Try new dishes, without regretting it!

I am someone who loves to try new foods and experiment with it – be it as simple as chili and chocolate or something more exotic sounding, like fruit and balsamic vinegar (smells good in perfume, but in food, even I had my doubts). As alike as we may seem, my sister didn’t always share my love for experimenting. Although better, this situation has not changed majorly. And then I met people who are worse than her, and I realized that a majority of the time, we don’t try cooking new dishes and cuisines because we don’t like trying to eat them either.

In the last year, my friends and I have gone out every Saturday, trying a different place each week. Now, since I live in ONE city in ONE part of the world, talking about these places and their dishes won’t really help my global audience, but flavors, tastes and combinations stay constant across the globe. It doesn’t matter if you are French, or German, Indian or African – nationality doesn’t influence our taste buds; that job solely belongs to the food you are used to eating. I have lived in so many different cities myself that my taste-buds are constantly changing.

But for those of us who have stayed put, lived in the same place our whole lives, our geographic solitude need not restrict our gustatory journey. Here are some things that I have learnt over the years, maybe they may help you too:

1. Dousing everything in spices doesn’t enhance flavor: Those of us used to eating spices need them in every part of meal, much to the point that we taste the spice better than we taste the meat/poultry/seafood/vegetable. Everything we eat, from the core ingredient of our dish, to the salt we use to season has its own flavor.

Tip: If you can identify at least 75 per cent of the ingredients in the dish you are eating, you definitely appreciate the different tastes.

2. The more spices you add to the dish, the less you like the rest of the ingredients. Just think about it, by the time you are done making your Jamaican Jerk Chicken or Indian Chili Chicken super spicy (because you say you like it that way), you taste more of the Jerk seasoning or Chili in the dish than you do the Chicken. Coq au Vin with extra Vin might does well be a cocktail with chicken popcorn instead of olives. You might does well be eating the chili or just drinking the wine. At least the chickens would live.

3.  When you appreciate the individual flavors of the ingredients, you appreciate the combination of them even more. Today, chili chocolate has become a crowd favorite. But when it first came out, I’m sure there was a lot of apprehension with the combination. One after the other, we braved an attempt to try it, and many of us quickly fell in love with it; Have you ever watched a cookery show, where the chef on TV is gushing about the aroma of some concoction or drooling over the combination of flavors in the dish? If you think that they came out of the womb talking like that, then you couldn’t be more wrong. To be able to appreciate the combinations, however weird and far-fetched, one needs to be able to respect the individual flavor.

4. First think of how each ingredient tastes on its own. Then combine the tastes. Now add some seasoning to the dish in your head. If you can correctly identify each taste, chances are you have tasted the dish in your head even before it gets onto the plate in front of you.

Heston Blumenthal is quoted saying – “Food is an experience of all five senses.” Why not follow his example. The worse thing that can happen is an educational experience.

A tiny little note, a very tiny one… Please read it!! :D

Hi All,

So, I know it has been a long time since my last post. I apologize for my tardiness, but a lot has happened in the past year. I promise I will try to be more regular in my updates – I am attempting once a week.

At the time that I started this blog, I had a whole list of recipes I wanted to share with ya’ll because these were what I started my cooking journey. Of course, I have progressed a lot from then, in my cooking. That’s not going to stop me from posting easy recipes though. I will continue to show you my twists and turns in cooking, after all, I am no professional myself.

I like trying different cuisines and styles, though, and I am having friends and parents ask me for recipes. So do let me know if there is a recipe I can help you will as well.

Until next time,

Cheers!

Swati

Traditional Mangalorean-style Prawn Curry in Red Chili and Tamarind Sauce

Indian food is popular all over the world right? But, how much about it does the world really know. To my knowledge, the best of Indian food offered to those living outside of India revolves around naan breads and rotis, biryanis and what a lot of people call to be goopy and lumpy curries.

The fact? Indian food is really versatile. Traditional Indian cooking, done the right way, tastes amazing. It isn’t necessarily just a pot of spice. Of course, to an outsider all the dishes may seem the same, but like its cultures, Indian foods are very different from one another. Even when they look the same, dishes coming from different regions of India taste very different from others and have a completely different story or history. Food, it is commonly acknowledged, plays a very important part of Indian tradition and culture.

I belong to one of the lesser known sub-cultures in India. Forget about a foreigner, there are people within my own country who have vaguely or not at all heard about my culture, or have misconceptions about it. I come from the Konkan Coast.

Known also as Karavalli or simply as the Konkan, the Konkan coast is a section of the Western Coastline of India, roughly between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. It includes parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and the whole of Goa. These areas largely eat fish and seafood as their staple diet. In this post, i will show you a simple recipe of a prawn curry, that takes minutes to make but contains really complex flavors, with just a few ingredients. Even a novice cook can make it – it was one of the first dishes i made when i first started cooking a year ago.

Image

This is what you will need: (serves 3-4)

shelled and deveined prawns – 500 gms

onions (finely chopped) – 4 medium

tamarind pulp – 1 tbsp

red chili powder – 2 tsp

salt to taste

oil – 2 to 3 tbsp

This is what you have to do:

–  Soak a piece of tamarind in water. The tamarind needs to be roughly the size of a lemon. Leave it to soak for about 5 minutes. Then squeeze out the tamarind pulp with some water.

Image  Image  Image

An easier way to get the pulp is just use the same amount of store bought tamarind pulp or paste. Saves you the trouble and the mess.

– Add the oil in a wok and place it on low heat. Add in the onions and brown them. Ensure that the oil is not too hot or your onions will burn. That spoils your dish completely.

– Once the onions have browned, add in the chili powder and stir for a minute.

– Add in the tamarind pulp. If you find your mixture to be too dry, you can add in half a cup of water. Bring to a boil.

– Now add in the prawns and salt (to taste). Ensure that your gas is still on low flame. Continue to cook till the gravy has thickened and the prawns have been cooked. Stir occasionally.

Note: The mixture of chili powder and tamarind pulp should give you a deep red color to the dish. This does not necessarily mean that the dish is spicy as the sourness of the tamarind and the sweetness of the onion take away from the spiciness of the chili powder. You are welcome to add in more chili powder if you like  your food spicier. If you find the dish to be too spicy for your liking, you may add in a little bit more of the tamarind pulp to ease up on the spice.

There you have it, a simple and easy prawn dish, ready in less than 15 minutes. You can easily substitute the prawn with any fish you like. Who says Indian cooking is difficult?

Try it. I bet you have never tried anything like it in your life!!

Serve with steaming hot rice & BON APPETIT!!

Quick and Easy Vegetarian Pizza

How often do all of us order from pizza hut or papa john’s or from the thousands of other pizzerias all over the world? As many of us know, but choose to be ignorant about, a pizza is, for the most part, a heart attack just waiting to happen. The fact is that a small 10-inch (personal pan) regular crust cheese pizza from Dominos has 220 calories per slice, which is 880 calories on a small pizza.  In spite of this, 350 slices of pizza are consumed every second.

Now, on the flip side, people all over the world are attempting to eat more healthy foods. In fact, my 4-year old cousin in Singapore refuses to take any food to school that is not healthy because they are taught in school to only eat healthy food.

This doesnt mean that you cant make junk food healthy. Here is my take on the pizza, a quick and easy recipe that will help you feed many people, at a low cost and without having to worry about the thirty minute delivery.

IMG-20130612-WA0002

This recipe is a cheat’s version to making pizza, but in the words of Donna Hay, it’s Fast, Fresh and Simple.

Here is what you need: (feeds 2-4 people)

1 large pizza base (14-inch)

1 cup store bought pizza sauce

1 onion, roughly chopped

half cup red bell-pepper

half cup green bell-pepper

1 cup sliced mushroom

half cup corn kernels

1 cup diced cottage cheese (paneer)

a pinch of salt

a pinch of coriander powder

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp chilli powder

oregano to sprinkle on top

1 cup grated pizza cheese (mozzarella or cheddar works best)

This obviously looks like a lot of ingredients. I am sure some of you are saying, ‘where’s the meat?’ Well, i came up with this recipe because I have friends who are purely vegetarians and it was just a lot easier to make one kind of pizza for all, rather than worry who was eating what.

Here’s what you do:

– Butter a large pan and toast the underside of the pizza base so that it has some crunch. Then. take a good dollop of the pizza sauce and spread it onto the base. The best way to do it is go in a circular motion. Plop the sauce onto the centre of the base and spread it out, like so:

sauce on base

– in a large wok, heat some oil and add the onions. Once the onions start to get transparent, add in the bell peppers and the mushroom. At this stage add in the salt, chili powder, garam masala and coriander powder. Stir a little to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Add in the corn and cottage cheese, Stir for another minute. If you feel that the mixture is too dry and sticking to the pan, add in 2 tsp of water.

– once the veg is done, spread it all over the pizza base. Top with grated cheese and sprinkle oregano. Place it into the microwave for about 3 minutes or till all the cheese lightly melts. If your microwave has a grill as well, then melt the cheese on the pizza for about a minute and then grill the pizza for another 3 minutes.

YOUR PIZZA IS READY……. BON APPETIT!!

But you see, the thing with this recipe is that you can use just about anything as the topping. You have left over vegetables? Use that. Left over meat? Why not. Just some plain sausages? Perfect. You can use just about anything. Just ensure that the meat is cooked before you top the bread and that the vegetables are sauteed.

Mexican Cheese Quesadillas

We all love to go out and eat. With Globalization, this has become easier for us to do. We live better lifestyles, we have access to more cuisines and we have the money to try it all out. This makes us lazy. So more and more people are preferring to eat out than cook at home. What we forget though, is that where we look for convenience, we sometimes exert more energy in going out to eat than cooking at home.

This next recipe i am going to show you is so simple that you could have finished making it by the time you get off the phone from ordering take-out.

I’m sure, like me, there are many people out there who love Mexican. I know though, that there are many Indians out there who are not accustomed to eating Mexican food. But for those of you working professionals, bachelors with novice cooking skills, stay-at-home moms or even kids, this is a very simple recipe that will give your idlis, dosas, sandwiches as well a run for their money with how easy it is to make.

quesadilla

I am talking about the classic Mexican cheese Quesadillas. A quesadilla (pronounced Case-A-Diya) is a flour or corn tortilla (pronounced tortiya) filled with a savory mixture containing cheese, meat, and/or vegetables, Then folded in half to form a half-moon shape.

A tortilla is a mexican flatbread, made of flour or corn. It looks very similar to the Indian Maida Roti.

tortilla

This is what you will need: (for 2 servings)

2 tortilla or thin Maida Roti (in India)

1.5 cups of cheddar cheese

Butter, to brush on bread

Directions:

– Place the bread on a flat surface. you can pretty much use any bread for this – Tortillas, if you can find them, or simple flour rotis will work too. You can make them or buy them frozen, its all the same. sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheese onto the bread. cheese. Fold the bread in half and place it on a hot frying pan or skillet with butter in it. Make sure that the flame is on medium. Leave the bread on the heat till the cheese is melted. Ensure to toast both sides of the bread. Take out of the pan and serve hot with your choice of condiments.

– For added flavor, you can add flavored cheese spread on the bread before adding in the grated cheese. Add oregano and pepper to taste before frying.

– If you do not have access to a stove, you can always melt the cheese in a microwave oven for one minute.

– Popular condiments to accompany this dish are salsa, sour cream and guacamole.

Now that you have learnt a simple, easy-to-do and quick recipe to make in less than 10 minutes, think of all the time you waste in getting ready, driving to the restaurant, ordering your quesadillas, waiting for your order and then eating it. In this time, you could have made them yourself, fed your family and had your kids tucked into bed, all before you would have otherwise even left the restaurant, not to mention all the money you would have wasted on the elaborate meal and gas.

Of course, this dish is versatile. Along with the cheese you can stuff just about any meat or vegetable you want. Have leftovers? They are the perfect stuffing. Just make sure that the meat is cooked and the vegetables are sauteed slightly.

So, here is to fast and simple cooking, saving a ton of money and protecting your health!!!😀

Easy, No-bake Lemon Curd Tart

Well, I am constantly in war with our oven at home. It seems to burn the base of anything i try to bake. But i love to cook, and make desserts and all that jazz. So to solve my problem, i am constantly on the look out for dessert recipes that are just as decadent but don’t require me to bake them in the oven.

Although i love chocolate, when it comes to tarts and pies, and just desserts in general, i usually go for the fruity variety. One of my favourites is the LEMON TART. If they have it on the menu, my choice is pretty predictable. SO i thought, why not make it at home.

Now, i am sharing this recipe because it really is super easy. You simply require everyday produce stashed away in the pantry and just your basic utensils. Be you a housewife, a career woman, a student or a bachelor, a novice cook or an absolute expert, this is a foolproof recipe, so simple that you just cant go wrong. a few basic ingredients and a few basic cooking techniques, the final product is this:

tart

To make this, these are all the ingredients you need:

For the shell:

185 gms of marie biscuit (37 biscuits to be exact) – processed to fine crumbs

90 gms butter (if you use unsalted, u can always add a pinch of salt)

half teaspoon cinnamon powder

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg powder (optional)

icing sugar, to serve

For the filling:

4 eggs

2/3 cup lemon juice

the rind of one lemon

125 gm butter (if you use unsalted, add a pinch of salt)

1 cup caster sugar

In this recipe you will see two types of sugar. The sugar is the same. They are all white in colour. It is the texture that is different.

– We all know what granulated sugar is, we use it in our daily consumption.

– Caster or castor sugar is finely granulated sugar. These granules are smaller and often used in baking and desserts because it melts faster and combines better into the dough or custard.

– Finally, there is icing sugar, which is also known as confectioner’s sugar or powdered sugar as well. This is basically granulated sugar that has been ground to a smooth powder and then sifted. It is usually used for icing of the cake, in whipping cream, in making fondant as well as to sprinkle on top of cakes and tarts.

This is how you will need to make your tart:

– Lightly grease a round flan pan or tart tin (with a removable base). This is how the tart tin will look like;

tart tin

This is the one I have. Of course, there are different shapes and sizes. But this recipe will work best with a 1 inch deep, 24 cm base tin. ensure you grease both the base and the sides.

– In a bowl, combine the biscuit crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter. I founf the mixture to be a little dry. So i added in a few drops of milk. Then, press the mixture onto the base and against the sides of the pan. This is how it should look:

mixture

Refrigerate this for an hour.

– Now to make the LEMON CURD filling: finely grate the rind of one lemon. The rind is the yellow part of the peel. Ideally you need to use the big yellow lemon: lemon

After peeling the rind off the lemon, this is what you get:

rindEnsure that the lemon you use has a yellow peel and not a green one. Green Lemons tend to have a bitter peel, which will make the tart bitter too.

– Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a heatproof bowl until well-combined. Add in the lemon rind and lemon juice and mix till well combined.

– In a sauce pan, add a little water (about 1.5 – 2 cm of water in the pan) and let it simmer on the gas. Place your bowl with the mixture on top of this pan. This makes a double boiler. You need to ensure that the sauce pan does not have too much water. You don’t need the water touching your bowl containing the mixture, Also ensure that the base of your mixture bowl is larger than the sauce pan. Your bowl needs to be heat proof because your mixture has eggs, so if the bowl absorbs the heat, the mixture will boil and the eggs will scramble.

– Constantly stir this mixture with a wooden spoon. You are looking for a thick, custard-like consistency. This should take about 20-25 minutes to happen. Do not allow to boil.

– Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk in the butter. Now pour the filling into the chilled tart shell, cover with plastic wrap (cling wrap) and refrigerate overnight (3-4 hours will do too). Dust with icing sugar and serve!

BON APPETIT!!

Tomato and Basil Bruschetta

I gave you the recipe for aglio e olio. Here is one of my favourite accompaniments with my favourite pasta. Its light, fresh, great flavor and goes really well with the aglio e olio, and like it, you can make it in less than 10 minutes. – It is the bruschetta (pronounced broos-ketta).

bruschetta

Bruschetta is a commonly eaten anti-pasti italian dish. In traditional italian dining, there is always a selection of cured meats, olives, cheeses and pickled veges as a starter before the main meal. it marks the official beginning to this meal of several courses. Bruschetta is considered an antipasto (singular to antipasti) because of the lightness of this dish.

The versatility of the bruschetta is such that you can top it with just about anything. But today, i am going to teach you my favorite of the lot. Im usually not a big fan of tomatoes at all. But for the Bruschetta, ill make an exception.

Making the bruschetta is very simple. You first start off with a bread. Ciabatta bread or the french baguette are the best to use because of their tough exterior but soft centre, they hold moisture better and dont become soggy easily. So you can make them and keep them – great for dinner parties.

baguette      ciabatta

FRENCH BAGUETTE – a long, thin loaf       CIABATTA – a somewhat elongated,

of French Bread.                                               broad, flat loaf of Italian Bread.

Ingredients:

4 slices of baguette or ciabatta bread

2 cloves of garlic, halved

2 medium sized tomatoes diced or 8 cherry tomatoes quartered.

1 tbsp mustard sauce (optional)

8 leaves of basil (tulsi for us indians)

4 tbsp olive oil

salt to taste

how do you make it:

– dry toast the bread. What does that mean? just put the plain bread on the pan or in a toaster without any butter and toast both sides. This gives you crispy bread.

– rub each half of garlic clove on each of the slices of toasted bread. Drizzle olive oil on the bread.

– in a bowl, add in the chopped tomatoes, salt, mustart sauce and chopped basil leaves. drizzle in about 2 tbsp of olive oil. Mix well and place on top of the toast. Drizzle in some more olive on top if desired and sprinkle some cheese on top if you wish.

Serve up and Bon Appetit!🙂

it goes great with the aglio e olio. Have a look:

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Just a no-frills, big and hearty meal, ready in 20 minutes – gone in 2!!!!!