Eat like a pauper, feel like a king

It's possible, claims Shubhra Krishan, author of Thinner Dinner, a collection of recipe ideas, tips and tricks, interspersed with cartoons and anecdotes to help you eat light at night without feeling deprived

Dinner is the eternal Bollywood vamp. Teasing, tantalising, torturing the weak-willed into submission with the promise of a palate orgy and the possibility of finding love. Shubhra Krishan, author of Thinner Dinner, is no stranger to her charms and recalls occasions when she guiltily sought comfort in sundaes with "extra sauce and nuts".

Dhania Dhamaka Mushrooms with Crispy Toast

Determined to put an end to her "nightly longings for all the salty, spicy, crunchy, creamy and yes, sweet stuff", Shubhra decided to elaborate on a simple philosophy: Eat light at night. "I was struggling with my own weight at the time and was categorically told by more than just one nutritionist to eat less at night," says Shubhra over the phone from Delhi. "I realised that a lot of people, like me, struggled to do that and were looking for ways to cut calories; even cheat their way through dinner," she adds.

Recipes extracted with permission from Thinner Dinner by Shubhra
Krishan is published by Westland publishers; Rs 395. Available at leading
book stores.

More diary and less recipe book in form, Thinner Dinner is a collection of anecdotes, recipe ideas and tips to rustle up quick meals that are light on the tummy. "I haven't mentioned exact quantities in every recipe. I use measurements like 'a bit', 'a dash', 'a pinch', 'as much as you want': these are all suggestions, because that's how I cook," says Shubhra about the book that is targeted at those familiar with basic cooking procedures and

"I guess I sub-consciously wrote it for someone like me: Someone who loves to eat and who loves to cook," says the former journalist, who has in the past authored a book on Ayurveda, the ancient philosophy through which she found her approach to eating. "There is a rhythm followed by the body, which we have changed. We don't allow our bodies to rest for digestion."

Cooking challenge
Curious to test some of the recipes that appeared deceptively simple, we zeroed in on three: Dhania Dhamaka Mushrooms, Mediterranean-style Brown Rice with Stir-fried Veggies and the 3-Chilli Paneer. The results were surprisingly good! Most surprising was the 3-Chilli Paneer that Shubhra mentions in the book was created on the spur of the moment when all she had left in the fridge was a slab of cottage cheese, and no tomatoes, onions or garlic.

The recipe calls for green chillies, chilli flakes and coarsely ground pepper. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a wok, chuck in the finely chopped green chillies, chilli flakes and pepper to taste. Toss in the cottage cheese cubes. Season with salt, and garnish with freshly chopped coriander leaves. And you're done!

Pinch of salt
If you apply the rules of a conventional cookbook to Thinner Dinner, you might end up disappointed. There aren't too many glossy photographs, the instructions aren't precise and there are no set templates. But if you go in looking for ideas to rustle up a quick meal when your only other option is to order takeout, then there's enough to provide inspiration here.

What you need:
 packet button mushrooms, halved or quartered Slightly less than 1 tbsp butter Green chillies (optional), chopped
* heaped spoonful of garlic (tsp or tbsp, depending on how much garlic you like)
Salt and chilli flakes to taste
A handful of fresh, green, washed, chopped coriander leaves

What you do:
Melt the butter in a non-stick pan.
> Put in the green chillies (if using) and the garlic.
> When the garlic turns a pleasant light brown, tip in the sliced mushrooms and stir-fry until they are soft and golden.
> Add salt and chilli flakes. Pop in the coriander leaves, give it a good whirl with your spatula, and switch off the gas.
> Heap the mushrooms on a small, soothing, white or blue plate. Your brain and your eyes will light up at the obvious illusion of heartiness thus created.
> Serve hot, with or upon crispy whole-grain toast.

Sanjukta Barooah's European-Style Roast Chicken with a side of veggies

What you need:
* whole chicken
* tbsp rosemary
* tbsp thyme
Salt and pepper 4 to 6 whole potatoes Your choice of vegetables to grill

What you do:
> Rub the rosemary and thyme on the chicken.
> Drizzle it with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.
> Use a big enough roasting tray to hold all the veggies and potatoes.
> Pop the tray into the over at medium flame.
> After every 15 to 20 minutes, roll the chicken over, so that every side is well cooked.
> You may make a cut on the chicken in between to see if its pink meat is getting cooked thoroughly.
> When the chicken is fully roasted, bring it out and place it on a serving plate for carving.
> Serve with the roast veggies and potatoes.

Note: Veggies and potatoes take half the cooking time of the chicken, so add them when you are halfway through roasting the chicken.

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