Thursday, October 16, 2014

My Boss's Pasta and My Spicy Moroccan Soup

My Boss's Pasta
We were at Fashion Week recently and a friend pointed us to the Smokehouse Deli saying we had to try 'My Boss's Pasta'. After we got over the confusion caused by the fact that she runs her own PR firm, we did go across and try it out. Simple, light and delicious, so much so that I couldn't wait to recreate it in my own kitchen, with fairly good results.

Ingredients:
1 pack spaghetti
Handful of green beans, topped and tailed and cut into half lengthwise
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced fine
Handful of spinach leaves, washed
Splash of white wine
Olive oil + EVOO
1-2 dried red chillies
Grated Parmesan cheese - a handful or as much as you can get away with :)
Pepper, finely ground and paprika

Put a pan of water on to boil, salt lightly and toss in the red chillies. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, add spaghetti and cook until al dente; drain, reserve some ( half to 1 cup) of the cooking water. Blanch the beans; blanch the spinach leaves. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil on a low flame and add the onions and garlic. Sweat them on a low flame until transparent and soft. Add the splash of wine and let simmer on low flame. Add to the spaghetti along with the beans, spinach and some of the cooking water ( it's not a sauce-y pasta, just moist). Top with the Parmesan and add pepper and paprika to taste.

Pass around the Parmesan with a grater at the table for more joy.

Soup
After eons, now the weather is cooler, I craved a really nice, spicy, yummy soup. I looked up various bean soups and decided on Gordon Ramsay's Pumpkin and butter bean soup. However I couldn't not add my own twist, so I decided to add Ras el Hanout to it to heighten the spice. Of course, being lazy me, this was the quick and dirty version of Ras el Hanout, which meant chucking the ingredients into the oil before adding the veggies and then blending it all together later.

When I eventually tried out the soup I had a blinding flash of realisation - Ras el Hanout is nothing more or less than our own desi Shahi Garam Masala. I looked up the rarely used pack of Shahi Garam Masala and sure enough, the exact same list of ingredients! Ok, trouble saved in the future :)

It was an awesome soup, though so highly recommended.

Ingredients:
750 gm pumpkin ( I'm guessing here by the volume of pumpkin I used)
3 orange carrots
4 spring onions and 1 ordinary red onion
3-4 garlic cloves
Half cup of yellow and red bell peppers
1/2 inch ginger
1 dried red chilli
Handful coriander leaves
1 can butter beans
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 liter water/ stock

For the masala:
Half teaspoon each of: coriander, white pepper, black pepper, turmeric, cloves, mace, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, ginger powder
Dry roast and powder

Cube all the vegetables. Heat the oil and add in the garlic and onions. Once they are soft, toss in the vegetables and 1/2 of the water. Let it come to a boil, then let simmer until the vegetables are soft. Let is cool, then puree as finely as desired. Open the can of butter beans and rinse them. Add them to the puree, add the rest of the water and mix well, heat up to serve.

Serve topped with fried onions, a sprinkling of coriander leaves and a dollop of yogurt. Bliss out!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Deliciously healthy salad

I was passing by Dadar market in Mumbai yesterday and spotted vegetable vendors with heaps of green leafies piled on their stands. Promptly stopped the car that was rushing me to the airport to try for an earlier flight back and raced across. Then I realised the rest of the green leafies I had in stock at home, but I saw a bunch of alfalfa sprouts with one seller. I have had alfalfa salad at restaurants and catered meals but never made anything at home with them so I asked the seller for a whacking big bunch and raced back to the car feeling suitable pleased with myself. It's another matter that we reached the airport too late for the earlier flight in the bargain.

Because today I had the simplest and most delicious of salads for lunch...totally worth the late return!

1 ripe orange, cut into segments
1 handful alfalfa sprouts
Salt to taste
Spritz of lemon juice

Just mix it all together and inhale. Photos? Are you kidding - read the previous sentence!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Festive sweet

When I was a child, my favourite kheer used to be appi payasa. It's a typical karnataka/ Mysore kheer but involved more work than the usual shavige/ vermicelli kheer or kadale bele ( chana dal) kheer so my mom used to make it less often. The combination of crunchy appi and the sweet, cardamom-laced payasa are heavenly, so for Navami this year I decided to make Appi payasa. Turned out it was simpler than I had figured and tasted great; reminded me of the Chandrahara that we hoggged during our Mysore vacation a couple of years ago. Ingredients 1 cup fine suji 1 tsp ghee 1/2 cup cold water 1/2 liter milk 1/2 cup sugar ( to taste) 2-3 strands of saffron soaked in 2 tsp warm milk 1 tsp cardamom powder Mix the ghee into the suji, then add the water ltitle by little to make a stiff dough. Keep aside for an hour or so. Then roll out into really thin puris, about 4-5 inches diameter and deep fry. Ensure that these puris do not puff up, so they need to be rolled out thin; you can also prick them with a fork before deep frying. Keep aside to cool. Meanwhile heat the milk and sugar together until the sugar dissolves. Add the cardamom and saffron. Break the puris into one inch pieces and add to the kheer. Serve hot or cold - we love it cold, straight from the fridge.

Mysorean Feast

This dasara was really lowkey since I commute about an hour to work each way every day and the parents were away. With a push and shove from mom, I finally did a golu but it was a bare-bones half-baked effort and really quite a let down even to me. So finally, on Ashthami, I decided that we should at least make the effort to put together a proper traditional Dasara meal. With the parents away, I naturally took on the onus of making a full Mysorean feast with traditional items prepared during Dasara. Our menu: Battani-menthyada soppu anna ( Methi-matar rice/ Peas and fenugreek leaves rice) Saaru Sundal Beans palya Gasagase payasa Aambode Yeriyappa Carrot kosambri Sautekayi kosambri Took much less time than I thought and I had the satisfaction of sitting down to a meal that satisfied me in having made an adequate effort :) Recipes - Gasagase payasa Ingredients 1 tsp raw rice 1.5 tbsp poppy seeds 1 handful fresh grated coconut 2.5 cups water 1 cup jaggery ( may need more; depends on the sweetness of the jaggery) 1/2 cup milk 1/2 tsp cardamom powder Dry roast the poppy seeds and raw rice together. Grind fine. Then add coconut and grind again. Add 1 cup water to the mix and strain through a fine sieve. Repeat the process 2-3 more times with the rest of the water, and keep aside the ground mixture. To the sieved water, add the jaggery and boil until the jaggery melts completely. Add the coconut mixture and the milk and simmer for a few minutes on medium flame. Add the cardamom powder and garnish with fried cashews if desired. Serve hot or cold. Serves 4-5 Yeriyappa ( Sweet dumplings) Ingredients 1 cup raw rice, soaked in warm water for 2-3 hours 1 cup jaggery 1 cup fresh grated coconut 1 tsp cardamom powder half cup of semolina ( rave) optional Grind the rice together with jaggery and fresh coconut. Add water and thin it out until it resembles thick dosa batter. Deep fry ladleful by ladleful in a wok until toffee brown on both sides. Eat hot. Adding the semolina makes it more crunchy, so if you want the middle portion softer, skip it. Makes about 8 Aambode Ingredients 1 cup chana dal, soaked for 2 hours 1 cup fresh grated coconut 1 inch ginger Handful curry leaves Pinch of asafoetida (heeng) 2 green chillies 1 dried red chilly Salt to taste Coarsely grind all the ingredients together without any added water. Shape into 1.5 inch balls, flatten and deep-fry on a medium flame until brown. Serve hot; store in airtight container. You can serve it dropped into the saaru as well. It works fabulously as a snack/ appetizer too. Makes 10-12 (Pictures will follow)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Summer Refresher

On Saturday we were hosting the book club over at our place, and for some reason, including being unemployed, I decided to go all out on the food. Hyderabadi cuisine, followed by a dessert buffet. Yes, a bit crazy that way. And of course, given the elaborate menu, how could the drinks be plain old wine or vodka out of a bottle? I considered making melon sangrias with white wine but the effort to juice melons sounded too much, not to mention a bit uncertain since I’m not a good picker of ripe melons. So, to add a desi twist to the proceedings, I decided on aam panna margaritas, and they actually worked out delicious!!! Might just become one of my favourite summer drinks J

Ingredients:
Aam Panna squash (this is a cheat but it worked out to be so much less effort!! I used the Druk one) – 2 bottles
1.5 bottles Smirnoff Vodka
1.25 litres of water
Crushed ice – lots of…

Just mix the three ingredients together and serve with pride. If you can’t resist the urge to jazz it up, add slivers of mango peel, thinly sliced lemon or mint leaves, but they are unnecessary to the experience. This makes about 30 servings, depending on how generously you pour. Pictures? Are you kidding? We wiped out three pitchers of the stuff!!

The Menu for the night?
Bagare Baingan
Khatti dal
Hyderabadi Dahi wadas
Tamarind Rice
Curd rice

Paan kulfi, served on pan leaves
Rose-flavoured pannacotta topped with fresh mulberries, served on rose petals
Dumroth
No-bake cheesecake topped with grapes
Melon balls steeped in Malibu, with a chiffonade of mint
 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Of sandwiches, picnics and Enid Blyton...

Have been overdosing on Enid Blyton lately, in company with Chubbocks, who also loves the Five Findouters ( on a separate note, how great is it when your kid shares your fictional tastes, eh?). And honestly, it’s impossible to read anything by Enid Blyton without wanting a good snack alongside, especially the kind of stuff she mentions and manages to make sound intriguing, even though if you decode it rationally, you realize it’s not really ambrosia she means. Sandwiches. Buttered toasts. Tomatoes. Lettuce. Hardboiled eggs. Potatoes in their jackets. Lemonade. Seriously, I don’t know how she does it, but I’m drooling halfway through anything by her.

And longing for a picnic, of course, since her adventurous characters are always going off on little trips and having picnics. Now, you can’t have a good picnic without sandwiches, in my opinion. You can have a grown-up picnic with cheese, a baguette, some grapes and a bottle of wine, but that’s too sanitized for a Blyton mood – for that you need some really good sandwiches and cake. The trouble is that I find most sandwiches boring, dull and dry. They don’t seem to have that quality of being luxuriously delicious, and yet convenient – convenience seems to trump gourmandizing every time. So this weekend for the kids and my picnic in the park, I had to improvise and come up with my own sandwich ideas – and they were truly delicious. I’ve finally got a repertoire of sandwiches which taste fab and live up to my Enid Blyton dreams J.

Our picnic menu yesterday: Santorini tomato salad, green salad with figs as described below, multigrain bread, pita bread, homemade hummus, chholia kebabs ( substituting for falafel), lettuce, grapes and strawberries.
1.       Openfaced sandwich with salad:
Spread a layer of dhania chutney on the bread. Top with a slice of cheddar cheese, ideally, not processed cheese. Add the salad just before eating, else it will sog through!! Salad – two kinds of lettuce including lollo rosso, cherry tomatoes sliced in half, sliced scallions walnuts and fresh figs in a dressing of olive oil, honey, lime juice, salt and pepper.

2.       Openface sandwich with Santorini tomato salad
Spread either the dhania-peanut chutney or Boursin garlic and herbs cheese on the bread. Top with cheese if using chutney, else skip it. Layer on the Santorini tomato salad just before serving.

3.       Sandwich with paneer-yogurt dip, tomato and cucumber slices
Self explanatory – spread a thick layer of the dip, top with tomato and/ or cucumber slices and top with another slice of bread.

4.       Sandwich with guacamole
Self explanatory again – thick layer of guacamole, and if you really want, some sliced tomatoes on top

5.       Middle east inspired
Thick layer of hummus, topped with salad, falafel or tomatoes, scallions, cucumber

6.       The dessert sandwich
Thick layer of Nutella, then thinly sliced bananas and if you want to be self-indulgent, chopped toasted hazelnuts, roast almond bits…

PS. I use multigrain bread
PS2. These should be assembled just before eating as the dips etc can sog the bread if left too long.

Friday, February 22, 2013

My experiments with microwaving

My oven can always be counted on in a crisis - to misbehave, that is. Time and again, when I have just finished mixing a batch of cake batter or I have guests coming over for dinner and have planned on a baked main course, thar she blows - blew rather, because today I just blew my top and hoofed her out of my kitchen. That was after I had the butter all nice and melty for a Victoria sponge, and the oven, after two rounds of recent repairs, just suddenly refused to switch on! I had also planned on my version of mac and cheese so let's just say it wasn't the best time for any kitchen equipment to get all diva on me.

Anyhow, the desire to bake was overwhelming - despite yesterday's fiasco which started with me trying to bake a pound cake and ended with me turning out a pound pancake( more on that some other time). So I quickly looked up some microwave recipes for both the dishes and set to work. I must say, I am quite pleased with how they turned out, though I have ordered a new oven which should be winging it to my house pretty soon.

Mac and cheese: My kids love cheesy pasta sauce, and I insist on their getting their requisite servings of veg. So here's a somewhat gourmet yet healthy version of mac and cheese:

1 cup penne/ macaroni
2 cups mixed vegetables - carrots, beans, peas, yellow and red bell peppers - diced
1 large onion, diced
3 tbsp flour
1.5 tbsp butter or ghee
Salt to taste
2 tsp herbs - fresh or dried - basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram
1 pod garlic, crushed
1 tbsp olive oil pomace
1 cup of mixed cheese - cheddar, mozzarella, romano, parmesan, any other hard cheese you'd like ( leicester...)
1 cup low fat milk
1 tsp mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil. Add the crushed garlic, then the onions and saute till onions are translucent and soft. Add in the other vegetables and the herbs and saute briefly ( 2-3 mts). Then cover and cook until the vegetables are al dente - cooked but still with a bite.

Meanwhile, put 4 cups of water into a saucepan to heat; add salt. Once the water starts boiling, put in the penne and cook for about 8 mts, until the penne is al dente as well, then drain well.

Heat the butter in a saucepan. When hot, turn the heat down and add the flour. Stir until the mixture forms soft lumps, then turn the heat off. Add a little bit of the milk and make a paste of the mixture. Then add the rest of the milk, mustard, salt and pepper and start heating the mixture, stirring so no lumps are formed. Then add in the cheese and stor on a low flame, until the cheese is melted.

Mix the vegetables, pasta and cheese sauce and put into a microwave-safe dish. Top with a little parmesan, if you're feeling indulgent, and breadcrumbs for added crunch. Microwave on high for 3-4 minutes, then let sit for another minute or so before serving.

Victoria sponge
Weigh 3 eggs, in their shells. Use the same weight of butter, sugar and self-raising flour.

Cream the butter until pale and fluffy. Add in the sugar and beat the butter and sugar together. Add a tsp of vanilla extract. Beat the eggs one by one and add them to the butter-sugar mixture one by one. Then fold in the flour, a little at a time. Add half a cup of milk to keep the mixture extra moist for the microwave.

Pour into a microwave-safe vessel and bake for 6 minutes.

Cut the cake into two horizontal halves and sandwich together with raspberry jam.

I served this with caramelised oranges, and it tasted divine.

Caramelised oranges:
110 gms caster sugar
100 ml orange juice
3 oranges, peeled and segmented

Melt the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt over medium heat. Never stir the pan, just swirl it as the sugar starts caramelising. Meanwhile, heat the orange juice on another burner, and bring it to the boil. As soon as the caramel turns golden brown, pour in the hot orange juice carefully ( it will sputter, so be careful) and stir until the mixture becomes a smooth liquid. Add in the orange segments and let sit.

Spread some of the caramelised OJ onto the cake top.

Serve the cake with the caramelised oranges on the side.