MONSOON has failed to keep its date, and Delhi continues to sweat it out with the mercury hovering around the 45-degree Celsius mark. I wish I could go on a vacation in a cooler place, but that’s not an option.
When I went to the kitchen this morning to make breakfast, I wondered if I actually needed to switch on the gas for cooking. Given the heat, things should have cooked on their own.
Jokes apart, the thought of eating anything hot was repulsing. So I decided to go raw.
I had picked up a packet of couscous during one of my last trips to a supermarket and what could have been better than that for a cold salad on a hot morning. I had capsicums and tomatoes and cucumbers in the fridge, besides a special summer ingredient – raw mangoes. I chopped everything and tossed them up with the couscous, seasoning it with a little dried rosemary, chilli flakes and lemon juice.
With all fresh ingredients going into it, nothing could have gone wrong with the dish. And nothing did. Here it goes:
Couscous: 1 cup
Chopped onions: ½ cup
Chopped cucumber: ½ cup
Chopped tomatoes: ½ cup
Chopped capsicums: ½ cup
Chopped raw mango: ½ cup
Salt: To taste
Pepper powder: To taste
Dried rosemary (optional): 1 teaspoon
Chilli flakes: ½ teaspoon
Juice of one lemon
Coriander leaves: 2 tablespoons
Preparation: Prepare couscous as per instructions on the packet. Usually, for one measure of couscous, you need an equal measure of hot/boiling water. Mix all ingredients together and season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes, lemon juice and dried rosemary.
Last words: I had fixed the salad in a hurry, so did not play much with the contents. You always have the option of using boiled peas, baby/sweet corn, shredded chicken and other interesting salad ingredients to add meat to the dish.
I AM always nervous when I try to bake something in my OTG. Never confident about the right temperature to be used, I cannot rest once the dish goes into the oven – even when I am going by a tried-and-tested recipe of someone else. I believe the perfect taste always depends on the right combination of the temperature, the ingredients used, their quantity and the texture. Maybe this is the reason the same dish cooked by 10 different people can give you 10 different tastes.
When my microwave conked off last week after I had made all preparations to bake fresh pizzas for some guests, I freaked out. Left with no option, my pizza had to take refuge in the OTG. My microwave comes with specific settings for different recipes. So I don’t have to bother once having put the food inside for cooking. But that’s not possible with OTG. With trembling hands, I decided on a temperature and stood in front of it, not giving it any scope to backfire.
It worked. See the photos, looks sinful, isn’t it? Well, I can assure you that the pizza tasted good too. Here is the recipe…
Ingredients: Pizza base, sliced onions, tomatoes and capsicums, pizza/pasta sauce, corn, chicken salami, parmesan/cheddar cheese (grated), oregano and chilli flakes.
Preparations: Pre-heat oven to 250 degrees C. Spread pizza sauce on the base. Layer all the vegetables, chicken and corn. Sprinkle the grated cheese on it, and sign off with chilli flakes and oregano, before putting it in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
Last words: You can make your quick pizza sauce at home by frying onions and tomatoes in 1:3 ratio with salt, sugar and oregano. Grind the mixture and your delicious pizza sauce is ready. You can also use capsicum and mushroom as sauce ingredients.
EVER wondered what would have happened to us foodies if God hadn’t created chicken? I hadn’t tasted chicken for the first 15 years of my life because the beauties were not allowed in my parents’ house, but my present kitchen is incomplete without chicken. I just can’t imagine a weekend meal without chicken, and I so missed them during scary bird flu days.
I like chicken not only for its taste, but also the tastes it can be given to, and love its ability to get cooked so fast.
I was going through this wonderful blog the other day and came across a beautiful pork recipe (http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2008/08/spicy-shredded-pork/). I wanted to cook it, but there was no pork in my fridge. Besides, it was to take a lot of time. I at once decided to replace pork with chicken. The result was a surprise. And I named it so — Chicken Surprise.
It was spicy (not too much from Indian standards, though), juicy and tender. And my Chicken Surprise surprised me more the next day by tasting even better. Thank you “thepioneerwoman” for the inspiring recipe.
Food for Thought: Chicken Surprise
Boneless chicken breasts: 1 kg
Dried oregano: 1 teaspoon
Cumin powder: 1 teaspoon
Chili flakes: 1 teaspoon
Salt and pepper: To taste
Garlic: 3-4 cloves
Olive oil: 1-2 tablespoons
Vinegar: Half cup
Brown sugar: 1/4 cup
Onion: 2, medium
Preparation: Rinse the chicken breasts and marinate with salt, pepper and a little vinegar and set aside. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Make a fine paste of oregano, cumin, chili flakes, salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, onions cut into quarters, vinegar and brown sugar in the mixie. Now, pour the mixture over the chicken breasts, quoting them completely. Put the marinated chicken in the baking tin, add one cup of water and cover it with aluminium foil before putting it in the oven. After around 30 minutes, turn the pieces once and bake for another 20 minutes or so. When the chicken is tender, remove the foil and break up the pieces a bit. Increase the temperature to 180 degrees and let the chicken roast for another 5-10 minutes. When it’s done, wait for some time and take out the chicken breasts in a serving bowl before doing the shredding — yes, manually. I used two forks as suggested in the original recipe. It was a bit tedious but worked fine. Once the shredding is done, pour the juice over it. Serve it with breads of your choice and salsa, or anything that suits your taste.
Last words: Though I replaced pork with chicken, I tried to follow the original recipe otherwise. But I am still not sure if pork and chicken can be cooked in similar temperature settings. Different settings may just produce even better results. So, go ahead and try your own trusted temperature combinations.
Around 20 years ago, when I had pasta for the first time at my aunt’s place, I did not find it worth the hype. It tasted good, but there was nothing out of the world about it. However, neither the dish, nor the cook could be blamed for that, for while my aunt had never tasted the original pasta before, the mute macaroni could not tell her it was not supposed to be cooked the Chinese way.
I did not get to taste the authentic pasta until the first year of the next millennium when I landed in Mohali for my first job. After reading about all things Italian in Mills & Boon stories – from good-looking Italian men to the food they ate – my roommate and I decided to experiment pasta and rushed to this small and not-frequented-by-many joint, Manbeer Pizzeria, near our house.
There was no menu card, but the owner-cum-chef greeted us with a smile and asked what we would like to have. “Pasta,” we said in chorus.
“Macaroni, penne or spaghetti?”
“You don’t have pasta?”
Apologies for my ignorance all these years ago. The chef was, however, still civil to us and explained pasta with great patience. I don’t know if it was because the dish was devoid of proteins (my roommate was a vegetarian), but I did not enjoy the meal much, though it tasted way different from how I cooked it, yes the Chinese way.
A few metres away from Manbeer Pizzeria was another eating joint, Amrit Confectionary – famous for its ice-cream sundaes. Having exhausted all the ice-cream options on the menu, I ordered a chicken pasta one day.
And I have never looked back.
Pasta – and most things Italian (only on the food front, nothing to do with the country’s connection to India’s national politics) – has been my favourite fast food, comfort food and staple food. Even though the taste of Amrit’s pasta still lingers on my taste buds, I have tasted and loved the Italian fares served at several other places too – from Pema Thang in McLeodganj to Infinity (DoubleTree) in Delhi.
Ritu Dalmia’s Italian Khana made things even easier for me as I can now add variety to my Italian cooking, as I get my dishes sprinkled with her expertise and skills. Try out this simple pasta recipe of mine and tell me if you liked it. I dedicate this to Italy for giving to the world’s foodies such a wonderful gift.
Food for Thought: Prawn ‘n’ Pasta
Fusilli: 1 packet
Pasta sauce: 4 tablespoons
Prawns: 500 g
Onions: 2 (medium)
Garlic: 6 cloves
Capsicum: 1, sliced
Tomato: 1, sliced
Black olives: 3-4
Mozzarella cheese: To taste
Dry oregano leaves: 1 teaspoon
Dry basil leaves: 1 teaspoon
Salt: To taste
Pepper: To taste
Vinegar: 2 tablespoons
Preparation: Marinate prawns with salt, pepper and white vinegar for an hour. Cook fusilli pasta al dente (the Italian for to the bite), with a little olive oil and salt, and set aside. In a pan, heat olive oil and add crushed/chopped garlic. Once the garlic starts getting brown, add onions sliced in half circles, followed by capsicum, tomatoes, salt and the herbs. Once the vegetables are cooked but still crunchy, add the marinated prawns. Cook for five minutes or till the water released by the prawns dries up. Add the pasta sauce and the cooked fusilli and mix on medium flame. Sprinkle grated cheese and serve hot with your choice of bread or just like that.
Last words: You can use any pasta in place of fusilli — macaroni, penne, spaghetti, fettuccini, farfalle et al. For al dente (tender but still firm when bitten into), the advice is to cook them as per instructions on the packet. The standard method says you should use 8 quarts of water (at least) for each pound of pasta, submerging it well and cooking it by the watch, stirring it all the time to avoid sticking. But this may not work with all the varieties because different kinds of pastas may require different amounts of water and time. Onions can be sliced in any shape, but round of half circles make them stay crunchier after cooking. While marinating cleaned prawns, ensure it is deveined. Though it is a matter of preference for many, I prefer deveining because I think it makes the prawns juicier from inside. As far as pasta sauce is concerned, I used Ragu (in photo), but there are several other options available in the market.
Well, sandwiches are supposed to be quick, aren’t they? It’s another thing that some people, like me, can while away hours over a cup of coffee and a sandwich.
Two slices of bread with something in between used to be the most regular feature in my lunch box that I took to school. The “something” was often ghee and sugar. I am sure some of you are making faces, but it didn’t taste that bad when I think about it now.
I liked it best when the two buttered slices came with thin cucumber discs.
I am a huge Subway fan ever since I first tried their chicken teriyaki sub with sweet onion sauce. Before that, it was the chicken sub-sandwich that I used to get at Hot Million’s, Chandigarh, that I called my favourite. I don’t quite dislike the usual Russian salad filling either, provided it’s made with brown bread.
The other day when I woke up late and realised it was almost time for my husband to leave for office and I did not have much time to pack his lunch box, I thought of fixing a quick sandwich of a few things that I had in my fridge. The few things were a packet of chicken salami, a variety of imported cheese, and the raw salad from the previous night’s leftover.
The dish turned out, well, quite palatable. I can say that because my husband remembered to mention that after returning from office.
So, here is today’s Food for Thought: Quick chicken sandwich
Bread: 4 slices
Cheese spread: 2 table spoons
Cheddar cheese slice: 2
Grated goat cheese: 2 table spoons
Chicken salami: 2 slices
Tomato sauce: 1 table spoon
Pasta seasoning (optional) to taste
Pepper powder to taste
Preparation: Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Mix cheese spread and tomato sauce and spread it on all four slices of bread. Take one of the pieces and layer it with onions, capsicums and chicken salami. Sprinkle grated cheese, pepper powder and the pasta seasoning, if available. Cover it with another piece of bread and repeat the procedure with the other two slices. Put the sandwiches on a greased baking tray and grill it for approximately 10 minutes or till the cheese starts melting. Turn the sandwiches after spraying a little olive oil and grill it further for 5 minutes at the most. Cut them into triangles and serve with a dip or sauce of your choice.
Last words: You can use any cheese or bread of your choice. Just be careful with the temperature for the right crispiness. Though I had packed it in my husband’s lunch box, it tastes better when served freshly baked. Don’t forget your workout after ‘dishing in’ this calorie bomb.