Roast Chicken in a Spicy Yoghurt Marinade

When you think of serving up a spicy Indian chicken the first thing that comes to mind is tandoori chicken. But most places serving tandoori chicken apart from the spices they use, tend to incorporate some sort of food colouring that leaves your fingers tinted a strange reddish-pink even as you tear off a nice chunk. In my opinion Indian spices really don’t need additives. Varied in terms of levels of heat, taste, texture and colour, Indian spices can well do without food colouring to make any dish using them look appetising.

Besides what do you do if you don’t have a tandoor? I don’t have one, and I suppose neither do many people living in apartment buildings. In fact even an open barbecue or wood-fired grill is a no-no for most city dwellers, and we can’t always call in for take out.

So here’s a simple oven-roasted chicken with Indian spices. Marinaded in lime juice, yoghurt, fresh roasted and powdered cumin and coriander seeds, kashmiri chilli powder, a coarse ground regular hot red chilli powder (you could substitute with sweet and hot paprika), ginger and garlic powder, a pinch of nutmeg and clove powder, turmeric powder, salt to taste, chopped fresh mint and a touch of olive oil instead of butter (since I’m watching my weight), this is an on-the-go, quick marinade which can be whipped up in no time. You don’t even need to roast an entire chicken like I did. Thaw your piece/s of chicken overnight, then whip up the marinade in 10 minutes tops, lightly salt the chicken and add a 1/2 teaspoon of lime, let it sit for 10 minutes, pat it dry, coat the chicken with the marinade, cover it with cling film and stick it back into the fridge (not the freezer).

When you get back from work, get the chicken out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature while the oven pre-heats, and either bake it covered in foil or roast it open in the oven. You can even marinade boneless cubes of chicken, skewer them onto metal skewers with an assortment of bell-peppers, onions and tomatoes and roast them in the oven or on the barbecue till done.

Roasting chicken always makes me think of family and sitting down at the table with so much food we’d be spoiled for choice. My parents weren’t the indulgent sorts though. Rather strict in the way they raised us, we had to say grace and sit at table while we ate (none of that TV dinner stuff), making wholesome conversation, and finishing off what was on our plates, taking it in turn to clear, unless of course you were a habitual malingerer, which meant you had perennial table-clearing privileges until you saw the folly of your ways and made amends. Raised in god-fearing Catholic homes my parents brought us up by the book, with the occasional paddle and cane, but they made sure we were well fed and well schooled, not just academically but in the niceties of life. ‘The well-brought-up versus the dragged-up’ as my mum would say, referring to some of the more free spirited kids who lived down the road, who roamed around with slippered feet and crumpled clothes. She made sure despite raising three of us almost single-handedly (my dad was in the merchant navy) that our clothes were ironed to military crispness and our ears were washed, that our homework was done on time and that we brought home a good report card or we would have hell to pay. She also made sure we ate a balanced diet which most definitely included a selection of veggies at every meal and different meats and fish. But what I really looked forward to was the roast chicken she made. In-charge of the stuffing, I had to do it in the order she laid down, no different, chopping to exact proportions and in a sequence she had mastered. Rather difficult for a rebellious Scorpio child who was itching to break-free and do her own thing. The marinade too was one she had perfected, honey glazed with a few additions that made it her own. But the stuffing was something else, packed with cubes of fried bread and potatoes with fried chicken livers, crispy bacon bits, green peas, carrots, raisins and an assortment of nuts, then liberally laced with whiskey. It took the stuffing to as close to culinary heaven as you could get.

But I’m not venturing down that road. That one’s reserved for Christmas at my parent’s home and the stuffed turkey or chicken which is the mainstay of the meal.

So this is my simple Indian style roast chicken, marinaded with yoghurt and a host of spices.

Encase the chicken in foil and slow roast it for 45 minutes to an hour at 250 degrees C until the chicken is tender, Then unwrap the chicken from the foil and drain out the marinade, adding it to any reserve marinade and roast the chicken uncovered on a wire rack placed over the baking tray, until crisp on the outside for another 30 – 40 minutes, taking care to turn it around occasionally. Keep basting the chicken from time to time with the reserve marinade and juices. This will ensure that the chicken stays moist even as the skin crisps up.

Meanwhile heat up the reserve marinade and juices from the chicken and add a couple of tablespoons of honey… well more than a couple (4 – 5 more like it).

Serve the chicken garnished with lime, onion rings, slices of tomato and sprigs of fresh mint leaves.

Spoon some of that reduced sauce over the chicken and pour yourself a glass of Merlot or Shiraz, my wines of choice with this dish.

Have yourself a fabulous weekend.

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Rustic Hand-rolled Country Duck Egg Tagliatelle with a Bolognese Sauce

The thing about heart-warming food is just that… it’s about food from the the heart. Soul food, it remind you of home, elevates you when you’re down in the dumps and makes you feel better when you’ve got the sniffles. It helps you get over heartbreak, or the disappointment about the promotion that never came through. Heart warming food can mean a lot to most people, unfortunately in my experience it’s usually food that’s a tad heavy. Heavy soups or stews and big bowls of steaming pasta with rich sauces usually does it for me. Which means I can’t enjoy it come the Indian summer with its blistering heat, which incidentally is just around the corner. So while the weather’s still fair I thought I should experiment with something I’ve been dying to make for the past few months. Only I was way too busy at the time and it got shelved, but not forgotten.

Duck eggs bring back memories of my grandparent’s home with their backyard full of chickens and ducks. I think they had geese too on occasion, but I was terrified of them, their large beaks a-honking and legs that flew through the air and straight at you. I didn’t quite mind the chickens though I stayed away from the hens, and I loved eggs. I’m an egg-freak, but duck eggs weren’t my particular favourites, even though I was quite fond of the ducks who did their own thing and left you to your own. I acquired a taste for duck eggs much later, particularly when they were in an omelet or a frittata with loads of veggies or herbs. You still won’t catch me eating them boiled.

So my mum grew up with her own ducks and hens and had fresh warm eggs every morning, while we unfortunate city dwellers of the next generation are compelled to buy them off supermarket shelves, with labels suffixed with words that read ‘Regular’, ‘Country’, ‘Brown’ and more recently, ‘Power’ and ‘Enriched’…. with what I wonder… Uranium?

I guess I shouldn’t ask if I don’t want to know.

So Duck Eggs are an acquired taste, with a flavour distinctly stronger from that of chicken eggs. In addition they also contain more fat and far more cholesterol than the regular chicken egg, but conversely they also contain loads of protein. So it’s not all bad news except for those who need to watch their cholesterol levels. Besides have you seen a duck egg yolk… a deep yellow orange and large, you’ll be tempted to at least try one out.

So the label on the box at the supermarket said ‘Country Duck Eggs’ and I’ve been inspired by Cheryl, the Pasta Princess who keeps enticing me with lovely photos and recipes of all the colourful pasta she comes up with, but virtual/visual treats just aren’t enough once the taste-buds go wild. So I had to get down into the trenches, roll up my sleeves and get to work. Thanks for the inspiration Pasta Princess 🙂 This one’s for you.

This is also dedicated to my grandparents on both sides (long deceased and missed) and to simple country living and loads of good eating. So in true form I shunned the pasta machine preferring to go completely rustic on this one. Kneading, rolling, and cutting the pasta by hand. And this is it. Duck Egg Tagliatelle served with what else but a meaty Bolognese Sauce (my version made with minced beef (200gms), bacon (3 rashers), chicken stock (1 cup – beef stock is better if you’ve got it), lovely ripe tomatoes (3 large or 4 medium), loads of garlic, aubergines (2 – small), green olives (4 – 5), red wine (1 cup), a splash of balsamic, cumin powder (I love cumin :-)), paprika, and a whole lotta herbs (oregano, basil. a bay leaf and parsley). Not forgetting the cheese (I used Pecorino). So that’s one heavy, heady, meaty sauce, the sort that sticks to your pasta and bones. Stuff that grandma would say was “good for you child”.

Making the pasta isn’t all that difficult, though it does call for some muscle. You’ve got to put your body into it.

I cooked up just enough for one or two if you’re like me and prefer many many small meals through the day.

This is all you’ll need for the pasta –

3/4 cup flour (more for dusting, rolling etc…. a whole lot more actually)

1 duck egg

pinch of salt

1/2 tablespoon of olive oil

2 tablespoons water

First things first – Wash/clean your work surface and hands thoroughly. Then dump the flour onto the cleaned and dry work surface, make a well in the centre and break your egg into it. It’s always better to break the egg into a bowl and then ease it into the well especially with duck eggs because the shells are hard to crack and you don’t want bits of shell in your pasta.

Add the water, olive oil and salt to the egg and whip it up a bit before slowly bringing the flour in to the centre of the well. If the dough is too sticky add a little more flour at a time until the flour and egg are well combined into a dough.

Now comes the muscle… the part where you fold and press, then fold and press down again, and again… and again, for the next 4 to 5 minutes till the dough isn’t quite so springy and pliable any more.

Finally cover with cling film and leave to rest for about 30 minutes.

After the dough has rested, unwrap and pat it down into a circle of your work surface.

Sprinkle a little flour and taking your rolling pin made an indentation band in the middle of the dough and roll out one side and then the other.

Keep rotating the dough, or rather it does it on its own as you continue to roll. The springiness of the dough reducing as you roll it thinner and thinner until the sheet is about a millimetre or less, and has almost lost its elasticity.

Fold the sheet about an inch or so and keep repeating till the entire circle of dough has been folded.

Take a sharp knife and cut strips about a centimetre thick.

Work quickly at this stage opening up the ribbons of pasta nd leaving them to dry for 3 – 4 minutes (I draped them over a lightly floured plate) as you bring the pot of water to a boil.

Add in a tablespoon of salt and drop the pasta into the boiliing water. Your pasta should be done in 3 minutes or so, as it will rise quickly to the surface. Lift the pasta out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil before spooning on that delicious Bolognese. Finish with fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley and grated Pecorino Romano cheese.

Grandma must be smiling, that’s for sure 🙂

Have a great weekend.

Good ol’ Caramel Rum n Raisin Cupcakes and a couple of Kites

I’m not huge on frostings. Seriously. Most times when I’m faced with a cupcake laden with frosting, I tend to have a pile of frosting sitting on the side of my plate. And believe me it does take some dexterity to get that frosting off without losing the top of your precious cupcake lying beneath. 

So, there it is, I’ve said it. I like a cupcake without frosting and don’t you tell me to eat a muffin instead. For starters, there’s a huge difference between the two, though with many a patisserie churning out cakey muffins, the true more bready muffin with its pat of butter is finding its identity merging with that of its sweeter, cakey cousin. I love muffins by the way, but today is about cupcakes, though the batter was so moist I ended up adding a little more flour than my recipe originally called for. I thought I’d have to re-christen it a muff-cake, but that bordered on x-ratedly weird, so I ditched the idea. What’s a touch of extra flour when the result is this boozy, decadent, moist and heavenly cake in a couple o’ bites.

It all started with this pair of kites outside my window and their quest to build a nest. Now how difficult do you think building a nest would be for a couple of kites, given that they are pretty much the largest birds in these skies.

The Home-maker... twig in beak

The home-maker...twig in beak

Massively difficult as I found out. Though at the end of the day, or the week more like it, the kites did prevail. It kind of made me think of a pregnant Mary doing the round of inns in Bethlehem with Joseph, and having the door slammed in her face. Only this time around it was the crows who played dirty. What’s it about crows playing spoilsport to a pregnant kite. Predator like they dive-bombed the poor kite who valiantly tried to hold her ground at first, then hopped about from branch to branch desperately holding on to an all too large twig she had carried up into the tree, before dropping it and screeching for help.

And it arrived. Her mate, careening in at top speed into the murder of crows, seven of them, at times even nine, scattering them about, before the nasty critters regrouped (apologies to all you crow lovers out there) and turned on him, chasing him off, pursuing him from tree to tree, pecking at his tail feathers.

we're watchin' you... with our little black beady eyes

I’m not merely talking the common house crow here, but also the more vicious jungle variety, larger, black and sharper beaked, almost raven-like. Two hours every morning, and then they were gone, off to gloat about their little victory over the kites who after the crows departed each day would go into high gear, building twig upon twig, but to no avail. The next day would find the crows back at their vicious game, the mess of twigs dismantled, the dive-bombing back on point. But the doughty kites persisted, and the crows finally gave up. I’d like to believe that they were just messing around and realised they’d gone too far. Whatever it was, it meant that the nest was up, twigs, cloth, cotton and whatever else the kites could muster. I caught a glimpse of what I thought was an egg yesterday, there must be, because mama kite sits in the nest all day, while her mate dutifully tends to her, bringing tasty tidbits and sitting on the branch of the adjoining tree screeching out what I can only assume to be the kite equivalent of “any time now” to every passing avian who would care to know.

And then I was meeting a friend for dinner and two good things in one day called for a treat. Rum n Raisin’s always a winner… but with a twist. Or squeeze as it turned out, (a good couple of squeezes in fact) of Hershey’s caramel syrup (and no… Hershey’s isn’t paying me a dime. Though if any one from Hershey’s reads this post I have a list on the ready, and I would be grateful if they obliged :-))

I ended up using a little more flour than I normally use for this recipe, close to 1 1/3 cups (because the caramel syrup and rum made the batter a bit more runny than I expected) to my cup of butter (softened) and powdered sugar (+ 2 tablespoons of the sugar). Creamed the butter n sugar before adding in two eggs, a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract and the flour which I sifted with a level teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of baking soda. I used dark raisins (aka black raisins… about 3/4 of a cup and some currants (1/4 cup) that had been steeping for a couple of months in rum. Oh yeah! Adding in 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoonful of granulated sugar just to take it a notch higher.

Ummm…

Don’t forget to add in a couple of tablespoons of the rum the raisins have been steeping in as well.

And then…

Now, I could have made caramel from scratch, but then I figured I’d let Hershey’s owe me one 😉 So about 4 large tablespoons of caramel syrup. And that was it, incorporate everything well, none of that measured muffin folding technique required here.

deliciously decadent!

I allowed the batter to sit for 10 minutes before filling up the cupcake liners about 3/4 of the way. Then baked them in a pre-heated oven at 200° C for 15 – 18 minutes.

Let the cupcakes cool completely before biting into an explosion of flavours. Rum… raisin… caramel… and yeah… ‘Don’t Eat n Drive!’

Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

I made my first submissions to YeastSpotting last week and it’s got me pretty fired up. Which basically means that on any given day after all my other work is done, I’m hands deep in flour. Which also means that I probably need to invest in a bread-machine. But then I don’t want to lose the thrill of kneading the dough, working it, while it clings to your fingers at first and then lets go… that’s something which will be hard to pass up.

So no bread-machine… well at least for now. At least not until I decide to open a little bakery or follow my heart and head to the hills and open my little café.

I heard raucous shouts this morning while I was fixing my mug of coffee. There’s work going on in the building complex next door, and the migrant labourers the contractor has employed all sleep in the stilt parking space on the ground floor of the building facing mine. They’ve mosquito netted their sleep area, wise in this season, where despite the repellents the critters still manage to sneak in. Anyway, today’s raucousness was the result of a rather exuberant lot of the younger men, boys really, playing football (soccer), with an old pretty beat-up and tattered ball. But that didn’t stifle their enthusiasm. They played with such abandon, shouting out at each other to pass the ball, then deftly manoeuvring it through the obstacle-course of bamboo poles, clumps of rope and pipes.

Goal! one of them yelled, as he shot the ball into what was apparently the goal, and his team converged on him, the opposing goalie looking crestfallen for a second and then joining in the cheering.

What joy. I almost forgot I had other things to do.

Which brings me to some of my favourite things and that includes, stuffed buns or bread-rolls. My favourites, the minced meat ones, the spicier the better.

Spicy Minced Chicken Buns

The dough for these is a very simple one. 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, a teaspoon of sugar, about 12gms fresh yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 to a cup of warm water, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Activate the yeast (with warm water and sugar), then add the flour, salt and olive oil. Knead for 12 – 15 minutes till the dough is soft and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or till slightly more than doubled.

In the meantime get your filling ready. I filled the buns with spicy minced chicken. So for about 400gms chicken, use 2 scallions, 4 large pods of garlic, a 1″ piece of ginger (more if you like), and 2 green chillies – all minced. Sautéing them in 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, with salt to taste, a large pinch of pepper, a teaspoon each of cumin and coriander powder, a 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric, paprika and garam masala, and a pinch of clove powder. Do not add any water while cooking the mince. Keep it covered and on a low flame, breaking down the meat and separating it with a fork to prevent it from clumping together. Finish with a squeeze of lime, a sprinkling of garam masala (another 1/2 teaspoon) and two tablespoons chopped fresh coriander. Cook till all the moisture evaporates and set it aside to cool.

Spicy Minced Chicken

Now return to the dough…

Once your dough has risen (1 1/2 to 2 hours), knock it back and knead lightly, then roll it out into a log and cut out 12 pieces. Knead each piece for a bit, then using your fingers stretch out the dough to make a cup for the mince and spoon in 3 teaspoonfuls of the spicy meat.

Pinch the dough together to close and work it for a bit to shape till round. Place on a cornmeal dusted baking tray. Allow to rise for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Preheat your oven at 230 degrees C. Brush the top of the buns with an eggwash, and sprinkle with seeds or herbs of your choice. I used poppy seeds and paprika for one lot and sesame seeds and ground cumin for the other… just coz they looked so pretty.

Poppy seed and Paprika

Sesame and Cumin sprinkled

And baked them for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C.

Two for One...

They were just a bit spicy (the chillies were hot and I didn’t remove the seeds), but the bread around it provided the perfect foil to the spiciness of the mince. And they turned out refreshingly light. I ate three at a go. I really mustn’t.

Off to YeastSpotting they go!

Raisin Cardamom French Toast

If you’ve read my last couple of posts, you’ll know about the Raisin Pull Apart Bread I made earlier this week. It was so good, not too sweet, and tasted as good with a dollop of chunky peanut butter, as it did with a couple of slices of ham. But the Loaf’s almost all gone now and I still had one thing I wanted to make. French Toast. So I squirrelled a bit away and stuck it in the fridge to firm up a bit.

Now I absolutely love French Toast, and the idea of making French Toast from a Raisin Loaf liberally dusted with cinnamon and cardamom seemed too good to not try out. All I needed was a cup of milk, one egg, 2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and a 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder… all whisked together.

I wanted reasonably thick slices of bread which could absorb the milk and egg and not fall apart in the pan, cutting them about 1/2″ thick and dipping them into the luxurious pale yellow mix, making sure that the slices were completely coated.

I used a teaspoon of butter for every two pieces of bread. Frying them till they caramelised. Dusted them with icing sugar and enjoyed every last bite.

Raisin Cardamom French Toast

Yum!

Delicious on their own... with a touch of frost!

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!