Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tabbouleh With Barley

This has got to be one of the easiest salads recipes I have done in a long time- Courtesy: Automatic Restaurant, Ghubrah. Originally from the mountainous regions of Syria, today it is ubiquitous around the Levant, the Tabbouleh, is a lovely fresh, hydrating salad that can be a stand alone lunch or a delicious accompaniment to barbecues.

Ingredients (Serves 1):

  • Parsley- 2 cups
  • Fresh Mint- 1/2 cup
  • Vine tomato- 1 medium
  • White Onion- 1 small, chopped fine
  • Garlic- 1 clove; shredded
  • Lemon- 1 large; juiced
  • Barley- 2 tbsp; boiled
  • Olive oil- 1 tbsp; for dressing
  • Salt- To taste

Preparation (10 mins):

Remove the pulp from the tomato and cut into small pieces. Chop parsley, mint, onion, garlic. Combine all ingredients in a salad bowl, drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice. Toss and refrigerate.

Serve chilled.


  • The original recipe called for bulghur wheat. Since I don't use it much, decided to replace with barley. Not a bad substitution.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Grilled Halloumi and Bell Pepper Salad

Adapted from this recipe at Tesco, this is a sweet and salty one. The salad adaptation is layered with the herby parsley at the bottom, succulent roasted bell peppers, salt and savoury halloumi, cruncy pine nuts and nibbles of sweetness from the raisins.

Ingredients (Serves 1):

  • Fresh Halloumi- 50 gm
  • Bell peppers- 2 medium
  • Parsley- 1/2 cup; chopped
  • Cayenne- 1 tsp
  • Balsamic vinegar- 2 tsp
  • Olive oil- 2 tsp
  • Pine nuts- 1 tbsp
  • Raisins- 2 tsp
  • Lime- 1 quarter; juiced


Halve bell peppers and place in oven with skin side up. Grill on high for about fifteen minutes.

Once the skin turns to blister and char, remove from oven and skin. Chop peppers into small pieces. Refrigerate to cool it down. Dress with balsamic vinegar an olive oil mixture.

In a clean pan roast pine nuts till golden brown. Brush chopped halloumi into pieces and fry on high. Once cheese starts to melt and char set aside. Once cooled sufficiently rub in lime juice.

Chop parsley, and layer at bottom of bowl. Layer with grilled bell peppers and halloumi slices. Top off with roasted pine seeds and raisins.


Serve cold. Bon appetite.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Dry Chilli Beef Curry- South Indian Style

Do not try this at home- Unless you are really fond of hot and spicy stuff. This one is an adaptation of a dish I normally eat at my local coffee shop the evenings when I am too tired to cook or just want to save money and eat out on less than OMR 1. Decoding recipe from memory, this one was not exactly the way they made it, but good enough (It's fun when you eat something outside and can come home and recreate a very similar flavour- Feel half like Sherlock Holmes and half like a Michellin chef).

Ingredients (Serves 4):

  • Beef cubes- 500 gm, chopped small
  • Curry leaves- 3 tbsp
  • Red onion- 2 large; chopped fine
  • Ginger/Garlic paste- 3 tbsp
  • Pepper- 4 tbsp crushed
  • Green Chilli- 3 large; chopped finely
  • Cayenne- 1 tbsp
  • Green coriander- 2 tbsp
  • Coconut flakes- 4 tbsp
  • Garam Masala- 2 tbsp
  • Olive oil

Preparation (Marination: Overnight + Cooking Time:30 mins):

Clean beef and marinate overnight  with half tbsp of garam masala.

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil to high in a pan and add beef pieces. Add half the crushed pepper, a little salt and cook on high till fat leaves the sides and the meat is juicy and browned nicely.

 Remove beef from flame and fry onions on high with 1 tbsp oil. Once onions start turing white, add ginger garlic paste and curry leaves. Keep stirring on high till curry leaves start releasing their aroma.


Bring down the temperature, add remaining pepper, meat, 1 tsp turmeric powder, cayenne, remaining garam masala, coconut flakes. Cover and cook for 15 mins.


Stir in chopped green coriander and turn off the heat. Cover and let stew in own juices for 10 mins.

Serve hot with rice, Kerala Parotta's or Appam's. Mmmmm


  • Now, we are lucky to have supplies of Indian spices and herbs in the Middle East. Therefore, curry leaves are a no-brainer. However, if you can't find curry leaves you could still go ahead.While the fragrant aroma of curry leaves do give it a distinct South India taste, the curry's still good to go without them
  • Garam Masala- the ubiquitous Indian spice. If you can't get your hands on it from your local store, here's an easy recipe from All Recipe's.
  • The final ingredient, coconut flakes. Best is if you could use freshly grated coconut. If you can't use either fresh coconut or coconut powder like I did, you could substitute by adding a couple of tbsp's of coconut milk slightly later during cooking.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Eggplant Halloumi Salad

Keeping with the tradition of light meals during Ramadan, here's this week's salad innovated from elements of traditional cuisine in the Levant- grilled eggplant, halloumi cheese, parsley, walnuts and olives.

Halloumi is a semi-hard white cheese from goat and sheep milk typical to the cuisine of the Levant.

The smoky sweetness of grilled eggplant, contrasts with the chewiness of the salty halloumi . The chopped parsley and crushed walnut are added accents to a fresh light lunch.

Ingredients (Serves 1):

  • Eggplant- 200 gm; sliced; grilled with a dash of olive oil
  • Halloumi- 100 gm; chopped
  • Fresh Parsley- 1/2 cup; chopped
  • Walnuts- 1large; crushed coarsely
  • Black olives- 1 tbsp; pitted and sliced (optional).

 Preparation (In the blink of an eye):
Toss all ingredients together, add a dash of salt if you want (didn't feel the need to add extra salt as the halloumi itself is salty). Refrigerate.

Serve chilled.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cocktail Series: Bloody Mary (Bloody Russell Peters)

Another eternal favourite, the Bloody Mary. Some call it a sun-downer, I call it a healthy breakfast. ;)

Tangy and spicy, I do this one with a slight twist (Inspired by and dedicted to Russell Peter's observations on how spicy Indians are). Maybe I should call it "Bloody Russel Peter."

NSFW: Best leave it till the drink's done.
NSFW: Better wait till the drink's done. ;)

Ingredients (Serves 1):
  • Vodka- 60 ml
  • Tomato Juice= 120 ml
  • Worcestershire Sauce- 1/2 tsp
  • Tabasco Sauce- 1/2 tsp
  • Pepper- 1/2 tsp crushed
  • Cayenne- 1/4 tsp
  • Green chilli- 1/2; shredded
  • Green coriander- 1 sprig; shredded
  • Lime- 1/4 juiced
  • Salt- A pinch
  • Ice- 1/4 glass

  • Celery Stalk- 3 inch
  • Lime wedge- 1

Preparation (5 mins)


Trim celery stalk of edges. Combine the trimmings, shredded chilli, green coriander, salt, ground pepper, Tabasco, Worcestershire Sauce, lime juice, cayenne and tomato juice in a blender. Add the ice and whisk for 30 secs.

Pour vodka in a glass and add the blended tomato juice. Top off with ice. Garnish with celery stalk and lime wedge.

Enjoy your filling, fiery but ice cold breakfast/ sun-downer/ cocktail.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Kale and Carrot Salad

Been hearing so much about the benefits of Kale, that I took the plunge and splurged and ended up buying. So over the next three days, my target is to do at least two salads and a meat and kale dish. Luckily, going by instinct ended up buying boerewors, which actually is a good accompaniment to kale in a traditional Dutch Stamppot. The more I cook, the more I am sure of this, that cooking is not about fancy recipes or following the book page by page. It's instinctive. Whatever floats your boat works. :)

Anyway, before I start with the salad, a few words about Kale. Leafy veggie from cabbage family. High in minerals, protein, anti-oxidants, vitamins its got a pungent bitter taste. It's a good source of fiber, helps with cholesterol and can be used to detoxify your body. That's why I am combining it with carrot, crushed almonds and a dash of sesame oil-soy sauce mix. Bon appetite.

Ingredients (Serves 1):

  • Kale- 2 sprigs, chopped
  • Carrot- 1/2 medium, juliened
  • Green chili (optional)- 1/2 chopped finely
  • Peanuts- 2 tbsp
  • Almonds- 1 tbsp
  • Sesame Oil- 2 tsp
  • Soy Sauce- 1 tsp

Preparation (10 mins):

Coarsely crush almonds and peanuts in a mixer.  Toss all salad veggies together. Mix. Dress with
sesame oil- soy sauce mix. Serve chilled.


  • If you want to mellow down the taste, instead of sesame oil you could use olive oil. Just rub a little bit of the olive oil on the kale and leave aside for half an hour before chopping.
  • If you find the salad t0o dry, you could substitute peanut and chilli's with with peanut butter and hot sauce paste.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Kanda Poha

An amazingly light and aromatic vegetarian breakfast/ tiffin dish from Maharashtra in Western India. Cooking this for the first time, from memory.

OK, we Indians eat a lot of rice. We even have rice for breakfast, in this case flattened rice or rice flakes. Think of it more like a convenience food- you could use it as a breakfast cereal in place of bran/ corn flakes/ etc. In fact historically, flattened rice was the dry food of choice for travelers. Light to carry, easily digestible it can be reconstituted by adding water or milk.

Anyway, during engineering college, this was a major breakfast draw and so here goes.

Ingredients (Breakfast for 2):

  • Flattened rice (Poha)- 1 cup
  • Onion (Kanda in Marathi)- 1 small
  • Roasted Peanuts: 2 tbsp
  • Curry leaves- 2 sprigs
  • Fresh Coriander- 4 sprigs
  • Green chili- 2 chopped
  • Cumin- 1/2 tsp
  • Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
  • Lime- Half a lime
  • Turmeric- 1/2 tsp
  • Cayenne- 1/2 tsp
  • Mustard Oil- 2 tbsp
  • Salt- To taste

Preparation (Pre-process 20 mins+ 10 mins to cook=30 mins):

Wash the flattened rice, strain. Add a little salt and soak for 20 mins. Drain of excess water. 

Soak flattened rice for 20 mins with water and salt
The trick to a good Poha is to strain all excess water but keep the rice moist.
Trick to a great Poha is to strain all excess water but make sure that the rice is moist.

Heat oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves. Once the mustard starts to pop, add the diced onion. Stir till translucent. Add in the roasted peanuts (I forgot this time round).

Stir on medium for a couple of minutes and add in the pre-soaked 'poha'. Add turmeric, cayenne and salt. Cooking on medium for five minutes. Work in the chopped green chilli, cover, and cook on low for five mins.

Fluff the rice, turn off heat, garnish with chopped coriander and drizzle the lime juice on top. Cover and serve hot.


  • For breakfast I recommend pairing this with a cuppa of hot 'kadak' milky Indian tea. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sumeet's Salad

This one was an off the cuff salad turned out with leftovers in the fridge. Naming it after my friend Sumeet  as we randomly created this recipe while discussing philosophy, meaning of life, process  analytics and rummaging through the fridge for a side dish to our grilled calamari.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • Salad leaves- 200gm; Mix of lettuce, baby spinach, rocket salad
  • Bell Pepper- 1 large; diced
  • Carrot- 1 medium, julienned
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano- 1 inch; grated
  • Walnuts- 1 tbsp
  • Thyme- 1 sprinkle
  • Rosemary- 1 sprinkle
  • Sage- 1 sprinkle
  • Balsamic Vinegar- 1 tsp

Preparation (5 mins):

Combine chopped bell pepper, carrot, shredded salad leaves and

herbs. Toss with grated parmesan, crushed walnuts and balsamic vinegar. 

Serve chilled.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Seafood Risotto

Back after a hiatus. Know what, it's no fun cooking for oneself. Well, this weekend was a nice break with an old friend. And here I am back with results of our experimentation in the kitchen.

This first recipe, I picked up during a trip to Adria, Italy. Had gone to the Adria International Raceway in Adria.
Couldn't resist posting this one. Still feel the adrenalin rushing through my veins. :P
The racing was super, but what took the cake was lunch at the restaurant. Impressed by the risotto, I cajoled the chef into giving me her recipe. Here's a recreation back home in Muscat.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • Rice- 1/2 cup, best to use Risotto rice, or else Paella rice. Failing which you can always fall back on Basmati.
  • Cooking shrimp- 200 gm
  • Vegetable Stock- 2 cups
  • Onion- 1/3; sliced thinly
  • Olive oil- 2 tbsp
  • Butter- 1/2 tbsp
  • Parsley- 1/2 tsp
  • Salt to taste.

Preparations (45 mins):

Heat olive oil in a sauce pan on low setting. Add onions and saute till they become translucent. Add in the rice and keep stirring. 

Onions need to become soft and translucent.
Saute rice for five minutes with onions on low

 Once rice starts becoming transparent, add a little portion of the stock. Keep stirring. The key is not to let it boil but cook the rice slowly in the stock.

Add stock only a little at a time
Dry out stock before adding next portion

As the stock dries out add a little more, and repeat till almost all stock is used.

Add clean prawns only when rice is almost cooked
To finish off add chopped parsley and butter.

Add in the shrimps, remaining stock and cook for 10 minutes. Before finishing, sprinkle parsley (best is if you have fresh parsley or dried variety will make do) and stir in the butter. Serve hot as a second course.


  • The key to a perfect risotto is not boiling the rice but adding stock little by little. Know it feels a little undercooked by Indian standards, but remember here we  are using rice almost like a vegetable rather than the traditional way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Calamari Masala

A quick fix side dish made from leftover calamari cooked in a fiery Bengali fried style.

Ingredients (Serves 2):

  • Calamari- 200gm
  • Plum tomato- 2 medium
  • Garlic- 3 large cloves, chopped
  • Cayenne powder- 1 tbsp
  • Turmeric- 1 tsp
  • Mustard Oil- 2 tbsp
  • Salt- To taste

Preparation (30 mins):

Chop calamari to bite sized pieces.I prefer using the tentacles because they are easier to cook and don't get rubbery. In a bowl marinate the calamari with turmeric, cayenne and salt for fifteen minutes. Heat oil on high in frying pan. Add chopped garlic and stir.

Lower flame and toss in calamari. Cook on low till calamari starts becoming tender. Not if you cook on high or overcook or you end up with what I call vulcanized calamari.

Add in quartered plum tomato's, stir and cover. Cook on medium for 10 mins.

Serve hot as a fiery side dish.

  • You could easily replace calamari with octopus or squid.
  • Frying calamari is the most sensitive part of the process. If you under cook you end up with raw fishy bits, and if you overcook slightly you have rubber calamari. That's why I prefer to cook on a low flame with constant tasting.