1) Cook the rice noodle in a large pan of water for 6 mins. Drain whilst running under cold water. Once fully dry, coat with noodle sauce and set aside. 2) Pound the chilies and garlic. In wide, non-stick pan, heat the oil, sauté garlic-chili paste for a few seconds, followed by the onions and Bell pepper slices. Remove half this mixture and set mixture aside. Add half the noodles and toss well and then let noodles stand so they can get crisp in paces. Once there is a brownish color with noodles crisp in places, remove from heat. Toss in half the tomatoes and bail leaves and place in a large bowl. Repeat with remaining noodles, sautéed vegetables, tomatoes and basil. Toss to combine together and finish with lime juice
Japaese fried chicken is a quiet Powerhouse in the fried chickens community. Infact, other fried chickens are in need of pulling their socks up after taking a bite of this crispy, echoey, airily coated bird. What is the secret behind Japans favorite pub chicken’s success? Firstly, we are not frying-up entire limbs and fillets of breast. Instead, pieces are cut smaller, rolled in to flour and then fried. In other words – more surface area for that golden coating – after all, isn’t that what makes us weak at the knees!…
Move over Kale, cauliflower took your spot. Yes, the vegetable that tormented my younger years with its offensive pong is back! Any farm-to table restaurant will have cauliflower purees (replacing mashed-potatoes) ,roasted cauliflower, cauliflower crusted pizza bases – there is no end to where this vegetable is going. All this talk of cauliflower did bring one dish back to life for me; cauliflower pakora – the Indian fritter. Pakoras are veggies that are submerged in a batter of chickpea flour (besan) and then dunked in hot oil until they are crunchy and golden on the outside whilst perfectly steaming the vegetable from the inside. This is a great dish when made correctly. Yes, many of us have been victim to those cheaply made, thickly battered bread-like pakoras with a sliver of a vegetable inside. We then complain of heartburn. Have this in a native’s home and the experience is pleasantly light and crunchy. They key is to make the batter thick enough so that it coats the cauliflower like a veneer and not a lick of paint. To ensure maximum crunchness, add a tablespoon of rice flour if you have it on hand. Not a traditional ingredient for pakoras, but go the extra mile and you will be serving-up the Porsche of all pakoras. The next thing to look out for is the oil. If it’s too hot, the florets will fry up super fast not giving the cauliflower a chance to steam and making the batter taste bitter and burnt. If it’s not hot enough, the pakora will become dense with oil and totally greasy and limp (and that’s when deep frying is given a bad name). To serve these pakoras, why not become fully authentic and reach for you bottle of ketch-up. That’s the way it’s eaten behind closed doors in most Indian homes. Recipe For Cauliflower Florets Ingredients 1 medium-sized cauliflower, separated in to florets 2 shallots, diced 5 tbsp. chickpea flour 1 tbsp. rice flour ¼ cup water 1 cup chopped cilantro salt to taste 1 tsp. ginger, grated ½ tsp. cayenne pepper ½ tsp. black pepper ½ tsp. dried mint (optional) Oil for frying Method 1) Make the batter by mixing the flours, water and salt 2) Toss the cauliflower with the remaining ingredients. Add the batter to coat the cauliflower and shallots 3) Spoon 5 individual tablespoons of the mixture in to the hot oil to make 5 balls – keep rotating in the oil. Remove once golden brown and drain on paper towels
I was in England for the hols. It rained the whole bloody time. When this happens, don’t complain, just tuck in to something deeply gratifying to remove that bone dampening discomfort – it really works. When it rained in NY this weekend, I felt compelled to make that hand pie I ate all too often at school – Cornish Pasty. Cornish pasties come from Cornwall and unless you made them in your sweet little cottage over there, to you it’s just called pie my darling. They are made from steak, potatoes and swede (on this side of the pond, the closest you’ll get is rutabaga). These bits and bobs are tucked in to pastry and baked off until golden and delightful. The dough used for this is a fuss-free short-crust. Just throw all ingredients in to a blender (except for the wet ingredients) and pulse until they look like tiny little pebbles. Then add a small amount of liquid. The dough should shaggily come together, visually you are aiming for the complete opposite to pizza dough. This is the stage where people lose faith in the dough and start adding more liquid or overwork it with their hands and start melting those little pebbles or over work the dough. Don’t DO THAT please. Take the somewhat dry looking lump, split it in to 4 portions and refrigerate immediately. The pay off for your trust is a pastry that allows the butter to melt in the oven and not on the hands, leaving you with the flakiest pastry. As for the meat – in my house, we’re not big on steak, so instead I cooked off some ground chicken, dusted with flour and a splash of Worcester sauce for a clingy and luminescent gravy. Throw on some waxy potatoes so they hold their shape and tuck all this yumminess in to your short crust. Method For Chicken Pasty Ingredients Short Crust 125g/4oz plain flour pinch of salt 55g/2oz butter, cubed 30-45ml/3 tbsp. cold water 1 egg Chicken ½ pound of ground chicken 1 small yellow onion 1 tbsp. tomato puree 1 tbsp. plain flour 5tbsp. Worcester sauce Salt and pepper to taste Sprig of thyme or rosemary 1/4 cup water 2 medium-sized waxy potatoes, such as red bliss/ Yukon gold 1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp. water Method 1) Throw the flour, salt and cubed butter in to the blender and pulse until they form small pebbles/ lentils. Add half the water and pulse until it starts to bind. If necessary, add the rest. Quickly gather the dough and work it a couple of times by hand quickly (now is not the time to zone out), make 4 portions shaped in to a disc, cover with cling film and refrigerate immediately for at least an hour 2) Now for the meat – sweat the onions until translucent. Add the chicken, salt and pepper and brown it to caramelize. Add the puree and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes to remove raw taste. Add a generous splash of the Worcester sauce and cook out to reduce. Pour in the water, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer. Cook down until the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Set aside to cool off completely Heat the oven to 400 degrees 3) Pull out one of the chilled dough packets. On a clean and dry surface, throw on a light sprinkling of flour and roll out the dough in to a circle don’t stress, (mine was more rectangular). No more than 5mm thick, compress the cooled meat mixture in to the center, throw on some thinly sliced boiled potatoes. Lightly brush the edges of the pastry with water and gather the edges, pinching together to fasten them shut 4) Brush the upper surface of the pastry with egg wash and bake until golden – approx. 20 minutes
It was the Pupar Ji’s birthday – a title given in Hindi, to an uncle married to your father’s sister. Since we get a kick out of the name, Nitin Madan has now become Pupar Ji not just to the kids but to peers alike. Given that this man loves a piece of Americana whilst the rest of the family is on a constant fresh ginger and chili binge, I found a way to marry the two: Asian Pulled Pork sliders. For pulled pork, the shoulder butt works best. Again, in keeping with the Pupar Ji, this is yet another strange Christening as the shoulder butt is not the derrière of a pig, but rather, the shoulder. This cut of meat has marbling running through it and begs for any kind of slow cooking. It may take a few hours in the oven, but that’s a good time to get organized with other things in the house and once ready, it pulls apart with a light nudge of the fork. As for the seasoning, for me it’s a dry rub all the way. Coriander powder, black pepper and Szechuan peppercorns and grated ginger that are massaged on to that piggy flesh and then seared off to a bark-like consistency – why would you spoil it with sauces and glazes. Serve over a buttered bun and some shredded crunchies – whatever is in the fridge – carrots, cabbage, cukes Recipe For Asian Pork Sliders Ingredients 3lb shoulder butt, excess fat trimmed 1 tsp. coriander powder ¼ tsp. black pepper 1 tsp. Szechuan peppercorns, roasted and blended ½ tsp. 5 season-spice 1 tsp. salt ½ tsp green chili paste (green chilies pounded in to a paste) ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1tbsp. fresh ginger, ground 8 cloves Method Heat oven to 400 degrees 1) Rub the spice and ginger mixture all over the butt and allow to stand for 3 hours 2) In a large sauté pan, sear the butt so it develops a crust 3) Place in the oven for 3 hours – cook covered for 2.5 hours, basting every 20 minutes with the pan juices and uncovered for last 30 minutes. Remove form oven and let the meat rest for 15 minutes. Pull apart with your hands or fork 4) Reserve pan juices to drizzle over the meat 5) Serve up on a buttered roll with some salad
Emotionally, what this dish did to me needs no explanation. How could it not. The sweet and savory scent of rosemary and cognac permeated every room in the apartment. Me and the Mr. curled up in our jammies on the couch savored it spoon by spoon. The stew was silky and luxurious with intense aromas of roasted lamb and braised carrots with pearled onions. Every step was given careful consideration to allow for flavors in full bloom. The lamb was seared for color and a caramelized flavor. The slow cooking allowed for fork tender pieces of meat in a gravy that was luminescent and clingy. As for the veggies, I add them in 2 stages. The first stage was to provide flavor and sacrifice themselves to the dish and discard them when their job was done. The second stage was to add par-cooked veggies that would be finished in the dish half way through. As for my choice of alcohol; the all too often wine was given a miss. Cognac added a butterscotch like flavor that makes this dish memorable. Method For Cognac Braised Lamb And Pearl Onions Ingredients 2lb. leg of lamb, cut in to 2” pieces, fat trimmed (keep the bone) Plain flour for dusting 4 oz cut of bacon, cut in to chunks 1 large carrot, half kept in 1 piece and half sliced in to rounds 2 large celery stick, 1 whole and one sliced ½ cup pearl onions 1 tbsp. tomato puree ½ cup button mushrooms 4 cups chicken stock Parsley for garnish Salt and pepper 1 stick of rosemary pinch of nutmeg 6oz cognac 2 tbsp. butter pinch of sugar Method Heat oven at 400 degrees 1) Mix the lamb with salt and pepper and set aside for 15 minutes 2) Dust with a little flour and brown in a Dutch oven, remove and set aside 3) In the same pan, brown bacon and add the carrot stick and celery stick. Add the tomato puree and cook out to remove raw flavor for a couple of minutes 4) Add the cognac and rosemary stick and cook until reduced by half. Add the lamb back in to the dutch oven along with the chicken stock. Bring to a boil and then transfer to the oven, covered Browned And Glazed Pearl Onions 1) Remove the skin of the pearl onions. The easiest way is by submerging for 10 minutes in warm water 2) In a sauce pan, add the onions, pinch of sugar, pinch of salt and butter. Fill with water half way up the onions. Cover and cook until water has evaporated. Uncover the onions and cook on high heat to glaze and brown the onions Veggies For Finishing 1) In a saucepan, cook the veggies with a splash of water until halfway tender. Remove and add to lamb half way through cooking. Once lamb is ready, discard the large carrot and celery stick. Serve with fresh parsley
There’s always that one stand at the Farmers market that intimidates me. This time it was the chili stand. I love fresh chilies , especially when they are long and thin so I can snip them with my teeth. But here, it was a pick ‘n’ mix of shapes hitting different parts of the spice barometer. They were stunners, yet I felt like doing the runner. The vendor reassured me that I would in fact live if I ate one. I grabbed them and decided to cure them in salt and fennel seeds. This mellows them out and live a lot longer. The salt also makes the juices seep out and mingle with the spices creating a whole new range of flavors. Once the peppers have softened a bit, I finish them with hot mustard oil to sizzle them up. Mustard oil has a distinct aroma and is an oil that can stand up to heat and the spices. It adds oomph when drizzled over pastas and soups. As for making these cured and marinated chilies; it couldn’t be easier. They are simply sliced and coated with salt and spices. A few hour later, it meets it match with sizzling mustard oil and then put to bed somewhere cozy for 2 days. I love to serve these chilies as a condiment alongside a roast or even a cheese board, but my personal favorite is to smoosh it between 2 slices of bread. Recipe For Salt Cured-Chilies In Mustard Oil Ingredients 3 cups mixed chilies (sliced if large) ½ tsp. fenugreek seed ½ tsp. fennel seeds ½ tsp. mustard seeds ½ tp. Caraway seeds 2 teaspoons turmeric 1/4 cup salt 1/4 cup mustard oil 3 lemons, juice only Method 1) Roast all the spices on low-medium heat until an aroma emerges. Grind the spices in a coffee/ spice grinder 2)Sprinkle all over the chilies and set aside for 6-8 hours 3) Coat the chilies in to the lemon juice. Heat the mustard oil until you smell it. Pour it over the chilies and allow to sit in a warm place for 2 days
Espresso shot with sprite, cottage cheese with finely-diced ginger and chili, chips (or crisps depending on which side of the pond) doused with Tabasco sauce – these are just some of the atypical combinations my mind drifts in to. My latest infatuation is Gobi-Aloo (remember Bend It Like Beckham?) with Sundried tomatoes. Gobi-Aloo is the quintessential Punjabi sauté of cauliflower and potatoes in cumin and ginger. The only intruders this dish ever gets are peas or carrots. This was one of my favorite dishes growing up and the next day I would sandwich it between 2 pieces of bread and take it to school for lunch. However, it was time to re-invent a little. I added sun-dried tomatoes, a total stranger to Indian cooking. Sun-dried tomatoes have an intrinsically ‘achari’ taste(traditional sweet and sour Indian pickle made dried spices and oil). Surely that would make it a welcome addition to Gobi-Aloo. And they got on famously. It broke up this standard sauté with something a little playful. Something chewy, tart and a little sweet. If you like your veggies smushable, feel free to add a little water. I like mine pert and firm, leaving flavor with the no choice but to cling tightly to those florets and potatoes. Serving this alongside the rest of your Indian meal is an obvious choice, but how about replacing those roasted potatoes and steamed vegetable with this side for a little intrigue? I bet your dining guests will be very happy. Recipe For Gobi Aloo Ingredients 1 tsp. cumin 2 tbs. oil ½ a medium-sized cauliflower, broken in to florets 1 medium-sized russet potato, diced 1 tbsp. thinly sliced ginger 4 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked until plump, thinly sliced ¼ tsp. turmeric Salt and pepper Handful of cilantro Method 1) Heat a skillet with oil. Add cumin. As it turns 2 shades darker, add potatoes and cook until golden. Add ginger, turmeric, salt and pepper 2) Add the sundried tomatoes and cauliflower and toss to evenly coat. Cook covered until potatoes are cooked through and cauliflower is tender. 3) Remove the cover and cook on high heat until the moisture dries out. Sprinkle with cilantro
So much good food is what pushed me to break in to Chef Agung’s kitchen. Leave that food to a fond memory? Not a chance. He was going to teach me. He showed me how to make satays, which I figured would be familiar enough – ground meat with herbs and spices. But there is always that one native step that is unfamiliar to the outsider – the step that makes all the difference, Bumbu. Bumbu is a Balinese spice mixture that is used in most dishes from grilled food to curries to. Bumbu is what soffrito is to Latin cooking, or masala (cooked onion-ginger-tomatoes-spice) to Indian. Skip or short change this step and you may as well not bother making the dish. This Balinese paste is where the love in Balinese cooking shows up –believe me, all that pounding left me with achy hands. And what ingredients are getting the old-fashioned beating? Lemon grass, kaffir-lime leaves, fresh turmeric, coconut, galangal, ginger, fresh birds-eye chili, shallots and shrimp paste. All these ingredients are then cooked bringing their flavors in to full bloom and then added to your choice of ground protein for satay. Since making the Bumbu is the only labor and ingredient intensive part, make extra and freeze it. If you choose to take a shortcut, Chef Agung blesses us to use the food processor. Here’s where else you can add your Bumbu: Balinese saute dishes Rendang Curry Soups Meats for roasting Adapted From Chef Agung Gede’s Recipes Ingredients Base used for Sate ‘Bumbu’ 5 ounces garlic, sliced 1 large shallot, sliced 3 ounces ginger, roughly chopped 4 ounces galangal, finely chopped 1/2 ounce turmeric, finely chopped 1 ounce candle nut, chopped (if unavailable, used macadamia) 1 red chili, finely chopped 2 teaspoons shrimp paste 2 teaspoons coriander seeds 1 teaspoon black peppercorns 315 ml cooking oil 1 teaspoon salt Method Process/ pound all ingredients except oil and salt in a blender with enough water to cover ingredients. Saute the mixture until oil begins to separate. Heat oil in a wok or heavy pan, add all ingredients. Cook and stir frequently for 15 to 20 minutes until the marinade turns golden and the liquid evaporates. Cool before using. Sate Ingredients 2lbs. boneless chicken thighs/ Beef fillets, cut in to medium-sized chunks 4 ounces grated coconut 1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped 1-tablespoon ginger finely chopped 1 red fresh chili, finely chopped 1 tsp. brown sugar or palm sugar (available at local Asian/ Thai grocery store) 2 tablespoons coconut milk ½ teaspoon of shrimp paste (available at local Asian/ Thai grocery store) Method 1. Combine the shallots, garlic, ginger, chili, grated coconut, palm sugar, coconut milk, lime leaves, shrimp paste, lime juice and salt. 2. Then, add the chicken/beef and 1 tbsp. base bumbu. Mix well. Allow to sit for atleast 1 hour 3. Thread on to a skewer and cook on a well-oiled pan until crisp and golden or in the oven at 400 degrees until cooked through
We hit the 90’s consistently for 2 weeks. It was time to take the bags and leave this town where the heat was trapped-in by sky-scrapers. Luckily, I got an invite from my friends Shivani and Mahir to come out to New Jersey. A garden with a pool that was shaded by trees, it was easy to forget just how hot and bothered we were only moments before. As soon as we got there, Shivani took care of the essentials, such as, handing us a glass of chilled white as Mahir grilled away. The spread was as Mediterranean and colorful as they come. The chicken thighs were turmeric –tinged chicken and had been soaking up Moroccan spices. Once the flavors had fully penetrated, the thighs were reunited on the barbecue where they got a good-old fashioned searing and sizzle. Mahir’s Charmoula BBQ Chicken As Mahir worked the grill, Shivani finished one of her many salads – Watermelon-Mint-feta. Crisp, cold, hydrating and in parts salty and creamy –total perfection on a hot day. Shivani’s Watermelon-Mint-Feta Salad Recipe For Mahir’s Moroccan Chicken Thighs Ingredients Lbs. chicken – boneless breast as well as bone-in skin on thighs and drumsticks Marinade ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro ½ cup chopped fresh parsley 3-4 garlic cloves, minced Juice of 1 lemon 1 tsp. cumin powder 1/2 tsp. coriander powder 1/8 tsp. turmeric powder 2 tsp. sweet paprika 1 tsp. hot paprika salt and pepper to taste Method 1) Put all ingredients in a blender and pulse to mix well. Then with motor running, add olive oil to make a smooth past 2) Marinade for 3-4 hours for maximum flavor 3) Cook on a hot, clean and well oiled grill and cook through until juices run clear Recipe for Shivani’s Watermelon-Mint-Feta Salad Ingredients Handful of mint leaves Red onion, thinly sliced ½ cup feta cheese 2 large hothouse cucumbers 3 cups watermelon Balsamic vinegar Good quality extra virgin olive oil Sea salt and black pepper to taste Method 1) Toss the ingredients together gently (avoid breaking the melon or it will make the salad starchy and cloudy). Refrigerate until chilled 2)Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (doesn’t need to be evenly coated)
A few weeks ago, I met Trudie Styler at the launch of her product line ‘Il Palagio’, sourced from her garden in Tuscany. Honeys that range from mild and unimposing, such as, Acacia to fuller bodied honeys, like chestnut and thousand flowers. Wines whimsically named after Sting’s songs – Sister Moon and When We Dance. Olive oil so pure, leaving you to decide where to apply it; skin or salad? As the conversation progressed, Trudie shared how she and their family chef, Joe Sponzo, gather ingredients from their backyard for evening supper be it at The Lakehouse in the U.K or Il Palagio in Italy. And a cook book was born – The Lake House Cookbook. With the bounty this British countryside home has to offer, there are many hearty dishes, such as, roast chicken with corn and broad beans, rolled lamb and pies and tarts to keep company with on rainy days. Trudie and Chef Joe shared their recipe for Apricot tart. The tart from it’s very almond shell alone hints at something of pastoral origins – textured and rustic, topped with dreamy pastry cream and delicate apricot halves. Recipe adapted from The Lake House Cookbook for Apricot tart Ingredients Almond nut crust ½ cup whole almonds, with skin ½ cup + 2 tbsp. unsalted butter 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp. sugar ¼ tsp. pure almond extract 1 cup + 1 tbsp. flour Pastry Cream 2 egg yolks 2 ½ tbsp.superfine sugar 1tbsp. flour 1/2 cup milk 1/4 vanilla bean, scraped and reserving bean and pods Apricots 1 1/3 cups sugar 2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise 3 pounds ripe apricots, halved and pitted (If they are not ripe, wrap them in a brown paper bag and leave in the oven for a day) Method Crust 1) Pulse almonds in food processor until chopped. Add butter, sugar and almond extract and pulse until combined 2) Add flour in 3 batches, pulsing 30 seconds after each addition. Once it forms in to a dough ball, wrap in plastic shaping in 6” disc. Chill for 1 hour 3) Butter and flour 10” tart tin. Remove chilled pastry. Place it in tart shell and press down and out to spread it over base and sides. Refrigerate 2 hours 4) Once chilled, remove shell and prod with fork throughout shell. Line shell with pie weights or uncooked beans and bake at 425F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Reduce temp to 325F and removing lining and beans, bake another 15 minutes until golden-brown Pastry Cream 5) Place yolks and half the sugar in a small bowl. Sift flour and mix thoroughly. Heat milk in a saucepan with remaining sugar and vanilla pod and bean. Bring to boil, stirring. Add a ¼ cup of hot milk to temper mixture and stir constantly. Remove from heat and add remaining milk. Return to medium heat and whisk until it bubbles and thickens for 10 seconds. Remove from heat and cover surface with plastic wrap to avoid skin formation. Chill on iced water/ refrigerate for 20 minutes Apricots 6) Remove the apricot skin by peeling back with a knife. Remove the pit Assembly 7) Remove tart shell from pan on to serving plate 8) Spread pastry cream evenly over the bottom of pastry. Arrange apricot halves faced down in a circular pattern
A few months ago, I came across Monica Bhide’s post on ‘Once Upon A Story’ where she provides a glimpse on Parsi food and a very popular dish for fried eggs on potato chips. Parsis came to India by way of Persia, settled in Bombay and developed a cross-cultural cuisine of Gujrati (simple vegetarian)-Persian food (carnivorous and complex). The result was to be found in the form of dishes like Dhansak (meats cooked in lentil gravy), Patra ni Machi (steamed fish in banana leaves) and Sali Murghi (spiced chicken with matchstick fried potatoes). The dishes are playful and with eggs over easy on chips for brunch, what could possibly make you more popular. If you break it down, the dish has every reason to be a winner. Cooked in a skillet with Indian sofrito of onion, ginger, garlic and green chili, the potato chips add an additional depth and soggy-crunchy texture. Now imagine those ingredients making a shell around the fried eggs. Recipe For Sunny-Side-Ups on Potato Chips Ingredients 1 tbsp. vegetable oil ghee and 1 tbsp. butter 1 small onion, finely chopped 1 tsp. ginger, grated 1 tsp. garlic, grated ½ tsp. green chili, finely diced 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro ¾ tsp. salt ¾ tsp. pepper ½ tsp. cayenne 1 small packet of potato plain potato chips (Lays or Walkers) ¼ cup sharp cheddar, grated 4 large eggs 1 Tbsp. water Method 1) Lightly sauté the onions, ginger, garlic and green chili until onions become translucent (don’t brown as they will continue to cook under the egg). Season lightly with salt and pepper and add the cilantro 2) Gently crush the potato chips (not too small). Combine with grated cheese and lay them over the sautéed mixture. Create 4 wells and crack the eggs in to them. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne. Add 1 tbsp. water and cook covered until the whites become firm whilst the yellows remain soft and gooey. Remove from the skillet and serve with a butter toasted bread roll
These days it’s all about the warm salad for me. When one component of the salad is warm, it provides such an elevated contribution to the whole dish. Take for instance a bed of greens that are tossed together in a warm vinaigrette of mustard and shallots. Just imagine what life is like for those greens as they are given the perfect chance to absorb new flavors. Or a potato salad that is tossed in it’s dressing whilst still warm – isn’t that the difference between a great potato salad and one that makes you say ‘ehh..’ Salads often draw from opposites. Something soft, something crunchy, a little sweet and a little tangy. Well, this holds true for the temperature too. With this in mind, I proceeded to make a warm chick pea salad. The chickpeas were given a searing with some curry leaves, removed from the heat and tossed with with tomatoes, onions and some loose arugula levaes. All of this was given a quick shake with grated coconut and vinaigrette for that sweet and tangy punch and voila, a salad from the gods awaits you. Warm chickpea salad – A South Indian take on warm salads that satisfy for dinner or as an afternoon snack Ingredients 1 can chickpeas (12oz) 2 tbsp. crushed tomato ¼ cup roasted peanuts Salt 1 tbsp. olive oil 1 tsp. mustard seeds 1 tsp .coriander seeds ½ tsp. chili powder 15 curry leaves ¼ cup of desiccated coconut 1 tbsp. lemon juice 1 green chili, julienned Handful of arugula ½ red onion, julienne 1 vine tomato, julienne 4 tbsp. chopped cilantro leaves, plus whole leaves to garnish Method 1) Heat oil, add mustard seeds. As they pop, add curry leaves and coriander powder. Add chickpeas and allow to brown slightly. Add tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes to lose raw taste 2) Season with salt and chili powder, add lemon juice. Add in the coconut and peanuts 3) Remove from heat and toss with onions, tomatoes, cilantro and arugula
Not every good meal needs to be complicated. A well-stocked pantry and a couple of fresh ingredients can work wonders on any given night. That’s when I am thankful for the random purchases I see in my pantry but rarely touch. Take for instance my Marcona almonds. How different were they from the other 10 varieties of nuts already occupying prime real estate in my kitchen? And then there was the jar of preserved lemon I purchased in one of my Moroccan moments. Over the weekend, my husband bought beautiful shrimps – perhaps 16 pointers (meaning 16 pieces to the pound). With the sweetness of the shrimp, the Marcona almond would lend an additional sweetness and a flavor that hints at marzipan. To balance the flavors, I reached for the preserved lemon – not to add sourness from which it both matured and out-grew, but rather, for that lemony-depth. The 2 pantry ingredients became a play-on pesto in my mind and now all I needed was some fresh greens, garlic and olive oil. For the greens, parsley would make for a perfect reunion. With a little pounding from my pestle, the pesto came together with full-on personality. I seared-off the shrimp and then finished them in my sauce of Marcona and Preserved Lemon Pesto. Dinner was fast and easy, yet just a couple of pantry items made it feel luxuriously exotic. Recipe for Shrimp Sizzled In Marcona Almond And Preserved Lemon Pesto Ingredients Shrimp ½ pound shrimp, with tails on and de-veined 1 tsp. Salt 1 tsp. sweet paprika 1 tsp. clarified butter Pesto 10 pieces of Marcona Almonds 1 tbsp. preserved lemon, finely chopped ¼ cup parsley, finely chopped ¼ cup olive oil 1 clove fresh garlic, minced Salt to taste ½ tsp. black pepper 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice Method Pesto 1) Pound all the ingredients with a mortar and pestle Shrimp 1) Marinade the shrimp with the salt, paprika and clarified butter 2) Sear off on high heat in a sauté pan to get a golden crust (1 minute each side) 3) Finish cooking for another 3 minutes in the pesto *this dish is great served with a baguette to lap up that pesto
Last week, the Branzino whispered from its crushed-ice bed, ‘take me home and you’ll be happy’. Branzino is such an attractive fish that breaks apart with a bare nudge of a fork (I like to eat mine with a spoon). This mild mannered fish is like the perfect pair of jeans. Dress it up with bold flavors of ginger and chili and she shines or dress it down with a simple drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper and she will stay a somewhat in the background. Since I wanted to stuff the fish, I asked the fishmonger to butterfly it (don’t be shy – if you don’t ask, you don’t get). Branzino is on the smaller sider and 1 whole fish serves 1, so why bother getting it filleted? It also has a flesh to fight for, so I recommend keeping that right where it is. Now, the question was, what to stuff it with. The Mediterranean way felt predictable which is perfect for days I can’t handle surprises, but today just wasn’t one of them. I went for something that borrowed from Thai ingredients – vegetables cooked in reduced red curry sauce and served with a mound of cilantro and mint rice. The tang in this dish from the red curry, the fragrance from the lemon grass, the rounded flavor from the coconut milk and the perfectly crisped skin from the outside protecting the most delicate white flakes made this a dinner to be repeated. Recipe for Branzino Stuffed With Thai Red Curry Stuffed Ingredients Stuffed Fish 4 branzinos, butterflied, washed and towel dried 1 can unsweetened coconut milk 1 cup broccoli ½ cup sugar snap peas 1 zuccchni, julienned 1 tbsp. red curry paste 1 can coconut milk 2 tbsp. cooking oil handful of cilantro leaves Juice of 1 lemon ½ tsp. sugar Steamed Rice 1 cup jasmine rice 1 ¾ cups water 1 tsp. salt Handful of fresh cilantro 10 mint leaves, roughly torn Method Steamed Rice 1) Combine water, salt and rice, bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook covered with a lid for 15 minutes 2) Once tender, serve with loose cilantro and mint leaves over the top Fish 3) Pre-steam all the vegetables individually until al dente, refresh in an ice-bath and drain on paper towels 4) In a separate saucepan, heat half the oil and add the red curry paste. Cook until oil separates. Add the coconut milk and reduce the sauce by 1/2. Add the lemon juice, sugar and check for seasoning (the paste already has some salt, adjust accordingly) 5) Add the vegetables to the sauce and cook until vegetables are tender 6) The fish: Season the skin with salt and pepper. On a hot frying pan, lay the fish skin side down and open to crisp the skin. On one side of the fish, lay down the veggies and lift the other side over to close the flap. Cook for approx. 3 minutes until fish is barely cooked through
Last month, I taught a class on vegetarian meals. Whenever I approach vegetarian food, it is always through my omnivore perspective. On Tuesdays, I observe a vegetarian diet and on those days, I end up over looking my protein. Putting a class together on the subject brought with it responsibility and I couldn’t omit a major part of the food group. People didn’t need a class on sautéing some broccoli with garlic, what they needed were complete dishes. Dishes with some kind of protein, grains, veggies and perhaps a touch of dairy. This led me to my favorite chef from London – Yottam Ottolenghi. Here is a chef who find’s celebration in these very ingredients. A while back, I had read a recipe of his on charmoula roasted eggplant with herby bulgar (similar to couscous). Reading the recipe, there was an explosion of flavors that were skillfully layered. The dish was the perfect blend of North African and Middle Eastern flavor profiles. The best part was on balance. Ingredients weren’t randomly thrown together but were compiled through purpose and intention. Bulgar providing not only grain but also protein, pine nuts injecting an additional protein boost, a generous drizzle of garlic yoghurt sauce and of course the hearty veggie contributor caramelized and scored eggplant. Charmoula Roasted Eggplant Stuffed With Bulgur 1 eggplant, cut in half along the length Charmoula 1 tbsp. preserved lemon, chopped fine 1 clove of garlic 1 tsp. ground cumin 1 tsp. ground coriander 1 tsp. chili flakes ½ tsp. sweet paprika ½ cup olive oil salt to taste 1 tbsp. cilantro 1 tbsp. parsley ½ tsp. mint, chopped Bulgur 150g fine bulgur 50g sultanas ¼ cup cilantro chopped ¼ cup parsley chopped 2 tbsp. mint, chopped mint, chopped 1 tbsp. toasted pine nuts toasted 6 spring onions, 1 tbsp. lemon juice Salt to tast Yoghurt Sauce ¼ cup of plain yoghurt 1 clove of fresh garlic, minced 1 tsp. lemon juice Salt Method Eggplant and charmoula Preheat the oven to 400F 1) Pound all chermoula ingredients together 2) Scoop out the seeds of the eggplant. Rub oil all around the skin 3) Make light crisscross incisions. Rub charmoula all over the flesh 4) Bake until tender and caramelized – about 40 minutes Bulgur 1) Lightly sauté the scallions until barely soft, set aside 2) Soak bulgur with 150ml boiling water. Cover and allow to soften 3) Soak sultanas and once plumped-up, drain, add to bulgur wheat 4) Add salt, scallions, herbs, lemon juice, toss well, fill the roasted eggplant Yoghurt Sauce 1) Combine yoghurt, lemon juice garlic
It’s a no brainer. When you head to your local Moroccan joint, one of you is definitely is ordering the tagine. Right? To the untrained Maghrebian eye, there is drama in it’s very presentation that adds to its luring nature. The earthenware vessel boasting of nomadic silhouette and color whilst imparting a subtle earthiness – it takes you right there. The tagine creates the perfect habitat for braising. The pot is heavy with a lid that prohibits even the remotest of vapor from escaping. However, most of us do not have tagines and it is possible to make it with a heavy-bottomed pan and a good weighty lid. Vegetable tagines might be widely popular, but making it with chicken and lamb is a whole different experience. As the chicken is lightly browned in a mixture of shallots, garlic and ginger powder, it then cooks at a gentle pace to allow those viscous qualities to be extracted. One of the essential ingredients in this dish is preserved lemon and in fact it solves that mysterious flavor in a lot of Moroccan dishes. The preserved lemon eases-up on it’s tartness over the aging process and it imparts a richer lemony flavor that adds aroma and depth to the dish. To bring the dish in to balance, a few pinches of hydrated raisins or chopped apricots will do the trick (I used figs but it adds a gritty texture). Whilst I have certainly had various renditions of this dish, I am not a fan of the looser gravy. It creates that ’barely dipped tea bag’ flavor and the ingredients taste boiled rather than taste ‘braised’. But, if you keep excessive moisture at bay, you are left with a sauce that clings to the chicken. Since this is a one-pot dish, it completes the meal by adding a vegetable. Many use russets but potatoes greedily absorb the lemony herby gravy. Instead, throw in zucchini wedges half way through the cooking process. This dish is often enjoyed with a crusty loaf, but I am more of a rice person myself and they pair very well too. Ingredients 4 tbsp. olive oil Salt Pepper ½ tsp. hot paprika ½ tsp. cumin powder 1 large yellow onion, finely diced 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced 1 tsp. ginger powder 2 vine ripe tomatoes, de-skinned (by blanching in hot water), quartered 1 tbsp. preserved lemon, finely chopped 1 heaped tbsp. chopped parsley 2 heaped tbsp. cilantro 4 chicken thighs and 2 chicken legs (skinless) ¼ cup of water 2 zucchinis, peeled and quartered 1 tbsp. raisins, soaked in water until plump and then drained Method 1) In a heavy bottomed pan, sauté onions until they become lightly golden and lose their crunch. Add the garlic and cook until soft 2) Season with salt, pepper, cumin powder, ginger powder and cayenne. Add the chicken and brown all over 3) Add the lemon and tomatoes and water Reduce heat and cook covered. After 20 minutes, add the zucchini and raisins and continue to cook covered until fully done 4) Remove lid and cook down until the sauce reduces to coat the back of a spoon. Garnish with parsley and cilantro
The whole dim sum experience is a culture in itself. Glazed eyes that push carts around a room, stacks of bamboo steamers, drizzle bottles filled with soy sauce – these are just some of the necessary components of enjoying dim sum, tight little parcels filled with proteins and veggies. Like a poker game, there is little conversation to place your order. All you need is a dim sum check sheet, a pencil to mark off your choices and a delicate nod to indicate your next hand. What is so special about these delicate little sheets wrapped around shrimp, pork, chives and veggies? Is it their translucent, moist and mildly chewy skin? Is it the surprise of the ingredients that lie within or perhaps the bite-sized pressies that fit in to the mouth in one go? Whatever drives you to eat them, there is no question that it fulfills it’s promise by the very suggestion of it’s name ‘touch of the heart’. The challenge with dim sum is the lines in all the best dim sum houses. Whilst they move fast, that just doesn’t always work when you have a 5 year old swiping the order sheets from all the tables whilst the 7 year old eats soft mints by the exit ‘en clandestine’. We all love them and the communal aspect makes it even more enticing, but now we just make them at home. Firstly, it is surprisingly easy (even the folding part), secondly, you fill them with whatever you want and thirdly, you can use left overs in soups and broths. There is no rolling, no fancy pleating; just good old store bought wonton, some shrimp and fresh herbs. Ingredients 1 package Nasoya wonton wrappers (or any brand, we would think) 1 pound of fresh shrimp, de-shelled and de-veined 3 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro 1 tbsp. chives, finely chopped salt to taste 1 tbsp. sesame oil ¾ tsp. ginger and garlic paste Steamer Dipping Sauce ¼ cup of soy sauce 4 tbsp. rice wine vinegar 1 fresh chili, sliced finely (optional) 1 tbsp. ginger, julienne 1 tbsp. scallion, chopped Method – Line a plate or tray with saran wrap (to set the dim sum on so they don’t rip off) – Set a steamer aside to get hot 1) Roughly chop half the shrimp in the food processor and cut the rest as finely as possible 2) Combine all the ingredients except for the wrappers 3) Set the wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape. Place filling in the center of wrap, fold over in half, moisten edges with water. Press to seal and join the wrapper ends 4) Grease the base of the steamer. Steam for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with sauce
Last Sunday unintentionally, the morning was calm. No kiddy birthday parties to run to, no soccer practice to get ready for. As the kids anchored down to some stacked paper and a bundle of crayons, I had a chance to hear myself think in my mecca – the kitchen. Some eggs and a half-filled mason jar of cream would do me nicely for a creamy mound of scramble but rather than toast, I decided upon a skillet hash with a few slivers of pepperoni. Hash browns can provide for a failing experience if the potatoes haven’t been salted and then wrung out to release that extra moisture. When this step is skipped, they may look great from the outside, but nudge it with a fork and it reveals a blue’ish white interior with a gummy texture. Observe the handful of steps below and this will be your gateway to a golden-brown crust with potato strands that tightly knit together yielding a white and tender inside. I added crisped-pepperoni for a little ‘snap’ and set it down before my husband and kids. What a Sunday morning winner! Recipe for Hash Pepperoni Browns Ingredients 2 TBSP. unsalted butter 3 large russet potatoes, peeled, grated and combined with 1 tsp. salt 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions) 1 TSP. freshly ground black pepper 2 TBSP. unsalted butter 5 standard slices of pepperoni, sliced in to thin strips Method 1) Make little balls of the grated potatoes and squeeze out all moisture. Add the black pepper 2) Heat a large 12” frying pan with the butter and sauté the pepperoni for a minute (to crisp up) on high heat 3) Spread the potato hash tighty over the pepperoni and pan surface and pressed down with a spatula to compress and lock stands together 4) Cover with a lid for 5 minutes and reduce to medium. Insert a knife and when almost cooked through, cover with a plate to help you flip hash pancake over. Cook the other side until golden. Remove from heat and serve whilst hot and crisp
When it comes to Asian cuisines, in my home, we are equal opportunity eaters – Indian, Thai, Japanese, Malaysian – you name it and we’re there. Last Friday, my refrigerator action was in the hands of a sad carrot, scant baby bella mushrooms, a laquer-dly green bell pepper (why do I bother with those?) and a couple of eggs. It was time to pull inspiration from my Asian flavors and transform these loners into a cohesive dish through purpose and intention rather than neglected souls drawing their last breath in a dish. I thought of making fried rice but just a little different. Rather than cooking neat separate grains that shuffle evenly amongst the vegetables, I was thinking of being more Bim Bim Bop (Korean deconstructed rice) about the dish – . sautéing the rice on high heat so it sticks together in places and forms a crust and throwing on a sunny-side egg. Once all the vegetables were steamed or wokked up, they were pulled out and reserved until the steamed rice was finished. And what a finish! The soft white grains were given a searing in sweet thai chili sauce (often called chicken sauce as it is served with bbq chicken), the veggies were thrown back in to the rice with a rough comb through and the dish was served volcanically hot with a fried egg on top. My dining companions were pulled-in by the drama of the presentation (funny how a frilly fried egg could do that). They proceeded to make the dish their own as they broke the fried egg in to the rice, partly spooning the yolk in to there mouth and partly using it as a dressing for the rice. Recipe for Adapted Fried Rice Ingredients Cooking oil 1 tsp. sesame oil 2 cups long grain white rice, Jasmine or Basmati, cooked 1 medium-sized onion, finely diced 1 medium-sized carrot, finely diced ¼ cup of green peppers, finely diced ¼ cup of baby bella mushrooms (brown-skinned) ¼ cup of green beans or peas ¼ cup of scallion, roughly chopped (white and light green part only) 1 tsp. ginger, grated 1 tsp. garlic, grated Salt and pepper 4 tbsp. sweet chili sauce 2 tbsp. soy sauce Eggs (one per person) Method 1) Carrots: Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the carrots until barely tender. Drain. Refresh in iced water for 5 seconds, drain and set aside. Cook green beans or peas in the same way 2) Saute in cooking oil separately the onions for 2 minutes on high heat, then the mushrooms and then the green peppers – Sprinkle salt on each and set aside 3) In the same pan, heat the cooking oil and ½ a tsp. of sesame oil. Add half the chili sauce and soy sauce. Saute half the ginger and garlic, add half the rice and allow it to brown from the bottom to form a golden crust, turning in places. Cook the second batch of rice the same way. Consolidate the rice back in the pan 4) Throw in all the vegetables, onions and scallions and roughly combine. Check for seasoning 5) Serve with a fried egg on top
In our home, making a quick meal often involves some ground meat, a pinch of herbs, diced onions, ginger or garlic and finally some rough hand-shaping before it is thrown down on the pan. It is then christened burger or kebab. Last night was one of those evenings, except; the predictability of ground chicken was getting dull. A fleeting thought was to use crab but again, the density felt unappealing. The mind and palate feeling a bit weighed down by all this winter business wanted to take a short flight somewhere fun and flirty – perhaps the South. Are you thinking shrimp? Shrimp is such a wonderful protein to work with. Treat her well and she will show you her ‘lychee’ side; sweet and fleshy. Overcook her and she will seize up like rubber. With such attributes, very little work needs to be done on her. I decided on shrimp burgers. Chives work really well with shrimps adding brightness in flavor and a hint of an oniony taste but without the heavy handedness. The burgers are gently held together with a coating of breadcrumbs and mayo but if you want a tighter patty, feel free to add more breadcrumb as a binder. I served the shrimp burger on sweet and delicate challah bread – a perfect suitor given the delicate flavor of the shrimp don’t you think? Barely 6 minutes later (including prep time) and you will have a juicy and flavorful burger in your hands. Recipe for Shrimp Burgers Ingredients Shrimp Patties 1 ½ lbs. medium shrimp, shelled, deveined, and chopped in to ½ cm pieces 1/4 cup mayonnaise 1 tsp. onion powder 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce 1 tsp. Tabasco 1 tsp. chopped chives Zest of 1 lemons Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tbsp. per burger 1 cup dry bread crumbs for dredging and 1 tsp. for burger mixture 8 slices of Challah bread Butter (to butter challah bread) Chive Mayo ½ tsp. of chives 2 tbsp. mayo ½ tsp. lemon juice Method Combine shrimp, mayonnaise, onion powder, Worcestershire, tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste and bread crumbs into a medium bowl and mix well. Set aside for if you have time for 10 minutes Heat the oil on medium/high in a sauté pan Lay out 1 cup of breadcrumbs on to a plate. Portion the mixture in to 4 and shape in to patties. Gently dredge patties in to the breadcrumbs on both sides and fry until golden. Cover the pan with a lid when cooking the second side to cook the shrimp through. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel Combine the chives, may and lemon juice. Butter the sliced challah bread and toast on a pan on both sides, spread lightly with chive mayo and serve with burger
The kids are off still off from school. Last night I needed to make dinner whilst keeping my little guys entertained. I decided to put them to work as we made sweet potato gnocchi for a cozy supper. It was fun and as long as they were approximately the same size, I wasn’t a stickler for the shape. Gnocchi is usually a hard sell on me. I am not a fan of potato-based gnocchi at restaurants as it tends to be gummy and too often, tossed in a heavy and single tone sauce. That was until I tried sweet potato gnocchi. Sweet potatoes have a lot more flavor which echo through as they are kneaded with flour. Once the auburn dumplings were ready, I tossed them with some Italian hot sausage and pistachios. YUM. The kids and I were very happy. The dish is perfect for a cold night like the many we have ahead. Something in the act of rolling, cutting and lightly pillow shaping left me and my boys with a relaxed state of mind – them shedding their high octane energy and me shedding my high strung tone (not sure what set that off yesterday). Recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi Ingredients 2 pounds sweet potatoes 1 cup grated parmesan cheese 1 1/2 teaspoons salt ½ tsp. cinnamon Pinch of nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter top Method 1) Wash the sweet potatoes, prick all over. Wrap each potato in foil and bake at 400 degrees for an hour 2) Scoop out the flesh in to a large mixing bowl. Add the parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper combine well. Add ½ a cup of flour at a time until it becomes like a soft dough (you may need more flour if the sweet potatoes have too much moisture) – set aside to rest for 30 minutes 3) Generously sprinkle the work surface with flour, and a tray where you will keep the gnocchi pieces 4) Divide mixture in to 6 parts and roll in to logs (1” thick), cut in to 1 ½ cm pieces, roll each piece with a fork for slight grooves (this will let the sauce latch on to the gnocchi) 5) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook in small batches until the gnocchis float to the top – usually happens within 5 minutes – Drain and set aside 6) Toss in your sauce of choice Sauce suggestions: 1) Italian hot sausage 2) Pesto 3) Brown butter and sage
Time flies when you’re having fun. A few months ago, the Curry Club was just an idea. Now 4 curry nights later, here we were saying good-bye to The Jones Wood Foundry as they hosted the final night of series 1. Being the last evening, it called for the Godfather of all British curries – The Chicken Tikka Masala or rather, CTM. If you are going weak at the knees on reading ‘CTM’, you are not alone. When smoky BBQ’d chicken simmers in a buttery and creamy tomato sauce, the only option is to cave in! As people mop-up the last streaks of sauce in the bowl with naan bread, few realize that this dish has been the bearer of many stories. Some say the dish is Indian and is based on the classic ‘butter chicken’, others say its was a British invention and brought over by the soldiers when they returned from India. But the most creative story is that of the giddy chef who dumped a can of cream of tomato soup in his patrons BBQ chicken tikka after the patron requested a little gravy on the side (if that were truly the case, I doubt it would be a global favorite!). Whilst people fight over CTM’s origins from Punjab to London, I remember the cardinal rule – never discuss politics! Instead, open a chilled beer and indulge in this recipe of lightly charred chicken pieces cooked in a devilishly delicious sauce – the experience will be bloody good mate! Recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala Ingredients 2 lb. Chicken Skinless Thigh Marinade 1 TBSP. Ginger, minced 1 TSP. Garlic, minced ¾ Tsp. Salt ½ TSP. Chili powder/ Cayenne pepper ½ TSP. Garam Masala ½ TSP Pepper 1 TSP. Smoked Paprika 1 TSP. Ground cumin 1 TSP. Roasted and ground coriander seeds 2 TBSP. Lemon Juice 1 cup Greek yoghurt ½ cup Sour Cream 2 TBSP. clarified butter Sauce 1 TBSP. Cooking Oil 1 tsp. cumin seeds 1 heaped TSP. Kasturi Methi (crushed by hand) ½ TSP. Turmeric 2 TSP. Ginger 1 TSP. Garlic 1 TBSP. Roasted, skinned and deseeded red bell pepper puree ¾ of a can (14 oz) tomato sauce ½ TSP. Black pepper 1 TBSP. Lemon Juice ¾ TSP. Sugar 1 Quart Heavy Cream 4oz piece of butter (cold to swirl at the end) Garnish: Cilantro Method Marinade 1)Place chicken in mixing bowl with salt, pepper, ginger, garlic, lemon juice and spices for 6-12 hours 2)Remove from refrigeration and marinate in sour cream and clarified butter. Marinade for at least 4 hours 3)Remove from refrigeration and allow meat to lose it’s chill. Thread through skewers and broil/ grill on high heat basting with marinade sauce frequently throughout. Cook through completely – Cool on wire racks. Remove thigh bone Sauce 4)Set aside a sauce pan and reduce heavy cream to half 5)Heat oil in a pan, fry cumin seeds, as they turn dark red, add turmeric and crumble in the kasturi methi. Saute for 40 seconds until aroma essential oils release and a strong maple smell emerges 6)Add the ginger and garlic and allow to golden 7)Add red bell pepper paste and cook out excess moisture 8)Add tomatoes and cook until oil separates, then add pepper, coriander powder and garam masala and sugar 9)Add lemon juice, mix in, add the reduced cream, remove from heat and swirl in cold cubes of butter. Butter should have totally melted and sauce should be smooth
THE CURRY CLUB SEASON 1, DAY 1 Being a British born Indian is not something I ever thought about until I left it’s windy shores. The aromas on the streets, the curry flavored chips in the grocery stores (targeting the British population of kids), an array of Indian microwave meals (perhaps not the healthiest of choices) and best of all – PUB CURRIES. My friend and well-regarded Chef, Jason Hicks (remember that Toad In The Hole story?) mentioned that a real pub would always have a ‘mean’ curry – something that he had always wanted to bring to his menu. As I spoke to more and more British expats, I realized that they all missed the ritual of a ‘beer and a curry’. The local Indian joint was a quick fix but not a replacement for what their palates had cultivated a taste for. Anglo-Indian curries are different. Whilst they use the same ingredients as the authentic Indian dishes, it is a completely different calculation of flavor. In the Anglo-Indian dishes, spices are coaxed to a lesser extent, fresh ingredients are given a more gentle treatment, there is a heavier usage of nut pastes, cream and coconut milk and in addition to using dried fruits, there are also hints of British ingredients that would be highly uncharacteristic in an Indian dish. Overall, the dishes are milder with movement of sweet and spice in tandem with one another. However, the Brits don’t wimp out when it comes to heat levels and there are certain dishes that are made even spicier than their originals, such as vindaloo. There was clearly a gap that needed filling here and after my conversation with Camilla, the idea crystalized. It was time to bring these pub curries to the city – in a pop-up kind of way, it would be called ‘The Curry Club’. A few months later, the series was launched. The first Curry Club is taking place as we speak at The Jones Wood Foundry in collaboration with Chef Jason Hicks. The concept made a place for itself in the New York Times as well as many other media outlets. To name a few: Time Out, Gothamist, Serious Eats, Village Voice, Strong Buzz. Each Monday for the month of November, a popular British curry will hit the menu. Last night we did a Goan Shrimp curry topped with fava beans and served with rice pilaf and artisanal rosemary naans hand made by Tusi NYC. Of course, no pub curry would be complete without popadums and chutneys – our chutneys, if I may brag, were homemade tomato and mango-ginger. ‘Smooth with a gentle hum of spice’ was how patron, Carmen Taton, described it – We’d like to agree with you Carmen. Recipe for Goan Shrimp Ingredients 400g shrimp (deshell and reserve shells, devein and keep tails on) Shrimp stock 2 TBSP. Oil 400g Shrimp Shells 1 TSP. Garlic, minced ¾ Tsp. Salt 1 cup white wine 8 Cilantro stems Pinch of saffron 2 bay leaves 4 peppercorns Goan Shrimp Curry 1 ½ TSP. mustard seeds 24 curry leaves 2 whole dried chilies 1 ½ medium onion ¾ TBSP. Ginger, minced ¾ TBSP. Garlic, minced 2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 oz can each) Serving Butter runner beans, ½ a cup, boiled, shocked and skins removed (with a gentle rub, they slip right off) A few sprigs of cilantro Method Stock 1) Heat oil, sweat garlic until soft, add shrimp shells and sauté until they turn red. Add wine and remaining ingredients and reduce until it is like syrup. Add 4 cups of water and reduce by half. Strain and reserve stock Curry 1) Make wet paste of the ginger, onion, garlic 2) Heat oil, add the mustard seeds, when they start sputtering, add curry leaves and red dried chilies 3) Add wet paste, fry over moderate heat to cook out raw taste 4) Add coconut milk and reduce until it coats back of a spoon (like green curry), 5) Add shrimp stock and reduce until it lightly coats the back of a spoon (like a Thai green curry) Serving Toss the butter beans in butter and a pinch of salt. Chop the cilantro and use both as a topping for the curry
In recent years, the Banh Mi has claimed its stake in the sandwich world. Enclosed in a crisp baguette lie Vietnamese treated ingredients. Whilst cilantro, pickled daikon and carrots and sriracha chili sauce are resident contents, there are also a variety of sandwich fillings from which to make your choices, such as, spicy pork, bbq chicken, cold cuts and pates echoing a French past. I remember being introduced to the Bahn Mi 2 years ago, albeit a delayed introduction. Looking at the sandwich, it didn’t seem unacquainted, after all, it was home to dishes I had eaten in some fashion before – the pickles and spicy pork were similar to something I had eaten at a Korean BBQ and the pate – well, what charcuterie plate in France doesn’t have a piece of pate on the board? Yet, this combination encased in a baguette was the novelty for me. I made a Banh Mi with honey BBQ chicken (not literally BBQ’d, pan searing does the trick). The sandwich was full of contrasts – hot and cold, soft and crunchy and lightly sweet, smoky and very savory. If you have any leftovers, make an Asian chicken salad the next day. Recipe for Banh Mi And Quick Pickles Ingredients – Serves 4 4 French demi-baguettes Couple of handfuls of cilantro (stems slightly trimmed and roughly chopped) 1 sliced onion, white 1 fresh lime Honey BBQ Chicken 4 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless ¼ cup soy sauce 1 tsp. ginger and garlic paste 1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar ¾ tsp. Chinese 5 spice 1 tsp. salt ½ tsp. pepper 1 tbsp. cooking oil 1 tbsp. honey for basting Quick Pickles 1 cup water 1 cup rice wine vinegar 1/8 of a cup of salt ¾ cup sugar 1 tsp coriander seeds 2 fresh chilies 1 carrot peeled and sliced in to matchsticks 1 daikon, peeled and sliced in to matchsticks (or turnip) Spicy Mayo 1 tbsp. srirarcha hot sauce ¼ cup mayo 1 tsp. sesame oil Method Prepping 1) Marinade the whole thighs in all the ingredients except for honey and oil. Set aside 20 minutes 2) Pickling: Put the carrots and daikon in a bowl. Bring remaining ingredients to a boil and pour over carrots and daikon. Set aside for atleast 20 minutes 3) Bread: Slice in half and hollow out the insides a little to create a recess 4) Spicy Mayo: Combine srirarcha and mayo 5) Wash and drain cilantro and set aside with the sliced onions Making the sandwich 6) Heat a frying pan, shake off excess liquid on thigh and lay down on pan, flattening with a slotted spoon. Cook through, increase heat to crisp up, brush oneside with the honey and cook honey side down for 30 seconds – set aside and allow to rest for about 4 minutes before slicing (to allow juices to redistribute) 7) Spread the spicy mayo on the bread, lay the cilantro in to the base of the bread, slice the thighs and lay pieces on the cilantro, throw on the pickle and drizzle fresh lime juice and srirarcha
Next month, I will be teaching an intimate group of people a class on a winter warmer dish and transporting them to a place far away.The classes are always full of surprises for both me and my students. Each class, we visit a different country and simply lose ourselves for a couple of hours. Some students walk in and are super charged, others bring some of their inhibitions with them but however they show up, this is no right or wrong way. Once we have loosened up over a few wines and a canape indicative of the country we are going to, it is time to roll up the sleeves and make way for our inner artist. Next month, we are going to Greece. Whilst I do make some Greek dishes at home, such as, roasted chicken with lemon potatoes and Moussaka, I felt like changing it up so that I could also learn something new before I pass the baton to someone else. Like most good things that transpire over a conversation and a cup of coffee, so did a strong menu for my class. I grabbed a moment with my friend Vera Giannaris who is known for her warmth and hardcore Greek cooking. Vera talked to me about various dishes and what you would serve for a luncheon, an intimate gathering, as well as the Greek perspective of what spices pair well together and what don’t (these are the things the cookbooks don’t tell you). Her recipes were colorful or rather a collage of stories to include parents, grandparents, friends and children all glued together with a little chaos and a lot of fun. Of course a meal that lacked vibrancy would never make the cut on any given day in a Greek home, and Veras dishes were anything but lackluster. Oven roasted red peppers and tomatoes stuffed with rice, raisins and spices, pies with sautéed leeks and spinach and Pastitsio. Her description of Pastitsio and everything it stood for definitely made this dish a strong contender for my class. It is the perfect winter warmer with it’s slow braised ground lamb sandwiched between tightly packed noodles and the fluffiest béchamel (there is a secret behind the fluffiness). I made a big tray of this and served it Greek style at my home – a home filled with cute naughty children (some of which were my own might I add), friends and family. Sunday lunch was the way all Sundays should be – filled with inviting scents of nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon and high decibel conversation of people jumping between Romney and Obama debates one minute to hearty laughter the next. With so much action, why should any host miss out and be stuck in the kitchen. This dish can be fully prepped ahead of time so that all you need to do is pop it in the oven and show up like a guest. Ingredients Ground meat 1 lb ground lamb or beef (chuck) 1 medium sized onion, finely diced 1 tsp. black pepper Salt to taste ½ tsp. nutmeg 4 cloves 2 bay leaves 1 ½ cups whole peeled tomatoes (crushed) Pasta 1 lb. boiled pasta Handful of breadcrumbs to dust the oven dish Tbsp. butter to butter oven dish Bechamel 3 tbsp. plain flour 3 tbsp. butter 2 cups milk Pinch of nutmeg 2 egg yolks, evenly combined ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese Method Meat 1) Sweat the onions with black pepper and salt 2) Add the ground meet and cook on high heat until nice and brown 3) Add the nutmeg, cloves and bay leaves and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook on gentle simmer for 45 minutes covered with a lid Bechamel 1) Melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook on low heat to make a roux for a couple of minutes to lose the raw flavor 2) Combine the yolks and Parmesan cheese. Warm the milk and add to the roux. Allow the béchamel to thicken. When it has a custard consistency, add a couple of tablespoons to the yolks to temper it (this avoids the eggs from cooking when it is added straight to the béchamel) – cook on very low heat for a couple of minutes and remove from heat Assembly 1) Butter the oven dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs 2) Tightly pack the noodles 3) Layer with the meat 4) Spread the béchamel over the top
A couple of nights ago, I felt like some of the Colonels finger lickin’ chicken. I think it was the weather cooling down that made this crisp hot chicken with a salty golden crust so perfectly appealing – oh yes! dinner was going to be one fine looking bird tonight and that for sure would make my husband very happy. Like many people, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur on fried chicken. The outside needs to glisten and crust up with pride providing both texture and an explosion of taste. Yet it has another duty too; to protect the succulence inside, only to be revealed as your teeth rip in to it. However, don’t think I forgot you as I put this together. With many requests to keep this healthy and simple, I decided to throw you in to the frying pan but not the fryer. This chicken is cooked with minimal oil on the frying pan to get that golden brown coat we all love but is then finished in the oven. That is why served this with a salad and not fries (though you could bake those too). This dish is great and lacks the compromise of taste that one often experiences with healthier twists on calorie dense dishes. It is also a myth buster that for a fried chicken to taste juicy and crisp, it needs to be lunged in to a pool of hot oil. Ingredients 4 chicken thighs with skin and bone Chicken seasoning 1 tbsp. jerk seasoning 1 tsp. Salt (unless the jerk has enough salt) 1 tsp. black pepper • Reserve a pinch for serving Crust 8oz plain flour 8oz breadcrumbs combined with a pinch of thyme, black pepper and chili flakes 2 eggs, combined with a fork ¼ cup of oil Method 1) Heat the oven to 450 degrees 2) Rub the dry chicken seasoning over the chicken and set aside for as long as you can (at least 1 hour) 3) Heat a wide sauté pan with ½ the oil 4) Set out three plates in front of you (preferably near the sauté pan) in the following sequence: Plate 1 with the semolina flour Plate 2 with the 2 eggs for the egg wash Plate 3 with breadcrumbs 5) Dip the chicken in o the semolina flour, lightly pressing it down, then dip in to the egg wash and finally dip and press in to the breadcrumbs 6) Adding no more than 2 thighs at a time, add to the hot frying pan and let it develop a golden crust on each side. Set aside, and repeat with the last 2 thighs (pay attention not to over brown or it will taste burnt) 7) Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper and cook with a piece of foil placed loosely on top (to avoid the crust from burning). Cook for another 20 minutes and check that the chicken is done by inserting a knife at the thickest part near the bone – if the juices run clear, remove from the oven 8) Give the chicken a final sprinkle of the reserved chicken seasoning and serve hot
Monday being Monday always leaves me in a state of anxiety. If you master Monday, the rest of the week falls into place, but if Monday sends you in a tail spin, what will it do to the rest of your week? Well, I guess, The Bangles did give me a melodious heads-up on it. And yes! I do wish it was Sunday. This past Monday was a little different. In addition to being overwhelmed, I was perpetually hungry. Well it was lunch time and there I was again, rummaging through shelves and cabinets again. I certainly didn’t have time to create a gourmet affair, but then a sandwich wouldn’t cut it either. What were my choices? There was some wilting pea shoots, left over tomatoes that were slushy from last night’s vinaigrette and a handful of lonely cauliflower florets. I set water aside to boil for some Kamut pasta elbows (only 8 minutes), threw down another pan with a touch of oil, garlic and fennel seeds, pan roasted my cauliflower (4 minutes). I then added my limp tomatoes and cooked them for 2 minutes, cleared away the kitchen taking another 2 minutes and presto, the pasta was boiled and ready to make its introduction to the dish. I added my final touches of chili and pea shoots and took 10 minutes to enjoy my lunch peacefully. My hotchpotch pasta was pretty topnotch. But when I really broke it down, it should have been. Pan roasting the cauliflower gave it a lovely a mellow and caramelized flavor, the left over salad tomatoes shared an intensity that one experiences with sundried tomatoes, and the light wilting of the pea shoots triggered by the heat of the dish beneath it made the texture both crunchy and soft. Ingredients 500 grams of any pasta (good time to consolidate all the leftover pasta in various boxes) 2 clove of garlic Half a cauliflower head broken in to small florets (or any other vegetable in need of resurrection) 2 tomatoes sliced in to thin pieces and left to soak in 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar Generous handful of and leafy greens/ herbs (basil, mesclun, pea shoots, chives, arugula) Method 1) Boil the pasta, set aside, reserving ¼ cup of the starchy water 2) Sweat the garlic in the oil in a wide pan 3) Crank the heat up to ‘high’. add salt, pepper and cauliflower. Sauté the cauliflower until it is nice and golden (do it in batches to avoid over-crowding) 4) Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes to soften them and allow them to release some of their juices 5) Add the pasta to the pan with the starchy water and cook for another 2 minutes 6) Serve the dish with a heap of greens piled over the top 7) Sprinkle with chili flakes
I am not sure when we first had it, but when we did, it became a favorite. Let us say that where Thai food is concerned, this dish doesn’t get much ink. The curries are certainly very popular, be it red, green or jungle, for the sautéed dishes, anything stir fried with basil will do nicely and as for the salad, Thai beef and papaya salad top the charts. But Chicken Salad, also known as Larb Gai is a winning dish. This dish is not the usual dull typical chicken salad coated in a waxy dressing and it does not have that ‘barnyard’ smell that most chicken salads have. That is because the chicken is served warm. It is also not in the form of a huge hunk of meat prohibiting any penetration of flavor, but rather, ground crumbly chicken that is coated in a spicy sauce. Now, close your eyes and imagine opening you mouth to a citrussed-lemon grass salad with fresh onions, chili and mint, only to be slightly wilted by warm and piquant ground chicken straight from the pan. The dish is then given a final toss with fresh sprigs of coriander and sprinkled with toasted ground rice for a bit of texture. Can‘t you just taste it already? Ingredients Ground chicken 1 lb ground chicken 1 tsp. red curry paste 1 finely sliced shallot 2 kaffir lime leaves, julienned 2 tsp. fish sauce (Nam Pla) 1 tbsp. oil ¼ cup of water Salad 1” piece of lemongrass, finely minced Juice of 2 limes 1 garlic clove 2 large fresh shallots Handful of mint leaves Handful of cilantro 2 red birdseye chilies or a green chili Salt to taste 1 tbsp .rice Method Chicken 1) On medium heat, heat oil and cook the red curry paste for a minute to lose the raw taste 2) Add the ground chicken and ¼ cup of water with lime leaves, lemongrass and fish sauce and cook until done – make sure there is always enough moisture so that chicken doesn’t brown Salad 1) Combine all salad ingredients, toss well 2) Add the chicken whilst hot, give it a final toss and serve immediately
This summer has been quite eventful. The plan was to spend three weeks in London, but known for his spontaneity, the hubby decided to whisk us away to Dubai. The UAE certainly knows how to pamper it’s visitors and the city does not fall short of any amount of indulgence. One can get carried away by the execution of mammoth concepts in Dubai which often leave you in wide-eyed wonder. You name it; skiing in this furnace land, seductive fountain dances reaching heights to make a skyscraper blush, Aquariums showcased with couturier flair – and that’s only the beginning of it all. The city aims to impress and even those who resist its charms (often holding the simple view of it being a man-made paradise) eventually cave in to its beckoning ways. At first blush, all seems glammed up here, but delve deeper and you will see that this Emirate is the love child of futurism and the Nomadic Middle East. To get a feel of the old world Dubai, head to the Creek and catch the Ubra, a squeaky wooden boat headed for the gold and spice souks. I imagined that this would be a ‘made for tourists’ market where we are fooled in to thinking that this is indicative of local living. I was so wrong. This was the real deal where hardcore spice merchants conduct wholesale and retail activity. Sacks after sacks of dried confetti like flower petals to be used in teas, deserts and rice; bags of dried lemons, berries, turmeric, ginger and garlic with aromas unrecognizable to me and chartreuse complexioned pistachios later to be crumbled over a desert or crusted on some meat. It would be a crime to go there and not sample and purchase with a sense of abundance. Now, back in New York, thanks to my visit to the Spice Souk, my pantry is filled with all kinds of spices and nuts. One of the dishes I thoroughly enjoyed on my trip was a pilaf with pine nuts and vermicelli and was served as a side to most entrees. This dish is judged more than anything else on the plate. It must be moist but not mushy – just single grains of rice that fluff up as you run a fork through the pot. The pilaf is buttery, toasty and aromatic and can quite easily be eaten as a standalone dish. Ingredients 2 tbsp. butter 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced ½ tsp. cumin powder 2 cups basmati rice ¼ cup pine nuts ½ cup broken vermicelli ¼ cup raisins 2 tbps. Flat leaf parsley Method 1) Wash and soak the rice in water for 20 minutes 2) Warm half the butter in a pan until it turns light brown. Cook the onions on medium heat until they turn caramelized and browned. Add the vermicelli noodles to the pan and toast until they turn golden 3) Strain the rice and add to the noodles, coating in the butter noodle mixture 4) Add the water and salt, bring to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer and cook until all the water has been absorbed . Fluff with a fork 5) Saute the nuts in a separate pan with the remaining butter until it is toasted combine with the pilaf
Grandmothers could fill books on practical measures for sustainability, respecting ingredients and getting mileage from having very little resources. Many of them have lived through wars or belong to early settling immigration communities where they had to work very hard for what they had. My nanima was certainly amongst this generation of people. The word ‘wastage’ did not exist for her and through her reverence for food, even today; she continues to connect with food in a way which was unfamiliar to me until recently. If there was an excess of certain unused produce, she found a way to put them to work. If the season was closing in on certain fruits and vegetables, she would preserve them through pickles, chutneys and Indian salsas. First of all, how resourceful! Secondly, at any given moment in our home, there was always a few of her condiments in our refrigerator that would brighten up even the dullest of sandwich. Lemon and ginger that ferments in its own juices, positively pungent mango pickle in mustard oil, mint pesto like chutney were just resident pickles at our home. Lately, I have taken her philosophy and incorporated it with some of my other influences. With an abundance of mangoes at home, I made the classic Anglo-Indian ‘mango chutney’. Mango chutney is a derivation of the traditional Indian mango pickle, only it is sweeter and has a jam-like consistency. It has been a mainstay at restaurants in the U.S. and U.K. and is served with poppadum’s. The chutney was such a hit amongst my kids and as I saw my younger son slather it over his roast chicken, it jostled me to become a little more inventive with my usage of it. I tried it later that evening with goat cheese on a cracker and gave my fig spread a break, what a combination! The chutney has sweetness from the mangoes but the spices and vinegar give it that ‘pop’. Even though it may take an hour to fully mature and lose moisture on the stove, it couldn’t be less demanding of your active participation. Ingredients 3lb Ripe Mexican mangoes, peeled and chopped in to small pieces 1 medium-sized onion, diced 2 tbsp. thinly sliced ginger 400g rice wine vinegar 400g jaggery (if you can’t find jiggery at your ethnic specialty store, substitute for sugar), broken down to small pieces 2 tbsp. cooking oil 2 fresh red or green chilies, chopped in to 0.5 cm pieces SPICES: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, coriander powder (or crushed coriander seeds), fenugreek seeds, nigella seeds 4-6 cloves 6 whole peppercorns Method * Sterilize the pickling jars in boiling water 1) Heat the oil. Add the cumin, fenugreek and Nigella seeds, coriander powder, cloves and whole peppercorns, allow them to turn a couple of shades darker. 2) Sweat the onions and fresh chili until the onions are translucent, add the jiggery/ sugar and vinegar and allow the sweetening agent to fully dissolve 3) Add the mangoes and ginger, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook for approximately 1 hour or until the chutney has thickened and that ‘wet look’ from the mango juices have disappeared. The mango will have become translucent at this point and will have a sheen to it 4) Fill the sterilized jars whilst the chutney is still hot and seal
Last week, I was invited by Haven Havens Kitchen to take part in their cooking class. For those of you who live in New York City, Havens Kitchen is a most charming cooking school with a feel of Nantucket, a backyard farm, flip flops and Lionel Rand’s ‘Let there be love’. The pace in that kitchen is certainly a novelty for this city and the class has that ‘super-chilled’ dinner party feel. There is a little store and café at the front and a kitchen that is lined with jars of rose petals, celery seeds and bark-like spices. I took a class Vegetarian Summer’s Meal class taught by cooking instructor Ashton Keefe. The class confirmed my recent findings at the farmers market – the produce may cost a little more but the strong flavors means there is a large impact with less ingredients. We made chili corn pasta from fresh corn kernels, cheese and tomato pie and wheat berry salad. Feeling inspired by the wheat berry salad, I came home and made an adapted version of the dish with left over veggies. Try this dish, it is a great alternative for rice and works really well as side dish or a salad. I briefly threw down some peppers, fennel slices and snap peas on a hot griddle pan for some charring and tossed them together with the cooked wheat berries and a mustard-basil dressing. Ingredients 1 red pepper 1 medium sized red onion 1 medium sized fennel Handful of snap peas 1 cup of uncooked wheat berries ¼ cup olive oil 1 tbsp. honey grain mustard Handful of basil leaves Salt and pepper 1 tsp. honey 2 tsp. red wine vinegar Method 1) Bring wheat berries to a boil and then simmer for 1 hour until tender. Drain and set aside 2) Coat the griddle pan with oil and cook the vegetables on high heat for a couple of minutes each side until there is some charring, remove and set aside 3) Whisk together the honey, mustard, oil, basil, red wine vinegar to create an emulsion 4) Dress the salad ingredients together whilst warm to allow flavors to weld 5) Serve warm or cold
France is getting busy. And why not? After-all, this Saturday is one of the most important national holidays of the year for them. It is this July 14th back in 1789 that brought democracy and freedom to it’s people, a time when the aristocracy fell from grace and were forced to surrender their all-entitled ways, The French Revolution was in full swing. No longer was a man confined to a predestined future regardless of his social standing, life was now giving way to merit and equal opportunity. July 14th, the day liberty was found is also known as Bastille Day. Fast forward to 2012, the Champs Elysees will be lined with kids sitting on their parent’s shoulders, the elderly and the French youth as they watch the procession marching down the wide street. The French don’t acknowledge the event from a simple festivity point of view, but rather, are fully immersed in the history of it all. They remember the works of Voltaire, Beaumarchais and Didierot and they discuss it and what times were like at the times of Louis Quatorze. Across the pond, right here in NYC, the same conversations are taking place at French café, Le Moulin A Cafe. The café has a subtle entrance and feels like you have just ‘stumbled upon it’ the way you would in the streets of Bordeaux or St. Paul De Vince. It is home to the French, Francophiles and the local community. No gimmicks, no fuss, just simple rustic furniture, some really great pastries imported from France and a mélange of newspaper readers, morning re-groupers and people catching-up over a cup of coffee and morning politics. This week there is an unusual addition of color to the otherwise ‘antique white’ café through flags and streamers. The vibe is similar to that of July 14th’s Champs Elysees. Why of course, with a holiday this important, café partners N’Diaye, Colonna and Lecuq didn’t want their NYC French community to miss out whilst wanting the local community to be part of something that is so important to them. They will be celebrating Bastille day the whole week and what better way than to do it with pastoral cheeses, charcuterie and a glass of Cote Du Rhone? I have spent my morning performing my case study on all things Bastille and have had to taste a variety of cheeses and meats, what can I say, it comes with the job! Why not jump on board and celebrate Bastille day too. If you can’t get on a flight to come to Le Moulin A Café, here is how Lecuq put the meat and cheese board together with some of his tips and details: Plating Arrangements Never display an even number of cheeses. They should be one of the following: 3, 5 or 7. Cheese Follow the sequence in order of: least to most sharp First cheese Lecuq suggested a cheese from Normandie (produces the Grand Cru of all cheeses). It is a soft camembert which continues to ripple and drip on the board as you speak. Secondcheese Franche Comte – a hard cheese with a notch up in strength. It is made in the Fort Des Russes, a military bunker. Third cheese My shining star – Roquefort. With it’s distinct blue ash that has been collected from caves and mountains, this cheese sends the palate to a frenzy with its sharp, salty and sour edge. The Meat Lecuq suggests selecting the meat to fulfill the following three criteria: livers, ham and sausage Livers A fine country pate Ham Prosciutto di Parma and not Prosciutto Parma (a huge difference, the former comes from Parma, Italy and the latter does not) Sausage A salami spiced with fennel
Like many areas of our life, different foods trend at different points of time. Part of this comes from a shift in awareness, globalization, a greater understanding of seasonal and local and health factors. However, there are also a number of dishes that simply fell off the radar. These are perfectly lovely dishes which perhaps our mothers relied upon their mothers to make. The result: like Latin, these homemade dishes too are dying out. I think many would agree that quiches fall in to this category. Whilst some of us are willing to give it an extra consideration on a brunch menu, the thought of making it at home would turn us in to ‘granny’ entertaining her friends at afternoon tea. Ever wondered why? Are only cute little old ladies and their stories about the war, equipped to enjoy a crumbly tart filled with warm savory custard and perhaps some ham and cheese? This week, I decided to ‘go there’. With beautiful seasonal asparagus in my refrigerator, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, it was a delicious pairing of sweet, tart and nutty flavors. It wasn’t as time consuming as I thought and required a lot less of my time at the stove itself. If you are like me and have 2 left hands, making the tart shell will require some concentration, but with a little practice, that too becomes a lot easier. This is a perfect summers dish when one shy’s away from heavy, hot and rich dishes. The tart shell provides a lovely texture to contrast with the smooth and soft custard filling. Serve with a green salad tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar and a nice chilled rose. Ingredients Makes 4 small tarts or 1 large one Tart Shell 4oz All Purpose Flour ¼ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. granulated sugar 2oz cold butter 1 egg Toppings Asparagus – 4 spears 6 Cherry Tomatoes Fresh Chives 2 tsp. ¼ cup of Goats Cheese Custard filling ½ cup whole milk ½ cup heavy whipping cream 1 large egg 1 large egg yolk ¼ tsp. salt Pinch of paprika and nutmeg 1/2cupcrumbled aged goat cheese (such as Bûcheron), without rind Method Tart 1) Add egg, butter, salt and sugar to food processor and pulse until they are the size of small lentils 2) Add the egg and pulse a few times just until it comes together. DO NOT overwork the dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes t rest 3) Roll out until it is 2mm thick. Grease your tart shell pan. Gently slide a rolling pin under the dough and lay over the pan. Push in to the pan corners and trim around the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes 4) Prod holes in the pastry with a fork (docking) and blind bake* at 400 degrees until golden brown around the edges (for approximately 20 minutes). Remove the weights and foil *To blind bake, line the pastry with some foil and fill the foil with beans to or pastry beads to hold down the pastry from rising. Toppings 1) Blanche the asparagus and distribute amongst the tarts shells 2) Cut cherry tomatoes in half and place three in each shell 3) Distribute lumps of goats cheese in each shell Custard 1) Combine milk, cream, egg, egg yolk, and salt in medium bowl. Pour milk mixture over tart ingredients. Sprinkle chives. Bake until filling is almost set, 35 to 40 minutes (do not overcook as it continues to cook when removed from oven). Transfer to wire rack and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or cold Serving suggestions Nothing more than a fresh green salad Pearls of wisdom Don’t over work the dough or you will take it to a point of no return
Like people, nations also possess personality traits. Some are exhibitionists, others are guided by ‘joie de vivre’ and some are simply subtle and understated. Surrounded by neighbors, each with their own unique strengths lies a country that is humble and quiet. Belgium. When one thinks of Belgium, we think of her in light of the finest of chocolate, the sweet smell of waffles, and that classic combination of ‘moules et frites’. Yet, she has excelled in so many areas that are unknown to most of us. She has churned out talents like Rene Magritte – painter and theorist of surrealism, George Remi of Tin Tin, Plastic Bertrand and George Lemaitre -inventor of The Big Bang Theory. But her work is not done and today Belgian artists are making waves on the global art scene. There is a lot to express and the Belgians are certainly doing it by way of food and art. Navigating Belgium, culinary excellence is the only option when a country as small this is home to three distinct cultures and languages: French, Flemish and German. Order your food and expect to receive food that is prepared using the finest of techniques but presented without the fuss and frill. Order a beer and there is a good chance that it was made by the hands of a Trappist monk. I strolled over to meet owner of Belgian gem ‘Petite Abeille’ in Stuy Town, Yves Jadot. The restaurant certainly echoes the Belgian sensibilities and sense of humor. There are portraits of Tin Tin plastered all over the walls, happy and very European blue and white checkered table cloths and an impressive display of over 50 Belgian ales. As I spoke with Jadot, it became clear that Belgium has exported a very limited view of its cuisine and culture. “People around the world that seek good food will often go to France, but has anyone ever wondered where the French go? Belgium!” said Jadot. The critics have certainly recognized the craft behind the dishes at Petite Abeille and have not held back in sharing their excitement. Yet the food does not aim to dazzle, it aims to comfort, satisfy and provide nostalgia with native dishes of Stoemp Saucisse (mashed potato and leek with sausage), Carbonnade Flammande (Flemish beef stew), macaroni and cheese made with a sauce bechamel and the famous ‘mitraillette’ sandwich (literal translation -machine gun). I couldn’t understand what could warrant any sandwich to be termed ‘machine gun’. And then it became clear, the sandwich was truly loaded. Also known as the hangover sandwich, this demi-baguette is intensely filled with hamburger, salted fries and sautéed onions. Just one warning, if you nurse a hangover with the mitraillette, both may soon become a habit. Ingredients 1 Demi-baguette 1 tsp butter 2 small beef burger patties 1 cup of French fries, seasoned with salt Ketch-up ¼ cup of Sauteed onions Method 1) Butter and toast the baguette on a frying pan until golden. Smear one side with ketchup 2) Layer the inside of the baguette with the sautéed onions, beef burgers and French fries Serving Suggestions Perhaps a nice cozy bed to jump right back into
In walked a man with curly locks and a long beard. His presence is Biblical only to be betrayed by his uber posh English accent. His name is Behroush Sharifi but just call him ‘The Saffron King’. Royalty of the highest mystical order, 5 minutes of conversation with him made me realize that no other name could suffice to describe him. He is a spice merchant and when he walks in to the kitchens of illustrious restaurants throughout the U.S., it is only he who can command the immediate attention of a busy chef, a chef who surrenders to both Behroush’s wisdom and fine product with the attentiveness of a curious child. Speaking to The Saffron King, the conversation took us through choppy waters, across continents, fighting spice wars and time warping us to the era of the Bible. Behroush’s collection of spice never fails to amaze even the most ‘resourced ‘chef. Manna, the spice that saved the Israelites in the Old Testament is sold in tiny clusters and his Iranian fennel and cardamom boasts of a fragrance so intense that special packaging is required to keep their scents separate from everything else. His knowledge of spice marries together the paradigm of food and that of Persian poetry. Growing up in the U.K. and the latter part of his childhood spent in the South interwove with his Iranian roots. He saw endless possibilities of how spices could be incorporated in food and beverage whether one was making something exotic or a simple mashed potato. However, his Iranian knowledge of herbs, spices and dried fruits also made him aware of just how listless a lot of these ingredients looked whether it was at a supermarket or specialty store. And the Saffron King was born. He defied the odds and imported ingredients from Iran at a time of political instability and U.S. trade sanctions. This was just a snap shot of what this King was determined to take on. He imports many spices, but the one that is nearest and dearest to his heart is Iranian Saffron. These seductive garnet strands have stood the test of time and at $3,000 per kilo,“like a handful of valuable things -gold, money, prostitution and real estate, this commodity has maintained it’s status” says Sharifi. Many cultures use saffron in their food. Italians use it in Risotto Milanese, the French use it in Bouillabaisse and the Spanish use it in more dishes than not. According to Sharifi, this is part of a rich “cultural dialogue” and demonstrates how Persian footprints merged with local cultures all over the world to create new culinary experiences. Whilst saffron seems expensive at first blush, it actually isn’t and just a few strands go a long way on a big dish. The key is to extract as much taste, color and aroma by grinding it in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of sugar to make a uniform fine powder. As he very richly articulated, “when this mixture is combined with a couple of tablespoons of boiling water, the infusion will draw out the full majesty of the spice with maximum taste”. This was a surprise to me on a personal level, as I have always just tossed a few strands in to a simmering dish and assumed a weak hue of orange is what these threads deliver to a dish. Today, I made a simple chicken, chorizo and shrimp paella. When an ingredient is that intense and beautiful, it begs for very little else. This one pot dish has sweetness from the peppers and a sultry smoky touch of saffron; flavors which delicately coat the rice, shrimp, chicken and fish. Taking the suggestion of The Saffron King, I ground the saffron which in turn made my paella look sun-kissed. Ingredients Paella 4 strands of saffron, a pinch of sugar 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth/ stock 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/2 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve the shells) 1lb chicken thigh, with skin Chorizo, ¼ lb, sliced in to thin disks 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 2 cups long-grain rice 1/4 teaspoon paprika 2 fresh tomatoes, diced 1 large red pepper, roasted and skinned, sliced in to slivers Coarse salt and ground pepper 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed Handful of cilantro Method Saffron Mixture Combine the saffron and sugar and pound to a fine powder PaellaMixture 1) Clean the shrimp and bring the shrimp shells and broth to a boil with the saffron. Remove from heat and let all ingredients steep 2) Sauté the onions, garlic and chorizo until the onions are translucent. 3) In a separate pan, cook the chicken – skin side down until it is golden brown and half cooked 4) Add to the pan with the chorizo. Add the diced tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and paprika and cook until soft. 5) Strain the stock 6) Toast the rice in the tomato and chorizo sauce. Add the stock, boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook covered 7) In a separate pan, briefly sauté the shrimp on high heat, cook half way through only. When rice is half cooked, throw the shrimp over the rice with the frozen peas and continue to cover whilst it simmers. Once rice is fluffy, remove from heat, sprinkle with cilantro Serving Suggestions Serve with lemon wedges and a green salad dressed in olive oil and red wine vinegar Pearls Of Wisdom I add the shrimp half way through to avoid over cooking
Over the last few days, I have seen a bunch of bananas go from raw to ripe, to then slightly over ripe. Watching this metamorphosis was quite incredible – the life of a banana from youth to heyday to today, looking a lot less pert. Whilst over ripe bananas in their original state are not desired by most people, they do make a wonderful contribution to deserts. I decided to make a chocolate and banana marble cake – a matrimony made in heaven. Really feeling the moment, I got carried away and decided to make 2 of them. However, I was having a clumsy day (week) and was better off staying clear of the kitchen altogether. In other words, I forgot to use the bananas. Then came my next big gaffe; I messed up on the ratios and only realized as the pans were sent off to get baked. Was I losing my marbles? So, here I am talking to you because the pressure of waiting and staring at the oven for one hour is just a little too much for me. First the bananas and now this! It was time to pull the first cake out of the oven, but it looked hopeless and wobbled like jelly. The outside was beautiful but the inside was like a lava. The odds weren’t on my side but I couldn’t give up on so many great ingredients. Off it went back in the oven for a bit longer. I checked it again and it looked, smelled and felt on target. But it wasn’t over yet. Cake number 2 took its own path and didn’t quite look like its sibling. It was finally time for that baby to come out and for the first time I understood the stress involved in delivering twins. Thankfully, the second cake came out as it should; safe and sound! In high insight, whilst the cakes certainly took longer to bake, and a touch dry from the outside but it made me realize that in the face of a potentially failed baking project, if you ‘keep calm and carry on’, you might just pull it off. And there was always Plan B – Cake Pops. As for the cakes, the smell in my apartment at this very moment is chocolaty, toasty and leaving me feeling somewhat high. I really encourage all non-bakers to try this out as without a doubt, this is one of the simplest cakes to execute. Ingredients Marble Cake 225g unsalted butter, room temperature 225g caster sugar ½ tsp. vanilla essence ½ tsp. coffee essence 4 large eggs, at room temperature (run under warm water) 225g Self Raising flour 3 tablespoons cocoa powder Method 1) Heat oven to 350F 2) Beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla with a whisk until light and fluffy 3) Beat the eggs and in 4 stages 4) Sift the flour and fold in to the mixture 5) Split the mixture in to 2 batches. Fully incorporate the coffee essence in one batch and the cocoa powder in the other 6) Alternate spoonful’s of the two cake batters to the greased baking pan 7) Bake for 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean Serving Suggestions Serve with sliced strawberries Pearls Of Wisdom If you have stale leftovers after a few days, re-purpose the cake to make a trifle
As many of you know, I have begun my apprenticeship at Michelin-starred, Indian fine dining, restaurant ‘ Tulsi NYC’. The French Culinary Institute taught me many skills and yet I had only scratched the surface. This month, I reached out to Chef Hemant Mathur, founding partner of Tulsi NYC, to expand my understanding and skills in South East Asian culinary techniques. He offered me the opportunity to apprentice for him and needless to say, I accepted in a heartbeat. Of course, I have been cooking Indian food at home for many years, but it was time to give myself more tools and get to know my ingredients a whole lot better. Just this week alone at Tulsi, has taught me that lentils can be roasted and added to meat curries to provide both flavor and texture whilst a variety of nuts can be blanched and pureed to lend a creamy touch to a dish. Seeing how some of the complicated Indian dishes come together is very exciting, but seeing how the ‘seemingly’ simple dishes are executed is what gives me the keys to the kingdom. One such dish is an Indian potato croquette or rather Alu tikki. I have attempted to make this dish on many occasions and somehow, the experience has never quite hit ‘bull’s-eye’. Either the potatoes tasted lumpy or loose or worse still, swollen with oil. Last week, Chef Pratik, Tulsi’s soldier in the kitchen, trained me on how to make the perfect alu tikkis. For me, the breakthrough was not just in the ingredients but rather the method. I learnt that the potatoes required breaking down with a grater or food mill versus a potato masher and the grated ginger should be lightly sautéed before adding to the mixture (preventing the ginger from turning a dirty brown). Alu tikki is part of the street food scene in India. Its versatility allows it to be paired many different dishes, such as, channa masala (garbanzo bean curry), chaat (street snacks that are wet with different chutneys) or thrown in to a bun to make the perfect veggie burger. Whilst alu tikkis are typically deep or shallow fried, with this recipe, you can just as easily make them on a griddle pan with a fraction of the oil . Ingredients Alu tikki 5 medium sized russet potatoes, boiled and grated 1 medium sized onion, finely diced 1 tsp ginger, grated Handful of cashews, roughly chopped ¼ cup of corn starch 1 green chili Handful of cilantro, chopped 1 tsp chat masala 1 tsp coriander powder ¼ tsp. turmeric Salt and pepper, to taste Cooking oil Method 1) Sautee the onions and ginger until onions start to soften, remove from heat 2) Combine all the ingredients, except for oil in a mixing bowl 3) Heat skillet. Make golf ball sized balls and form in to 1 ½” thick patties. Add 1 tbsp. oil to the griddle and place the patties on hot pan. Allow to brown and become crisp for approx. 3 minutes and flip to other side. 4) Remove from heat and drain on paper towels Serving suggestions Serve on a bun to make a meatless burger or dip in to mint or tamarind chutney Pearls Of Wisdom Do not mash potatoes with a hand blender or food processor as the texture becomes ‘gluey’
Anyone that grew up in the U.K. would attest to how the school dinner hall was the birthplace of mastery in how to avoid eating. The canteen or ‘dinner hall’ was policed by old ladies with blue rinsed hair, and in the eyes of a 6 year old, they were evil. As for the food; there was beef that revealed ‘radioactive’ shades of grey and peas that smelt like manure. And we ate it day after day, with the same sense of dread and nausea. However, there was one saving grace. It came at the end of the meal and was a great way to learn that ‘the best things come to those who wait… and persevere’. Good old-fashioned English desserts. Not even the most ‘haute’ of desserts stood a chance next to these gooey treats. When everything else at the buffet line looked like it had jumped off a conveyer belt, these soft cakey-puddings conjured up images of a granny in warm slippers baking away in her little cottage. The tongue nuzzled with jam roly poly, lemon meringue pie, warm apple crumble with hot custard and of course butter scotch tart. Butterscotch tart was amongst my favorite. It boasted of a toffee cream – so smooth that it glided over the tongue whilst its pastry vessel added robustness and a very buttery crunch. Whilst my kids were spared the blue rinse police, they certainly got to experience the brighter side of British school lunches. Ingredients Tart Shell 4 oz All Purpose Flour ¼ tsp salt ¼ tsp granulated sugar 2oz cold butter 1 egg Butterscotch Filling 17oz demerara sugar 8oz butter 6oz milk 2 tbsp. All Purpose Flour 1/2 tsp. of sea salt crystals Method Tart Shell 1) Add egg, butter, salt and sugar to food processor and pulse until they are the size of small lentils 2) Add the egg and pulse a few times just until it comes together. DO NOT overwork the dough. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes t rest 3) Roll out until it is 2mm thick. Grease your tart shell pan. Gently slide a rolling pin under the dough and lay over the pan. Push in to the pan corners and trim around the edges. Refrigerate for 30 minutes 4) Prod holes in the pastry with a fork (docking) and blind bake* at 400 degrees until golden brown around the edges (for approximately 20 minutes). Remove the weights and foil *To blind bake, line the pastry with some foil and fill the foil with beans to or pastry beads to hold down the pastry from rising. Butterscotch Filling 1) In a saucepan, melt the butter, add the milk and sugar until and whisk until the sugar has dissolved. Whisk in the flour. Remove from heat once the butterscotch sauce thickens coats the back of a spoon Assembly Pour the butterscotch in the baked tart shell. Allow to cool and refridgerate. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Ok, I have been a little quiet the last couple of weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I was asked to compete at the Varli Food Festival cook-off. The Varli Indian Food Festival, that rolled out it’s first ever food festival last year in NYC has certainly made its stamp on the culinary map. This year, the event was kicked off with Padma Lukshmi, host of Top Chef, as she introduced the evening. The night was young and spirits were high and The Metropolitan Pavilion never looked more beautiful. Nothing less than a wonderland of Indian food, panache seemed to be the prevailing theme behind the chefs creations with Chef Jehangir’s Zucchini hummus pizza, Heritage of India’s butter chicken with basil pilaf and of course Chef Prasad’s Butter Pepper Maine lobster with Himalayan Pink salt and cilantro micro greens. Yet for some reason, I couldn’t fully focus. The next day was the Varli cook-off, judged by very illustrious names in the business and hosted by none other than Iron Chef Contestants – Maneet Chauhan and Jehangir Mehta. I was one of the eight contestants. I was nervous but the victory was in putting that aside for a few hours. In the bigger scheme of things, what an opportunity! There I stood at my cooking station listening out eagerly for the first round’s mystery ingredient. It was shrimp. I love shrimp, but could I get the judges to like mine. With a few initial glitches of not knowing how to turn on the stove, it was ready, steady and COOK. Inspired by North End Grills ‘black pepper shrimp’, I made my own spin using the ingredients available to me. I butterflied my shrimp and reached for spices to make my dry rub. Breakdown 1: There were only black peppercorns and no equipment to break them down. I tried to break them up using the palm of the pan but those rascals wouldn’t ‘give’ – instead, they dispersed all over my station and floor and started to make me look and feel very clumsy. I substituted with carom seeds for the heat to which I added coriander powder and salt. I made 4 portions on a bed of citrus salad and ready to be judged. The judges feedback – nice presentation but too salty. I tried it and my mouth felt like it had been plunged in to Antarctica’s saltiest lake. The Verdict: I made the cut for round 2!! When the final round came about, we were all relieved to know that chicken was our secret ingredient. I planned my dish and was on the road to make Kung Pao chicken with steamed rice. All was going well, but then in this world, there are no free lunches. They threw a spanner at us and we were told that we had to use Mango pickle in the dish. Mango pickle, unlike mango chutney, is very sour, pungent and only shines in the presence of bland dishes. Great! Kung Pao met it’s Anti-Christ. Luckily, there was salvation and it came in the form of eggs. I would dress my steamed rice with a fried egg that had been cooked on a thin layer of pickle. The result: I was happy. I executed all 4 plates in a timely manner and the plates looked pretty.The Verdict: It was a narrow call, but I won. I took that golden beauty home and haven’t stopped staring at it since. Ingredients Shrimp 1 lb shrimps, deveined and butterflied Cooking oil 1 tsp coriander seeds, chunkily ground ¾ tsp salt 1 pinch of red chili powder Salad ½ cup onion, julienne 2 tomatoes, julienne Handful of fresh mint leaves Dressing: 1 part lemon, 2 parts olive oil whisked together, Salt Method Shrimp Heat the pan with 3 tbsp oil Coat the shrimp in the dry rub of coriander seeds, chili powder, salt Add shrimp to hot oil for about 3 minutes until they turn orange, promptly remove and drain on paper towels Salad Combine salad components, toss with dressing (reserving a little drizzle for the shrimp) Plating Stack the salad in the center of the plate Place shrimp around the salad and drizzle shrimp with a little dressing Serving suggestions Nothing else is required with this appetizer Pearls of wisdom Do not over cook shrimp. As they turn orange, pull them off as they continue to cook in their own heat
Lately, I have run into a lot of Europeans who in some fashion or another work in the arts. The interactions have left me both inspired and puzzled. Inspired, because they are behind some truly magnificent craft be it through the medium of sculptures and paintings or be it food. Yet puzzled, because they choose to remain below the ‘radar’. I recently stumbled upon a tiny Italian café in Murray Hill called ‘Piccolo Café’. How could I not give this give this charming San Gimignano-like place a shot? The walls were filled with Italian newspapers on one side and a sprawling basil plant on the other and then of course there was the food counter playing host to a variety of baked goods. The blackboard was chalked with inscriptions of dishes that I had not seen since my days in Italy. Great Southern dishes full of flavor and yet unmistakably honest. These dishes weren’t masked by an amalgamation of many ingredients, but rather, executed using only 3 or 4. The little Latin food haven pulled in a crowd of regulars and newcomers and one thing was certain for them all; they were in for a treat that would be hard to rival. Such a great place and yet I had never heard of it. How could that be possible? Were they not aware of the plethora of social networking available to them? This is after all the 21st century. And then it dawned on me. In a world where it has become common practice to put the cart before the horse, one forgets the pleasures in honing in on ones skills before blowing their own trumpet. There is of course the added pleasure of being discovered by chance, like stumbling upon a pot of gold when one least expects to. The element of surprise is far more gratifying than the instant gratification of internet hits and fan page likes. Funny how simple things like ‘food’ can bring up such thought provocation. As for the dish I ate, it was a zucchini parmigiana. Simple layers of shaved zucchini, tomatoes and a light dusting of parmesan truly allowed the ingredients to do all the talking. Ingredients 3 zucchinis 2 tomatoes Olive oil ¼ cup parmigiano reggiano, grated 1 can crushed tomatoes 2 tbsp pesto sauce (fresh or store bought), or just some basil leaves 2 cloves garlic Salt and pepper Method Prepping the zucchini and tomato slices 1) Preheat oven to 320 degrees 2) Slice the zucchinis thinly on a mandolin, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 5 minutes 3) Slice the tomatoes in rounds, sprinkle with salt and set aside for 5 minutes 4) Drain off the excess water from both 5) Lay zucchini strips and tomatoes on lightly greased parchment paper and cook until they have dried out. Remove from oven Tomato Sauce 1) Sweat the garlic cloves in olive oil to infuse and then discard the garlic 2) Add the crushed tomatoes, season with salt and cook until most of the moisture is evaporated Assembly 1) Grease a narrow, oven proof dish (like a meatloaf pan) 2) Lay down strips of the zucchini, followed by half of the sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with the parmesan, top with half the pesto and ½ the tomato sauce. Repeat this one more time and then complete the final layer with a generous spread of the tomato sauce and a few pieces of mozzarella 3) Bake in the oven at 350 for approx. 30 minutes Serving suggestions A few wedges of toasted bread and a simple salad tossed in olive oil and vinegar Pearls of wisdom To avoid a sinking titanic, do not skip drying the zucchini and tomatoes in the oven first. The tomato sauce must also be reasonably well dried off
My friend and trusted voice in food media, Shivani Vora, hosted a soiree of desert tasting by Fernanda Capobianco of Vegan Diva and wine pairing by Alexa Elman. The spread looked like it had been shipped from the finest French Patisserie in Paris. Chocolate was definitely the prevailing theme, but there was also an assortment of the non-cocoa variety, such as cookies with a hint of curry, carrot cake and macaroons. As I chomped my way through the fifth dessert, something became apparent to me. The desserts were decadent (AKA buttery) and yet they didn’t leave behind that unappealing residual mouth feel. The palate felt clean as opposed to waxy. I felt perplexed by it after all, on a cause and effect level, it didn’t make sense. I took my questions directly to the source itself ‘Vegan Diva’, brain child of Capobianco. It was simple, her desserts were Vegan, but thoughtfully vegan. Apparently, she was right. I have had many vegan deserts before, and they have never tasted like this. Creamy and soft as opposed to hollow and generic and cookies that would crumble like any sable cookie should, the deserts made me question everything I knew about pastry and quite frankly science. Fernanda was kind enough to open her factory doors to me where I witnessed a very alternative pastry kitchen. Jars of what looked like brown gravel but turned out to be brown sugar, bottles of coconut oil, the finest of maple syrup and bins filled with spelt, it was clear that this lady had a vision and despite the odds, she was ‘going for it’. The result; a sweet scent of donuts, chewy macaroons, and of course what we later whipped together with her Pastry Chef Milena Molina, airy chocolate mousse, spiced with cayenne and cinnamon. It was surprising how the amalgamation of dairy free chocolate, tofu and cane juice could yield such a creamy and gourmet experience that could rival it’s non vegan counterpart. It really was. Not only is Vegan Diva available at the gourmet retailers, it is also served at Francois Payard – one of the cities finest French Patisseries. Don’t be afraid to make this dessert as it is the most approachable dessert you will ever make and check any preconceived notions you have of vegan deserts (especially the tofu) at the door, because this is the real deal. Ingredients 2 ½ packages of extra firm Mori-Nu Silken tofu 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract Pinch of kosher salt 1 cup Sucanat (dehydrated cane juice) 2 cups vegan, kosher and non-dairy chocolate chips 2 tbsp canola oil 1 tsp chili powder 1 tsp cinnamon powder Method 1) In a large food processor, combine tofu, Sucanat, vanilla extract and salt. Process for 7 minutes until all ingredients are fully incorporated 2) In a double broiler, place chocolate chips and canola, melt ingredients slowly so the chocolate doesn’t scorch. Stir constantly. 3) When chocolate has fully melted and is smooth and silky, place in food processor with all ingredients and process 5 minutes, incorporating everything from the sides of the food processor 4) Refrigerate for 4-5 hours. Serve topped with raspberries or cocoa nibs
Soup, gently simmering on the stove whilst infusing the air with its aromatic elements holds the promise of more than your next meal. Whether it’s a low interference meal to prepare, a waistline trimmer or an effective method to consume a rainbow of vegetables, this dish is the perfect platform to get creative with your ingredients. Putting a soup together is a few simple steps away; however, there is one misconception ‘to dump everything in the pot together with water or stock and to let it cook’. This method of cooking soup might address your personal objectives of weight loss, simplicity or nutrition but at the cost of tasting like prison food. Have you ever wondered why restaurant soups have a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’? They incorporate ingredients in stages to create a depth in flavor and texture. Some are even slightly sautéed to provide a delicate caramelized contribution. These steps add an extra couple of minutes, but don’t forget, you’re making a dish that lets you off the hook more than others. Allow for another consideration – Vision. What do you have in mind? clear broth, bisque (cream based) or a potage (thick and opaque). You may question the relevance of this but it will ultimately determine the ingredients and utensils involved. Today, I am making a potage of yellow split pea with sautéed vegetables. If a soup is all you are planning to have for dinner, this soup will gratify the belly and sustain you through the night. Yellow split peas work very well in a potage as the more they break down, the more they add a buttery and velvety texture to the base without the calories. With some sautéed vegetables, and a garnish of chopped nuts and seeds or croutons, soup will have never tasted this ‘gourmet’. Ingredients 2 cups yellow split peas 1 medium onion, finely diced 10 cups of vegetable stock or water Aromatics: 1 sprig of thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 black pepper corns, 6 sprigs of parsley stems Salt to taste ½ a cup of diced celery ½ a cup of diced carrots ½ cup of diced green beans Garnish: 1 tsp per bowl of soup of chopped nuts, seeds or croutons and a drizzle of oil (chili, sesame or truffle infused) Method 1) Wash the split peas and sort through for any stones 2) Lightly sweat onions until soft (don’t brown them), add the aromatics and season with salt. Bring to boil in the stock or water. Reduce to a simmer for about 1 hour (until the lentils are soft) 3) Separately, sauté the vegetables until they are soft – set aside on paper towels to absorb any grease 4) Once the split peas are soft, add the vegetables to the soup (you may reserve some for a final garnish) 5) Serve in soup bowls, with a small heap of the garnish and a light drizzle of oil Serving suggestions Serve with toasted bread or a savory scone Pearls of wisdom If you like pureed based soups, remove the aromatics and blend the split pea with an immersion blender.
It was a bone chillingly damp day and all I could think of was comfort. After a full on conversation with my friend from London, her accent left me with a craving for British Comfort because believe me, it never fails to provide just that. I grabbed my brolly (umbrella for those unfamiliar with the U.K. slang) and off I headed with appetite in my stomach and a UK state of mind to the Jones Wood Foundry. The Jones Wood Foundry is a hidden gem on the Upper East Side that serves British fare in the historic neighborhood of Jones Wood, before it became the Upper East Side. The moment I walk in, I take a deep breath and think ‘home’ and this moment; this place is nothing less than a mecca for me. Everything from the smell of the restaurant to the trinkets and treasures evoke memories of Wellington boots, football Sundays and tea-dunked digestives. I hang out with Chef Jason, partner and Executive Chef, where he is already in conversation about the match of the day with his friend and team member Stu. For Jason, the restaurant isn’t trying to carry out a theme, but rather, its his way to be self-expressed, reflecting his childhood in Stratford-Upon Avon, birth place of Shakespeare and his own culinary journey. It’s not about labels and drama, but rather, a place for locals to hangout, grab a beer and enjoy his honest dinner of ‘meat and 2 veg’. He calls his food simple, I call it amazing with slow braises, savory pastries and no-nonsense deserts. Jason had promised to open his kitchen doors and share a recipe with me and today I was asking for it. I demanded the recipe for his toad in the hole as I have never ventured there from my own kitchen before. Toad in the whole is a sausage that is dramatically engulfed by an oversized Yorkshire pudding (pop-overs) and topped with caramelized onions. The unity yields crispness, sweetness, saltiness and softness. When the next damp day comes around, I say ‘bring it on’. Ingredients 10 oz. All-Purpose Flour 6 eggs 2 ½ tsp salt 1 ½ cup milk ½ cup of beer Beef drippings or lard Breakfast Sausages Method Batter 1) Beat eggs, salt, milk, beer and flour on high speed. Pour through a strainer to remove any lumps 2) Allow to rest for at least 1 hour (12 hours for best results) Toad in the hole 1) Brown the sausages on a skillet, set aside on paper towels 2) When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees and heat the baking dish (pyrex glass dishes work well) 3) When hot, add 1 tablespoon of beef drippings or lard. Place the sausages in the center and pout in the batter 2” higher than the sausage. Bake until golden brown and crisp (abt 20-25 mins) Serving suggestions Top with carmelized onions and parsley for a rcih touch and serve with mushy peas or mashed potatoes Pearls of wisdom To experiment with sausages other than breakfast sausage will give you a different dish completely. Breakfast sausages or Walls sausages from a local British specialty store have the correct seasoning and will ultimately offer up that true British flavor.
Bacon seems to have experienced a tipping point in recent years. As many would agree ‘everything tastes better with bacon’. Does credit go to its fat content welding all the other flavors together and generously coating the mouth? Or should we credit this cured meat with its intensely smoky flavor? The answer is both. A flavor that is allowed to linger just a little bit longer thanks to its smoky echoing-like qualities and buttery contribution makes this ingredient a necessary must for many dishes. Whilst I have nothing against the pre-packaged, thinly sliced variety, it does not come close to the bacon slabs available at most deli counters. The wood smoked flavor is unmistakable and when cooked, this crispy and bold chunky meat would take any dish up a notch compared to its cooked and shriveled alternative. I decided to use this bacon as an accent to my warm potato salad. A reincarnation of the previously lifeless and congealed mayo stiff dish now received more than just a second glance at my dinner party. Dressing the warm potatoes in a creamy, warm, salty and of course smoky vinaigrette, it would be hard to go wrong. Ingredients 1 ½ lb New potatoes ½ lb slab of bacon, cut in to 1/2 cm wide pieces2 Shallots, finely diced 1 tsp smoked paprika 4 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 lemon zest and juice ¼ cup olive oil ½ tsp mustard Salt and pepper 1 tbsp crème fraiche or sour cream 1 tablespoon chopped chives Method 1) Bring the potatoes to boil, starting them off in cold water 2) Saute the bacon, remove with slotted spoon 3) Sweat shallots in the bacon fat 4) Dressing: Shake the vinegar, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, mustard, salt and pepper and paprika in a bottle 5) Once potatoes are boiled, cut them in half and toss whilst warm in to the vinaigrette 6) Combine the crème fraiche, shallots, bacon and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat with the warm and dressed potatoes 7) Sprinkle chives before serving Pearls of wisdom The bacon can be quite salty so go lighter on the salt in the dressing Serving suggestion I intended for this dish to be served as a side dish, but one of my curious guests found it in the kitchen and insisted I serve it as an appetize
Growing up, I never understood the fascination of spiced tea. Whilst I enjoy a ‘good cuppa tea’ as well as spice in my every bite, I could never fathom why one would combine the two experiences. Recent years have seen the rise of the ‘chai’. Becoming a quintessential choice of beverage for some and yoga personified for others, chai has challenged this coffee drinking nation. To get the skinny on this spiced tea, or rather, masala chai, I turned to my trusted source for all things Indian – my nanima (plump and cute granny with a wise smile). Whether masala chai was being consumed out of fad or taste, what she revealed to me made me aware of its essential qualities and purpose. Originating in North India, this drink is infused with ginger, spices, milk and lots of sugar helping the body ramp up to deal with those cold winter days. Like mulled wine, masala chai has an aromatic presence, but steeping those spices and ginger provide an even great benefit: to insulate the body. Of course, this was a great incentive to try a drink I rejected as a 6 year old. Fit for a breakfast beverage or an afternoon snack, chai will leave you feeling satiated and ready to face the storm. It also taught me a personal lesson: Never let a 6 year old determine the taste of a grown adult. With my new favorite beverage at hand, I experiment with spices all the time. The classic Indian way is to use cardamom, fennel, cinnamon, cloves and ginger. However, there is nothing stopping you from using star anise, all spice, nutmeg or even a piece of lemongrass. Ingredients serves 4 4 cups of water 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 medium stick of cinnamon 5 cloves 1″ piece of ginger 4 cardamom pods (with shell) 4 tea bags 1/2 a cup of hot milk honey/ sugar to taste Method 1) Bring the water to a boil, add all the spices and ginger and reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes 2) Add the tea bags and simmer for another 4 minutes 3) Add hot milk remove from heat after 2 minutes 4) Strain and serve 5) Add sugar or honey to taste Pearls of Wisdom Add a little more sugar than you may be accustomed to with regular tea or else the spices and ginger may impart a bitter taste Serving suggestions Since this is a little heavier than other teas as it requires more milk, it makes for a perfect stand alone drink. For those that have the munchies, serve yourself a simple little cookie.
Last weeks Thanksgiving festivities were a complete binge for most of us and frankly a little scary since it was just the holiday season kick off. Sure, go ahead, blame the food, after all, it is completely responsible for your lack of restraint. Pushing yourself into, over and out of those jeans, that muffin top never looked so muffinous. Most of us are experiencing serious self-deprecation right now. We ate too much, drank too much and weightily drag ourselves around, dreading the next wave of merriments. When it gets this out of hand, you need to stop, regroup and take charge! Commit to the next couple of weeks of rest, exercise, plenty of fruits and vegetables and of course water and then reap the rewards of a perky complexion and a deflated stomach. The goal is attainable and will set you on the right track, feeling centered and less likely to revisit that gluttony any time soon. Todays dish has zen like qualities. It is gentle and calmly detoxes the body, leaving you feeling light and energized. A combination of bok choy, juliennes of ginger, mushrooms and tofu in a Japanese dashi soup boasts of clean and crisp flavors whilst helping your body feel at ease. Ingredients 4 teaspoons instant dashi powder, found at the Asian product aisle4 cups water3 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely sliced1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced½ cup of oyster mushrooms, broken at the seams by handOne package firm silken tofu, cut into small cubes3 bunches of baby bok choy2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce1 tablespoons mirin1 tbsp rice wine vinegar1 ½ tsp salt4 scallions, thinly sliced Method 1) In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to boil. Add the Dashi powder and bring to a simmer2) Add the remaining ingredients except for the Bok choy and scallions. Simmer for 5 minutes3) Add the Bok choy, simmer for a couple of minutes4) Remove from heat and serve in bowls and garnish generously with scallion greens Serving Suggestions Just a big bowl Pearl of Wisdom Don’t overcook the Bok choy as it will lose its nutritional value and its bright color
Last week we broke convention and made a savory habanero cheesecake for the holidays. How about approaching the one vegetable that is as synonymous with thanks giving as giving thanks? What if we swapped out the candied yams with cumin and coriander crusted yams? I am not suggesting this out of pure rebellion; I am just not entirely convinced that a sweet vegetable needs to be reinforced with more sweetness. The yam is appealing and should be at your table this Thursday, but you may consider allowing it to show its sensuous side at the table in place of the anticipated ‘simply sweet’. Todays dish achieves just that with a backdrop of earthy flavor notes such as, cumin and coriander seeds and a touch of toasted red chili. Anything but cooked to a pulp, this skilet roasted yam has texture that crackles at first bite followed by pure tenderness. Ingredients 3lbs yams 1 tsp coriander seeds 1 tsp cumin seeds 2 whole dried chilies or ½ tsp chili flakes 1 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper ¼ cup of olive oil Method Fill water in a large pan, add the whole yams with the skin, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the yams are ¾ cooked, remove with slotted spoon Cut in to wedges with skin on and allow to cool Toasting the Spices: Heat a pan and add the coriander and cumin seeds and red chili. Toast until the essential oils release and an aroma emerges Grinding the spices: Break down spices and chili in mortar and pestle Heat a skillet Coat yam wedges in oil and spices. Fully cook the yams in batches and once they are fully cooked, turn up the heat for a nice golden brown crust Pearls of Wisdom Careful not to over boil the yams as they will be not hold their shape when cooking in the skillet and will become harder to manage Serving Suggestions A perfect side dish to your Thanksgiving meal
Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. The very thought of this holiday prompts us to scribble away our mental menu items: Turkey, candied yams, pumpkin pie. Wait! What if you blew your guests away with twists on conventional dishes? Perhaps pan roasted sweet potatoes, spiced with toasted coriander and cumin seeds and what if cheese cake was served as an appetizer instead of desert. Go on! Be creative! Here’s your chance to demonstrate that tradition can be embraced without walking down that beaten path, after all, you’re more likely to be remembered for taking a risk than being a sheep. Playing around with ideas, I thought it would be fun to make a cheese cake, to get saliva glands in full gear. Of course, I am not referring to a chocolate cheese cake on a graham cracker crust, but rather a habanero jelly swirl on a rosemary cracker crust. The heat and sweetness from the jelly, the creamy mélange of cheeses and the salty and earthy toned crust will peak your guests interest as they know that this is the start of a thanksgiving to remember. Ingredients 1 packet of rosemary crackers crushed (1 ½ cups crushed) 1 stick softened butter 3 tbsp of corn starch 1 tsp salt 5oz sour cream 16 oz cream cheese (2 reg sized packs) 5 oz blue cheese 2 eggs 2 tablespoons habanero jelly (or any other chili jelly) for filling Fresh cracked pepper 4 tablespoons habanero jelly to spread at the end Method Crust Preheat oven to 350 degrees Crush the crackers and butter and pack tightly against the base of a 9” spring form pan Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Reduce temperature to 250 degrees Cheese filling Beat the salt, sour cream, cream cheese and corn starch, add the blue cheese and combine well Add the eggs one at a time, combining thoroughly after each addition Swirl in the habanero jelly and black pepper Pour over the cooled crust Bake for 1 hour Remove and cool completely, wrap well and refrigerate for at least 4 hours Spread with habanero jelly Pearls of Wisdom Do not overcook the cheese cake or it will lose its creaminess. Once the cheese cake is set from the sides and wobbly in the middle, it is cooked through. It will continue to stiffen as it cools. Ensure the cheese cake is completely cool before spreading the layer of habanero jelly Serving suggestions Serve as an appetizer or as a main course side
Since my mum has been in New York, she has been insisting on making her new dish for me. Apparently I would love it!! That wouldn’t be a huge surprise because I tend to love everything she makes. Expecting a plated ‘piece de resistance’, I was a little disappointed to hear that the fuss was about ‘fried egg’. Firstly, I am not a member of the ‘I love eggs!!!’ fan page and secondly, she refused to make it with just egg whites. Had she forgotten her audience! Pardoning my lack of enthusiasm, I tried to steer her towards her biryani or pakoras (chick pea flour coated crisped vegetables) but no! Fried egg was what she was determined to make and she insisted that I would love it. She also insisted that I referred to her dish by the correct name ‘Mumbai Street Egg’ because she saw it on one of her favorite day time television Indian sopa operas – where it was cooked on the street side in Mumbai. Then she went into the kitchen and all I could hear was chopping and sizzling as my nose drew in the aromas of wok fried onions, chili, ginger and tomatoes. Served with her ‘mother-knows-best-smile’was a plate of piping hot eggs that were lightly fork-broken and not beaten. Without exaggeration, this was the best egg I had ever eaten! Feeling slightly overwhelmed, I didn’t know whether to focus on its flavor or texture since both were utterly praise-worthy. Unlike the soft and gentle, easy-like-Sunday-morning egg dishes, this dish had zing that kept me ‘hooked’. As for the texture, the eggs were not whisked before cooking, in fact, they were cracked directly in to the hot skillet and barely combined, with the easy yolk lending itself to buttery creaminess. This ‘Mumbai Street Egg’ would awaken any palate, but who is to say that this can only be eaten at breakfast! Throw a piece of naan bread on to the skillet and smother with butter, and you have a meal ‘a la minute’ minutes away from your plate. Ingredients 1tbsp oil ½ a medium sized onion, finely diced 1 tomato, finely diced 1 heaped tbsp grated ginger 1 fresh chili, finely chopped ¼ tsp chili powder Salt Pepper 6 eggs 1 tsp butter, room temperature ¼ cup cilantro, chopped Method 1) Heat pan on high heat and add oil. Saute onions, tomatoes and ginger 2) Crack the eggs in to the pan and let the allow the white to set. Season with salt, pepper and chili powder 3) Once the whites have set, pierce the yolks and lightly combine to coat the white in the yolk, dot the butter around the egg, remove from heat 4) Garnish with cilantro Serving Suggestions Serve with toasted bread, naan or roasted potatoes Pearls of Wisdom Don’t over cook the egg and the yolk should remain a little gooey. This will lend itself to richness in texture and flavor. Since the eggs are not fully cooked, I strongly suggest using organic eggs.
This month, I was invited to John Mooney’s restaurant at Bell, Book and Candle. I met him at the FRIED event during the New York City Wine and Food Festival, where he humbly stood at his bare-boned table offering fried chicken and collard greens. Since I had been hopping from one fried chicken stand to the next, sampling the different chefs take on the dish, diminishing returns were kicking in and this was my eighth drumstick. I couldn’t lie, amongst the several that I had tried, this was my favorite. Neither seasoning-smothered nor oil- drenched, there was honesty to the taste and as I later learnt,the honesty was not just in the food. John Mooney has an interesting story. With the respect that is earned by those who really ‘know there their stuff’, he was invited to India to open the countrysfirst ever organic restaurant ‘Pure’. Pure was launched at one of the landmark hotels in Bombay ‘Taj Lads End’. His clients included industry bigwigs, such as, Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan. It would be fun to center this post on the Indian glitterati, but it has never been about fame or fortune for John. As I waited for John at his restaurant ‘Bell, Book and Candle’, it was apparent that this was going to be a less conventional interaction. From the name of the restaurant (means ‘casting out of the Catholic religion’) to the 1950’s art hanging on the walls, it felt like something ‘alternative’ was on the cards. Alternative it was. Without trying to be different and having conviction in what should be available to people, John has the most unique restaurant in the country. The menu at Bell, Book and Candle is simple and the flavors are very special. But this is no accident. The restaurant is the first in the country to source 60% of its produce from it’s rooftop garden, a term they coin, ‘roof to table’. Breathlessly climbing up 4 steep flights of stairs, John opened the door to an outdoor space filled with many aeroponic towers growing all kinds of herbs and vegetables from sage to tomatillo. According to Mooney, the aeroponic system mitigates the negative effects of pollution as unlike soil, the roots are protected in nutrient enriched water. And the price? Mooney is definitely ‘on to something’ and it comes without the premium of price. His dishes are of mid-price range, because to him, this should be something everyone has the right to enjoy and not just a select few. His humble joint bears witness to all kinds of notables, who are left inspired and wanting to recreate this modern garden of Eden for their restaurant or community. John is a chef that is anchored by his values, his desire to look out for his community in the West Village and the desire to put great food on the table. With the motivation of a home cook, one can expect the food to be outstanding, accessible and nurturing. After hanging out at the front of the house, it was time to grab our aprons and go to the kitchen to make seared halibut served with vegetables and bacon sauté . With a slight nudge of the fork, the fish tenderly broke apart. It was a perfect meal with the sweetness of the corn, the saltiness of the bacon and the sweet and tart flavor of the tomatoes. Ingredients Halibut 2 fillets of halibut Salt & Pepper Vegetables ¼ cup of Fava beans (or canned chickpeas) ¼ lb bacon, cut in to lardons (½ “ strips) ¼ cherry tomatoes 1 tbsp fresh chopped chives and chervil Corn Puree (adapted from John Mooney’s recipe) 1 leek (white and light green parts only), chopped 1 tablespoon unsalted butter 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 1 medium Yukon Gold potato , peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces 4 cups yellow or white corn kernels 1 small bay leaf Few sprigs of thyme 3 cups chicken stock ¼ cup of milk Method Corn puree (make ahead of time, you will only need 2 tablespoon, the remainder can be used as the base for another sauce or soup) 1) Sweat the vegetables, until tender 2) Add the bayleaf and thyme. Cover with chicken stock 3) Allow the sauce to reduce by ½. Add the milk and allow to thicken 4) Puree the vegetables and continue to thicken until it has the consistency of oatmeal Cooking and Assembling the Dish 1) Heat a frying pan (one that isn’t non-stick) on high, large enough for the fillet of halibut, season the fillet with salt and pepper. Add oil to the pan and place flesh side down. Cook until it is almost done and then sear the other side. Repeat with the second fillet 2) In a separate sauté pan, melt a knob of butter on high heat, sauté the bacon, add the cherry tomatoes and fava beans, cook for a couple of minutes. Add the 2 tablespoons for corn puree and season with salt and pepper. Add the fresh chervil and chives. Serving Suggestions Serve with a nice white, such as, Pouilly Sur Loire Pearls of Wisdom To get a nice sear on the fish, make sure the pan is hot enough
This month was electric in the Big Apple as New York City opened its doors to the New York Food and Wine Festival. The city became a “Tinsel Town” for food with streets and venues filled with well-known chefs talking to the media about new projects, personal philosophies and using their voice as a medium to achieve other goals that benefit society. My friend Lesley invited me to an event hosted by the Feast.com, an event which left most of the audience speechless and self-reflective. The guest known as the ‘Salvador Dali’ of gastronomy, a rebel with a cause and a scientist in the kitchen, could have been no other than the Spanish Chef Ferran Adria. The afternoon was not spent discussing his famous culinary nitrous oxide canisters, but rather people and their attitude towards food. For Adria, well being is clearly an objective. As he pointed out, over-eating and fad diets are just symptoms of a very unhealthy mindset and a physically ailing society. He also discussed his new book, The Family Meal, which was inspired by his quest to ensure that his staff was eating healthily, affordably and responsibly. When asked by a member of the audience what advice he would give to a culinary school graduate, he became very serious reminding them that this journey should not be about fame and fortune but rather the craft of being in the kitchen. In his recent visit to Peru, he was humbled by the modesty of chef extraordinaire ‘Gaston Acurio’, where almost every sentence spoken by the chef was prefaced by a ‘con permiso’ or ‘with your permission.’ Ferran spent a lot of time talking about Peru and how we are on the cusp of this lesser-known cuisine exploding onto the global stage. This is a truly integrated cuisine where it’s citizens, are either no longer able or even bother trying, to distinguish the cultural origins of what is on their plate be it Andean, Chinese, Japanese, African or European. Integration at this deep level is something that has yet to fully transpire in the West although in time it will inevitably come and with it, we will all become that little bit closer together as people. Today’s dish celebrates his championing of Peruvian cuisine and accelerating the recognition it deserves with: Lomo Saltado. Lomo Saltado is a Chinese influenced Peruvian dish of stir fried chili beef, served with fries. Ingredients 1lb sirloin, thinly sliced in to strips (jardinière cut) 2 cloves of crushed garlic 4 tbsp soy sauce 1 medium onions, sliced same thickness as beef 1 tbsp red wine vinegar 1 beef steak tomatoes cut in to wedges 2 red chilis Salt and pepper Frying oil 1 ½ lbs of potatoes, sliced same thickness as beef 1 cups of basmati rice 2oz butter Method Wok Fried Sirloin 1) Heat oil in a large wok and sweat the garlic. Add the sirloin to the wok (do not over crowd the pan and cook in batches if necessary) and increase the heat. Season with salt. Allow the meat to nicely brown. Remove from pan 2) Heat more oil in the same pan and briefly sauté the onions. Remove from pan 3) Deglaze pan with vinegar and soy sauce and remove the ‘brown bits’ from the pan, add tomato wedges and cook briefly. Season with salt and pepper and add the onions and sirloin with slices of red chilli Fried Potatoes 1) Blanche the sliced potatoes in boiling water (boil until ½ cooked and remove) and air dry 2) When ready for service, heat oil in a fryer at to 350 degrees. Fry the potatoes until golden brown. Remove when tender and golden brown and dry well on paper towels Boiled Rice 1) Heat butter in a saucepan and cook the rice until they become pearl like. Add 4 cups of water and salt to taste and cook covered on medium heat for approximately 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork once the rice is tender Serving Suggestions Toss the fries in to the lomo saltado coating the potatoes with the sauce and serve the lomo saltado on a hot plate with a side of white rice. Pearls of Wisdom Be careful not to overcrowd the pan to avoid steaming the beef.
Over the summer, Passport Pantry’s Unsworn went through the kitchen doors of Le Souk. There was a lot of buzz around this North African gem filled with amber lanterns and tiny mosaics when it first opened in 2001. A few years later, the restaurant went through a period of discretion as it quietly reinvented itself. The result of this recreation: An exotic menu with a sexy vibe and a sense of humor. How did bachelor and executive chef ‘Marcus Jacob’ pull this off? As I entered, I was warmly greeted by his business partner and wife, Lamia Jacob. There was my answer. Full of life, charm and wit, Lamia is the perfect ambassador of the Moroccan mystique. Marcus and Lamia create the restaurant menu and when they have a conflict, she reminds him that she is always ‘right’. Despite the growth of their business, Marcus is a ‘hands-on’ chef and is as passionate today as he was when he started the business. The restaurant is fun and yet it’s genesis came about from a more serious observation post September 11th. After the attacks in NYC, Marcus became cognizant of a curiosity growing amongst New Yorkers regarding the Muslim culture. Through the medium of food, he wanted to demystify this seemingly obscure culture and he became very popular, very quickly. Today he serves up creative Moroccan fares, such as, Moroccan paella and a tagine of duck with kumquat jam and toasted cumin seeds. As we went in to the kitchen, he revealed the recipe he was about to make ‘spiced lamb burgers’. With a vivid taste of the southern Mediterranean, the burger has a hazy flavor of cumin and nutmeg that is brightened up with a generous pinch of parsley. Ingredients 1lb ground lamb 1 medium onion, finely diced 1 medium sized tomato, finely diced Flat leaf parsley, finely chopped Salt, ½ tsp Pepper, ½ tsp Cumin, ½ tsp Nutmeg, pinch 2 burger buns Method 1) Combine all the ingredients and make 2 patties from the mixture (1/2 lb each) 2) Cook on the grill or a hot sauté pan brushed with oil for approximately 6 minutes on each side until medium 3) Throw the buns on to the same pan to absorb some of those valuable juices and other lamb remnants Pearls of Wisdom Cut all burger ingredients as finely as possible but refrain from using the food processor as excessive moisture leaches from the ingredients. Marcus’ Secret Marcus strongly recommends cooking the lamb to at least medium. This allows the various burger mixture components to cook through, such as the tomatoes and onions.
I have been out of touch for a few weeks and would like to say that I really missed writing the blog. The reality, I sheepishly admit, is that I didn’t get to miss it much as I was swept away by my vacation in Santorini. This Greek island with parched mountains, clusters of white-washed blue-capped homes and onyx colored sand that is moistened by the Aegean waters could easily leave one feeling stunned if not intimidated by its beauty. Santorini has so much to be boastful of and yet she takes her beauty in her stride. There are vineyards and wineries dotted all over the island in the most unassuming manner. The island is also known for it’s cherry tomatoes, capers, white aubergine and honey with notes of thyme. Driving through the island, we received the occasional wave from the sun-kissed farmer or the ladies in small shacks motioning us in to sample local specialties. Taking up the invitation and feeling like we were reuniting with long lost friends, we were offered small plates of sundried cherry tomatoes, pickled aubergine and of course a swig of homemade vin santo. Just like the beauty and people of Santorini, the cuisine is also simple, honest and direct. With minimal ingredients and the absence of laborious cooking techniques, the food has a flavor that represents the magic of the Mediterranean and furthermore, the magic of the volcanic soil it has emerged from. With a spread of tomato kefta’s (meatless tomato balls), fava (yellow split pea), white eggplant that is molten in the mouth and capers, the feast begins with the eyes. Today’s dish is mashed yellow split peas with a garnish of sliced onions and tomatoes. There is a dried fruity flavor to this lentil which sets it apart from other lentils and it is often served as a side dish or as part of a mezze. It can also be enjoyed as a lighter alternative to humus and eaten simply with warm pita. Ingredients 1 cup yellow split pea lentils (available at most supermarkets and ethnic stores) 5 cups of water Salt 1 medium sized onion, finely diced Extra virgin olive oil Juice of ½ a lemon 1 small onion, thinly sliced 5/6 cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced Method 1) Wash the lentils 2) In a medium sized pan, sweat the diced onions in a little olive oil until they become translucent. Add the lentils and water, season with salt and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and cook covered for approximately 45 minutes. The lentils are done when they lose their bite and begin to fall apart. If the lentils are too hard, add more water and if they are fully cooked, increase the heat, and uncover the pan until the water has evaporated. 3) Check for seasoning, add the olive oil and lemon juice and mash until it makes a fine puree. 4) Serve warm and sprinkle with sliced onions and tomatoes Serving Suggestions Serve with warm pita or a crudité of radishes, cucumber, red bell pepper whole cherry tomatoes Pearls of Wisdom If you are not planning to use the mashed fava immediately, it will need to be loosened with some water.
Today’s Bachelor’s Black Book is an entry that comes directly from source: Mr. Neil Khanna, bachelor, trend setter and the ultimate marinade maestro. To dive straight in to his recipe without a mention about who he is would be no fun at all. He is my baby cousin and as a child was the family cherub. Who would have ever imagined that this chubby cheeked child eating sugar-with-rice would turn out to be this gastro guy with alot of swag switching out laughing cow cheese sandwiches for rack of lamb or roasted pork belly. He broke the mould and was smart about it. His initial interest for food started at university where he was forced to fend for himself. We were all relieved that he gave up bland and boiled for more interesting flavors and once he crossed this threshhold, there was no stopping him. He was uninhibited and willing to even cross over to the ‘dark side of food’. With a brain configured to be the perfect accountant, Neil looks for flavor and taste, but he also considers his return on investment. Sure, it would be nice to rustle up a nice and romantic meal for the ladies, but what good would that be if there was no leverage for the next day. Today’s dish is exactly that. A roasted loin of pork, basted with honey, whole grain mustard, soy and garlic with fire roasted vegetables which scores him 10 out of 10 on a hot date and leave him with enough leftovers for him and the boys. The intensity in flavor that comes from roasting and the sweetness from caramelization achieved by the honey glaze, balanced against the saltiness of the soysauce makes this dish extremely balanced in flavors. Ingredients Loin of Pork 2lbs Loin of pork (with fat) Maldon Salt Black Pepper Soy sauce Honey 3 Garlic cloves Whole grain mustard Roasted vegetables Lemon thyme 8 Baby Corns 1 bunch Asparagus 1 Red pepper 1 large onion Method Loin of Pork 1) Score the fat on the pork (Make criss cross marks without cutting in to the skin). Make incisions in 3 places of the pork and push the garlic in to the meat. 2) Season pork with salt and pepper 3) Heat a saute pan and. Add 1 tbspn of oil and sear the pork all over to get a golden crust. Remove and place in the foil lined sheet pan and in the oven for about 1 hour 4) Whisk together the remaning ingredients and baste the pork when the pork has been cooking for 45 minutes Roasted Veggies 1) Cut the vegetables in to large squares. Toss with olive oil, lemon thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and bake nin the oven for 40 minutes Serving Suggestions No need to go over board here guys, or you may be ‘over spoiling’ your date Pearls of Wisdom Do not over cook the pork. Unlike chicken, pork can be left a ittle pink on the inside.
So here I am, it’s that trip that I bianually pent myself up for..LONDON!!! Representing all things indulgent, such as food, sleep, food, it is that moment where guilt is shoved aside to make space for whims and impulses, after all they can’t all live in the same world. This time, I showed up to London feeling more entitled than ever. My recent graduation from the French Culinary Institute was enlightening but let us not underestimate the elbow grease invlolved in getting me there. The flight to London was filled with hallucinations of me putting my feet up and my kids outsourced to my parents. Bliss. As we walked through immigration, I could hear my parents, uncles and aunts and cousins yell out various terms of endearment to welcome us along with “congratulations Saira!! We want to taste every thing you have learnt cooking for the past 6 months at school!” They had to be kidding with me. Was I really going to labour over a hot stove making and skimming stocks and sauces before I could even put a dish together? Given the willfullness of my family and my lameness of being tired, protesting would have been a waste of words. School taught me many elaborate techniques, but it also taught me to be tastfully smart in the kitchen. That’s when I turned to my ‘fish en papillote’. This dish is simple to assemble and yet it’s taste and appearance has never failed to woo me. The fish is baked in parchment paper parcels and cooked with aromas of tomatoes and garlic, mushrooms, celery and leeks. With looks to kill and a taste to match, from a distant glance one could be intimidated by the technique involved. Allow me to let you in on a secret. Nothing could be easier and the only effort required is to actually purchase the parchement paper (available at your local grocers). Simply wrap the fish and pop in the oven and enjoy watching your guests as they tear the paper and close their eyes as the steam and aromas waft over their face. Ingredients 4 x 4oz pieces of white fish, such as, cod, hake, sea bass 2 shallots, finely sliced in rounds1 zucchini, julienned 6 tomatoes, deseeded and chopped in to small cubes 1 bay leaf 2 cloves 1of garlic, crushed 8oz cremini mushrooms, finely sliced 8oz shitake mushrooms, finely sliced 3 leeks, (discard dark green parts), thin strips & 2cm long 2 celery sticks, thin strips & 2cm long Olive Oil Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 1/4 cup white wine Parchment paper Method Fish 1) Set the oven to 375F 2) Tomato coulis: Sweat the shallot until tender without caramelizing. Add the chopped and deseeded tomatoes, bayleaf and crushed garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cover until tender. Once the tomaotes are soft, cook uncovered until all the moisture has evaporated. Set aside. 3) Saute the mushroom in small batches in a sautepan and season with salt. Cook until the moisture has evaporated, drain on paper towels and set aside. 4) Add the leeks to a saucepan and fill half way with water. Season with salt and a knob of butter. Bring to a boil and then simmer with a lid. Once the leeks are tender, drain on paper towels. Repeat with the celery. Set aside Wrapping 1) The Pretty option: Fold a large piece of parchment paper in half. Cut half a heart with the heart points against the folded edge. Open and you will have a perfect heart. On one half of the heart, add a base of 2 tblsp of the tomato coulis. Lay fish on top and lay the trio of vegetables on the fish. Brush the heart ends with oil and fold the edges in 1 cm long fold along the heart opening to seal them tight. Brush the top of the heart with oil and place in the oven for 10 minutes. The heart will puff up and the fish will cook in the steam created by the vegetables. 2) The No Fuss rustic option: Place the pieces of fish in A4 sheet sized parchment paper, layer the fish as directed above. Fold the paper over lenghtwise and tightly crimp the paper ends (to look like an old fashined wrapped candy). Brush with oil. Serving Suggestions Serve by itself or a simple green salad Pearls of Wisdom Make sure to drain all excess water in the vegetables before cooking with the fish or the parcels will get too watery. Also, make sure the leeks are thorougly washed to remove all soil and grit. The best way to do this is to cut slits along the length of the leeks and wash between the layers
Today is the launch of unsworn. Witness how chefs become unsworn to secrecy and unravel a recipe as well as a kitchen tip. Today’s unsworn takes us behind those clandestine curtains of Cipriani’s on 5th Avenue and in conversation with executive chef ‘Piero Minicucci’. Showing up at his kitchen, I was a little concerned as our prior conversation on the phone was ad hoc (for which I was wholly responsible). However just a couple of minutes in his kitchen, I realized that Piero was anything but ad hoc. He was fully prepared. The assortment of ingredients in preparation of his final dish lay in a logical sequence. Like a true technician, he was meticulous and ready to execute. Piero’s choice of dish hit the spot for this furnace of a day: Salmon carpaccio with a lush bouquet of radicchio and green and white asparagus. These wafer thin slices of fish were mildly sweet yet salty, slightly grassy yet vibrant and served with a full bodied salad. So what brought this chef to New York? Once a little boy running through the peaceful hills of Marches, Italy he is now a chef in one of the most unforgiving food capitals of the word: New York City. What brought him here? Did it all really stem from that little boy who made gnocchi with his grandmother to avoid Sunday Mass? As they say behind every successful man is a woman and for Piero, it was none other than his Nonna Olga. Join us today as he shares his recipe on salmon carpaccio and don’t miss his secret from the kitchen. Ingredients 1lb of salmon fillet with skin on 1oz sugar (cane) 1oz sea salt 1 teaspoon of honey 1 tsp white pepper corns 1 tsp whole black peppercorns ¼ bunch of dill ¼ bunch of chives 1 head of radichhio 2 stems green asparagus 2 stems white asparagus Olive Oil 2 slices of whole wheat bread White Asparagus cooking solution Ingredients 1 tablespoon all purpose flour 1 pinch of salt 1 lemon 4 cups of water Method Salmon 1) Sprinkle salmon flesh side up with salt and sugar. Drizzle the honey. 2) Sprinkle with black and white peppercorns and lay sprigs of dill and chives over the top of the salmon 3) Cover the fish with parchment paper and lay weights on the fish (such as canned tomatoes) over the top. refrigerate for 48 hours Salad 1) Trim asparagus ends and peel the stems. Reserve the peels of the white stems 2) Green asparagus: Blanche the asparagus by cooking in rolling boiled and salted water. Place in ice bath when tender. Remove on paper towels 3) White asparagus: Create a bleaching solution by bringing the flour(mix a little water with flour and then combine with the rest of the water to avoid lumps), water, lemon juice and lemon, salt, asparagus peels to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook until tender. Shock in an ice bath and drain on paper towels. 4) Chope the asparagus into 1” pieces on the bias 5) Thinly slice the radicchio and toss with the asparagus in a the olive oil Assembly 1) Grill the pieces of whole wheat bread and serve with the plate of sliced salmon. Stack the salad in the middle of sliced fish. Pearls of Wisdom Use your longest and sharpest knife to slice the salmon to get clean pieces Piero’s Secret Piero often cooks vegetables that oxidize (go brown when cut) in a bleaching solution to prevent them from losing their color, such as the white asparagus, artichokes
The Bachelor’s Black Book emerged from a conversation with my brother inlaw “Arjun”. He was visiting from San Francisco and was keen to check out my world at The French Culinary Institute. Being the stud that he is, his desire to schnozzle around the school surprised me. If he thought it was going to be a food court experience with servers handing out samples of coq au vin and escargots, he would certainly have to take that empty belly elsewhere. After his tour of the kitchens and the restaurant, ‘L’ecole’, we went to grab a drink. It was there that he revealed his brief stint at culinary school. After a break up with a girl who shall remain nameless, he was ready to hit the playing field. His two options: Zumba classes or cooking school. Doubting his exotic dance potential, he elected cooking school. So there he was that Thursday evening, single and ready to mingle. He walked into the class and froze. Was this really his class or were these people here for a seminar on time shares in North Carolina? He was at best 3 times younger than his fellow class mates. There was no turning back now, introductions had begun and the Frank Sinatra fans were rearing to share their stories of why they were there. As for his cooking skills, his meals certainly raised a few doubts, but as his instructor said, he excelled in his skills as a dishwasher. Today’s entry is for Arjun to restore his faith that he can put an exotic and delicious meal together. It is Thai green curry with a side of steamed white rice. A perfect balance of sweet, citrus, salt and fat with the guiding hand of simplicity. Warning: The aroma in this dish will fill your home and may pull neighbors to your door Ingredients 2” stick of lemongrass 1 ½ tbsp. green curry paste 1 can coconut milk 1lb chicken breast or thigh, cut into thin strips ½ fresh lime Handful of cilantro sprigs Rice Salt Oil Method Chicken 1) Heat oil in a pan on medium/high. Bruise the lemongrass by bashing with a knife in several places and add to the hot oil along with the green curry paste. Combine the green curry paste with the oil and cook until an aroma emerges for a couple of minutes (BECAREFUL and don’t burnt he paste) 2) Add ½ the can of coconut milk and cook for 4 minutes, until the oil separates from the milk. Add the chicken strips andprigs of cilantro 3) Cook until tender 4) Add the remaining coconut milk and check the seasoning for salt 5) Serve with a splash of lime juice Rice 1) Wash rice thoroughly 2) Add the rice and 1 cup of water to a pan with ½ tsp salt. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer and cook covered for 12-15 minutes. When the rice is soft, fluff with a fork and serve. Serving Suggestions Serve with any steamed greens. Pearls of Wisdom Some people marinate the chicken in the green curry and then cook it. I prefer to break down the green curry paste in the pan first to draw out all the flavors.
For men, the 80’s was a period of buff and brawn. The 90’s dotcom guy was somewhat geeky and overall non-descript but there was a very important transition taking place paving the way and raising the bar for the Year 2000’s: Mr. Metrosexual. Mr. metrosexual takes pride in his appearance and it has no bearing on his sexuality, he is far less of a chauvinist, his beverage selection is broader than beer and he willingly cooks!!! These guys have it figured and are reaping the rewards in more ways than one. However some poor chaps are still ‘stuck in the 80’s. If you are one of them, today’s entry is here to propel you and bring you about 3 decades ahead from where you are used to operating. This dish is full proof, requires minimal time and effort and may even peak your interest in the kitchen. Your lesson 1 is about to begin and you will be making skirt steak with chimichurri. The combination of the full flavored skirt steak with the zesty and fragrant Chimichurri Sauce is enough to wake up anyone’s taste buds up. Ingredients Skirt Steak 1 ½ lb, skirt steak (sliced in a half along the width) 1 tsp of Malden Salt (the Pop Rock tasting salt) Fresh black pepper Chimichurri Sauce 1/2 cup olive oil ½ a freshly squeezed lime 1 large handful of fresh parsley 3 cloves garlic 1 peeled shallot 1 Jalapeno or serrano chili pepper 2 tbsp red wine vinegar Salt and pepper to taste Method 1. Throw all the Chimichurri ingredients in a blender and give it a couple of pulses. The sauce should be slightly chunky and textured. Taste and adjust seasoning 2. Get a large sized frying pan and heat on high. 3. Season only one side of the meat with salt and pepper 4. Add vegetable (1 tblsp) oil to the pan and lay the seasoned sized of the skirt steak facing down 5. Refrain from moving the meat around so that it can form a nice crust for four minutes each side 7. Blot off any excess grease and allow the steak to rest for 10 minutes so the juices can be reabsorbed. 8. Serve with your fabulous Chimichurri Sauce Serving Suggestions All this needs is a simple salad, but if you really have time on your hands, feel free to throw a couple of potatoes in the oven. Pearls of Wisdom Here are some guidelines for levels of skirt steak cooking: 1. 3 minutes each side for a rare steak 2. 4 minutes each side for medium rare 3. 6 minutes each side for well done Please keep all trigger ready hands placed firmly behind your back as the meat is browning to avoid temptations of moving it around the pan or your meat will not achieve that gourmet color!!
Today I saw a lady eating a purple yam on the train. My initial reaction was to find this odd and a little disgusting. Surely there must have been a more preferable locale to consume such a snack. She immediately became the social outcast on the train. Of course, she would have seemed less odd had she opened a bar of Twix or a Twinkie or any other lab food! Then I realized that she was clearly more nutritionally conscious than the rest of us. She was eating the ultimate whole food – a cooked yam, with the skin. It made me think that with just a little effort and great service to our health, we could prepare tasty nutritional snacks. We would just have to reeducate ourselves and accept that they will have a shorter shelf life…after all, it is pretty tough to compete with ‘expiration 2020’. This led me to my quest for satisfying snacks on the run and ultimately to today’s entry of Falafel Poppers. Tiny bites of ground chickpea crunch followed by a fluffy interior, the falafel is both scrumptious and nutritious. You can throw it in your bag on the way to the office or serve it in a pita pocket with salad and Tahini sauce for dinner and if there are any left overs, be sure to freeze them. Ingredients 2 cups of dried chickpeas (soaked in water for 6 hours) 4 cloves minced garlic ½ onion (minced) 1T chopped cilantro 1T chopped parsley 1T lemon juice 2 t bicarbonate soda 4oz bread crumbs Salt 1-2 tbsn of plain youghurt ½ t chili powder 1t ground cumin seeds 2t ground coriander seeds Frying oil Method 1) Put the chickpeas in a food processor and pulse a few times until coarsely ground, transfer to mixing bowl and combine with the onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley salt and spices 2) Add the yoghurt, lemon juice and baking soda and set aside for 1 hour 3) Rub a little oil on your hands and make 1” balls and deep fry until golden brown Serving Suggestions As a snack, falafels can be eaten on their own or alternatively stuff them with some salad and yoghurt garlic sauce in a pita and make a meal of it. Pearls of Wisdom Don’t make the falafel size too large or it will remain uncooked in the center. When you remove the balls from the oil, allow to rest a few minutes before eating to allow the center to completely cook through. For those of you who would prefer to skip frying the falafel, lightly brown them in a saute pan and finish in the oven at 350 for approximately 20 minutes.
Every family has a grandma, nonna, nani, dadi, abuela, generally a cute and plump ball of love with a collapsed smile when the dentures are out. Even though they appear to smile vacantly most of the time whilst providing nods at conversations around them, they ‘get it’ far more than we give them credit for. They are the family powerhouse who quietly yet effectively ensures that values and traditions are moving forward, particularly when they come from the kitchen. Have you noticed that there are several ways to make a particular dish, be it a variation in technique, ingredient or sequence? Have you ever wondered why? Don’t look too far. You picked this up from your grandmother and she picked it up from hers. My Nani has always had magic in her hands when it comes to food and ‘Biryani’ was a dish she was renowned for. Biryani originated in Iran and has been adopted and adapted from Africa to South East Asia. It is a roasted rice dish cooked with aromatics, meats and vegetables. Varying in flavor from region to region, the one similarity is the manner in which it is served ‘with a puffed out chest’. My nanny has handed this dish down with the respect of a family heirloom and without doubt, my cousins and I will do the same. Comprising of layers of rice, marinated lamb cooked in a rich and spiced gravy, fried potatoes and caramelized onions, this dish is finished in the oven where flavors mingle in the steam. The contrasting flavors and textures of sweet and sour, soft and crunchy is what make the dish mysterious and unpredictable in every bite. Ingredients 2 cups of Basmati rice, washed, soaked 2lbs stew size lamb pieces (with and without bone) 6 medium sized potatoes 2 large yellow onions, sliced 1 bunch of cilantro ½ bunch of fresh destemmed mint leaves Lamb Marinade Juice from 1 lemon 1/8 cup vinegar 1 tblsp grated ginger 1 tblsp grated garlic Salt, pepper, 2 tsp garam masala Lamb Curry 3 Large onions finely diced onions ½ cup of oil 2 tablespoons grated ginger 1 tablespoon grated garlic ¾ tablespoon cumin seeds 1 tsp red cayenne pepper 1 can of crushed tomatoes 5 cloves (optional) 1 heaped teaspoon of coriander powder 1 tsp garam masala 1 cup yoghurt Method Marinating 1) Marinate lamb with all marinating ingredients for at least 2 hours (overnight if possible) Lamb Curry 1) Heat oil, add cumin and cloves. As they sizzle and deepen in color, add onions and after 7 minutes add ginger and garlic. Cook until they caramelize (light brown) 2) Add tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Cook until oil begins to separate from the mixture. 3) Add the marinated lamb and cook on high heat for 7 minutes. Beat and add the yoghurt and coriander powder and reduce to simmer. Cook covered for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring intermittently. 4) Once the meat is tender, add the garam masala, 1 handful of cilantro and remove from heat. Deep Fried Potatoes 1) Peel and slice in 3mm rounds 2) Heat oil and fry until golden, drain and set aside Caramelized Onions 1) Slice and cook on medium heat until brown, drain and set aside Rice 1) Boil in plentiful water (at least 6 cups, drain and set aside) cook ¾ through Dish Assembly 1) Butter a large and deep dish and spread 1/3 of the rice, layer 1/3 of the meat, sprinkle a handful of potatoes and some of the onions, sprinkle some cilantro and mint leaves and then repeat once more. The final layer will be of rice garnished with the potatoes and onions 2) Cover and cook in the oven for 40 minutes 3) Serve with fresh cilantro and mint leaves Serving Suggestions Serve with mint yoghurt and a simple salad of onions in lemon juice seasoned with salt and ¼ tsp chili powder Pearls of Wisdom Do not overcook the rice when you boil it. It should be par cooked as it will cook further in the steam when it is in the oven
My 6 month period of culinary revelations has intensely begun. Since commencing classes at the French Culinary Institute, I have been humbled by how much more there is to learn. The past few weeks have been a period of cold turkey, getting a rid of my naughty kitchen habits and going back to the drawing board, learning the French way. Last week was fish week and I learnt how to filet a fish. Since the age of 6, I have always rushed past the fish counter to avoid that stench from going too far up my nose. The thought of performing something so surgical – and that too with fish – was more information than I cared for. Trying desperately to be mature about this and leaving that 6 year old at home, I showed up to class with the fish on my cutting board, a sharpened knife and ready for action. I must confess (vegetarians, please stop reading here) that it was one of the most fascinating classes so far. After removing the filet from it’s skeletal structure, we made the prettiest looking fish ‘goujonettes’. Fish goujonettes are thin and long slices of hand rolled filets that are crisped by dipping in flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Served with a red pepper mayonnaise, a small additional step that will greatly appeal to the sophisticati, this is a perfect feature for any drinks and appetizer evening. Ingredients Fried Fish and Parsely 2 quarts oil Flounder – 1lb Salt and Pepper 5oz all purpose flour 2 whole eggs Salt 2tblsp oil 5oz breadcrumbs 1 bunch flat leaf parsley Red Pepper Mayonnaise 1 Deseeded red pepper, finely sliced 1 clove of garlic Salt and pepper ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper 1 cup Mayonnaise 2 tablespoons oil Method Fish Goujonettes Preparation 1) Finely slice the fish in long slices (4cm x 1cm) 2) Keep the fish chilled until ready to use 3) Assemble your coating ingredients in the correct order Dish with flour mixed with a little salt and pepper Dish with egg mixture (eggs combined with salt, and 2T oil) Dish with breadcrumbs 4) In a saucepan on medium heat, sweat the red peppers and garlic with a splash of water. Cover and cook on low heat for approximately 20 minutes. Once the peppers are tender, season with salt, pepper and cayenne and blend to a puree. Set aside to cool. Fish Goujonettes 1) Heat 2 quarts of oil to 350 degrees (or check by inserting a wooden spoon and if it steadily bubbles, the oil is ready for frying) 2) Roll the fish pieces between your hands to form pointed ends 3) Dredge the fish slices in flour and brush of excess, dip it in the egg mixture and roll in the breadcrumbs 4) Fry the fish in small batches until golden brown and drain on paper towels 5) One the fish is fried, fry the dried parsley in 2-3 batches for approx 15 seconds and drain on paper towel Red Pepper Dipping Sauce 1) Mix the cooled red pepper sauce with one cup of mayonnaise and 2tblsp oil Serving Suggestions Serve as a main course with some sweet potato fries or as an appetizer with lemon wedges Pearls of Wisdom Do not skip on any part of the breading steps, the flour sticks tightly to the fish and provides a protective layer, the egg is a glue and the breadcrumbs provide the final crunch.
About 6 yrs ago, I was expecting my first child. It was a period of exuberance with the first belly bump, the first kick! Pregnant ladies deserve a lot of pampering. Shoes, handbags, food indulgences are all on the menu for a 9 month period. That was until my doctor had told me to cut down on my carbohydrates/ sugars. Not fair. Why couldn’t symptoms such as a rusty memory or brittle nails be my ‘pregnancy thing’! Bowing down to my inner voice of responsibility (which was now speaking for two), I followed my doctors’ orders and started looking in to complex carbohydrates. This lead me to barley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barley) . Barley is low on the glycemic index and boasts of so many other health benefits. It has a nutty flavor and a heartier texture compared to other grains, such as rice. My favorite preparation of these little white pearls is to stir fry them with vegetables, chicken and shrimp (optional), with a fried egg and shredded lettuce on top, similar to Malaysian Fried Rice. This barley dish is spicy and zesty and the fried egg is a perfect accompaniment adding a little creaminess. Ingredients 1 cup of dried barley 1 large carrot sliced about 1” long and as thin as a match stick Approximately 13 green beans sliced in half (lengthwise) and cut in to 1” long pieces 1 green chili 1 x 2”piece of lemongrass chopped up or jarred chopped lemongrass by Thai Taste (www.thaitaste.us.com, available at Whole Foods or Food Emporium) Lime juice 3 cloves of garlic 2” piece of finely sliced ginger 2 shallots finely sliced Salt Handful of lettuce Sprig of fresh cilantro Eggs (1 per person) Method 1. Wash and boil the barley in about 5 cups of boiling and salted water for 20 minutes. When the barley is soft and loses some of it’s color, remove from heat and drain 2. Prepare an ice bath to refresh your carrots and beans by filling a large bowl of water with ice cubes. Set a large pot of salted boiling water. Add the beans and carrots for about 1 minute, drain and put in the ice bath and drain again. (this brings out the brightness of the vegetable) 3. Make a paste by mixing the chopped chili, lemongrass and a tablespoon of oil in a mortar and pestle or blender 4. In a wok, heat the oil and fry the green chili and lemongrass paste until the oil separates 5. Add the onions for 1 minute followed by the garlic, ginger and half the scallions 6. Add the boiled barley and toss until the barley has heated through. Season with salt 7. Toss in the remaining scallions, carrots and green beans and immediately remove from the heat 8. When plating the dish, lay the stir fried barley on a plate with fried egg, shredded lettuce, cilantro leaves and a slice of lime. Serving Suggestions Serve with a slice of lime and a few slices of green chilies and a little olek sambal. Pearls of Wisdom Add your blanched vegetables right at the end to avoid them breaking down and losing color and texture.
Jared, an old and dear friend of my brother’s, spent many vacations at our house in London during their college years (trekking back to Singapore for every holiday being far too excessive, even for the most well-healed of students). Almost becoming a second son, my parents loved having him around because of his positive influence and intense focus on his studies. Hoping that my brother would pick up some of these good habits, there were frequent conversations of the type, ‘look at Jared….why can’t you be more like him….he works so hard’. So many evenings were spent with Jared studiously ‘revising’ and Sanjay busily ‘creating the mood to revise.’ Eventually their collective hunger pangs would take over and the two would head for the kitchen. It was here that Jared would fire up the stove and out would emerge these quick but enchanting looking Singaporean meals. Cuts of meat which felt unconventional 15 years ago yet now can be seen on the hottest menus in town (such as, pork belly and lamb neck fillet) are the types of meat he would employ. When Jared was here relatively recently, I tried desperately to obtain some of these recipes, but like most married men, he was suffering from ‘kitchen amnesia’. In fact he couldn’t even remember ever going into the kitchen! I used to love the wok fried lamb over a bed of fettuccine that he often made. Luckily the taste was vivid and after much teasing and toiling of my brother’s memory, we finally nailed the recipe!! The sweet, spicy and sizzling lamb over the sesame-oil-and-oyster-sauce fettuccine is a perfect combination. In fact even after developing a more seasoned palate, I still find the pairing with ribbons of thick and flat pasta a genius move!! Ingredients Lamb 1 ½ pounds of lamb neck filet or boneless shoulder, cubed in to small pieces ¼ cup of soy sauce 2 tbsp. of sesame oil 1 tsp. pepper 1 tbsp. sugar Fettuccine 1 lb of fettuccine 3 tablespoons of oystersauce 2 tablespoons of sesame oil Method Lamb 1) Marinade the lamb in the soy sauce, sesame oil and pepper 2) Heat your wok/ frying pan on high heat 3) Add oil and then add half your lamb pieces. Sautee for about 5 minutes. Remove excess liquid and add ½ the sugar. Continue sautéing until lamb is dry and crisped on the outside. Add a dash of soysauce to the hot lamb. 4) Set aside and repeat with the second batch. Fettuccine 1) Cook the fettuccine to al dente as per packet instructions 2) In a mixing bowl, wisk the sesame oil and oyster sauce together 3) Toss with the cooked fettuccine Plating 1) Arrange the fettuccine in a bowl with the wok fried lamb served on top 2) Drizzle with chili oil Serving Suggestions 1) Serve with any greens, such as, Chinese broccoli, Bok Choy Pearls of Wisdom 1) There is no salt in this dish by design and it is not simply an oversight. The soy sauce is salty and does not require any additional salt 2) Removing the liquid at the wok frying stage is important as it removes a lot of the fat and it allows for the lamb to have a ‘sizzled’ taste.
My family and I have spent many evenings feasting on Tibetan potstickers: Momos. This is one dish that does not discriminate between the young and the old. Pretty parcels of dough with fillings of seasoned ground meat or vegetables transports children to some far off Wonderland of the East. Momos may be another version of a dumpling for us, and yet there is a cultural and geographical context from which these steamed and stuffed cushions emerge. Sitting on the highest altitude on earth and with neighboring countries of India and China, it is by no accident that this dish is made with the meat of a Yak, uses the few ingredients it’s soil is able to grow and draws from Indian spices and Chinese cooking techniques. My dear friend ‘Kelsung’ makes the most delightful and moist momos. After several months of eating her Tibetan delicacies, it finally dawned on me to learn how to make them . Of course, using Yak meat is not an option for people living outside of Tibet, however ground beef, chicken or lamb does the trick. Ingredients Dough 3 cups of all purpose flour ¾ cups of water Filling 8 scallions finely chopped 1lb ground chicken or beef 1 diced onion 1 tsp of grated garlic 2 tsp of grated ginger ¼ tsp of water 2 tbslp oil 2 tsp salt 1 tsp pepper ¼ tsp red chili powder Spicy relish – “Tsal” 1 fresh tomato 5 cloves of garlic 1 handful of cilantro 2 green chilies 1 tsp salt Method Dough 1. Knead the dough and set aside for 30 minutes 2. Break in to about 36 pieces and dust over with a little flour to stop them from sticking to each other 3. Dust the surface with a little flour and roll in to small circles Filling 1. Combine filling ingredients Making the Dumpling 1. Stuff 1 tbspn of the mixture across the middle of the dough circle 2. Pinch the ends of the circle together making little crescent shapes 3. You can cook the dumplings in a steamer for 20 minutes Or Add a little oil to a non stick frying pan, add the dumplings so that they brown a little and then cover them ¾ of the way with water on med/high heat. Cook covered in the pan until the dumplings have fully absorbed the water – approx. 15 minutes Relish “Tsal” Combine all the relish ingredients in the food processor and blend until you reach the desired consistency Serving Suggestions The authentic way to eat them is simply with the tomato relish. The Tibetans also add the momos to soups. Pearls of Wisdom To make this dish even simpler, you can purchase wonton wrappers instead of making and rolling your own dough. If you find it difficult to make the crescent shape, put the filling in the middle and pull up the ends in to a satchel shape
Since we are still at the turn of the New Year, many of you had sent me requests for tasty, healthy options, after all, one good choice leads to another. Such requests would often send me to a salad suggestion, however, our serial snow storms are in full swing and a salad feels like a flavorful frost bite in the mouth at best. One of my favorite meals on a cold day is ‘Secco’. This Peruvian curry is lighter than it’s counterparts and far more aromatic. For those of you belonging to the anti-cilantro community (www.ihatecilantro.com), I offer my sympathies and for those of you who enjoy this citrus overtoned herb, you are in for a healthy treat. This ethnic champion will stoke the fire in your belly and keep you warm and satisfied for the rest of the night. In addition to the ‘feel good factor’ brought on by this dish, there is also an element of history with the culmination of Native Indian, Spanish and African influences. This curry of chicken, cilantro, potatoes and peas is spicy, peppery and it’s broth like consistency adds a quality of cleanliness to the dish. This complete meal consisting of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins also comes with a fringe benefit of speed, ease and convenience. Ingredients 2lb chicken thighs on the bone (does not require slicing) 1 diced onion 1 head of a medium sized minced garlic 1 bunch of cilantro 1 cup of chicken stock 1 large carrot sliced in to discs 2 Serrano peppers or 1 Jalapeno 8 baby potatoes chopped in half 1 tablespoon of Aji Amarillo (available at any Latin specialty stores) or a splash of lemon juice Method 1) Sauté onions and garlic until translucent 2) Add the chicken and sauté for 7 minutes 3) In a blender, liquidize the cilantro and chicken stock and cook for a further 2 minutes 4) Add the Serrano peppers, potatoes, carrots 5) Once potatoes are soft, add the peas 6) Add the Aji Amarillo and season with salt and pepper Serving Suggestions This dish can absolutely be eaten on it’s own with just a simple salad of lime soaked red onions. However, if you are feeding an army of hungry people, serve with rice and butter beans. Pearls of Wisdom You do not need to add lots of water or stock to this stew. The cilantro has a fair amount of water content which comes out when heat is applied. The stock needs to just cover the chicken and vegetables. If you don’t have aji Amarillo, splash a little lemon juice in to the soup. Of course, this won’t replace the aji but it will add a little of the sourness that is in the sauce.
Before I go any further with my love for this latest pantry possibility, I would just like to make an acknowledgement. The thought of cabbage traumatized us as children, and never quite left us. Lifeless in texture, dull in appearance and lacking in aroma, were our parents really that surprised to witness yet another ‘ham-acted’ performance of THE TUMMY ACHE. Such jarring memories, coupled with flashbacks of the infamous cabbage soup from ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, was enough of a reason to send cabbage to the electric chair. And then it took a single moment to all of change that. A few days ago my brother picked up a Savoy cabbage from our local farm in London (The farm at Osterley House – a beautiful gem of a place quietly tucked away in West London) Not withstanding its lofty origination’s, I had no intentions of going near it, ever! Famous last words….. I had gone downstairs to prepare a light lunch, only to find a complete depletion of all the vegetables in the house. All but one, the humble cabbage. Looking at the snow outside and the cabbage inside, I had only one choice: to gracefully accept the ball of leaves. The commitment was made and an opening was created for this vegetable to shine. This particular cabbage is mellower than its extended family and I discovered that it works well in a soup. Contrary to my beliefs it was golden in color, with a delicate aroma. It is a great starter or throw in a handful of rice and it is very satisfying as a main course. Ingredients 2 cloves of minced garlic 1 medium potato 3 rashers of bacon (optional) 1 head of Savoy cabbage (sliced) 8 cups of chicken stock (can substitute for vegetable stock) Handful of uncooked rice Thickening Sauce 1 knob of butter 1 1/2 tablespoons of plain flour 1 cup water Method 1. Saute the garlic, bacon and potatoes until potatoes are golden 2. Add the sliced cabbage and salt, saute until it has begun to shrink (approx 5 mins) 3. Pour the stock in to the pan and simmer for 7 minutes 4. To make the thickening sauce, mix the flour and water and in a small bowl 5. In a separate pan, heat the butter and add the water/ flour mixture and cook until it becomes creamy in texture. Add to the soup pan. 6. Using a hand blender, give the soup a quick whizz 7. Throw in a handful of rice until cooked 8. Once the rice is cooked, discard the bacon and season with black pepper Serving Suggestions Serve with toasted-buttered bread and add a knob of butter to finish the soup Pearls of Wisdom If the thickening sauce becomes lumpy, throw in to the blender.
The festive season has unleashed an insatiable appetite. Will I ever locate that tiny amount of restraint, once safely guarded in my will power? I am finding myself amidst strange conversations on the trajectory of ‘you only live once’. Sound familiar? Torn between guilt and pleasure I opt for ‘guilty pleasure’ and ask my cousin Shalina to make her highly sought after ‘Sticky Toffee Pudding’. Sticky Toffee Pudding makes me completely surrender to it’s decadence and comforting charm and I know that I am not alone, I know because I have noted your facial expressions. After all, what else does one expect when dates, pudding and a hot buttery and nutty toffee sauce come together. Total heaven! Served with a tablespoon of creme fraiche and a Do Not Disturb sign, you’re good to go! Ingredients Makes 9 cupcake sized puddings Date Cake 3oz margarine (room temperature) 5oz caster sugar 6oz self raising flour 2 eggs 2oz finely sliced dates 1/2 tsp vanilla essence 2 tsp camp coffee 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda 9 cupcake cases Sticky Toffee and Pecan Sauce 1oz chopped pecans 6oz of soft brown sugar 6 tbsp double cream 4 oz margarine Method Sticky Toffee and Pecan Sauce 1. Combine sugar, margarine, double cream and pecans in a saucepan over med/ low heat until completely melted. Date Cake 1. Warm your oven to 350F 2. Beat margarine and sugar until fluffy 3. Combine eggs in a separate cup and slowly whisk in to the creamed margarine and sugar 4. Fold in the flour 5. In a separate jug, mix 6 fluid ounces of boiling water with vanilla essence, bicarbonate of soda and camp coffee and don’t be alarmed to see the liquid become fizzy 6. Stir the liquid into the butter, sugar, egg and flour mixture so that it forms a batter consistency. 7. Pour batter into cupcake cases about 3/4 full 8. Sprinkle on approximately 4 slivers of dates on to each pudding 9. Bake for approximately 15 minutes. 10. Insert a skewer and if it comes out clean, your pudding is ready 11. Pour the sauce over the cake just before serving. Serving Suggestions Serve hot with ice cream, single cream (half and half) or creme fraiche Pearls of Wisdom Taste the toffee sauce before you remove from the heat to ensure that the texture is not ‘gritty’. Once the gritty-ness has disappeared, this means that the sugar has been completely melted.
Something about this time of year allows us to mentally drift in to a world of ‘sweet entitlement’. Gone, are all distinctions between adults and kids. After all, it is the Holiday season. Let’s pamper ourselves now and make a New Years Resolution about it later, all in the name of ‘good old Christmas Spirit’. Something about the festive season brings about an inviting and softness from within us. Our language is laced with warmth, our expressions are mellow, we have all kinds of treats in serving bowls dotted around the living room, our home smells rosemary-esc from the coniferous trees and there is magic in the air. Of course, the thought of opening gifts can be exciting , followed by a reaction of a ‘hit-or-miss’, but the meal rarely lets you down. Honey glazed ham, turkey, stuffing, Brussels’ sprouts, parsnips, to mention a few, require for the largest dinner plate and most giving elastic waist band. Today’s entry is about those gold nuggets glistening from afar on the dinner table: Parsnips. This root vegetable tends to sit back subtly in the supermarket all year round for reasons beyond my comprehension, and then steals the show at the Christmas dinner table. Families serve them several different ways depending on their own traditions, but my favorite is the maple and mustard glazed parsnips. They transform from their ivory complexion to a deeper shade of yellow and after the initial crispness, turn molten in the mouth. The maple syrup and whole grain mustard add gentle character of a sticky crunch and the ginger adds subtle heat making this dish perfection personified. Ingredients 2.5 lbs or 6 medium parsnips 7 tblsp sunflower oil Salt Fresh cracked black pepper 2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard 2 tablespoons maple syrup Ginger (1 tsp grated) Method 1. Heat oven to 475 degrees 2. Trim top and bottom of parsnip and peel. 3. Chop parsnip across the width in half. Slice the narrower piece from top to bottom in half and the thicker piece in to 4 slices down the middle 4. Place in steamer for 8 minutes 5. Pour in 7 tablespoons of oil in a roasting tray and place in the oven 6. When parsnips are steamed, remove roasting tray carefully, Sprinkle crushed black pepper on to the hot oil and coat the parsnips in the oil. Put back in the oven 7. Mix the parsnip marinade of ginger, maple syrup and mustard 8. After the parsnips have been roasting for 20 minutes and should be golden, mix in the marinade and place back in the oven for another 10 minutes to allow it to crispen and stick to the parsnip Serving Suggestions Of course, it should be served with Christmas dinner but doesn’t need to be limited to Christmas dinner. It’s a side that is great with all meat dishes, such as, roast chicken, burgers (replacing French fries). Pearls of Wisdom Please do not skip the steaming step as it could take a long time for the parsnips to soften in the oven.
It is unfair that burgers are often called upon to nurse a hangover or satisfy a Gargantuan appetite. And when we get our burger, what do we do with it? We slap on the cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickles, ketch-up, mustard and mayo and then press it down with the bun to make a concoction of condiments. After we gorge speedily and greedily on this sandwich of ‘everything, yet nothing in particular’, we complain of heartburn and lethargy. What a nerve!!! Well, the burger has had enough. She is tired of being at your beck and call and is now trading her simplicity for sophistication so that she can be respected. Throwing in blue cheese and shitake mushrooms with some roasted coriander seeds and tarragon will do the trick. She will still have the firmness of a burger yet will give you hints of her softer side with the dotted creaminess from the blue cheese. The mayo too, will provide a lending hand in softness and moisture. She will allow for minimal accessorizing, perhaps a little rouge from the sliced tomato and a little gold from the dijon mustard, but that is it!!! Oh, and before you leave the grocery store with those nasty, floppy, full absorbancy buns, turn around and put them back and look for something with a little more personality..perhaps a Kaiser roll…remember, we need to do this her way! Ingredients 1 tsp coriander seeds 2oz shitake mushrooms 2 shallots 1 clove of garlic ¼ cup of blue cheese 5 fresh sage leaves 2 tblsp mayo Salt (about 1 ½ tsp) Fresh cracked pepper 2 cups of bread crumbs Method 1. Toast the coriander seeds for a minute, until they turn golden brown and crush with a mortar and pestle 2. Clean and de-stem the shitake mushrooms and peel the shallots. Throw them into the blender for a few seconds until they are chopped in to small pieces (not to a paste) 3. Sautee the mushrooms and onions in a pan for about 3 minutes and remove from heat, allowing them to cool 4. In a mixing bowl, add the ground chicken, salt, pepper, coriander seeds and mayonnaise. Chop up the sage and garlic and add it to the mixing bowl. 5. Once the mushroom and shallots have cooled down, add to the mixing bowl and mix well 6. Fold the blue cheese in the the mix (not breaking up the cheese too much) 7. Refrigerate the mixture for 30 minutes so that it is easier to handle when cooking it. 8. Spread breadcrumbs on a plate 9. Remove from the refrigerator and make 4 balls from the mixture. 10. Place the ball on the breadcrumbs and lightly press down to make a patty. Turn the patty around so that both sides get coated. 11. Add a little oil to a non stick pan and cook 2 patties at a time. Cook each side for about 4 minutes covered so that the chicken is well cooked through. Serving Suggestions I like to serve this very simply on a Kaiser roll and a dab of mustard. Pearls of Wisdom When I make the patties, I rub a little oil on to my hands, this makes the mixture easier to handle
Spending a few months in Poitiers, France, was like being in food heaven. My excessive food indulgences would have made Emile Zola turn in his grave several times, but that was never more than a fleeting thought (he wrote ‘The Belly Of Paris, where he snarls upon the food extravagances of the middle class in 19th century Paris). My six months could be summed up by the routine of snacking on whole baguettes fresh from my local boulangerie without ‘beurre’ , treating myself to pistachio, lavender and raspberry macarons, always ordering my potato dauphinoise and going through the ritual of being told that it would take an extra 30 minutes. So many delights, yet only 1 favorite , ‘The Croque Monsieur’. Would I offend anyone to say that only the French could turn this ham and cheese sandwich into a seductive masterpiece? The collective spirit of the crisped bread, the sweetness of the ham, the musty contribution of the gruyere and the slathering of béchamel makes this sandwich a treat to wake up to any time. All you need now is some piping hot coffee and some French music by the likes of Edith Piaf to make you part of that ambience parisienne. Ingredients Makes 4 Croque Monsieurs 8 slices of white bread with ends trimmed 4 pieces of medium sliced, black forest ham (not too thin) 2 tablespoons of flour 2 table spoons butter 1lb of grated gruyere cheese 1 ½ cups of hot milk Pinch of nutmeg Salt to taste Pinch of black pepper Whole grain mustard or Dijon mustard (or both) Method 1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees 2. Toast the slices of bread until slightly golden 3. In a pan, add the butter and flour on medium heat, stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Gradually pour in the milk and allow the béchamel to thicken. You’ll know it has reached the desired consistency by making fork lines in the sauce without them disappearing. Remove from heat. 4. Add about ½ of the cheese, the nutmeg, salt and pepper 5. Lay your toast on an oven tray and smear with half a teaspoon of mustard (I make some sandwiches in Dijon and some in wholegrain.) 6. Lay down your ham and sprinkle with 1/4 of the remaining cheese. 7. Spread the béchamel on the toast and place faced down on the ham and cheese. 8. Spread the final layer with a tablespoon of béchamel sauce, and sprinkle with the remianing cheese 9. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes. Once the cheese has melted, switch the oven to broil/ grill until it is bubbly and brown. Serving Suggestion 1. Throw on a fried egg and you will turn Croque Monsieur into Croque Madame 2. Serve with a salad and this dish works wonderfully for lunch or dinner Pearl of Wisdom Don’t be concerned if your toast seems dry in the initial stages of putting the sandwich together. The béchamel sauce softens the bread as much as is required.
Whenever my mother asks my husband and my brother what they would like to eat, the answer is always the same..Chicken Curry. Knowing how much they both love it and given the simple geographic set up of my family with my parents being in London and my brother and I in NY, it made sense for me to learn how to make it. Well, here comes the big BUT. This was one dish I simply could not replicate. I had tried making this dish whilst she transatlantic-ly supported me over the phone with each step. I failed. I have watched her make it whilst I furiously took notes only to have failed again. Believe me, each time I tried, it felt like this dish was slipping further away. Mum’s dish has a vitality to it. It’s flavorful and has a lovely color. Mine by contrast looked lifeless and often tasted the part too. Send me a sign!! What am I doing wrong? And then it dawned on me. It was pretty complicated actually. I needed to let go and just have fun. This thought alone gave me so much freedom. By adding a dash of ‘this’ and a ‘sprinkle’ of that, I played with the mechanics until I reached my bliss point. When you are in the kitchen, I invite you to take on the same approach. If you’re not baking a cake, nothing should stop you from tasting and adjusting until you too are ready to serve your dish. My quest for this chicken curry led to the understanding of the inter relationship amongst ingredients. Once you understand this relationship, you view a recipe as a guide and not gospel. Sometimes, it’s less about the measurement and more about the pinch. It’s like love in a relationship, let go, be prepared to make mistakes, play with the flavors. In a sentence , ‘ don’t be so rule based’. Are you aware that no single spice or salt is of the same strength (even if they are of the same brand)? Does knowing that throw you off? Don’t let it!! You are the best judge of what your palate likes. People follow recipes rigidly and then blame poor chefs when it doesn’t quite taste right. Perhaps the tomatoes they used were sweeter than yours or their cilantro stronger in flavor. Don’t look to be spoon fed, rather, look to be inspired. Now, what’s the fuss about this chicken curry? It is absolutely delicious visually and boasts of so many flavors. This pot of glistening curry has flavors of ginger and garlic, caramelized onions and cumin, coriander seeds and garam masala, garnished with freshly chopped cilantro. Over a bed of rice and a bottle of beer, you will reach more than just bliss point. Ingredients ¼ cup of oil1 ½ tsp cumin seeds2 finely diced onions (medium sized)3 table spoons grated ginger1 ½ tablespoon grated garlic1 can crushed tomatoes2lbs chicken (1” pieces of thighs and breasts and chicken legs)½ tsp turmeric½ tsp red chili powder1 tsp coriander powder (best to get the whole dried seeds and put in the blender)1 tsp garam masala1 tsp black pepper½ cup of water (optional)1 handful of fresh coriander1 boiled potato chopped in 4 pieces Method 1. Heat oil on high heat and add the cumin seeds. As the cumin sizzles, add the onions and fry for 10 minutes and then add the ginger and garlic.2. As the onions caramelize and mixture becomes golden brown, add the tomatoes (you may need to give them a quick whizz in the blender first) and cook for about 7 minutes. Once the oil separates from the rest of the mixture (you’ll see flecks of translucent orange liquid)3. Sprinkle in the turmeric, chili powder and salt (to taste)4. Add the chicken legs and after 6 minutes of cooking, add the 1’ pieces of thigh and chicken breast. Cook covered on medium/ high heat5. After about 20 minutes, remove the lid and cook on high heat. If you like more gravy, add ½ a cup of boiling water6. Add the garam masala, coriander powder and pepper and mix well.7. Throw in the potatoes and gently mix, being careful not to break the potato8. Garnish with fresh, chopped cilantro Serving Suggestions Serve with basmati rice or naan bread Pearls of Wisdom Some people cook the potatoes in the curry itself. I prefer to cook boil the potato separately and then add it to my dish. This avoids the potatoes breaking down too much and forming lots of little lumps.
This week, my family and I were subject to the Fall’s not so pretty side – ‘germs’. When GERMS strike, I lose sight of all things autumnally beautiful and after 5 days of soups and stews, I get sick of those too (note to soup: I love you, I just need a little space right now). The good news is that we are finally shaking off this nasty cold and are on the mends. So what’s for dinner tonight? Today I fancied something where techniques of sipping and dunking were not required. No broths, no sauces, no effort. Believe me my friends, there is such a dish, it is my Aristotle Chicken and potatoes. Before you have visions of Aristotle preparing and eating this dish, hold your horses, I gave it that name because it sounds more interesting than calling it ‘Saira’s college Greek friends cooking on a Sunday night dish’. Looking back at my Greek friends, I can now appreciate a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ they possessed in the kitchen. They ate halloumi’s whilst the rest of us ate doner kebabs (of the fastest of foods variety), they drank ouzo whilst we drank diluted beers..getting the picture? This was their life and I was lucky to share a dorm with them!! I love this dish, it epitomizes what Greece is famous for: olive oil, lemon, garlic , thyme and parsley. It is also very simple to make and requires you to blend the aforementioned ingredients (and few more mentioned below), marinade and bake. Also, note the Greek technique of roasting the potatoes. They are cooked with the meat in the same allowing them to very valuable flavor from the chicken. Ingredients 3 lb chicken leg with skin 5 medium sized potatoes 1 onion 8 cloves Garlic 1 ½ juiced lemon 1 lemon rind 1 cup olive oil 1 cup parsley 1 tsp of thyme Method 1) Blitz together the onion, 8 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of olive oil. Keep 1 part aside for the potatoes and the remaining 3 parts for the chicken marinade 2) Cut the potatoes into wedges and toss in the garlic and olive oil, sprinkle with salt and a pinch of thyme. 3) Blitz the remaining olive oil and garlic with parsley, black pepper, salt and 1 ½ lemon juice, lemon rind. Pour over the chicken to marinade for as long as possible (preferably 3 hours) 4) In an oven proof dish, place your chicken with the potatoes arranged around it. Cook covered at 400 degrees for 45 minutes and cook uncovered on broil (grill) for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp. Serving Suggestions If you’re feeling garlicky, throw down a few whole cloves of garlic and place your chicken on top before roasting. Don’t worry about bad breath since it is cooked for so long and doesn’t retain the after taste and if you simply prefer to smell clinical, reach out for those Listerine strips. Pearls of Wisdom 1. Of course, the longer you marinade the chicken, the more flavorful and juicier it will be. 2. Also, when broiling this dish, keep an eye on it as it can burn very quickly. After half way through broiling (grilling), turn the pieces over.
A few years back, I worked with this a gorgeous, charming and extremely talented lady called ‘Kamar’. A mentor, big sister and partner in crime, there was never a dull moment when we were together. We egged each other on in all kinds of extravagances from fashion to food, regretted and then did it all over again. In practicing her faith, Kamar used to observe Ramadan, a holy month in the Islamic faith where participants fast (abstinence from food and drink for a period of time) from dawn to dusk. This was without doubt, my favorite time of year. Kamar’s mother, Mama Sadia, would send all kinds of Moroccan treats with which Kamar would open her fast. Of course, being Moroccan, their hospitality extended way beyond their home and Mama Sadia would not just send food for Kamar but also for me and our third musketeer ‘Wagner’. There was couscous with lamb and fall vegetables, sticky and sweet curly pastries, sweet samosas stuffed with ground nuts and sesame seeds and my favorite ‘Harira’. Typically, many Moroccan Muslims will break their fast with this light yet gratifying soup. It is zesty in taste and filled with all kind of goodies, such as, garbanzo beans, green lentils, parsley, cilantro and a few strands of broken spaghetti. Make this once and it will definitely make it to your monthly repeat dish list. This soup is like a curry, only lighter. Even though it is not traditionally eaten with rice, I feel rice is a great accompaniment to this dish. This is my first Moroccan entry but keep a look out for more in the near future; this country is home to many culinary treasures. And of course, thank you Kamar and Mama Sadia for opening up my world and giving me access to some of the best food and hospitality I have ever experienced. Ingredients ¼ cup of olive oil 4 cloves garlic 1 finely chopped onion 3 grated carrots (chopped in blender) 2 celery sticks(chopped in blender) 1 can of blended tomatoes 2 fresh tomatoes Salt to taste 8 cups of chicken broth ¼ cup of green lentils 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley ¾ bunch of cilantro 1 tsp pepper 1 ½ teaspoon dried ground ginger powder ¼ cup of broken spaghetti 5-6 saffron strands 1 can of drained and washed chickpeas 1 lemon Method 1. Wash and soak the green lentils in a bowl 2. Saute the garlic and after 2 minutes, add the onions. 3. Add the cumin and pepper to toast them in the oil 4. As the onions become translucent and soft, add the carrots and celery 5. Saute for approx 6 minutes, allowing the vegetables to soften, the ginger powder, saffron strands and salt to taste 6. Add the fresh chopped tomatoes and the canned tomatoes and cook until oil separates 7. Pour in the chicken stock and add the drained green lentils cover, and reduce to medium heat 8. After 15 minutes, add the spaghetti, parsley and cilantro and cook on medium for another 10 minutes 9. Add the garbanzo beans/ chickpeas and juice from 1 lemon and cook for a couple of more minutes 10. Check to make sure that your lentils are soft. Your soup is now ready. Serving Suggestions This soup can be eaten on it’s own though I personally love to eat it with a bowl of steamed white rice Pearls of Wisdom Before adding the ginger powder to the soup, mix it with a little water first to make a paste so that there aren’t lumps of it in the soup
Friday night for a while was fish and chip night at our house. Why? Because fish and chips, gastro sovereignty of Great Britain, has been traditionally consumed on Friday nights in the same way that a roast meal has been served on a Sunday afternoon. My mum would often park outside our local ‘chippy’ in Richmond and I would run in and pick up our orders. Tearing open those sheets of paper, I would drench my fish and chips in malt vinegar and tomato and tartar sauce. All Brits will verify the necessity of all 3 condiments, fish and chips, steam and the sheets of paper they are wrapped in. To not eat directly from the paper wrapping means you have not eaten fish and chips, so, save your fine china for high tea sandwiches as it will just interfere with this dish. Whilst I have not provided the recipe for chips (thick hand cut fries) trusting that you will fill in the blanks, I am offering you my humble beer battered fish. The batter is crispy and fluffy allowing the fish to steam inside. Serve with chips, a chilled bottle of beer and an episode of the British ‘Office’. Ingredients 4 (1lb) pieces of cod (or haddock)1 cup of plain flour8oz of beer (lager/ stout)1 beaten eggTsp thymeSalt and pepper Method 1) Heat the oil for deep frying2) Combine the flour, beer, egg, thyme, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth3) Sprinkle the fish with flour and dip into the batter4) Fry until golden brown (approx 5 minutes)Serving Suggestions:Serve with thick, hand cut fries (similar to steak fries), salt, malt vinegar, tomato sauce and tartar sauce Pearls of Wisdom Very little wisdom required in these 4 steps
Today I made a risotto. I have always contemplated making this dish as I peruse the grocery aisles and then ‘incorrectly’ remind myself that this dish should only be made by a seasoned chef. Abandoning this superstition that I had created in my own mind, I tossed the Arborio rice box in to my shopping cart. We were going to eat risotto con pancetta e gorgonzola….che buono!! Cooking Arborio rice requires labor of love and so any desire I had of roasting and boiling carcasses for the stock were sharply dismissed. So, what was my next stop at the grocery store? Correct indeed, it was the organic premade stock section. I like organic chicken stock because the bouillon cubes have a synthetic flavor and exaggerate the taste of chicken not to mention the high sodium content. By contrast, the organic chicken stock cartons have a more subtle flavor and are correctly balanced with minimal salt. I have an association from my wonderful months spent in Florence of any creamy preparations of pasta and rice with pancetta. Creaminess was definitely on this menu given the blend of gorgonzola and the starch from the Arborio rice and so, the next call to action was: Pancetta. Pancetta is similar to bacon but stronger in flavor. For this dish, the pancetta serves primarily to lace the oil with it’s deep and smoky aroma. And now, for the gorgonzola, I selected this cheese as it is ‘illustrious’ and since risotto has been on a pedestal in my mind for many years, it deserved nothing less. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese and is pungent in flavor when consumed at room temperature, however, when it is cooked in a dish, the flavor mellows and it shows it’s ‘kinder side’, not dominating the dish it is somewhat of an equal participant. Furthermore, I have picked a Dolce gorgonzola which is younger and creamier and can even be spread on a toast in place of butter. I would like to acknowledge that there will be several moments you will wish to ditch your risotto thinking that it will never soften no matter how much broth you use…believe me, I did. My advice to you is to ‘hang in there’ because, if it worked for me, it will work for you. It will show signs of reaching the desired state about 4 minutes before it is meant to be cooked. For this dish to work, ‘let go’ of your preconceived notions of rice, whether you are accustomed to cooking basmati or jasmine. For risotto, your role is to be calm, collected and fully engaged as you gently pour in the stock ladle by ladle. After 15 minutes of nurture and love, your dish is ready and you can now serve this plated decadence. Ingredients 4oz pancetta 4 shallots finely diced ½ a cup of white wine 4 cups of organic chicken stock 2 cups of Arborio rice 1cup of Dolce Gorgonzola (this is a creamier and milder cheese compared to the crubly and aged gorgonzola) Garnish fresh green herb (such as, parsley, chives, basil, any microgreen) or nuts (walnuts, pistachios, slivered almonds) Method 1) In a sauce pan heat up the chicken stock 2) Slice the pancetta in to small squares and sauté in olive oil on medium heat in a large pan 3) Add the shallots and sauté until the shallots soften (approx 3 minutes) 4) Toss the 2 cups of rice in the pan with the onions and pancetta and add the wine. Stir constantly to prevent the rice from sticking 5) Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add the chicken stock ½ a cup at a time and allow the rice to absorb the juices. After a couple of minutes, repeat this step by adding chicken stock ½ a cup at a time and allowing the rice to absorb the stock for 2 minutes. After approximately 20 minutes, your rice will be ready. 6) Season with salt and fresh pepper and stir in the gorgonzola. 7) Serve immediately and sprinkle with any fresh green herbs in your refrigerator for color or a few slices of pistachios Serving Suggestions With a little green garnish and a knob of butter thrown on the top, this is a perfect standalone dish Pearls of Wisdom 1) If you feel you rice is still undercooked, add another half cup of broth but it will not require more than this. 2) Serve immediately as this dish become stodgy very quickly.
So there I was on this gorgeous Friday afternoon last week at the food magnet of an event: the NY food and wine festival. I was really looking forward to it and what made it even more appealing was that I would be hanging out with my very dear and generous friend and mentor ‘Suvir Saran’. Suvir, who I know will cringe at reading this, is a humble ambassador of Indian food. He is a celebrity chef, restaurateur, and has taken on a pedagogic role of being a food ‘educator’. He goes beyond a comfort zone for most and teaches people about Indian cuisine in remote places all over the world where one would question the receptivity of such an education. Talking to him always shifts my paradigm on food and this time, it shifted to a place surpassing my usual spin of taste and texture to a place of awareness and responsibility. We talked about peanuts. Could a conversation about peanuts ever amount to much? In the entertainment sense, it is synonymous with elephant circus stunts, in the financial sense, earning ‘peanuts’ is hardly exciting and in the food sense it is nothing more than an evil allergen. For those of you that are allergic (including me), it isn’t an easy allergy to deal with. But for those of you that don’t, I am talking to you. There are all kinds of allergy causing food products which are higher up the list in terms of the number of sufferers, such as fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, tree nuts. Yet propaganda has spared them and people have not stopped buying these items or bringing them to school for bake sales. Peanuts are a great source of anti-oxidants and oleic acid (healthy fat found in olive oil) and there are so many varieties that go beyond the ‘laden with salt bar snacks’. Are you becoming present to what you are missing? For more information, I invite you to check out: http://www.nationalpeanutboard.org/ In addition to it’s nutritional value, the peanut also addresses the new shift in thinking of ‘keep it as local as possible’. As Suvir informed me ‘It is American, in the larger sense of that word. It is from the Americas and has existed as long as one can trace the histories of these two continents. It was so appreciated and loved that it traveled the world over. Better still, wherever it went, it also made the people of those areas think it was theirs forever and became popular without much fuss. Of course peanut butter has given many kids their first taste of vegetables. Use it as you would hummus around kids and they will eat almost anything. A good first beginning. Talk of eating local. But peanuts. They are farmed in the US. Peanut farmers work VERY hard and under very trying natural conditions. Too little or too much rain. Too cold or too hot days. And still, as they know how people love them and how good this modest nut is, they continue to farm. Buying American peanuts also ensures that you get the best quality. Of course you leave a lower carbon footprint and better still, you are buying fresher peanuts. They have not traveled in ships for months or languished in bad conditions at a port of call. Do you read your labels? Reading labels can make all the difference. Firstly they tell us where something is from. American peanuts will be fresher, tastier and safer for consumption. Since our standards around hygiene are maintained quite differently from some other countries producing nuts and shipping them our way. A few cents more sometimes can safeguard you in ways a few dollars saved can only compromise your health and wellness if something tragic were to happen. Penny wise pound foolish! Secondly reading labels is a great exercise around understanding what it is you are putting into your mouth and through it into your body. You are what you eat! So take some time, make an intelligent decision.’ Now to the ‘put your money where your mouth is’ part, today’s recipe is: Kung Pao Chicken. The peanuts are characteristic in this dish. The combination of the spicy and nutty flavors, the crunch of the nuts and scallions and the slightly sour taste from the rice vinegar and rice wine (mirin)makes you feel like you’re eating street food in Hongkong’s famous Graham Street. The only in authenticity of this dish is the absence of Szechuan peppercorns and the absence of deep frying at any stage of the cooking process. Ingredients ½ cup of peanuts 5 whole red chilies 4 cloves of garlic (chunkily chopped) 2” piece of ginger (chunkily chopped) 6 Scallions chopped 2 tbsp honey 5 tbsp of chicken stock 2 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp vinegar 1 tbsp corn starch 1 tsp sesame oil Salt to taste Chicken & Chicken Marinade 1lb 1” diced pieces of chicken 3 tbsp soy sauce 1 ½ tbsp mirin 1 tbspn corn starch ¾ tbspn sesame oil Method 1. Combine all marinade ingredients and marinade chicken for 10 minutes 2. Heat the wok on high, add 2 tblsp of oil and the peanuts and keep stiring. As the peanuts become goldenbrown in color, remove immediately (approx 1 ½ minutes) 3. In the remaining oil, sauté the chicken on high heat and cook for approx 7 minutes 4. Remove chicken and set aside 5. Add 2 more tbsp of oil and throw in the chilies, continuously tossing until they turn a shade of burgundy 6. Add the chopped ginger and garlic and after 1 minute, add the white part of the chopped scallions. 7. In a separate bowl, combine: honey, chicken stock, soy sauce, vinegar, corn starch, sesame oil and salt to taste 8. Add this mixture to the pan and cook for 2 minutes 9. Add the chicken to the pan and just before serving, toss the scallion greens and peanuts Serving Suggestions Serve with jasmine rice. If you like …
My mum is here from London and the minute she lands in NY my nostalgia of London comes gushing in. She has just come back from her vacation in India where yoga and fruit were high on her priority list. So, in the past 10 days, we have eaten lots of fruits, vegetables and more fruit and intermittent Ram Dev breathing exercises (which I have warned mum, looks a little creepy when she does it on the subway). Yesterday, she said she had a craving and at this point I figured she must want Houstons famous slow cooked ribs (now known as Hillstones, in nyc)..what else could it be? I was wrong, it was cauliflower cheese. Ah, the nostalgia hit me like a bowling ball in my stomach; I was having my Proustian moment of the ‘madeleine’ reminiscing of all those dinners at my aunty Babli’s (though we grammatically incorrectly have called her Bubbly aunty all our lives). I was just an awkward adolescent in those days with braces in my mouth hanging out with the family at aunty Babli’s with people fighting for air space, cousins doing circus stunts and of course ‘cauliflower cheese’. With almost tears in my eyes and imagined ‘bliss point’ in my mouth’, I turned to my mum and said ‘allow me’. My kids and husband love cauliflower and when I made this dish, they simply couldn’t eat enough. My husband, a loyal chicken fan, where chicken features in his daily two meals a day diet actually ate this with dish with just a hunk of toasted French bread. This cauliflower cheese veers away but only very slightly from the traditional recipe with the final sprinkle of fresh parmesan cheese and panko crumbs.. a small addition adding a large impact. Ingredients 1 large cauliflower 6 tablespoons of flour 4oz butter 600ml of milk 12 oz of cheese 1 ½ tsp of ENGLISH mustard powder Freshly course black pepper Salt to taste 0.25 cups of panko crumbs 0.25 cups of freshly grated parmesan Method 1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees 2. Pull apart cauliflower into medium sized florets 3. Steam cauliflower for about 10-15 minutes or until cauliflower softens. You need to be attentive here and not over cook or the it will get too soft. 4. Add cauliflower to baking dish 5. In a separate pan add milk, butter and flour and on medium heat whisk until it is smooth and sauce thickens to a custard like consistency. This may make a food connoisseur frown, but if your sauce becomes lumpy, pull out your hand blender and give it a quick whiz. 6. Add ¾ of your cheese, your mustard powder, freshly cracked black pepper and once cheese has melted add salt to taste (do not add salt before this point as the cheese is salty and so it needs to fully melt before you can gage how much salt is required. 7. After a minute of cooking the sauce, turn it off and pour sauce over the cauliflower 8. Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs over the cauliflower cheese dish and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes or until the dish is golden brown. Serving Suggestions Serve with a chunky piece of griddle toasted French bread and salad. Bon appétit! Pearls of Wisdom I limit how much I cut the cauliflower with a knife, one loses the beauty and integrity of the vegetable. You can use the knife to get started and then pull away florets by hand.) Please don’t skimp on your cheddar cheese or mustard, get a nice aged cheese and a real English mustard powder. This is what will set your cauliflower cheese apart by adding richness and depth to the flavor. The traditional recipe does not use parmesan cheese but I urge you to try for it’s bold flavor, taste bud tickling saltiness and crunch.
I have always admired a friend of mine called ‘Juhi Singh’ for her many talents. Achieving so many things in a day, I am convinced that hers consists of more than 24 hours. She is a well known acupuncturist and yoga instructor in New York and is now launching a sleep therapy C.D (www.sleepuntiltomorrow.com). If that wasn’t enough to make one feel really inadequate in her presence, she is also a fantastic cook. One day she made this amazing dish of Sea bass with an Asian twist. The flavors were Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian and had a melodious-like impact on the palate. After that moment, my brother and I scrambled to get the recipe from her. I made it, he made it, my husband made it, people in other social circuits in New York made it, people in London made it and once my mother’s “Kitty Party” friends got a hold of this recipe, this dish spread like wild fire. The dish was simple to make and yet it dominated the conversation at the dinner table. There is a nutty, sweet and spicy flavor and if you use a buttery fish (such as,Sea bass) this combination takes the dish to a whole new level of ‘comfort’. With few steps and just a couple of key ingredients, this dish produces a very high social return on minimal time investment. Ingredients serves 6-8 people 2 lbs filled Sea bass 3 cloves of garlic thickly sliced ¾ can of coconut milk ½ of the large bottle of Soyvay’s ‘Veri Veri Teriyaki’ 3 green chilli’s sliced in half Handful of cilantro leaves Method 1) Heat oil in a pan and cook the garlic until golden 2) Add the ‘Veri Veri Teriyaki and cook for a couple of minutes on medium heat 3) Add the coconut milk and cook on medium heat until oil begins to separate from the sauce 4) Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in the lime juice 5) Gently lay down your pieces of fish and bathe the fish in the sauce by gently spooning the mixture over the pieces. After approximately 10 minutes, your dish is ready. Serving Suggestions Rice and any steamed or sautéed greens. I used broccoli rabe to balance the sweetness of the sauce Pearls of Wisdom I usually make this fish with Sea bass but for this entry I used black cod given that it is a fellow fatty fish. After trying both, I would definitely choose the Sea bass next time. It is more buttery and has a milder flavor.
I write today’s entry with much restraint. There is so much I want to share with you about a discovery I made this week but am conflicted with simply dumping my overload of excitement on to you. . In moments, perhaps described best as temporary insanity, when one imagines one has seen it all, New York City springs upon you, a most delightful, decadent indulgence. “Eataly” is exactly one such place that will send your senses in a tizzy! Home to the finest Italian produce, utensils, artisanal epicurious treasures and restaurants, Eataly has taken New York by storm. If you live around here and have not been to Eataly, what are you waiting for?!? If you aren’t a local, it’s worth a trip. Perusing the various market-like squares reminding me of my much missed ‘Piazza dela Cure’ in Florence, it was hard to know where to start. My husband and I started at the cheese counter that was a small and somewhat less overwhelming counter. Forty minutes later, we were still sampling rarities, such as, tobacco and cognac infused cheese (don’t judge it until you try it). After being pushed along by murmurs and heavy sighs coming from behind us, we moved on into a world beyond imagination. Fresh pastas; breads (the one with fig being most memorable); a vegetable butcher serving samples of celeriac carpaccio with olive oil and lemon juice. To describe Eataly would be doing it a great disservice. I will say however, that it turned even the Alpha-est of males into a child in a candy store. Our last stop was at the butcher’s counter. How they had managed to make that counter look so beautiful was beyond me. With a flurry of ideas rushing to my mind for this weeks blog, I wanted it all. Of course, I couldn’t have it all and in my husband’s weakening moment of all things delicious, he suggested I should make Italian sweet sausage with pasta for this weeks entry. Great idea I thought and as my eyes darted across to the pasta counter, I felt papadelle would work really well with this. We made simple and sweet sausage pasta which had that seldom-experienced flavor from the fennel seeds. I love fennel seeds and despite its presence in the sausage, I sneaked a little more in. Ingredients 1 lb of Italian sweet sausage (squeezed out from casing) 1 lb of fresh papadelle or tagliatelle Olive oil 1/8 of a cup 3 cloves fresh and pounded garlic 1 tsp chilli flakes 1 tsp of fennel seeds (optional) ½ cup of white wine ¼ cup of starched water from the pasta Handful of fresh flat leaved parsely (Finely chopped leaves only) 4 vine-ripened tomatoes 1 tblsp butter Method 1) Heat the oil and add the garlic. Saute on low heat for a few minutes and until the garlic softens. Add the crushed chili and fennel seeds to toast them and extract the full flavor 2) Coarsely crumble and add the sausage to the garlic oil adding the wine after 3 minutes and cook until golden brown (usually 7 minutes) 3) Boil the pasta as per directions and add ¼ cup of the pasta water to the sausage 4) Toss the pasta with the sausage 5) Quarter your tomatoes, melt butter in a pan and on low heat, glaze the tomatoes for 3 minutes 6) When serving, garnish with a couple of pieces of tomato and sprinkle with the parsley. Serving Suggestions Help yourself to a glass of wine from the bottle you will use for the cooking. Pearls of Wisdom Remember ‘if it ain’t good enough to drink, it ain’t good enough to cook with’..Please use a good quality white wine.
The weather is beginning to crispen in NY and whilst many of us have had enough of this heat, the thought of the summer coming to an end leaves us with a bitter-sweet emotion. Memories of beaches, the smell of sunscreen, the heat extinguishing ice creams and sorbets will very soon be lost amidst sweaters, heavy jackets, socks and shoes. As we add more layers to ourselves, we remove a little proximity we created with people in our light-hearted summer spirit. Of course each season is to be celebrated for reasons particular to them but today we are going to honor our last few days of the summer…. farewell my summer love. For me, summer is synonymous with fresh salads, citrus flavors, herbs with spring in their step, such as, mint, basil, cilantro, lightly prepared sea food..ok, I am beginning to get the taste of Thai Tiger Prawn rice noodle salad. It’s probably the last time I can serve my husband a salad for dinner with ‘summer intentions ‘rather than ‘lazy intentions’. As for the salad, it’s really more than just a salad. It is perky personified! It has a wonderful texture of the soft noodles and plenty of crunch from the shallots, peanuts, heat from the fresh chilies, tang from the citrus and the lightly liquoriced flavor from the Thai basil, not to mention the impact of the cilantro and mint…and if that wasn’t enough we have the blackened tiger prawns to top it all off. Ingredients Juice from 2 fresh limes 2 tbsp of soy sauce 2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla) 1 tbsp sesame oil 6 tbsp olive oil 2 sticks of finely chopped lemongrass 1 tbsp palm sugar or brown sugar 3 shallots (1 shallot should be finely minced and the other 2 should be finely sliced) 4oz rice vermicelli noodles (3/4 of a packet) 2 fresh minced garlic 1 handful of french beans 3 green chilies – finely sliced (deseeding, optional) ½ of an unripe mango – cut in half and finely sliced length wise ½ of a finely sliced red bell pepper 1 medium-sized, finely cut carrot 4 finely sliced scallions (including the green part) 2 handfuls of cilantro leaves (break apart by hand) 1 handful of mint (break apart by hand) 2 handfuls of fresh Thai basil (break apart by hand) 1 tspn of toasted sesame seeds 1 handful of lightly toasted and chopped peanuts If you can’t find thai or holy basil, don’t worry about the food snobs..regular basil will do just fine. Salt to taste Shrimp Marination 1 lb of peeled and de-veined tiger shrimps (keep the tails) 3 tbsp soy sauce 1 tbsp fish sauce 1 tbsp sesame oil 1 tbsp brown sugar 1 tsp spirarcha chili sauce Method Dressing & Tossing 1. Mix the lemongrass, olive and sesame oil, garlic, shallot, lime juice, lemon grass, fish sauce and soy sauce together. 2. Blanche the beans: set aside a medium sized pot of boiling water, add the French beans for 2 minutes, pull them out and dip them in to iced water (this will bring out a deep green color whilst maintaining crispness). Drain well. 3. Using the boiling water, switch off the heat and add your noodles and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Drain well and allow to cool. Roughly cut the noodle strands 4. Combine all salad ingredients (the dressing, beans, noodles, herbs, nuts and seeds and fruit and vegetables) 5. Toss thoroughly Shrimp 1. Heat a pan or wok 2. Add olive oil and cook the shrimp in small batches on high heat, allow shrimp to blacken on one side and then pull off the heat to avoid over cooking (after approx 3 minutes) Serving Suggestions Enjoy as is Pearls of Wisdom 1. Drain noodles thoroughly or it will make the salad soggy 2. Only cook shrimp when you are ready to eat 3. Cardinal rule: Don’t over cook the shrimp
Somebody at the farmers market recently introduced me to Shiso leaves and scallion micro greens. Breaking off the respective leaves, I mulled over them in my mouth for a few seconds. Interesting flavors I thought. The Shiso had notes of cumin, but very slightly. I wasn’t sure how I would use them in cooking but figured that I would think about that later. The scallion micro greens looked like watercress, but tasted like a scallion (spring onion), now there’s a surprise. ‘I’ll take them both!!’ it is nourishing for the soul to take a risk now and then. On my way home, people stopped me on the bus, in the elevator, in the candy store to find out exactly what these leaves were. Was this my Warhol 15 minutes of fame?? Then a lovely Japanese lady stopped me and informed me of how often Shiso is used in Japanese food. So finally, a little context on Shiso, however, she didn’t quite share ‘how’ and there I was back at square one. Thinking about the flavors of the scallion micro greens and red shiso or rather hints of onion with hints of a cumin and anise hybrid, I knew that I wasn’t going to alter the flavor by sautéing, frying or grilling. I wanted them to taste as they had when I broke them off the stem for tasting at the farmers market. I decided to work them in to a tapenade and really maintain the freshness and colors which drew me to them. Not wanting to create too much drama with this tapenade, I simple stove-top toasted a piece of whole grain bread and spread my tapenade over it. I topped this garden of Eden toast with prosciutto and speck. The deep green color of this tapenade with hues of burgundy and flecks of white from the parmesan cheese add aesthetic value to this spread and the sesame oil adds an Asian touch. I was ready to unwind with my open faced toasted sandwich and my Jazz C.D…another delightful purchase from the farmers market. I would love to add here that my snack was accompanied by a glass of white but since need comes before luxury, I turned to my caffeine friend ‘Earl Grey’. Ingredients 4 cloves of garlic 2 cups of red Shiso 1 cup scallion microgreens 1 cup of parmesan cheese 1 cup of olive oil 1 tbsp sesame oil Juice from ½ a lemon ½ lemon rind kosher salt and fresh cracked pepperWhole grain bread Method Tapenade 1. Crush the garlic in your food processor 2. Add your de-stemmed shiso leaves and scallion microgreens 3. Give them a few pulses in the blender..careful not to over blend or it will become pasty 4. Add ½ half the grated parmesan cheese, the lemon rind, sesame oil and olive oil and give it a quick whizz 5. Add the remaining parmesan cheese, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste Stove-Top Toasted Bread 1. Heat a non stick an on high 2. Cut thick slices of whole grain bread 3. Add olive oil to the hot pan 4. Lay the brown bread on pan and brown on each side for 2 minutes (until it forms a crust) Serving Suggestions If you wish to serve this as a main course, simply toss over pasta. It could also work well as a marinade for meats and fish. You may also serve as an appetizer, spread over crostini. Pearls of Wisdom I must confess that I added too much salt to my tapenade. Please don’t make the same mistake. Given that the parmesan is a salty cheese, taste the tapenade before adding the salt to see how much is required.
Last Monday I decided to swan around Union Square farmers market. It was a magical afternoon surrounded by the gifts of nature. With a brief stop at Eve’s cidery to quench my thirst, I moved on to the Hawthorne valley farm tent looking at the prettiest and tinniest Sungold cherry tomatoes that were so pretty, they should have been set in a ring…fearing my next stop may be at the jewelers, I moved on swiftly. Pulled by my eyes and nose I arrived at the lush green tent filled with foliage, boasting of potted lavender, basil, mint and oh so many more herbs. I wondered how charming it would be to have my apartment smell like this. But as usual, my voice of reason went off and I reminded myself that i didn’t inherit dad’s green fingers and I owed it to Mother Nature to not kill off yet another one of her plants. After much deliberation, I picked up the bundles of mint, cilantro and parsley and decided that even if I can’t grow them, I can cook them. I pulled out my Ottolenghi book as I knew Sami and Yotam (the culinary geniuses behind this fantastic cookbook) had a recipe in there using all three herbs in a rack of lamb dish. And there it was: marinated rack of lamb with mint and honey. I was so excited to make this and I got to be Yotam and Sami for a little while. With limited deviation, I made this rack of lamb and after one bite, all I could say was ‘bless these boys for their contribution to the world of ‘serious eaters’. Ingredients 1 kg rack of lamb 1 cup of flat leaf parsley 1 cup of mint 1 cup of cilantro/ coriander leaves 4 cloves of garlic 1” piece of ginger 2 green chillies ½ tsp salt 50ml lemon juice 60ml soy sauce 120ml olive oil 3 tbsp honey 2tbsp red wine vinegar 4 tbsp water Method 1) Slice the rack of lamb into pairs or single pieces 2) Blend together the remaining ingredients in the food processor 3) Pour the marinade over the rack of lamb and allow to sit in refrigerator overnight 4) Preheat oven to 200 degrees 5) On the stove top, heat a large skillet and sear the lamb chops for 5 minutes on each side (if you sliced the lamb chops in to single pieces, sear for about 3 minutes on each side), reserving the extra marinade for later 6) Transfer the chops to a baking tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes depending on desired level of cooking Serving Suggestions 1) This can be served with any side dish one could possibly think of. Here are some suggestions: 2) Golden beet and feta salad 3) Rice with cashews and raisins 4) Roasted butternut squash 5) Baby field of greens, sliced onion and cannellini beans 6) Wine ~ Spinetta’s Barbera Ca di Pian Pearls of Wisdom When searing the lamb chops, do not place more than 3 -4 chops at a time or it will become watery and you will lose that crisped skin
Walking around NY, one can’t help but notice all the ‘corn’ sold at the various fruit and vegetable stands. As a child, I loved corn, but in recent years, our dear friend has taken quite a beating for featuring in pretty much everything we eat and drink and turned many of us into corn-o-phobes. Of course, it is no surprise that I have used very little corn in my cooking and my imagination does not stretch beyond boiling or grilling it. Last week, I took a brief trip down memory lane and remembered a dish my brother and I used to love as children. This dish changed the status of corn on the cob as a side dish to that of a main course. It was a succulent corn dish that had been cooked in a zesty sauce of yogurt, curry leaves, toasted and whole dried red chilies and grated coconut….now that’s amore. Ingredients 4 corn on the cobs 16 – 18 curry leaves 3 tbslp grated (desicated) coconut 1 cup yogurt 1 tsp mustard seeds 1 tsp cumin 1 tblsp ginger 1 tblsp garlic 1 can crushed tomatoes 2 whole dried red chilies 2 tsp Salt 1 tsp turmeric – 1 tsp red chili powder 1 tsp garam masala ¼ cup of olive oil- 4 tbslpn heavy cream – cilantro to garnish Method 1. Cut each cob into 4 pieces so that you have about 16 pieces. The most effective way to do this is to place the sharp part of your knife on the cob, keeping your hand steady, wack (for want of a better word) the knife with a rolling pin. It will go straight through. 2. Heat the pan and add the oil 3. After a couple of minutes, add your mustard seeds, cumin seeds and whole dried chilies and turn heat to medium/ high. 4. As you begin to hear a sizzling and popping sound, swiftly add your ginger and garlic (you don’t want to burn the seeds) and cook until golden 5. Give your tomatoes a quick whizz in the blender to avoid chunks of tomatoes. Add to frying pan and cook for 5-7 minutes until you see oil specs emerge 6. Add your curry leaves and stir in your beaten yogurt (to avoid yogurt lumps from forming) 7. Season with salt, chili powder, turmeric and cook a further couple of minutes 8. As the mixture turns from a milky orange to a deep orange and the oil begins to separate from the mixture, add the corn and cook for 10 minutes. The kernels will develop a deep yellow color 9. Add the coconut, cream and garam masala and toss all the ingredients thoroughly together for 2 minutes. 10. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cilantro Serving Suggestions Serve with a piece of toasted Naan bread. Pearls of Wisdom Add cream just before serving to avoid curdling.
In another couple of weeks the weather will cool down and we will take the warm welcoming hand of high calorie comfort food to get us through the next 8 months. Today’s dish is a ceviche salad packed with intense flavors and is so gratifying that you will even crave it during those sluggish, waist-thickening (or wherever your problem areas reside) days ahead. Considered to be the national dish of Peru, ceviche is a dish of bite-sized pieces of fresh and firm white fish marinated in lime juice, slivers of red onions and chopped chilies. Have your taste buds woken up now? There is a real marriage of flavor from all the ingredients in this dish and the lime gives the fish a slightly sealed texture. Be bountiful in how you eat this dish and free yourself from all notions of guilt as this is a low-calorie dish. To make this a complete meal, we serve it with a boiled or roasted sweet potato to absorb the spicy lime juice ‘tiger’s milk’, a piece of grilled corn and some lettuce. Ingredients 2 lbs orange roughy/ sea bass/ flounder fillet 1 large red onion 3 Serrano chillies Juice of 16 limes Sea salt & cracked black pepper Method 1. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces 2. Finely slice 1 large red onion and the chillies 3. Squeeze the juice from the all the limes 4. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and season with salt 5. Allow the mixture to stand for approximately 10 minutes Serving Suggestions 1. To eat as an appetizer, serve ceviche on individual pieces of Boston lettuce 2. To eat as a main course, serve with boiled or roasted yams, lettuce and a piece of corn Pearls of Wisdom Use a firm white fish to avoid the fish breaking down. The lime juice cooks the fish and if you choose a flaky fish, it will disintegrate
Last summer, my brother got married to Alexandra. He made us wait for many years and finally the day came when he decided that he would be getting married. When he told me that he was proposing to his girlfriend it was a very emotional moment…still remember it. Since Alexandra came into the family, his life changed..and so did mine. She made the unfamiliar seem fun and accessible. Alexandra brought a new addition to their home…color…lots of color..an explosion of color. Before they met, my brothers apartment felt like you were watching a movie filmed in sepia..very little color but thankfully, Alexandra soon changed that. It now has the feeling of colonial exotica. Alexandra is part ‘Peruvian’ and so when they invite us for dinner, is it any surprise that I stop eating at about 12 noon in preparation for the debauchery I would later commit in the evening. It’s an evening of causa, ceviche and secco and then causa, ceviche, and secco all over again. Today’s dish is ‘causa’. Causa is a costal dish made up of spiced mashed potatoes layered with sea food and avocado and topped with lime soaked onions. The potatoes are mashed with a spicy golden yellow sauce called ‘aji amarillo’ (a spicy sauce made of yellow chili peppers). This dish is extremely adaptable and it is not uncommon to make it without sea food, some people use chicken and some people keep it vegetarian and add a layer of corn. Served chilled, this dish can be eaten as a ‘standalone’ or served as a side dish. This dish is very colorful and pretty and you definitely hear a few ‘wow’s!’ as you display the dish before your guests. Ingredients Mashed Potatoes 2 lbs Yukon potatoes 4-5 tbsp aji amarillo paste found at Latin grocery stores or specialty stores Salt to taste ¼ cup of Olive oil Juice of 1 lime Onion Relish 1 finely diced medium sized red onion Juice from 2 fresh limes Filling Can of corn or kernels of 4 ears of cooked corn or 16oz (usually 2 jars) high quality jars of tuna (in olive oil) 2 avocados ¼ cup of Mayonnaise (this is to mix with tuna) Method Mashed Potatoes 1. Boil the potato’s until soft from center 2. Drain, remove the skin and allow to cool 3. Combine the remaining ingredients for the mashed potatoes and mash using a ricer, grater or mixer. Remove all lumps. The potatoes should be stiff and have an almost dough-like consistency Onion Relish 1. Squeeze the juice of the fresh lime to cover the onions and leave to soak 2. As the onion soften and lime juice turns pink, drain the onions (usually after 10 minutes) Filling 1. Finely slice the avocados 2. In a mixing bowl toss the salt, pepper, mayo and tuna (discarding the oil) together or if you are layering the corn, keep it ready and at room temperature Layering 1. In an 8′ by 4′ glass dish, spread a 1 ½“ thick layer of the spicy mashed potatoes 2. Spread a layer of the sliced avocados 3. Spread another layer of the mashed potatoes 4. Spread a layer of your tuna or corn and sprinkle ½ the onion relish 5. Top with a final layer of potatoes 6. Garnish with the onion relish and if you have any olives at home, you can add them to the garnish 7. Chill for 1 hour and serve Serving Suggestions It will do nicely by itself thank you very much Pearls of Wisdom 1. Do not over boil the potatoes and drain well from the water to ensure they are nice and stiff when you mash them 2. There are no hard and fast rules on how you layer and the size of the dish you layer in. For presentation purposes in the photo above, I layered it on a chopping board and used a cookie cutter to pull them out
The past few days, I have felt like my palate has been receiving very predictable flavors. Whilst everything has been well made and full of flavor, it just hasn’t been fulfilling. I felt like I needed to trade cumin for perhaps basil or parsley. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. Then I started thinking of summer and all of a sudden, my mind felt like a school blackboard with a spider diagram sprouting all kinds of summery words…’bikini’, ‘sunscreen’, ‘chilled lemonade’… NO NO NO.. not even close.. and then I had my aha moment.. ‘TOMATOES’!!!.. YES!! TOMATOES!!! I didn’t want something rich and heavy but then I am not exactly a candidate for gazpacho either. I felt like a light and fresh tasting summer’s pasta was on the cards. If you haven’t noticed already, the use of the word ‘summer’ has been gratuitously thrown around by me, but just one last comment on summer. Summer is the time when tomatoes take the center stage. They are sweet and juicy and some people even eat them as a fruit. So what’s the bottom line? It is a crime to overcook your tomatoes and bad karma (a little dramatic perhaps). Getting back to our dish, this light summer’s pasta has a real flavor of the Mediterranean. Crushed pepperoncino (dried chili flakes) and plenty of garlic sizzling away in hot olive oil was only the beginning. The tomatoes also exceeded expectations and added tang, sweetness and bursts of juiciness. I wanted to add something else to the dish but didn’t want it to dominate the natural flavor of the tomatoes and garlic. I felt rocket and watercress would do the trick without being omnipresent in every bite. These leaves added another dimension of flavor given their peppery and sharp taste. The tomatoes were removed from the heat when they barely began to soften and the greens were added after the dish had been removed from the heat, wilting very slightly. Having talked about the sauce so much, I must tell you that pasta was not left neglected…I couldn’t afford to do that since it was after all a ‘pasta-al-fresco’ dish. This al-dente pasta tossed in the tomatoes and greens looked like summer on a plate. This pasta-al-fresco dish can be served warm, but given that most of us are trying desperately to eradicate our inner heat from this heat wave, I prefer it at room temperature. If some of you read the pearls of wisdom section after you have cooked this dish, this one is for you: please have all your ingredients prepared before you start cooking as this dish cooks within 10 minutes and you don’t want to have to scramble to keep up. Ingredients 10 vine-ripened deseeded and diced tomatoes 6-7 cloves of garlic ¼ cup of oil 3 whole dried pepperoncino or ½ tsp dried chili flakes 1 fresh chopped green chili (as it suits your spicy taste buds) 3 handful rocket and watercress combined 1lb uncooked pasta (fusili, spiral, bucatini) Salt Crushed black-pepper Parmesan Method Pound and roughly chop the de-skinned garlic cloves (pounding the garlic a little first makes the juices seep out of the garlic, bringing out the intensity of flavor) Chop your tomatoes in ½, pull out the seeds and the fleshy part around the seeds and then dice Set your pasta to boil (follow instructions on the pasta box) Heat the olive oil in a large size pan (if you use a small pan, the tomatoes will get mushy later on) Add the garlic and the dried chili to the oil and cook until the garlic is golden brown to really flavor the oil. (The oil will also turn a light red saffron color as the dried chili cooks in the oil) Add your green chili and after a minute add the tomatoes Delicately toss the tomatoes and olive oil mixture on medium heat and cook until the tomato just begins to soften. Be careful not to overcook the tomatoes or stir excessively, this will break the tomatoes down too much Add salt and fresh-cracked pepper to taste and remove from heat Add 3 large handfuls of the rocket and watercress and gently fold the mixture. The greens will wilt slightly in the heat of the sauce. Toss with sauce with your pasta Finish it off with sprinkle shavings of parmesan Serving Suggestions But of course, a glass of wine Serve at room temperature Pearls of Wisdom 1. Wash and chop your ingredients before cooking 2. If you skip the deseeding of your tomato step, your dish will become watery and the seeds sometimes lend bitterness to a lightly cooked tomato dish 3. Be thoughtful when cooking the tomatoes so they don’t become mushy and the skin separates from the flesh 4. If the tomatoes are out of season, add ½ a teaspoon of sugar to remove the sourness 5. Mix the sauce and pasta just before serving or the pasta will absorb the juices of the sauce and swell up
Who likes barbecues here?? No, really, apart from the social aspect, who really likes what they are eating?? Throwing down a few burgers and potatoes over hot flames just doesn’t do it for me (they inevitably turn out hard and overcooked!). Is it safe to assume that there are some of you out there for whom it doesn’t work either? Being back in London for the summer, how could I forget how amazing barbecues can be? My aunty Rupa and Shoky uncle have totally nailed this world of otherwise excessively-charred food. Featuring a combination of seasoned meats, Ottolenghi inspired salads, kuchumber (finely diced tomatoes, onion, cucumber soaked in lemon juice, salt, and fresh chili), ‘soft-as-a-pillow’ naans, and raw mint mango chutney, one is left in a food coma….but it is totally worth it. My favorite is the ground meat chicken kebabs which are cooked in their clay oven. When I make it in my New York city, fire alarm-sensitive apartment, there is clearly no tandoor. I make it in the broiler and it tastes very similar to grilling it in the tandoor or barbecue. Just as cooking the kebabs outdoors, the broiled kebabs also come out of the oven sizzling and slightly crisp on the outside and yet remain moist from the inside. We all have our own ways of eating kebabs. Some roll the kebab, kuchumber and chutney in a piece of naan and eat it as a wrap. Some break the kebab and naan with their hands and dunk pieces into the chutney but me, I like the kebab straight up with my condiments on the side. O.K., my mouth is watering and it’s only 9 a.m. as I am writing this. Whenever I get back to NY, I refuse to keep this tongue tantalizing moment as just a memory. I don’t just melancholicly throw my arms up and wait for my next summer trip to London. I don’t wimp out. I simply turn on the broiler and recreate and its pretty damn close!! Ingredients 2lbs ground chicken medium sized diced onion 1 ½ tbsp ginger ½ tbsp garlic 2 tsp salt 1 tsp black pepper 1 tsp cilantro powder 1 tsp garam masala 1 tsp red chili 1 de-seeded and finely chopped green chili ¾ cup finely chopped cilantro 2 tbsp olive oil Method 1. In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients and mix thoroughly 2. Preheat the broiler on high 3. Divide in to 16 balls and slightly press down on each ball to form the shape of a burger (you can also make them into the shape of a sausage) 4. Place in the broiler for 15 minutes, turning the kebabs after the first 10 minutes. Again depending on your oven, check one kebab first to ensure it is not pink inside and cook for longer if necessary (unlike red meats, chicken must be fully cooked) Serving Suggestions The kebabs can be served with kuchumber (chopped salad of onions, tomatoes and cucumber) dressed in lemon juice, mint, chili, salt and pepper and a piece of naan. On occasion we also eat this stuffed in a lightly toasted pita bread or burger bun. Pearls of Wisdom 1. I am an advocate of food processors but refrain as much as possible from dicing your onions in them for this dish. The onion has a fair amount of water content and when cutting it in the processor it becomes liquidy and makes the kebab mixture very watery. 2. After making the mixture, rub a little cooking oil on to your hands before you make the patties as it makes it easier to handle the ground chicken. 3. When you are turning the kebabs, baste them in the extra juice in the baking tray and then discard the remaining juice, this will make the kebabs taste as if they have been thrown on the barbecue and not into a pot of hot water.
Last month, there was a lot of buzz and excitement in the family. Nitin Madan (my brother in-law) released his first movie – “Colin Hearts Kay” – at the Brooklyn film festival. Whilst we couldn’t wait to see it, we were all a little tense. If we loved it, it would be a ‘no-brainer’ but what if we didn’t? What would we say? Well thank God….it was amazing!!! It was super-hilarious and might I add did so well at the festival that they added an extra screening. Ultimately it took home awards for Best Editing and the Audience Choice Award! If you ever get the opportunity to see it, I cannot recommend it highly enough (www.colinheartskay.com). My brother loved the film so much that he organized a private screening of his own in a downtown New York screening room. He asked me if I would come. I said YES!! He asked me if I could cook. I said ‘ARE YOU KIDDING WITH ME’. I know cooking for 20 people might not phase many people but for me it felt like catering!! Whilst somewhat intimidated by the prospect, I turned the volume really low on that unwanted voice in my head and reminded myself calmly that this was for Nitin, after all. Of course, approaching it with that lens made me want to do it. I had to figure out what to cook but given that we are experiencing our annual heat wave in NYC, it obviously wouldn’t be beef stroganoff. Done! It would be a citrus, sweet and spicy spread of ‘mayonaisse-less’ potato salad, tabouleh and lavash-wrapped chicken kebab rolls. Since I forgot to take pictures of the chicken kebabs and since nobody mentioned my potato salad even once, here is the recipe for my tabouleh salad. You must make this before the summer is over, it is tasty and healthy and sufficient to eat all by itself. Ingredients 5oz couscous or bulgur 1 ½ juice of lemon and 1 lemon rind 1 garlic clove ½ cup olive oil ¼ cup of pine nuts 1 large bunch of cilantro 1 large bunch of parsley ½ bunch of mint 8 scallions / spring onions (including the greens) 1 deseeded red bell pepper 1 tsp coriander powder 1½ tsp salt 1 tsp cayenne pepper 1 can Garbanzo beans / chickpeas Optional: 1 Persian cubed cucumber, deseeded tomato Method 1. Prepare couscous as per directions (on packet) 2. Once cooked add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, fluff with a fork and allow to cool 3. Peel clove of garlic and mince in to a fine paste 4. Wisk remaining olive oil with minced garlic, lemon juice and lemon rind until the mixture reaches a cloudy golden color 5. Finely chop all the cilantro, parsley, scallions / spring onions, mint and finely cube the red bell pepper 6. In a pan, lightly toast the pine nuts 7. Lightly wash and drain the garbanzo beans / chickpeas 8. Add the couscous, the chopped herbs and red bell pepper, the garbanzo beans and pine nuts to a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the dry ingredients of salt, cayenne pepper and coriander powder 9. Pour over the olive oil, lemon and garlic mixture and toss all the ingredients together 10. Allow Tabouleh to stand for at least 10 to 15 minutes Serving Suggestions For me, this dish deserves its own importance and doesn’t have to be eaten as a side dish. It is a complete meal and the garbanzo beans provides as a great source of protein. However, I hear my husband’s voice in the back of my head asking me ‘so, where is the chicken’. If you also experience chicken anxiety, please feel free to serve with grilled chicken. Enjoy your Middle Eastern moment ‘bil hana wish shifa’!! Pearls of Wisdom Nurture your couscous during the cooking process. If the couscous is overcooked, your salad will taste mushy, aka ‘horrendous’. Once the couscous is cooked, after I fluff it, I spread it out on a large plate to accelerate the cooling period.
Last week, we finally had Fran and Stephania over for dinner. It was a special evening honoring a couple of things: integrity and how my husband and I have talked many times of having them over for dinner and gratitude to Fran who took my shot for the ‘about me section’ (Fran is a most talented New York City photographer – check out his pics on http://www.franroberts.com/). The evening was as expected. There was laughter, gossip, politics and of course my little boys and their baby squirrel impressing Stephania, competeing for her attention. I know Fran and stephania enjoy Indian food and I wanted to make it a special evening. I was actually going to do my homework and not just shoot from the hip at the last minute and put together a meal from what I had in the refrigerator. I was going to shop for this! After a moment or two reflecting on how I wanted the evening to look, I decided I wanted ‘light hearted fun’ for ambience, but grandeur on the table, something a little royal on my plate. And Voila! It was decided, I would make Raan! Not only would we be indulging in a dish that had been soaking up flavors for over 24 hours, but also indulging in a history of the North Western Frontier (this is made up of Afghanistan, India, Iran, Pakistan, Central Asia and the middle East). Even people who do not consider Indian food a novelty, light up at the thought of Raan. This dish is mouthwatering but when you consider it’s marination in vinegar, ginger, garlic, chilly, cumin and other ingredients, as well as the process of roasting, it is hardly a surprise. Ingredients 3 lbs leg of lamb 1 tbsp minced garlic 2 cloves of garlic finely sliced garlic 1 tbsp minced ginger 1” piece ginger thinly sliced length wise 2 tsp salt 1 tsp black pepper 1 tsp dried mango powder 1 tsp red chilly 1 tsp cardamom powder 10 cloves 1 lemon rind 4 tbsp yogurt 1 cup malt vinegar ½ cup rum Method 1. Cut 1/4″ slits all over your lamb 2. Stuff the long slices of ginger and garlic as far down these slits as possible 3. Mix your dry spices (salt, dried mango powder, black pepper, cloves, chili powder, cardamom powder) and rub all over the leg – front, back and sides. 4. In a bowl, mix the yogurt, minced ginger and garlic and lemon rind into a paste 5. Spoon mixture over the lamb, cover and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours (or atleast over night). This allows the lamb to draw in all the spices 6. Approximately 5 hours prior to cooking, remove from refrigerator and pour over the rum and malt vinegar 7. When you are ready to begin the roasting process. Heat the oven to350(F) degrees. 8. In a hot frying pan, cook top and bottom of the lamb for a couple of minutes, allowing the lamb to seal it’s juices. 9. Transfer to a roasting dish and place in the oven for approximately 1 hour (20 minutes per pound of meat). Baste the lamb with the juices in the roasting dish every 30 minutes. Serving Suggestions Serve the cooked leg of lamb with finely sliced onions which have been soaked in lemon juice for 10 to 15 minutes and with roasted baby potatoes on the side Pearls of Wisdom I was nervous about using the rum the first time I made this but in retrospect, I am glad that I did. It aided in keeping the lamb succulent. Sealing juices of the lamb on the pan also helped in keeping the lamb moist. All ovens are different, so please don’t rely solely on a timer to determine whether your lamb is ready or not. When it reaches it’s final 30 minutes, keep checking on it until you get the desired level of cooking. There is nothing more upsetting than an overcooked leg of lamb.