Sunday, March 15, 2015

Fancy dressing

Are you one of those who is stumped by leftovers? The very thought of it fills you with dread? And the sight of it in your fridge gives you that sinking feeling? If you're nodding your head vigorously by now then, take comfort in the fact that you're not alone. In fact, I think leftovers are a home cook's version of an Invention Test!

The other day the husband was craving naan. Yes, naan. So he ordered and how! I thought we'd be having garlic naan for the next three days. The next morning I wondered what I could do to finish them off. I pondered over making a quick naan pizza for breakfast but that didn't seem like it. And then suddenly, I remembered Kothu Roti, a dish served down south. This one is made by shredding roti or paratha and sauteeing it with onions and a whole lot of other spices. The result is a delicious mix of flavours and textures.

Since I had that much naan at hand, I thought it would be best to use them up. The entire dish takes roughly 10 minutes. We had this for breakfast but you can serve it as a snack as well. 

Kothu roti
3-4 rotis or naan, shredded into 1/2inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 curry leaves
1 tsp of mustard seeds
1/4 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of chilli powder
A handful of coriander leaves
Lemon juice
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large kadai or wok, add the mustard seeds and when it begins to sputter add the curry leaves followed by onions. Sauté till golden.

Now add the turmeric powder and chilli powder and fry for a minute.

Next add the shredded roti and sauté some more. Turn off the flame and mix in the lemon juice. 

Check the seasoning. Garnish with the coriander leaves and serve hot.

* You can add a scrambled egg to this to make it more filling. Even chopped bits of chicken or some prawns will work well

* I've used naan in this recipe but you can even make this with chappatis

* If you like a bit of heat in your food then add some chopped green chilli

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Eating, Tweeting and some more of that

Well, it's been a while isn't it? I know, I know. The long silence on the blog isn't the smartest thing. But when you've been travelling on work, been sick and then have had to put up with hectic schedules; things get pushed to the back burner a little bit. That's what's happened here. Would you believe this is the first Sunday in almost two months where I've been at home and just chilled out? Well, more or less like that. So I thought instead of sharing another recipe I should instead tell you about some of the culinary adventures I've had recently.

About two weeks ago we had been to the Mahim Koli Seafood Festival, an event that brought the cooking skills of the Koli (fisherfolk) community to the fore. The open air venue, pulsating music and vibrant colours only added to the appeal. We had some fantastic Surmai fry and Prawn biryani, wish we had the appetite for more though! The only downside? Wish the prices were a little more reasonable.
Scenes from the food fest

Then I made a cake that I'm terribly proud of. This one was for a very special couple that's expecting their first child. The cake was a surprise and the looks on everyone's face when they saw it was priceless! This was a Banana cake filled with homemade peach preserve and frosted with chocolate ganache. I sculpted the pandas from fondant, with a little help from Google :) 

Tale of three pandas!

I've had the chance to taste some really awesome food these last couple of days. Like this Chilli Chicken Croissant from Hearsch in Bandra. What I love about this croissant is that there's no scrimping on the flavour or stuffing, it's bursting with both! 

This croissant is just epic

Sometime last week we had been to the newly-opened restaurant in Lower Parel, Byblos. The husband and I are great fans of Middle Eastern food and this place held a lot of surprises for us. The standouts were a salad called Marrakech, a range of dips with warm bread and this spectacularly plated dessert - Oops I dropped the Lemon Pie! 

Marrakech: A salad with mixed greens, Chevre, orange segments and blueberry vinaigrette

From top: Onion pate, Hummus, Toum and Baba Ganoush

Oops I Dropped the Lemon Pie: This artfully plated dessert is a modern take on the classic Lemon Pie. Lemon Champagne Curd, Shorbread soil and Port Meringue

Yesterday I'd been to a Masterclass on Mexican food conducted by Chef Vikas Seth at Sancho's, Colaba. I got lucky in a Twitter contest organised by HT Cafe. So yay! What I loved about this masterclass was that it was very interactive. The chef got us to actually cook along with him and that was the best part. We made some Pulled Chipotle Chicken which went into Quesadillas, Taquitos with young vegetables and a lot of other Mexican delights. However the highlight were these absolute melt-in-the-mouth Mexican wedding cookies. There's a lot, and I mean a LOT, of butter in this but it's just worth all the calories. Really! Here are some glimpses from the Masterclass. 

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Cookies in progress 

Chef Vikas Seth in action

Neat trays with carefully portioned ingredients 

A Mexican pizza

Talking about learning from chefs, we went for The Great Food Show this afternoon. For me, the star attraction was to watch the Masterchef Australia contestants in action. We were there right on time to watch Renae Smith whip up two dishes. Now I'll admit, Renae wasn't my favourite but what I could identify with her is the fact that she doesn't stick to measurements. I'm like that too, which is why when I intend putting up something on the blog I've to make that extra effort to record exactly what goes into a recipe. 

Renae showed us how to make a Crispy tofu with corn grits and pesto and a Gingebread cake with cornflake anglaise and praline. I got to taste both of these and for the second one - here's the best part - since I won a Twitter contest (yes, again!) I was called up on stage to taste the dessert. *does a happy dance* I liked both the dishes but for me what stood out was the praline, which she made using cornflakes and almonds. It was crunchy, nutty and just absolutely yummm! 

My 15 seconds of fame moment: On stage with Renae Smith 

The dish I got to taste: Gingerbread cake, cornflake anglaise with praline 

We also had this absolutely delicious Falafel roll at the food stall by Sahara Star. I really wished I could eat more of this! 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Modern Amchi: Celebrating my roots

Given the fact that I'm a Mangalorean who has lived in Chennai all her life and then moved to Bangalore and now in Mumbai, the food that constitutes 'home food' for me, has a multitude of influences. So one day we may be having a typical amchi (that's what we call ourselves) meal of bendi (a spicy gravy with pulses), kosambari (salad), upkari (a vegetable preparation), rice and dal at home, the next day it could be varan-bhaat (dal-rice, Maharashtrian style) or even puliogare (tamarind rice) with potato roast the following day. While it is great in terms of variety, for me, the advantage is that I've got to learn so many styles of cooking closely. Add this to the fact that I'm a worshipper of anything food and you have someone whose idea of relaxing is romancing with the pots and pans!

Let me tell you a little bit about myself, to put things into context. No, not me as a person; but more on the lines of the community I hail from. I'm a Chitrapur Saraswat Brahmin and my roots can be traced to Kashmir, yes, right up till there. It is said that the ancestors fled and then settled along the Konkan coast. My family has roots in this little town close to Mangalore called Bankikodla, if you've heard of Gokarna, then it's right next to that.

That's a village school in Bankikodla

On the blog, I've written about different kinds of food but, the other day when I stepped back to review I realised I need to do more about the cuisine that is really me. While I'm a die-hard fan of the CSB style of cooking, I also know that given Google's wide network it isn't difficult to find a recipe these days. Of late, I've been receiving a lot of queries from my readers, who've been asking about using different kinds of ingredients and adapting it to Indian food. That's when an idea struck, how about combining modern ingredients and using them in the CSB/amchi style of cooking? I tried this out at home first, got some people at work to taste it, had the family give me honest opinions and I was thrilled to observe that people wanted to know more, and were game to experiment.

That's how this series, The Modern Amchi, was born. As a part of this, I will share one recipe a month which uses modern ingredients adapted to the CSB/Amchi/Mangalorean style of cooking.

Where to begin? Really, where. I've always had a starting problem. That's probably one of the typical Capricorn traits in me! I was in a bit of a fix - I didn't want to do something way too complicated nor did I want to do something too simple. Finding that balance was the key.

The other day when I chanced upon a pile of fresh broccoli in the market, I skeptically asked the vendor about the price, and when he told me it was just Rs. 30 I was shocked! Just a couple of weeks ago the prices of broccoli were sky-high due to a shortage. That was the only signal I needed and I bought more than what I needed, confident that it wouldn't go waste.

Green gorgeousness: Broccoli
Image source:

So apart from the usual soup or salad or Au Gratin or Thai curry, I thought I should do something different. I wanted to make something home style, but what?

That's when I realised I could make a talasani. Now, this an Amchi dish (I'm sure you guessed that), which is similar to a stir-fry. The vegetable is sauteed in oil with some garlic, a bit of chilli powder is added to up the flavours. That's how simple it is! Talasani is a combination of the words 'tel' meaning oil and 'lasun' meaning garlic, which are essential to the dish. This dish can be made with a variety of vegetables, usually a single vegetable is used in a dish, unlike an upkari (similar to the south Indian poriyal or bhaji up north) which can use a combination of vegetables. You can make a talasani with potato (this is the most famous and most loved version, I've yet to meet someone who hates batata talasani), tendli (ivy gourd), French beans, bhindi (lady's finger) or even cauliflower.

Here's how it is made

1 medium-sized broccoli floret, cleaned and cut into 1-inch pieces
2-3 cloves of garlic, slightly bruised
1/2 tsp of chilli powder
Salt to taste

Take a heavy-bottomed pan/kadai or kayli, as we call it in Konkani. Heat some oil in this and add the garlic to it. Move it around a bit and then add the pieces of broccoli to this. Stir it well, add the chilli powder and sprinkle a few drops of water. Cover and allow it to cook.

Keep checking occasionally to ensure it doesn't get burnt. If you find it charring a bit, then keep sprinkling water. But broccoli cooks fast, so you shouldn't have a problem with this vegetable. However if you are using potatoes or even lady's finger, then you need to keep a close watch on the dish. When the broccoli is done, check the seasoning and turn off the flame.

Serve with dal-rice or even with some rotis and dal. It tastes great on it's own too. You just need some dahi (curd/ yogurt) to round off the meal.

* You can use even the stem of the broccoli in this recipe, it is a powerhouse of nutrients and doesn't take too long to cook, though you may want to cut it a little smaller than the other pieces

*I don't peel the garlic in this recipe, the skin crisps up to a beautiful golden brown and it's delicious! If you aren't comfortable with this, then by all means peel the garlic

*You can make talasani with asparagus, pok choi or even baby corn, I've tried each of these and they're all awesome. But my favourite remains the version with broccoli, I'm biased like that!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Hello 2015. And when the universe tells you stuff about strawberries

So the new year is upon us and I'm sure most of us have resolved to eat healthy, if not diet or shed those stubborn kilos, this year. I'm one of them. Yes, I am. One of the things that I aim to do this year is include more fresh, seasonal produce, explore and experiment with ingredients and combos I wouldn't otherwise touch and get as preservative-free and chemical-free as I can in my cooking. That means you will see a lot of different stuff happening here.

To begin with, I'm introducing you to a very simple salad. But what makes this different is that it's got an unusual combination of ingredients. What's common with them is that they're all fresh and easily available this time of the year!

The other day, when we were in Bandra I saw this fruit vendor who had the most gorgeous, plump strawberries and I just couldn't resist. When I learnt that he was selling them by the kilo, I knew I had to buy them. It was like the universe was telling me something. And this was my first purchase of the year. How much more better can it get? After I bought these beauties, my mind went into an overdrive. There were so many things I wanted to make - cheesecake, smoothie, serve them with thick yogurt, a sorbet, perhaps? At the same time I also wanted to make something different. Should I flambe them? Or make a strawberry and mint preserve? The mind boggled. Suddenly I remembered this salad. I knew I had all the ingredients at home. The universe was telling me something, yet again. And I listened!
So difficult to resist these!

This salad is inspired by what I once ate at a brunch in a star hotel. That recipe was simple, with just the spinach, strawberries and a balsamic dressing. I recently discovered water chestnuts, after seeing them for so long and wondering what they really taste like, and I fell in love with them. The husband seems to have taken to them too, so that was reason enough to add them to this salad. But I felt that the salad needed something more in terms of texture. Something that would give it some crunch. The answer was staring right back at me when I was rummaging through the fridge - walnuts! This salad is also super-healthy and it has enough colour and goodness to make it high on all the anti-oxidants and good things.

We polished off the entire bowl of this in one sitting. I know I'm going to make this often during the strawberry season, and you should too.

Strawberry & Spinach salad with water chestnuts

2 cups of spinach leaves, washed and roughly chopped
100 gms of strawberries, cleaned, hulled and chopped
1/2 cup of water chestnuts, peeled and chopped (they're available slightly roasted in the markets)
A handful of walnuts

For the dressing
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp of balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp of basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Whisk all the ingredients together for the dressing and keep it aside.

In a mixing/salad bowl, place the spinach, strawberries and half of the water chestnuts and walnuts. Pour the dressing over this and toss well. Now sprinkle the rest of the nuts over this. Serve immediately.

I served this with a hearty soup and croutons to make a meal. You can serve this salad as an appetiser or even as a meal by itself. If you choose to do the former, then a good idea for a main would be some grilled chicken or steamed fish or even some pita-falafel pockets.

*If you don't have water chestnuts, skip them. I can't offer  a substitute

*In case you don't have fresh basil leaves for the dressing, then use the dried variety but, limit it to 1/2 or 3/4 tsp

*Nut allergies? Then simply substitute with some sunflower or pumpkin seeds for that crunch

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Not just 'ghas-phus'

When I tell people that I can eat salads as a meal in itself, I'm met with stares and incredulous looks. "Really, you? Why would you eat ghas-phus for a meal?" they ask. Well it isn't just ghas-phus (a Hindi colloquial term for vegetables), salads are more than just that and if you've been around here for a while, then you will know that salads are a regular feature at my place. Sometimes we have a soup and salad for dinner. At times, we've even had just a nice, big, hearty salad with crusty bread as a meal in itself.

Since I make salads so often I thought I'd share with you three of them, which I've made recently and which have turned out absolutely delicious. Each one is different and unique but, what is common is that they all use fresh, seasonal produce and don't take too long to put together. So if you're tired after a long day at work, have people over or just want to make something that's easy, healthy and tasty; here are three options.

A whole bunch of textures that play with your senses
Beet, pear & walnut salad 

Beetroot is not one of my favourite vegetables and often, I have to trick myself into eating it! But, if I had to eat this salad every single day, I would, happily. The sweet earthiness of the beetroot, the tartness of the pear, salty hint of the Feta and the crunch from the walnuts make this salad a winner all the way. 

1 beetroot, steamed 
1 large pear, de-seeded and sliced 
2 tbsp of Feta cheese 

For the dressing
Mix these and keep aside for about 5 minutes 
1/2 tsp of Balsamic vinegar 
1 tsp of olive oil 
Some freshly crushed peppercorn 
Pinch of salt 

For the garnish
A handful of Rocket leaves 
1 tbsp of walnuts 

Peel the beetroot and slice it, the slices should be about 3mm thick. Soak the sliced pear in water with a few drops of lemon to prevent it from discolouring. 

On a large platter, arrange the beetroot slices at the bottom. Mix the pear with half of the walnuts and place on top of this. Crumble the Feta cheese over this, followed by rest of the walnuts. Now drizzle the salad dressing on top of this. Finish with the Rocket leaves. Serve immediately. 

Don't they say that you eat with your eyes first? 

Mix veggie & bean salad 

I love adding beans to salads - apart from giving it that punch of protein, they also make the dish very filling. All you need to do is serve this with a light soup and you have a complete meal. 

1 large cucumber, peeled and sliced into half moons 
1 yellow bell pepper, de-seeded and sliced 
1 red carrot, peeled and cut into batons of about an inch tall 
A handful of rajma (red kidney beans) steamed 
1 cup of lettuce, torn 
2 tbsp of mint leaves, torn 
1 tbsp of parsley, torn 

Put all these vegetables into a mixing bowl and pour over a dressing that's made from:

1 tsp olive oil 
1/2 tsp of mustard 
1 tsp of honey
A pinch of salt

Toss the vegetables in the dressing so that all the vegetable pieces are coated with it. Serve immediately. 

This dish is warm and comforting

Warm prawn salad

Prawns are among my favourite seafood. Using them in a salad like this just shows how versatile this is. We had this salad with hunks of crusty bread, also known as kadak pav in Mumbai! This one is perfect when the nights are a little chilly

200 gms of prawns, cleaned and deveined
1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
1 green chilli, sliced, de-seeded and cut into small pieces
3/4 cup of bean sprouts
Some olive oil
Salt to taste

Heat some olive oil in a pan and add the garlic to it. When this begins turning brown, add the chilli and follow with the prawns. Saute until the prawns are almost done. Now add the bean sprouts, you don't want to add them too early because they will lose their crunch. Season well but remember you will need to add Feta cheese, which is salty, later on.

Top this dish with:
A handful of Arugula leaves
Some Raddish micro greens
Crumbled Feta cheese

And serve warm with bread. We ate it right out of the pan that I had cooked it in!

*There are some ingredients in these recipes like Arugula or micro greens which may not be easily available. You can substitute with Iceberg lettuce or chopped parsley or mint for this. Yes, it will impact the flavours but fresh herbs always weave a magic of their own

*All these salads are best eaten the minute they're prepared. I would advise against storing it even for a couple of minutes and eating it later on

*While washing the vegetables, soak them in salted water for a while, rinse and then proceed. This helps get rid of germs, bacteria and all other unwanted things
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