Friday, January 28, 2011

Nick's Italian Pasta and Bean Soup


or as my bro calls it, The Chunkey Pandey Soup... lol

This soup is quick, healthy, hearty, and easy to make. AND delicious! It's pretty much a meal on it's own :) The moment I saw it on Macheesmo I knew I had to try it one of these days. I am trying to eat healthy more often and this one is definitely a keeper!

Nick's Italian Pasta and Bean Soup
Serves 4
Recipe adapted from Macheesmo.


Ingredients:

3 small Onions or 1 large onion
1 Large Carrot
1 Green Pepper/Capsicum
4 Medium Sized Tomatoes
1/2 cup Tomato Paste (Or Ketchup)
1/2 cup soaked and steamed Beans of choice (I used pressure cooked White Beans)
A handful of Spinach Leaves (I did not use any)
1 teaspoon minced Garlic
4 cups Vegetable Stock (You can use water + 1 vegetable cube, or water by itself)
1 cup Water
1 Bayleaf
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (Optional)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dried Italian Herbs (I used Oregano and Thyme)
Parmesan Cheese for garnish (I did not use any)
2 tbsp Olive Oil

Method:

Roughly dice the Onions, Carrots and Green Peppers almost the same size. Coarsely grind the Tomatoes + Tomato Paste/Ketchup. I used this because honestly the Tomatoes out here are quite tasteless and sometimes the canned stuff is way better.
Heat Olive Oil + Garlic in a large skillet. I add the Garlic to the Oil before it gets too hot so it prevents itself from burning. When the Garlic starts to sizzle, add the Onions, Carrots and Green Peppers. Sauté them on medium high for about 5 minutes till the vegetables get soft. Then add in the Bay leaf, Vegetable Stock, Tomatoes and 1 cup water. Bring it to a simmer.
Throw in the beans and the Pasta, and cook on medium low for another 15 minutes till the pasta is cooked. Then add in the Spinach Leaves, and give it a quick stir, for 30 seconds or so. Then turn off the heat and serve with a garnish of grated Parmesan. I just served it plain, with no Garnishes. This one's really, really good!!


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

First Dessert : Whole Wheat Malpuas (Pancakes)



Malpuas are one of the best Indian desserts there is. Most of us have memories associated with this dish, like playing outside in the woods and returning home for hot Malpuas which Granny made, drenched in Sugar Syrup and loaded with the goodness of Bananas and Saffron. The only noticeable difference is that we lead a much stationary lifestyle now, do not spend that much time playing outside and climbing on tree-tops, sit like an Owl staring at the computer all day long, surfing and browsing and adding to the lethargy only more as each day passes.

Malpuas are basically pancakes fried in Ghee (Clarified Butter) and then soaked in sugar syrup with a drop of Rose water in it. Traditionally they are made out of All Purpose Flour, and it is the best way to use over-ripe Bananas, coz' the original recipe calls for an over-ripe mashed Banana. I googled around a little bit and decided to make a Whole Wheat version of the same, sans the sugar syrup and using a minimum amount of Ghee.


Whole Wheat Malpuas
Serves 4 people.
Recipe from Granny, and some idea from oliveandbasil.blogspot.com

Ingredients:

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 tablespoons Semolina (Optional)
1/2 cup Curd
1 cup Milk
1/2 cup Sugar
1 tablespoon Fennel Seeds (Saunf) ground or crushed.
A pinch of Salt
1 teaspoon Cardamom Powder
4 tablespoons Ghee (Clarified Butter, you can also melt unsalted butter and skim the froth off the top)
Assorted Chopped Nuts (Cashews, Almonds, Pistachios)

Method:

Blend together everything except the Ghee and the Nuts. It should form a loose paste, thicker than the normal Pancake batter. It should just barely be able to drop off a spoon. Let this batter rest for 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, heat your ghee on medium low till its liquid, then fry the chopped nuts in it for 10 seconds. Drain the ghee from the chopped nuts and reserve for frying pancakes.
Now heat up a flat bottomed pan for the Malpuas, and just barely smother with ghee on a medium flame. Now drop in 1 to 2 tbsp batter, spread it in the form of a small circle, and let it fry for about 3 minutes each side. You can be liberal with the ghee too, if you like. It tastes even better when it's loaded with Ghee ;)
Before you flip these babies, drizzle with a drop or two of ghee. Then flip over. Once both sides are thoroughly browned, remove them and then top with chopped fried nuts. I was experimenting with the quantity of sugar and I added lesser than the recipe, so I had to dust mine off with some powdered sugar too. Voila! Enjoy :) Tastes best when hot!



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tasty and Healthy Cumin Crusted Cutlets with CoCoMi Chutney.


I have been a little busy this week, and did not cook a lot, but I make this all the time and every time I make them, I try and make them healthier!

Cumin Crusted Cutlets with CoCoMi Chutney
Recipe by : Self
Serves 4 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

For the Cumin Crusted Cutlets:
1 large potato, boiled and mashed. (You can use 2 small)
1 cup Soyabean Granules (You can also use minced meat, in which case you will need to add 1 whisked egg to the mixture too)
2 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce
1 tsp Red Chili Powder (Or 2 chopped Green Chilies)
1 tsp Dry Coriander Powder (Optional)
1 tsp Chaat Masala Powder (Optional)
1 tsp Aamchur (Dry Mango) Powder (Optional)
Seeds of Half a Pomegranate. (This is purely seasonal)
A handful of finely chopped Cilantro/Coriander (You can also add in some Mint)
3 tablespoons Cumin Seeds, Roasted over a dry pan
5 slices of Multi Grain/ Whole Wheat Bread
Cooking Spray / Oil for greasing
Salt to taste

For the CoCoMi Chutney:

1 handful of Coriander leaves
1 handful of Mint leaves
1 Chili (Optional)
Juice of 1 Lemon
An inch of Ginger
2 large cloves of Garlic
Salt and Sugar to taste
1/2 cup Coconut Milk


Method:

Heat the oven to 400F/190C (If you plan on baking these)

For the CoCoMi Chutney:

Add all Ingredients in the blender except the Coconut Milk,Sugar and Salt. Blend on high till it forms a smooth paste. Now add the Coconut Milk and blitz again. Then add Salt and Sugar as per taste. Chill in the refrigerator till your Cutlets get ready!

For the Cumin Crusted Cutlets:

Roast the Cumin on a small dry pan on high heat, till it gives out the aroma. Remove it on a plate and let it cool down. Crumb your bread slices, and before you remove them from the blender, add the Roasted Cumin and blend again. You will have a beautiful, strong aroma in the room. Spread them over a plate. In another bowl, mix all the other ingredients, and knead them together so it forms a dough. You can add half cup of your processed bread crumbs if you think the mixture dough is too loose to make cutlets out of them. But you should be fine. Chilling the mixture for 30 minutes also works if the consistency is loose.Form small, flat cutlets and cover them on both sides with the cumin crumbs. I got 16.

In case you're baking them (the healthier way), Grease a cookie sheet with some Pam or with Oil, and lay them side by side, bake them 15-20 minutes, till you get a beautiful crust on top.


I pan fried my cutlets on the griddle, with a total of 2 tablespoon oil (Just few drops to drizzle around the cutlets, which I fried 4 at a time) , 5 minutes each side on a medium flame, and got a beautiful crust on both sides. Serve with the smooth, minty CoCoMi Chutney! Enjoy :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I ♥ Orange French Toast



I read a quote by John Gunther this morning. It said - All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast. I so totally agree to this, it is the make or break of my entire day and a lot depends on how the first meal goes. My ideally favorite breakfast would have to be a Sunny Side Up with Toast, and the much needed Coffee. I wanted to try something different and this blog is definitely motivating me to step out of my comfort zone and make some efforts towards pleasing my own palette.

I had seen this recipe on Nigella Lawson's website few days ago, and was very curious about trying out her Orange French Toast, since I have been extremely happy with her Doughnut French Toast recipe. The original recipe calls for Orange Marmalade, but I used a syrup that I made with candied orange peels which I had come across while on a blog-hopping spree. It's completely worth the effort!

Orange French Toast
Adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe, and the Orangettes from smittenkitchen.com
Serves 2 people

Ingredients:

6 slices of Stale Bread
3 Large Eggs
1/2 a cup (50 ml) Milk
A dash of Vanilla (Optional)
1 inch stick of Cinnamon
2 Cloves
Butter for frying (I used oil)
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
1 orange, reserve the peels and juice the orange. You'll need about 3/4th cup of Orange juice.
1/2 cup Water
1/2 cup Sugar
A pinch of salt
Icing Sugar (For dusting - Optional)
Water for boiling.

Method:

Boil about 3 cups of water. In the mean time, thinly slice the orange peel into juliennes. It is okay to keep the pith attached to the peel. We basically boil these peels in water to get rid of the bitterness of the pith. Also whisk the Eggs, Milk, Salt and Vanilla together, and soak your breads in it. Now boil the peels for 4 minutes in water, drain them, and then reboil them in the water. It is the most time consuming process in this recipe but it really makes a difference. Let the peels boil again for 4 minutes and drain the excess water off.


Once the peels are done, on a medium flame mix the Sugar and Water (1/2 cup each). Once the sugar is dissolved, add the Orange peels to it and let them absorb the syrup for about 2 minutes. Now add the Orange Juice, Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest, Cloves, Cinnamon. Let the mixture bubble till it reaches a syrupy consistency.


On a medium high frying pan, melt a tablespoon of butter and fry your French Toasts, 2 at a time, about a minute on each side, and experience the euphoric aroma that fills in your kitchen with the aromatic Vanilla and the fresh Orange. Remove from heat and cut into your desired shape, dust with the beautiful snow of Icing Sugar and then drizzle with the Orange Syrup as per your requirement. I definitely heart (♥) it when my day starts with such awesomeness :)



This one definitely stays on my special breakfast list! Let me know how yours come along :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

My very first (and definitely not the last) Eggs Benedict!






Signs of a true foodie - they associate every mood/mood swing/emotion/feeling with some or the other dish. I always, always, always do that. It's more like a way to express myself. I am also known for having weird food cravings at times when I am sure that they cannot be satisfied instantly. I have been craving for Eggs Benedict out of nowhere, since last night and frantically looked for them all morning in vain. But well, when I want something, I make sure I have it. So I just ended up making everything right from step 1 :)

I have noticed though, ever since I have started this food blog, I have been wanting to try stuff out at home. Everything homemade. It is completely worth it! Anyway, here it goes:

Eggs Benedict:
Source : Various. Including the Culinary Institute of America, Gordon Ramsay, Alton Brown, Gillian's Blog and recipetips.com
Serves 2

Ingredients:
All ingredients to be used preferably at room temperatures except if mentioned otherwise.


For the English Muffins: (Makes 8)

1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons Active Dry Yeast
1 Egg (Optional)
3 tablespoons Warm Water
1/2 cup Milk
1 1/2 tablespoon Oil
2 teaspoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
Flour for dusting
Semolina for coating (You can also use cornmeal - the traditional way)
Oil. (To be used very very sparingly, just to coat the griddle)

For Poached Eggs:

2 Eggs
3 tablespoons Vinegar
Water for cooking

For Hollandaise Sauce:

1 Egg Yolk
1/2 a stick of Melted Butter
Juice of half a Lemon
A pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste

Method:

The English Muffins: Mix your yeast with the 3 tablespoons warm water and add 1 teaspoon Sugar to it. Let it froth for 10 minutes. In the mean while, combine Milk, Oil, 1 teaspoon Sugar and the Egg(optional) in a bowl and whisk well. In a clean, dry bowl, sift the flours together and add the salt. Make a well in the middle. Add the frothy yeast mixture to the milk and stir it together. Now pour this into the well and incorporate everything (I used hands) to form a sticky and soft dough. Dust it with flour if it turns too sticky, 1 tablespoon at a time. Work the dough till it becomes soft and springy.

Take a clean bowl and coat the insides with oil. place your dough in it and let it rise for about an hour. A handy tip that I came across on recipetip was to heat a small bowl of water for 2 minutes on high in the microwave, and then place your bowl of dough inside the microwave (on standby mode, just to keep a closed space) along with that bowl of water at one side. You may keep your dough uncovered as opposed to the normal practice of keeping it covered with Saran wrap or a wet cloth. The hot water ensures optimum temperature and your dough shall rise beautifully!

Once your dough has doubled in size, punch it down to release the air, then get it out on a floured surface and gently work it (with a very light hand). You do not want to overwork the dough if you want those beautiful nooks and crannies in your muffins. work it for a couple of minutes and then gently roll it till it is as thick as 1 cm. then cut out round muffins with a cookie cutter or a sharp bowl or a sharp lid. Place them on a sheet with dusted with flour and cover with a damp cloth and let them rise for another 20-30 minutes. By now your muffins will have risen even further :)

Heat your griddle on medium low to medium, depending on it's thickness, and lightly coat with oil, you can also use a cooking spray. on a flat plate, pour some Semolina/Cornmeal and coat your muffins on both sides lightly. Now place them on the griddle, and let them cook for 6 minutes. You will notice that they rise even further. check for a beautiful brown color and a crisp exterior before you flip those plump domes and cook them for another 4 minutes on the other side.


Get them off the griddle, shake off the excess Semolina/Cornmeal, use a fork (not a knife) to cut open these springy rounds of awesomeness, and enjoy! You can enjoy them as your breakfast or tea time snack with a little butter and jam too :)


Phew. Step 1. Done!

The Poached Eggs: Heat 4 inches of water in a pan till you see tiny bubbles on the inside surface. Meanwhile, prep your eggs. Break them open individually in small bowls and be ready. Then turn your heat to low so that the water does not boil. Add the Vinegar. Now just stir the water so as to make a whirlpool in the water, and gently drop your Egg in the center. Now let this assembly be undisturbed for the next 4 minutes. Remove your Egg, check for its consistency by gently touching the yolk. It should be soft, and the whites should be opaque. Add it to an ice bath to shock them and stop the cooking process. You can always reheat the poached Egg. You still have to make the Hollandaise, remember? :P

I did my Eggs one at a time. To Reheat the Eggs, just immerse them for 1 minute in hot (not boiling) water.

Hollandaise Sauce: Heat 1 inch of water in a pan, just like the poached Eggs. Your water must be on simmer, and not boil. Alton Brown asked for chilled Butter, but I really preferred the melted Butter. So melt your Butter. Now in another pan, whisk your Egg Yolk with 3 drops of Chilled Water, till it becomes paler in color and frothy in texture. Now, put it over the simmering water and whisk till it reaches a consistency where it can coat the back of a spoon, or when you pick your whisk up, it pours down like a ribbon. It usually takes about 3 minutes.

Now take it off the heat, and slowly pour in a small amount (about half a teaspoon) of the melted Butter while you are still whisking. This is the most important step. Once this Butter is completely incorporated, keep adding the Butter, a little at a time, till you incorporate all of it. Once you get that smooth sauce, add in your Lemon Juice, Salt and Cayenne Pepper. Whisk Well. Voila!


To Assemble: Re-toast your Muffin. Re-heat your Poached Eggs. Fork your muffin open. Add the Bacon Strips (Optional. I also read somewhere that Smoked Salmon could be used as an alternate.). Place your Poached Eggs on each half.


If you want to re-heat your Hollandaise, what I did was I immersed the bowl in some hot water for 10 seconds and it was back to it's normal consistency. Spoon over the smooth and silky sauce on the assembly, and garnish with a pinch of Cayenne and a sprig of Cilantro/Parsley.


Trust me, this was all well worth the effort. It was healthier than the normal breakfast meal too. Whole wheat bread and very less Oil, what more could I ask for? And the sense of accomplishment comes for free! ;)

Friday, January 14, 2011

What I had for Lunch Today...


I am majorly a craving person. There is no stopping me when I crave a certain food. Today was one such day. The good part is that it was not a weird craving, and easily accessible. Curry Noodles. And anything with an added Sunny Side Up, just makes things exponentially better. And this salad I have been wanting to try forever. Today was a good day, foodwise :)

I made a Salad to go with it, was waiting to try out a Brown Sugar Vinaigrette. It was really nice and fresh!

Garden Salad with Brown Sugar Vinaigrette
Recipe by self, experimenting!
Vinaigrette enough for a huge bowl of salad.

Ingredients:

For the Vinaigrette:

2 tablespoons Brown Sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
1 tablespoon English Mustard
A dash (1 tablespoon) of Soya Sauce
Half a cup Orange Juice
Zest one 1 orange (Optional)

For the Salad:

Your Favorite Veggies
(I used Red Cabbage, Green Cabbage, Bell Peppers)
A handful of Walnuts
2 teaspoons of Flax Seeds (Or Flax Seed Powder)
1 Apple chopped to bite size pieces

Method:

Rub your chopped Apples with Lemon Juice to prevent them from going dark. Mix all the ingredients for the Vinaigrette and drizzle over the bowl of the colorful salad. Enjoy!
You could also grill the apples slightly for variation!

I had my Salad along with Curried Ramen Noodles topped with a Sunny Side Up!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Homemade Mayonnaise



I have to thank MasterChef Australia for changing my entire outlook on cooking, especially the MasterClasses. Life seems incomplete without my weekly dose of the show now :( But I have observed that I have started to respect my ingredients a lot more and view them from innovative angles. I am nothing as compared to the great cooks that appeared on the show, but it is never too late to fall in love :)

Here is the Mayonnaise I made following the guidelines shown on TV. It is worth a try! I am slowly beginning to avoid going to the stores to buy stuff like this! You will notice that with all the upcoming posts ;)

Homemade Mayonnaise
Recipe from MasterChef Australia
Makes one medium jar, plus some to spare, plus the extra which u keep licking off your spoon while making it.

Ingredients:

2 large eggs (at room temperature)
1 tablespoon English Mustard
1 teaspoon Vinegar
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cold water
1.5 cups Olive Oil (I used vegetable oil)

Method:

Crack open your eggs in a blender. Add the rest of the ingredients too, except the oil and water. I would recommend that everything should be at room temperature before you start making your own Mayo. Blend the mixture for about 40 seconds. Then add oil, just a couple of tablespoons to start with. Blend for another minute. Then add some more oil. Then blend it for 30 more seconds. Keep repeating this cycle. You will see that the mixture goes milky, and then as you keep adding in oil and blending further, the texture changes to a beautiful creamy yellow. The idea here is to incorporate as much oil as you can till you reach a Maiyonaisse-y consistency. Add the one teaspoon of chilled water and blend again for 30 seconds. Trust me, this makes a huge difference. Your Homemade Mayonnaise is now ready :)

Another thing I must mention, the mayonnaise does tend to thicken up as you keep it standing, so you can opt for a slightly runny consistency too.

You can play with it. Add minced Garlic for a Garlic Mayo, or caramelized Onions for Onion Mayo, Mint chutney for an amazing Chutney Mayo, and so on! I made Honey Mustard out of my Mayo. But that is a whole new post :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

5 minute Tomato Sauce



You will avoid ordering in a Pizza, or making your spaghetti in store bought Pasta Sauces. And when it is so easy, why not give it a try? :)

The moment I laid my eyes on this recipe, I knew I had to give it a go. But impatience got the best of me. I could not wait till I made it, and I was so excited to try it on something that I ended up having a pizza sampling afternoon with my brother.

5 minute Tomato Sauce
adapted from A Couple Cooks, with some changes.
Makes one bowlful

Ingredients:

5 small cloves/3 big cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt to taste
3 medium sized tomatoes, puréed
1 tablespoon Tomato Paste (Only if you use fresh tomatoes. You can also use Ketchup)
A sprinkling of mixed dried herbs (Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano)

Method:

Add Olive oil to a small pan and add the chopped Garlic to it while the oil is still warming up. This way the Garlic will not burn. When the Garlic starts to sizzle, before it turns brown add the puréed tomatoes and give it a good stir. Some people prefer chunkier sauces in which case you may also coarsely blend the tomatoes instead of purée-ing them. Add salt, tomato paste, herbs, and cook till you attain a consistency suitable for you.

Enjoy as a base spread for pizzas, drizzle over your pasta, Smear it over your sandwiches, dip your chips or Doritos in it, anything you like... you cannot hate this sauce!


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Thai Peanut Sauce





I thought of starting off with something super simple, and what better than making my own Satay Sauce! This sauce is so much better in taste due to it's fresh produce, and also way healthier as we do not use Peanut Butter to make this sauce. I was pleasantly surprised with the texture, flavor, and the overall accessibility of this sauce in the terms of inventing new dishes or just aiding the classics as a simple dip. Here is how I made it.

Thai Peanut Sauce
Adapted from thaifood.about.com
Serves 4-6 people as a dip, can be stored in closed jars for as long as 2 weeks in a refrigerator.

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted, skinless Peanuts
2 tablespoons Dark Soy Sauce
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce (This can be substituted with an additional 2 tablespoons of Dark Soy for vegetarians)
1 tablespoon Demerera Sugar
2 tablespoons Lemon Juice
4 cloves of Garlic
1 inch Ginger (Optional. I did not use it)
1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper (I used flakes but they got crushed to being smooth anyway)
1 teaspoon Tamarind Pulp (Soak a couple of tamarind pods in 3 tsp hot water for 10 min. Blend and strain)
1/3rd cup water
1/3rd cup Coconut Milk


Method:

Roast the peanuts, let them cool to room temperature. Remove their skins by rubbing them between your palms. Now add in all the ingredients to a blender and blend till smooth. Check for taste and add more Chili if desired. The sauce does thicken up quite a bit when you refrigerate it so if you like the consistency to be thinner, add some more water to it.



Enjoy it as a dressing on your salad, as a dip for a platter full of vegetables, over your noodles, as a dip for Chicken Satay, the world is your oyster! Do let me know how you used your homemade peanut sauce :)

Another variation to this recipe is that you may add in an onion that is sliced and sautéed till brown (not black) and add in with the other ingredients while blending.

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