Feb 23, 2011

Shirazine - Toad in a Hole

I have been tripping on comfort foods extensively these days. I don’t know if it’s the hangover of bad times or the fact that the local weather thinks it’s in London?! I don’t advocate eating to comfort oneself but I cannot deny the values of it. Since the mantra is moderation, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to use comfort foods as hugs. Hugs on the inside! I am also crunched for time, I leave work at 4 but after my almost daily fresh product shopping and the commute, I am home only by 5. I have Ally’s school work to supervise and the house to oversee, so I get cooking by about 6:30, which gives me a clean hour before the baby wants dinner. Most of the time her meals are a tad different merely because her requirements are so different but then there are certain dishes which Ally has taken to very early in life. She likes Shepherd’s Pie, Meatloaf, Baked Tuna Casserole, Chicken Tetrazzini, Moussaka, most Gratins and of course Mac and Cheese. Her latest favourite is ‘Toad in a Hole’, a traditional British recipe that my mother made when we were kids.

My mother kept these old editions of Good Housekeeping and Woman & Home from the 70’s, she had relatives who bought her handpicked magazines. I sometimes wonder how she knew of them, without ever going abroad (back then), without internet... she was hugely interested in baked foods and meat and vegetable casseroles, I still swear by her Chicken Stew and we have it through the winter months, every day! This recipe is a family special, we add a special touch here and there and it makes a world of a difference. Try it on a weekend and keep the leftovers for breakfast. Good sides with this dish are basic green salads, I use rocket leaves in all my salads now, it has a nutty bite which helps me avoid walnuts etc. In my house the only way nuts are consumed is roasted, not in Pulao’s, salads, even cupcakes and cookies!


2 large eggs, beaten

1 white onion, sliced fine

½ cup plain flour

200 ml Milk mixed with 100 ml water

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 thick pork sausages

6 strips of streaky bacon

1 tbsp butter, melted

1 tbsp dry chives

Sift the flour in a mixing bowl, make a well in the centre and add the beaten eggs, then the milk, mustard, onion and seasoning, use a whisky to remove any little lumps of flour. The consistency should be about that of ordinary double cream, but no thinner. Rest for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220C

Sort the sausages and wrap each one with a strip of uncooked bacon, you can hold it in place with string or a toothpick. Coat your baking dish (it should fit the sausages snugly) with the melted butter. Tuck in the sausages and bake open for 4-5 minutes till the skin sizzles. Pour in the prepared batter, garnish the top with chives. Transfer the baking dish back into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes until puffed and golden. Serve with nice brioche bread, some green salad. You can also try a nice sweet onion gravy.

Sweet Onion Gravy

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil, add 4 tbsp of grated red onions, 1 tsp of crushed fresh garlic, 1 cup of stock, 2 tbsp maple syrup, 1 tsp chilli flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook it on low for 10 minutes and serve.

Feb 19, 2011

The Shirazine Kitchen

I have been reading the BBQ Bible before bed these days, yes ... Salman Rushdie has been duly replaced. Initially it was by someone who is somewhat of an author, Anthony Bourdain, but as of now it is strict decadence in terms of eating and reading. Our family has just come out of a period of mourning. I lost an aunt who had filled in for my mother for 13 years and it was as sudden and disturbing as losing ma. After 5 days of walking around her home, aimlessly... thinking selfish thoughts like “It will never be the same in the house again”... I decided to go back where I find the most peace, my kitchen! So many rituals of life take place here, so many confessions are made here, so many thoughts are thought here and so many dreams are dreamt here. This is where we converged since we were kids for tall glasses of cold coffee, little mugs of hot soup, warm, buttery roti’s, a smorgasbord of Indian veggies and dals, this is where we would stand as 30 something year olds and be hand fed ... by her...just like it was with our mother. And I say this of every kitchen, every kitchen that has seen children, that has smelt of vanilla and baking ...that has bred generations of good souls like my dear brother and sister are!

I went slightly overboard thereafter and spent the whole weekend cooking. I made pork curry, mixed vegetables, spinach dal, a mixed vegetable gratin with a seasoned breadcrumbs topping, pork chops, mashed potatoes (twice), chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cupcakes and cheese straws. It is Sunday night and I feel fatigued but satisfied, the kind of satisfaction even work doesn’t give me most of the time, a satisfaction that shows that my family feels happy, loved and secure. The same feelings we grew up with! And I also started reading the BBQ bible. It is such a well researched book, especially since of the Indian dishes are spelt right and deciphered right. I read a lot about the difference between grilling and bbqing. Grilling is a quick process, usually on a live flame (from coals or wood) and to bbq means to slow cook on smouldering embers of hot coals or wood. So that essentially means it makes sense to grill fish, seafood, lean cuts or if you want your meats done rare/medium rare. Whats best to bbq is big cuts, chops, steaks and the like. So this time around I keep homemade cheeseburgers, seekh kebabs, boti kebabs (pork) and lamb chops for grilling and I bbq’d mammoth pork chops... all the meals were amazing. The meats responded excellently to the treatment both in terms of marinades and heat. The key to successful grilling and bbqing is studying how heat works.

Shirazi Cheeseburgers

500 gms minced lamb
4-6 bacon rashers, chopped fine. I prefer to but streaked bacon for breakfast, but for patties, meatloafs and the like I prefer to get slightly thicker cuts of fatty cooking bacon. I usually buy from either Pigpo or Khubchand in Delhi.
1 large white onion, finely chopped. You can use a red onion but it’s kind of too pungent for the delicate meaty flavour this patty has.

4 cheddar cheese sliced torn up into little pieces
½ cup of grated mature cheddar cheese

4 garlic cloves, minced fine
1 large egg
Freshly crushed pepper and salt.

Mix all the ingredients except the cheese well, use your hands and really work the onion, egg and seasoning into the mincemeat. Throw in the cheese last and give it a quick mix. Refrigerate for 1 hr or more. Take out and form into regular burger sized patties and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. Serve in an open burger, start with a splash of Dijon mustard, a dollop of mayo, a lettuce leaf and a slice of tomato, you can skip the mayo and go in for a cheese slice to moisten the burger on the whole. Andy eats these with just ketchup and little mayo and he can eat half a dozen of them. I make the burger patty quite lean so you can make a whopper with two patties if you like. Enjoy!