Monday, April 5, 2010


Today Chris, Ami and Ami's Mom were coming over for dinner and I wanted to cook up something special. Being an Indian, you're always expected to have a large spread when you call people over. I mean an Indian family would never be truly satisfied if they were invited for a dinner with a spread of 2 dishes. This would be talked and gossiped about for years to come. For example, Sulu Aunty tells Gigi Aunty that she was invited for dinner at Kanchana Aunty's house and was served Dal and Chapati; the world would come to an end for Kanchana Aunty because soon, Gigi Aunty would tell the rest of the Aunties at the kitty party that Kanchana had not cooked enough and this would eventually trickle down to the conclusion that Kanchana is a lazy woman who watches TV all day and does not look after her husband. It's true, knowing or unknowingly, you or a family member, at some point have judged people by the food they served at their parties. My Amma on the other hand was always a step ahead. She always went that extra mile to make sure that our parties had more food than ever. This would eventually end up with Acha and me eating the lovely party food for a whole week, because Amma would always make extra. You know in case someone was hungry for more it would be an utter disgrace if we were all out of fish curry. Amma was known amongst Etta's (my Brother) and my friends as the best cook. Sometimes I felt that my friends just came over to eat my Mom's cooking. When we were in Lagos, Amma threw the biggest and best parties ever! She would panic and plan the whole menu weeks in advance, calculating the days up until the D-Day like an Army General preparing for battle. I never knew what the hype was all about, because I'd always see happy people at the end. It's only now that I live away from my parents do I realize how much goes into planning a single meal. I guess subconsciously I absorbed all that my Amma practiced and now like her I have become a perfectionist. I would hate for my guests not to like what they eat and I spend all my time worrying about it. I could barely sleep last night because in my head I was thinking of ways to marinate the chicken. So, this was my final menu for tonight:
  • Grilled sweet potatoes with guacamole
  • Chicken, bell peppers and pineapple grilled with coconut curry glaze
  • Rajma curry
  • Mint pulao
  • Naan (ready-made)
  • Fresh berry juice
  • Srikhand
I'm sorry some of the final pictures are missing because the last few stages were a bit rushed and my ankle was hurting because of the sprain, so I ended up getting a little weak towards the end, but here are the recipes for those that I have the pictures of:

Rajma Curry:
I asked Amma for the recipe last night, but I didn't have a pressure cooker or a crock pot so the silly thing took 4-5 hours to cook. Amma gave me the recipe but this morning when I called her she was at the movies and so I could not confirm the recipe. I was really nervous whether it was right but I finally ended up with a great version of it.


For the masala:

  • 1 tbsp of ginger
  • 2 tbsps of garlic
  • 1 tbsp of garam masala
  • 1 tbsp of chilli powder (the chilli powder I had was not spicy at all, which is why I used 1 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp of sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsps of oil
  • 1/2 tbsp of chole masala
For the curry:
  • 2 and 1/4 cup of onions
  • 3 cups of diced tomatoes
  • 450 grams of rajma
  • 3-4 cups of water

  • First, soak the rajma overnight in luke warm water.
  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan.
  • Add all the ingredients for the masala and mix well.
  • Add the onions and fry till golden brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes.
  • Add the rajma and add 1 cup of water.
  • This is the hard part; let the rajma cook by stirring it every 2 minutes. Add water whenever the curry dries out.
  • Done!
Roasted sweet potatoes & Guacamole:


For the potatoes:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 3 tbsps of olive oil
  • Chilli flakes or chilli powder to taste
  • Salt to taste
For the guacamole:

  • 1 and 1/4 cup of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 avocados
  • 1-2 tbsps of lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
For the sweet potatoes:

  • Quarter the potatoes and toss them in olive oil, salt and chilli flakes.
  • Bake it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, depending on the sweet potatoes.
  • Done! I don't have the picture of the final thing, but I made this batch of potatoes for dinner last night. In the wine glass is fresh berry juice I made from the concentrate I made yesterday!
For the guacamole:

  • Scoop the flesh of the avocado into a bowl and mash it to a paste with a fork.
  • Add all the ingredients and mix well.
  • Done!
Chicken kababs:

  • 3 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup of kasuri methi
  • 3 tbsps of pepper
  • 2 tbsps of chopped garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 bell peppers of different colours, diced to kabab sized chunks
  • 3 chicken breasts diced to kabab sized chunks
  • 1/2 onion diced to kabab sized chunks
  • 1 cup of pineapple chunks
  • 4 tbsps of Chicken tikka masala paste or butter chicken masala paste

  • Toss all the vegetables and chicken in a large bowl.
  • Add coconut milk, methi, pepper, garlic and salt.
  • Mix well and wrap the bowl with a plastic wrap; leave the chicken in the marinade for at least an hour.
  • Skewer the chicken and the vegetables onto wooden skewers, alternating the chicken with the vegetables and pineapples.
  • Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 190 degrees celsius for about 15 minutes. Do not overcook the chicken as it tends to get dry.
  • Pour the leftover marinade into a pan and cook at a medium flame.
  • Add the chicken tikka or butter chicken masala and mix the marinade till it becomes a thick sauce or curry.
  • Pull the skewers out and serve with a coconut curry.
  • Done!
Mint Pulao:

  • For the pulao I just ground mint leaves with some water to create a paste.
  • Then in a frying pan I roasted some cashew nuts, raisins and dried cranberries in olive oil and added brown rice to it, after which I added the mint paste and stirred well.
  • Done!

  • For this I used yogurt that had been hung for two hours with elaichi and sugar.
  • I served the srikhand with berry compote and crushed cookies.
  • Done!


  1. This is just fantastic. Coconut milk-presume it is the first(thick) extraction? I know you guys use the tetrapacks-but I use the conventional coconut-the one with the hard shell and fibre on the outside?!!! And of course the grater never stays put on the counter and the coconut is all over the place!
    This looks great Sandhya, will definitely try it(esp.since my cook has abandoned me and i am forced to step into the kitchen!!)

  2. My sonflower..........
    Never knew, you observed me so closely!!!am nervous...
    Am impressed my all rounder!
    Scratch my trying to unlearn myself now!Can I borrow your recipe??
    God bless you.........Am proud of you.....

  3. Hi Ammu, It is great to know how you plan dinner for your guests! Going thru' the pics I am actually seeing what you have done! Feel like having your Rajma, though I don't like it much! Love, Acha

  4. i feel old!!! those days when i helped u cook with leaves and brick powder lol!!! i did the stunts to get u water from the tank and u would cook... u loved it!!! every other day ... Manoj wuz our guest.... now he would love to eat this ;) and i would love to do the required to eat what u cook :*
    haha manoj just cant stop staring at the screen :)

    amazing how u can be such a star :*

    love you da..

  5. To Gita Aunty:
    Thanks so much for all your support and comments! I used canned coconut milk which had reduced fat, but it was pretty thick. I suppose it's the first extraction. We get the regular coconuts with the hard shell and fiber here but I don't have a coconut grater. I really miss the coconut chutneys Amma used to make at home because the grated coconut you get here is sweetened and won't make great spicy chutneys. I wish I had a coconut grater like you do! hehe! I'm sorry to hear that your cook is not there but I hope this recipe works well for you. The kababs almost taste like malai kababs but don't have all that cream. Thanks again for your support! It means the world to me!

    To Madhu:
    Da, I obviously remember all the fake cooking we did on your terrace. Poor Manoj had to play along in our silly games. I miss you so much and I wish you guys were here to taste everything I cook. Will call you tomorrow! Love you loads!