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Apr 4, 2015

Copycat Series Recipe #2 - Garlic Butter Chicken

There are few memorable meals in my life, especially because my works entails eating out as much as 4 times a week. So either the food, the company or the conversation has to be the driver for making a memorable meal. One such meal was with my dearest friend, soul sister and possibly the world's best Pastry Chef, Avanti Mathur of Sweet Nothings by Avanti Mathur fame! We met over lunch at an obscure Tibetan/Chinese bistro called Hachiba and went on to enjoy some of the best garlic chili ribs and momos this side of town! That of course was a definitive factor in making the afternoon pleasant and coupled with the amazing heart to heart we had, it became a memorable meal. Hachiba became a staple in many ways, we met there again and I took my family over at least twice a week, we even got Andy hooked on the Pork Momos. Hachiba then pulled a Beyonce by moving to a new location, 1/2 km from my house! Considering they don't do home delivery, we now go 3 times a month and more if and when we can. Our favourites include the American Chopsuey, a dish that has no geography and I suspect that the version we have is as Indian as it can get. We also leave the deceiving sounding 'Garlic Butter Chicken', nothing at all to do with Delhi's Butter Chicken and thank God for that, this is a creamy, garlicky sauce with large chunks of juicy, boneless chicken and that's it! It is shockingly simple to make and we learned that over an evening when every one was out and Ally and I were craving Hachiba. The only way out was to re-create Hachiba's Garlic Butter Chicken at home!

I don't like freezing meats or cooking frozen meats (and foods) but thanks to the dog we always have chicken in the freezer, boneless chicken is best to portion and pack in zip lock bags, so all we had to do with defrost that and figure out the flavours in the sauce. Neither of which was a tough job, the warm weather helped defrost the chicken without the micro (I hate that too!) and sauce seemed like nothing but loads of garlic and loads of cream.This is best enjoyed with a simple fried rice, the kind you make with egg! I go a bit rustic Chinese on this one. I saute thinly sliced spring onions (with a bit of the greens) and a white onion in a little peanut oil, break in 2 eggs and scramble, then add 2 tbsp of really good, dark soy sauce and 2-2/1/2 cups of cooked, cold white rice. Toss it all up on a high flame till rice warms up and gets soy coloured and egg is but just threads to add flavour!  

Copycat Garlic Butter Chicken (Best had at Hachiba, Gurgaon)

Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2 tbsp Olive Oil
250 gms Boneless Chicken Breast, cut into 2" pieces
2 tbsp Dark Soy Sauce
10-12 Cloves of Garlic

1 1/2 Cups Fresh Cream, Amul will do, I suspect they use it too!
½ Cup Milk, mainly to peter down the sauce if you like, so check seasoning once you get the consistency you want, they keep it rather thick!
Salt
Freshly ground pepper, use white pepper if you don’t like the speckled look, Hachiba does!
Spring onion greens for garnish

Method: 

Marinate the chicken in the soy sauce, just to salt and colour the meat a bit, so you can marinate it as long as it takes you to prep the other ingredients. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan, crush the garlic with the flat side of a knife to let out all the flavours, it has a bit of frying to take so no need to chop or mince. Add the garlic and saute on a low flame for 1-2 minutes, add the pieces of marinated boneless chicken, drain the soy. Fry on a high flame, stirring occasionally to evenly cook and lightly brown the chicken, this should be about 3-4 minutes, reduce the heat and slowly pour in the cream, fold it in gently, check the consistency and add milk if you like. Season with salt and pepper and gently fold it all in. Simmer covered for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with thinly sliced spring onion greens and serve hot with egg fried rice!
Serving Suggestion: If you want to add texture, try garnishing with garlic slivers baked or fried till crisp and light brown! 

Mar 25, 2015

Copycat Series Recipe #1 - Chicken Hakimi

Here's our welcome to summer, when we seek the privilege of staying indoors, avoid mid afternoon luncheons and wish our kitchens were air conditioned! This mini series of copycat recipes come from a soon to be felt need to eat at home as often as possible, no reflection on hygiene per se but it's easier to cool off at home. Sometimes a summer commute is enough to kill my meal, especially if outdoor parking is involved! Despite the fact that my work as Editor-Events at CaLDRON Magazine and at Chef at Large keeps me 'eating out' at an average of 3 times a week, I end up finding comfort in standard favourites at hand picked cafes and restaurants in my city. I flag this series off with one of my all time favourite Kebab Houses, Al Karam's, owned by dear friend but he knows all to well, we love the food as much as we love him! There is nothing gourmet about Al Karams but it is by far the freshest, most authentic Old Delhi kebab house in town, the flavour are honest albeit hyper-spiced but then they're supposed to be that way. 'Purani Dilli' food is fiery and one must tread with caution, we found a friend in their Chicken Hakimi, where the fire of the chicken tikkas is lightly doused by dollops of cream and a sharp, almost bitter flavour of dry fenugreek. The cream comes into play once more and adds a much needed sweetness to offset the fenugreek.

Even as I child my mother used to say that I could 'read' flavours. I would taste a dish and identify a few key ingredients here or there and my mother would complete the (recipe) puzzle. She was famous for trying dishes in restaurants or even at wedding buffets for that matter and then trying to replicate them at home. A much revered one remains entrenched with Ashok Bhaiya, our man Friday for 30 years and possibly the only man with this recipe because the said establishment closed long ago. This was 'Chicken Khas-e-Kalinga' from the erstwhile Qutab Hotel's Indian kitchen and even though it tasted suspiciously like a regular homemade chicken curry, the addition of 'kalonji' or nigella seeds made it gourmet food fit for a 5 star, this was back in 1994! Mom wasn't with me long enough to see my food journey but I know she would be happy with the way the kitchen has shaped up in my home! We re-purpose, we are going somewhat organic (I'm still so iffy on so many things), we make our own snacks and breads, we make preserves and squashes, pickles too but most of all, we come together at the table and create lovely food memories, as often as possible. And some of those memories we bring home and recreate in our kitchen just to remain close to them!

Copycat Chicken Hakimi (Best had at Al Karam’s Gurgaon/Delhi)

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
½ kg boneless chicken, cut into 2” pieces

Marinade: 
 ½ cup Yogurt
1 tbsp Deggi Mirch
1 tbsp Coriander powder
1 tbsp Cumin powder
1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp Lemon Juice
OR
2.5 tbsp Tandoori Chicken Masala + ½ Cup Yogurt
Salt

For the ‘Copycat Hakimi’ gravy:
1 cup Cream
4 tbsp Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek)

3 tbsp Olive Oil for frying
2 tbsp Chopped Fresh Coriander leaves for garnish
1 tbsp Ginger Slivers for garnish
Lemon Juice (optional)

Method: Marinate the chicken if you're cooking from scratch, if you're going with store bought marinated chicken tikka, then you may want to halve them since we won't be skewered and grilling or roasting. Marinate for about 2 hrs. As much as I love even an oven char, it tends to try the a meat like lean chicken breast, out pretty fast. Direct heat of a coal grill is best but then how many of us are blessed with tandoor's in our kitchens?! Sigh! 

Heat the olive oil in a deep wok, keep space for the meat to move around, this is all high flame cooking. Don't let it burn or overheat, add the marinated chicken and stir fry on a high flame for about 5-7 minutes or till the moisture evaporates and the pieces begin to pan char. Lower the flame and slowly add the cream, fold it in gently, once it begins to bubble, see if you want a bit more of the masala gravy and add a little milk to thin it. Check the salt, add the kasuri methi, mix it in gently. Transfer to a serving bowl, use a spatula to get all the good stuff, garnish with fresh coriander and garlic slivers! Enjoy!

Serving Suggestion: This is best enjoyed with a hot naan or a homemade pita.

Feb 22, 2015

Blondie Beyond Music

I love Blondie, one of my ultimate Rock icons, she's so much of a woman that it makes gape in awe, yes, I still watch her videos! Debbie Harry is one of those empowering influences in my life along with Joan Jett and Stevie Nicks, I still dress like Stevie! I still have that Blondie poster on my mind, I should try and find it online, I have a picture of me that I like to believe looks just like it (I wish!!). I have such vivid memories of exactly what was panning out in my life when I was addicted to Heart of Glass and then there was Call Me that still blows me away but my most favourite song by Blondie has to be, Rapture! This recipe is a tribute to the original Blondie, Deborah Harry, all the 'woman' a woman needs to be with boots that were meant for walking, meant for walking over millions of hearts ...that probably deserved it anyway! A Blondie is essentially a Brownie sans chocolate, I know, what's the point? The point is, texture, that chewiness, the slight bite and a crusty corner and there are plenty of times you don't have chocolate at hand, that's the point of making Blondies. They also need such few and basic ingredients, I don't even use a hand mixer, so a mixing bowl, a whisk and a baking pan yields half a dozen bars of buttery, sweet-salty Blondie treats! They are also very versatile, you can top with milk chocolate, you can add chocolate chips, nuts, dried fruit or flavours like coffee, hazelnut, almond, vanilla to the original recipe and make a different type every time. The key here is to let the Blondie slab cool before you slice and eat, the chewiness sets in and the crust becomes tight and crisp, it's true delight!

The Rip Her to Shreds Blondie!

Ingredients:

125 gms Salted Yellow Butter
150 gms Flour
1 large Egg
225 gms Brown Sugar, I use a large grain, lose packed for this, else it melts too fast
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2 tbsp Instant Coffee Powder
10-15 ml Milk

Method:

Melt the butter till is soft but not entirely runny, add the brown sugar and use a whisk to blend it all; together, 3-4 minutes of whisking will do. Add the egg, whisk for another minute or so and add the vanilla. Sift the flour and coffee together, I use Bru, it's got a nice Espresso aftertaste, you can up the coffee by a tbsp and add another 5 ml of milk if you want it stronger. Add the coffee/flour mix to the egg, butter and sugar, whisk it all together, add the milk slowly to make a batter that's sticky and thick but not like dough coming together. Grease an 8x8" pan, I used the KitchenAid one, no need to line, the Blondie slab comes out perfectly. Use a spatula to pat in the batter evenly, fill in the corners, but wipe off excess that is over the level of the batter or it bakes and burns. Bake at 200C for30-40 minutes till it is firm and crisp looking on the top and coming off the sides. Cool completely, de-mould and slice into squares! Enjoy

The Shirazine Seafood Curry Soup



I am drawn to Asian food like I am drawn to French - Italian, it is something from within! I realize India is very much in Asia but when it comes to food, they are two different continents. Influences aside, just regional Indian cuisines could belong to individual nations, so including India in the whole of Asia is preposterous in my opinion.  I feel bad enough clubbing Asian cuisines as a 'block'! Take nonya sauce from Peranakan food, or Korean Gochujang sauce or Japanese Takoyaki sauce, all Asian and all exquisitely unique. I love how Koreans ferment food versus the Swedes or Germans. Kimchi over Sauerkraut, any day! Just the kick makes all the difference, not chilli or spice, the timing of it , the importance of it! I feel like my palate looks for these 'bursts' when I chew and that surprise is usually missing from European cuisines, as far as Russia actually and it has to be the Middle East where the presence of these surprise flavours began to emerge. Spicy Lentil Stews, broth made from bones of lamb, hooves even, cooked overnight where just one bayleaf makes all the difference! And here you can start your journey of soups. If you think the journey will break in India, here's the low down on Indian soups, we have way more than just Mulligatawny, a soup most Indians go their entire lifetime without ever tasting! Indian soups are versions of petered down curries of excess water from boiled lentils, seasoned and spices to make a concoction akin to soup and aren't always a course but more of a between meals, mini meal or snack or an elixir for the common cold!

But our personal love for soups was nurtured with Asian flavours. We usually ate them at Chinese restaurants and the staples included chicken sweet corn, hot and sour chicken and my all time favourite, Talumein. Urban legend of Punjabi Chinese eateries claimed it was a soup made with leftovers so it had a variety of veggies, pork, shrimp,  chicken and noodles. So here's the kicker, if you Google Talumein soup you get only Indian blogs and sites with a recipe for what I have begun to suspect is not so much a Chinese soup but a soup we think hails from China! Thankfully Pan Asian kitchens made an appearance and we could indulge in Manchow and even fairly decent Tom Yum and then we fast forwards to today when my favourites include Vietnamese Pho and Bak Kut Teh from Singapore. A deep, rich, pork soup made with short ribs. The best Pho is most definitely at Blue Ginger, Taj Palace Hotel and I haven't been able to find Bak Kut Teh locally unless there's a Singapore food fest in town! The next recipe is probably going to be Bak Kut Teh but till then, here's a staple from my kitchen, it is more of a meal and I like to mix it up by adding a variety of mushrooms or changing up the seafood selection. Try it with a few pieces of eel, the pre-cut kind from a sushi freezer will do because you need so little but nothing like fresh! Or make a mushrooms mix of oyster, enoki and button (for bulk and budget) and throw in a shiitake or two for good will. This coconut milk based curry/soup is going to be the last of our winter soups, as much as I hate Gazpacho, I am tempted to work on a summer soup recipe, Maybe I will make it a natural cooler and not serve it cold!

The Shirazine Asian Seafood Soup


Serves: 2

Ingredients:


200 ml Coconut Milk
100 ml Fish Stock
100 gms Shrimp

50 gms Sliced Octopus
150 gms Fish, white, firm, cubed
75 gms Egg Noodles
2 Spring Onions, cubed
2" Lemongrass piece
1 Lemon Leaf
1 tbsp Ginger, grated
2 tbsp Fresh Coriander, coarsely torn up
1/2 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
1 tbsp Sesame Oil
1 tbsp Fish Sauce
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Sea Salt

Method:

Since I was using the Philips Soup Maker for this soup, all I had to do was put all the ingredients together, into the jug and press 'Chunky'! I did tweak the liquid to make sure it didn't cross the 'max' marking but other than that, it took just 23 minutes for our meal to be ready. When I use noodles in the soup maker, the liquid goes in first, 23 minutes is a long time for noodles to cook so they tend to stick to the bottom. If you want to make this soup in a wok instead, you need to do pretty much the same steps, but you have the luxury of adding the fresh coriander and the noodles at the half way mark and probably let it cook for about 20 minutes or the fish could break up. I doubled the carbs and served this with sticky rice topped with fried spring onion and garlic and a garnish of black and white sesame seeds. Very Korean and very delightful. Enjoy!

Feb 19, 2015

An Ode to Winter with KitchenAid!

I don't think I will ever convert to baking in silicon, EVER! And I hope I never have to eat my words! The day the world runs out of stoneware or aluminium, ionized bakeware, that day I will start baking in whatever else I can find but wrapping my head around silicon is not likely to happen. So far I have managed fairly well with some of my mom's vintage glass bakeware from Pyrex, truly sturdy stuff, you won't find this girth anymore and a few pound cake tins because she made a pound cake a week. My collection is a motley assembly of aluminium or aluminized steel cupcake trays, plenty of cookie trays, cake shapes, even a hideous clover shape I never use but I'm always looking for more. When it comes to accessories, I am very brand conscious, my spatulas are from Rubbermaid but since they are so hard to source locally, I have converted to Le Creuset, they take heat extremely well. My whisks are basic wire whisks but no silicon or plastics again, I like the flexible ones most but for sauces, nothing like a solid stainless steel one! Basting brushes ought to be Rubbermaid too because we use it over grills, super high heat! So far the bakeware available locally has been very standard, no real difference in quality and absolutely no variety, which always lands most of us at Sadar Bazaar to buy aluminium that will dent and over heat too! There is Norpro and Wonderchef, but when you gauge them by weight and build, you will see what I mean by sturdy! Which brings us to the new bakeware launched by KitchenAid and they were nice enough to share a non-stick 6 cavity sized muffin pan (which comes in a set of 2) and a 9x9x2" square cake pan and my first impression was that these are by far the most professional grade baking pans available in retail! The sheer weight of the tray and the pan are indicative of quality, the non stick coating is matte and thick, I'm sure that adds to the sturdiness and the weight. Now weighty pans matter because they retain and distribute heat differently from basic tins. You will notice the most apparent difference will be in the cupcake liners, they won't brown as much when you use a heavier cupcake tray. Even distribution of heat obviously ensures even cooking, so no more squidgy centers!

The bakeware is made with professional weight aluminized steel resists warping up to 230 C and perfectly squared corners give perfect results if you're doing sheet cakes or bars. And since I also have a problem with run-of-the-mill non stick cookware, in KitchenAid products, I was happy to learn, they use
PFOA & PTFE free 3 coat non stick system which gives excellent non stick performance and ensures baked goods release easily from the surface. Though I used cupcake liners, I also made a batch without them, and the outer finish of the cupcake was smoother and crumb free, compared to a peeled cupcake baked in a liner. To celebrate my new goodies, I decided to pay homage to the season with two of my favourite winter fruits - oranges and strawberries. These light and fluffy orange cupcakes are dressed with a strawberry sugar glaze and can be topped with a variety of toppings, with a kid in the house, we had loads of fun with fresh strawberries, edible glitter and pastel sprinkles!

The Shirazine Orange Cupcakes with Strawberry Icing

Ingredients:

130 gms Flour
120 gms Butter
120 gms Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Essence
2 Eggs
1 tsp Baking Powder
40 ml Orange Juice, fresh is best
1 tsp Orange Rind, grated

Icing:

100 gms Icing Sugar
2-4 tbsp Strawberry puree

Method:

Mix the orange rind and baking powder in the flour and set aside. Use a hand mixer to beat the butter and sugar together, till it is light in colour and fluffy too. Add one egg at a time, whip it all up nice and good, 2-3 minutes, add the vanilla essence, after this the mix may look curdled but that's fine, it will all come together when you add the flour. Alternate and add the flour and the orange juice to get a thick, smooth batter. Line the cupcake tray, pour in batter to cover a little over half the liner. Bake at 200C for 10-12 minutes or till the tops are firm and a skewer comes out clean. For the icing, puree few strawberries with a tbsp of orange juice so you get a thick but not pulpy consistency. Use a wire whisk to blend the puree into the icing sugar, one tbsp at a time. Liquids soak up icing sugar spectacularly well, 2 tbsp of juice is all you need for a cup of icing sugar. Make smooth but slightly thick icing, too runny will get soaked in by the cupcakes. Muffins are more dense and hold runny toppings better. Once the cupcakes are done, remove and cool completely. Top with a dollop of icing and then you can have fun with decorating them! Enjoy!

New Toy in Town!

I'm talking about the all-new Philips Soup Maker (HR2201/81 1.2 litres) which has been my kitchen companion this past week and I have to say it, I kind of love it! I'm not a big one for gadgets, kitchen or otherwise, you can say I'm set in my ways. I enjoyed the process and the science of the Air Fryer but it didn't inspire me enough to go buy one. The 2 months we had it was about all we could manage of it! But the Soup Maker hits 'home' for me, we eat soup through winter time, either for breakfast or dinner and as much as I would like to believe, I don't really make more than 3-4 types. Can't say if it's the novelty or the convenience but this past week, we have had a new soup every day! Little larger than an electric kettle, this appliance is one of the easiest to use and store, much like a slow cooker, everything goes in together (unless you like to complicate things!) and you have hot, fresh soup in under 25 minutes, whether you choose chunky or smooth. Weighing just over 2 kilos, I won't say its one of the sturdiest products in the segment but it makes for easy storage, since counter space is soon becoming a luxury! There is a function for smoothies as well, probably to make it appealing for summer, that makes sense too, I wouldn't buy seasonal gadgets and since smoothies don't need the 'heat', they're done in less than 3 minutes. Given the weather right now, we only tried one smoothie, the Banana Mocha Caramel and it was smooth, creamy and thick, but then we used a dollop of ice cream and fresh cream to bring it together, so no real reflection on the appliance but it does the job! If I had one beef with the smoothie function it would be to do with volume, even the minimum is more than 2 glasses! The maximum however, makes soup for about 4 people as long as its not a main meal, in which case you may need two batches or add a side of breads, cheese and salad!

I started with the recipe booklet which comes with the Soup Maker, it's easy and fairly innovative, with summer soups on the lines of gazpacho. I was most curious about the 'chunky' feature because we like a little bulk in our meals. I realized after a soup or two that the cooking time for all the ingredients needs to be essentially the same, so if you're doing a Minestrone, then the vegetables need to be cut just right, else the macaroni will cook through but the veggies may stay al dente or worse, mushy! The chunky feature sets for 23 minutes, which is plenty of time to cut 2 cm pieces of carrots but potatoes tend to get too soft. You could spend time with the machine and set a rhythm, where you know when to put it off manually. For a simple noodle soup, it makes sense, I don't like very large pieces of vegetables or meats in my soup, so at times 23 minutes is a bit much. Creamy soups are a delight in this appliance, if you master the recipe to balance the liquid and the bulk, they do turn out rich and thick. The booklet recipes are very well curated because each one turned out near perfect. The only tweaking I needed to do was with seasonings and garnishes. By the end of the only downside was the 'cleaning' part, best done yourself because the jug 'body' has two electrical inlets built in. I use my thumb to cover the top of the handle electrical inlet and wash out from the 'pouring' side only. Sounds tedious but the soups are worth it. As a word of caution, if you plan to use fatty foods like cheese, pork, excessive cream, then the cleaning will be harder to do, the stainless steel body really holds on to that fat! Our first three soups were - Tomato & Roasted Red Bell Peppers with Parmesan, Bacon & Corn and Classic Minestrone! But for this post I wanted to use one of my favourite veggies and a very underrated one unfortunately, the humble pumpkin. Coupled with fragrant roasted garlic and the sharpness of aged cheddar, this is a hearty soup worthy of being a meal and if you're vegetarian then all the more!

The Shirazine Roasted Pumpkin and Garlic Soup



Ingredients:
 
1 kg Pumpkin, I usually use the green one but in winters even the yellow one is quite sweet and soft.
2-3 Spring Onions, cut into 2 cm cubes
6-8 Garlic Cloves
350 ml Chicken Stock*
2-3 tbsp Fresh Cream
1 tbsp Olive Oil
4-5 tbsp Grated Aged Cheddar
½ tsp Cumin Powder
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:

Grease a cookie tray and place the slabs/slices of the pumpkin, drizzle lightly with olive oil and roast at 200C for 30-45 minutes, till the tops start to brown and the pumpkin has softened. You can use a small tart tin or the side of the cookie tray to roast the garlic, which needs just about 6-8 minutes. Remove the pumpkin once roasted, cooled and remove the skin, cut the flesh into large cubes. Set up the Philips Soupmaker, pour in the stock, the seasonings and the spring onions, add the roasted garlic and pumpkin, the pumpkin being sweetish can be sticky so it’s best to pour in the stock first.  Add the cheese and cream and set to ‘Smooth’, which takes about 23 minutes. Serve hot garnished with a sprig of mint and a dollop of cream or more grated cheddar, or as we would do it, both! This soup is slightly sweet-ish though the garlic cuts it perfectly, you could spice it up with a sprinkle of smoked paprika and if you don't mind the 'tang' then Tabasco works wonders as well!

*Chicken Stock

750 gms Chicken Bones, cleaned and washed
1.5 ltrs of water
2 Carrots, diced
1 Celery stalk, diced
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Red Onion, diced
For Winter Stock: 2" Cinnamon, 4 cloves, 4 cardamom, 1 bayleaf
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Put all the ingredients on a boil. If the chicken bones are clean, then you will have less scum on the top, you can just skim it off, sieving through a cheesecloth when the stock is done also helps clear it. Simmer the stock, covered for about 2-3 hrs, you can add 200-300 ml of water hafl way if you need to, though for strong stock, this will make 500 ml and can be kept refrigerated for a week.

**Read a detailed review of the Philips Soup Maker!

Feb 16, 2015

Winds of Change and Spiced Crackers

I remember the conversation Andy and I had when his work abroad began to pick up, it made more sense for him to be there while I had a lot building up here! So I stayed back in the home we had set up with all our love and a wonderful collection of vintage knick knacks and he took on the mantle of setting up his studio! The biggest saving grace at that point, for both of us was my dad, my brother had just moved to UK and dad wasn't too happy staying by himself, albeit just 6 km away, so dad moved in with us. It was one of the finest decisions we ever made! He is so good for Ally, just his presence, his wisdom, his love and of course his humour. Andy was able to spread his wings without worrying about his girls, the canine one included and for me the biggest shift began to happen in the kitchen. From making Andy's favourites, I was now cooking for a senior, one with a varied palate but a very different one. Dad's culinary challenges always included a lot of vegetarian cooking, something slightly alien to me, I can do plenty of sides but I have very few vegetarian main course stars on my menu. Though dad was up for a 18 piece platter of Nigiri, there were days he wanted simple joys - kadhi chawal, arhar ki dal, mangodi and fresh, homemade naans! So I can safely say that in the last 3 years, I have revisited my mothers recipes, dug into the cuisine of my maiden home and made 'nanu' as happy as Andy is when he is home!

This discovery or rather re-discovery coupled with a need to reduce our dependance on packaged products made me start baking for papa too. Ally could get away with peanut butter and banana muffins and a weekend of chocolate chunk cake cookies but for dad I had to think 'lean' and 'light'. He prefers savouries anyway and the languid days of matthi and achaar are few and far between, so I decided to improvise and make a lighter, baked version. The maths of the dish changed, it couldn't be too thick or it would bake forever and come out like baati and there shall be no dunking in ghee, so the final verdict was - Herb Spiced Crackers.

The Shirazine Herb Spiced Crackers


Ingredients:



125 gms Flour
100 gms Whole-Wheat Flour
4-6 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
100 gms grated Cheddar, smoked works very well or pick aged hard cheddar, it bakes better
1 tsp salt, taste the dough to check when you’re done, you can add a sprinkle of sea salt to up it if need be
1 tsp Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
1/2 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
2 tsp Dried Parsley
1 tsp Dried Mint, this adds a very slight hint of sweetness, I would love to put more but then these are savoury and the cheddar is sharp enough!
120 ml Water, you may need more to bring the dough together, but a tough slightly tight dough is better to roll out nice and thin
Flour for rolling
Sea salt to sprinkle over the rolled crackers

Method: 

Mix all the dry ingredients. Pour in the water to form firm dough, I use a paddle motion with my hand, the way a stand mixers paddles would move, it starts to bring the dough together much faster and there is less of the ‘sticky’ panic. Once the dough comes together, knead on a floured surface, gently, for few minutes so the dough becomes more pliable and the cheese and herbs settle in. Cover with cling film and let it rest on the counter for ½ hr or so. Liberally flour your work surface, take a golf ball sized piece of dough and roll out evenly, roll it as thin as possible, almost translucent. Gently transfer to a baking tray, you don’t need to grease it, these are paper thin and will bake and rise on their own. Use the tip of a sharp knife to cut the cracker sheet into squares/rectangles. Bake at 200C for 6-8 minutes or till the crackers appear evenly browned and crisp. Cool before storing, they tend to become firmer and crisper as they cool.
Makes: 18 - 24 pieces depending on the size you cut.



Jan 1, 2015

The Shirazine 2014 Tribute - Bacon Jam!

Our love for bacon is legendary, this statement feels like deja vu, I have a feeling I've started a post this way before! Our hunt for the perfect slices of bacon continues though we do have better choice now than we did 18 years ago when I was in culinary school and met a kindred soul in the shape of Andy! We communed over food and music and our love for bacon had us devouring platefuls whenever stock arrived in Manipal, all the way from Bangalore! Then and now! Now we can get heritage bacon in the neighbourhood gourmet store or go old school and hit 'Khubchand Piggeries' in Connaught Place and stock up on cooking bacon. Thick slices of beautifully layered bacon, meat and milky, white fat, waiting to wrap itself over a roasting bird or be the base of a Frittata or better still, become pulverized to little short of posterity, in the form of Bacon Jam! One of the best versions I've had was at Holy Smoke, a BBQ/Grill in Cyberhub. Relatively dry, salty, sweet, spicy goodness, with a hint of cumin and bacon bits, smoked to perfection. I wasn't aiming to mimic that, I want more of a relish, moister perhaps and something that retains more chewiness and less crispiness that comes from smoked bacon. I did research my BBQ Bible and found an interesting recipe with Bourbon which came together with an idea from Martha Stewart, though her version seemed a bit too sweet for our liking! After which a batch of shallots were discovered, abandoned in the fridge, which meant, Bacon Jam had to happen! I like how shallots caramelize versus red onions, which shrivel up and brown, shallots won't let them burn I figured, so as always, the pantry birthed a recipe!

The bacon in stock was sadly breakfast bacon, a bit to thin for this prep and not salty enough in my opinion but since recipe was a resolution for 2015, it had to happen. I made a small batch and have tried to tweak the recipe in the experiment #2 today, this one has more balanced flavours and thicker, saltier bacon. Bourbon had to be a component, that's where I want the smokiness from, the spice kick will come from chilli flakes (pizza delivery bonus!) and since maple syrup has a distinct flavour, I decided to go with honey for sweetness and no brown sugar as a lot of recipes suggested. The final product is more of a relish that a jam, a little high on spice and sweet, the salt comes when you have bacon in a bite, since I had packed in the bacon in my second attempt, I loved the balance. This is a fantastic table relish in this weather and given that I retained the bacon fat and added honey, it should stay for a month, if it lasts that long! It makes for an excellent condiment with roasts, roast birds in particular need a sweet, relish add-on and if you want a royal breakfast, fry a couple of eggs, sunny side up, a side of pan roasted tomatoes, potato wedges, a buttery croissant and this Bacon Jam!


The Shirazine Bacon Jam

Makes: About 650 gms

Ingredients:

400 gms Thick, salty cooking bacon or 2 packs of breakfast bacon
2 large Red Onions, chopped fine
2 Shallots, chopped fine
7-10 cloves of Garlic, smashed
150 ml Bourbon
100 ml + 50 ml Honey
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tsp Cumin Powder
2 tsp Red Chilli Flakes
Sea Salt

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a shallow saucepan or frying pan large enough to hold the bacon and liquids. Add slices of the bacon evenly and fry till crispy. Try and keep the flame high and turning the slices occasionally, sometimes a lot of moisture and fat is released on a low flame and the bacon simmers instead of frying.  Once the bacon is well fried and evenly brown and crispy, remove on a paper towel and add the onions and garlic to the fat. Saute on a medium flame and let the onions sweat and start to caramelize, once the red onions start to brown, add the cumin powder and chilli flakes, mix it up and pour in the honey and bourbon. While that starts to bubble, cut up the bacon into small bits with a kitchen knife and set aside. Put the flame high and let the mix reduce to a thick, syrupy relish, about 4-5 minutes. Check the seasoning, time to add the sea salt if you feel the bacon isn't salty enough, which local breakfast bacon usually isn't. In a glass mixing bowl, throw in the bacon bit and top with the cooled relish base, use a hand blender or food processed to give a quick buzz to bacon and relish together. To get a thick, chunky Bacon Jam, just a quick whiz would be enough, if you want a slightly finer texture, go for another! If you plan to serve this as a side with a roast then don't process at all, keep it bit sized and thick. Cool the mix completely before bottling in a clean, air tight mason jar. Enjoy!
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