The Perfect Pairing: What can we learn about Relationships from Chocolate & Cheese?

Do opposites really attract? Yin and Yang, are they really meant to co-exist under one roof? They say that opposite values are complimentary. And yet with every passing day we struggle to strike the right balance.


Why is it that a hot and sour soup is incomplete without the sour? Why is it that chocolate marries a stinky blue cheese so beautifully? How did a fresh, tart strawberry fall in love with whipped cream? And what made sweet coconut milk engage so beautifully with hot chillies? It is all about striking the right balance.


It is world of paradoxes; where good and evil, hot and sweet, night and day co-exist. There was an interesting verse that I had read by Kahlil Gibran, it talked about marriage. It says,


“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of heaven dance between you…

Stand together yet not too near together:

For the pillars of the temple stand apart”.


When it comes to co-existence of contrasts, it is important that one doesn’t step on the others shadow. You see, that hot and sour soup will not taste so perfect if it is just “Hot Soup”. Strawberry will not be so great on its own as it will be with that sweet cloud of whipped cream! It was easy for the proud, tasty chocolate to believe that it worked well all on its own, until it met blue cheese and realized what flavour nirvana really meant.


You see, the right marriage of characters can make you grow to heights that you didn’t know existed, it can make you happy like you had never been before. But a wrong marriage, like one between green tea and lima beans can really crush the beauty of both.


Sometimes the world disapproves, like we all would never have thought cauliflower would get involved with coffee, but it turns out that strange pairings can also make sense when they help each other grow.


In a world so full of itself, sometimes we forget that our tea needs a rusk, our cheese needs a cracker and our cereal needs some milk to make it perfect. We often walk around with the pride of a custom-made artisan chocolate until we bump into some almond and realize that this is what we had been missing all along.


May be it is time to step out of our ignorant cocoon and acknowledge those that really help us grow, and un-pair ourselves with what crushes our true nature.







Love, Heartbreaks and the funny thing that Tells it all, Food

Do you remember your first heartbreak? Well, I remember mine. I was seventeen years old and had been weeping for 17 hours. It wasn’t great love or anything but it did leave a mark. It is probably what made my innocent belief in fairy tales crumple. It also made me more self-centered and perhaps a little afraid of the agony of being in love. My parents had no idea what was going on or why I couldn’t stop crying, but they do know me well enough to know that it was a love problem. (They knew that my “first love” was actually in Fourth standard don’t ask!)


They didn’t know what else to do so they took me out for my favourite, Tandoori Chicken. It was really sweet of them but I didn’t feel like eating. My little sister had no idea what had happened either, but she also tried to cheer me up by bringing me a plate of Schezwan fried rice and it was so tempting that I ate it. Family always knows the answers, even if they don’t know the problems.


It was probably the first time that I realized that food could be a measure of a person’s emotional status. I started to recover but all those dreams I had of growing up and falling in love with the man of my dreams slowly crumpled, and other dreams took their place. I don’t think that I ever stopped eating through my subsequent break ups, although all of them were pretty messy. What can I say, may be I attract drama.


I thought I was all grown up, when suddenly one day I stopped eating again, honestly I didn’t know that I was capable of that “first heart break” emotion any more. Turns out no matter how long you fool yourself, you always fall into that trap called “love”, again.


So is “emotional eating” or “emotional not-eating” really a thing? Why is it that we always fall back on food to feel better? Is there really any truth in the theory that sweets, chocolates and fatty foods help you recover from a heartbreak or depression?


I know that there are days when the only thing I have to look forward to is my dinner plan. I don’t see what is wrong with that. Cooking that perfectly supple breast of chicken and then dipping it into that warm and velvety cheese sauce while sipping wine can bring you out of any misery through the day.


I know that we have been through a lot and that is not necessarily the way to deal with fights, problems and bigger problems, but then again, there is no harm in escaping into culinary heaven, even it is for a few minutes. Cooking soothes me, in fact when I am avoiding thinking about all else, it really helps me focus on the one thing that I love, reading the language of flavours and weaving a melody into my plate.


Have you seen that movie, The Ramen Girl? It is about a girl who flies to Japan to save her love, and in her deepest pain she finds love in a bowl of Ramen. I think sometimes when the heart longs for love, it can find it anywhere, and especially in a bowl of Ramen!


If you ever managed to find love in sad moments, then do share it with me here. If nothing, we can probably share the recipe for finding happiness in a frying-pan again.

Making the Ultimate Tandoori Chicken & Finding Someone To Share the Love

I woke up this morning with a smile on my face, birds were chirping at my window and the sun was shining brightly. Being in love is such a feeling; a simple thought makes your heart sing. I always wanted to grow up and fall in love, just like my parents fell in love, and then got married in the Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak style in the 1980s. I always had a condition in my mind, the day I fall in love, I will be willing to share my tandoori chicken with him. You might say it was a childish, silly condition but it makes a lot of sense to me. Tandoori Chicken is the one dish in the world that I like the most and refuse to share. Call me greedy but I don’t even enjoy leaving out the bones for my dogs (who I love very much), simply because something about a perfectly cooked, juicy leg of tandoori chicken on my plate makes my heart skip a beat. So there it was, the simple condition, that when I fall in love, I will be willing to share my Tandoori Chicken with someone.


When I was sixteen years old, I fell madly in love with this Kashmiri boy who I thought looked very much like Aamir Khan. He was in my class, and one of my closest friends brother (Classic filmy Love situation). Each time he looked at me I blushed, I wrote a lot of love poems for him and spent two years obsessing about how great it would be when we got married, and the stories we would tell our grand children. I also thought it was perfect because my parents had met each other when they were that age. Alas! Cupid had his station elsewhere, and I was called by my school counselor and told to ‘Stay Away from That Boy, He is Trouble’ (all the more reason to find him attractive at that age). In the end, we attended that farewell party, school was over and the Tandoori Chicken on my plate kept waiting.


In the first year of college I was still feeling blue about my Kashmiri tragedy, so I was not on the hunt for Mr. College Cutie like everyone else. All the girls were crazy about this one boy, who was from Nainital (yes, Hill-boy again) he would play the guitar, was in a band and was a karate champ. He also had a great body, and the girls loved to watch him work out. I had heard of him in the background, but I didn’t really know him. Then one day my closest college friend dragged me to this rock concert, he was there too and he asked me out. I didn’t really know him well, but everyone thought that he was really cute and such a great guy, so I should go for it, so I did go for it. I didn’t end up sharing my Tandoori Chicken that year either, I guess we were both still growing up and searching for ourselves, and it was too soon to find each other.


Over the next two years, I dated a couple of people from college and outside. I also dated two of my good friends (never a good idea!). But in all this time, I never got to share my beloved meal with anyone. I spent a year in Nottingham, studying, cooking, that was a lonely patch for me at first, but also very beautiful because I found all the things that brought me happiness, I found myself. That year, for the first time, I enjoyed that Tandoori Chicken alone, not waiting and not searching for anybody to share it with.


I was happily in love with myself, living like I liked living, pampering myself and enjoying my food with my friends and family back in Mumbai. It was during my first project that I first met A. ‘A’ was nothing like any of other guys I had dated earlier, firstly, he wasn’t even a boy, I mean he was already a full-grown man when I met him. I could tell that he found me attractive (women can always tell) but I found that very strange because something about him made him look like he was in a committed relationship. Well, he wasn’t in one then but he is now. For the first time I had met a man that cared so much, to bring everything I loved to me. He brought me dark chocolates and lilies, held my hand and took me on long walks under starlight and brought everything that I loved a million steps closer to me. This is for him, because he was the one who encouraged me to start writing this blog and he is the one that orders that full plate of tandoori chicken, just for me, only to see me light up when I eat it. I found someone who has brought me immense happiness, and so many plates full of tandoori chicken that I can’t even count. I finally found someone to share this happiness with, to share my perfect tandoori chicken with. So here is a recipe I have specially devised to make the ultimate, perfect, succulent Tandoori Chicken at home, and it is dedicated to the love of my favorite dish and the man I share it with.

TC final 3

To Make the Tandoori Chicken you will have to start a day before, to enjoy it the next day.


You will need an Oven that goes up to 275 degree Celsius or prepare a water bath, or a double boiler.


For the best tasting Tandoori Chicken, I prefer using the leg meat, meaning the joint with the thigh and the drumstick.




Chicken 4 Leg pieces, cleaned


Day 1

Stage 1


Brine, prepared by mixing 1 litre water with 3 tablespoons (45g) of Salt along with 1-tablespoon (15ml) vinegar.


Stage 2


Lemon juice   2-tablespoons (30ml)


Ginger, grated            1 tablespoon (15g)


Garlic, minced            2 tablespoons (30g)


Salt      to taste (if the meat is not too salty with the brine already)



Stage 3


Mustard Oil, raw       2-tablespoon (30ml)


Hung Curd or thick Chakka, beaten            1 cup


Kashmiri Chilli Paste                        1-tablespoon (reduce if your prefer less spice)


Chilli Powder             a sprinkle, if required for colour


Ginger, fresh paste    2-tablespoon


Garlic, minced            2-tablespoon


Cloves, roasted & powdered            1 teaspoon


Coriander Seeds, roasted & powdered       2 teaspoon


Cinnamon, roasted & powdered     1 teaspoon


Cumin Seeds, roasted & powdered             2 teaspoons


Black Cardamom, roasted & powdered      1 teaspoon


Black Pepper, powdered      ½  teaspoon


Turmeric, powdered             ½ teaspoon


Garam Masala Powder         1 teaspoon


Add 1 teaspoon Green Chilli paste for extra zing


Foodmantra #Tip : When making the spice powders, using a mortar pestle to grind the spices and then sieving, brings out better flavour in the spices.


Day 2

Stage 4


Ghee (Clarified Butter)


Chaat Masala (optional)


Lemon Juice


Onions, sliced





Stage 1


Prepare the brine solution and soak the chicken legs in brine for 5 hours in the refrigerator.


Wash off the brine completely. Make sure you wash it off completely, else the chicken might get too salty.


Stage 2


Use the sharp point of the knife and make slant incisions/ slits on the meat across the thigh and the drumstick.


Rub lemon juice, ginger and garlic along with a little salt (if required) on the chicken legs.


Let it stand for an hour and a half to 2 hours in refrigerator.


Stage 3


In a wide mouth bowl or a deep plate, mix mustard oil, hung curd, the red chilli paste, ginger garlic paste and the spice powders, and mix well. Rub this marinade on the chicken and massage it well into the slits on the thigh. Cover the chicken entirely with the marinade. The thick curds will cling on to the meat to soak in the flavour.


Cling wrap the bowl and refrigerate overnight or for 12 hours.


TC Final 1

Stage 4


There are two ways of cooking the chicken. Without a Tandoor and in a homemade tandoor or barbeque set.


Without A Tandoor


Preheat the oven at 275 degree Celsius.


Take a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap a marinated leg of chicken in this sheet completely. Seal the wrap properly from all sides. Repeat this procedure with all the marinated chicken legs.


Keep these sealed wraps of chicken in the oven and cook them for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the legs. To check, prick the chicken next to the bone, if it is white and comes off easily, it is cooked.



IF you don’t want to use an oven, simple use a double boiler by place a fitted sieve over boiled water, then place the chicken on the sieve and seal the vessel with a lid on top, let the chicken cook in a steam chamber for succulent.


To Give it that Smoky Charcoal flavour


Preferably in a balcony or at a window.


Take a thick iron vessel, or use a tasla used by construction workers to carry cement, make sure the coal is dry, you can dry it completely in the oven. Spread out the coal and light it up with alcohol or kerosene, the kerosene will evaporate completely, so you don’t catch the flavour. Now hold the chicken with a skewer or a forcep over the coal, until the outside gets that smoky flavour.

Testimony 656



To Give it The Boozy Charred Flavour


This is fairly simple.


After the chicken is cooked just pour a cap full of rum on the chicken, and light it up. This will give you a boozy charred flavour and that extra dramatic effect!


In a Home Tandoor/ Barbeque Set


If you do have a Barbeque set at home, and a nice outdoor space to enjoy the winter. You can create this homemade tandoor.


I saw this on one of my favourite Chefs episodes, he has placed brick to make a triangle closed chamber and surrounded it on all sides with coal. When this coal is lit and covered, the heat generated in this brick chamber is good enough to cook tandoori chicken the real way! In this set up it will take about ten minutes to make succulent tandoori chicken.


Serve it with onions slices, lemon and chaat masala on the side.


Foodmantra Tip: Don’t try to cook raw chicken on an open barbeque. It will take a long time to cook and the chicken will dry out in the meanwhile. It is better to pre-cook the chicken wrapped up in an oven or in a steam chamber before flashing it for a couple of minutes in the barbeque for the smoky flavour we love.


I hope you share this recipe and this tandoori chicken with those you love. It will make for some wonderful and romantic evenings..