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Aug 29, 2012

Of Poster Boys and Food!

Who doesn't love a pretty face? Sadly for me, that's all I knew of Aditya Bal that is until I heard about his Cookbook apparently based on his TV show and I was like "really, wow!!" I am yet to get my hands on the book, though after everything I have read about it, I am probably not going to dole out 400 bucks on it, that kind of money buys me loads of Ricotta! But I did get a chance to visit with this young man over dinner at a Goth Chic restaurant in the heart of Delhi, Veda! I had eaten there ages back and now that I reminisce, it was probably the beers, I had quite liked the food, which was why I trudged over 25 kms on a rainy night and yes, also to meet my darling brood of foodies, who turned out to be the saving grace actually!

Can't delve into the book because I barely breezed through it and the paper quality put me off, some of my friends tried a few recipes and didn't like the results, so I'm just going to talk about the meal at Veda, which can be described in 3 words "shaadi ka khana" or 2 if you speak English - "wedding grub" ...Indian wedding grub. The first few bites reminded of this very depressing episode of Masterchef where they had teams who cooked for an Indian (South) wedding in Oz land, a veggie menu and it has godawful stuff like zeera aloo and yellow dal, it was so off putting, that I haven't watched much of the show thereafter. This meal wasn't food like that but it had undertones of that kind of disinterest, in planning, in procedure, in a lot of things! There was nothing bad per se but nothing spectacular at all, considering the decor was so opulent, the meal felt out of place. The fried fish was salvaged by the 'ajwain' (carom seeds), the chicken tikka was a lot like the one you get on a street corner in GK II and I don't remember if there were any other starters! The main course was slightly thoughtless, heavy, dull even. The Dal Makhni was pasty and something I might have pulled out as a leftover from a dhaba order from the night before, the chicken dish was nice but non descriptive, may have been a version of butter chicken (Since that was the vein of the menu that night) but it had straws of spinach so I really don't know what that was, the Mutton Rara was a lot like how my cook makes it, nice, just nice! I actually really liked the crispy bhindi but then again it was a staple on summery Sunday's in our home so I probably wouldn't order it at a fine dining. I hate to be mean and I am accused of being way to kind so I will say this, the food seemed like it was meant for depraved, nonchalant or ignorant folk and for those price points, that is so unfair. The dessert was a tiny portion (in retrospect, thank God, since I don't like to waste, I would have died eating any more than what was served) of Kulfi, it tasted like something out of a packet or something made of condensed milk and cornflour. Chandeliers do not make up for taste or flavour or the joy of eating! 

Thank God for my friends that evening, the glass of wine and Deeba's Pineapple Cake for Sangeeta's birthday, there was nothing else that stood out that night. Aditya looked dishy and was a true gentlemen, its not easy to be badgered, so I will give him props for that but there are enough of us who will test recipes if only writers would share manuscripts, something the publishing house needs to acknowledge! Veda needs to pick up on what people expect and I am certain they can afford a Chef who is well versed in Indian cuisine and not home cooking!

*If you want to know more about the evening, the book and the dinner, read these guys  - Sid, Charis, Sangeeta, Rekha, Deeba, Tanya, Ruchira and Sushmita!

Aug 28, 2012

Gifts of the Sea!

We love fish! It's amazing how much because there are times we have it so often in a week that I run out of ideas on how to make it! We do whole red snapper, pomfret stuffed with Goan Rechaedo masala, Rava fried mackeral, Bekti fillets (which is Barramundi BTW!), veggie stuffed mullets, baked sole ...the works! I love curried fish as well but between dad and I, its baked and steamed where we feel we can really taste the sea! But when there is a slightly bigger crowd at the table, there has to be something more hearty, so I just make a pie of our regular recipe for creamy baked fish and it makes all the difference.

I use a basic puff pastry, you can use a commercial variety if you like, it is way quicker anyway, so I have included that in my recipe since making puff is still a very tedious process in my opinion. For those who say its easy, hats off and you are probably right, but good puff needs a lot of work and a  lot of layering plus crisp weather which Delhi only enjoys for around 3-4 months of the year!

Ingredients:

400 gms white fish fillets like singhara, surmai, bekti, sole or red snapper (basically, boneless), I get fillets cut around 4" long and 1/2" thick.

juice of 1 lemon
lots of freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1/2 cup fresh cream (ya I know that's a lot, tone it down if you like but it won't be as yum!)
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp grated cheddar
2 tbsp EVOO
1 red onion thinly sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
1 stalk celery, sliced, not to fine and not to chunky

1 puff pastry sheet rolled, out, folded over and rolled again (to make it more flaky), rolled to the size of the dish you propose to use. I use an eye shaped dish and just sit it over the final prep and tuck in the sides. Use a knife to make four cuts, to let the steam out and make sure the sauce doesn't bubble out of the sides.

You can fortify this dish by adding a few, fresh spinach leaves, that have been sliced in a bunch, so there are big slivers and not fine bits. These can be added after the onion/garlic sauteing stage.

Place the fish fillets in the baking dish you wish to use for the final pie. Tuck them all in tight, because they will shrink when baked.  Pour the EVOO over it, season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Bake on 200 C for 4-5 minutes or till the fish turns white but it shouldn't be cooked through entirely. In a pan, heat the butter (don't let is burn or brown), saute the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Add the celery greens and saute for another minute or so, I use the stalk too, make sure it is washed well, that's all. Put off the fire and add the cream and the cheddar, fold it all in. Cool the baked fish off slightly, remove excess juices, pour the sauce over it. Roll out the pastry as discussed above, cover the creamy bake and pop back in the over on 220 C or high, brown the pastry which usually takes 5-7 minutes. Serve hot with Tabasco Sauce! Enjoy!

Aug 21, 2012

Can't Get Enough Cookies!

I found a small stash of Hershey's dark chocolate chips in the back of the fridge drawer and for me that's a treasure, mainly because there is no Indian brand that makes chocolate chips and the few stores that stock them don't source them through a distributor, they have some other strange way of procuring them. Which is why they are priced at Rs. 400+ a pack (Hershey's)?! I yearn for Ghirardelli Chocolate Chips but then again those are complete gold and I would rather eat them while watching Bridget Jones' Diary then make cookies of out of 'em! We are such a large country, filled with so many millions, tier III cities have moved to tier II and there are still so many things we don't produce. We don't make whipping cream, we don't make sprinkles or other cupcake/cake/cookie decorations, we don't make frosting in a can/tube, sad! Despite that home bakers manage to create magic in their kitchens, its all pretty amazing!

Anyway, there they were, a bowl of dark chocolate chips, staring at me, begging me not to devour them, pleading to be added to a better place than my tummy. So I decided to make a batch of soft and chewy, chocolate chip cookies, the kind Ally likes to call 'Cake Cookies'! These are very simple, they dough needs an hour in the fridge to get firm and come together, after which you just form equal sized balls, place 4 about 4" apart and bake!

Ingredients: Makes around 10 cookies

150 gms flour
90 gms Butter (I use Amul, which is salted, so in all my baking recipes, I don't add salt)
140 gms Sugar (1/2 white and 1/2 brown)
3/4 tsp Baking soda
1 tsp Vanilla essence
1 Egg
100 gms Dark chocolate chips

Use hand mixer to blend together the butter and the sugars. Add the egg and mix, then the vanilla essence. Mix the baking soda with the flour in a separate bowl, better still, sift them together. Switch to a spatula and mix in the flour and the chocolate chips, alternating both, till it comes together. I usually get a very moist dough, so I refrigerate it for an hour or so to dry it out and make it more firm. Once that's done, use a scoop to measure equal sized balls, flatten slightly and place 3-4" apart on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. For these I use thick parchment because I don't want the paper sticking at the bottom of the cookie once they are cool and set. These are soft cookies, a bit like cake actually, so remove carefully and enjoy thoroughly!!

Aug 17, 2012

Everlasting Evernote

Sometimes I ask myself, what have I cultivated for posterity? I have cultivated my recipes, I have cultivated a sort of history of where our families favourite foods developed from, I have cultivated a database of everything I love to eat and that's my treasure! This endeavour got further amplified when my darling husband gifted me an iPhone for my birthday this April. A staunch BB lover, the move was very tough on my psyche, I know how dramatic that sounds but if you have made the transition then you will know exactly what I mean. The move meant no more BBM (which meant fewer dirty jokes from Sandy) and well ...that's pretty much it. From the iPhone perspective the move meant way more positive things, I suddenly had access to Apps I had only heard of and that's when the binging began. I downloaded everything I could find related to food, recipe apps, how-to video apps, the supremely insane food chronicler - Instagram and then my all time favourite Evernote Food! My brother had been pitching Evernote to me for a while now, a die hard user in the UK, he claimed it was his digital Personal Assistant, but since I am this vain, I didn't think I needed one (I think otherwise now!). However, it was Evernote Food that connected with me immediately. This was an App that chronicled not only everything I ordered and ate but also everything I cooked. As a caterer it helped me tremendously, because I didn't always remember how I had dressed or garnished a dish and when a repeat order would come, I wouldn't really want it to look much different from what the patrons had enjoyed before. I also love taking pictures of unique produce and products, this is where I house those pics so when I meet specialists I can ask them what that product or dish or veggie was and what all I can do with it. It was after using the App for 5 months that our Blogger group was invited for an afternoon with a Representative (Troy, it was great to meet you!!) from Evernote, for me that was hugely heartening because its all thanks to the digital world that a 'regular' user is recognized and considered to be somebody. That's a whole new world for India where brands and products are yet to appreciate their buyers in totality. Takes me back to a time when I found bits of charred 'I-don't-know-what' in a pack of Marie Biscuits, I snail mailed the brand because this was 10 years back and after a month or so they sent somebody with 4 packs of the same damn thing and not even a smidgen of regret...hmmmm! How far things have come!

The lunch was enlightening in terms of the App, considering I am now a convert to Evernote as well. Here's the coolest part, you can scan and feed in all your handwritten recipes and Evernote will 'read' them in a manner where it can pull out a recipe just by ingredient search, WHOA! That's my new project by the way, setting all my recipes in stone or in phone, I must say! We met up at Dum Affairs, a discreet yet very vibrant restaurant in South Delhi, that served Awadhi food, probably one of my most favourite Indian cuisines after Chettinad. The food was fabulous, the Haleem was unforgettable, so much so that Dad and I have a date to go have it at the end of the month. The Nalli could have been more tender but the flavours were gorgeous and the marrow, oh the marrow ...all there and all amazing! The restaurant itself is pristine and very calming, I love the way they have used stainless steel (very Indian!) and Chef Mudgal is exactly what the new lot of Chef's are turning out to be, effervescent, engaging and very talented!

Here's more about the afternoon, straight from Evernote!

"From romantic dinners to passed-down family recipes to crazy eats in tiny alleys, meals contain some of our most vibrant and formative memories. We don’t just eat for nutrition; meals are a vehicle for conversations, romance, ideas, family, exploration, and so much more. With Evernote Food, people now have a beautiful way to preserve every dish, every table, and every bite they have ever had.

The app is all about preserving the experiences, thoughts and memories that accompany food. People can also share their experience on social media platforms via an integrated share feature within Evernote Food itself. The app is simple, elegant and a lot of fun to use.

Availability: Evernote is available on the iPhone and all Android phones

Price: Evernote Food is a free app

Video about a café who uses Evernote: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQZHAMWuiR4&feature=plcp"


I am beginning to use the App more like a resource than a repository now. Apart from Evernote Food, the original Evernote App is helping me manage my time and appointments much better. As of now I am juggling a job and a bunch of projects, so this is probably one of the tools keeping me sane! Just to reiterate, I love when things I love, love me back! Cheers!

Check out the menu, by the way ...rocking good stuff! Out of this I am going to make the Jaituni (olives) Kulcha and the Fennel Phirni for sure ...


EVERNOTE

10th AUGUST, 2012
MENU

Kebabs and Such...

Galouti Kebab
(Melt in the mouth kebabs of minced lamb, cardamom and saffron cooked on a traditional
Mahi tawa)
Zard Gilafi Murgh
(Saffron egg-coated succulent chicken morsels marinated in yoghurt and cream
 Cooked on Dum)
Subz ki shaami
(A pan fried patty made from assorted vegetables, split Bengal gram lentil & exotic spices)
Basil Paneer Tikka
(Basil leaves & yoghourt marinade smeared cottage cheese, spit roasted in a clay oven)

Gosht Aur Subz-e-Khaas

Dum ka Murgh
(Ginger and garlic marinated whole chicken served napped with a nutty brown gravy of almonds yoghurt and home ground spices, cooked on “Dum”)
Josh-E-Nalli
(Cardamom and mace tinged shanks of lamb cooked in a lamb jus with saffron)
Awadhi Haleem
(An aromatic preparation of coarsely ground lamb, pounded wheat and channa lentil tempered with onions, ginger and green chillies)
Three Cheese Bharwan Gucchi
(Exotic cashmere morels stuffed with cheddar, mozzarella & processed cheese cooked in a nutty sauce)
Paneer Ka Methidaar Qaliyan
(Indian cottage cheese cooked in a fenugreek flavoured gravy of onion, cashewnut & yoghurt)
Dum Ki Subz
(Mélange of seasonal vegetables and shredded spinach tossed with fresh herbs and spices)
Dal Maah
(Whole black urad lentil simmered overnight on charcoal with tomatoes, ginger garlic & butter)
Breads
Jaituni kulcha, Khameeri roti and parati parantha

 Biryani

Dum Ki Gosht Biryani
(Finest basmati rice and supreme lamb cooked on Dum with cardamom and mace)
Biryani Subz
(Basmati rice and fresh seasonal vegetables cooked on Dum with saffron and caramelized onion)
Served with burrani raita

Desserts

Royal Tukda
(Crisp fried bread & cardamom flavoured rabri, finished with silver leaves pistachio & saffron)
Jaggery and fennel Phirnee
(Reduced milk ground rice dessert, served in a traditional earthen ware sakora)
Dates and pine nut delight
(A warm dessert of seedless dates and pine-nut)



Aug 16, 2012

Kooky for Cookies!

You may have noticed by now that my little family is the centre of my universe! Top of the pyramid is none other than the little superstar Ally, all of 6 1/2 (going on 16), she has a little too much attitude but coupled with a huge heart and even huger palate, which I LOVE! Then comes Andy, let me be fair and say that's a bit of a plateau with Dad and V beside him... these are my boys and I am crazy about them. Their tastes and preferences when it comes to food are hugely varied and it is very challenging to keep them all happy because over the years there have been several occasions where I have regularly cooked for all of them. Andy is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, curried preferably, not a big one for steaks, he would any day prefer an Asian prawn curry, a Goan pork curry or a platter of Lebanese grills. Dad is a guy who loves flavours, subtle ones, no coconutty curries for this guy, he loves steamed fish, super minced kebabs and good Chinese food, then comes Varun, who is a true challenge, mainly because he loves everything edible and yet manages to be very picky!Though I must add that Varun's palate has progressed and he no longer needs yoghurt with every imaginable cuisine! The reason for this story is a premise to why I bake so much, that's where I have found a dish or two that they all like, there is a butter cake with fudge frosting that even A will eat, vanilla sponge cake and dark chocolate cookies. These cookies have lots of uses, Ally dunks them in her evening glass of milk, Varun has them as is, Andy would probably crumble them over a large bowl of chocolate ice cream and dad, well dad would complain about how I never bake savouries and still have 2 of em!

I love how easy these are, I tweaked the recipe from one I found on Joyofbaking.com, I had to tweak it because I never get a rolling consistency for this dough, it pretty much stays like a very thick batter. Wherein I have to use an ice cream scoop to measure the cookies out. These cookies are very chocolate-y and gooey, which is why we love them so much!

Ingredients: (12 cookies, little bigger than a Marie biscuit)

Dark chocolate (I use Morde) 140 gms
Butter 120 gms
Flour 150 gms
Cocoa 30 gms (2 heaped tbsp)
Brown Sugar 60 gms
White sugar 60 gms
Egg 1
Vanilla Essence 1 tsp
Baking soda 1 tsp
Chocolate Chips (dark) 100 gms

I always use the double boiler method for melting chocolate because I never grew to trust a microwave. So I boil water in a 'patila' or deep cauldron, sit one of my Pyrex glass bowls on top and in goes the chopped chocolate. I have kind of gotten used to how it will melt, so I don't have to keep handling it, just the stir of the whisk once in a while and that's it. This process takes just about 5 minutes, with the water simmering on a low flame. I mix the flour, baking soda and cocoa in a plate and keep it aside. Use a hand mixer to cream the butter for 3-4 minutes till its light and fluffy, add both the sugars and whisk it all up, cool the melted chocolate and in it goes. Then you can add the egg and the vanilla essence. Scrape down the sides so here is no waste and everything mixes well. Add the flour slowly, I mix half with the hand mixer and then switch to a spatula, its all about folding it in now, so you don't really need the aeration of the hand mixer. Throw in the chocolate chips last, fold them, they actually end up melting which is where the gooey-ness comes from. Like I said before, I don't get a dough I can fold into balls and I think that's because Morde as a cooking chocolate melts very liquidy but that's fine, these cookies turn out so yum, you won't care if they came from a batter or a dough!

I use a ice cream scoop to measure dollops for these cookies, one scoop spreads quite a bit and the cookies are gooey and yum but not thick and risen, they are more like biscuits actually. So line your cookie tray with parchment, I use a thick mm for these, thinner parchment can stick to the base of the cookie while it's cooling because of the fudge chocolate content. I bake these on 200 C for around 5-7 minutes or till they are browner than they started of as. No point gauging by whether they are set because these cookies harden as they cool. Remove from the oven and cool on the paper before you attempt to free them, these are fudgy and fragile! Enjoy with coffee, milk, as after meal desserts, anytime, all the time :)

Aug 13, 2012

Awesome Apples!

It's tough not being able to cook for Andy, there was a time when he was my only reason to cook! Baby's food came from Nanu's house and I would spend hours planning and executing elaborate menu's for just the two of us. Though dad is a terribly kind guinea pig, there are days I miss cooking for my husband wayyyy too much. Which is when I seek the solace of my trusted oven. This past weekend got so bad that I went into baking overdrive. I made coconut macaroons, butter cupcakes with fudge frosting, banana mini cakes with peanut butter frosting and these darling, soul warming Apple & Almond tarts/pies! Apples aren't even in season and Andy won't eat any of these things, but still in a way it made me feel closer to him or maybe closer to a time when he was home. The inspiration for these tarts was none other than the awesomely talented Deeba of Passionate About Baking, though I can't be a patch on her style, commitment and level of talent, the truth is, she makes me want to bake! She had made a plum and walnut tart that blew me away and I thought, I have these lovely almonds (Thanks Neha!!) from Leh, from apricots grown in Leh and I have 2 apples that Ally is not likely to touch (She prefers Pears which are very much in season!). I also had a jar of Dulce De Leche (fancy word for caramel) that I had made a while back, so I decided to just put it all together and see what happens. Honestly, how can you go wrong with a combination like pie crust, apple, almonds and caramel? I made them small because I wanted to serve each one with a little clotted cream or vanilla ice cream, which I never did, they didn't last long enough to be served with anything!

The Pie Crust: (for 4 mini pies or 1 large one)

200 gms flour
120 gms butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 tbsp sugar

Whip up the butter with a hand mixer till it's light and fluffy, add the sugar, another couple of rounds of the mixer, then the egg and the flour. I use the mixer on slow just to get the whole thing mixed, but then I use my hands to bring it all together into a ball of dough. Try not to add more flour, if its sticky for some reason, then dust your hand with flours, roll it all together and refrigerate so it becomes tighter.

The Filling:

2 apples, thinly sliced
10-12 almonds, whole or halved
8 tbsp Dulce De Leche (http://www.theshirazine.com/2011/01/dulce-de-leche-mmmm.html)
2 tbsp honey (for the glaze)
Cinnamon powder to sprinkle (optional)

Moisten the tart tins with butter, I usually use 100 gm sticks for recipes like these, so I always have the paper from the slab of butter left to be chucked, I use that to butter the tins, just rub away. Divide the dough into 4, if you are making mini pies like the ones in the image or use the whole lot if it's one big pie. Gently settle the dough into the mould, make sure its as even as possible, no lumps anywhere. Use the sides of your thumbs to level the dough on the fluted edges. now put 2 heaped spoons of the caramel in the centre of each or the whole load if its a big pie. Neatly line the apple slices, then sprinkle the almonds on top, use a basting brush to glaze lightly with the honey and bake till the crust is browned (about 15 mins+) on 200 C. Once these are done, cool on a rack, gently tap the tin on the parapet and let the tart come lose. The caramel holds all the filling together so you can tilt and remove, I had to do that because I didn't use a spring form pie mould or one with a removable bottom. Serve with a drizzle of rum sauce* or with vanilla ice cream. In winters I sprinkle some cinnamon powder on these pies before I put the honey glaze. Enjoy!

*Rum Sauce
Melt 4 tbsp of butter, add 4 tbsp of sugar, let it caramelize a bit, then add 4 tbsp of dark rum. Stir and cook gently for a minute or two and that's it!

Aug 9, 2012

Crostini Anyone?

Crostini literally means little toasts and quite like Bruschetta's they are served with a topping except on our table, I do Crostini with a seasoning blend that seeps in so that the serving is all rustic and not precarious at all. Nothing sitting on top of the bread, its all deep inside so that when you're all done, you can use one portion just to wipe up your plate! I remember watching this Gregory Peck movie as a child called "Million Pound Note" where he plays the role of a poor man and is shown scavenging for food, picking up a half eaten apple that a fell from a child's hands and being watched by a duo of millionaires who believe they can change his fate, which they actually do! They call him up to their penthouse suite and hand him an envelope and tell him not to open it till a certain time, he knows it is money so he heads to nearest cafe and orders himself an English breakfast, eats its heartily and saves a piece of toast to wipe the runny yolk from the plate! It is how he savoured that last bite, that vision, it never left me! For me that is the job of breads when it comes to huge and hearty meals and that's what Crostini's do when I serve them with pasta's, meatballs, chilli con carne and other such yummies!

I use breads like baguettes, ciabatta, Italian lazio, any crunchy garlic loaf, buns from the night before and even pao when I can't find anything else. I use 3 basic seasoning blends which serve me well when it comes to making the breads for the meal slightly more versatile. I use a large deep dish to bake them in and never slice them, I rip them up into large pieces, my favourite thing to do :)

These portions are all for about 8 large pieces of bread, as shown in the image.

Ingredients:

Seasoning Blend 1:

4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use Leonardo)
8 black olives minced
6 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp dried oregano
Sea Salt

Mix it all up, pour over the bread and bake on 200 C for 3-4 minutes till there is a light sizzle, serve immediately 

Seasoning Blend 2:

2 tbsp EVOO
2 tbsp Butter (yep!!)
1 tbsp Pasta Seasoning (I use Keya)
1 tbsp finely chopped coriander
6 garlic cloves minced

For this blend, I heat the EVOO on a low flame, add the butter and all the other ingredients. Fry it up for a minute or two, pour over the bread and serve without baking. Though the bread ought to be nice and fresh for this, you can soften it by heating it in the oven for few minutes.

Seasoning Blend 3:

4 tbsp EVOO
1 tbsp dried parsley leaves, crushed or use Keya
2 tbsp grated Parmesan or Pecorino
1 tbsp red chilli flakes
2 tbsp garlic powder (I do use fresh garlic at times but for this I like for the 'bite' to come from the cheese and not the garlic)

Mix it all up, pour over the bread and again bake on 200 C for about 3-5 minutes. serve immediately.

These can be served as appetizers, side dishes and even pub grub, next post I'll share my recipes for Bruschetta's which are heartier and if done in variety can actually be a lovely meal, an ideal sampler of cold cuts and cheeses.

Enjoy!

Aug 3, 2012

My Secret Spain!

There are a few countries I am in awe of, I dream of them (literally) and feel like I have a past life connection with them, Spain, Morocco and Egypt are three countries that tend to make me feel this way. So when I eat or cook foods of these nations I feel 'at home' and strangely so! I wonder what it is about these foods, is it the aroma, the colours or is it just that some of the flavours are actually so close to my real home...nah ...I doubt that, we over spice food and we can rarely taste the original flavour of the core ingredient, that is one essential flaw in Indian food. Spain loves spice too but the pungent kind, Morocco loves aromatic spices and Egypt too. All these feelings came rushing back to me at Olive Bar & Kitchen last weekend. They have terrific Mediterranean leanings which is why I love this kitchen.. that day we were served a Prawn Gambas that brought back such strong memories of a Romesco Sauce I learned about 16 years back, during my training. The version I learned was rich and creamy with roasted red bell peppers (what a big deal those were back then!), almonds, pine nuts ...I replicated it several time thereafter but not in the last decade ...till the Gambas at Olive!

So as a part of my tribute of an unforgettable meal and a fairly inexhaustible supply of Olive oil, I was back in the kitchen today, making magic with some of my  favourite ingredients - prawns, peppers, olive oil, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes, olives and chillies!

Ingredients for the Romesco Sauce:

1 large red bell pepper, sliced, lightly dressed in olive oil and oven roasted till lightly charred
6-8 cloves of garlic, this is if you are using the regular Indian garlic that has small cloves, not the giant ones now available in the market, those are easy to clean but too pungent and less flavoursome.
Handful of pine nuts
8-10 almonds, soak and remove the skin
2 large tomatoes, cut into large pieces, don't cut them small and lose all the juices
2 Thai red chillies, the closest I can find to Spanish hot peppers
4 tbsp red wine vinegar or red wine
150 ml of extra virgin olive oil, I used Leonardo since that's always in my kitchen.


*Some recipes call for a slice of stale bread but in Indian kitchens where white bread rules, stale bread usually means moldy bread, so I usually skip that, this time around I had a not so fresh loaf of multigrain bread, out of which I used half a slice just to thicken the whole arrangment.

All you have to do is blend all these ingredients together, blend well till its all a nice thick, fragrant puree and set aside.










Ingredients for the Gambas:

12 large  prawns, cleaned and de-veined
1 yellow bell pepper cut into thick slices
6-8 cherry tomatoes halved or you could use 1 large tomato cut into 4 pieces, but that's a bit clunky looking
4-6 garlic cloves
4 tbsp Olive Oil
6-8 green olives
Salt

Heat the oil, add the garlic, then the bell pepper and the prawns, sizzle on high fire, till the prawns shrink and change colour. Depending upon size, cook till half done, I usually cook prawns on a high flame for just enough time to cook them through so I would say 2 minutes, add 4 tbsp of the Romesco sauce, reduce the heat and cook for another two minutes. The prawns and veggies should be well coated with the sauce, so use more if you like, check for pungency though, Thai red chillies can be pretty killer. Season with salt, toss in the olives and that's it. Enjoy!

I served the Gambas with toasted pita but dad had it with white rice and a lemon wedge, squeezed over the Gambas just before eating ...no one spoke a word, so I assume they liked it ...they always say they do so its best I look for deeper signs. If it wasn't for last Friday, I would LOVE some Tequila with this!


Aug 2, 2012

When the Fish Drinks more than me!

They say fish should swim three times before its served, once in water, once in butter and once in wine! They're right! Except that you can substitute the booze and the cooking medium at will and the fish will still be super. So I switched the butter with Leonardo Olive Pomace oil (for deep frying) and wine for cold Clausthaler Non-alcoholic beer (mainly because if I am going to consume beer calories then I would like to get a little high) and decided to make typical pub grub ... beer batter fish (some recipes say battered...it just sounds so wrong...hehehehe!!).

We eat fish 3 sometimes 4 times a week mainly because we are pretty much over chicken and beef only happens when friends come in from Bangalore, so its pork, fish and lamb for us, usually in that very order! I steam, bake, pan fry, poach and deep fry fish and find it to be the most versatile meat I can work with. Depending upon the fish I buy I can make each dish I make taste so different, no one in the family realizes they had the very same thing last week. If I steam Pomfret with the same seasoning blend it is so starkly different compared to steaming Sole fillets with the same seasoning, that's what I love about fish, the crazy variety. So for this recipe I went looking for Red Snapper fillets only because it had been a while but came back with the white and neutral, Sole fillets.Honestly, this dish is no where near the perfect beer batter fish we had the Olive Bar & Kitchen but then again the intention of recreating an accomplished Chef's menu is not to replicate but to co-create. My batter was thinner because I was using larger, wider fillet cuts since this was for a meal and not a starter. In retrospect, I ought to have kept it thicker because frying in Olive Pomace oil makes foods come out less oily compared to deep frying in Soybean or Safflower oil, as in it soaks in much less. So this batter would have held good thicker too...well that's a learning.

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
3 tbsp rice flour (I love the crunchiness)
2 tsp baking powder
1 can Clausthaler beer (you can use a pint bottle of any brand just make sure its very very cold)
Salt & Pepper

8 fish fillets, 5" x 2" or you can use strips if you like
Leonardo Pomace Olive Oil for deep frying

Season the flour with salt and pepper, add the baking powder and whisk to mix. Slowly add the cold beer to make a thick batter, much like pancake batter. I think the true discerning factor here is how well coated or thick coated you want the fish to be. Crepe like batter which is a bit runny will give you fillets like ones above, here the fish meats gets fried well too, pancake like batter is thicker so you get a fritter like coating which I feel is better for starters because then you aren't corrupting it with sides like I have here with double fried wedges, arugula and a spiced tartar. Use up the batter quickly so the beer doesn't get flat. Bring the oil to near smoking point and reduce the heat, dunk in the fillets and drop into the oil, fry for 3-4 minutes till golden brown, if the fillets are thin this is more than enough time for cooking. Most boneless, white meat fish quick fast and tend to get pasty if over cooked, so keep an eye on that. Remove on absorbent paper. Serve with tartar, hot salsa, fries ....salad ...whatever you like! Enjoy!

Aug 1, 2012

Passionate about Pasta

Back when I started cooking I would make only pasta's, the reason 'back when I' is because this was a time when I had access to only one local brand of pasta which had about 3 variant/shapes to choose from. If I had the time I would trudge over to INA market and buy a precious pack of spaghetti and then try and make it last across 3-4 meals, those were such tragic days for my kitchen. I loved experimenting with sauces and cheese for which I would go to South Extension. How things have changed in the last 5 years? I can now home deliver Scamorza, choose from over 20 varieties of pasta and even buy bottled sauces, which I hope I never have to but still! Honesty, making pasta is the easiest way to put a hearty meal together, we team it up with a nice crusty bread and arugula leaves and olives on the side to make it a complete meal. I am personally more fond of cheese based sauces, though when I have the patience to oven roast tomatoes or make a jar of pesto then I indulge in my other two favourites Primavera and Puttanesca.

After my enlightening and gorgeous experience at Olive Bar & Kitchen last weekend I once again got inspired into pasta making. I had a tuck basket at  my disposal with some of the best Olive oils (Leonardo), Olives (Leonardo) and Penne and Spaghetti (also Leonardo), and I could hear the basket beckoning me to my favourite room in my home, my kitchen! After rummaging through my fridge I found bell peppers and two chicken breasts marinated in white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and chilli flakes. So the dinner for the evening was due to be - pan fried chicken strips in a three cheese sauce with penne.... mmmm!

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, marinated in white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and chilli flakes
4 tbsp Leonardo Olive Oil for pan frying

(Pan fry for 3-4 minutes on each side and put aside. If the chicken has not been marinated long enough then fry a bit longer. If the chicken breasts are thick, you can use a mallet to flatten them a bit)

1 cup red and yellow bell peppers, sliced into think strips
6-8 garlic cloves smashed
1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
2 cups of milk
2 tsp pasta seasoning (I use Keya)
1 ball of Bocconcini
1/2 cup Fontina or cheddar, grated/crumbled
2 tbsp Parmesan, grated and used for sprinkling when served
Salt and Pepper


(a lot of this is by instinct so don't put in all the milk, start with half and use a whisk to move the sauce around while it thickens, add milk depending upon the consistency you want, I like for the sauce to be the consistency of thick/clotted cream)

1 cup of Leonardo Penne Pasta
1 ltr water
1 tsp Leonardo Olive Oil

(Boil the pasta as per instructions. I don't like 'al dente' pasta on the other I don't like it mushy either, it needs to be cooked to perfection. I have tried different brands and I felt Leonardo cooks the fastest and doesn't have a white floury, starchy residue in the water)

Method:

Pan fry the chicken and set aside, in the same pan add the knob of butter and throw in the garlic, fry for a minute or so and add the bell pepper strips. Fry for 2-3 minutes on a low flame, then add the flour, mix it around and let is cook for few minutes. Use a wire whisk to blend in the milk, I use warm milk which helps in avoiding lumps. Keep stirring gently as the sauce thickens, use milk to check the consistency, then add the seasonings. Break the bocconcini into chunks and add those, then the Fontina or cheddar, both add a butteriness to the sauce, though Cheddar is a tad more pungent and sharp. Cut the pan fried chicken breast into strips and add to the sauce. That's it, the sauce is done.

To assemble, put the boiled Penne, top with the sauce, sprinkle grated parmesan over it and serve with warm crusty bread or slices of garlic bread and arugula leaves. I love the combination of hot and cold foods, so I make a quick salad of arugula, pine nuts and garlic slivers, dressed with Leonardo Extra Virgin Olive Oil, lemon juice, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Enjoy!
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