Mar 10, 2012

Camping Food!

We love to camp, we never do but we are certain we would love it if we did. I try not to delve into overthinking the hygiene bit but one thing is for sure, I would love to cook outdoors, by the sea, in the woods, in a lush backyard... the idea is so conducive to my style of cooking! The other day I had to cook for a small group but I wanted to do a spread and without the help of part prepped foods and mixes, 6 dishes on the table is a half a day's job. I was baking a whole fish for dad, who's surprising response to the meal was that the fish head bothered him a bit!!! An Aubergine, parmesan and penne bake was on the menu too, the chicken had to be easier! and nothing is easier than a 'hunter style stew', it has no fixed dimensions, you can really play with the recipe, considering I was cooking it without any game in it...hunting would not qualify as a term used for chasing and 'halal-ing' a chicken. All in all this is a hearty as hell dish, you can put in seasonal vegetables and do away with the whole spices to make it better for summer, we had it just out of February when the air still has a nip ....perfect!

1 whole chicken x 12 pcs
2 carrots, diced large
1 large potato, diced large
10-12 button mushrooms
2 spring onions, diced with fresher bits of the greens
1 red onion, diced large
1 red bell pepper, diced large, throw in half a yellow, I find it a tad sweeter than the red one though!
1 large tomato, diced large
6-8 cloves of garlic, smashed

3 tbsp HP sauce
1 tbsp worcestshire sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
few dashes of tabasco
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 cup chicken stock (or one chicken cube dissolved in half cup of warm water)
3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper seasoning
parsley to finish

The one I made after this batch got super lucky, I had the rind left from a wedge of parmesan that had aged beautifully in my fridge. I read about adding the rind to soups, stocks and stews for a real kick, so I added it and you know what? It was there, subtle but parmesan-y twang to the gravy. I used the rind of some parmigianno reggiano but all parmesan's work! Another awesome Italian variation is to remove the peppers and do a mushroom, aubergine, tomato and onion combo for the veggie mix.

To make this stew, dump all the ingredients in a large baking dish, mix with a spatula, cover with foil. poke two holes to let the steam out and bake at 220 C for about 25 minutes, then remove the foil and bake open for another 10-12 minutes or till the gravy is reduced to half. I usually take the dish out half way and turn the pieces so they dont dry out, and ladle the gravy over the dish once in the process as well, other than that this dish pretty much cooks itself. I usually serve this with a green salad dressed with a honey mustard sauce, garlic mashed potatoes and a fresh crusty baguette.

Mar 8, 2012

Holi holi holi-day!

We had a lovely 'holi', a mix of too much if you ask me but then who's complaining?! The day started with Ally's constant pestering for ice cream, for her summer starts on Holi and she hasnt had ice cream since October...sooooo! we headed out for the Holi mess with a feeble promise to keep it dry, I had a beer and Ally got drenched! soooo! Got home grossly purple to a freezer full of cornetto's and chocbars, bathed and tucked into them with a vengeance! This was all before noon by the way! Meet up with friends in pre party mode for a breezer and realized, there was no lunch in the house...none! with a friend over, this was getting tough... she suggested a Donna Hay recipe with bacon, eggs and stuff..baked! Ok so that's all I had anyway, we kept it simple and it turned out superb, light but flavoursome, lovely holi-day lunch!

you need 4 ramekins if you're serving 4:

Eggs                               4
Bacon                             8 rashers
Parmesan                        4 tbsp, grated
Parsley                             to sprinkle
Salt & Pepper
*Optional: dash of vinegar or tabasco

Line the ramekins with two streaky bacon rashers at the bottom. break an egg in each ramekin, be careful to keep the yolks intact. top with parmesan, parsley, seasonings and you're done. bake in a pre heated oven, on 200 C for 6-8 minutes, if you like the yolk soft, if you want the top browned like in the  picture then stick with a full 8!

I served this with a cold crostini of leftover garlic loaves sliced and topped with dollops of 'thoum' my favourite garlic dressing/dip and honey caramelized red onion slices. The sweet, salt and tang (tabasco) balance was amazing. the weird thing is 2 ramekins had tabasco and I dont know which of us got those, I know I got one but I wonder if Ally got the other...must ask her! This kid will eat only yummy spicy stuff...other spicy stuff is well...just spicy and nothing more she says!

Mar 1, 2012

The Blog Mafia Meet!

For me personally, the experience of eating out counts as much as the meal itself! You can serve me filet mignon but if it’s near an ugly wall or looking out to a gutter, I will only obsess about the environs and not taste a thing. The synergy between good food and good ambience is clearly not everyone’s agenda and that’s fine, I just won’t be going to those places; which brings me to where I went last weekend. We had a meet up at Empress of China at the Eros Hotel managed by Hilton, New Delhi. This is one establishment that has maintained the Al Fresco element wherever possible and with guests like me that never goes unnoticed and the other thing is how they evolve, with every season, occasion and event, this hotel has something new to bring to the table, literally! The other keywords that I appreciate in Hotel jargon is ‘budget’, ‘quality’ and ‘variety’, if these come into the conversation, then I know for certain the meal will have promise.

That’s how our Sunday rolled out. We walked into a fresh, sunlit private dining room, the kind that could host a boisterous family or a high profile corporate meeting, all in the same day. The dining room spilled over into a large, green balcony that framed the Lotus Temple down the road, how much better can this get?! So there we sat looking forward to the new Executive Lunch, the menu of which was very promising. I was most intrigued by the steamed chicken wings even though I had been informed that Dominos Pizza made them this way too. That would have mattered if Dominos consistently stocked them and if I actually ever ordered from them!! The meal started with two varieties of dimsum, the Sui Mai and a mixed vegetable variant, both of which were light and flavourful, I had seconds or was it thirds? The wait for the steamed chicken wings was worth it, the pieces were succulent, lightly flavoured with Chinese wine and sugar and very easy to consume, I could have eaten more of those, oh dear, I should have eaten more of those!! However, it was the Stir Fried Baby Corn that really hit the spot, it was crunchy and delightful.

I am never the one to fill myself with starters because when I come prepared to enjoy my meal, I make sure I do, so we fluidly moved on the main course, accompanied rightfully with a pint of chilled beer. My plate proved to be hearty, wholesome and very delicious. Certain flavours peeped out effortlessly, the water chestnuts which were thankfully aplenty were exceptionally enjoyable and so was the silken tofu. I am not a fan of tofu, the silken variety I can take but given the right base, tofu can cool off a meal, especially if you have Szechuan dishes on the menu. I like palate coolers, they let you go back and taste the hotter, more potent dishes in the meal. I actually enjoyed the balance of meat and vegetable dishes, both the chicken and fish were heaty dishes, eased off by the tofu and the rich and crunchy Chinese greens.
The rice and noodles were both welcome, this meal had the promise of ‘totality’ which it totally delivered. I am amazed we were able to graze through a dessert after a spread like that, considering the Chef sent a complimentery dish of King Prawns, which was cooked to juicy perfection. See, this is what I love about set menus, well at least well set one’s, they have balance in terms of flavours, textures and level of satisfaction. Then comes the kicker, so this whole rollout is Rs.875 plus taxes and I think that’s a superb price point. So if the establishment is looking to bust a myth about five star hotels and their fleecing ways, they certainly have a point. The food is totally worth it and I guess the entire experience comes for free!