Saturday, 27 February 2010


Doesn't it sound so adorable? Like, if i have a poodle id name him/ her snickerdoodle :) or maybe even Ro. After I came across this name, I've been calling him snickerdoodle, and have managed to irritate him to an extent.
I came across this cookie recipe on the joy of baking website and couldn't wait to try it. I finally did so a couple of days back when a friend was visiting for tea and it was over in a matter of minutes. Its incredibly easy and yummy.

I have halved the measurements because i didn't want 6 dozen doodles:)
I also made a slight change to the last bit of rolling it in cinnamon and sugar since we are not huge fans of cinnamon in general.

All purpose flour- 180gms
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Unsalted butter-1/2 cup
Granulated white sugar- 150gms
Egg- 1
Vanilla extract- 1/2 tsp
Salt- 1/4 tsp
Cinnamon powder- to dust

In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking pwd and salt.
In another larger bowl, using a hand beater, whisk together the butter and sugar till light and fluffy.
Add the egg and whisk again to combine well.
Pour the vanilla extract and the flour mixture and beat well till you have smooth dough.
Preheat oven to 190C
Place a baking sheet on a tray and roll the dough into small balls and place them a few cms apart
Bake for about 8 to 10 minutes, or till they are golden brown around the edges.
Remove and cool on a wire rack. Dust with cinnamon powder before serving
Once cool, store in an air tight container.
Notes: The original recipe asks you to roll the dough balls in a cinnamon and sugar mix and then bake it. I decided to powder the baked doodle instead.
My dough was soft and so it was difficult to roll it into balls. So i refrigerated it for about 2 hours and still it was a wee bit difficult.
Make sure you leave enough space between the dough balls on the tray, because my first batch, some of them just joined together.
If you need it crisp, keep them a little longer in the oven, but doodles are supposed to be chewy and soft i guess.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Dinner and drinks @ Wahaca, Canary Wharf

For those of you outside London, this is gonna be a boring, insignificant post. But i love doing restaurant reviews as it keeps me in touch with the job i miss terribly..I used to do restaurant, club, pub, hotel, boutique reviews for a living back in Chennai.
Wahaca in Canary Wharf (SE London), owned by 2005 Masterchef winner Thomasina Miers, aims at promoting Mexican street market eating. Like i have mentioned a zillion times before, i am a total sucker for Mexican grub and was pretty excited to try out this new restaurant so close to our place and secretly hoped it would be kick-ass and then i could quench my quesadilla cravings by just hopping over. There is a 'no reservations' policy at Wahaca because apparently in markets in Mexico, you can eat whenever you want and at whatever time of the day. You also are told that you will be served as and when the food is ready...there is no deal of starters first, followed by mains etc.
We walked in at about 7.30pm and didn't have to wait at all to be seated (The place was relatively empty). The interiors are quite swanky, although i didn't really get the market feel or anything, and spacious. Its more like communal dining with strangers sitting right next to you and sharing a huge wooden table made of recycled wood and laid with hand blown glass, a very familiar practise I've noticed in a lot of Thai, Japanese and Chinese restaurants...the communal dining that is!
After we were seated (I wouldn't say comfortable...since the seating was hard and there was no back rest which made it difficult to relax), our stewardess explained what the sauces were and the menu in general. There is a drinks and nibbles section, street food, mains and the desserts. We were told if we were just gonna go for the street food alone, it would be like tapas dishes, in small portions and would have to do at least 3 per person. After scrutinising the cocktail menu,Ro went for the Bloody Maria which was spicy and awesome and i had The Barragan- aMojito-ish drink, but really diluted. I didn't get the taste of tequila at all...and they went on and on about how they used the best tequila and all that jazz on the menu.

The Barragan and Bloody Maria

We picked the Pork Pibil- slow cooked Pork in a Yucatecan (a Mexican state) marinade served on a soft tortilla- for starters. The pork was brilliant, just melting in your mouth..extremely oily, i must add. I am not sure what the Yucatecan flavour was..i got very Indian flavours instead. The Chipotle chicken Quesadilla was average, i think i make better ones at home. Ordered a second round of cocktails. This time i went for the Tamarind Margarita...only to be disappointed again..It didn't have any hint of Tamarind which i thoroughly like and was actually looking forward to. Ro ordered the 'Day of the Dead' cocktail and it tasted like Sangria. Nothing out-of-this-world there as well.
Mains were even more disappointing. I am not that much of a seafood fan and since nothing else seemed to excite me, I opted for the Classic Enchillada and Ro went ahead with the Chicken Burrito. Accompanied/ stuffed with the same green rice, both were below average. The experience so far...not so great. I decided to give dessert a last chance and they let me down there as well. can anyone go wrong with churros? They were not sweet and crispy and hot and the chocolate dip was the only thing worth having. I think Taco Bell in the US serves better Mexican fast food than this for sure, but Wahaca...definitely not the best place to have authentic Mexican grub.
The only thing worth commenting was the service which was impeccable. The bill came up to a little over 45 quid which was pretty high, i would say, for something very average like this. I may be wrong about the food and it probably would be better the next time...but the question is...'Will there be a next time?' I'm not so sure. I'm a little put off at the moment.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Wholemeal Blueberry Muffins

We went for the 'Europe' Concert on Saturday night and came back home at 3 in the morning after a night out with friends and the long trek back home because we obviously missed the last tube train. Woke up really really late on Sunday and was not at all in the mood to cook. So these blueberry muffins which i made the previous day came in extremely handy. A couple of muffins with a tall glass of orange juice did the trick for me. Remember i was talking about buying the wrong flour for the cake and didn't know what to do with it? Well now that i can make moist muffins with wholemeal flour, its going to stay and not be thrown out. I have also convinced Ro this is a healthier option and so he now has them for breakfast too.

This is a Gordon Ramsay recipe, which i tweaked according to my requirements. It makes about 15 muffins.

Wholemeal flour- 2 cups
Baking powder- 1 tbsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon powder- a pinch
Nutmeg- a pinch
Salt- 1/2 tsp

Eggs- 2
Buttermilk- 1 cup
Castor Sugar- 1 cup
Oil- 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract- 1 1/2 tsp
Fresh blueberries- 1 3/4 cup (washed & cleaned)

Pre-heat the oven to 180C and keep 15 muffin cases ready.
Mix together the first set of ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Keep aside.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, add the buttermilk, sugar, oil, vanilla and mix till well combined.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it. Fold all the ingredients together till just incorporated. Add the blueberries and give a final stir.
Place one large scoop of batter into each muffin case and bake or about 25-30 minutes or till skewer inserted comes out clean.
Cool on wire rack once its taken out and store in an air tight container.

Notes: The nutmeg was a tad too over powering for our liking, in spite of just adding a pinch, and I'm pretty sure i wont include it the next time.
I did not have a muffin tin and so i placed the muffin cases on a baking tray and hence the weird shape of the muffins.
If you can, while you scoop out the batter into the cases, try and spread out the blueberries evenly.
You can replace the white sugar with brown sugar, but use a little less in that case.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Chorizo stuffed Calzone

Friday is pizza day for us...which means Dominos home delivery or pick up a pizza from the super market and jazz it up a bit. Last Friday i thought i should do something different and decided to make a Calzone instead.
I suck at getting the dough consistency..the same reason why i still buy frozen chapati's...and so bought a Pizza base mix where the correct water measure was mentioned and i just had to follow that, i can do! So the dough part was taken care of, though I still struggled with the kneading and the flattening due to lack of patience and proper utensils. This is what i did for the filling:

Chorizo- 1 cup (cut into small bit size cubes)
Spring onions- 4 sprigs, whites and greens roughly chopped
Tomato puree- 1/4 cup (or more..i don't really like too much of tomato)
Grated Mozzarella Cheese- 1/2 cup
Pepper powder- to taste
Chilli sauce- 1 tbsp (optional)
Grated Cheddar Cheese- to sprinkle
Butter- 1/2 tsp

Cook the chorizo slices lightly, remove from pan and discard rest of the oil keeping behind just about 1 tsp. Sautee the spring onions in the same oil for about two minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook till you see bubbles. Add the chorizo, pepper pwd and chilli sauce and mix it all together. Take it off the flame.

In a baking tray spread out the pizza dough.
Place the filling on one half of the flattened dough. Top with mozzarella cheese and if you want some of the cheddar as well.
Carefully fold the other half of the pizza over the filling and seal the edges well with a fork.

Cook in a pre-heated oven (200C) for 15 minutes. Take the tray out and brush the melted butter on the calzone and place it back in the oven for another 5 to 6 minutes. Once done, cool on a rack for 5 minutes and then slice into two. Sprinkle the rest of the cheddar and serve hot.
Notes: You can use any filling of your choice...veg or non-veg.
Spring onions can be replaced with red onions or shallots even, and the purée can be replaced with lightly mashed tomato.
The calzone was pretty huge, and it was like a meal on its own. I'd halve the recipe if i need smaller portions

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Carrot Cake anyone?

So i turned a year older and whole of Monday i was sitting and brooding about it. Not only did i brood, I also called up Ro at noon and bawled my eyes out. Oh yes, I did! Now why would you sulk on your birthday? I'll tell you. I was getting a year older and had absolutely no clue as to what i wanted to do in life, 2, this woman I've been working for over a year, and who hadn't paid me as yet, decided to not respond to mails and calls for over 3 months, but exactly on my birthday she decides to reply accusing me of not understanding the situation..what situation? I don't know..she hasn't mentioned that still. So then we start this thread on gmail and that left me angry, helpless and irritated at not being able to do anything from here. I don't get paid and have to bear the brunt too? Ridiculous! And then, it happened to be that wretched time of the month and I was in pain. Altogether it just turned out to be a horrible day. Come evening and i decided to take a hot water bath, slumbered for about an hour and was all fresh and ready to partay...yup Ro and myself decided to try out the new Mexican restaurant Wahaca and then had after dinner cocktails at Smollenskys. I'll review it later, but for now here's a carrot cake- mom's special- which i was craving for and wanted to bake on my birthday, but as you can imagine, circumstances didn't agree with me. So i made it the next day.
Ro hates carrot cake (Its more like a mental block i guess...that carrots in a cake wont taste good). So I thought I'll trick him into eating saying it was an apple and cinnamon cake. He was too smart and noticed the grated carrots from afar and refused to touch it. No issues, i can eat the whole thing on my a matter of days. This cake is super super moist and, i must add, is the only carrot cake i have ever liked. I hate the ones we get here. I have halved the measurements because i knew i would be the only one gorging on it.

Grated carrot- 1 1/2 cups
All purpose flour- 1 cup
Powdered sugar- 1 cup + enough for dusting
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Egg- 1
Oil- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (Its a half of 1 1/4 cups)
Spice powder- 1/2 tsp (recipe follows)
Salt- a pinch

Spice powder: Grind to a fine powder, 1 cardamom pod, 1 clove and a pinch of cinnamon using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.

Preheat oven to 175C and butter an 8 inch cake tin.
Sieve the flour, spice pwd, baking pwd, baking soda and salt. Keep aside.
Beat the eggs, add powdered sugar and cream till light and fluffy.
Add the carrot and oil and beat on high for a few minutes.
Finally, add the flour mix and beat on low, just till they are all mixed well. Don't over do this.
Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Take it out of the oven and cool for about 5 minutes. Insert onto a serving tray and dust some powdered sugar on it while its still hot. Serve with a dollop of cream or have it just as it is.

Notes: I was way too lazy and so i picked up grated carrots from the supermarket and used that directly. My mom actually grinds it to a purée form which i think gives a bright orange colour and mine lacked that. Also, if you don't like small carrot pieces, purée is a better option.
I made only a wee bit of spice powder, just enough for the cake. You can adjust ingredients according to you taste and make them in plenty and store in an air tight container
I baked the cake on 175C for about 30 minutes and then reduced it to 160 and baked for another 15 minutes. It all depends on the oven, so just keep an eye out to prevent it from burning.

A lot of you guys out there tried out my moms version of the carrot cake and wrote back to me with some queries. Since it had been ages since I'd tried my moms version, I couldn't remember the logistics of it. So I made it again recently and  thought I'd update it with my current findings and pics of course. The cake is dense/ heavy because you use puréed carrots. If its the light version you are looking for, then replace the pureed carrots with finely grated carrots and you'd get the cake that you see in the pics above. The cake is rich on its own and its more of a dessert cake than a tea time speciality. I feel it would pair well with a scoop of ice cream or cream cheese (not frosted though) on the side.

Pureed carrot- 1 1/2 cups
Milk/ water- 2 tsp (optional)
All purpose flour- 1 cup
Powdered sugar- 1 cup + enough for dusting
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2 tsp
Egg- 1
Oil- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp (Its a half of 1 1/4 cups)
Spice powder- 1/2 tsp (Grind to a fine powder, 1 cardamom pod, 1 clove and two pinches of cinnamon  powder using a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder.)
Salt- a pinch
(notice the colour difference)
Puree the carrot with 2 tsp of milk or water. Use milk only if you feel the carrots are not releasing enough water. If its watery avoid it. I usually dont add milk.
Preheat oven to 175C and butter an 8 inch cake tin.
Sieve the flour, spice pwd, baking pwd, baking soda and salt. Keep aside.
Beat the eggs, add powdered sugar and cream till light and fluffy.
Add the carrot and oil and beat on high for a few minutes.
Finally, add the flour mix and beat on low, just till they are all mixed well. Don't over do this.
Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
Take it out of the oven and cool for about 5 minutes. Insert onto a serving tray and dust some powdered sugar on it while its still hot. Serve with a dollop of cream or have it just as it is.

I would also like to thank Cicily of Spices from the Queen of Arabian Sea for passing on a lovely award. Thanks a lot once again. I am supposed to tag 7 people and since I am new to the whole blogging scene, I shall avoid that. Anyone can pick it up...I follow a whole buncha awesome blogs and they are all exceptionally good:)

Now the 7 things about me...hmm..just 7? why just 7?
I am so bloody lazy and would stay in bed and watch movies all day, given a choice. Being sent to a foreign country was gods way of punishing me for my laziness...Now i have to get off my ass and do everything on my own (not really..i have an incredible husband who loves doing chores around the house, including cooking)
I am a movie-buff...and can watch a minimum of three at a stretch. I have the unlimited card at the cinemas here and so watch atleast 3 movies a week if i haven't seen the ones already released.
I love the gloomy, rainy weather UK is known for..I know everyone complains about it, but i think its awesome.
I am crazy about clothes and shoes and bags and shopping in general and don't want to reveal how many pairs of shoes i have. Being in London hasn't helped much. I can spend a whole day at Selfridge's or Sloane street just gawking at the brands and wish for the millionth time id married a rich man (don care even if he's old) or was earning enough to afford these.
I'm scared of ghosts..really (i think they exist)..but love watching horror movies..I have a hard time sleeping at night and so my husband has banned them at home. I still manage to watch them at the cinemas.
I am so liberal when it comes to traditions and ways of thinking, the older generation detest me and sometimes I'm too fast for even the younger generation. Although they wonder why i got married when I'm all for the 'living together' aspect. Ro tricked me;)
I have ornithophobia (sounds fancy right?). I am so so scared of anything with feathers. And i am in the perfect place...London, where pigeons nest in every possible corner..and the parks..i have to play hop, skip, dodge all the freaking time. I don't mind eating them though (evil laugh!)

Phew! Long post..i need to lie down.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Methi Dal (Dal spiced up with fenugreek leaves)

Remember i told you about the Methi Dal my friend keeps talking about? Well, i finally made it and it turned out great. I had some friends over on Saturday for lunch and on Friday i slogged it out and made a whole lotta food, 1, because i could sleep in late on Saturday and not wake up early to cook and 2, i dint have to do any major cooking for the rest of the week :). I don't think i have ever made so much food in my life. The girls ate well and i didn't have much left over. So the 2nd reason was lame.
The methi dal recipe is exactly the same as this recipe, except you add the cleaned and chopped methi leaves (about 1 cup) after the tomatoes are well cooked. I also added a dash of fenugreek powder just before i took it off the heat and that tasted awesome. I avoided the coriander leaves and the last tadka as well. I found this interesting recipe on Soma's blog and I should try it out the next time i get methi leaves.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Tender Lemon Cake...B'day bake for my babeeee

It was Ro's birthday last week and i decided to surprise him with a 4-layer cake with decorations and all that jazz. Did numerous searches online for cake decorating and went and bought everything only to realize i picked up the wrong baking flour..yeah i picked up wholemeal self-raising flour for cakes and bakes. Since i didn't want to waste the 1 kg flour, I decided to continue with it. It wasn't bad at all..although its like a mental block that AP flour should be used for cakes and bakes and i cant wait for it to get over asap, so i can buy some AP flour.
After I started, i realised it was going to be quite tedious and so cut down the four layer to two and the decorating bit...went for a toss. I learnt two lessons...not to shop in a hurry, no matter what and 2, cake decorating and icing is not my cuppa tea..i don't have the hand nor the patience for it. Next time, i should just stick to a general cake or maybe even buy one instead of slogging it out in the kitchen.

Lemon Cake (adapted from
AP Flour- 2 1/4 cups
Butter- 12 tbsp
Baking powder- 2 1/4 tsp
Sugar- 1 1/2 cups
Eggs- 3
Buttermilk- 3/4 cups
Lemon zest- from one medium lemon
Salt- 1/4 tsp

Heat the oven to 172 C, butter an 8 inch square or round tin.
Mix the flour, baking pwd and salt together in a mixing bowl.
In another bowl, with an electric beater on medium-high, beat the butter till light and fluffy. Add the sugar continue to beat. Reduce speed and add the eggs one by one, mixing well after each. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mix and buttermilk, alternatively...starting and ending with flour. Stir in the zest.
Pour the batter into the baking tray and cook till a toothpick comes out clean (I took a little over an hr). Remove and cool on a rack.

Basic butter frosting
Butter- 2 tbsp
Confectioners sugar- 1 cup
Milk- 2 tbsp
Colouring- 1/2 tsp (optional)
Vanilla extract-1 tsp
Cream butter and sugar well and add the extract, colouring and milk until mixture is smooth or consistent as per your requirement.

Once the cake has completely cooled, slice it in half and spread a thick layer of icing in between and sandwich the cakes. If you want icing on top, you can do so as well. Decorate with sugar shavings, figures etc.
Notes: For the cake, i thought the lemon zest was a bit too strong, so i would def. reduce it the next time. I used a red colour and mixed it well so i got a pinkish tint
My consistency was all wrong and i suffered while spreading the icing.

PS: Ro said the only thing missing was a 'My little Pony.' He was a bit taken aback with the pinks and purples and stars... So im naming this the 'My Little Pony' Cake.

Also, a Happy Valentines day you guys. Join in the stereotype and be all mushy and swishy and pink!

Friday, 12 February 2010

Pollo al Ajillo (Chicken & Garlic)

I have recently developed this love for Spanish food as well...the tapas dishes (appetizers) especially are a welcome change to the usual. There are Tapas only restaurants here in London and we used to frequent this one called La Tasca, till we kinda tried almost everything on their menu and now its boring. I am yet to try out some of the other tapas joints. My second blog entry was that of a tapas dish called Chorizo al Vino and a favourite of mine. The first time i discovered this ingredient called Chorizo was at La Tasca, and i had to try it out. Its such an easy thing to make, its difficult to screw up.
This dish, on the other hand, is a bit difficult..well difficult according to my standards. I don't know why, but i hate having to deep fry or even shallow fry anything. First of all i think I'm doing something wrong and the whole place is smeared in oil and what not. Second, I have always managed to burn my hand when I'm frying and three, the amount of oil that goes into the food and the rest of the oil that goes to waste..kinda puts me off the whole frying deal. So i try and bake whenever i have an option. But anyways, i managed to get through frying without the second part, but did the 1st and 3rd. But it was so worth all that trouble, the chicken and garlic combo was kick-ass.

Chicken- 1 kg, bone in pieces, no skin
Paprika- 3 tsp
Chilli pwd- 1/2 tsp (optional)
Pepper pwd- to taste
Salt- to taste
Garlic- 10 cloves
Sherry/ dry white wine- 150ml
Oil- to fry
Fresh parsley- to garnish

Clean the chicken pieces and marinate with paprika, chilli pwd, pepper pwd and salt.
Heat oil in a frying pan and add the pieces of chicken batch by batch along with two smashed garlic cloves. It brings out a nice flavour to the chicken, Now i covered the chicken and fried, for fear of oil splashing all over and burning my hands. In spite of doing all that, i still managed to mess it up and so you don't really have to do that. Shallow fry both sides till golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Either discard some of the oil or if there is very little left, add some more and throw in the rest of the garlic and continue frying. Add the chicken pieces and mix well.
Pour in the sherry and cook on low heat till the liquid is almost absorbed by the chicken...stirring in between and making sure it doesn't get stuck to the bottom. This might take some patience is the answer.
Serve with some gravy over and garnish with parsley leaves and also raise a pitcher of Sangria to complement the meal.
Notes: Chicken wings can be used and i think boneless can do the trick as well.
I drained the chicken on paper towels due to fear of so much of oil intake..if you really don't freak out like me, then you can just add the garlic to the chicken pieces directly.
I used dry white wine instead of Sherry and the taste was very different. It was slightly sweet in spite of using dry wine. So use Sherry if possible.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Borrowed recipes: trial & error

As you might have already noticed, i have given my blog a make-over. If you haven't, I'm a bit bummed, but its ok..not everyone can be as excited as i am about the blog make-over. I had too much time on my hands yesterday and so played around with the blog features a bit. Did some Picasa edits and after numerous trials and errors i finally came up with this new interface. I tried to incorporate the previous header text, but it was a bit 'in your face' and so decided to chuck it. So, what do you think? I think variety is the spice of life and that's exactly what i did to my food blog, 'SPICEd' it up a bit. I love it :)
I haven't been cooking the past couple of days mainly because we had so much left over from the weekend and then it was Ro's birthday on Tue and we ate out etc. Did i mention that the Buffalo wings tasted even better the next day? The sauce flavour is so much more stronger and it has nicely caught on to the wings. Its like biryani..the longer you keep, the better its tastes. So the next time don't feel bad if you cant finish your wings all at once. Keep it refrigerated and feast on it the next day. Tastes twice as nice.

I finally decided to get off my ass and make something for dinner yesterday. Made the Beef Vindaloo from Cicily's blog and mine didn't look half as nice as hers. I think i goofed up somewhere and have promised myself, I'd give it a try again...this time with more patience. Thanks Cicily, for sharing the recipe. Shall do a better job next time and post a pic.

I also tried out the Aloo Methi (Potato & Fenugreek leaves) preparation from eCurry. This was my first trial with methi leaves, and i must say I'm not too disappointed. I usually don't getmethi leaves at the local grocery store. I have to go all the way to an Indian store to get em. A couple of days back i was browsing through Asda and saw one last bunch of methileaves, and pounced on it (ya literally). Asked them if it was a regular and they said no, and gave me some gyan about it. Ro somehow is not a big fan of methi leaves, he says it reminds him of hostel days, and so i don't think id go out of my way to get them. Also because one bunch is quite a bit and i still have some left over which I'm going to use for methi dal which my friend R swears by. Here is a pic of my preparation. I followed Soma's recipe to the dot. Thank you Soma.

I also made some cabbage thoran and that didn't disappoint me either. I followed the same beans and carrot thoran recipe, except it was just white cabbage this time. I am not sure if there is another or better way to do this, but if there is, do let me know and i would love to give it a go. Sharing the pic.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Chorizo Quesadillas with Margaritas and Mexican Cookies

I am a big sucker for Mexican food and i can have it any number of times in a day and continuously for a couple of days..well that's a bit of an exaggeration, but i love Southern food so so much. Sunday lunch like i mentioned before was very southie...almost. We had the Buffalo wings, quesadillas and margaritas and Mexican cookies..yes I'd like to go all out when it comes to themes.
Quesadillas can have any sort of filling and you can basically jazz it up your way. Since i had already tried my hand at Chicken quesadillas, i thought id use Chorizo (Spanish/ Mexican cured sausages spiced with different seasoning etc) instead. Good choice, i must say. It was over in no time.

Flour tortillas- 4
Spanish Chorizo- 1 cup, diced (or you can remove the casing and use the meat only)
Spring onions- 1/4 cup (both greens and bulb)
Red pepper- 1/3 cup, diced (optional)
Monterey Jack Cheese- 1/2 cup
Mexican blend cheese- to garnish
Salsa- i cup ( i got ready-made ones)
Sour cream- 1/4 cup
Cilantro- freshly chopped, for garnish

In a frying pan, lightly cook the chorizo. There is no need to put any oil, as quite a bit of oil oozes out of the sausage. Make sure you do not over cook, as it becomes hard. Remove and drain on paper towels
Discard some oil and in the same pan, sautee the spring onions and red pepper till soft. Add the sausages to this and give it a final stir. Remove and keep aside.
Keep a stove-top grill ready. Assemble the tortillas, i.e., spread some sour cream and salsa evenly on the tortilla, load it with the chorizo stuffing (about 3 tbsp) and then layer with the Monterey Jack cheese (again about 2 to 3 tbsp). Grate some Mexican blend cheese on top, just for the flavour, garnish with cilantro and sandwich with another tortilla. Slightly press them so that the ends are sealed
Place on the hot grill and cook for about 2 minutes, each side. Carefully flip it and once the cheese has slightly melted, take it off and repeat the process with the remaining tortillas and filling.
Serve with a dab of sour cream and salsa and some Mexican blend cheese.
Notes: If you do not have tortillas, you can use chappati's...yes you can..have tried it
You do not need a grill per se. You can do the same procedure in the frying pan, or in a pre-heated oven for a few minutes, or if you are extremely lazy, in a microwave...i have tried all three methods, and the best would be the grill.
The measurements given here are approx. You can increase, decrease the cheese, cream, filling etc. as per your choice.

I usually make my own Margarita, but since i knew i was going to be super busy i picked up a Sainsbury's Margarita (all mixed and ready to serve) instead. I brushed the glass rim with lime juice and dipped it in salt and topped the glass with the mix and some tonic water, since the mix was a little too strong for me. This is not how the real one is made, but i liked the fizz though.

The Mexican Cookies' recipe can be found here. It says Melting Moments, but this is more or less how it is.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

All American Spicy Buffalo Wings with a sour cream dip

Merely described as a Super Bowl Snack or rather a party snack, Buffalo Wings are a favourite of ours. Hooters in Nottingham was a favourite of mine, and Ro's (for obvious other reasons ..ahem!) and their buffalo wings were super hot and we'd be soaking in sweat by the time we finished a plate of wings. Sadly London doesn't have a Hooters outlet and so we have to make do with the usual chains which are ok, but not the best.
I was so sure i wouldn't get the authentic Franks Red Hot sauce in any of the grocery stores, and no where could i find the sauce recipe. I almost gave up and then decided to throw in a search on the Sainsburys website and what do i find, the original sauce itself. Didn't waste any time and ran to the nearest Sains and got em, along with the wings and a few tid bits. Sunday lunch was heavenly and i have decided, the next time i throw a party, this is definitely on my list. Other than the frying bit, i think everything else is damn easy..and the taste..oh so yumm. I kept the recipe printed at the back of the bottle as the base, and played around with the measurements a bit to adjust spice levels etc.

Ok so I'm gonna let you in on a little secret..i was completely grossed out by the chicken wings at the super market and surprisingly, so was Ro who usually does the dirty work of cutting and cleaning meat etc. Chicken drumsticks on its own were too big and so we decided to use the ready-to-eat buffalo wings which were supposedly spicy and cooked, but we knew from previous experiences that these ready made meals were tasteless and horrible and had to be jazzed up a bit. So we bought 2 packs of those and decided to work on it. The result was spectacular. I shall however, give you the recipe of the original and maybe some day il try it out.

Chicken wings- 1 kg
Pepper powder- 1/2 tsp
Paprika- 1/2 tsp
Salt- to taste
All purpose flour- about a cup
Oil-to deep fry
Franks Red Hot Extra Hot Cayenne Pepper Sauce- 1/4 cup + a little more
Butter- 3 tbsp
White vinegar- 1 tsp (optional)

Discard the tips of the chicken wings. Cut them at the joint.. into the wing and the drum.
Mix together the pepper powder, paprika, salt and flour in a large bowl. Toss the chicken pieces in it till they are evenly coated.
Now you can either oven cook it for about an hour at 230C, flipping the chicken on and off or deep fry them in oil in batches of 10 or so (depending on your vessel) until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
While the chicken is frying, in a sauce pan, melt the butter and add the hot sauce and vinegar. On low flame bring it to a simmer. Now i like mine well coated, so i waited till it was a bit thick. This could take some time.
Put the fried/ baked chicken wings in a large bowl and pour the hot sauce over. Toss it well, so that the pieces are evenly coated. Now if you keep them for a day, i realised it becomes more spicier and tastes a whole lot better. Since we were incredibly hungry, we greedily ate them then and there with the cream dip.

I followed the recipe from the hot sauce bit, since my chicken wings were already cooked.
Notes: Chicken breasts can be used instead of wings.
It is not required to follow the first step for the chicken. You can just fry it as it is or bake it..without any seasoning because the sauce is powerful enough.
Vinegar is optional, i just wanted to add a tang to it.
if you don't want the chicken wings to be coated in sauce, you don't have to simmer it for long. It can be loose gravy.
Celery sticks are also an accompaniment to buffalo wings and dip.

Sour cream dip
The buffalo wings are usually paired with a blue cheese dip, but i don't really like blue cheese and so i made my own sour cream dip which was fantabulous (I'm so humble, right?)

Sour cream- 3 tbsp
Mayonnaise- 1 tbsp
Cheddar cheese- a handful (i used the Mexican mix)
Spring onions- a handful (just the greens)

Mix all this, except the spring greens, in a bowl and microwave for a few seconds, just to get the cheese melted. Mix in the greens just before you serve.

Here are two of my favourite party snacks which you might enjoy. Jalapeños stuffed and wrapped in bacon and Jalapeño Poppers.

I am sending this recipe to the Valentine & Super Bowl Recipe Carnival event hosted by fun and food cafe.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Potato Gratin spiked with Fennel and Spinach

I have always been intrigued by the fennel bulbs at the super market ..well for one, how pretty it looked with the bright greens and whites and second, what flavour it gives out and what preparations would complement fennel. Its only after hoards of research that i learnt it was a main ingredient in those after dinner digestion thingies you get at Indian restaurants..a mouth freshener kinda thing. I still don't know what its actually called so id like to keep it at 'Mouth freshener.' I always thought it was jeera or something..yeah that's how clueless i am about ingredients and yet i continue to bedazzle myself with something or the other. I have the names of all the masala powders on the containers because it was not so long ago that i messed up masalas..yeah amchur for coriander powder..seriously..can anyone ever be so dumb?
Anyways, coming back to fennel...i did a few searches online and stumbled upon a potato gratin recipe. I incorporated fennel and some spinach into it and voila, I had my very own twisty bake which was pretty darn delicious. Accompany this creamy baked dish with some fried chicken and its a whole meal, serve with some garlic bread and its a starter or just gorge it all up as it is. I made some Pollo Al Ajillo (recipe shall follow) along with it..Yeah Spanish and French was kind of a conflict of flavours and cultures altogether, but who cares..i get to eat what i like :)
Although the flavour fennel unfolds is quite distinct, i feel its an acquired taste or better put, you either like it or you dint. I must say i liked it and would definitely be trying out more recipes with my new found herb/ vegetable.. or is it neither?

Fennel bulb- 1 large
Onion- 1 medium, thinly sliced
Baby spinach- 1 to 2 cups (as per your liking, really)
Garlic- 2 cloves, thinly sliced
Butter- 1 tbsp or more if you please
All purpose flour- 1 tbsp
Heavy cream- 3/4 cup
Baby potatoes- 4
Grated cheese- 1/3 cup (I used Cheddar)
Salt and pepper- as required

I was lost as to how to cut fennel bulbs and so i had to depend on a video (ok now you are convinced I'm a useless cook). Basically what you need to do is cut off the green stalks and reserve them for garnish, remove the dirty outer covering (if any), chop it in half, remove the central core if you don't need it and slice them thin. Keep aside
Clean the spinach leaves, drain and transfer them to a bowl and close with a lid. Cook in the microwave on high for about 2 minutes. Drain off the water and keep aside.
Also wash and clean the baby potatoes and slice them into rounds. Keep aside.
Pre-heat the oven to 200 C.
Heat a skillet and melt the butter. Add the onions and garlic and cook till soft and fragrant.
To this, add the spinach and about 3/4 th of the sliced fennel and sautee for a few minutes. Do not over cook as the flavour will be lost.
Stir in the flour, mix well and add the thick cream. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to a simmer and add the grated cheese.
Pour into a casserole dish and layer the potato slices on top.
Place it in the pre-heated oven and after about 30 minutes, take the casserole out, sprinkle the left over fennel and if you want, some grated cheese and bake for another 30 minutes or till the potatoes are tender and top is crusty and bubbly.
Garnish with the green stalks and serve hot.

Notes: You can basically add anything to your gratin like mushrooms and cauli and non veg items like bacon and sausages as well.
I only had cheddar cheese at home and so used it. You can use goats cheese instead
Heavy cream can be substituted with whole milk and baby potatoes with Russet potatoes.
I made a mistake and sprinkled the fennel and cheese the first time itself, and so it kinda got a bit burnt. So make sure you put it only half way through..its just needs to partially soften.

I am sending this entry for the JFI: Fennel event hosted by Siri's Corner this month. This is the first time im participating in a JFI event and thanks to Indira, the mastermind behind the concept, I am enthusiastic enough to try out new ingredients.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Fried masala idli's with a coconut chutney

I am not sure i have mentioned this before, but i have never ever made my own dosa/ idli batter. Even when i was in Chennai and in spite of having an awesome maid i still used to buy the ready mix and i was very happy with it. Enter Nottingham and we had to pay close to 6 quid for a dosa whenever we craved it..which was actually not too often. We didn't miss dosa/ idli an awful lot to actually grind and make the batter. So the occasional visits to the mallu restaurant just around the corner was a lot enough to quench our requirement.
London was different. East Ham, the hub of South Indian restaurants and grocery stores, was like culture shock. Even though it was a bit far away from where we stayed, a once in two months visit there gave us the pleasure of acquiring all things mallu. We also discovered that idli/ dosa batter was available in packets..freshly made and was glad we didn't have to pay a humongous amount of money to satisfy our dosa cravings. So now we pick up 2 on each of our visits to East Ham and that lasts us for ever. When we get sick of the dosa and idli, we buy an uppma mix (yes, i have never made my own and don't intend to either...the MTR ones are so awesome) and gobble on that . Honestly, Indian food is no longer a preference in our household now. We are so happy with the pastas and the bakes and the stir fries. Initially we had to have rice at least once a we don't even miss it and so don't have to whip up a million other curries and veggies to go with it.
So last weekend we headed to East Ham and picked up a packet of dosa batter, but completely forgot to buy the sambar powder. So i had to make do with a coconut chutney and some fish curry (again the instant ones). Had a wee bit of batter left over from the dosa and so tried out fried idli's which my grand mom used to make as a tea-time snack. Now, as much as i like the idea of a tea-time snack, its horrible to have to slog it out and make something on your own and then enjoy it. By the time I'm done making it and cleaning up, I am in no mood to enjoy what i made. Same story for almost everything i make btw!
The recipe for fried idli and chutney was adapted from a blog i stumbled upon. They have named it Masala Paniyaram, a name I'm familiar with but I've always referred to it as fried masala idli. Now i didn't have the particular vessel to fry them in, so i used a mini egg pan and made cookie-size idli's which were so cute and came out just as i wanted.

Fried Idli
Idli batter- 1 cup
English Shallots- 2, roughly chopped
Green chilli- 3, chopped
Ginger- 1 inch piece, roughly chopped
Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
Pepper pwd- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- a handful, chopped
Coriander leaves- a handful, chopped
Salt- to taste
Asafoetida- a pinch
Oil- enough to fry

Mix all the above ingredients together, except the batter, and lightly crush with a pestle or the back of a spoon...just to get the flavours out. Add the batter to this and mix well. Check for salt, spice etc. and add more if required.
Heat oil in the pan and pour a spoon full. Flip and fry the other side after a few minutes.
Drain on paper towels and serve with chutney.

Notes: I added quite a bit of curry leaves and coriander leaves because i love the taste. You can reduce it if you want.
I added a wee bit of ghee to the oil just to get a nice flavour...its not advisable to do so on a regular basis, for obvious health reasons.

I am not typing out the chutney recipe as I followed the exact measurements and procedure as mentioned here. I personally would have liked it a bit more spicy. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Chicken in a spicy garlic sauce

We have a Chinese restaurant/take away just around the corner and we frequently visit the same. The chicken and beef in black bean sauce and the seafood/meat in garlic sauce are incredible that we keep ordering the same again and again. I tried to recreate the chicken in garlic sauce recipe here, but failed miserably. Its nowhere close to what i had at the restaurant, but it tasted delicious anyway.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts- 1 lb (450gms), cleaned and cut into bite size cubes

To marinate
Dark soy sauce- 2 tbs
Chilli powder- 3/4 tbs
Salt- to taste

English shallots- 2, julienned
Pepper powder- 1 tsp
Garlic- 6 pods, chopped fine
Ginger- 1 inch piece, chopped fine
Chicken Stock cube- 1 (I use Knorr)
Water- 3/4 cup, slightly warm
Corn flour- 1 tbs
Spring onions- 1/4 cup (greens and bulbs) + 2 tbs to garnish (just the greens)
Oil- 2 tbs

Marinate the chicken with the soy sauce, chilli pwd and little salt. Keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes.
In 3/4 cup warm water, dilute the stock cube. Add the cornflour. Mix well and keep aside
In a frying pan, heat the oil and sautee the shallots, garlic and ginger till soft and fragrant.
Add the marinated chicken pieces and pepper pwd and cook on high till the chicken changes colour.
Cover and cook on medium heat till they are cooked.
Once the water starts separating, open the lid, add the chicken stock , mix well and cook open on high flame till the gravy reduces to about half.
Add the spring onions and stir well. The chicken pieces should be well coated.
Garnish with the remaining spring onions before serving.

Notes: The chicken stock cube is really salty, so watch before you add more salt
Don't over cook the garlic and ginger. The sauce really emits a nice garlicky flavour

PS: I got myself a neat studio corner with efficient lighting and background. So now i dont need to worry about taking pics with table lamps and decor lights. I am still perfecting the art of shadow less lighting, diffuser etc. So pics are still a bit bleak. I however went ahead and clicked a few extra pics, just cos i was darn excited:)
Oh and the new DSLR adds to the quality of the pics..I'm loving the EOS 500D