Forming Food Friendships at Workplace

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Matar Paneer

Food can be great ice breakers!

I just completed three months of employment at my current workplace and when I look back at my last 10 years of being employed by different companies, I realize that food has been an integral part of how I connect with my colleagues.

Most of my wonderful friendships at work can be attributed to food. When it comes to forming new food friendships, my new workplace is no different.  I have bonded over my new friends at work over food. So much, that one of my senior colleagues keeps wondering aloud how my group of work buddies can talk about food all day! 😀

I firmly believe that colleagues who eat together, work better together. Harvard Business Review’s December 2015 issue focused on the aspect of team building in the cafeteria. It basically talks about how corporations plan expensive outings to encourage teamwork. But a better way to do that now, according to research by Cornell University is deceptively simple: Encourage teams to eat together.

For me, knowing that there is an interesting dish waiting in my tiffin (or of one of my colleagues’), brings an unexplainable excitement to work till lunch. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel like working post-lunch. Because then there is a delicious snack waiting for later! And I have managed to convert some of my colleagues into “Good Morning! What have you brought for lunch?” kind of conversationalists.

While we don’t need the weather to behave in a particular way so that we can talk about food, the rain somehow makes it an even better time to talk about food. This particular post is about my favourite combination during winter and monsoon: paneer (cottage cheese) and matar (peas).

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What’s in your lunch box?

Matar Paneer


250 gm cubed paneer, fried till firm and light brown
1 cup green peas, boiled till a little mushy but retaining its bright colour
Paste of 2 onions
2 tomatoes boiled and pureed
1 tsp each of chopped ginger, garlic and green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 tsp powdered red chilli
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp coriander seeds powder
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp ghee (clarified butter), oil or butter
Salt to taste
A pinch of asafoetida (optional)
One cup of water


Heat ghee and add cumin seeds and bay leaf. Add the onion paste and saute till the raw smell fades. Add ginger, garlic and green chillies and saute. Add tomato puree and all the powdered masalas, except garam masala. Stir fry till the fat separates.

Add peas and paneer along with water and salt. Bring to a boil and simmer till the gravy thickens. Add garam masala and switch off the stove a minute later. Serve hot with roti or rice.






Welcoming winter

hellowinterIt’s that time of the year, again! Winter is slowly setting in and there is plenty of winter produce available already in my city. Bright, green leafy vegetables, colourful fruits and fresh herbs. Winter is also the time when my city, Ahmedabad, hosts many food and music festivals.

Winter is the best season to gorge on a variety of Indian delicacies, which also hold nutritional properties. From undhiyu paired with hot puri to sarson-da-saag paired with makki-di-roti, from hot rasam to sweet gajar-ka-halwa, from bajra-methi theplas with homemade white butter to the spicy thotha paired with bread. Winter is also the time when a variety of delicious side dishes come out of the kitchen. Among the most popular ones are aathela amba haldar (pickled yellow turmeric), green garlic chutney, sliced radishes, garlic-chilli chutney, white butter, mint chutney, roasted or fried green chillies, etc.

Winter is also the time for both clear or rich soups and salads because the produce is so fresh around this time of the year. So, last night, I made creamy roasted pumpkin soup and paired it with a very easy-to-make stir fried paneer and vegetables.

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Processed with Moldiv

Roasted Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin, sliced – 500 gm
Garlic – half-a-clove, peeled
Olive Oil – 2 tsp
Stock or Water
Cream/full fat milk – 3 tsp
Salt & Pepper

Heat oil and add sliced pumpkins with salt. Pot roast it till the sides catch a lovely golden brown colour. You can also roast it in the oven at 220 degrees for 30-35 minutes. Remove and pressure cook till two whistles. Keep aside till it cools down. In the same pan, roast garlic till it gets a light brown colour but should not burn.

In a blender, mix together roasted garlic and pumpkin and blend till it is of a creamy texture. Put the mixture back on the stove, add stock or water, according to the desired consistency. It should still be creamy. Before removing from the stove, add a pinch of pepper. Serve medium-hot, garnished with fresh cream or full fat milk.

Stir-fried Paneer and Vegetables

Paneer (marinated with a pinch of salt, turmeric,
coriander-chilli powder) – 250 gm
Grated cabbage, carrot, spring onion and green garlic – 50 gm each
Soya sauce – 1 tsp
Green chilli sauce – 1 tsp
Ground Pepper
Olive oil – 1 tsp

In a pan, heat oil and saute the marinated paneer. Transfer into the serving bowl. In the same pan, add vegetables, stir fry for 1 minute and add the sauces and pepper. I do not add salt again as the sauces contain salt. Stir again. Add on top of the paneer, mix well and serve hot.