Saturday Night Treats (Part 1 of 3) … Skewered Prawns with Zataar, Cumin and Red Chilli

Saturday Night and everything sucks on TV. And then I’ve kinda hung up my dancing shoes for a bit (which is a seasonal thing with me. And NO that doesn’t mean I’m in the winter of my youth… 😉 Besides I have a friend staying over who says that she dances like a horse, and I’m sure she wasn’t referring to the ones you see at show jumping events, so I really wouldn’t have been able to drag her along. But I’m not complaining. It is wonderful having friends over. It gives me another reason to cook and receive a compliment at the end of it, which I’m certainly not averse to.

Now I wanted to enjoy my evening in every way and didn’t want to end up stuck in the kitchen all evening, so I prepped everything in advance and kept it simple, which left me free to chatter away, play a couple of hands of UNO, sip on some extra spicy Bloody Marys and listen to some music… Perfect!

Here’s a sneak peak at the menu… 😉

1. Skewered Prawns with Zataar, Cumin and Red Chilli served with a delicious dip.

2. Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia 

3. Potato Salad with Spring Onions, Cucumber, Roasted Walnuts and Celery (with a home-made dressing… which I also used as a dip for the prawns).

But putting all of these into one post may just be too much, so I split ’em up into three starting with…

The Skewered Prawns with Zataar, Cumin and Red Chilli…

You’ll need about 20 prawns (medium to large sized with their tails on)

2 teaspoons zataar

1level teaspoon freshly pounded cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder

large pinch of salt

juice of 1/2 large lime

1 tablespoon honey

2 tablespoons evoo (extra virgin olive oil)

Start by cleaning the prawns, or if you have pre-cleaned prawns make sure that the vein (aka the poop-chute) has been removed. Now some of the larger sized prawns have 2 veins, at the front and at the back, so make sure you get both of them out completely.

Wash the prawns well and drain them thoroughly, then pat them dry before marinading them in the zataar, cumin, chilli powder, honey, lime juice and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil marinade. Don’t add the salt in just yet.

Keep your prawns marinading in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (An hour should also be okay if you’re in a hurry, but I prefer to keep them marinading longer).

When you’re ready to cook the prawns, sprinkle on the salt and skewer the prawns onto wooden skewers that have been soaking in water (This will prevent the skewers from burning) and brush with some of the marinade to which you have added the balance tablespoon of olive oil.

I used my trusty grill pan to grill the prawns

Then piled them onto a platter and served them with a dip/dressing I made from my own home-made mayonnaise and hung yoghurt.

I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Mini Quiche… Two for One

My love for quiche is a fairly recent one even though I’ve been eating them over the years. Some have been good, others decent, some sinking like lead and most of them way too eggy. The delicatessen counter at a well known 5 star hotel in Mumbai used to dish out a fairly decent spinach quiche, but a couple of bites and my stomach would feel like it had been through a 5 course meal. Can you imagine heading back to work after one of those and hoping you’d get through the afternoon and evening without …. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz ….

And then one day I started baking my own pies and quiche… and seldom ate one that was deli or store bought after that.

I used a simple flaky pie crust recipe for these, tweaking it a bit, and adding in some spice, just for fun.

For the Spiced Flaky Pie Crust you’ll need –

1 1/4 cup AP flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon paprika powder

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 cup cold butter (cubed)

3 – 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the butter and cut it into the flour. I used a cold fork (refrigerated) to break the butter down, and once that was done, I used chilled fingertips (mine, of course, rubbed with an ice cube till hey were short of numb ;-)) to mix the butter into the flour till it resembled coarse breadcrumbs. Now add the icy water, a tablespoon at a time, and working fast knead to form a dough. Cover the dough with cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 – 6 hours or overnight.

So now that you’ve got the dough all ready and sitting and chilling in the fridge you can get down to the business of the filling for your quiche.

I decided to make two different fillings, and follow two different methods. The first one had the filling put into the pastry with the custard poured on top, and the second quiche had the filling folded into the custard and spooned into the pastry lined tray.

Now I don’t recall if I’ve said this before, but I’m not really a big fan of full sized pies or quiche. They intimidate me, even though I’m quite aware that I can cut out just the portion I want. But anyway… what, or seriously where would I be without my little quirks, and mind you, I have quite a few of them. So I used my good old inch deep mini muffin trays to make these obviously mini quiche(s).

Quiche # 1 –

Duo of Mushroom with Babycorn*

Duo of Mushroom with Babycorn Mini Quiche

Ingredients –

4 – 5 ears of babycorn (depending on the size) – sliced

1/4 cup button mushrooms (sliced)

small handful of fresh baby oyster mushrooms

1 spring onion (sliced fine)

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon butter

 pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly milled)

4 medium cloves garlic

1 large green chilli (sliced down the centre, deseeded and sliced into semi circles)

Toss the spring onion with the garlic in hot oil, add the babycorn and sauté for a minute, before adding in the mushrooms, the butter, chillies and seasoning. Toss on high for a minute and turn off the heat. Keep aside to cool.

*(The filling is enough for at least 12 mini quiche, but I used just half the quantity as I was only making one 6 muffin tray full.)

For the custard you’ll need –

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk (I used low fat milk, but you can use full cream milk if you like)

2 tablespoons sour cream (omit this if you’re using full cream milk)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper powder (freshly milled)

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/3 cut grated cheddar

1/3 cup Cheddar Cheese for topping (grated)

Whisk the eggs, add the salt, pepper and nutmeg, and keep beating. Slowly add the milk, and finally the grated Cheddar. Note that I haven’t used salt in the custard since the cheese will have enough salt, so you don’t really need more.

The custard is enough for at least 14 – 15 mini quiche… so served me well for both the quiche recipes.

Thaw the pie crust for 15 minutes or so before rolling it out to roughly a 2 – 3 mm thickness. Cut out circles using a utter or an inverted circular lid.

Grease the muffin trays with some olive oil or melted butter. Place the pie crust into the trays, evening them out (if required) with your fingertips. Using a fork make a pattern with the tines of the fork in the pastry.

And with a short jabbing motion make 3 rows of holes into the bottom of the pastry, spoon in the mushroom and babycorn mixture, and pour over the custard.

Top with extra grated Cheddar and bake the quiche in a pre-heated oven at 210° C for 20 – 25 minutes, or till the quiche have set.

Quiche # 2

Pan-roasted Eggplant and Zucchini

Creamy Pan-roasted Eggplant and Zucchini Mini Quiche

Ingredients –

4 large slices (1 cm thick) eggplant (pan-roasted and chopped)

1/2 small zucchini (sliced, pan-roasted and chopped)

1 – 2 tablespoons oil for drizzling over the eggplant and zucchini before roasting

! large jalapeño chilli (deseeded and sliced)

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper

1 tablespoon grated Cheddar  (+ extra for topping)

Combine the above ingredients, and fold into the custard (you’ll need about a cup plus of the custard). Spoon the mixture into the prepared pastry lined muffin trays (I did not tine-design these), grate some Cheddar over the top of each quiche and bake them in your pre-heated oven as before.

A glass of wine would be just perfect now wouldn’t it?

Have a great day!

‘The Conspirator’ and ‘Terrine de Foies de Volaille’ or Chicken Liver Pâté with Bacon and Orange

I finally saw ‘The Conspirator’ on DVD, and while I know that it probably wouldn’t have run for more than a week or two at the most, and to mostly empty houses, it is a film I would most definitely recommend. In some way the film reminded me of ‘Amistaad’… (a young lawyer taking on a seemingly impossible case), and like ‘Amistaad’ a brilliant cast of lead actors turned out amazingly controlled yet heart-wrenching performances.

The film unfortunately wasn’t released in India (I guess because it bombed in the States as well) and if it wasn’t for my cousin who happened to pick it up I would never have seen it either, and would’ve missed out on Robin Wright’s sublimely controlled performance as Mary Surratt, the only woman convicted for her (alleged) role in the conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln.

As I just mentioned the film failed miserably at the box office, but then again the box office is merely a measure of popularity and not a gauge by which to measure quality cinema. Do see it if you haven’t and let me know what you think…

So… I’ve been away from blogging for a bit, which means I’ve had a fair amount of catching up to do, and that means catching up with what my fellow bloggers have been up to. For instance Annie, An Unrefined Vegan has a virtual vegan potluck going on (what a treat!), and Ramona from Curry and Comfort has been thrilling everyone with an amazing variety of posts… (that girl is soo amazing)… and then there’s Barbara or Smidge as she’s also known as from Just a Smidgen who baked an exquisite Lemon Meringue Rose Petal Cake that I couldn’t take my eyes off and Carol Anne aka Rock Salt who has made me right on curious about sampling Haggis… whether I finally do or not is another question altogether… but yeah I’m curious. And everyone else across all the other blogs I follow including the amazingly talented Dolly (adollyciousirony) from all about lemon, to my new blog friends, Johnny from Feed the Piglet and Peri from Peri’s Spice Ladle who’ve both nominated me for a Leibster Award apiece… my 3rd and 4th Leibsters respectively, which I promise to pass along soon… but not today. Meanwhile here’s a BIG thank you to Johnny and Peri for their generosity of thought and spirit…

Which brings me to today’s post which is all about liver… chicken liver… chicken liver pâté to be more specific, or as they say en française, ‘Terrine de foies de volaille’.

I love a good pâté, and while pâté de foie gras may have its epicurean admirers and critics alike, I prefer the more subtle and not so fatty terrine de foie de volaille or quite simply chicken liver pâté. I’m also quite fond of duck liver pâté with its rich almost nutty flavour and have sampled a fairly decent pork liver one as well.

Why, I even ate a mushroom pâté once… though I couldn’t for the life of me figure out where the liver was located on that baby 😉

But on a more serious note, whenever you mention the word pâté nowadays you’re usually greeted with mixed reviews and responses. But here in India most of the chicken breeders I’ve seen have large barns housing their chickens with feed scattered liberally around. So I guess I can say with a fair degree of certainty that no force feeding was involved in the making of this pâté. What did get involved though was a nice bottle of Remy Martin Fine Champagne Cognac. Some to cook the livers in, and then some more, blended in with the pâté, along with the zest and juice of an orange.


Here’s a list of the ingredients –

850gms chicken livers (this recipe also works for up to 1 kilo of chicken livers)

150gms back bacon

1/3 cup unsalted butter (I used white unsalted butter) (if you eliminate the bacon add another 1/4 cup or so of butter)

1/2 medium sized onion (thinly sliced)

4 small cloves garlic (minced)

1 large sprig marjoram (approx 1 tablespoon marjoram leaves)

2 bay leaves (I used dried but you can use fresh leaves)

1 heaped teaspoon pepper (freshly crushed or milled) + extra if you like

4 cloves

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1/4 cup cognac or whiskey (and then some…)

1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt (according to your taste)… I used 1/2 during the cooking process and 1/2 while pulsing the liver in the food processor

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

And now to the fun part

Clean the chicken livers well, removing the sinews, leaving them as whole as possible. Then wash and drain them thoroughly.

Zest and juice one orange.

Meanwhile chop up the bacon. Reserve both the livers and the bacon for later use.

Bring the butter to room temperature, mince the garlic and slice the onion.

In a large pan, toss the bacon with a tablespoon of butter to release its fats and cook till the bacon begins to crisp up, then add the onion and garlic and sauté on low, before adding in the bay leaves, cloves and the marjoram.

Immediately add in the livers and the orange juice and cook the livers for about 4 – 5 minutes, adding in 2 tablespoons of the cognac, till they begin to turn pink on the inside. Turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves and the cloves and allow the livers to cool, covered, for about 8 – 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon lift the livers, bacon, onions, garlic and marjoram out of the pan and into the food processor, and pulse, adding in the rest of the butter, a little at a time along with the rest (plus some ;-)) of the cognac, the orange zest, parsley, pepper and the rest of the salt. Keep pulsing until smooth.

Transfer the pâté into a bowl or into ramekins, cover with cling film, pressing it down onto the surface of the pâté, and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours until chilled and set (I prefer letting it sit for at least 24 hours).

I decided to freeze some for later, so I bottled it, poured in some melted butter over the top of the pâté. Covered the mouth of the bottle with cling wrap and put it straight into the freezer.

Enjoy the pâté spread as lavishly as you like on crackers or on thinly sliced bits of toast.

I also sliced up some of my Spinach, Sun-dried Tomato, Cheddar and Oat Loaf, toasted it… and served the pâté up along with some lovely home-made wine that my brother had gifted me a month ago.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Sunshine…Versatile… and a Plateful of Pakoras

I love deep-fried food. My weighing scale hates me for it, and as for my hips, I… (No, I won’t say it, coz then they’ll hang around like those uninvited relatives who come to visit bag-n-baggage in tow sans any return ticket), I’ve only just learned to adapt to their constant morphing instead of driving myself crazy when my body decides to get into the stockpiling business and add on the kilos.

Oh there were times I would weep and gnash my teeth and rend my clothes when the needle on the scale went south, but given that most of those clothes were in pretty good wear, I just decided to give them away instead of hoarding them in the hope that I would get back into them. I even have a dress I wore when I was a year old.

I still have this dress. And it’s in way better shape than this photo 🙂

I eventually gave up on the teeth gnashing when the enamel on my teeth started wearing off and I saw my dentist at the Porche showroom when it opened for advance bookings.

I dislike most dentists by-the-way. I kicked one in the jaw when he tried to gas me to knock off a tooth when I was four, and I’m still getting over the fact that the one next door to my parents’ house knocked out a few of my perfectly good molars to put in braces I didn’t need when I was twelve. He charged my parents a pretty packet and when the braces came off, my teeth decided to do their own thing and went right back to where they were. I had to endure a second round of orthodontic appliances attached to my teeth as an adult to fix the problem caused by the first set.

And now on to the fun part…

In early March I received a pleasant surprise from Donna @ The Sugared Pecan when she nominated me for the Sunshine Award.

Now February was a crazy month for me with house painting and setting up and work and internet woes which continued to plague me through March and into this month as well. Which meant that my internet time was interrupted and short, and I’ve had to juggle between trying to put up a post and follow up on my fellow bloggers. Sadly, I’ve fallen behind on both. I must try and remedy the situation soon… I must! I must!

As per the rules of the Sunshine Award, I should

– Include the award logo in a post or on my blog (Done)

– Answer 10 questions about myself (hmmmm… :-I… okay… rules are rules)

– Nominate 10-12 other bloggers I think merit a mention (I’ll try my best)

– Link the nominees to the post and let them know that they have been nominated (Sure… once I’m done nominating them)

– Link back to the person who nominated me (Doesn’t that go without saying :-))

And later that month, Susan from susartandfood nominated me for my second Versatile Blogger Award.

The rules of which are –

-Thank the person who gave me this award and provide a link to their blog (of course :-))

-Nominate 15 blogs/bloggers that I have recently discovered or that I follow regularly.

-Tell the person who nominated me 7 things about myself (hmmm…???)

-Include this set of rules.

-Inform the nominees by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

Let me start off by linking back and thanking Donna who has a delightful blog @ The Sugared Pecan and comes across as a wonderful person, warm and effusive and always a pleasure to read, with interesting recipes and lovely anecdotes that accompany them.


Thank Susan at susartandfood who as an artist, graphic illustrator, cook and writer seems to have a life that’s full of creativity and her cat 😉 among other things.

Here’s the next … the 10 questions (for the Sunshine Award)

My Favourite Colour – Sunshine Yellow

My Favourite Animal – Dogs (though I’d love to say Meerkat)

My Favourite Number – 1

My Favourite Non-Alcoholic Drink (why???) – Cranberry Juice

Prefer Facebook or Twitter – I don’t have a preference here. They both have their uses.

My Passion – Baking and Making my little Clay Men (though I haven’t had the time to do that in a while)

Prefer Getting or Giving Presents – Both… definitely

My Favourite Pattern – Really?… Footprints on wet sand

My Favourite Day of the Week – Saturday

My Favourite Flower – Narcissus

Now to the Seven things about Myself (as required by the Versatile Blogger Award)

I’ll be lazy here and just link back to the last one, since I they haven’t really changed.

And now on to the Nominations and to linking up to them

This is going to be a bit of a toughie since there are so many fantastic bloggers out there, but here goes, and as a Easter treat I’ll be clubbing them together which means all those mentioned here get a 2-in-1 Easter treat with both the Sunshine and the Versatile Blogger Awards coming their way.

And the awards go to –











Nominating your fellow bloggers for awards is such hard work because they are all so unique in terms of content, style and versatility, it’s really difficult to pick one over the other. So do go and check out these blogs. They are all incredible.

And now on to the treat after the awards are handed out and what better than a tasty snack that goes as well with a cup of chai, as it does with a cold beer.

Fritters are really quite popular around the world and here in India we’re no different. And because we’re such a vast country with so many different regions all different from each other in terms of language, culture and cuisine, every part of India throws up its own variation of some of the more popular foods on offer. The one dish that really bridges the gap between most cultures however is the Pakora. Known as Bhajjias [pronounced bha-gee(as in gee wiz)-yaas] in and around Mumbai where I live, this crunchy snack is a popular street food served piping hot straight off the deep fryer, and accompanied by both dry and wet chutneys.

The pakora or bhajjia can also take different forms and can be made from different vegetables or lentils, or combinations of the same. I prefer to make mine more in a tempura style, with cut slices or strips of assorted vegetables. Paired with a chutney or a spicy tomato or tamarind sauce they are the perfect any-time comfort food, especially when the weather turns cold or wet.

I used an assortment of veggies – Potatoes, Aubergines, Fat Green Chillies, Onions and Cauliflower.

Usually dipped in a batter made of chickpea flour, I used a combination of chickpea and rice flour (1:1/4 cup) to give them that extra crunch. And an assortment of spices, caraway seeds (1/2 teaspoon), cumin powder (1/2 teaspoon), red chilli powder (1/4 teaspoon), a pinch of turmeric powder, minced garlic (I crushed and minced @ large cloves to a paste like consistency), salt to taste, and a pinch of baking powder. Use about 1/3 cup of ice-cold water and a few ice cubes to make the batter.

Heat a large wok or deep-fryer with oil. I’ve never used a thermometer to test the temperature of the oil relying more on instinct, but you could drop a tiny blob of batter into the oil to test its readiness. If it rises up instantly and crisps up within seconds your oil is ready. Dip the sliced/cut veggies into the batter before lowering them into the oil. Do not overcrowd the wok/fryer, this will ensure that all the bhajjias/pakoras all cook evenly and crisp up nicely without getting soggy in the middle.

Drain them on a paper towel and sprinkle some extra cumin, salt and add a squeeze of lime or a drop of vinegar, and serve them with spicy chutney.

The chutney I made here is similar to the one I made for the Corn, Ricotta and Fenugreek Samosas, only this time I used very little peanuts and a lot more mint and coriander for that lighter more minty taste.

I’ll walk an extra hour tomorrow.

Corn, Ricotta and Fenugreek Samosas with a Peanut, Mint and Coriander Chutney

Why isn’t it the weekend yet?

We all love weekends, don’t we? Except possibly…. and quite understandably so, harried mothers of quadruplets with ADHD or workaholics for whom the work week never ends anyway. For me, weekends usually mean that I can sit and watch a bunch of films on my laptop because the TV stations air crap, and who watches the news on weekends. Frankly I stopped watching the news a while back, even on weekdays. ‘Breaking News’ is only so for the first 15 minutes, after 2 hours it sort of moves into the ‘Stale News’ segment. Someone should educate our news channels about that… yeah, imagine the running bar saying, ‘Stale News… we broke it an hour ago, but we’ve got nothing else to run with. Sorry.’

I love weekends anyway. Perhaps this weekend I’ll watch ‘The Help’ yet again, though I’m really not so much of a chocolate pie person ;-). Thank heavens! And I’ll rest my back which I put out trying to dismantle a three-door cupboard. Almost done with the cupboard, but had to stop because after taking off the doors and the drawers and the drawer rails and lugging all of it about, my poor back yelled ENOUGH. So that was that.

But weekends also mean good food and cooking and/or baking and I can’t wait anymore for the food fiesta to start. So here’s my lead up to the weekend… Samosas.

Like every Indian worth her or his salt, I’m a sucker for a good samosa. Meat filled or vegetarian, there are so many different fillings you can put into them. They are truly the most versatile snack especially when eaten with a nice chutney. But then I caught a glimpse or my burgeoning hips and almost decided not to make them, when the penny dropped.

I could bake ’em instead of using the dreaded deep fryer.

So these are my delicious little baked triangles of corn, ricotta and fenugreek (aka Methi) served with a peanut, mint and coriander chutney (sort of like an Indian pesto without the olive oil).

I’ll admit I slacked up a bit here, because I didn’t make the pastry dough, and I won’t blame it on the bad back. Al-right, who am I kidding, I shall… there! The bad back meant using samosa wrappers that you’ll find in the freezer section of most supermarkets. So that cut out a huge chunk of the work on these because all you’ve got to do is boil the corn till just done (al dente for corn) and drain it before proceeding with the rest of the recipe.

Here’s a list of the ingredients –

I cup corn kernels

2 cups fenugreek (methi) leaves

3/4 cup ricotta

1/2 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds

1 tablespoon toasted sunflower seeds

1/2 red onion (minced)

2 green chillies

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil (for the filling) + 1 tablespoon (with 2 tablespoons melted butter) for brushing the samosas

Samosa wrappers (as required)

2 tablespoons flour and little water to make a paste to seal the samosas

Sauté the onion with the chillies and cumin in the olive oil, and add in the washed and drained fenugreek leaves. Use a salad spinner if you like to get all that water out of the leaves before you put them into the pan. Cover and cook for a minute till the leaves wilt, then add the pre-boiled corn, and the salt. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove the lid and cook till all the water in the pan (if any) has evaporated. Leave the veggie mix aside to cool completely.

Meanwhile get started on your chutney, for which you’ll need –

1/2 cup peanuts toasted and skinned

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/4 cup coriander

juice of 1/2 lime

1 green chilli

4 – 5 large pods of garlic ( I had really teensy weensy ones so I used about 10)

1/2″ piece of ginger

3 – 4 tablespoons of water (more if you want it thinner)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Pulse the ingredients in a food processor until you get the consistency you desire, adjusting the water content accordingly. Add an additional squeeze of lime juice over the chutney once done, mix and transfer into a bowl. Cover with cling wrap until required.

Back to the samosas –

You’ll need to thaw the pack of samosa wrappers completely and separate them. Meanwhile add the ricotta and sunflower seeds to the cooled corn and fenugreek and mix well. Take one wrapper and fold over one end to make a triangle, and fold that end again so that you get a cone pocket. Spoon in your filling being careful not to overfill. Then fold over so the pocket shuts and fold again. Finally for the last fold over you may need to put in some sort of edible adhesive like an egg wash or flour mixed with water which works really well for these. And voilà, your samosa is almost ready to be baked.

But wait, before you get all excited you’ve still got a whole lot of filling and the samosa wrappers to go through. So back to work.

(Some of the photos here are a bit blurred. I thought about leaving them out, but then they chronicle the process. So here they are, I suppose it was difficult multi-tasking or was it the darn painkillers…hmmmm???)

Clear at last! I suppose the painkiller wore off

And then there was a plateful…

Brush these beauties with a mix of butter and olive oil, and bake them in a pre-heated oven at 220° C for about 15 – 20 minutes or till they are nice and golden brown.

You may need to turn them once to ensure that you get even browning on both sides, but keep an eye on these babies coz you dont want them burning.

Get that chutney out, plate up, and what are you waiting for? … Dig in!

The doctor did say that I was supposed to eat with those painkillers. So, here’s my plateful.

All mine!...errr... Doctor's orders.

Oh n before I forget… have a great pre-weekend!

That’s the sun from my window this evening.

Now isn’t nature a beaut?… Damn! It’s them meds talkin’ again.

Keeping it Simple Pizzas… Two for One

Had a craving for pizza the other day and somehow the pizza’s from the local pizzerias (I won’t name them but they’re pretty well known international chains) always seem heavy on the stomach, while making holes in the pocket. Not an ideal situation when you come to think of it. So figured it would be better to make my own, that way I could put in the ingredients of my choice, which meant just about anything I fancied eating, and know that the outcome would not only taste good but be worth every cent (err… rupee).

Now I’m a huge fan of keeping it simple, and with good ingredients, which at times may translate into being expensive but at others may not be quite so. And like a lot of Indians I love a bit of spice. So I went shopping and picked up a tub of Italian buffalo mozzarella and some Feta. The other ingredients I got from the local vegetable vendor. And since it’s December, the produce is not just fresh, it’s so much better, plump red tomatoes and gorgeously deep purple eggplant with the thinnest skin.

I used the pizza recipe from Anna Maria’s Open Kitchen, halving the ingredients, and still came up with two large pizzas. And to spice things up I added red chilli flakes into the dough while kneading it, letting it prove for 1 1/2 hours till doubled in size.Once doubled, cut the dough into two portions… I got two fairly large pizzas, about 10 1/2″ x 14″, and went classic for the first, with one of my all time personal favourites, the pizza margherita. I made my own chunky tomato sauce, using 3 large ripe tomatoes, 5 pods of garlic, balsamic vinegar ( 1 1/2 teaspoons), sugar (1/2 teaspoon), salt (1 teaspoon), a large pinch of black pepper and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Finishing off the sauce with a teaspoonful of chopped basil. Topping the pizzas with 8 – 10 fresh basil leaves and 60gms buffalo mozzarella.

Remember to spread the dough out as thin as you can possibly get it, using your fingertips. You can always patch up holes that may occur as you stretch the dough out, but it is important to get it as thin as possible otherwise the base of the pizza will be thick and more like focaccia than pizza. Spread the sauce onto the pizza base as lavishly as as you would like (I used all my sauce), followed by the basil and mozzarella, leaving a 3/4″ border free… and drizzle over with olive oil.

Bake the pizza at 250 degrees C in an oven which was preheated to 270 degrees C, turning on both the top and bottom elements for the last 5 – 10 minutes.

For the second pizza I wanted to do something quite different… so I made an Eggplant, Tomato and Feta Pizza with Walnuts and Rosemary. This pizza uses olive oil instead of a sauce base and makes a wonderfully light snack.

I used one large tomato – sliced thin, topped with slices of eggplant (6 slices – halved), a handful of roughly chopped walnuts, 60gms Feta – crumbled, 2 teaspoons of dried oregano, 2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary and 3 tablespoons of olive oil… mixing the oregano with half the olive oil and brushing it onto the dough, leaving a 3/4″ border.

Arrange the tomato slices, topped with the halved slices of eggplant, and sprinkled on the walnuts, feta and rosemary.

Drizzling on the remainder of the olive oil just before placing the pizzas in the oven which should be preheated to 270 degrees C. Reduce the temperature and bake the pizza at 250 degrees C for 30 – 35 minutes or till the edges begin to turn a nice golden brown, turning on both the upper and lower elements of the oven for the last 10 – 12 minutes. Keep a keen eye on the pizza at this stage to prevent it from browning more than required or burning… and what you’ll come up with is a deliciously light and tasty pizza

I served the second one, cut up into squares and I must say they made tasty little hors d’oeuvres.

Two completely different pizzas from one red chilli pizza dough.

Yum’s the word!

Spicy Minced Meat Puffs

If you read my earlier post on Strawberry Tarts, you’ll know that I owe this one to Kamran Siddiqi of the sophisticated gourmet, whose quick puff pastry recipe makes these puffs what they are… buttery, incredibly flaky and oh so delicious. Kamran’s pastry recipe is neutral and can be used for both sweet and savoury tarts or puffs, and in this recipe it provides a perfect home for the spicy minced meat filling, tempering down the heat of the ground spices and the chillies. I couldn’t stop eating them.

For the Spicy Mince filling you will need –

1 1/2 cups of beef mince (you can use chicken or vegetables)

I medium red onion – minced

*1 1/2 teaspoon cumin

*20 black peppercorns (you can use less if you like)

*5 cloves

*(dry roast and pound in a mortar)

1 teaspoon ginger garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon paprika

4 green chillies – chopped (you can use less and remove the seeds if you like it less spicy)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

squeeze of lime

3 tablespoons chopped coriander

Fry the onion in the oil for 5 – 7 minutes till light golden. Add the salt and continue to fry for 2 – 3 minutes on a medium flame.

Add the chopped chillies and all the ground and powdered  spices and roast for 3 – 4 minutes on a very low flame, stirring constantly. Be very careful that the spices do not burn.

Finally add in the minced meat and roast it along with the spices, before adding in a 1/4 cup of warm water and cook the mince covered for about 15 – 20 minutes or till all the liquid has evaporated.

Add the lime juice and the fresh chopped coriander and turn off the flame. Allow the minced meat to cool completely before using it in the puffs.

For the Puffs –

You will need 1 egg for the egg wash, apart from the puff pastry dough.

Roll out the dough to about 3 – 4mm thickness and cut into squares 31/2″ x 31/2″. Place about a tablespoonful of the minced meat in the centre of each square and brush the edges with egg wash.

Fold over to make a triangle.

Brush the tops of the puffs with the egg wash and bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for 35 – 40 minutes until the crust turns golden brown.

These puffs make great party snacks or even an evening treat… and are perfect for a light lunch served with a side of lettuce, sliced red radish and red onion rings in a light vinaigrette dressing.

And believe me when I say that they taste even better than they look!

Bacon wrapped Prawns… with honey and oregano

Almost everyone I know loves Bacon wrapped Prawns, cholesterol and religious compunctions notwithstanding.

So what do you do when you have a nice batch of tiger prawns delivered to your door, and you know it would be criminal not to eat them right away?

You think up ways in which to cook them, and then somewhere in there a light bulb pops, and you open the freezer and almost on auto-pilot fish out a big pack of back bacon.

Now, why back bacon you may ask, and not streaky. Well, I suppose I feel guilty from all the Christmas binging. But truth be told… I love back bacon and it is something you would always find in my freezer. Though I must add that Indian back bacon unlike its Canadian counterpart, which I love more than any other, has a fair amount of fat, which does away with the need for any oil in the marinade that goes onto the prawns.

So coming back to the dish… the prawns were so fresh all they required was a rasher of bacon apiece (12 rashers for 12 prawns), a heaped tablespoon of honey, a teaspoon of light soy, the juice of 1/2 a lime, a large pinch of white pepper and about 2 teaspoons of fresh oregano… (I didn’t add any salt because the bacon and the soy took care of that part of the seasoning).

Popping the bacon wrapped prawns into a 200 degrees C oven for about 12 – 15 minutes, or till the prawns just began to turn pink. Turning on the top element of the oven to allow the bacon to caramelise for an additional 2 minutes on each side.

Don’t forget to flip the prawns over from time to time… and don’t let the prawns overcook.

And this is it… beautifully caramelised Honey Oregano Bacon wrapped Prawns.

Anyone for a glass of Chardonnay?

… Or a beer?

Pan Grilled Barbecue Chicken

If you’ve ever lived in Mumbai you’ll know that this city just doesn’t have the space to set up a Barbi unless you append an e at the end!

But I have this grill pan that works wonders.

So I put together a few aromatics (read spices)… quite a few aromatics actually, pan roasted them just a tad to release their natural flavours and oils, and pounded them in my mortar and pestle.

The aroma was heady…

Caution: Don’t stick your nose too close to the picture

Then coated the chicken quite liberally with it…

So it sat, that chicken… soaking in all those wonderful flavours. And then it was time for the wet rub (I used a bit of yoghurt)…

Before it hit the sizzling hot grill…

And finally a good dunking into my own blend of barbecue sauce (the yoghurt features here as well… )

Bon Apetit!

Or should I swing hammer to gong n yell… “Come n get it!”