Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Porcini Mushroom Risotto

Let’s face it - porcini mushrooms are expensive. It’s not something that finds its way into my grocery list AT ALL. But there are odd days (when the salary account has been credited) that one is inclined to feel generous. So I picked up a teeny tiny bottle of it for half a thousand rupees. When coming up with an idea to use it judiciously – a Porcini Mushroom Risotto was a no brainer. The mushrooms would lend themselves nicely to being slowly rehydrated while cooking the risotto and the flavor and color would permeate the stock. And to be fair, just half a cup of Porcini mushrooms is more than enough to make that risotto praise worthy. 

Cooking risotto is like barbequing something – you have to hang around. The stock has to be poured in ladle by ladle while the rice absorbs the liquid and gets plump. And you need to use your intuition and your tasting spoon to know when it’s ready. Lucky for you, I use a fail-safe risotto recipe that has consistently given me perfectly cooked risotto time and again. If you want a grain that holds its shape, is glossy, creamy and luxurious – you’ve come to the right place. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Easy Grilled Chicken with Pasta

The grill pan is one of my favorite kitchen treasures. It lets me (almost) replicate the look and taste of an outside grill, right on my stove-top. I’m all for shortcuts and making life easier, so you well know how this fits into my lifestyle ;) Another thing that makes life easier is ready-made sauces – for the life of me, I can’t imagine slow simmering some BBQ sauce over 12-14 hours! I have better things to do, like read a juicy cookbook or go grocery shopping for exciting ingredients! Now, there’s two kinds of grocery shopping I indulge in. The first one is running to the local kirana store (doubles up as exercise) for curry leaves or a loaf of bread and the second is where I make a huge list and plan an exciting day at a large and well stocked supermarket. (yes, I’m sad like that).

Foodhall @ 1MG Road, has been a regular haunt to pick up all things interesting – wasabi paste…check, gnocchi…check, tarragon vinegar…check, Ras-El-Hanout…check, an elephant…check (ok, just checking to see if you’re paying attention!). So when I received a little hamper from Foodhall, I was pretty thrilled - more ammunition for my kitchen! I wanted to act all Master-cheffy and do a mystery box challenge, but we both must agree that Grilled Chicken and Pasta sounds pretty basic. We however jazz it up by using the red chilli, apricot and rosemary sauce and a twisty coloured pasta. Not so basic anymore huh? :P But honestly, repeatable and easy recipes are what I always bookmark and this one finds pride of place in that list. Let’s get cooking…

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Breaking the jinx with Mushroom Melts

The thing about leisurely cooking in the afternoon, is that I get to take pictures. And that is a privilege that I seem to have lost with my current work schedule. Add to that, the imagined pressure of blogging about something fabulous and you have yourself a pretty non-existent blog over a couple of months. (Sorry Shwe!) So I’m breaking the jinx and blogging about something. Even if it’s something really simple. Something I make myself pretty often and something that I really like. 

My normal grocery shopping always includes a packet of button mushrooms. I like to toss these babies into omelets, pulaos, stews and casseroles. But what I like to do most is just sauté them in butter and garlic and pile them mile high on some good bread. The key to making this more than ‘mushrooms on toast’, is to know how to sauté the mushrooms. What we are looking for is a nice seared brown outside and a juicy plump center. Overcrowding mushrooms in the pan and/or adding them in before the butter/oil is hot, will just cause them to water out and steam, instead of sauté. And we don’t want watery, shriveled up mushrooms - not when they are the star ingredient! 

This version takes it a step further and adds some passata and cheese. I use a Baguette as the base, but Ciabatta would work great as well. The Mushrooms Melts make a delectable appetizer or light lunch with a fresh salad. What they also do, is serve to break my jinx and for that I adore them even more. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Vietnamese Summer Rolls: Light and Fresh

It’s 38°C! I’m almost tempted to break and egg on the pavement and see if it gets cooked! My house feels like a mini sauna and I have officially stopped wearing pants at home. (I wear cotton dresses - go wash your dirty brains :P). So it goes without saying that summer is here! Which is both a boon and a curse depending on which part of the world you live in. I, for instance live in a city that has salubrious climate for 80% of the year so any extremes in temperature is treated with great disdain. (Yes, Bangaloreans are spoilt that way!). Every year we just whine and crib till the first showers of April hit the sands and then we whine and crib that it’s monsoon already. This year is no different except that I learnt how to make some Vietnamese Summer Rolls. It’s fresh, light and all kinds of colorful. Just what summer should be? 

This recipe is more about getting your mise en place and rolling technique right. Once you master than, you can churn out a gazillion of these with a flick of the wrist. (Ok, as usual I’m exaggerating, but you get the drift no?). Also since it’s a fresh roll, its best prepared and served just in time to eat. It doesn’t lower the temperature or anything, but I assure you summer will be more bearable – at least while you’re eating it!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Marinara Sauce - My way

Have you ever had something that you knew was perfect your way? No matter what the textbooks, teachers, experts or even old aunties claimed? Well in my case, many things fall in this category including this Marinara sauce. Now this is not blind faith - it’s a belief system that has evolved over many painstaking trial and error sessions. It is also a result of the fact that international recipes sometimes call for ingredients that are not readily available here. Or plain and simple – you try to make the best of the ingredients that ARE available to you! If that means cutting open a packet of Dabur Tomato Puree in the final stages and finishing the sauce with some Maggi Hot and Sweet sauce – then so be it! The final results are a fantastically chunky sauce with a robust tomato and garlic flavor. Dress it with some good quality olive oil and you’ve beaten the store bought sauces 10-1. With odds like this, ‘my way’ seems a lot more comfortable than the highway no?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Pathway to Heaven with Bacon Wrapped Prawns

There are many pathways to heaven they say. With most ending with some bearded gentleman manning the pearly gates. (Or in my case a portly gentleman sitting on a Buffalo who has a really long ledger of life events). And you would have to be good and do good and all that jazz to really even be considered for a chance to get there. Then steps in bureaucracy, where they make you wait at the gates (in a queue mind you…) before they proceed to check your files and then certify your eligibility to enter. Why, some may even be turned away due to a totally negligible mistake (Gluttony is one of the seven deadly sins, apparently!). So the chances to enter heaven for people like us are slim to none.
Since the final destination seems like a distant dream, are we to moan and groan about its inaccessibility? Hell No! (Oops… swearing I’m sure is not allowed. Especially when it involves Heaven’s direct competitor!). So again, you see the chances are really-really teeny-weeny. As I am a doer not a cribber, I have decided to create my own piece of heaven instead of waiting in line. It’s called Bacon wrapped Prawns. They come as a pair and are extremely adept at recreating the hallowed space. (You can thank me later for the cheat sheet). The gentlemen ‘above’ are welcome to some as well. After all, standing at the gates all day, can’t be that exciting :P

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cranberry & Chocolate Chip Wholewheat Muffins

Cranberries are not grown in India. So all those gorgeous recipes with Cranberries in them were pushed to the back, because let’s face it – I don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to import them. Nor do I want to grab onto someone else’s arm or leg and beg them to get some from their trip abroad.
The dried version however IS available here and I recently happened to pick some up for the heck of it. Foodhall offeres two types – one that looks all red and juicy (which is what I would expect a cranberry to be) and the other which looks like a mini blueberry. Of course I gravitated to the more familiar one, only to be told that they were not whole cranberries and are treated to some extent, with sugar and color to make them pretty and sweeter. I took the bait and bought the more expensive but tart, Whole Cranberries.
The idea was to keep them at my work desk and have them as a snack, a-la-Oprah. But the recipe books beckoned and I caved. A whole wheat muffin that called for dried cranberries had my name written all over it! I improvised and added some chocolate chips in as well…Who knew they would hit it off? J

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fizzy Batter Fried Fish

Chemistry was an exciting subject in school – at least the part that required us to don lab coats and act like scientists. No matter that the only thing we were actually allowed to do, is heat some substances (washing soda/ copper sulphate) and note down the properties. I don’t want to give you the spiel about how recreating a recipe is nothing but chemistry, but in this case it’s true. I was supposed to use carbonated water or soda, in combination with soda bicarbonate powder to get the desired ‘fizziness’ to make the batter light and crispy. It’s anticlimactic that the actual reaction was nowhere near the explosion that I expected, but more of a tame bubble bath! But the end product was right as promised – crisp, light and almost see-through-lace like batter. Now that’s an experiment recipe worth repeating.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Coq Au Vin for easy entertaining

I have not been lazy. The fact that my last blog post was a month and a half ago should not lead you to the obvious conclusion. The reason for not posting is because most of my cooking these days is done in the evening. That leads to the sad fact that there is no natural light to shoot my pictures. (This is the only time I wish I lived in a temperate region where the sun sets late!). This leads to me not posting the recipes because I always feel a recipe is enhanced by pictures. (Which is why I struggle to buy cookbook without pictures, unless it was something monumental like the Larousse Gastronomique!)

I make Coq Au Vin pretty often. That’s because it’s easy, can be made in large quantities, it freezes well and the leftovers always taste more brilliant than the day you actually make it. Another more practical reason is to use up leftover wine. (Not that there is too much, but the rare occasions of opening two bottles for two people can result in this miraculous event!). It’s a one pot rustic dish which is generally served with buttered flat noodles. The French use Burgundy for the ‘Vin’ part and a rooster for the ‘Coq’ part, but you may just use chicken and any good quality red wine. Julia Child may have made this dish popular in the Americas, but my recipe is from my Family Circle book that I have come to trust and love immensely. (P.S. they also have gorgeous pictures for each recipe!). So if you want something for easy entertaining – look no further.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two ways to be Feta Chic - Salad and Appetizer

Feta is a brined soft cheese, made from sheep (and goats milk) and is very popular in Greek cuisine. It looks like paneer but is much softer, grainier and tangier. While the most popular way of using feta is in a Greek Salad – this cheese has the ability to shine in many other dishes. I picked up a slab of Feta this week and was hard pressed to find a recipe that does it justice. I wanted Feta to be the star of the dish and not just a supporting element. After many frustrating hours of searching my recipe books and the internet, I just decided to use it in a Watermelon and Arugula (Rocket) Salad. Besides, I had recently learnt how to deseed a watermelon and I was itching to see if it works. (It does – Instructables shows you how!). The salad is an amazing medley of tastes and textures – sweet and crispy watermelon, crunchy and peppery arugula and finally creamy and salty feta, dressed with silky honey and olive oil. The salad is super easy to put together and colorful to look at as well. I used up half the slab of feta here and packed the other half away.
Later in the day, I remembered a beautiful meal that me and the co-resident had in one of our favorite Greek restaurants – Thalassa in Goa. The appetizer was a slab of marinated Feta served with toasted Pita! I had found my Feta Star recipe. This is an absolute breeze to make and you will not believe the flavor explosion in your mouth. If I wanted to serve up a really chic appetizer in a fancy party – this would be it! It makes sense to go out and scout for a good slab of Feta, just to have the pleasure of eating this. The creamy Feta just luxuriates in a good quality olive oil and once you dress it in some herbs – your work is done. Like Leonardo Da Vinci said and Steve Jobs believed - “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.  
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