Overloaded Dinner and an Introduction

There are those days when I just have to whip up lunch in a jiffy and stuff it into a box to carry to office…that’s almost everyday.

And then there are those days when you feel like taking time and concoct something wonderful and complicated and feel chef-like! Well, almost chef-like.

My current sous-chef, by the virtue of being half-vegetarian (I’ll come to the “half-vegetarian” part later) insisted on a mushrom and spinach risotto for dinner yesterday, whereas I felt like c-h-i-c-k-e-n.

Nothing new there.

So we settled on both, shared the chores and all the chopping and peeling went to her.

The risotto has white wine (but obvious) in it and turned out slightly spicy for my taste and totally-not-hot for my sous-chef.

The chicken has a poppy-seed crust, needs no egg or buttermilk or bread crumbs or flour……and is shallow fried.

That’s right, you heard me — shallow fried, in just a couple of tablespoons of veggie oil.
Spinach and Mushroom Risotto

What You Need:
– 1 cup of rice
– 3 tablespoons of olive oil
– 6 big garlic cloves, crushed
– 3 Spanish onions, chopped finely
– a sprig of rosemary
– 1 cup of portobello mushrooms, sliced (a nice and stronger-tasting alternative would be porcini)
– 1 cup of chopped spinach
– Half a teaspoon of dried basil
– 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes (epends on how hot you like your food)
– Half a cup of chopped black olives
– Half a cup of white wine
– Salt and pepper to taste

How to:
– Heat oil in a pan.
– Add the garlic, rosemary and onions and cook on medium heat till the onions turn glossy and translucent.
– Add in the spinach, mushrooms, olives, chilli flakes and dried basil. Cover and cook on low heat for two minutes or till the mushrooms are soaked through with oil.
– Add the rice and stir well to mix.
– Pour in the wine and cook till all of it absorbed by the rice.
– Add salt and pepper to taste.
– Pour water at regular intervals to cook the rice.
I added 1 cup of water and let it cook till it was absorbed by the rice, before adding the next cup. I needed two cps of water.

– Continue this process till the rice is cooked through and the risotto has a sticky (but not gummy) consistency.

– Do a taste check and adjust salt and pepper accordingly.
– Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley leaves.

Poppy-seed Crusted Chicken

What you need:
– I cooked for two, so I used two chicken breasts
– Oil to shallow fry (I used about 2-3 tablespoons of vegetable oil)

for the marinade:

– 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
– 1 tablespoon of ginger-garlic paste

for the crust:

– Half cup of poppy seeds
– Half a tablespoon of cayenne pepper
– 1 teaspoon of dry mango powder
– 1 teaspoon of coriander powder
– 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
– salt and pepper to taste

How To:
– To prepare the chicken breasts, put them between plastic sheets/wraps (or cheesecloth works well too) and beat with a rolling pin to flatten them into 1/2 inch thick steaks.
– Marinate them in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and ginger-garlic paste for two hours n the refrigerator (if you don’t have two hours, fifteen minutes of marination will do just fine. The two hour marination just softens the chicken a little more)
– Mix the dry coating ingredients and spread evenly on a flat surface.
– Lay out the chicken fillets on this mixture. Drag through it to coat well on both sides.
– Heat oil in a frying pan. (You need super-hot oil in a super-hot pan)
– Turn the heat to low, and shallow fry the fillets, flipping them in intervals. It takes about 3-4 minutes for each side. (I kept flipping every minute and a half to prevent the crust from sticking to the surface of the pan).
– Fry till golden brown.
– Serve with a side of tomato-cucumber-dill salad, or a salsa dip….or better yet, just do what we did…eat it with the risotto….

Bon apetite!

I”ll leave you with a random snap of me and my “sous-chef”, in the lift. She also happens to be my room-mate, classmate from University, best friend for the last six years, super-efficient help in the kitchen, excellent in ruthlessly judging me, a kind soul who lets me borrow her T-shirts…and I repay her by stretching them out of shape.

She’s originally vegetarian. Has been all her life, till she met me.

She spent the first year of our friendship by getting accustomed to my non-veg habits. The second year was spent in tasting, I repeat…tasting, various preparations of chicken. Six years later and she can eat any chicken dish without batting an eyelash (though she says she prefers not to), but has managed to refrain herself from turning into a full-fledged carnivore.

Ladies and gentlemen…(drumroll)….Foram Vakani.

My kitchen at 7:00 A.M.

…is an unusually quiet place to be.

Soft sunlight through the shady panes, breezy drafts from the adjoining terrace garden, the odd vegetable lying around, empty Martini bottles stacked in a corner from the party last night and the subtle sizzle of portobello mushrooms cooking in cream and mozzarella.

Bucatini pasta with Portobello Mushrooms, Aubergine and Martini
No, I haven’t gone completely crazy yet. But I admit I’m on a quest to use up all the alcohol that we have at home, mostly left over from parties. Generally speaking, I love my pasta best with wine.

This recipe uses Martini (Rossi).

What you need:

Bucatini pasta (I was cooking for two, so I used a big handful, about 100-120gms)

– 100 ml Martini & Rossi (you could substitute with Vermouth….or better yet, WHITE WINE)

– Half a cup of portobello mushrooms, sliced finely

– Half a cup of chopped aubergine (egg plants, brinjal, baingan, etc..)

– 2 tablespoons of good quality unsalted butter

– 2 spring onions, chopped (a better substitute would be red onions)

– 8 cloves of garlic, smashed (try using a side of your kitchen knife)

– 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns

– 200 ml of fresh cream

– Half a teaspoon of dried oregano

– Half a teaspoon of dried basil

– 150-180 gms of mozarella (try not using the “rubbery” type), chopped into “melt-able” cubes

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (depends on how hot you like it…)

– 1 teaspoon of sugar

– Salt to taste

– 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

– Freshly chopped parsley

Directions:

Boil three cups of water and a measely teaspoon of salt in a deep bottomed pan. Add the pasta when the water boils. Cook for 11-15 minutes.

– Before straining the pasta, keep aside a cup of the starchy water it boils in, to be used in the sauce later.

– Strain the pasta and run cold water through it.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions, garlic and peppercorn and saute till the onions turn translucent.

– Add the mushrooms and aubergine. Cover and cook on low heat till the veggies soften.

– Pour in the alcohol and add sugar. Stir well. Cover and cook for another minute before adding the rest of the ingredients (except salt, olive oil and parsley) slowly.

– Cook on low heat till the chesse has melted completely and the cream starts to bubble up slightly.

– Do a taste check and add salt accordingly.

– Pour in the water, saved from the cooking pasta. and stir well.

– Cook for another five minutes.

– Combine the pasta and sauce well. Sprinkle olive oil and chopped parsely. Mix well.

– Eat.

A Missing Birthday and Boozy Mutton

I’ve been the worst blogger. Seriously.

My blog’s birthday has gone by (in February) and I’ve simply done nothing about it!

Last year, I had resolved to make a chocolate cheesecake to celebrate Fat-free Brainwaves’ birthday…but its been up and down so much the last few weeks that I missed it altogether. Bad, bad girl.

For the last three days I’ve been gathering all the snaps e-mailed to me from Port Blair (above) and snaps from my own collection (below) for a little project….The Boyfriend Project, I call it!

Anyway, the positive thing is I have been photographing a few of the nicer stuff that I’ve cooked till now over the last couple of weeks, and a White rum-Rosemary mutton’s on top of the list.

Mutton Stew with White Rum and Rosemary

This is essentially a stew, slightly watery but not much boozy, though it calls for a considerable amount of white rum, the rum evaporates as the stew cooks.

The granulated sugar makes this stew more sweet than salty, but I prefer it that way.

Another special touch to this stew would be if you roast the garlic before sauteing them.

Feel free to experiment!

What You Need:

– 800gms of mutton

– 80mls White Rum (My Captain Morgan was almost empty so I used Bacardi…any good brand will do)

– 2 sprigs of rosemary

– 6 big cloves of garlic, chopped

– 2 tablespoons of olive oil (not necessarily extra-virgin)

– 1 tablespoon of whole black peppercorns

– Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes (this depends on how hot you like your food)

– 2 spring onions, chopped

– 1 heaped teaspoon of granulated sugar

– Salt to taste

– Freshly chopped curled parsley leaves, to garnish

Instructions:

Heat the oil in a pan and saute the chopped onions, sprigs of rosemary and garlic for about a minute on high heat, till the onions acquire a typical translucent color.

– Reduce the heat. Add the peppercorns and the pieces of mutton and chilli flakes and saute for another minute, coating all the pieces with the rosemary-garlic scented oil.

– Pour in the rum. Add sugar and two cups of water.

– Stir well, cover and cook on minimum heat for about 45 minutes.

– Uncover. Do a quick taste check and add salt accordingly. Cover and cook for another ten-fifteen minutes. At this point you need to be happy with the amount of water remaning in the pan. Some like their stews to be more watery than others. So add some more water if you want the stew to be more fluid. Or not.

– Conduct another quick taste check. Adjust amounts of salt and sugar accordingly. Take the meat off the heat. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with steamed white rice!

Enjoy…and yeah, I’m not forgetting the cheesecake this time!

Saying “No” to Brownies!

No. I’m not actually saying “no” to brownies! I couldn’t possibly do that…ever!!

But I’ve noticed how every time I prowl around the kitchen, pantry and stick my nose into the refrigerator looking for something to snack on, I mostly choose things that I can just pop into my mouth, rather than those which would require the use of forks and spoons and plates. So I came up with brownie squares. Yes, its just a brownie tart chopped up into pieces for my convenience.

Its technically not the end of the week, I know, but I just couldn’t stand “no-baking-for-a-week” anymore!

This one’s a simple 3-layers recipe really; 1 layer of chocolate brownie crust, 1 layer of lemon pudding and the topmost layer is a chewy mocha meringue.

Chocolate Brownie Tart:

– 75gms of unsalted butter, cold and cut into chunks

– 1/2 cup flour, regular all-purpose

– 3 tablespoons of semisweet cocoa powder

– 1/2 cup of granulated white sugar

– 1 egg yolk, well beaten

– two tablespoons of cold water

– 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Blitz to mix the flour, sugar, salt and cocoa powder in a processor. Add the butter and mix again till the mixture becomes crumby. Pour it out on a working surface or a bowl. Add the egg yolk and start kneading gently. Gradually add the cold water to form the dough. Wrap with cling foil and chill in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Prepare a baking tin. Roll out the brownie crust carefully and place it into the baking tin, trimming the edges accordingly. With a fork make piercing all over the crust (so it doesn’t rise up while baking). Bake for 15-20 minutes.

Lemon Pudding:

– Juice and zest of 1 lemon

– two tablespoons of warm water

– 1 egg beaten

– 1/2 cup double cream at room temperature

– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

– 1 teaspoon of vanilla essence

– 3 tablespoons of icing sugar

Combine the cream, butter, vanilla essence and sugar in a bain-marie and stir it into a uniform mixture. Take it off the heat and beat in the egg vigorously (you don’t want your egg to scramble). Combine the lemon juice, zest and water separately and stir it into the cream-butter mixture. Adding the lemon juice directly will just make the cream curdle.

Chewy Mocha “Meringue”:

– 2 egg whites

– 1/4 cup icing sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground coffee (you could also use instant coffee mix, the taste would alter though)

This layer’s technically not meringue-like, since we whip the egg white to a frothy texture, rather than a shiny one. The frothiness makes it turn chewy while baking. Add the coffee and sugar gradually while whipping the whites till they form soft frothy peaks.

Assembling the Brownie Tart:

Pour the lemon pudding over the pre-baked crust and pipe out the mocha “meringue” on top. Bake for 12-15 minutes in a pre-heated 350 degrees oven or till the meringue is dry and chewy.

Cool completely and cut into bite-sized squares.