
4. Cloves (whole) – 12 – 15 pieces.
5. Green cardamom (whole) – 5 – 7 pieces, lightly crushed such that the pods open up.
6. Mace (whole) – 3 – 4 pieces. Once again tear up the whole spice into smaller pieces.
7. Nutmeg (whole) – 1 piece. This too will need to be broken up into tinier bits.
8. Freshly squeezed orange juice – 2 – 3 fruits. Retain the skin to use the zest later.
9. Fresh ginger – 1 – 1/2 inch.
10. Soda – 1 – 2 bottles. It’s useful to keep them handy in any case.

The Monk dressed in holiday cheer.


1. Unseal your bottle of Old Monk and carefully pour into the glass bottle.
2. Then one by one add in the whole spices.
3. Seal the bottle and give it a good shake for about 20 – 30 seconds and then let it do its work in a dark and cool place.
4. Give the bottle a gentle shake every day. After three days taste the infused rum. By now it should have taken on the flavour of the spices.
5. On the third day add in the ginger and the orange zest. Seal the bottle and give it a gentle shake.
6. By the fifth day all the flavours should have now come together in the bottle of rum. Give it a taste. If you think you could do with a bit more flavour feel free to keep the infusion for one or two more days. Anything beyond that and you run the risk of overkill and destroying the entire bottle of rum.
7. Strain out the elements.
8. Pour the rum out in a punch bowl and stir in the orange juice and let it rest for a while.
9. Pour yourself 60ml or 2 fl. oz. of the rum mixture in a small tumbler and top it up with soda.

Finally the rum punch is ready to drink.

Now sit by your Christmas tree with the drink in hand and spread some good cheer. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!


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Chia seeds have become one of the most popular food items in the health community. They are packed with nutrients and benefits. Moreover, they are easy to digest and maybe added to our diet in a variety of ways. Be it in cereals, smoothies or yogurt they may even be added in breads or even had raw. They are not only rich in fiber and protein but are also a very good source of healthy fats, namely, omega 3 and many other dietary minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc.

Chia seeds maybe tiny but they pack a punch.

I love adding them to my diet and I tend to consume them almost on a daily basis. Very recently I thought of adding them to some milk and yogurt and making a pudding. I ended up making two different types of chia pudding, a refreshing, zesty and tart version and a rich and decadent one. Find my recipes below.

Lime and avocado chia pudding
To really enjoy this one make sure the lime is really fresh and juicy and the avocado ripe.
1. Juice of one lime. Retain the skin for later.
2. Half of a ripe avocado.
3. Low fat yogurt – 1/2 cup.
4. Low fat milk – 1/4 cup.
5. Honey- 1 tablespoon. You may of course add more or less as per your taste or even use sugar.
6. Chia seeds (whole) – 1 tablespoon.

1.Mix the yogurt, milk and avocado together. You may use a blender or even stir it manually. I would suggest that you experiment with both to discover which texture you enjoy more. I liked the smooth blender version over the hand churned one.
2. Add the juice of the lime followed by the honey. Give this mixture a buzz in the blender.
3. Finally add the chia seeds and stir the mixture well to distribute the seeds evenly throughout the pudding otherwise the seeds have a tendency to stick to each other and form lumps.
4. Now grate a bit of the lime rind for that fresh zestiness. Be careful to not overdo this as it will end up giving the pudding an unsavoury bitter aftertaste.
5. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours or preferably overnight.
6. Garnish with a wheel of lime.
Serves one.

Coffee and cocoa chia pudding
1. ¼ cup cold brewed coffee. If you find instant coffee more convenient, by all means go with it. Maybe 1-2 teaspoons.
2. ¼ cup low fat yogurt.
3. ¼ cup thick coconut milk.
4. Freshly grated coconut- 1 teaspoon.
5. Cocoa powder – 1 teaspoon.
5. Chia seeds (whole) – 1 tablespoon.
6. Honey- 1 tablespoon.

1. Mix the coffee, yogurt, cocoa and coconut milk together. Once again you may experiment with the blended and hand churned version. With this one I found the hand churned version to be smoother than the blended one as the blended one tends to get a bit frothy on top which was not what I liked in my pudding.
2. Add the honey and mix well.
3. Now add the chia seeds and stir the mixture well.
4. Refrigerate fot at least a couple of hours or preferably overnight.
5. Finally garnish with a bit of grated coconut.
Serves one.

The refreshing lime and avocado chia pudding and the decadent coffee and cocoa chia pudding.

That’s how you can enjoy your dessert without any guilt and eat healthy too.

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Cricket has been an integral part of my life since I was a boy of ten or twelve especially the five day format, where the players after playing for two hours take a forty minute breather. This is called the lunch break.

During our school vacations my father, brother and I would play the beautiful game amongst the three of us and Baba on finding his enthusiasm waning would urge us to take a break for lunch as the cricketers conventionally do. Of course, we didn’t relent that easily but when we did we demanded Baba arrange for us the same menu that the players were offered. He convinced us that since the cricketers had to take the field again after the break they would have a light but filling lunch and the standard menu was chicken curry with rice. Being kids, we had no reason to disbelieve an elder so that’s what we ended up having for lunch on most weekends.

The light and delicious chicken curry.

Chicken or mutton (goat meat) curry with steamed rice remains a firm favourite across many a Bengali household. Comfort food, as they say. Till this day, before indulging in our weekly gully cricket on Sundays my brother and I keenly look forward to lunch only for this chicken curry never failing to share a nostalgic anecdote or two at the dining table.

Here’s what still gives us comfort, nostalgia and satisfaction.

1 medium chicken – cut into curry sized pieces or as per convenience.
2 tablespoons of mustard oil
2 medium onions – ground into a paste
4-6 cloves of garlic- ground into a paste
1.5 inch ginger – ground into a paste
Turmeric powder – half a teaspoon
Red chilli powder – half a teaspoon
Freshly ground garam masala – a pinch
Two medium potatoes – peeled and cut in four quadrants
A quarter of a medium raw papaya- peeled and cut into same size as the potatoes.
Salt to taste.

In a wok heat the oil on a medium flame. Once the oil is hot enough add the ground onion, once that takes on a whitish pink hue add the ginger and garlic paste. Let the condiments cook until they release their aroma. Then add the chicken pieces and start coating them with the paste. When the flesh turns white add the turmeric followed by the garam masala. Mix it all well and then add two cups of water. Now add the potatoes and raw papaya. Add the salt. Cover the wok and let it simmer for 25-30 mins. By now the chicken will have been cooked and the potato and papaya pieces would be soft enough. If not then cook for 5-10 more minutes but chicken usually cooks quite fast.

The delicious golden chicken curry with steamed brown rice.

Serve with steamed rice and enjoy your ‘lunch break’.

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Rum aficionados around the world tend to look down upon the renowned Pina Colada. While I don’t consider myself a rum connoisseur I do subscribe to their views on the Pina Coloda. It’s probably the creamy texture that is to blame more than anything else as far as I am concerned. That being said, I cannot deny that I do love the combination of coconut and pineapple. The sweet and sour aromas and notes of the pineapple works like a charm with the sweet and nutty richness of the coconut. It’s just the creamy base of the cocktail that doesn’t cut ice with me. So I figured that I wanted to play with the tropical flavours of pineapple and coconut. Of course I ensured that the cream had absolutely no part to play in my drink. This is my second infusion experiment with Old Monk rum. If you haven’t had a chance to read the previous one yet you can find it here:

A juicy pineapple and a big ripe coconut are not at all difficult to come by in a typical fruit seller’s stall and Old Monk rum does have a pride of presence in my bar cabinet more often than not. I cut the pineapple in half and chopped it up in rough bite sized pieces. It is important that you taste the pineapple before the next step. The pineapple I used was not as sweet as I would have liked but it did have a nice and tangy tartness to it. So I put the pineapple on a plate and sprinkled about one teaspoon of caster sugar on it, covered it and let it rest. After a few hours the pineapple got a bit mushier and browner than it was. At this point I tasted another small piece of the fruit and was happy to note that it met with my expected degree of sweetness.

Pineapple bathing in caster sugar. Be sure to check the sweetness before sprinkling the sugar.

I then cracked open the coconut and cut it’s beautiful flesh into long and narrow pieces. On a baking tray I placed the coconut pieces evenly atop a sheet of parchment paper. In an oven preheated to 180c or 350F, I roasted the coconut at 180c for 15 minutes. This should brown the coconut a bit around the edges tasted deliciously toasty. And now it was time for the real fun to begin.

Toasted coconut slices.

In my glass infusion bottle I poured in the rum and then gradually introduced the pineapple followed by the coconuts. I don’t think the order in which you put the fruits in matters to any extent as the rum will be left alone to take on the flavours of the pineapple and roasted coconut. Once I had all elements together in the bottle I sealed it shut and gave it a good shake for about half a minute.

The next day I gave it another shake and let it rest in my bar cabinet. This went on for three days. On the fourth day I decided to give the rum a taste. The rum had now taken on the aromas of both the pineapple and coconut. The latter however, was a bit faint in comparison to the former. Upon tasting my olfactory senses were proved right and the coconut did seem fainter in comparison to the pineapple. A good method of judging whether a flavour has been infused to its optimal point is to take a small piece of it out of the bottle and taste it. If the element still retains some of its original flavours then it still has a bit of a job to do but if it tastes of nothing but the spirit then its purpose has been served to the fullest. My taste test was in conjunction with my previous conclusions and I discovered that the pineapple had done its bit and the coconut could contribute some more to the drink. So I took out all the pineapple chunks from the bottle and left the coconut in, gave it a shake and left it to rest again. On the sixth day I found that the coconut had finally done its bit too. Now my Pina Colada inspired coconut and pineapple rum was ready. Glasses, ice cubes and good company were all that were required in order to enjoy the drink.

My infusion bottle. Infusion work in progress.

1. Old Monk Very Old Vatted Rum 750 ml – 1 bottle.
2. Half a pineapple.
3. Medium sized ripe coconut – 1.
4. Caster sugar – 1 teaspoon or more. Whether or not the caster sugar will be needed will completely depend on how sweet you would like your end drink to be. If the pineapple itself is juicy and sweet then the sugar may not be needed at all. On the other hand if the pineapple is not too sweet then more than one teaspoon maybe required to sweeten your drink.
5. Freshly squeezed and strained pineapple juice of half a pineapple.
6. Green/ tender coconut water (preferably fresh) – 1 or 2 coconuts depending upon how much water each holds.
7. Glass bottle (preferably 1 l) – It is definitely advisable to use a glass bottle since it is one of the most non-reactive substances known.

1. Chop up the pineapple into bit sized pieces. Check for sweetness.
2. If the pineapple is not very sweet sprinkle the caster sugar atop it. Otherwise, skip this step.
3. Break open the coconut and cut its flesh into long strips.
4. Preheat an oven to 180C or 350F. Place the chopped coconut on a parchment paper lined baking tray and roast it at 180C for 15 minutes.
5. Now pour the rum into the glass bottle. By now the pineapple would have become sweet and mushy. Gradually put the pineapple and coconut pieces into the rum filled bottle.
6. Once the bottle is sealed give it a good shake and let it rest in a cool and dark place.
7. Make sure that you taste the drink after at least three days. The rum might get saturated with the flavours of the pineapple within four days. Take out the pieces of pineapple to prevent the rum from getting oversaturated with the pineapple. The coconut might probably need a couple of days more to impart all its flavours into the rum. After about 5-6 days the rum should be ready.
8. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes to its halfway mark. Pour 2 fl. Oz or 60 ml rum and top up with two parts each of green/ tender coconut water and freshly squeezed and strained pineapple juice.

The sweetness of the rum, the tangy sweetness of the pineapple and the nuttiness of the coconut. All in one glass. Bliss!

Now you can put your feet up, let your hair down and enjoy your own Pina Colada inspired pineapple and coconut rum in the confines of your living room. Cheers!

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The great Anthony Bourdain once said, “Good food and good eating are about risk.” Every once in a while I take risks and try my hand at cooking something that I haven’t cooked before. It obviously goes without saying that I only share with you all the risks that come off, the experiments that are successful. This is one such story that ended happily.

If there is one meat I simply adore that would undoubtedly be pork. One of the easiest cut to cook is the tenderloin. Unless you really overcook it to death it ends up in a delicious dish with the meat remaining moist and tender. This last Friday I got myself a couple of pork tenderloins and decided to cook something that I hadn’t done before.

The most tender cut of pork.

Usually I simply roast the tenderloins and have them with some sauce or the other, be it a barbeque sauce or a honey mustard sauce. We have all eaten and enjoyed the world renowned tandoori chicken, some of us have perhaps even had the often looked down upon tandoori aloo (potato) as well. However, I have often in the past fantasised about having nice and juicy tandoori pork. The beautiful and juicy pork-y goodness marinated with yogurt and spices and then cooked in skewers over a bed of charcoal. My mouth waters even as I write about it. These pretty little loins presented the apt opportunity to turn my fantasy into reality.


Unfortunately, it was a depressingly wet day and firing up the charcoal grill meant taking on multiple risks. If I am honest to myself though, it was probably because I was simply being a lazy laggard. I decided to put to good use my oven’s grill mode. Although I am not a big fan of the mint and coriander dip that accompanies tandoori dishes when the beautiful wife requests one has to oblige. The only grave mistake I made was not clicking a photograph of the dip. But I am sure most of you know what it looks like, don’t you?
Here’s how it went.

For the pork:

1. Pork tenderloin – Two pieces. 250 – 300 gms each.
2. Onion – One medium. Ground to a paste.
3. Ginger and garlic paste – One tablespoon.
4. Yogurt – 4 tablespoons.
5. Turmeric – A pinch.
6. Red chilli powder – 1 teaspoon.
7. Kashmiri chilli powder – 1 teaspoon.
8. Tandoori masala mix – 1 tablespoon. I never buy branded tandoori masala but get freshly mixed generic stuff from a particular shop in Kolkata’s New Market from a man who is known to everyone as Chacha (uncle).
9. Ghee – 4 teaspoons.
10. Salt – To taste.

For the dip:
1. Mint leaves – Half a bunch.
2. Coriander leaves – Half a bunch.
3. Yogurt – Two tablespoons.
4. Mustard oil – One teaspoon.
5. Salt – To taste.

For the pork:

1. Mix all the dry spices together and keep in a bowl.
2. Rub in the onion, garlic and ginger paste over the pork.
3. Whisk the dry spices into the yogurt and beat it into a smooth mixture.
4. Massage the mixture evenly all over the pork.
5. Next put in the salt and mix it well.
6. Finally add three teaspoons of the ghee.
7. Let the pork marinade for at least a couple of hours. Ideally I would have liked to marinade it for 24 hours but time wasn’t on my side in this instance.
8. Preheat the oven to 250 c or 400 F. This should take something between 10 – 20 minutes depending on the size of your oven.
9. My oven has an indicator lamp that comes on when preheating concludes. Otherwise an oven thermometer may come in handy.
10. Rub a baking tray with the remaining teaspoon of ghee so that the pork doesn’t stick.
11. Place the pork on the rack and cook for 45 minutes at 200 c or 350 F.
12. Once the oven stops carefully bring out the tray and let the loins rest for ten minutes before slicing them into bite sized pieces.

Rest it for 10 minutes before slicing.

For the dip:
1. Grind the mint and coriander leaves smoothly with as little water as possible.
2. Whisk the yogurt, leaves, salt and mustard oil together into a smooth mixture.

Tandoori Pork Tenderloin with coriander and mint yogurt dip.

Now enjoy your juicy and succulent tandoori pork tenderloin with your yogurt dip.

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Another weekend calls for another experiment. This time round I tried infusing dark rum with a bit of spices, a fruit and pumpkin. Now that fall has set in the countries in the west and it’s their season to celebrate the pumpkin the internet is flush with innumerable recipes of pumpkin spiced rum or pumpkin spiced bourbon. So I drew a bit of inspiration from some of those recipes and I decided that I would play around with the sweetness of the pumpkin but since just a bit of pumpkin might not be interesting enough I threw in some other elements to add a few more flavours.

The ingredients platter.

Due to India’s fairly large vegetarian population pumpkin has wide versatile culinary uses and most of them are devoid of all the spices people generally tend to associate it with in the west. But like in the USA pumpkin here is cooked as side dishes, mains and even desserts. I won’t say that I am a huge fan of it but I do eat pumpkin in the form of curries from time to time but I never thought I would ever turn it into my guinea pig and use it in booze.

Nutmeg is a really popular spice when making pumpkin spiced drinks. It is a really aromatic spice with a sweet flavour profile. Since I was already using other sweet elements I substituted the nutmeg with its derivative, the more subtle mace. I totally love the aroma of mace but I have messed up dishes in the past by using too much of mace and that same aroma can get really overwhelming and prevent your other senses from enjoying the meal. This time I ensured that I use just the right amount. Another spice that has a special place in my heart is cinnamon. It also is a sweet spice with a strong aroma so too much of it can easily ill-affect the end result of any dish.

I threw in a bit of apple for its flavour and sweetness. I thought it might bring in those fruity flavours and add another dimension to the rum. And who doesn’t like the kick of ginger? Much as the warmth that ginger brings to the table is loved around the world, it’s spiciness at the back of the throat can ruin any recipe if too much is used. No, that is a mistake I haven’t made in the past or at least not yet which is why the quantity of ginger was just right enough to be able to taste that ginger-y warmth.

The infusion bottle beckons the Monk.

All these elements needed a platform where they could all co-exist symbiotically. And as far as I am concerned only Old Monk dark rum could have brought them together in harmony. Old Monk has somewhat of a cult following in India. I know of people whose choice of poison remains Old Monk and nothing else. On the palate it tastes of caramel and of abundance of molasses and maybe a touch of spiciness. However, in my humble opinion the rum is best enjoyed as a mixer in cocktails.

The Monk with a cult following.

1. Old Monk Very Old Vatted Rum 7 Years Old Blended.
2. Pumpkin- Washed, cleaned and chopped into cubes. 100gms.
3. Apple- Half of a medium sized apple.
4. Mace- 2 – 3 pods.
5. Cinnamon – 3 – 4 barks
6. Ginger- Roughly chopped into tiny bits, not more than a teaspoon.

The infusion bottle should be left in a cool and dark place for 3 – 5 days.

1. Pour the rum in a large bottle or container. I used a long bottle (1000ml in vol.) that I have reserved specifically for spirit infusions.
2. Put in the chopped pumpkins after crushing them lightly with the back of a knife along with all the other ingredients mentioned above.
3. Seal the bottle tightly and let it rest in a cool dark place for 3 – 5 days.
4. Try to shake and turn the bottle at least once daily. Also taste about half a teaspoon of the infusion to judge the intensity of the flavours.
5. Pour 60ml or 2 fl. oz. over a few ice cubes and top up with soda and enjoy your ‘pumpkin spice infused rum’.

Time to reap the benefits.

I enjoyed my drink with friends and family over the Diwali weekend and it seemed to be well received by all. Even my wife who isn’t a fan of spices like nutmeg and mace appreciated it. The success of this experiment has already planted some very interesting Old Monk infusion ideas and I am quite looking forward to trying my hands at those. But my first Old Monk experiment is fondly dedicated to one of the biggest lovers of the Monk that I have known in my life who now has to lead a life of Monk depravity. Cheers. Happy Diwali.

A Monk blessed Diwali.

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Parathas are supposed to be soft, rich and flaky, an indulgent flatbread. But if you’re a health nut like me who has a healthy diet parathas may not get to feature that often in your Indian bread basket except maybe on special occasions. However, you can enjoy these parathas like you would normal parathas with vegetables or meat curries or even daal and achaar (pickles) guilt free. All you need to ensure is that the ghee is not used very liberally and that you throw in some ground flax seeds into the dough mix.

Flax seeds are considered to be a wonder food and have quite a hefty reputation in the health community. Not only are they rich in healthy fats, namely essential Omega 3 fatty acids but also contain both soluble and insoluble fibers. I prefer to buy whole organic flax seeds and grind them as and when I need. Whole seeds are easier to store. They remain fresh and retain flavours longer than ground flax which if stored for too long tends to smell stale and taste rancid. It is also widely advised to consume ground flax seeds rather than whole as whole seeds have a very high chance of passing through our system completely undigested and unused. It has a nutty taste and is too dry to eat it by itself so I usually use freshly ground flax in yogurt, oatmeal, pancakes, rotis and parathas. Here’s how I make my flax seed parathas:

I buy organic whole flax seeds. Whole flax seeds are easier to store.

1. Wholewheat flour (atta) – 1 cup
2. Flax seeds (ground)- 2 tablespoons
3. Ghee – 2 tablespoons
4. Salt – a pinch
5. Water – as needed
This will yield about 5 – 6 parathas.

It is advisable to use ground flax seed as opposed to whole.

1. On a flat shallow container take the flour and start kneading it with 1 tablespoon of ghee and water. Once a dough starts to form add the freshly ground flax seeds and knead for a while longer so as to allow the seeds to spread evenly throughout the dough.
2. Cover and let it rest for about 25-30 mins.
3. From the larger dough pull out smaller spheres of dough (about the size of a toddler’s fist) and begin to flatten it out with a rolling pin. I like round shaped parathas as compared to triangular or square ones which are very popular shapes in a lot of Bengali households.
4. On a non-stick tawa (Indian frying/ dripping pan) add a few drops of ghee from the remaining ghee and start shallow frying the parathas. Make sure that the heat is not too high or the parathas will get burnt on the top surface and won’t cook through.
5. Enjoy the parathas with whatever you like; with yogurt and pickles or with home cooked veggies or daal or meat.

Flax seed parathas with pork curry.

So, now you don’t have to wait for that party or special occasion to enjoy your paratha. Not only do these parathas have a soft and flaky texture they also have a distinct nutty flavour thanks to the flax seeds. Now you can have your paratha and eat it too.

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I committed another blasphemy this last weekend. After having cooked biryani and chaap with pork previously (which is a story for another time), this time it was a daal gosht recipe that I tried my hand at. The result however, was positively delectable.

Daal as we all know are lentils or split legumes and have a staple presence in South Asian cuisine. Daal can be really versatile and maybe cooked in numerous ways. Chana daal is split Bengal gram.

Chana Daal or split Bengal gram

Gosht usually refers to tender meat of an animal, mostly that of a goat. Most gosht recipes are cooked on a slow fire for a long time to achieve the desired consistency and flavour.

To be very frank, I am not sure if this recipe has its roots in Peshawar, Pakistan but I did take inspiration from a Pakistani website. For a long time now I have wanted to cook a meat and lentils dish and this last Sunday I fulfilled my long standing desire. But I did put in my own twist. On a whim I bought skinless lean pork without bones and decided that I would cook the Chana Daal Gosht Peshawari with it. So out went goat meat and in came pork. I will admit though, that darker meats like beef or mutton tend to add a bit more flavour and depth to the dish as compared to pork. However, I believe pork has its own nobility which is why I like experimenting with it and adapting it in different recipes and cuisines. This was another successful experiment.

Here is my recipe.

1. Chana Daal (split Bengal gram) – 2 cups.
2. Lean Pork (skinless, boneless) – 1 kg.
3. Ghee – 2 tablespoons.
4. Onions – 2 medium pieces, roughly chopped.
5. Garlic and ginger paste – 1 tablespoon.
6. Turmeric powder – 1 ½ teaspoon.
7. Coriander powder – 1 teaspoon.
8. Roasted cumin powder – 1 teaspoon.
9. Red chilli powder – 1 teaspoon. You may of course add more if you prefer it to be hotter.
10. Garam masala – 1 teaspoon. I used freshly ground spice as it lends a completely different flavour to the entire dish.
11. Salt to taste.

1. Soak the lentils in water for at least 60 mins.
2. In a wok take 2 tablespoons ghee. Once it is hot enough (make sure it isn’t smoking) add the onions.
3. As soon as the onions turn a translucent pink add the garlic and ginger paste.
4. After the condiments start releasing their aroma add in the pork and begin browning the meat.
5. Once it is brown enough add in the spices one by one except the garam masala. Mix them in well.
6. Until this point I cooked at a temperature of 1000 degrees celcius. Now reduce the heat to low (I lowered it to 300 degrees), add a bit of water, cover and sit tight.
7. After cooking on low heat for about 40 – 45 minutes remove the cover and check the meat for tenderness. It should feel soft to the touch but the centre would probably be a bit stiff still. Now add in the lentils, cover and cook for 30 minutes more.
8. By now the meat will have become tender and the lentils should be soft but firm enough to hold its own shape. You may choose to cook it to the consistency of a daal but I prefer it a bit firmer when cooking a meat dish.
9. Reduce the water and check for salt.
10. Garnish with coriander or slit green chillies or both.
11. Enjoy your Chana Daal Pork Gosht Peshawari with rice, roti or paratha.

My version of Chana Daal Pork Gosht Peshawari.

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