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Jun 29, 2012

Shirazi Spaghetti & Meatballs

We love lamb. After seafood, red meats are the most preferred meat in our kitchen. Chicken is considered fairly minion and we indulge in it only when we have to. Thanks to cold storage's and how rampant human beings are we now get fish and seafood all year round, though I remember a time when there was hardly any fish in the market in peak summer and during the monsoon season. I still try and avoid seafood and fish during spawning months but the temptation when I see them all displayed prettily is too intense to ignore. So the next best thing for us is red meat, mutton in particular. I personally feel mutton mince is easier on the system in the sluggish summer months so I have a lot of recipes for mince. One of our favourites is Spaghetti and Meatballs. There are so many flavour related similarities between this kind of Italian food and north Indian food that even my dad can relate to this dish very easily.

The idea is to make the meatballs juicy and moist, cut the acidity of the tomato sauce, cook the spaghetti just right and always have grated Parmesan for the final touch!

Meatballs:

1/2 kg mince
4 tbsp grated cheddar
1/2 cup coarse breadcrumbs (soaked in milk, squeezed and used, I tried this trick long back and it works, it keeps the meatballs or any mince dish like moist to the core)
2 pods of garlic minced
1 tbsp parsley
1 egg
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil to fry (shallow)

(depending on the size, this mix makes 8 large or 12 small meatballs, I use an ice cream scoop to measure them but the ones in the pic are hand rolled and large because I wanted everyone to have one big meatball in their plate, it looks prettier :)

Mix the mincemeat with all the other ingredients, use your hands please, the dish needs the love and the body heat. Mush it all up nice and yummy, form into balls and shallow fry in olive oil till lightly browned on all sides. Fry on low flame for about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and reserve the olive oil you used for frying.

Tomato Sauce:

2 large white onion, minced
4-6 pods of garlic, minced
4 large tomatoes, blanched and pureed (blanching is when you dunk the tomatoes in boiling water for few minutes, till the skin cracks and then remove, peel and pulp)
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp tomato ketchup
60 ml red wine, I sometimes like to mix it up and use a less dry, fortified red wine to bring in a little sweetness, fruitiness and not overdo the tangy acidity of tomatoes
2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, keep it coarse, it looks lovely and speckled in the sauce
2 tsp chilli flakes, use the ones you get with pizza, I never use them on the pizza anyway
6-8 fresh basil leaves, tear them up to release the flavour and use last
Salt

Fry the minced onions in the reserved olive oil. Add the garlic, fry till transparent and soft. Add the tomatoes and sauces, then the red wine. Let it bubble, then add the seasoning. If it is too thick, you can use a little water or stock to peter it down. Put in the meatballs, cover the pan and cook for 6-8 minutes. Use a large flat pan so the meatballs don't get destroyed by all the bump and grind. Once done, open the lid and sprinkle the basil leaves on top if you are takingthe pan straight to the table. If not then gently remove the meatballs into your serving dish (again it's better to use a flat one!), pour the sauce over it and add the basil leaves. You can use dried basil too but fresh is always better.

Cook the spaghetti as per instructions on the pack, I like my pasta well done, so no al dente for me! Serve with garlic butter toast and grated parmesan! Enjoy!

Jun 26, 2012

Super Snack!

Things have been busy :( ... I have been cooking everyday but just haven't had the time to chronicle any of it. It is only when we sit down to eat that I realize I didn't make notes or take pics and now this whole meal is just going to go down our gullet with no history! Andy was here again this month but he hardly let me cook, we were eating our hearts out at Mamagoto, Set'z, the DoubleTree, Dimsumbros and The Monk...all our favourite places. I did get a chance to cook in between meals though mainly because we are a 'snack loving' family. I remember meals where we only had starters, three rounds of 'em, especially at Chinese or Pan Asian restaurants. This time he was here, we revisited a few snacks, we hadn't had in years. The one I am talking about here is one I learnt in school, not culinary school, high school. We have a course called 'Home Ed' or 'Home Economics' or something... I forget, we were taught this some 20 years back, I loved it then and we love it now. I have in improvised in terms of seasoning but the basic recipe is the same. And like all our favourite foods, this one is deep fried too, in fact its a pretty heavy combo of flour, cheese, bread and oil but then those are the ingredients that make food delicious, so what the hell, may as well indulge, we were on holiday anyway!!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup of white flour
1/2 cup grated cheese, I used Cheddar, you can use regular processed or a combo like cheddar, parmesan and processed, all which melt at different temperatures, so you will get a bit of a textured yet cheesy result.
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup milk, don't use all of it, pour in to get a thick, gooey consistency, thicker than pancake batter but still runny.
1 tbsp dried chives or parsley, you can do fresh coriander too but that gives it a bit of a 'pakora' tinge.
1 tsp mustard powder
Salt and Pepper to taste

Oil for deep frying.
6 slices of white bread cut into fours = 24 mini squares.

Mix the flour, cheese and seasoning together in a bowl. Add milk slowly to make a thick batter, use a whisk not a hand mixer, then the whole thing becomes overly gooey. Heat oil to a temperature that's ideal for fritters/pakora's. Top each bread square with a tablespoon of the batter and put batter side down in the hot oil, fry for a minute or so on both sides, till brown. Serve hot with ketchup, salsa, mint chutney or chilli sauce. Enjoy!

Jun 10, 2012

How it all started?

It was the year 2002 and I was on holiday abroad with my husbands family, sans the husband though! My sister in law was showing me around and we were busy having a ball. Having been a foodie forever, I was devouring everything in sight, photographing it and blogging about it, pretty much what I do even now! Then one evening we visited one of her friends for what would turn out to be a life changing experience, except that I didn't know it then! We met a Lebanese gentleman who had been a hair stylist in his home country but was employed in a corporate company at that point, he talked about how he yearned to style and actually quite missed it. Just then my sister in law suggested he work his magic on me. Why me? To which her simple response was "you keep your shoulder length hair tied up all the time!!" I explained why, I had thin hair and limp too... she would have none of it. She actually invited him over to my parents in law's house the very next day. As D Day dawned I was secretly very excited. All I remember of that morning is hearing a pair of scissors dangerously close to my scalp and ears...wondering where my tresses lay?! Well, they lay on the floor. By the time he was done, I had a trendy bob and I was in utter shock. That night my ponytail didn't bother me as I lay on my back and looked up at the ceiling feeling like a little bit of a celebrity!


A few days later I headed back home, I touched down at the airport and imagined a lot of people looking at me! Were they, weren't they?! I walked out with my standard confident gait and walked right past my waiting husband, it was only when the friend accompanying him saw me smile, that they both realized the girl with the bob was me. I loved my new do but it came with a few hiccups, one of which was my weight. From the day I got the hairdo I felt I was a tad to large to carry off something so pixie-like. That was the first time in my life I decided to do something about an issue that had been plaguing me, my excess weight. Being a foodie I knew it won't be easy but then again, what really is? It took me a over a year and a half to lose 26 kilos which I did by eating right, eating healthy and working out. By the year 2004, I was the girl with the cutesy hairdo and a very healthy weight, the balance that I was looking for was finally mine. Eating right did many things for me, it helped me manage my weight, my skin and my hair. So all in all I didn't just get a hairdo during that holiday, I got the inspiration to be a better me, to eat what I like and yet know when to stop, to develop recipes that gave me the pleasure of good food but with fewer calories and suddenly my hairdo was as pixie like as me ...that was the end of my weight problems and that was the end of my hair problems!

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Jun 9, 2012

Peanut Butter frosted Banana Cupcakes

Most people love cupcakes, my family especially so. They are the no.1 go to snack in our home and also a permanent fixture in lunchboxes which is why I need to keep finding new ones to make. Since I have a young child, I can't afford for the cupcakes to be of the decadent kind all the time, some of the time I have to make healthy ones too. Among the decadent we have the cream cheese and fudge, the double chocolate, the 3 chocolate bonanza (dark, milk and white), chocolate chocolate chip and so on. Among the healthy ones, the Zucchini and cream cheese aren't all that popular which is why they make it into the lunchbox pack which makes it the class teachers problem ...she is the one who has to make sure nothing is wasted ...yay! Yes, mom's get to cheat! The others include the usual suspects, carrot with a mascarpone frosting, peanut butter with a milk chocolate frosting, red velvet with a cream cheese frosting, vanilla with buttercream, apple and walnut, roasted almonds ...dear God I didn't even know we had that many cupcakes come out of this kitchen! But...but there are one kind that are a hot favourite despite falling in the healthy category and those are the Peanut Butter Frosted Banana Cupcakes. My dad has them for breakfast, I have them with my evening coffee, the kid has them pretty much all day and well A... A won't touch any of the above with a bargepole, he is strict chocolate bars and chocolate ice cream kind of guy...though I think I've seen him succumb to the vanilla with dark chocolate frosting ones where there was nothing else sweet to have!

these are super quick to make and yield around 20 small cupcakes or 12 muffin sized ones, which would ideally last us 3 days and that's how long I like to keep cupcakes especially in the (Indian) summers.

Ingredients: 

Butter 115 gms
Sugar 300 gms
Flour 225 gms
Eggs 2
Bananas (overripe) 2... use 3 if they are very small, mashed
Milk 125 ml
Baking powder 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda 1/2 tsp
Vanilla essence 1 tsp

Frosting:

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tbsp icing sugar
4-6 tbsp milk
2 tbsp fresh cream

Cream the butter and sugar for few minutes till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat on low for a minute or so, then add the vanilla essence and the mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, the baking powder and the baking soda. Alternate and add the flour mix and the milk to make a thick, smooth batter. I use an ice cream scoop to put the batter in the paper cups, I use one scoop for every cupcake liner, that way each one is the same size and bakes evenly. I bake these on 200 for around 10 minutes or till a skewer comes out clean.

For the frosting, bring the peanut butter to room temperature so its easy to whisk. Whisk the cream and sugar into the peanut butter, then use the milk to bring it to a consistency that's like buttercream and easy to pipe. Indian peanut butter seems thicker so you may have to hold the milk depending on which peanut butter you use, you can also use crunchy, but in my house, the kid's a bigger fan of creamy.

I use a frosting syringe but you can use a standard piping cone or just slather it on, its so yum ...it doesn't matter! Enjoy!

Jun 3, 2012

Cheddar Bikkis

Ever since my dad moved in with us I have had to make a lot of changes in the way I cook and what I cook. From en croute to papilottes ...I have had to even make desserts that are easy on the sweet yet high on flavour, which means less of chocolate mousses and more of fresh mascarpone Tiramisu's. This change has changed the way I bake too. Since he is not too fond of large gooey chocolate cookies and decadent cream cheese and fudge cupcakes I have started making sour cream and zucchini muffins, carrot cupcakes and more recently savoury cookies. Mainly because every time I make biscuits or cookies, he would gingerly ask me "isn't there anything salty you can do?"...eventually I made myself get the message and began looking around for nice savoury cookie recipes. There was my mom's 'nan khatai' but he found that a tad heavy, then I tried Zeera biscuits which he found too dry, so I finally made a bargain with him. I said "we can do yummy and fairly healthy but we can't do both" (and I secretly believe no one can!!). So the healthy part of this recipe comes from the fact that all the ingredients are fresh and so are the cookies. Frankly if you delve deep enough then the wheat in the flour in store bought cookies was probably harvested ages ago, which in my opinion ages the entire product. The not so healthy part comes from the 'cheddar' but if you can control yourself and enjoy just a few of these at a time, then they are the freshest, yummiest option compared to store bought biscuits.

Ingredients:



250 gms flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1.5 tsp salt
80 gms cold butter, cubed
100 gms shredded extra-old cheddar cheese
2 tbsp dried chives (I use Keya)
 125 ml buttermilk (use sparingly to bring the dough together, so don’t dump all of it in at one go)

Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, baking soda and salt which a whisk so it incorporates well. Use your finger tips to knead in the butter until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mash in the cheese and chives then add the buttermilk to form soft dough. You can use a spatula to bring it all together but use your hands to make the dough, it makes all the difference. Knead for few minutes to break up all the gluten.

Lightly flour the surface you plan to roll the dough on. Roll out into a ½ inch thick round. Using a round or flowered cookie cutter and cut out rounds. Scrape together the leftover dough to roll out another base. Bake on a butter paper lined baking tray  at 200 degrees for around 8-10 minutes or till the edges are golden brown. You can store this for up to a week in an airtight container, but always cool completely before bottling. Enjoy!
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