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Dec 15, 2010

Happy 5th Birthday Ally


I have been planning the menu for Ally’s family b’day dinner for weeks and I am always stumped because it is soooo hard to please everybody. The truth is a birthday party for a child should serve the child’s favourite foods but since this particular child is already having a friend’s pizza party over the weekend, I am doing a bit of a mix and match tonight. I have to think of Andy who is a wholehearted meat eater, my Dad who definitely loves meats but always prefers a side of greens, my brother, who pretty much loves anything out of the kitchen and of course the Chief Guest who has finally decided that she would very much like to have a simple fish and ‘mota’ chips (fat chips, our name for potato wedges!).

So this is how the menu is looking as of now –

Starters:

Bacon and spinach mini quiches
Mushroom tarts

Main Course:

Chicken Pulao
Cucumber Raita
Crumb fried sole fillets
Herbed potato wedges

BACON & SPINACH MINI QUICHES

Ingredients:

1 tsp cooking oil
6 strips bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
10-12 buttons mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 small shallot or spring onion, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped spinach leaves
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
4 egg large whites
1/4 cup double toned milk
1/3 cup grated parmesan or cheddar cheese

Mixed greens for serving

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Lightly coat 6 tart tins with oil or butter. Heat a non-stick skillet and add the bacon sliced, cook turning frequently until crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In the same skillet, heat the olive oil and throw in the mushrooms, shallot, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until shallots are soft and the mushrooms are dry and lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the spinach and nutmeg until the spinach is just wilted, but still bright green, 2 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, egg whites, milk, and salt and pepper until well combined. Stir in the cheese. Divide the egg mixture evenly between the tart tins, filling them about less than halfway. Top evenly with the mushroom and spinach mixture and then the chopped bacon. Bake until the quiches are well risen, golden brown and set, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in the pan 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with greens.

Dec 4, 2010

Shirazi Baked Chicken


I got so mushy driving to work this morning... as much as I love how that sounds I wasn’t actually driving (I don’t know how to!), I was languishing in the backseat and listening to John Mayer when I saw the nativity scene set outside Central Mall here in Gurgaon. I was so overwhelmed that I think I managed a couple of tears too! Christmas time always does that to me, it makes me very very happy and very very emotional at the same time. I feel such a deep sense of humility, almost like I don’t deserve everything I have and every time I feel this way I am drawn back into my kitchen, the one place I feel I can appease everybody and in turn thank them for their invaluable contribution to my life. I think 11 years of convent schooling did its job, December is the time I am both joyous and deeply thankful. This is the month we were blessed with the world’s most amazing baby, who turns 5 in few days ...this year I am baking the cake for her family birthday party, the friend birthday party gets a pro cake. My mother baked wonderful cakes and savouries, she was a master decorator and my most memorable cake was for my two digit birthday, she made me a wall clock cake with the time of my birth for my 10th birthday. Times have certainly changed, Ally wants me to make a Tiramisu cake!

This week has been busy and all I have managed is a south Indian meal of dosa and
sambhar, a dozen mince samosa’s, two dozen pan rolls and a yummy dinner of sea salt rubbed mackarel’s. I am starting my Christmas cooking mania this weekend, even though I won’t be here for Christmas, I will be at my mother-in-law’s, another kitchen with a huge heart.

Few nights back I baked chicken and served it with garlic mashed potatoes and tomato and olive crostini’s, for me this is a perfect winter meal, as the days get colder, I do the same preparation with pork strips and lamb steaks too.

Ingredients:

4 chicken thighs, with skin if possible

Marinade rub:

Lemon wedge
Sea salt
Pepper
2 tbsp Worchestshire sauce
2 tbsp Honey
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp HP Sauce
2 tbsp olive oil

Baking Friends:

6-8 baby potatoes
1 large onion cut into 4 pieces
6-8 whole mushrooms

Make slits in the thigh pieces. Mix the marinade in a bowl (taste it, there is no essentially raw ingredient in it) and rub (like I always say, with your hands, use your hands!) it in for 4-5 minutes. Use only 1 tbsp of the olive oil for the marinade, the rest goes in at baking time. Leave covered in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours. Prep a baking dish; smear in the olive oil, the veggies and neatly place the chicken pieces side by side. Pour the leftover marinade over the pieces. Bake covered with foil for about 20 mins on 200 degrees, poke a few holes on the top of the foil to let the steam escape. Once the chicken is ¾ cooked, you can take off the foil (that’s 25 mins or so) and let the top get browned. I leave it for another 5-7 minutes only. I usually marinate for half a day so for me the cooking time is a bit less.

Cooking meats is tricky; you in one sense have to know the meat. Most Indian homes have mastered chicken but mainly curries. Roasting, grilling and pan frying is a bit of an art if you want a juicy, well done yet tender piece of meat.
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