What would you do if your childhood friends decide to have a school reunion at your home? Can you even think of saying no to them? That too when you share picture of every recipe that your wife cooks with them?  They know every well that your wife is a very good cook and is a well-known food blogger…  Yes, you cannot say no to your childhood buddies.

My hubby has a big group of school classmates on whatsapp and they discuss about what happens day-to-day in their lives. Since the last day of school till today, they never met again. So one fine day they all decided to meet. So while discussing, a thought just came to their mind, why not meet at Kamat’s home? His wife is a good cook and she makes yummy food. My hubby got very worried and he could not even say no. For every recipe that I cooked at home, he would share a picture with them and they would say “ Dude, you always send pictures, atleast make us eat something that she cooks”. So this time hubby really could not say no.

At dinner time, my hubby was bit tensed and I could feel that just by looking at his face. I asked him what the matter was. He then narrated the entire incident to me and how his friends selected our home as the next place for reunion and how they all want me to forcibly cook for them. OMG, when I heard this I went nervous. How will I cook for 30 people?

 I started praying to Lord Ganesha, Mata Rani and all God’s. Mentally I asked then what I should do and to show me a way. I told them to give me some idea as this a noble deed that I will be doing... Feeding some people with food at my place. Should I say that I am sick and can’t cook? Or should I say that I am going on a project to client location? Or should I say that I am stuck in office over an escalation? OMG! I did not know what to do.

I had never cooked for 30 people in my life. Yes I am a food blogger, but that does not mean that I am professional cook. I can cook for maximum 10 people, what is 30? OMG… I could not sleep that night thinking about this. Hubby told me not to worry, he said that he will help me in the kitchen. But how many chapatis will 30 people eat? 30*3=90? OMG… and how many Kgs of rice to cook for so many people.

Just then I saw a tiny little owl peeping at me on the playstore. I love to browse through various apps on my smartphone or on my ipad to check out the latest apps. When I checked the description of this app, it said that TinyOwl is the easiest way to order food from your favorite restaurants. Another one is TinyOwl Homemade where home-chefs cook food and it is delivered to people around by the folks at TinyOwl. I got some second thoughts like, why not order from an online app like this? But then I thought… No! How I can I do that when they all want me to cook for them?

I was thinking about the same thing and in the morning I asked my hubby whether we can order food online though the app. They will deliver fresh and hot food at door step that too on time. I told my hubby that I can make a sweet dish like pudding or kheer for his friends from my kitchen and rest of the food we can order online. We also have a party hall in our apartment where we can host the reunion party. Hubby liked the idea.

Soon came the day of the reunion. First we made a list of all the veg and non-veg eaters and what their meal preferences are. We selected our favorite restaurant in the vicinity based on the ratings given by other people. We selected a hotel with rating 4 and above where it was also mentioned that the delivery time is 30 Min’s and that they deliver 100% on time. We ordered food for whole 30 people according to their meal preferences. We got the best crockery on rent too as we did not have so many bowls, plates, cups, spoons and forks.

We placed the order around 3 PM so that the restaurant gets ample time to cook for the party scheduled at 8 PM. Since the payment was huge amount, I decided to pay via my credit card. One can even pay by debit card or by cash. There were no hidden or extra charges other than that mentioned on the app and I could order from multiple restaurants too. 

My order history was automatically saved in My orders tab. The TinyOwl team then confirmed the order and intimated the restaurant and even told us the expected time of delivery as this was a huge order.

The entire experience of ordering food on the app was awesome. Hardly any effort was needed as I only had to swipe across with my fingers. My location was automatically detected and a list of restaurants from my vicinity was displayed. I could also filter on the price, delivery time and rating. 

Since my order was huge, I did not have to worry about minimum order.  They also provide option to select type of food like Indian, Chinese or Desserts. We selected Chowmein, fried rice, veg and non- veg curries, rotis, Gobi Manchurian, chicken chilly, chicken crispy and chicken lollypops. We ordered soft drinks from the local shop. As per the plan, I made Gulab Jamuns, Caramel pudding and kheer at home.

When the friends came home, they had a blast. Yes literally they had a blast. Imagine a group of old buddies who meet after 20 years… They met after so many years and they shared a lot of things which they missed about each other… first job, marriage, profession, etc. They loved the food and started admiring my cooking skills too. Just then I told them about TinyOwl and how we ordered food from there. I told them that only the desserts are home-made and rest all is from restaurant. I told them the reality that I never cooked for so many people before. It is always good to tell upfront rather than to sit with guilt forever. But they were very happy. They said that they never meant that I should cook everything. They said that they were pulling my hubby's legs and he took seriously. One guy even said “ Bhabi, how can we expect you to cook so much for us? We were just pulling your hubbys legs. We just wanted to spend time together and that was all we needed”. They loved the Gulab Jamuns, kheer and pudding and said that it was out of the world and were happy that they could taste my hand-made food too. 

At the end of the day they were extremely happy and went back with some wonderful memories. Thanks to the technology and the introduction of smartphones in our lives. These apps have a fix for everything, specially with apps like TinyOwl  there is a food fix at anytime and anywhere.

Download the app now-Android & iOS
This post is part of Indiblogger & TinyOwl contest.

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Today is Onam and it was on my mind to share with you all some authentic Kerala recipes. I know I am a bit late in sharing this, but it's better to be late than never :) Onam is celebrated in the Malyalam month of Chingam and marks the commemoration of Vamana avatara of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of the mythical King Mahabali who Malayalees consider as their King. This is also considered as harvest festival in Kerala. (Source: Wiki)

Today being a holiday in Karnataka on account of Varamahalakshmi, I had to stay back at home due to my daughter who had school holiday. I was surprised when she narrated the story of Mahabali in the morning while eating breakfast and also told me that her teacher told her to go home and tell this story to Mom. She also told that they made beautiful flower rangoli in school yesterday. She said that she was assigned the task of plucking petals from the flowers and how much fun she had.

Yup.. little things brings happiness. Yesterday while returning from office, I could see many people selling banana leaves and flowers on the roads. They were selling this for double the price. But yea, festivals are the only time when they earn and I don't mind giving them bit extra money. They too should celebrate their festivals with joy :) 

The smell of flowers was enchanting while passing on my bike from near these road side flower vendors. The festivals have started in India. I am sure you all are waiting to see many recipes for festivals and one by one I shall bring up some to you all. Today's recipe is Puli Inji. Puli means tamarind and Inji means ginger. This is a chutney made with ginger and tamarind. Tastes tangy and I am sure it will be your favorite too. I found this recipe on Eastern Masala's Facebook page 20 days back. The recipe is so simple to prepare that I knew I should try it and finally I made this on the day of Onam. People from Kerala I am waiting for your expert comments.:)

Recipe Credits: Eastern Masala.
Ingredients:                                                  Prep. Time; 15 Min's, Serves: 4
1 cup ginger finely chopped
2 green chilies finely chopped
A stalk curry leaves finely chopped
2 dry red chilies
1 lemon sized ball of tamarind
A pinch turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilly powder
1 pinch asafoetida
2 tbsp grated jaggery
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of salt or as per taste

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup water for 1 hour.
Heat the pan and add oil.
When oil heats, add mustard seeds and let then splutter.
Add the chopped ginger, chopped green chilies and chopped curry leaves and saute till they turn brownish.
Add chilly powder, turmeric powder and asafoetida and stir well.
Now add the tamarind pulp, stir and let the gravy thicken.
Add grated jaggery and mix well. Add salt to taste.
Switch off the gas and allow this to cool.

Note: You can add 1/4 cup water if gravy becomes too thick.
Serve this with rice.

Equipment Used: Nonstick Kadai
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In Goa, we make different types of "fodi" or rava fried vegetables. These are a perfect replacement to fish on our veg days, like Mondays and Thursdays. The rava friend plantain recipe shared here today is a traditional Konkani recipe and I am sure every Goan makes these. Apart from this, you can also make Plantain cutlets and they too taste yumm.

In Goa, whenever we have any festival or religious function, we make these rava fried dishes. Just like in Kerala, we too serve our pure veg meals on a banana leaf and we eat the food by sitting on the floor. 

Recently I saw a group of ladies celebrating Onam and just seeing those pictures took me back to my childhood. In childhood, we used to have lot of relatives in our house during festivals. Given the fact that there were atleast 25 people in my house, imagine how many relatives and family friends we would have. Relatives from extended families and family friends would come home and after the pooja all used to savour the food/prasadam.

Food would be served on banana leaves and people would consume the food by sitting on the floor. Some people would only serve food and all the guests would be served in a line. People would be served in batches. After the 1st batch finished eating, the 2nd batch would start eating the food and the 1st batch people would serve them. It used to be real fun. I am feeling so nostalgic now. I feel I can smell the food cooked by a special cook who would come to cook food for these many people . He would cook on wood and the entire backyard used to be filled with smoke.
If you go to temples you would still get to experience such a wonderful thing.

Ingredients:                                               Prep. Time:30 Min's, Serves: 4

1 Medium sized plantain/raw banana
1/2 tsp chilly powder                                                                                        
1/2 tsp turmeric powder                                                                                    
1/4 tsp salt                  
4 tbsp oil for frying    
For the coating:
1/2 tsp chilly powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
3 tablespoon rava/Sooji
Salt to taste

Wash and peel the plantain with a Tupperware or any type of peeler. You can apply oil to your hands to avoid it getting dark.
Cut the plantain into half and and then slice it length-wise. Soak the slices in water for 20 Min's.

After 20 Min's, apply 1/2 tsp chilly powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric power and 1/4 tsp salt to marinate these.
Mix the ingredients meant for coating and keep it aside.

Ingredients for coating

Heat a frying pan and spread 2 tbsp oil or as needed. 
Coat the marinated plantain in ingredients meant for coating and spread them on the frying pan.

Spread 2 tbsp oil on top of these and fry for 10 Min's.
After 10 Min's flip them to the other side and again fry for 15 Min's.

Note: Apply oil to your hands before cutting plantain.
Sprinkle some water on the coasted plantains while they are getting fried.
Same procedure can be followed with ripe Kerala banana / Nendra bananas too.

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Every food blogger loves cookbooks. My love for cookbooks started even before I learnt to cook. My Mom used to get some cookbooks and I used to secretly read them. That was when I started collecting different cookbooks. I have my Mom's Marathi cookbooks and my late aunts cookbooks which her students had gifted her. I got another cookbook named Silk Road Vegetarian from a dear friend Preeti from simplytadka to celebrate our friendship. She had received 2 copies of the book and she decided to share one with me. Isn't that very sweet of her? Thanks Preeti for this book. It is indeed a treasure house of recipes.

Silk Road Vegetarian is authored by Dahlia Abraham - Klein. This book features all vegan, vegetarian and gluten free recipes. This is the first time that I have found a book with gluten free and vegan recipes. What I liked the most is that the book covers various cuisines across different countries and cultures.

The recipes in Silk Road Vegetarian are healthy and creative. The book is very user-friendly and is accompanied by lots of color photographs of the final dish being cooked. This helps a lot to know how the dish will look after getting cooked. Each dish is delicious as it is simple and wholesome. 

The book starts with a table of contents where one can easily find the recipe page number. Also the author mentions some abbreviations like V, GF and DF against each recipe where V is for Vegetarian, GF for Gluten Free and DF for Dairy Free. This makes it very easy to identify the recipe types. All the ingredients for a particular recipe along with the preparation time, cooking time and serving size has been mentioned. 

The recipes are classified into various categories like 
  • Bases, Condiments & Other Useful Recipes
  • Appetizers
  • Soups
  • Salads
  • Main Dishes
  • Rice Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Desserts

There is also an Introduction section where the author speaks about her culinary pilgrimage. There is a section on The Spice Pantry which gives an introduction to the various spices which have been used throughout the book. The author also mentioned about some basic cooking methods like preparation of tofu and cooking beans and chickpeas. Various types of grains like rice and quinoa have also been explained in detail. The section on food preservation like freezing fruits and vegetables was very impressive and worth a read.

Acknowledgements, references and an extensive index has been maintained at the end of the book. Having an index is of great help as one can find an ingredient and directly go to that page and refer to the recipe.

My Verdict:
I recommend this book to all my readers as the recipes are very user-friendly and very neatly and clearly explained. I am surely going to try a lot of recipes from this book and will share with you all time to time. Eggs has been used in some recipes like Persian Green Frittata and a some 2-3 more recipes. The author considers eggs as vegetarian. In India however eggs are considered as non-eggs are considered vegetarian. 
The book can be purchased from Amazon.

Book Name: Silk Road Vegetarian
Author: Dahlia Abraham - Klein
Cost: Rs.1210 /-
No. Of Pages: 192
Publisher : www.tuttlepublishing.com
Printed in Singapore
Available at Amazon

Do check out the other book reviews that I had done before

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On 14th August, I was invited for an exclusive tasting session at JW Marriott with The Celebrity Chef George Calombaris, Judge of MasterChef Australia. It was an invite only event and some few selected bloggers and members of the press were invited. Now who would say no such a big chance to meet MasterChef George? I took half day off from my office and decided to go to meet the chef. Deep in my heart I knew that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and that I should not miss it.

Since I am a big fan of MasterChef Australia, I knew that I will have to visit Australia again to meet the MasterChef. I knew that that an opportunity like might not come knocking again soon. The evening started by introductions from the members from Gold Rush Entertainment and Zomato giving a kick-start to the event.  Followed by that, the wow moment arrived when the MasterChef walked in. I could not believe my eyes that he was standing right infront of me and we were in the same hall, just few meters apart. From television to reality, it was a dream come true.

Chef George and his team from his restaurant 'The Press Club' whipped a memorable meal for an exclusive audience. This event was hosted by Zomato and Gold Rush Entertainment.

Chef George At Work
Chef George also unveiled "The GC Collection" on Zomato which is an enviable list of restaurants across 12 cities globally which are his favorites. These are now available on the Zomato app and website in some of the major cities of the world like Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Auckland, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, London, Dubai and New York.

Chef George And His Team From "The Press Club"
MasterChef George and his team pampered the audience with a luscious spread that included signature dishes from "The Press Club". The exclusive tasting session included Ouzo Cured Salmon, Miso Eggplant, Soft Shell Crab Souvlaki, Salted Caramel Rice Pudding, Almond Biscuit and Rice Ice Cream. According to the Chef the Indian Salmon did not suit the Ouzo Cured Salmon dish due to the cut and so he preferred using the Indian Sea Bass for the dish. He said that we should respect the place where we are. For the vegetarians, separate dishes were served.

Ouzo Cured Salmon, Miso Eggplant

Onion Tempura Wrap

Salted Caramel Rice Pudding, Almond Biscuit and Rice Ice Cream
"Jalebis" are his personal favorite from the Indian cuisine and calls it the greatest sweet innovation. He also mentioned that since he is a Greek, he noticed a lot of similarities in hospitality and taste in food between Greek and India. It is spicy, warm and full of love. He also said that Food for him is religion and it's who he is. Food is his passion and he loves to cook. Having Greek roots, he pushes the menu of his restaurant to next level with his imagination and skill. Chef also mentioned about his experience with the "savory donuts" or the "vada" at Airlines Hotel and many such stories were shared with us.

I really had a wonderful time there. Tasting the food cooked by the MasterChef was a great experience. I also got a chance to click an exclusive picture with the MasterChef. That was like a Wowwww moment... 

MasterChef George And Me :)
Thanks Zomato, JW Marriott and Gold Rush Entertainment for inviting me for this Press Meet.

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I had always loved Italian cuisine. I tried several types of Italian dishes at home. One of the favorite dish that I try at home is the Pasta. It is a real time saver specially on those days when I return back tired from office. Whipping up pasta and having it as a meal is easier than cooking rotis and subzi or cooking dal, rice and subzi specially after returning home from office.

I try different recipes of pasta at home and I make different types of sauces too. The relationship of pasta and sauces is very romantic. They literally dance with each other if combined properly. Flat pastas and ridged pastas like fusilli and penne should be cooked in creamier sauces and thin pastas like spaghetti should be cooked in thin and lighter sauces.

When I saw that Indiblogger has announced a contest in association with Del Monte about cooking an original Italian Pasta, the home chef in me could not wait any more. Immediately I applied to participate in this contest and I also received a complementary Del Monte Pasta packet from Del Monte India. I loved the packaging which had all instructions needed to cook pasta with a small recipe too. The time needed for cooking pasta is also mentioned on the packet along with the serving sizes. But the most important thing that I liked is that the packet is resealable. So once you take out some pasta from the packet, you can reseal the packet just by closing the seal as shown above.

Today's recipe is a very healthy pasta recipe as it is made with pesto made from cilantro/coriander leaves. Addition of almonds makes this pesto a healthy one and complements the taste of coriander leaves. You can even add walnuts instead of almonds. I have also added chilly flakes as my hubby loves it that way. You can avoid adding red chilly flakes if you don't like spicy food. 

I made this pesto pasta ready for dinner and my hubby loved it. As you already know, I am a very good multi-tasker. I even recorded a video of the making of pesto pasta with one hand while cooking with the other hand and I wished I had another hand because I was clicking the step-by-step images too. Still I managed well and that's what I am good at...  Cook, click, click, click, eat :)

I really love pasta. I can eat pasta for 365 days of the year. I wish I get to visit Italy atleast once in my life-time. I am sure if I go there... I will try all the different types of pastas and Italian cuisine and click a lot of pictures to share with you all. I hope you all love the pasta recipe which I am sharing today. One of my office friend already saw the video even before I published it here and made the recipe. The video is attached at the end of the blog post.

Ingredients:                                            Prep. Time: 30 Min's, Serves:2

1 cup Delmonte penne pasta
8 chopped garlic cloves
5 button mushrooms
6 sliced cherry tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tsp red chilly flakes(optional)
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt to taste

For the pesto:
1.5 cups chopped cilantro leaves
10 blanched almonds(check notes)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 medium sized chopped capsicum

Equipment Needed:
1 large kadai/deep bottomed pan to boil the pasta
1 flat pan to cook the pasta
1 blender to make the pesto

Boil 4 cups water. When the water starts boiling add pasta and boil it al-dente.
Drain the pasta and retain 1 cup of water in which pasta was boiled.

While the pasta boils, keep the ingredients for pesto ready.

In a blender, blend together peeled blanched almonds, chopped cilantro, chopped onion and chopped capsicum.

Do not add water while blending this pesto. Once done, keep it aside.
Meanwhile keep the other ingredients ready.

In a pan, add olive oil. When the oil heats, add garlic and toss.

When the raw smell of garlic goes away, add chopped mushrooms and fry them for 2 Min's. Enjoy the  garlic and mushroom smell in the meantime.

Now add the sliced cherry tomatoes and fry for 1 Min.

Then add the pesto sauce and give everything a nice stir.

Add black pepper powder and mix well.

Mix the drained pasta. Add salt to taste.

Garnish with Italian seasoning.
I added red chili flakes to make it spicier, but it is optional.

Serve it and enjoy it hot :)

Always cook pasta al-dente meaning, do not overcook pasta.
Never add oil to water while boiling pasta as the sauce will not get coated properly to the pasta.
Do not discard the water after cooking the pasta. This can be used if the sauce becomes thick.
Addition of red chilly flakes is optional.
Cherry tomatoes can be added full without slicing them. This will make the pasta look even more better.
You can add cheese for garnishing the pasta, I skipped this.
To make blanched almonds, simply add the almonds to 1/2 cup water in a mug and microwave for 1 Min. After cooling, the peel easily comes off. If you don't have a microwave, boil water and add almonds to it and soak for 30 Min's.

I have also made a video of the recipe single-handedly. Hope you all like it.

This post is an entry to Del Monte's #ItalianEscapades campaign.
Check their facebook page -> https://www.facebook.com/DelMonteIndia

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