Category Archives: Recipe

Recipes that I have tried and liked.

A hint of tang, a hint of honey…….A cakey ode to our 40’s!!

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My Mom, has what in my family we call the ‘Recipe Book Graveyard’. She loves to buy different recipe books, especially those featuring the varied regional cuisines of India. So we have Parsi cookbooks and Bengali cookbooks, recipe books of the Konkanastha Brahmins as well as those of the Goans, cookbooks featuring Marwari cuisine as well as a whole variety of books written by Indian TV Chefs. However not one recipe from any of them has ever been tried out.They are relegated to the ‘Recipe Book Graveyard’ situated near my Dad’s ‘Telephone graveyard’….well that’s another story all together……so lets just stay on track.

This tendency to buy recipe books and just read them, not try a thing or try out something that was merely a hint of the original, comes to me, I believe, in a gene from my Mom.

I am not a strict follower of recipes. Wayward in many ways, I loathe following recipes…..and I don’t. Yet, most often than not, I strike success, brought about by another gene, also inherited from my Mom…..talent in the cooking department.
As a subscriber to the BBC Good Food Magazine, India , I enjoy reading the magazine, marvel at the photography and often plan what to cook. But never ever end up cooking anything from the magazine.
My son J, whined and whinged and flung back at me all the lectures we give him about valuing and making use of all that he gets/buys. “Well, Ma……YOU NEVER make anything from your Good Food Magazines!!

So Mama, that’s ME, slunk away, tail between legs……to cook….following a recipe from the magazine.

I searched in some of the latest issues and found the right recipe for me to follow. A Cake. An Orange and Almond Cake.

This cake was perfect. It looked stunning and was so different to anything I had baked before. I had, of course, previously done a Pineapple Upside down. But in this one, I liked the use of honey and orange rind (which is a flavour I am shamelessly partial to), as well as ground almonds in the batter!! Almonds, oranges, honey and of course eggs, how much more goodness could a girl wish for?

As I ate this cake and savoured every bite, I realised I really liked it. Every new mouthful revealed something different. Honeyed sweetness, followed by the bitterness of the orange rind, the nutty texture of the almond and the tang of the oranges. This is such a ‘grown-up’, ‘ adult’ cake. Yet my youngest, 8-year-old D, particularly liked it. She thought it looked stunning and was supremely delicious. Heaving a sigh of relief, that I had spawned children with superior taste buds thus feeling rather superior myself, I continued nibbling.

As I nibbled, savoring each bite….(think wine connoisseur swirling the glass of a particularly prime vintage and you’ll get the picture), I couldn’t help thinking about my bunch of friends. Wonderful women who have either already turned 40 or will be doing so over the next year or two…..and one very lovely 30-year-old who fits in with the rest of the ‘oldies.’ We are all stunning….and sunny. Nutty? Oh yeah….and love it that way. The hint of the rind, a reminder of another facet of our personality…..forthrightness and honesty….often thought of as cattiness. If that be so then MEOW!! But the citrus hit reminds me of all the spunk and ‘devil may care attitude’ that comes only with the age and I’d like to think…AHEM….maturity.

So this one is for all my lovely friends and family as well as all the women out there….who have embraced their forties and rock on with style and panache, wind-blown hair streaked with grey and the confidence to care a damn about whether the grey shows through or not. Who laugh so heartily not worried whether we look like a jackass but confident that any smiling, laughing face is gorgeous, neither does the thought of laugh lines cross our minds.

“We’re not 40, just 18 with 22 years experience.”

Go on try this one….its full of character and its sure to leave an impression on you just as much as it does on everybody.

Orange almond cake

ORANGE AND ALMOND UPSIDE DOWN.(adapted from the BBC Good Food Magazine)

4 Medium sized Oranges
6 tbsp honey
200 gm butter + extra for greasing
200 gm brown sugar
200 gm flour
2 1/2 tsp Baking powder
100 gms ground almonds
4 eggs.

METHOD:

* Pre heat oven to 180 deg C.

orange cake Jan 2013 015* Finely grate the zest from two oranges.

* Peel the skin of all the oranges using a serrated knife.

* Cut the oranges into thick slices.

* Grease a 9 inch round baking pan. Drizzle the honey all over making sure that it covers the entire bottom.

*Arrange the best slices of orange all over the bottom. car rally & orange cake Jan 2013 009

* Finely chop the remaining orange slices.

* Cream butter and sugar till its light and fluffy.

* Bit by bit add in the egg a little at a time, ensuring that its incorporated into the butter/sugar mix before adding some more.

* Sieve flour and baking powder together and add in the ground almonds.

* Fold the flour and almond mix into the wet mix, adding in the chopped oranges halfway through.

* Pour the cake batter over the Oranges and honey in the tin.

*With a spatula or wooden spoon, make a depression in the centre of the cake.This will help the cake rise evenly when baked and not ‘dome’.

* Bake at 180C for 50-60 mins or till a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

* Allow it to settle for around 5 minutes before turning it out.

* Serve as it is or drizzled with honey.

iPhone pics....New year- Pondy Rally 003

Personally, I prefer the flavour the next day.

But I’m sure you know your own likes.

“At the age of 20, we don’t care what the world thinks of us; at 30, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at 40, we discover that it wasn’t thinking of us at all.”

So sit back with a piece of this cake and savour the sweet, the bitter, the tang and nuttiness……embrace it’s flavours and personality.

ENJOY!!

Entering this into the Tea Time Treats Citrus Challenge hosted by Lavender and Lovage and What Kate Baked.

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Why Dulce de Leche is Doubly Sweet for Me…..

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A couple of years ago a very close friend of mine, Unnati, suggested I join an online baking club. I was skeptical, very very skeptical. But thought there’s no harm, I can always leave if I don’t like the way it works out.

Unnati, an architect by profession is a passionate cook and a budding wine maker. Check out her blog here. Along with some old friends and a couple of Indian woman from around the world we formed the ‘Flour Power Club.’

The objective was very simple. Each month one of the members has to post a baking challenge for the others to complete. The person posting the challenge should have never made the challenged recipe ever before.(even if the others had done so)

The very first challenge set was ‘Banoffee Pie’……a classic, surely, but one that did not sit well with me at all. 

I HATE bananas….period. There’s no more to say.

I was really disappointed, upset even. Regretfully, I wrote to the member who posting the challenge explaining why I was unable to participate in the challenge. She very kindly wrote back urging me to try at least the most important component of the pie, the DULCE DE LECHE…….

…….and I did! Not just the version she had posted, which involved boiling a tin of condensed milk for 3 hours, but the one which involved boiling milk, sugar and vanilla over a stove for the same amount of time till it thickened and caramelised.     

I did make a pie….not Banoffee….but ‘Peachoffee’, substituting the bananas with peaches.

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If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know by now that food has always been part of my life. I have assimilated all my food knowledge as if by osmosis from home and topped it off and sealed it in when I studied food as part of my degree in Hotel Administration and Food Technology.

However, once I got married and moved to Chennai, I lost all interest in cooking, hating to cook the daily meals and ordering in food whenever we had guests.

But joining the Flour Power Club and my first brush with Dulce de Leche, changed all that.

Something piqued my curiosity to find out which method of preparing Dulce de Leche would give a better result.

Needless to say that the one that required that milk and sugar be boiled down to a caramel, beat the condensed milk dulce hollow. The colour was richer and the flavour so much deeper and more intense.

I am a firm believer that anything that takes time, that is gently simmered and needs your attention gives results far superior to the easy, quick fix methods.

As a true lover of food, not just good food, but food that is soooo good your taste buds just pop…..requires time, love and attention.

This was a lesson I learnt that day…..the day of the double dulce de leche.

But this trial also got me back on the foodie bandwagon…..and since then I am back with gusto in the kitchen churning out many delicacies…..but always full of flavour and goodness.

So for these reasons Dulce de Leche always strikes a chord with me……and whenever I make it, I always eat a dollop-full from a teaspoon…..relishing the intensely caramel-ly hit!

All with 3 simple ingredients…

So here is the recipe for Dulce de Leche I use:

1 lt Milk

1 1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 vanilla bean (split)

1/2 tsp baking soda

Method:

Bring the milk, sugar and baking soda to boil without stirring.

Remove the foamy layer that forms on top.

Add the vanilla bean at this point and simmer the mixture for an hour.

You will find that the colour will begin to deepen and the mixture thicken to a thick silky caramel.

I do not stand over the mixture but occasionally stir it. Only at the end when the caramel is thickening, ensure that you stir it to prevent it from burning.

Enjoy your dulce de leche in brownies, ice cream, ribbon it through cake batters, use it on toast or pancakes, or even in a mousse.

Here is the Dulche de Leche in various stages of caramelization:

  

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Basil……A Yarn and a Recipe.

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My kids love Pasta Pesto. It is a lunch box staple, which I have always prepared using the bottled Organic Pesto from Auroville.

However on my recent visit to Econut for my Organic provisions, I struck it lucky with a big bag full of fresh basil. I just couldn’t resist. I picked up a bag full of organic walnuts and extra virgin olive oil as well.

Although pesto is traditionally made with Basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil and a hard cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino, I decided to do a more economical version with walnuts and skipped the cheese altogether.

I guess here in India one would say I made a chutney.

Holy Basil or Tulsi is revered in India in every Hindu household, especially in those of Vishnu devotees.

Read this wonderful story from Hindu Mythology about the Tulsi plant here.

However the Christians, too, consider Basil holy especially the Greek Orthodox Church.

St.Helena, was born somewhere in the region of modern-day Turkey. Although just a stabularia or inn-keeper she married Constantius I Chlorus in 270 BC. They had a son Constantine.

As Constantius became co-regent or Ceasar, he had to, for political gain, forsake Helena and marry the step-daughter of the Emperor Maximinius Herculius.

Disgraced in a court that was full of intrigue and murder, Helena never fought her rival but faded into obscurity till her own son Constantine became Emperor. She then was bestowed with the title of Augusta or Empress.

Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. Legend says that he had a dream of a burning cross with a message that he should ‘in this sign conquer’. So he did, earning control over western Europe.

They say it was Constantine’s influence on his mother that made her too, embrace Christianity. She mingled freely with worshippers did many acts of charity and released prisoners too.

Although she was pretty advanced in age, Helena set out on a pilgrimage to Palestine, visiting Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Sinai. She built many churches and continued her charity work.

She was very keen to find the ‘True Cross’….the cross on which Jesus had been crucified.

She had been searching for many days, when on a barren hill outside Jerusalem she noticed a sweet-smelling plant. That plant happened to be Basil. She gave orders that the area under the plant be excavated and found the True Cross.

So to this day, especially in the Greek Orthodox Church,Sweet basil is used in the preparation of Holy water.

Two religions, both have reasons why this plant is so special…..and there are many more cultures that venerate the Basil. In many other cultures like Mexico, Romania and Italy it is associated with love.

Not just a ‘holy herb’, but also one which is full of health benefits!

It is one of the most highly regarded herbs in Ayurveda.

“Scientific research offers impressive evidence that Tulsi (basil) reduces stress, enhances stamina, relieves inflammation, lowers cholesterol, eliminates toxins, protects against radiation, prevents gastric ulcers, lowers fevers, improves digestion and provides a rich supply of antioxidants and other nutrients. Tulsi is especially effective in supporting the heart, blood vessels, liver and lungs and also regulates blood pressure and blood sugar.Dr. Ralph Miller, former Director of Research for the Canadian Dept. of Health and Welfare.

Makes me wonder at how religion often guided people towards what was good for them, not just spiritually but also physically and emotionally. The environment, too, benefited from many of the old rituals which ensured its protection.

Although I am not a regular church goer, my deeply Catholic upbringing, ensures that I have a prayer on my lips often. From this ability to just utter a silent prayer, I drawer a lot of strength. It has a calming meditative value about it which I treasure.

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So here is the recipe I used to make Basil and Walnut Pesto:

Adapted from http://cookieandkate.com

Ingredients

  • 2 lightly packed cup of basil
  • 2 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt, to taste
  • squeeze of lemon juice
Instructions
  • Over medium high heat, toast the walnuts until fragrant, about three to five minutes.
  • Wash and dry the basil leaves
  • In a food processor, combine the basil, walnuts and garlic.
  • Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil. Do not over mix as I felt the pesto gets darker.
  • Remove the mixture from the processor and pour it into a bowl. Stir in salt and a squeeze of lemon (optional), to taste.

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I did not add in the cheese as I felt it would keep better this way.

When I made it for lunch, I added some grated cheese to the ready dish.

  • Pesto freezes well, so you can make a larger quantity and freeze for later use.
  • Traditionally made by hand in a mortar and pestle…..I did not have one large enough to take this quantity so I just made it in the mixie.
  • Make the pesto as soon as you get fresh basil.
  • I replaced the traditional pine nuts with walnuts…..it’s just as tasty.

Use it as:

  • A pasta sauce.
  • Marinade for grilled fish of chicken.
  • Stirred as a flavouring into soups.
  • Sandwich spread.
  • Healthy pizza sauce alternative.

Do you use pesto in any other way??

I’d love some new ideas

Moroccan Magic…..Chicken with Parsley and Corriander.

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Morocco.

Just saying the word makes me think of all things exotic.

Spices and unusual flavour combinations.

Brightly coloured, intricately woven carpets.

The sensuous mud and clay architecture.

Mt. Atlas and the Sahara.

Romance……Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman….SIIIIGHH!…..in CASABLANCA.

Winding labyrinths of the souks and the whiff of mint tea.

But this post is not about Morrocco….but rather about a recipe which I find just as exotic.

I love the combination of Parsley and Corriander…..unusual for us in India who regularly use coriander and mint together.

When I think back to when I first heard about Parsley, I remember the characters out of the Asterix and Obelix comics who used bunches of it in theirs ears to block off Cacaphonix’s cacophony.

I have been making this recipe for ages….not too sure where I got it from, but we all love it.

MOROCCAN STYLE CHICKEN

500 gms boneless chicken. (this recipe was originally with jointed chicken or around 1kg 300 gms)

2 small shallots (use sambar onions)

1 bunch of parsley

1 bunch coriander(equal to the parsley)

2-3 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ( I use chili powder)

1 1/2 tsp ground cummin

3 tbs butter( I use olive oil instead)

1/2 -1 lime

Method:

Wash and cut the chicken into pieces.

Process the shallots, garlic, herbs, salt and spices in a food processor or mixer till finely chopped.

Add butter or olive oil and process to make a smooth paste.

Rub the chicken pieces with this paste and allow to marinade for @ 2 hours.

Squeeze lemon over and bake or broil till done.

Serve with Pita bread, humus and crudites

Enjoy!!

Don’t Forget the Frozen Pizza Dough!

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Remember when I made the whole wheat pizza dough?

If you don’t or are reading this blog for the first time….check it out here.

I froze a part of  it for later.

Well, the kids are back at school and I’m back to dusting the cobwebs off my creative brain cells, urging them to somewhat creakily wake up and think up interesting goodies to pack for lunch.

5 am…..Y A A AWN and S..T..R…E…C…….H………………

Desperate scramble for my morning jolt……a cuppa coffee…….

Light bulbs pop……hey there is some frozen pizza dough!!

I took the dough out and left it to thaw and rise again.

(You could leave it in the fridge the previous night)

Using the pizza sauce which I always have on hand, frozen, I sautéed some mushrooms, corn and leftover grilled chicken and mixed it with the pizza sauce.

Cut the dough into equal pieces….as many as you require.

Roll it out and put some of the filling along with some cheese.

Fold over and seal by brushing a little water or egg around the edges and pressing

with the help of a fork.

If you look carefully, you will notice that I have left a small corner unsealed.

This allows for the steam to escape and prevents the bread from splitting while baking.

Cover with a damp cloth and leave it to rise for @ 10-15 minutes.

Brush with egg wash before baking.

Bake at 200 deg C for 10 min or till firm and golden.

….And TAA DAAA…….

Perfect little CALZONE for the lunch box!  Delicioso!!!

CALZONE literally meaning a stocking or trouser is nothing but a folded pizza.

It’s filling consists of ingredients similar to pizza toppings.

My 7-year-old only eats a Pizza Margherita and hates any toppings on her pizza.

This is a great way to stuff all kinds of veggies into a bun…..it’s not visible!

But considering that it is a ‘totally cool’ lunch…..it goes down with pride!!

So don’t forget that frozen pizza dough………….

I talked to a calzone for fifteen minutes last night before I realized it was just an introverted pizza. I wish all my acquaintances were so tasty.
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Jarod Kintz, This Book Has No Title

Memories….Teriyaki steaks a la Papa.

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Memory, is a child walking along a seashore.  You never can tell what small pebble it will pick up and store away among its treasured things.  ~Pierce Harris, Atlanta Journal

A few months ago,when I connected with one of my old school friends on Facebook, she told me how one of her dearest childhood food memories was of the  ‘Teriyaki Steaks’ from my parents food store, ‘Majora.’

Then, a couple of weeks later, I got a call from a cousin in Bombay who wanted the recipe.

“I’m dying for the flavor of those steaks,” she said, “why don’t you share the recipe, now that Majora does not exist any more.”

But it obviously DOES exist in the memories of everybody who enjoyed it’s food.

It’s amazing that I had always taken Majora’s Teriyaki steaks for granted. They were marinated in-house and sold frozen, ready to broil. They were delicioso…..even if I say so myself.

It’s amazing how seemingly stray comments trigger memories. Most often these memories are multi-sensory.

You remember certain smells, textures, flavours, sights and sounds. Sometimes one of these, trigger memories that bring on many more…..of good times, friendships, special celebrations, which in turn trigger many more sensorial and emotional ones.

So I called my Dad, who was thrilled that I wanted his ‘world famous’ steak recipe.

Ofcourse he rattled off ingredients and I was left to figure off the quantities ‘andaaz sey’…..which in Hindi literally means using your own judgement.

I am pretty much someone who cooks ‘andaaz sey’……my own slap dash gourmet technique. But for the sake of putting down a recipe on this blog, here are the approximate quantities.

I urge you to please cook ‘andaaz sey” and taste as you go along. I like my marinade to lead with the sweet and then the salt.

Teriyaki is a Japanese method of cooking meat.

A piece of fish or meat which has been marinated in a sweet soy marinade (tare) and then broiled or grilled.(yaki)

TERIYAKI STEAKS A LA PAPA

Beef Tenderloin  750 gms  ( you could experiment with chicken as well, if you don’t eat Beef )

For the Marinade:

Ginger paste  1 tsp

Garlic paste 1 tsp

Mustard paste 1  1/2 tsp

Soya sauce 2 tbsp

Wine 4 tbsp

( should be rice wine but all I had at home was some French white which I added in. But red would be better with beef)

Brown Sugar 3 tbsp

Olive oil 2 tbsp

Method:

Cut the tenderloin into thick roundels and flatten using a steak hammer.

The hammering tenderizes the meat.  Covering with a piece of cling wrap, helps to prevent the meat from sticking to the hammer and damaging the steak.

In a bowl measure out the ingredients for the marinade and stir over a slow flame till slightly thickened.

When cool, pour over the tenderized steak and marinade overnight preferably or for a couple of hours at least.

Heat a skillet and when hot, broil steaks, covered,  till done and all the liquid has evaporated.

Keep basting the steaks from time to time if you are grilling them.

I served the steaks with Balsamic Roast Vegetables and a Jacket Potato.

There are so many special food memories we all have. Special treats made for special occasions or achievements.

What are yours?

Are there any aromas that trigger memories?

What about smells sights or sounds?

I’d love to hear from you.


The Need to Knead (Wholewheat Pizza Base)

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The plan was pizza for dinner tonight.

Got my sauce done in the morning and planned to get the base done in the evening.

How I love to see the vibrant red sauce, so fragrant, simmering on the stove!

All food that needs to be simmered, slowly, patiently, intrigues me. Considering that by nature, I am not a patient person, I find this very interesting!

Soups, stews, simmering pots of stock and sauces, all have a special place in my foodie heart.

I love that the flavors intensify, bringing out multiple layers and interesting nuances.

Bread dough.….another favourite, is another ‘demand-er’ of tons of patience.

Yet this too, is me….all impatient me!

I love watching the yeast react with the sugar and bubble up……MAGICAL!

Watching the dough rise up and double in size……FASCINATING!

I love to knead, I find it mindfully MEDITATIVE.

That a tumble of flour, water, oil and yeast, rather messy looking, needs just a bit of kneading to turn into a smoothly polished ball of dough is fascinating.

Yet how much easier is it for me to do this, than knead gently into relationships with those around me.

My patience evaporates.

As I kneaded the dough for the base this evening, I could not help but dwell on this…..

……and work out my biceps at the same time. ; )

I had, for the longest time, been trying to zoom into a great wholewheat pizza base recipe…..I was really happy with the results of my experiment this evening.

The dough when baked was soft yet crusty on the edges, lending a beautiful texture to the pizza.

WHOLEWHEAT PIZZA BASE

( adapted from Oprah.com)

3 tsp fresh yeast

2 tsp honey

3 cups wholewheat flour

1 cup flour (maida)

2 tbs olive oil

2tsp salt

*Mix the yeast and honey in a bowl with @ 1/2 cup tepid water. Make sure you disperse the yeast completely.

Leave this yeast mixture aside and keep the other ingredients ready.

I prefer working directly on a clean kitchen counter.

*Measure out the flour and make a well in the center.

*Pour the oil into the center of the flour.

*Check the yeast mixture. It needs to have bubbled on the surface.

If it has, pour this into the well of flour and mix gently into the flour.

*Once you have mixed up the oil and yeast mixture with the flour, pour in the remaining water, bit by bit. Mixing well after each addition. (approx 1 cup)

Once you feel that you have a firm dough stop adding the water and begin to knead.

*Place your right hand to the top of the dough at a 12 o’clock position and your left at the 6 o’clock position.

Begin to knead with your right hand while holding the dough with the left. For some more tips click here.

Roll the dough and continue this action till you find the dough has developed a smooth texture.

Note the picture above and the one below to notice the difference in textures.

By kneading, the gluten strands are strengthened allowing for a more uniform crumb.

*Roll into a ball.

*Keep the dough ball aside in a bowl to prove. Make sure you cover it with a damp kitchen towel.

*Once the dough has doubled in size, knock it back down by punching the dough and dispelling the air.

*Leave it to prove once again.

*Once it doubles in size again, knock it down and roll out into the desired base size.

*You can wrap the extra dough in cling film and keep it in the freezer to use at a later date.

* Allow it to prove for 5-10 mins and then add the pizza sauce and toppings.

* Bake in a preheated oven at 200 deg C for about 10 minutes.

To ensure that the dough is cooked, press gently. If there is a small depression it is not yet ready. Bake till the dough pops back up when pressed.

“Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven”

Yiddish Proverb quotes

Loved this proverb…………leads to an interesting story from African mythology. Iyadola’s Babies.
Resource guide for Chennai:

Organic Wholemeal flour – Econut and ReStore. Pro organics or Letter Mantra Brands available in Nilgiri’s

Fresh Yeast – Nilgiri’s…..look in the refrigerated section.

Satay Supreme

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Satay has been one of those things that everyone in my family loves.

My 7 year old D, has called it ‘Chicken on a Stick’, forever. Its always been a sure thing to get her to eat whenever we are out for a meal.

Yet for no particular reason, I had never attempted to try it out myself.

My first brush with Satay was when I was about 10 years old and had travelled with my Dad and siblings to Singapore for a Food trade fair.

We tried many varieties of food on that trip.

One that exposed and refined our palates to receive a variety of flavours as we grew up.

We went to a place called ‘Satay Club’, a hawker center which had the most finger-lickingly delicious Satay on offer.

Photo Credits Kirsten Dixon A Singapore Hawker Centre

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Being true blue Bombayites, hawker centers was right up our street.

But that was many moons ago.

Many, mannnnnyyy moons ago…….

We still enjoy our Satay. Hubby has even packed some from Malaysia and brought it back home for us to relish.

It is one of those dishes, I’m sure we all order at restaurants and relish at parties.

Yet for some reason, if you are like me, we are quite content to order it and have no reason at all to attempt making it.

Around 3 weeks ago, I had a strange compulsion to try out Satay. Since then I’ve made it thrice, always with great results.

I realised that it is soooo versatile.

My first attempt was just that…..an attempt. But it was delicious.

My second was when I had planned on Phad Thai for dinner. A friend decided to drop in that evening and I needed to a quick dish to add to the menu………Satay it was.

My third was for a picnic by the beach. I thought this would be a great crowd-pleaser along with chilled beers.

And what do you know, Satay is my new fav dish in my repertoire.

I’m sure it will be yours too.

Only once you have actually made it will you realise just how easy it actually is.

So JUST DO IT!!

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Chicken Satay with Peanut dipping sauce.

( Adapted from About.com)

8 Boneless Chicken Breasts

40-50 wooden skewers

For the marinade:

1/4 cup chopped lemon grass (white portion only)

3 Shallots or Sambar onions

3 cloves garlic

1tsp chilli powder

1 ” ginger,chopped

2 tbs corriander powder

2 tsp cummin powder

1 tsp turmeric

3 tbs dark soya sauce

4 tbs fish sauce

5 tbs brown sugar

2 tbs vegetable oil

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The first thing you need to do is to soak the wooden skewers in water. This is really important as if you don’t they will burn while grilling.

Cut the chicken breast into long strips. ( medium thin)

Using that part of the lemon grass which is closest to the root, the white part, chop roughly.

Place all the ingredients of the marinade in a food processor and mix well.

Taste your marinade. It should have a combination of sweet, salty and spicy, but should lead with sweet and salty for the best results when cooked.

Adjust the seasoning using the fish sauce for salty or sugar for sweet.

Add some more chilly powder if you like it spicy.

Strain the marinade through a sieve as the lemongrass tends to be a bit fibrous.

Marinade the chicken strips in this.

Even an hour is sufficient to marinade but 24 would be great!

When ready to cook, thread the meat onto the damp skewers.

Grill on a BBQ or in an oven.

I do it under the grill in my oven. 5 mins on one side and then another five after turning them over.

When you turn them over, baste with the remaining marinade.

Do not overcook or it will end up very dry.

Enjoy your satay with a peanut dipping sauce.

Somehow I feel a BBQ will take the Satay to a different level, but I make do with a gas grill.

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Peanut Butter Satay Sauce.

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Now I am not one to use packaged ingredients in my cooking……and I turn my nose up at shortcuts of the ‘packaged kind’.

But when I needed to make a dipping sauce for the satay, I needed peanut.

Unfortunately I did not have any in stock.

Fortunately I did have ‘Peanut Butter.’

Something I had bought to experiment with in my baking. It however seemed to have found another calling in my kitchen…..Satay Sauce.

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3/4 cup Peanut Butter ( the type that I used still has a few crunchy bits left in)

1/3 cup water

2 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp dark soya sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbs palm sugar or brown sugar

2 tsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp lime juice or tamarind paste.( I just use lime juice here)

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/3 cup coconut milk

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Once again, easy-peasy.

Just chuck everything into a mixie/food processor and blend away!

Taste and adjust seasoning, using fish sauce for salt, lemon for tang or some more brown sugar for sweetness.

This sauce is just great. It thickens as it sits, so just add a little coconut milk or water if you need it thinner.

It will stay in the fridge for a couple of weeks and works really well as a dip or sandwich spread.

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These recipes are just up my street.

Throw everything together, blend and TAA DAA………..Finger lickingly, skewer gnawingly, lip smackingly delicioso…….

SATAY………..

Enjoy!

Jo

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Perfecting Phad Thai

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My 7 year old came home one day pleading with me to learn from her friend’s Mom,how to cook ‘phad thai’…..”its the most delicious, ‘awesomest’ noodle I’ve ever eaten!” she said.

Isn’t it curious how kids just love what they ate at someone else’s house? (I don’t know about yours, but my kids are pro’s at this.) Never mind that it is our standard order at our favorite Thai restaurant, ‘Benjarong’, here in Chennai.

Like any good Mom, I called up the expert “pad thai-ing” Mother. She gave a recipe using peanut butter, imli (tamarind)chutney and ready Thai red curry paste.

Now I’m sure this made a very tasty Phad Thai….but the food snob that I am, I thought, “What! Not from scratch?”

It took me a few weeks, but I dragged myself to the computer and trawled the net for Phad Thai recipes.

Now there are thousands, if not more, varieties of Phad Thai recipes. But very few seemed to be ‘authentic’ to me.

Many of them used all kinds of packaged ingredients, but then I chanced upon a blog http://chezpim.com where

Pim shares her secrets to the best Phad Thai.

Phad Thai needs to have 4 flavours:

1.Salty (fish sauce)

2.Sweet (palm sugar)

3.Spicy (chilly powder)

4.Sour (tamarind pulp)

The recipe I follow belongs to Pim, I make a larger quantity as it stays beautifully bottled in the fridge.

My kids love it in their lunch box and it works for me as well because I have a fingerlickingly good ingredient on hand all the time.

PHAD THAI SAUCE:

1/2 cup tamarind pulp ( start with less and add to taste)

1/2 cup palm sugar

1/2 cup fish sauce

1 tsp chilly powder

Put all the ingredients in a pan and bring to a gentle boil. Simmer till very slightly thickened and the palm sugar dissolved.

I like my sauce a little sweeter. Play around with the ingredients till you find the balance that is right for you.

( add less tamarind to begin with and keep adding more after tasting)

Strain the sauce as the palm sugar almost always has some grit in it.

Cool and keep it in a jar in the fridge.

Jo’s Phad Thai…..Full of veggies and protein so it’s a complete meal!!

(Once again I may not be preparing the most authentic version but rather a wholesome meal with what I have on hand)

1/2 packet of Rice Sticks

1 stalk celery, chopped fine

3-4 spring onion with leaves, chopped ( if I don’t have this, I use sambar onions/shallots or just plain old onion)

1 Carrot, julienne

A handful of French Beans, julienne

1/2 leek cut fine

1 cup cabbage, julienned

1-2 chicken breast, sliced

15- 20 prawns (optional)

Tofu(….if you like it…if used cut in cubes and fry before using)

1 cup Beansprouts

2 eggs

Oil

Salt

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Lemon

The How To:

1.Boil up a pot of water. Take off the stove and soak the rice sticks in the hot water. Add a little salt to taste.

Cover.

Do not keep it for too long, just until the rice sticks are al dente.

Once done, drain in a colander and run cold water over it to stop the cooking process.

2.Heat a wok and add in some oil.

Make a thin omelette with the 2 eggs. When done cut it into strips and keep aside.

3. Heat some oil and toss in the sliced chicken along with a spoonful of Phad Thai sauce. Saute till done and keep aside.(repeat the same procedure if you are using prawn as well)

4.Heat some more oil and add in the chopped celery, sautee for about a minute.

5.Add in the onions, fry till they begin to change colour.

6.Add in the carrots and beans, sautee. ( I normally have a problem with the beans, so at this stage I cover the wok for a few seconds so that steam can help the beans along.)

7.The cabbage and leeks go in next.

Cook the veggies so that they are 3/4 done and still retain a bite.

8.Toss in the cooked chicken and stir fry.

9. At this point divide the veggie chicken mixture into 2 portions.

Keep one portion in the wok, add in half the cooked drained rice sticks.

10. Add in the Phad Thai sauce to taste.

11. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and add a squeeze of lime.

12.Then do the same with the other half of the veggies and rice sticks.

13. Serve garnished with the omelette strips. ( My kids prefer the egg like this….but you could also push aside the

chicken /veggie mix to one side of the wok and scramble the egg on the other half, once cooked mix it all together.)

Important tips to remember when making Phad Thai I picked up from Pim http://chezpim.com

* Soak the noodles/rice sticks till al dente only.

* Make small quantities of noodle at a time.

(Making smaller batches makes it easier to mix evenly. When you try to make a large batch in a hot wok, by the time you mix all the elements together, the noodles overcook. )

*You can keep the excess sauce bottled in the fridge.

Enjoy your Phad thai with a starter of Chicken Satay………recipe coming soon!! Watch this space!!

Where to find what in Chennai

Fish Sauce – Blue Elephant, Nilgiris, Mercado, Amma Nanna

Palm Sugar- Nilgiri’s, Econut

Rice Sticks- How How Brand, Nilgiri’s, Mercado

Tofu- Nilgiri’s

Celery and Leek- Veggie vendor outside Nilgiri’s Adyar, Besant Nagar and Cathedral Road.

A Surprisingly Healthy ‘Junk’ Meal

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This wasn’t something I’d planned to blog about AT ALL.

But my slap dashing about in the kitchen this evening turned up gold!

I was thrilled and so were the kids.

Trying to tackle the 41+C temperatures in Chennai at the moment can really muddle up my foodie brain.

As I tried to plan our menus this morning, all I could think of for dinner today was something that did not require too much effort and time in the ‘roasting’ kitchen.

So I pulled out a pack of frozen chicken breasts, flattened it with a mallet and marinated it very simply with:

Salt, pepper, mustard, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce and a splash of ketchup.

Put it away to rest in the fridge and thought……”what the heck, I’ll tackle that in the evening when it’s cooler.”

This evening, extremely disgruntled at having missed my daily swim, I decided that ‘Burgers and fries’ would be our dinner.

However the thought of the oily fries in this heat was not appealing at all, other than the guilt that I was offering my kids ‘junk’.

So I decided to experiment and bake a few fries.

I just used the McCain’s Frozen French Fries,

 

Spread them out on a baking tray,

drizzled some olive oil

and popped it in an oven pre-heated to 200C.

and baked it for 30 minutes.

The result was fabulous! I had crispy golden fries, without having to fry them.

Try it ……it was just superb.

Oven Baked French Fries, Crispy and Golden

The chicken breast, I popped under the grill for @ 10 minutes.

I turned them over midway so that each side was grilled for 5 minutes.

After toasting the burger buns, I topped them with

Lettuce, chicken breast, cheese, balsamic grilled onions (see recipe below), slices of tomato and gherkins.

It was delicioso!

Finger lickingly good.

( For my 7 year old, I made a wrap with the grilled chicken)


Grilled Onions

2 onions

1tbs balsamic vinegar

1tsp sugar ( brown or white)

1 tsp olive oil

 

Inspired by a fellow blogger Stephanie from Modern Christian Woman who made slow roasted raspberry balsamic onions today, I decided to use balsamic vinegar instead of my usual Worcestershire sauce in the grilled onions.

 

You can see Stephanie’s recipe at:

http://modernchristianwoman.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/slow-roasted-raspberry-balsamic-onions-and-garlic/

 

Although I call them ‘grilled’ onions, I just do them on the stove top, in a pan.

Heat the oil and saute the onions. Add in the sugar, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of salt.

Saute over low heat till the onions are translucent and just beginning to caramelize.

Use it in burgers, sandwiches or hot dogs.

Now if only I could source some wholewheat burger buns…..my ‘healthy junk’ would be truly healthy.

 

Resource guide for Chennai:

McCains French Fries – Nilgiri’s and Mercado.

Balsamic Vinegar, various brands – Nilgiri’s and Mercado

Worcestershire Sauce, Lea and Perrins – Nilgiri’s, Mercado, Amma Naana

Boneless Chicken Breast, Suguna Protein – Nilgiri’s

Burger Buns – Nilgiri’s, Winners Bakery, French Loaf

Olive Oil – Econut

Gherkins – Tify

Lettuce – Veggie vendors outside Nilgiri’s, Besant Nagar, Cathedral Road and Indira Nagar.