Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

formerly Ladles and High Heels


Recreating the Al Funghi magic…

Long long ago, when I was working in Madras, a colleague (and a very good friend of mine) and I had this cool, but short-lived, tradition going. We would go out to lunch every Friday if both of us happened to be off assignment in the afternoons. We would try restaurants near our office, get away from the maddening (aka, gossiping) crowd and eat good food. The best part was we would talk about everything but work and colleagues and it worked for us… until someone decided to stop us from taking these lunch breaks. Weird, right?

Anyway, for one of our last lunches, we did something different. Around five of us not so bad teammates decided to go to one of the most popular cafes in that area. Anoki was this wonderful old-Europe-meets-old-Madras cafe that bordered on pretentiousness but compensated with good food and a wonderful (but slightly over-priced) couture boutique.

pasta al fungi

The cafe served rustic classic dishes which, then, seemed very quaint to us because International cuisine for normal people was still finding a platform in Madras. Anoki had a short but effective pasta menu and I, being a vegetarian, got the Pasta al funghi, which the waiter informed me was one of their best dishes. And it was. the pasta was basically a penne bake with mushrooms, parsley and a hint of garlic. I know. Pasta al funghi is nothing special or hard to make but underneath the rustling  neem tree, flanked by the serenity of Chamiers and the company of good friends, it tasted ambrosial. I just wish we could clink our water glasses once again in celebration of the good time we had…

Two years of cooking has taught me not to consult a book every time I cook something new. So I went freestyle yet again. Here is the recipe but if you are a pasta expert, I would love to hear your version.

pasta al fungi2

This is what I did:

Pasta Al Funghi

Two cups sliced mushrooms (I used cremini for its meaty texture and dainty size)

Four pods of finely chopped garlic

Four cups uncooked pasta, cooked, drained and pasta water reserved (any pasta would do but all I had were elbows and did not want to make a scene)

One Tbsp wheat flour (or AP. Personally, I prefer the nuttiness of wheat)

One cup milk

Two Tbsp heavy cream

Two Tbsp butter

One Tbsp dried parsley (which is what I had in the pantry. I would have preferred fresh, of course)

Salt and pepper to taste

A pinch red pepper flakes

Quarter cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Fresh parsley to garnish

Heat one Tbsp butter in a pan. When hot, add the garlic and saute for a few minutes on medium flame. Make sure it cooks but doesn’t brown. Add the mushroom slices and cook. It is vital that you don’t add salt to the mushrooms when it cooks because that would release the water from these beauties and that is not a pretty sight.

When done, set aside. In the same pan, add the other Tbsp of butter. When it melts, add the flour and cook it on low heat for a few minutes. Now, whisk it as you add the milk and the heavy cream to make a roux. When it thickens, add the mushrooms back, stir in the salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and parsley. Remember that the pasta and Parmesan have salt in them so tread lightly.

Add the pasta to the sauce and if it is too thick, the pasta water is always there. Finish with the cheese and another blob of butter if guilt doesn’t eat you up like it does me. Garnish with fresh parsley (or in my case, cilantro for photo-op) and serve.

The key to this pasta is making sure it doesn’t cross that thin line into mac and cheesedom. So make sure the sauce doesn’t rule the dish. K made yummy noises (the kind I’ve not heard in a long time) when we ate this for dinner. The best thing is, I did too!



Sunday is for Biriyani

I cannot believe this is my first post on Biriyani! It is my all-time favorite dish and can eat it everyday if I had to. Thankfully, this world is big enough for more than hundred versions of Biriyani recipes and this one is from one of my best friends, A. It has a wonderful flavor and the spices can be adjusted according to how you want it to taste. This recipe was for Chicken Biriyani but since we are all non-meat eaters at home, I converted it into a very tasty egg biriyani. And boy! It sure doesn’t disappoint.

The vegetables you add could range from frozen vegetables in a bag or freshly cut ones. You can add mushrooms or Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) also to make it more interesting. But really, even without vegetables other than onion and tomato, this is an awesome dish and one I keep going back to!

Here is how I made it:

Spicy Egg Biriyani

One huge onion, chopped

Two Roma tomatoes, chopped

One cup mixed vegetables (if using)

Four pods of garlic, grated

One inch piece ginger, grated

Four Thai red chilies

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper (this can be omitted or the quantity can be reduced)

One and a half tsp Garam Masala ( reduce if you hate a strong Masala taste)

Two tsp salt

Half a bunch cilantro

Half a bunch mint leaves

A generous pinch dry fenugreek leaves/Kasuri Methi (You could buy this in the Indian store or just omit it. But it does add a wonderful taste that cannot be replaced with anything else)

A two inches stick of cinnamon

Two pods of cardamom

Two pieces of cloves

One bay leaf

Four Tbsp vegetable oil (or replace two with butter for extra flavor

One and a quarter cups Basmati rice

Two and a half cups water

Four hard-boiled eggs

Before you start cooking, soak the rice in some water. In a dutch pan or a heavy bottom pan, heat the oil/butter. Reduce the heat to medium, add the spices to the pan and fry lightly. When the fragrance of the spices fills your kitchen, add the onion, ginger, garlic and chilis. Saute for a few minutes and add the tomatoes. This is when you add your other vegetables too if you are using. That includes mushrooms. If using Paneer, add it after the biriyani is completely done. Now mix in the turmeric, cayenne, salt and Garam Masala. While the vegetables cook, drain the rice and add it to the pan. Fry for a few minutes until the water is all absorbed. When done, add the cilantro, mint and Fenugreek leaves.

Pour in the water, give it a swish and check for salt. If it is spicier for your taste, don’t worry. The rice will absorb it as it cooks. Now close 90% of the pan with a lid and let it cook for seven minutes. The rice will be half cooked by then. Give it a gentle toss, replace the lid and turn the heat to low. Cook it for roughly eight more minutes, until the water is all absorbed and the rice and vegetables are cooked. You can add the Paneer now. The South Indian Biriyani is never too flaky. It is a little lumpy but not mushy.

Serve hot with Raita and the egg. Yumm!


Fight Club-like Musings

There are really no rules to play by or live with, I gather. When you finally do all the growing up that qualifies you to take charge of your life, you are left bewildered at the lack of rules. At five, you learn to share everything with your sibling, at ten, you are taught the art of playing together with your friends. At fifteen, you understand that best friends are a bunch of people you never double-cross and at twenty, you realize that relationships require more work than your full-time job. It is only ironic that the people who teach you these values are adults who have grown up and learned the exact lesson I just did.

On a broader frame, I wonder where our rules relocated to. With friends, I learn that tough-love and betrayal are not only two ways of making you a better person but also a reason for your undying gratitude towards those meanies. Having been the recipient for the above-mentioned, I can tell you that you should risk it all only if you have a daredevil streak. Your relationship with them alters permanently even if their plan does work out.

You don’t have to necessarily marry the person you actually fell in love with, one of my friends informs, because love and happiness are two different things. What did happen to those days when we crooned sweet nothings like “you are my life, my happiness and everything between”? Corny, I know, but get the drift? The social derangement, cultural differences and temperamental parents are making more adults choose someone more compatible rather than someone they actually like and know as a human being. So every man/woman is expected to run around the street, yelling cynical monologues and is considered normal.

Family actually means nothing to some revamped rule-players. Actually, I have come across these creatures. They have a barrier and the first person who crosses it is ultimately cooked for dinner with less salt and overwhelming flavors, I am not joking. So people to whom they matter are set aside until they get cold and go on with life with bitterness. These people are considered “independent” and their doormat accomplices actually worship them!

So here I am, wondering how I should play because my rules are so out-dated that they are neither accepted, nor alive. At 26, I am too old to change my rules. I like my friends trustworthy, I prefer my love-filled marriage and I would never show anyone who matters, the exit door.


A fat girl confession

Lets admit it. 90% the world’s population wants to be thin. The ramp walkers to women on infomercials, they all look slim, wear their clothes well and don’t wonder about that extra pound of muffin waist sticking out. No wonder, beauty and clothing lines go huge on corsets and angled cuts to give the illusion of being thin.

I have always been on the plump side all my life. While I did look cute as a little kid, with rosy cheeks and pudgy baby fingers, I had a very difficult time coming to terms with my size. Being surrounded by skinny friends did not make me feel any better. While I used to spend more than half hour into picking my clothes and trying them on just to make sure I don’t look like a cup cake, I thought my friends had it easy. I have always been a perfectionist when we talk about dressing.

I have my own sense of style and I have my clothes fit me right, hence the extra minutes I spent at dressing up did not bother me. There was a short period in my life when I did lose a lot of weight and got to a size I not only loved but also felt sexy in. Gymming or other modes of working out did not do the trick. I fell ill. My medications curbed my appetite and hence helped me shed my pounds fast.  What did disturb me was the way people I know emphasized on their belief that I looked better chubby.May be  I do, I still don’t really know. And fashion is supposed to have made things easy for people like me.

There is a whole range of options for plus sized women and there are those easy ways out like cuts, colors and size of prints on clothes. While we do embrace these trends with open arms and try to incorporate them into our shopping escapades, some people, like me, do still wish for slimmer waists and thinner arms. What is it that makes us desire those <5 sizes? It cannot just be those models on the ramps, print advertisements and actresses at awards. It cannot be the lack of choice is clothing, if Dressbarn is anything to go by (the website sucks but the stores are awesome)

I know, I know, I am far away from the whole plus size phase of life, measuring 8/10 dress-wise. But does it mean I can’t feel huge?


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Call me delusional but I can hear my invisible audience laughing. Laughing hysterically at my total lack of ability to keep up my resolution. I did say I was going to write everyday, but in my defense, I have been swamped with other things like viral infections and non-blog writing.

The Atlanta trip was lovely, met friends, had cake, partied toddler style and ended up in Dulles very late on Sunday night to be greeted by incessant rains. The husband fell ill immediately (talk about weak resistance!) and I was busy pampering him for nearly a week. He is up and active now, thanks for asking.

But now, I am back on track, ready to write and give you, my invisible lovelies, something to scroll through. How does that sound?