Prawns with Stir-fried Mushrooms

Went to the movies today. My friend suggested we catch the latest Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows. Now I had seen the first one a couple of years ago, and well, lets just say that it wasn’t one of my favourites. You know the kind of film you see once, and even that’s too much. So I couldn’t figure for the life of me what I was doing agreeing to go squander an evening seeing Robert Downey Jr. play that role again.

Now I’ve got nothing against Robert Downey Jr. I  honestly think he’s a brilliant actor, but I’m a Jeremy Brett loyalist, and I couldn’t wrap my head around Downey playing a role that Brett owned so completely that every other actor who preceded or succeeded him in that role, paled in comparison. But yeah I did go, and this time I didn’t regret it… Or perhaps it was because I was really in the mood for something Bollywood, and this film fit the bill, right down to the last slow-mo punch, rattle and shake. 

But it was nice seeing Stephen Fry on screen after quite a while, and Noomi Rapace, though her role was quite ornamental. A waste of talent… but then it is a good stepping stone up into the big league. Stephen Fry on the other hand, and I absolutely love the man, could do with a short run round the block for a couple of months. Oh, do spare us the unnecessary display of flesh the next time around Mr. Ritchie.

And speaking of fat… I saved some from the bacon I had for breakfast this morning. Yeah, yeah, I know, I ought to be cutting back on calories. But then what’s life without bacon huh?

Anyway after the film I really felt like eating something light and delicious, so I decided to rustle up a quick and easy Prawn with Mushroom. And since I had both dried shitake and oyster mushrooms in my pantry, figured a duo of mushrooms would be good, with some garlic, onion and green chillies. That’s it, light and simple, with soy and oyster sauce, honey, and a bit of sesame seed oil… and yes, a tablespoon of white rice vinegar. All served up on a bed of rice.

All it took was -

12 large prawns

A large handful each of dried shitake and oyster mushrooms (washed and steeped in boiling hot water for 20 minutes)

2 medium cloves of garlic – sliced fine

1/2″ piece of garlic – sliced fine

1 medium onion – cut into chunks or large dice

3 green chillies – sliced

1 tablespoon white rice vinegar

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

2 tablespoons sesame seed oil

3 tablespoons bacon fat (for frying the prawns)

1 1/2 teaspoon cornflour

A pinch of white pepper

Salt (to taste – if required )

Clean and wash the prawns and pat them dry. Slice then down the back to butterfly them. Marinade them in light soy, vinegar and honey, a 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour, and a pinch of salt if required. Let it sit for about 20 minutes – while the mushrooms are steeping in the hot water. When the mushrooms are done, drain them and reserve some of the strained liquid. Chop the shitake mushrooms into bite size pieces (not too small).

Fry the prawns in the bacon fat on high heat, just a couple of minutes on each side to get a nice sear and drain. (This is the only really indulgent part of this recipe – but the bacon fat does wonders to the prawn, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.)

Meanwhile heat up your wok, nice and hot, and add the sesame oil, being extremely careful not to burn it. Quickly toss in the garlic, ginger and half the green chillies, before adding the shitake mushrooms, tossing them around for 3 – 4 minutes. You can add a few tablespoons of some of the reserved mushroom liquid now, followed by the oyster mushrooms and continue to stir-fry on high.

Add in the diced onions, the dark soy and oyster sauce, about a 1/4 cup of the mushroom liquid and the balance cornflour and stir-fry for about 4 – 5 minutes. You can add a pinch of salt (if required) at this stage. I didn’t. And a pinch of white pepper.

And add the prawns, giving them a quick flip around, to catch all the juices from the mushrooms.

Serve on a bed of fluffy white rice… oh and if you have some spring onion greens you could use them as garnish. I didn’t have any, but it didn’t make a difference. It was still a delicious, light, healthy and soul satisfying meal after an evening of popcorn and an average film.

The perfect way to end the day!

Creamy Chickpea Soup

There’s nothing like a bowl of soup when you’re feeling under the weather. Especially a hearty soup, one that warms the bones, fills the stomach and gives you that feeling of deep satisfaction and contentment before you crawl under the covers to get a good night’s sleep… Whether it’s chicken soup or…

Chickpea…

Or perhaps a bit of both.

Now, I love chickpeas in any form. I can eat them boiled and in a salad, or simply with some red chilli, lime and salt. or as hummus, or made into a delightfully spicy Chana Masala.

But I felt the sniffles coming on, so soup it was, and to keep the contentment quotient high I figured I’d go both, the chickpea and chicken soup route.

This is my version of a Creamy Chickpea Soup with home-made low-fat chicken stock. But if you prefer to keep the soup vegetarian, you can use a vegetable stock instead. I’ve also used low-fat milk instead of cream. So you have a protein packed meal, full of goodness and taste, without the unnecessary calories.

This is a very simple and easy to make recipe. The trick however lies in slow cooking the chickpeas, twice over… First boiling them (about 2 cups of the chickpeas) in about 3 1/2 cups water. You can add in a quarter cup each of diced celery and carrots, and one small potato, cubed and peeled. Cook till the chickpeas and potatoes are just done.

(And yes… before you do any of this, don’t forget to pre-soak the chickpeas before you boil them, for a minimum of 4 hours or overnight so that they plump up. Then drain and rinse well before boiling.)

Here are the ingredients:

1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas (soak for 4 – 8 hours in 3 cups water)

1 small potato – cubed

3 tablespoons olive oil + extra to drizzle when served

1 medium red onion – minced

4 – 5 large cloves of garlic – minced

1/2″ piece of ginger – minced

1 small sprig of curry leaves

2 large ripe tomatoes – blanched and puréed

1 teaspoon toasted ground cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

3 1/2 – 4 cups low fat chicken stock

1/4 cup low fat milk

1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

1 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

2 tablespoons fresh coriander – chopped fine (+ extra for garnishing)

*(optional 4 rashers bacon – cooked and crumbled)

Once the chickpeas are done, drain off the liquid. Reserve about a cup of the chickpeas and purée the balance along with the potatoes (you can add in the celery and carrots as well) in a food processor along with  a 1/2 cup of warm chicken stock, until smooth.

In a large pot, keeping the flame very low, sauté the onion with the minced garlic and ginger in olive oil until just translucent, before adding in the curry leaves and the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 – 7 minutes.

Add in the paprika, the cumin and about a half teaspoonful of freshly milled black pepper. Cook for 10 minutes before adding the puréed chickpeas and the balance chicken stock. You can put in the salt at this stage, then cover and cook on a slow flame for about 50 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. If you prefer a thinner soup, you may add an additional half cup of stock halfway through the cooking process. Finally add in the reserved whole chickpeas, balsamic vinegar and sugar and cook for an another 20 – 25 minutes.

Just before serving, add in the milk (you can substitute the milk for 3 tablespoons of fresh cream), a few more twists of the pepper-mill and the chopped coriander, Stir well to allow all the flavours to intermingle.

Finish off the soup with a drizzle of olive oil, and a some of that lovely green coriander… or you could sprinkle on some crispy bacon bits instead, and serve hot with warm freshly baked Chilli Chive n Cheddar Bread Rolls.

Chicken, Peas and Parsley Pies

I love butter and I love pastry. But working with it is a challenge in Mumbai where the temperature is anything from hot to hotter to hottest. So I stuck my hands in ice cold water and rubbed them with ice-cubes to keep them cold.

I made these pies in a muffin tray. Individual servings,  perfect for a light lunch or dinner… or even as an in-between-meals kinda snack.

You can fix yourself a salad on the side, in case you feel guilty about all that butter in the pastry, and want something to cut that fat… But it’s quite unnecessary.

These pies don’t feel heavy on the stomach at all… and butter is in any case good for the soul.

Chicken and Parsley Pies