Cooking with Ben and Becca!

Cooking with Ben and Becca!

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Benjamin and Rebecca are this wonderful sweet couple who got in touch with me since they had received a gift certificate for a Private Cooking Class with Curryliciousme from Ben’s parents. As always, I exchanged a couple of emails to get to know their preferences- what actually were their favorites and what they did not care for much. After a few exchange of emails, I gathered that Becca was in Hyderabad, India for a few months for studies and that they both loved Indian food!!!

I cannot tell you how adventurous the both of them are! So we came up with a menu – an authentic Indian menu with an appetizer, Kadai paneer, Peas Pilaf and Dal/ Lentil Soup for main course and a sweet vermicelli pudding with raisins and cardamom(sweet heaven!)

They arrived at 1:30pm as we had discussed. We introduced ourselves and I made sure they were comfortable and felt at home:) I had everything ready and organized including the recipes printed out, all the ingredients measured out for ease and pots and pans for them to cook, Chef knives, chopping boards and so forth. Before every cooking class, I always like to see what each person is comfortable doing and assign them tasks accordingly. The main goal here is not to freak them out but for them to enjoy the complete experience and have fun with it. I am a happy girl if I hear from them a week later that they recreated something and came out awesome.

That is the confidence I want to give them and a wonderful fun cooking experience that does not frighten one to take risks and try new food!

Becca wanted to do the appetizer round so we let her be in charge of that and she did an excellent job. We made a chickpea salad with grated coconut, cumin and cilantro.

Then Ben was interested in making the Kadai Paneer so he started chopping some onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and bell peppers. Me and Becca started working on the lentils on the side. It was so much fun. Just peeking at what each one’s doing, chatting, laughing, sharing experiences, food stories:)))

The reason we always start lentils early is since they take a long time to cook. So we toasted the lentils with a bunch of spices, ginger, garlic, onion and tomatoes and added water and let it cook covered for sometime stirring intermittently.

By then Ben had started to work on the Kadai Paneer. He had a hot pan of oil with some cumin, garam masala, lemon pepper, garlic powder, cayenne along with chopped onions, green chili, onions and tomatoes. Once that was cooked Ben transferred it to a blender and put it aside. Then Becca started chopping the Indian Cottage Cheese or Paneer into cubes and tossed them in butter to get all the sides browned up a little. Ben loved to crush some fresh coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle:) Then we added some oil on another heated pan, added some more chopped onions, bell peppers and tomatoes and let them cook the crushed coriander seeds and some dried fenugreek leaves.


We added the brown paneer cubes to the pan and transferred the blended mixture as well and let it cook for few minutes. We added salt as per taste and they simply loved it!!!! By then, the dal was ready as well.

We also cooked some hot peas pilaf in my traditional cooker that my mom had passed over to me from India. Ben and Becca were very excited to cook in a traditional cooker and Ben almost was surprised to hear the whistle that the cooker made!!! I had given them some taster samples of the hot peas pilaf with kadai paneer and dal and they enjoyed every bite of it. I also packed them “dibbas” or boxes with all the food they made:) so they can have it for dinner later today evening.

For dessert we also made a pudding with vermicelli, clarified butter, raisins and cardamom. I hope they enjoyed it!!!

Looking forward to many more cooking experiences with wonderful people like Ben and Becca….. and they have promised to be back soon:)

Much love as always…………………………

Best moments from my cooking demo at Whole Foods in Montclair

Best moments from my cooking demo at Whole Foods in Montclair

I must begin by saying that I had the most wonderful time cooking for such a wonderful crowd at Whole Foods at Montclair in NJ yesterday.

Carmen, the lead for cooking demos at the store was such a cheerful person and helped me out completely with the set up of my station and making me feel like I was at my home kitchen:) Evelyn ran every single time to get stuff whenever I ran out of sampling plates or spoons. I dont remember stopping for a single minute to even drink a sip of water. I was completely in my zone once people started coming in and thoroughly enjoyed every single minute of it that I dint want to miss any of it:)

So what did I cook? I had exchanged several emails with Carmen before coming up with this menu. Knowing Montclair and its residents, I knew QUINOA was one of my choices. A lot of people came up to me with difficulty pronouncing Quinoa and I had to break it up for them as (pronounced as K-i-N-WAH) 🙂

I decided to go for a Quinoa Salad. One, the reason being -Tuesdays at Whole Foods is Local Tasting meaning I was asked to make the best use of as much as local produce that was at the store. I instantly felt like a kid in a candy store- especially if you ask a vegetarian like me to pick local produce/veggies!!!!

The second reason being- Quinoa is a grain-like crop grwon for its edible seeds and is a complete protein as per nutritional evaluations. Quinoa high in dietary fiber, phosphorous, magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calicium and is popular amongst vegans and for those who are lactose intolerant. Quinoa is gluten free and considered easy to digest.

I decided to incorporate as much veggies possible, like zucchini, summer squash, onions, tomatoes, bell peppers…..and made a Quinoa Salad. Of course I sauted my onions, tomatoes, zucchini and squash with my special blend of freshly toasted and ground Indian spices! or freshly ground “curry” powder.

My demo was to start at 3 pm but I reached the store early so I have enough time to set up and start cooking the Quinoa. Carmen said the expected crowd between 3 and 6pm on a Tuesday at Whole Foods was about 150!!!! So I cooked for that many :))))

I had this huge pot that was simmering away with my Quinoa and veggies in it. I had just begun making my sauce- I wanted to make an Indian curried sauce to layer on top of the quinoa to take the salad to a next level.  Meantime, I saw many people approaching my station and urging me to make samplers. Being the person I am, I started making samplers of just the Quinoa while working on the making that sauce at the same time. I was so happy to hear wonderful comments from people who merely tasted the Quinoa with veggies. A lot of them said, they got the package of quinoa but when they took it home and tried cooking it- it was dry or that they werent able to get the proportion of quinoa versus water right.

A simple trick is- I never follow package instructions because it always says 1: 1!!!!! No way- you will end up with a plate of undercooked quinoa. Always, add extra broth or water to check  if the quinoa is cooked completely. You know its done is when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Also, while cooking the Quinoa always try and keep it covered or use a lid to cover.

Now I make my sauce with garlic, ginger, onions, tomatoes and my freshly ground spices. I layer the Curried sauce over the Quinoa. I wanted to use a layer of crunch on top of the sauce so I used Organic Tempeh from Whole Foods and crumbled it, seasoned it well with cumin, coriander and “curry powder”. I saute the crumbled tempeh with a tad bit of oil in a pan till it gets a crisp coat on the surface. Now Tempeh is a meat substitute made of Soy and is very high in protein.

So I layer my sauted crumbled tempeh over my curried sauce and quinoa with veggies. I garnish the whole dish with some green scallions, colored bell peppers and some tomatoes and top it off with some cilantro!

A lot of you them who stopped by my station asked me if I sold the Sauce in a jar and they wanted to buy it:)LOL

But I promised them, I will look into it- its a possibility I would explore!!!!

They loved my sauce and the dish and were very encouraging and  appreciative,

All the kind words, words of encouragement and love is what motivates me so keep it coming guys…..can never get enough!!!

Thanks much to my friend Rob and his sister April Peters for coming out, tasting my dish and being so supportive!

Thanks again to every single person who came out to Whole Foods, and stopped by my station to taste my dish-Appreciate your time and I hope I was able to answer every one of your questions on the dish and otherwise…..

(This pic was taken at the end of the cooking demo at 6pm and I am exhausted, struggling to smile for the camera but my husband and kids came to pick me up and I was thrilled to see them !!!!Thanks so much for being so supportive!)

With much love ……. and looking forward to more events so keep tuning into my blog for updates on events and where to find me:)

Creamy Cottage Cheese Curry prepared in a wok

Creamy Cottage Cheese Curry prepared in a wok

I want to start by introducing all of you to what a “Kadai” is? Kadai in India means a wok:) I prepare this awesome “currylicious” cottage cheese dish in a wok tossed with colored bell peppers, onions and tomatoes. I throw in a bunch of spices that the flavors and smell travel to my neighbours and they say “not again, Nandini- We smell another curry in the making. Are we invited”?

I just feel very generous today 🙂 and would love to share this recipe with all of you. I bet you will fall in love with this currylicious dish!!!

Recipe: Creamy Cottage Cheese prepared in a Wok

Recipe: Creamy Cottage Cheese prepared in a Wok


1 Onion

1 Green Chilli

1/2 Green bell pepper

1/2 Red bell pepper

3 cloves of garlic

1 inch piece of fresh ginger/ 1 tsp ginger powder

1 Tomato

Indian Cottage Cheese

Canola Oil

1/2 tsp butter


1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cayenne powder

1 tsp coriander seeds

2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves


1) Chop onion, bell peppers, ginger and garlic roughly.

2) Grind onions, green chilli, garlic and ginger together.









3) Heat a pan with oil. Add cumin seeds, turmeric,

cayenne, coriander powder and salt to taste.

4) Transfer the ground onion-chilli-garlic-ginger mixture

to the above pan.









5) Mix so that the spices blend with the

mixture and cook for 3 minutes.

6) Puree the fresh tomato









7) Transfer the tomato puree to the pan.

8) Mix and cook for another 3-4 minutes









9) Using mortar and pestle, grind the

fresh coriander seeds.

10) Transfer the ground coriander seeds to the

pan and mix with the peppers and onions.









11) Now is the time add my favorite Indian herb,

dried fenugreek leaves!

12) Using the palm of your hand, crush the leaves

and add it to the pan and mix well.









13) Now carefully transfer the mixture of onions, peppers,

crushed coriander seeds and fenugreek leaves onto the pan

that has the previously cooked onion tomato paste mixture.

14) Mix everything together gently.









15) Now cut the cottage cheese into medium

sized cubes

16) Take another pan. Now this is the only time I would ask you to use the 1/2 teaspoon butter. Trust me!

Follow my recipe and you can prepare restaurant quality curry at home 🙂

Add the butter and toss the cubed cottage cheese till they turn brown.