Friday, June 29, 2007

Couscous caught red-handed !

Dear Foodies,

Want a light meal ready in less than 20 mins, try the latest addition to my kitchen pantry, Couscous (KOOS-koos). I must admit that the initial fascination to try these grains of pasta was more for the name rather than the flavor :P I knew I wanted to try it but dint really know what to make with it. I would pass by the aisle where it was perched in the grocery store and contemplate if I was ready to buy. And then when we decided to throw a Mediterranean meal for my friends b'day I finally went ahead and bought a pack of couscous, roasted garlic and olive oil flavor. It was very very nice and flavorful just as is, but we went ahead and dressed it up a little to create a Fattoush Salad. I made a mental note right away to try them later :)

A couple of weeks back I bought a box of unflavored couscous so I could paint it with flavors any which way I wanted. Along with the couscous some other new stuff sneaked into our shopping cart, roasted red pepper with garlic n olive oil and pimentos soaked in vinegar, a perfect shopping cart I must say :P I have been trying various vegetable combos and I am going to keep updating this post whenever I have a winner. Cooking couscous is soooo easy and the recipes are versatile, only limited by your imagination. The couscous by itself takes only about 10-15 mins to cook in which time you can throw in the rest of the ingredients together. A very easy snack or light flavorful meal will only take you 15mins. I would recommend everyone of you to try it. My current favorite combo is the one using the other two entrants in the kitchen :)

  • 1 cup - Couscous
  • 1 cup - Water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp - extra virgin Olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp - Red onion, finely diced
  • 1 nos - Garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 nos - Roasted red pepper from the tin, chopped
  • 2 nos - Pimentos, chopped
  • 2 nos - Sun dried tomatoes, chopped
  • few sprigs of lemon Thyme or any other herb you have
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsps : Lemon juice; 1 tsp - Olive oil ; 1 tsp - Toasted sesame seed oil
  1. Cooking the Couscous: Get the water to a rolling boil, then add the salt n pepper and a few drops of olive oil . Next add the couscous, turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let it sit for 10 mins. That is all ! At the end of 10mins just fluff it up with a fork or spoon to get nice little pearls of pasta. Do check the instructions on the pack you buy though, it might be a little different, you just need to double check the water-couscous ratio. It generally is 1:1 I think.
  2. Getting the veggies ready: Heat the olive oil on a wide pan. Once hot add the garlic and thyme, this infuse the oil with their flavor. Before the garlic gets crisp/brown add the red onions. I like the onions to retain a little crunch, so after about 30secs to a minute add the rest of the ingredients. Saute for a few minutes till all the flavors have time to settle. Season with some salt keeping in mind the couscous has its share of salt.
  3. Getting it together: Toss the veggies into a bowl with the couscous and gently mix them together. Finally add a few dashes of lemon juice and a little extra virgin olive oil/Toasted sesame seed oil.
  4. Serve it in a bowl for a light meal or with chips for a nice snack
I absolutely loved the couscous. It takes on all the flavor you give it. You can have it hot or cold, the flavors just keep getting better. What I liked the best was the lightning speed with which you can get it ready. When I get back home from school, I am hungry and looking for something quick to eat and this one is just perfect. I had the leftover couscous with chips in the evening and loved the pairing. I am sure you guys could use it as a starter at parties/picnics since no re-heating is required.

Other toppings: I have also tried are sauted corn, peas and carrots. You could also just toss it with leftover curries in the fridge or clean up the odd veggies lying around. For something easier use a few spoons of your favorite marinara/pasta sauce. Make a fattoush salad by using any fresh salad veggies. Like I said the possibilities are just endless, so go ahead and have fun !

Only now that I am about to post it did I realize I could have sent it to Trupti for her WBB#12 - Spice it up !! hmmm...

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pav Bhaji -A Taste of Home

Dear Foodies,

Heaven on a plate
Ever since I read the post on Nupur's blog about her aunts recipe for Pav Bhaji I knew I had to try it. Its just what she calls it, heaven on a plate, when done right though! Its one dish that everyone in India can relate too. All of us have tasted it and enjoyed it atleast once in our lives. I don't have to stress how good this particular recipe is either. I have come across so many posts on blogs where this recipes has been tried, tested and proven to be perfect :) Onions, they seem to be the culprit, they are to be perched on top of the bhaji and not in it, Now who would have thought of that ! A very huge Thank you to you Nupur and to her aunt for having cracked the magic in the dish.

In Hyderabad, Gokul Chaat Bhandar was THE place to eat chaat. It is also very strategically placed, right opposite the text book selling hub of the city, just where all the population between 15-24 would be concentrated(its also a major shopping area :P). The street was covered from end to end with book stalls selling books covering every subject offered from class 10 to Ph.D or M.Tech standards, international authors, guides and just about any book ever quoted in your syllabus. You could find brand new books and even second/third hand books and you could bargain to your hearts content :D That place needs a post for itself ! And this chaat place was nestled on the opposite side of the road. It was more of a custom to eat there whenever you cross by. He served everything that you could ask for in chaat, gol gappas, papri chaat, dahi kachori, aloo tikki, samosa chaat, mirchi, ragda and the very famous pav bhaji. The special plate would look just like a plate meal. The pav bhaji would be served with a side of ginger-chilli pickle, green chutney, pickle and a masala papad sprinkled with chaat masala, onions and cilantro. It was just perfect !

I have been waiting to try this recipe and not being able to find it on restaurant menus just added to the cravings. Its not a very difficult recipe to re-create either, just a hodge-podge of veggies you have with Cauliflowers taking the center stage. Potatoes generally hog the limelight when it comes to their presence in street food, but the cauliflower definitely steals the show with this one. Its a wonderful way of getting people who hate cauliflower to actually fall in love with it. You'll hardly know its even there :))

Go ahead, take a bite & don't mind the slightly burnt pav :P
The only variations I added to the recipe was using two fresh tomatoes and 2 Tbsp of Tomato paste instead of the puree. The use of the paste rendered a deliciously red color to the bhaji, not to mention a little tang too, absolutely yummy. I also used a carrot,freshly crushed ginger & garlic and some fennel seeds(saunf). I have the Everest brand pav- bhaji masala and loved its flavor, most of my other masalas are from Everest too.Garnish with cilantro, lemon juice. Imp: Don't forget the butter on top of the hot bhaji just before serving ;) Update: I tried it again with MDH brand Pav bhaji masala and it tasted just as good. Their masala is a little more spicy so you need to take care while adding extra chilli powder.

I used store bought ready made buns for the pav, slather them with butter and toast until golden brown and crisp (unlike mine :)) ). I also like to season my butter with some salt and chilli powder/chat masala/pav bhaji masala, it adds a nice kick to the otherwise plain buns. If you are prepared to go the extra mile then do make your own pav too... Jai n Bee have a wonderful post on making some really good pav's Mumbai style ! I can't wait to try them :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Makka bhutta - Roasted Corn on the cob

Dear Foodies,

I see some fresh corn at the store at an even more refreshing price, 5 for $1 ! Now who can pass such a neat deal !! So I got home 5 lovely little beauties huddled in their green covers. And as if the weather God saw them tucked in my shopping bag, he sent down some rain the very next evening. Anybody who has been in India during the start of the rainy season can never forget the waft of corn on the cob being roasted on hot coals by the street side. And so, just as soon as the heavenly smell of wet sand rose in the air I went straight into the kitchen to roast the corn.

For rainy days and happy times !
A few dabs of olive oil/butter on the corn, sprinkle some salt and pepper,wrap it in a aluminum foil and they are ready to bake. These went into a preheated oven at 350Deg C for about 20 mins and then on broil for about 2 mins on each side. {Ok ok,,,enough of the "Why !!" look, I have an electric stove and so resorted to this method !!} I am not sure if this is the best way to roast it, but for that rainy day's craving, it was perfect :)

Corn on the cob, or makka bhutta in Telugu, is a savory snack, just like most of the other snack time items we prefer.The corn in India, is not as sweet and tender as the ones here and the favored toppings are salt and lime on the coal-roasted corn. There is also a clear difference in taste between the corn roasted on the hot coals and the one done on the gas stove. Both unique and wonderful in their own way. The other way of eating corn that I preferred for years was the boiled corn. The salted water would just seep into the cob and you could suck the juice each time you bit into it for corn. Lovely !!

One for you , One for me :)
The first time I had corn on the cob here was when I went to watch the Labor day Fireworks. The first bite was disappointing, I was expecting a nice tangy lemon-salt taste but bit into a buttery sweet mess !! It was a horror to realize that corn could be cooked and eaten in this way :)) But well, tastes change and adapt and so... now, something is better than nothing prevails :) but I still do hate all that butter. The corn I had in hand was sweet too and so I opted for butter (or oil, its just for the seasonings to stick & very little is needed, so the taste really doesn't matter) salt n pepper. It was sooooo nice having corn and watching the rain outside...absolute blisss, Get some for yourself & get them soon !

I am going to try other ways of roasting it, boiling these I think will only give me a mush, any suggestions ??

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Blog roll

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sweet Corn Soup

Dear Foodies,

Here's a bowl of soul warming soup. This dish was part of a Indo-Chinese dinner that my room mate and I had put together. My roomie, actually ex-roomie now :(, makes the best vegetable manchuria. It had been ages since she made some and we pestered her into making some for us. So we decided to make it a complete Indo-Chinese meal that night with her making the signature manchuria's & vegetable stir fry and I made this soup and vegetable fried rice. I'll come back with the recipes for all of them, and try getting a guest post in for the lip smacking manchuria's ( you can see a pic of them on my blog header)

Now coming back to the soup, we had two options in mind, a hot n sour soup or the sweet corn soup. The hot n sour soup was just plain soy sauce and since all the other dishes were already loaded with that ingredient I decided to try making the sweet corn soup. Its a extremely simple soup to make and very delicious. It gets your taste buds rolling and totally warmed up for a meal ahead. Alternately, you can add extra vegetables to it and have it with some fresh toasted bread to make it a meal in itself. I used frozen corn this time, but you can always substitute with fresh corn. It will only take a little longer to get tender.

  • 1 pack - frozen Sweet Corn (16 oz pack)
  • 1 cup - Carrot, grated
  • 1 cup - Cabbage, shredded/finely julienned
  • 3 cups - Water/as per required consistency
  • 2 Tbsp - Soy sauce/ as per taste
  • 1 Tbsp - Vinegar/as per taste
  • Salt and Pepper for seasoning (use freshly ground pepper)
  • 1-2 Tbsp - cornstarch - Optional
  • 3 nos - Green chillies (Indian chillies), chopped
  • 2 Tbsp - Vinegar
Add the chopped green chillies to the vinegar and let it sit for awhile until you get the soup prepared.
  • Coriander leaves
  1. Heat water in a saucepan and drop the frozen corn into it and let it come to a boil. You don't have to necessarily thaw the corn, it will save you some time though.
  2. Once the corn kernels get tender, turn off the heat and reserve 1/2 - 3/4 cup of corn to use as whole. After the rest of the corn cools down puree it in a blender or use a hand blender. I did not make it a smooth puree but preferred a slight grainy texture.
  3. *Always wait till the ingredients cool down before you transfer them to a blender. When hot, the steam generated can force the lid of the blender to pop open, raining everything in it onto your kitchen and you might hurt yourself too, so always be cautious.*
  4. Now transfer the pureed corn to the stove top and add the reserved corn, grated carrots and shredded cabbage to it and simmer. Also add the soy sauce and vinegar, adjusting as per your taste. The carrots and cabbage should not be cooked till tender, let them stay a little crisp from some crunch.
  5. Adjust the consistency of the soup to your liking. If you want to thicken it add a spoon of corn starch mixed into cold water and allow the soup to come to a boil.
  6. Add a little salt and pepper now for some base taste and leave the rest to be added while serving the soup.
  7. Garnish with the vinegar soaked chillies and coriander leaves.

I loved this soup. Its what any dish should be, simple and delicious. The crunch from the carrots and cabbage is really nice and the whole corn kernels add to the texture. Its a nice little mouthful, especially when had with the chillies. The vinegar mellows the sharpness of the green chillies a little and they are a perfect compliment to the mild corn. Freshly ground pepper is a must in this soup, sweet corn and pepper go perfectly well together.

While replying to the comments I realized this soup could be the purrfect dish for Coffee's MBP-Going Lite. No oil, no butter vonly vegetabuls :)) :)) I had gone through a few recipes before I started making this soup(how can you be a blogger and not search in other blogs) and one of them was Shilpa's recipe and this one from Saroj's cookbook.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spinach Puffs - Spanakopitas

Dear Foodies,

Now that I served you guys tea, how about something savory to go with it :) I made these spinach puffs more than a month back but I still remember the taste, they were soooo good. I used creamed spinach for the first time in a recipe. The spinach is already slightly seasoned and has some onion and garlic flavor too. I had not tasted it before and my roommate told me that it works well for making saag paneer. I did not get a chance to try making the saag and now that I made these puffs I am not sure when I'll save a pack of creamed spinach to try either :)

This one is not much of a recipe, but more of assembling things together. Hmmm...I could may be send this one to Sandra Lee. (I am not a huge fan of her show though, she sometimes elevates laziness to look like a virtue !! ) You can find the creamed spinach in the frozen section of the grocery store right beside the frozen spinach. It took just 20-25 mins to put together 6 of these.

  • 1 roll - Phyllo/Filo sheets, thawed
  • 1 pack - Creamed Spinach(store-bought), thawed
  • 1 tsp - Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp - Red Onion, finely diced
  • 2 tsp - Oil/Butter for the filling
  • 2 Tbsp - Butter, melted - for the phyllo sheets
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  1. Thaw the phyllo sheets as per the instructions. I had not planned to make these and came up with the idea while looking for something to munch in the freezer(??). So I left them on my stove side while I was getting the spinach filling ready and that was enough to thaw them.
  2. The frozen creamed spinach needs to be thawed to, so if you have planned ahead move it to the refrigerator section a few hrs before you are ready to make them OR thaw them in the microwave for a few minutes.
  3. Heat a pan with some oil. Add the chopped onions and garlic and cook for a minute or two. Next add the creamed spinach and check for seasonings. Cook it for a couple of minutes before turning off the heat.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350deg C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  5. Get the phyllo sheets ready to work with, spread them on a floured surface & cover with a moist tea cloth or tissue. They are really delicate and dry off very fast becoming brittle and impossible to work with. More tips in this post.
  6. On a floured surface spread one sheet, brush it with some melted butter and layer three more sheets, brushing each of them with butter. Cut the whole sheet into three equal portions along the length.
  7. I made triangular shaped puffs. I thought a pic would do a much better job of explaining the process than my words could ever attempt ! Spoon a little filling into 2 and then fold 1 over to overlap with 2. Now carefully fold 2 to overlap with 3, 3 on 4, 4 on 5, 5 on 6 and so(you shud have got to the end of the filo sheet now ). This way you have neat little triangles with the filling tucked in the center and well covered with the phyllo dough. Use a little extra butter to stick the final flap to the dough. Brush the outside surface with some more butter.
  8. Each set of 4-layered phyllo sheets should give you 3 such triangles. Arrange them on the baking sheet and once you have all the triangles ready bake them for about 20 mins of until you see a nice golden brown color all over.
  9. Serve hot with some Tomato ketchup/Maggi Hot n Sweet ketchup
These were really tasty and I would definitely make them more often.
The original recipe for Spanakopitas uses feta cheese, I saw that only after I made these puffs (out of curiosity :D). These could be perfect for parties too since they are so easy to put together. Do give these a try :)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Garam Chai-How spicy Madam ??

Dear Foodies,

Thats how spicy it is :)
Bee n Jai came up with this ingenious way of incorporating our dear little fiery chilli in the one place it would have never thought of ending up in,a cup of Chai. Garam Chai or Hot Chai now has a different meaning, thanks to them :P I could not wait until tomorrow to try it. It is 2:00am here and I am sipping this wonderful cup of tea. God knows when I am going to sleep now !

I used a green chilli equal in size to the one shown, and used the same method mentioned in their recipe here but skipped the ginger as my tea masala has enough of it. The method is just the way I usually make my tea and the green chilli was a surprise guest. It did not add direct heat but you will surely feel it in your throat as you enjoy your tea. The heat is not the kind which makes you gulp water by the bottle-fulls, but that which makes you look forward to the next sip. I guess I was also lucky in the size of chilli I used, I had absolutely no clue how it would turn out when I dropped it in the water :))


Here is my previous post on tea, its a masala tea made from fresh ingredients instead of tea masala.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Dulce de Leche ...

Happy Birthday Meeta !
Dear foodies,

Dulce deLecious !
This is the recipe for the most sinfully good ice cream. From the moment I got the first taste of Haagen Daaz Dulce de Leche, I was hooked. All my frnds here were hooked, we have bought sooo many boxes of it and none lat for more than a day or two. If you have not yet tasted this flavor yet, I urge each one of you to go find it ASAP !! It has a smooth caramely taste to it and as you can see in the picture on their site, it has twirls of caramel in it too. As if it were a treasure hunt, we would dig out all those pieces of caramel the moment the box was opened. Once I got the hand blender and knew I could make ice cream with its help, I just had to try making dulce de leche at home. And I must confide with you guys that I think I have come up with a perfect recipe for it. Yayyyyyy

The nuts are only for the contrast in the pic, the ice cream needs no such embellishments :P
Now such a delectable dessert is a perfect present for an even more gorgeous person. A very Happy Birthday to you Meeta ! It is wonderful to have known you through your blog. Your warmth, your passion for food, photography and life with all its varied colors comes through to us by your posts. You have surely raised every day food to the level of an art form ! The love and thoughtfulness with which you treat each dish inspires me to treat it the very same way in my kitchen too (and I must add it is a tough thing to do ;)). I have learnt a lot from your recipes or more so from your method of cooking, to keep it simple, accenting a few main flavors to bring out the beauty in a dish and also to be extremely daring at the same time ;). The next step now is to get hold of a good cam so I can seek your tutelage in that area too :)

When I had dulce de leche for the first time I was reminded of the taste of theratipaal or kalakhand, the flavor of milk reduced to more than 1/4th its volume. I was curious to see how it was made and did a google search. And the most common method seemed to be the most weird and craziest way ever. The can of condensed milk was to be punched with a hole and then immersed in water and set to boil for about 1-2hrs. I am not sure if I understood what they said. How can u pierce it and immerse it in water and still make sure it does not ooze out ! There was also a warning about chances of the cans exploding, now how much more crazier could it get. All that needed to be done according to me was cooking the condensed milk with indirect heat. I am not patient enough to set it on a double boiler and baby sit it for hours, so I choose the easier way out and used the oven instead. The result was an amazing caramel and I had to hold my self from eating it by the spoonfuls so I could save some for the ice cream :P. All of you just have to try this ice cream. And have you tried eating the plain sweetened condensed milk ?? I guess I have to change the recipe to 1 1/2 cans only ...:))

Equipment needed:
  • Ice cream maker or Hand Blender & plastic container big enough to store the ice cream
  • Pyrex dish & a larger Baking pan to hold the pyrex dish (I used a 8" x8" x2" pyrex & 11" x 7" x 2" rectangular pan)
  • Sauce pan to boil the cream in and a wooden spatula.
For the dulce de leche you need:
  • 2 cans - Sweetened Condensed milk (14 oz each) at room temp
For the ice cream:
  • 1 pack - Half & half, ( I used the traditional one) (32 oz, I think)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp - Corn starch (corn flour)
  • Sugar as per taste (I used about 5-6 tsp)
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 375deg C.
  2. Empty the two cans of condensed milk into the pyrex dish. Fill 3/4th of the larger baking pan with water and place the pyrex dish in it. Place these very carefully into the oven. I placed them on the upper most rack.
  3. Bake for about 40-50 mins stirring with a wooden spatula every 10-15 mins. The cream colored condensed milk will turn into a nice brown caramel color.
  4. Meanwhile empty the half & half into a saucepan and bring it to a boil.Stir some cold water/cream/milk into the corn starch and add it to the cream in the saucepan. Simmer for a little while till it starts to thicken. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool.
  5. Once the condensed milk is cooked turn off the heat in the oven. The water in the baking pan if going to be boiling hot so be extremely careful while moving the pans. I left the oven door ajar for abt 20mins and waited till the temperature of the pans was comfortable enough to handle. Very carefully remove the baking pans out of the oven. Do use oven mits at every stage.
  6. After both these mixtures cool down a little (luke warm), bring them together in a plastic container and blend for a few minutes. Taste the mixture and add sugar if required.(Transfer to the Ice-cream maker and follow the manufacturers instructions at this stage)
  7. Place the ice cream in the freezer and blend it in intervals of 30-45 mins for about 3 hrs before allowing it to set.

The ice cream was absolutely delicious, it tasted exactly like the store bought one, or infact better than the store bought one....I urge each one of you to try it, no matter how small a batch !! Like I said, the original has twirls of caramel in it, which is the best part of the ice cream, but this one has that flavor all every little bite or lick or slurp :) This ensured that none of us had to fight to get all the caramel bites in our spoonfuls, but could peacefully enjoy our bowlfuls :D Another thing with this ice cream is that it came out perfectly creamy unlike the mango ice cream that was more of a sorbet. From the tips I got in the comments section of the Mango ice cream post, I decided to boil the cream and milk and also thicken it a little to help build the creaminess. I hope I have convinced you all to try this one, even if I you are not convinced do make it and then you will be charmed for life !! ( I hope this one did it ;))

Meeta, this bowl is for you, I would have wanted to do some thing filled with chocolate but this one is definitely comparable :D I can't wait to see this months MM-Big Birthday Bang round-up..I can already see so many yummy dishes on their way there in the blogosphere :)

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