Saturday, November 20, 2010


One of the larger states,and an industrial powerhouse of India, Maharashtra, is located in the middle western portion of the country. It includes several hundred miles of beautiful Arabian Sea coast, dotted with coconut trees. Coconut meat is a big feature of Maharashtrian cuisine. One of the regions most popular dishes, Batata Murghi is an easy to prepare, one-dish meal, that includes a tasty blend of coconut and spices to flavour tender chicken strips. It's a terrific blend of sweet and spicy.
Serves 4-6

2 baking potatoes
3 tablespoons (45ml) peanut oil
2 tablespoons (30ml) minced garlic
1/3/ cup (75ml) dried shredded coconut
1 tablespoon (15ml) coriander seeds
1 or 2 fresh chilies, such as Serrano
½ cup (125ml) of water, approximate
1 lb (500gm) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 ½ cups (375ml) diced tomatoes (about 3)
1 teaspoon (5ml) salt
1 teaspoon 5ml) Garam Masala
¼ teaspoon (1ml) powdered turmeric
3 tablespoons (45ml) fresh coriander leaves, chopped finely
(Coriander is also known as cilantro or Chinese parsley)


1. Peel and cut the potatoes into 8 wedges each. Cover them, bring to a boil and simmer until just tender (10-15 minutes). Then drain.
2. Heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) of oil in a big skillet or wok over a medium flame. Stir fry the garlic until it is just barely golden. Add the coriander seed, coconut and chilies. Cook 1 minute, stirring all the while, until the coconut is golden.
3. Place this coconut mixture in an electric blender with a ½ cup (125ml) of water and whirl on medium until it's smooth. Put aside for now. Wipe skillet.
4. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet on medium.
5. Make sure the chicken is dry. Cut it into strips the size of your small finger and toss with a little cornstarch to keep it tender. Cook it in the oil about 3 minutes, stirring now and again, until it is golden.
6. Add the coconut mixture and all other ingredients except the coriander leaves to the chicken.
7. Lower the flame and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes. Stirring often until done.
8. Garnish with chopped coriander when serving.

Batata Murghi, with its spices that tantalize your palate, can also be prepared with lamb or goat meat. Either way you're sure to enjoy this fragrant, and exotic Indian dish. Try this dish at your next party. When your guests arrive they will be greeted by spicy aromas that will make their mouth water as it piques their curiosity.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Years ago I used to go with some co-workers to a McDonalds every morning. We enjoyed each others company and most of us invariably ordered coffee and biscuits. I always made it a point to not have more than two, because I considered them perhaps a little dangerous. I knew white flour was not all that healthy, so I didn’t gorge on them. I figured the trans-fats in the biscuits were not as healthy as old-fashioned lard, because the manufacturers hydrogenated the oils and added chemicals to make them stable. This was for the shelf life of their products, not to add goodness. Any (fresh) product that when treated can be stored for over a year simply cannot be healthy. I know there are exceptions like dried beans, but they are simply dried, an ancient preservation technique. Supermarket shelves are loaded with processed “food” products that if you read the ingredients you probably couldn’t pronounce them unless you studied chemistry. Our taste buds get so jaded with these manufactured “foods”. To pump up the taste they use a lot of salt. As filler and to mask the taste, corn syrup is used. And if you look carefully, you’ll see plenty more chemicals that shouldn’t be in that gaily-wrapped “food” product.

I don’t enjoy fast food. It doesn’t seem real to me. Years ago when my work was out-of-doors in different parts of the city, if I got hungry I would get a small loaf of French bread and a tin of Brisling sardines at a grocery store. (A grocery store is like a miniature super market, only a few aisles) Back then those Brislings were packed in Sild oil, very healthy and more importantly at the time, very delicious. A friend of mine used to go to a fast food place and get a hamburger (incredible how they can make those patties so paper-thin). Whenever we talked about it, he exclaimed he didn’t particularly enjoy them, but it filled him up. That was so sad to hear. Food should be a wonderful, tasty, soul satisfying experience.

If I’m stuck out in the field and get hungry, peanuts are readily available, along with other nuts as well. It’s a shame that people are so rushed for time that they consume chemical laden products. Let me show you two different ingredient lists for the same basic product.

Full ingredient list for a Chicken McNugget (from McDonald’s website)

White boneless chicken, water, food starch-modified, salt, seasoning (autolyzed yeast extract, salt, wheat starch, natural flavoring (botanical source), safflower oil, dextrose, citric acid, rosemary), sodium phosphates, seasoning (canola oil, mono- and diglycerides, extractives of rosemary). Battered and breaded with: water, enriched flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), yellow corn flour, food starch-modified, salt, leavening (baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate, calcium lactate), spices, wheat starch, whey, corn starch. Prepared in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness). Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.

Full ingredient list for Homemade Fried Chicken:

Bone-in chicken pieces, egg, milk, flour, oil (I like lard or peanut oil) salt and pepper.

How can something so simple get so complicated? All to save time? My mother used to say: What do people do with all this “time” they save?

Surely, in a few minutes you can wolf down an inexpensive, filling meal. Use the drive-thru and you don’t even have to walk the hundred feet or so to get your “meal”. But for goodness sakes what is the true cost of these “fast foods”. They may be cheap on your wallet, but also your body, health and longevity as well.

A little planning can make your life better. Get a decent thermos bottle and pack homemade soups. Carry peanuts or pack a lunch sandwich made with quality stuff. Once you study it, you will see how horrible a steady diet of fast food is. Read the ingredients on store-bought products. But remember, prepared food is overwhelmingly loaded with chemicals that may not be healthy. Sure, they may not kill you… yet.

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